Imogene Pass Run Race Recap

Once upon a time…like…more than two months ago, I ran a race.  That race has long since been forgotten by all, so I am here with my tres tardy race recap to bring it back into the forefront.

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Even before I ran my first marathon, I was intrigued by the Imogene Pass Run.  Aaron ran this race back in 2005 ( BA…before Amy), so maybe it came from him describing the amazing course, or maybe I liked the fact that snacks were provided at aid stations. I am pro snacks.

If you don’t know, Imogene is a 17.1 mile race with an elevation gain of more than 5,000 feet, peaking at an over 13,000 foot summit called Imogene Pass.  The race starts in Ouray, CO, climbs up for 10 miles, and then steeply descents into Telluride, CO for the remaining 7.

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Like many races these days, registering for this small (1500 participant) event now requires insider knowledge and advance planning.  We did not have insider knowledge or advance planning for several years.  But this year we added Imogene to our list, and we were ready when the time came.   Registration opened up at 6:00 am on Saturday, June 1st, and closed two hours later with our names on the roster!

Training leading up to the race was…interesting.  I transformed from a terrible, inexperienced trail runner in July to a slightly less terrible trail runner by early September. I didn’t necessarily feel confident in my abilities to complete this race without falling on my face, but I set out with just two goals 1) Not to finish dead last (or just dead in general) and 2) to not be completely miserable for 17.1 miles.  Secretly, I wanted to finish under 4 hour without any notion what my mountain trail pace might be.

Ouray is a short 5.5 hour drive from Albuquerque, so we headed up that way on Friday morning, but not before running into a little frienemy hanging out in a “scenic overlook” rest area.  I have never seen rattlesnakes in the wild before, and within two weeks I saw two. This is some sort of omen I am sure.

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Once we got into Ouray (a very small resort town), we did our 2 mile shake out run (something I ALWAYS do the day before a race, especially if we’ve been traveling), showered up, and headed to packet pick-up. Imogene has a pretty runner friendly packet pick-up system.  They have one on Friday morning in Telluride, they have one on Friday afternoon in Ouray, or you can pick up your packet on race morning.

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Packet pick-up was very basic and well organized without the frills of an expo.  The first thing that jumped out was the number of really fit looking people.  Even the Boston expo had nothing on the athleticism that I saw in that room.  And the calves. I have never seen so many perfectly sculpted calves in my life.

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Next door the local EMT’s hosted a spaghetti dinner, but it wasn’t gluten-free friendly, so we found a pizza parlor that served gluten-free crust, and feasted.  And then we headed to Ouray Brewing Company for our tradition night-before-race beer.

When we got back to the hotel, I was looking at the news, and on the MSN homepage, I found a video showcasing a determined baby mountain goat who had to get across the river to his family.  This entire training cycle, I’ve been using “be the goat” as my mantra.  Unfortunately, I forgot about my usual 2 week pre-race mental workout until Thursday, so I was trying to cram a bunch of positive, strong, mountain goat thoughts into a couple of days.  Finding the goat video felt like a good sign.

RACE DAY! 

The alarm went off at about 5:00 am the next morning.  Imogene does not have frequent aid stations (which I believe is typical of remote races), so we both brought belts/hydration packs with us.  I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a honey pretzel Luna bar and a glass of Nuun. My Garmin, which had been “charging” all night, was actually faking it, so it was closer to dead than not. I hoped that the spirits of the Mountain Goat would keep it alive.

Parking in town was easy to find.  It is my unconfirmed belief that most people stay in Telluride and take the race bus to the start line, so there are less cars taking up parking spaces.  They had plenty of porta potties at the start, and the community center was open for restroom needs (however that line was longer).

And the goat thing.  IT WAS A SIGN!

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At about 7:20 they called everyone to line up (no corrals).  The race director started listing off cities where most participants were from.  Surprisingly, there weren’t very many people cheering from Albuquerque… we were kind of the only people that cheered when he called it out.  Only slightly awkward.

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Quite literal...the start line was right there.

Quite literal…the start line was right there.

At 7:30 sharp, the pistol went off, and we started the race! I felt really good for the first 2/10 of a mile!

And then we turned off Main Street and into the mountains.

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I knew this race would be hard.  But I took my first walk break a whopping 3/4 of a mile in, and I wasn’t the only one.  It never crossed my mind that I would be walking during the first mile, but here I was, already needing some recovery.  My little mountain goat spirit was crushed, but at the same time, everyone else was doing it, so I had a weird inner conflict going on. Was I defeated or cool?

