Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Race Reports- My First 5K & Denver RnR Half

I have done a few races over the past 2 weeks, a local 5K (the Farmers 5000) 2 weeks ago and the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon this past weekend.


Two Sundays (Sept 16) ago was a day of “firsts.”  I started the day off running my “first” 5K* and then immediately headed for the mountains and did my first 14er

The morning of the race I woke up and decided I wanted to run the Farmers 5000, a local race where I live in Wheat Ridge.  So I headed to the race and signed up the day of.   I honestly had no idea what to expect: Do you warm up for a 5K? How fast should I go?  How hard do I push myself? Is there a strategy?

Basically I am a clueless 30-year-old recreational runner, not to mention I have not been training for a 5K and did 15 miles the day before for my marathon training. 

They started the race and I just started running.  I didn’t look at my watch once and just ran faster than what was comfortable.

For the first 1/4 mile, I didn’t see any women in front of me.  Weird.  Then a little high school girl passed me.  For the rest of the race I was about 5-10 seconds behind that girl.  I wanted to try to get up with her, but I doubted myself: 

  • I can’t run that fast?!?! 
  • I don’t WIN races?!? 
  • What if I pass her and then get outkicked in the final 100 meters!??
  • What if I pass the 15-year-old high school kid at the end and look like the beotch that passes the cross country kid who helped put on the 5K?!?

All of the sudden the finish line was in view and I crossed in 20:29 (6:36 pace) as the 2nd female (the female winner crossed at 20:18).  I was breathing heavily but felt like I could have gone another 5 miles at that pace.  Whoops, too much negative thinking during such a short race.   

farmers5k_1I was supposed to win a second place prize, but I had to leave right after the race to go hike the 14er.  Who knows what the prize was, maybe they will mail it to me?  (probably not going to happen as it is 2 weeks later and no prize, bummer)

Oh and my splits were TERRIBLE.  I started off too fast, then slowed down way too much (it was a hilly course with lots of turns, but still, this is bad):

5k splits

But I had a blast!  It was so much fun to RACE and only for 3.1 miles!  I know that I can improve and I think that I can break 20 minutes if I was rested and now that I have a small clue of what to expect. 


This past Saturday (Sept 22) was the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  I didn’t have that high of expectations because my legs had been tired and sore all week from the 14er (it took more out of me than I realized).  But I was going to try for a PR.

Jeff and I headed down to the start only to confirm that the warnings we were hearing were true; parking sucked and road closures prevented you from accessing the site from the north.  Needless to say, we parked over a mile from the start, ran to the start (I guess this was our warm-up?), and instead of starting in the 1st coral, we were late and started in the 4th coral.  So for the first 4 miles we were dodging and weaving through crowds of runners who were running at a pace much slower than we wanted to be at.

The course was decent, but was crowded in the first half, had a lot of turns, and a few hills in the last 4 miles. 

Denver RnR Course I never felt particularly good, but not bad either.  I kept a decent pace, but my legs started to feel heavy at mile 9.  I ended up finishing in 1:31:29, 9 seconds slower than my PR.  I’m pretty confident that if I was running at sea level and was properly rested I could have gone under 1:30 (same thing goes for Jeff).

half splitsThe time got me 22/5342 female and 7/1080 in my age group (F 30-34).

Jeff finished about a minute ahead of me in 1:30:33 (just 10 seconds short of his PR) as 105/2821 male and 26/510 in his age group (M 30-34). 

Denver RnR

We are both about where we need to be in our marathon training and will only get faster/stronger in the next month as the temperature cools off.  Obviously we would like a be a bit faster at this point, but know what we need to do to get there.  We have been doing more fartlek and tempo runs, workouts that we both enjoy (neither of us really like the track so we stopped going).  We have been hitting 40+ miles each week and will up the mileage to close to 50 per week until taper time.  Marathon PR here we come!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our First 14er, Mt Bierstadt!

