Tuesday, April 17, 2012

alter ego

For those who come to The Blog here for pictures and food and cuteness and such, the following post is a race report for the Amasa Back Trail race in Moab, Utah. If running is not your thing (you should try it), or you just don't like reading about races (a favorite subject of mine to read about) then here is short and sweet version:

"Running in Moab is my new favorite thing."

for the rest of you, here we go.
Sometimes I take a look over my blog and I have to laugh. It looks so......quiet. calm.
Recipes and pictures of spring. It's me.....but only part of me. 
And it's 100% opposite of what I did last weekend.

The Amasa Back Trail Race.
I can't even begin to tell you how nervous I was. So nervous in fact that the night before the race I thought about, oh...you know....just not showing up. It would give our family some extra hours of exploring in Moab. I didn't need to race. I've always been a nervous racer but this was different. 
-I haven't raced in almost a year. 
-My lyme hit me hard last fall and I had to start my running over from scratch which has been not only difficult, but FRUSTRATING! (I'm yelling there). 
-And even though the course was only 9.5 miles, I knew it was going to be the most difficult 9.5 miles I'd ever ran. "Extremely challenging" and "very technical" were thrown around a lot in the descriptions of this race.
So yeah....I was nervous.

But I somehow managed to pull myself out of bed (with absolutely no sleep of course) Saturday morning, force some bagel and peanut butter down my throat, and head to the starting line with my little  cheerleaders in tow. 
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The race was friendly and small.
There were 80ish people (for the 6.5 and the 9.5 race combined) gathered around the start on a dirt road, right next to the Colorado River with giant rock towers over our heads. 
Small talk about weather and nerves and "where are you from" and soon we were
I have always had a bad habit of starting way too fast when I'm nervous, so I held back and sunk in to my 7:30 comfort zone for the first mile-ish down the road. I took a few minutes to take it all in.
This....was....AWSOME! I was doing it! I was so happy I didn't hide out under the covers that morning.
(note the rock in the background. that was the type of terrain I was on most of the race!)
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Somewhere around a mile the group had thinned out and we headed off the road on to a..........trail...? Broken pieces of slickrock and piles of sand down down down. Jumping, leaping, whatever worked best to get down. WooooooHooooooooooo! 
This is why I signed up.

And then, just like that, we were climbing. The sun had come up and was beating down as we made our way up the orange and red rock. 
From a distance I heard something.....almost like an echo....oh wait, 
it WAS an echo. 
I heard my name. It was my family! My little cheering section--they were waaaaaaaaaaaaay across a giant gorge--tiny little bodies on a giant cliff, waving and yelling for ME. 
I rounded the corner of of sight from them, and their echos continued on as I made my way up the rocky mountain.
(does this photo looks like a Bigfoot sighting or what?) 
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For those who have never ran on the trails (what are you waiting for?!) let me tell you this: It is as much of a brain workout as it is a total body workout. Yes you are working 
in your body as you twist and turn your way down the trail. 
But it really took my brain a few miles into this course to really get comfortable and just relax as it figured out the best way for ME to make it though the course. Looking ahead on the trail....but not too far ahead. Glancing up every now and then to look for course markers and easier paths that lead up, down, and over obstacles.

I was really feeling good around the 4-5 mile mark. 
So good in fact that in my blissful state of pure complete happiness and content, I followed the runners in front of me right onto the 6.5 mile turn off.

A couple minutes on that trail and I realized my mistake.

Oh dear. 
At least let's pretend that was my thought.

I turned around as fast as I could and booked it (well, as much as you can "book it" when you're headed up more hill) to make up for lost time.

