12.18.2015

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts for Runners

Since it seems like every blogger and every company does one of these, I felt I should put together my own list of great gifts for the runner in your life. (Or for yourself... I'm fully in favor of getting yourself a Christmas gift!) It's also a good opportunity for me to promote gear that I use and love. Full disclosure: there is a bias to this list, as some of the companies sponsor me.


 

The Clifton is one of my favorite running shoes of all time. I've worn it to race a fast mile and I was also planning to wear it for the marathon this fall. But it's also a great shoe if you're planning to spend a lot of time on your feet (ex: you have a standing desk at work) and just want more cushioning. Pro tip: If you're looking for something similar but with better traction, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR is the trail equivalent.


2. Rocket Pure - $13-$19
I still need to get around to writing a post just about Rocket Pure, but that will happen soon… Anyway, a lot of runners are really careful about what they put IN their bodies, but not as much thought seems to go into what we put ON our bodies. Rocket Pure is a line of all-natural body care products for athletes. The foot deodorizing spray is fantastic, but giving it as a gift kind of says “Hey, friend, your feet stink!” But, with how much time we spend out in the sun what runner doesn’t need a good sunscreen? Even in winter, your face needs protection! If your runner friend has a marathon or other big race coming up, I highly recommend Friction Therapy Natural Anti-Chafe Balm. Despite the sand and rocks that found their way into my shoes in Moab, Friction Therapy protected me from any kind of blister emergency! Honestly, all their products work great AND smell great, so you should probably get something for your friend and one of everything for yourself. ;-)
 

I'm a big fan of variety packs. Really, who doesn't get tired of the same flavor, day after day. Sure, I could probably eat curry every day of my life and not get bored, but I'm not normal. Plenty of people I know have a hard time drinking as much water as they should, but Nuun Hydration makes it easier with light, delicious flavors and an added boost of electrolights. You can’t lose! 


4. Racxers - $25 for a pack of 4
I wrote about them previously, but Racxers are the magnetic option to replace safety pins for your bib number. No fuss, and no holes in your expensive technical running gear!


5. Subscription to Trail Runner Magazine - $7 per quarter, $22 for one year, $33 for 2 years
 If your friend is one of those crazy types who loves playing in the dirt, a subscription to Trail Runner might be the perfect gift! They have gear reviews, advice on training and nutrition, interviews with elites, and lots of gorgeous trail pictures that will make you start pricing plane tickets.


So, there you have it. Amanda’s suggestions for last-minute Christmas shopping for your runner friends (or yourself)!


Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!

12.13.2015

Every Day Feels Like A Year


Mom and me at the 2014 Omaha Leprechaun Chase
The last time she saw me race.
I'm glad I could win that one for her.



Today is a day I've been dreading. Exactly a year ago, I held my mom's hand as she took her last breath. But, honestly, despite how much I've wished this day wouldn't come, today doesn't feel any different than yesterday or any of the days that have passed since then. Several people told me to expect this day and others like birthdays and holidays to feel harder, but for me the hardest moments are smaller and often more ordinary.

Using up the last bit of the perfume she gave me...

Accidentally spilling curry on the pajama shorts she bought me with whales on them...

The first big race where she wasn't at the finish line to give me a big hug...

Having something exciting happen and picking up the phone to call her...

Moving into my first apartment that she'll never see...


The list just goes on, and I don't want to bore anyone. I'm really surprised at how quickly this day arrived. The passage of time is a funny thing. I've noticed that each day feels like a year in itself, so how did the year fly? Where did it go and how does time take me away from her so swiftly?

This cutie grew up to be my mom!
That's the big fear I still face, really -- losing her. That feels strange to say from where I sit now. But, with each turn of a calendar page, I worry about losing more of her... Forgetting the sound of her voice or how her hugs felt. I'm scared that every single day of the next 50+ years (or however long I have left without her) will be just as hard as the last 365 have been.

Does there come a point when I'll be able to look back on the happy memories and not feel shattered into a million pieces? Or will I just get better at pretending? Would I even want to get better at pretending?

I'm sorry that this piece is so dark. Most of you know that's typically not how I am. But grief is a very real thing that most people experience at some point that it seems like nobody really talks openly about. As a child, I remember going to funerals of some of my grandma's friends and a few people from my church, but it was never someone I was close to, and at the end of the day, nothing in my life had changed. I'm sure you've been there too. You went to a funeral and then you went home (great piece from Courtney Fitzgerald that I saw a few days after my mom's funeral). But, when you find yourself as the one dreading going home, everything feels so backwards.

For the first few days, it feels like your friends and acquaintances are in the same boat. They grieve with you. A few days or weeks later, they go back to business as usual, and you're left wondering what's wrong with you that you can't just snap out of it and move on. But, of course you can't! There's a hole in your soul that can't be healed with an ice pack or a band-aid. Life is different now.

Riding the chairlift at the Flagstaff, AZ Snowbowl
So, that's where I am. I'm getting ready to pack up my car for a week back in Nebraska with my dad for Christmas. To be completely honest, I don't want to go. My week will be spent sorting through old photos, trinkets, and clothes so my dad doesn't have to live surrounded by boxes and piles of old stuff. My family moved to Lincoln in 1991, so pretty much every single thing there reminds me of my mom. I'm scared to go back to the church where her funeral was held (when I went in March, I had very vivid flashbacks of the sights, sounds, and smells of that horrible, cold morning) and I feel nauseated thinking about visiting her grave for the first time. There's nothing I want to do less than making this trip home. But I will. My dad needs my help and I can't hide forever.

I've mostly avoided my hometown since my mom was diagnosed in 2010 because I felt like I could pretend nothing was happening if I wasn't there. I've been a really terrible friend and pushed away people I deeply care about because I was too scared to face my mom's illness. I even missed the wedding of someone who has been a dear friend to me since kindergarten. While I can never go back and change what has happened, it's time to apologize to those friends and begin to repair my relationships. Maybe it'll even help to heal my heart in some way. I don't know, but I'm tired of hiding and bottling everything up. That's no way to live, and I'm ready to try living again.

11.27.2015

Race Recap: 2015 USATF Trail Marathon Championship

Warning: This race report is long. But, so was the race. It takes more than a few minutes to tell the story of a race that took me almost 5 hours. I apologize.

When Alex and I jumped on I-70 toward Moab, the plan was to enjoy a nice camping trip and to do some mountain biking. Sure, I had all my race gear in the car just in case, but I really didn't intend to run the Moab Trail Marathon. After how wiped out I felt during/after the Lake Padden trail half, I was ready for some downtime before starting my build-up for next year. Then, around Grand Junction, CO, Alex turned to me and said "You know you want to run, so maybe you should just do it!" Conveniently, if I was off running a race for a few hours, it would give Alex an opportunity to go for a harder mountain bike ride than I would be comfortable with. Knowing it was probably a monumentally stupid idea, I decided maybe he was right.

We got into town and set about finding a camp site on the race course, in a cute side canyon with a creek. Now, some of you know I haven't had the best experiences with camping in the past, but I felt less threatened by the idea of car camping and, though it would be chilly at night, it helped that we wouldn't have any rain this time. When we had everything set up, we went to pick up my race number, even though I wasn't 100% convinced I would be racing (at that point, I was around 80%, and I assumed that if I started the race, I would turn off to finish the half marathon instead of the full...)

