Six Point Two to Get Me Through

It’s hard to imagine that the Colfax Marathon is in 16 days – just two and a half weeks from now. It feels like the last 15 weeks have simultaneously flown by and trudged slowly on. My 18 week plan is nearing its end, and I never thought I would really make it to this point.

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After finishing 20 miles, I felt like I could conquer the world!
Last weekend, one weekend off of my original plan, I completed my longest run to date – exactly 20 miles. What an incredible sensation to see double digits starting with a 2 on my Garmin. To say it’s been a long road would be incredibly accurate, and also quite literal. When I first began running in 2013, I could barely run a full mile without stopping, and it was well over a 10 minute per mile pace.  Now, I can easily run a 10k in less than an hour. To actually see and feel that kind of progress is just mind-boggling and humbling. Every step I take brings me one step closer to my goal.  And after May 15th, who knows what new goals I will set for myself.

Over the past two weeks I might have been a little overzealous. The weekend I was originally supposed to run my 20 miler Denver got a lovely spring weekend snowstorm. While the city itself didn’t get much accumulation, where I live we had 8 inches of snow and slushy-icy roads. At this stage of the game, I absolutely don’t want to risk it, so I had to forgo running that weekend. Instead I planned to fit it in the following weekend. Here’s the challenge: I had already planned to run the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler and was participating on behalf of CU Denver, my employer. It wouldn’t be good to back out, but how could I fit in 20 miles?

The rational answer would be to run the race, and fit in another 10 miles that day. Of course, it makes sense. Your body still gets 20 miles in a day, so it applies towards the mileage you need to complete. Well, why would I do something that makes sense? When I asked the hubs what he wanted to do, he said simply, “Why don’t we run 20 miles on Saturday and then the 10 mile race on Sunday?” 30 miles, one weekend. Challenge accepted.

There is something about hitting your longest run before the race that seems so surreal.

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 I’m really bananas for bananas… It’s a problem. A delicious problem.
It’s absolutely a mental game by that point. If I can run 18 miles and feel amazing, I can absolutely run 20 miles. It’s not much further, and what’s left is proper fueling, rest, stretching, and mental preparation. Going into the run, I knew I wanted it to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to feel good. I have been using Gu Vanilla Bean and Clif shot bloks during my runs, and that seems to get me through. I still daydream about bananas by mile 12 (if you don’t know, I have a banana obsession…), but it could be much worse. Thankfully I also have a great training trail, the Highline Canal Trail, which spans 71 miles across the front range and has an entrance conveniently 0.8 miles from my  front door. It’s also a great trail as it has very few street crossings, and some conveniently located bathrooms en route (wow have those come in handy). I won’t ever say that 20 miles is easy, but I completed those twenty miles with a respectable 10:34 pace, and generally felt good.

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Cherry Creek Sneak time!
Now waking up the next morning and realizing I had to do half of that was another story.

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Last year’s race was significantly soggier.
The Cherry Creek Sneak is an awesome local race that features a 1.5 mile fun run, as well as 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile distances. When I signed up I assumed this would be the beginning of my tapering, so 10 miles made the most sense. The 10 mile race began first at 7:30am in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I ran this race last year, and thankfully, there was no rain and the weather was true perfection. I arrived about 10 minutes before we were set to begin, which was perfect for this type of local race. Just enough time to get psyched, but not enough time for my legs to get cold and tight.

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A runner on a mission.
I really love this course. The race begins just off of 1st Avenue in the heart of Cherry Creek, heads to the east towards Colorado Boulevard, and then veers back towards 1st Avenue to then connect with Downing Street.  The 10 miler takes runners through Cheeseman Park and has a decent stretch along 7th Avenue, before heading back down Downing and ending along 1st Avenue. The race went smoothly enough, and I finished in 1:41:33 with a 10:09 pace, which included a stop on course to take off my long sleeve cover up. In less that 24 hours, I ran 30 miles. The real victory? I can still walk (and run!) and I am not sore. I will take that, and dare I say, run with it.

