Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring is here!

You know what...trail running is a lot easier than road running. A few weeks ago I ran a road 50K and it sucked. Pavement is boring and way more taxing on the body than dirt. What was I thinking when I signed up for that race? I'm an idiot.

Ok, I should back up a little bit. Yes, I still think I'm an idiot, but Cowtown (the 50K I mentioned above) wasn't all bad. The course was pretty and I got to explore some cool parts of Fort Worth I hadn't seen. Even though I crashed and burned pretty hard at the end, I was happy to sneak in just under 5 hours, which is nothing to pout about. But damn, pounding the pavement for 31 miles is just brutal. I love running ultras, but I think from now on I'll stick to the more forgiving trails if I want to go beyond the marathon. 

This feeling was further solidified when I ran my first 50 miler in about two years over the weekend. It was the absolute perfect race to get my endurance feet wet again. The trails were not technical and the course was super flat. (Thanks North Texas!) Fitness wise, I felt great during the first half of the race. The last 20 miles were a bit trying for me, but these things aren't suppose to be easy. I was able to snatch up a monster PR (9:11:51) which gave me a big confidence boost as I press on into the heart of my spring season.

Following Easter, I've got lots of running/traveling to do and I'm so stoked! I'm heading to DC the first weekend of April to run what has become a bit of a spring tradition for my friends and I, the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile. I can't wait to get out there and see all my friends! Gonna be a good time. The weekend after Cherry Blossom I'm off to Oregon to run the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 Mile that a buddy of mine is the race director for. I've been wanting to run his race for awhile and I'm so excited to get the chance to run it this year. Then, the following weekend I'm running the Leona Divide 50K in California. While visiting some of my friends in Arizona back in February, they told me about this race (they are running the 50 miler) and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to hang with them again and run on some left coast trails. I heard part of the course is on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a trail I've always wanted to check out. It's like the Appalachian Trail of the west. 

Damn, I miss the AT.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Don't Settle

There is a horse sculpture that I go by on many of my runs. At first, this sculpture didn't mean much to me other than a pretty centerpiece in my town. However, the more I run by it, the more it inspires me. To me, a horse represents endurance, something which is an integral part of running. Running past these horses reminds me not to settle. It reminds me to keep pushing, to keep enduring...not just with running, but with all aspects of my life.

The minute we settle, we stop living. I know, I've done it before. At first, it's easy. You make all kinds of excuses as to why you can't achieve what you set out to do. But, as time passes, the comfort you took from those excuses begins to eat at you. You start to identify less with the person you have become.

Thankfully, you can change it. Accept the challenge. Fight for what you are passionate about. It won't be easy, but keep enduring. Don't settle. Soon you will achieve what you were certain was impossible. And that is the best feeling of all.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The past few months

Hello? Can anyone hear me? Does this thing still work? It's been awhile since I've done a blog post. A lot has happened over the past few months and I will try my best to cover it all (mostly with pictures.) The biggest change was my move from Washington to Dallas. I took a new job with Southwest Airlines and have loved every minute of it since I've started. It's an awesome company to be a part of and I work with some really great people. Of course, I miss DC, but I've already been able to get out there a few times to visit. In fact, the last time I was there I was able to sneak in a quick run with friends.

After I moved to Texas and before I started my job, I went on a week long runcation in early September with my friend Cathy. We both signed up for the The Rut 50K, a stupid crazy mountain race in Big Sky, Montana with over 10,000 feet of vert (more on that later.) But, before we headed to Big Sky we spent 4 days camping, trail running, and sightseeing in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. If you have not been to either of these parks, I highly recommend you check them out. The scenery is unreal and the trails are epic!
Running on the Cascasde Canyon Trail in Grand Teton 
Camp in Grand Teton
Grand Teton Range
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
After Grand Teton and Yellowstone, we headed to Big Sky for The Rut 50K. The Rut is like no other race I've ever experienced. From the start at the Big Sky ski resort, the course has over 10,000 feet vertical gain with the highlight of summiting Lone Peak, which is over 11,000 feet up! 
Big Sky with Lone Peak lurking in the background
This was my first mountain race and to give myself a better idea of what I was getting into, I also signed up for the Vertical Kilometer (VK) which was two days before the 50K. The VK was a 3 mile "run" that started at the base of Big Sky and went straight to the top of Lone Peak, a total of 3,600 feet of vert. It was brutally awesome. The views once you got above the tree line were incredible.
Hiking up the spine of Lone Peak

At the summit!
After the VK, I had a lot more confidence going into the 50K, but that isn't to say the race was easy. I just wanted to enjoy a beautiful day in the mountains. It was cold at the start (30s) and didn't warm up too much during the day. But, we had blue skies and views that couldn't be beat. I spent 10 painfully long hours on the course, but I couldn't care less about the time. My only goal was to finish.

