Oh, Portland!

This past weekend I did a little exploring on the west coast. Oregon was one of the many states that I hadn’t been to yet so a few weeks ago I booked a flight, sent Erin an email and made plans to harass the crew at the Columbia HQ. I flew into Portland late on Thursday night and Erin was at the airport waiting for me…and that was only the beginning of a weekend of being spoiled by Erin and Brian!

We arrived at their new home and I was welcomed with the cutest list of things to do around Portland, snacks and car keys. We crashed as soon as we found our pillows then got up early to take on the day! Erin and Brian headed to work like responsible adults and I wandered off to explore Portland! Up first, Multnomah Falls!

IMG_20141114_104741163IMG_20141114_105217613IMG_20141114_105332578IMG_20141114_105420996

Thanks to crazy ice on the roads as I ventured east it took me about 90 minutes to get to the falls. Holy ice! When you’re driving around a new state you learn all sorts of interesting things…like how Oregon doesn’t really do ice removal or provide legitimate pull off areas for truckers to put chains on! The last stretch of interstate was…interesting, to say the least. But once I got to Multnomah Falls…wow!

IMG_20141114_105518938

At first I was going to just take a few photos from the bridge but the sign said it was just a mile to the top…and who doesn’t want to see the top of a waterfall?! Turns out the top of waterfalls are kind of boring. However, the river leading up to the gigantic drop?! Absolutely gorgeous, especially when covered with inches of pristine white snow! Whip cream snow!

IMG_20141114_112104958IMG_20141114_112135971IMG_20141114_112919994

I made the trek up to the waterfall overlook, explored the river trail for a bit and then ran down the trail. It felt so good to just run. My Achilles was happy, the air was crisp and the snow was crunchy. I was a freaking pile of smiles when I got back to the car! Up next…lunch with Tori, a tour of the Columbia Headquarters and more Portland exploring with my very own Tori tour guide! We visited Pittock Mansion, nearly died on a black ice parking lot and took a few selfies with all of Portland behind us…then wandered around the trendy part of town and filled ourselves with lattes before parting ways for dinner.

IMG_20141114_153057146_HDRIMG_20141114_181956033
Portland in the afternoon…Portland after dark!

Erin, Brian and I went for “eclectic” and had dinner at Le Bistro Montage, an interesting place “under the bridge” where we got to try alligator! After a stop at Deschutes Brewery we called it a night…far too early to say we experienced the Portland nightlife but we had big plans on Saturday. The “just in case” email I sent out to my mom said we were going to backpack the Three Fingered Jack Loop, a 20-ish mile trek in the Cascade Range between Portland and Bend. That’s not exactly what happened…but we still had an awesome, snowy week! More on that later…

Winter is here!

Well, winter finally showed up in Colorado. We had far more weeks of 65+ degree weather than we should in October/November but that all changed yesterday! On Monday I showed up at the office in Fort Collins at 8am…it was 62 degrees and sunny. By 10:15am it was 28 degrees and snowing sideways. Welcome to Colorado where the weather cannot make up it’s mind!

B2HizGqCQAE_TtA
The change in weather in Boulder from the CU campus…all photos were taken within a 4 hour time span by Chris Nie.

By the time I left the office yesterday it was cold but dry. Seriously. There was but a tiny dusting of snow on my car! I was all sorts of bummed about the lack of snow. Until I flipped through my Twitter feed. Denver got a fair bit of snow…during the hours that everyone is attempting to drive home. I’m a terrible person as I giggled at many of the rants posted online. Hello first snow of the season…the one day each year when multiple silly accidents on main highways are mandatory! I guess “small town” living in Fort Collins isn’t that bad after all…

IMG_20141110_163853

Lucky for the snow lover that lives inside of me snow decided to show up overnight. I spent about 15 minutes post-alarm laying in bed trying to find an excuse to avoid the gym [I’m trying to be good and cross train, this is a prime example of my success]. I didn’t want to. It was cold. The gym would still be there after work. My back was weirdly achy after Sunday’s hike. The bed was warm. The cat looked comfy at my feet. You get the point…

Eventually I got up and looked outside. SNOW! Yay snow! Screw the gym, I was going for a run! My phone proclaimed a temperature of just 14 degrees but I didn’t care. I added a few layers, tucked my hair up in a beanie and headed outside to play! It wasn’t nearly as cold as I expected 14 degrees to feel and by the time I returned home I wasn’t cold at all, I was actually sweaty!

IMG_20141111_064923874IMG_20141111_065235441

That run was exactly what my day needed…it got me up, it got me moving and it got me smiling. Turns out not all dark, cold mornings are a bad thing! Sometimes a little time spent lost in your own head is exactly what you need! I’m finally taking on a day motivated with a glimmer of hope that I’ll actually be able to take on the checklist I have staring at me! Welcome back Achilles tendon…and bring on winter, I’m ready!

Escaping to the Mountains

After a long week with many, many moments of “gah, I wish I could just turn the internet off” I spent my weekend doing exactly that. Sure, I had my phone on me and yea, I double tapped posts on Instagram but in the grand scheme of things…the internet did not matter!

