Friday, November 21, 2014

Marathon Recovery

My favorite race photo from the marathon! 
Both feet off the ground, aw yeah.

Thank you so much to everyone who sent kind messages about this whole marathon thing. I really appreciate it, and it has been so much to share this experience with other people! One thing I have heard a few times is how amazing it is that I remained so determined to run a marathon despite months-- years!-- of setbacks. I appreciate the kudos, but I don't really find my determination that unusual. While most people might not feel this way about an endurance challenge, like running a marathon, I am sure everyone has something they would keep working towards no matter what road blocks they face. There is nothing else in my life I have focused on in the way I have focused on this marathon. It's been an incredible journey, in many, many ways!

Recovery has gone really well. Besides yoga on Monday and a light upper-body strength workout on Tuesday I've been keeping things really easy. A few short walks, but no running! Running won't resume until later next week, at the earliest. I am not only trying to ensure I recover properly, but also enjoy the down time. As this down time coincides with a short family vacation AND Thanksgiving-- well, let's just say I will be lucky if I don't turn in to a sloth!

In seriousness, though, I have a bit of a plan. It involves the aforementioned recovery from the race-- two weeks off from running or any sort of planned strength training. After that, on December 1st, I will resume strength training and some running. Not exactly sure what that running will look like, but mostly I am thinking whatever the heck I want it to. I hope to meet the High Heels Running Group for some runs now that I don't have scheduling conflicts every.single.week. anymore. I also hope to try and run with my other friends more.

In addition to getting back in to the strength training and easing in to my running, I also want to focus more on nutrition (outside of running-- I have nutrition during my runs down pat) and my foam rolling/stretching/PT exercises. I completely nailed most of this leading up to the 30K, but in the month between that race and my marathon, I seriously fell off the bandwagon, which sucks, because that is what has been a huge piece in keeping me healthy.

Then, on Monday, January 19th, I need to be ready to start 50K training. Did I mention the 50K? My goal is to run the Sun Mountain 50K on May 16th. I have heard so many wonderful things about this race, and my trail running bestie Stacey is planning to run it, too! As I did with my 30K/marathon training, I will be running just about the fewest miles possible in order to stay healthy and still pull off the race. I checked out the training plans from Relentless Forward Progress and even the one that averaged 50 miles a week was too much running for me. I will likely use the 16 week one from Competitor-- Stacey had a lot of success with it for her 50K-- but I will cut the miles back even more to accommodate yoga and strength training.

So that's that! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reflections on My First Marathon and a Race Recap

ETA this photo from the race!

You might not have heard (haha) but on Saturday, November 15th, I became a marathoner. My results from the Grand Ridge Trail race say I finished in 6:16:40, good enough for 15th out of 37 marathoners overall. While I had hopes of finishing somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00, I hadn't taken in to account just how crazy hilly that race is. My goodness.

My lead up to this marathon was a bit unusual. Or rather, not what I imagined when I dreamed about my first marathon. I imagined everyone would know, and care, about my impending achievement. I imagined I would tell my in-laws and they would come to the race and cheer me on. I imagined my husband and daughters would spend all day moving along the course to provide me encouragement. I imagined I would run the race with a friend (looking at you, Sally!) and that it would just be huge. Since I chose a trail race, it was very small and had basically no spectators. Sally had just run the New York City marathon and wasn't a trail runner, so that ruled her out. I also didn't really tell many people outside of social media (which I do because, by and large. my small social media audience is made of up other runners). It no longer felt like a huge thing to rope everyone in to, but rather my personal journey to embark on. 

I think that because I didn't make a big deal out of it or put myself on a stage, I didn't get too freaked out about it. I was more concerned about logistics like the clothing I would wear in the below-freezing race day temps than I was about actually running a marathon. Which was equally odd and comforting. 

On race morning I woke up, ate, got dressed and double checked I had everything I needed and was ready to go. I wasn't overly nervous, just mostly worried about the cold and made a race-morning decision to throw on a second long-sleeved shirt (this was big, because I previously wondered if I would be okay in only a short-sleeved shirt and arm sleeves!). The other brilliant choice I made was to stick hand warmers in my gloves. 