And here’s another thing about this race.  On about 3 different occasions, there was a fork in the road and no indication of which choice was the right one.  As a result, half the runners went one way, and half went the other.  The first time it happened, I actually stopped and stood there, strategically contemplating the pros and cons of each.  Ultimately, I followed the crowd that looked older and wiser, hoping they’d run the race before and knew the secrets.  After about a 10th of a mile, the  trails met up again, and as far as I could tell, neither provided any advantage over the other, but it was a bit stressful to deal with, especially multiple times.

After that ordeal, I had a sudden and intense bout of nausea starting at mile 2.  I really pride myself on just getting through it no matter what types of weirdness I face during races, but this is the first time that I really thought I was going to have to drop out. Without any porta potty options or aid stations nearby, I was pretty much forced to just kept running despite the discomfort.  It felt like a desperate situation at the time, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t really have the option to stop, because I may have actually quit.

At mile 3, I finally started feeling better, and my legs finally felt like they were warming up.  And about this time, the trail transformed from pleasant to awesomely amazing. I never run with a camera or a phone, but I really wish I had taken some sort of picture taking device on this course because I can’t even describe what it’s like to run on the edge of a cliff looking down to a waterfall and a lush forest valley, so I guess this means you’ll actually have to run the race to experience it.

Between miles 3-7 there was a lot of walking, a lot of climbing, a bit of running. Throughout the course, we did encounter splashy mud, mid-trail streams (some with thin wooden planks to help you get across), a few breathtaking waterfalls, and a lot of rockiness. I’m really glad that I did get experience on very technical trails, because thanks to all the rain this part of the country has seen this year, the trails were more torn up than usual.

One of my favorite moments of the race came at “Lower Bird Camp.”  Each of the aid stations seemed to be competing with each other, so they were all pretty outrageous. Runners were welcomed to Lower Camp Bird by a man wearing a bird hat actually squawking like a bird.  I think I owe that nice squawking man quite a bit of thanks for lifting my spirits.

Because I was doing so much walking (which I hadn’t been training for) my muscles were really fatigued. With several more miles to go, I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to hold up before bonking.  So, I did what felt natural…I ran.  I was able to run for about 20 seconds at a time before tiring myself out, but it gave my legs a little bit of variety which helped.  I did however get a lot of dirty looks from people who were convinced I was doing it to make up time.  Nope, mountain running snobby people, I was just trying to do what it took to keep me going!

At mile 7, we hit Upper Bird Camp (luau themed), and the trail took a turn.  My gorgeous mountain views slowly disappeared behind me and were replaced with an environment too high in elevation to sustain life, which I feel was a metaphor for my overall state of being.  Even though I was taking in a bunch of “real” food at the aid stations including peanut M & M’s and bananas, I took my Mocha ClifShot when I noticed the elevation changing.  The mocha flavor has caffeine, and apparently caffeine can help thwart the effects of altitude sickness (including headaches and nausea). I can’t positively say if it worked or not, but I didn’t experience any altitude sickness symptoms.

These last three miles up really showcased my weaknesses in training for this race.  For the most part, I’d been staying with the same people on the ascent.  But those people left me in their dust as they continued to climb.  No amount of determination or intense “BE THE F!@#$%^ GOAT” chanting (I think in my head, but maybe not…) could make up for the fact that my legs did not have the strength or training to keep up the pace.  Because the grade was too steep to mix things up by running, I was attempting to push the effort for 20 seconds and lay off for about 2 minutes.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t discouraged.  At some point, pretty early on, the summit came into plain view, and the joyous sounds of cowbells ringing at the top could be heard among the groans and grunts of the climbers.  Someone turned to me and asked if I that was the top. Since I obviously had no idea, I said YES with authority.  Others were focused on IGNORING the distant oasis because it really was a good 2-3 miles away which is a cruel amount of uphill time to think that you’re “almost” there.

With my Garmin reading about 9.5 miles, I knew that I was relatively close to the top.  I had about 10 minutes to go before hitting the 3 hour mark, so I dug deep and pushed myself to get to the top before 3 hours.  Toward the top, the trail narrows, and we filtered into a single-file line.  Spectators were lined up to give runners high-fives, which was really helpful.  One lady was yelling out ranks to the women (I was woman #220).  Random, but strangely motivating (I counted backwards every time I passed a female for the rest of the race).

