My Wild Patagonian Adventure

I’m back! After about a month running around the world, I have finally landed back in Kansas. Frank and I had a fantastic time in Patagonia. We spent our time hiking through several Chilean and Argentine National Parks, checking out some of the towns in the region, and of course, seeing penguins. Here are just some of the pictures from our adventures. I have thousands…

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Although the trip was incredibly fun, Patagonia is a very touristy place. I was expecting to be out there and find no one but a few really dedicated hikers and mountaineers, but in reality, it was covered in European, Israeli, and British tourists. It was also a lot more expensive than I expected. I am certainly glad that we went, but if I had known what Patagonia would be like, I likely would have gone somewhere else.

To be completely honest, I have yet to find a National Park system in the world that can compete with the US in maintenance and cost. While in Patagonia, I longed for the solace of Canyonlands and Glacier National Park. In the US, you really only have to hike a few miles into the backcountry to find yourself completely alone. That was not the case in Patagonia. No matter how far I went, I always found crowds and tons of people (and garbage). I did leave with an extreme appreciation for our National Park Service.

Now that I have returned, I will be getting back to consistent blogging. I am putting together a training program to run Colfax again in May. I will be blogging my training progress as I prepare for the race. I will also have a few other races on my calendar, which I’ll leave for another post.

I hope you all had a great month, and I am looking forward to getting back in touch.

What is your favorite National Park? Do you have any races coming up soon?

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When Mountains Call

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I was sitting on the side of Grand Teton, with a heavy pack, hurt knee, and a generally tired body when a thin, wiry blonde woman ran by me at record speed. She had a tiny pack with only water and food and she made getting up that mountain look effortless. I had been a competitive runner in another life, but was then just another hiker, defeated by a mountain I would not climb. The girl bounced away and all I could think about was how I wanted that to be me… that one day, I would run the trails, up the mountains, with that same ease.

This was my first introduction to trail running, and distance running in general. I had always been a sprinter and had confined myself to the 400 & 800 m distances. After high school, I had stopped running and it would be years before I would return. In reality, I only made it back because climbing mountains is hard and you need to be in wildly good shape to do it.

I returned home from my failure on Grand Teton and read all that I could about trail running. I read Born to Run, and Eat and Run and was convinced. Eventually… one day… no matter how long it would take me… I vowed to run trails and ultras. For years, I followed the ultra running scene, never partaking, but just as an idle spectator. As I watched, I would run further and further. The evolution from sprinter to marathoner happens slowly and I took my time. I would sign up for trail runs here or there and usually do really well. My heart was in it and it was where I really felt free. As I ran my first trail half marathon, for the first time I felt like that girl, bouncing down the trails, light on her feet without a care in the world.

I ran my first marathon and walked away feeling great. I loved everything about it… the lifetime’s worth of emotions in less than four hours, the real ownership of the race, the fact that it was not easy and I had to work hard to get there. Road marathons are fun, exciting, exhausting, and so many other things… but really, they are not enough. There is something truly special about running through the woods, over hills, while pushing your body as far as you possibly can and maybe even a little further. Trail runs are so solitary, yet you feel so completely connected to nature. That is exactly where I should be.

Four years ago, sitting on the side of Grand Teton, I knew that I could run high and far… but I also knew that it would take time. I have been patient, slowly upping my mileage and base and pushing myself to my edge, never passing it. But I will be an idle watcher no more. I have finally decided to put that fire beneath my feet.

If the world could go exactly as I want it to, this post would be the beginning of an eventual quest towards the Western States 100, the granddaddy of ultramarathons. I can’t tell you that it will go that way, since they have a lottery process that is tough and I may never get picked. Also, it is 100 miles and I don’t know that I could train up to that. I will tell you that this post will be the beginning of a quest towards a 50K and maybe even a 50-miler. After Chicago, I will transition towards running on trail and on hills. I’ve finally grown tired of watching from the sidelines.

So, there it is. I have put it out into the universe. A goal. A dream. It’s a scary one to speak, but really, would it be worth doing if I weren’t scared?

Probably not.

