Sunrise to Sunset

The Appalachian Trail... beautiful, but kind of rocky!

The Appalachian Trail… beautiful, but kind of rocky!

It started at sunrise. I was freezing my rear off at the starting line. The gun went off and a herd of runners started running… up a hill. Great way to warm up my cheeks! We kept going up and up. We passed cute little homes right next to the road and I remember an old lady with her little white dog watching us through her window. How nice it must be, all cozy in a toasty little house with no reason to run. I wondered if she had been staring out that window every year on this day for the past 52 years. 1963. That’s when JFK pushed to bring the country back to physical fitness. Sorry Mr. President, but our country is still lacking some good old-fashioned PT.

The one biggest difference between a marathon and a 50-mile race is that runners will stop to walk up hills, even during the first mile. If you’re not smart, then go ahead and just keep running up. We will see how far you make it. I kind of took the vibe of the group I was mixed in with. I walked when they walked and ran when they ran. I could kind of pick out the veteran ultrarunners… they just dress differently than the newbies. And they also appear to have a lot of facial hair.

We finally arrived at the top of the mountain at around 1,100 feet where we got onto the Appalachian Trail. That was a bit of a tight squeeze. It’s kind of like driving a car… you have to really gun it and pass safely or just ride the draft and wait it out. Sometimes there is a major traffic jam and you have to remain patient. At one point we arrived at a very rocky section and I was caught in one of these major traffic jams. Someone in the front of the line was delicately stepping over rocks. No lady… that’s not how trail running is done in Colorado. I’ve got my Colorado hat on so I better do something. I gunned it and hopped over rocks like nobody’s business. I left that train of runners in the dust and had an exhilarating few miles of running through the serene forest. My primary focus was on making sure that I didn’t face plant into a rock. I kept wondering when my ego might get the best of me. Eventually I was humbled by the steep and very rocky switchbacks that took us back down the mountain. I am like a grandma when it comes to running downhill. Give me an uphill any day.

By the time I made it the bottom of the mountain at mile 15.5, my legs were on fire. I think I just killed myself going over the mountain with the constant rock hopping. That was like a trail run from hell. I focused my attention on happy thoughts… like the fact that I would now be running on a flat, dirt trail along the river. I remember thinking that I had to go to the bathroom, but I either kept forgetting to stop at the port-a-potties or I told myself that I didn’t want to wait in line because that would take up too much valuable time.

As I eased onto the canal trail, I started my 25 minutes of running combined with 5 minutes of walking. I focused on making it through each 25 minutes so I could take a break with the 5 minutes of walking. I’m not sure if I would call it a “break” now because it hurt more to walk than it did to run. However, I knew that I needed to slow it down once in a while. There was a time between mile 18 and mile 22 when I was cruising along at a pace just under 9 min/mi. I felt so good! The funny thing is, when I run marathons I usually hit a wall around mile 20. My mind was in a happy place. Every now and then I would think “seriously, I have 30 more miles to go!” but then I would draw my attention back to the beauty of the river or the calmness of the trees.

During those next few miles I kept thinking about seeing my family at mile 27. I just stayed focused on getting to that point and I was still feeling good. I kept pace with a veteran runner for a few miles. I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me he was 71 years old and that he had finished this race 24 times! Shoot, if he could keep going, then I sure as heck could!

My family was there waiting for me at mile 27. I hugged my girls and changed my shoes. Then I got back up and kept going… only to realize that my feet had exploded. They were so swollen that my toes were squished against my shoe. Oh crap, this sucks. Maybe I shouldn’t have changed shoes! I don’t know what happened, but after a mile I was okay. Whatever pains I had during the race… knee, calf, toes, feet, back… came and went pretty quickly. Maybe I was able to mentally tuck them away into a little compartment. I don’t know, but I just assumed I would pay for it later.

