Monday, August 13, 2018

Thoughts from a First Time Ragnar Runner

More than 48 hours after we crossed the finish line and I'm still recovering from Ragnar Colorado. And maybe feeling a bit of withdrawal.

If you're not familiar, here's a quick rundown of how it works: teams of 12 (or 6) people run 200-ish miles over two days. Teams of 12 - like ours - divide into two vans of 6 runners and everyone runs 3 legs of varying distances, covering anywhere from 10 to 20 miles.

It was a crazy experience from start to finish, and one thing is for certain, I was part of an incredible team that showed amazing grit, fortitude, and spirit. Each one of us brought something unique and important to the team, including the ability to roll with the punches! In fact, if I could change one thing about the relay, I'd want more time for the entire team to be together.

I'm thankful for Amanda, who brought us all together, and the rest of team Just Here for the Food - Aimee, Charlie, Danielle, Tara, Sarah, Heather, Ellen, GretchenHeather and Sara

The story is too ridiculous to recount in detail, but the long short of it is that Hertz won't be seeing any of the 12 of us soon, we loved our Airbnb host, Van 2 became masters of packing, unpacking, and moving our gear from place to place, and I started my first leg of the race not knowing if there'd be a van at the top of Vail Pass when I got there. Thankfully, van number 2 for Van 2 did show up and managed to make it through the rest of the weekend without a problem.

This was not an easy race. It tests you in countless ways, and I don't regret a minute of it. I covered just under 15 miles - including 8 in the middle of the night - and climbed over 1,300 feet. We lived off snacks, slept on a gym floor, and eventually gave up on trying to do any math. I'm proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and taking this on.

In the end, we finished 2nd in the Women's Open Division (although they currently have us listed as 11th in the Men's Division) and 18th overall. Not too bad for a team that literally encouraged each other to enjoy the runs and stop to take photos along the way!

Coming off my first Ragnar, here are my top tips for any of you planning to run your first overnight relay:

1. Go into it with an open mind. If you're not there to win, don't take it too seriously. Learn from your teammates, lean on each other, be ready to be a little bit vulnerable and try not to let things get to you. That said, if you know you need your space (which is at a minimum), download a playlist or podcast before the race, take your headphones and and zone out for a bit between runs. Your teammates will understand. There's no way to really know what a relay will be like, so be ready - or open to - anything!

2. Be ready to go with the flow. Things are going to go wrong. Your van could breakdown. Directions could be questionable. The weather might not be ordeal. You might meet every port-a-potty along the way. That's part of what makes a relay experience unique. It's not supposed to be easy, but if you can go with the flow and problem solve like a boss, you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.

3. Don't expect to sleep, but if you get a chance to sleep on a gym floor, take it. The one hour of sleep I got smashed between people on a gym mat in a middle school in Basalt was heavenly and gave me the energy I needed to power through to the end! Don't skip an opportunity to recharge.

4. Do your homework & a few training runs. No matter what, you're going to be faced with surprises along the way, but take some time ahead of the relay to read about your legs (will you be climbing for 5 miles, running in the dark or on trails?) and get some miles under your feet. It'll still be hard, but it'll help.

5. Have fun & enjoy the views! Take time to take it all in. Enjoy your time with your teammates. Focus on the beautiful views. Laugh off the craziness. Celebrate each finish and all that you've accomplished!

One last thing. I'd like to recognize all the amazing people we met along the way. Starting with Lindsay, our Airbnb host, and Tyler from the towing company, to all of the fantastic volunteers who spent hours in the hot sun or stayed up all night to support us, the police officers keeping everyone safe, the volunteers at the exchanges who opened community doors for us to sleep, rest and clean up, and other runners who kept our spirits high and pushed us to keep going.

Have you run an overnight relay? I'd love to hear your top tips. 

Are you thinking about running a relay but have questions? I'd love to help!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Colorado Hike: Chasm Lake (RMNP)

Ask 10 Coloradans why they love this state and I'm going to guess the majority of the answers you get will mention the mountains. They certainly ranked high on our list when we decided to move out here.

For a while I was doing a fairly good job of sharing information about the trails we've hiked or run, but I've fallen out of the habit. I'm going to try and get back in the habit because there are so many gems to be shared - like the beautiful and somewhat difficult trail we hiked this past weekend.

While I always hope this information is helpful for others who are looking for a trail to hike - or run - I personally love being able to look back and see where we've been.

Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

This trail begins at the Longs Peak trailhead and shares a trail with the Longs Peak trail for several miles. Roundtrip, you'll travel about 8.5 miles and the "strenuous" rating is on point as far as I'm concerned. The trailhead sits at an elevation of 9,405 feet and the highest recorded elevation on this trail is 11,823 feet. 

