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Blue Sky Trail Marathon 2015 Recap

I intended to get this recap done sooner, but … life. The week after the race was Homecoming week, and since I’m the Student Council adviser, it’s one of my busiest weeks of the year. And because I’m really smart, I assigned essays in two different courses that week. So I had to grade essays for two different courses between Homecoming events. Blogging went on the back burner, but now that’s over and I want to get this written before I forget all the details.

When I registered for the race, J and I decided that we’d camp at the trailhead instead of getting a hotel in Fort Collins, because $15 camp site > $100 hotel room. As we watched the forecast during race week, we grew a little nervous, as rain was predicted for Saturday, but we decided to stick with the original plan. We headed up to the Fort on Saturday afternoon, set up our tent, and wandered around the campground for a while before cooking a simple pre-race dinner of chicken and potatoes with a Clif bar for dessert.

Not a bad little campsite
Not a bad little campsite

The weather held off until we finished dinner, but shortly thereafter, thunder and lightning started, and soon the clouds opened up. J and I retreated to our tent and spent the rest of the evening playing Go Fish, because we are adults.

Do you have any sevens?
Do you have any sevens?

After a few rousing rounds of Go Fish, we called it a night and burrowed down into our sleeping bags. Neither of us slept great, thanks to the wind wiggling the tent and my typical nervous pre-race sleeplessness, so I was awake before my alarm went off at 5:30. The rain had stopped, but the morning was foggy and chilly. I’d been indecisive all week about wearing my compression socks during the race, but when I discovered how cold the morning was, I decided to wear them, and I’m glad I did.

While Jordan started some coffee, I ate a Clif bar and a banana, then headed up the trail to pick up my packet. I ended up in line behind the eventual women’s winner, whom the RD encouraged to try for a course record (spoiler alert: she got it). Packet pick-up was easy, and “swag bags” were simple — the race t-shirt, plus a toothbrush and toothpaste. I pinned my bib on and headed back to the campsite to drop my bag off and get a cup of coffee, then came back to stand in the porta-john line (because coffee).

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I’m not a Skirt Sports ambassador, but maybe I should be — my skirt, top, and arm-warmers are all theirs.

As start time approached, the RD told everyone to line up at the start line, but he waited to start the race until the porta-johns were empty, which meant a 10-minute or so delay. Though I wasn’t still in the bathroom line, I appreciated this move — I’ve started more than one race late because I’m in the bathroom when the gun goes off. I thought waiting for everyone was a cool thing to do. Once the johns were empty, the RD gave us a few simple directions, and we were off into the foggy morning!

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The first couple of miles were a little crowded, but at least that kept me from going out too fast, and soon, the crowd spread out — especially when we hit the first big climb. I did a lot of hiking (as did everyone around me): jogging when I could (or when there was a camera) and slowing to a hike when I needed to.

Photo by O Photography, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page. I definitely was running only because I saw the camera. The guy in red and I both started walking as soon as we passed the photographer. 

Just like the time I ran it in training, the hill seemed to go on for eternity, but eventually, we reached the turn-off and got in some glorious downhill. I actually got passed more on the downhill than the up; especially since it was so wet, I wasn’t too confident in my footing and didn’t want to take a race-ending tumble this early in the race.

Before I knew it, we hit the first aid station and headed back down toward the start and (eventual) finish. I made up some time on the long, smooth descent, and soon was cruising back past Jordan and our campsite. Originally, I planned to toss him my arm-warmers as I ran back through, but I was still chilly and wanted them on. In fact, I ended up wearing them for the whole race!

Coming down into Towers aid station. Photo by O Photography Studio, pilfered from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page.

I passed back through the aid station/start line at mile 9 and headed out the other direction on the Blue Sky Trail. I hit a really low mental spot shortly thereafter, around mile 10 — probably the lowest I’ve ever been in a race, actually. That first big climb and descent left my legs pretty tired, and some foot pain I’d been dealing with for two weeks flared up pretty badly. I walked hills that weren’t even hills. I cursed myself for training for only 12 weeks, for thinking I could run a trail race when I live so far from trails. I wondered if I could even finish, or if I should just turn back, take a DNF, and go home.