Matt and the girls and I made it to the race with enough time to check in and be ready to listen to the race director's instructions. Unfortunately I literally heard not a single word of them. Apparently his megaphone wasn't megaphoning very well.

The girls and I pre-race. 

The countdown was on and at 7:45 a.m. the 50K and marathon runners took off while I stood at the start line taking off my warm layers and saying goodbye. I started a couple of minutes after everyone else and felt at ease about it. 

The elevation of this race is no joke. After a half mile or so of flat, we began climbing. 

The first half of the race was great and even though I was in the back and the runners spread out, I felt someone was always within sight. As I approached the first turn around (it was two out-and-backs) I started going by the other runners coming back towards me. I enjoyed "good jobbing" as many runners as I could. After the turn-around I then went by the half marathoners, who started at 9:00 a.m., coming towards me. Once I began my second out-and-back everyone had really spread out and I felt like I was completely alone out there, which I didn't really enjoy. The miles from about 14-18 sucked. I was sure I would be out in the woods for the rest of my life walking up hills. I spent my time thinking about my family, thinking about my friend Stacey who was running her first 50K as I was running my first marathon, thinking about all sorts of things that were going on. When you are on the trails, alone, with nothing to distract you, there is a lot of time to think. I also had to focus on the trail ahead of me, because when my mind wandered too much, my footsteps became sloppy as I landed on rocks and other debris. If there as one thing I did not want to do, it was fall out there alone in the woods! 

The first (and third) turn-around point. 
Those water jugs were emptied long before the last runners came through.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this race was the yummy food at the aid stations. I ate many chocolate chip cookies and handfuls of m-n-ms and trail mix, in addition to all of the food I had on me! In the second half of the race I felt like I could eat anything and everything. I had a pre-planned nutrition schedule that went out the window after eating my first shot bloks at 45 minutes in. After that I just ate when I wanted without looking at my watch. My stomach felt 100% fine the whole race, thank goodness. I definitely do not think I drank enough, but other than a brief minor headache at the half way point, I didn't seem to have any obvious effects of dehydration.

The second turn-around for the marathoners and 50Kers. We had run a half marathon by this point.
You can sort of see the black finish line arch in the back.

My body held together nicely the whole day. I eventually became pretty tired and my right hip flexor felt a little tight at times and my left IT band was threatening to revolt (which I later laughed about to Matt, saying it must have given up its whining because it felt fine at the end!). I also was really fortunate because I didn't chafed and didn't have any blisters didn't develop a couple of small blisters on my feet until the next day (weird, no?). In general I felt strong the whole race and never felt like I couldn't run a flat or downhill-- from the beginning I was almost exclusively walking the uphills so that didn't change. I never hit "the wall" and around mile 22 I got a second wind and felt like I was just ready to fly in to the finish. Of course, those miles nicely corresponded with a long downhill.

Course map. We ran around the loop to the left, then up then straight back to the start. 
Then did it again. 

The end of the race was really emotional for me. I had been instagramming/tweeting/texting a bit to let people know who wanted to follow my adventure know how I was doing. At mile 21, my last turn around, Sally texted me: "Now's the time to dig deep but also enjoy it. You're going to be a marathoner and that's all that matters". I started crying when I read it and thought "game on" and began my charge (albeit a very slow "charge") towards the finish. It was also at mile 21 that I put an ear bud in and played my favorite workout mix on Spotify. I had never listened to music on a trail run before but it helped so, so much at that point. 

Those last 5.2 (well, 5.68 according to my Garmin) miles were my very favorite. I was thrilled to catch up up to a few runners I could chat with a tiny bit, and despite my body aching everywhere, I felt stronger than ever. I also knew my husband, girls, and Sally (and her fiance and their dog!) were waiting for me at the finish.

