Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: another year of awesomeness

My friend on the way to summiting Torreys

 I can't believe another year has come and gone already!   It just seems like yesterday I was thinking about what happened in 2015.  I'm not sure if time flying by is a good thing or a bad thing but I do think that it drives home the point that every day is a new day and a chance to be better than the day before, every day is a chance to be great.  A lot of awesomeness happened in 2016 and for that I am extremely grateful!


The highlight this year was getting to marry my best friend, Brady, on top of a mountain surrounded by all of our friends and family.  The day was perfect and I couldn't have asked for a better way for us to tie the knot.  Some people may think wedding planning is stressful and there are a lot of little things that go into it but we tried not to get lost in the tiny details, we didn't want fancy this or that - the most important thing is that we were getting married, not whether we had chair covers or a 5 course meal or anything like that.   Most of our family came from Illinois and for some of them this was their first trip out to Colorado :) The day before our wedding, I did a bachelorette hike with my friends and Brady's sisters/nieces which was a great way to spend the day!  And after our wedding, we hiked up Quandary with Cory, Tim and David - it was a blast!  We also bought a house this year and are excited to move in the very near future!   

Honeymoon hike to Ice Lakes near Silverton, CO

post wedding hike - Quandary Peak


This year I went all in on mountain running, especially ascent races.  In late April, I decided I wanted to work with a coach and reached out to David Roche.  He let me join the SWAP (Some Work, All Play) family and I have learned so much from him and all of my SWAP teammates. The greatest thing that I've been reminded of is that running is all about getting out there and enjoying what you do, it isnt necessarily about race results or podium finishes (although those are added bonuses!) its about smiling while you're out there and the daily grind.  Since we moved to Colorado, I find myself stopping to take pictures and smiling during my daily runs and races.   I crave those long days in the mountains, pushing the pace to a summit at high altitude and I appreciate all the flatter runs on pavement and the strides and the hill repeats, all the days where I'm out there "laying bricks".   

This year Brady and I targeted different events, during the summer he was hitting the bike hard and it was fun supporting him while he did bike races up Mt. Evans and Pikes Peak!  During the Mt. Evans race, they close the road so bikers can ride up and down without having to worry about traffic.  I wanted to see Brady along the course, so I parked at Echo Lake then ran up the trail to Summit Lake.  I was the only person out there clapping and cheering for the cyclists in my bright pick jacket and compression socks.   Some of them were glad to see someone, some of them asked how I got up there and when I said that I ran up the trail, they told me I was crazy.  I thought, really?!? you guys are biking 28 miles up the mountain but I'm crazy for running up here?  At that point, I realized how awesome it was that I'm able to run up mountains at high altitude.  

This year, I learned a lot about myself during some of my runs. I consider myself a solo runner, I like being out there by myself - pushing the pace on a climb and doing whatever I want, running whenever and wherever I want.   Since Brady and I were both doing the Mt. Evans Ascent, we did several runs there together early on in the year but after that I headed to the mountains by myself.  I never thought I would be running in the high country by myself, I loved the challenge of it and the beauty was incredible - it makes all of it worth it.  I ran 14ers on my own and ran from the summit of Pikes Peak by myself and scouted out other routes.  I always went to places I knew were pretty popular, just in case something happened and I always had my phone with me - not that I would get service on top of a mountain but at least I had it.   Some of my favorite runs were running up Greys and Torreys and doing a workout from the summit of Pikes Peak.     

Two of my absolute favorite runs were the fall color meditation runs that I did in mid September, all my races were over at this point and I could just go out and run.  The first run I did was at Kenosha Pass, which is a super popular place to see the fall colors.  The beauty of the aspens didnt even seem real - they were so vivid and the leaves were shimmering under the sun.  At one point, I became overwhelmed with the beauty, it was like this spiritual experience where I just felt incredibly grateful for everything, felt full of love and just wanted to stay in that moment.  

As far as racing goes, I had three main races this year the Mt. Evans Ascent, Barr Trail Mountain Race and Pikes Peak Ascent.  I wrote a blog about Mt. Evans earlier in the year but BTMR and PPA were two other great races. Before BTMR race I did a couple of runs up to Barr Camp and was pleased with my efforts, I hit a sub 1:30 to Barr Camp.  On race day, I was totally stoked and thrilled about my time of 1:19 up to Barr!! Before race day, I thought maybe 1:25-1:27 would be within reach but never thought under 1:20.   I was just shocked looking at my splits on the way up, kept thinking, is this legit?  I felt really good on the up and never felt like i was bleeding time or anything, just kept pushing the pace.  Compared to last year, I was 15 minutes faster on the way up to Barr Camp and my total race time was 21 minutes faster! 