But then, I thought about how a month before, I watched Logan run 100 miles — almost four times as much as I was running — on relatively limited training. Using her as inspiration (thanks, Logan!), I told myself to stop being an infant. I reminded myself that this was my choice, that I get to run trails. Eventually, I talked myself out of the grumpies and started enjoying myself again — and my foot stopped hurting. Although it bothered me before the race, and has a little since, I seriously think that at that point, it was all psychological.

Photo by Terry Grenwelge, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page

Once I got out of my funk, I realized that I was now on the part of the trail that I’d trained on several times this summer, and that helped my confidence, too. Soon I passed another aid station and headed up to the Indian Summer loop… the loop that had messed with my head every time I ran it this summer. It’s not super steep — definitely runnable — but the trail winds around, and it makes you think the climb is almost finished… then you round another bend and up you go. Of course, what goes up comes down, so you also get a nice, long descent. On Indian Summer, I chatted with a nice older guy, also running his first trail race, and conversation made the time go faster. Seeing the leading men, already heading back the other direction, was less encouraging, but quite impressive. Those dudes are speedy.

After Indian Summer, I headed on out toward Devil’s Backbone and the technical, rocky trails there. I was thankful that I’d trained out there and gotten more comfortable with those rocks; they were tough as it was.

Photo by Mike Hinterberg, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page

The course loops all around on the rocks, and before I knew it, I was headed back toward the finish, counting down the miles as I headed back around Indian Summer, past the final aid station, and up the final “big” climb. My legs were tired and hurting, but I felt pretty good, overall. Even though I was tired, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the race. At this point, I knew I’d make it, and unless the wheels fell completely off, I’d meet my goal of going sub-five.

The last mile, however, was a struggle. The course is 26.7 miles, not 26.2 (which I knew going in; it’s on the website), and that last half mile seemed like a cruel joke. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I stopped to walk while I could see the finish line. Seriously. I had nothing left. Then a guy came up behind me and said, “Don’t walk now! Come on, come on!” That gave me the jolt I needed, and I ran with him to the finish, crossing the line in 4:50:41 and finishing in 10th place among women.

Just dying a little bit. Photo by O Photography Studio, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page.

Jordan and our friend Shane, who lives in Fort Collins and came up to watch, cheered as I crossed the line, then hobbled with me (okay, I was the only one hobbling) to the food and drinks. Nothing appealed to me except ginger ale, which is weird because I don’t even like ginger ale, but my stomach was a little upset, and that stuff tasted heavenly. I chugged three cups of it. I knew I should eat something, too, but solid food sounded horrid. Instead, I took a shower at the campground while J and Shane took down our camp. Once I finally felt like eating, we headed back to the post-race bar-be-que, watched the awards, and stayed for the raffle (I won some Smartwool armwarmers)!

I kinda loved the message on this Sierra Trading Post sign at their finish line booth.
I kinda loved the message on this Sierra Trading Post sign at their finish line booth.

I think I’m hooked on trail races now, and I definitely want to do this one again. Aside from my mental breakdown at mile 10, I loved everything about this race. The course is pretty, and it was ridiculously well-marked. It’s also probably more runnable than I made it, which is part of why I’d like to run it again, with a little more training under my belt. The other runners were super friendly and supportive, even the wicked-fast dudes in front. The RD was well-organized, and everything from the start to the aid stations to the bar-be-que and awards ran smoothly. The aid station volunteers were fantastic, standing out there in the cold, misty morning, screaming and cheering for every runner as though each was winning the thing (one of my favorite parts of the whole race was coming through the last aid station and telling the volunteers “You’re the best!” and hearing the reply, “No, YOU’RE the best!”). And the raffle at the end was incredible — they gave away sweet prizes ranging from socks to Ultimate Direction hydration packs and Altra shoes.

This race was everything I hoped it would be. I proved to myself that I can run trail races, even living out here. I pushed myself to keep moving for more than an hour longer than I’d ever run before, and I finished something I wasn’t sure that I could. I’m proud of myself… and I can’t wait to get out there again.

