The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


…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…



…the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon

I was planning on a costume for this race. I wanted something fast, but clever. It turns out that I didn’t exactly wear a costume for the race afterall. I went as the boy’s girlfriend. Very supportive girlfriend. Very awesome girlfriend. Super star pacer girlfriend. The girlfriend who paced the boy into a 16 minute PR. The girlfriend who sacrificed a “race” day so she could run with a camera and photo-doc the whole event.

But this really isn’t about me. This is about the boy; and his great accomplishment. I probably shouldn’t mention that he is good at everything. Or, that he didn’t even train for this half marathon. The 8 mile run he did the week before and the measly 20 mile week he put in the week prior to that, hardly count. Especially since that is all the training he did for this little race. All. No more. Done. That’s it.

Yes, he is that spectacular. (Hi boyfriend! Are you reading this?!)

The boy and I arrived in sunny CA on Friday morning. I had never been to San Francisco before and I was super excited to see the sites! The boy humored me and we touristed Lombard Street, walked around Ghiradelli Square, the boardwalk, and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lombard Street

Ghiradelli Square (from afar)


Golden Gate Bridge

After a little sightseeing, we made our way north to Santa Rosa for hotel check-in and packet pick-up. At this point, I was toying with racing or running this for fun. If you’ve read that other blog of mine, you know that this has always been a struggle for me. I have always taken races entirely too seriously, and feel that, in many cases, I have missed out on the fun of the race: the entertainment, the scenery, my companions… I suppose I place too high of expectations on myself and want each race to be at a better time than the previous. Since I don’t race very often (only a handful a year), I want to take advantage of every race. In doing so, I know I’ve missed out on the enjoyment of running and racing.

So, when the topic of racing or running for fun came up with the boy, I was a little surprised with myself when I said I’d run it for fun. Yet it was also a relief. I just took an enormous amount of pressure off of myself. The pressure to run fast; do better than before; to PR. But afterall, the boy and I did register for this race together. Wouldn’t it be sweet if we ran it together too? Yes, I think so. I would even bring my camera. A first for me.

Race morning came early. 4:30 early. We drove out to the finish and shuttled to the start at Coppola Winery. It was a chilly 40 degrees.

But the sun came up and we made our way to the start, amid a race crowd of 2000; some costumed, but most not.

As mentioned before, the boy didn’t really train for this race. He has a history of couch to 1/2 marathons, which has left him with a 1:59 PR and some very sore legs the following day. Okay, okay, the history is really only one other 1/2 marathon. Now with this couch to 1/2, we can easily say he is making a name for himself…but, I wanted to help pace him to a new PR.

The first few miles were conversational. It was cold and it was probably the only thing we could do to stay warm. As keeper of the watch, the only watch now that I stole from the boy until I get a new one that we share between us, I was fortunate to be glancing at the pace. A habit I will never break, as a number whore. Typcially, sub-8:00. I wasn’t sure if we were pushing too hard for him or not, but I figured he would say something otherwise. Or, he would just push through no matter what. I kept talking and taking pictures.

This was a fairly hilly course with undulating ups and downs. At about the halfway point, we were warming up nicely. And our pace was maintaining at 7:53. I kept thinking through the pace and the overall time, and knew we were well ahead of breaking his previous PR. Crushing it, really. At mile 9, I casually said, “hey, guess what, you’re gonna PR today.” More pictures.

I asked how he was feeling. Cramps in his legs. He dug in for the final 5k; the final hills. I told him we should hold hands and cross the finish line together in victory. He chuckled. I was mostly serious.

We crossed the finish holding hands, arms raised, in 1:44 and some change! A 16 minute PR for the boy! I am so proud!

We enjoy the accomplishment drinking, and being merry at the post-race wine festival. To the victor, goes the spoils…

For the remainder of the trip, we discuss his strong dislike for running, but his natural ability to do well at it; the fact that with essentially no training, he is within 5 minutes of my own 1/2 marathon PR! I told him to start training so he could pace me from now on!


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…and the boy heli-ski’s in New Zealand

So, the boy has this job that requires him to travel. And by travel, I don’t just mean periodically, say, once a month. I mean that he has only had four full weeks at home since March. And by travel, I don’t just mean to hum-drum locations like Oklahoma City, OK; El Paso, TX; or, Mesa, AZ. I mean that he travels to super cool places like New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver. Most recently, a project came up in Canberra, Australia, and the boy’s number was called.

Since he is already going to be Down Under, he figured he may as well take advantage of the location, and hop a flight to the south island of New Zealand for some dreamed-about heli-skiing (okay, okay, the boy will really heli-board). It’s the perfect time to get in some runs in the backcountry as winter comes to a close in the Southern Hemisphere. Ironically, after booking the side excursion and extra week for the trip, a 2nd project came up in New Zealand, so he would have been going there anyway!

While I had to say goodbye to the sweet boy this morning, I know he will have an incomparable two weeks. Though I’m slightly envious, I hope to live vicariously through his texts, Skype calls, and pictures.

This video is from the operation who will be taking the boy up the mountain.