It started with a friendly meet up with Chris and Marissa in Boulder. It was a freaking gorgeous day with bluebird skies and temperatures that should have left us in September. We spent some quality time frolicking around trails and making fools of ourselves before we decided we’d earned our weight in fries + beer. I guess the internet isn’t all bad if it gets you friends like these crazies…

IMG_20141108_132252712IMG_20141108_132452407IMG_20141108_105121401

After inhaling more than my share of food [and stealing a toddler’s leftover in a to-go box… #donotjudgeme] I headed west for the mountains. I was in search of snow…but not very optimistic as I didn’t pack any legitimate snow gear. A few Summit County resorts are open [Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone] but the majority of the runs are still grass green! Heck, I didn’t even wear my jacket to dinner with my Saturday night…it was just that warm, even at 10,000+ feet! Where the heck is winter?! [spoiler: it’s showing up this week!]

The mountainous version of my weekend started with a trip over Loveland Pass on my way to Silverthorne. I was hoping to catch the sunset and I timed it perfectly, except for the gigantic mountain range the settled between me and the actual colorful part of the sunset. Even so, it was insanely beautiful and peaceful at the knoll above the Loveland Pass parking area! It was refreshing to just lay out on the rock and let the wind drown out the traffic as the sky darkened! Even more proof winter hadn’t fully arrived yet?! I was perfectly comfortable at nearly 12,000 feet in just leggings + a puffy…and it was stupidly windy!

IMG_20141108_171444404_HDRIMG_20141108_172130727

As the sun continued its descent I drove down into Silverthorne where I met up with friends/invited myself over. Sunday morning made up for all the colors I missed out on during Saturday night’s sunset – if only I’d had the energy to wake myself two hours earlier for a sunrise summit! Next time! After a let’s-see-who-can-eat-the-most breakfast two of us decided to make the most of the day and go snow hunting [the others took the “responsible adult” route and kept working on a remodel project]. We packed up our bags, loaded the dog into the car and headed for the Peak One trailhead in Frisco.

IMG_20141109_123008530_HDR
Mt Victoria is off to the left, Peak One is in the distance. Yea, that’s why we opted for just Mt Victoria.

Our goal was a summit of Peak One. Well, that’s what we said on the way to the trailhead but my true goal was a happy Achilles + some snow worth frolicking in. At the end of the day we got…a Mt Victoria summit, an only-slightly-annoyed Achilles and almost no snow. Eh. I still can’t complain, the weather was beautiful, the hike made my legs earn their keep and no outting is boring if half your time on the trail is spent sharing “worst impression made in a foreign country” stories…

IMG_20141109_110255569IMG_20141109_110532643
That face…that’s how we felt about more climbing. Our hike up was much quieter than our scramble down!

Besides, it was a STEEP climb! Anyone who knows anything about me knows…I just might excel at whining. Turns out it takes just a ONE hike with me before you’re warning others of this fun little fact. But this whining streak I am apparently on is not actually my fault. You see, I never want to disappoint someone or fall short of their expectations so I do my best to live up to the “she whines a lot” reputation I seem to be building. This hike was no different. We made it approximately 200 feet from the car when the first whine escaped. “My feet are hot!” Oops.

IMAG0360[1]IMG_20141109_124549759
Our summit photos…and yes, that is exactly what the front pockets of the UD Wink are for [Mt Dew + snacks!]

On the plus side; uphill hiking = not so much talking. By the time we made it up Mt Victoria and decided we were happy with our day I was done whining about the climb and had moved on to squeaking awkwardly on the descent. There wasn’t much snow but what did exist was hard packed on steep, rocky terrain. There was a lot of slipping, sliding and “oh, hi there tree” moments.

We created the next big thing…lightweight, removable traction contraptions to strap onto your shoes with hiking down slick packed snow. I think we’ll call them MiniSpikes! [Yes, I know there are MircoSpikes and YaxTrax and all that jazz but neither of us packed them…clearly because they weren’t invented yet, not because we’re idiots.]

Did I have a good weekend?! Heck yes, sometimes the simple weekends are the best and you can’t go wrong with mountain explorations + a nobody-thought-I-was-smart-enough Settlers of Catan win! Am I super pumped to be back in the land of the-internet-is-always-on? Heck no, but it’s a short week…up next is a trip to Portland and I hear there is a backpacking trip on the agenda!

The Indian Creek Fifties [A Volunteer’s POV]

I unfolded my legs and wobbled a bit as I got out of my car at 9pm on Saturday night. It took a few steps before my hips felt normal again. My entire day was spent at the Indian Creek Fifties near Sedalia, CO and by my random whines you would think I had actually ran the races, but…no. Turns out an untrained body who knows the couch better than the local trails gets sore after 14 hours of volunteering!

My original plan for the weekend was to run the Indian Creek 50K with Marissa as it was her first ultra and it would be my first big run back after the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 mile race. Apparently my Achilles did not get the confirmation email from UltraSignUp because it was NOT on board for any sort of running in the weeks leading up to the races. I decided to listen to my body and pass on actually running but I’d already thought up my costume for the race so I headed to the race as a costumed volunteer!

