The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


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…fun running in Oz with race plans

A while back (aka, the last time I blogged), I mentioned that I needed a season to just run for fun.  After some serious training cycles in the previous 12 months, getting married, and moving Down Under, I just haven’t felt much motivation to pick a goal race and train my heart out.  Granted, there are plenty of days I simply feel a bit “lost” without a training plan.  But I am trying to ignore that feeling and continue with what I know is truly best for my mind and body right now.

I have really been enjoying getting to know Canberra on foot.  It is small enough of a city, that I’ve plotted out several “run tours” in the past weeks that have taken me around to some iconic locations:  Parliament House, the Embassies, Royal Australian Mint, National Museum of Australia, National War Memorial, as well as summiting Red Hill and Mount Ainslie multiple times.

Parliament

Most recently, I have been running with a group who has taken me off the beaten path and onto some true Canberra trails/tracks for what feels often like authentic Cross Country running.  We’re talking dirt, hills, through paddocks and herds of cows, half dozen fence crossings, through brambles and drainage pipes, with heaps of kangaroo sightings and views for miles.  These are the runs I live for.  And while it’s all for this group’s training for an upcoming 101k relay race, that seems to double as orienteering, I am happy to join in on these somewhat random point-to-point runs.

The Valley

 

Mount Taylor

And then I was asked to join one of the teams.

Always up for an adventure, I naturally said yes.  I think almost immediately.  It will fit in nicely with the other 2 races I’ve signed up for in September…

The Sydney Half, 21 September, was the original “fun run” race that I registered Nick and I for nearly a month ago.  As Nick’s 3rd half marathon, and scenic views (including, running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge), as well as running with the FiveMore team (Oiselle reseller in Sydney), we want to just enjoy this 13.1 miler for all that it will be.  No racing.

Then, on 7 September, I registered Nick and I for the Canberra Times Fun Run 10k.  And with “fun run” in the name, we can’t really take it too seriously, right?  This 10k was intended to be a little tune-up before the Sydney Half.  No racing.

So, along comes the invitation to run a trail relay on 28 September, 23k (14ish miles?) and how can I possibly say no?  I wouldn’t dare.  And this will be a race to remember, as it doubles as orienteering!  Whether intentional or not.  My leg of the race, Leg 4, has nearly TWO pages of typed out directions for the route.  Here is an example of the said directions:

At the track split near Madigan St (0.62) take the left hand fork closest to Phillip Ave, and continue straight ahead up past a yellow pole (0.82), across a path (0.92; at Kellaway St) and 30m later turn left at the green Nature Park gate (0.95) to join a track heading past the Kellaway St Car Park.

Here’s another:

From the Trig, retrace your steps back down through the gate (6.63) to head back the way you came but this time continue straight ahead down the ridgeline past (7.48) the point where you originally joined it. It quickly narrows to ST and then descends through a series of zigzags: zig left (7.92), zag right (8.04), zig left (8.33), zag right (8.49), through metal stile (8.51), becomes sealed with some steps (8.82).

Yeah.  I’m pretty sure those are kilometer markings, and NOT mile markings.  So, I’m naturally going to mess this up, just based on that.  Not to mention all of the zigging, zagging, retracing of steps, and yellow poles that I could miss.  I best run this prior to the actual race.  I’d hate to be the American girl who can’t hold her own on the Aussie tracks.

But overall the lack of pressure I am putting on myself for these “races” is so delicious, I can nearly taste it.  At least, I think.  I hope.  I suppose this is how you fun run and still make race plans.  Because how can you move internationally and NOT run in the local races?!

XO,

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…Winona, MN

Not to be confused with the Winona tank from Oiselle. Though I did wear the Winona in Winona…

After the awesome weekend that was Grandma’s Marathon and the USATF Half Champs, Nick and I headed south for Winona, Minnesota. He had a project there to work on for the week, which left me to my own demises during the day. I took full advantage of the running trails in the area, promoted by my friend Erika who went to school at beautiful SMU. After spending a few days exploring on foot, I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever run!