Weekend Adventures: Exploring the Kansas Underground

This weekend Frank and I did a little bit of everything! I paced a half marathon, we met up with the Kansas Speleological Society and went scouting for some caves on the Kansas Oklahoma boarder and went on a hike out at the Tallgrass Prairie. Basically, we had a great time.

Friday afternoon, Frank and I went straight down to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for a 6-mile hike. The preserve is managed by the National Park Service and is probably some of the best hiking in Kansas. It has approximately 40 miles of marked trail where you can get rather far out into the Prairie. After Friday’s hike, we have officially covered all of the trails in the park!

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Nabbing the last trail at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

We got home in time to go on a bike ride with some friends and tried to hit the hay early. I had an early wake up the next morning for the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon!

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Bringing my group in to the finish line!

Saturday morning, I was up and ready to pace some people to their half marathon goals! I’ll write up a recap of the experience, but it was tons of fun!

After the race, Frank and I loaded up into the car for the Kansas Speleological Society (KSS) meeting in southern Kansas. We have done a lot of caving in the past, and really the only way to get access to new caves is to join one of these groups. Kansas isn’t known for good caving, but it has some stuff here or there. Luckily for me, I enjoy going into very small and tight caves, which is probably all that Kansas has. We spent Saturday afternoon out on a pasture, digging up sinkholes in hopes of finding new and unexplored caves. We found one with potential, but we still don’t know if it goes anywhere.

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Since I was the smallest of the group, I was sent in to see if the sinkhole lead to a cave.

In the evening, we camped out at a recreation and fishing area. Although Kansas is not overwhelmed in public land, it does have plenty of state recreation areas where there is free camping. We definitely take advantage of this Kansas perk.

The next morning, a few of the members of the KSS offered to take us to a cave on the Kansas-Oklahoma boarder. They were not too sure how far back it went and warned us that it was a wet and miserable crawl. We usually are not too picky about caves, so we took them up on the offer. This cave was a little deceiving. It had a big beautiful entrance, which lead to a tiny hole with flowing water. Frank and I loaded up with flashlights and kneepads and dove right in. I gotta say, this was probably the most miserable cave I’ve ever been in. I was face down and crawling in mud and water up to my elbows. Every time I thought “well, this can’t get any worse”, it actually would. There was even a section where we had to swim through cold and murky cave water. I always prefer dry caves, but I absolutely HATE swimming in a cave. The hole went about 1000 feet back and after an hour of army crawling through the miserable cave mud, we turned back. It’s always a joyful experience to see the literal light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in a wet cave.

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The entrance to the most miserable cave in the world.

When we got back to the car, we dried off and headed home. Overall, a successful weekend! Plus, after living in Kansas for a year, I finally made it back into a cave!!

How was your weekend? Any fun adventures?

By the way, I am going to be adding some more posts to my Weekend Adventures series including some “How tos” on backpacking, climbing, and caving.

Colfax Marathon Goals

It is time to talk goals.

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The Colfax Marathon is this Sunday. I do not know what wave I am in, but the marathon is not too big and the race starts at 6:00 am, so I should be on the course pretty early. The weather is supposed to be ideal for a marathon. Hopefully it stays that way.

The race is split into 5 sections. The first and last sections are largely the same and include a run through the Denver Broncos stadium where you get to see your picture on the jumbotron (not sure how much I’ll care about that in the first go through, but I’m sure at mile 20, it’ll certainly be helpful). From miles 1-16, it is a very mild uphill gaining about 500 feet of elevation. I figure I won’t really notice it too much, since 500 feet over 16 miles isn’t all that much. However, from miles 16-20 is a section called the “Screaming Downhill”. Running downhill has always been my strength and I will be looking forward to that section.

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Not a terrible elevation profile. 

My plan for the race is to run at 4:00:00 pace with the pacer until the Screaming Downhill. If the pacer goes out too fast, I’ll keep it chill and find them later. I trained for a 9:00/mi race, so 9:06 should feel rather comfortable. I want every mile before 16 to have a “9” in the front… not an “8”. I know it will be a problem if I start punching out 8:50’s and stuff. If I am feeling good at the top of the hill, I will let the pace go down a little and ride the downhill. The bottom of the hill is right into the Broncos Stadium for the second time at mile 20, I’ll probably be excited and once I exit out, I’ll be seeing Frank and our friends at mile 22. My goal from that point is to finish with the 4:00:00 pacer behind me.