The canal trail kept going and going. At mile 30, I wondered how in the heck I was going to run 20 more miles. At mile 32, I thought “oh crap, this is the longest distance I have EVER run in my ENTIRE life.” At mile 33, I thought about seeing my family again at mile 38. I just kept running and eating. Oh, let me tell you about the eating. Even when I am running, I seem to have a problem avoiding the junk food. It was just sitting there on every freakin’ table like a giant smorgasbord! I started off great with some oatmeal and a banana. Then I had a gluten-free berry bar. Next I ate a gel (lately I have had some kind of gel aversion, but I choked it down). After that it was pretty much anything I saw that looked good: m&m’s, donut holes, chips, pretzels, cookies. I did eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana for lunch. Okay, so I know I said I was looking forward to seeing my family at mile 38, but I was also told that there would be some red velvet cake. I couldn’t pass up a JFK 50 tradition.

Mile 38. I hugged my family and told them that I would see them at the finish line. At mile 41.5 I was handed the “vest of shame.” I was 15 minutes shy of not having to wear the reflective vest, but I was still doing pretty damn good. We were about to step out onto the road and safety is always a concern at races like these… especially when runners appear drunk at mile 45 and are swerving all over the road.

The first section of the road was up. The course description did mention that these last 8 miles would be rolling, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I basically walked up the steep hills (okay, the ones that appeared steep to me) and ran the rest. At mile 44, I was thinking that the next 6 miles were going to be the longest 6 miles of my life. Then I stopped thinking that and tried to take in the scenery… lots of farmland and large homes. I noticed the sun setting to my left. I could feel the coldness returning, so I continued forward in hopes that I would reach the finish line at dusk. At that point, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I would make my 10-hour goal.

I had a love/hate relationship with the mile markers that were posted every mile. 5 miles to go, 4 miles to go. At mile 46 I just wanted to be DONE. I was still moving along at a good pace and I actually started thinking that I might possibly make it in under 10 hours. I had to keep up the pace, though. I pushed it with every last drop of energy I had.

I remember seeing the finish line and hearing the announcer. I was amazed that I still had enough gas left in the tank to book it as fast as I could go. It felt like I was running 7 mph, but I am pretty sure I was only moving at a snail pace. I was filled with joy (and relief) when I saw my family waving to me right next to the finish line. I crossed the line and wasn’t quite sure what to do next. Someone was asking for my bib number. Another person was trying to pull the vest over my head, while the next person was putting a medal over my head. All I wanted to do was collapse!  Oh, and let me not forget to mention that I finished in 9:55:18!  Whoop!

As soon as I crossed that finish line, my body was done. You could not have asked me to run another mile. I could barely walk to the car without stopping every few feet (and the car seemed so far away!). I was in more pain at that point than I was at any time during the race. I had no concern about eating, drinking or even using the bathroom (which I never did at any point during the race). Speaking of bathrooms, I saw more bare bottoms during that race than I had ever hoped to see in a lifetime. It appeared that runners were getting too tired to even move off the path a few feet.

The car ride back to the hotel was painful. I even asked my husband to drop me off at the front door because I was positive I wouldn’t be able to walk through the parking lot without getting hit by a car. Once inside the hotel room, I couldn’t be bothered to leave. The day before I had talked about my veggie burger, fries and cupcake that I couldn’t wait to devour. Now, I was just happy with my husband grabbing a pizza (and of course he did bring back cupcakes). My youngest daughter kept asking: “Mommy, are you sick?”

Now that it is all said and done, I can reflect on my accomplishment. Running 50 miles is no easy task, but there was a time when even running a 5K seemed daunting to me. We all move forward in our own way and at our own pace. I don’t recommend that you run a 50-mile race unless you REALLY want to, but do challenge yourself in new ways. You are more capable than you ever thought possible. The mind is more powerful than the body. I felt strong and determined the entire way, but only because I told myself that I could do it. I didn’t let myself think otherwise.

JFK 50 Medal

JFK 50 Medal

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Running is Never Boring

Most of the time I only only competing with myself.  In this case, I used all of the remaining energy I had to pass the guy right behind me.  In response to whatever he said that annoyed me, I activated my fast twitch fibers and showed him.

Most of the time I am only competing with myself. In this case, I used all of the remaining energy I had to pass the guy right behind me. In response to whatever he said that annoyed me, I activated my fast twitch fibers and showed him.

There is always a new challenge waiting around the corner.  I know most people would assume that you just go out and run and there isn’t much more to it.  Well, those people are obviously not runners.