The first two or so miles are in an evergreen forest. The trail is very well maintained and clear, which is much appreciated, but don't take your eyes off the trail for too long or else you're likely to trip on rocks or tree roots. The trail crosses streams in a few spots and there are some beautiful waterfalls to cross. We were lucky enough to enjoy beautiful wildflowers along the way, and were also quite popular with the mosquitoes.

Eventually you'll climb out of the forest and reach the alpine tundra. There are no trees for shade and the sun can be punishing, so be sure to wear sunblock and have a hat with you. On the upside, there are beautiful views and you'll have left the mosquitoes behind! The trail is still very easy to follow and you'll enjoy a few short respites where the trail levels off for a bit and you can catch your breath.

You'll make your way to a stretch where you walk along the wall of the canyon and have a view down below to a lower lake and a waterfall. At the end of this section there's a bit of scrambling to do and when we visited, there was still some patches of snow, right along the canyon wall, to cross. We could easily follow the path set by others and our hiking poles were useful.

Once across, there's a beautiful flat section where you'll walk along and cross over streams and likely see a number of marmots - the only animals beyond squirrels, birds and mosquitoes that we saw along the entire hike. Here there is also the second of two privy's along the way that likely are welcome sights for many.

One last climb before the lake. While some have described this as "easy", I felt it was a bit challenging. It's all relative but it is doable. On the way down we determined we had taken the wrong way up, so I'll give you a hint: stay towards the right side on the climb up.

It was all worth it once you make it up that last climb. The lake is beautiful, clear and is an instant reminder of just how small we all are.

Take a few minutes to have a snack, relax, take stock of the work you've put in so far, snap some photos and enjoy the view before you start the trip back to the trailhead.

What to know if you go:
  • This lot fills up very early, so plan to arrive before 7:00am
  • While you don't enter through a main entrance to the park, it is part of Rocky Mountain National Park, so be sure to pay the entrance fee
  • There is a Ranger Station and toilets, as well as picnic tables at the trailhead
  • Storms come up quick in Colorado in the summer, especially after noon. So be sure to check the weather forecast before you go and don't start out on your hike if it's already raining or getting really dark. Another great reason to go early. Hiking in a storm is not safe or smart.
  • Be sure to take plenty of water, snacks, sunblock and a hat. Bug spray is also advised. 
  • Hiking poles are definitely helpful on this trail.
  • Have fun, be courteous, leave the animals alone, pack in/pack out, and enjoy this beautiful park!
To help plan your trip, reference this Longs Peak Area Trail Guide from the National Parks Service.

We're open to trail recommendations in Rocky Mountain. If you have one, let me know!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Final Form Check

Since the start of the year, I've been working with Casey at Therapydia Denver. He's analyzed my running form, given me enough exercises to keep me busy, had me run keeping time with a metronome, and forced me out of my comfort zone. And I am extremely grateful for all of it.

I’ve posted about our sessions a few times - here, here, and here (if you want to catch up). After a few years dealing with a recurring and nagging shin situation - which, full disclosure, is not completely gone but is dissipating - and knowing that my natural running posture is extremely inefficient, when Therapydia offered a run assessment and a handful of follow-up sessions in return for sharing the experience, I couldn’t turn it down.

After my sessions with Casey, my form is more efficient and I’m running a bit faster. When he first watched me run and we looked at the video during the assessment, I almost wanted to hide. As he described it, I was actually leaning back a little. And clearly, backwards is not where a runner wants to go. 

Check out these before and after photos. I'm not falling forward (even though that's how I felt when I started trying this!), but there is a difference in both my upper body posture and my leg drive.

I still have to work on building strength in my glutes, but that does take time and it has gotten better, as you can see in the before and after photos below. For a lot of us runners, the last thing we want to spend time on is strength work, but it's incredibly important. And not just when we're in PT, but for forever and a day!

What I hadn’t expected was that by leaning forward, I’m also running a tad bit faster; it's harder to slow down and run at an easy pace. Which can make my sluggish runs feel even more difficult.

One time this didn't bother me was when I ran the Tenacious Ten 10M in Seattle in April and finished with a much faster time than I expected. Although, running at sea level also likely played a role in that finish time.

I’ve enjoyed working with Casey, and it’s been great to see improvements along the way and have a solid plan moving forward (aka: stick with the exercises!). When I told him I had registered for a 10 mile race he was fully supportive and confident that I could do it, which definitely helped me feel more confident in my decision to go after my longest race in years. And it turned out great!

There are 11 clinics around the country and based on my experience - and the feedback of my two friends who’ve now also visited Therapydia - I absolutely recommend them if you’re feeling a little twinge, need help coming back from an injury or just want to get your running form analyzed.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I'd love to hear about yours or answer any questions you have about the experience! Happy running, friends!

This post is sponsored by Therapydia. All opinions are my own.