SMU
Winona is nestled between the Mighty Mississip’ and picturesque bluffs. And all you have to do when you get to SMU is start running toward those bluffs, trails appearing out of nowhere. They double as ski trails in the winter, so they get plenty of use year round from the college kids (Yes, I’m now at the age where I can call them “kids”). It’s a mini-labyrinth of paths encased in lush, green foliage making it feel like you’re a million miles away from anyone and anything. Cue the photos:

SMU1

SMU5

SMU4

SMU3

Lake Park
Approximately 5 miles of blacktop around Lake Winona (consisting of 2 lakes). Complete with a beach, water sport rentals, rose garden, gazebo, bandshell, etc. Nick and I ran this route a couple of times in the mornings before he’d go to work.

LakePark1

LakePark2

LakePark3

Holzinger Trail
Seemingly endless trails in the bluffs for amazing single track riding/running. Lush, quiet, serene. Nick brought his bike, so at least we could both enjoy what we love. This was one of those runs where I felt I could have gone on forever. Swatting bugs and dripping sweat, aside…

Holzinger1

Holzinger2

Clearly, a beautiful week of running in Winona! As much as I love Colorado, it certainly made me a little envious to be running on such green trails.:)

XO,


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…after the 50k

In my first moments of finishing the 50k, I swore them off. Not for me. Not my cup of tea. I’m not meant to run this far. No way. No how. What was I thinking? Who does this thing anyway? I’ll take anything shorter. I’m probably meant for shorter.

But in these past few weeks, and even as early as a day or two after the race, my tune changed. I chalk it up to forgetting all the pain. But, I started shopping for 50k’s… Am I hooked? Maybe. Could be too soon to tell. But what I am hooked on are trails!

I have loved getting away from pounding the pavement and instead making new discoveries on our beautiful Colorado trails. I’ll admit, it’s certainly easier to find a frequently used bike path or take to the neighborhood sidewalks and streets, but as much as I can, I’ll spend time in the hills. Thankfully, the summer months will afford me the time to continue my exploration and truly be a part of nature.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good road race! I have several on the race schedule in the next few months, even:

Lucky Mile – 5.23.13
Bolder Boulder 10k – 5.27.13
Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon – 7.21.13

And of course, I’m shopping for more trail races in the summer and fall that I can jump into, either here in Colorado or in Minnesota for Nick’s and my trip back at the end of June.

As for that 50k I was shopping for…I’m still looking. And I’m open to locations. I don’t think it will happen this calendar year, but we’ll see where I stand at the beginning of 2014 and where the rest of this year takes me.

XO,


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…Greenland Trail 50k Race Report

The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Pre-Race
3am-We were up early on Saturday in order to make it to the 7am start area on time. I didn’t want to be there too early, as I wasn’t planning a warm-up. But I needed to get my race packet and didn’t want to feel rushed with any final preparations. The boy and I ate a quick breakfast, packed up the truck and Chase (it would end up being a very long day with a grad party later that night), and made sure all of my race gear was prepped. I was definitely feeling nervous. And I was definitely still coughing and stuffed up.

4am-We left our house (north Fort Collins) to make the two hour drive to Larkspur and Greenland Trail Open Space, which is south of Denver by about 45 minutes. I tried to sleep, or at least rest my eyes, on the drive. We made a couple of stops along the way and still made it to the race start a little before 6am, thanks to the early hours and no traffic.

6am-Arrived to a cool mid-30’s race area. I was able to quickly pick up my bib, t-shirt, and race packet; not just because I was there earlier than expected but because it was a smaller race that was well-organized. I’m tending to like these types of races that aren’t driven by pomp and circumstance, but instead by the pure love of running. I’m not saying I don’t have a love for the big races (Hello, Boston!!) but I feel a little more comfortable in these locally organized, mom-and-pop type races. I took the next hour to finalize my gear and get my fuel bag ready for the boy to have at each loop.

