Sell Yourself Shorter, Not Short

Last Friday, I ran in eighty-plus degree weather at about 5:15 p.m. My running bud Becky and I had our little winged-feet hearts set on eight miles to start off the weekend, but the needles for both of our tanks were dropping below ’E’ after six and a half miles.

Sunday, on the other hand, was quite the different story. . .a chilly, windy, snowy morning right around freezing temperatures for the Frank Shorter Race for Kids’ Health 5K. About a fifty degree difference in a matter of a day and a half? That’s nothing, actually, considering that we’ve seen that temperature difference in a matter of hours in the Centennial State. Welcome to my bipolar-weathered state of Colorado, kids!

I knew it would be icky, and I was pretty tired on Saturday night. I definitely did feel fat, lazy, and out of shape and most definitely did not feel like getting up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday to drive about a half hour to Broomfield to brave the weather for a 5K.

It was the first time I seriously considered not racing after I had registered for an event. Lucky for me, I’m too stubborn and too proud to ever have a ‘DNF’ next to my name. I definitely did not feel alert and ready to compete when my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. but most definitely go up, get ready, drove to Broomfield early to avoid bad weather on the highways, and raced. And I’m sooooo glad I did.

I’m guessing my running readers know who Frank Shorter is. If not, you - as well as any of my non-running readers - most definitely should. Here goes. . .

Ah, ah-hem! Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Summer Olympics, a victory earning him credit for ‘igniting the running boom’ in the U.S. in the 1970s. He also:

  • Won four consecutive U.S. national cross country championship titles from 1970-1973
  • Won the 10,000-meter run and the marathon in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1972 and 1976
  • Won both the 10,000-meter and the marathon at the 1971 Pan American Games
  • Won the Fukuoka Marathon four consecutive times from 1971-1974.

For his accomplishments, Shorter was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984 and also the USA National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1989. That enough for ya? No? One of the founders of the Bolder Boulder, a 10K Memorial Day race in Boulder, Colorado - voted best 10K in the country by Runner’s World in 2010 - he’s a bit of a local celebrity in addition to his national running prowess ’round these parts.

The opportunity to breathe the same air and even get within five feet of the legend Frank Shorter himself was more than enough to get me out of bed on a crazy weather spring day. Still, I wasn’t feeling too motivated to run. I certainly wanted to run hard and to run a faster pace than I did for the Runnin’ of the Green 7K about a month earlier, a feat I thought would be easy given the 2K race course difference.

Well, I did a LOT better than just breathing the same air as Frank Shorter. What internet research might not tell you is that Frank Shorter is a really cool guy - so cool, in fact, that he autographed my bib before the race:

Talk about pre-race MOE-TIH-VAY-SHUN

Talk about pre-race MOE-TIH-VAY-SHUN

All of a sudden, the lack of sleep, feeling lazy, and cold temperature, snow, and occasional wind gusts weren’t that big a deal. I was alert, alive, and felt ready not only to run, but to race! I mean, how could I not be after a brush with a legend of elite running royalty?! Let’s do this!

Just outside, I zipped my jacket all the way up and hung a right to start my warm up. I spied three other runners – three guys who looked like they knew what they were doing – doing the same; so I weaved between the streets of surrounding hotels and apartment buildings behind them for almost a mile. A little more jogging, high knees, and butt kicks away from and then back toward the starting line later, the party was about to start.

I bounced in place and quickly shifted body weight from foot to foot through an announcement or two and then the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ then was off for mile one. Up the block, right, up a slight incline and right, then down a straight away and right toward a slight downhill, I felt great! This feels good. Keep it right here, no faster.

Not even snow, falling from the gray sky more like light hail bouncing off of my cheeks and then big, fat, flakes sticking to my eyeballs along the way were enough to make me miss a step. And in what felt like the time it takes to snap your fingers, mile one was done. Sweet! Do it again!

Nearly all of mile two went just as well, this time introducing a sudden, strong, icy blast of wind that slapped me square in the face and made me lose my breath immediately following a ninety-degree turn in the course instead of snow.

Then, just before my watch hit the two-mile mark, it hit me, much like the realization that you’ve gone one drink too far punches you in the gut – not that I know what that feels like, by the way - my lungs and legs were quickly running out of steam. That’s OK, slow it down for just a bit, then kick it up the last half mile. One more to go. . .

The third mile hurt the worst by far, and that was before one of the last straight aways – up a visible incline for what I’m guessing was probably less than 200 meters but felt a lot longer. I tried, I fought, I got a bit angry with myself – just angry enough to push me that last stretch – when another girl passed me with just over a quarter mile to go. Come on, almost there. You’ll still have a good time, you’ve got to!

Finally, I made it to the final right-hand turn, was nearly knocked over by the wind of two more guys passing me as if I were standing still. It must have looked just as bad as I thought it did – A race volunteer was yelling at me: “Come on, don’t let those guys pass you!” and then started running along side me when they did. ”Bring it in, come on! You’re almost there!”

I hit the ‘stop’ button when I crossed the finish line, then looked at my watch. WHAT?! Oh, hell no! UGH! I was not at all happy with what I saw: I had run the same pace as I did for the Runnin’ of the Green 7K, which meant that my third mile had slowed a lot to pull down what would have been at least a ten second per mile average pace faster.