IMG_20141031_201351446

With my last minute decision to not run the race I didn’t take the time to actually sign up as a volunteer. Instead I showed up at 5am with a headlamp strapped to my head and a bundle of energy ready for orders. I wanted to be at the finish line when Marissa came in so I took on the role of “RD’s bitch” and did whatever was needed. This kind of evolved into manning the Reservation aid station – which was right near the start/finish. Other volunteers had to come and go but my only goal for the day was to fully support Marissa in every way possible so I had no where else to be until she crossed that finish line.

If you want to see some incredible things happen…volunteer at a race!

Seriously, if you’re in a slump with your own running or recovering from an injury or just considering a running longer distances do a quick Google search of ultras or trail races in your area then get your butt there as a volunteer.

You will see runners at their highest high and runners at their lowest lows.
You will get a chance to swap stories with fellow volunteers who are nearly all runners of some sort.
You will be the one that gives that encouraging word that gets the runner out there when they don’t think they can keep going.
You will make a difference in their race and they will give you a lesson in appreciating what you have.
You will walk away exhausted but stupidly inspired to run all the miles!

All that sounds like a mushy gushy way of convincing you to give up your free weekend to deal with stinky, sweaty, exhausted runners…and that is exactly what it is. But I promise I’m not lying about any of it!

IMG_20141101_055826367IMG_20141101_055832801

This past weekend at the Indian Creek Fifties I spilled sticky electrolyte mixes all over myself, nearly singed off my eyebrows multiple times [do NOT trust me with propane and a lighter], heated and reheated soup, dumped opened SCaps on noodles [intentionally, so tasty!], rubbed BodyGlide on strangers and balanced ice packs on swollen joints.

That’s the less glamorous side of volunteering at ultras and NOT the reason I was out there…but I still loved every sticky, stinky second of it.

I was really there for the people…the runners!

Like the girl dressed up as a slice of pepperoni pizza [whom we all called PIZZA!] that came limping into mile 15 with a wrapped knee but would not even entertain the idea of calling the race. Instead she did a little creative stretching, sucked down a few ibuprofen and headed back out, determined to cover 32+ miles. A few hours later she was back…running down the finish line chute with a big ol’ grin on her face. As soon as she crossed that finish line and got her mug her grin became a grimace. She fought through a lot of pain to get to the finish line, the least I could do was fill her mug with beer, hand her a cup of hot soup and balance an ice pack on her knee! Oh, and she ran the entire freaking race in that pizza costume! You better believe she won the costume contest!

DCIM\103GOPRO

Or Mike, a runner who started the race gunning for a 50 mile finish. But then he found “the rock” along the course and decided to drop down to the 50K and bring it in. What is “the rock”? It’s a 56lb rock painted bright orange that the RD places along the course. For the IC50s it was roughly 3 miles away from the finish. Who ever brought it across the finish line would receive $250…Mike opted for the money, not the miles. This might not sound like a big deal but don’t hate until you’ve tried to carry an awkward 56lb rock over technical trail after running 30+  miles!

IMG_20141101_12131310910606032_679056718857546_8318906076561566478_n
Mike at Indian Creek + Othman at TommyKnocker – both are $250 richer!

Then there was Meaghan, one of my pacers at Run, Rabbit, Run, who came into mile 15 a very happy camper with high hopes for the day. She was on a roll and loving the trails. I was insanely excited for her…this would be her first ultra and I was going to be there to see it go down! The next time we saw her she was running down the road headed for the finish line but her silly “yay I did it” grin alternated with a “just kill me now” grimace with every step. She was hurting, a lot. After a very teary hug I plopped her down in a chair and had the honor of pulling her shoe off a swollen foot. The relief on her face with the ice pack settled over her ankle was palpable! According to her the race doesn’t start until mile 26…then it chews you up and spits you out! But she did it…she ran a freaking 50K! She hasn’t quite come around to “ooh, let’s do another” just yet but I think there is hope, we just need to give that selective memory a little time to kick in! Meaghan learned the hard way what a mental + physical suffer fest an ultra can be…but she also learned that she can survive it! This is going to give her so much in future races!

IMG_20141101_092804167DCIM\103GOPRO

Last but not least, Marissa! Oh, Marissa! I am so incredibly proud of her! I cannot put into words how elated I was to see her come into the finish with a stupid grin on her face! Val was kind enough to take my bib and run with Marissa, a true act of kindness I am so thankful for! We saw them at the Reservation AS about 4.5 hours into their race. It’s insane to think that by the time Marissa made it to the 15 mile AS she’d already hit a PDR by 2 miles! Every single step past 13 miles was new territory for her and she took on each step with a smile! After watching runners come into the finish line exhausted, bruised and shocked by the terrain I was a little worried that Marissa may actually kill me for telling her this was a good idea. But she shocked us all with a bouncy, happy finish! I’ll let you read her recap for all the details but I can say we are all [yes, ALL!] so impressed with her finish and her attitude throughout the entire race! If she has any desire to go further she is going to rock it – especially with more experience + training!

