Black Canyon Race Report: 2017 Mud Run

….and My Story Runs On….

Where to even begin? One of the recent facebook posts about this event was something like “people will be talking about the 2017 Black Canyon Ultras for years to come.”  And the memories will probably not be pleasant for most of us.

First of all, I want to give a huge congratulations to everyone who participated. Whether you finished, dropped from the 100K to the 60K, or DNF’d (Did Not Finish).  The weather conditions were ridiculous and just being out there was an amazing feat!  Also a huge thank you to all the volunteers and Aravaipa staff who were out there taking care of all the runners!

This was supposed to be my first 100K race. I blogged last week about some of the changes that happened to the race course due to the upcoming weather conditions.  I was pretty bummed that everything was not going as planned with the weather but I finally got over it….

4:30 am: Alarm was set to go off but I woke up about an hour earlier and couldn’t fall back asleep.  I checked weather.com one more time hoping that a miracle might happen and the rain would not be in the forecast.  No such luck. (I had weather.com up on my computer all week and had been checking it at least 5x a day!)

6:20am: I arrived, picked up my packet, chit chatted with some friends and waited impatiently to just “get this party started!” (I say this almost every morning when I start my day).

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Before race start. Had to go visit the Altra booth. Love my Altra shoes!

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Quick selfie before race start…it was raining at the start..see below for note on yellow colored glasses 😉

7:00am: We are off! I always stay towards the end as I’m never in a hurry, especially with that many miles to go.  We did one loop around the high school track, ran through part of the town of Mayer and on the road to get us to the trail.  And here is where the “fun” began…

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Jeep road portions of the trail were a muddy mess!

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This is what were dealing with on the jeep road portions of the race…Photo credit: Jennifer Berry

It might’ve been at mile 2 or 3 or so that we encountered this and my first thought was doing this again on the way back at mile 60 in the middle of the night with my pacer. Yikes!

Then we hit the Black Canyon trail (I really do love this trail). It was better on the single track and things were starting to look just a little brighter!  On a side note, I highly recommend wearing yellow colored lenses in this type of weather (I have them in the start photo above).  Knowing there would be wind, and it would be too dark for sunglasses, I brought them and was so happy I did.  All of the sudden I was seeing the world through yellow colored glasses and it was so much brighter! Every once in awhile I would remove them from my face and then the world was all dreary again (literally and figuratively). Highly recommend them for running when it’s not sunny out.

I had created a race day strategy with my crew/pacers.  My plan was to skip the first aid station (although had to stop to give a quick hug to my friend Dan Pena who was volunteering).  The rain had stopped and the trail was getting better.  The downhill portions were a blast to run down and there was no mud on this part of the trail. Hallelujah! I was having a blast and happy that things seem to be going better than I expected with the weather…..until….

I’m almost at the 3rd aid station and was tracking exactly as I planned. I see my friend Senovia, who was also doing the 100K and she was heading back towards the start. I asked her if she was injured and she told me that the at the next aid station, they were recommending that the 100K people turn around (which is where the 60K turn around was) due to upcoming bad weather. Whhhhaaaat??  Although you could see black clouds all around the area, the weather seemed to have backed off.  I had about a half a mile to get there and now was trying to figure out what do with this information. So many thoughts started rushing through my head…”I am not a quitter”, “I trained months for this race”, “this was supposed to be my first 100K”, etc, etc…

I arrive to the aid station and check in.  Sure enough, they said that the race directors were recommending that 100K people turn around as the storm would be getting worse after 4pm.  They also said they would allow us to drop down so we could get credit for the 60K.  Dang it! I was feeling really good at this point (mile 20) and was not ready to make this split second decision!  I called my very supportive boyfriend first...poor guy, why I am calling him and adding this pressure on him? He doesn’t know what to say other than “I’ll support you in whatever you decide.”  I know several of my friends decided to keep going and I kept thinking, if they can do it, so can I….something in my gut was not feeling right though…I called my pacer/friend/trail wife Elaine because she is my rock when it comes to this stuff. She’s a great athlete, mentor, friend and I knew she would give me objective advice.  Sure enough, she knew all the right questions to ask me.  Within a few minutes, I knew what I had to do. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in that short of time.  Elaine gave me my sanity check and I know I needed to respond logically to this situation rather than react emotionally.  As much as I really wanted to do the race I had trained for, I needed to trust the race directors advice.  I also had to take into consideration that there was a chance that my pacers could not get to me for the last 20ish miles due to the weather conditions.  I could be on that trail, in cold, wet, dark, muddy conditions all alone. One of the things she said to me was:  “you can have a good 60K race or a bad 100K”.  All of the sudden, everything was in perspective and I knew that I had to make the decision for my safety more than anything.  Do I think I could’ve finished the 100K? At that point I believed I could but after being in the horrible weather after 4pm, I believe I would’ve DNFd this race had I continued on.  So I did a quick facebook live video on my business page, told them I was choosing to drop to the 60K and back to Mayer High School I went.

One other important thing I took into consideration is that even though this was MY race (not coaching anyone else for it but me), as a running coach, I am setting an example for others.  My client and friend, Sharon, said it best in a text I received while still at the aid station “I know it must’ve been hard for you, but your decision gives other permission to make good decisions.” This really stuck with me and helped me feel better about the decision.

I ran into a few of my friends doing the 60K on the way back and shared the news. It was so weird because the weather seemed to be cooperating…as a matter of fact there were a few moments where a few sun rays came out. But you could clearly see the black clouds surrounding us. I was second guessing and feeling disappointed in myself. Did I make the right decision? I knew I had to let those thoughts go as I couldn’t go back now. So I got refocused and reminded myself that a 60K is still an amazing distance!  and this was still my 2nd longest distance ever…and it was my first 60K (I still have to keep reminding myself of these things as my ego can’t help but get in the way).