Number in hand, we drove back down the canyon to our tent and got everything organized for the next morning. I usually obsess about every little detail before a race. I don't deviate too far from my traditional pre-race menu, I need the right amount of sleep, and so on... This time, because I wasn't sure I was running, and I WAS sure that I wasn't racing, I took a much more relaxed approach. I rehydrated some freeze-dried camping food for dinner, slept on the ground, and made it to the starting line with barely a second to spare before we were off and running. In a way, I think that was good because it didn't give me a chance to get nervous.

For once in my running life, I didn't go out stupidly hard. The first several miles are on sand and are rather crowded as the half marathoners and full marathoners were running together, so I started out pretty conservatively. I figured that if I was going to be out there for a long time, it would probably be a bad idea to waste all my energy in the first hour. Because of the approach I took and the combined race course, I had no idea what place I was in. And, honestly, for once it didn't really matter to me. I was out there to learn and grow and to play in the dirt. I intended to push my limits and let the results fall where they may. On a course like that one, the race is just as much (if not more) about competing against your mind and the course as it is about racing the other athletes.

I had a few hiccups on some of the longer climbs just because I hadn't been training for that at all. (Remember: I was originally training to run a fast time at California International  Marathon, a course FAR flatter than Moab!) But, I still felt like I was moving fairly well... until I hit a wall. Scorched Earth Wall, to be specific. This was a long climb that started around 14 miles. To paint a little picture: to your left is a beautiful panorama of the wide-open desert and the red rocks of Moab, along with a huge drop-off. So, if you have even a slight phobia of heights, looking down would be a very bad idea. But, with how rocky the footing is, you probably shouldn't take your eyes off the ground directly in front of you anyway. 

From the beginning of the race, I had been religiously consuming a gel every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I hadn't been so meticulous about my hydration / refilling my bottles at aid stations, so I soon found myself without water and growing more dizzy and nauseous by the minute. About halfway up Scorched Earth Wall, I found a big rock to sit on to ponder my predicament. In that moment, I figured I had two options. 1. I could walk back down the hill to the previous aid station to drop out. Or 2. I could drag myself up the rest of the climb to the next aid station and then drop out. I really didn't see any chance of me finishing the race. I was done. 

As I sat there, questioning what I had done so wrong in my life to end up in this bind, a few of my fellow runners encouraged me to get up and move with them for at least 60 seconds. They promised me that, if I needed to, I could stop after those 60 seconds. So, I did. I either had to make forward or backward movement anyway. I was dehydrated, and sitting there wouldn't get me any closer to water... I did this probably about 5 times. I would move with a group of runners for about a minute, and then sit down again, questioning my own stupidity in deciding to run and pretty sure I was going to die out there.

Then, something marvelous happened: we reached the top of Hurrah Pass! There was still a little while until the next aid (at Mile 17.5), but it was mostly downhill. I still fully planned on dropping out when I got there. I couldn't see myself getting through to 26 miles. But, when we arrived, I discovered that this aid was incredibly remote - the volunteers had come in on some kind of crazy, rugged Jeep, and if I dropped they wouldn't be able to get me out until the race was over several hours later. Those wonderful volunteers helped me refill my bottles and got me to drink a couple tiny cups of soda and it turned my day around. Now, I have to say that I never understood when ultrarunners have told me about drinking soda at aid stations, but in that moment it was some sort of miracle elixir. While it did make me burp constantly for about a mile, my stomach started to calm almost instantly and I was able to run again. Who knew Coke was magic?

By then, I had sort of settled into a nice little group of runners. Sometimes a few would move ahead if they were feeling good or drop back during a rough patch, but we all seemed to regroup pretty frequently over the next few miles. I was having a hard time around mile 21 and it just so happened that some mountain bikers were coming down the hill we were running up. I turned to warn the runners behind me to be alert, and when I looked back there was Alex! He had met up with some bikers whose significant others were racing, so they set out to find us! I could have stopped to chat with Alex because I was so happy to see him, but he reminded me that I still had some running to do. The struggles I  had been experiencing just moments before were completely forgotten. I felt like a new runner and definitely didn't feel like I had been running for 21 miles already. 

I felt strong and ready to take on the last part of the course, which would turn out to be the most interesting stretch of running I have encountered so far... In the final 3 miles, we had to complete the "adventure 5k" course. That was a race of its own, but we, the crazy ones running the marathon, had to run it after we were already quite tired and delirious. Before the race, I had heard about the "rock climbing" portion but, as a former rock climber, I thought it would be a piece of cake. However, when I actually reached this section, I just had to stop and laugh for a moment. We were really going to climb up a rock face, with 24 miles already in our legs and with only a thin handline to help us up. I was really glad they had stationed a volunteer on this section to help with advice on hand/foot placement as well as a few words of encouragement, because my mind wasn't quite about to process what I was asking it to do.

After a little jaunt around the mesa, over some slickrock, and down another steep rock face, we had a (seemingly never-ending) section of flat, dirt parking lot. From a way off we could see the finish line and I found myself flying past several men, pulled by a magnetic attraction toward those banners. Finally, I clawed my way up the last steep, sandy hill and threw myself across the finish line of my second marathon and most definitely the hardest race I have attempted (so far). While I was certainly tired, I was ecstatic and more proud of myself than I have ever been. I took on something that seemed absolutely crazy - and still does, 3 weeks later - and faced some seriously dark moments, but I pushed through and I DID IT!
USATF Top 10 women.
Yes, I'm wearing a bear hat. I was cold.

While I said earlier that I didn't really care about place during the race, as soon as it was over, I just HAD to know... Already this year I had run two USATF championship races and narrowly missed my goal of a Top 10 finish each time with 11th at the Mountain Running Championship and 12th at the Trail Half Marathon Championship. Alex and I hung around the finish for a little bit, but the results were unclear, and we were starving... We went back into town to grab some lunch. While there, we were able to get on some wi-fi to try to find results. Here's where I have some mixed feelings. While I was the 13th female finisher in the Moab Trail Marathon, several of the women ahead of me didn't have current USATF memberships, so I ended up 5th in the Championship field. While I'm very excited to have my first national championship medal, it feels a little... I don't know... off. But, I will take it and I feel a lot more motivated to work hard in 2016 so I can race harder and smarter. This race was a tremendous learning and growing experience for me, and I'm so glad Alex is such an enabler!

Arches National Park

Since he let me have my little adventure, the rest of the trip was about having fun together. We did a little mountain biking near town and spent a few hours exploring Arches National Park. We're both really excited to go back to Moab at some point in the future and I'm really excited to exact vengeance on Scorched Earth Wall next year!