I found it a bit ironic that I was bib #1. I know it’s sometimes based on last name, and most assuredly in this case. However, the irony comes when I recalled that I was also bib #1 in the marathon where I said I wanted to run a 50k. And now at that 50k, bib #1…

greenlandtrailbib

The Race
7am-The start of the 50k! The cooler temps at the start was refreshing, as I know this race is “iffy” when it comes to the weather. I knew it would only get up to the low 50’s at most, throughout the race. I donned my Oiselle arm warmers which would not only be great for the temps, but would also serve me well throughout the race for things entirely different than warmth.

greenlandtrailstart

The course would be 4 lollipops in the open space. Each would be roughly 7.8 miles, with a final .25 (or so) to the finish. At each turn-around point, the spectators gathered. I knew the boy and Chase would be there for me to support my fueling or whatever I needed. I was actually happy to have a course that I would be able to see him a little more often. I would certainly give me something to look forward to during each lap. Especially when the going got tough.

greenlandtrailstart2

Lap 1-7.8 miles
I started the race at a mostly conservative 9:30 pace. I was feeling really good, despite the constant snot rockets and spitting. The arm warmers were perfect for quick wipe-ups of the nose. 😉 I felt badly for those around me who probably thought I had a real problem. I guess I kind of did. I think it was just more annoying than anything.

The miles were ticking off quickly as the pack of runners was tight and I was listening to their chatting and banter. I decided to run sans-music and just enjoy the race. It was a good plan. I like being available to chat with people and make short-term friends. It’s a good support and I find I learn a lot from them. I met a man named Pete who hadn’t raced since the early 80’s. He had been focusing on mountain bike races. Nice come-back with a 50k…

There was a well-stocked aid station at mile 3.5, but I kept going, as I had what I needed for now in my fuel pack. There were some loooong gradual hills throughout the course, and after this aid station was the 2nd one. I trudged up the hill, running as much as possible (though slowing down on the uphill) for as long as I could. Some short rolling up and downs along the saddle and then another loooong gradual uphill before the final downhill mile into the turn-around point. I fueled as normal with a few Clif Blocks at the hour mark. I completed the first loop in about 1:14. Definitely faster than I had predicted, but I was feeling SO good! Would this contribute to my demise? I kissed the boy, petted Chase, and continued on my way for lap 2.

greenlandtraillap1

Lap 2-15.6 miles
Knowing what to expect, my plan was to keep my pace as best I could and continue fueling as normal. The course was pretty busy at this point, now that the 25k runners AND the 8 milers were also on the same loop. I enjoyed seeing so many people and having the 25kers passing me! I knew my friend, Libby, was running the 8 miler and hoped to see her out on the course.

I was still feeling great. My running nose was constant and still annoying, but I was taking care of it as best I could. I continued to ease up on the gradual ascents, and kept my eyes up to propel me to the tops of each. The miles were still flying by. I couldn’t believe how quickly, actually. I fueled again with some Sport Beans at one of the hilltops and kept a steady pace on the downhill and back into the turn-around.

greenlandtraillap2

I was at about 2:22 when I finished the 2nd lap, so I stopped and chatted with the boy for a few minutes, taking in some salty potato wedges I had prepared early this morning. It seemed to be just what I needed. I was still running faster than I wanted, but was still happy that I felt so good.

Lap 3-23.4 miles
I knew this would be the hardest lap. Just like the 3rd lap in the mile (thanks, Erika!). At the aid station, I made a quick pit-stop (now that there was no line) and grabbed a few potato chips. Not long after (around mile 19), on that loooong gradual uphill, I started to feel the beginning signs of upset stomach. Just the smallest niggle in my tummy. But I wanted to take care of it right away. I took out some crystallized ginger that I had in my pack and started to suck on it as I continued to run. An ultrarunner friend of mine suggested this about a month or so ago when I asked for advice about the sometimes-quesy-long-run-stomach-I-get-at-the-most-random-times-and-I-can’t-pinpoint-why issue that I have. Honestly, it worked! Or at least postponed the inevitable. I rallied. I power-walked the hills, hoping that slowing down would settle my stomach. And then I fueled again with more Sport Beans/Clif Blocks. But as I started that descent into the final turn-around, my stomach was not feeling 100% and I was nervous for what it meant.