In what felt like a giant sigh of relief, I took the step that took my journey from uphill battle to It’s All Downhill From Here. The summit was a huge party.  Cheers loud enough to hear from three miles down the mountain, people taking joyous pictures with the summit sign (another moment when I wished I had my camera), and people gobbling up as many snacks as they could.  I could smell the famed chicken broth, but I literally couldn’t find it among the candy and cookies which should tell you something about my mental state (Aaron said he got some, but it was too hot, so he wasn’t able to eat it).

I wasn’t sure how much time to spend at the summit. I didn’t have a camera to capture the usual photo ops.  I wasn’t hungry enough for lots of snacking, and I knew Aaron was already well down the mountain, so I didn’t have anyone to hang out with. So, I took a few handfuls of M&M’s, took a moment of forced reflection to enjoy the view from the top/savor the accomplishment/look down upon the the mountain that I had just dominated, and then went on my merry way.

For months leading up to this race, I had been looking forward to the downhill.  I am a strong downhill runner, and I was anticipating fun times barreling down a mountain for 7 miles despite warnings that the first 2 miles coming down were rather terrifying.

Race photo from Elevation Imaging

Race photo from Elevation Imaging…DO YOU SEE THE HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT???

But holy steepness.  Within a mile my quads felt significantly thrashed and it was taking intense concentration not to fall flat on my face. The trails were well washed out, leaving almost no place to run.  People were trying really hard to not run into each other, but it was chaotic times.

At the top, I started running in front of two female runners.  From what I gather, they had planned to run together, but one of them just kind of abandoned the other one at some point because she just wanted to be done with the uphill (it doesn’t sound like she bothered to tell her friend), but waited for her at the summit and this was the first time that they were talking since the great abandonment. Talk about passive aggressive fake friendliness going on. I dealt with the back and forth for about a mile, and I knew that if I wanted to not punch these people, that I needed to get away from them.

Luckily, I got away thanks to running faster than advisable, I didn’t fall down, and I never had to hear their dumb conversation again.

With about five miles to go, the crowd started thinning out.  I was only passed by one group of three women on the way down, but passed several people.  As a somewhat trained endurance runner, I felt I had an advantage at this point in the race, because even though this course was hard, my body is used to the long mileage.  So while I was able to keep going, I could pinpoint the runners without that endurance training because they appeared to have just been run over by a bus.

I continued on my pace, still hoping to come in under 4 hours.  I did come across a trombone player walking down which was unexpected and awesome (how did he get up there with a trombone???).  And because the crowd had thinned out so much, I hit a couple of aid stations completely by myself.  I didn’t necessarily need to stop, but I felt weird running through when they all sprung into action. I high-fived some kids, took some snacks, and gratefully accepted some cold water poured down my back (considering this was a mountain race, the temperatures were perfectly warm).

With three miles to go, my Garmin finally made good on its promise and died.  This is the first time my Garmin has died on me mid-race, and strangely, instead of derailing my mental state (which, let’s be honest, was derailed somewhere between 12,000 and 13,000 feet), I think it made me run faster because of the pace uncertainty.

Spectators started to pop up sporadically along the course, which was reassuring…surely spectators wouldn’t be hiking further than 2 miles to cheer!

At one point, I turned at a switchback, and a green valley with little buildings came into view.  I was hopeful that I was descending upon Telluride.  I hadn’t studied the course enough to know how far the finish line was from the first spotting of Telluride, so I wasn’t sure if I should be excited that I was almost done, or scared that I was going to have to see this town for a few miles while wishing for the end. But it was a happy sighting nonetheless.

Taken post race from the gondola, but what it looked like during the race

Taken post race from the gondola, but what it looked like during the race

As the course became lined with spectators, I picked up the pace.  The trail finally started to improve as I came into Telluride.  I spotted Aaron, so I knew the finish line must be coming up soon.  He yelled, with camera phone in hand, that the finish line was right around the corner.

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As I turned the corner, the trail turned into asphalt and I spotted the finish line maybe a tenth of a mile away.  I felt like I was flying as I sprinted across the fabulously steep downhill slant and past the cheering spectators as I crossed the finish line in 4:08:10, 32 in my age group, and 203/579 females.  About 8 minutes slower than my goal, but I was truthfully happy that I made it and stayed in one piece, and got to finish strong considering how crappy I’d felt for most of the race.

Yay! Done!

Yay! Done!

After the race I was handed my finisher’s pin (while I’m not medal motivated, I was a bit disappointed that my grande mountain adventure didn’t warrant something slightly more significant).  They had the usual water/Gatorade/snacks available, but no finisher’s photos.

