Friday, September 28, 2012

THE Denver Marathon

I always said this would be the marathon I would run EVERY year since I moved here.  Or so I thought.  Still, first thing I did on January 1st, 2012, was sit down at a coffee shop in Telluride and sign up for all the races I'd be participating in.  One of them, was the Denver Marathon.  SO EXCITING.

When I completed Ironman, I only had one thing to look forward to: Denver Marathon.  And I continued to run and stay in shape.  Out of the blue, I decided to sign up for the Bear Chase 50K and train for it, which involved a little bit more hardcore trail running.  And I had the time of my life.

I hit a little emotional wall last week when my mom and brother were flying to Denver for my brother's first marathon: the Denver Marathon.  And I couldn't believe I wasn't running with him. I still, went to the packet pick up and expo with him and picked up my stuff.  I got my number and got extremely excited.  I HAVE TO RUN.

Chuckles and I ran and won!!!
Saturday came by and I was lined up at the start line with my brother.  "We will run together at least 10 miles", he said.  And I got PUMPED.  The gun goes off and we slowly move forward towards the start (we were on the 12th wave).  And 17 minutes after the gun went off, we started running.  This is going to be fun.

I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and being conservative with my pace.  I have felt pretty strong this summer but well, it's a marathon.  My brother was running a little faster than I would've wanted to, but he kept slowing down.  In reality, he was running faster than he had planned or as he would later find out... even faster than he would've wanted to.

I was still quite comfortable with my run, which was significantly faster than I ever run a marathon, but still 30 seconds per mile slower than my half marathon pace.  I was content, until mile marker 10.  Reality check: "What am I doing?  I'm running an ultra next weekend!" I slowed down, significantly and told my brother to just go.  I didn't tell him I wasn't running the whole marathon, but just let him go.  Told him to hydrate and eat and off he went.

I did a SLOW jog to the finish, basically, a walk, which messed up my half marathon time. And I crossed the finish in 2h10m.  My slowest half marathon in 2 years.  Granted, was NOT running a half marathon and was NOT trying to be competitive or break any sort of PRs.  And well, I had been pacing my first 10 miles as if I was running a full marathon.  My brain fully registered this ultra marathon attempt as I saw that sign that said "Course Split Ahead: Marathon to the left, Half Marathon to the right". Yep, this is the right decision.  I cannot run a marathon.  This is just silly.

I was content with my decision and just hung out at the finish line later.  I walked over to mile marker 25 as it was getting close to my brothers' goal time and when I saw him, I jogged with him to the finish.  He was tired and was running an 11:30 min/mile.  He obviously picked up the pace as we saw the 26 mile maker and I got to cross the finish line again.  THAT was fun.

Running with my brother the last mile to the finish. 

Crossing the finish line (and I was celebrating as if I had run a FULL MARATHON). 
Now, I'm running the 50K on Sunday, and I'm nervous.  Not sure what my goals are yet, just under 6hrs FOR SURE.. or should I say: "Under 6 hours PLEASE."  Either way, I think it'll be fun.  The weather looks pretty awesome and I know I have trained plenty.  Will report back on Sunday (after the Broncos/Raiders game, of course).

Happy running.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bringing the slap bracelet back!

We all had a slap bracelet once in our lives... most likely, in our childhood.  Well, the weekend of Sept 7 and 8, me and 11 of my closest friends got to play with one for a little over 27 hours.  How is a slap bracelet SO entertaining that we actually played with it for over a day?  Well, let me explain...

First things first.  What is a slap bracelet (In case you are a loser and never had one)?  A slap bracelet is a bracelet consisting of layered, flexible stainless steel spring bands within a fabric or plastic cover.  The bracelet can be straightened out, creating tension within the springy metal bands:

The straightened bracelet is then slapped against the wearer's forearm, causing the bands to spring back into a curve that wraps around the wrist, securing the bracelet to the wearer:

Now that that's clear, you ask yourself AGAIN: "How can someone (adults) play with one of these for 27 hours?  Well, easy answer: a Relay Race.  Not only are we dumb enough to sign up for a race that covers 188 miles in distance,14,000ft of elevation gain, a poor diet and no sleep, but also we want to slap each other with a bracelet, since the bracelet is our baton.  HOW FUN.

Focusing more on the running part and sorta forgetting about the countless hours I spent organizing my team, here's basically what I remember:

Thursday: Gather 12 people outside our house, drive 2 hours up to the mountains.  Stuff ourselves with delicious carbs and beer and go to bed.  Now, the fun (really?) part.  We woke up early in the morning and 10 of us tried to use the one bathroom available (most of us showering, since that was not going to be an option for the following 48 hours).  We finally got all 12 out the door, we packed the cars and off we go:

Yes, our van HAS to be decorated. 
The start line was quiet, as there was only about 10 teams starting at the same time as us.  Most teams had started earlier... and since we are a bunch of super fast runners, we were stuck starting late and with the challenge of catching up with all the slow pokes.  We had to take this lame safety class (10 min long) and then off we go.

Yep, looks like this team is ready to run!  :)
Long story short, there's 12 runners, 36 legs and we each run 3.  So roughly 8 hours in between each run and somewhere around 4-5 hours of sleep total... So when I say off we go, I mean, one runner starts and from there the slapping begins.  One after the other we pass on the bracelet.

 Ok now... this is me (we all know me):

Hello, my name is Gaby
How was MY race?  Surprisingly good.  I started off with a 9 mile run which also had lots of elevation gain.  The first 1.5 miles were straight up, gaining roughly 600ft.  At elevation, that definitely slowed me down, but once I reached the top, I was able to fly down on the bike path... for a while.  It then started going up again for the last 3 miles and while not steep, it was a flat-looking climb which ended up being a grinding 300ft.  Ran this first leg in 1hr and 27 minutes.