Gear I used:
  • Shoes: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat - Good amount of cushion for a lot of time on my feet and great traction on the aptly-named slickrock.
  • Hydration: Ultimate Direction UltraVesta pack with water in both bottles. The pockets were great for the excessive number of gels I took with me, and the interior pockets gave me room to stash my jacket and gloves after I took them off, plus extra "just in case" supplies. This pack is also so comfortable and light that I forgot I was wearing it!
  • Impressive new gear: RocketPure Friction Therapy Balm --- I've never used any blister prevention products before I met the RocketPure folks up in Bellingham, WA, but I've been blown away by how well this stuff works! I'll definitely be doing some gear features on their products because y'all need to know about them! As I said, a lot of this course was on sand (most of which seemed to make its way into my shoes!), but since I used Friction Therapy
    With my super strong friend Ashley after I finished
    (Both wearing RecoFit gear!)
    Balm, I finished the race with only two small blisters. I know it sounds like if I got blisters, the product didn't work, but I saw some nasty blisters in the med tent after the race, so I know that RocketPure's magic protected my feet from some brutal destruction.
  • Compression: I've been wearing compression socks for several years, but I recently got connected with RecoFit at the Trail Running Conference and I decided to give their calf sleeves a try. Look for a review sometime in the near future but, for now, just know that they're great!
  • Most important: every volunteer who gave up their Saturday to help a bunch of weirdos running around the desert and every single one of my fellow weirdos... The trail running community is just amazing and I'm so grateful to have shared this experience with such wonderful people!
Thank you Flatirons Running, HOKA ONE ONE, Racxers, RocketPure (and, of course, my Alex) for getting me to the start and finish line of this race! I'm taking some time to cross train and rehab a funky hip flexor thing I got from sitting too much at my desk at work, but my tentative plan is to start back to racing at the USATF Cross Country Championship in Bend, OR in February. As soon as I've made a decision on my coaching situation and get this hip healthy, I'll start to put together a racing schedule for 2016. But, I definitely have to go back to Bend. Hooray! If anyone has any "must do" races I should look at, let me know in the comments section!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

10.22.2015

Leap of Faith

Change is hard. It's really hard. But it's an inevitable part of growing up.

When I came to Boulder in June 2012, I still considered myself a steepler. Then, I was a short distance road racer who enjoyed running on trails, but didn't realize there were trail races shorter than ultras. After some nudging, I ran a marathon last April. Yet, when people asked me what I do as a runner, I never had a simple answer. I had discovered trail racing at the 2014 GoPro Games and after we lost my mom last December, I was spending a lot more time on trails because it felt more meditative and gave me a chance to talk with Mom. But, it's easy to get hooked on speeding over flat roads, and when you've spent so many years focused on hitting various qualifying standards, it's hard to just leave that behind.

So, this year I had been trying to do everything. Between trails and roads, I've run 24 races this year. Obviously, that's excessive and I've definitely paid the price with some pretty bad races and wear on my body. I won't pack my schedule nearly as full in future years. But, in a way, it's what I had to do. Every race had a purpose and I stepped on many of those starting lines chasing not my competitors but my own happiness. I was trying to figure out my place as a runner.

I was feeling that I was more of a trail runner after a couple big successes in the summer -- a win at the Summer Roundup 12k in Colorado Springs and 11th at the USATF Mountain Running Championship -- but I wasn't ready to go all-in. Watching a bunch of my friends hit the Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard in the marathon made me want to give it another shot. But Fall is great for trail running, so I talked my coach into allowing me to continue training for trail races at the same time. I knocked a few races out of the park, and had some big flops too, both on the road and trail. I became really concerned that I wasn't going to be ready in time for the marathon, because I had been having terrible luck with long runs.

I've spent the past 2 weeks pretty immersed in trail running, with the Estes Park Trail Running Conference and then the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship, and I've spent a lot of time talking to my fellow trail running women. It occurred to me that continuing to chase times wasn't actually making me happy. If I had to choose between a blazing fast road course and trails with heart-bursting climbs and breathtaking views, it's not even a question for me.

I know I'm rambling, but I promise this post is almost over, so hang in there!

While I have an enormous amount of respect and gratitude for everything Brad Hudson has done for me as my coach for the last 3 years, I've made the decision to leave Hudson Elite. Brad is incredibly knowledgeable and a great coach, but in order to best focus my efforts on the trails, I need to start working with a coach who has a better understanding about the unique demands of trail racing. But, I'm not going to dive straight into anything. I'm considering running the USATF Trail Marathon Championship in Moab, UT in 2.5 weeks, and then taking some downtime to let my body recover from this year. After that, I'll spend a couple months building up a solid base of miles before figuring out exactly what my next move will be.

As I said at the beginning, change is scary. It's hard. But, if you want to learn to fly, you eventually have to take a leap of faith into the unknown. And, I'd say I'm ready to test my wings.


**This doesn't mean I'll never hit the roads, but it just won't be something I focus on or let myself stress over anymore.**

10.18.2015

Race Recap: 2015 USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship

Over the weekend I was in Bellingham, WA for the 2015 USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship, hosted by the Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon. I had a lot of positive feelings going into this race. Race director Tad sounded really friendly and welcoming, and I had a really good feeling about how I would perform, even with hill and trail work being conspicuously absent from my training lately.

I often struggle during my first 24-48 hours down from altitude, so I wasn't too worried by the dizzy spells and heavy legs Thursday and Friday. I figured once Saturday rolled around, I'd be good to go. Home2 Suites Bellingham very generously donated rooms for the elites and we were very well taken care of all weekend. I was also very fortunate to take part in my first pre-race press conference with Kimber Mattox and Allison Morgan (eventual champion and runner-up) and Caitlin Smith (2015 USATF Trail 50km Champion), as well as 4 of the men. Rocket Pure, a natural skin care company, treated each of us to a goody bag filled with their products and I'm excited about putting them to use, especially the sunscreen and Friction Therapy. I also won the drawing for a year's supply of oil from Flora Health, and I'm looking forward to incorporating them as I work to overhaul my terrible eating habits. After the press conference, a few of us hit up a local pizza joint before bed.

Part of the elite field after the press conference

With a race start time of 10am, it was nice to be able to take my time getting ready and to have a nice breakfast to fuel up. An hour before the race, I set out on my customary 3 mile warm-up jog. Because I'd had trouble previewing the hilly part of the course on Thursday, I thought it might be a good idea to check it out so I knew what I was in for. First lesson of the weekend: don't do close to 700ft of climbing during your warm up when you'll desperately need your climbing muscles during the race. I took it easy and walked some of the steeper parts but, in hindsight, I wasted a lot of energy then.

Just awkwardly warming up in the background

Before I knew it, we were off and running! Now, my race plan was to run smart and calm for the first of two laps and then get aggressive in the second lap. But, honestly, when have I ever successfully pulled off that strategy? I let the speedy women go and tried not to panic about how far back I was, but I still hit mile 1 in 6:10. It was a bit of a downhill and not on technical trail, but I knew I was falling back into my usual pattern of running "stupid." I backed off a touch for a second mile around 6:30, and then we prepared to start climbing. The trail for this portion had more roots and rocks, along with some mud, and was punctuated by shorter, steeper climbs. It was impossible to get into a rhythm, as we were always going up or down, with very little flat running.



This section is where I blew two tires. In that third mile, my quads unexpectedly lost their ability to process any kind of uphill. Three miles into thirteen miles, and my legs were already toast. What followed was a long climbing section with several switchbacks. I alternated between forcing my legs to move with my hands and half-shuffling on anything that was flatter or downhill, so I sort of yo-yoed back and forth with Caitlin, but eventually I just couldn't keep up and I had to let her go. The big downhill was very welcome after all that time, and I tried to gain back some ground.