I came out of the last downhill stretch and hit the half mile flat portion before the finish. I focused on the ground ahead and told myself I could NOT walk (interestingly, I felt no more tired here than I did when I hit that stretch during my 5 mile race at Grand Ridge). Interesting to note, mile 26 was my fastest mile of the entire race! As I made my way along I heard a voice say my name to my right. I looked over and thought "who is that guy?!" and then I heard another voice say my name, it was Sally and Patrick! I was so focused I didn't see them there! Sally ran up alongside me and I started crying. She ran with me and we met my girls right before the finish line and I began crying even more. The girls were very worried I was hurt. 

Crossing the finish line. 

My tears were about finally, finally, achieving my goal.  I was crying because I couldn't fucking believe I did it. Because people I loved were there to see me finish. Because I ran up and down and up and down trails for 6 hours and 15 minutes and my body HURT. It was a very emotional moment for me. 

All of the emotions.

There was no crowd at the finish line. I won't lie, I am bummed there was no medal (Iris said she would make one) or any other fun marathon swag. Once I stopped running I briefly chatted with my friends and family, glanced at the food table without grabbing anything except a drink I didn't really want, and said I was ready to go home. And that was that. I was a marathoner. I am a marathoner.

I am a marathoner. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Just four more sleeps until I run 26.2 miles through the woods.

This whole marathon thing is driving me crazy. One part of me is completely freaked out, like it shouldn't even be possible, and definitely not sane, to attempt to run that far. 

The other part of me,which is most of me, is just ready to run! Is it incredibly naive of me to think this race is just going to be the most fun, incredible challenge ever? I have probably been spending too much time with ultramarathoners, because sometimes I even catch myself thinking,
"well, it's just a marathon . . . "

My long run partner Stacey is running a 50K on the same day as my marathon, in fact.

Stacey and I on Tiger Mountain during a kinda brutal training run.

I do think that because this race is so low-key, a small trail race through the woods, I am not getting worked up about it. There won't be a huge start or finish line. No medals. Likely no spectators except for a few at the start/middle/finish. I will be running alone for a lot of the race. My family will be dropping me off and meeting me at the finish when I am done. There isn't really anywhere for them to hang out out there while I run for roughly six hours anyways, so it's completely fine with me to have them be home!

The weather is looking interesting on race day with a high of 45, low of 36. Maybe a little rain? I don't even know how to dress for that, as I haven't run in weather that cold in a long time! I am thinking layers, probably a warm headband, definitely some gloves. I didn't know if I should use a drop bag, but I *think* I decided not to. Well, unless the chance of rain goes up, I might want to have an extra pair of socks of something. Other than that, I should be able to carry everything I need right on me. Yay for the Ultra Vesta!

My last long run was seven miles. To be honest, outside of that, I will have run very, very little in the last two weeks before the race. Smart or stupid? Guess I will find out on race day! I have been active in general, just not many official workouts. As far as I can tell, "the hay is in the barn" and running a bunch of miles in these last two weeks wouldn't really help that much at this point, anyways.

Stacey was asking me what my recovery plans are, and I guess I'm not exactly sure. For sure zero running for at least a week, likely two. Definitely lots of yoga! After that I need to figure out how much I should run to keep up a basic level of fitness before starting to train for my next goal!

And what is that you might ask?

Stacey and are going to sign up for the Sun Mountain 50K in May! Wowsa. It's crazy. But exciting!

So anyways, wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up: From Horrible to Spectacular (and Spartan Race Winner!)

Business first: If you are here to check who won the Spartan Race giveaway, it was Jennifer! I wrote everyone's name on a slip of paper (one paper for each entry) and had my daughter help me cut them out and pick a winner. Thanks again to everyone who entered, that was a lot of fun for me to host a giveaway!

So, anyways, back to the grind. This is quite possibly the most bi-polar week of running I have ever had. Every run was downright brutal during the week. Like, struggling through 3 miles brutal. Questioning my ability to run at all, let alone run a marathon in less than two weeks.

Aside from typical busy-ness, I have just lost all my mental toughness. Yes, my body could have run farther. My mind could not. Usually it's the other way around (and I get myself in to trouble), so it was particularly difficult to come to terms with this turn of events.

Total Miles Run: 25-ish

So, on Monday I did yoga. On Friday I did yoga again. Every yoga class I attend is completely glorious. 