 

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Don’t you just love that feeling?
All that’s left at this point is another 10k between me and my (current) ultimate goal of finishing my first marathon. I really never imagined I would ever do one, nor could I have imagined the incredible work that goes into training for one. But here I am, a mere 16 days away. Just me and another six point two to victory.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/11/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 4/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Wednesday, 4/13/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Thursday, 4/14/16 Zumbathon! 3.64 mile run
Friday, 4/15/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 4/16/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 4/17/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Monday, 4/18/16 TIU Beach Bombshell, TIU Sunkissed Abs 3.2 mile run
Tuesday, 4/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Wednesday, 4/20/16 N/A 4.1 mile run
Thursday, 4/21/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Bikini Body Routine, TIU Bikini Arms 4.1 mile run
Friday, 4/22/16 N/A 3.69 mile run
Saturday, 4/23/16 N/A 20 mile run
Sunday, 4/24/16 N/A 10.07 mile run

How many miles has been your major goal? Ever attempted back to back long runs? What are your favorite recovery tricks? How is your marathon training going?

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I cannot get over the crazy hair!

Runger: The Struggle Is Real

Why did no one ever tell me about real runger? I admit, I should have known that marathon training would require significantly more sustenance to keep me going, and fueling is always really important when training for any athletic endeavor.  But I am hungry. ALL. THE. TIME.  Don’t get me wrong, I love food, and I especially love good, nutritious, and well-balanced food.  I am simply not used to eating this much food out of necessity.  I have been doing a lot of research recently to understand what I should be doing to manage my hunger and ensure I am still fueling properly and thoughtfully.  It is true, I did indulge in a donut last week, but otherwise I am really trying to maintain and healthy balance between good carbs, fueling proteins, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and veggies.  I have to accept the fact, however, that marathon training isn’t designed for weight loss. Maintenance, sure, but not weight loss.  At least I will be toned all over!

No really, I feel like I am always hungry.
No really, I feel like I am always hungry.

In my quest for runger enlightenment, I stumbled upon Amanda Brooks’ blog “Run to the Finish,” in which her “Ultimate Guide to Managing Marathon Hunger” has been a huge life-saver and healthy reminder.  In it she provides her top 10 tips for managing marathon training hunger, which is exactly what I was needing.  I’ll list them below, but please check out her post – it’s hugely helpful!

  1. Amanda recommends refueling immediately after a run with a recovery drink. I am a huge fan of green smoothies, so this has been a really useful reminder for me that I need to intake my smoothie sooner. If you haven’t heard of “Simple Green Smoothies,” you should check them out now.  They have tons of free recipes on their site and through social media, and their book is outstanding.  The book provides smoothies for all different purposes, including recovery.
  2. The post-workout meal should include a slightly higher amount of protein,
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?

    whether through eggs, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas/hummus, etc. One of my favorites is cooking an egg and preparing half a cup of Love Grown Foods’ Simply Pure Super Oats, which incorporates quinoa and chia seeds.  I also sometimes top the oatmeal instead with a banana, half cup of blueberries and 5 strawberries, or you could even mix in your favorite nut butter.  I also love smoothies with Tone It Up’s Perfect Fit Protein, a great plant-based vegan protein powder.

