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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl


Say yes first, ask questions later

I generally tend to be a”Say Yes First, Ask Questions Later” kind of girl, which usually works out well and sometimes has dire consequences. Like every Monday or Wednesday night when say I yes to a 5 mile morning run the next day, and then hate myself when the alarm goes off at 5:25 a.m. Morning runs always sound like a better idea in theory than in practice.

WashParksunsetOkay fine, sometimes mornings runs aren’t the worst. Wash Park last week.

In this week’s edition of “Paula Says Yes to Absolutely Everything” I found myself on a 28 mile trail run on the Colorado Trail with Heidi for her birthday ultra run. Heidi had asked me during a 5 a.m. morning run at Wash Park a few weeks ago if I wanted to go on a huge trail run with her, and naturally it was early and I wasn’t thinking clearly so I said yes. Well actually originally we had tossed around a 50K or six hour fun run in Boulder but since I am a government employee on furlough we decided to go the free route and run on our own.

This was most definitely not my most well thought out “yes” ever. Actually there were several factors setting me up for failure:

  • The only double digit run I had done since the Pikes Peak Marathon was the Golden Leaf Half Marathon, which was not my best race ever.
  • I had hiked Missouri Mountain with Heidi and her husband on Monday (#funemployment!) and conveniently picked up a cold along the way.
  • In our original plans Heidi and I had no bail point. My mom was concerned that I was going to end up hiking 20 miles by myself. I was too.

Luckily as plans developed Heidi’s husband Chris agreed to “crew” us. He was going to meet us 11 miles into our run, and we would have the chance to bail if necessary. I talked to Graham on Friday night and was like, “Yeah, I’ll definitely just be running 11 miles tomorrow. No way I can go the whole way!”

I woke up on Saturday morning at 4:45 a.m. feeling super congested and thinking even 3 miles was going to be a stretch. If it had been an organized race I would have happily DNS’d and cheered Heidi on while drinking a pumpkin spice latte on the side. But this wasn’t a race and I had already said yes so I filled my water bottles and went to meet Heidi and Chris.

tumblr_lsd8hiGtV91r3ci18o1_500Mmm pumpkin spice. A girl can dream!

We got to the section of the Colorado Trail outside of Pine where we were starting (Little Scraggy Trailhead), took a pre-run photo and were on our way. The first section of the run was slightly downhill and I was feeling good after one mile! I told Heidi I didn’t completely hate her for making me do this. By mile two I had made up my mind that I was going to make the entire 27 miles. Strangely enough I almost felt less congested while running. Endorphins? Adrenaline? Stupidity? Yes.

ZWzxs7eyIfVgo_8xN1ZPkK4uUlI2hHWwkG6P3bewJcA,YqNBzE799cmmpGfoBlvu3v3ASO70TlwaTInPiIEJNAMPre-run photo. Mile 0.

The first 11 miles wound through a burn area that was actually really beautiful in a unique way. It was 24 degrees when we started, so we were happy to be exposed to the sun. In the summer it could potentially be miserable to be so exposed but it was perfect for a late fall trail run. We were careful to pace ourselves during the initial section and not burn out too soon. Many miles lay ahead!

WkYVgBJ4ssE21e5C7CONUywVHoPB8JEsSsv33PfZXU8Rolling miles through the burn scar.

Chris met us around mile 8 or 9, and we ran down to our mobile aid station, a.k.a. Heidi and Chris’ Forester. I don’t think our run would have been possible without the mobile aid station! We changed out our layers, ate tortilla chips and refilled our water bottles. Nothing like a clean, dry shirt to make you feel like a new person.

CO trail 2South Platte River, 11.5 miles in.

6T5RBEbCTwB9vT-yxU1C5Z4N3HKvWClPReY5Un2Bmlk,ORQ_m_q42N_bjWZUF_Pb25MtHI5SGSGK37HdDRxYmfEReady to go again after our aid station!

Heidi and I had not memorized the elevation profile, so neither of us really knew what was ahead for us after the aid station. As it turned out, we had a 3 mile long hill. And by hill, I mean a climb up the side of a mountain. Good times! We power hiked that thing trying not to lose too much time. The nice thing about ultra running is that it’s all about efficiency. It’s not worth running up a 3 mile hill and wasting tons of energy when you can power hike just as fast and save energy for later. Still, by the end of the climb I was even over power hiking.

Fun miles on the trail.

Eventually we were rewarded with my favorite trail section of the day – rolling, mostly downhill trail that meandered under a canopy of golden leaves. Heidi kept exclaiming, “It looks like Wisconsin in the fall!”

The miles ticked by and soon we were at the entrance to Waterton Canyon with just 6 miles to go.