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After the race, we refueled at Smuggler’s Brewpub which was fantastic except for the bathrooms which were located down a full flight of stairs…painful both ways.  We opted to take the later bus back to Ouray, so we explored  the area a bit and took the gondola to Mountain City (famous people have houses there!).

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Smuggler’s Brewpub

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Mountain City, CO

When we got back to Telluride, we hopped on the bus.  A nice volunteer brought oranges and cookies (leftover since the race had finished and they were cleaning up).  The ride took about an hour, and it was raining the whole time, so I’m glad the weather held up during the race.

Bus snacks

Bus snacks

We were both exhausted and sore.  I would say that my fatigue level was greater than it has been post-marathon. We both decided to forgo celebrating out in Ouray, so Aaron stopped by the grocery store, picked up a six pack of Telluride Brewery beer, and we ate leftover pizza and fell asleep watching TV.

Details:

Finish time: 4:08:10 (14:30 average pace)

Splits, minus the last 3 miles of Garmin deadery

Splits, minus the last 3 miles of Garmin deadery

Fuel: Luna Bar pre-race, ClifShot (with caffeine) at miles 7, cookies, peanut M&M’s, oranges, banana and peach slices along the course (provided at aid stations)

Hydration: One glass of Nuun pre-race, hydration belt with two little bottles filled with water, Sports Drink at aid stations

Gear: Brooks Cascadia trail shoes, ProCompression socks, Lululemon Fast Cat skirt (no pockets which was a big bummer), Lululemon CRB, Nathan’s Hydration belt (I packed gloves just in case, but didn’t need them).

Favorite Moment: The summit: the figurative and literal peak to conquering challenges.

Least Favorite Moment: The last few uphill miles.  I felt very weak and discouraged.

Advice: Incorporate power hiking into your training, and train on technical trails.  From what I hear, the downhill portion is usually very smooth, but because of recent rains, it was pretty torn up.  Invest in trail shoes, bring your own water, and a camera.

RACE LOGISTICS:

Packet Pick-Up: Offered in both Telluride and Ouray. No frills, but well organized (the t-shirt was the least flattering race shirt I’ve ever received though).

Transportation/Parking: Bus rides from Telluride in the morning, and back to Ouary post-race (there was plenty of room, and they leave at a couple of different times, and are announced), we had NO problem getting a parking space near the start line in Ouray.

Hotels: We stayed in Ouray at the Hot Springs Inn which I would recommend.  Hotels were pretty reasonably priced considering the amount of tourists.

Aid Stations: the best I’ve ever seen.  Lots of good food.  BUT there weren’t very many of them (6 total).

Bathroom situation: I saw one on the course at the summit (I believe there were more)  I suggest bringing toilet paper.  You are in the woods after all.

Even thought this race was HARD, I would like to do it again now that I know how to train better for it, and I really want to hit sub-4 hours.  It’s close, it’s cheap, and it really presented a challenge that was humbling and exciting.   This race also has a great “local” feel…everyone knows each other! My only issue is that there was definitely a feeling of mountain runner snobbery among a small minority of the people, but overall, it was a great race!

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Training for Imogene

So, Imogene.

(I’ve watched this video a few times to give me inspiration and to experience some of the course).

In less than 3 weeks, I will be standing at the base of a mountain before running 10 miles up and 7 miles down.

As I do with all longer races, I’ve been studying the course and memorizing tips from seasoned participants.  Instead of a regular “fan” facebook page, the run has a private “group” which acts as more of a forum with pretty specialized advice and lots of pep talking.  Ed, a seasoned Colorado trail runner, is a frequent participant!

But even with all of the studying and analyzing, I am (like usual) more than a little apprehensive about how this will turn out. I am still a pretty new runner overall (just a little more than 2 years in), so I haven’t figured out my groove, nor do I have the experience to know with certainty that I won’t die during any given race. Add a 5,000 foot elevation gain into the mix, and you get a little Amy who has spent the last month really frustrated with the process because I am uncertain and afraid of spending 17 miles completely miserable. Or dying. It happens to people occasionally.  Even with all of the reassurances, I know my fears won’t be eased until I cross that finish line for myself.

