Tag Archives: ralston creek

Revisiting Ralston: 15 Mile Long Run

30 Apr

Saturday morning, I got up around 7:30, planning to eat breakfast and head out for my run soon after. But I was lazy Friday night and didn’t do any run prep – meaning both my phone and iPod were out of battery. Since the day was on the cooler side anyway (40s in the morning, high 50s in the afternoon), I decided that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I waited for my devices to charge.

So I ate breakfast, got dressed, filled my Camelbak with water and gels, started a load of laundry and worked on the Sunday morning slides for church. As I went to throw the laundry in the dryer about 40 minutes later, I saw a giant puddle of water on the floor in the kitchen. As a dog owner, the first thought that raced through my head was “Charlie peed!” But then I saw the water dripping from the table – I had set my Camelbak down on top of the mouthpiece and water was leaking out all over the place.

I cleaned the puddle up and started blow-drying my soaking-wet backpack.

I was very glad that I wasn’t in a rush!

Once my backpack was damp instead of wet, my phone and iPod read almost fully charged so it was time to take off. I drove the 15 minutes over to the ‘race’ start and got there around 10. I had mapped out an easy 2 miles to run before I started my half marathon time trial, which was a brilliant idea because almost immediately, I needed a bathroom. So between my 2 mile warmup and the remaining 13.1 miles, I drove to a gas station about a block away. Much better.

Back to the race start. I walked to the spot where I guessed the timing mats had been, started my watch and music and took off. I was feeling just okay. My 2 mile warmup hadn’t been fantastic, but it wasn’t horrible either. My legs felt a little tired and I felt out of breath. It was fairly windy (10-15 mph), and it was a cold wind. The kind of wind that takes your breath away if it hits you just right. (For the rest of the day after the run, my lungs felt wind-burned.) I started the run with a long sleeve tech tee and a lightweight jacket but ended up ditching the jacket after a mile – while the wind was cold, the sun was warm. I ended up being fine in just the long sleeve.

As I ran, I couldn’t help but think about the weather conditions the last time I had been on that trail – snowy and 8 degrees! Now, the trail was lush, green and warm (when the wind wasn’t blowing).

My lack of run prep Friday night also meant that I didn’t have my Poor Man’s GPS – I hadn’t memorized where the mile splits were. So instead, I clicked my watch at certain landmarks, so that I could generally track how fast I was running by later using a map to determine the distance between each. It’s a lot more work than having a Garmin but it’s free! And a major benefit was that I couldn’t analyze or stress over my pace (and I was too focused on willing myself to keep running to attempt the math in my head).

Finally, I was at Big Hill #1. It’s not that steep, it’s just LONG. I allowed myself to walk for about 20 seconds in the middle of the hill, but then pushed it the rest of the way – knowing I had a walking break coming up.

For this run, I decided to walk when I took each gel instead of trying to run. It was easier, I could breathe better and a little break was appreciated. I also plan to do this for future runs – practice walking through aid stations. I’ve never done this in a race, mostly because I bring all of my own stuff and I can drink out of my Camelbak while running. But I’m entertaining the idea of going Camelbak-less for the marathon since it does add a few pounds and jostles around a bit…

I ate 3 gels during the run at Miles 2.5, 6.5, and 9 of the half marathon course (so Miles 4.5, 8.5, and 11 of my entire run). I mostly ate them because I was so hungry! Running later in the morning definitely threw off my eating habits.  But for future runs, I think I’ll bring a peanut butter sandwich along just in case hunger strikes again. I think that would be more effective than a gel for hunger.

At the top of Hill #1

On to Hill #2. From far away, it actually doesn’t look that bad.

But then you get started on it…

And at the top, realize how high you are.

I ran as much of Hill #2 as I could but I did walk some of it. I mean, the trail had switchbacks for crying out loud…

Finally, the hills were over!

The run back actually went surprisingly fast. Even though my legs and lower back were hurting units, I only walked 2 times for about 30 seconds. Mentally, it helped that I recognized the course and could tell I was getting closer to the end. After my last walking break, I switched my watch from the timer to the clock, so that I couldn’t see what my ‘final time’ was until I reached the imaginary finish line. I branched off from the trail into a residential neighborhood and I was finally on the home stretch.

