This Open Road

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Morgan Valley Marathon Report

And so it is done. I ran that marathon. Oh, yes I did. Crushed it. Showed it who was boss. I am the boss! Ha-ha! No, I did not and no, I am not.

But I did finish (Yeah!).

In 4:22 (Boo. I ran my last marathon in 3:45 seven years ago, but who’s counting…).

2nd in my age group (Yeah!).

Out of six (Boo).

(16th out of 46 women; 42nd out of 98 finishers.)

* * * * *

I loved it. I loved the excitement and anticipation; the adrenaline, planning and lack of sleep. I loved it right up to about mile 18 when I began to think, this is so stupid. Why do I do this? Why am I not picking up sea shells by the seashore? Why am I not sleeping in on this Saturday morning like most normal people? I even convinced others to go with me, change their schedules and lose sleep for this event. No – it’s worse – they volunteered! My dear parents actually thought it would be fun to tag along for this.

My crew.

My crew, the troopers.

 

My folks came to Laramie on Thursday night and we drove five hours west on I-80 to Utah. We stayed in a hotel in the small but tidy town of Coalville, 20 miles from Morgan where the race was held. We went to Morgan first to get my packet which had my bib, time chip and various swag. We took advantage of the pasta dinner (included in my entry fee and $7 for non-runners) and enjoyed taking in some of the pre-race excitement and being with other runners and their families.

The next morning my dad drove me to the start. I would meet him and my mom at the finish line.

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Pre-dawn prep.

 

The race started at 5:30 a.m. The course meandered through the local valley, passing farms and houses. We ran by one homestead bearing a worn sign: “Stoddard est. 1880.” I imagined families ecstatic to find this sheltered valley during the westward migrations which took place in the 1800s.

I didn’t carry a camera but my dad caught up with me at a few places during the first half and captured the early morning segments.

Full of hope and visions of glory. Ha.

Full of hope and visions of glory. Ha.

I felt great and knew that the half-marathon I ran two weeks prior was working its magic for this run. I passed the halfway point feeling strong and ready for the second half. The sun started to crest over the surrounding hills and within a few miles the heat began to add to the challenge of finishing under four hours.

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Somewhere after 18 miles the marathon part of this marathon showed up. It got tough and I felt like I was wading in mud up to my waist. I had to walk-run-shuffle the rest of the way. There were aid stations every mile for the second half. Cheerful volunteers handed out water and Gatorade, sponges, candy, gels and ice pops. I took advantage of every station. At one station there were a few cheerleaders doing what they do best in uniforms and with pom-poms. They had signs at their station; one happily advised “Rah Rah Ree! Don’t blow out your knee!” Thanks, gals!

There was also a couple in a golf cart driving up and down the road watching for flagging runners and handing out wet towels to anyone who wanted one. I saw one runner take advantage of this ride and jump in. He was done and in that moment I wanted to be done too. But I kept on.

* * * * *

Eventually, a million years later, when the earth decided to burn up, I shuffled to the finish line, which may as well have been 100 miles away, the way I was feeling. But there it was, the end. I did not care at all about running at that moment. I was empty, distracted, and despite having just (mostly) run 26.2 miles, I could hardly walk.

The final turn. I didn't even notice that cute little girl at the time.

The final turn. I didn’t even notice that little girl at the time.

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It was great to have my folks there to be with me and celebrate my finish. We hung out for a long time, watching and talking to other runners. We met another runner before the race, Tori, who had locked her keys in her car. My dad helped her by using his AAA membership and arranged for someone to come out to unlock her door. She was very grateful. We got to know her a bit and really bonded with her. Meeting Tori was a highlight of the morning and we missed her after she left.

Fellow runner, Tori.

Fellow runner, Tori.

 

We returned to the hotel, packed, and began the road trip back to Laramie. I felt satisfied even though I didn’t achieve my goal of finishing under four hours. I ran farther, better and faster than I had during my training runs and felt much better at the half-way point than I did in the half marathon two weeks ago. I redefined this race as another training run in preparation for my next marathon…which will be on August 17!