Hill sprints up this trail hill have really brought my abilities into question

Hill sprints up this trail hill have really brought my abilities into question

Initially, before actually starting to train, I set out with a goal of placing third in my age group. The last time I did an untraditionally distanced small trail race at the Bataan Memorial Death March Half, I ended up 3rd female overall, so I figured this could be manageable, even though I really didn’t know how the pace per mile differentiates between regular running and Imogene running   Based on last year’s times, to place 3rd in my age group, I’d have to run a 3:03, which didn’t seem too far fetched for a 17 mile distance.  But then someone said that your Imogene time is actually pretty close to your marathon time.

Well, there goes that dream.

So, after that bubble burst and once I actually starting to run on trails and feel the affects of limited oxygen, my goals have really switched to:

1) Don’t be dead last

2) Don’t be too miserable

I also figured that while my body can train hard and race hard, it doesn’t recover very well at all, so putting myself through a grueling training schedule in an attempt to be an age group competitor when it doesn’t appear to be realistic seems like a way to spend another post-race month trying to get my legs to function correctly without actually getting a “PR” time or even a gauge of my fitness and speed levels. No thank you?

So, with the anticipation that I will sign up again for Rock n Roll Arizona in January with every intention of a sub 1:40 time, I’ve decided to use this race (for the first time ever) as a race where I “stop and smell the roses” (or in this case, “stop and check out the view from the summit while enjoying a bowl of chicken broth). But I do also value my life and I don’t want it to end somewhere beyond the tree line with all of the mountain people mumbling about “being prepared” and “cocky road runners who think they can run Imogene.”

Looks friendly…. via USDA

So, we’ve definitely been putting at least a little effort into training for this bad boy. I won’t even pretend that we’ve been consistent or super die-hard about this training cycle.  We started training later than I wanted to, and we’ve really been skipping a lot of workouts. But luckily, I’m at least finally starting to feel faster than I had been (still about a minute per mile slower than I was last summer which is kind of YIKES), and I’m starting to gain my confidence on the trails, so overall, considering my goals, I think I will be ok.

What Imogene Training Has Looked Like: 

1) Long runs: this is still a 17 mile race, which isn’t necessarily short.  Next week we will max out at 18 miles.  Usually, for road races, I don’t do long runs farther than the race distance, but since Imogene will be harder in elevation gain than any of our training runs, I wanted to build up a strong endurance base.  Like regular races, these long runs are also key in perfecting a fuel and hydration schedule.  We’ve been incorporating some solid foods in with our ClifShots, and I’ve been working at stopping for a good drink of water every mile beep.

2) Runs at elevation: At about 6,000 feet, Albuquerque doesn’t have a wimpy elevation, but we’ve had to go out of town and do a couple of runs a bit higher.  The 15 miler was at about 7,200 and the 12 miler peaked at about 11,600.  Next weekend, we’ll probably peak at about 10,000.  While none of these are preparing me for what 13,000 feet might feel like, running with less oxygen will hopefully be helpful.

15 Miler Elevation Profile

12 Miler Elevation Profile

15 Miler Elevation Profile...looks like an angry face!

15 Miler Elevation Profile…looks like an angry face!

3) Runs on trails: Almost all of our runs are now on trails. Unlike normal running, there is a constant change in direction, and you have to get used to rocks and tree roots and navigating around people since trails aren’t very wide.  It is also a bit different running on dirt than relying on the constant pushback from asphalt.  Your body is used differently for trail running than road running, so for me, getting accustomed to the changes has been a good (and I hope useful) method.  I went from a sad contender a few weeks ago to running an 8:30 trail mile (albeit, only 1) on Saturday.

Typical short trail run elevation profile

Typical short trail run elevation profile

4) Stepmill: This is that machine at the gym that looks like a staircase.  Usually, the people on it are all the way hunched over and walking very slow up them stairs.  Thanks to the steep uphill portions of mountain running, many trail steps really do feel like “stair” steps.  They really engage the quads, and I am having to do a huge push with one leg to launch the other forward. The stepmill helps stimulate that motion.  As an added bonus, (assuming you are hitting around 90 steps per minute and actually standing up like a normal person), stepmill is hard! I am completely dying and dripping in sweat after 30 minutes.

Machine o’ torture

5) Occasional speed work: We’ve done 2 track sessions and 2 hill sprint sessions.  For our hill sprints, we’ve been doing half mile repeats which are really long and torturous.  If I had to guess, I’d say that hill sprints are more valuable than track sessions for this race, but I wouldn’t say that we’re putting very much effort into increasing speed (which is really apparent with my paces).