My second leg, the night one, was a pretty familiar one.  In two of the past 3 relays I had done, I had started my long leg at the Wolcott Post Office and ran into Eagle.  This is roughly 12 miles, but this time, Ragnar did a great job dividing the leg and I ran from the Wolcott Post Office and 5 miles west towards Eagle.  I had a very good run averaging 8:35 min/mile which made me very happy.  After this, I was ready to nap.

"Napping" can be very challenging in races like this.  First of all, we needed to keep driving and dropping off our remaining runners (3 more after me) and then, drive to the next major exchange point, where we'd meet our other half of the team once they were done with their night runs.  Then, once we got there, I was too tired to deal with the cold and was dying to go inside the building, lay my sleeping bag and sleep there.  But it was a tad crowded...

I slept well regardless
 The morning call is THE WORST! When the people in the other van call you at 4:00am and say: "our runner will be there in 40 minutes".  Ugh, are you kidding me?  Why are you all running SO FAST??!?!?!  Anyway, we got up and started getting ready to move.  We were not happy people.

Yes, we had reflective vests and ran in the dark with them.  SEXY! 
Regardless we kept moving, and as the sun came out, the smiles came back.  We were almost done.  My third and last leg was my fastest.  First, it was my shortest in distance at 4.5 miles, but also mostly downhill.  I was SO READY TO BE DONE.  Ran an average of 7:55 min/mile and while you may think I should've gone faster cause it was all downhill, well, pounding on pavement on steep hills is not fun.  I did my best.  But once I was done I was happy... and tired.

After all our 6 runners finished their legs, it was the last 6 to continue on and bring our team to the finish in Snowmass.  We, on the other hand, stopped in Basalt to have some delicious breakfast.  We were done running, we had been fed and were bound to just wait.  We went to the Exchange Point 36 in lower Snowmass to cheer on our last runner and he started his leg.  He looked determined and we, with no doubt in our minds headed up to the base of Snowmass Ski Resort to meet with him and cross the finish line together.

Our last runner, had no easy task in hand... his leg was long (9 miles..ish) and close to 2000 ft of elevation gain.  He said he'd run it in 90 minutes, and we believed him... and he did.  He absolutely crushed it.  But while he was running ferociously, we were just getting the party started.

Robb, our last runner, came sprinting down the mountain and we could barely keep up with him, but we somehow, kind of, sort of, crossed the finish line all together. And popped open champagne, and got our medals, and celebrated... FUN!  Ok, this part was ACTUALLY fun.  And I am usually the happiest when the above madness is over (and by that, I mean the running).

Team captain here opening a bottle of Champagne... Yeepeee!!!
The team celebrated and had some beer at the finish line area... shortly after that, we left and went to our hotel in Aspen, where we hung out at the pool with pizza and some more beer.  We then all met for a nice dinner (thanks for buying guys!!) and went out to the bars and clubs... and then some more pizza... this last part is sort of a blur.  Sunday after the partying is never a fun day.

Oh!  Forgot to mention, Team Happy Endings finished 8th place in our category out of 107.  Not too shabby.  Well done team... until next year!

Team Happy Endings at its finest. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Labor Day in Aspen/Snowmass

FINALLY we had a long weekend again.  I felt as is 4th of July had been a LONG time ago and I was feeling like I needed another day off.

This time we were thinking of taking it slightly easier than previous weekends.  My man obviously had in mind a hard hike before we could relax so we drove up to the Aspen/Snowmass area on Friday after work, we drove as close as possible to the trailhead, parked and slept in the car.

I'm gonna say: Chuck's new car is quite luxurious.  The back seats come completely down so it becomes a HUGE flat bed.  Chuck, Levi and I fit perfectly well... or so I thought.  It seems like it may be a little too short for Chuck and Levi shows signs of claustrophobia, haha.  I slept amazingly well... as always.

I did wake up with a massive headache, migraine-like and was feeling slightly nauseous (I think it was because of the migraine) and we started hiking regardless.  Once at the top trailhead, I followed the guys to the non-standard route which proved to be challenging for me that day.  I know I've done harder stuff, but I was tired and had that bad headache, I didn't feel like challenging myself that much and was in tears. At the saddle, when we met the trail (yes, there was a trail), Chuck thought I should go back.  I cried again, but went down.  I was so sad I wasn't able to summit those mountains, but may have been the best.  In the end, I am not that mountain girl that wants to summit ALL mountains in the world.

Took a nap in the car while waiting for the guys.  We drove to Snowmass to get some food and change and then we went to the Aspen/Snowmass JazzFest.  It was a blast, lots of good live music, we drank lots of free wine (we smuggled it in our pack) and even took a nap on the lawn in between bands.  Life was good again.

I often get stuck in a fast paced life that I appreciate and love, but it's also nice to slow down. That night we found a spot to park the car and sleep in there again.  The next morning we had some delicious breakfast and went to a coffee shop to brainstorm about our day activities.  I was feeling so much better so we decided to go for a run up Aspen Mountain.

Aspen Mountain is quite steep, so we learned that over 5 miles of run/hike up the mountain we'd be gaining 3200ft. of elevation.  It was a brutal climb, but it was gorgeous. The views, as usual, didn't disappoint and once at the top they were breathtaking. There was some live music at the top which we enjoyed with some beer (and I with some Mike's Hard Lemonade).  We took some pictures and flew down the mountain on a single track that was set up for a mountain bike race that took place the previous weekend.  It was soft, steep single track, but SUPER fun.

In the end, we had run 10 miles with 3200ft of elevation gain in 2.5 hours.  Which was pretty good for me.  We drove out to Carbondale, had some pizza and drove back home.  Life is good. As always.

***Pictures to come***