Monday: I woke up at 5:45am in St. Louis to get on a flight back to Denver. Everything went smoothly and I landed at DIA around 9:30am with the rest of the day to myself. I purposely pushed the previous week’s long run to Monday so that I didn’t have to worry about doing it when I wanted to be spending time with my family instead. I knew that running 20+ miles mid-day after flying would present challenges, but I was sort of looking forward to suffering. I had a plan for 21 miles – don’t ask me why, but I was just stuck on that number. I haven’t done a run that length since the 50k and I realize that I might have been jumping in a little too hard, but for my own confidence, I needed over 20 miles.
I started by running the honeymoon incline up South Table to get some vert in right off the bat. I took it pretty easy on the climb, knowing what I had ahead of me. It was a little warm out, but I had my vest on with one bottle of Tailwind and one bottle of water. I wore my La Sportiva shoes, which I like for doing technical trails but from the start of the run, I knew they weren’t a good choice for 20+ miles. They felt heavy and clunky and I considered going back to the house to change, but thought I should just give it a go and see what happens. I was out there to suffer, after all. After only 1.6 miles, I was off South Table and heading to the bike path to get to North Table. I was listening to a TED Radio Hour podcast on building better cities, which was interesting, but didn’t exactly pump me up. I ran the bike path pretty slowly and felt awkward in the trail shoes and my pack. I felt like I had already run 20 miles the day before. My legs and body were just tired from the start, most likely from traveling. But, my mind was in the right place and I had a positive attitude – I didn’t question if I could do it; I just kept doing it.
I got to the North Table Loop trailhead and started on my merry way, relieved to get back on dirt. I was expecting to have the trail to myself during the middle of the day on a Monday, but there were a surprising number of people out. I turned my podcast off so that I could hear bikers and I could interact with other people on the trail. I just trotted along and said hi to everyone and didn’t really think about much. Except for root beer. I thought about an ice cold root beer for about 75% of the run. I felt like I was running in ‘second gear’ the whole time – my heart rate was pretty low and my pace was consistent (and relatively slow). I finally got to the big climb up to the top and my legs felt trashed so I allowed myself to hike as much of it as I wanted to. I finally got to my turnaround mileage at the top of Lichen Peak, the highest point of North Table. I was pooped from the climb, so I stopped for just a couple minutes to pull myself together before heading back down. I kept telling myself that I just needed to get home and that I could practically roll down from there.
I’ve done this out and back course on North Table multiple times now as part of a long run, and I know that some of the hardest climbs of the day come on the way back down and around the mesa when you’re tired from the mileage. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and remained positive. I had a realization around mile 16 that even though my body felt pretty terrible and I was tired, I was still doing it. I didn’t wait for perfect conditions to do my long run, I just did it. Because I was so committed to finishing and also because my energy levels were very steady and I didn’t have any stomach issues (thanks, Tailwind), I was able to run a freaking long way. It was a good reminder that during an ultra, there are going to be times when your legs feel horrible. But if you keep eating and hydrating and remain confident and positive, you’re fine.
Finally, I ended up back on the bike path to Golden. My watch beeped 20 and I didn’t think I could go another step and then my watched beeped 21 and I was downtown at Snarf’s where I planned to end to get lunch. I got home and ate and for the first time in years, I drank a soda with my lunch. After thinking about one for over 2 hours, I had to. My legs were throbbing as I sat on the ground. That is a feeling that is normally saved for race day, but I think it’s good that I was able to push so much in a training run.
I spent the rest of the day slacking hard and even though I was so excited to see Dan after being away for the weekend, I was falling asleep on the couch by 8:30.
Tuesday: I slept in and was thinking about taking a rest day, but when I got home from work I decided to do a slow, easy shakeout run before attempting clovers the next morning. I ran 3.4 miles at like a 9:30 pace and it wasn’t really fun, but I think it helped.
Wednesday: As always on the last Wednesday of the month, it was clovers day at NP. I knew that I wasn’t really going to be up for racing them after my long run on Monday. But after a Facebook hype post, I wanted to at least try really hard. I ended up doing 17.5 with a few stops (start the music, take off my jacket, talk to Aaron), which isn’t far off my PR at all. I was definitely working, but not completely killing myself (my legs wouldn’t allow that!). So, that’s encouraging! It was great to see people racing out there.
Thursday: We went back to Dino Ridge for PlayGldn, but none of us were feeling the urge to run hard so we ended up all sticking together for a social hour. It was really nice! We did full repeats, which we rarely do and covered 6.6 miles and chatted it away. These are my people.
Friday: I had already planned on taking the day off, but when I got out of bed in the morning my lower back was really irritated. I’ve had issues with my tailbone area before but this is the worst it’s ever hurt. I think it’s from doing such a long run on Monday and then running the following days when I probably wasn’t ready for it yet. I took the day easy and laid on a heating pad in the afternoon and popped Ibuprofen.
Saturday: I was planning on doing a pretty substantial run, but with the snow and my back hurting, I took another day off. I went to Denver Sports Recovery and got hooked up to some stim on my lower back with a heating pad on top of it. This felt great! Then I did the hip/butt/quad compression sleeves. And then I went into the sauna for 30 minutes. The heat felt nice, but I was sitting in there and sitting is what irritates my back the most. So, I actually felt pretty creaky when I got out. Dan and I went to REI afterwards where I bought a new pair of trail running shoes, the Vasque Constant Velocity. We then joined half of Arvada at Costco before making it home. It ended up being a pretty busy snow day.
Sunday: I didn’t think I could really make my back worse, so I decided to follow through with the running plans I had made. Robyn and I wanted to run at Lair o the Bear, but knew it wasn’t a good choice with the snow. So, I talked the crew into running my favorite road – Crawford Gulch off of Golden Gate Canyon. With the blue skies and the sun and the untouched snow on the hills, it was such a beautiful morning! We covered 10 miles with around 1500 feet of climbing. And after, everyone came over for brunch to celebrate Robyn’s birthday! I wore the new shoes and I loved them! They are a great road-trail hybrid and I’m looking forward to logging more miles in them.
After sitting around lamenting about how much my back was hurting later, I texted my friend Woody who is a PT I can always count on to give me sound advice. He sent me a link to a Youtube video of an exercise with the instructions to do it 10x per hour as long as it felt good. I did one round then stood up and felt immediately better! I’m not back to 100% but am going to keep doing the movement and have high hopes for continuing to improve. I’m so appreciative to him for the help! I was about ready to go schedule a massage and dry needling and anything I in an attempt to get myself back to normal. And all I really needed to do was lay on my floor! That’s why you should see a PT I guess.
I also ran about 5 more miles in the afternoon which was slow and easy and took me above 50 miles for the week, which I felt like I needed. Next weekend is the Wings for Life World Run, which Dan so thoughtfully signed me up for. I’m not planning on tapering for it. We leave early Saturday morning and I hope to get in about 30 miles before then. The race is on Sunday and I don’t know how many miles I’ll be able to cover during it, but I want to get in 20+ for the day.
I’m feeling a bit anxious about Dirty 30, knowing that my training volume isn’t as high right now as I’d like it to be. But, there’s no point pushing too hard too fast and ending up hurting myself.
Total mileage: 51.2
Total climbing: 5,266 feet
High: The blue sky during Sunday’s run was pretty great.
Low: Back pain!