Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feeding My Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona

I arrived in Phoenix on Thursday evening, and so far I've been lounging around, sticking close to my dad's house in downtown Scottsdale. I've done a few easy runs on the Arizona canal, enjoying the much warmer temperatures in the 30s and 40s compared to Fort Collins' single digits lately.

I've been doing errands, getting my race supplies organized, and conserving my energy as much as possible. The weather has been nice, a little cool, but the sky is blue and only today a few clouds moved in, but it's still mostly sunny and pleasant outside, with a slight breeze.
I have no agenda with this blogpost, just thought I'd share a few photos of the surroundings in downtown Scottsdale. The big peak with the towers in the middle is Thompson Peak, 4000' elevation, that I used to run at least once a week when I lived in Fountain Hills.

Along the waterfront on the canal in downtown Scottsdale.

Bougainvilleas blooming outside my bedroom window.

Baby shin daggers, someday these will impale some unsuspecting tourist.

The fish along Goldwater Blvd. near my dad's house.

The giant pitaya down the street from dad's house. There are two of them in this house's yard, and I love to stop and look at them, as they attract a collection of birds.

The entrance to my dad's neighborhood.

It's all quite relaxing, I'm thinking very little about running strategy for the 24 hour, as that's pretty simple. My goal is to go out steady for the first 12 hours, and be strong in the second 12 hours, and get at least 50 miles in the second half of the race. Mostly I am thinking about being very organized so I waste as little time at the table as possible.

My inspiring, enthusiastic and energetic friend Shannon Price (aka Wheaties Boy) posted something on Facebook yesterday about going after your goals in 2013. He called it "Feed Your Crazy". He's still new and fresh enough in ultrarunning that he has a lot of crazies to get out of his system. I've gotten a few of mine out of the way, but there's always more. For me, I guess my own version of feeding my crazy is my goal of running faster at age 50 than I did in my 30s, at least at ultra distances.

I was thinking about how I can feed my crazy in 2013 and all I can think of is doing speedwork. But I will also have to race at more competitive races, which feeds my inner princess. I get very princess-like in the days before a race where I want to do well. I guess I'll be feeding my princess a lot in the coming year or so.

At Across The Years, I'd just like to get a really solid run in, not looking for any amazing performances, just a good strong run, some socializing, some partying, and a fun 24 hours of running with many of my favorite people in the universe.

Not sure how much I'll be blogging between now and the end of the race, but I will be posting pictures and a blogpost afterwards. Happy New Year to all my readers!

I couldn't help but include this short video of the palm trees in the breeze above my dad's house. I think it's peaceful.
video

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Avocado Fetish and Christmas Thanks

I've been packing and planning, planning and packing for Arizona, to run Across the Years.

I worked 3 days in a row at the beginning of the week and it wiped me out, I was still a vegetable as of Thursday. As a result I only got 30 miles in for last week. And this week I planned to take it easy anyway, so I guess that makes it a taper.

An unintentional taper, that is. But it means I have no reason not to run my butt off. If I can be smart about my breaks, I will have a great race. I need to be overly organized before it. Everything in easy grabbing distance. No bending over to get stuff out of the cooler, it will have to be on the table.

I won't be overly intense, I want to have fun. I do plan to Facebook about it, and I'll take the midnight toast and lap with everyone. I got a portable battery recharger for my cell phone so I will be able to have power through the 24 hours.

But I plan to be too busy running to text much, and I'll do the brief updates on Facebook as I can, on my walking segments. Maybe I'll even find someone to write them for me.

We spent Christmas Day playing in the snow with the girls. We're not much into the holidays, not much into gift giving, certainly not into shopping. The girls got a new duck and some treats, and I made a special Christmas dinner for them with kangaroo meat, rice and carrots.

We actually splurged this year by putting up Christmas lights in our front windows, inside the house. I was thinking next year maybe I'll decorate the woman cave. We don't have a Christmas tree either, instead we use the avocado plant Dennis has been growing for a couple of years now.

He secretly wants to be an avocado farmer. I have to throw all our avocado seeds away before he can get to them, otherwise we'll have a crop of a dozen little jars with water and avocado seeds propped up by toothpicks on all the windowsills in the house. It's like a fetish.





We got 3 new inches of snow on Christmas eve. We need the snow, and I'm glad we're getting it, I like it better when it comes in small, steady doses instead of one big dump. And did I mention it's FREAKING COLD?!!!