The next few miles of the race kind of blur together in my brain (it was working hard, remember). 
All I do remember is that they were absolutely wonderful miles (ok wonderful, mixed with steep). This is the first race EVER that there hasn't been a section of it that I absolutely hated. Even races I love in the end, there are always parts where I wonder why I'm out running and not at home in bed, or baking cookies, or just doing anything that isn't running. If you are a runner, I know you have felt this way in a race before....right? It's hard! Yet we always come back for more. 
I kept waiting to hate something about this race, and it never came. I specifically remember a steep downhill right on the rock. No trail really--just running down down down this massive piece of earth. I was moving fast. Small quick steps over the smooth surface. Faster, faster. There was a physical feeling of happiness with each step I took and as I connected with the ground below. 
Just me, this rock, and no distractions. 
I love this.
I felt so comfortable, so happy, and at the risk of sounding 110% ridiculously cheesy.....felt so alive. 
I mean.....I was flailing down the side of a towering orange mountain made of solid rock ....you really can't get much more alive than that.

More ups and downs over the slickrock. Watching the miles tick away on my watch and not wanting the race to end......slow down! It was all going by too fast. The final descent was a teeny little trail right on the edge of a massive cliff with the mighty river below. Had I not been so high on life at the moment, I might have been a little bit nervous about how far above the ground I was. Switchbacks down down down. Over more broken rock making my way to the bottom. I could see the finish. 
Hear the cheers. 
Across a barely-there creek and I was done.
And ready for more.
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time: 1 hr 42 minutes for 9.9 miles.....haha next time I'll pay better attention to the course so I don't run .4 extra miles.
place: 3rd overall of women. yay for small races!
elevation: 1841 ft gain
thankful I:  ran/jumped stadium stairs a few times before this race! There was SOOOO much jumping involved, and the smooth trails I run on didn't really prep me for that. 
favorite part: every moment of running on the rock. This was a first for me and I can't wait to get back and do it some more.
still aching: my calves. I don't actually have calf muscles in my chicken legs, so let's hope maybe they grew a bit after this race. 
wish I would have: drank more. My legs cramped up in the last mile--I know it's because I hardly drank anything. I have always liked my fuel belt but this terrain was too bumpy to get the bottle in and out easily, so I just didn't (smart, I know). Anyone have a recommendation for a favorite hydration product?
special thanks to: my own personal race photographer. my own personal cheering squad. 
myself for not chickening out.
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the bottom line: I really, really, really really loved this race. 

Anyone have races coming up? What are you running? 
I can't wait to get out and do it all over again.

edited to add: lots of running questions coming up here. Check out these two posts
Running 101
Running 201
I've changed alot about my running since I wrote these posts-I mostly run trails now, don't listen to alot of music, etc....but the basics are all there. And be sure to read all the comments--lots of helpful tips!

more moab on the blog tomorrow!


Unknown said...

Sheena! That is pretty amazing!
Your pictures are beautiful,
Congrats on a great race.
I just got back from NYC for a women's 1/2 thru central park and have another 1/2 next weekend!!!
(i guess its that time of year?!)

Maria said...

You and your running inspire me. I need to get my butt in gear when it comes to exercise.

Maria @ Orchard Bloom

Amber said...

Congrats on third! I would totally get distracted by all the prettiness around me. I really want to start jogging, but I've heard you have to start slow. Do you have any tips/advice for someone who wants to begin?

Anna said...

What a beautiful race! My favorite (and craziest) race was up and down Mt. Ashland in southern Oregon... straight up the mountain and then views of Mt. Shasta and northern California, talk about runner's high!! Have you ever tried running with a little Camelbak (women's or even kid size)? If you strap it on really tight it doesn't bounce and is easier to drink from.

Laura said...

You sound like you run such a quick pace! Were you always like that or did you have to train to speed up? I'm stuck at 9.30mins/mile (and that's going quick for me, sometimes I hover around the 10.15 mark)...any tips?!

Tanae Nelson said...

Great race report Sheena. This was such a good idea, 10 miles would be such a great break in for running a longer race! I wish now I would have thought about it more. You really area good runner, way faster than I will ever be!
Our trails are clearing off now, so in May lets get together.

Natalie said...

You are fierce and beautiful and inspirational. I love everything about this post! Run Happy!

Danielle said...

You are awesome. WOW. I want to start running...but don't really know where to begin. I would LOVE if you did a little tutorial...step by step...tip guide or something on how to get into running?

