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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2018 Year of Running + 2019 Goals

My Instagram top nine
Just like 20152016, and 2017 I'm joining Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC for the annual Year of Running linkup. But first, some stats and notes:

2018 Stats

  • Total running miles: 1,031 miles 
  • Elevation: 58,719 ft
  • Races: 12
  • Injury: 1 -- It got better in the spring, but flared up on the trails in June. I know what to do to avoid it, but I'm chronically lazy about doing my stretches. At the moment my knee is mostly fine. Minor pain and an all clear from the PT. 

Linkup Questions

Best race experience: I didn't have a great second half of the year for racing: two half marathons were ruined by stomach issues and I felt underprepared for speed in three 5ks. But the beginning of the year was pretty good. On the road, I enjoyed Cap City because I felt bad going in, but by mile 5 everything clicked and I had a big PR. On the trail, I enjoyed the Rut 11k.

Best run: All of my best runs have been with my friend Wendie, including my first 20 miler! Our personal best (/fastest) was a kick ass 14 miler a month ago. My best solo run is harder to pin down. Maybe doing 3 M laps in June and feeling really strong. M laps mean "running" (walking) up the side of a nearby mountain and coming down.

Best new piece of running gear: I don't think I bought any new gear– just more clothes. My current favorite running tights are Bird Hug by Oiselle. My favorite top is the Flyout tee in a size up for a looser fit. (By the way, if you've never tried Oiselle, here's a code for $20 off $50.)

Best running advice you’ve received this year: Lauren Fleshman gave a talk at the Tenacious Ten about envisioning your race finish and making a race plan to achieve it. I wanted to be "satisfied and smiling" and because I was more focused on enjoying myself, I didn't look at my watch and ended up running paces I never imagined. Also –I don't usually bookmark quotes on Instagram because I'm kind of heartless– this quote stood out and may be the way I approach 2019. Adapted from here:
"Be a hill seeker. Most of us try to avoid hills... Life happens on the hills. They're opportunities to prove to yourself that you're stronger than you ever imagined."
Most inspirational runner: I continue to enjoy following "normal" runners on Instagram. The people who fit in runs however they can in a busy, well-rounded life.

Favorite picture from a run or race this year: I really only had 2 competitive races this year and some decent official race photos, but since my focus was on FUN, I like these:

Tenacious Ten with Megan; Bozeman Half with Wendie

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: I don't have a go-to Montana race yet... maybe Run to the Pub if I can stay out of the walking traffic. I'm looking forward to trying a new half in Utah this year.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words what would they be? Fun. Envy. Stupid knee. But mostly, FUN.

Review 2018 Goals

  • 5K PR. All miles under 7:55. NOPE. I didn't feel 100% at the 5ks I ran this year 
  • Half PR. All miles under 8:59. YEP. 1:53. I basically crushed it. Yay "altitude training."
  • 10k PR. 8:30 pace or better. YEP. 51:57. My friend Megan helped! 
  • Keep up strength training. YEP. I go to TRIBE 2x a week, but could still do better. 
  • Avoid injury! KIND OF? I didn't get a new injury and I can run without much knee pain. 
  • Keep running with other people. YEP. All of my high mileage runs were with Wendie!

2019 Goals

  • 5K PR. All miles under 7:55. Let's try this again, shall we? 
  • Half PR. Why not? 
  • Finally run a full. I got into Chicago, so I'll put this on the list so I can cross it off. 
  • Keep strength training. Perhaps I'll add another class. We'll see. 
  • Avoid injury. Do PT stretches!!! No excuses! It keeps the knee pain away. 
  • Do hard things. I avoid hills. I avoid long midweek runs. And I avoid running with people faster than me. I avoid all of these things even though I feel happy and accomplished when the runs are over. I need to embrace the suck and I will get stronger! 

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Books of 2018

79 Books 

Won on Goodreads: 15
Nonfiction: 18
Re-reads: 12

I didn't read as many books this year, mainly because I slacked off during the summer. To recharge, I re-read a few of my favorites including Harry Potter, Rainbow Rowell, Born to Run, and The Little Stranger. I didn't have a particular goal and just read whatever, whenever. My biggest departures were books about Van Gogh and the Star Wars novelizations. (I recommend Leia and Phasma. The Aftermath trilogy was not my jam.) All in all, a good year. Looking to diversify a bit more in 2019.

