Saturday, December 17, 2016

Enjoying running VS the joy of running

A conversation I find myself having at least a few times a year goes something like this:

Me: Man that run was really fun!
RP: I agree, it was nice not to have a plan and to just do whatever
Me: This makes me remember the joy of running!

That conversation got me thinking. Hmmm, the joy of running vs enjoying running. It seems likes it is just semantics, but for me there is a real difference between them

So what is the difference?

Here is an example: The other day I did a run with a friend that went like this:

"How many miles we doing"...... "
 Idk, 10-11ish"....
"Ok, I could go up to 10"
"Where we going".....
"Idk, why don't we go up that road and loop around"... 
"Hey, lets cross the pedestrian bridge to cross 28" ...
"great, sounds good" "Oh hey, I didn't realize that is where the brewery was at, huh..."
"Wanna do that road that runs parallel to the highway",
"Yeah, we haven't been there in awhile"
"Hey, look at those big stairs, where do they go?" ....
"Want to go up them?"

Well, you get the drift! Literally every intersection was a brand new decision to make. We saw beautiful old homes, went up 5 sets of stairs, climbed a couple monster hills, saw new (to me) views of the city and scored a Christmas party invite for an event at a local historical property. And it was a run full of joy. No plan, nothing but adventure! We stopped and talked to people, we would change direction just to go check out some cool architecture, and we talked of nothing serious the whole way. The feeling that I had upon finishing was akin to the sense of zen you get at the end of yoga mixed with the elation of a great accomplishment. And I can honestly say that that is not how I feel during or after my typical day to day runs.


See, like most people, I stick with what I know and go off of what my plan says. As running has become an integral part of my life, it has also become scripted. I need to do 7 miles at a 8:40 pace with hills. Great, I know what route I comfortable with, where I know it is lit and I know what kind of people and traffic I will have to deal with.  I know where every road goes and have no chance of being turned around or lost.

Following the script is comforting. I still enjoy my runs (even the crappy ones) and look forward to getting out there and reaping the benefits of running, but more often then not I do not feel the joy of running when I am done. I may feel like a badass after a hard pace run, or feel a great sense of pride after hitting a new distance, but it isn't that sense of joy. Routine has gotten rid of that.  I still enjoy doing it and am happy afterwards, but it is not the same feeling. That feeling of being free, like I am a kid again running through the fields trying to catch horny toads.

Now, this summer I had a chance to run without the script, but I was travelling constantly for 6 weeks to unknown places, every run was an exploration. That is not real life most of the time. Until I win that big lottery, being a professional traveler who runs is just not an option. And quite frankly, I need scripted runs. I need routine, I need a plan to help me push through to that PR. I need to know where I am going when I want to get lost in thought while I run,  I need to feel comfortable that I will be safe when I am running alone as it gets dark, and that I will be minimally harassed during my runs. HOWEVER, I also want that sense of utter joy.

But here is the kicker, I don't know that you can plan a spontaneous for the joy of running run. Or can you? The annual Fleet Feet holiday lights run just came and went.  I know the route, and I even know most of the things it swings by. But, I also know we sang songs, stopped and to take silly photos at all the places and there was a sense of joy from everyone around. There was no seriousness. It was a joy of running run. So maybe they can be planned. Maybe once every other week or so one of those aerobic runs or recovery runs can be renamed as a Joy of Running run, a run where I meet up with friends and we explore a new neighborhood, or we stop and take photo's of all the street art that is around here, or we make it a scavenger hunt of sorts. Or, if I can't find someone who can... I can do those things on my own.  Maybe, just maybe I can have my cake and eat it too. I can have my script, my routine and still find joy in my sport. I think I will try it out. As I get into my next training plan, an aggressive 16 week plan for Boston, I will make sure that I keep some joy of running runs in there to break up script and keep my mind and spirit in a joyful place.

Happy Running! 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Running and Depression & Anxiety

This is not an easy thing to open up about, nor is it a subject I broach lightly. Please know that I do not write this in seeking pity or sympathy, but more to bring light to something that many deal with in hopes that my story can bring clarity to at least one.

As a person who works in mental health, I have an unique view of depression and anxiety. I understand what it is and how it affects a person's brain, affecting mood. This knowledge makes having a depression and anxiety disorder myself even more difficult. It is not something I discuss with people, I chose to manage it on my own, in my way. I have suffered from these disorders since childhood and it wasn't until I began running that I found a healthy way to cope. Without fail, running is the most successful way I have found to help me deal with the symptoms of these, and for more than one reason

Depression and anxiety are both major things that can have great impact on quality of life, and when combined can have very serious negative consequences. For me it is like sinking into a dark hole where the world around me is dark and grey and I have no energy, no drive, and no desire to do things or be around people. And with the rise of social media, it makes it more difficult as you get onto your sites and see either other people's fun lives as portrayed by social media, or the utter darkness of people as they attack each other over difference of opinions and views. I also have a harder time as I took a journey this summer in which I found true joy and happiness, in a way that I have never experienced before. So I know what it is and how it is supposed to feel.

I try very hard when I find myself sinking into that hole to find the positive and seek to be around people, but it doesn't always happen. This is where running comes in. In running I find the chance to disconnect from the extremes of social media,  clear my mind of the situations and environments that are affecting me, get the chemical rise of hormones that I need, and provide me the chance to be around people in a positive encounter. It gives me a chance to remember that there are positive things in this world and that there are good people who genuinely care about each other and me.