Do you remember when you took that first step after you decided to find out what running was all about?  It was an accomplishment to run one mile without walking.  Then you moved on up to the ranks of the 3-mile runners.  And hey, if you could make it 3 miles, then why not sign up for your first 5K?  It becomes almost addictive once you have been at it for a while.  At first glance, it might seem like these runners posses more Type-A personality traits, but just because you might not be hard-core competitive doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the new challenges that running brings.  I encounter many runners who are in it for the fun and social aspect.  They team up with a buddy or a group and find new routes to tackle or new races to finish.  Running is a sport that is well suited for all personality types.

The challenge might be to find a race that offers the most swag or maybe a race that is in a desired destination.  Whatever keeps you running, right?  Why not keep running fun by finding races that allow you to do a bit of wine tasting at the finish line or have zombies chasing you down the street?  Sure, these challenges don’t suit everyone’s desires, but those runners who love the entertainment are definitely not bored.

I know I don’t fall in that category because I am pretty certain I have some Type-A personality traits in my blood. I enjoy a bit of competition and it is usually with myself (or the woman in my age group who I am trying to catch up to and pass).  My first few races were all about the fun and socializing, but then I started to challenge myself with new personal records.  I ran my fastest 5K, 8K, 15K and half marathon.  I could always run faster if I trained hard enough.  Yet, before I got bored with the fast goals, I decided to focus on more variety.  I started participating in triathlons.  My love of running only blossomed as I realized that I could swim a mile, ride my bike 56 miles and still finish a half marathon (not in record time, but pretty darn close).

Then it was back to a focus on running.  I had my eye on achieving my fastest marathon.  I stayed the course and was able to move beyond my goal and achieve a time that I never thought possible.  And why not run another marathon 3 weeks later… this one with a 2,000 foot climb.  It was that marathon that brought me to where I am now: enjoying nature and all of its beauty.  Might as well throw in the challenge of running up endless hills to the tops of peaks.  I thought about the trails in my own backyard.  I’m here, in Colorado, so why not take advantage of what nature has to offer?

My next challenge does have something to do with speed.  A much slower speed up and down hills, over rocks, through forests, in snow and over ice.  Yet, slow would not be a new and exciting challenge all by itself.  It needs to be combined with distance.  So, my next goal is to run an ultramarathon… 50 miles to be exact.

At this rate, I don’t think I will ever get bored with running.  There are so many new routes to try, new races to travel to, new distances to explore, faster speeds to tackle and many more new running buddies to acquire along the way.

January Challenge

Fruits and Veggies!!

Fruits and Veggies!!

I don’t really believe in making New Year’s resolutions.  I think you should be making resolutions year round in order to constantly make positive changes when YOU feel they are necessary (not when the calendar dictates).  It is kind of sad to see the gym packed all through the month of January only to find the numbers dwindling in February.  I think people get the idea that they have to make some kind of resolution (which usually seems to involve some type of exercise or diet regiment) so they tell themselves that they will vow to go to the gym more often.  Then it doesn’t last long because they weren’t really motivated to do it in the first place.  Maybe it was the wrong time or they made a choice that didn’t fit their lifestyle.  Or they chose a goal that was not realistic or they tried to take a giant leap instead of focusing on small steps.  It takes a bit more planning than a one night stand with an idea on New Year’s Eve.

Anyway, I like to challenge myself year round and I usually find a way to involve my family.  For the month of January, it will be a challenge focused on all-you-can-eat vegetables and fruits (my secret way of getting my kids to eat more of the good stuff)!  The goal is to earn points each day by eating a certain number of vegetables and fruits.  The bonus comes when you try something NEW!  My daughter keeps talking about brussel sprouts and I just turn my nose up.  I think I might have to suck it up and cook some brussel sprouts.  I have seen pictures in recipes where they actually look like they might be good…

Please feel free to follow our challenge.  The winner usually gets a day of sitting back while the loser does chores or the winner may get taken out to lunch (obviously it depends on who the winner is… I will be happy with sitting back and barking orders at my oldest daughter :).   We are a pretty competitive family so I think that I will need to do a lot more grocery shopping in order to get through this month.