As I finished the first lap and headed out on the second, I had no idea how I would get my dead legs through another 6.5 miles. It seemed impossible. I didn't know what place I was in, but figured I couldn't even be in the top 20. I was beyond defeated. I wanted to quit SO badly, but I didn't want to have spent so much money on the trip, only to DNF. (Note: there are legitimate reasons for dropping out of a race, but I try to only do it if I'm injured or in some kind of danger. I really don't want to make a habit of dropping out of races if I can help it.)

There would be occasional moments where I'd make myself stick with a passing man for a few moments. I figured that being alone with my thoughts was dangerous to my chance of finishing. Like most runners, I've hit low points in races before, but I don't think I'd ever gone to such a dark place before in my running career. After some more time alone, I noticed a woman was gaining on me on the switchbacks, so I tried to latch onto her like I had with Caitlin on the first lap. We weren't moving very quickly, but Lizi helped pull me along and get my butt to the top of the long climb for a second time. Shortly before we reached the summit, I noticed another woman coming up. Still not knowing what place I was in and with over a mile still to run, I decided I had to go. I had run a terrible race, but it wasn't too late to still fight with everything I had left in me. And I did. She caught me with about 600m to go and my legs had no answer, but I still kept fighting.

I didn't know what place I had finished until about an hour after the race, but at that point it really didn't matter. That day, there was nothing more I could have done physically. That was really hard to accept, but I'm coming to accept it after a day to process. I've realized that if I'm in a position to be upset and disappointed with 12th place at a national championship, then my life is going pretty darn well. In my first two USATF trail national championship races, I've finished 11th and 12th, and that's not so bad. Being SO close to the top 10 twice now makes me even more motivated to put in more time on the trails to get ready for next time.



And, as I've told several people this weekend... Trail runners, especially these amazing women, have become such a wonderful family for me. I feel so loved and supported by this group of people, and I always find it so hard to return to "the real world" after a fun trail weekend. This morning, I shared some lovely trail miles with Caitlin and Maria Dalzot (a Bellingham resident who is at the same time a fierce competitor and one of the sweetest women you'll ever meet) and it was a beautiful, transformative run for me. Together we processed yesterday's race and they helped me work through my next steps to finding happiness as a runner. I can't wait to see them at a race sometime soon!

Speaking of racing soon... There are some changes to my racing schedule coming up... Stay tuned!

I have so many people to thank for making this weekend so incredible and I hope I don't leave anyone out...
Thank you to:

Tad Davis, race director
All the volunteers at the race, especially the man who chased me down with a water cup when I missed an aid station
My fellow athletes, every single one of you
Rocket Pure
Flora Health
Richard Bolt of USATF and the American Trail Running Association
HOKA ONE ONE, Henry Guzman of Flatirons Running, Susan Walton from Recofit, Racxers, and all my supporters

10.16.2015

A Handful of Race Recaps

I'm sure this comes as a HUGE surprise to everyone (NOT!), but I got way behind again. Work has been busy and I've been applying to grad school, so I kind of just forgot. I guess I just need to do one big recap. Again.
PC: Joe Viger

USATF Mountain Running Championship / Collegiate Running Association Championship - July 25
Location: Mt. Bachelor in Bend, OR
Distance: approx 8km
Elevation gain: 1600ft
Surface: trail
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE ChallengerATR

Finish place: 11th overall, 2nd CRA

Oh, my goodness! So, so, so much fun! This course was crazy hard, but it was so beautiful and I'm so glad I did this! My plan was to try to be conservative the first lap, and then get aggressive the second. The second time up the long climb was brutal, but it felt so good to let loose and fly on the final big downhill. I told myself that a "great day" would put me in the top 10, and I only missed that by 15 seconds, so I would consider this a very successful first outing at a US Mountain Running Championship. I also fell in love with Bend on this trip, so I'll definitely have to go back for the USA XC Championship in February.

ERS Black Hawk 10km - August 1
Location: Golden Gate Canyon Park near Golden, CO
Distance: 10km
Surface: trail
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR
Finish place: officially 2nd (crossed holding hands with 1st)

This was just fun. I drove down from Boulder in the dark, excited to have some fun playing in the woods. I got to the turnaround with the 1st man, but we had some confusion about the route, so we stopped and waited for the next woman (Bret), who was about 30 seconds behind us. After a brief discussion, we all continued on, and I spent the rest of the run chatting with Bret. She's a Williams College alum, so we raced each other frequently in college. With about 2km to go, another guy rudely pushed past us, almost pushing us down a steep drop to the right of the trail. (Note: trail runners are generally very polite on the trails. If you just announce your intention to pass, we'll scoot over to let you through at the first safe opportunity.) Bret and I talked and decided to hold hands across the finish line. It's not something I would normally do, but in the moment it made sense because it would've been rude for either of us to throw in a last-second sprint after we'd been running together so socially for the past few miles.

Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon - September 5
Location: Lory State Park near Fort Collins, CO
Distance: approx. 13.1
Elevation gain: 
Surface: trail
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat
Finish place: 1st woman

Yikes. This run was even harder than I expected. I knew there was a solid bit of climbing in the first half, but for some reason I still took it out aggressively. I think a major part of that was just not wanting to be stuck in a traffic jam on the long singletrack sections. The highlight of this race was the woman cheering in a squirrel costume around mile 8 or 9. The low point was the seemingly never-ending rolling stretch the last few miles. I kept thinking "are we there yet??" The only word I have to describe how I felt as I crossed the finish line was "relief." I was so glad to be done after running a little scared for the final miles. I was really hurting and I was worried someone would catch me. So, I was quite relieved to have held on to a 6+ minute victory. And I got a cute squirrel trophy!

Farmers 5000 - September 20
Location: Arvada, CO
Distance: 5km
Surface: Road
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Huaka
Finish place: 3rd woman

As you probably know, I've been competing in the Colorado Runner Magazine racing series this year. That's why I ended up running this small 5km that raises money for a high school in Arvada. I needed to place high and earn as many points as possible. My hope was that I could also run a fast-ish time. I went out too quickly the first mile -- it was a downhill, so it didn't feel like I was running that fast, but it definitely came back to bite me in the last mile when we had to go back up the hill. This one was not pretty, and the disappointment was compounded when I almost passed out during my cooldown. I'm not sure what that was about, and I'm still having occasional dizzy episodes. Hmm... Working on it.

Oktoberfest 8km - September 26
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Distance: 8km
Surface: Paved Bike Path
About 200m into the race. PC: Tim Bergsten
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Huaka
Finish place: 3rd woman

This was the final race in the 2015 Colorado Runner series, and I went into it with a small lead. When I showed up, I planned that I would only run if one or both of the other top 3 women were there. And Ashley was, so I had to run, but I was only going to run as fast as I had to in order to secure the series win (I needed to save something for my half marathon the next day.) The out-and-back course was slightly uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back, so I just sat behind Ashley and Kierann and let them set whatever pace they wanted. It was hard to just let them pull away in the last 3km when I felt so good, but I knew 3rd overall was enough for the series win, so I just held my pace through the finish line. We didn't run fast, but it was good to feel so comfortable at close to marathon pace.

