Run Like the Wind – Pre-Race Prep

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This weekend, I’m tackling race number two for 2016. I’m also checking off state number 13 and half marathon number 13! That’s pretty awesome, but I’m not sure how the race itself will go.

On Sunday, I am taking on the trails of Ellensburg, Washington. As many times as I’ve been to Washington I have yet to run a race there.   There’s a ton of great ones, yet the timing has never worked out.

Growing up, my Mom and I went out to Washington to visit my Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles about once a year. At the time, my Grandparents lived in Snohomish, a small town outside of Seattle. As I got older, the trips weren’t as often, but I’ve still been out there a quite a few times, visiting Ellensburg instead, when my Grandparents moved to the other side of the mountains.

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That's at Mount Saint Helens

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That’s at Mount Saint Helen’s

Last year, if you remember I went out there sometime at the end of the summer to see my family. This time, my visit comes in conjunction with my Grandpa’s  memorial service. My Grandpa passed away at the end of last year.  We decided to hold the memorial service until his birthday so that it would not coincide with the holidays and give people time to plan the trip.

Knowing when I’d be traveling, I looked for a race in Washington. Bingo, I found one the weekend before, in the same town my Grandparents live in! The Run Like the Wind Running Festival is actually in Ellensburg, WA. It was a sign; I just had to do it! My Grandpa wasn’t a runner (that I know of) but running is my way to cope with life so I’m running this race in his honor. It might not mean much to any one else, but that’s how I can process him being gone and remember him.

My Grandpa and I were buds! I'm a lot like him now as I've gotten older!

My Grandpa and I were buds! I’m a lot like him now as I’ve gotten older.

My boyfriend is joining me, along with one of his friends. We have taken this week off from work to make it all around trip. I will fly out while Ben and his friend drive out. This whole trip will consist of me running a race, Ben and his friend climbing Mt. Rainier, family time, Grandpa’s memorial service and a road trip back to Colorado.  Knocking off a lot of things with one stone!

The Race Prep:

They call this a trail running festival. We’ll see how their trail race compares to those out here in Colorado. 😉 The course description says there’s still about 10% on the road so I’m not sure if my Roost MUT Team (the Mountain and Ultra race team I am on) will be impressed our not. Either way, trail race or not, it looks like a fun event..and hard!

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The race is hosted on the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, hence the name Run Like the Wind. The trail description says you wind through the facility and get to run right next to the turbines! Cool, huh!? They also “promise” gorgeous views! Don’t worry, I’ll be running with my camera (mainly so I have a phone for when I die on the course).

I’m really excited about the course, even if it is hard, because it looks really cool judging from the description and the pictures on Facebook. I’m also really excited about the finish line for a few reasons:

1. I’ll be done with another state checked off.

2. There’s beer, a band and a wide array of finisher’s food!

3. The finisher’s medal looks SWEET!

4. My Grandma and Uncle will be waiting for me! That’s a new experience for me!

Now, just have to get through the actual 13.1 miles…

5d29f3393a55ec10c8982120a306e32f_1aj5The Actual Race Prep:

So… my training hasn’t been that great. Actually it’s been pretty awful. In fact, it’s pretty nonexistent. Don’t judge me. I’ve been lucky to get in three days a week of running and my longest run was about 8 or 9 miles, about a month ago. This is has been a lot to do with my schedule (working four jobs) and a couple of teams I have joined (my running team has obligations and I joined a volleyball league).

The lack of training is largely due to me being exhausted from doing all that. To be completely fair, if I was slightly more motivated, I’m sure I could have squeezed a full-fledged training program in there, but  that would have meant me being  even more exhausted (if that’s even possible) and less time to spend with my boyfriend.

I’m not here to play the “I’m busier than you game.” It is what it is.

The good thing: I did get in a 2 hour run (only 7.5 miles but on an intense trail) about two weeks ago. Take that however you want.

My plan:

Since I’ll be lucky if I have any sort of long distance endurance built up, I plan on taking it easy. My goal is to JUST FINISH. Oh, it’s going to hard to not go out strong in the beginning. There’s alway that little competitive me in the back of my head urging me to burn myself out, but I’m going to have to duck tape that little competitive me’s mouth shut.

I’m not going to like time. It’s going be painfully slow. I’m going to cringe when I see it. It’ll most likely be the slowest I have ever been.

But I’m going to have to just accept it.

I plan on going out at a nice steady pace; maybe even taking a one to two-minute walking break every mile. That way I don’t completely exhausted myself, or injure myself, before I’m walking the whole second half of the race!

There’s no sense in hurting myself just to get a good time. I can still get a new state, sweet medal by taking it easy and just finishing. I’m not going to drop down to a shorter distance because, frankly, I want a medal from the state of Washington!

At least I’ll come away with good pictures!

So if you would like to follow my clumsy journey in Washington, follow me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be sure to bring you up to date info of my race! 🙂

Your turn: Would you do this race, given a lack of training, to reach a goal (racing all the states)? Or are you super competitive and if you can’t do well, drop out?

