The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


…on running conversations

If there is one thing I love, it’s talking about running. I love hearing about other people’s experiences and I love sharing my own.

Lately, I’ve been able to do a lot of marathon talk with a guy I met at the Lululemon Run Club.

(Hope you don’t mind that I share your story and questions, Scott!)

Scott was just recently accepted into the hard-to-get-accepted-as-a-foreigner Tokyo Marathon! While it’s a rather large race, at 35,000, they only accept a certain percentage of international competitors into the race. Like, a minuscule amount. So, for kicks and giggles, Scott and a couple of friends submitted their names into the lottery. And ALL. THREE. WERE. ACCEPTED. A little crazy? A little bit, yes! Crazy awesome! But Scott isn’t so sure…

He’s run a handful of half marathons, but never thought he’d run a full. So, when he heard about my “runners disease” at Run Club, I think it piqued his curiosity. Granted, I think I started badgering him with questions about his training plan, long runs, hopes and dreams, etc., when my ears perked up to his mention of running the Tokyo Marathon.

Since then, I have been his sounding board for some very legitimate distance running/training questions. Hopefully, I’ve been able to give him some sound guidance as he embarks on one of the greatest races of his life.

I’m sharing his questions here. If anyone wants to add to what I’ve already said, please do so in the comments section. If you disagree with me, I reserve the right to delete your comment. Just kidding.

Do you do any trail running? Or is it better to stick to the pavement for marathon training?

I love trail runs! I’m so lucky that trails are abundant in Colorado! Oddly enough, I don’t usually incorporate them into my training plans. I think I get too enslaved to the pacing and numbers on my watch to slow down for a trail run. And I tend to think that my training should resemble my race terrain. But I know that trail running strengthens me. And I tend to run them when I’m not training. So, why not run them when I actually am? Perhaps it’s something I remedy next training cycle.

How often do you run a week?

When I’m training for a race, I’ll run 6 times a week. And some of those days are 2-a-days. However, when I’m not in a training cycle, it really depends on how I feel!

What’s typically the “longest” run you’ll go on?

My longest run is a 22 miler that I log about 4 weeks away from the marathon. Prior to that, I consistently run 17-19 milers every weekend. I throw in another 20 about 6 weeks out. Keep in mind, that it takes quite a while to get to that point. A nice base. Lots of buildup.

My problem truly is “pacing.” I do fine in a group typically going as fast or as slow as they can without problem. But, running by myself I always go out “too fast.” I was researching some of those GPS style watches and noticed that the Garmin’s have a personal pace setter or something like that? Thoughts?

Yes, some of the Garmin styles have the pace setting option. You can program the watch to beep at you when you drop below a certain pre-set pace. This is a great function, especially when the idea of pacing may be foreign. “Pacing yourself” is such an arbitrary term. Mainly because it is determined per person, per race, per distance, per day, per feeling, etc… You can’t teach it. You have to experience it. You have to learn your body. You have to practice. It comes when you tempo. It comes when you race. It’s just a matter of time before you know what works for you.

Also, if nervous about pacing at a race, most large long-distance races provide pacing groups. Choose the group you feel most comfortable running with. You can always re-evaluate as you race and determine whether or not you should speed up, slow down, or stay put.

What do you put on the soles of your shoes for running when the ice does come?

Here in Colorado, we are bound to have a decent snowfall, at least a few times, between October and April. So, we diehards have to be well-equipped to handle the snow and ice on the roads, sidewalks, and trails. I use Yak Tracks. Made of springs and rubber, they are easy to slip on the bottoms of your shoes. More importantly, they provide that needed “extra layer” to keep you safe in the elements when the thought of staying inside by the fire has you feeling stir-crazy. I just saw that these came out. But, I haven’t tried them. Yet.



…part 2 (Rim Rock Marathon)

If you know me at all, or have read that other blog I used to have, or have read this blog much, you know I like to draw out my race reports. I like to add the details. They are typically in “parts” and the end results are always saved for the final post. I make it a little painful for you. Oops…

I took off and waved to a few of my people. I had no idea what to really expect for myself. And, really, I didn’t have much time to think about it, as the initial 1/2 mile quickly transitioned into an immediate ascent of switchbacks. From here on, I felt like I was in a zone.

Typically, I break marathons into chunks: 5, 10, 13.1, 15, 20, and then it ranges from mile to mile or two 5k’s. It depends on how I feel. But for this one, I hadn’t even considered it. I think I was so focused on the first half, and getting up those 2000 feet of hills, that I knew I would readjust my thinking at the top. So, to 13.1, I go.

