Thursday, August 22, 2013

Busy Busy!

I have been extremely busy these past couple of weeks!

A lot of changes are happening and decisions are being made. I have decided not to go for my MSW this fall, but instead go next fall to a state school instead of a private one. Financially, it makes much more sense.
I have also been working 13 hour days for the past 3 consecutive days, so not much time to exercise, although I'm doing the best I can. I have to forgive myself for missing the miles and start over next week. Also, I have been looking for a job in my field and was called for an interview! That interview will be held today at 1:00pm, so be sending positive thoughts and energy my way! How cool would it be to have a job where I can use my degree?!

Job #1 also ends for me this Friday. It has been an amazing job for me, but unfortunately when classes start up again on Monday the position must go to a student, which I no longer am at this college :(
I've loved this job and will be sad to leave, but it will be nice to be only working one job and have some free time for family, myself, and my running. If I get the job I'm interviewing for today (a case manager at an adult day services program) then I will no longer need to work at Dick's Sporting Goods.
Also, Brian and I have decided to use this year off to plan our wedding! We've already been engaged for almost 2 full years, and the longer we keep putting off the wedding, the longer we will continue to put it off. I want his last name, hehe! We are starting to formulate plans and are waiting to hear back from the woman at our venue so we can confirm the date we'd like. Then we will be able to set out save-the-dates and get the ball rolling! I'm very excited!
So, like I said, a lot of changes and decisions being made for me just in these past two weeks! It is all very exciting and new, and I am at a happy place right now. Things are going good and I hope it continues this way. I am also probably going to buy a Keurig tomorrow! Which is exciting for me because I've wanted one for a while now. Mmmm coffeeeeeeee.

I've also been wanting to write a review of my Garmin FR210. I think I've had it long enough to give an accurate report of how it works for me and my running goals, so look out for that post in the near future.

Lately my knee has been acting up with this crazy work week of 7.5 hours straight of sitting and 5.5 hours straight of standing. It's very frustrating knowing that all I have to do is my physical therapy exercises and it will feel better, yet not having even a single spare moment to do the exercises!!

Just one more 13 hour day and then things will calm down for me!! Just one more day. I can do this!!

Safe and happy running!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Losing Steam

I always hate the time after a big race when there are no more races to look forward to. I'm in that post-race slump. At first it was nice to take about a week off and focus on the crazy 8:30am-10:00pm work days I was doing. However, now I just feel lazy not running, but I am lost without my training schedule when I do run.
I did an easy, flat 3 on Saturday because I was so ready for a run. I also found $5 on this run, so that was really awesome :)
Then on Sunday I did a longer run. I got my routes mixed up though, and did a little over 7 instead of the 5 or so I thought I was going to do. It went well at the beginning, but then I was out there longer than I anticipated and it got hotter than I'd planned for. I had to stop at a local hotel for some water before continuing home. Also, it was much too far to go without my knee brace, and my knee was pretty unhappy by the end. I got it feeling okay again with some physical therapy, but it was all really just poor planning on my part.
Today I forced myself out of bed regardless of the weather. when I started it was a nice sprinkle but quickly turned into a heavier rain. Not that I mind the rain, but it was difficult to keep in a good mindset. My jacket was heavy with water (even though its water repellent) and my toes were squishy by the end.
I imagine I looked something like this when I returned home to Brian. Anyway, the point is, I'm lost without something to train for! I think I might make a new training schedule just so I have something to go by. I love having my workouts planned out in advance and being able to cross workouts off. I'm definitely not an off the cuff person.

Do you need a schedule to train, or do you wing it?
What weather is off-limits for you for running (or any outdoor activity)?