IMG_20141101_101801433IMG_20141101_171359204

And then we have Micah who called it after 18ish miles and was shocked by how much encouragement he got from other runners as he hiked his way back to the Reservation AS. And Christoph who became a volunteer after getting bestest by a cranky IT band. And Jared who willing laid down after 50K just for some deep tissue abuse so he could head back out with his pacer for a 50M finish. And Steve who’ll I’ll always remember as the “DON’T SUCK” guy from the TommyKnocker races. And Becca who dominated the 50K to finish as the first female. And Courtney who fought through to the 50M finish as the first female while battling the flu. And Val who stuck by Marissa’s side every step of the way sharing all of her ultra knowledge. And Laurie who ran the 50K and is the sweetest, most encouraging person I’ve ever met. And…Lesli and Milan and Luke and…yea, I could keep going but you get the point.

1010485_707440786019139_3860524430770502297_n

There were 120+ runners that took on the second Human Potential Running Series event and they all did incredible! Many have been so encouraging with my slightly stupid approach to ultras this summer and I am forever thankful for that. Others were complete strangers that allowed me to dig in their drop bags, force food into their hands, and tape their nipples. The ultra running community is a special bunch and I am so glad to be part of it…even when it’s gross and stinky!

But this all goes beyond the runners and volunteers — there are kids who get involved too! I had Margo helping me for 90% of the day! She was fantastic and so helpful! When I was helping unload Noodles + Company at the post-race tent she was manning the Reservation AS 100% solo. She served up warm soup, filled up soda cups, kept the food stocked and was always right there next to a runner ready to do whatever they needed. I have no idea how old she is [I’m terrible at guessing kid’s ages!] but I was impressed with how awesome and patient she was! Her dad ran the 50K so she knows a thing or two about ultras…the ultra community definitely isn’t dying with families + kids like this!

My Achilles is finally on the mend – I ran FIVE MILES on Sunday, no residual crankiness! – but if it gives up on me again I’ll just keep getting my fix by crewing and volunteering at ultras. That’s not weird, right?! If only one could become a full time race volunteer…

Six Weeks Waiting…

On this Monday, six weeks ago I got to sleep in and no one was allowed to judge me for it. I was also incredible proud of myself for walking down a flight of stairs without limping or whimpering and I was weirdly proud of my enormous cankles. It was the Monday after my Run, Rabbit, Run 100 mile finish. I was feeling accomplished and I thought I was prepared to take some time off my feet for recovery.

Going into RRR100 I told my crew + pacers that I was willing to get injured if it got me across the finish line. I knew the cards were stacked against me – I’d spent my “peak weeks” of training sitting on my butt nursing an overuse injury in my right Soleus/Achilles, I was just lucky to be toeing the start line undertrained rather than injured. I remember saying “I don’t care if I have to give up running for three months, I want to finish!” more than once during RRR100.

I finished…but I finished injured. It wasn’t until three weeks after the race that I realized just how much I jacked up my left Achilles [note: not the one I was giving all sorts of TLC pre-race]. After three weeks of very strict “no running or hiking” I laced up my shoes and headed out to Matthews/Winters Park for a test run before driving west for a 14er summit. Yea, that tester run didn’t go that great and that 14er summit never happened…just putting on running shoes pissed off my Achilles. Running didn’t hurt but walking did and my tendon was all sorts of crunchy by the time I got back to my car. That Monday I stopped by to visit my PT…

Matthews/Winters ParkNature's ice bath
Matthews/Winters Park + Mother Nature’s ice bath.

In the week right after the race I visited my PT for a quick “nothing is actually broken” once over so she knew just how crunchy and swollen my Achilles was [actually went to go get another PT just to have a “whoa, how are you walking on that?!” chat…I felt badass, or maybe just a little silly for taking an injury that far]. Luckily she said my Achilles was healing and it was much better than it was during my last visit. That was encouraging. But then she told me I just needed to rest…I get how that is incredibly important, I really do, but I was starting to go stir crazy! It had been nearly 9 weeks since I was able to do anything without the linger thought of “uh oh, my body isn’t going to like this…” and I just wanted to be carefree about running + hiking + whatever’ing again!

Lily Pad Lake Trailhead SilverthorneLily Pad Lake Trailhead SilverthorneLily Pad Lake Trailhead Silverthorne
An easy hike to Lily Pad Lake in Silverthorne, CO

My face must have said all of those things and more because she followed that up with something along the lines of “we could do more dry needling right on the tendon, it won’t fix everything immediately but it will speed up the process”…and I answered with a quick “yes, please”. If you’ve ever had a muscle dry needled let me just say directly into a tendon is completely different. The muscle is a deep, cramp-y pain with visible muscle spasms, the tendon is an acute pain with a burning sensation. When needling a muscle the PT can usually see and feel the reaction when they find the right spot, when working on a tendon the reaction is more subtle and I spend a lot of time talking her through what I’m feeling. It’s interesting, to say the least…

St Mary's Glacier Idaho SpringsSt Mary’s Glacier – a short drive off I-70 and quick hike uphill.