Pete caught up with me in those final few yards into the turn-around and our chatting got my mind off of my stomach. I was also distracted by my supporters who came out to the course to see me complete my first ultra. Two of my co-workers, a couple friend of the boy and I (and their daughter), and Libby (who ran the 8 miler) stayed around the cheer me as well. Of course, I had to stop and give hugs to everyone for coming out! I stopped to chat with the boy, to tell him how I was feeling, to tell him how I was off my pace now.

greenlandtraillap3

greenlandtraillap3crew

Lap 4-31.06 miles
I was nervous starting this lap. I knew it would be my slowest, based on how my stomach was feeling. The next few miles out to the aid station were slow. Occasionally, someone would pass me, or miraculously, I’d pass them. I remembered to take a photo of the course on this lap.

greenlandtrail

It was starting to warm up (upper 40’s/low 50’s-BEATING sun) and I thought it best to ditch the arm warmers, despite that constant flowing nose. I didn’t want to risk over heating (Hello, Hot Boston!) and I had a fleeting thought that maybe I was already too warm, which may have been contributing to the upset stomach. I took them off at the aid station, had a volunteer shove them into my pack, and continued on my way. But when I started to power walk that hill, I felt lightheaded and the queasy stomach was persistent. I tried another piece of ginger. But, I knew what I really had to do in order to finish those final 5 miles. I had to “fertilize the bushes.” I got off the trail, turned away, put my finger down my throat, and took care of business. Luckily, the runners were so far apart that only a few passed me at this point.

I text the boy to let him know what happened and hoped he would get what I was implying-that I wouldn’t be at the finish any time soon. When I was ready to start again, I realized I was at 26.5 miles. Hmmm…was this my bodies humorous way of telling me it didn’t want to do more than the marathon distance? I actually felt much better after that little episode, but it was really hard to get back into a decent pace that late in the game. I still kept a slow running pace and was actually back in the 9:30 range in the last mile or two.

When I passed the turn-around point to continue on the trail into the finish, I started to tear up. I was so happy to have completed the race, even if it didn’t end exactly how it seemed to be going initially. My whole goal was to finish anyway, and I met that goal. But I was also disappointed that I had tummy issues. I have so many thoughts around this (again) that will be addressed later. I really think that running heightens my emotions, and I also think I’ve cried in almost every race I’ve run. They are mostly happy tears! I teared up even more when I saw the boy, he joined me on the trail, and ran with me for a few strides before jumping off the trail so I could enter the finish chute solo. He teased me, “Are you crying?!” Yes!

greenlandtrailfinish

Total Time: 5:30:44

greenlandtrailmedal

This race might not have been pretty, it might not have been perfect, but it was a PR! I am so happy to have completed a new distance. Once again, I learned so much about myself from this race. I learned so much about the distance too. At the time, I had no desire to run another 50k. I think I needed to forget about the race, the pain, the puke. Today, a different story. I’m on board for another 50k! But probably not this year… 😉

XO,


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…Golden Gate Headlands Trail Marathon Race Report

I needed a 26 mile run the first weekend of April to fit into my 50k training. Instead of just any old 26 mile run on my own, I started searching for a trail marathon. I mean, if I’m already going to run 26 miles, why not an extra .2?! Unfortunately, there were no trail marathons in Colorado that particular weekend, so I started looking for a destination race. The boy and I are always looking for excuses to go to California, so I was excited to find one just outside of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands: Golden Gate Headlands Trail Marathon. Many a blogger have posted photos of their views in this area, so I found it to be an incredible opportunity to get a glimpse of what some of my fellow runners see.

Keep in mind, this was a training run. It was for the sole purpose of practicing fueling and pacing. I didn’t expect it to end the way it did.

You can scroll down now if you’d like to see the results…

GGHstartfinish

The boy and I arrived at the start area about an hour before the festivities began. As many other small races, and I can assume other trail races go, this was a casual gathering of fellow lovers of running. Not a huge crowd. Not a lot of pomp and circumstance. I totally appreciate this!

It was overcast with low hanging clouds, and then it started drizzling. I stayed in the warm car as long as possible before meeting up with Paulette, a fellow Oiselle team runner.

GGHpaulette

We were able to chat for a bit at the start before I realized the marathon group was starting. I was in the back of the crowd of runners and couldn’t hear the RD announce which group was starting first (no megaphone). Oops! I abruptly left the conversation and caught up with the small group of marathoners.

I told myself to just have fun, talk to some people, take some pictures, and take the pressure off! My main focus was to practice for the 50k.