What I read

Won on Goodreads

Nonfiction and memoirs


Did we read any of the same books? Any recommendations? 
And as always, if you're on Goodreads, let's be friends.

Past years: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

(Happy) Recap: The Rut 11k

The Rut 11k took place on Sunday, September 2 at 8:00am in Big Sky, MT. There are four races in the entire Rut series: VK, 11k, 28k, and 50k.

The Rut takes over Big Sky Resort on Labor Day weekend. Last year we handed out medals for the 28k and knew we wanted to run in 2018. A few of The Rut races sell out almost immediately, so we went to a sign up party back in winter to register for the 11k. The longer distances are pretty extreme, running over scree at 11,000+ft, so the 11k sounded fine to me!

Pre Race
Alex volunteered on Saturday. I would have liked to but we had a friend visiting, so I showed her around Big Sky. Later, we checked into our hotel (as close to the start/finish as we could get!), our friend headed to Yellowstone, and Alex and I settled in for the night.

We woke up a little after 6, got ready, and had a ton of time to kill before the race. About 10 minutes before line up we ambled down to the start and I immediately saw some Bozeman friends.

Bozeman runner friends!

Goals, etc.
I didn't have big goals for this race because my knee had been bothering me since the Missoula Half and Cross Cut. I had to wait almost a month for a PT appointment, but she taped me up and gave me some instructions (smaller steps, quicker cadence). My "big goals" were:

A. Don't finish last
B. Don't hurt your knee
C. Scout the course for next time
D. Finish sub 1:47*
(*because that's how long it took my friends to finish a few years ago and it seemed like a good goal.)

Crappy photo of the start

The Race
I thought I'd run with the Bozeman ladies, but they had their own goals, so I was on my own. We lined up in Wave 2 and we were off. Three tenths into the race–just as I was starting to feel tired on an uphill–we switched from double- to single-track and there was a traffic jam. Alex said this kind of happened in Wave 1, but he didn't have to walk much. Honestly, I was kind of thankful. The walking was easy–we weren't climbing a big hill–and it allowed me to warm up. It was pretty annoying to be stuck behind so many people, but I wasn't going for speed, so I just tucked in. Looking back, I'd probably start at the front of Wave 2 and not the back. 

After about three minutes of walking we started trotting and wound our way through some woods, then emerged on a ski hill. It was a little rocky and the two times I looked around to enjoy the scenery I tripped, but if I kept my eyes on my feet I was ok. It was technically technical, but nothing like the trails the 28k and 50k racers would see. 

Going into this race, I knew there was one BIG climb and then a steep downhill. The big climb started just after mile 1 and lasted until mile 5. It was *only* 1,500ft, so just a teeny bit more than the second climb in Cross Cut, but knowing this race was 3 miles shorter with a single tough climb made all the difference. Easy! I can do that.

This is my kind of course. ONE giant climb. That's it. 

We began the climb in a grassy field and I remember turning a corner and seeing the switchbacks ahead. It was a bit daunting to see how far we had to climb, but I stuck with the folks around me.

At mile 3 I ate my gel very slowly. I was still cautious after my terrible gel-induced cramps at Missoula, but this one seemed to go down ok. I took advantage of every flat section and downhill and passed a few people. I was tired and it was hard, but it wasn't the end of the world.

Just before mile 4 we took a sharp switchback and the real climb began. Hoo boy. Not only was this section of trail way rockier and filled with loose dirt, but it was super steep. For less than a half mile we climbed grades betweens 15 and 30%. Woof. 

I was thankful for Cross Cut. I was thankful I tried to climb the steep M trail a week before (and kind of failed, but at least I knew I'd make it). And I was thankful for the guy directly in front of me. He looked super fit (always a boost to be around someone like that–I think he ran the 28k the day before) and had a tattoo on his ankle that I could focus on. There was a guy behind me who'd run this before and kept making funny comments. It was nice to know the people around me were struggling, but that we were all in a good mood.