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Blue Sky Trail Marathon Training, Weeks 7-8

School starts and I disappear from the Interwebs, apparently. Now that we’re past the craziness of the first couple of weeks, I should be able to get back to regular posting… at least as regular as I ever am. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of my training over the last two weeks. There’s a serious lack of pictures here, as the vast majority of my runs lately have been either on the treadmill or in the dark. The weather’s supposed to cool down this week, though, so I’ll switch back to post-work running in the daylight.

Monday, August 24

AM: 6.2 miles of “hills” on the treadmill. (Foreshadowing: Later that week, I learned that the “hills” I’ve been doing are inadequate).

PM: My usual strength workout at home

Tuesday, August 25

10.8 easy miles — half on the treadmill, half outside once it got light. Not bad for a school morning.

Wednesday, August 26 

8 miles with Jaylin and two guys we know who also run. It was fun to run with a group for once.

Thursday, August 27

AM: 6 miles of short “hill” sprints

PM: Strength training again, a wimpier version of my normal routine because I was tired and cranky and figured anything was better than the nothing I felt like doing.

Friday, August 28

5 miles at recovery pace, followed by core work

Saturday, August 29

I made an extra-long venture up to the trails this week, running the first part of the race course, then back to the second part, which I’d trained on before. Fun fact: this elevation chart from the race’s website is not exaggerated.
Blue Sky Trail Marathon Elevation Profile

Turns out, I should’ve been hitting the incline trainer at my gym instead of my little treadmill all this time. That first climb is a doozy. I had a 16:48 mile in there. But check out the views:
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Even though I enjoy the scenery, I hope I can get a leetle stronger on the climb in the next couple of weeks.

I ran 19 miles, and it was tough, but I loved it!

Sunday, August 30

Rest day. I did some easy yoga for my tight hamstrings and hips.

Total: 55 miles

This week was a cutback week, the last until taper.

Monday, August 31

AM: 5 miles easy

PM: Strength, per usual

Tuesday, Sept. 1

5 miles of treadmill hills… on the incline trainer this time.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

Same as last week — 8.1 miles with the same little group.

Thursday, Sept. 3

AM: Short, fast hill intervals for 5 miles

PM: Strength training

Friday, Sept. 4

Rest day. I usually rest Sundays, but I was definitely not resting this Sunday, so I took Friday off instead.

Saturday, Sept. 5

5-mile easy run plus core work, shaking out the legs for…

Sunday, Sept. 6

I paced and helped crew Logan through part of her run at the Hideaway 100 in Winter Park. We ran about 12 miles in the wee hours together, though she had a gnarly blister that made our run more of a hike. I’m counting it as a run anyway. I’m hoping to get a post up about the pacer/crew experience later this week.

Total: 40.1 miles

Now I’ve got two more big weeks, two weeks of taper, and the race! Gulp.

I’m very tired, since I slept about an hour last night and another hour when I got home this morning, and that’s it, so I’m not writing reader questions or proofreading this. Please excuse any stupid typos (Students: Do as I say, not as I do), and tell me whatever you want to in the comments.

Blue Sky Marathon Training, Week 6

Another week of trail marathon training is in the books! I’m loving trail running, but I swear, it feels like an entirely different sport. I feel like I’m training for my first marathon again: every week, I finish a long run and think, “Can I really run another 11, 9, whatever, miles?” I’m enjoying it, though. It’s fun to be learning and trying something new!

Here’s how this week looked:

Monday: 

AM: 9.3 miles: 2-mile warm–up,4×1-mile at threshold pace with 3-minute rests, and 2-mile cool down. I haven’t really done speedwork this training cycle — my hard workouts have all been hills — so this was TOUGH. But the sunrise was pretty.
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PM: 45ish minuts strength training

Tuesday: 

AM: 10.6 easy-paced miles. This was an inservice day, so I didn’t have to be at work as early as I do on school days, and I really enjoyed my last morning-with-daylight weekday run for a while.