Colorado Springs Half Marathon / USATF CO State Championship - September 27
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Distance: 13.1 miles
Surface: Road
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 2
Finish place: 3rd woman (2nd USATF-CO)

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: you can't trust any race in Colorado that advertises itself as "flat and fast." They're almost always just saying (in fewer words) they are "flat and fast compared to the Pikes Peak Ascent." I went out at a smart, relaxed pace in 3rd place and felt pretty great through about halfway... And then the hills got worse. There were long, gradual hills mixed with short and cruelly steep ones. Around mile 9, I switched into "Survival Mode." Spectator reports of how back the 4th woman was went from "I can't even see her behind you!" to "She's about a minute back" much too quickly. I was living for the last mile and a half, which were downhill. I knew if I could get there, I could pick up the pace and get to the finish line. I managed to hold onto 3rd place, but I ran considerably slower than I had thought I would and it felt so much harder. It was a very draining weekend. But a pair of 3rd place finishes isn't so bad, right?

------

Now, I'm in Bellingham, WA for the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship tomorrow. With the strength I'm building in marathon training, I'm aiming for the top 10 finish that eluded me at the Mountain Running Championship in July. The course is beautiful and challenging and I feel SO fortunate to be here. Thank you to my wonderful supporters: HOKA ONE ONE, Flatirons Running, Racxers, GU Energy Labs, Hudson Elite, and my family!

9.19.2015

Gear Feature: Racxers

"Any given moment can change your life -- you just have to be there." - Curly Girl Designs

This is the story of how I stepped outside of my comfort zone in a big way. In doing so, I tried my hand at modeling and was introduced to a cool, new product that I think is worth getting excited about.

***

credit: David Schlatter Photography

Sometimes, a really vague opportunity comes along, and you are very tempted to ignore it. One day, my coach posted a message in our team facebook group, informing us that there were models needed at a particular address at a certain time and telling us what clothing we should bring. That was all the information I had on which to base a decision. Really, relaxing in my new apartment sounded really appealing.

Somehow, I got myself organized and out to this house in a nearby town. When I walked into the studio, there were several other people around my age who looked really fit but there wasn't anyone I recognized. That kind of situation falls pretty high on my "most feared" list. I get pretty anxious when I don't have even a single familiar face in the room. But, at that point, I was committed. I couldn't just walk out.

After some sitting around and chatting, I found out why we were there -- a few rad guys in Boulder will be starting a Kickstarter campaign for a great new product called "Racxers" and they needed to get started on the first round of advertising.

What are Racxers? If you've competed in any kind of race -- running, cycling, triathlon, skiing, and probably any other number of sports that I couldn't think of -- you've probably pinned a competition number to your clothing.


Like many runners, I tend to obsess a bit over every little detail when I race. I have to wear my GPS watch so I can analyze the data later, I need the right sunglasses, my shoes have to be tied (and often re-tied several times) "just right." At any given race, I can be seen making several last minute adjustments to the pins holding my bib number in place. I can't stand it being crooked! It's a lot easier to lay my singlet out on a table to attach the number, right? But then, when I pull it over my head, the pins tear either the number or, worse, my awesome singlet! 



After using Racxers for a few weeks, including at the US Mountain Running Championship, I've noticed a few things:

  1. When I attach the number before putting on my singlet, I haven't had any problems with the number tearing and, because I'm not piercing the fabric, there's no damage to my singlet. 
  2. If I still feel a need to fidget on the starting line, Racxers are much easier and quicker to adjust than safety pins. They're strong enough that I never have to worry about my number falling off, but they're very easy to remove/adjust just by pinching and sliding (imagine you were trying to snap with your thumb and index finger).
  3. I've never had any kind of skin irritation from Racxers. The back is smooth and flat, so I never even notice it. If you've ever had a safety pin pop open and stab you during a race, you'll appreciate the comfort of Racxers.

Overall, I think Racxers are an excellent addition to my gear collection because they're easy to use, they don't damage me or my clothing, and they help prevent the waste of all the countless safety pins that would probably otherwise get tossed.

9.17.2015

HOKA ONE ONE Top Trails: Boulder

I really will write my recap from the US Mountain Running Championship (I'm hoping to get it done this weekend), but in the meantime...

If you haven't watched the Runnerspace HOKA ONE ONE Top Trails Boulder episode, you really should You might recognize at least one face...

I can't embed it on my blog, but go check it out on the HOKA ONE ONE Top Trails website!


Thank you SO much to Runnerspace.com and HOKA ONE ONE for letting me be a part of this fun project!


7.20.2015

Rapid-fire Race Recaps

To avoid boring everyone with long recaps from my last 5 races, I thought I'd just shorten them and combine them into one post. That's kind of how the last few weeks have seemed to pass, anyway.


Slacker Half Marathon - June 27
Location: Loveland Ski Area to Georgetown, CO
Distance: 13.1 miles
Starting Elevation ~ 10,500ft
Ending Elevation ~ 8,500ft
Surface: Road
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton
Finish place: 3rd woman & 13th overall
Time: 1:21:30

I ran Slacker because it's part of the Colorado Runner series I've been competing in this year, despite knowing that 13 miles of downhill probably wasn't the smartest idea. It turned out to be fine (in terms of my knee), but I found it surprisingly difficult. I had thought I could essentially just roll downhill for 13 miles, but the small uphills en route turned out to be challenging and my hip was really tight for a few days afterward from the downs. I thought it might be a good idea to work on my downhills, but I should probably cool it a bit. 13 miles may be excessive.


Superior Downhill Mile - July 4
Location: Superior, CO
Elevation change: drop of about 170ft
Surface: Road
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton
Finish place: 4th woman & 22nd overall
Time: 4:49

Okay, this one was just fun. And felt kind of weird. I don't get to race short, fast stuff very often. I race the mile, at most, once per year. The first quarter mile was the steepest, so we got out really hard and I was sure my stomach was going to fly right out of my throat from the jarring motion. Very bizarre. I think the hardest part, though, was staying fully engaged through the 2nd and 3rd quarters. I realize it's a very short race and attention span shouldn't be an issue, but I had to keep reminding myself to keep pushing because it would be over before I knew it. I obviously can't count this as a new PR because of the downhill, but it was still a lot of fun to run a mile faster than I ever have before.


HOKA ONE ONE ERS Larkspur 10km - July 11
Location: Larkspur, CO
Elevation: around 7200ft
Surface: Trail
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Huaka
Finish place: 1st woman & 1st overall
Time: 40:48 (course record)

Since the ERS series is sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE, I thought I'd jump into a couple of their races. This first one was an out-and-back route in the pretty town of Larkspur, just a bit north of Colorado Springs. For the first mile, our group consisted of me, one other woman, and two men. After the mile, the men went ahead and I focused on trying to just hold the same pace. Because the half marathon started 10 minutes earlier, I was never all alone and felt like I had plenty of people to chase. Around 3.5 miles, I passed a group of half marathoners to discover the 2 men were only a few seconds ahead of me. I surged to catch them, thinking we could run together. When I settled right behind them, they slowed, so I decided to just go for it at 4.5 miles. I was worried they would just sit on me and then outkick me at the end, but that didn't happen and I was the first person, male or female, across the finish line. Since this was a first year event, I guess that counts as a course record too? I can't say either of those things happen for me very often!


