Friday, December 20, 2013

Falling in and out of love, and back in again, with running

Sunrise on Mt. Si run with Glenn and Jenn
Remember when this blog used to be nothing but rambling, endorphin-fueled odes to my trail-running adventures in Washington's Cascade Mountains? I do.

Running Bandera Mountain with good friends in WA
Now that this year is almost over, I have to admit something: I spent most of 2013 not really enjoying running.

Don't worry; this ends well. But first, some truth: Moving to Colorado (a year ago now!) has been hard on my running.

In my second week as associate editor for Trail Runner at the beginning of this year, I attended the winter Outdoor Retailer trade show. I had never met Bryon Powell, for whom I'd done a smidge of writing in 2012, before then, but we coordinated to meet up for a run through the icy streets of Salt Lake City one morning before the trade show floor opened. During our run, he asked me about my running goals for 2013. I shrugged the question off and told him I planned to focus on my job in the coming year first and foremost; running would necessarily come second. Plus, in the 10 days or so that I'd been living at altitude at that point, my lungs felt like death every time I tried to runso, I found myself dreading runs more often than not.

Bryon, wise as he is, gave me a piece of advice that morning: Don't let anything get in the way of your running.

But, I did. I have. Not my job, thoughafter all, there are trails two minutes from my office, and I am surrounded all day long by fellow runners. I couldn't have a more flexible, accommodating work environment in terms of allowing me ample time, whenever I want it, to go run. (When Trail Runner first posted the job opening on their Facebook page, someone joked in the comments, "Are three-hour lunchtime runs permitted?" Yes. Yes, they are.)

Rather, I let other things get in the way of my running: the altitude being hard. Feeling intimidated by trail races in Colorado. Most trails being icy and snow-covered or closed altogether for much of the year, or threatened by thunderstorms and lightning every afternoon all summer. Losing access to the supportive community of trail runners and friends I thrived on in the Pacific Northwest. Being immersed, instead, in a community of elite and semi-elite runners here in Colorado who view running more as a competitive endeavor than a social activity. Not being able to keep up on runs with anyone here.

I only ran two ultras in 2013, only a fraction of the seven ultras I ran in 2012, not counting four more that year at which I paced someone 35+ miles. This year, I was undertrained for both the races I did runTransvulcania 83K and the Leadville Trail 100simply because I'd been having such a hard time dragging myself out the door to train. Let me tell you: running 50 or 100 miles when you haven't really trained is not a great game plan.

You know what I miss? The feeling I had in 2012 at the Vashon 50K, when I'd worked hard and shaved nearly 40 minutes off my time from the previous two years. The feeling I had just a few weeks after that, finishing my first 50-miler, White River, a full hour faster than I'd expected/hoped to, because I'd trained my butt off for it.

Sheer bliss at the finish line of the White River 50
See that smile on my face? I want that back! It comes from having spent months preparing myself for that race by doing something that brings me exceptional joyrunning in the mountains.

And, slowly but surely, my passion is returning. It's been building back for months nowmy ability to enjoy running again, to reach the same highs I was so accustomed to in the Northwest, to familiarize myself enough with the trails out here that they've begun to feel like home in the same way that Cougar Mountain and Mt. Si did to me in Washington.

The running out my back door here ain't shabby. This view from 12,700 feet is all doused in snow now, but Colorado's high country is, no doubt, incredible. I feel lucky to be where I am.
Lungs are finally fully adjusted. I've found some wonderful women out here whose pace is roughly on par with mine, with whom I can run trails (and cross-country ski, too!). I'm learning to suck it up when it's below zero here with a foot of snow on the ground, and get outside for a run anyway. I'm not letting myself work through the lunchtime hour anymore, but rather, making sure I get out, even if it's just for a short one.

I'm starting to plan out my 2014 race/adventure calendar and I couldn't be more excited about setting goals and getting out in the mountains every day to work toward achieving them!

Smiles at the finish line, here I come.