Recently I have been in a dark place. It began when I decided to take a month off of running to heal from a high mileage couple of years. My body needed to heal properly. At the same time I started back to work and was presented with very difficult situations and kiddo's. I felt myself sliding and knew I needed to try to find something to help myself. Unfortunately, that meant sliding back into bad coping strategies which I in turn felt guilty about. It was a vicious cycle that I knew was no good. So, I started back into running. It was a hard start back as between my travels and time off I was kind of out of the loop and used to being alone. It was hard to push through and be with people. Of course this coincided with the worst election in my own personal history, so of course most talk centered around the awful things being presented to us. But I pushed through and tried to find light in all that was happening.

I felt like I was climbing out of that dark hole slowly but surely. Then shit hit the fan all at once. Work went from bad to worse and I went from having a job that I loved to absolutely despising what I did, and wanting nothing more than to quit. I loved my team, but the emotional strain of what I was doing day to day had finally taken it's toll. Then I found my dog locked into a hot bathroom, meaning someone from my property management company had entered my apartment without consent and locked up my dog. They of course denied all responsibility, even though this is the second time I have been able to prove they have done such a thing. On top of that my work community was rocked to the core by a senseless murder of one of our policemen, which heavily affected us all. Then to finish this delight of awfulness, a man I thought could have great potential to be someone in my life didn't work out to be that way. I was in the bottom of the hole, the darkest I have been in a very long time. I was crying every day, sad to my very core and unable to make myself feel better using any of the strategies that I give to others or know how to use myself.

So I made it a point to meet up with friends to run. I found myself struggling to get through the miles and crying at the end of my run. But, I knew that it had helped just a little. So I went out and did it again . It didn't make everything better, but I was able to work through a few of the things. I had enough clarity to know that there were things in my list that I could control and I could quit let controlling me. And because of that clarity I have been able to start to look at my life and start finding the positives again and making plans to create more.

Is running the all out cure for these things? No, it is not. But, it does give the me ability to shift that chemical imbalance and create positive time and interactions for myself. So, I will continue to get out and run, doing it again tomorrow and the day after. Moving ahead and pulling myself out of this dark place. I know I will always have to work through this, but with the help of running, and the running community I know I will always be able to work through it.

So if you suffer from depression or anxiety, try going for some runs. Can't run, join a zumba class, a kickboxing club, or even a dance class. The exercise will help you not only get a rise in dopamine and serotonin, but will create positive situations and peer interactions.

When people ask me why I run so much, I often respond with "I like it" or "It is just what I do". Both of those things are true, I love running and it is a part of my life. But I also do it to manage my own depression and anxiety.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Twisted Branch 100k attempt #2

Last year I tackled the Twisted Branch 100k. A challenging course that begins in Ontario County Park outside of Naples, NY and runs to Hammondsport, NY, I finished in 16 hrs 35 minutes. This was well before the 18 hour cut-off, but I knew I could do better. So I decided I wanted to do it again, and this time since I knew the course I could train much better!
Those of you that follow my blog know the insane-ness of my summer training, well at the least half of the summer. Well, I kept up the intensity after returning home and prayed it would pay off.

Friday: August 19th. Catch up with my crew/pacers. We pack up the car and head to New York. We drive the 5 long hours and get to Naples around 7 pm. I am excited to get my race bag. Inside is my bib, a sweet Orange Mud truckers hat, a bag of coffee created for the race, and a few other things. I am super pumped about the hat and my race shirt! I love when races give a quality cotton shirt, especially women's cut. I wear the shit out of them!

Head to Naples for Pizza. If you are ever in the area make sure you check out Neapolitan Pizza right on the main street. It is brick oven pizza and it is delicious. As are their breadsticks! Then we moseyed down the road and hit up Lynnie Lou's ice cream which had fantastic homemade icream (and they are not afraid to make big scoops!). Back to camp and head to bed.

Saturday: 4:00 am, alarm goes off. I hit that snooze button (like I always do) but don't stay in bed long. I can hear the other runners up and moving. Okay, I'm up, I'm up. I walk the 20 feet to the gathering area, grab some coffee and part of a cinnamon roll (THANK YOU!), throw in the my contacts, change into my race outfit and now I am ready to go. As I start towards the start line I start to see some familiar faces from last year. I am getting excited! I run ultra's by aid stations. Today there are 11. So I will count up to 6 and then down to 5. Not worried about mileage or even time. I know how many miles to each aid station and I will take today's race one aid station at a time. I have secret time goals, not even my crew know them.

5:00am- Scott, the amazing RD, gives race directions. We are looking for blue and white markings on the course. I pay very close attention to this. Last year I got lost 3 frigging times. I am bound and determined not to do it again. Actually that is my main race goal today... Don't. Get. Lost.  I am standing with Rob and Chris, runners who I got to meet and run with last year, I am glad to see their faces as I know they will make the miles go by quick.
Get ready, GO! We all take off. I am starting towards the back. I am NOT going to make the same mistake I did last year and go out too fast. With so many headlamps going it is very bright on the trail and is easy to see as we go up and down. Oh, and Chris had his 600 lumens light that basically lit up a half mile radius. It was like having a car behind you lighting the way. Woohoo Thanks Chris!

We are chatting up a storm as we roll through Aid Station 1 and onto Aid Station 2. The volunteers are so excited when we come in and make you smile and look forward to moving on. There are no crews allowed at station 1, it's a quick stop. However, it has all the nutrition items we could need.