Photo by: Tim Bergsten of Pikes Peak Sports
Summer Roundup 12km - July 12
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Elevation: a little over 6,000ft
Surface: Trail
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR
Finish place: 1st woman & 19th overall
Time: 49:14 (course record)

After the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile went so well, I started considering the Triple Crown of Running series as a possibility. I contacted the folks at TCR, and that's how I ended up on this starting line. Having just raced in Larkspur the day before, I didn't think my legs would really be "there" for me, but thought it would be fun to give it a go anyway.  The best part was that my friend and teammate Nicole was going to be there too! As she's been dealing with an injury for quite a while, we don't get to run together very often. The 12k was a 3-lap course (and they frequently change the course, so the winner would automatically get a new course record), so my race plan was pretty simple: Go out in a comfortable pace, regardless of what place that put me in, hold strong through the second lap, and then try to really attack the 3rd lap. Liz, a triathlete, took it out pretty aggressively, and Nicole and I tried to stay calm and work together for a bit.

On the first climb, we closed the gap on Liz a little bit, and then she opened it back up on the downhill. Right before the 2nd climb, I pulled up next to her and, in that moment, I decided to just go for it and really compete. With as strong as Liz was on the downhills, I knew I'd really have to push on the 2nd and 3rd climb. The last uphill half-mile to the finish felt brutally long and I was so relieved to finally break through the finishing tape, with Liz not far behind. I was super proud of Nicole's 4th place finish, since she hasn't been able to seriously train in quite a long time. Hooray! And we got an awesome picture together in the first mile (see above).

And, because post-race interviews are always super awkward, here's a little bonus for you!




HOKA ONE ONE ERS Longmont 10km - July 19 
Location: Longmont, CO
Elevation: around 5000ft
Surface: some paved bike path, some dirt
Shoe choice: HOKA ONE ONE Huaka
Finish place: 1st woman & 1st overall
Time: 39:54 (course record)

I was really tempted to jump in the Barr Trail Mountain Race in Manitou Springs, but stuck with the original plan of running this 10km in Longmont, just up the road from Boulder. It is advertised as a "trail" race, but a significant portion was on a paved bike path around some nice little lakes. After a 10 year old girl led the first mile in an impressive 6:11, Tim and I shared the lead for most of the race and enjoyed a bit of conversation. Then, on a short out-and-back section around 4 miles, we saw that Bryanna wasn't all that far behind us and that lit my competitive fire, so I decided it was time to just GO. I was convinced Tim was right with me, but I crossed the finish line alone, with Tim about half a minute behind me.
The folks at Endurance Race Series put on some great races, so I'm hoping I can fit a few more of their races into my schedule!

-----

So, with all of this racing... What's next?

Well, that's a mighty good question!

On Saturday (July 25th), I'll be racing over rocks and dirt, up and down steep trails, at the US Mountain Running Championship in Bend, OR. I wanted to race the championship last year when it was in New Hampshire, but wasn't able to make the trip because of injury. This year, I'm healthy and ready to "embrace the suck" in a very beautiful place.

I'm also very excited to announce I've been given a spot in the Pikes Peak Ascent, where I'll race for 13ish miles up "America's Mountain" on August 15th. This will be the hardest thing I've ever even considered doing. I'm really looking forward to the challenge and am honored to have the opportunity!

Let's go!

6.15.2015

Race recap: Garden of the Gods 10-Mile

I'm still trying to follow my 2015 goal of finding my joy in running. There's no point to any of this for me if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing.

Over the weekend, finding my joy meant heading down to Colorado Springs for the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile, the next stop in the Colorado Runner racing series. Having just been granted permission from my chiropractor to start running small hills 6 days before the race, I had absolutely zero expectations of myself in this race. My goals were to not run stupid and to enjoy the beautiful scenery. If I also happened to run a decent time along the way, that would just be icing on the cake. If I blew up spectacularly, that would also be icing on the cake. Basically, I was going to have iced cake either way, because I just love running in pretty places, no matter what. The other really exciting part of this race is that it would be my first in my new HOKA ONE ONE uniform!



Anyway... My previous longest run since my injury had been 6 miles. Since, at this point, 10 miles is pretty long for me, I decided not to add any extra volume to my week by doing any kind of warm-up. Smart, right? I just did a little walking with Alex and then drills with two 20-second strides a few minutes before the start. That may not have been my brightest idea, but it also wasn't my dumbest.

100m after the start in Manitou Springs
Like I said above, goal #1 was "don't be stupid." I have a habit of getting excited and running the first few miles of any race WAY too fast. With how hilly this course is (and at an altitude of over 6000ft), I didn't even have any concept of what that meant, so I focused on effort level. I was, of course, aware of how far into the race I was, but I never even bothered to check mile splits (for the first time in my life), because I didn't think they were all that important. I just tried to keep my effort level pretty even, and tried not to panic when spectators told me I was in 3rd place.

I found myself leap-frogging with a couple of the men. It seemed one of us was always better at the uphills and the other was better at the downhills. So, back and forth we went. On Twitter, HOKA ONE ONE uses the hashtag "#letsgoHOKA," and it gave me an energy boost every time a spectator yelled that to me. I am so proud to be representing such a wonderful company and I really felt the love during the race!

Around 7 miles, I started to become keenly aware of my lack of fitness. The combination of dehydration, a hot sun, no energy gels, and the monster hills had me fading fast. But, unlike in my marathon, I never once thought of quitting. I made a conscious choice to "embrace the suck" and I found myself smiling for about 99% of the race.

With a mile to go, a cyclist told me the 4th woman was only about 60 meters behind me. I fought as hard as I could to not fall apart. I was reasonably certain in that moment that, if she caught me, I wouldn't be able to respond. And, honestly, that's how I would want it. I wanted to be able to say I did everything I could and that I fully embraced "the suck." I gritted my teeth and clawed my way uphill to the finish line as the 3rd woman in 66:49. Before the race, I had told Alex my goal was "around 67:00," so I'm pretty impressed with my own prediction skills (which had always failed me in the past.)



After walking around some more with Alex and stopping to chat with some of my fellow runners about how much they loved their HOKA ONE ONE shoes, it was time to head back to Boulder. Although I've only been back to running for 3 weeks, and only ran 30 miles this week, I'm pleasantly surprised to discover my fitness situation is nowhere near as bad as I had feared and I'm more committed than ever to staying healthy so I can accomplish the goals I've set for myself in the coming months.

---

Up next? My dad is coming to visit for Fathers Day weekend, so I'll probably jump in either the mile or the 5k at this Thursday's Boulder Road Runners track meet at the University of Colorado track.

6.08.2015

Race recap: Splash Dash 5k

I've already mentioned this, but, because I didn't take enough time to recover after the marathon, I've been dealing with some knee issues. When my chiropractor, Richey Hansen, gave me permission to try running again, I was only allowed to run 2 easy miles (on flat, soft surfaces) every other day. Each week, he re-evaluates my knee and tells me to what degree I'm allowed to increase my activity accordingly. It's hard to be patient, but it's just so good to get out there and run, even just a little bit. Last week, he gave me this 3-day cycle: 5 miles, 4 miles, day off. Of course, because I'd been feeling pretty peppy and had been pain-free for a couple weeks, I decided to do something that had the potential to be really stupid.