I knew I would be power hiking quite a bit as now we are going up all those hills. I met a new friend, Pancho, from AK at about mile 28 or so.  We ended up staying together the rest of the way to keep ourselves motivated. We also ran into Lara who was from Canada and leap frogged with her a bit.  As if the uphills weren’t bad enough, the weather took the turn they were expecting it to.  It started raining harder (almost felt like hail at one point), the wind started blowing and it started getting colder. I am glad I switched my shirt out and the second to the last aid station as it helped keep me warm, although I was freezing a few miles after that.  We know what was coming…we had to get back through all that mud on the jeep road portion of the race.  Pancho helped me find the best paths to take on the mud so it wouldn’t be so bad.  At one point I realized that running where the water had pooled, was the easiest place as the mud had been compacted down. Unfortunately I couldn’t feel my feet already because they were so cold.  It was either struggle through the mud slower or get through this faster by running in the cold water puddles.

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More mud…(photo credit Jennifer Berry)

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And more mud…photo credit Melissa Ruse from Sweet M Images http://www.sweetmimages.com/

The last 5 miles were just ridiculously brutal between the rain, cold and mud. I was so ready for it be over at this point.  I don’t like road running but I remember telling Pancho I couldn’t wait to get to the road.  I kept thinking about how awful it would’ve been to be doing this segment after 20 more miles and way later at night with worse weather and reassured myself that dropping to the 60K was the right decision.  We finally got to the road and knew we only had a few more miles to go…felt like forever!  We turned at the high school and all of the sudden I could hear my name being yelled out. I could barely see and realized, there was my crew: Elaine, Lori and my honey!  So happy to see them and know that we were finally done with this! Best cheering section ever!

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Elaine & Greg hanging while waiting for us!

We crossed the finish line, high fived each other and I needed to get warmed up.  I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. So grateful that Mayer High school opened up their gym to us so we were able to get into the locker rooms. My clothes were soaked and stuck on me already but I barely recall getting into the hot shower with Lori and Elaine helping take my cold, wet clothes off while I heated up my body…warm broth and hot chocolate helped too! My first  thing when I cross most finish lines is having a beer..but I was too cold for one!

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This was a blur of a moment!

We waited for our other friends to come to repeat the hot shower process for everyone.  Everyone was hanging in the warm cafeteria.  Mayer Fire Department and the race EMTs were working like crazy…so many people with hypothermia.

Post race reflections

  • Outside of the crazy weather, I was ready for this race and have no doubts I would’ve finished it.  I have no regrets about making the decision to drop to the 60K as I don’t know I would’ve been able to finish it under the circumstances. And yes, I’m human so of course I’m disappointed that I didn’t do the 100K…after all the training and anticipation up to that day, it’s a bummer that I couldn’t get my first buckle.  However it was the right decision for me and I’m glad that I did.
  • Not going to lie, I am disappointed.  Three days have past and it feels very weird…like it’s all behind me and it’s over. I remember the amazing high I had after my first 50K and 50 miler for days!  Even though this was my first 60K, I don’t have the same feelings.  I had such high expectations for this race and the day didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.  Was this race an amazing character builder?  Hell, yes!  Do I run to build character? Sure, one of the reasons I love ultra running is because it allows me to push a little bit further out of my comfort zone. This race made me a stronger runner and person for sure….but the reason I love ultra and trail running is because I love being out in nature for hours, taking pictures and soaking in the beautiful weather (this is why I live in AZ for crying out loud! 😉 ).  This race did not provide most of this for me this time. I could hardly take pictures because my phone was wrapped up so it wouldn’t get wet. I will admit the desert was still beautiful but once the weather turned, I was ready to be done.
  • Always thankful for Brooke, my nutritionist from Fuel To The Finish, because I never have issues and always feel great all day!
  • So grateful for ChiRunning and all that it has taught me. From a technique perspective, I stayed focused on what my body was doing and how I could move my body to meet what nature and elements were presenting to me moment by moment. Not surprised that very different body parts were sore the next day.  Hip flexors and ankles from peeling my shoes out of the mud and wiggling around trying not to fall in the slippery mud.  My neck was sorer than normal because I normally keep my head neutral on my body so my eyes are looking at the horizon and the trail. Due to the amount of mud, I had to keep my gaze down to my shoes which added pressure on my neck and upper back muscles.  My core is always sore which is great because I know I’m using it!

Sooooo no buckle for me this time.  People have asked me: what now?  I am trained for a 100K so why not find one and do it?  Well, I have the Monument Valley 50K on 3/25 and on the following weekend, Crown King 50K (I am one of the coaches for this race via Aravaipa’s Women’s Ultra Training Program and can’t wait to see them cross the finish line!  For several of them, it will be their first one!).  I have not made any decisions at this point but my gut feeling is that I’ll want to take revenge on this course next year. It’s around my birthday and I love this trail.

I’ll leave you with this quote…never knew this about the lotus flower!

“Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.” Suzy Kassem

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Pancho, Lara and I after finally warming up after our finish.

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Only took one photo of the views…just love this course..better with sunshine though! 😉

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Thanks to AZ Traileggers Aid station where I stopped for awhile on my way out and back! Great motivational signs!

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More good signs!

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Across The Years: Race Report & 6th 50K

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….and My Story Runs On….

Where do I even begin? First I have to try and explain how this type of event works. Across The Years is described on the Aravaipa website as:

“the original fixed-time multiday running event celebrating the New Year. Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as possible.  Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep whenever they wish, but the clock is always running!”

What does this mean?  It’s basically you against the clock. You can sign up for minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 6 days and log as many miles as you want or your body/mind will allow you.