Aid Station 2: YA! My crew. They get me hooked up with fresh gum, top off my tailwind, and send me on my way. As I head out I of course start popping my gum. At some point I remember Chris saying 'Oh that's right, I remember. Ambyr is the gum popper". hahaha. So this is where I throw in a little about me... I always chew gum when I run. No other time, just when I run. It is always the same kind (5 gum, spearmint rain ...hint hint come Christmas). I chew gum because my mouth gets really dry when I run and it helps. Unfortunately for those who hate gum poppers, I don't just chew it, I also pop it. A lot. As the day goes on I get many comments about me and my gum popping habit. You always know when I an near. Pop Pop.

I keep getting through the aid stations and traversing the ascents and descents. This first section has some pretty awesome climbs and some pretty awesome downs too. The trail is stunning as we go through different types of terrain.  The stops are great with a lot of food options, coolers of water and tailwind, and a fantastic slew of volunteers and crews.  I get to aid station 5 around mile 26 or so ( I had the miles switched off on my watch, I just had the time of day showing) and immediately give a list of what I need. New gum (2 pieces please), change my socks, and pack my bladder full of ice then top off with tailwind. It is getting hot and I need to have the cooling effect of the ice. I also wipe down with a towel I pull out of the ice water bucket they have carried aid station to aid station since #4. I also offer the bucket to a few other runner throughout the day as I see people struggling with the heat.  It is quickly approaching 90 degrees out, and we are all starting to feel it a little.

Then I ask for my Ipod. Usually I would never listen to music during a race, and trail running I try not to listen to things and just enjoy nature. And when I do listen to things it is usually podcasts (because I can pretend I have company... hours and hours of solo running this summer got a little lonely). But I ask for my music. See I remember this section from last year. You go through a corn field, then you come to a trail section that is not exactly well groomed and not always marked well, it is easy to get turned around. So mentally it is a tough section. I also remember last year hating this section because I was pretty damned sure they lied about there being an aid station. I mean, they didn't... but that isn't the point because in my head it wasn't there.
So I gear up and head out. I am on my own (as I was most of the last section). I tune into the music and immediately have some good ole Kid Rock, followed by Linkin Park, follow by Disturbed, then a little Doobie Brothers, then some Garth Brooks, and such on and so forth. My taste in music is eclectic to say the least. Well thank the good heavens I had it. Because this section still blows in my opinion. It is still super easy to get lost (but I didn't!) and once again I was damned sure they lied about the aid station, I mean they didn't but that isn't the point again. hahaha I finally get to the aid station, the volunteers get me some food and I head out. I want my crew!

IT"S TIME! Aid Station 7 baby! I GET MY PACER!!!! Mile 38, I am ready! I come into the station and there is Jeremy dancing around and I instantly start to laugh. I am so fucking happy to see him. I roll in and Stacey instantly starts helping me get my pack fixed up. I am changing my sports bra, and this year I actually managed to get out of the line of site while doing it, Go Me!. Stacey nags me into a bite of grilled cheese and some oranges so I have some food in my system. I get geared up, this is a quick stop because I want to get moving so we get loaded up and away we go. I am ready to finish this out! We set out and Jeremy keeps my mind engaged and going. We get to the next aid station where we see Stacey. God bless her she forces me to eat again. (This is where I usually start refusing food), she talks me into some oranges. We set off again. And then.... THE WALL. Oh yeah... that big ugly nasty wall. I hit it hard. I have slowed down and I am certain we have ran at least 6 miles (We had gone like 2.5). I start asking Jeremy where the aid station is. He isn't telling me miles (I specifically asked them not too) and he keeps encouraging me to keep running. Then we hit The Hill, we are are almost at mile 50 and here it is.  The Hill gets capital letters and red lettering because last year I broke down and sobbed hysterically at the bottom. But don't worry, this year I didn't sob... I just leaned over and cried. Well actually I quietly cried while trying to hike up and about 1/3rd of the way up I stop and just cried. After a good cry I finished climbing that damn hill and started looking for the aid station. I needed it, badly. Jeremy tells me a stupid joke about a horse that perks my spirits long enough to get through the rest of the section. Ask him sometime.

There it is. Oh Thank God there it is. Drank a little soda, ate a little perogi, had a few orange slices and off we went. I feel 1,000% times better. Jeremy even mentions how that seems to have perked me up. My pace is back on track,and I have passed a lady. Hmmmm... I wonder how many ladies are ahead of me.

Another aid station. Oh there is Stacey. By this point I could kiss her damn feet I am so happy to see her! I can't wait to put on my high cushion Feetures. I have saved them for the end. They are my favorite ones! I know the next section is short so I have her take out my bladder, I am tired of the weight and just use my soft flasks up front. Me and my camelback one had a fight, but my UD one was cool so I stuck with using that one. This is only a few miles and it is soft ground and mostly flat.I make good time. I wonder how many ladies are ahead of me. Jeremy won't tell me... because I specifically asked them not too. Damn him for doing as I asked. hahaha

Last Aid Station: Stacey literally had just pulled in. The coordinates on the map were wrong so she had to backtrack a little. But she is here and she is running me in. And by running  I mean hiking up the biggest hill of the course, encouraging me to run the flat spots even though everything is starting to hurt at this point, and laughing at me as I ow ow ow the downs. My quads are shot!  This section is 5 miles, and takes people an average of 2 hours. It is a beast. But we stick it through and when my watch hits 62 miles I think, " I am almost done". By this point I have my list of things I want. I want my squishy flip flops, I want a beer (or a squirt- the kind in a glass bottle is my fave!), and I want a frickin cookie. 2 miles later I can see the finish line and it looks amazing. Stacey keeps chirping at me to finish strong as I hear Jeremy from up the road cheering. I cross under the twisted branch arches, raise my hands and say "Oh Thank God" to the laughter of the crowd. With the help of my crew/pacers, I have finished 2nd place overall female!