I totally would have stopped if I was hiking the trail alone or if I'd found myself alone on the course. I think that's important for me to remember: I need to be around people when the going gets tough. If I'm on a trail run with friends I always feel stronger. And in the races I've hated it's usually because I've gone in with a bad attitude, I'm getting passed left and right, and not staying with a group. Sometimes I need to tuck in and follow until I get my strength back.

I know proofs are lame, but people hate this photo company... (there's a whole story)
That super steep bit ended and we were back to 3-15% inclines, which felt "easy." This part of the course included a banked mountain bike trail where it was hard to cut corners because of the slope on the edge. We hit a few false summits, but the people around me kept it light.

I eventually caught up to a Oiselle teammate, which I was not expecting. Honestly, that put a little pep in my step. She wasn't having a stellar day and didn't seem as excited to see me (you know, her injured slowpoke teammate lol), but we chatted until we came to the aid station at the top of the hill.

The aid station sat on a wide access road and marked the beginning of the downhill. For a lovely three tenths of a mile we ran on a wide gravel road. I felt so fast! The course abruptly turned back into the woods and I was faced with an insane downhill. Strava says -38% grade. It looked like a slide. I was thankful to be near my Oiselle teammate because she'd run the race before and slid down on her butt. I followed, happy that I hadn't tried to run it and mess up my leg.

Speaking of my leg: NO PAIN! I'd taped it, but I'd also concentrated on upping my cadence. The biggest test of my knee was the downhill. My PT said to take short, quick, steps to the sides. It worked! I ran the downhills faster than normal. My footing was more confident than Cross Cut's steep descent. I have been stronger on casual trail runs this year vs. last (less trips and falls) and it felt so good to finally feel some progress!

I knew the course was short, so I flew down to the finish (and passed 20+ people according to the split data). I stayed with a pod of other runners, passing some on the short uphills. My Oiselle teammate took off, but I didn't finish far behind. When we came to the final wide gravel trail I sped up, but didn't want to bite it in front of the spectators so I kept myself in check.


Post Race
I crossed the line and wandered around for a while trying to find Alex. I saw one of my Bozeman friends finish and met up with Oiselle teammates. Two of them won the 60+ age group, so we stuck around to watch the awards while drinking free coffee and chocolate milk.

Some Oiselle MT teammates

Leanne and me

Stats and Thoughts
I was so happy when I crossed the finish line and had tons of energy to spare, so I know I could go faster. It was night and day from my bad attitude at Cross Cut. I loved this race! The climb was hard, but the downhill was rewarding.

Time: 1:34:46
Overall: 242 / 498
Gender: 143 / 342
Age Group: 62 / 123

I can't wait to try this again with more training and less knee pain in the lead up. I'd like to say I'd run the 28k, but it's a very exposed course at high altitude, which is not my scenic jam. Additionally (and maybe most importantly) it took a similarly paced Oiselle teammate 7:30 to finish and I don't want to spend that much time on a race that isn't a 50k.

Sunday Fun
Directly after the race Alex and I returned to the hotel and took advantage of the outdoor heated pool and hot tub. It was amazing. Post shower and check out, we headed back to the finish line to watch our friend finish the 50k, then drove home. It was such a lovely Sunday.

I'm jealous of myself and I was there.

From the draft folder: (Whiny) Recap: Cross Cut 15K

This post has been in my drafts folder for two months. Whoops. My most recent (steep) trail run was a completely different experience (all thanks to a better attitude), but I'm sharing this post because at the time I was really annoyed with trail running and it's kind of amusing. 

Alex and I ran the 15k. Kate ran the 25k.

The Cross Cut 15k took place on Saturday, July 21 at 7:00am. There were two distances: 25k & 15k.

Grumble, Grumble
I ran a half marathon the weekend before and my legs didn't recover as fast a normal. Maybe because we had a friend in town and I spent the week hiking. My legs were still a little sore on Friday and my reoccurring knee pain had returned.