PM: 30 minutes of yoga, mostly because my colleague and I talked about yoga that day, and I felt guilty for not having done it for a while. Increasing mileage + not doing yoga + two days of sitting in meetings = very angry hips and hamstrings.

Wednesday: 

7-mile recovery run with Jaylin

Thursday: 

5.2 miles of treadmill hills.I had planned for around 7 miles, but my body didn’t adjust well to the half-hour earlier alarm and I was just dragging. This was the first day with students, so I wanted to be early and just cut it short. It  was still a good workout. I also skipped my planned afternoon strength workout. I’m not sure why I bothered planning one at all — I should know by now that the first day of school is always exhausting!

Friday: 

5.5-mile recovery run

Saturday: 

Although I really didn’t want to get up early again, I knew I needed to get to the trails to train. Of course, once i was there,  I was glad I went. I tried a different trailhead and got to run parts of the race course that I hadn’t been on before, so that was fun.  I ran 17 miles, my longest trail run yet.

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I was really just trying to take a picture of these deer, not the cyclist. But that cyclist (and his two buddies) and I played leapfrog for a good chunk of my run. IMG_2034
N
o race can suck too much if you’re looking at this, right?

Sunday:

Rest day. I took a walk and did some yoga to work out some soreness from Saturday.

Total: 54.6 miles

Since the weather is supposed to be hot for at least another week, I’m sticking with morning runs, but I have to start either in the dark or on the treadmill, so I’m hoping I can switch to evenings soon. And on that note, I’m going to post this and get ready for bed so I don’t have another sluggish morning like Thursday.

Are you training for anything lately? 

Is it starting to cool down where you live? 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Freekeh Foods giveaway!

Blue Sky Trail Marathon Training, Week 5

I decided to go back to posting training recaps on Sundays. I write these as much for myself as for you guys, and now that school is starting again, my life is easier if I follow a routine. My plan is to post on Sundays and Thursdays again, but don’t be surprised if Thursdays don’t happen for the first few weeks of school.

This was my fifth week of trail marathon training. I finally had another 50-mile week, so I feel more like I’m actually training, if that makes sense. Let’s pretend that 50 isn’t where I usually start  my training, and now I’m worried because I’m barely hitting 50 seven weeks out…

Monday: 

AM: My plan was to do a long incline workout on the treadmill. At 3.8 miles, I paused it and hopped off to use the bathroom, and when I came back, the incline had stopped working! Not wanting to lose my momentum, I hustled outside and ran three miles at tempo pace, then a cool-down. It wasn’t what I was planning, but it ended up being a solid workout nonetheless. (Side note: I later found out that my treadmill isn’t broken; it  just needed recalibrated. Huge relief.)

PM: Basement strength training, per usual

Tuesday: 

6 miles of sunrise fartleks, followed by core work. I love fartleks. IMG_1983

Wednesday: 

8 miles easy… although they didn’t feel easy, because it was unusually muggy. I’m sure my southern friends would scoff at my definition of “muggy,” but it was rough for me.

Thursday: 

AM: Short hills for 7.2 miles. This road and I are becoming very good friends this training cycle.
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PM: Another round of basement strength.

Friday: 

6.3 recovery miles. My training schedule called for another interval workout, but I’d already done three quality workouts this week. Another one, especially the day before my long run, just seemed like a request for injury, so I took it easy instead. And I played with the camera timer…
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Saturday: 

15.2 trail miles. I randomly ran a few miles with a woman who went to high school with my husband and is training for the same race I am. Small world. I also fell THREE TIMES. Graceful I am not. Don’t worry, I’m not hurt. Just dumb.

At least I had pretty things to look at while I fell on my face. Maybe this is why I fell: too busy gawking at the scenery to look at where my feet were.
At least I had pretty things to look at while I fell on my face. Maybe this is why I fell: too busy gawking at the scenery to look at where my feet were.

Sunday: 

Rest

Total: 50.3 miles

Five down, seven to go.

Have you ever fallen while running? Did you feel as foolish as I did?

Teacher friends: when do you (or did you) go back to school?