I charged up the hills and went as fast as I would allow myself. I knew I was holding back a bit, but I also knew that I wanted to conserve. I may be feeling good now, but I might need some energy around mile 9, when I still have more hills! I was so focused on my music, my breathing, and my body, that before I knew it, I was nearing the 5 mile marker. It was here that our route intersected with a backroad. And it was here that part of my support crew began cheering. Loudly! I love a good fan base at a marathon! It’s such a boring sport to watch for non-runners; even some runners! So, when I can get some friends out to watch me run past, and then gauge where and when I’ll be in view next, is really exciting!

I was feeling good; dropped my gloves, and kept ascending.

Views to my right:

I wish I could remember more from the race in those next crucial miles, but I don’t. It’s actually kind of strange for me, since I am usually one to recall the details. Especially from a race! What I do remember is a lot of climbing uphill! There would be an occasional, and brief, reprieve, with a flat road, but the remainder was up. I remember keeping my head up and my eyes on anyone in front of me that I could find. We were so spread out by this point, that to actually catch someone and pass them was rare. But I made it a game, to reel someone in, perhaps play the back and forth game, and then finally pass them. When I wasn’t running near someone, I tried to observe the scenery as much as possible. It was brown and dry, but beautiful, with the deep caverns. Like a mini-Grand Canyon.

I bypassed all the aid stations up to this point. I had my belt on, and finally around mile 10 or so, I convinced myself to actually take something. It had been such a cool morning, that even the fluids in my bottles were pretty high. I guess I don’t drink much when the weather is so race-worthy. After a few Blocks and Beans, I was still feeling pretty good, but my legs were definitely tiring after 12 miles of uphill.

I turned a switchback and suddenly hear my name being called! My friends are back! They’ve found the other intersection and they are waiting for me. I need it. I’m tired and devastated to see another hill as I round the corner. This has to be it, I tell myself. I’m so close to the halfway that I just need to make it to the top. I carelessly tell my crew that I’m good. But after a few strides I feel badly that I haven’t said more, so I swing around and yell, Thank you!

I push on ahead to the top of the hill. I pass the exchange point for the relay team. I just want to get to the top of the hill! What goes up must come down! I know this is the top.

There isn’t much time to enjoy the top as I just as quickly begin to make my way down. This is an entirely different kind of hurt. After 13.1 of uphill, my legs are confused.

Within that first mile of downhill, my lateral right knee begins to ache. Something new in this training cycle. I had been favoring and giving a lot of attention to my left side, but hadn’t had any issues with the right. I wondered if the sudden change in going downhill was causing my right IT to act up. I ignored it. It persisted. I kept ignoring.

I hadn’t really been checking my watch (the boy’s Nike+) during that first half. I thought it would be unfair to my mental state to check the pace for an uphill climb. But at the halfway point, I had checked my overall time: 2:01. Great! There would be a chance for me to break 4 hours! A menial goal I had in the back of my mind.

But after several miles of downhill, I was noticing that I was either sub-8:00 or right around an 8:00 pace, every time I looked. I didn’t want to wear myself out, but I also couldn’t help the momentum of the course.

Around 17.5 miles, I checked my watch, but noticed something strange. It still read 17.2. 17.2?! I’m way past 17.2! What?! Did the Nike+ freeze on me? I haven’t gone through the tunnels yet! In fact, I’m out in the open! How did this happen? What will I do?

I can’t believe I’m a slave to the numbers. But maybe it helped me. I was a slave no longer.

I passed 18, 19, and 20.

I was now focused on how I felt; not how the watch was projecting the way I felt.

21, 22. At 23, I had caught a girl and another was right with us. We chatted through that mile as we ran through two tunnels.

24. A final intersection where I could hear my friends shouting. They were calling my name and everyone else’s too! Apparently, they had met the race director at this intersection who gave them a race roster. They were looking up bib numbers and cheering for runners who they didn’t even know! I love my friends!

I was surprised to see the boy jump in with me and tell me he was going to run me in for the final two. Who’s pacing who now? He took my fuel belt (which had been bothering me the last few miles) and my headphones (because I couldn’t re-clip the Shuffle onto my waistband after taking the fuel belt off). The boy chatted and filled me in on the past few hours, because he knew I didn’t want to talk. I told I was ready to be done. My calves were cramping. He stayed with me until we hit the last stretch. He stayed with me when a girl passed me with 50 yards to go. And he stayed with me until just 20 yards shy of the finish. What a doll. I crossed and smiled. I was pleased.

Net time: 3:40:35
Overall place: 21/303
Womens Place: 4/151
Age Group Place: 3/25


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…her 6th marathon (Rim Rock Marathon, Part 1)

This past weekend I ran #6.

A short 4.5 hour drive, brought me and my support crew to the western slope of Colorado. Grand Junction, to be exact. Our very own little wine country.