  3. I am going to quote Amanda here, “Don’t fear fats”! And it’s true, but choose healthy and hearty saturated fats, like coconut oil in smoothies or when making eggs (which also helps enhance your energy levels) or avocados, also in smoothies or with lunch or dinner.  I am going to try this shrimp and avocado salad tonight for dinner, so you know that other half of avocado is going in my morning smoothie tomorrow!
  4. Do not wait too long to eat after your run, because this can lead to overeating. There are some days where I will grab a big bottle of water and make my recovery meal right after I return so I don’t get too rungry. Amanda also mentions incorporating 2-3 snacks throughout the day, so in essence you’re eating about 5 or so “meals” on a daily basis as needed.  Often I will go for bananas with nut butter, carrots and hummus, or a smaller green smoothie.
  5. Carbs are friends, not foes, as long as incorporated properly. Complex carbohydrates are the key, which you can get from veggies and whole grains.  Quinoa and oats are some of my favorite things, and even in baking I am turning to whole wheat and gluten-free flours, like oat flour.  Amanda provides useful links to carbo-load correctly, so it’s worth checking out.
  6. Controlling your sugars is essential. Although last week’s chocolate frosted donut was a real treat, I was aware that it was not adding any value to how I fuel my body.  Sugar has a sneaky way of making you feel hungry even if you aren’t, which can cause overeating.  When you’re already consuming more calories than normal, this is a very slippery slope you want to avoid.
  7. What else can I say? Sleep is so imperative for everything, really, and even more so when training. This is definitely an area of improvement for me.  Sleep can help balance your metabolism as well as give you the recharge your body so needs after intensive athletic exercise.  The standard 7-8 hours fall somewhat short when training for a marathon, and really we should be aiming for 9-10 hours.  My goal for the next 2 months – more sleep!
  8. Focus on the nutrients in food as much as the food itself. Fresh fruits and veggies are a runner’s friend. I know we all fuel differently before a race, and I admit that I cannot eat anything that is more challenging to digest (like raw foods), but the recovery benefits are incredible.  It is recommended to have about 5 -7 services of fruits and veggies a day. Thankfully I love green smoothies and probably should have stock in Chiquita bananas for as many as I consume daily…
  9. Electrolytes provide the power you need to carry on, and running causes us to sweat them out. Lack of electrolytes can cause fatigue and cramps, which no runner wants to experience during or after a run.  NUUN hydration provides fabulous tablets that dissolve easily in water, do not include sugars, and provide a great natural boost of electrolytes.  Post-run coconut water is another wonderful and natural way to replenish your body with electrolytes.
  10. I love Amanda’s last recommendation the best: “listen to your body.” If you are in tune with what your body is telling you, you’ll refuel properly and timely, avoiding the snowball effect of incredible insatiable hunger, overeating, or not eating enough.  She also recommends to drink water before refueling. You may just be dehydrated rather than craving more calories.
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Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. Source

These are definitely some of the guidelines and recommendations I am going to hold

Saturday's 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.
Saturday’s 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.

onto for the next 9 weeks of my training plan.  On a side note, last week’s training went incredibly well!  I ran more than normal because the hubs and I had the Lucky Laces 10K (finished in 59:36, 9:36/mile!) on Saturday and a long run planned for Sunday.  Thankfully it was a good warm-up for Sunday’s run.  We completed 16.15 miles on Sunday in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 19 seconds.  It is great knowing I can run that far and under a 10 minute/mile pace!  Here’s hoping 10 more miles won’t bog me down too much…

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday 3/7/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday 3/8/16 Yoga Sculpt 4 mile run
Wednesday 3/9/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Thursday 3/10/16 Zumba N/A
Friday 3/11/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Saturday 3/12/16 TIU Bikini Arms 6.27 mile run
Sunday 3/13/16 N/A 16.15 mile run
Lucky Laces 10K was a success - nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!
Lucky Laces 10K was a success – nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!

I gave myself a nice running break yesterday, but I will be back at it this afternoon, with 17 miles planned for this weekend – eek!

What recommendations do you have for fueling during marathon training?  Anyone else experience some major runger?  How is your training plan going?

Cherry Creek Sneak: The Race That Brought Me Back

I cannot lie to you, the internet, or myself.  The past few months I, for some unknown reason, loathed running.  It seems odd as running was the activity that really brought me into the world of fitness to begin with, but I just didn’t have the desire or drive to hit the pavement or trail.  My running shoes were feeling severely neglected as I sought other means of fitness.  Granted, it is always good to switch up your routine and workouts, to help balance the toning of all of your muscle groups and to make sure you stay committed, but this was getting a bit dire.  Especially because I had signed up for a race through work, and needed to commit to doing it with coworkers, and my boss, as other race participants.  You can’t tell the Vice Chancellor you didn’t feel like representing the university because you haven’t wanted to run.  Well, technically I guess I could, but I surely didn’t want to.

Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!
Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!

Earlier in the year I had heard about the Cherry Creek Sneak through a chain of work emails sent out to fellow running colleagues.  This is a local race that boasts 4 different distances for the runner in all of us: 10 miles, 5 miles, 5 kilometers, and 1.5 miles.  The event takes place each April in one of my favorite areas of Denver, Cherry Creek.  It’s an old, established area of Denver with gorgeous stately homes and quaint, older cottages.  It’s eclectic and charming, and a gorgeous area to run through.  Being that I had signed up for the Colfax Half Marathon, which would take place less than a month later (AH! This Sunday!), I thought it best that I register for the 10 miler.  Once the hubby said he’d join me, I was committed.

So March rolled around, I kept on running, but was just not happy with it.  March turned into April, and my mood hadn’t changed.  Part of it, too, was that I was so in love with Core Power Yoga and the Tone it Up workouts, that running didn’t seem quite as appealing.  So finally the weekend of the Cherry Creek Sneak arrived, and rain was in the forecast.  If you haven’t kept up with Denver weather (let’s be honest, it’s a fascinating and ever-changing subject here), it rained for over a week straight, with about 3 inches of snow by the end), and I was truly dreading the race.  Sunday morning I woke up feeling groggy, tired, and just not in the mood to run.  But I am not one to back down from a commitment.  So with a sense of foreboding, I dressed for the race and hoped for the best.

You just gotta fake it til you make it!  Pre-race and pre-rain...
You just gotta fake it til you make it! Pre-race and pre-rain…

The hubby and I found a spot to park and walked a few blocks towards the starting line.  The 10 milers started first at 7:30am, so we arrived with about 20 minutes before the start.  I searched around for my colleagues, but didn’t see anyone.  Eventually we just readied ourselves for the race, lining up in our time corral, and prayed for a decent 10 miles.  This was not my most optimistic start, to be sure.  After one of the best race-day national anthems ever, we were off!  Luckily the rain had held off to start, and we made our way from the east side of the Cherry Creek Mall toward Colorado Boulevard, and then looped back toward University Boulevard.  We ran to the northwest corner of the mall and turned left onto 1st Avenue.  We’d already gone 3 miles at this point, and I was feeling pretty good.  Time was passing quickly, it was the perfect temperature for running, and I was actually enjoying myself!

Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!
Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!

As we ran past Denver Country Club, we turned right onto Downing and made our way up the first real hill of the course.  Overall it’s a fairly flat course, which typically makes for great running

times (and happy runners).  We got up the hill and turned right onto 6th Avenue before making our way toward Cheeseman Park.  Any Denverite knows that the city is spattered with local parks, trails and greenbelts. Given my race history, I am most familiar with Washington Park, City Park, Central Park, Confluence Park and Sloane’s Lake.  I had never before been to Cheeseman Park.  The park includes an outer trail which loops in an oval around the perimeter of the park.  It is a gorgeous space with a beautiful pergola and amphitheater along the eastern edge of the park and large trees all around.

Course Map PNG
Source

Once we made our way out of the park, we hit the 10k mark, and the drizzle began.  Rather than turning back the way we came, we headed further east on 6th avenue.  Mile 7 was possibly the

Feeling damp, but still happy!
Feeling damp, but still happy!

longest mile of the entire race, because this is when it really began raining steadily.  The temperatures dipped and it felt like we were never going to turn around.  Police officers lined the streets, and truly I felt for them, having to stand out there until all the 10 milers ended.  At least I was moving!