As I sit around and talk to other runners, some who finished and some who didn't ,I am, as always, amazed and appreciative of this community of people. There is great food, which of course my stomach is like "yeah right asshole, go ahead and try it" so I ooh and ah over how pretty it is and take a total of 3 bites as we talk about the course and the day. I had my flip flops, I had a small beer, Jeremy surprised me with a Squirt!!!, and another runner had cookies to share. I am happy and blessed. It is now that I am willing to share my goals. Goal 1.) Finish before it gets dark- Got it Goal 2.) Finish under 15 hours- missed it by 2 minutes Goal 3.) Finish Top 3- Got it. I really didn't expect I could do do #3- that was my shot in the friggin dark goal. There were some strong ass ladies at that race. But I secretly really wanted it because that would end my running year with top 3 in every race I had done. So I am beyond happy I did it!

After a bit we collect our stuff and we head to our friend Corbin's parents place. They have acreage and have offered us a place to stay. Again, I am happy and blessed beyond belief. I got to sit with my crew and his parents around a fire, drink amazing homemade wine, eat s'mores, eat a grilled cheese (it was light enough to handle for me), veggies fresh out of the garden and relax into the evening. They put me up in the house so I had a bed and a bathroom, which I could not be more thankful for. Up the next morning to eggs and pancakes with fresh brewed coffee in beautiful New York and then back in the car to Pittsburgh.

Am I going back to Twisted Branch next year, I hope so. I don't know if will run it again, twice might be enough. But I want to crew someone or work an aid station. This race is challenging in elevation and technicality, but it is so well run it is worth it. It is absolutely stunning to run through upstate NewYork on these gorgeous trails, and the race itself it run well. So if you want a good 100k, check it out!

I will be enjoying some down time for awhile... 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Trail Running Through America Blog 8

Utah and Colorado

Day 29: Lake Blanche- Salt Lake City

My last run day in SLC, I wanted something that would give me a solid hike with great views, and something that I could spend a few hours on with no rush. So I got to looking on the alltrails app and I found the Lake Blanche Trail. I read on the reviews that it was a 3,000 ft climb in the first 3 miles and that if you really wanted an extra special view to hike past the lake and you would find 2 more small lakes. Sounds good to me.
When I started the hike I quickly found they weren't joking about the toughness of the original climb. There were areas with large rocks, areas with a lot of tall plant growth, and a whole section of some bouldering. But there were also beautiful waterfalls in the first mile. It was a challenging climb but a lot of fun to go up.
When I got to the top I took the strangers reviews to heart and went past the first lake and followed a "trail" over a hill and sure as shit, there were two small lakes and a really pretty water fall. Worth EVERY single extra step~ 

I wanted to explore the area so I did some rock climbing, and some tree climbing and at one point tip toed over a broken up dam so that I could get around the lakes to the waterfall. I also got a fantastic views of the mountains and the surrounding areas from different vantage points. Once I got to the waterfall I realized my handheld was about empty, it was over 80* outside, so I figured since it was flowing fast it should be safe to drink and I refilled. In the refill process I almost fell down the waterfall. Yikes. 

Once I got done exploring the area I headed back down the trail back to my car. I had hiked all the way up and around, and then ran the sections I could on the way down. It was a great way to end my stay in SLC.

If you are ever in Salt Lake I would highly recommend you hike this trail. It is worth every foot of climb!

Day 30: Travel Day- I am headed to Denver where I am excited to meet up some of my buddies I met 2 years ago during the North Fork 50k. It will be fun to have a run reunion and see some more of the Northern Colorado mountains. I had every good intention of waking up early to run before I hit the road, and I did in fact wake up early... but I just couldn't do it. I really wanted to get on the road. So I finished up my last minute car packing, loaded up Waylon, said my goodbyes to Sara and family and hit the road. Driving across Wyoming is BORING and I hit 12 construction zones which always slows things down. So, I busted out the good "classic music", ie: Spice Girls, Savage Garden, etc and had a grand ole Karaoke session in the car. Waylon was not impressed but I sure enjoyed myself.
Finally, after dying a slow death in the Denver traffic, I made it to my cousins's house. She is in Wyoming camping, so I have her place to myself for a few days. It is 98* when I pull in, so I decide I am not running, and instead enjoy just having a quiet evening.

Day 31: Cherry Creek State Park- Colorado
 Wake up, grab some breakfast and start looking at the surrounding areas for somewhere to run. I don't want anything to hard since I know tomorrow is going to be a tough run and I don't anything that I have to travel far for since I had a big travel day the day before. I end up finding Cherry Creek State Park. It is only 15 minutes away and has a 7 mile loop around the lake and a Wetland Area. I grab some water and salt and head over. 

This loop has some shade in the Wetland area which is nice, but that only last for about 2 miles. After that it is full on direct sunshine and of course Denver is in a heat wave. So I take it easy and make sure to drink lots of water and take salt. It is fun to watch people out on the water paddle boarding,, boating, and just swimming. I love seeing people out enjoying the outdoors like this.

