Lessons Learned

Every training run, every race experience changes us. We can repeat the same run route, the same distance, tackle the same hill, or the same race a year or more later and it always offers us a different experience.  Always!

This past year started off so great! Somehow as a busy-working-volunteering-running-lifting mother of three, I found ways to squeeze in lots of mileage before my spring ultra races!  I had a free race entry from RunGoApp so I signed up last-minute for the Elephant Mountain 50K just outside of Phoenix.  It was a wonderful course and similar to the trails I run near my home and I was feeling good!  So good, in fact, that I finished first place female!  Now that’s the way to start off a new year!

Elephant Mountain 50K Podium

I used that race as a training run for my next race that was going to be my first ever, official 50 miler!  I felt great after that 50K and followed it up the next day with a long-ish run and was still feeling good.  Good, but nervous about tackling a distance I had not yet tried out yet!

Going into the Monument Valley 50 Miler, I was feeling excited about returning to such an inspiring, peaceful and spiritual landscape to run.  I had done the 50K the year before and you can read what happened here which fired me up to do my first 50 mile run! I was familiar with all of the course with the exception of the first 20 miles which was a loop leading to the main aid station.  The beauty of this course is astounding!  You will witness the most unforgettable sunrise and run in the most unforgivable sand!  I was surprised how well I felt starting off, even though I felt frustrated since it was single track for the most part and hard to pass.  But, I stuck with the number one female and made her work really hard to stay number one.  I pushed hard, she pushed harder, and I finished with 2nd place which I was very proud of!

Feeling good crossing that finish line!

After the race, my knee felt a little sore and I thought it was just a tight IT band, but it turned out to be a little more complicated and required some diligent rehab.  That was tough for me, because I have found that running in the sand does not make me as sore as road racing!  So, here I was, post-amazing ultra race feeling awesome and not really being able to run for almost a month!  After those three weeks, I was a little stressed because I had a marathon coming up and about a month to seriously train for it!

I squeezed in one 20 miler at a depressingly slow pace, yet, felt grateful to be running pain-free again!  Then I traveled with my friends to San Diego for the Rock’n’Roll Marathon! I always find this race challenging!  Lots of hills, yet always very scenic and such a fun atmosphere!  At about mile 20, I think I started to fatigue which caused my knee pain to return.  No good.  I was also starting to feel the humidity and the warm day.  Not getting better.  I battled it out, rested, rehabbed the knee and felt good once again.

Running and traveling with friends is the best gift ever!

The summer that followed was fantastic!  Kids out of school and a less hectic schedule. Travels and adventurous runs up mountains made training feel fun again!  It’s crazy though, how quickly it comes to an end and the fall races are closing in!  Life got hectic once the kids returned to school.  I was swamped with work, volunteer responsibilities, mom duties, etc.  I didn’t feel as prepared as I should have for the Canyon de Chelly 55K.  I finished 3rd place top female the year before and was hoping to beat my time!  Another tough course in the sand.  My legs felt really tired (I think too much TRX and other fitness classes) going into the race which was not a good thing!  I did well for about the first 15 miles and then my legs just were “done”!  I still finished in 8th place which isn’t bad and my knee didn’t hurt which was really good!  I really had never experienced such leg fatigue before, so that was something totally new for me.  I was just thankful that it wasn’t an injury and that, other than my ego, I’d be fine!  (This is an absolutely amazing race if you can get into it, by the way!!)

Diggin’ Deep (in the sand) for the finish!

Two weeks after this race I talked a friend, who had never even considered an ultra run, into running the Grand Canyon!   We had the best time and she totally rocked it rim to rim and back to the starting rim!  It was so much fun!  This is my favorite, most cherished run that I try to do annually!  No chip, not a race, no fancy expo…just a spiritual run through the most beautiful canyon!  This was my 5th time running a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, and just like I said, it is never the same experience!  You get familiar with certain areas, rocks, vistas, landscape, waterfalls…but it’s always different!  My goal was to make this run fun and enjoyable for my friend.  We stopped for water, for pictures, to meet up with other friends running, for bathroom breaks…no pressure!  We helped and encouraged others as we approached the final ascent out of the canyon.  All around it was a success.  We finished with sore muscles, no injuries, and tons of great memories!

Heading back to Bright Angel Trail to finish out the run! Whoo-hoo!

After this phenomenal run, I had about a month to train for the Tucson Marathon.  My hometown marathon which is downhill and speedy!  I had an okay training, other than feeling like I had no time to train!  So frustrating!  I was hoping the lack of training would mean that my legs would be rested and ready to rock the course.  Not exactly so.  I had the distance in me, just not the speed I’m accustomed to for a marathon.  A feeling that left me feeling a little defeated…but not for long!  I mean, I just ran a marathon and was still able to qualify for Boston with my finishing time, so how could I feel bad about it?  All I need to do is add a little more speed work back into my routine and I should bounce back fine.

Cool medals this year from the Tucson Marathon!

It’s all in the attitude.  I hear too many runners whine about this or that without being able to step back, look at the big picture, and see that every run is a gift.  Accept it and continue to move on.  So many people are unable to run or are injured and can’t currently run.  In my opinion, it’s just too sacred to take it for granted.  Yes, we push ourselves! Yes, we want to beat that PR!  Yes, we want to beat that person in front of us or not let that person behind us catch up!  That’s what keeps us going and keeps us pushing.  We are runners and already a little crazy…or a lotta crazy, it just depends on who is judging!

I learned a lot this year.  How to be patient while rehabilitating an injury.  Yes, I wondered if this was going to be chronic or end my running entirely.  That really scared me and so I was forced to take it easy and to really tune into how I was feeling during and after each run.  It just took time.  I learned that even though I rocked my last race, nothing carries over.  Race day is a new day and a “different body”.  I ran tired. I ran injured. I ran fast.  I ran slow. I had success and I had races that served as good running gauges for my fitness level.  Not one of those race days defined my year of running.  If you asked me how 2016 was, well, it had it’s ups and downs but I loved every second of it.  I know that I will be wiser, more patient, and more persistent in 2017.  I know that I’ve got to work a little harder than where I’m at now if I want to improve.  So here’s to another year of running fun and growth!

Cheers and let’s rock 2017!