I'll be perfectly honest: I did not want to run this race. I signed up months ago at the request of an acquaintance who said we'd train together. We played phone tag and never ran. Two weeks before race day she sent a weird text like, "I need to start training haha Did you sign up?" Did I sign up!?! I said I did in March! Ack. Come race day she was no where to be found. If Alex wasn't signed up I would have bailed, too!

The Plan: DNF
I planned to run the first uphill and drop at the aid station if my knee was bothering me. I said, "if my knee was bothering me" but in my mind I'd already decided to drop. Why not? I didn't feel like doing it and I've never DNF'd. There's gotta be a first time! Not a great attitude, huh?

This is the only race photo I'm in. grumblegrumble
The "Race" 
(FYI: This is a really long recap because it felt like a really long race.)

We set off just after 7:00am and began the (ridiculous) first climb. I ran/hiked until the slope became too steep and decided not to exert too much energy. We were climbing up the ski hill access roads with the 25k-ers until just after a mile when the 15k split off to climb an actual ski hill.

It was single track/narrow dirt path up the hill. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I'd hiked some of it a few weeks before when I ran the Bridger ridge line, so I knew what to expect. The first climb lasted til 1.7 and I hated every moment. I huffed and puffed loudly, got passed by a bunch of "good job"-ers, and stopped to "take a photo" (aka catch my breath and question my decisions).

Not even close to the worst part.

My knee hurt, but it wasn't terrible. Regardless, I planned on dropping as soon as I saw the aid station. In the back of my mind I remembered the aid stations were 3-4 miles apart. Ugh. Could I wait that long? Could I just turn around and walk back to the start? My bad attitude increased...

Once we finished that first killer climb I was able to run for almost a half mile, then it was back to run/hike for another half mile. The faster 25k folks rejoined us in this section, so I stepped off to the side of the trail to let them pass. I wasn't wild about that, if I'm honest. Any time the 25k course joined the 15k course it was always the faster runners. I got out of their way, but it kind of messed up my rhythm. But at this time I was planning to drop, so who cared?

The mile between 2.5 to 3.5 was gorgeous. The wildflowers were beautiful thanks to the late June rains. I enjoyed this section because I was able to run most of it! I was in a pack of runners and followed their lead. It felt like a nice, normal trail run vs. the typical Bozeman "let's race up the side of this mountain." The aid station appeared around mile 3.5 and because I'd had so much fun –and, let's be honest: because it was only a mom and her two kids manning the aid station so how would I get down??– I grabbed some M&Ms, took a break, then decided to run until aid station 2.

I was able to keep up my momentum and ran most of the way between aid stations 1 and 2. There were a few short climbs, but it was mostly downhill. I felt like I was banking time and could maybe finish under 2:15. My knee hurt on the downhills, but I knew I could finish the race if I had to. I wasn't really having very much fun, but the real depressing moments were yet to come. Yay!

Just after mile 5 I stopped at aid station 2 and chatted with a volunteer about my knee and she asked if I was going to be ok. That last downhill section was relatively pleasant, so I decided to keep going. I should have stopped. Ok not really. BUT, UGH.

We turned a corner after the aid station and started climbing this ridiculous hill. Unlike the first 1.5 mile/1000ft climb, this was 3.5 miles long. Obviously not as steep, but I could only run short sections, so it was a SLOW hike up. I didn't think my mile times were that bad, and at first I passed other 15k runners, but eventually they caught back up as I ran out of gas. On a positive note, I had some decent mantras going: "nice and easy" "don't look up, just climb."

I remember when I thought 600ft was a lot of gain in a trail race. HAHA 

But there were also times in this race–before the climb– where I muttered, "I hate this." and "Bozeman is dumb." I don't really think those things but I missed the days of normal trail races where you can actually run the whole thing. I'm sure if I was in a better mood and well rested I probably could have finished under 2:20, but the final 4 miles of this race pushed me down and knocked me out.