It was no coincidence that the song playing in my ears at that very moment was Fighter by Christina Aguilera. I thought the words very fittingly described the result of a tough long run:

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Dear Incredibly Hard Long Run, 


I am a fighter and I
I ain’t gonna stop
There is no turning back

Even though I guesstimated the start and finish, and stopped several times to take pictures, I finished in 2:32:48! That’s an average pace of 11:39 and almost 6 minutes faster than my previous course time of 2:38:24. I feel like that difference is big enough to not just be circumstantial.


My total time for 15 miles was 2:55:07, an average pace of 11:40. And because my splits aren’t broken down into nice even miles, I’ll leave it at that.

After my run, I went home, took an Epsom salt bath and then ate this deliciousness:

2 egg + provolone cheese + butter on whole wheat; tangelo; chocolate milk


I’m so encouraged to see that my efforts have paid off – not only from doing intentional hill training over the past 2 months, but also pushing myself to keep running when my body wanted to physically collapse. All of this hard training is developing my mental fortitude – which I will need for the marathon!

That said, it seems that my body doesn’t have enough time to recover between my longest mid-week run on Thursday night and my long run on Saturday morning. So I am moving my long mid-week run to Tuesday nights. Hopefully that will help give me some fresh legs on Saturdays!

This week’s training is going to be a bit weird – we’re going camping in the mountains Saturday morning, meaning I have to do my long run of 16 miles after work sometime this week. (Gulp.) I’m thinking Friday night, so that I don’t have to sit around at work all the next day, but I’d love to hear your advice! (Friday also looks better weather-wise but it’s still too soon to tell.)

Finally, to wrap this all up, I want to highlight that I give God the credit and thanks for how well my training is going so far. Yes, I am running the miles, doing the stretching, lifting the weights and going to bed early but HE is the One ultimately in control of my life. If I get to run the marathon pain-free and sans injury, it’s His blessing to me. I’ll have some more thoughts on running + faith coming up in the next few days. But that will suffice for now. 😉

Tell me about your weekend!

Race Recap: Ralston Creek Half Marathon

14 Feb

Since the race start was only 15 minutes away from our house, and the wave I was in didn’t go until 9:45, the alarm on race morning was pretty painless. I wanted to leave between 8:30 and 8:45 so I got up around 7:15 and ate a breakfast of 2 pieces of peanut butter toast, washed down with 1/2 cup of coffee and some water. I had done a pretty bad job of hydrating on Saturday and even woke up Sunday with a slight headache from being dehydrated. Whoops. But I also didn’t want to overcompensate by drinking a ton and then having to pee 10 times like I did during the Steamboat Springs Oly Tri. So I drank some water and hoped for the best.

After I got dressed and put my Shotbloks, phone and peanut butter sandwich into my jacket, I decided that it was too much stuff to keep in my coat. So I decided to use my Camelbak after all. I tucked the tube more into the backpack, so it didn’t hang down so low on the front and that actually worked out really well – my hand usually hits the tube and causes me to run weird but this solved that. Although in hindsight, keeping my Shotbloks in my jacket would probably have prevented them from freezing… but more on that later.

The temperature race morning was a balmy 9 degrees. Yes, nine. Nine degrees in a dry climate doesn’t feel as bad as 9 degrees in a humid one but still, 9 degrees is 9 degrees – chilly. I stuck with my plan of wearing my fluorescent yellow jacket over two long-sleeved running shirts on top; my UnderArmour ColdGear tights underneath regular running pants; wool socks on my feet; fleece gloves on my hands; and I went for the hat on my head. I didn’t buy a new one – I wore one I already that had soft fleece on the inside.

By 8:45, we were out the door. By 9:00, we were parked at the race site. By 9:10, I had my timing chip and bib, leaving me 35-40 minutes before our wave was supposed to leave. This race did things a little differently than usual – they had 2 waves, the first for those runners who anticipated finishing in 2:30 or slower, and the second for those finishing 2:30 or faster. I was on the fence when I was registering because I was hoping to do faster than 2:30 but my previous half times put me after that. I decided to go for Wave 2… which I kicked myself for later.

We killed time by going back to the car, standing in the portapotty line again (which was pretty long because there were only 6-8 of them), and I did some high knees and butt kicks. I didn’t do any running warmup – I never warm up before my long runs in training and I wanted to save my energy for the race.