I ran on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Each run was just over 3 miles. They were each awful.

I did exactly zero strength workouts. 

But here's the thing: I ran for 3 1/2 hours on Sunday. And I felt amazing every single second of that run. I went almost 15 miles (darn Garmin). Last time I ran that same route my Garmin read 14.6, so I will go by that. 

I made a plan to meet Stacey at Cougar Mountain at 7:00 am on Sunday. At first I thought this was pretty a sucky start time, but then hey, daylight savings time! So it was a perfect. We ran just over 10 miles together, which was what I had on my (totally made up) training plan. Then, for the first time ever, I thought, "you know what? I'm not done with this run." and left Stacey at her car and headed out for about four more miles on my own. Was running for 3 1/2 hours the best thing for my body to do two weeks out from a marathon? Eh, probably not? However, my mind absolutely needed that run. Finishing that run feeling so great gave me 100% confidence that I can run a marathon.

Photo of me running at Cougar Mountain, taken by Stacey.

Can. Not. Wait. for November 15th! 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Ultra Vesta Review

A few weeks ago I became completely enamored with the idea of buying a hydration pack. It felt like such a silly desire, considering I had a four bottle Fuel Belt that I loved and was (mostly) serving me well, so I couldn't really justify spending the money on something new. But, wait! It was almost my birthday! I knew financial gifts from parents and grandparents would be coming in the mail and I knew exactly what silly desire I would spend them on: a hydration pack!

It turned out to be a very wise move on my part and I found a pack that is almost totally perfect.

I did a bit of research, but it is so hard to tell online what kind of hydration pack will work when you have never even put one on. One that kept coming across my path in my research was the Ultra Vesta by Ultimate Direction, so my interest was piqued. 

On a rainy weekday afternoon I drove across town to a new-to-me running shop that my friend had raved about, which was the Seven Hills Running Shop. I walked in and the friendly person working that day directed me towards an Ultra Vesta pack that had been used a couple of times and returned, so it was marked down 50%. I put it on, stood in front of the mirror for about 5 seconds to determine I didn't look absolutely ridiculous squeezing in my boobs, and was sold. 

Sadly, the shop did not have any bladders to go in the pack (the Ultra Vesta comes without a bladder) so I headed straight over to REI. They only had two brand options in store, so I went with the Camelbak Antidote Reservoir in the 50 ounce (or 1.5 liter) size. I have nothing else to compare this bladder to, but it's fine. The water did taste "chemically" the first few times I used it, which was gross.
photo from

My other complaint, and I am not sure if this is the fault of the Camelbak or the Ultra Vesta, but the bladder has a hook (sort of like the top of a hanger) at the top to help secure it in to the pack. The pack has a velcro strap to hold the bladder in. Between the hook and the velcro strap, they are not effective at securing the bladder and it always slips out. I am not sure why the Camelbak has a hook instead of having that piece of plastic go all the way around and connecting? It's not a HUGE deal, just mildly annoying. I only use water in my bladder and at the advice of the staff person from Seven Hills, I store the bladder in the freezer between runs.

So, back to the Ultra Vesta. 

Ultra Vesta
Photo from

I won't go in to every single detail about this pack because many other online reviews already exist outlining that info (google is your friend!). I just want to share what my personal experience has been with this pack as a new hydration pack user and as a new trail runner. 

The most important thing about this hydration pack is that it fits me well. I bought the M/L size and from the first time I ran in it it was perfectly comfortable. The straps are easy to adjust, two in front and one on each side. I also do not feel any bouncing when I run. 

The bladder is fairly easy to put in the pack. As previously mentioned there is a velcro loop at the top to hold the bladder up and a web of thin bungee cords to hold the bladder in place. I played with the hose a bit, trying to find the best place for the bite valve. I have settled on pulling the hose out from the back of the back over my right shoulder and looping the bite valve through the gray loop on the middle of the vest on my left side, so the hose crosses over my chest. It seems to work okay. 