I’ll be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this event. In 2014, my boyfriend and I volunteered during the midnight shift at New Year’s Eve and we had a blast!  We decided to do it again this year and The Running University sponsored two volunteer shifts on New Year’s Eve so I received a free entry for filling those spots.

I was excited to have the opportunity to try this type of event out.  The course is a 1.04 mile loop at Camelback Ranch and you basically go around the loop as many times as you want or your body/mind will allow you. I’ve done an event before that was looped but it was a 4 mile course so this was a first experience for me.  Every 4 hours they change the direction so you go around the opposite way.

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I can’t wait to get my official bib number. It’s yours for the lifetime of the event. Apparently once you get to 1,000 miles you get a jacket! not sure I’ll ever shoot for this goal!

I ran this mostly with my friend Heather and we decided that we were “just” going to follow our training plan for the weekend and our plan was to do a 50K (31.1 miles). I also had dinner plans that night so I was on a bit of time crunch. We started at 9am (the 24 hour clock is from 9am-9am).  The first several loops felt great…actually most of it wasn’t bad at all..as a matter of fact at one point I was thinking, maybe I can do 48 hours next year and do my first 100 miles…break it up in four 25 miles segments over 48 hours…that sounds doable, right? Well…..by the time I was done, I was done with those loops.  Heather and I spent most of the time chatting together and with other people on the course. At one point she needed to make a stop so I kept going knowing we find each other on that loop at some point. I started listening to one of my new favorite Running Deep playlists that I purchased awhile ago and had not had chance to get into (guided meditation for runners).  It was perfect timing to be zoned out and zoned in at the same time.  I was also hoping to PR my 50K time. Doesn’t really mean a whole lot as this type of event is much different than running a 50K on a trail with an actual elevation profile. But still, I was running a lot more than I would’ve on a trail so that had to count for something.  I did set another PR and I found my results from my Tom Tom amusing. Mostly the elevation profile and the map of my run. 😉

It might be easiest to break this up to pros and cons (of course just my opinion!). Would love to hear comments from anyone who has done these events!

Pros:

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop so there is no way to get lost. It’s probably one of the safest ways to get rack up mileage.
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock. This will also be a Con.  For me, I liked that my plan was to stick to my training plan and I purposely scheduled dinner plans later because I knew that I could be convinced to keep going since I technically had many more hours to go. But if someone was “afraid” to do a marathon because there are normally cut offs, you can sign up for 24 hours here and finish a marathon no problem in 24 hours…you could crawl it!
  • I’ve never eaten so much at a race! LOL  There is a main aid station with lots of goodies. We purposely skipped it many times.  I’ve taught my body to go for longer periods of time with little fueling but it’s so hard not to stop by and visit at the aid station…and maybe grab a few M & M’s or piece of pizza or peanut butter pretzels (my main trail staple). I’ve heard people say they actually gain weight on this event.
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Should’ve got a better picture but this is the main aid station…lots of goodies here!

  • No need to carry anything.  There is also another water station half way through which means you really don’t have to worry about carrying anything with you on this race as you have it all right there.
  • Seeing lots of friends!  It was fun to see so many people I knew. Unfortunately because I was on a mission to get done by a certain time, I couldn’t stop and slow down much to talk with them as most of them were going longer so moving slower that I wanted to at that point. But there are a lot of local runners along with people who come internationally for this event so a great place to listen to people’s running stories and goals.
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Heather and I at the start line getting ready for the 9am start 😉

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Had to get a selfie with the pretty “lake” behind us. There were some scenic spots on this loop!

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Hanging with Ed The Jester. I found out today that he placed 1st with 451 miles completed in 6 days! Just google “ed the jester” and you’ll find out some amazing things about this guy!

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Sharill! Her and her husband used to own Solemates which was a racing company that only did these type of timed events but shorter starting with 6 miles up to 24 hours.

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Ron! I see this guy volunteering everywhere! And you can’t help but love that shirt!

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Ila! Still waiting to hear on her finish as of right now. She is an inspiration and I blogged about her too: https://myownrunningstory.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/running-marathons-at-70/

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We reached our goal of a 50K! 31.8 miles on my watch 😉

  • Relaxed atmosphere.  People are all just doing the same thing going around this loop…some running, some walking, some talking, some listening to music or whatever.  There didn’t seem to be much “race” pressure that you can normally feel in a race.  You get to do whatever you want when you want.
  • Strategy.  You basically create your own race strategy. I met people who were planning X amount miles in X amount of hours, some people were just going with the flow and people like me were using it as a training run.  Your time, your strategy.
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My strategy was to complete a 50K but my mantra is the same thing I have on the back of my The Running University shirts 😉

Cons 

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop and all you do all day and night is go around in the same circle for hours even though they change the direction every 4 hours.  One of the things I love most about ultra running is being out on a trail and seeing places I’ve never seen before. I don’t know how people do 6 days of this but all power to them!
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock.  As a running coach, this type of race can really push people to a level that I believe is not healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people pushing outside their comfort zone mentally and physically!  However, to be smart about doing that, training your mind and body really helps too. I know several ultra runners that were out there and used to do this kind of mileage…however this race brings some people out that have not been spending the time training and it’s an injury or many waiting to happen. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your goal and I can’t tell you the number of times I heard people complaining about body parts hurting (there is a difference in knowing when you can push through “hurt” or “injury”) and when you are mentally exhausted, you are not always making the wisest decisions. It was painful for me to watch some of these people limping along (there is a medical tent on site and they do an amazing job…but I know people who wouldn’t go in there in fear of hearing they needed to stop). As much as it’s an inspiration to watch an 82 year old with a walking stick or a 10 year old achieve a 100 mile goal,  it’s still begs the questions, when is too much too much?