Yesterday Lara, Jeff, and I completed our first Colorado 14er… Mt. Bierstadt at 14,060 feet!
IMG_3058 It had a Class 2 difficulty rating, so it is one of the easier 14ers and was within an hour drive of Denver in the Arapaho National Forest.  We also had perfect weather!

We drove west on I-70 to Georgetown, CO and the up to Guanella Pass where the trailhead (Trail #711) is.  It took less than an hour to get to the trail.
Mt Bierstadt Location Map
The drive to the trailhead was almost as awesome as the hike itself because the Aspen trees have changed to a vibrant yellow. 
Autumn in the mountains
We started the hike at 11,669 feet.  The hike goes through a bog and then continues up to the summit.  The first 2.5 miles were very easy and enjoyable.
Mt. Bierstadt Hike 1 Mt. Bierstadt Hike 2 Lara and I started feeling the effects of higher elevations at approximately 13,000 feet, so we started slowing down and drank water frequently.  We never felt sick, just got a bit of a headache and dizzy now and then.  Jeff was never effected by the altitude.

At approximately 13,800 feet, the terrain gets a little rugged and is covered with boulders.  It also got windy and was a little cold for Elle…. so Jeff tucked Elle into his sweatshirt like a kangaroo baby the rest of the way to the summit. 

We finally reached the summit a few hours into our hike and started photo documenting proof that we made it to 14,060 feet!
Mt. Bierstadt Summit The views were spectacular and we were so proud of ourselves!  The clueless Midwestern “hikers” made it in one piece!

We then turned around and went back down the mountain (duh).  Stopping now and then to take a few more photos.  The thought of beer waiting in our car pushed us along.  We finished the hike and immediately drank a celebratory brew.  Beers tastes that much better after a 7 mile hike and your first 14er!
Mt. Bierstadt Hike 3
And not to disappoint anyone, we also were able to get some more spectacular jump photos.  We are practically professional jump photo takers.
Mt Bierstadt JumpWe were pretty tired on our drive home, but the gorgeous yellow Aspens made it worth the drive.  I love autumn in the mountains!
Autumn in the mountains2
We are already plotting our next 14er…. which one should we do next!?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Randomness and Happy Birthday Jeff!

While working on site at a facility full of rocket scientists and engineers, I saw this every day:
hiking rocket scientist
This man would go hiking during his break and wear this amazing outfit.  There is so much awesome going on that I had to share it with you.

One day I got an email from my boss informing me of his upcoming nuptials.  See below:
How awesome is this “un-invitation invitation?”  This also is an example of the type of scatter brained emails that I deal with daily from my boss.  He keeps me entertained, that is for sure.

The last post I showed you a lot of wonderful jump photos.  Jump photos are sometimes hard to capture, especially when you have more than 1 person.  Here are the other outtakes:
jump outtakes I was sore the next day from all the leaping and jumping in the sand. 

Also, and most important, today is Jeff's birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEFF!!!!

In honor of his birthday, I would like to share the most hilariously random photo of them all.  A photo of Jeff with all his brothers, in a bath tub (Jeff is second from the left).
That is all.  Have a nice day.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

This weekend Jeff, Lara (Jeff’s cousin who is staying with us for a few months while she completes an internship), the dogs, and I headed about 4 hours south of Denver, Colorado to the Great Sand Dunes National Park (we left Saturday morning after Jeff and I got in a 15 miler).
GSD NP LocationThe Great Sand Dunes are the tallest dunes in North America at 750 feet and are very impressive.  They are located in the San Luis Valley surrounded by two mountain ranges; the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north and east and the San Juan Mountains to the West.  The views were gorgeous.IMG_2883The weather was great and we car camped in the National Park within walking distance of the dunes.  Saturday night we enjoyed some good brews, foil dinners, wine, and S’mores around the campfire.
camp1 camp2 Sunday we woke up to blue skies and immediately headed up the sand dunes.  The weather was in the upper 60s, perfect for hiking!
dunes1 IMG_2933 And of course, we took some hilariously awesome photos along the way:
dunes2 Jump photos NEVER get old. 
dunes3 Neither does running full speed down a sand dune.
dunes4It was a quick trip, but so much fun!  It was great scenery and even better company.  Jeff and I are very lucky to have Lara staying with us until the end of October, she makes these weekend adventures (or really anytime) exponentially more fun and entertaining! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fighting the Running Plateau

Ever since I started running, I have constantly improved.  Every goal race was a PR and it didn’t take much additional effort to run faster.  I didn’t have to think about improving, it just happened (plus I started off really slow so it was very easy to improve).