It has been tricky for me to adjust to using a hydration pack in that at first I didn't instinctively drink enough water when I wore it. So that's just something I had to get used to and force myself to drink more often. The water in the pack gets pretty warm, but it's not like my water in bottles on a belt was ice cold, so it's not any worse than what I was doing.

One thing I really did not like was using the two plastic bottles in the chest pockets. The ones that UD provides are very, well, square and they pressed in to my chest. I replaced them with one Fuel Belt bottle, I believe it is 10 ounces, and I like that a bit better because it is more rounded. I use the bottle for Gatorade.  

There are plenty of pockets on the pack, which is awesome. I can stuff all of my stuff! My only complaints are: First, the pockets on the front do not comfortably hold my Samsung Galaxy S4 (it's a big phone). Yes, I can shove it in the lower right pocket, but it isn't comfortable to run with it there. I end up storing it in the smaller upper pocket on the back, which holds it securely, but I have no access to my phone without taking the vest off. The other complaint is that the pockets are not water (or sweat) proof! When I run at Cougar Mountain I bring my map and fold it up and put it in a front pocket. By the end of the run it's practically in shambles from getting damp (presumably from sweat). So, when I run with my phone or anything else I don't want wet, I put it in a ziploc baggie before packing it away. 

A blurry photo of me on my first run in the Ultra Vesta. 
For reference, I am 6' tall and have, uh, ample boobage. 

The longest run I have done in the Ultra Vesta is my "30K" that was 20 miles. The vest was great, held all of my food and water (I drank one tiny cup of nuun on the course and that was it!). Zero issues with it during the 30K. I saw so many runners during the race who were wearing packs that were shifting and bouncing all over the place, but not mine!

About to cross the finish line in my Ultra Vesta! 

The only thing I have had come up was after wearing it four times the stitching on the strap started coming apart. I brought the pack back to Seven Hills and they shipped it back to Ultimate Direction, who fixed it for me. A++++++ customer service for both of these places!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up: Oct 20- Oct 26

I attempted to resume a normal training schedule this past week. The week after the 30K I took mostly off. Just a little yoga and I was good. It was a busy week, so I was happy to have a break. Somehow, I tried to start back with a week that included one more workout (another yoga class) than I usually have, but less time to complete it all in. On top of everything else, it was a recipe for stress and exhaustion. My runs this week were feeling all very blah. I was totally fine ending runs early and didn't feel like getting out of the house for a single one of them. 

It would be helpful to include one major piece of information on why I am doing all of this: I want to run a trail marathon in November. Yes, I want to, but I'm not fully committed to it yet. I hope to use the training and 30K as a solid base to be able to pull this off, but I'm honestly not super excited about it. I want to do it but I'm not like "rah! rah! let's do this marathon!!!!" More like, "yeah, I could do that, which is super cool, so I should." 

Since I was racking up runs this week that were mostly "eh" I thought I might be burned out. I might be done training for this cycle and it was time to back off. As I dragged myself around getting ready for Sunday's long run when I would have rather been in bed, I told myself, if this run sucks, bail on the marathon idea.

Well, lo and behold, the long run was fantastic. Every single footstep felt amazing. I loved the entire thing. I am still not 100% behind the marathon, but am much more positive about it now than I was last week.

Total Miles Run: 22.6 (maybe. my Garmin hasn't been great at accurately determining mileage lately)

Monday: Yoga

Tuesday: 4 Miles Run and Strength

The strength workout I did with my friend at her new gym and it killed my legs and glutes! It was incredible how sore I was the next day. For the run, I ran back and forth to my chiropractic appointment. Uphill there, downhill home!

Wednesday: 3 Miles Run

Around the 'hood. 

Thursday: Strength (sort of)

Didn't have the time/energy for a proper strength workout so I sort of half-assed it. 

Friday: 5.6 Miles Run and Yoga

Two loops at Discovery Park. First loop I went too fast and felt crummy on the second.

Saturday: Rest 

Sunday: 10 (likely closer to 11) Miles Run

I met a friend and two of her friends for a run in Carkeek Park. It was a gorgeous system of trails, lots of up and down and up and down and then getting over downed branches and trees from the wind storm the night before. We kept the pace extremely slow, which was alright by me. The run felt great. 