Hill Repeats Elevation Profile

Hill Repeats Elevation Profile

The bottom of the hill, looking up

The bottom of the hill, looking up

6) The easy runs.  The relief.  The ones where you finish and you are like, I wish I could run 3 easy miles everyday and still BQ during marathons. (But not really because I know myself and I know you and we are all crazy). We had a couple of days of yoga written into our plan and we haven’t been doing a great job actually doing it.  Because trail running uses up so many different muscles instead of the same ones over and over, I really haven’t felt all that sore. I know that’s not a good excuse, but when I’m feeling good, and it is Friday night, I just don’t want to.

So, this is what a typical week of Imogene training is looking like:

Monday: Stepmill

Tuesday: 4-5 trail miles

Wednesday: 3 easy miles (sometimes on a trail)

Thursday: hill sprints followed by 1-2 trail miles

Friday: Yoga (or happy hour)

Saturday: Long Run (sometimes on a trail)

Sunday: “Long Recovery Run” 6-10 miles on the trail

Will this training plan get me to Mountain People glory? Probably not.  But I am hoping that I’m at least establishing a strong base and that come race day I won’t regret not doing more. In the very least, I have improved leaps and bounds with my trail running, I have shipped my comfort zone far far away, and I’m allowing myself to relearn everything I know about running and my personal limits. And I think for me, this time around, that is enough.

Ooo! Shiny!

Ooo! Shiny!

Mapping Out the 2013 Race Schedule

One of the most overwhelming parts of reading running blogs is the exposure to the endless race possibilities.

A year and a half ago, I had no clue that more than 5-10 marathons even existed let alone what they were called.  I didn’t know that there was a Chicago Marathon, and while I think I knew that there was a Boston Marathon, I didn’t know that it was any sort of a big deal (now we’re all on a first name basis).

But with all this exposure comes tremendous race envy.  *Almost* every recap I read drives me to look at my bank account to analyze if next year’s race fits into our budget.  I mean, all of the sudden I want to go to places like Duluth and Cincinnati for fun? What is going on here? (keep in mind that I say this out of love if you live in those places.  Albuquerque isn’t a dream boat city either).

But we can’t leave town every weekend to run races, so choices must be made.

This will be the 2nd time that I attempt to map out our race schedule for the entire year.  Realistically, we can afford one, maybe two, major “destination” race per year (last year it was Chicago, this year it is Boston), so everything else has to be regional (Arizona, Las Vegas, Colorado, or West Texas).  And timing plays a big part.  We need to have plenty of rest in between races to recover physically and financially.  And as a glass half full type person, I’m always under the impression that at any given time I will injure myself and never be able to run again, so I want to run the “must-do’s” first whenever possible.  Running Chicago as my first marathon was no accident.  I wanted my first time to be with a marathon that I really loved.

This year I’ve had a few other considerations while planning our race schedule:

1) Boston.  Everything else this spring has to revolve around it include filing taxes.

2) Aaron has expressed that he’s getting burned out with our constant road racing, so I want to incorporate more “non-traditional” races in the mix.

3) Training for a triathlon.  I’m going to need a few months off of running just to focus on swimming and bike riding because this IS happening in 2013.

As of right now, I’m only officially registered for 2 races (Arizona and Boston), but here’s what we’re thinking for 2013:

JANUARY: Rock n Roll Arizona Half.

MARCH: Bataan Memorial Death March 14.2 miler (Las Cruces, NM about 3 hours south of Albuquerque): This race has a full marathon and a “half” option that is actually misleading since it is more than half a marathon.  This is New Mexico’s “big deal” marathon and it is really geared toward veterans and active duty service members.  Many members of the military will run it in full uniform with a loaded backpack.  Lots of uphill, REALLY warm temperatures, lots of loose sand, and likely some rattlesnakes nearby. This is actually considered one of the hardest courses in the country. My dad is planning on running the full marathon (WHAT????) and even my little sister is planning on running the half.  I don’t even know my family anymore.

SOURCE Photo by David Young

APRIL: Boston Marathon. Considered the most prestigious road race in the world.  Still somewhat in denial that I’ll be running it.

MAY: Run for the Zoo Half (Albuquerque):  This falls just a few weeks after Boston, so this is a BIG maybe even though it has become a yearly tradition for me.  It took me a month after the Chicago Marathon to be able to run again.  I’m hoping for a faster recovery time this go around, but I probably won’t register for this until the week of.

JUNE: Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run (Colorado Springs).  This race is full of rolling hills, but at least each uphill is matched with a downhill. The views are gorgeous apparently.