Making it to mile 8 was a huge feat, and at that point I realized my legs still felt great and I could make it.  The cold rain was not ideal, but two miles is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.  We made our way back to 1st Avenue, which led us straight past the mall and toward the finish line.  My only complaint is that the 5k participants were finishing at the same time, and were primarily walking in large groups, which made running around them very difficult.  The finishing area, as a result, was rather bottle-necked and confusing.  Robbie and I sprinted the last tenth of a mile toward the finish and were instantly slowed by walkers.  I was hoping for a much more triumphant finish, but I did it.

YAY THE END! It's always the best part of every race.
YAY THE END! It’s always the best part of every race.

Immediately afterwards we grabbed water, a half a Panera bagel, and delicious banana, and made our way straight to the car.  It wasn’t worth trying to find folks.  The 5 milers were set to begin at 9:35am, and their whole five miles ended up being rainy and cold.  I’d prefer 10 miles with 3.5 miles in the rain, than 5 miles entirely in the rain.  Thankfully the hubs is BRILLIANT and brought towels to wrap around ourselves in the car, and turned the seat warmers on high.  Rain and cold aside, this race was fabulous, and I am happy to report it was just what I needed to regain my love for running.  I am SO excited for this weekend’s Colfax Half Marathon, and I look forward to the BolderBoulder the week afterwards.

This month I got my running drive back!
This month I got my running drive back!

It just goes to show you, sometimes you need to step away for a little while to rediscover why you love it in the first place. The hubs is so wise, and at the beginning of April he told me to just take a break from running and focus on my other pursuits.  I did just that, and after the Cherry Creek Sneak, I have been running almost every weekday during my lunch hour and feel so refreshed.  So here’s to the next run – no one run will ever be like another, so take the time to appreciate the journey!

Ever just have a running slump? What did you do to get out of your running rut?  Anything you recommend to keep your runs happy?

That Dam Race: My First Half Marathon of 2015

Well another half marathon bites the dust, and I have [truly] begun my 2015 running year with a bang!  Last time I posted I had to admit, I was feeling a little lack-luster in the running-love department.  Sunday, however, I had to commit since I had signed up for the Run Denver series and the final race, That Dam Race, to be exact, took place on Sunday, March 1st.  What a way to start the new month!  I have to admit, I was getting especially nervous for this race mostly because I just wasn’t feeling it, and also because of the almost constant snow from Friday, February 20th through Friday, February 27th.  Other than Tuesday last week, Denver was getting completely dumped on by the constant snow cloud cover.  I honestly had no idea what to expect for the road conditions, and thankfully the Saturday – Sunday snow didn’t appear or else I think I might have given up hope.

I wish this were me...
I wish this were me…
My reaction in reality...
My reaction in reality…

I suppose the weather gods were somewhat on our sides this year.  The snow stopped Friday and didn’t reappear all weekend.  Although the temperatures never really rose above mid-20’s all weekend, the sun did come out, and in Colorado that can mean a lot.  So Sunday morning I rose in all of my nervousness (I haven’t been this nervous for a race in quite some time), made my way the 10 minute drive to Cherry Creek High School, and prepared myself for the 13.1 miles ahead of me.

It's cold but I am still smiling!
It’s cold but I am still smiling!  See all the snow?
Chilly starting line in all its glory.
Chilly starting line in all its glory.

Apparently when folks set off on this race last year, it was a balmy 8 degrees, so I was pretty content with my moderate sunshine and 20 degrees.  The wind was minimal, and the starting line was stunning.  It’s almost unreal how serene the roadway is that skirts the edge of the Cherry Creek Reservoir.  It’s lifted above the top of the water by several stories, and on a clear day you can see the mountains stretch out in both directions to the west.  The Dam Road, befittingly named, is a perfect start and finish line for this race, and overlooking the frozen reservoir, it was quite a stunner.  Sadly I didn’t take many photos as my fingers were pretty frozen…

For an out and back course, this one was very lovely!
For an out and back course, this one was very lovely!

