Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


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Learning to run slow

One of the most important caveats that I’ve had to learn at altitude so far is the importance of running slow.

Wait, what?

I know, I ultimately moved here to run faster, not slower. Hear me out. 

Changing thought

I love my aerobic runs. I love running a decently fast pace on my aerobic runs. However, since moving to 5,000 ft. I heard the necessity of running easy on aerobic/recovery days echoed again and again.

Run your easy runs easy, so you can run your hard runs hard. 

Fair enough.

Recovering from hard efforts is not something to be taken lightly, especially when you’re operating in altitude. Even when you’re acclimated, you’re still depleting your body more than you would at sea level.

I understood, but still had a tough time breaking the habit. I’d wear my GPS watch on aerobic runs purely to keep my pace in check, routinely swearing at myself when I would inevitably see mile splits that dipped too low. There was a constant game of tug-of-war going down between my mental and physical capacities. Highly obnoxious.

The “aha” moment

The tug-of-war game continued until I had what I’ll call my running slow “aha” moment several weeks ago. I finished a decent workout, started my three mile cool-down, and realized that I genuinely didn’t want to run one damn bit faster than I absolutely had to. It was more of a glorified shuffle, if you will.

It. Was. Fantastic. I got it. Running slow…is pretty awesome.

Solo to supported

I could be completely delusional, but the partial neurosis that a year of solitary training propagated in me was difficult to let go of. I didn’t fully comprehend the amount of mental energy I was expending before and during workouts alone until now.

Conversely, I also had a difficult time summoning that amount of intensity explicitly for workout days without allowing it seep into my regular runs as well.

Having a group to run with out here has already changed my training for the better in so many ways. Group runs let me enjoy the recovery that aerobic days should be without getting impatient. It’s more than just a run; it’s a much needed social outlet as well.

rollinsville_run

One of the many Sunday long run group pictures, courtesy of Brad Hudson. 

It’s only been two months here, but I just fall more and more in love with this place.

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Colorado Livin’

I hyped up my move to Colorado, then went a bit MIA in the form of updates. That is, aside from changing my Facebook location within the first 48 hours and the occasional Instagram post. I even had a request to step up my Instagram game, particularly with more “selfies.”

Yeeaaaah, no. Sorry, Rach.

Anywho, I suppose I’ve been a bit hesitant to jump into writing and making assumptions/declarations about what I’ve just started, partially because I’ve wanted to give myself an actual chance to experience this new life without immediately trying to get all analytical and shiz. And partially because I’ve just been having TOO MUCH FREAKING FUN.

My life here so far has consisted of running and hiking in beautiful places, meeting new people, eating, and, ahem, hydrating in various forms of the word. I know, rough, right?

Changing Scenery

I’ve been in this beautiful state for the better part of a month now and can safely say that I am in love. Northern California is undoubtedly beautiful, but Colorado reminds me that different variations of natural beauty abound. Every day I’m out and get a good look at the Flatirons that tower over the city of Boulder I’m practically giddy.

Mountains! Real, big ones!

This place is essentially the Disneyland of outdoor recreation, and for good reason. I see everything from rock climbing, biking, kayaking and tubing regularly on my runs along the Boulder Creek Path. Pretty cool.

Training

Several posts ago, I talked about my decision to end my season following Payton Jordan 10k. A big part of this was knowing that I had a move to altitude, a shift in coaching, and a lot of adjustments in general ahead of me. I wanted to have space to adapt to my new surroundings in peace, without stressing about having to perform immediately.

Sounds extremely logical and maybe even a bit of a serene way to transition, right?

Wrong.

Well, maybe the logical part is true. The serene part…not so much. Right now I’m building a good base of mileage and adjusting to the altitude. So far so good.

What I wasn’t expecting was to want back at full training so quickly. It occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve trained with a group whose training/racing cycle I wasn’t mirroring exactly. Watching people run fast when you’re not quite there yet…oh man. Let’s just say it’s got me aching to join in the fun.

Of course, I know that I’ll have a whole new transition coming to me when the real workouts start. I’m leaning toward the Twin Cities Marathon in October, which means that soon enough I’m going to be in full swing.

New Homies

One of the biggest reasons that I made the jump to move to Boulder was to be a part of a group again. I’m starting to run with Brad Hudson’s group, and they definitely haven’t disappointed in being an entertaining cast of characters.

The other day Kara and I were talking about the depth of personalities present. Training at this point doesn’t keep happening because it’s convenient. It keeps happening out of a shared labor of love. Each person has their own individual backstory of how they came to be here and is inspiring in their own right.

I’m feeling pretty lucky to have the opportunity to be out here, soaking it all up.

Settling Down, I mean In

Right now, I still feel like I’m  on vacation. But I start to feel more of a routine every day, and am getting better acquainted with the town bit by bit. I finally feel like I’m in a spot that I want to settle myself in, not just move on transiently in a couple months’ time. I feel myself winding down from my past year of bouncing around geographically.

It’s a good feeling. A little peaceful, even.

If you can’t find me, check over here.

South Boulder Trail

South Boulder Trail


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Thoughts on graduation

Graduation season is upon us my friends. Every year, without fail, Facebook nearly goes into overload with pictures of grad caps, sashes, celebratory drinks, and mushy status updates about how proud people are of their loved ones who make it to walk across that stage in oversized gowns.

Guess what?