Arizona looks a little better...

I've been occupying myself with blogging about trivial things. It's actually been a hard week, not feeling like diving too far into the real stuff that's been on my mind. This time of year, people struggle, and I've been watching it with a front row seat.

At work, we see patients barely hanging on through the holidays, and we know they might not be around by the New Year. It's hard to send a patient off to Hospice when you've cared for them for months or years, especially young ones.

People who have suffered losses over the past year feel their grief even more intensely during the holidays. And some people are unfortunate to get a bad diagnosis or bad news at this time, which makes things overwhelming and terrifying.

I am thankful to have my health and that the health of my family is intact, and that we are all so fortunate to have what we do have.

I am thankful for so many good things in running this past year. I had a great running year, I ran two races I'd never run before: Cornbelt 24 Hour and 24 The Hard Way 12 Hour, and both turned out to be awesome, fun, superbly organized events that I look forward to running again.

I had a blast running the Mickelson Trail with Ed Green. Toughing it out through our little adventure through adversity in the Black Hills was a run I will remember forever.

This year I met Shannon Price "Wheaties Boy" and he has turned out to be the key that unlocked my renewed enthusiasm for fast running and going after my unfinished business. He's been a great running buddy and an amazing source of positive energy for this sometimes jaded old runner.


And one more thing I'm thankful for: Today I was getting dressed so we could take the girls out to play in the snow, and I was looking for my windpants. I own two pairs of windpants, one is size extra small that I haven't been able to fit into since 2008, and a size small pair with more room in them that I use all the time now.

I pulled the windpants off the hanger in the closet, was pulling them up over my tights, and they were a little small over my hips, but I managed to get them on and they fit fine. I was a little disturbed that the pants that have always fit with plenty of extra room were hard to pull over my butt and hips.

Then I realized, I was wearing the extra smalls!!!!

WOOHOO! Christmas bonus!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Post-Apocalypse Running

I woke up this morning and the world was still here. It's solstice, and I'm going to enjoy these 10 days of winter. We finally got some snow, just enough to last until spring, which starts after next week, January 1st.

I've been enjoying running in the darkness, we've had some beautiful sunsets lately. I didn't run on my work days, so that gave me three days off of running.

Work has been a zoo and I had a wicked work hangover yesterday after doing three closing shifts in a row, two of which were 12 hours, with long chemos and a couple of patients who needed one-on-one nursing attention.

And Dennis was sick for two days, home with some bug that gave him a fever and some nausea, but no major puke fests or anything. He's better now. He's one of those people who won't call in sick to work unless he's dead, so it took some convincing to get him to stay home.

Yesterday was my work hangover recovery day, which means I am pretty much non-functional until after I get my nap. I took the girls out for a run in the morning and got 5 miles in, it was 3 degrees when I woke up, and I waited until it was up to 17 degrees before I stepped out the door. It warmed up nicely to the mid-30s by afternoon.

I was feeling extremely crabby, though. I've been feeling that way this week. I had an appointment to get my hair cut and Colleen, the woman who always cuts my hair, was telling me about her mother, who is going through a lot of the hormonal changes that go with menopause. We were laughing about it, and then one of the other women who works there was walking a little old lady using a walker back to wash her hair before she cut it. I said to Colleen, that will be us in another 40 years.

I desperately needed my nap, and I slept for 2 1/2 hours before going out to finish up for 10 miles for the day.

After my run, I called my dad, because it was his 71st birthday. When I called, he was just finishing up his workout with his personal trainer. He's feeling good these days and has a lot more energy than he has in a while. He's been allowing himself to get more sleep, and thinks that's the reason he feels better. I would have to agree.

I'm a chip off the old block. It's a Nitzky thing, we require a lot of sleep, a lot of activity, and a lot of food. If we do those things, we're unstoppable.

My plan this week is to get somewhere around 60-70 miles in 4 days of running and then next week take it easy to get a little rest before Across the Years.


So we made it to solstice, the world didn't end, and we move forward. After another 9 hours of sleep last night, I'm ready to celebrate solstice with a 20 mile run today. It looks like the sky is clear and it's already 16 degrees, and the sun isn't even up yet. Happy post-apocalyptic running!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Pre-Apocalyptic Running for N.A.D.A.

Winter finally came to Fort Collins, just in time for spring. And the apocalypse.

