Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baseline Blues

Do you ever wonder if you’re going to stay in the same running category forever? Is running like some sports- only the truly talented will be crowned as champions? Think in terms of winning Boston...not in terms of we are all winners for running a race (which I truly believe).

Finishing sixth in my age group at the WinterSun 10k sparked some serious interest in my running soul. I really didn’t train to run that race fast. I did a couple of speed workouts on the treadmill in the two weeks prior, but honestly my training was ho-hum. Sooooo….of course, I’m now wondering what I’m capable of.
Is it the truly talented who win marathons? Or is it the truly dedicated and hard working? If I run enough miles at a fast enough pace in the months leading up to a race, am I eligible?  Don’t get me wrong. I know it takes nutrition, proper sleeps habits, smarts about pacing, course knowledge…ALL that. However, those things take studying. Not some God-given unattainable talent. 
Yesterday I watched a woman run on the treadmill at 7.8 for an hour without changing her pace or resting. That’s a 7:42 pace. For racing, I could see this. For training, I’m wondering what her racing pace is? It’s not that I’m comparing myself to her (well at least not publicly on a blog where you all can see it), but it does make me wonder…could I ever be the kind of person who maintains 7:42 on training runs? To be honest, I’m more of a 9:15-10:00 training run kind of person. Is this laziness? A rut?
I was reading Neon Blonde Runner yesterday. Her racing history is amazing!! I am in awe at how fast she is! Go girl! Yet… I have been running for ten years. I have been racing for almost four. I find myself maintaining a pretty consistent outcome. This is good because I am not losing ground, yet I find myself wanting more. I want a 1:30 half. I want a 3:00 full. Well I want a full to be completed first….then I want MORE. MORE MORE MORE!
It is time to face the realization that training the minimum is not going to cut it anymore. I realized this during Imogene this year. I am going to include my recap in today’s post because I wrote it before I had a blog. I finished Imogene, but I should have been a lot stronger. I know now how to be strong in this race…and I WILL do it before I hang up the Nikes someday.
Anyone on the same page?
Also…anyone have a good marathon training plan that offers about four days of running (five at most)? This will be my first marathon…
Pretty scenery...65 miles from home, what's not to love about the Grand Valley Marathon?'s Imogene:

I run so fast the crowd is blurry...