I get around the lake and decided to keep going. I go through the Wetlands again and take some off shoot trails that give me extra miles in the shade and end up with about 12 miles. Nice and flat, easy peasy.
Once I get home I get on Yelp to find a pizza joint and find one with great reviews. I order a large vegetarian pizza and cheesy bread and set out to carbing up for tomorrow. My running partner has also told me to prepare for 12 hours on the trails. What have I gotten myself into?

Day 32: The EPIC run-  It is a long post....
Get to bed at 10 pm, lay awake until 11:30 trying to remember if I packed everything and  do my best not go to the car to make sure. Wake up every 45 minutes because I don't want to sleep through my alarm. 1:00 am the alarm goes off. I hit snooze and at 1:20 I wake up, sit up real fast with an "oh shit" and haul my butt out of bed. Let the dog outside, throw my oatmeal in the microwave, heat up some coffee, and I am on my way out the door by 1:34 am. Drive to the Park and Ride where I am meeting John, my running buddy I met a few years ago during a 50k. 2:00 am I park, and he quickly follows behind me. I transfer all my gear to his car, we both lament about how tired we are and we start heading North.
We drive up the mountain until we get the trail head we are going to finish at. The other guys we were supposed to meet up slept through their alarms, so we are starting without them. It is cold, but we know it will warm up quickly once the sun comes out. Regardless I start the run with arm sleeves and a light jacket which I end up taking off after a mile. It is my first time using the bungies on my Nathan Pack, they work like a dream! The view of the night sky without any light pollution is ridiculously amazing. It is hands down one of my favorite things. 

We throw on our head lamps and start out. After a brief jaunt down the road to the starting trail head, we start climbing. Parts of the trail have baby pine trees growing and we are getting a little scratched up. I notice that the trail is very rocky, but don't think much of it. As the sun is coming up we get stunning sunrise views over the mountains with the lakes and the city of Boulder in the distance. Then we hit our first snow field. Because it is still dark, the snow is frozen solid. It is like stepping on a steep ice rink. John makes it across, however since I tend to be a little on the Bambi side of things when it comes to slick, I elect to hike above the snow field and down and around. I know for a fact I would end up sliding down the mountain.

As the sun continues to rise we get to go down for a few miles. In this time we hit 2 more snow fields that are pure ice. We both climb over the top of them and down and around. I have never really encountered snow fields like this, it is way cool. We eventually get to switch off our headlamps and cruise through the moutains. As we get lower it gets greener and a little less rocky.
Then we start the first BIG CLIMB. We are at 9,800 feet at the base and we climb for a little over 3 miles. It is slow going in some spots as there gets to be grades of 35%. And this is where I realize how rocky these Rocky Mountains are :-) Once we get to the top we stop to take some photos as the views are breathtaking, as is the elevation.
Stunning Mountain Views every turn
The whole way was rocky
 We are at 11,843 feet. My highest climb yet. And then we get to go down down down. Woohoo. It is a 6 mile decline. As we are going down the mountain we start to run into other runners, including the runners we were supposed to meet up with. They are doing the loop the opposite direction we are. We stop and chat with the other runners, as well as a handful of backpackers we run into along the way, sometimes just chatting and a few times giving directions. Lucky for one pair of girls, John has brought his map.
However, what you go have to go up. I can see the elevation profile for this run in my head, as John had sent it to me the day before. I know that we had 6 miles of down so I am watching the miles click by. I also know that we have a 6.5 mile climb.

As we are going through this downhill stretch we go through several stream and creek crossings. Some are easy to cross, some are not. Most of them either have rocks that are not slick or a log to balance on to get across. My two favorite stream crossing moments of the day happened in this stretch. The first had a rock you had to jump to near the opposite bank. John warns me it is slick. So, again, Bambi. This is not a good idea for me. So start walking up and down the bank weighing my option. I find a spot where it is a bit narrower, I eyeball it for a second, then make a decision. I step back a good 6 feet, get a running start and leap over the stream, landing just on the edge of the opposite bank. I land it with a hand raise and a "TA DA". John is duly impressed and laughing and we keep on going.

My second favorite stream crossing was a little trickier. It was much wider and it was mostly submerged rocks. I wasn't paying attention as John crossed until I heard "shit" and I look up and he is calf deep in water. hahahahahahaha. Then I try.... uhhu.. that is what I get for laughing. It doesn't take long until I am also calf deep in water. The cold feels good, but now we have sloshy feet. But it was fun.

During this time we have started around 6.5 ascent to the Pawnee Pass. During the beginning of this climb we see waterfall after waterfall. I love waterfalls. They are my second favorite thing after unfiltered night skies. 
The first 3 miles of the climb are not too bad. It is still rocky though and the higher we climb the rockier we get.

Then it happens, the HOLY SHIT moment on this run. We are at mile 17, as we round the corner John says me "There she is". I stopped dead in my tracks, paused my watch, looked at him, looked at the pass, and then looked at him again... " We are climbing THAT?!?" I am going to die. Yup, death is imminent.