2_9Psyb2uLArNebA3gwbUj2OamasRFYMWR5tU2KkJOU,yzJytjjTTgJCzrLl-AIiHl3APtjCku8fx_j2PvXmt_4So excited to be almost there.

I could not have asked for a better scenario in Waterton Canyon to finish the day. The last 6 miles of our run were a gradual downhill on a gravel road. However, my body was just in pain from the previous 22 miles we had already run so they weren’t necessarily the most enjoyable miles ever. I was pretty stoked when we reached the marathon point and kept going. It was officially the longest I had ever run, and my kind of, sort of, “technical” first ultra.

xIR0bXDXuk0W0-Sz8njFt_CH1n--LN8UtdOevopJID4Oh you know, just ran a marathon. Mile 26.2.

Heidi and I picked it up on our last mile. It hurt to run but it almost hurt even more to stop running so we finished our last mile strong. I was so happy when I heard Heidi’s Garmin beep our 28th mile, and I knew we were done.

1377582_615318276334_2043479620_n28 miles…DONE.

Overall I am so glad I said yes to the run. It’s good to have friends that push you and make you do things that you had no idea you could do. A huge thank you to Heidi and Chris for getting me out there on Saturday!

Additionally, I am so pumped about the next chapter in my running career. If I can go out and do a 28 mile trail run on 12-15 mile weeks with no double digit runs what can I do if I actually train?! I think I’m going to have fun finding out next year… This probably was not the last run on the Colorado Trail for Heidi and me. North Fork 50 Miler, here we come!



Race report: Golden Leaf Half Marathon

I don’t even want to write this race report, which is pretty indicative of how this race went for me. Sigh. This year was my third consecutive Golden Leaf Half Marathon, and it’s usually one of my favorite races of the year. It’s a gorgeous course and I love having an excuse to be in Aspen at the height of golden aspen season. The race also has consistently good technical tees, which is hard to find as a female. You know it’s the little things, like race swag, that really count.

Graham and I decided to camp in Aspen over the weekend for the race because camping is fun and free! I had hiked Castle Peak a few years ago and knew that there were awesome camping spots along Castle Creek Road. I had talked to my brother on the phone on the way up to the mountains, and he thought I was crazy for camping the night before a race. As it turned out the only real downside to camping before a race was the fact that our campsite was a good drive up a dirt road and it took about 40 minutes on race morning to get to the start of the race at Snowmass. I made it to packet pick-up with five minutes to spare!

imageA patch of golden aspens on the race course.  

I don’t like waiting around at the beginning of races for very long, and Graham and I got to the start with 20 minutes to spare, which was perfect in my book. I remembered from previous years that the start of the race was straight up a ski hill and incredibly brutal. I had hoped that maybe all my training for the Mt. Evans Ascent and the Pikes Peak Marathon would make the hill feel more manageable this year. No such luck. I died, per usual.

The first aid station was at the top of the hill, about 1 1/2 miles into the race. I grabbed a cup of water and then was hoping that I would recover on the next downhill portion.

image-1It was more like the “Green Leaf Half Marathon” this year. Oh well, the aspens were still beautiful.

I didn’t magically recover during the downhill portion like I hoped and instead I felt even more dead. My legs had nothing. I reached the mile 3 marker and I was pretty ready for the entire race to just be over. This was a problem because I still had 10 miles to go. Bummer.

image-2Blurry photo on the run! At least the trail is pretty.

GLpic1In the aspen grove.

The next 10 miles were not very fun for me. The trail was more technical than I had remembered, and as much as I tried to lift my eyes from the trail and just enjoy the scenery I had a hard time doing so. I shifted into survival mode and tried to keep moving. I started thinking about the Pikes Peak Marathon and doing the math about how long it had been since that race. I realized it had only been four weeks, and then I cut myself some slack. It was a little ambitious to run a trail half marathon just four weeks after the marathon and expect to feel good.

GLpic2Heading down into Aspen around mile 10/11. The end was near!

The last few miles of the Golden Leaf course are basically no fun, and wind through the outskirts of Aspen. Some wonderful people were handing out cans of PBR as the course crossed a bridge, and I grabbed one for the finish. Naturally.

Finally, I neared the finish line. My time was nowhere near what I had been hoping to get but I was glad to be done.


So happy to be crossing that finish. 2:36:08

I was sore and tired after the race but eventually managed to hobble with Graham and Cooper to go grab some food in downtown Aspen. Post-race burgers, french fries and beer make all races ever worth it.

Even though this year’s Golden Leaf was not a very fun race for me, I was proud to even finish a race so soon after running my first trail marathon. It made me a better runner, whether I liked it or not! (Spoiler: I definitely did not like it.) So okay I didn’t win the race or meet my time goal but I got to spend the rest of the weekend in a beautiful place with Graham and Cooper, two of my favorites. I can’t really be upset about that!