The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


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…two valuable Aussie lessons learned during a 101k relay

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On 28 September, I learned two vitally important lessons on a 32k relay leg.

Not long ago, I started running with a sweet gal here in Canberra. She invited me on a group long run and after some soft hazing I was immediately asked to join one of their two relays teams running the upcoming Sri Chinmoy 101k relay. I said yes, immediately.

While I was initially going to run Leg 4, I switched with another relay member to take on the longest Leg 2, at 32k (about 20 miles). I had been building up to running about 10-13 milers for my long runs, but I knew the 20 miler would be an effort, and I was up for the challenge.

The day started cool, but began warming up as I stood around, waiting at the exchange between Leg 1 and 2. Good thing I had lathered on the sunscreen. Amanda and Phil would be coming in for the hand-off to Jasmina and me. Our portion of the course would take us on a steep climb to the Mt Arawang summit, took us along the backside of the National Zoo, and had us finishing at the National Arboretum. It was truly a beautiful course, predominately on trails, with kangaroo sightings, gate climbing, and only a little bit of terror…

VALUABLE LESSON #1
The deadly snakes and spiders that I am terrified of in this country have NOTHING on the magpies. While I’ve been looking down at the trail all the time, paranoid about the snakes that aren’t even out yet, I realized I should really be looking up, at those annoying black and white birds that sing that beautiful, throaty song. At least during the spring. Swooping Australian Magpies. This is a very real thing, readers. More in Canberra than other Aussie cities.

Proof.

And all of this came to a head, when at the 10k mark, some of our teammates were waiting to cheer for us, and WARN us of the swooping Magpies up ahead on the course. We were given a hat, to wave it around in hopes of warding off the swooping. My heart skipped a beat. Maybe two. I really didn’t want to be attacked and have to get stitches from some bird who felt I was threatening a nest and thus pecked my head or my eyes or my back or something of that nature. I think I started waving the the hat around my head immediately, even though I didn’t see any Magpies. Jasmina calmly told me that I didn’t need to do that yet…

We saw several Magpie on the telephone wires and on the ground. I waved the hat, I looked around frantically, but we ran through the grassy knoll unscathed. I’m pretty sure the birds knew I was a Oiselle runner, and thus, one of them. Bird to bird, we had an understanding.

I pretty much have no choice but to not run, or not leave my house, until breeding/nesting season is over. So, November. And if I do leave my house at all, I must wear only black, gray, and white. I’d hate to provoke them by wearing orange, yellow, and purple during this time.

It’s no wonder that I see bikers with zip ties attached to their helmets, or eyes glued to the back of their helmets (Magpies won’t attack if they see you looking at them). But I refuse to wear those things will running!

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Jasmina and I continued on, chatting, hiking the hills, watching for Magpies, and climbing over gates. While I was originally somewhat concerned about navigating the course, the RD had marked it all quite well! I never questioned which turn to take which really took the guesswork out of it all. Thank goodness.

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The final 10k was fairly uncomfortable with the heat. I can’t say it was considerably HOT, temperature wise, but the direct sun, and very little shade made whatever the temperature was feel much warmer. We’d get a little bit of reprieve when the wind kicked up, which felt so nice. The few miles leading up into the National Arboretum and our exchange point were uphill. I think Jasmina and I were both ready to hand over the run to our strong Leg 3 ladies.

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And when I went home to clean up and nap, I saw this:
Sunburn

Oops. (No, I’m not a lefty. Yes, I wear my watch on the “wrong” wrist.)

VALUABLE LESSON #2
There is a hole in the ozone layer directly over Australia, and the usual 30 SPF I use in the Mile High State of Colorado does NOT work. I am no stranger to sun exposure. Having lived the majority of my 33 years in sunny Colorado, at 5280 feet, and I am adamant about wearing sunscreen daily. At least on my face, if not elsewhere, depending on the season and my clothing and the type of activity. Knowing that Canberra is not at sea level, but at about 1800 feet, I naively assumed that what I would usually use on a Colorado mountain run would be suitable for a trail run in Canberra. Not. So.