But lately, I am seeing a change.  As I have gotten faster, it gets harder and harder to improve my pace or to obtain a new PR.  Have I reached my running plateau?  Is a 7:00 pace the best I can do for long distances?

No, I don’t think I have reached my potential (or at least I hope not!).  But my days of not requiring much additional effort to improve are over. 

My current “comfortably fast pace” is around 7:15; my “easy pace” is around a 7:45.  To run the times that I want, I will need to have my “comfortably fast pace” be around 7:00 and my “easy pace” to be around 7:30.  If I want to run these paces for long distances and continue to improve and get faster, I am really going to have to push myself and to work hard.

I don’t have a coach to write me a “get faster program,” nor do I want to lock myself into a specific program found on the internet (because lets me honest, I do what I want when I want anyway).  To keep it “simple,” I will just try to do the following each week until the NYC Marathon (Nov. 4):

  • Run more.  I need to consistently run 40+ miles a week at a minimum, ideally 50+ miles a week (right now I am running around 30 miles a week).  I can do this by adding a mile or two to each run. 
  • More speed work.  And not just 4 miles worth of speed work at the track like I have been, more like 6+ miles of 200s, 400s, 800s, and 1 mile repeats.  Hill repeats can also count as speed work, plus hills will be good to train for the bridges I’ll be running over in NYC.
  • Tempo runs at faster than a 7:00 pace, and longer tempo runs.  My 5 mile fast runs just aren’t cutting it as tempo runs for marathon training, I need to do 7+ miles at a 7:00 pace.
  • Double days a few times a week to get in that extra mileage.  Get up early, run an easy 3-5 miler and then do another workout in the evening.
  • Don’t skip the long run.  I MUST do a long run each weekend from now until my marathon. 

By posting my “plan” for the next few months, hopefully I will stick with it and beat my previous marathon time (3:17).  In addition, Jeff will be training with me and he needs to pick it up if he wants to qualify for Boston during his next marathon (St Louis RnR on Oct 23).  Hopefully we can feed off and motivate each other!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stranger Danger, Relay Edition

My previous post detailed the running aspect of the Hood to Coast Relay.  But relays are much more than a running event, relays are essentially a social experiment in which you put 6 people in a van for 30+ hours with no sleep and lots of running. 

Most teams know each other and form a team based on previous friendships, relationships, and/or similar running goals.  These teams have some idea of what to expect when living with 6 people for the length of the relay.  My team, on the other hand, was a group of COMPLETE (all-female) strangers.  Not only did I not know anyone else on the team, most of the other team members were ALSO strangers (there was 2 pairs of the women knew each other).  This made for quite an interesting situation.

Coming into the relay, I knew running this relay with complete strangers could either:

  1. be an awesome experience in which I would meet awesome people and gain life long friends from across the country, OR
  2. be an utter disaster in which I would be caged in a van for 30+ hours with people I couldn’t stand.

My experience was somewhere between the two.  I really enjoyed the running aspect of the relay and met a few people I could see myself keeping in contact with….. but there were others (1 woman in particular) who I could not stand and who almost ruined the experience (yes, 1 person can almost ruin it for everyone if they are bad enough).  And being stuck in a van for 30+ hours with someone you cannot stand is not so fun. 

In addition to the 1 bad apple, I think there was just not enough in common between me and the other team members to optimize my experience.