Anyway.... we were climbing. Forever. I knew the course was long, but when we circled back to aid station 1 I realized we had to retrace our steps until the final downhill turn and I wanted to quit. But I'd made it this far, so I couldn't drop. I grabbed some more M&Ms and trudged on. I say trudged because the 25k runners were back with us and–surprise–they were all really fast and wanted to pass. I stepped aside to wait and lost time. I looked at my watch at mile 8 and saw 1:55. I knew we had at least 2 miles to go in this long 15k. I figured 2:20 was still within reach.

Haha. Nope

On the way to the finish. View almost made it worth it.
I felt like the mile between 8 and 9 would never end. I knew we were looking for volunteers to send us downhill towards the ski lodge. The final hill was qualified as a "quad burner." I kept looking downhill to my left and I couldn't even see the lodge. Were there really only 2 miles left?!?!

"The downhill's close.... right?!"
Finally, I got to the downhill. It was, in fact, super steep and I couldn't really run it. Guess what? After a steady race of remaining upright I finally bit it. I totally fell two tenths of a mile down the hill and twisted my left ankle. It hurt a lot, but because I've twisted my ankle several times in the past year I knew it would be fine in a minute or two. I stopped and shook it out while at least 5 people passed me. Ughhhhh. I was so over the race at that point.

Luckily the last half mile was pretty runnable, but as I watched my footing on the final chute (still rocky) some 15k girl sprinted pass me. Whatever.

Post Race
I finished and hung out with my friend Jason who'd come to watch. I couldn't find Alex anywhere and after an hour (!) I was kind of freaking out, but he finally appeared. Turns out, he was in a lead group and the volunteers routed them the wrong way at mile 2! So instead of starting on the course loop, they sent them down the final hill. He descended the hill and crossed the finish in 45 minutes, only to be told it was wrong. The group climbed back up the hill and completed the course. First off, that is bonkers and I totally would have stopped. Second, it added at least 2+ miles to his race and an extra (steep) 1,200ft climb. His longest run coming into this was 9 miles. Poor guy was spent! Luckily, he was comped a free future race for the mix up.

Also happy to be done. 

Stats and Thoughts
Well, on the plus side: I finished and didn't drop out. But now I'm bummed I didn't finish under 2:20. I wasn't very tired and had fun socializing after, but my legs were shot for the next few days

Time: 2:32
Overall: 92/125 (yikes)
Age Group: 21/27

My GPS said we ran 10.4 miles (14:35 pace). I guess the 25k is short (~14.5 miles) and their climbs/descents are a little less steep, but I don't know if it's "easier." While I was running I never wanted to run it again, but now I'm kind of mad I didn't do better. Not sure if that's enough motivation to do it again knowing that most Julys are super hot/dry and the wildflowers probably won't be out...

And now, months later and post-Rut, I kind of want to do it again because it was good Rut prep. Ugh. My stupid runner's memory. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Recap: Missoula Half Marathon

Hola! I'm joining Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home's Weekly Wrap linkup to recap a race from last weekend. 
Free race photos!
The Missoula Marathon took place at 6:00am Sunday, July 15 in Missoula, Montana. I ran the half marathon. [race website]

Pre Race
We arrived in Missoula on Saturday–earlier than last year– and picked up my packet, explored the farmer's and craft markets, then went over to set up the Oiselle meetup. Our team includes a few race officials, so we were able to meet in the same room Deena Kastor used for her talk and book signing. As a result, we got an early team photo with Deena and Canadian Olympian Courtney Babcock, who lives in Missoula.

With Deena (bottom left) and Courtney (bottom right)
After the meetup (which was huge for Montana!), Alex and I checked into our hotel, grabbed a bite to eat at a local brewery, then settled into our room while I set out stuff for the next day.

Full team meetup. Huge group for Montana! (+ 3 out-of-staters)

I haven't been running on the roads and haven't had a traditional long run in two months. My long trail runs involve quiet a bit of hiking up a mountain and stopping for photos. It's great training, but not quiet the mental training needed for a road half marathon. Taking that into account –and the potential for warm weather– I made what I thought were pretty flexible goals.

A. Beat last year's time or at least sub-2. I'm in better shape, so I figured this was doable.
B. If I can't do that, then at least 2:05

Oiselle meetup at the half marathon start

It Was Perfect
Unlike my current PR half,  everything went perfectly. I hydrated well, went to bed at 10 (early for me!) and slept. In the morning, everything went like clockwork and I lined up with time to spare. I didn't feel like running, but everything was going so well I figured it might be a good day!