I am totally one of those mushy people this year.

My little(ish) brother Landon graduated from high school Friday. I feel that I have to include the “ish” because in recent years, he racked up a couple mean growth spurts and has turned into some kind of adult, or man-child. I’ll stick with the latter description for now.

Landon did his thang Friday, had his grad party at our house today, and then I ship out for Boulder, CO tomorrow morning for my not-so-patiently awaited move.

Graduation and grad partyGraduation and the grad party 

All of this has thrown the entire family into a hyper-sentimental/nostalgic time. I’ve caught my mom just staring at me and smiling several times within the last week. And I’ve randomly received old pictures of me striking Charlie’s Angeles poses and the like with my high school comrades, dug out from the shoebox archives, courtesy of my dad.

I know, they’re a pretty adorable duo.

My in-house performance playing the role of annoyed offspring has been practically award-winning.

In other news, I have to admit I’ve gone a bit mushy as well.

Sappy-ness

My younger brother is off to the University of North Texas to study trumpet performance. Not music education. Or something that secures a bit more of a stable career path. And I’m leaving to continue doin’ what I’m doin’ with other people who are doin’ the same thing in Colorado.

Somehow my two completely sensible parents with medical professional jobs raised two ragamuffin kids. In case I didn’t completely shoot their nerves in the first go-around, Landon has to have done some real solid follow-up damage.

Well done, bud. I’ve taught you well.

In all seriousness, this post originated from some reflection on how my brother and I have gotten to where we are, and the abundance of opportunities that we’ve each been fortunate enough to have. And it really seems to stem from our parents.

The support that they’ve given each of us through everything (hovercraft creation, flamenco dancing, flute playing, choir, horseback riding, to name a few), has always been laced with the empowering underlying notion that we truly had the capacity to do whatever we set our mind to (cue, “aww”).

These guys deserve some major credit.

Many times they haven’t fully understood what we’ve each chosen to set our minds to over the years, and I know that they are far from done trying to understand the many more decisions that we each make in years to come. But they’re incredibly supportive on a core level. On a level that I’ve come to realize not everyone has the good fortune to grow up with.

Family at graduati

Tomorrow!

Antsy doesn’t even begin to describe how ready I am to get out there (ready being a loose interpretation of the word…I’m staring into a couple open suitcases as I type).

That said, I should put some more stuff into them. I’m going to take the sun setting fully as my cue to get serious about packing my life into suitcases.

Until next time, folks!


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Time off

I love running.

I also periodically love not running.

Taking some time away from training after a cycle and before a new one is super important for me. It’s a completely necessary mental and physical health check to let the mind and body recover. A runner’s “re-boot” button.

I’ve found that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my couple weeks of time-off of a training plan. After all, it’s kind of a shock to the body, going from what should be your peak fitness to absolute rest.

Generally, my sentiments regarding the time boils down to something like the following.

Stages of downtime

  1. Resistance. What do you mean, “don’t run?” When do I shower? Do I even need to shower? How do I start my day? I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.
  2. Acceptance. Ok, this is actually kind of nice. Beer with lunch? Yes please. Someone isn’t doubling today. Booyah!
  3. …a little too much acceptance. Ok, I’ll have cake for breakfast. Again. Hell, why not lunch too. I’M ON VACATION, I mean, a break.
  4. Restlessness. Dear couch, we’ve had a good run of ridiculous amounts of lazy this past week or so, but it’s time that I start seeing outdoors again. My sanity needs it. Thanks for understanding.

Real life stages

The above is a not-so-exaggerated representation of the few short weeks of time off. I’ve taken many of these breaks between seasons over the years, but they still occupy an odd period of time for me. I suppose it’s because such the vast majority of my year is spent training. By the time I’ve gotten used to the time off phase, I’m back to a schedule.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I took a full 10 days off, and then spent this past week running every other day. I did have to figure out when, in fact, normal people shower. I had quite a few lunch beers. And cake (not my fault that Mother’s Day and my dad’s birthday happened to produce an abnormal amount of cake in our household). And I got restless as hell.

Acceptance & restlessness

I love the life that I live with training, but the reality is that it normally vetos certain activities, due to exhaustion and the utter limit of time (have we seriously not figured out time travel yet?? C’mon people). That all said, I try to make a point of taking advantage of my time off.

This time around, I was lucky enough to get in some shenanigans at the inaugural Bottlerock music festival in Napa Valley. I drove out with a couple of friends on a Thursday, camped out for a couple nights, saw a ton of music (The Avett Brothers, The Alabama Shakes, Iron & Wine, The Black Keys, Ben Harper, to name a few…) and returned to Santa Rosa late Saturday night utterly exhausted, filthy, and happy.

Michaela,Katrina, ConcertMichaela’s excited face on the left, Katrina on the top right (watch out for this one-turn your head for a second, and she legitimately may rush the stage…making her a splendid concert-going buddy), and Seth Avett on the bottom right. 

Festival BumsFestival bums.

Friends. Music. Beer. Sun. Mission accomplished.

And when the legs really started to itch for something to do, I took myself for a couple hikes in Annadel State Park.

Annadel

There are worse ways to spend a couple weeks.

Ramping up

This week marks a return to my first scheduled week of running. It’s nice to see numbers with miles after them again, and makes me itch to see what the coming weeks have in store.

I feel rested, and ready to get to work. A break well accomplished.