Looks like I’ll need to up the sunscreen (sun cream?) anti whilst here… Understatement of the century.

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All in all, it was a fabulous day and the race was a lot of fun. Of course, I can say this nearly two weeks later!

XO,


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…Sydney 1/2 Marathon (aka 21k)

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Well, this is the start of the Sydney Running Festival…who wouldn’t want to run in this race, just based on the backdrop?! Whether for pleasure or for pain?!

While originally planning to run with Nick, he had to pull out due to some nasty shin splints. No one wants to run a 1/2 marathon on that sort of pain. Luckily, I had a new running friend, Amanda, who wanted to take the trip to Sydney with us. I was happy to have a race partner! I would also be representing fivemore, who had Oiselle tanks designed with the FiveMore running logo.

The Start
As seen above, the start, in and of itself, is amazing. I have only dreamed of running in such spectacular places with iconic locations as my background. I know people probably say the same things about cities in the US, but when you are actually there, you just can’t really believe it! Once you get over the sheer awe of where you are, you realize this is a pretty big race. 3,200 for the full, 7,800 for the 1/2; not to mention the 11,900 running the 9k and the 5,000 for the 3.5k fun run. Those are decent numbers. A lot can go wrong when organizing a race event for that amount of people. A lot can go wrong for races of a much smaller number. We’ve all seen those failures. But not this one! Organized, easy to figure out where you need to be, and given the world “issues” leading up to this race (even in the very city I was racing), I felt very safe. My mother wanted to know. 🙂

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The Course
The course is truly beautiful, taking you almost immediately over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is closed down from 4am-11am. From there, you weave around the sights of Sydney, with either the Opera House or the Bridge in nearly every view. I wanted to keep my head up, eyes up, for this one. When I’m too focused on a time or a pace, I tend to miss so much around me. Let’s be honest, I tend to miss a lot around me when I’m NOT racing at all! So, I kept in my conscious to just take it all in and enjoy this course. The course was predominately made up of out-and-backs with hairpin u-turns, but I think that was sort of the point so you could remain in the heart of Sydney. It lightly rained off and on during the first half of the course and remained overcast and cool for the rest of the race.

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The Finish
The final quarter mile or so, has the runners on the harbour boardwalk and finishing at the steps of the Opera House. Ah-may-zing. Amanda and I crossed the finish together, holding hands, and with our arms lifted high. Okay, not really…
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The finish line festivities were a bit spread out to get everyone moving and prevent any clustering. Catherine had a delicious spread in a nearby pergola, for those on the fivemore running team, including coconut water, fruit, and energy bars. And with another Opera House backdrop, pictures couldn’t be denied.
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So, you pretty much have to put this race on your wish list.

XO,


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…Canberra Times Fun Run 10k

A few weekends ago, Nick and I ran a local fun run here in Canberra, aptly named the Canberra Times Fun Run.  There were 3 race distances to choose from, and we opted for the middle distance, the 10k.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I hate to base all of my “local 10k fun run” experiences on the Bolder Boulder with over 50,000 runners, because that just isn’t fair. I knew the CT Fun Run was a long-standing tradition for the area, with 4,500 runners covering all 3 distances, and over $120,000 raised for a variety of charities, this was certainly one race to be a part of. 

The day was sunny, though not quite warm at the start. I decided to let Nick set the pace, and just planned to stay right next to him. This was his second 10k and even though he didn’t know it, he was going to PR. Whether he wanted to or not. And my Type-A, goal setting, personality was going to make it happen. 🙂

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The course, a simple point to point,

weaves its way through the picturesque streets of Canberra, starting at Yamba Drive in Phillip, continuing along Adelaide Avenue, passing Parliament House, over Lake Burley Griffin and finishing with spectacular views of The Carillon on Aspen Island.

