Week 1: Getting back some consistency!

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Each week I am going to post a short recap of my training as I work towards my goal of PR-ing my marathon time at Colfax in May. In total, we are about 19 weeks out from the big day, and although things are still up in the air, I am assuming that I’ll be toeing that line on May 21.

I began my training last week and kept it light. This was really my first introduction back to real running and I didn’t want to push it and risk injury. I had two key workouts and three easy runs, plus I did a lot of yoga. Lately, my yoga practice has been a lot more about focusing on my meditation than it has been in the past. I’ve always tried to cultivate a strong asana (or postures) practice, but lately, I need yoga as a way to clear my headspace. Yin yoga has been a real refuge as the world around me becomes a bit unstable.

Key Workouts: Tempo Run & 8-mile Long Run

 Monday: Rest – was heading home from my trip

Tuesday: 4 miles easy pace (9:28/mi) + Yin Yoga – I was honestly worried that I didn’t even know how to do this anymore. I had taken a full three weeks completely off running and had been rather inconsistent before that. But I still knew how to run, and it felt good.

Wednesday: 5 miles with 3 miles at tempo (8:42/mi) + Hatha Yoga – I wanted to see if I still had my speed. Well, three miles isn’t much, but it definitely let me see how things were going. I didn’t lose as much fitness as I thought I had. The run felt great.

Thursday: Yin Yoga + Rest

Friday: 8 miles LSD (9:22/mi) + Yin Yoga – I dreaded the long run all week, and was surprised to find that it was actually pretty okay. I’m certainly glad I didn’t go any further, but the 8 miles felt just find.

Saturday: 5 miles easy (9:11/mi) – I kept most of this run pretty chill and then accidentally busted out a mile at 8:30. Oops. Guess I was feeling pretty good!

Sunday: 3 miles easy (9:49/mi) – I ran with Frank and he is a bit slower than me, so we kept it chill. I always like running with him because he forces me to keep a much easier pace.

Total: 25 Miles

Next week I am bumping it up a little with a total of 30 miles and another key tempo workout and 10-mile long run. My goal next week is to really focus on some strength training. Since I herniated a disc in my back, I need to be more diligent about abdominal and lower back strength work. Next week, I’ll be getting to a bit of that along with some stairs.

How were your workouts last week? What is your favorite kind of workouts (I love speed work

Running, Goals, and Some Unknowns

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Hey Everyone!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been running hard and training for anything specific. My last race, the Route 66 Marathon, was a bit of a flop largely because I walked to the starting line severely undertrained and a bit burnt out from my ultra. I am once again back on my feet and I am determined to get to a May marathon with some better training under my belt.

You may notice that I have not really committed to a specific marathon yet. Unfortunately, I will likely be unable to for a while. Frank and I are looking to move from Kansas and we are not really sure where we will be come May, but I am training to run a race on May 21, the day of the Colfax marathon. I will plan to run Colfax if I am still in Kansas, or if I am driving distance from Denver. I want to run a half marathon some time in March, but unfortunately, I am unable to say where or when it will be yet. It’s hard training without specifics, and it’s very hard living with so many unknowns in my future. I feel like I cannot commit to anything beyond about two weeks since we could hear back from somewhere at any time and we would have to be ready to go.

One thing is for sure, we are looking to move out west. I have spent my entire life in the flatlands of the US, and we have been looking to get to the mountains. The western half of the US is huge, so I feel confident (and hopeful) that something will turn up soon.

Looking ahead into the unknown of 2017, I do have a few goals that I believe are attainable.

  • PR my marathon

I honestly don’t care if it’s by 2 freaking seconds, I just want a PR. I will train for a 3:50 time, but come race day, I will be happy with anything that is a PR.

  • Run a sub 1:45 half marathon

Ok, this one is a little more specific. My last half was 1:47 and it was very comfortable. I was in one of my favorite places in the world, Estes Park, and I hope to go back there for that sub-1:45 in August. I definitely think this is within my abilities, but I will need to work for it.

  • Run a 50-miler

Last year I ran a 50K, and I can honestly tell you that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, those last few miles made everything worth it. I ran through the trails of Omaha with a giant smile of my face, so excited to be an ultra runner. Well, my new goal is to run a 50-miler, which I am hoping to do in the fall.

This week I will be getting back to my usual training updates, yoga posts, and random other things that make there way on to my blog. Thanks for being patient and waiting for me to be ready to train hard again.

And of course, here’s a picture of my favorite fur-ball.

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How do you deal with unknowns? Does change stress you out (it stresses me out)?

 

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 Training Week 17: The Countdown is On!

Well… I made it! It is officially race week. I have finished the 2nd week of my taper and I head into the last few days of preparation before I leave for Denver on Thursday. I feel a lot of different emotions including excitement and fear, but, most of all, I’m just happy that I made it this far. Baring any absolute disasters on Sunday, this time next week, I will be sore, but I will be a marathoner.