I'll write a running blogpost tomorrow, if the world doesn't end. But if this happens to be my last blogpost, I'd rather rant. The NRA really pissed me off this week.

So if you're pro-assault weapon proliferation, might as well stop reading here right now because I'd hate to make you have a stroke right before the apocalypse.

Well, the week leading up to apocalypse has been a big disaster. I'm sort of thinking the Mayans were off a week in their predictions. Looked like the world might come to an end last Friday after all the shootings and crazy pornographic media drama that follows such tragedies. Why are we so addicted to these horrible events?

Call me cold-hearted and callous, but I think that this country is a candidate for the Darwin Awards, and this shooting, along with the many other recent mass shootings, is just evidence of that. We're doing ourselves in, out of our own failures. Except the problem is, we're doing in the most innocent and undeserving members of society, those little kids, and those teachers who protected them. Those people and their families and their community paid the price for our collective stupidity.

The lessons will be repeated until they are learned.

Who in the hell is out of their mind enough to think that assault weapons or the proliferation of guns is a good thing?

It blows me away (no pun intended) that after all this there are people out there calling for teachers to carry weapons in the schools, and calling for more guns, and blaming gun restrictions. What gun restrictions? We don't have any!

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a conspiracy by President Obama, who is a Muslim, wasn't born here, and wants to take away our guns and we'll all be speaking Arabic.

Even some prominent conservatives have backed off on their staunch anti-gun control positions. But not the NRA, which as far as I'm concerned, deserves the Darwin Award. Those cowards couldn't even make a statement, they were there shitting their pants in the corner while their supporters ran away from them.

Sitting there in a puddle of their own excrement, spinning whatever response they're about to come out with tomorrow. The NRA had to wait a week before they could make a public statement? What the hell? After 5 days they finally said something, and the statement they released was vague. They'll make "meaningful contributions" to make sure this doesn't happen again? And that they are "shocked"? Now they say they'll release details (of what?) on Friday. I suppose they're waiting to see if the end of the world comes so they might be off the hook.

They are a terrorist organization as far as I'm concerned, they are crazy motherfuckers. They have no credibility in a rational, healthy, functioning world. I hope they surprise the hell out of me tomorrow by saying something that makes sense, but I'm not holding my breath. They might qualify for a NADA. Which is, Narrowly Averted Darwin Award.

But then, this country is obviously not running on rational, organized thought. And we're certainly not healthy, not in any sense of the word. So I guess we deserve what we get. The NRA trumps common sense. We let them have lots of power. Stupid is as stupid does.

And, by the way, Steve at Run. Race. Repeat. wrote an excellent blogpost about mental health this week, very thought-provoking.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's in the Mirror

This week has been a whirlwind.

There was the news of the school shooting in Connecticut. I've hesitated to weigh in on that until more is known, though I do have strong feelings about it.

I've heard people blaming everything from gun policies to media coverage to lack of mental health resources, to more outlandish things, such as Obama, atheists removing God from the schools, lack of birth control, to poor parenting skills, hey, you can blame whomever you want to but really, if you want to point fingers, the real blame is in the mirror.

If you live in the U.S. and you pay taxes and vote, are a citizen, and are educated and/or intelligent enough to understand that there are multiple factors that contribute to this type of violence, you can point the finger in the mirror.

We're not doing enough. We're not vocal enough. We have our heads up our asses, busy texting, Facebooking, jabbering on the phone, watching the pornographic news coverage of events like this one on the TV and the Internet. And the lessons will be repeated until they are learned. I think it's time we learned. Which means, it's time to DO something and quit arguing and praying about it. Praying is a nice gesture, but it doesn't cut it.

Personally I think that the first three things I mentioned do play a large part in this, but the dust hasn't settled yet. Doesn't matter if the dust settles, it's time to act, because by the time the dust settles, there will be another shooting somewhere.

On Friday I went in to work a little four hour shift, just to help out and work until we closed. Just a quick little shift, make a few bucks, no big deal, right? Well, my first patient of the day coded, so that turned my little four hour shift into an action-packed couple of hours followed by a paperwork fest. Fortunately the patient is okay, for now, anyway.

I got my 100 mile week in. This weekend I ran 20 miles Saturday and 20 on Sunday. Saturday I ran up at Horsetooth and got some hills in, and Sunday I ran in town on the flats and rolling hills on the southeast end of town, with a Hail Mary thrown in at the end for fun.