So… that brings us to my goals. My main goal is to just have fun, so if any of the other goals (except the C goal) are in the way of that, I will abandon it.

A: 3:59:59

B: Under 4:10:00

C: Finish the damn race!

Since this is my first marathon, anything that gets me to that finish line is okay. If I end up walking, I’m sure that will be accompanied with tears, but Frank and my friends will put it in perspective that I will have finished a marathon. Any time is a PR for me and I will have another opportunity to crush it in Chicago come October. I do feel attached to going under the big 4:00:00 barrier, but it really is okay even if I don’t.

I have my outfit picked out (I’ll post it later), and my food and gels are ready. I have some laundry and a little packing to do, but I am basically done. The preparation was as good as it was going to get and I am ready to do this.

I’ll be getting my bib number on Thursday and will give you all that information then. You can search me on athlete tracking by my name (Kerry Regan). They have a funny system where you get email updates (my parents are already signed up, so if you take one of the other email slots, that is fine). My Twitter account will post splits, so you should see those on the sidebar on my blog or you can just go on twitter and search @thisyogiruns. They may have a system come race day in the results, but Run Colfax has not indicated how that will work. Either way, if you want to track me and see splits, I’m sure it can be done and it will definitely be here on the sidebar of my blog and on Twitter.

I really need to say thanks to all of you for your advice, encouragement, and overall kind words throughout the marathon training process. It seriously takes a village to get me to a starting line feeling confident and all of you have played a huge part in that. During those last 6 miles, when it is tough and I want to quit, I will think of all of the things you all have said throughout my training. It has really been a journey getting to this start line and I will not forget how much that journey meant.

I’ll be heading out to Denver on Thursday (It is a 7-hour ride, so that will be fun…). I will post again before I leave with the bib number, race outfit pics, and a little surprise about a race in the UK. 🙂

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Hey Denver!! I’m coming for ya!

What is your favorite race playlist song? I am putting together my marathon day music and I need some good ones!

Weekend Adventures: Paddling the Kansas River

Manhattan rests in the floodplain between the Kansas River and the Big Blue River, both of which are seasonal and often too dry to paddle. However, over the past few weeks, Kansas has gotten a significant amount of rainfall, causing flooding damage throughout the city and the water levels in the rivers to rise significantly. Frank and I took this as an opportunity to take out our kayaks and finish a significant portion of the river.

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This is the portion of the river that we conquered.

On Saturday morning we gathered out gear, shuttled our car in Wamego (with the help of our friend, Zeb) and walked from our apartment to the Kansas River, which is a one-mile trek. Now, I don’t typically call one mile a trek, but when you are carrying all of the gear you need for an overnight paddle, plus two kayaks, one mile quickly becomes a trek.

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Our loaded up Kayaks outside of the fanciest restaurant in town.

Seriously, we probably looked like nutjobs walking through downtown Manhattan with kayaks.

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Dragging two boats behind Texas Road House.

We got to the river, set ourselves up and paddled away. It is kind of amazing how quickly it goes from a decent sized town to farmlands and wilderness. Within two miles on the river, you never would have known Manhattan was so close.

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Since the water levels were so high, we were keeping a speed of about 5 mph without really trying. There was a lot of debris along the banks and on little sandbar islands, making it clear that the flooding had been pretty destructive out here on the river.

We paddled by a large group of frat guys from Kansas State, who threw full beers at us (thanks?) and cheered as we passed. They looked like a pretty fun (and drunk) group, but they were so loud we could hear them for another half mile. It kind of took some peacefulness away from the river. Fortunately for us, they were the only people we saw all day!

 

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Frank paddling out ahead of me.

We stopped briefly in a small town called St. George, grabbed some food and paddled another mile before finding a small island to camp on. The sun was setting, and in full Kansas form, it was fantastic. Right across the river was an eagle’s nest and I could hear the occasional cry of the bird as I drifted asleep.

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The view from my boat!

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The desolate landscape of our island.

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Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this!