****Friday is the last day to enter my contest to win an entry to any U.S. Spartan Race!****

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making it to the Start Line of a 30K Uninjured

Since I have a significant history of injury, I thought it might be nice to share how I managed to get myself back together, healthy, and ready to run a 30K in case it helps anyone else who is struggling with injury.

While I have been free of any true injuries this training cycle, I still had a few little things pop up here and there. Soreness in my left foot (where I thought I had a stress fracture), tightness/soreness in my left knee and some tightness in my right hip flexor. That said, it was all manageable and when I lined up for my 30K I was 100% pain/tightness/soreness/etc -free!

Here's what I think has been key to staying injury:

Chiropractic Treatments: I couldn't have gotten healthy without my chiropractor. Initially I saw her because I wanted an ART treatment, but she did/does all sorts of things-- I don't even know what category they all fall in to. I see her on average every three weeks (it's been every two weeks getting close to the race) and she is a miracle worker. I have even walked in to her office with a specific tight/ouchy spot and walk out 100% pain-free. Really. So if you have access to a good one, find a chiropractor! If you are in Seattle and want the name of mine, let me know and I will give you her info. She treats a lot of runners, including ultra runners.

Strength Training: Taking the time to strength train twice a week has been invaluable. Nothing fancy-- it's stuff I can do at home, like lunges, squats, push-ups, ab work. Using bosu and stability balls help bring an extra challenge to the workouts plus they help me work on my balance. I mix it up every workout to keep it interesting.

Specific Strength Exercises and Stretches: There are a handful of exercises I do because they were specifically given to me by my PT and chiropractor. I do these 4-5 times a week. Things like "monster walks" with an exercise band around my ankles and "dead bugs" which is for my core. 

Yoga: Doing yoga at least once a week has been fantastic. It stretches me out, improves my balance and strength and helps me work on my breathing. 

Foam Rolling: I foam roll and break out my yoga tune up balls 4-5 times a week. 

Self-Massage: My calves and feet get dug in to several times a week. When my plantar fascia is getting tight I immediately work on my calves-- seems strange, right? But it works! My chiropractor taught me this trick and she was right. 

Running on Trails: For real, my body has responded really well to the trails. In the past several weeks I have run over 75% of my runs on the trails and I don't feel totally wrecked after my long runs. 

Also, have you entered to win my Spartan Race giveaway? One free entry to any Spartan Race in the continental United States! Go enter! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spartan Race Giveaway!

Contest is closed! Thanks everyone! Our winner was Jennifer! 

How lucky for you all, the very first giveaway I ever do on this here blog is for something very, very cool. A free entry in to a Spartan Race!

Spartan Race contacted me recently in hopes that I could help to get the word out about some of their upcoming races in November. If you are lucky enough to live in the Milwaukee, WI area (that's where I'm from, yay!) you can sign up for the Miller Park Sprint on November 1st. In the Dallas, TX vicinity? Maybe the Dallas Beast race on November 1st or Dallas Sprint on November 2nd look intriguing? Aaaaaaand there is always the Mississippi Sprint on November 8th if you like racing near the Gulf Coast. 

If you aren't familiar with Spartan Races, check out this video:

Inspiring, no?

I have never done a Spartan Race (waiting for them to come to the Seattle area! Rumor has it 2015 will be the year?) so I will leave it to them to explain exactly what a Spartan Race is about:

Spartan Race is on a mission to get you active, healthy, excited about change, and return to our ancient roots where running through woods, getting dirty, and facing adversity was part of everyday life. Our events are all about challenging today’s perception of normal.

Our events challenge the familiar, today’s perception of normal living and getting you out of your comfort zone! At Spartan Race, we do this everyday and it shapes everything we do.

Having experienced many different racing events, we wanted to make adventure racing more accessible to everyone, but do not be fooled by the word ‘accessible’, as our events have a challenge for everyone’s needs.