Finally, it was time to go. I was actually feeling pretty nervous – not nervous that I wouldn’t finish but nervous that I would be really slow. That is often a worry of mine before long runs and races. Kind of like those nightmares when you’re running but your legs feel like they’re stuck in quicksand.

I lined up in the very, very back of the pack, knowing that there was no way I’d need to pass any of the people in front of me. And that was true. Within the first 50 feet, I was only near a few other women. Several people came up behind and passed me – they had been waiting for the bathrooms when the race gun went off. I hung with the other two women near me for the first mile. They were definitely running faster than I planned to but I just hated the thought of being dead last. I tried to keep up but when we hit mile 1 and my watch said 10:30, I knew I had to slow it down or I’d be screwed later.

So this was my reality for the first 2.5 miles of the race:

Running all by myself. But then…

My friend D joined me! And so did the course sweeper (you can see her on the bike behind us). I was pretty annoyed at the sweeper because having her ride beside me, or close behind me, made it impossible to forget that I was the last person. My legs were also not cooperating – they felt very heavy. But I’m pretty sure that was because the first 8 miles of the race were all uphill:

God bless her, D ran with me until about mile 6, even though it meant going up the first loooong hill. I couldn’t believe that the second hill could be any worse. Ha, was I wrong.

I saw Travis and D’s husband, Doug, several times throughout the course – the photo above is me throwing my sunglasses at Travis around mile 4. They kept fogging up and nothing annoys me more than foggy glasses. Shortly after, I ate 3 Shotbloks. I had been carrying them in my hand for about a half mile (you can see those and my gloves in my other hand) because they were hard as rock coming out of my backpack. I walked a little while eating them because running uphill + trying to eat frozen Shotbloks = no oxygen.

After D pulled away, the course flattened out a bit (which you can see on the elevation chart). The bike sweeper was riding right beside me again, but I was in a much better mood this time, and decided to actually talk to her. She mentioned something about having to go over the giant hill in front of us and I laughed. “Ha, no freakin’ way.” And then I looked and saw little people making their way along the switchbacks up the giant hill.

You’ve got to be kidding me. This picture doesn’t do it justice but I didn’t want to expend energy trying to take a picture with my camera.

I ended up passing an older guy right before the switchbacks started, meaning I ditched the bike sweeper (sweet!). I knew I needed some extra oopmh to get up those switchbacks so I pulled out my phone and started Pandora on the Lady Gaga station. I ran as much of those switchbacks as I could, but had to walk some. This course made me realize that what I thought were hills on my training runs, were definitely not hills.

One benefit from all the hills I guess was that I wasn’t counting down the miles or worrying about my pace at all. I was simply focusing on survival.

Finally, I made it to the top and I knew from D that the course was all downhill from there. Hallelujah. I passed mile marker 8 and got out 3 more Shotbloks but after holding them in my hand for a while, they were still pretty hard so I just decided to eat my peanut butter bread instead. I took small bites of that for the next mile while I cruised down the downhill. My legs felt great – tired but so welcoming of the downhill after 8 miles of uphill.

This shows it well – mile 8 was a 13:14 pace (killer!). Then miles 9 and 10 were 11:05 and 10:36!

D joined me again around mile 9.5 to mile 11. I realized that even though I wasn’t going to beat my PR, I could still beat my Heart and Sole half marathon time (2:33:50). But I was getting tired but trying not to think about how ready I was to be done. After D left, the wheels fell off. I wanted to turn Pandora on again for that extra motivation but my phone was running out of juice and I wanted my splits more than I wanted music. And I couldn’t get my d@mn earphones untangled. So back in the pocket they went.

I started doing run/walk intervals. My legs, specifically my hips and glutes, were just so tired and so sore. By mile 12.5, my entire body was in pain. I’d run until I couldn’t stand it and then walk until I couldn’t stand it. Doing either hurt. I just kept focusing on running to a landmark, then walking to a landmark, running, walking. Little by little, I was making my way to the finish line. I didn’t care about time anymore. I just wanted to be done.

Finally, I was. My time was 2:38:24. But I didn’t care.  I took my medal and collapsed on a chair near the finish line. Doug was there to congratulate me (Travis got lost in suburbia and was still getting back from trying to see me on the course) but I was so exhausted and delirious that I told him I couldn’t talk.