It was a quiet start, with the simple pounding of pavement and everyone finding their groove. I think it’s my favorite part of any race. As we progressed, it quickly warmed up and the miles started to fly. Nick was rocking it. He was keeping a pretty steady, solid pace throughout, just like us crazy obsessed runners like to do. No, Nick is not one of these people. Only room in our house for one of those types.

We ran into the busy finish with Nick’s 10k PR! I think I was happier for him than he was for himself! Haha!

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And that’s a quick wrap!

XO,


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…Leadville Trail Marathon

I’m all settled in Canberra now, so it’s high time I get back on this blog-wagon!

I have to play some catch-up with a very real, very serious marathon I ran nearly a month ago…

When I was considering my Colorado race schedule early this year, knowing full well I’d be moving out of the country in June, I had this wild idea to run the Leadville full marathon as my send-off race. I considered it a “goodbye gift” to myself before heading off for foreign lands. Interestingly enough, the majority of my training would fall in the three months Nick would already be in AUS (he had to start work in April) and the marathon would fall the weekend before our wedding.

At the time, all of this seemed SO well planned. I would have uninterrupted training time and I would be in fit shape for the wedding! And yes, I did have uninterrupted training time. But I was so consumed with finalizing wedding plans, finishing my school year, packing up my classroom, packing up our apartment, and preparing to leave the country, that my mind was in a million different places. Constantly. Scattered. And my heart was in Australia with Nick.

Despite all of my distractions, I did stick with my training plan; I just didn’t get the mountain/elevation workouts that I had hoped for. I had run the Heavy Half in 2012, and I knew what would be expected of me. X2. So, I was uncertain how I would fare once on the course. A course that had to be rerouted due to snowpack still on the mountain. A course that once rerouted, increased in difficulty. Good thing I knew about that after-the-fact!

Original course profile:
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But, this was a race to be run. Not to be raced.

If you know anything about Leadville, CO, you know that it’s a historic mining town in the Rocky Mountains, that it is the host town of a huge run/bike series in the summer, and that it is situated about about 10,100 feet elevation. And the race course just goes up from there, capping out at just over 13,000 feet. So, I started slow. I paid attention to my body, yet also others around me, getting subconscious tips from them, and stopping at every aid station. I felt that with the elevation, combined with the distance, I needed to ensure that I was fueling, despite the time cost. I race enough with time constraints placed on myself, so this was a nice interruption from my usual MO.

During the first half of the course, I really wasn’t feeling the high elevation. My lungs didn’t feel any different than they normally would when running in the mountains. There was a lot of climbing/hiking, but I took it in stride, knowing that hiking up the mountains was just as efficient as running. Or more. For me.

This was the view on my way up Mosquito Pass (the second and main climb on the profile above):

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A very windy climb to the 13,185 foot summit of Mosquito Pass and despite the smile, I was freezing!

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I felt great on the way back down for my second half of the course. I was still keeping it easy. Drinking a lot of fluid. Eating what I needed to. Taking in the scenery. I was blessed enough to have Nick there, who had arrived into town the night before; he would be there to support me from beginning to end. Oh how I had missed him… Nick and Chase showed up around mile 17. It was so great to see them at that point! When I was tired, the hardest part was done, and I just needed a little boost to get me through the rest of the race.

But those final 9 miles were harder than expected. More climbing, combined with my trashed legs, presented a true challenge. This race was not for the faint of heart. I think I had to dig the deepest in these final miles. Not because I wanted to stop, but because I wanted to finish.

I ran the downhills, hiked the climbs, and cried a few tears as I rounded the corner to 6th street in downtown Leadville, that would take me to my red carpet finish.

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Time: 6:39:15
Overall: 272/435
Female: 57/103
AG: 19/34

It was done. I had earned my mug and medal. But the best part of all, was having Nick back in town to be my cheer squad.

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After this, it was all wedding business.