About two weeks after The Rut,  I ran in my first race in the Dallas area, the Tour des Fleurs 20K. The course started/finished at the Dallas Arboretum and did a loop around White Rock Lake. It was an overcast and humid day, but I ended up having a better run than I expected. 
In October I ran one of my favorite races for the 4th time, the Chicago Marathon. I ran for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of my grandmother, who recently passed from this very sad disease. My sincerest thanks to all that donated. It was a beautiful day for the marathon, but unfortunately I was undertrained for this race and suffered a bit in the second half. Nonetheless, I was so happy to get another Chicago Marathon finish. If you have never run this race, add it to your list.
A sweet sign my sister-in-law and niece made for me
A couple weeks before Thanksgiving I ran in my first trail race in Texas, the Rockledge Rumble 50K. Much like Chicago, I was very undertrained and had no business running it. However, I was signed up for it so I had to go out there and at least give it my best effort. The course was on some pretty sweet mountain bike trails along Grapevine Lake and I enjoyed them for the first 20 miles until I hit a wall. The last 10 miles or so sucked and I was happy to collect my finisher's medal and then drowned myself in pity beer.

Rockledge was the wake up call I needed to get my ass in gear. I was signed up for the Dallas Marathon about month later and I wanted to have a stronger race. So, in the weeks leading up to the marathon, I upped my training and snuck in a little speedwork. On race day I was still unsure where my fitness was so I went out at a pretty conservative pace, about 9 min/mile or so. I maintained that through the halfway point and still felt I had plenty in the tank, so I let it rip. By the end of the race I was running about 8 minute miles. I finished in around 3:48, much faster than I expected. It was a nice surprise and a great confidence boost to take into the new year.
Dallas bling
So, that's what I've been up to for the last few months. I'm definitely looking forward to 2016 and I've already signed up for a few races in the spring that should be a lot of fun. 2015 had its ups and downs, but I learned many valuable lessons that I can hopefully apply to my training in the future. I hope you all had a strong 2015 and I wish you happy runnings in 2016!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Thank you, DC

I went for a run this morning expecting it to feel different. It was one of my last runs in DC before I move to Dallas. Oddly, but also reassuringly, this run felt just like every other run I’d been on through this incredible city.

I’ve been trying to find the words to express how I feel about moving away from Washington. I’m not surprised that going for a run was all it took to make some sense of it. While I won’t be living here anymore, I’ll be carrying a large part of this city with me in Texas. That chunk of DC I'm taking with me will make me feel like I'm still a part of it.

It’s a special feeling when you get to call your nation’s capital home. When I think about my time here, I feel so lucky. Living in DC has changed me in many ways, all for the better. I’ve made so many lasting memories and friendships. I’ve learned valuable lessons that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. I will miss DC, but have endless gratitude for all it has given me.

As I set off for the next chapter of my life, I will never forget the one I just finished writing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A (brief) message to those running Western States

“Life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty problems, to one of the barest simplicity in which only one real task remained – the achievement of the goal.”

That is an excerpt from the 1959 novel, Endurance, a book I highly encourage everyone to read. As soon as I read that line, my mind immediately drifted to the feelings I have at the start of a race. I felt it eloquently described a runner’s mindset as they toe the line. The hard work is over. The long months of training are behind them. Race day is finally here! As soon as that gun goes off, the daily scattering of thoughts and worries evaporate and they are left with only one focus, achieving their goal.

Good luck to all those running Western States this weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My thoughts on nature and John Muir

"I'm glad I'm not great enough to be missed in the busy world." John Muir wrote that in his journal, which later became a collection known as My First Summer in the Sierra. That statement stayed with me long after I read it. How could Muir, now recognized as one of the great trailblazing pioneers, think so little of himself? Certainly, a man of Muir's stature in today's society, would be missed. Yet, in the summer of 1869, long before the very trails he was hiking on were named after him, he felt free; unbounded by the demands that call so many of us back home.