So, 4 days later, do I still want to do 100 miles in 48 hours next year?

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Will I do the event again next year?  Hell yes!  My plan would be sign up for the same 24 hours with friends, hopefully convince some people to do their first marathon, and have a walking/running party and just have fun with it!

Have you ever done a timed event? What’s your experience? Would love to hear your opinion!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

“That’s our running coach!”

….and My Story Runs On….

Yep, first time ever lying in a cot getting help from the medics…..

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Clearly not doing too bad as I’m smiling here but never had this experience before.  Of course, I need to share my learning lessons. I wish I could’ve taken the picture of my peeps all hovering over me, teasing me, “this is our running coach!.”  It was a pretty comical moment…but grateful that I can have these moments so I can be a better runner and coach.  There is always a lesson to learn!

This (Aravaipa’s Javelina Jangover) was my best race last year, I had a great blog/vlog about it too. I hadn’t really been training for this race but I was definitely prepared to do the mileage.  What I didn’t prepare for though, was the plan to PR (personal record) my time from last year.  My little sister, who is a great athlete, decided to switch from the 7K to the 25K to pace me and help me (this was her first 25K trail race!)

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

My plan for longer distances is to always take it easier for the first half so I conserve energy…then kick it up during the 2nd half which on this course tends to be downhill. I was mentally prepared to follow this plan but I always know that when I’m trying to keep a specific pace (to PR), I tend to be slave to my watch (some of my best runs happen when I’m not doing this...) and keep checking my pace. I still ChiWalked on the uphills because I conserve more energy and can do it just as fast so might as well be walking.

I did notice that I was thirstier than normal so I kept drinking.  We got to the aid station at mile 8.5 and put more water in my hydration pack. Had a few pieces of potato/salt and a shot of coke and ginger ale (this usually helps with a bit of energy/caffeine boost).  A lot of Team RWB peeps were there volunteering so it’s always great to see your friends and get some energy from them!

The course was now mainly downhill so I started trying to get my average pace up as I monitored my watch.  I was averaging an 11:40 for a bit. One thing I know about myself is that I don’t like being uncomfortable when I run…I know I could probably push myself more (I prefer to use my ChiRunning technique to improve my performance not muscling through it).  And I was very focused on my form: I continued to use the mantra Align & Relax, use by arms for the uphills as well as to counterbalance my forward lean and did as much active and passive pelvic rotation as possible to keep my legs from working harder. This was working great until…..

I started realizing I just couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst. My poor sister kept saying “come on, we only have a 5K left” “you can push harder” and all of the sudden my legs weren’t feeling it anymore and my stomach starting bugging me. I felt like I needed to throw up but couldn’t do it. When I realized there was no way I was beating my time, I decided I needed to stop running. At this point I just wanted it to be over.  I was grateful to have my sister there with me and we walked the last mile.

Those of you that know me, know that one of the things I enjoy most after a run/race is a nice cold beer.  You know I wasn’t not myself when the thought of a beer made me want to throw up!

We got to the medics who were amazing.  Checked my pulse and my blood pressure (all good there!)…they lay me down on a cot and elevated my legs so the blood could flow back to my stomach. Thanks to all my friends that came by to check in on me…at least I wasn’t one of the runners getting an IV and being taken away with an ambulance.

So, what happened?  I had to think about my last few days and here is my assessment:

  • In retrospect, I didn’t hydrate the way I normally do a few days before a race.  I was at a Toastmaster contest from 8am-1pm yesterday and only drank half a bottle of water but drank double the amount of coffee that I normally do.  The night before, I was hanging with some friends, had a few beers (not a big deal but probably didn’t help with the hydration issue) and ate a lot of salty foods.
  • I tried pushing too much at the beginning. My fastest mile was the 2nd one and I remember not being able to get my heart rate down until we stopped at the aid station for awhile. (I also had a double espresso a few hours before the race which probably didn’t help either). It was also hotter than I was expecting.
  • Basically I pushed my body more than I should’ve and wasn’t prepared for it physically.

I have no regrets….running is always a way to learn more about your body and yourself and last night was just another learning lesson for next time!  I finished with a 3:32 (last year was a 3:16).

1st half of the race..didn't realize until I looked at this as I'm writing that my 2nd mile was my fastest

1st half of the race..didn’t realize until I looked at this that my 2nd mile was my fastest

 

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..except the last mile!

Any big learning lessons you’ve had from a run recently?

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race report: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon

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….and My Story Runs On….

I guess I’m more likely to blog while I’m on “vacation” since this is my 2nd blog in a week!
About a month ago, I realized I needed to get in 20 miles on Sat and 10 on Sun during Memorial weekend for my next 50K race (Capitol Reef, UT on 7/9/16).  I knew it would be hard to get this is in MA by myself.  My trip consisted of: being in my friend’s wedding in Boston last weekend, 5 days at Kripalu assisting Danny Dreyer, the founder of ChiRunning for 5 days and then a weekend in Pittsfield MA to visit family (my home town). I knew I wouldn’t get any long runs in the weekend of the wedding so I started googling races…lo and behold I found this marathon: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon.
I started looking into it and figured: it’s 30 min from Pittsfield, 26 miles in one day is close enough to 30 in 2 days, it would be my first marathon out of state (7th one), first marathon in my home state and the icing on the cake was that it was benefiting Team RWB (I’m a member of the Phoenix Chapter) and Soldier On. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to go for it.
This past week I tried to follow my training plan but also was on my feet a lot due to teaching and coaching.  Even though I took Thu and Sat “off” of running, I went into the race with some mileage on my legs (61.2 according to my Jawbone but that’s including all my steps so a bit exaggerated…still a lot though).