Unknown said...

you are amazing!!! seriously this really makes me want to go out on a trail-looks so fun!! i cannot believe you run so fast-like the comment above how do you keep up a fast pace the whole time? any tips?

also-holy moly look at those calves in your race finishing pic! i guess maybe the trails can help this mama tone?

great job, looks like a blast and so happy it was enjoyable! glad you beat the trail now its time to beat the lyme :)

Debbie said...

Great job Sheena! You're my hero!! :)

valleycampdurango said...

hooray for you! i love reading about running! are you going to do the thelma and louise half in moab? i'm giving it serious thought and you just tipped me in favor! which means i should head out my door right now... and run!

Laura said...

I'm loving every single part of this. The location, your pics, how cute you are, your incredible pace!!! I really want to do this with my husband! Thanks for sharing your super fun experience!

Carey said...

I've ridden amasa, rockstacker and jackson on my mountain bike many times, fun trail and technical. COngrates on your race what kind of trail shoes do you like?

sheena said...

Thanks everyone! For those with running questions, I added some links at the bottom of this post to past running posts--check them out and hopefully they will help out. (be sure to read the comments for lots of good info)

Carey right now I run in Brooks Cascadias which have been ok for me so far, but I didn't love them on all the rock. I'm currently shopping around for different shoes:)

Amber T said...

This looks like such a fun adventurous race!!!

Nuun is my new favorite hydration... It's got the same electrolytes as Gatorade without the added sugary dye. I love the Lemonade flavor and add it to my water two times a day after a long run.

Brittany said...

congrats shauna!

Bethany said...

Sheena, you rock! (ha!) This almost had me in tears because I miss running SO MUCH! I raced in Moab a lonnnggg time ago and it is one of the coolest places on earth! I could just feel it as you described it, how FUN! Way to go girl! ps Your kids are so stinkin cute!

becca said...

You're the man!

This looks like an unbelievably fun race...good work, girl!

Anna said...

I love reading about your races. I am not a runner, in fact I'm just getting into exercising again. I got fed up with my sedentary lifestyle and feeling gross all the time. One day I hope to be strong and feel alive while I use my body. You inspire me to maybe one day run a race :)

Tara said...

I love me a good race report. So funny that you were thinking of bailing and then you get 3rd place for women! haha.. And I forgot how fast you are- I had to laugh when you said you held back and settled into your nice, comfy 7:30 pace!
Good job, I bet you felt on top of the world when that race was over. :)
Love that first pic of the kids, btw!

Lynn said...

Sheena, your blog is so inspiring! I love your attitude! I wanted to point something out in your running posts -- the correct grammar is to say "I had run", not "I had ran". So you can say I run, I ran, and I have/had run. I'm cursed that when I run across grammatical errors, I get stopped in my tracks :( Your blog is so great I want it to even go to the next level!

Carey said...

Those are the shoes I'm considering Sheena. What didn't you like about them on the rock? Was it that you felt each rock biting at your through the sole? I'm in CO and run on rocky trails and that's an issue for me.
I'll be shopping around this weekend.

eatrunrepeat said...

i am participating in the California half marathon series! i ran a half in Chico, one coming up in Davis, San Luis Obispo, & the final race of the series is in Walnut Creek in December. for fun i'm doing the "color run" 5k in Portland this September. it's the year of running for me! yay!
i agree w/you though, trails are bomb diggity! I did my first trail run (chupacabra 10k in San Antonio tx) @ night & it was amazing.
happy trails!

Rachelle said...

eeek so beautiful! what a fun run! doing a 10k trail run with a few friends in a few weeks. i'm not much for racing but it will be a good one. so excited!

melissa said...

i looove reading race recaps, kind of the same way i loved reading birth stories when i was pregnant and the way i love reading really complicated recipes even if i don't plan to make them. ha! can those things all be classified together? whatever. congrats, it sounds awesome. i love some desert.

but that thing about your lyme last fall? laaame.

Shari@lifeontherun said...

I have a Nathan racing vest like a camelback but designed for runners (& comes in women's fit).I also like Ultimate Directions handheld especially since many trail races are going cupless. It is easy to fill & access.

Unknown said...

you make me want to start running again (: and be a better photographer