There is a 2 mile climb right away. Being as I was at the back of the pack, I was getting a little boxed in on those single-track trails and stairs. I was finally able to pass some runners and be on my merry way. Since I would run this lap 2x, I wanted to take it all in and decide where I wanted to stop and take pictures on the 2nd lap. That’s where my Type-A comes in…

Around mile 3, I ran with a group of 3, one of which was a 65 year old ultra marathoner. I chatted him up about ultras as we cruised down the muddy trails. About a mile and a half later, the half-marathon leaders started passing us. No worries, I told myself, you still have another lap to do! At this point, there was another 2 mile climb. I considered hiking it, because I know I need to be okay with this. But I really wanted to run as much of the course as I could. Especially on the first lap. So, I kept trudging on. All the while being passed incessantly by half-marathoners. This is also where I pulled away from my group of 3 running buddies. Around mile 8, when everything began to even out on the trails, I found myself running completely alone. The fog was so thick, I couldn’t see more than a 100 yards or so ahead of me. Totally unfamiliar with the area and the course, I only hoped I was moving in the right direction. Orange flags. Orange flags. A couple of times, I really questioned myself on the trails because I hadn’t seen any. Then, I’d see them waving in the wind. A final half mile ascent and then, views of the finish at Rodeo Beach. As we come down from the Headlands, the final push is running through the sand on the beach. A complete shock to your leg muscles!

GGHbeachlap1

As I finished the first lap, I was feeling good. Feeling great! I was soaking wet from the rain, muddy from the trails, but incredibly happy. This was awesome!! I glanced at my watch. Just around 12 miles. Hmmmm….Did I really cut the tangents that well? Like, a mile well?! I checked at the aid station, the boy fed me potatoes and snapped a million pictures of me eating, and I was off again for lap 2. Here’s were the pictures come in.

Stair climb in the first 2 miles
GGHstairs

A big, squishy puddle
GGHpuddle

The trails were much worse on the 2nd lap. A combination of continued rain and all of the 7 milers and half-marathoners that had come through, the trails were just a mess. There were many time I wasn’t able to get traction either going up or going down. A lot of slipping and sliding. At each aid station, I checked in with my bib number and chatted with the volunteers.

This beautiful sight was a “must capture” for lap 2
GGHtrees

After running the two 2-mile hills on the 2nd lap, I was definitely starting to feel it in my legs! On that 2nd hill, I did power walk and jog it, off and on. I would only give myself a certain amount of time or a certain distance to hike, and then started running again. But I was constantly moving. I was doing a great job of fueling and wasn’t nauseous at all (something I struggle with from time to time). I was still cruising on the downhills at about an 8:30 pace. I wondered if I was pushing it too much, but I felt good and, overall, was maintaining a pace I typically did on my trail runs.

At the top of the final hill, you overlook Rodeo Beach and the finish
GGHfinish

I ran down the hill, tears in my eyes, happy that I had completed another marathon in such a beautiful location, feeling amazing throughout, and having the boy there with me.

The run across the beach was lonely as most other runners had left, due to the weather. As I approached the finish, the boy said, “I think you were 10th.” Some bundled up girls were cheering me on from the side. And at the finish, the timers said, “You’re the first woman!” What?! No, I’m not! “Yes! You get the chicken purse!”

I was shocked. I’ve never been first female. Ever. I had no idea that the whole 2nd lap, when I was running solo, that I was actually vying for a Female Win. I’m still in awe.

GGH1st

Time: 4:13:53
Gender: 1st
AG: 1st
Overall: 10th

My Garmin 610 read 24.2 miles. I was half tempted to run another 1.8 miles to give me 26, but I was done when I crossed that finish line. I don’t think missing those 2 miles will make or break my 50k race. At least I hope.

XO,

As an aside, the boy realized there was a 7 mile race option and he registered within 10 minutes of the start. He hasn’t run in months. That’s how he rolls. Naturally, he killed it couch-to-7mile. I heart him.

Time: 1:05
Gender: 12th
AG: 2nd
Overall: 17th


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…week 5: Greenland Trail 50k Training

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I know, I know. These write ups are boring. And it’s all I’ve been writing about on my blog. But, it’s for posterity, people. And probably my Type-A personality. At least this post will catch me up, as I really did just finish week 5 of training.

