Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Secret to Happy Running

While we're about to find out what challenge #7 is for Oiselle's #RunLoveChallenge, last weekend Matt agreed to complete #5 with me: Run Discovered (go out and explore undiscovered territory). My challenge partner, Lindsay, and I unknowingly got ahead of the game with our run the weekend before through a few Denver parks, but life is boring if you stop exploring. In fact, so far for me, 2016 has been the year of Run Discovered. I've been bored with my normal routes around Denver so I've been mixing things up a bit this year.

Last Saturday was perfect for a morning run - the temperature had hit the mid-40's before we made it to the outskirts of Boulder, which is jam packed with open space and mountain trails. We rarely make our way there to run but I'd had this one particular trail on my list since I ran a small section of it a year ago with several Oiselle teammates before we spectated the National Cross Country Championships
Early Morning Run - Bobolink Trailhead

There's a small parking lot off Baseline at the Bobolink Trailhead of the South Boulder Creek Trail. It was a bit muddy but not too bad and we got on the trail before it got too busy. Unfortunately my legs were not feeling it and I was on the biggest struggle bus from the start. As beautiful as the trail is, my mind was focused on how hard it was to run. 

It was a big departure from the last few months as I've noticed how well my legs have been reacting on my runs - but it hasn't always been the case. There was a substantial period of time several years ago when I popped ibuprofen daily and rarely left for a run without taking an Excedrin. There were several reasons for this including chronic stress fractures, over training, not recovering well - but thankfully I got off that bad habit a while ago and it's long behind me. Although I did continue to deal with heavy legs.

When I was down and out last summer with a popliteus injury, I was forced to refocus on stretching and strengthening. My PT told me she spends 10 minutes a day with a foam roller, which has stuck with me; if she can find 10 minutes each day, I can find at least a few. 

Early Morning Run - South Boulder Creek Trail

I believe that taking time to roll out before and after each run is why my legs have felt so good lately. Most of my weekday runs happen at the gym this time of year so I've made a habit of heading straight to the studio for dynamic stretches and a few minutes of rolling before I get on the treadmill. This is crucial because we're at the gym at 5:00am, only 20 minutes after we wake up and I need to wake my body up a bit before I put it to work. Also, we have our roller and a yoga mat in our living room so it's impossible to forget before weekend runs. This has made a world of difference.

Early Morning Run - Roll out calfs

Early Morning Run - Roll after run

Of course, that is, except for my run last Saturday. The first three miles really just sucked. There's no other way to describe it. One of the great, and frustrating, things about running is that you never truly know what kind of run you're going to end up with. While I had hoped we could have gone longer to enjoy the beautiful views, I had to turn back at 3 miles. It got better a few miles down the trail, but some days just aren't great. That said, a less-than-ideal run is still better than sitting at home! And a delicious brunch on Pearl Street helped me move on pretty quickly.

This past week I've been more focused on rolling out and took a step back on mileage during the week hoping it would help me out today, which it did. The key to all this is consistency, so making it as easy as possible (like keeping the roller in the living room) is important.

How do you get over lousy runs? * What do you do between runs to help with recovery?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Refresh on the Florida Greenway Trail

Last weekend we took a last minute trip to Florida to see Matt's family. Finding direct flights from Colorado to Florida in the winter on short notice is practically impossible, so after a long day of travel - with the extent of our exercise being walking around airports - we needed a reboot.

We had done some research before our trip to Florida last winter and found the Cross Florida Greenway Trail. The trail is part of a large network of trails throughout the state that provide access to runners, hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to Florida's diverse ecosystem.

An attraction along the trail just a short drive from my mother-in-law's house is the Land Bridge, which is literally a bridge over highway 75 that was built to be an extension of the trail featuring trees and other green vegetation, and an uninterrupted dirt path.

Early  Morning Run - Florida Trail

There are two trailheads close to the Land Bridge, one reaching the bridge from the west - the 49th Ave Trailhead - which is where we started the first time, and the second coming from the east starting at a trailhead right by Cactus Jack's Trail Rides off SW 16th Ave, which is where we started this time. The parking lot is rather large and there are huge trees shading picnic tables, and an outhouse.