Spartan Race now introduces a level for everyone beginning with the entry level Spartan Sprint, intermediate level Super Spartan, the advanced Spartan Beast, and the ‘99.9% need not apply’ extreme level Death Race. 

Whatever your level, Spartan Race will test your strength, stamina, and sense of humor.

Active? Healthy? Running through the woods???? SOLD!

I love that Spartan Races come in several shapes and sizes to fit a wide range of ability (or ambition!).

*Sprint races are 3+ miles with 15+ obstacles
*Super races are 8+ miles with 20+ obstacles
*Beast races are 12+ miles with 25+ obstacles

The obstacles are things like jumping over fire, crawling under barbed wire, throwing objects, climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, throwing spears (!), climbing ropes, MUD, and much, much more.

So are you ready to sign up for a Spartan Race? You can immediately use the code SPARTANBLOGGER to receive 10% off any race!

I am also giving away one entry to any Spartan Race in the continental United States! Exciting! To be entered in to the giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post. Make sure to either leave your email in your comment or comment with a registered account that links to your email address-- basically, I need to be able to contact you to tell you that you won! One entry per person.

You can also win a second free entry by tweeting a link to this post then returning here and leaving a second comment with your twitter handle. Use the link below to send your tweet!

Tweet: I just entered to win a free race entry to any @SpartanRace from @SybilRunsThings

The contest will close on October 31, 2014 at 10:00pm PST. I will randomly choose a winner and notify them within 48 hours of the contest closing as well as post the winner's name on my blog. The winner will need to respond to me to receive the information for the free race entry.

Disclosure: Spartan Race was gracious enough to provide me with a free race entry for one of you lucky readers in return for writing a blog post to promote their race series. I was not compensated in any other way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Point Defiance 30K Race Recap

Several times after this race my ten year old daughter, Iris, said to me "mama I am so proud of you for reaching your goal". As a mother to two young girls, I feel like this is one of the most powerful things I can demonstrate to them: you can, in fact, do hard things. Do very hard things, even. You can set your mind to something, put in the work, and achieve your goals. And the bonus is, you can have an incredible time doing it. I mean, what good are goals if you can't enjoy some of the work along the way? I hope to help my girls see that the hard work of training for and running a race is something they can apply to any area of their lives. I hope the message is sinking in.

I have no idea if my girls will ever love to run as much as I do, but I can still be an example of being healthy, and strong, and working my ass off to reach what sometimes feel like unattainable goals.

Iris and I before the race.

On Sunday the 12th I ran the Point Defiance "30K". I say "30K" because it was actually more like 20 miles. My Garmin read the total distance as 19.85 miles and the website for the race states each loops is 16.6K, which is 10.3 miles and a total of 20.6 miles. So, anyways, I ran somewhere around 20 miles.

As the name would suggest, the race was held in Point Defiance park in Tacoma, WA. The race started at 8:00 am which made for an early morning for my family and me. We were out the door a bit after 6:00 am for the drive from Seattle to Tacoma. Parking and check in were easy. I felt relaxed and excited, and ready to run my little booty off. 

Matt got some sweet photos of the girls and I, then it was time to go.

At Owen's Beach ready to go!

The first couple of miles were very crowded and I found it tricky to determine where I wanted to be/needed to be. I kept moving ahead in the crowd until I found a comfortable spot to stay for a bit. The further we went along the more it thinned out and after the first bit the rest of the race it was smooth sailing.

The race had three distances, the 15K, 30K or 50K, which is one, two or three loops of the course. The course wound all over Point Defiance park and covered all sorts of terrain. Wide, well-groomed trail, narrow single track stretches, up a few easy hills then up Achilles Hill which was quite steep, but not too long.  We also ran on a small stretch of grass around the back of Fort Nisqually and there were a few short bits of running on the road. As we got to the edges of the park the views of the water/islands/bridge were amazing,Actually, the entire course was gorgeous and it was constantly twisting and turning, so if you didn't pay close attention to the pink ribbons on the course you would be easily lost!