Mile 18 we reach the base of the mountain. Now, in all fairness John had warned me that you couldn't actually see the trail and that it really was climbing over rocks and refinding the trail every few feet. I thought he was exaggerating. He. Was. Not. For the next 3 miles I went through just about every emotion in the book. So to save you and me time, I will do the super fast version: "This is cool,  OMG I hate my life, My feet hurt, You know not everyone can do this, John is lying to me, We are not almost there, I swear we are in friggin Disney land they way this wraps around and around, Oo that is a pretty view, How are those people running so fast up this, How is John 2 switchbacks ahead of me, Okay getting through this makes me BadAss, Yup I am a badass, OMG why aren't we done yet, I am going to kill John, Wow look at me go up this rock a billy goat, Fuck, Double Fuck, Wow it's windy.. I hope I don't get blown off the mountain, Oh I am really almost there, oh no it wraps around more... ahhhhhhh, I think I am going to cry, no, there is no crying in trail running, Wait this is really the top! YES, I am Queen of the Mountain!!"  Oh and if I hear "we are almost at the crux" or "we are almost at the top" in the near future...well I can't be held responsible for my behavior, ha. I am told I was radiating my emotions from down the mountains... probably why John got up it so fast. heehee
If you look close you can see John
The view from the TOP

We hit the top of Pawnee Pass, 12, 548 feet. We grab our breathe, do some congratulations. I am so ready for a nice downhill stretch. Which, it was downhill... and it was also more rocks. Nothing like coming up, but enough I can't get a good rhythm. And because I am tired and my feet hurt, I am starting to lose my footing. I have to go slow. But down I go. Then we get to our 2nd to last snow field. Luckily the sun has been out for quite awhile by this point so it is softer, however I still came very close to losing my footing and going down. For the next several miles we pick around rocks and snow as well as say hi to hikers and runners. By this time my feet hurt from all the rocks, actually truth be told, my whole body hurts. My arms, my abs, my glutes, everything. I feel like I just ran a 100k.
Then we hit the bottom. We are right near the lake and a hiker tells us we are only 1.5-2 miles away from the trail head. Praise the Lord. John goes ahead and I take my time. I am wiped so I do a run/walk mix the last 2 miles.  When I finally finish, John is at the car with the beer poured and we celebrate a truly EPIC run.  I am beyond happy we did this run and I got to experience this route. 

As we drink our beers we chat with other runners coming in that we had seen on the loop and enjoy some time. We finally pack up and head down the mountain.

Now the story doesn't end there. Because on the way down we noticed a huge thing of smoke coming up from a ridge. It is a brand new forest fire. It has literally just started and we can see the flames within the smoke shooting up a good 50 feet in the sky. They are just now starting to close roads and call for evacuations. I shoot some photos and share up prayers for the firefighters and residents as we reroute through Boulder. I have kept on eye on the news of this fire and it is not good. It was started by some guys from Alabama and the fire is growing, it has already destroyed four homes and forced thousands to evacuate the area. I will be keeping at eye on it. It legit started 16 miles from where we were just 45 minutes before.

Day 33: Recovery run around Quincy Reservoir- Colorado-
Wake up, do a quick systems check. Quads, fine. Calves, fine. It-band, fine. Step out of bed... feet... still sore. Bleh. Okay, that means comfy cushy socks and some cushy road shoes. But first... I am starving. Eggs and Hashbrowns. That seems like a good idea. Okay, pull up the map my run and see where I wanna go while I am eating. Oh Hey, there is a reservoir with a path around it a few miles away. Perfect. Finish my food and head out.
A. It is already 90* out when I start
B. There is no shade in Denver (no joke)
C. There is a small possibility that eating eggs and hash browns 20 minutes before a hot run may not be a good idea.
I get to the reservoir, about 3 miles with a few accidental detours on the way, run into the area and.... UHHO. My stomach is doing that gurgly thing that it has only done once before. This is not good. Bathroom, where is the bathroom. Oooooo.. porta potty. Done! Sorry fisherman, this is currently out of use.
Okay... got that handled. Do I dare try to run around the water or do I head home? mmmmm... going to try it. First mile goes okay. Second mile I feel much better, Third mile I am glad I decided to do it.
I wanted to do 10 miles, and my legs would have easily done so. But now the temperature is near 95*. I have on my visor, I have my cooling rag draped across my shoulders (they got burned yesterday) and I have water ( although it is getting hot-the ice has long since melted). I think 7.5 is fine. I finish up, eat some lunch and head out to meet a buddy for ice cream. Basil-Blackberry and Lemon-Blueberry. Yum!!

My cousin is going to be back from camping, along with her 2.5 year old twins. It is going to be a fun evening. And I need to plan my run for Day 34 as well as the rest of the trip.

I hope you all are getting in great miles and finding your own running adventures. Happy Running!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trail Running through America Blog 7

A lot has gone on in the last week. I have seen a lot of places and done a lot of things! 

Day 22: I am headed out of Washington, headed towards Oregon where I will spend a few days. I spent some time on the google and found a random Mountain (I think it was George's Peak) that promised great views of Mt Rainier and Mount St Helens. It is cloudy and grey as I head out and up the mountain. As I am driving up I am thinking to myself, there are so many clouds I am not going to be able to see anything. But, I am already half way up the mountain on a crappy dirt road, so might as well stick it out and keep going. I am glad I did, because about 80% the way up, I was above the clouds looking at blue skies and gorgeous views. Seeing Mount St Helens was incredible!

 She is a beautiful mountain for sure. I couldn't find the trail I was looking for, so I ran on fire roads and around the peak of the mountain. At one point in time I wanted a better view, so I climbed up a huge rock formation (that was a little scary as it was high up and very narrow where I was standing). Waylon was not impressed and I had to get stern to make him stay at the bottom! But it was worth the view. Then I literally slid all the way back down on my feet and hands. Also, a little scary. 