To bring some context to Muir's statement, he was referring to an encounter he had with an old friend, Professor Butler. Muir bumped into the "Professor" (as Muir called him) near the famous North Dome of Yosemite, and spent the rest of the day visiting with him.

That evening, Muir tried to convince the Professor to camp with him in the high Sierra. However, much to Muir's surprise, he learned that the Professor had to return back to civilization due to his obligations. Muir would later write that he pitied "the poor Professor, bound by clocks, almanacs, orders, duties, etc., where Nature is covered and her voice smothered..."

Over the years (and I credit much of this to my discovery of trail running) I've found myself more connected with nature and its peaceful solitude. As I read Muir's words, I often find myself saying, "YES!" It is very easy nowadays to get comfortable in our routines. But, more often than not, if we stay comfortable for too long, we grow uncomfortable. John Muir's journals and essays remind me that while I can't ignore life's everyday demands, I'm not bound to them. His words have shown me that when I'm starting to feel drained by the stresses in my life, a little dose of nature is all I need to restore my energy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Recap: Weekend Double - Fountainhead Half Marathon and Capitol Hill Classic 10K

On Saturday, I ran EX2’s Fountainhead Half Marathon, a race I had run last year. EX2 races are always well managed and the race director is super friendly. Minus the staggering humidity, it was a great day for a trail run. The race was held at Fountainhead Regional Park along the Bull Run/Occoquan Trail (a place I train often). I would classify the Bull Run/Occoquan Trail as a mostly non-technical, well groomed single track with some rollers to keep your quads honest.

Coming into this race I had an A, B, and C goal. My A goal was to place in my age group. My B goal was to finish under 2 hours and my C goal was to beat my time from last year - 2:05:31. I knew achieving at least one of those goals would be possible, but I secretly wanted to land my A goal. Since The North Face 50K last month, my training has been going really well. My legs have felt good on my hard days and I’ve been recovering quickly. I’ve also been better about incorporating more speedwork and hill training into my runs. But, I mostly blame that on the fear The Rut 50K (11,000 feet of vertical gain) is already instilling in me, and that race isn’t until Labor Day weekend! I digress.

I went out hard at the start with the front runners to avoid the mid-pack congo lines on the single track. The first half mile of the course was on a road, so by the time I reached the trail, things had stretched out nicely at the front. I dialed back my pace, fully expecting to get picked off by some of the runners behind me. But, to my surprise, I was able to maintain my position.

Around the halfway point of the race I noticed I was running all alone. At times I would question whether I was off course, but then I would spot a piece of pink surveyor tape dangling from a tree branch. Those solo middle miles were really enjoyable for me. The morning birds were chirping, the trees around me were lush and full of life, and I was in a good rhythm.

About 3 miles from the finish, I ran past a race volunteer that told me I was 16th overall. That motivated me to keep pushing. Near the end I caught up to and passed 3 runners to finish 13th overall in 1:58:55. According to my Garmin, the course had about 1,500 feet of vert, which made for a nice mix of flat and rolling sections. I wasn’t sure if I finished high enough to place in my age group, but to my delight, I achieved my A goal by placing 3rd!

The following morning I met up with my friends Chad, Kristy, and Carolyn for the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. The humidity was even higher for this race and the skies were full of rain clouds that never came through with some much needed relief. My legs were feeling fresh from my half so I decided to give this race a good go too. I started around a 7:30 min/mile and didn’t stray too far from that throughout the race.

The race started in Stanton Park and after running between the Supreme Court and The Capitol, the course followed East Capitol Street all the way to RFK Stadium. Beautiful trees and homes line East Capitol, which made for a scenic race setting. After looping around RFK, the course returned to East Capitol and then onto the finish back at Stanton Park.

I finished in 46:26, happy to be done. It was so humid! Chad, Kristy and Carolyn all had great races too! Afterwards, we walked back to Kristy’s place and stuffed ourselves full of eggs, blueberry pancakes, doughnuts, coffee and mimosas. All in all, it was a great weekend of running!