JANUARY CHALLENGE

RULES:

  1. Consume 6 different types of vegetables per day.  They must be different so one pound of green beans will only count as 1.  You need to consume at least a small handful to count as one.  Don’t worry about exact measurements, but use good judgment.
  2. Consume 4 different types of fruits per day.  One fruit or a handful of fruit pieces (dried fruit counts).
  3. Max points earned per day is 10, BUT you may earn one BONUS point per day if you consume a vegetable or fruit that you have never tried.
  4. You may not make up points on another day.  You may not substitute fruits for vegetables or vice versa.
  5. Must be “real” vegetables/fruit:  not Eggo blueberry waffles, fruit snacks, desserts or other processed treats.  Healthier options will count: such as granola bars made with real dried fruit (homemade is always best).
  6. Tally up your points throughout the day and record them on the calendar at the end of the day.

SUGGESTIONS:

Vegetables:

Broccoli, Squash, Spinach, Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Tomato sauce, Soups, Chili, Peppers, Kale Chips, Zucchini, Salads, Onion

Fruits:

Pineapples, Mangos, Dried berries, Apples, Canned Fruit in water, Bananas, Oranges, Berries, Natural Applesauce, Kiwi, Banana Chips

If you made a New Year’s resolution, then good luck to you!  It is kind of nice to start with a clean slate and for some reason that slight change in a number seems to do that for all of us.  I am looking forward to whatever 2014 brings my way!

When no one is looking…

 

What do you do when no one is watching you workout?  Let’s say you went out for a run, alone.  Do you stop to walk more often than when someone else is with you?  Or do you push yourself harder because you don’t have to worry about slowing down for someone else?  I tend to believe that most people opt for the first option.  It is too easy to just say “the heck with it!” when we are alone and no one is watching.  But, why even workout if you aren’t going to do the best that you can do?  It would almost be a waste of time.

 

A few of you may choose not to go to the gym because you assume that people are watching you and judging you.  Well, don’t get too full of yourself…. people typically have more important things to think about.  And who really cares what someone else thinks?  Isn’t it supposed to be your workout, not theirs?  Everyone has a different strategy and of course we should all know that everybody’s body is different.  I admit that I have often wondered how an overweight person can pass me out on the race course.  Obviously, my running fitness is not as fine tuned as theirs and I have learned that you can never really assume anything.  You can get your rear kicked by anybody.  And the same applies in the opposite situation.  You may see someone at the starting line who appears to be fit as a fiddle, has the so-called runner’s body and all of the most current running gear and gadgets.  Then, the next thing you know, you are flying by them at mile 12.

 

When no one is looking, I try so hard to give it my best, but I must admit that I often fail.  However, yesterday I was on the spinning bike (not in spin class) and I forced myself to sweat bullets.  I didn’t allow any breaks and I pushed through the pain.  I really felt like I had a good workout when I got off that bike.  I was proud that I did that all on my own.

 

I know that I am competitive and that I am most challenged when I am with someone.  I spend some time running and riding with people who are more experienced (and way faster) than me so that I am forced to push myself harder.  It just seems much easier to do that then to try to give myself a stupid “you can do it” peptalk.  Today, during boot camp class, I was in so much pain trying to hold a plank (forever, I swear) and it took everything I had not to let my knees touch the ground because I knew that no one else in the class was going to give up.  It was actually kind of funny because I found myself trying to meditate and breathe evenly and I am not one to do the inner feelings crap like the yogis.  The instructor had said “put that pain in a box and ship it the fuck out of here” (sorry, but those were his exact words).

Then I think about the discipline.  When no one is looking I get my bum out of bed early to go for a run.  When no one is looking, I make the choice to go to the gym.  When no one is looking, I ride 20 miles instead of 10 miles.  When no one is looking, I run up the hills instead of choosing the flatter path.  I think I’m finally getting pretty good at this.  I tell my daughter to “always do the right thing even when no one is looking.”  That is something that we all struggle with.  Take note and try to push yourself a little more the next time you are working out alone.  Or, make the choice to look fear in the face and try working out with someone who is faster or stronger than you.  I get tired of people saying that they wouldn’t want to run with me because I am too fast for them!  That is the whole point!  (And I am really not that fast :).