The course started along the Dam Road then took a sharp left turn onto the Cherry Creek trail.  This trail winds its way through the outskirts of Denver all the way into downtown.  Thankfully we

Yay two medals, no frozen fingers and happy to be finished!
Yay two medals, no frozen fingers and happy to be finished!

didn’t have to run quite so far, but after winding our way down from the top of the reservoir wall, we made our way under I-225 and took the trail heading northwest.  It was beautiful – everything covered in a blanket of snow, the trail meandering through wooded sections, open fields, and in between cozy neighborhood communities.  You’d almost never know we started so close to a busy highway.  The trail had just some minor little hills and bumps, but was otherwise flat.  The sun managed to stay out for nearly the entire run, until I climbed the steep hill to make my way back to the Dam Road for the final 2.5 miles.  At this point, thankfully I wasn’t running against the wind, but I did notice my lips were starting to freeze.  Just in time for my triumphant, well sort of, finish!  While running the last 2 miles, I noticed my friend Kristin running in the opposite direction, away from the finish.  I thought this odd, but as she put it, “I had to cool down, and I had to keep running to stay warm!”  She ended up winning second in our age division for the entire race series.  She is bad ass (obviously in a really good way).

She met me at the finish, I got my snazzy medal and water bottle, and we worked our way back to the vendor stands.  I was hoping for some hot Coda coffee or hot chocolate, but by the time we made it to the van they had already packed up.  This was disappointing, especially considering the many folks finishing after me.  I did get a Clif bar and walked with Kristin to her car.  She dropped me off at mine, and as my own personal reward, I went next door to Starbuck’s.  Grande nonfat with whip hot chocolate.  Yum.

On the plus side, I finished the Run Denver race series in its entirety – all four 5ks and the final half marathon.  I must say, the bling for the series was pretty worth it.  I do run for the bling afterall, and I am totally not ashamed of that.  I would have been one of those kids in soccer that wanted the participation trophy.  I still have all my awards from high school afterall… sitting right next to my husband’s.  We are part of the Millenial generation, after all.

Yeah, the medal was worth it.
Yeah, the medal was worth it.

As I mentioned last week, my new favorite thing is listening to “This American Life” while I run.  Best decision ever for a half marathon on your own.  Thankfully the first podcast I pulled up was this past summer’s “The Radio Drama Episode,” which included journalistic stories told in artistic ways, from opera to comedy, and a musical to a play.  It was AMAZING.  I also realized, it’s not wise to listen to an incredibly funny comedian while trying to run, especially while trying to run uphill.  Breathing and laughing aren’t good friends.  My Bose running earbuds performed sensationally and I was thoroughly entertained.

Do you listen to anything when you run – if so, podcasts or music?  What were the worst conditions you’ve ever had for a race?  Anyone else not a huge fan of running in 20 degree temps?

Runner Confession and Reflection

I guess I spoke too soon.  Here I was boasting about Colorado’s unseasonably gorgeous weather, and low and behold we get a foot of snow.  It didn’t stop snowing all weekend, and took me two and half hours to drive the 11 miles to work on Monday.  And it’s supposed to snow today and Thursday… and again on Saturday and Sunday… Insert foot in mouth.  Well you live and you learn…  And when you live in Colorado, you tend to get snow.

It started Friday night and kept on going through Monday morning!
It started Friday night and kept on going through Monday morning!

My first half marathon of 2015 is coming up on Sunday, and I have some definite mixed feelings about it.  Because of how crumby the beginning of 2015 has been, I just haven’t been in the spirit of training.  I’ve maxed out at 7 miles, and just haven’t been in the training mood.  Thankfully this last week was a bit of a kick in the butt.  Although I wasn’t able to run outside last weekend, I spent Saturday and Sunday pushing it at the gym, and reached a total of 12 miles.  Not ideal for training, but it’s something, and I am feeling more confident.  I am also more focused on overall fitness and strengthening, and I could feel the difference over the weekend.

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This week I very well could be running through the frozen tundra, which isn’t entirely motivating.