I was starving so I went over to grab some food. They had chocolate chip banana bread, which I had been looking forward to since reading about it in the pre-race email. But since I’ve had bad experiences with sweet things after races, I grabbed a piece to eat later.

Travis showed up and I handed him my banana bread while I went to get a breakfast burrito. I wasn’t a fan, so then I went and grabbed a couple of orange slices. They were absolutely amazing. I ended up going back to get about 10 more. I just couldn’t get enough.

After I had my fill of orange slices, we headed home for me to take an epsom salt bath and then meet D and Doug at Denny’s. The bath was wonderful but it used up all of our hot water. Poor Travis didn’t get a shower.

At Denny’s, I had a giant glass of chocolate milk and the Super Bird (grilled turkey, bacon, tomato and cheese) with fries. But after my milk, half the sandwich and some fries, I was so ridiculously full that I thought I might puke. It was the weirdest thing. I’m never that hungry the day of a hard workout like that but still, you’d think I’d be able to manage a bit more than that.

I was planning to take a nap but ended up watching TV for a couple of hours and then around 5:30, I decided that I needed to clean, do laundry and go grocery shopping. So I did. I was amazed that I had the energy but getting up and moving around helped me feel less sore. Today, I feel pretty good – not really that sore, just pretty tired.

Official Race Stats:

Time – 2:38:24

Age Group – 30/37

Gender – 184/228

Overall – 369/421

So that’s the story of Half Mary #4. My best time is still from Half Mary #1. I’m thinking I might just have to run the Colorado Half again next year to beat it… that is, if I don’t beat it in the Platte River Half on April 15.

I do feel good that I beat my time from the Malibu Half, which was 2:44:44. I think this course was the hardest race I’ve ever done. Holy hills batman.

Training Recap: 2/6 – 2/12

13 Feb

I forgot my camera cord this morning and since I don’t want to post a recap of yesterday’s half marathon sans pictures, I’ll post my training recap now and post the race recap tonight.

I will say, however, that the week started off crappily but went out on a high hilly note. Five words: The half kicked my butt. It was a LOT harder than I was prepared for. (And then I go look at the results and the winners ran like a 5:30 pace. WHaaaaAAATTT?) Anywho, I’ll save the meaty details for posting tonight.

This was last week’s training:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1.97 mile tempo run (22:10, 11:15/mile); first 30 minutes of P90X Yoga

I was really excited after doing the yoga because the first time I ever did it, I just about died and was sore for at least 4 days afterward. This time, it didn’t seem that hard and I was only slightly sore for 1 day. Progress!

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 3.04 mile easy run (35:56, 11:49/mile)

Saturday: 1.55 mile easy/tempo run (16:48, 10:50/mile)

I ran easy for the first and last .5 mile, and picked up the pace for the middle .5 mile to wake up my fast-twitch muscles. (I’m just saying that because it sounds cool.)

Sunday: Ralston Creek Half Marathon… 13.1 miles in 2:38:24, 12:04/mile

So I didn’t quite make my goal of beating 2:30:46 but I ran my little heart out. It was a tough race, both physically and mentally, and I gave it my all. So it is what it is.

Here’s a sneak peek…

Hint: They didn’t make the trail meander just because they felt like it.


Looking ahead, I only have 1 week left until the Official official marathon training starts (last time was just a teaser). Travis and our friends, D and Doug, are going to do the Snowman Stampede with me next weekend and since they’re all going to do the 5 mile instead of the 10 mile, and I haven’t signed up yet, and there’s no reason I have to do 10 miles next weekend, I’ve decided to just do the 5 mile distance too. And I swear it’s not just because I had my @$$ handed to me by the Ralston Creek Trail.

The main thing I’m going to focus on is getting back into the routine. I feel like my training has been all over the place for the past 3 weeks or so, and I’ve moved workouts around, cut them out, or revised them so many times, I don’t know what’s going on. So I’m going to try to stick to my training schedule more consistently. I actually miss strength training! I really like how I feel when I’m consistent with that.

And to end, I updated my Marathon 2012 page a couple weeks ago so if you’re interested in what the latest is, go check it out.

Stay tuned for the race recap…