XO,

 


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…Horsetooth Half Marathon Recap

So, I ran this on Sunday:

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I don’t know why I choose these types of races and expect to PR, but that’s exactly what I expected. And I expected it in the minutes. Might have been a little lofty but I didn’t realize it or accept it until around mile 10.

We have been blessed here in Colorado with some beautiful weather in the 60’s and 70’s. We’ve even hit 80 a couple of time in the past two weeks. But typical of Colorado’s bipolar spring weather, we were hit with a nasty little storm late Saturday and all day Sunday. Perfect for race day, I did not say. Temps in the mid-20’s, wind that dropped that temp even lower, and a snow/sleet mix that surely left a burn on my sweets cheeks. I was not excited for that headwind.

I jogged a great warmup with some striders so that my HR was up a bit right from the start. Didn’t want to start this race on an uphill at a resting HR! Thanks, Coach Ryan! I owe you on this one. I knew I wanted to play the hills conservatively and just push on the downhill and flats; despite that blowing snow/sleet headwind…

Mile 1 (8:23)
Mile 2 (8:15)
These two miles were all uphill, as clearly seen in the profile pic above. And not a pretty uphill. Despite all that upness, I was happy that I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it and I felt great when I hit the top and started the downhill.

Mile 3 (6:42)
Mile 4 (7:10)
DOWNHILL. That downhill was nice. I felt like I was floating. Aside from the wind and the cold and the snow and sleet which made me feel very much like I was on the ground. A few rollers in between those hills but I was feeling strong. Tried to just remember to take it “easy” on the ups.

Mile 5 (7:12)
Mile 6 (6:45)
Another big up. At least it was short. I noticed that when someone passed me on the beginning of the uphills, or pulled away from me if they were ahead of me, that by the time we would reach the top, I had caught them again. I’m not sure what this means, really, but it did make me feel like I was tackling the hills “smartly.” Starting the hills conservatively, but still having umph at the end when I crest the hill and make my way over.

Mile 7 (7:00)
Mile 8 (7:27)
The final two hills. And although they were both short, they both fell in mile 8, and I know this is what made my legs finally feel shattered. At least looking back. In the midst of it, I was just clicking off the miles in my head, happy to be 5 miles away from the start. I was still feeling really good.

Mile 9 (7:02)
Mile 10 (6:59)
And these were my last miles of feeling good. While this was a flat, even slightly downhill section, I don’t remember much from it, aside from being in a zone and being so excited about hitting mile 10 and having merely 3 to go.

Mile 11 (7:22)
Mile 12 (7:41)
I don’t know why I’m so prone to nausea lately while running, but once again it reared it’s ugly head. Almost exactly at mile 10. I didn’t see this coming at all! I never do. It just starts deep in my stomach and refuses to go away. And I did everything I could to fight through it and keep going. I know this caused me to slow down. That and the extremely slick 200 meter wooden bridge. I probably caught myself 4-5 times from falling. And this is when that hope of a big PR felt lofty.

Mile 13 (7:44)
Mile .1 (1:29)
And the final push. Ouch. The legs were pretty trashed at this point too. Almost forgot to mention that, I was so overwhelmed with the nausea. But, I’ll have you all know that I did NOT stop for a good puke sesh at anytime during those final 3.1 miles. No matter how much I was trying to talk myself into it.

I crossed the finish with a nice little grimace. Laura and Gordon (our Aussie counterparts) were there as my “Nick” to cheer for me. And I faked this little smile for them:

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Time: 1:37:36
Overall: 62/1091
Female: 15/???
AG: 3/109

My previous half marathon was 1:39:02 and this race allowed me a minute and a half PR!! While deep down I was shooting for 1:35, I hate to be disappointed and get PR greedy on such a tough course. Given the hills and the elements, I will take this little PR and be happy with it. For now…

XO,

 


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…Sharin’ O The Green 5k Recap

This recap is two weeks old, but I think it’s worth the read:

There is a certain number I’m associated with that has been haunting me for years.

It isn’t my weight. I actually don’t weigh myself or even have a scale in my house.