I felt good both days, could have easily done more miles, legs felt good the whole time. It was cold because the humidity has been high, and there was no sunshine. Today I needed a good butt kicking so I texted Wheaties Boy and he texted me back to get my butt out the door. It helped.


The only question I have is, where's the snow?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Meteor Madness!

Just a quick post before I go to bed, I have to work in the morning and it's getting close to midnight.

Tonight was the night to view the Geminid meteor showers if you have a clear sky, and Wheaties Boy threw a semi-organized event together at the last minute in honor of it. He's spending the entire night running up and down the Magnolia Road, for 12 hours.

I wanted to join him but I picked up an extra shift at work a while back, and it looks like I will have to go in. I decided to do a run, but there was no time to go to Boulder.

The other exciting thing that happened tonight I had a meeting from 5 to 7 pm, the Survivorship Advisory Committee met for our last meeting of the year, and that is the steering committee for the Cancer Center. Tonight we found out the date of groundbreaking for the Cancer Center, the project for which I was fundraising during my Badwater and other runs. It is set for January 17th.

I am so excited to see this actually happening. I've played a very, very small role in it, but it's been important to me and at our meeting tonight we were all really proud to see the work that so many people have put in, remembering the difficulty, sometimes torture, that so many have endured, and continue to go through...cancer is not going away anytime soon, and this is a much needed addition to our community. So yes, I am proud of it. And very excited to be part of the groundbreaking.

After the meeting, I went home and changed into my running clothes, and got out the door before 8 pm. I ran south of town toward Loveland on my secret route, where the lights are not too bright, so I could see the sky. At first it looked like it would be too cloudy to see anything, but once I got about 3 miles from home, south of Harmony Road, I saw the first meteor shower in the west. I cranked up the trance tunes and that made it perfect.

The sky is too bright in some areas on the south end of town because there has been so much development, and this time of year everyone has Christmas lights. I wish we could have had everyone turn off their Christmas lights for the night, because it would have helped the view a lot. That was one nice thing about living in Fountain Hills, there was an ordinance that kept the lights down and it made the night sky awesome.

But I still got to see quite a few meteor showers in the west and north. I got home around 11 pm, I got a little over 16 miles in, and it wasn't too cold out, but my face was starting to freeze.

I texted Wheaties Boy (aka Meteor Boy) several times during my run, hoping he'll get some of my messages if he gets service out there, and if his phone battery holds up. He'll be out there all night.

Not a bad way to get some miles in. Hopefully work won't wipe me out tomorrow, it's a big weekend of running. I only have 44 more miles to do and I'll have my 100 for the week.

Off to sleep...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No Batteries Required

Goose Poop, Hula Hoop...sounds like a Jimmy Buffett song.

The past few days have been awesome. Really great. Ever since the pressure of having to pass the OCN exam is lifted off me, I feel so much better. I feel like this pedestrian dude in the sign with no neck and no feet, with his hula hoop. My head is floating somewhere on top of my body, which is suspended in air, off the ground.

I'm enjoying my runs, especially in the mornings with the girls, despite the constant search for goose poop that challenges my hamstrings as they pull me and I try to put the brakes on...

I took several days off from running, after two 90 mile weeks followed by a few days off, I did another 100 miles in 7 days. So then last week I had 5 days off in a row, which is an unusually long break for not having just run a race, but I didn't want to be tired or brain fogged for the test, and then I worked all weekend.

It was a nice weekend at work, for some reason, we were miraculously staffed adequately. Not sure what happened there, but it was so nice for a change. I actually got my charting done each time before the next patient rolled in. Sunday I got off a little early so I could go to my friend Troy's birthday party.

After going to a bowling alley we went over to Coopersmiths and the guys shot pool and the girls mostly hung out at a table and talked. It was a group of my former coworkers from ICU, the people I really liked, and it was great to catch up under happier circumstances than earlier this year. I drank more beer than I realized I was capable of drinking, but it didn't seem to affect me.

I stayed out extra late for me, didn't get home until 10:30, and was amazed that I was able to stay awake that long after two days of work. I made up for it Monday by taking a 3 hour nap.

Monday I ran 11 miles and change in the morning and did some strides. I felt good after all that time off. This morning I did 12 easy miles and tonight is tempo night with Wheaties Boy. I'm shooting for 100 miles this week, or at least 90. I don't want to taper much for Across the Years, I will take an easy week during the week before the race, but I want to keep my training mileage up.