I lined up just behind the 2 hour pace group and got into a groove. I felt like I was working pretty hard for a pace over 9 minutes, but that's usually how I feel for the first mile or two.

Didn't see the photographer until too late.
We wound our way along a river and I passed the 2 hour pacers pretty early on. They were on pace this year–maybe even a little slow. I probably shouldn't have passed them, but there was a good downhill in mile 2 I needed to take advantage of. I wasn't feeling great by the time we crossed the river at mile 3.5, but I figured I could keep a 9:00-9:10 pace and hopefully stay in front of the pacers to get a sub-2 finish.
Miles 1-4: 9:17, 8:48, 9:09, 9:06

...Until it wasn't 
I felt like I was working harder than normal. My legs felt very heavy (even though I stopped running trails last week to give them a break) and my breathing was a bit labored. My stomach felt a little empty since breakfast was over 2 hours earlier, so I decided to take my gel around mile 5.

I've been using the same two flavors of gel for over three years. I'm not a huge fan of the Mocha flavor, but someone gifted me a huge box and I've been using them since. In fact, I'm almost out. I say all of this because using this specific type of gel was not new to me during a long run But for some reason less than a minute after I finished the gel my stomach cramped! It was in knots. I've run with stomach cramps or side stitches before, but this was on another level. I felt twisted.

I tried running through the pain, hoping it would go away. I noticed my pace was slipping. A 9:20 pace should have felt easy, but instead it felt like a sprint I couldn't maintain. I drank some water, but the pain continued. I couldn't imagine running 7 more miles as I tried to hang on.

It worked for a few miles, but almost as soon as my watch dinged 7 miles, the 2 hour pace group passed me. That was all I needed to stop and walk. I knew my day was over, so I texted Alex to expect me around 2:05. Soon after, my friend Wendie sent me a text to say her day was over, too. We were suffering out there!
Miles 5-9: 9:03, 9:18, 9:23, 9:59, 9:55

Better with Friends
From there, I walked on and off. I planned to finish each mile and walk the start the next if my miles chimed under 10:00. Just after my mile 9 walk break –as I strongly considered standing on the side of the road to wait for Wendie–I came upon a Oiselle teammate who was also suffering. She was going for her first sub-2, but when we met up she'd just started walking. She felt nauseous and upset over her race. We commiserated and tried to figure out what went wrong today. Was it the heat? We both thought last year was hotter. Maybe there was more humidity? Who knows.

Honestly felt like I walked more before mile 9!
We walked/jogged our way in and did a pretty good job running the final mile. Talking to her took my mind off my stomach pain. I wasn't gunning for a PR or time goal, so I let her unload her frustration. We've all been there! It sucks when you train for months and know you can do it. In the end, we finished in 2:08. I may have been able to hit 2:05, but honestly, who cares? I had more fun this way.
Miles 10-end: 10:17, 11:12, 10:42, 11:04, 8:47 (.1)

Crossing the line

Afterwards - Cheering Others 
I met up with Alex after and we made our way through the free food line, then over to the Oiselle cheering area. We stood there for two hours watching the marathoners come in. There were some big goals on the Oiselle team and while a few were met, most people struggled. It reminded me of my earlier conversation: Was it the heat? The humidity? What happened on Sunday? Why didn't we meet our goals?

After. Happy to be done.
Final Stats and Thoughts
My time was 10 minutes slower that last year. That's kind of a bummer, but this wasn't a goal race, so I don't really care. I'm mostly worried about why I got such painful stomach cramps and what to do if it happens again...

Final time: 2:08:05
Overall: ? (the results are separated by gender...)
Gender: 485/1852 (26%)
Age Group: 109/265 (41%)

Nice, big medal
Up Next: Cross Cut 15k (I've already run it, but the recap won't be up for a bit), then the Sweet Pea 5k. I was planning to go for speed at the 5k, but it's only 2 weeks away so maybe not... ;)

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