Safe and happy running!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Colorado Springs Part III: Wrapping It Up

After the race, we were all about food. We went to this restaurant called The Melting Pot, which was 4 courses of fondue.
First, we had to have our post race drinks! Melissa and I ordered the "Wine Train" which was a glass of a different type of wine with ever course. Yum!
We all had a great time.
And while all of the food was amazing, I think dessert was my favorite!
Sunday morning held ziplining across a 12 story ravine. Notice our proudly displayed shirts! Our legs weren't too sore thanks to the hot tub at the YMCA :)
We harnessed up...
And began to wonder if this was really such a good idea. Especially with my fear of heights.
 But we hopped in the Bronco anyway.
I took a trust fall backwards (literally) off the first edge, and there was no turning around.
But we lived! And actually started to enjoy ourselves after the first terrifying zip.
Enough to let go of all my inhibitions!
I think I've conquered my fear of heights...
video
Enough to complete the fastest zipline of the day upside down! With a little victory dance before landing on the other side :)
After ziplining came Garden of the Gods, full of beautiful rock formations.
The red rocks were incredible.
And we even saw a snake! Not a rattler, though. Mark informed me that if they have circle pupils, they're not poisonous. If they have eyes like cats with the vertical slits, then you have to worry. Circle pupils here, thank Garden of the Gods!
And of course we had to do the nerdy tourist picture of holding up Balancing Rock :)
 Garden of the Gods concluded Sunday, and Monday was some relaxed shopping followed by food highlights. This was my ice cream at a place called YoYogurt. You walk in and there is a wall of self-serve frozen yogurt flavors and then there is a bar of candies and fruits, much like a salad bar. I tried pretty much everything, and my giant bowl weighed enough at the end to be a frozen treat costing over $7! I loved every bite.
Sunday night concluded with dinner at Texas Roadhouse, compliments of my Gramma. Here, the kids are lined up for an applesauce eating contest where no hands are allowed! :) Max stood up after about 2 mouthfuls, realizing he doesn't like applesauce. Maddie came in second :)

And that's all there is! Melissa woke up ridiculously early with me to take me to the airport so I could catch my 6:20am flight. I spent the better part of the day on a plane and arrived back to my apartment a little after 7:00pm. My mom and I waited on the stoop for around 15 minutes because I didn't have key. Finally, we decided to check the knob, just to make sure it was locked. The door popped open, and after laughing hysterically and our stupidity, we trudged inside to unpack.

It was a wonderful vacation and break from reality. Everything went as best as it possibly could have. I had a fantastic time and hope to return to Colorado soon with the fiance in tow! Just perhaps not for a mountainous race next time... :)

Safe and happy running!

Colorado Springs Part II: The Race

My cousin Melissa, her husband Mark, and I rose early in the morning with light pre-race breakfasts of bananas, bread, and peanut butter and checked out of the hotel. During the ride over nerves were definitely flowing. On our way over, Mark joked that I better find my confirmation email for registration, just to be sure. I wasn't going to get out of the race that easily! When we got there, it turns out there was a glitch with Active.com and his registration hadn't gone through! He had to wait in line for same-day registration and completed his registrations just minutes before they closed race day registration. Karma, Mark, karma, hehe.

Once we finally got going, the nerves started to fade and we each ran our own race. I saw Melissa a few times at turnarounds, but other than that, we were all pretty much on our own! Pictures of the trail are courtesy of a runner from Virginia, who was nice enough to email me the pictures after the race! Silly me didn't bring my phone with me, and the scenery was incredible! Despite the monstrous hill, but I will get to that soon enough...
When we started, we were on a paved road, but only for a mile or so. The road quickly turned into a loose dirt/gravel, and stayed that way for a few more miles.
And the route just kept going....
Almost 4 miles in we were directed up a single track switchback that just kept getting narrower and was marked by the orange ribbons tied to trees. There were a few times where I went so long without seeing another living soul that I was certain I had gotten lost. Then I'd see someone else and be reassured that I was on the right path.
This is what the crazy mountain climb was like. Once the route turned into the single track, it started going uphill. Extremely. The race directors mentioned it would be hilly, but they didn't mention that we would run some hilly miles, climb a mountain, and then continue with more normal hills. This part of the trail was a mild part that was much flatter than the rest. As you can see by the view, we were quite a ways up, and this wasn't even the top! There were stretches where I thought my legs were just going to protest and not work anymore, especially on the climbs where you could only get a bit of grip on your toes and had to scurry up because the trail was almost completely vertical. Needless to say, it was intense! Also, I wasn't as acclimated as I thought because once my body hit the crazy mountain track, I definitely gasped for air. A lot of this race was alternating between walking and running for me. I think most everyone walked up the mountain section. All the trails that broke off the main one and headed down the mountain were blocked off, of course. There were a couple of false peaks that made you think it was all downhill from there, but no such luck. Eventually we reached a point where there were volunteers and the trail broke off into two directions: completely uphill or meandering downhill. Sure enough, we were directed up the mountain further, with the disclaimer, "you're almost there!" Almost there my @$$. It was more climbing for what seemed like forever when the trees finally broke and revealed an observation tower and some fine young gentlemen holding the most delicious thing I would ever taste: orange slices. The sweet, succulent juices were a small miracle to my fatigued body and dry mouth. And the relief of going down hill was terrific. I adjusted my knee brace and I was off.