Unfortunately I couldn't find one great resource with maps of the trail that are user friendly for people who don't know the area well. Google maps only shows one basic trail, but there are several loops from this trailhead and they are pretty easy to stay on course. There had been a strong rain the day before our run so the biking and equestrian trails were pretty muddy, but there is an old limerock road that you can follow (although the uneven and sharp rocks make it a bit tricky to maneuver) and a nice foot-traffic only path great for running.

We ran towards the land bridge along the limerock road, over the bridge a bit then turned around and took the foot trail back. Since we were aiming for 6 miles and got back to the parking lot too soon so we crossed 16th Ave and easily picked up the trail on the other side to reach our goal.

I haven't spent a ton of time in Florida but was pleasantly surprised by the diverse ecosystems that we ran through on just a 6 mile run. There are sections with large oaks bending down on top of us and then minutes later we'd be running through a pine forest that looked, and smelled, like the woods at our family cottage in northern Michigan. It was a bit surreal and absolutely beautiful.

Early  Morning Run - Florida Trail Run

The drastic change in scenery from our typical runs in Colorado coupled with the fact that we were running at sea level made the miles melt away quickly. It was exactly what we needed although now that we're home I haven't been so excited about getting back to the same old routes. I'm craving new scenery, and to run without three layers.

If you happen to find yourself around Ocala, Florida and are looking for a place to run, or go for a hike with family, I highly recommend this trail.

Do you often run the same routes over and over, or do you mix things up regularly?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Taking on 2016

This past year was a good year, but I'll admit it, overall, it wasn't a great year. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for some amazing experiences - the many miles run (725 to be exact), trails hiked, trips taken, the list goes on. But overall, it wasn't spectacular and I'm sick a year going by without feeling like it was spectacular.

As my grandfather used to say, we only live once. So why not make it the best life we can?

Early Morning Run - Hiking Colorado

As the New Year approached and the seemingly endless supply of New Years resolution flooded my social feeds, the airwaves and conversations, it dawned on me that my goals for 2016 are very simple.

1. Have fun!
2. Be Kind.
3. Be Compassionate.

Early Morning Run - 2016 Goals

With all the anger, fighting, and uncertainty in the world, I want to focus on a few things that will make my life, and the lives of people around me, better and less stressful. Even if it's only so slightly. I want to be a positive force in the world, and why not declare goals for 2016 that will make that happen?

I'm usually so focused on my to-do lists (I have paper and app versions), that I forget about the big picture and the little ones. I forget about having fun. So this year, I'm going to change that. Whether it means going for a run on a new trail that's challenging and awesome, signing-up for a race because I get to run with my teammates, going to a diverse range of concerts, taking trips to new places, running to a favorite restaurant to eat a delicious meal then spend the rest of the day binging on nutrition documentaries (aka how we spent New Years Day) or riding my bike for hours around Denver and just seeing where it takes me. It's about spending less time worrying and more time doing and having fun.

The other two goals compliment one another. It's not that I think I currently lack these qualities, but I want to put more emphasis on them. I want to spend more time caring about others and making other people's lives better and more enjoyable. Easier, even. I want other people to know they're not alone and that even strangers can care about them.

This morning I took my first yoga class in nearly a year. My body and mind had been craving the peace that comes with yoga for a while now but I hadn't made the time. Maybe I was meant to wait for this particular practice because the mantra was exactly what I needed to hear and fits perfectly with how I want to live the next year:
Be the living example of the invisible grace. 
Perfect. Isn't it?

Early Morning Run - Kindness Yoga

So there they are, my goals for 2016. As easy as they might sound, I anticipate that they'll be challenging at times when life gets in the way, but I'm also confident that any effort put toward these goals will be worth it and will help make the world a smidgen better.

Did you set goals for 2016? * How did you kick-off the New Year?