As I'm sure you've noticed, this post is a "Race Recap." Say whaaat? I have to preface this by reminding everyone that I have never claimed to be sane OR smart when it comes to my running. When I had my huge wake-up call about how I was essentially just spinning my wheels doing what everyone told me I should be doing and had, quite honestly, been miserable in my running for several years, I decided to do what brought me joy... whether it actually made sense or not. I was really upset to not be able to run the trail 10km at the GoPro Mountain Games this year, but I knew all the steep downhills would probably set my knee back a few extra weeks. So, I looked over the Colorado Runner race calendar to find something a little less crazy, in light of my injury.

I've been running quite a few of the Colorado Runner series races this year, so the Drennen's Dreams Foundation Splash Dash 5km sounded like a good idea. The elevation profile didn't look too crazy and I promised Alex (at least a billion times) that I would stop immediately if I felt even the slightest discomfort in my knee. I may be stubborn and crazy, but I like to think that I've gotten better at listening to my body and would be able to make myself stop if something was wrong.

Knowing I was probably in pretty bad shape, my plan was to start out no faster than 6:20 for the first mile. I figured that was a safe baseline pace for both my fitness and my knee. Well, in typical Amanda fashion, I got excited and competitive... and the first mile was slightly downhill... And I hit Mile 1 about a second behind the leader in 5:51. Oops. But, honestly, I felt completely fine. Not actually having any knowledge of the course, I thought to myself "No problem! I can totally hold this pace!"

Famous last words, right?

At about 3k, we turned the corner onto a long uphill -- an uphill that didn't really end until the finish line. I kept myself close enough to the leader that I thought I would have a reasonable chance of out-kicking her. The incline slowed me to 6:01 for the 2nd mile. Still, I wasn't too far off 1st place.

Then, the long incline combined with the fact that I haven't touched anything resembling a hill in the last month really got me in the 3rd mile - 6:30. My arms were numb and the leader was out of sight. I was running scared, not knowing if there were other women right on my heels.

I crossed the line as the 2nd woman (and 10th person) overall in 19:20, a minute faster than my first race back after last fall's achilles injury. Obviously, it's not a time I would normally be happy with, but considering I only ran 51 miles in the month of May? I'll take that as a decent starting point! And I had absolutely NO knee pain during or after the race, so I would consider the race a pretty big success.

So what's next? Good question. I'm going to be really careful with building back to normal mileage (last week was 20) over the months of June and July, along with working to address various weakenesses and imbalances that have contributed to my injuries the past few years. Then, if everything is going smoothly, I would like to start training for Marathon #2 in August. I won't commit to a race just yet, but I have a short list of options in the November-December range that look like promising possibilities.

6.03.2015

"She Wanted to Fly... And So She Flew"

Shortly after my marathon, I was invited to be part of a women's trail running film project by Sandi Nypaver and her boyfriend, Sage Canaday. The intent was to show awesome women doing awesome things on the trails and to try to inspire others to dream big and fly too. Here is the result of those magical two days on the trails on Mount Sanitas and Green Mountain in Boulder, CO.






She Wanted to Fly…So She Flew by Rachel Nypaver

Once there was a little girl.
She wanted to fly…
So she flew.


She flew over rooftops,
And skimmed the tops of trees.
She flew so high that she soared with the birds.


She flew even higher than the clouds,
She flew among the stars.
Her wings took her anywhere she wanted to go.


Her wings were only visible to her,
And that is how the problem occurred.
She told others of the her magical flights,
And how her wings rose with the wind,
Taking her higher than the mountain tops.


But those who couldn’t see her wings told her this wasn’t true.
They said her imagination was playing tricks on her,
She had no wings,
She couldn’t fly.


At first she didn’t believe them, and she continued to fly.

But they grew more persistent.
They told her she needed to start growing up,
That it was best to keep such silly dreams to herself.


Then one day, a few years down the road,
She tried to fly,
But never left the ground.


She remembered those voices who told her she couldn’t
And figured they were right.
She couldn’t really fly.


Still, she worked hard in school and got good grades.
She dreamed about her future
And about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
However, when she told others of her dreams
They told her she was foolish.


Some said she was not pretty enough,
Others said she was not smart or creative enough.


They said she should be practical
And to keep such silly dreams to herself.


So, she believed those voices too.

Her world became gray,
Rain fell every day.


But then, on a seemingly un-extraordinary day,
A soft breeze blew at her back.


At first she ignored it,
But then it grew stronger.
It lifted her feet right off the ground!


Suddenly she remembered all the times she used to fly.
“Yes!” she remembered, “I flew so very high up in the sky!”


As a young girl, she had flown over rooftops,
Skimmed the tops of trees,
And soared with the birds.


Without any doubt,
She knew her memories were real.


Her dreams could come true,
If she just believed.


And with that thought,
Her broken wings were healed.


Suddenly, she was flying above the clouds,
Higher than the mountaintops,
And found herself among the stars.


Once there was a little girl.
She wanted to fly…
So she flew.

5.26.2015

2015 Glass City Marathon

I always said that I would "NEVER" run a marathon.

Well, on April 26, I did. I ran the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH. I'm still trying to process all the moments and emotions that went along with them. In the days leading up to the race, I alternated between moments of extreme calm, panic attacks, and panic attacks because I felt calmer than seemed "normal" before a debut marathon.



During my marathon build-up, my coach and I agreed to intentionally under-train me so I could have a better shot at avoiding injury and making it to the starting line in one piece. So, though we knew it was definitely a big reach, the race plan was to go out on my original goal pace (the Olympic Trials B Standard of sub-2:43) and see how long I could hang on. Brad acknowledged I would probably blow up, but he told me that I would regret it if I didn't at least give myself a chance to hit the standard. Though my personal goal was really to have an enjoyable first marathon experience and finish feeling strong, I agreed to give it a try.

If you ask my dad, he will tell you that I've never been a pleasant person to be around before a race, but I think it helped me a lot to have him there with me. I'm so glad that it worked with his teaching schedule for him to come to my first marathon. My assigned roommate for the hotel the night before the race, Cathy, was also a fantastically calming presence and gave me some great advice. (She obviously knew what she was talking about, because she was the first masters finisher in 3:05!)

Because the hotel was several miles from the starting line, my dad picked me up and drove me to the race. With all the traffic, I didn't think we'd make it in time! But I made it to the Elite tent in time to organize my race gear and go for an easy 1 mile shakeout. Before I knew it, we were on the starting line!

I'm sure I drove everyone around me crazy in the first couple miles because I wouldn't shut up. I was really excited to be there and I was excited to be feeling so comfortable. It was less lonely than I expected, with the half and full marathons running together for the first 8 miles. I was in a nice little group, clicking off the miles pretty evenly...


Mile 1 - 6:14
Mile 2 - 6:15
Mile 3 - 6:11
Mile 4 - 6:15
Mile 5 - 6:15
Mile 6 - 6:13 - took gel #1
Mile 7 - 6:17
Mile 8 - 6:19

... And then I started running into trouble when we split off from the half-marathoners. From there, we headed out on a large and lonely loop with some looooong straightaways.