It’s even more interesting to actually feel what the PT feels. When we were working on the tendons on the top of my foot [since I was already there with the needles and those tendons were sort of cranky…] she actually let me poke and spin the needles once she put them in my foot. Sounds so gross but it was actually really cool! I could feel when the needles grabbed onto fibers and felt them twist – both in my foot and in my hand when the tension increased. So weird!

Anywho…we’re now three weeks into dry needling on my left Achilles and while the tendon isn’t 100% back in the game yet it has made some HUGE progress! I’m not pain free 98% of the time and I’m allowed back on my feet for short distances and/or low impact exploring, which is awesome. Heck, this past weekend I even ran a 5K with friends! It was low key and involved costumes…who says “no” to something like that?!

Phantom 5K Loveland
A highlighter + a jazzerciser + Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter

I’m also doing my part to be a responsible runner and joined a gym. Yup, a gym. Not only did I give them my money…I showed up, twice! The cleanliness of my teeth and general appearance of my hair has been suffering since I’m focusing on upper body strength training but it feels SO good to have a routine again! That sounds cliché but I swear I’m not exaggerating. Yea, I still hate my alarm at 5:07am but it feels good to [eventually] get up, be active and feel accomplished before I even sit down at my desk at work!

Plus, if I have any hope of surviving the big plans I have for next year I need to do more than just lackadaisically run around mountain trails. I wish I was the kind of runner who could pull 100+ mile races out of a hat but I’m not…so I’m going to do what I need to in order to avoid another long stint of nursing an injury! If this involves strength training and yoga, fine.

On a less positive note – oh. my. goodness. The back and forth fixed/not fixed crap my body is throwing at me right now is literally making me crazy! It is so incredibly frustrating…and this frustration has nothing to do with “oh, I’m losing my climbing legs” or numbers on a scale and everything to do with the fact I am so tired of saying “sorry, I can’t run” when invited out on trail runs or mountain hikes. Turns out a huge part of my social life went down on the trails and now I’m only around for the beer + burgers post-run fun. Which isn’t all bad, but come on body…I’m being nice to you, get your freaking act together!

Motivation to Move

What motivates you to get outside and explore? Who is the one person that is always there to give you that extra push to move? If you’re feeling lazy where do you go for a little inspiration? Is there a certain group of people you depend on to keep you accountable day in + day out?

What is your motivation to move!?

For me…I don’t have a quick answer. I don’t have one individual in my life that keeps me going, instead I have a whole passel of #runablers that are forever giving me a reason to try something new. I don’t have a single goal that gets me out the door every day, I have an entire range of mountains on the horizon full of single track just calling my name.

That is what keeps me going, what gives me a reason to get up at 4am for a training run, encourages me to eat ice cream instead of try to out run an injury, keeps me grounded when things get surreal and has me asking questions even if they seem stupid.

The People

I’m not exactly experienced enough to offer up much good trail running advice but if you asked me about the one thing I could not succeed without I only have one simple answer…the people in my life who are forever encouraging and supporting crazy ideas. Or, as I like to call them, my #runablers. People like Lynne, Marissa, Paula, Logan and Heather [and so many more!] who don’t hesitate to say “you’re crazy…let me help you survive the misery”.

2013-05-31-20.19.352013-06-15-11.48.18

But it goes beyond my circle of friends and expands to people whose names I may never know, people I only recognize when they are in running attire and have a bib pinned to their shorts, people who sacrifice personal time and energy to help strangers with no expectations of reciprocation, people who offer up support and encouragement to their competitors because they understand what they’re going through. In the past year I’ve encountered a lot of people like this through the running community…both on the road and on the trail, during 5Ks and triple digit ultras distances, through Twitter, forums and friends of friends of friends.

It is this community that motivates me to get my butt outside to train, explore and give back. This community is an eclectic mix of strong wills, hot heads and inflated egos…but if you take the time to look past that you’ll find those willing to offer up endless encouragement, advice buried in personal experiences and daily doses of motivation. These are the people that make up the backbone of the community; the people I seek out when I need someone to say “well, I think you’re an idiot but let me help you prove us all wrong!” or “you’re totally capable of this…here’s my two cents, feel free to take it or leave it”.

2013-08-03 12.20.40

If you haven’t found this part of the community yet…don’t give up! Put yourself out there…take opportunities to run with others, show up for run groups at your local running store, jump into #runchat and #ultrachat conversations, read up on posts + ask questions in the Trail and Ultra Running Facebook group, humbly accept advice but take every single word as a grain of salt. It may seem overwhelming at first, trust me, I’ve been there – it’s nerve-racking to be the newbie in a group but you’ll never have a chance to experience this community as I know it without showing up and taking a chance!