I knew on the drive home that I’d try again. I’m in peak shape now, and again, have reached a tapering level. I’ll run for maintenance for the next three weeks and trust my body to do what it’s prepared to do. We are made to move. Given the right fuel, rest and training, I believe we can go beyond self-imposed boundaries. I want to test that belief. I love to run and I want to continue to train my body to go far. It’s a journey I’ll stay on for as long as possible.

 

Summer Days

So much has been happening! The summer has been good and the pace is starting to pick up. I have exciting goals that keep me energized and focused every day.

Last weekend was really fun. My sister and niece came for a visit and it was great to spend time with them. They come to Colorado every summer to go camping with our parents in their RV. I couldn’t join them for the camping trip due to teaching obligations, but it was awesome to see them for a couple of days.

Sister, me and niece (making an important call, apparently.)

My sister, me and my niece (making an important call, apparently).

 

I also ran the Sand Creek Half Marathon in Denver on Saturday. I was so glad to have my dad and good friend, Chris, there to cheer me on. It was a great boost to have them at the start and along the route yelling for me. I didn’t do as well as I usually do in half marathons, but still finished under two hours and recovered quickly. This half was a bit of a pep rally for the full marathon which I’ll run next weekend.

 

Running

I’m enjoying the tapering part of my training, gradually easing up on the long weekend runs these last couple of weeks. Yesterday I ran an easy eight-miler and today I went on a two-hour hike on the trails east of Laramie. I’ve pushed this training and may not be as ready for the marathon as I could be, but I’m excited and up for the challenge. There are many training schedules online for all race distances and I’ve been following this one. I felt that I could have followed the plan for the Intermediate 1, but since I was already cutting it close, I opted for Novice 2. (For other plans on this site, click on the “Training” link at the top of the website and select the race you’re interested in.)

Whatever the outcome of next week’s race, you’ll get the full report right here. :)

 

High plains training terrain.

* * * * *

Somewhat related to running/going places, I got my new passport this week! The last time I looked all dreamy-eyed at a new passport was 10 years ago when my friend Jan and I were getting ready for our trek in Nepal. I remember thinking, I’m going to fill up this little blue book so much. Besides our trip to Nepal, I was sure I’d find time to return to the UK (the reason for my first passport and my first solo international destination when I was in college), and explore other European countries. Instead, my old passport is filled with stamps and visas from Colombia, Bolivia, India (just stopovers en route to and from Kathmandu), China and multiple trips to Japan.

 

Good to go for another 10 years!

Good to go for another 10 years!

 

I don’t know when passports began to have microchips embedded, but they do now. The pages are actually interesting, with depictions of historical events from U.S. history and quotations from various people.

 

From the early days of our country...

From the early days of our country…

...to an era of space travel.

…to an era of space travel.

 

Just as I did 10 years ago, I intend to fill this passport with stamps from countries I’ve never been to and at least one that is quite familiar to me now – Japan. This fall, I’ll be returning for a fifth term and my sixth working for Westgate. (I’ve been teaching for them through their E-learning program while living in Laramie.)

* * * * *

Speaking of Laramie, my time here is almost over! If you’ve followed this blog for the last several months, you know what a positive experience it has been. But I love movement and thrive on change, and it’s time to get going again! Already I’ve been packing up, purging (actually, there’s not much left to purge – it’s just maintenance now), giving things away and preparing for the next phase. The transition between gigs energizes me so much. I love wrapping up the last experience, organizing and prepping for the next one. I still have two more weeks of online teaching, a marathon to run, a short road trip with KRC to South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore) and northern Wyoming (Devil’s Tower), and a backpacking trip in Colorado! (More on that later.)

To be continued…

* * * * *

Travel as much as you can.

My thoughts, exactly.