The next morning we woke up to some rather threatening looking clouds. We wanted to get to the car before it started to rain, so we packed up camp and got back on the river.

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Can’t leave your island without a selfie!

It wasn’t long before we saw the Wamego water tower and knew we were close to the car. The take out was a little funky and I managed to get my boat caked in mud.

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Almost to Wamego

It only took us about 6 total hours of paddling to make it from Manhattan to Wamego. We were a little disappointed that it was such a quick stretch of river and were hoping for a longer paddle. Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of the Kansas River, we had to play it safe, just in case the water was slower than we thought. Next time we are hoping to do a longer stretch, maybe all the way out to Topeka or Lawrence.

Paddling is always a super fun and nondestructive way to get into the wilderness. Kansas has very little preserved land and no areas for backpacking, so we were pretty proud of ourselves for finding a way to backcountry camp in Kansas.

Depending on the weather, we might be out for another paddle this weekend!

Did you go on any adventures during the weekend? Do you have any adventures planned?

Colfax Training Week 16: Taper Week 1 = DONE!

Happy Monday!

Congrats to everyone that raced this weekend! I won’t give it away, but I saw on Instagram that a BUNCH of PR’s fell. Great job!!

I am now in the second week of my taper… and I am just terrible at this. Not only did I skip a run last week for no reason at all, but my paces were WAY TOO FAST! I also ate total garbage (seriously, Captain Crunch Cereal). I am supposed to be taking it easy, eating well, hydrating, and I totally botched those goals. I need to get a handle on myself!

I did have a great weekend paddling the Kansas River. I’ll post about that later, but here is a picture from where Frank and I camped Saturday Night.

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Beautiful sunset over the river.

Last Week:

Monday: Yoga

Tuesday: 5.1 miles – ended up race pace, was supposed to be easy + Yoga

Wednesday: Last speed work! 7 miles (WU+4×800+CD) + Yoga

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Yoga <- Why didn’t I run my 6 miles? No idea!

Saturday: 4.1 miles with run group (too fast) + 4 miles recovery pace

Sunday: 13.1 miles LSD <- ended up race pace…

Total: 33.3 miles

As you can see those paces were just too freaking fast. I am hoping that a week like this didn’t burn out my legs for the race. I feel good, but running too fast in training just wastes energy.

The speed work on Wednesday was really fun. In high school, I was a sprinter. I ran the 200 and the 400, but my coach always wanted me to do longer distances and pushed me towards the 800. Unfortunately, I hated the 800. It is a real suffer distance. So, pushing through the suffering by doing some 800’s was really good for my head.

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Apparently when they say the trail is closed, they mean it. I ran around this sign and ended up in ankle deep mud.

The long run on Sunday was a little weird. Manhattan, KS has had a lot of flooding lately, so the main trail that runs through town was very muddy. There was a section that was completely washed out and I had to climb around the mud up to some trees, but I still ended up pretty messy. I set out on the run hoping to keep things around the same pace I usually do my long runs (9:35-9:45/mi), but just could not slow down. The miles kept ticking by and I just kept getting faster. Overall, my pace was 9:01/mi, about 5 seconds per mile faster than race pace. Luckily I felt good and fresh, so maybe this whole taper thing is working.

So, another week is in the books! I am going to try to be better this week, especially about food and water. I’ll be running my last double digit run (woo!) before the marathon and then it’s basically done. I really only have a few miles left before I walk to the starting line out in Denver.

How was your training this week? What is you next big race?

A1A Half Marathon Race Recap!!

Wow… it has been a long time since I raced. I was hurt in September last year, which put an early end to my fall season. Luckily I am back, healthy, and back racing! On Sunday, I ran the A1A Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had intended to PR and was even shooting for my first sub-1:50. Unfortunately, it was not my day, and that is not how the race went. It was a grueling 13.1, but I learned a lot and I feel more confident heading into the 6th week of my full-marathon training.

Saturday

I went to the expo in the morning to pick up my bib. A1A always has a large expo with a lot of freebies and deals. I walked around, picked up some free food, and then went out to lunch with Kristina and Ali. It was great to meet them, and it kind of felt like I was meeting a celebrity or something! My mom had come with me to the expo and hung out with us at lunch as we discussed the pros and cons of Ali running the full marathon (and she did! She even PRed!).