The Mountains

You know those days when people are annoying, conversations are stupid and you feel inadequate + judged for every thought your brain forms? I can’t be the only person that occasionally has moments like this, right!? Or maybe this is weird problem that only I have? Regardless, this is when I know I need to escape…I need to get my country girl fix with a trip into the mountains where a cell signal cannot find me. This is when the mountains are a true motivator!

IMG_20140727_071434085

Sure, the mountains are a great motivator on a daily basis…they are always on the horizon reminding me I need to be nice to my body so it can hike the winding trails and that I need to plan my workload wisely so I can escape to a trailhead for a little alone time on a regular basis. But it is knowing that, even with “life happens” at the most inconvenient times, the mountains will always be there just waiting for me to show up.

100_6840

It seems weird giving inanimate rock formations so much credit but I know they’ll be there when I need them and they will never judge me. They might chew me up and spit me out but they’ll never turn me away. Instead they’ll let me wander around, experience the best and worst of Mother Nature and return to the city with a new take on life and a refreshed understanding of priorities and personal purpose.

Are my motivations to move a little vague and far fetched? Well, I didn’t think so until I tried to explain them but their my motivators and I’m sticking to them! If you’re busy judging me for being crazy…come visit, I’ll show you how therapeutic a trip to the mountains can be and just how selfless the running community in Colorado is! But be careful what you wish for, you may end up moving to Colorado or impulse signing up for race!

PS – I do need to give credit where credit is due and say that my mother is a huge motivator! I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve done something crazy and thought “well, I can’t help that I’m my mother’s daughter…” and then called her with the story. I am the person I am today because of her and I truly hope she takes that as a compliment!

Disclaimer: The motivation to take a look at my own motivators and write this post came from Oscar Health Insurance, an health insurance provider in New York + New Jersey. They suggested this topic to me in correlation with Health Literacy Month. They are not compensating me for this post in any way, with apparel, gear or money…they simply provided a suggestion and I ran with it because it got me thinking! These truly are mot motives and if you can find something similar to get your tush outside for a little fun on the trails then…mission accomplished! 

Get Involved: Tommyknocker Ultras Volunteering

The past few months have revolved around running…but I haven’t always been the one with a bib pinned to my shorts! I have discovered that some of the best motivation and inspiration to get yourself outside for a run is to help others do the same. And the best way to do this?! Volunteer at a race! You’ll get to watch runners take on new distances, push the pace, turn an ultra around and just enjoy life. It makes you want to get out there yourself…but it’s also a reminder that running without fully recovering is a bad idea!

Just over a month ago I roped Marissa into volunteering at the Tommyknocker Ultras in Woodland Park, CO. I was a volunteer at this race by default – I had been working with Human Potential behind the scenes and I wanted to watch their first official race unfold. Since racing a 50K the weekend before Run, Rabbit, Run 100 would have been a terrible idea I showed up to volunteer instead. I knew the Race Director and most of his core crew personally so when I arrived with Marissa in tow the night before the race they didn’t hesitate to put us to work. Our first task? Rock hunting.

IMG_20140906_122136770 Recovering after some intense rock hunting…next to the tent we rented from Auckland Outdoors!

Yup, rock hunting. We needed a rock for the start [the race was named after miners and there was an axe – the race would be started/finished with an axe into a rock]. We may have been in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains but there were NO rocks to be found! We actually had to drive a mile or so down the road and wrangle a rock from the woods. I kid you not. At the very least my poor Forester earned it’s keep that night!

The next morning we were all up bright and early to get everything ready for the 8am start. Marissa and I handled last minute check-ins then became the RD’s chauffeur once the race started. We headed out to check in on various aid stations and make sure the runners were not getting lost. The aid stations were doing great…but the runners were struggling with the course markings. Not so much because they weren’t there…but because a rather disgruntled landowner decided to re-route the race course! This homeowner didn’t want people running near his property, even though the course was on a very public forest service road. Rather than just suck it up and go about life like a grown adult this landowner chose to play with bright orange spray paint + marking tape and send the poor Tommyknocker runners all over the countryside!’

IMG_20140906_133613615
…it was a beautiful countryside, but when you’re lost, thirsty and tired it’s easy to stop caring about the views!

At the end of the day the runners either ran a 25 miles or 40 miles…definitely not ideal. However, Human Potential and its crew gets kudos for jumping into action to do as much damage control as possible. Volunteers were sent out to remark the course and then run it in reverse to find racers and a roaming aid station was put into play to keep the redirected runners hydrated and fed. This was definitely a situation that could have been much worse – it was far from ideal for Human Potential’s first race but it did give Human Potential an opportunity to prove just how much they care about the runners.

As for my day?! I had a blast volunteering! I got to sleep in an open field, eat donuts for breakfast, snag handfuls of Jelly Belly’s from various aid stations, stay fueled with “vacation coffee”, spray paint a mini boulder bright orange, sprint through pouring rain and nom down on finish line BBQ. Worth the drive? You betcha! Will I be out to volunteer again? Of course!