That Dam Race features a half marathon and 5k that flank the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I’ve taken a peek at the course map and elevation chart and it should be interesting… Definitely doable, but what goes down must also go back up.  I am trying not to run for a certain time, given my lack of training enthusiasm, the potential for inclement weather, and potentially questionable road conditions.  And I need to ease myself back into this running season, so this is probably a good way to start.

I have already signed up for a few more spring Colorado races, including the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler on April 26th and the Colfax Half Marathon on May 17th.  The Cherry Creek Sneak was started by a local running club and has gained a lot of momentum since then.  The event features a plethora of race distances, including 10 miles, 5 miles, a 5k, or 1.5 mile sprint.  I learned about this race through a colleague, and now a whole group of CU Denver staff will be participating in each of the distances.  The Colfax Marathon and Half Marathon is now a bit of an institution here in Denver.  It’s probably the biggest local marathon and half marathon that I know of in Denver proper.  This year marks its 10 year anniversary, so of course I requested the commemorative half-zip (it is in purple after all).  This course takes you through the Denver Zoo, which to me sounds incredible.  Of course I also have the BolderBoulder in my sights on Memorial Day.  I was a bit of an eager beaver and may or may not have registered the day after the race last year… You know… The hubs and I are really hoping to have a good time (literally and figuratively) – we want to hit an hour *fingers crossed*.  While it’ll be great to hit 15 races in 2015, I won’t feel horrible if I don’t get there.

Time to hunker down and pound some pavement.
Time to hunker down and pound some pavement.

Beyond May, I hope to do the Liberty Run 4 miler again on the 4th of July.  I have decided holiday races are the best way to fit in those miles early and still have plenty of time to enjoy the day.  I am registered for and an ambassador to the Esprit de She Westminster 5k/10k on August 27th, of which I will be completing the 10k.  Remember, if you sign up for this race, use code EDS039 during your registration!  It’s a great race series specifically for women, and personally I think it is an incredibly powerful and inspirational experience.  In October I am once again registered for the Denver RNR half marathon, and I am hoping the hubby will run with me again this year.  This time I will try to take more pictures!  I have registered for the Denver Hot Chocolate 15k in early October, but I am *hoping* to be presenting at a conference in Las Vegas that weekend.  I’ll find out in April!

Well I suppose that concludes my runner check-in for the time being.  I am hoping for a fun, easy race experience this

I am in love with my hubby and these headphones!
I am in love with my hubby and these headphones!

weekend.  What I do know for sure, I will be rocking my Bose running headphones and listening to “This American Life” podcasts while running those miles. #Obsessed.  For Valentine’s Day my hubby got me these INCREDIBLE headphones (no more iPhone headphones for this girl!), and it just made me appreciate how far we have come and how different our lives are now.  The best part?  We did it together, and we changed for the better.

Have you ever felt a slump during training?  Ever lose some of your motivation toward your goals – what did you do to overcome it?  Don’t you just love holiday themed races?  Anyone else obsessed with running headphones and/or “This American Life”?

For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

The Run Denver Race Series

Back in November, in the high of completing my fifth half marathon of the year, and third within a month, I thought it’d be a great idea to look ahead and plan for my 2015 race schedule!  Once you get bit by the run bug, there’s no turning back.  I started looking at small, local races, knowing the appeal of easy-to-manage race day events and the fun runner and volunteer atmosphere.  These smaller races and series truly showcase the running community with which you surround yourself.  I checked Active.com, and first looked up That Dam Half.  After running my first half marathon in February 2014, I was immediately addicted and wanted to find another one I could do right away.  That Dam Half was only a week out from the Disney Princess Half, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for it with enough confidence that I’d finish easily, or at least well.  So instead I decided I would save this race.

giphy
Don’t stop me, don’t stop me, don’t stop me. Hey, hey, HEY! Freddie Mercury, I don’t want to stop at all. Source