Long Run Report

Yesterday I ran my last long run before the marathon. I did my 20, but it was painful. I’m not sure why it was so hard except that it was the longest distance I’ve run in several years. It was another morning of pushing through walls and breaking boundaries.

I felt ready for this run. I ate and hydrated well the day before; I slept great and was out the door at 6:35, only five minutes off my intended starting time of 6:30.

Just as with previous mornings on my favorite road, it was beautiful and cool. I felt great. In fact, I felt fantastic all the way to the 10-mile marker, which culminated in some hilly sections, and was my turn-around point. I was really happy. There were segments in the first half where I was tempted to run faster than I should, but I held back, saving some energy for the return trip.

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Then, somewhere just past the 13-mile point, everything felt tight. I kept stopping to stretch, but I felt like my body was locking up. I brought an energy bar, cashews and water, so I refueled a bit. On my other long runs, I brought too much water, so I carried less this time. The morning had heated up quickly and I was regretting not having the extra water. It was a walk-run the rest of the way home. So I got the miles in and I didn’t stop. Psychologically I felt really good. But I just couldn’t relax or regain my stride.

For several hours after I got home, I felt semi-exhausted. I stretched, ate and continued to rehydrate. Surprisingly, I recovered quickly and felt much better by the late afternoon. Today I had only a little soreness. For the next three weeks, I’ll do short runs during the week and exercises at home. I’m running a half-marathon next weekend which is just a little longer than the 12 miles I was scheduled to do.

I don’t know what this means for marathon day. I was frustrated that I had to walk so much during my last long run and it makes me wonder how I’ll do.

I've crossed a line.

I’ve crossed a line.

 

I’m hoping a few factors will work in my favor:

1) The elevation along the course in Morgan is 5,069 ft. I’ve been training at 7,200 ft., so I’ll have a 2,131 ft. elevation bonus.

2) The race starts at 5:30 a.m. which means a brutal wake-up, but the lack of heat will make for a nice start.

3) I’ve been running with a small pack which has been a distraction. I won’t need that during the run, since there will be aid stations along the route.

4) The excitement and energy of the runners will carry me to some degree.

I started training for this later than is recommended, but I’m still excited for the challenge. I’m hoping to run under four hours, as that is the cut-off for my age group in order to be eligible for the Boston Marathon. (Making the time does not guarantee a spot, as explained in this post.)

I’m still loving the training. I love running in this wide open land. If I don’t make the qualifying time in this marathon, then I’m in good shape to adjust my training and run another qualifying race.

Transformation is happening. I’m pushing myself to new limits and it’s going to feel uncomfortable. But it’s all good with me. I love to run.

Training Ground

Yesterday I enjoyed another long run down my favorite road, which leads north out of Laramie. A left and another left from the door of my apartment, and within 15 minutes I was running through the expanse that is the Wyoming plains.

After unobtrusively slipping out of the neighborhood, this simple road seems to be making an escape through the rolling terrain, leaving town behind, and heading into the wide and windy emptiness.

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This scene ignites my need to run, enticing me to go further, and sometimes faster, just for fun. After several weeks of running this road, it’s familiar. I steadily push myself up the first hill, anticipating the landscape that will open before me as I reach the top. Then I ease back, regaining a steady breath and finding a pace I can manage fluidly for the next couple of hours and however many miles.

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Occasionally, a cyclist passes me. I’m happy to be running, moving freely, working every part of my being. I have everything I need to be out for a long time: my hydration pack, food, ID, wind shirt, sunscreen, visor. And on this day, I’ve brought my camera. The morning is cool and beautiful. Pronghorns populate the grasslands of Wyoming and I see them every time I’m out here. I hope to get a picture.

I stop several times to capture the view. The clouds are perfect; the wind strong, now calm, just as it’s been forever, and as it will be, forever.

This is my own personal rave run and I love it.

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A lone pronghorn. I usually see three or four in a group.