I've been taking the girls running each morning and it's been cold, but I got some new Pearl Izumi tights and a jacket that are windproof, warm and lightweight, so I've been able to only wear one or two layers instead of 5 or 6. The girls love the cold weather. Iris is putting in a lot more miles, Isabelle sticks to one or 2 miles and she's done.

The Buffaloes demonstrate the use of their GPS (goose poop sniffing). The leashes are perfectly lined up with the most direct route to the goose poop. All you have to do is let them pull you to it and you'll never get lost. No batteries required.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Passed!

Not a gallstone or a kidney stone, not chicked or sharpei'd, but the OCN exam.

That's the certification exam for oncology nursing. I started studying for this at the beginning of the year. I had several months where I didn't study much at all, but I needed to get it done. And now it's done.

I haven't had much running news to post this week, I only ran 40 miles and from the looks of it, that will be it for the week, as I go back for my work weekend tomorrow.

But I am so relieved, I studied so long for this test, I don't remember studying for anything this long except for my Ph.D. comps twenty years ago.


Woke up early this morning, and stopped off to get something to eat, and was on my way out of town and saw Wheaties Boy out on his morning run. He's always out before dawn. I didn't honk because he looked like he was in the zone and I didn't want to startle him, I hate it when people do that to me when I'm running if I'm totally lost in my own world.

Driving down I thought about how I could compare this to any race for which I'd trained hard. I had a job to do, I needed to focus and get it done.

I was nervous about this one because I've heard horror stories of nurses having to take it two or three times before they passed. The amount of material I had to study was crazy. It made my critical care certification test look like kindergarten. Cancer is a BIG topic.

The sunrise this morning was amazing over Denver and the foothills. I got there early and got checked in to the exam. It took me two hours, but about halfway through I realized I was doing better than I thought, seemed like I was confident about most of my answers.

When I finished the test and reviewed all the answers I wasn't sure of, I had about 40 minutes to spare, but I wasn't going to overthink it, so I finished the exam and a screen came up and said "Result: Pass" and I let out this huge sigh of relief.

After I got out of there, I had to sit in the car for a few minutes before I was ready to drive home. I was drained! I got on the road and when I got home, Dennis had taken the day off and we went out for sushi to celebrate. Then we came home and I took a nap.

I took a few days off running this week, after running long on Monday and just 10 on Tuesday. I didn't want to be tired going into this exam, I needed to have a clear brain, no brain fog. I have enough trouble these days between waking up hot flashing and the hormonal brain fog I get, plus topping that off with workday fatigue and being tired from running.

It worked out well, as this week is my work weekend and I don't have as many days to run as I usually do. So I'll call it my back off week, and the next two weeks I can hit it hard again, and then back off a little before Across the Years. I'm not going to taper much, just get a little extra rest the week before.

I am actually looking forward to the work weekend, I like our weekend crew, we usually have fun, and it feels good to have that huge weight lifted off me. And after the weekend, I can have more of my life back instead of always having to study. I look forward to getting in some good miles over the next few weeks. And we're due for snow and cold...but on December 31, I have another fun job to do!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Run, Bad Beer

Yesterday I ran about 11 miles, including the Fort Collins Running Club 6K at Spring Park. It was a huge turnout, we got 87 runners. I remember days when we used to have 6 show up.

I ran as hard as I could but even on my warmup I could tell that the legs were burning and as soon as I got started, I could feel it. The run was 3K downhill, then 3K uphill, and I wasn't even moving very fast on the downhill. Made it back about 50 seconds slower than the time it took me to go out. 28:53.

Not very fast, but it was a faster pace than I would have run if I didn't run the 6K. On the way back I was hurting and kept my mind off the pain by talking and joking with Jance, one of the runners in the club I've known for a long time.

We had a breakfast afterward at Fuzzy's Tacos, and Dennis and I sat with Joanne and Hunter Harms, they are going to be my crew at the race in Oklahoma City next year. Joanne lived in Oklahoma for a long time, she knows my friend Keith, who is also from Oklahoma, and a lot of the people I met at the race in OKC a few weeks ago.

Joanne is a serial marathoner, she's an endurance machine. I don't know how many marathons she's run in the past few years, but she runs races almost every weekend. She ran two 5Ks the day before yesterday, and then ran the 6K Sunday.