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Kristina, Ali, me, and my mom all enjoyed some good pizza (and snacks) at Pizza Fusion!

After lunch, my mom and I made it home and we watched the Marathon Olympic Qualifiers. I gotta say… I need a friend like Amy Cragg. It was incredible how she pulled Shalane Flanagan through the end of the race and even caught her at the finish line. Seriously, Amy needs to be my training buddy!

For dinner, my parents and I went to a local Italian restaurant. This is probably where I screwed up my race. I typically eat a plant based diet and mostly keep to a vegan diet. I occasionally eat eggs, and very occasionally will eat something milk based. I decided to order pasta with a crème-based sauce, since it sounded really good. I can’t think of a worse thing to eat for someone who rarely (if ever) eats crème-based foods. And so it was not to my surprise when I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible stomach cramps. I told myself that they would subside, went back to sleep, and woke up at 3:30 am to get ready to race.

Race Day!!

I knew that my stomach did not feel right, but I figured it would probably go away after a few miles. I took a few trips to the port-a-john (which helped, for sure), and then got to my starting spot. I saw Ali as she was heading over to the corrals and tried to calm my nerves while talking to my parents.

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Ali and I hanging out at the start line. I was pretty nervous here!

Miles 1-5

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At promptly 6:00 am, the race began and I walked my way up to the starting line and took off. I wanted to hold just over an 8:30 pace for the first 5 miles, and then my plan was to take a few seconds per mile off for the rest of the race in order to PR. The only problem was, over an 8:30 pace felt labored and hard. I tried to hold it for the first three miles, but my stomach cramps kept getting worse. I pulled the pace back a bit for miles 4 and 5 in hopes to work out whatever was going on.

Miles 6-10

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By the 10K mark, I knew that I was not going to PR, so then I just told myself that I wanted a course PR. Despite the cramps, I held it together, but couldn’t stop thinking about how hard this pace seemed for me. Mile 10 was just over a 9-minute pace, which is normally a pretty chill pace for me. It did not feel chill at all. I had gotten to the out and back portion and kept telling myself that if I saw Ali or Kristina on the other side, I would take a 10-second walk break. I never saw them, but instead stopped at each water break. I usually run through the water stops, but I couldn’t keep myself from walking. By mile 10, I was starting to get worried that the 2-hour pacer would catch up to me.

Miles 11-13.1

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The last 5k of the race is along the beach with some beautiful views. I kept at it, pushing myself to get my course PR. I turned up my headphones, hoping that I could drown out my own thoughts (which were seriously telling me to just walk to last three miles).

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Even though I wasn’t feeling like I could run really fast, I did enjoy the scenery!

I looked at my watch and figured I could maybe eek out a very small PR if I busted my butt for the last three miles. I’m not actually sure if that is true. On a good day, maybe I could squeeze out a few 7:30 miles… I did at Rocky Mountain, but I was not going to manage that here. I told myself to just keep it comfortable-ish and finish. During the final mile, I saw my PR come and go. I didn’t care too much, and I was focused on just finishing. I saw my parents, Frank, and his parents by the end, and I barely had the energy to wave. I just gritted through and finished. After crossing the finish line, I doubled over hoping that would give my stomach some relief. It was definitely my most labored race finish ever.

My official finish time was 1:54:24, less than 3 minutes off my PR.

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Happy to be done!

 Post Race

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My whole family was there at the finish line. Even though I was tired, we managed to get this cute shot!

I got my medal, grabbed some Gatorade and found my family. I’ve gotta say, there is nothing like a whole lot of suffering to appreciate a race medal. I ate a little bit, hung around the finish line and even got to see Kristina finish!!

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I was glad to see Kristina cross the finish line!

Overall, I had a fun race, even though things did not go as planned. I’ll have other chances at PRing in the half marathon. For now, I am focusing on Colfax. I have a few tune-up races in between, but none of those will be PR attempts. I am concentrating on slower longer mileage and making sure that I do as well as I can out at Colfax. I think this race was a good lesson and if nothing else, was an opportunity to run a little faster and hang out with my family!