IMG_9156IMG_20140906_122314374

Up next with Human Potential? The Indian Creek Fifties in Sedalia on November 1st. Will I be there? You betcha, only this time I’ll be a runner! Marissa got the itch to take on an ultra while volunteering at the Tommyknocker Ultras so it’s only appropriate for her to have her first race over 13.1 miles go down with Human Potential, right?! Not up for running an ultra yet?! Come out and volunteer…you never know what you may talk yourself into!

Beyond the Filters

When the majority of your life is spent online it is EXTREMELY easy to topple over the event horizon and spiral down the black hole of “their life is SO much cooler than mine, why do I suck so much?!”. Trust me, I know this. I spend an insane amount of time online and since Twitter is literally my job I cannot just shut off the computer and walk away. I am required to pay attention to everyone else’s adventures + accomplishments + awesome lives. It’s inspirational, it’s motivating and it’s full of gorgeous pictures.

It is also extremely easy to hate on my own life because it isn’t one gigantic snow capped mountain surrounded by farting unicorns and the perfectly composed photo. On the weekends I can turn this off. I can walk away from Instagram, from Twitter, from Feedly…and just get lost in my own little mountain bubble where the mountains majestic and the weather is perfect and everything feels right.

IMG_20141005_102955670_HDR

But then Monday morning rolls around…and I get to spend hours scrolling through feeds filled with stories everyone else’s fantastic weekend full of perfect adventures and laughable mishaps. It’s so easy to let yourself tip toe over that tiny gray line that takes you from “ooh, that looks incredible, someday I’ll do that!” to “ugh, why did I even bother with my tiny recovery hike, what they did looks SO much cooler!”. It’s a sad, scary place to be. At the moment your jealous is hiding it but deep down you know you’re adventure was just a great…because every moment you get to go outside and explore is a moment worth living.

So, how do you avoid that black hole of self doubt?! You put life into perspective. You pay attention to what’s going on around you, in real life…not behind the filters of Instagram or the vague tweets on Twitter. You forget about what the internet cares about and you live.

On your drive up Lefthand Canyon on a mission to get some fall weather running footage/photos for the internet you notice the family enjoying their time together in the very river that ripped their lives apart last year [an area that was heavily damaged in the 2013 Colorado floods]. You pick up on how they are finding a way to be happy and make the most of life, even if their garage is literally a pile of sticks behind them.

IMG_20140928_163948800_HDRIMG_20140928_173209558_HDR

You take the time to chat with someone at a trailhead and offer up the water you have in the car when you realize they were seriously banking on the “seasonal closure” of this trailhead’s water access to come a week later. Rather than be jealous of the incredible mountain biking photos they will have to post online you can give them mad respect for taking on their longest ride ever along trails you’ve only run in short segments.

When chatting up a friend about the less exciting parts of training for an ultra [such as nutrition and balancing life + running and all that jazz] you learn that their running has been a whole lot more than the smiley emoticons that show up on Instagram. This leads to a long conversation with almost nothing off limits and you walk away with a new found respect for every single one of their goals, their failures and their successes!

IMG_20141005_110432734

This is when the reality check of “oh, right…everything posted online is filtered!” slaps you in the face. And it’s not just the Valencia filter on Instagram we’re talking about here. People are posting about the exciting parts of their lives. They are sharing only the version of themselves they want the internet to see…only the parts that are worthy of double taps and RT’s and comments. Because that is what the internet is all about. That’s why we love the internet, and it’s also why we sometimes hate ourselves far more than we ever should.

With this realization you can go back to being proud of the reality that is your life, back to being happy about the adventures you managed to fit into your busy life schedule, back to being satisfied with the accomplishments you have pulled off against all odds. This is the moment when your leap away from the self doubt side of that tiny gray line and firmly plant yourself on the motivational side. This is when the internet and all of its social platforms goes back to being a never ending stream of inspiration, encouragement and excuses to get your butt outside to make your own story to share! Don’t let all of the filters make you forget about this moment…

Currently.

Welcome to October. I kind of love this month. Partly because it’s my birthmonth and while I don’t actually celebrate all month long you better believe I pull out the “but it’s my birthmonth…” whine on occasion! And partly because October’s weather means leggings + boots + sweaters + scarves are back to being a staple in my life…and will stay a staple for about 5 months because Colorado is just that awesome!

Subaru Commercial in Colorado

Since the blog has been all about my running I thought I’d kidnap this “currently” post idea from Lynn at lgsmash to get some random thoughts + feelings out there without boring you all to death! So, currently, this is what’s going on in my life…

…discovering new music, like LP, an artist that pairs nicely with Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson station.

…attempting to budget, like the grown adult I’m supposed to be, even if it means I can’t buy all the gear.

…adding to my “grown adult” to-do list with fun things like oil changes and dentist appointments.

…truly enjoying my time away from running, sleeping in until 7:30am is amazing, btw!

…planning a long weekend trip to the PNW, just because I can and to see a few smiling faces!

…playing Betty Crocker with my crock pot, so much soup + stew!

…compiling a “must buy” list of gear for upcoming fastpacking trips — ENO hammocksUD FastPack, etc.

…killing spiders, the one part of fall I hate, especially with an old house/poor fitting screens!