Now you may be thinking, “Why is this race called ‘That Dam Half’?”  It’s true, Colorado is not exactly known for its large bodies of water, but just 15 minutes down the road from me is the Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Cherry Creek cuts its way through Denver, much of which is followed by Speer Boulevard.  It’s derivation point, however, is out east towards the reservoir.  Conserving water is something we Coloradans must get used to, so reservoirs were established throughout the state.  Not all are in the same use at this point, and truth be told, the Cherry Creek Reservoir is now more for recreational use than anything else.  The reservoir is part of the Cherry Creek State Park, which boasts good biking and running trails all over and great views of the mountains out west.  Thus, That Dam Half quite literally winds its way around the reservoir and dam!  That is my long, drawn-out explanation for the obviousness of the name…

After checking out the half registration, I noticed there was a series built around this race, the Run Denver Race Series.  You provide me with a package of races, I cannot resist!  Especially when they have cute themes, are all close-by, and each is small and local.  So in December, I began my five race series, which includes 4 5ks, of which I am not normally a huge fan, and That Dam Half.  We kicked off the series with the Rudolph Ramble 5k, which took place the day following the ColderBolder 5k.  Obviously I ran both, because why not!  These races would guarantee me at least 14 races in 2014.

Great start to a fun race.
Great start to a fun race.

The Rudolph Ramble took place on December 7th, and it was so much fun – folks donned jingle bells, reindeer antlers, santa hats and other holiday-themed paraphernalia.  Given the size of these races, many folks brought their kids and dogs to participate.  This race took place in City Park, just north of the Cherry Creek area of Denver.  I have now run a number of races in City Park, some more treacherous than others, but this day was perfect.  Not too warm (it was unusually warm this weekend, unlike the year before when the high was 6 degrees), sunny, and no breeze.  We took a wide loop around the park and finished by the pavilion, where volunteers were lined up with goody bags (I mean nice drawstring goody bags!), water, Evol burritos, Aspire sports drinks, bagels and bananas, along with other goodies and freebies.  I am all about the freebies, so I just cannot resist.  What I liked most, however, were the awesome long-sleeve BornFit race shirts.  The shirts were a periwinkle blue with the Rudolph Ramble logo.  Part of the series perks included a BornFit grey half-zip, with which I am now obsessed.  Good swag for a small series.

The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.
The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.  Can you feel my excitement?

Two weekends ago I participated in the second race of the series, the Polar Bear 5k: Thrill of the Chill.  Thankfully, like the previous race, it was the opposite of

Krisitn (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!
Kristin (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!

chilly.  I am fairly certain it was about 60 degrees that day.  This time the race took place in Washington Park, or Wash Park as known by the locals.  My friend, Tessa, came to cheer me and her roomie on during the race.  They live in walking distance from the park, so it made for a great morning for all of us.  This race wound its way around the park, and took one additional loop through the middle to meet the 3.1 miles.  The volunteers for these races are notoriously fantastic, and there are folks interspersed throughout the course cheering on the runners.  The course is just the right ammout of small inclines and flat, so you can really work on speed for this race.  Like the race before, many participants had dogs and kids join in the fun.  Kristin, my friend’s roommate, took 1st in our age group, so we got to celebrate her during the award ceremony.  Personally, I felt great throughout the race and ran a 30:50 5k – I am determined to bring my 10k time solidly under 10 minutes per mile, so I think I am on track.

Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Yup, she's a rockstar!
Yup, she’s a rockstar!

This Sunday I will be participating in the third installment of the race series, the Super Bowl 5k also in Wash Park.  Finally something I would rather be doing on Super Bowl Sunday (especially since the Broncos didn’t make it this time… we won’t go into last year, but I definitely do NOT want the Seahawks to win…).  The following Sunday will be the Valentine’s Day 5k, and I will finish the series on March 1st with That Dam Race Half Marathon.  I couldn’t imagine kicking off 2015 any better way – time to pile on the miles!

Do you have a favorite race series? Do you prefer big races or small, local events?  Any fun themed races coming up?