Week 5 Total: 52.1 miles

Monday: 5.75 miles
I tried to keep this one pretty easy and slow, as my legs were shot from the weekend runs. I’m noticing that my trail long runs are leaving me pretty sore for a few days after. They are hilly and rocky and I know I’m asking more of my body than I normally have in previous training cycles.

Tuesday: 6.35 miles
I needed a 55 minute hilly run. Erika and I wanted to run a bit together, so we chose a trail where I could hill run and she could do mile repeats. It actually ended up perfectly! We ran our warm up together, she continued on a flat course for her repeats and I went up the hills for an out and back. By the time I was coming down the hill, she was finishing her last repeat and we cooled down together. Couldn’t have been planned better!

Wednesday: 9.85 miles
Windy Wednesday! 23mph winds and I was irritated by the time I hit the last 10 minutes to go. I’ve over the wind, but it’s not over Colorado. Wish I had a better attitude about it, but wind is probably my least favorite type of weather to run in. And 8:07 pace was my consolation.

Thursday: off
Sushi with the boy! And lavender roses that show you fell in love with someone the moment you saw them. ❤

vdayflowers

Friday: 5 miles
Was supposed to run with Erika again this afternoon, but the long week and my tiredness warped my thinking. Went to Davidson Mesa instead of Marshall Mesa, where I was going to meet her. Oops. I text her, she understood, and we ran separately. Feeling stupid, I just continued driving, hoping to get a little closer to home before running. I ran around McIntosh Lake in Longmont. It’s really only 3.6 miles around, but I added a little out and back. My legs felt heavy and uncooperative.

Saturday: 18 miles
Started at Coyote Ridge, in south Fort Collins, a trail I’ve run a few times. For the 9 miles out, I went south along the Blue Sky trail and nearly made it to the Devils Backbone trailhead. Parts were incessantly rocky. “Difficult” in mountain biking terms. But I kept up an even pace the whole time, even passing people in the final hills of the final miles. The views of the Rockies and Longs Peak wasn’t too shabby.

devilsbackbone

Sunday: 7.15 miles
Warm, sunny day for a post-long run shake-out. Shorts and t-shirt in February? Yes, please. No Chase today. The boy and I had taken him to a dog park earlier and wore him out with catching tennis balls.

chasetongue

Reflection:
I’m sore after my long runs. I’m trying to stretch and foam roll more, but it might have to come down to ice baths again in the near future.

XO,


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…week 4: Greenland Trail 50k Training

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Week 4 Total: 50.8 miles*

Monday: 5.5 miles
It was another windy day by my work, so I decided to head north and run where there was less wind. I found a new path in Loveland that was perfect for an out and back. The downfall was that it takes me about 45 minutes or longer to get to Loveland, and it was already dusk by the time I started.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles
5x600m hill repeats. I ran a 2.3 mile w/u. Hill repeats went as followed: 2:44, 2:38, 2:45, 2:40, 2:49. I wasn’t disappointed with the times. I knew my last one was slow. As long as I’m completing these, it’s good for the legs!

Wednesday: 9.5 miles
I’m cristening Wednesdays as “Windy Wednesday.” It seems all of my mid-week long runs coincide with windy weather. To be honest, I’m over it. If it were less than 10mph, I’d be okay with the wind. But it just isn’t. 20+mph. Annoying.

Thursday: 5 miles
Easy and slow. I had run 7 days in a row and I was ready for Friday as my “off” day.

Friday: off

Saturday: 16 miles
Ran 2 miles before meeting up with Erika for 10 of her miles. After she left, I ran another 4 on my own. Said miles were run in Lyons, Colorado: Heil Valley Ranch. On the trail, we ran into a herd o 20+ deer, grazing and not bothered by us at all. It was a gorgeous run. We were both done right as a snow storm was coming in. Not much accumulation, but cold, nonetheless.

hvrDeer

hvrView

Sunday: 7.3 miles
Windy. What?! Yep. 17mph. Chase joined me. He loves it.

Reflection:
I’m sick of the wind.

*If I had known how close I was to 51 miles even, I would have run another .2 somewhere!

And if you’ve made it THIS far in my weekly write-up, note that I’m actually finishing up week 5 of training, but am a week behind on the write-ups. Still, oops.

XO,