return to the motherland |

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!



Pikes Peak Marathon: Training Update #5

The Pikes Peak Marathon is now just 20 days away, and I’m feeling super prepared after taking the entire month of July as a taper month! That’s right, I am such a dedicated runner that I ended up turning the past four weeks into tapering. (For those who don’t know what tapering is it’s basically allowing your body to rest purposefully before a big athletic event.) Some athletes taper a week or two before a big race but I decided heck why not take all six weeks leading up to a big event to taper?!

Naturally I’ve been taking tapering as seriously as I have taken my regular training. I’ve been sure to incorporate a lot of useful cross training into the mix as well, which I think will really set me up for success.

A few highlights from my recent sessions:

High altitude acclimatization

PRO TIP: Spend time acclimatizing to altitude and practicing dehydration coping tactics at a high altitude lake. Especially helpful if you spend a lot of time sitting on a boat and drinking Coors Banquets. Be sure to rest your legs and not do any running or taxing physical activity.

photo-3Fourth of July at Grand Lake. 

photo-4Dehydration practice.

Arm strengthening calisthenics

PRO TIP: Let your legs rest by going on a week-long rafting trip. Focus all your energy on paddling a kayak or floating on a river. Use your legs as little as possible. Recover by hanging out at beach campsites and drinking at least a bottle of wine or 4+ beers each night.

1002987_605035333434_1043539407_nTaking a serious recovery session on the beach.

1017696_605033437234_724640619_nResting those legs like a boss.

Resistance training

PRO TIP: Continue to avoid actually going for a long run by engaging in resistance training activities. “Duning” (/dyoon-een/, verb, to make one’s way over sandy mountains) is a strong recommendation.

photo-2Dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park.


1002134_10151504435317373_1418696125_nCooper was not a fan of duning.

Training partner

PRO TIP: Utilize a training partner to hold you accountable. It especially helps if your training partner is related to you, like say your mom, and he/she wakes you up from naps after hiking to make you go run.

photoGood thing my mom was in town to wake me up from my naps after hiking and make me go for a run. I’m a joy to wake up from a nap. I never whine at all.

Race weight

PRO TIP: Eat a healthy, balanced diet to help you reach your ideal race day weight.

photo-5Strawberry rhubarb french toast at Lou’s Food Bar. That cream cheese stuffing was pure health food.

I’m really excited to see how all this tapering will pay off for me at the Pikes Peak Marathon. It takes a lot of hard work to run as little as I have been running lately!


On a serious note… I really have taken an extreme amount of time off in July from running, however I have still been doing some running. I ran Greys Peak (a 14er) in under three hours just before the Fourth of July, I ran twice on my rafting trip and legitimately did a lot of paddling, hiking up the Sand Dunes truly was a lot of work and on my mom’s visit this past weekend we went on two major hikes and she kicked me out of the house last night and made me go run. I have also been running during the week and have gone on a couple of trail runs recently. Still, this was not how I had pictured my training in July going when I signed up for the Pikes Peak Marathon in March. I just haven’t been willing to sacrifice enjoying my summer to train, so I really have no regrets. That being said I have gone from having an actual goal in the marathon of finishing in 7-8 hours to just wanting to finish under the race cut off.

photo-6Seen on my run up Greys Peak.

This weekend I have the Wild West Relay, one of my all-time favorite races in the world (WWR 2011 & WWR 2012), and then after that it will be August 3 and legitimately time to start tapering. As my track coach would always say, “the hay is already in the barn.” I’m still going to show up to Manitou Springs on Sunday, August 18 and toe the line and give it my best shot. I’ll let you know how it goes!


Have you ever signed up for a race and not trained for it as well as you would have hoped?