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.


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.


"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.