Here is where there were differences between me and the majority of my teammates:

Age/Life Phase:

  • I was the youngest runner at 30, and the oldest member was 55.  The average age was around 40. 
  • Some women had kids that were my age, some women had babies at home, others had no kids at all.
  • I like to enjoy a cold beer after running.  The majority of the women didn’t even drink beer.
    • Example: Me after my first leg “I want a cold beer, did we put some in our cooler?” Teammate “I don’t like beer.  Plus, you probably should not be drinking in the van.” 
  • I like to celebrate after races by drinking beer and hanging out at a bar or beach party until wee hours of the night.  The majority of the women wanted to have 1 glass of wine at the beach house and went to sleep by 9pm.
    • Example: Me “Lets go to the beer garden and chug beers with the other teams!” Teammates “We’re tired and beer is gross.”
    • This led to me drinking beer by myself in the beer garden while awkwardly texting people on my phone to appear to have friends.  BUT I did convince one teammate (the oldest) to come back later with me and we had a blast; I wish she would have been in my van to get to know her more.
  • I am a big goofball, I love to listen to music, and do stupid things.  Many of the women were very serious and wanted to sit in the van having quaint conversations.  
    • Example: Me “I made a bunch of CDs to listen to!” I put the CDs up front and one in the CD player, but it was never turned on. Silence or awkward conversation continued for 30+ hours.
    • Example: I wanted to jump out of the van and perform a dance routine in the van headlights along the road for the night runners as course entertainment.  But I felt that if I did this, my teammates would have left me behind in embarrassment.  I felt inhibited and that I was always holding back.

Running/Fitness Level:    

  • I was the fastest runner at around a 7:00 pace, the slowest “runner” was at a 13:00 pace.  The average pace was around a 9:15 pace. 
  • I have participated in a TON of races and do marathons and half marathons all the time.  One woman had never ran a single running event in her life.
    • Example: Teammate (bad apple woman) “So where do I pin this race bib? Do I pin all 4 corners?” Doh.
    • Example: Same teammate “What if I need medical support? Do I need to bring one of those GU things? Should I wear my hydration belt?” This was right before her first 4 leg which was 4 miles (easy rating). It was going to be a long 30 hours…..
    • Example: Same teammate after her run “I have a blister, I don’t know if I can continue?!” I looked at her foot and did not see evidence of a blister.
    • Example: Same teammate after her 2nd run “How do you know if you have a blood clot, is it visible?  I think I might have a blood clot in my calf.”  Seriously.  I was sitting behind her and began hitting my head against the side of the van.
    • A word of advice- if you have never run a RUNNING event, DO NOT choose your first event to be the Hood to Coast 200 mile running relay.
  • I run to compete.  The other women “run” to finish. 
  • I know exactly the types of food I need to eat and at what times to it them to succeed and feel good.  There was one woman (obviously the bad apple) who was eating Cheetos 5 minutes before she ran and couldn’t figure out why she felt like crap.

Needless to say, I was a little frustrated the whole weekend.  (Granted, there were several of the women who were great…. I just didn’t get to know them well and the bad apple overshadowed everyone else.) 

I was doing an amazing running relay but was participating it with the wrong team.  I would look around and lust after the fun and fast teams, wishing I was with them.  Instead of enjoying the moment, I was constantly thinking about how I would do things differently if I did another relay.

Well, you win some and you lose some. 

I wouldn’t take back this experience, in fact I’m glad I did it.  I now know what to expect for relays and can’t wait to do another one, but with the following types of people:

  1. Coed team.  I think a mix of men and women would be better for me.
  2. Similar paces to mine, if not faster (this would cause me to run faster). I like to push myself.
  3. Competitive team; run to race, run to win!  I’m competitive.
  4. Similar ages, or at least people who are at similar life phases.
  5. Partiers.  Beer drinkers are a must.
  6. Goofballs.  Must be able to make as a$$ of themselves in the name of fun.
  7. Established friendships.  Know at least a few of the teammates or at least have a connection to all of them.  Make sure personalities mesh well.

I’m already mentally forming a team for a relay…. hopefully they will want to run the next one with me!!!

* If someone from my relay finds this blog and reads this, I hope I don’t offend anyone and I hope they understand where I am coming from.