Then I was headed down the mountain I got a great view of Mt. Rainier. I love that mountain! I kept the run short as it is a down week, got back in the car and headed to Bend, OR. 

Day 23: Okay, I have to back up a little to the night before. I had been sent a list of campgrounds from a friend of a friend and had two I wanted to check out. Like a jackass, however I didn't fill my gas tank while I was in I definitely was worrying about running out of fuel as I drove farther and farther up into the mountains. First time this trip my gas tank had been below 1/4th tank. OOPS. haha Then, when I picked a campground, the campground host took a shine to me. He showed up at my camp site with free firewood, beer and an offer to do laundry. I thanked him for his kindness, but was just a bit cautious. Having a 80 pound dog with me does help in feeling safe.

Now onto the actual run. A guy on facebook had given me a suggestion of a trail to run, the Tumalo Falls trail. I am glad I took his advice. It was a nice trail, well groomed and with great views along the way. Waylon loved being able to play in the creek and the water flow was very pretty. Bend has trails on trails on trails. I want to return here at some point in time and spend a week or two. Mt. Hood is stunning and there are lakes and waterfalls everywhere. This is on the top 5 to return to list for sure! 

Once I finished up my run I hit the road again. No specific destination in mind, just wanted to get a few hours closer to Utah. 

I drove for 3 hours or so and found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It only had about 8 sites and basic services (a vault toilet, fire pit, and water) which is my favorite type of camp site. I got there early which was nice so I could set up camp, take Waylon to the creek right next to the site, and get a fire going with wood I collected nearby. It was a peaceful night reading a book and enjoying the campfire. 

Day 24: I would like to say I got up early, I did not. I slept in and tore down camp, grabbing Waylon and hitting the road. I knew I wanted to find somewhere to run along the way and eventually stopped at a random fire road in the mountains to grab a few miles. Well this fire road ended up connecting to a campground which then connected to a paved nature trail. Well, how about that... a random paved nature trail in the middle of nowhere connected to an even more rustic camp site than I had stayed at the night before. I got lucky! 

Day 25: I am in Salt Lake. My best friend moved here a little over a year ago and I haven't seen her at all in that time. So of course we had stayed up until 1 am... which means I slept in and it was 80* outside when I started my run and almost 90* when I finished. After input from some locals, I had gone up the the Big Cottonwood Canyon (which is 2 miles from Sara's house) and did a loop that went around 2 lakes, through some meadows, and through some woods. The first 3-4 miles were a climb, I mean, just 3.5 miles of up. 

I started at 7,200 feet of elevation and went to 9,500 feet. That is the highest I have been yet on this trip. I was sucking wind for sure! I ran into a few runners, a few mountain bikers, and a gazillion hikers! Since this is a down week, I did 12 miles and was happy to do so.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying some down time! 

Day 26: Okay, I am doing 20 today. Meeting up with a local runner, Mike, in the Lower Cottonwood Canyon. We are going to start at ski resort at the top of the mountain and loop around. We started at 8,000 feet and topped out at 10,567 feet . OY VEY! I got dizzy at one point because the air was so thin, but was able to work through it and get through the run. 

I finally saw MOOSE! I have had 3 bear encounters, a lot of deer, and a few snakes, but no moose. We were only .5 miles into the run when we ran into 3 not more than 50 feet off the trail. We also had a big ole deer standing 10 feet from us that didn't feel the need to move. Closest I have come to one in awhile. We ran through Catherine's pass, up Sentinel mountain, around the based of Devil's Castle, and to Mt Baldy. Mike is a great running partner, sharing the history of the area, the names of the different moutains and making sure that I am not dying from the elevation. We went around a little lake called Secret Lake, turns out this is a popular hiking destination... I can see why. It is a pretty little lake surrounded 360* by mountains. Mike had to cut out after that and offered to tell me more trails to take to get my 20. I said I was more than happy cutting my run in half. The truth is, I am tired. I have been climbing mountains for almost 4 weeks, and I am starting to get some mental burn out. Physically I am good, legs don't hurt, everything feels good...but I am getting burned out. 

Then I got to spend the rest of the day with Sara, her husband Mark, their baby Wolfy, and Sara's niece and nephew at the pool. While the kids swam, Sara and I ran a few more miles, then joined them in the pool. I haven't been to a pool in years, and had a blast playing with the kids, even though my runners tan lines were wickedly made fun of.

Then Sara and I made a batch of Coronaritas and spent the evening catching up, drinking, and singing country songs, very possibly at the top of our lungs. heehee 

Day 27: HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! I was supposed to meet up with a local runners to run a loop through the LCC, but I had messaged them the day before to back out. I need a break from the mountains. The kids wanted to go to the pool again, so Sara and I grabbed our running shoes to run while they swam. Sara is still coming back from having her baby, so today's run is her longest yet. We did 5 miles, running through the neighborhood and around the park. It is amazing that here in Salt Lake you just have to look around and you see gorgeous mountains. It is a trail runners paradise, if you don't mind living in SLC. Me, personally, could never live here. But I am enjoying visiting. 

The rest of the day was spent playing in the pool with the kids, taking a nap, and then setting off fireworks with the kids and watching the shows. A friend of Sara and Mark's has a house that overlooks the entire valley that SLC is in, so we could see half a dozen firework shows from his balcony. It was kind of awesome. 