Imogene 2011
The nerves set in when I stopped in Sports Authority the afternoon before.  This is really happening. An event I had deemed in my mind as “off in the distance,” was suddenly upon me.  Miles of training, hours of focus and fretting all coming down to the next day.  I couldn’t have felt less ready.  It took me 30 minutes just to decide what to wear—and not from a fashion standpoint.  All bets are off at 13,000 feet. You never know what you will encounter.
The morning of the race, I was jittery, but excited. My two main fears: not making the cut off time and the guaranteed difficulty of the race.  I rode to Ouray with a fellow runner/friend, Iradia.  It was a cool 42 degrees.  The streets were lined with runners, family members, dogs, and spectators.  I felt excited just to part of it as they called off all the hometowns of participants.  Of course, I cheered for Montrose.
When the gun went off, it was surreal. I began trudging along, thinking “maybe I can at least run the first mile before I am forced to walk because of the incline.” Well that lasted about half a mile.  We began ascending a steep trek, and we were toe to toe with no room to pass.  We finally hit the main road again, and we all began to spread out and find our “place.”  The first five miles, while not easy, seemed to pass quickly with many areas where I was able to run.  I maintained a good pace, pleased with my time to this point.  When I reached the Lower Camp Bird aid station, I filled up on water and a couple slices of fresh peach.  I was beating the cutoff by 30 minutes at this point. I felt pretty good about my pace and was on my way.  Beyond mile five is when things started to get “real” as I like to say…..
Steep grade and climbing in elevation with less oxygen with every passing step.  Somewhere around mile six there was a nice downhill/flat stretch where I was really able to let loose and run. The break in stride felt great and I had a heighten sense of confidence—momentarily.  The next hill was upon me, and by this point in the race I had learned to walk the hills and run any part that was flat, downhill, or a very slight grade.  Most of the runners around me followed this same rule.
By Upper Camp  Bird, I pretty much hated my life and my decision to run this STUPID RACE!!!  Whose idea was this anyway? What kind of idiot would purposefully put themselves through something so masochistic?!  My thighs were burning. My back was aching. The only thing I had going for me was making the cutoff, which I was almost wishing I hadn’t at that point.  I had no idea how I was going to make the 2.4 miles to the top, let alone run another 7.1 to Telluride. So I fueled up on more Gatorade, water, peaches and performance gel. I took a few moments to rest and then headed up to the top.  Little did I know, the next 2.4 miles would be the most trying, self-defining, and humbling miles of my running career.  
But there was no running in those 2.4 miles.  I take that back, there were two small gullies about 30 yards long I jogged across.  This was the first part of the race where I had to stop and rest at certain points.  To say my legs were in pain would be an understatement.  My heart was pounding out of my chest and my lungs were screaming for some sweet oxygen, which was pretty much non-existent.  I wondered how disappointed my family would be if I just laid down right there and let someone haul me off that stupid mountain.  They had us write our “in case of emergency” contact on the back of our bib.  I kept imagining my husband getting that dreaded call. I moved forward step by small, weak step.  When I hit the orange cone signifying we had reached mile eight, I looked up to the top.  The runners marched one by one, like little ants at a painstakingly slow pace.  Yet even more painful was the thought of making it another step. Or two miles… just to the top.  And I kept going.  I thought about what it took just to get that far. I thought about my family waiting at the finish for me.  And mostly, I thought about how mad I would be at myself if I did not finish. So like Dora in Finding Nemo…I just “kept swimming.”   I dug deep. About mile nine, I met up with my most favorite runners of the entire race.  There was a man in his 70s who was running it for the 12th time. He was dressed in running shorts—and that was it.  And let me tell you: I was freezing my butt off at this point.  Then there was a woman in her late 40s/early 50s.  We got to chatting and I learned it was her first time, and like me, it was a Bucket List item.  As we talked about our SERIOUS regret in putting this on our Bucket List (haha…ha ha ha), the old man turn around and smiled.  That man lead me to the top. Another favorite moment in the last mile was a guy about my age (also first timer) who was struggling as I was. Without saying anything else, he suddenly said, “have you ever seen Finding Nemo?”  LOL! I told him “YESS!! I have been screaming JUST KEEP SWIMMING in my head all day!!” It felt good to laugh.
Finally we reached the single track about two tenths of a mile from the top.  My lady friend said, “okay let’s do this.” The “lane of pain” she called it. And it was.  The four of us trudged up small tiny step by small tiny SLOW step. We finally reached two women beating cowbells dressed in parkas with Hawaiian grass skirts and coconuts on. “You made it to the top!!” Sweet sweet words.  At the top, there were thirty mile an hour winds. It was cold to say the least.  The aid station had hot soup, which was SO lovely.  I stocked up on fluids, fruit, and two pretzels.  I was excited.  This is the point when I knew I would finish the race.  I took a look back over the last ten miles I just conquered, took a quick photo and bailed off towards Telluride at 3:04 hours into the race.
It felt good to run downhill. And the view was incredible. One thing that had inspired me to run Imogene was a picture of that view featured in Runner’s World magazine, it was definitely breathtaking.
The terrain was rocky, loose, and treacherous.  For the first mile, my pace was great.  I felt confident in a strong finish.  Then the downhill started to take its toll.  My knees started to ache.  I kept on moving though, didn’t stop.  At the final aide station 2.6 miles out, I shed my jacket.  I kept jogging at a slow pace, praying my knees would hold for the remainder of the race. My tank was empty.  I didn’t think I had anything left.  When I hit mile 16, something came alive inside me.  I made sure I did not leave ANYTHING out on that course. I kicked it into another gear and hauled ass to that finish line.  Just about that moment, I heard it. The cheering.  The yelling. I could taste the end.
I kept on trucking, moving my little legs as fast as they would carry me.  As the finish came into view, I was elated.  It was a sight for sore legs! And thirty yards before the finish line, I looked to my left to see my husband standing there.  My husband who was not supposed to be at the race.  My heart swelled with pride, and I blasted through the finish line. VICTORY!!! 4:28 hours of pain and suffering, and completely worth it.                 
My husband came around to the end, and I met him with tears and a hug.  Such an emotional moment.  My family was there too. I told them I would never run again…but I lied.
So today, as I hobble around on two battered and abused legs, I reflect.  Never will I forget Imogene.  I walk away from the mountain with respect, humility, and a newfound belief in myself.  They say character is what you do when no one is looking.  Character is also finding the strength to go on when quitting appears to be the only option.  Imogene proved me wrong. 
Thanks to everyone for all your love, support, and prayers. I love you all.


  1. GIRL!!!!!!!!!! YOU are so sweet to mention me, you just made me freakin' day!

    OK listen-- you have it in you. Whatever your running goals are, you are completely capable of them. You can truly do whatever you set your cute little heart out to do!! As you probably read, I just ran my first 10k in may 2010 and then had that miraculous marathon less than 1.5 years later--- but that came with A LOT of work and dedication!!

    But I love running so much, it's such a huge passion for me, that I just naturally ran more and the more I ran, the faster and stronger I got. I never dreamed that I would be able to run a marathon in 3:30, but with practice anything is achievable.

    I know this whole thing probably sounds dorky or something, but I really mean it. All you have to do is believe in yourself, determine how badly you want something and then practice your little butt off!

  2. okay, in answer to ur question at the top: H-E-double hockeysticks YES u can run faster!! :) the thing is, it all comes down to consistent training and challenging urself. if u're motivated to do it, u put in regular workouts and u'll see the benefits. don't put a cap on urself and u'll be surprised at the remarkable progress u can make. :)

    our neon blonde runner friend is right on the money, it takes a LOT of work, anything worth accomplishing does, but it's possible.

  3. You girls are so awesome!! Thank you!! I am going to do my BEST!!! :)

  4. You should check out "Run Less Run Faster" training plan for a marathon. I used it for half marathon after coming back from a year of not running due to multiple (yes, multiple) broken feet and I PR'd. It only has you running 3 days a week, but they are intense. You could also throw in an extra day on your own.