This is the weekend I work, coming up, plus I work Wednesday and have some other things going on this week, so I don't have as many days during my running week as I usually do. I got 60 miles last week and I'd like to do more this week but 60 will probably be all I have time for.

Today I did 30 miles and pushed harder for a little over an hour of my run, around 8:45 pace, and then backed off and took it easy the rest of the time. I finished it in under 5 hours, which isn't too bad. Iris did 2 of the miles with me, she needed an easy day. I felt surprisingly good today, ran the last uphill mile in 8:09, which is good at the end of a run.


I ran a double Spring Creek Trail out & back. I was planning to go to the lakes in Loveland, but it was so windy this morning, I didn't want to be out there exposed all day, plus the driving time eats up part of the day. It was a better choice to stay here. I came back to the house to refill my bottles and grab some food after 15 miles, and that was all I needed.

Along the Spring Creek Trail, near Drake and Taft Hill roads, near the new fire station, there were 5 deer right off the trail on my last time through there.

Tomorrow is tempo night with Wheaties Boy, and I'll do a few easy miles in the morning with the girls.

It was windy and cool today, but at least there was no smoke. On Saturday it was so bad in town from the Fern Lake fire near Estes Park that I had ash on my windshield. I ended up driving out to Windsor to run, east of here, hoping it wouldn't be as bad. It was better, but you could still smell it.

Not much else exciting going on around here, but I do have a beer report from this weekend. Occasionally I'll buy a mixed 6 pack from the liquor store around the corner to try some different beers. This time I chose an oddball. It was called Wild Blue and it's from New York. It's blueberry flavored beer.


I thought it would be more like beer with a hint of blueberry flavor, but I got a surprise when I poured the freaky stuff into a glass. It's the same color as blueberries. And it tastes like blueberry champagne. It was sweet. Ugh!

I kept taking sips wondering if it would start to taste better, but it didn't. Finally I poured a little in each of the girls' bowls, as they are beer connoisseurs. Iris liked it, but Isabelle took one sniff and walked away from the purple puddle in her bowl. Iris ended up drinking Isabelle's.

You know it's bad when even your dog won't drink it. I don't recommend this one...
I ended up pouring most of it down the drain.

On the other hand, I have a few little things to do today, and once I'm done, it will be beer-thirty again. Today I will have a New Belgium Snow Day. That will be good. A dip in the hot tub will make it taste even better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fifteen to Fifty: Looking Back and Forward

Not in 2.5 seconds like a race car. It's fifteen months to my 50th birthday.

This is no midlife crisis car, this is...

SUPAFAST.

Speaking of fast, it's time to think about spring, just around the corner on January 1st.

I've been looking back over the past year, and preparing for next. I think it's a good idea at the end of each year to look back at what you accomplished, what loose ends are still out there, think about what you learned, and take those lessons forward.

I had a great running year in 2012. I had fun, shared some awesome runs with friends, learned a lot, got a 100 mile PR, and had some good races. I'm improving on the speed, but still have a long way to go before I'm where I want to be.

When I was 40 I wanted to have better fitness at 50 than I did at 40. I'm already there in most aspects of running, with the exception of pure speed, but I'm not 50 yet. I have time to improve.

I started the year with a fun birthday run that I got to share with Tom, Felix, Jen, Morgan, and Ginger.

I made a new running friend this year, Shannon Price (I like to call him Wheaties Boy, it fits him so well), who has so much energy and enthusiasm, and just enough insanity, I bet he could get a corpse excited about running. He could probably go to Grandview Cemetery, start talking running, wake the dead and get them running laps. He's been a great running partner and has challenged me to work harder and get results.

Then in the spring I went out to Iowa and ran a double PR, 100 miles and 24 hours. The sub-24 hour 100 miles was a long time coming, for someone who has run for this many years. But it helps to have a thyroid that functions, even if it's medication-induced, so that you don't start sleepwalking after the sky gets dark.

In June I did the Mickelson Trail run in the Black Hills with Ed.

This fall I ran a lot of short races, ran my fastest 5K and half marathon times in 5 years, and had a decent 12 hour performance in Oklahoma. I've been starting to place in my age group at the shorter distances again, which I wasn't doing for a long time. I have my sights on some faster times, and higher mileage at the fixed time events for the coming year.