This Week’s Training:

M: Rest + Yoga

T: 4 miles easy + Yoga

W: Rest + Yoga

T: 3ish miles easy – no watch + Yoga

F: 6 miles Tempo + Yoga

S: 10 miles LSD

S: 5 miles easy trail run

Total: 28ish miles

 It was a good week that felt okay. My easy runs were slow and they were probably the highlight of my week. On Tuesday I ran the Linear Trail and was feeling like I had to hold myself back from going too fast and Thursday I forgot my watch at home, so I just ran without it.

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Having fun on the Linear Trail.

Sunday evening, I decided that I was sick of running around my town and hit up a small park called Top of the World. I’ve been struggling a lot with finding motivation to run, so I figured that since trails are always a happy place for me, that I should be able to find some motivation there. And I did! I took it pretty chill and even stopped to talk to a few of my friends that I bumped in to. It was definitely the highlight of my week.

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What’s a run without a selfie?

I struggled through my tempo run with some stomach issues. I ate some spicy food about 40 minutes before the run and it definitely came to haunt me. I still managed to keep it at pace, but I must say, it did not feel pretty!

My long run was a bit of a slog. I ran from my house to the campground a few of my friends were staying at that night. I had a rather packed Saturday and couldn’t get out until around 3:00 pm, when it was over 90 degrees. I took a small backpack of water, since I knew that I wouldn’t come across any water fountains, but it was still rough. I got pretty overheated and stopped a few times. Honestly, it has been pretty hard to not let this run hurt my confidence going into Colfax.

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Long, sunny, and hot… These country roads did me no favors on my long run.

The week had some ups and downs, but that doesn’t matter. It is race week!!! I have a few more short runs before I walk up to that starting line in Denver on Sunday. Oh! And I seem to have gotten lucky with the weather… It’s predicted to be cloudy with a low of 45 and a high of 68. The race begins at 6:00 am, so that sounds a lot like perfect marathon weather to me!!

I’ll be posting later this week about goals for the race and athlete tracking. Hope you all had a great weekend! Any goal races coming up?

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?

Weekend Adventures!

Happy Monday Everyone!

I had a crazy fun weekend and a great week of training. I’ll update you on how the training went in my recap, but for now, I am going to tell you all about my weekend adventures. I figured that since Frank and I spend every weekend on some sort of adventure, I should start a blog series on what we do and where we go. This series will be very photo heavy interspersed with what we were up to!

Most weekends are spent backpacking, hiking, climbing, trail running, or some sort of outdoor activity. This weekend, we did a little bit of everything! Frank, our friend, Ben, and I took Friday off from work and drove out to Arkansas Thursday night for some sweet sport climbing and hiking in the Ozark Mountains.

We made it to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in the AM and went straight out to some of the more popular climbing spots in the canyon. Now, before I was a distance runner, I was a climber. In fact, distance running was a way to get me in better shape for mountaineering. Soon, running became my main passion, but being able to climb all day is still pretty awesome.

Ben made it up his first climb EVER!! I was super happy to see him enjoy the climbs the way I do!

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After a full day of climbing, we went for a short hike through the Buffalo River Gorge. If you are ever in the southern Midwest, this is a place you HAVE to go!

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It doesn’t get much better than this!

We got back to the ranch just before dark, hung out with some goats (they had like 100 baby goats), and went to bed.

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The hills were covered in tents and dirtbag climbers.

Saturday morning and afternoon was filled with some of the tallest climbs I’ve ever done. These walls were about 85 feet tall and had some of the most fantastic views from the top. We climbed until our arms tired out and went back to the Buffalo River Gorge for the National Park Service Centennial Concert.

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This route went WAY higher than I am right there!

The concert was packed, and in such a beautiful place.

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Frank and I were making some faces at each other during the concert… also that guy behind us…

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Tons of people made it out for the concert!

Post concert, we packed up our backpacks and hiked into the woods a few miles to find a campsite. The Buffalo River Gorge is right up against a National Forest, where there is free camping all along the trail. All National Forests have free camping in the wilderness, so if you are ever in a pinch, it’s a good place to make an overnight stop.

We woke up Sunday morning with the sunlight coming in. I tried to stay asleep in my bivy, but Frank was not having it.

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To cut on weight and mass, I use a bivy instead of a tent. They are waterproof and super easy to set up and take down.

Before heading back to Manhattan, we went for a hike to a cave at the Lost Valley Trail. The Ozark Mountains are filled with great little spots, but this one was just fantastic. There were natural bridges, three caves (one had a waterfall inside), and a ton of scenic overlooks to view the valley.

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Crawling out of a cave.

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Frank and Ben beneath the Natural Bridge.

After the hike, we ate some lunch and made the 6 hour trip back to Manhattan, KS. Although we expected this to be a rather uneventful ride, as we got close to town, we heard on the radio that a tornado had touched down just west of town. The roads were quiet except for the occasional storm chaser vehicle driving by (good sign, right?). We stopped to overlook some of the crazy weather, but were advised that if we wanted to get back to Manhattan, that we should do so immediately. We made it back and into the basement, but the warning was lifted about 15 minutes later. Aside from some flooding, Manhattan made it through the storm untouched.