The boy and I, along with the bff and her main squeeze, drove out sometime late morning on Friday. We weren’t in any hurry to get out there, which afforded us the luxury of stopping along the way in some small mountain towns for coffee, or lunch. My legs appreciated the stretches.

We finally rolled into town around 4:30pm, and after checking in to our hotel, I insisted we drive the course. And I don’t mean just see parts of the course. I mean, I want to see the start, and drive the exact route until the finish. I’m particular like that. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, I take advantage. While the early sunset foiled my plans of seeing the sights, I was at least able to see the uphill. Again, and again, and again, and again…. I tried not to get overwhelmed and intimidated. It was a relief when we hit the top and began the descent. I wondered how my legs would take it all the next morning.

At packet pick-up (one single table in a small conference room at the local La Quinta Inn; thank you small and unassuming race) I was astounded to see this:

Apparently, they give that number out to just about anyone!


I was up and at ’em at 5:30. “Sleeping in” by most marathon standards. I’m used to a 4am alarm, followed by hectic transportation getting to the start line for ample time to warm-up, stretch, and catch the loo before a 7am start. So, this 8am start time for Rim Rock, coupled with the fact that I was a mere 7 miles away, threw me off a little. Granted, it did allow me that much more sleep time. As if that’s possible the night before a marathon.

After my traditional race-morning breakfast of oatmeal, banana with pb, and a half of a bagel, I was off to conquer 26.2. I was lucky enough to have avoided any race-start-crazy, which would have ensued if I had followed the rules that strongly encouraged runners to park at the finish, and then take the 7am bus to the start. The boy, and bff, took chances and drove me straight to the start, avoiding the warnings that there was no parking there. We parked.

I mentally geared up for this fun run as I took off down the road for a warm-up. It was chilly, in the mid-30’s, and I had multiple layers on. All would be shed soon. Take this one easy. This race is in a category all its’ own. I knew I couldn’t expect to compete in this race as I had in previous marathons. I just wanted the experience. I wanted to feel the ascent in the first 1/2 and the descent in the second. I wanted to see how my body would respond. What condition my mind would be in. Yeah, I’m that sick and twisted. Just a little blonde masochist…

Rim Rock was a total throw back to my first marathon, Yakima River Canyon, in Yakima, Washington. A tiny little race that draws out an entirely different breed of runner. These weren’t the celebrity runners who run a marathon simply because Oprah did. These were the brute runners, who run marathons for the love of the sport. With their trail shoes, gaiters, and wide-brimmed-sun-blocking Outback hats, runners of all ages began collecting at the start, near the Colorado Gem and Minerals Club, on the east side of Monument Road. It was desolate. It was quiet. It was reverent. The perfect setting for a race with so many unknowns.

The boy and bff would try to meet me at the 3-4 spots on the course where there were actually cross-steets. But, like Yakima, I would be predominately tackling this one on my own. Me, my music, my legs, my mind, and the random, sparse, people I would encounter along the way. In such a small race, the majority is run in solitude. A race trait I have come to realize is enticing.

And with the simple call of “GO!”, we were off…



…a 12 week training program

This weekend marks the end of my second week (of my 12 week training program) to my 6th marathon. And the race of choice….? The Rim Rock Marathon. Yeah, yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either. That is, until I started scouring the interwebs and marathon calendars for a fall marathon. I didn’t exactly want to travel too far from home. Especially given the fact I would already be traveling to California at the end of October for a half. Need some financial control here! So, when I came across this little jewel on November 12th, a mere 4.5 hours west of home, I gave it some real thought…

a) It’s a mere 4.5 hour drive from home!
2) It’s on the Saturday after Veterans Day! I can travel on Friday, then Sunday, and not take any time off work.
e) It’s in Colorado wine country! The exact spot some friends and I were going to head to earlier this month, but it turned out to be bad timing for all of us.

My other option was the Grand Canyon Marathon. It was a big frontrunner, given the fact I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon. I don’t get out of my cardboard box as much as I’d like, I suppose. But, it’s farther (12 hour drive), at higher altitude, and I wouldn’t have time to explore the area, since I’m an explorer and all. But, it will be on my radar in the future. The first half runs directly on the rim!

So, it’s the Rim Rock Marathon. Reminiscent of my very first marathon that I ran in the Spring of 2008, Yakima River Canyon, in Washington, this too will be a small and unassuming race. Unassuming in name only, though, as the course runs through the Colorado National Monument:

Not bad. And with or without a dusting of snow, I may be able to capture a nice pic or two myself.

Now, all I need to do is register.


*Photos courtesy Sylvia Murphy and Steward Green, respectively.