I was sure I was the last person while I was going up this trail. It wasn't until I reached the top and turned around that I realized there actually were some people behind me. I can't explain how wondrous it was to travel down, and how bad I felt for everyone still ascending. I was really excited not to be last, though. Nothing like a little confidence boost :) The route descended down a trail that was different from where we went up. However, it looped onto the same loose dirt road that we started on. As I neared the bottom of the single track that started the hike up the mountain, I remember thinking, "IF THOSE VOLUNTEERS MAKE ME CLIMB THAT *expletive* MOUNTAIN AGAIN, I QUIT!" After the race, I learned both Melissa and Mark had the exact same thoughts, so I guess the volunteers sensed our feelings, and thankfully we were waved past the trail.
Even with my handheld waterbottle, I was so grateful for the water stations and volunteers on the route. They directed us and were a very pleasant reminder that we were still headed in the proper direction. They had also marked the route with powder arrows letting us know where to make turns and where not to.

After the large mountain trek, we continued on twisting, turning roads with large hills. We were also directed around a loop very close to the finish line, which was kindof frustrating. I turned off onto the loop with people who had already finished the loop and were being directed to the finish line, "about a half a mile away." I was very jealous. The loop also contained a hill, surprise, surprise.
Finally I approached the finish line! I think the extreme elevation made my Garmin off in distance because it read just over 12 when the finish line came into view. Everyone else's apps were doing the same thing, though. But at the beginning of the race there were some mile markers that were only .01 off of my Garmin, so I have confidence that the race distance was actually 13.1. I'm counting it as 13.1 regardless. It was a really tough race!
When I saw that Mark and Melissa had their phones in the picture taking position, I grew confident that no one was going to redirect me just before the finish line for another mile. I was finally done. My chaffed legs could stop moving in just a few feet!
SUCCESS! VICTORY! TRIUMPH! RELIEF! All of it mine, and it only took 2 hours and 50 minutes! :) After crossing the finish line, I laid in the shade for a few minutes because my legs refused to hold me in the upright position without threatening to cramp. We waited around a little bit while I recovered, and it was a good thing we did.
Awards were given and Melissa placed second in her age group, and so did Mark! Did I mention it was both of their first half marathons too?! How freakin' cool is that?! Although I didn't place, I am so proud of myself for finishing. I even beat some Colorado natives! Woohoo! I glanced over the registration sheet before the race, though and I definitely traveled the farthest to run it :)
After the race we doubled back and took some pictures of the banner, as more proof that we truly did accomplish so much that Saturday.
We joked about how now we can accomplish anything after tackling the mountain.
Beulah may be a small town, but it's got some big hills!
And some determined visitors ;)
This is my Garmin's satellite map of the trail. Doesn't look so bad from a bird's eye view.
An elevation profile, so you know what I mean when I say a mountain.
And finally, a summary with my splits and the total elevation gain. When every hill was added up, my legs climbed 1,748 feet.

Having the race over was a relief. We were all so proud of our accomplishment for the rest of the vacation. I can't speak for Mark and Melissa, but I still am very proud. Not sure if I'll do that course again, but to say I've tackled it once is amazing.

Safe and happy running!