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I was on tired legs already!

The eve of the marathon, my head starting messing with me a bit.  It was my first marathon where I didn’t have any friends or people that I knew.  I couldn’t find any information about the course and elevation (I used to not care about this but as my running story evolves, I realize knowing this information really helps me prepare for the race and strategize).  I knew it would be a hilly course so that made me feel better since I love hills due to the unique way we go up and down them with ChiRunning technique.  I was also worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain (I’m too used to perfect weather conditions in AZ) and it was going to be humid (I’m used to a dry heat.) I even started googling ‘running in dry heat vs humidity’! Then I started thinking, do I want to “race” this? Could I possibly PR (have a personal record) on this course with the hills (my best time for a full is in Sedona with a 4:58 and it was because of my hill strategy). Then I realized, I was wasting too much valuable energy  so I decided to go run it as the training run it was meant to be. I knew the cutoff was 7 hours (race director said they wouldn’t leave anyone on the course anyways) so I had plenty of time.

My aunt drove me the morning of the race and I was there in plenty of time which is rare for me.  I had 50 minutes to kill so I did my ChiRunning body looseners and found a seat to relax in.  IMG_8642

I noticed a guy from afar doing the body looseners and I knew he was a ChiRunner as we are the only ones who do this sequence (later I talked to him and he had been in the Kripalu class I assisted with last year!)  He was doing the half though. The race started 10 minutes late and I felt good right away going down the gentle downhill.  The race started with 80% humidity which I was not used to.

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My biggest goal in a long race is pacing myself. I had to slow myself down as I knew I was going faster than I should, especially knowing there would be some uphills and I had several miles to go. The course was beautiful!  I was bummed that I couldn’t find a trail race as I prefer that over the road but this race was hilly and nice enough scenery where I felt I could’ve been on a trail.

Roses:

  • Mentioned already in paragraph 3 above 😉
  • Loved the hilly course!  I know this is not normal but I was fresh from teaching ChiRunning.  I worked on my form quite so I could be as efficient as possible and maintain my energy throughout the miles.  I practiced active and passive pelvic rotation on the uphills and downhills; had some great aha moments when my legs felt heavy by allowing my ankles to lift behind me and could feel my legs be more relaxed;  I used my arm swing to help me on the hills and headwind we had on the last 3 miles of the race; focused on nose breathing as much as I could.
  • The scenery was beautiful!  I love all the green and it’s one of the things I miss from MA that we don’t have in Phoenix.  Here are some photos:
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Added to the humidity I’m sure!

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Lots of pretty flowers along the course!

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Honoring Memorial Day

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Love New England scenery!

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Hills….

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More hills…

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Settled in 1750!

  • They said there would be aid stations at every 2-3 miles and there were! This was necessary for me as the day got hotter and hotter and more humid. I poured more water over my head than down my throat! I also kept imagining the scenery with lots of snow on the ground just to keep cool thoughts.
  • RAIN at mile 21 was AMAZING!  I will say I was ready for the race to be over due to the heat and humidity and that rain definitely helped out.
Thank God for the rain!

Thank God for the rain!

  • The Mom/boyfriend team cheering squad!  These guys kept moving along and cheering us on. Past the half way point, she had a cooler with wet cloths and ice that really helped. I even stuck some ice down my bra to stay cool for a while. I found out later that she was cheering on her 2 daughters (we were leap frogging) who were doing their first marathon together! I love this!  I was able to get a photo of them at the end of the race.
Great running stalkers!

Great running stalkers!

  • There were several home owners along the course that came out with water, oranges, etc which was great (although I think there could’ve been more)
  • My aunts at the end of the race cheering me in!
  • My dog tag medal and local craft beer which is a must at the end of any race for me 😉
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Finisher showing off the dog tag and my Team RWB shirt!

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Great craft beer from Big Elm Brewing. Had the stout…yummy!

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Souvenirs from my training run 😉

Thorns:

  • I could deal with the heat but the humidity sucked!  I wish the race would’ve started earlier but I chatted with a guy before the race who said he did it a few years ago and it was snowing.  The frequent aid stations really helped though!
  • Not too crazy about the cant in the road. I had to move from left to the right side of the road frequently as I could tell my legs were not even with the pavement.  I could feel this in my hips the next day.
  • I was disappointed in the lack of representation from Team RWB folks.  Although I think in Phoenix we have an abnormally active chapter so I am used to seeing at least 20 other RWB shirts and running through the finish line with an American flag.  I think I saw one other person with a shirt. (Although still happy to know that proceeds benefited this awesome charity!)

At the beginning of the race, my pace was good and I started thinking I could PR until the humidity got to me.  I am still happy with my results. It’s my 4th best time out of 7 marathons and considering the amount of running I had done the week before, the humidity, etc. I was happy.

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Placed 56th out of 98 total and 18th out of 38 women.

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Dark blue is the elevation change

I normally judge my “success” on how I feel when I am done and how I feel the next day or two after a big race. I finished strong, I was a bit sore the day after and felt great 2 days after.  My abs and obliques were sorer than my legs which is always a good sign that my ChiRunning form is good 😉

Overall, I would recommend this race! Not sure I would take a special trip for it as I like to experience new scenery and prefer trails… but if I happen to be up there and I’m trained, I would do it again.

What is your favorite race that you’ve done out of state?

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: Crown King Scramble 2016

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….and My Story Runs On….

“Come on, you’re already trained” she said.  These words coming from my friend Suzi who years ago swore she would never trail run yet ran me in my last mile of my 1st 50K, just did her first ultra in February (Black Canyon 60K) and now decided to do her 2nd one.  My boyfriend Greg kidded around and said, “Serves you right.  Now you know what it feels like when you’re trying to get people to drink the Kool Aid.”  Soooooo….I signed up for Aravaipa’s Crown King Scramble 50K.