Day 28: I need a rest day. Physically I am fine, not sore, not stiff. I just need a break for a day. A day to catch up on the blog, transfer my photo's and just chill. I will be back at it soon enough. 

So whether you be on mountains or roads, Happy Running! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Running Across the Nation Blog 6: Western Washington

Western Washington
So many mountains, not enough time! I have had an amazing time with Julie and Jeremy. Running moutains, exploring the cities, and enjoying the time with great friends. 

Day 16: Mt Ranier: 
Mt Ranier is a beautiful vision that I have had the joy of seeing evvery singleday that I have been here. I just can't get enough of her. Just stunning. So, of course I had to run her! Once Julie got off of work, me her and Jeremy headed up to the moutain. It is a little over hour drive, and we start at the Mowich trail head and run down the mountain first. This is a fun trail! There are spots on the trail that are very narrow with a drop off that you have to watch your footing, there are spots that are covered in roots and rocks, and we had to climb over a fare share of trees. At one point there is a huge tree that requires some mad climbing skills to get over. But over we go!
We are doing an out and back and we end at the White River. We take a minute to enjoy the beauty of the area and then climb back up the mountain. It was such an awesome run!
On the way driving down the moutain on an old dirt road that is like driving down a washboard, we spot 3 elk, a black bear and an exceptional view. Worth every second of the run!

Day 17: Squak Mountain
I know I have a 50k the next day so I head out for an easy 5 miles. Nothing major, just an easy run. I take Waylon with me, he hasn't had mileage in a few days. 1,000 feet of elevation gain, out and back. Squak mountain has well groomed and well posted trails and I saw quite a few hikers outside enjoying the day.

Then home to make homemade pizza and get ready for race day! 50K tomorrow!!! Wooohoooo!

Day 18: Taylor Mountain 50k
PR BABY! 1 hour and 15 minute PR to be exact. AND broke the previous female course record by 17 minutes. So here how this went....

This race is 3 loops, 2 13 mile loops and a 5 mile loop. The first 3 miles are a climb on the 13 mile loops. We get our race instructions and then the race starts. It starts pretty easy and then at mile 0.8 there is a creek crossing. The water is approximately half way up shin and its refeshingly cold (well at least its refreshing later in the race at least). Then comes the muddy climb. In this first loop my thought process is to use this as an easy run, and I keep myself in check the first loop. I hike the climbs and just keep an easy pace. I am passed by a bunch of dudes who are either running faster than me, or even hiking faster than me. I make sure to step off trails to let them pass when on a single track and give them a "have a good race."

On loop one I meet and run with a man named Mike for awhile. He is from Philadelphia and is trying to run marathons in every state. He is running with one of his former students who is ahead of us. This is his very first trail run, like ever. So we chat a bit about race strategy for trails and after a few miles I pull ahead. I run with another female for a little while, her and her husband are both running and she is going to drop from the 50k to the marathon. I finish loop 1 in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Loop 2: I feel great. So I pick it up a little. I half run, half hike the hills. Then I pick up the pace on the flats and hills. Starting at the aid station at the bottom of the loop I start counting how many people I pass. By the 1st aid station I have 6, including Mike's student. By the 2nd aid station I am 11. I am feeling great! Every time I come up on a guy, they briefly pick up their pace and then step off the trail to let me pass. Every single one give me encouragement as I go, usually along the lines of "GET IT!". I thank them and keep at it. I am starting to do the math in my head, I am set for a good PR. As I am calculating my paces, I start to realize I could hit or even maybe beat the course record. Time to pick it up!  By time I hit the aid station on the bottom I am up to 13 guys. I leave 3 at the aid station and start in on the 5 mile loop. This starts with the creek crossing and climb. I run the whole thing, catching a few more guys as I go. I am spotting guys and then working up to them. By time I hit the final stretch I am up to 23 guys.

I finish in 5 hours and 17 minutes. WOOP WOOP! 2nd overall female. The top female finished in 4:17 and it a professional trail runner. She hasn't lost a race yet. I would like to meet this woman!
After I drink some beer, eat some pizza and wait for my friends to finish. I spend some time chatting with the other racers. What a great day! :-)

Day 19: Point Defiance
This is a great urban trail system in Tacoma.  Julie and Jeremy join me, this will be their first back to back. We head out on the outer loop and keep an easy pace. This is about time on feet. I think it was mile 5 when Julie threatened to throw me off the cliff. hahahaha. But, we all do an easy 8 miles. Then off to Seattle. I want to be a tourist! We go to Pike Place Market, watch cheese get made at Beechers, grabbed home made ice cream and walked down the pier to enjoy the view.


Day 20: Rest Day 
Physically I feel great, but mentally I need a break. 19 days of hard core running has worn me out. So I spend the day hanging out in the hammock, reading a book, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Glorious!

Day 21: It's my Birthday! So we head to Rattlesnake Moutain, where we meet John who we had met at the 50k. We run up the moutain, gaining a few thousand feet. We hit both of the overlooks, getting stunning views of Mount Si. 
At mile 5 we get to a little blockage. By a little blockage I mean so many trees downed it is basically an obstacle course. After about quarter of a mile we decide we aren't getting any where fast, so we are going just climb up the hill. A steep hill covered in downed trees. When we get to the top, there is nothing but lumbered trees. It looks like the death of christmas. LOL We take some photos and decide to head back.  It was a great run with old and new friends.

The rest of the day I spend relaxing, watching Straight out of Comptom out on the porch with my birthday mimosa's.

Cheers and Happy Running