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Pissed at Mother Nature (Places to Run – Marshal Mesa Loop)

Have you ever been pissed at mother nature?

Like, legitimately mad at her?

As if she were a real person?

I have.

I was yesterday.

The only other time I was that angry at mother nature was back when I hiked Long’s Peak.

I’ve been trying to break out of my comfort zone and try new trails….mostly to easy the pressure on my joints (versus concrete) and to add variety to my running.

Yesterday, I drove a little ways because I was told of a tail system close to Boulder that had a 15 mile loop AND a 3 mile loop…exactly what I needed for my 18 miler.

Trailhead

Trailhead

It was a trail called the Marshall Mesa Loop. Well, that’s the actual name of the 3 mile loop. The 15 mile loop is a series of different trails all connected.

Trail with numbers

 

Here’s what my run consisted of:

1. Start. Great day for a hike! The sun is out! It’s not too hot but I can run in a tank top and short. I got all the stuff I needed in my CamelPak and started down the trail after talking to a biker about the route

2. I’m horrible at directions. I almost turned right and went up the 3 mile loop first. I was planning on the 3 mile loop after the run…yeah….that didn’t happen.

3. I thought my friend said it wasn’t that hilly! I mostly repeated “you can do it” over and over in my head like the train from Dumbo. That and telling myself the hills were good prep for the upcoming Horsetooth half.

4. This is about when the wind started up, as I was going up hill….but in my head I was thinking, “oh maybe it’s just this side of the trail and it will die down as I get around the curve.” Boy was a I dead wrong.

5. This is where the wind was so strong I had to walk. I was about half way, so I decided to take the time to have a snack. An interesting thing happened regarding my refueling. Normally I can eat pretty much anything (type of food wise) while on a run. This time, nothing seemed palatable except water. I forced myself to eat half a granola bar. I guess it’s time to start switching to gels or something.

6. I had tried running again but the wind was so strong that walking was taking a forceful effort. From here to about point 8, I was running off and on. Mostly running on the downhills because that was the only way possible with the head on wind.

7. No joke I was cursing at the wind and mother nature herself. And I don’t write that to make my writing entertaining. I literally was talking….OUT LOUD… cursing the wind. It was SO STRONG! At one point, some bikers had teased me as a runner: “That wind it really out to get you, huh?” I tried laughing and explained how frustrated I was. They assured me it was ONLY 3 more miles to the end. Normally 3 miles doesn’t sound that long. This time, I couldn’t fathom another step.

8. FINALLY the wind was not head on….just at my side. Causing me to kick myself with almost every step. But I was able to run all the way back to the trailhead.

9. One last head-on wind spot. But I showed mother nature who was boss. I kept running; shielding my eyes from the dust clouds.

The last little bit of the run was a fun back and forth downhill. I discovered that the wind was at the trailhead as well, leading me to believe that it wasn’t just that side of the trail that was windy. I also found a lot of people just starting their run and shook my head at them as if they were crazy.

I didn’t make it to 18 miles, just 15.6, but I feel like my battle with mother nature makes up for that.

Overall, the trail itself was great. Just the right about of hills to challenge me. Just the right about of rocks to navigate and have fun around without being too technical. Great views of the flatirons, windmills, and surrounding cities and suburbs. I guess I’ll have to give it another try…when the wind ISN’T blowing. Even though there where times that I was completely exhausted and seriously contemplated hitch hiking back to my car (yes, this thought actually did cross my mind), I felt good at the end. I felt strong, powerful and accomplished.

Me vs. Mother nature. Who was the victor?

 

Mt. Marathon

Most of you are all probably familiar with the Mt. Marathon race in Seward, AK. If you’re a racer or read Runner’s World or any of the running websites, you’ve at least probably heard of it.

But if not, Mt. Marathon Race is about a 3.5 mile race up and down a mountain. And not just any mountain, a VERY steep one, and I now know from personal experience! You can check out the website here for more info. It’s actually quite an interesting event, and from talking to people, it’s on a lot of runner’s bucket lists. You do have to apply each year. Returning participants get in automatically I believe, but empty slots are raffled off to new applicants. Even though you pay a small price to get in the raffle, you are not guaranteed to race.

I didn’t actually take this photo, but this is Mt. Marathon, view from the sea

Now, I didn’t actually do the race this year, but I may be taking it OFF my bucket list!!! Hahaha! JK!! MAYBE! I was ironically in the town a couple days before the race. While visiting Alaska, we took a wonderful train ride to the coast of Resurrection Bay and stayed in the town of Seward. I had already heard of the race, and it was just coincidental timing that we were there right around that time.

My travel partner originally was worried about the crowds in Seward that weekend, but I was excited to see the race anticipation starting. It actually wasn’t crowded two days before the race, and we only saw a few people running around town to practice. The race itself took place on the 4th (like every year), but we left town on the 2nd. Though, before we left, we did try the trail ourselves – sans official race day excitement.