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Rather ominous looking clouds over Manhattan, KS.

So, we did a little bit of everything this weekend! I even managed to squeeze in some miles between our adventures. How was your weekend? Did you go on any adventures?

Free State Trail Race Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Free State Trail Race Half Marathon. It was a pretty tough and technical trail race in Clinton State Park with tons of rocks just waiting to take out some ankles, knees, and anything else you can fall on. Luckily for me, I did not fall! This race was everything I could have hoped for.

The night before the race, I outlined my goals in my Believe training journal. I had some secrets that I was keeping:

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I dream big.

I usually place pretty well at trail races. I’m generally not afraid of the downhills, so I take them hard, and I am good at technical running. Although I don’t usually place, even in local 10Ks, I usually make a good go at trail races. So I went in to this race like it was a race.

The starting line was pretty chill. There were definitely a good amount of people, but I wasn’t sure who was for the marathon and who was running the half marathon. I decided to just try to get towards the front and latch on to the leading girls. The race began on about a mile of road, so we took it pretty quick. I felt comfortable, and I knew that I had to stick with the leading girls if I wanted to place. The second mile took us through a hilly grassland that had good footing and was pretty easy to keep a fast pace. We were holding around a 7:40/mi pace and I was running with a pack of about 5 girls. We were chatting and laughing about how hard the 100k must be (there was also a 100k going on at the same time).

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The race quickly made it to some pretty rocky single track trail. I reiterated my ultimate goal in my head a few times that I needed to keep my ankles healthy to get to the start of Colfax, so I let 4 girls go ahead of me while I slowed a bit to get better footing. The trails were beautiful and were relatively flat, but so rocky that it was not always possible to run.

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I made it to the first (of 2) aid stations in 4th place. I stopped, got my water bottle filled and took off as quick as I could. At the aid station two girls passed me, so I pushed hard to catch up. It didn’t take too long, but I passed them both on a downhill and pushed hard to get out of sight. Once I knew they were gone, I held back a bit and did some easier running.

About 8 miles into the race, I came to a beautiful section of trail with giant rocks along the reservoir. The sun was coming out from the clouds and it was just a fantastic sight. The trail, however, was totally not runnable. I worried about taking a bad fall or turning my ankle, so I just walked. This went on for about a half mile as I tried to power hike through these sections. Finally, the trail lead to a rather steep (for Kansas) uphill and to a water station at mile 9. I knew at this point I was in 4th place, but there was a girl who was right behind me. The aid station was packed and there was talk about people falling on a few rocks and being pretty badly cut up. As they said this, a guy came running up with his knees covered in blood. It was a pretty gruesome sight and I was quite thankful that I decided to walk that rocky section.

I left the aid station and one girl had gone ahead of me. Now I was in 5th place with around 3 miles to go. I stayed back far enough to keep the 4th place girl in sight, but wasn’t feeling ready to make my move yet. At this point, I didn’t think placing in the top 3 was possible, so I was just conserving energy to get through the race and get back to training for Colfax. At mile 11, the 4th place girl slowed up a bit, and let me pass her. I figured at this point that I was going to finish in 4th place and was pretty happy about that.

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Well into the 12th mile, I saw the 3rd place girl running and looking pretty tired. I tried to calm my excitement and stayed a bit behind her so I could gather my energy. I saw a particularly wide downhill and figured that was my chance and I blew by her and sprinted away. I wanted to make sure that I looked strong and got out of sight fast, since I really didn’t want to sprint into the finish line.

I started to see a lot of people around, so I figured I was getting to the end. There was a final uphill spot and then I saw the finish line. I pushed through, tried to look slightly decent for the finish line pic (cause I always look like a crumpled mess) and finished the race in 2:08:45.

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Definitely a personal worst (by over 10 minutes) on a very tough single track course. As I crossed the finish line, someone handed me a medal and a sweet little trophy for getting 3rd place female. There was no podium or anything, and I gotta say, I was a little bummed about that. Unfortunately, Frank was in the bathroom when I came in, so he didn’t see me cross the finish line. He was pretty excited to see my trophy though! Oh, and I definitely hit my “A” goal!

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Overall, this was a great race. The race was put on by a trail running group called Psycho Wyco based out of Kansas City. They had a cute T-shirt and medal and I thought the no frills attitude to the race was pretty nice.  Also, the pictures were FREE!!! I love that! I would have rather had more aid stations, since there were a few times that I wanted water, but there was none available. Most people brought larger water bottles than me, so that might explain the lack of support (there were no water cups on the course). I am definitely going to sign up for more races by this group.

I had a ton of fun actually racing! Usually, I am just racing my previous times, but it is fun to go out there and actually race other people. I think you will see me doing a lot more trail races in the future, since I do have a ton of fun at them. I am super happy that I did this race without too much trouble, without tapering, and without a hiccup in my training for Colfax. I think I gained a lot of confidence at this race and I feel ready to coast right on over to my first marathon!