It isn’t my age. That number seems to keep increasing, no matter how often I truly keep forgetting the correct number.

It’s my 5k time. 20:10. And it’s been a limit, a boundary, for the past 15 years. Since then, I have felt self-induced pressure to break my high school 5k Cross Country PR set at the age of 17 (If you did the math, you know I’m 32).

Yes, it sounds ridiculous. But I have always felt, deep down in my running soul, that I was capable of breaking the 20 minute barrier.

To be honest, I did think it would happen WAY before I was 32! Yet, this also feels like the perfect time in my life to break down barriers and push limits.

So now you know that I’ve PR’d, I guess you don’t need to keep reading! I’ll keep it short and sweet, which is easy since it was only a 5k:

I ran the Sharin’ O The Green 5k last year where I got close to my PR. So, I knew this was a flat, fast course with great potential. What I didn’t know was how freaking windy it was going to be! Like, 19 mph winds and 40 mph gusts.

The course runs as a lollipop, and luckily, the main out/back portion was only a sidewind. It was the middle loop that was a real struggle to maintain pace.

Mile 1: Everyone went out really fast. Or, at least I went out really fast. I tried to keep remembering that this wasn’t a race with anyone but myself. And if I wanted to PR, I needed to be smart about this pacing. So I evened out to a pace I felt I could manage for 3.1. I was still pushing it though.

Mile 2: Always my slowest mile in a 3.1. Always. The wind was awful but I put my head down a bit and was determined to just get through it knowing it would be a sidewind again soon. My pace slowed, but I felt I was still doing well, save that feeling of wanting to puke. Seriously. Badly.

Mile 3: One mile straight back to the finish. It’s amazing how much you can be hurting in a 5k at this point. Lungs, stomach, quads, feet. And I still wanted to puke. But I still wanted to PR and I pushed hard. Hard enough to pass a leprechaun in the last quarter mile. And that felt great.

Mile .1: As I glanced at my watch in the final turn of the course, I was ecstatic to see my time and quickly calculated my potential finish time. I crossed in 19:27. A 43 second PR, dating back nearly 15 years! And I still just wanted to puke.

When that sensation passed, I could truly celebrate my accomplishment, albeit solo. I smiled from ear-to-ear during that cold, windy cool down and I felt like skipping the entire time. Elated. Bursting. Relieved. So many exciting emotions were running through me.

Time: 19:27
Overall: 32/2071
Female: 8/????
AG: 2/436

I have no pictures to document this moment, but I have a memory of that time I broke through limits and boundaries and answered the “what if” question. And that will last a lifetime.

XO,


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…2013 highlights

2013 was a big year for me, not only in the running world, but personally as well.  Sure there were some major disappointments to learn from, but overall, I had a full, rich year with new challenges and big leaps.  I certainly stepped out of my running comfort zone, and in doing so, have met some amazing people and opened myself up to untapped opportunities.  Below are some of the highlights of the year; moments that will be remembered forever.

March

Sharin’ O the Green 5k (2nd AG)

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April

Golden Gate Headlands Trail Marathon (1st)

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May

My first 50k-Greenland Trail

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June

Lake City/Handies Peak

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Minnesota

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July

Hired a coach and ran with one of his groups over the Continental Divide

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August

Started my 2nd year with the Oiselle running team

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Bellingham/Victoria with this sweet gal

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Golden Beaver Trail 1/2 Marathon (blonde nav. was tricky and I got lost;
but the knee deep water crossing was a part of the actual course)

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September

Ragnar CO-Ultra team (1st in all women/3rd overall)

Tears at the Finish

XTerra Trail 1/2 Marathon (where I met Heidi!)

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October

Oiselle Photo Shoot

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Aspen & Crested Butte trip with Nick

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November

Oiselle Meet-up for PAC12 XC

(Bret, Shanna, me, Laura)

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December

Club XC Nationals-Bend, Oregon

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Nick and my engagement announcement

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XO,