Now I'm headed into Across the Years with a performance goal, not necessarily a mileage goal. I want to run strong in the second half of the run. That's my goal. It doesn't matter what my overall mileage is, I just want to be able to do at least 50 miles in the last 12 hours. I'm not going to stress about this race, it's more of a 24 hour practice, strategy, and training run for next year, to figure out nutrition, hydration, pacing, and supplies.

What did I learn about running this past year? I learned that planning is important, in the Black Hills I needed a much more solid backup plan. And I also have learned that I need to work on my support system, I'm used to running these things alone and unsupported, but it really does take a team to get the optimum performance in these races. I'll be accompanied by some crew on a few of my big races next year.

You can't get faster unless you run faster. I knew that already, but it really is true. I can only improve to the extent that I run faster in workouts. I've had some trouble motivating myself to get out and do the speedwork. Don't know what the mental block is about, fear of injury, maybe. But it's also discouraging when I can barely make it around the track, in much slower times than ever before.

Dennis reminded me that I used to run five times 5:50 mile repeats, on dirt, in the cemetery. Now I can barely make it around in 7:30s without CPR. I figure the cemetery is a good place to be if you croak while running...

I don't expect to run 38 minute 10Ks again, but I'd like to be able to run a minute per mile faster than I do now. All of my short race paces are about a minute to a minute and a half slower per mile than when I was in my 20s.

It's the raw speed training that I've avoided, and I need to get past that and just go do it. When I want something, I set my mind to it, I can focus and get it done. That's where I need to find myself in the coming year.

I want some lifetime PRs when I turn 50. The big challenge will be the middle distances, like 50 miles and 100K. I want to go back and revisit some of those ultra distances I haven't raced since I was in my 30s, and see if I can beat those times.

It will be tough, but I have to do it now, whatever speed I have left won't last forever. I think there are some muscle fibers in there that need to be re-awakened. Good thing I have a running buddy who can wake the dead.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Magnolia Road Sunrise Run

Lately I've been talking about how much I enjoy running at night, and I don't do enough of it. I have also been getting slightly burned out on my usual running routes. I've been seeing way too much of the Power Trail and the Spring Creek Trail.

So when Shannon (aka Wheaties Boy) brought up the idea of organizing an early morning run on Magnolia Road above Boulder on Friday morning, starting at 4 am, other than the fact that I'd have to get up by 2:15 am and drive to Boulder, I was all over it.

Then I thought about it. I don't have to be at work until Monday, I have no important plans other than running some low key 5Ks this weekend, it's my easy week for running, and I can sleep whenever.

I knew Shannon would have to go to work and I'm not as fast as he is, but I really wanted the chance to run the entire 15 mile run, all the way to Peak-to-Peak Highway and back. I decided I would stick around until at least sunrise, so I could take some pictures. It sounded like some other people might run, too.

It's been a full moon and the weather has been perfect, not too cold, not too windy, and in Colorado, you need to take advantage of those times.

A few times I wondered, am I absolutely out of my mind?


No, this is a mini-adventure run. Yes getting up that early does border on the insane, but sleep is like money, and it ain't everything. It's a renewable resource and you can always find more of it, somewhere.



Magnolia Road has its own story, it's been written up in Runners' World, it's been written about in stories about the University of Colorado Buffaloes cross country and track teams, it's well-known as a training run for many of the elite atheletes who come to Boulder to train from all over the world.


I had never run on it, it's not a long enough run that I can really justify it most of the time, because it involves a two-plus hour round trip drive from Fort Collins, and the run itself is only 15 miles. It violates that rule in the stone tablets: Thou shalt not drive longer than thou shalt run. Something to that effect.

But I had plenty of reasons to do it, plus the fact that I am actively working on becoming less of a cold weather wimp, and running at 4 am through sunrise in the mountains of Colorado at 8700' in the winter is perfect for a cold weather wimp like me. I told Shannon I was going to wear 5 layers.

When we got there, it wasn't even that cold, but there was a stiff breeze when we started. It never got cold until right around sunrise, for about an hour, and then it warmed up again. So much for cold weather training.

So I got my stuff together, set my alarm for 2:15 a.m., just enough time to swill some coffee, take care of business, get dressed and drive to Bouldah. Shannon would have to go to work afterwards so we planned to drive separately.

As it turned out, I woke up at 12:30 am and couldn't go back to sleep, so at 1:30 I got up. Didn't get much done at that hour, but at least I wasn't rushed. I was so worried about getting up at the butt crack, and here it wasn't even the butt crack yet. It was the tail end of the full moon, and there were stars visible, partly cloudy skies and 32 degrees. Nice weather.