…binge watching New Girl, Parenthood and How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, don’t judge!

…toying with the idea of making strength/yoga a regular part of my life using Paige + Kait for inspiration.

…eyeballing ultrasignup.com, yup, I’m ready to start planning for next year’s races!

…finding happy in the little things, because that really is what life is all about, right?

…getting excited to hit the trails again, my body is nearly ready!

And there you have it, my life in a tiny little nutshell. It’s amazing how much extra time you have when you’re not up early to go running and spending your weekends on the trails. I’m missing my trail time but I’ve truly enjoyed my couch time…and ice cream time, because you bet your booty the ice cream is still happening on a [nearly] daily basis!

Happy October y’all…get outside and enjoy it!

Chasing Fall Colors

Guess what?! Fall is here! The mornings are cold, the afternoons are toasty and the trees are getting yellow. Oh, the beauty of fall. Of course, the spiders are moving INTO my room and the tree out front is dropping it’s annoying pods all over the yard…but I’m going to go ahead and focus on the good parts of fall. Like how it’s time for the boots + leggings + scarf outfits to become a staple in my life!

Fall is the one time I really miss Wisconsin. In Wisconsin the fall colors are stunning – from red, to yellow, to orange, to purple, to… The rolling hills are covered in colorful trees. I’d walk through frost tipped grass in the morning and be stripped down to a tank top come afternoon. The bugs were finally gone and even the midday heat was bearable without humidity. And as a farm girl most of my fall memories revolve around moving calves/cows to their winter homes, winterizing the water troughs and claiming the “good” blaze orange layers before hunting season comes around. It was busy on the farm, but the good kind of busy, the excited kind of busy.

Fall Colors - Fort Collins
The trails along Horsetooth Reservoir…taken on my last long run before Run Rabbit Run, the perfect confidence booster after a month off!

Here in Colorado it’s a little different. The only color we get is the aspen yellow with a touch of red bushes here and there. But the mountains aren’t alive with color like the hills are in Wisconsin. Instead they are speckled with groves of aspens that make the otherwise green mountains look rather infected with a yellow plague. Don’t get me wrong, the aspens are gorgeous, but this Wisconsin girl misses her maples and oaks!

Of course, I probably shouldn’t complain since “fall” goes from September-February here in Colorado…by Wisconsin standards. And fall really is the perfect time to get outside to explore. Most of the tourists have headed home because of their children’s school schedules and even the locals have gotten to busy catching up on “real life” during the shoulder season so the trails are often nearly empty.

Fall Colors - Fort Collins
oooh, look…a little bit of red!

This is exactly what we experienced last weekend at Rainbow Lakes near Nederland. I met up with a friend who used to race with me on the Boulder Running Company Race Team for a little excursion into the mountains. I was on full blown recovery mode so our hike was short and it ended with an ice cream stop at Sweet Cow [even though I did have Glacier cookies + cream ice cream for breakfast, don’t judge…it was in the name of recovery!].

On the drive up to Rainbow Lakes the aspens lining the road were stunning! Somehow I have lived in Colorado for three falls and this is the first time I’ve actually experienced the vibrancy of the aspens at their peak! It was truly amazing and the photos do not begin to do the colors justice! The pictures don’t capture the leaves floating on the breeze or the crisp bite in the air and they only get a hint of the true color. I hope I can remember just how incredible it was to experience first hand so I make the time to head into the mountains around this time next fall!

Fall Colors - Nederland

After a rather long drive along these beautiful mountain roads we finally made it to the Rainbow Lakes campground where we piled out of the car [3 people, 2 dogs] and started the hike toward the Rainbow Lakes. We were hoping for lakes ringed with aspens but that is not what we got. Instead we spent about a mile hiking along a trail lined with evergreens to a few lakes that were surrounded by…evergreens. It wasn’t the bright yellows we were hoping for but it was still beautiful…and oh, so peaceful!

Fall Colors - NederlandFall Colors - Nederland

I’ve written a few posts for work related to fall running…and let’s just say my brain is fully recovered from Run Rabbit Run 100 and, unlike after past marathons, I have absolutely no desire to give up on running for life. Instead I’m doing my best to embrace the extra time I have without any running on my agenda – I get to sleep in, I spend less time showering and doing laundry, my evenings are free and my car has fewer pairs of shoes stinking it up. It’s been nice, it really has. That said, today was perfect for fall running – the morning was just cold enough to warrant a light jacket and this afternoon would beautiful shorts/tank weather with a stunning sunset.

But I spent enough time hurting this summer…I truly am loving this recovery time and I refuse to cut it short! It’s been two weeks since I toed the start line of my first 100 miler and if I don’t go too far I am walking 100% pain-free! I’m not talking just pain free muscles, those puppies were ready to run just a few days after the race…I’m talking 100% pain-free everywhere, even in the cranky tendons! My body is fixing itself [with a little help from a precautionary PT visit + Kineseo tape] and I could not be more excited! Just one more week off my feet and I’ll be out playing on the trails again…bring on the ice cream!