Colorado Springs Part I: Pre-Race Post

Finally I've gotten around to writing about my vacation! I had such a wonderful time in Colorado with my family :) I've decided to write this really long, picture filled post as a 3 part trilogy, you might say. This post will focus on everything I did leading up to the race. The next post will cover the race, and the final post will talk about things I did after the race. This should make it easier to keep organized and easier for your reading pleasure :)

First things first! MY FIRST PLANE RIDE! I was lucky enough to sit with a wonderful woman who let me have the window seat :) Turns out she's a social work alumni from the very same graduate school I will be attending in just 2 short weeks! Small world!
This is as we are nearing Atlanta. I did well on the plane but got a little queasy with a slight headache. Overall I was extremely at ease, and not bothered by the ridiculous height.
When finally touching down, the view was incredible. You could see for what seemed like hundreds of miles! And the mountains provided a nice directional orientation for those of us who lack navigation skills :)
Everything was just simply gorgeous. Views were breathtaking!
My cousin lives amongst the Black Forest that was ravaged by the fires this summer. Luckily, her house was unscathed by the flames (otherwise the trip wouldn't have been an option!). It was extremely odd how trees across the street from each other, or even right next to each other could have one burnt to a crisp and the next still green and lush.
Did I mention the wildlife? This is a wind scorpion that my cousin's husband caught from their basement. They fed it crickets the entire time I was there... *shudder* Thankfully, there were no major wildlife sightings. No bears, rattlesnakes, or mountain lions!!

The first day there, Wednesday, we shopped at some outlet malls and had dinner at my Aunt's house where I met some of their lifelong friends. I also attempted my first run at altitude (3 miles) and discovered it took much more effort to maintain a 10 minute per mile pace than I was used to. The first mile I huffed and puffed but eventually felt a little better. Thursday morning held another run (also 3 miles) and felt better than the first one. Still a bit out of breath, but definitely easier. I was acclimating well. Thursday morning I also registered for my first semester of grad school! I got all of my first choice classes (which has NEVER happened while registering) so I was in an outstanding mood all day. It set a good tone for my vacation :)
Then, my Aunt, myself, and my cousin Melissa (in that order) boarded the Cog Railway headed for the tippy top of Pike's Peak Mountain.
As we went up, the view just became more spectacular.
Almost there! This lake is the the highest natural lake in the US, I believe. It has been dug deeper by humans, but still was naturally there before we meddled. And that road over to the far left bordering the lake is someone's 17+ mile driveway! The only inhabitants on the mountain :)
Almost there! It's crazy how the treeline just STOPS at a certain elevation. They don't even thin out like I thought they would. Just BAM, goodbye trees!
Finally at the top! We stayed up there for about 20-30 mins, which was plenty of time. My Aunt and cousin felt the elevation a little, so you can imagine that I had a pretty gnarly headache. Just bending down to pick up rocks and then standing back up sent my world spinning a little and stole my breath away.
But the view was totally worth it!! We lucked out on a gorgeous morning so we could actually see everything around us.
And at an elevation of 14,110 feet we definitely had a lot to see!
Like a Sasquatch! Can you spot it?! (just kidding, it's really a person in a coat, but the resemblance is uncanny)
On the way back down we got a view of one of the most dangerous roads in the US. A normal trip up takes about 1.5 hours to cover the 8 or so miles. They do hold a race where cars nearly careen off the edges. Last years winner completed the course in roughly 8 minutes. Melissa and I had fun calculating that if we were running to race the Cog Railway on a flat surface, we could beat it :)
Also on the way down we ate some of the world famous Pike's Peak donuts! Baked at the very top with a special recipe, they are famous for being rock hard by the time you hit the bottom of the mountain, due to the elevation difference. If you bake them anywhere else in the US, they will not come out the same :) Elevation is the secret ingredient (not so secret anymore, I suppose).
Friday held the zoo! Fully equipped with some hungry giraffes. Some even trying to eat their way out of the enclosure, hehe. (there was lettuce in my hand but they snatched it so quickly it was difficult to get a picture with his tongue out and the lettuce still visible)
It was awesome how close we were able to get to all the animals. These hippos were just lazing about on the fine morning we visited :)
Melissa's adorable kids accompanied us on most of our treks to touristy locations.
They were absolutely precious and so well behaved! I loved having the kids around because they brought a youthful, innocent spark of energy to everything we did. When around kids I feel like I appreciate things more, seeing life through their wondrous, curious little eyes.
We ended Friday by dropping the kids off at Mark's parents and checking into a hotel in Pueblo, Colorado so we wouldn't have to drive as far to Beulah in the morning. Some pre-race drinks settled our nerves so we could sleep like babies the night before.

And that is where this post shall end. My vacation was packed, but I wouldn't have had it any other way! I got to experience so much. It was such a wonderful experience! My next post will let you know all about the race!

Safe and happy running!