Let me tell you something…that race has got to be HARD! I give mad props and kudos to anyone who does complete that race!!

We tried the course for ourselves, walking from our hotel with all of our stuff because we had to check out. Luckily, all we had each was a backpack, but they were 10-15 pounds each, and yes, we did hike with them because we had no where to put them.

This was the steepest hike I have ever done, and I have lived in CO, one of the outdoorsy capitals of the nation, for almost all of my life! In the beginning, you pretty much scale up the mountain, quite close to rock climbing. After that, the rest of the way up is all toe work on the steep hill. We had to take breaks after few steps – how people actually run this whole time is beyond me! We were sweating like pigs as we made our way up; shedding layers the further up we climbed.  As hard as it sounds, the hike itself if totally worth it – for the exercise and the VIEW! It’s fantastic!

The View! Resurrection Bay and the town of Seward

As we got closer to the half point, or the junior race point, we stopped to take a break and talk to a local. The junior race point is only halfway to the adult race summit. The local man gave us advice for either going up the rest of the way or going down. If we were to have gone up, the path got EVEN STEEPER and turns into scree. However, there was a cloud coming over a nearby by peak and we did not want to get stuck up at the top with the possibility of a storm. So, we made our way down.

The thing that marks the half way – juniors point

Resting at the Junior’s Point

The “scary” cloud that made us go back down

To go down, you don’t just follow the same path that you took to get up. No, the path down is all scree. So you don’t really hike down, you, let’s say, fall down. If you’re familiar with hiking techniques, especially from hiking fourteeners in Colorado, when you encounter really loose, slick gravel on a mountain you kinda just have to start walking down, as you put your weight backwards and if the ground below you starts to slide, you just slide with it. If you feel yourself loosing control, you let yourself fall backwards and sit down. In our case, having backpacks helped us on the way down because it forced us to lean back.

Alaskan Man waiting for me cause I’m a slow, scaredy cat

Yeah…that’s the trail…all loose rock

On Mt. Marathon, the way down is pretty much entirely loose gravel called the “chute.” Technically you can go the way you came up, but race course is actually down the chute. Under the rocks is sometimes hidden ice as we discovered. Definitely, DEFINITELY, going down is way more dangerous than going up. There’s also cliffs. Seriously. Cliffs you could fall off. If you get going too fast down the chute, you can misjudge a drop and fall onto painful rocks or into a freezing cold river.

Yes, that’s the actual trail

Some suggestions if you DO want to attempt this race, from our experience just on a “casual” (if you can call it casual) hike: 1) Lighten your load. Don’t bring a back pack like us. We just had no where else to put them. 2) Dress light but warm. You want close to be light enough to wick away moisture from your tired, sweating body, but up at the top can get breezy and the weather is like CO weather on crack….Also, pants might be a good idea, to minimize gravel accumulation in your shoes and protect yourself from injuries. 3) Gloves – preferably with a thicker, firm palm side to project your hand from scrapes on the rocks. 4) Water, definitely need water. Since you kind want your hands free to help you climb/fall up and down the mountain, maybe a water belt would be fantastic for this. 5) The website does recommend helmets; so does the state law for motorcyclists…maybe if you’re clumsy, wear a helmet. I’ll leave that up to your discretion.

Yes, my pride was hurt : (

After we made our way to the bottom, we assessed the damage. Besides the damage to our pride by only making it to the Juniors point AND being passed by 12 year olds…we had only a few scratches. Mine was from a tree on the way up (luckily NOT from devils club – these are nasty plants, learn to identify them before you go hiking in Alaska). This year, I was following the race news closely, especially after hiking the trail myself. The winner of the men’s division ran it in 44 minutes and 7 seconds!!!! HOLY CRAP! It took us about 2 hours to go up to the JUNIORS point and back. I feel weak. The first woman finished in 51:53 and the junior (remember, they only go half way) finished in 43:50 for girls and 27:18 for boys.

I should’ve just posted this one and told you all I made it all the way to the top!

All in all, it was definitely a lifetime experience i’ll never forget. However, I’m still undecided if I want to ever do the actual race. I feel like a pretty tough person in general, but man! That trail kicked my butt! Both of our butts! Seriously though, if any of you do decide to do it, train hard and train well. This is not a joking matter of a trail. It can be VERY dangerous if you do not prepare properly or read all the warnings. This year, three were taken to the hospital due to major injures, and one racer is still missing after the race.

Articles about this year’s race:

“Noyakovich and Brooks win Seward’s Mount Marathon trail race”

“Three Injured, One missing on Mt Marathon”

(Dear My Lovely Readers: This is only one day of my trip to Alaska, and since it was so close to the actual race itself, I wanted to posted it as soon as I could. While having a relaxing/do nothing day in Palmer, AK, I wrote this. I have so much more I want to share with your about Alaska and my race that’s tomorrow!! I will post more when I get back home from vacation.)