On to Pikes Peak, which was my target race of the year.  I felt great going into this race, my training had been solid and I was getting faster and had some awesome training at high altitude.  The week of the race, I reached out to the race director to see if I could get into a better starting wave - I was initially placed in Wave 6 based on my 2015 PPA time but I knew I would crush that this year, the director graciously moved me up into Wave 1.  I felt a little bit of pressure but knew that all I could do was go out there and run up the mountain.   Last year I finished in 4:09 and this year, I knew I could probably do at least under 3:30 and I had visions of 3:10-3:15 in my mind.  The week of the race, I felt good but I also ended up dropping a couple of pounds and I freaked out thinking I was dehydrated, started chugging lots of extra water which probably ended up depleting my electrolytes.  The race weather seemed like it might be iffy, they were predicting possibly rain/snow, wind and cold temps at the summit but when we woke up race day morning the sky was blue and the sun was shining, it was perfect.  I started off the first mile a bit quicker than I initially intended to, we hit the trail and started climbing.  I was feeling a bit worn down and just felt off, early on I got a side stitch was not ideal.  I tried to stay calm and just kept checking my splits, the pace felt hard and I reminded myself that its a race and its supposed to feel hard, I didnt want my mind to play games on me.  I know there are times when your mind can say, whoa this feels too hard, back off, back off then you ended up backing off when its really not necessary so I just kept at it, ticking off the miles and finally got into a groove about 4-5 miles into the race.  I got to Barr Camp around 1:33, which was within the range I was shooting for.  I know things get rough after Barr Camp and especially above treeline but my goal was just to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other.  I was still on a decent pace when I got to A-Frame around 2:18, I knew this is when it would really get challenging.  The last 3 miles above treeline are the hardest of the entire race, everyone is oxygen deprived and gasping for air yet there is still a lot of time to go!  A few weeks before the race, I did a workout where I ran down to A-Frame and back up twice, I felt strong during that workout and was familiar with the last 3 miles so I knew what to expect but on race day but I started bleeding time.  I think dehydration was creeping in and it was taking its toll, same with my nutrition - or lack thereof.  I kept just moving forward, tried to push the pace and my left quad started seizing up.  I crossed the finish line in 3:20, as the 19th female and 2nd in my age group.  It wasn't as fast as I wanted but I smiled above treeline and thats what matters.  I swear I will get my hydration/nutrition down at some point, I will never reach my full potential if I keep thinking I can get by with minimal amounts of fluids especially at high altitude mountain races!   

I am really pleased with this race though, I cut off like 50:00 from last year!  Brady cut off like 19:00 from last year and was happy too.  I felt ok when I finished, had that twitchy leg and kinda sick feeling but that's standard.  I was waiting on the summit for Brady to finish and as time went on, I started to feel worse and worse.  After about 25 minutes or so, I was feeling really lightheaded and dizzy, my arms and legs were all tingly and my heart rate spiked, I started thinking please don't let me die here on this mountain a couple of weeks before my wedding.   Brady took me to the med tent, they hooked me up to oxygen and gave me an IV, my lips were blue (which happens easily to me).  I laid there hooked up for a while and started to feel better so finally ventured down the mountain.  This was my first time in the med tent so something was definitely off during this race!  

Lessons of 2016

- Smile every mile and embrace the daily grind! 
- Enjoy time in the mountains and take it all in
- Hydration and nutrition, I'll eventually get it right!
- I like supporting Brady in whatever he decides to do, whether its biking, climbing or whatever it may be.  I find joy in seeing him succeed and being there to cheer him on
- I still feel close to those who are most important to me, even though they may be miles away in another state.  I know that the people who mean the most to me, will always will be there for me.  My family is incredibly supportive and I love when my parents come to visit.  

Goals for 2017

- Continue to smile and grind away!
- Take on more mountain adventures, explore new places and new summits.  
- Read more and enjoy time relaxing outside
- Show my love unconditionally to those who matter the most
- Take on some home projects and keep our house tidy (easier said, than done)
- Continue taking awesome pictures and maybe try to do something else related to photography and my pictures
- Stay fierce & focused, strong & positive

mountain lion footprints at Waterton Canyon