I noticed there was a woman on a bike riding next to me. The sign on her bike said LEAD FEMALE. Because I had no idea where I was in terms of overall place at that point (I didn't know if the women who had been in front of me were in the full or the half) I asked her "Does that sign on your bike mean what I think it means? That can't be right. Can you ride ahead and check??" She laughed and said she'd be back in a few minutes. Sure enough, there were no women ahead of me, but I was all alone and, starting to get dizzy and nauseous, I was already struggling not to slow even further.

Mile 9 -6:22
Mile 10 - 6:19

Mile 11 - 6:22 - took gel #2

At this point, a woman silently pulled up next to me. Shoot! She pulled out her earbuds to avoid seeming anti-social. I fought hard to try to stay with her, but I just had to let her go.  Not long after, I was passed by another woman... and then another. Each had a man with her and I felt more acutely how alone I was. For the first time, I started doubting my ability to even finish.

Mile 12 - 6:17
Mile 13 - 6:24
Mile 14 - 6:24

During training, I had pretty frequent problems with abdominal spasms. When I worked hard, my right side would get really tight and the sharp pain would force me to shorten my stride and shuffle even more than I already do. I spent the next few miles trying to stretch and massage my side, but it just wouldn't relax.

Mile 15 - 6:34
Mile 16 - 6:44 - took gel #3
Mile 17 - 6:58
Mile 18 - 7:02

After gel #3, my stomach couldn't calm down. Every time I took a sip of water, it all threatened to come back up. I forced myself to keep drinking, but I couldn't get myself to take another gel for the rest of the race. I had an emergency ginger capsule tucked in my pocket just in case I had stomach issues, but I couldn't even get that to go down. Thankfully, the dizziness started to dissipate, so at least I had one less thing to worry about.

Mile 19 - 6:51
Mile 20 - 7:04
Mile 21 - 7:04

At 21 miles, we came to the same place where we had earlier split off from the half-marathoners.
(I later found out the women's winner was sent the wrong way and ended up running about an extra mile. Even with that extra mile, she still broke the course record by 6 minutes!!! What a badass!)

Mile 22 - 7:02
Mile 23 - 7:11
Mile 24 - 7:08

The last several miles, I was focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other. I knew if I stopped, I'd never start again. I was in a seriously ugly mental place. At 24 miles, I passed a man who looked exactly how I felt. I tried to offer him a few words of encouragement but, when he asked how I was feeling, I found myself saying "I want my mom!!!" and he said "Me too!" I started bawling my eyes out.

I remembered what my teammate Nicole Camp had told me: "There's no crying in marathon training. But, when you get to Mile 24, you do what you have to to get to that finish line." Thank you for that advice, Nicole! I don't know if you meant it literally, but it worked for me.

Mile 25 - 7:05
Mile 26 - 6:49

For most of the race, I thought of the finish line as some sort of mythical place that didn't actually exist. I didn't believe the finish line was real until I saw it with my own eyes.  Thanks to some serious tears, my finish line picture features a very ugly cry face. Yes.

FINISH - 4th place woman in 2:53:31



I found my dad and we did all the things I had to do... Retrieving my finisher's medal, finisher's glass mug, and filling out tax paperwork for my prize money. My dad's flight home from Detroit was in the early afternoon, so we got there quickly, but I wasn't leaving until 8pm, so I had plenty of time to walk around the airport and process. I learned a lot from my first marathon and I'm looking forward to applying those lessons to my next.

I definitely need to work on figuring out my stupid stomach issues and ab spasms. That's a pretty high priority. I also need to work on doing all the little things to prevent injuries so I can train harder next time. Last, even though I plan to be better prepared, I think it would be wise to start more conservatively and in a way that accurately reflects my actual fitness, not where I wish I was. Yes, my coach was probably right that I would have regretted not going for it, but it obviously wasn't the "smart" approach.

I owe a  huge THANK YOU to sooooo many people:
  • Mom and Dad, I could't do anything without your love and support and I feel so incredibly fortunate to be your daughter. Mom, I miss you more than words can say and I wish you were here.
  • Brad Hudson, my coach, thank you for being patient with me and believing in me when even I don't believe in me.
  • Alex, I'm so happy to have you by my side in all my adventures and I'm so grateful for your patience when marathon training made me grumpy and I was having taper tantrums.
  • Nicole (and Benji), Whitney, Brooke, and Cate - You are all the best teammates and friends I could've asked for. When the marathon got tough, and then when it got REALLY tough, I imagined you by my side and you helped me get through it.
  • Henry Guzman of Flatirons Running, Inc. - Thank you for your generous support! I'm so proud to race and train with your logo on my gear!
  • HOKA ONE ONE - Thank you for making such fantastic shoes that helped me get through training healthy and got me through all 26.2 miles!
  • Ginna Ellis of Boulder AcuSport - Thanks for waking up my lazy glutes and listening patiently to my taper tantrum rants!
  • Richey Hansen of High Altitude Spine and Sport - I wouldn't have made it through this training cycle without your help. Thank you for helping put me back together when I get overzealous and break myself!
  • My employer, Sean, has been very understanding of my training needs. Thank you for being flexible with my work schedule to allow me to chase my dreams!
  • Glass City Marathon and Toledo Roadrunners Club- Thank you for giving me a spot on your starting line and putting me up with an awesome roommate, Cathy, the night before the race! You took great care of your elites and I'm so grateful for your support! I'll definitely be back to run GCM again!

What's next? Well, I jumped back into things a little too quickly after the marathon and ended up with a bit of a knee injury. I'm cautiously declaring it "healed," but I'm going to ease back in more gradually and play things by ear. I hope to spend a lot of my time on the trails this summer and then aim for a fall marathon, TBD. Stay tuned!

4.15.2015

Time to Fly!

At some group runs at Flatirons Running, I've gotten questions about HOKA ONE ONE shoes from runners who assumed I was a rep for the company like my friend and teammate Nicole. That was a fair assumption on their part, since I was often there to try to help Nicole when she had a shoe demo or other event and I always had the Conquest or Clifton on my feet. I always explained that I just really liked the shoes and that I was helping a friend.

But, I'll back-track a little to explain how I ended up with my feet in a pair of HOKA ONE ONEs...

Last summer, I was training for the US Mountain Running Championship. I was doing most of my workouts up hills to prepare and I was feeling really fit. Seemingly out of nowhere, my posterior tibial tendon became very inflamed and the pain on the inside of my ankle made it impossible to run. My chiropractor did some good work on it, but the pain would always come back if I tried to run.

I really didn't know what I was going to do... It was suggested that I try the HOKA ONE ONE Conquest, and it was just like flipping a switch: I could run again! A few times in the months following that, I tried to wear other shoes for a run here or there, but the pain always came back. As I got back in shape and the injury healed, I picked up a pair of the Huaka for my quicker workouts and races. I was hooked on HOKA!

As my coach recently said, "If it weren't for HOKAs, Amanda would be sitting at home with a cat, feeling sorry for herself." Bingo. The man knows me pretty well.

So, I'm very pleased and excited to announce that the newest member of "Team Amanda" is HOKA ONE ONE!  I'm really looking forward to representing them in my training and racing and at various sponsored events and I'm extremely grateful for their support!

Time to fly!