Driving down I caught up to Shannon in Longmont, we left only 2 minutes apart. I followed him up to the parking area. You have to drive through Boulder and up Canyon Blvd, up the canyon toward Nederland a little ways past the tunnel, and then turn left on Magnolia Road. It's about 4 miles to the top of a steep, steep climb where the pavement ends and there's a little parking area. Really small. Like, big enough for 2 cars.

It turned out to be just us two, no one else wanted to get up that early. As we got started, Shannon said, "You know, this really is borderline crazy." But those are always the best runs.

We got going, I brought an extra heavy shirt and wrapped it around my waist in case I needed another layer. I only wore one layer, though, plus my running vest. I was proud of that.

At first I was having a hard time seeing, my eyes weren't adjusting to the moonlight, which was filtered by the clouds. I brought my wimpy road headlamps. I love my little Petzl e-lites for road races like Badwater, or for running in town at night, but on dirt roads they aren't strong enough to illuminate the road surface. It was a lot of washboard at first, finally it evened out. Shannon stopped and switched headlamps with me after about a mile and a half. That was perfect. I needed my stronger headlamp, which I left at home.

Then we got going. I told him not to worry about me, we both had our phones and I didn't want to slow him down. There was very little traffic, only 3 cars passed me before the sky got light. The road is 7.5 miles each direction, and climbs about 750 feet each way on the rolling hills, low elevation is 8300', high is 8700'. The hills are not bad at all. Good for someone like me, who has slacked off on the hill training.

I took it super easy and slow, there are some good climbs but not very long. I thought about putting my music on but I was content to run under the moon without it. It seemed like it was taking me forever, but at the same time, I was enjoying the shadows across the road, the tall lodgepole pines and spruce and the bare branches of the aspen trees in the moonlight. The wind was barely noticeable.

Finally I saw Shannon running toward me. He was only 3/4 mile past the turnaround point. I thought I could hear the highway but didn't want to be disappointed if it was far away.

We talked for a few minutes and then he took off, I went to the turnaround, and at that point I started taking pictures. There was just barely a hint of light on the horizon.




Then I got serious about photo ops. It's more downhill on the way back, so I'd run in between photo ops. I took almost 200 pictures. First there were a few purple and pink streaks in the sky, then the oranges appeared, then different shades of lighter lavender, peach, and blue.





Eventually the sun came up and then there were more pictures to take, of the light illuminating the rocks, fences, aspen and other tree trunks.








I finally got back to my car around 7:45. I was starving.

I drove down into Boulder and stopped at Whole Foods to see if I could find something for breakfast real quick and get out of there. I encountered some really weird people in there. Whole Foods tend to attract a few oddballs anyway, and Boulder is full of them, so I must have picked the right place for people watching. Except I didn't care to watch people. I wanted food and to go home. I bought my food and went over to sit down at a little bar set up in front of the window overlooking the parking lot. There were about 10 chairs and only 3 people at the bar including me.

Suddenly the chair right next to me got pulled out, scraping across the floor and startling me. This woman, maybe 60 years old, fairly well-dressed, bundled up in a big sweater, jeans, and boots, sat down right next to me, while I was eating.

She got up real close, a lot closer than I prefer to have a stranger sitting, especially with my food open there. I looked over at her, and she gave me the evil eye, evil stare. She didn't say a thing. Then she got up and went somewhere, but left her bag sitting open on the bar.

Then she reappeared, this time, muttering to herself. She was speaking English, but I couldn't understand the words. I looked over at her again. Same evil stare.

I realy didn't want to introduce myself. I finished my food, but before I could finish, this man sat down on the other side of her. I don't think he knew her, but he sat down next to her the way she had done with me. I looked over at him for just a moment and saw that he was making some weird facial movements, like exaggerated chewing motions. He didn't say anything, just sat there chewing.

It was time to go. I tried to get out the door and the door wouldn't open. There were a few people behind me and they all tried the door, too. It was stuck. So I went over to the main entrance and left that way.

Very weird. I almost got stuck in the Boulder Whole Foods with some Zombies, I think. Perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse has come to Boulder already.

I drove home, body intact, and the Buffaloes greeted me at the door. I unpacked, got in the hot tub, went through my pictures, and took a nap.

A mini-adventure run, borderline crazy, close to home, well worth a few hours of lost sleep.