I also have to mention Nelly's Gnarly Descent, which was so steep that there were two ropes to hang on to as you worked your way down the roots and dirt. I was worried that this steep descent would be very hard on tired legs at the end of each loop, but I actually really loved scrambling down it before "sprinting" to the finish line! 

Elevation profile for the 30K.

The first loop I felt incredible, almost invincible. I was running hard, but it felt comfortable and sustainable. I was drinking water and eating every 45 minutes. At the only aid station on the loop, which was about 5 miles in, I grabbed a cup labelled nuun, and the drink in it it was yellow, so I thought, yum, maybe grape nuun? Nope, it was MOUNTAIN DEW. Yuck, not what I expected! I tossed the cup in the trash and kept moving.  At the end of the first loop I was so excited to see my family. When I got to them I stopped for a bit, drank some (actual) nuun, and ate one of the fig newtons I had my family have ready for me. They walked with me for a bit as I headed out on my next loop. 

I *think* this was after the first loop. 
The girls are getting some use out of my race apparel! 

The second loop was much more difficult. The trails seemed empty and lonely! I ran for almost five miles before I caught up to anyone. There were a few people at the five mile aid station and luckily was around a few more runners for the rest of the race. 

In the second loop I did that thing where I reminded myself to be present in the mile I was in. Literally saying in my head "I am in mile 12. This is nice, I can do this mile" and so on and so forth. It worked though, and once I hit mile 16 I just got to repeat "holy crap, this is the farthest I have ever run!" over and over for the rest of the race. There was a section of the course near the end that was on the road, maybe 1/2 a mile or so before we dropped back in the woods towards Nelly's Gnarly Descent and every step on the road I thought about how much concrete stinks and I could never run a road marathon!

Right before the descent I was standing in the woods, looking around, and couldn't figure out where the pink flags were! No one was around me, and I panicked for a moment. It looked like I wasn't anywhere near a trail, but I moved forward a bit and found a flag that led me to the steep descent. After I made my way down it for the last time I could see the finish line. My girls were waiting for me to run me in and Matt was stationed to take pictures. There was definitely some joy in crossing that finish line, but mostly relief. OUCH. My legs hurt. I grabbed a drink and headed for the Puget Sound to sit down and take an ice bath. 

Running to the finish!

My Garmin time and the official results different a bit, but the chip timing said I finished in 3:54:16. 

I would absolutely run this race again and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a gorgeous fall race! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Trail Running for Beginners: Seward Park

Seward Park is in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle. It is located at 5895 Lake Washington Blvd. South. The dirt trails are on the interior of the peninsula that sticks out in to Lake Washington. A paved trail follows the outside of the peninsula. Both times I ran there I parked in the upper parking area, right by the black star on the map at trail #3.

Map from the site.

As a runner, I have run at Seward Park many, many times. The paved trail around the perimeter of the trail and it is a popular loop for runners as well as being a part of local races such as the Rock-n-Roll Marathon. It never occurred to me that there might be actual dirt trails inside the park, though. I didn't discover this until I was perusing the Northwest Trail Runs site and saw they do a trail race there! 

Being new to these trails, I printed out the map and brought it with me. The total mileage for trails in Seward Park is just 5.745, according to the site. If you are trying to fit in a run of a decent length you will find yourself doubling back over most of the trails.  

Some of the trails are wide and well-groomed, such as #1. Some of the trails are much more rugged, you will be jumping over roots and rocks, ducking obstacles. In my opinion, those trails are much more fun (see trail # 7)! I ran over a bridge or two and up a couple of steps, as well.

Garmin route from my run.

The trail does not have any major hills, though there are a few short spots that you might have to stop and hike up (I did!). 

Elevation from my run.

My first time on these trails was on a Monday mid-day. I saw just a handful of other hikers, the trails were very quiet. Well, except for the crows! The crows were having a party.

These trails would be perfect for a beginning trail runner who wants to try out trails that are a bit more technical without any risk of getting lost. Another bonus is that these trails are in the city, so for many of us city-dwellers, they are relatively close by!

Have you ever run the trails at Seward Park? Any other thoughts to add?

Check out my other posts in the Trail Running for Beginners series HERE