 

I see the boundaries that form the edges of this high, broad valley. Just to the east are the Laramie Mountains – hardly seems so, their incline is so gentle. To the west, in the distance, are the Medicine Bow Mountains, containing the Snowy Range.

Medicine Bow Mountains on the horizon.

The Medicine Bow Mountains on the horizon.

 

The road dips in and out of small depressions, tracing the contours and sometimes straightening out for a mile or more. It passes homes and barns, scattered on the land. It runs by narrow dirt roads leading to private property. And it just keeps going.

The barn at mile 4.2.

The barn at mile 4.3.

 

One day, when I had a car for the weekend, I clocked the mileage of the distance I want (need) to run before the marathon. I drove 10 miles. Eventually, the road narrowed, then the shoulder disappeared. The pavement wound tighter and higher into a shallow canyon. I took the first opportunity to turn around when I found a place wide enough. For now, what’s beyond that point is a mystery.

That’s the distance I’ll go for my next long run, in a week. 20 miles. 10 out, 10 back. The extra 6.2 I have to manage in a month will also be a mystery.

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.

Love of the Run

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.”

-William James

 

If I can’t be backpacking in the mountains right now, I’ll run.

Actually, I’d run anyway, as I always have on a regular basis. It’s my therapy, my happy activity, the thing that grounds me, clears my mind and soul, and resolves most issues when they start swirling around in my brain.

I’m grateful for a strong body and I want to keep it on this side of its limit, pursuing health and endorphin-releasing bliss. And so I run.

I run to maintain this strength and to see how much further I can go. I run because I can and I want to. I believe in moving toward what calls and honoring the butterfly excitement that flutters right here when I’m being summoned to the next goal.

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When running beckons, I go. And lately the call has been more intense than ever. I’m a morning runner, and sometimes I’ve been so excited to run, I’ve had trouble going to sleep the night before. I need new challenges, a place to direct this heightened energy. So, I signed up for a marathon, one to be run sooner than I adequately have time to train for. But I didn’t want to wait. And I’m not coming off the sofa – I have a solid base, and now just have to focus on increasing my weekend long runs. The race will be in Morgan, Utah, which sits at a much lower elevation than Laramie, so I’m hoping that element will be a trade-off for a short training season.

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For the last few weeks I’ve been increasing my time on my weekend long runs. Yesterday I ran for 2:45. It hurt in a deep and cathartic way, and I spent the rest of the day adjusting to the stress, stretching and resting. Transformation happens in a long run. I’m not exactly sure how yet, as I’m approaching this training in a new way. In the past (I’ve run two marathons and 15+ half marathons), I’ve fought my way through the long run, desperate for the end. Now, I welcome the struggle. There cannot be progress or growth without going past the next wall.

Yesterday, I talked my way through this new territory: This is good; Okay, here we go; We’re doing this. Then, my body rebelled and tried to be the boss: Are you kidding?! Stop now! I did for short bits, to stretch out the tightness. But then we were off again, pushing through the discomfort and getting tough.

During this rough patch, a couple who had passed me earlier on their bicycles, passed me again on the way back to town. They hollered, “Hello, again!” and “Looking good!” This brief encouragement gave me the shot of motivation I needed and helped me lighten my step and straighten my back.

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By the time I got home, I knew I’d gone beyond my limit. I knew this was a good thing and I’d recover. But I felt oddly disconnected from my emotions, except for some inexplicable irritation. I ran slower than my usual time, but I had done what I could do, running to the edge of my ability for this day, and I was not frustrated at that. I couldn’t understand why I was annoyed. As the day ebbed, so did my angst. I believe this emotional dip correlated to my physical exertion. Both settled out eventually.

Today I went for a long hike for some cross-training (where I took the pics for this post). It was over easy ground with minimal inclines. It felt good to walk out the residual soreness from yesterday’s run. Tomorrow is a rest day, a respite before the next day’s shorter but faster run. I’m already excited.

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Wondering if there’s an ultra in my future…

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