This race is no joke…The Crown King Scramble is a point to point uphill 50 kilometer foot race which starts at 1700 feet elevation and tops out at mile 28.7 at 6520 feet elevation before a final 600 foot descent into the finish.  This is the elevation profile:

Elevation profile!

Elevation profile!

We had an option for the early start at 5am and I’m glad we took it. Not only did it get us out of the heat for the one hour but more importantly, it took the edge off for getting to the first cutoff (disqualification point) at mile 15.3 in 3.5 hours.  (After the cutoff experience at Antelope Canyon, I knew I didn’t want that extra stress again.)

I considered going for a personal record (my best time for a 50k is 8:19 but I knew this race may not be the right one).  And of course, I was “lucky” again and had the same issue as my last 50K (yes, it was that time of the month again!).  I decided I was just going to enjoy the race and our beautiful Arizona landscape.  One of the things I love most about trail running is being outdoors and enjoying nature.

We barely got there in time and got in the start line about 2 minutes before starting. This was the first ultra for Deb and Kerri, Suzi and Krista’s 2nd, and my 4th. Unfortunately Elaine had the flu and wasn’t able to join us (she’s done two 50 milers but hadn’t done a 50K yet).

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I normally like to do my body looseners but didn’t have time for that. My plan was to run the first 15 miles as much as possible as I knew I would be hiking a lot of the 2nd half. The weather was perfect. It was still dark so we had headlamps but we got to see an amazing sunrise!  I love that I know quite a few people that are trail/ultra runners. I ran into several friends along the way and got to catch up with them a bit.  I met Deborah and Mark a long time ago when I co-taught a ChiRunning workshop for the Mountain Milers group in Prescott.  As much as I wanted to run this part, I was in no rush and wanted to conserve energy for later. This first half had some rolly polly hills but nothing crazy yet.  The night before, I had reviewed a few of my ChiSchool videos on breathing and steep hills so I started focusing on my form and matching my breathing with my footsteps.

From miles 15-19 we started getting the harder hills.  I was by myself on and off and totally OK with that.  I love to run with people just as much as I love being alone on a trail.  I saw Chris, Amanda and Mechaela.  I couldn’t wait to get to the Mile 19 aid station as I know several of my friends were volunteering there. It’s always great to see your friends at aid stations (it’s always a hard choice to pick in between running a race and volunteering at one!).  I normally stick to my nutrition plan (thanks to Brooke who helped with my 50 miler!) but the theme of their aid station was Fiesta and they had some Tecate so I had to have a small shot glass of beer ;). Surprise: Baby G Growler was there as well!  He is the mascot of Running for Brews Tempe (a social running club that I’m in charge of) Right before this I saw my friend Krista and she wasn’t feeling too well. We got up the aid station and I told her to cool off (it was getting warm) and get some food down.  There is also an elevation change to consider for this race and it’s easy to feel nauseated (I felt it several times).  She felt better and we moved on.  My TomTom died at some point because the storage was full.  This never happened for me and was a good learning lesson.I hadn’t downloaded quite a few of my training runs apparently so it didn’t have enough storage for my run. I was a bit annoyed at first but it was a blessing in disguise.  When you don’t know what mile you are at, it’s quite liberating. We just kept setting our next goal to get to the next aid station.

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Cooling off and getting food at the aid station with Krista

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Beer shot with a random stranger names Patrick at the aid station

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My good friend Lori at the aid station volunteering 😉

I ran into a few more friends.  Marina and Jamie were doing their first ultra. Marina’s been having some calf issues so I gave her a few tips on how to limit using it.  I also met Becki and ran into Lynsey (both of their first ultras too!). We did quite a bit of leap frogging for the remainder of the race.  At some point, I tripped over a rock and had a little tumble. Not a big deal…it’s actually been a long time since I fell trail running so I was due for a fall.  I normally am able to catch my balance before falling but my hydration pack was full and I couldn’t counter balance the fall.  I barely got a few scrapes on my hand and we kept moving. I heard my friend Tommy coming up behind us and he’s a great runner and positive guy.  He ran with us for a bit, shared his big smile and positive energy and then moved on.

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Selfie with Tommy and Krista

The Fort Misery Aid station was at mile 22.3.  Apparently they win Best Aid Station contest every year and it was evident by the amount of alcohol they had available.  Again, not something I would normally do but I was feeling good so I had a small Bloody Mary and was proud of myself for resisting the Fireball shot.

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Open Bar coming up!

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Why not have a Blood Mary?

This was the hardest part of the run. You can see how far we climbed. We passed creeks which were great for dunking our hats and buffs. I walked through them purposely as the cold water felt really good on my feet.  I had an extra pair of socks for back up but never used them.  We also had to deal with ATVs and cars four wheel driving. We knew this would be possible as they can’t close the forest road down.  It was a bit annoying although most people were very nice.The smell of diesel from their vehicles was worst than the dust they were creating.

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Creeks! We were looking forward to these!

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We came a long way up that hill!

It’s really weird because sometimes you look back and think, wow, what was I thinking/saying for all that time?  Somehow the time goes by chatting with friends and enjoying the scenery.  I have lived in AZ for over half of my life and have never seen this part of our state.

One of my favorite parts was when we started getting into the pines. The tag line for the race is “spines to pines” because we leave the desert landscape at Lake Pleasant and get to Crown King which is at 6700 feet of elevation. I love the smell of pine trees and hearing the wind blow through the needles.  The slight breeze felt good too.  The last aid station was 2 miles away from the top of the hill and we knew we had 2 miles of downhill after that. We were close!  We kidded around about our heavy legs and whether they would remember how to run downhill (free energy!) after doing so much hiking.