SEPTEMBER: Imogene Pass Run 17 miler (Ouray-Telluride, CO): Aaron has run this race before.  It sounds miserable yet amazing.  The website says the following: “The reality is that despite whatever emotions we may have for the mountains and their environment, they are in fact unfeeling objects and they follow the natural rules of physics which are not always benevolent toward living creatures, great or small.”  I guess they all can’t be easy.  Check out that elevation climb!

Please note the trail. And the lack of trees. 

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: We’re going to put in for the Nike Women’s and ING New York City lotteries (if New York opens it up).  Statistically we’re not likely to get into either one.  But a girl can dream.

DECEMBER: Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half (Full?).  It is pretty pricey/cheesey, but Las Vegas is close, and I think running the strip at night would be pretty awesome. And Las Vegas at Christmas time is actually really pretty.  Plus, the race falls right around our wedding anniversary, and I’m not opposed to renewing our vows along the course at the “Run-Thru Wedding Ceremony!”

SOURCE Photo by Steve Marcus

Other Possibilities:

Duke City Half (Albuquerque, October): This was my first half marathon.  Not the most amazing course, but it will be good to do if (when) I don’t selected for NWM or NYC. Plus, you can’t beat a local race where you can go home and nap in your own bed right after.

Tucson Marathon (December): A downhill marathon!  I don’t really want to get into the marathon habit, but if I decide after Boston that I MUST RUN MORE MARATHONS, I think a downhill one will be a nice option.

Rock n Roll Denver Half (September):  This is a back up if Imogene fills up before we register (last year it only took a few hours).

I plan on spending the summer in the pool or on a bike, so I don’t want any big races during those months.  Otherwise, everything is pretty open and subject to change.

Anyone else doing any of these races?  Any other good recommendations in the Colorado, Arizona, or west Texas areas?

I hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Durango Pictures

So, I know everyone knows we went to Durango (and everyone is thinking, seriously, it’s not Paris, stop talking about it), but for such a small vacation, we took an insane amount of pictures that will sit forever in my computer, unloved and neglected.  I hate making anything feel unloved and neglected.

I love our camera (and Aaron LOVES our camera), so between us we take a lot of pictures with lots of different settings, often of the same thing over and over.

So, if you are interested in looking at a ton of pictures of water and trains (and a few other things), here is our Durango weekend in 87 pictures.

And then we will move on!

Trail Running in Colorado

I’m always surprised with the little ways that running has changed my life.

For example, a couple of years ago, I never would have thought to bring running clothes along on a trip.  It’s vacation…from everything.  Including working out. Why would I spend valuable nothing time running around?

These days we always bring workout clothes, and I kind of even look forward to our morning runs around a new place.  Something about exploring a city on foot without the usual distractions of a map or a bulky camera is just so exhilarating, provided you don’t accidentally take a wrong turn into the Tenderloin…

So it goes without saying that when we were in Durango this weekend, we took some time on Sunday morning to explore one of the trails for a trail run.

I will be the first to raise a big hand in the air and say that I’m not a huge trail running fan.  For one, I’m deathly terrified of rattlesnakes, and I’m always convinced one will slither right in front of me.  I’m also afraid of twisting my ankle on a rock or tree root.  I’ve seen Aaron go down hard twice while trail running, and the last thing I want is to break my ankle in the middle of a mountainous area with rattlesnakes slithering nearby  (but without easy access for emergency personnel).

And typically I go really slow.  Like, 15-20 minute miles slow because I am spending so much time avoiding rocks and rattlesnakes.  And enjoying the scenery. And, you know, stopping to take pictures for the blog.

But Aaron LOVES trail running.  And I will admit that the constant switch up of muscle groups makes for a great workout, and it is a lot less boring than running around the golf course. Again.

So we get out on the trails every couple of weeks.

Aaron randomly chose a trail through google while we were in Durango, and it turned out to be a great one that ended up taking us on an aerial tour of the valley.

My Garmin died at about mile 1.8 (I swear I charged it!), so I don’t have a good picture of the elevation climb, but our legs were both pretty tired from running uphill.

Everyone was so friendly on the trail as well! Every single person smiled and said hello to us as we made our way around. Nice people, those Coloradoans.

It was beautiful!  Aaron, who is obviously much faster, hid behind bushes and took pictures of me running down.  He was probably trying to catch me walking, under the guise of being a nice husband helping take pictures for his wife’s blog.

{Don’t trip on that rock!}

If you participate in #runchat, you may know that May’s challenge was to run someplace new.  Running in Durango was a new experience for both of us, and if we had spent that time sleeping in, I never would have enjoyed these views! And hey, we didn’t even run into any rattlesnakes!

Birthday Weekend Getaway to Durango

Aaron (who reads my blog but only comments in real life), sends a 30-years-big THANK YOU to everyone for the birthday wishes!

He also thought that I had an “interesting” choice of pictures in the post yesterday, so I thought I’d throw another one in the mix!

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SIDENOTE: We have had non-stop birthday action since Friday, so this will be a short on words post with a lot of unedited pictures (I’ll actually share about 10 million train pictures another day)

We celebrated Aaron’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Durango, CO (home of Zuke’s dog treats…thanks Ellie for that tidbit of information!)

Durango is a quick 3 hour-ish drive from Albuquerque, but pretty much a whole different world.

Durango is a small, ski resort town with an old western feel, and as a college town, almost everyone is 22 and beautiful (and drunk).  It is also pretty affordable and unpretentious unlike some of the other Colorado ski resort towns like Telluride, Aspen, and Vail.

We started off the drive on Friday afternoon, and immediately encountered a traffic jam in the first town out.  Fun.  We also ate potato chips for dinner because we had no other options in the middle of nowhere.  (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time!).

After an uneventful drive, we pulled into Durango.  I hadn’t been in about 12 years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see an adorable town appear in front of the bug-gut covered windshield.

Despite being such a touristy spot, hotels are kind of hard to come by (condos, cabins, and vacation house rentals are plentiful however).  Low-budget options like Econo Lodge and Best Western were available in the north end of town, and the two options downtown (where all of the restaurants and action are) are really old.

We opted to go with really old to stay within walking distance of the action and chose the General Palmer Hotel (The Strater is the other, far more expensive option).  It was very cute, very convenient, provided free breakfast, had Keurig coffee machines in room, and real keys (as opposed to the magnetic swiper ones).

Even though Durango is a ski town, there are plenty of things to do during the summer including white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, and…THE TRAIN!

Without getting into too much of a history lesson, the Durango-Silverton Line was a pretty big deal back in the day.  These days it is quite the experience, with authentic trains chugging customers through the mountains from Durango to Silverton, an old west mining town revamped into a tourist destination.  The 45 mile trip takes about 3.5 hours, but the time investment is well worth it because of the amazing mountain views! Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed along this stretch of railroad! Paul Newman and I have been to the same place!

We opted for an open-air car which allows for better viewing (though we did get cold, and soot covered).

Silverton itself is about 2 streets worth of restaurants and shops (apparently the mines were active up until the 90’s, but now the only thing supporting this town is the business from the train passengers).  You get to spend about 2 and a half hours exploring (or saloon patronizing) before getting back on board.

After the 3.5 hour ride back into Durango, we went exploring the various microbreweries and bars that Durango had to offer.  Durango actually has 4 microbreweries in town, two within walking distance to our hotel (more on that later).

Sunday morning we got up for a trail run (more on that tomorrow) to explore the amazing landscape that Colorado has to offer.

Sunday also happened to be the Taste of Durango event where local restaurants give small samples of some of their food in exchange for tokens.  I guess the token sales go toward Charity, but you are essentially paying $4 per sample portion.  It was ok, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We opted instead to eat at this adorable French restaurant!

On our way out of town, we stopped at Ska brewing company.  I don’t know if it is as widely distributed in other places as it is in Albuquerque, but the brand is completely comic book themed.

But…it is closed on Sundays, so all I could do was take pictures of the sign.  Bummer.

So, even though it was just a quick getaway, hanging out in Durango was relaxing and fun, and at such a close distance, a destination I wouldn’t mind going to a couple of times a year.  Sometimes, just escaping to a different place can make life a little more exciting.

Happy Birthday, Aaron!

Today is a big day in Casa de Lavender.

Today my husband crosses over to the other side.

Today is Aaron’s 30th birthday!

30 seems like such a big deal.  We’re talking full-fledged adulthood.  None of this twenty-something nonsense.  No more child-like antics, no more immature jokes (thank goodness!), no more partying til dawn because we just can’t stay up that late.  And a whole new (less competitive) racing age division!

{Check out that incredible display of maturity!}

Yeah…not so much.

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.  ~Chili Davis


I think it goes without saying that I love every second of my husband’s silliness, and I would never imagine trying to squish it out of him now that he’s at such an advanced age!

We celebrated a last few days of immaturity this weekend in Durango, CO (more on that tomorrow).

Happy birthday, Aaron! 30 is just the beginning!