Running downhill was no problem and before we knew it, we were in “town” and people were directing us to the finish line.

My official time was 8:45:22.  Considering I had no expectations for this race other than enjoy it and finish it, I’m happy with it!  As a matter of fact, this is a 50K I would consider doing again. I love a challenge and I love hills.  If I do it next year, I may try and PR the course but for now, I’m just happy to have my 4th Ultra under my belt. I will say finishing a 50 miler 6 weeks prior to this definitely boosted my confidence.  I also love to finish a race feeling strong rather than feeling like a truck ran over me.  I finished strong and even though I was a bit sore the next day, I felt great!

I personally would recommend this race. It’s no joke so make sure to train for the hills and elevation (physically, nutritionally and mentally). Read other blog posts to get the scoop but make sure to have a buff to cover your mouth and nose when there is dust being kicked up.  If you are worried about time, do the early start. It was well worth not worrying about the cutoffs and having an hour in the cooler weather.

I would also recommend spending the night. We stayed at one of these cabins (highly recommend them!) and enjoyed Crown King.  We had dinner at the Saloon and breakfast at Prospector Mall (both were yummy).  And last but not least, you cannot leave Crown King without visiting the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club on the way back to I-17.

Not only was this another great race, but another great weekend with good friends!  Love my running friends and the fact that I have more of them getting into trail running but more importantly into ultra running! Thanks to Aravaipa Running for putting on another amazing event!

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At the Cleator Bar and Yacht club and “ran” into Jamil, the Aravaipa Running Race Director

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Hanging with my friends and the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Mascots! Baby G Growler and Baby E-vil from Running for Brews and Vaip Daddi from Araviapa Running chilling at Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Sunrise!

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My first finisher jacket! Well deserved I might add!

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: (6) My Boyfriend!

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….and My Story Runs On…. My boyfriend, my BBE (Best Boyfriend Ever), my running widower, Greg, Gregorio (that’s what my Italian parents call him 😉 )….whatever we call him, he is one of the biggest reasons I am able to do … Continue reading

50 Miles of Gratitude: (5) My Trail Wife

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….and My Story Runs On…. I assume this is a common way to refer to your trail training partners that spend more hours with you on the trail than they do with their actual spouses?  I’ve heard the term golf … Continue reading

50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

….and My Story Runs On….

Here is a list of my blog posts that I am writing after my first 50 Mile race.  It’s combination of what I learned, what I am grateful for and a way for me to keep the memory alive.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life! My goal is to have 50 of these 😉

Updated on 7/30/17:  I’m realizing this just isn’t going to happen.  It was a great idea when I had it but I have other ideas for blogs, etc and too much time has gone by now.  I have found that writing blogs works best for me when I feel inspired and too much time has gone by now to continue with this series.  I hope you still enjoy these 😉

Race Report: Antelope Canyon: My 1st 50 Miler (with pictures!)
50 Miles of Gratitude: (1) ChiRunning
50 Miles of Gratitude: (2) Nutrition
50 Miles of Gratitude: (3) Training
50 Miles of Gratitude: (4) Massage
50 Miles of Gratitude: (5) My Trail Wife
50 Miles of Gratitude: (6) My Boyfriend
50 Miles of Gratitude: (7) My Epic Finish Line
50 Miles of Gratitude: (8) Altras and Meeting the CoFounder
50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running
50 Miles of Gratitude: (10) Burning Out
50 Miles of Gratitude: (11) My Celebratory Tattoo
50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA events 

 

I've learned this... #neversaynever

I’ve learned this… #neversaynever

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Week #8 Recap 50K/50Mile Training

….and My Story Runs On….

Trying not to beat myself up as it’s Tuesday morning and I swore last week that I would keep a draft and update this daily as so much happens I forget by the time the weekly recap comes up! (thankful for my Tom Tom app so I can go back and look at the maps of my runs which helps jog my memory!).  I also was short 10 miles last week so I’m deciding not to beat myself up about that either…..

Last week was a Cycle Down week which means it was a week where the mileage was lower to help the body rest and recover.  I decided I was going to try and get more miles in during the week as I knew the weekend was going to be tough.  Here was the plan:

Week Of Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Miles
26-Oct 8 CD 0 4 8 6 0 10 8 36

And here is how it went:

  • Monday: Rest day.  Today was a rough day…the last few Mondays have been…I think part of it is due to the adrenaline and all the running from the weekend that when Monday comes, I feel like I’m missing on something and it’s hard to start my day without a run.  There were other factors going on this Monday…it was so bad that I actually posted on my Facebook page about and was overwhelmed by all the love and responses I received from my friends!
  • Tuesday:  I normally have a standing running date with my friend Vicki but had to change my plan to help out my sister in the morning.  I didn’t wake up early enough to run before so I ended up running back and forth from my chiropractor’s office which is about 1.5 mile away from my house.  Then I ran another 3 miles at Running for Brews that night with my friend Jan who is in town from Ireland.  As much as I don’t like road running much anymore, it is much easier after doing longer runs on the trail. I can focus more on form and cadence.
  • Wednesday:  6 mile trail run/hike with my friend Vicki at South Mountain. There is a sandy wash so I can get a few miles of sand training (I need so much more though!).  On this day we ended up going a little further and found a trail connector and ended up in a new place which is always fun to explore.
  • Thursday: Had to cancel track in the morning due to rain.  Thursdays are a busy day for me so I wasn’t able to get back out because it was also running on and off.  I ended up getting to PSCU early (where I teach boot camps) and was able to get one mile done on the treadmill.  Not my favorite…I guess one mile is better than zero miles. Today I also started tracking my food for my nutritionist, Brooke from Fuel to the Finish, who is going to help me get prepared for race day by fueling my body properly.  My homework was to do this for 3 days.
  • Friday:  In retrospect, it was good that I rested on Thursday.  I volunteered to mark the Javelina Jundred Endurance Run course this day which is the 15 mile Pemberton trail at McDowell Mountain.  I knew it would take longer than usual due to the stop and go of marking the bushes. Part of this journey for me is running with different people and making new friends.  Today I had the opportunity to run with Erica and Tessa from the Dirt Bag Running group.  This is also one of my all time favorite trails.  Ironically I realized that I had done this full trail twice and both times it was night time so this was my first time doing it during the day.  I blogged about my last experience as it was one of my best night runs ever.  It was a great morning and I was on my feet for 4 hours and 26 minutes which is good time on my feet.
  • Saturday:  My plan was to get out and do at least 5 more miles at some point this weekend. This morning my legs were pretty tired from the day before and I had quite a few things to do.  I guess I got more good time on my feet as we volunteered to work the main aid station of the Javelina Jundred from 11pm-7am.  It was a long night but it was fun to help out these amazing runners who were either doing 100K or 100 miles. I know 100 miles is something I want to do at least once but not making any plans now until I finish the 50 miler.  I thought this might be the course I would do since it’s an AZ race and run by our local Aravaipa Running group.  Now I’m not sure that I could run around a loop 6-7 times. We’ll see….
  • Sunday:  Was able to get 4 hours of sleep but a run was not happening on this day either. I was too tired from the weekend..

My training for the week finished like this:

Week Of Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Miles
26-Oct 8 CD 0 4 8 6 0 10 8 36
 Actual 0 6.14 6 1 14 0 0 27.14

AHA moments:

  • Planning as much as I can but I don’t want to beat myself up if I don’t get my mileage in.  I tried hard not to do this since I was 10 short on a cycle down week.
  • Nervous about the next few weeks.  Ragnar Trail is coming up and then I’ll be in Asheville NC for 5 days for a ChiRunning Instructor weekend. This is one of my favorite weeks that happens every 2 years and even though we run daily, I know I won’t be able to get all my mileage in.  I’m going to have to get creative and get as much as I can done.
  • This training is like a part time job.  I had some struggles this week with my time management and realize I need to re-prioritize some things as this training is taking over my weekly schedule.
  • Volunteering to mark or sweep a race course is a great way to get mileage and time on my feet….and I got some race credits for it too!
  • ChiRunning:  Nothing earth shattering this week but love how much easier the road feels after doing more trail running.  I continue to focus on my nose breathing and trying to stay as relaxed as possible. I’ve also been focusing on my ChiWalking as I know I won’t be running the full 50K or the 50 miler.  The goal is always to be as energy efficient as possible!

Fundraising update:

Haven’t really done much with it this week.  Every little bit helps though!

Previous blogs posts in this series:

This process is a bit time consuming but I really want a record to remember how training for my 1st 50 miler went so I will keep on with this journaling process…

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Week #5 Recap- 50K/50Mile Training

….and My Story Runs On….

I swear I mentioned this in one of my videos on my You Tube channel but I can’t seem to find it right now…one of the things I wish I had done while preparing for my first marathon was journaling my experience. This just came to me the other day…I’ve also been wanting to blog at least weekly so I decided to write a quick blog about my previous week training.

I’m following a training plan I created here.  I created one for the 50K on 12/5 and then will change to the 50 mile training plan after that race is over.

My plan called for 40 miles last week and I did 39.6. Close enough for me:

  • Monday is an off day. I just signed up for 2 months with Flip N Fit since they had an awesome deal.  I tried a Yin Yoga class at Naam Yoga.
  • Tuesday:  4 trail miles at South Mountain with my friend Vicki
  • Wednesday:  I was in Tucson doing 2 free clinics (Davis-Monthan Air Force and Performance Footwear).  My boyfriend and I were told to go to Sabino Canyon. It was our first time and I logged 4 trail miles there.  I love first time experiences and it was a beautiful location!
  • Thursday:  I did 3.1 miles at track and 3.6 at the Ragnar Adventure Run.
  • Friday is an off day
  • Saturday:  I spent Friday night on the west side for girl’s night and because I was attending Yoga For Runners and doing a free ChiRunning clinic at Eleutheria Wellness. I know a good 4.7 mile loop at Estrella Park (not crazy about looping but it works for safety reasons, especially if I’m alone).  Was very excited to have my friend Karyl, join me for the first lap. We met at the Breast Cancer 3-day and is a Las Bombas.  She started getting into running last year and has completed her first half marathon and doing Ragnar with us! I did 4.7 with her and then 9.3 alone.
  • Sunday:  I did 11 miles at Warpaint trail at South Mountain. Invited several friends and people were doing their own distance and their own speed.  Five of us did the 11 miles.  I believe this is my longest back to back run? I can’t remember what I did with my first 50K so maybe not…if I would’ve only journaled…I’ve done it walking for sure with the 3-Day..

I’m really making sure I focus on recovery and taking care of my body as I have a big fear of Plantar again or having my heel spur give me trouble…the Yoga for Runner’s class on Saturday was great timing.  After my back to back weekend, I spent some time in the hot tub, did a lot of stretching and leg drains (my favorite!) last night. As I’m writing this now, my legs are heavy but feel much better than I expected. I suspect it’s because of my recovery practice and my ChiRunning focuses during my runs.

Next week will be a bit of a challenge as I’ll be in Tucson Fri/Sat for another clinic and workshop.  If I can’t get my daily mileage in, my goal is to shoot for the weekly mileage.

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)