I walked around a bit to catch my breath and to assess what had gone wrong, and it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Feeling good the first two miles, then losing steam in the home stretch equals I need to do speed work before my next 5K and 10K.

As disappointed as I was, it reminded me of one of the many reasons I love running so much: No matter how much you do it, you can still always learn something new about the sport and about yourself. OK, speed work it is.

I grabbed some food and ended up finding one of those three guys I was following during my warm up. “Hi. I saw you and two other guys jogging before the race, and you looked like you knew where you were going. So I followed you.” “Yeah, I saw you! How’d you do?” “Eh, OK, not as fast as I had hoped.” “Well, it was a challenging course, and the weather didn’t help.”

We chatted about the race course and weather conditions a bit more, then, what he said next surprised me: “Maybe you need a coach.” So I replied, “I have one in my head already. She’s not always very nice, though.” He shook his head in agreement. ”Maybe I should cut myself a little slack.” “Yeah, I think so.” OK, running gods, I hear ya. “Thanks!”

Before I left, I was lucky – or just plain ol’ obnoxious? – enough to take one last opportunity to rub elbows with an elite. Not only was Frank Shorter kind enough to indulge this nerd in running shoes before the race. He also posed for a quick pic, and we chatted about marathon training – YUP, you heard me right: talked marathon lingo with a marathon legend! – after the race:

"Cheese!"

Say, “Running shoes!”

Know what he told me? To focus on speed work! How’s that for validation that I know a little something about my favorite sport? OK, speed work it is. Even the greatest of my running feats will never be worthy of standing in Frank Shorter’s shadow, but I’ll take every bit of help I can get – advice, autograph, or simply breathing the same air as a running elite. Speed work, here I come. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Let the games begin!

St. Patrick’s Day. You still OK? Good. I gave you enough time to recover from your inevitable day – weekend? – of wasty face binge drinking to hear those words without a green face and the gag reflex. Ya lush! Just kidding. Or. . .am I?

St. Patrick’s Day for me marked the first of many races on my calendar for the year: the Runnin’ of the Green 7K. Dubbed ”Denver’s classic Irish jog,” the race starts and ends in the heart of Lodo – lower downtown to those of you not familiar with the beautiful city of Denver that I more than joyously call home – and includes a bit of a hilly course that I remembered to be tough during my first Runnin’ of the Green in 2010.

I was so excited for the first race of the season, but I got to the starting line feeling horribly unprepared. Thanks to a grant proposal deadline - including what I call my first ‘big girl budget’ totaling just under a cool half a million - a mid-week work dinner event, a conference for work, and an impromptu invite to the Imagine Dragons show for FREE, I ate like crap, lost tons of sleep, and didn’t run at all for the five days prior to the race.

THEN, of course, on race day, I had a hard time getting out of bed; ate too much for breakfast - leaving a brick of a peanut butter, Cheerios, honey, and chia seed sandwich in my stomach - and didn’t feel as though I warmed up enough before having to find a suitable spot among the crowd at the starting line, which left me no choice but to jump up and down in place as high as I could and to stretch a bit. iNo bueno!

And, before I knew it, there went the gun. GO!

I started out stuck in the crowd going waaaay slower than I wanted. So, of course, I bolted out ahead - too fast, mind you - once I broke away, only I didn’t know it because my watch averaged my total pace for that first mile at that point – the first, super slow part of that mile plus the super speedy pace ended up averaging. . .still faster than I thought, which meant the super speedy part was too speedy to maintain. Mile one.

OK, just keep going. Run how you feel, even if you have to slow down a bit. You can always speed up later.

The uphills weren’t so bad, and definitely not as painful as I remember. What’s one of the best things about an uphill along the course? Mmm hmm, right. The subsequent downhill. Nice! Speed things up a bit! Aaaaand a right past the REI store, a one hundred eighty degree turn at the end of that short straight away, and back past the REI, I was officially headed back. Ah, crap. Don’t remember THIS uphill being here.

Ugh.

Luckily, the hill was short, just like all of the hills along the course; and I found myself  leveled out to a straight away back to 20th Street. One right-hand turns, one gradual downhill, one final short but steep uphill, then one last right-hand turn toward the finish line to go. . . And voila! Made it.

So here’s a quick glimpse into the depths of madness of my running brain for a sec. . . Anytime I run a race, I have two goals: the goal I think is more feasible and borderline ambitious – the race goal I tell others when they ask – and my actual, “secret” race goal – the one I don’t tell anyone to spare myself embarrassment and excessive verbal self-deprecation in the event that I don’t reach it.

How did I fare on this fine day of Irish-inspired debauchery, you ask? All said and done, my average pace for my first race of the year was faster than my actual, secret race goal by a few seconds per mile, meaning. . .you guessed it. . .a PR for the course!

I bested my time by more than two minutes since the same race in 2011 and by nearly four and a half minutes – over one minute per mile faster – than the same race in 2010. Huh. Not bad for this old lady.

All obstacles aside, I had experienced an amazing streak of luck in the days leading up to the race. And, with a bib number like 1313, my good luck was bound to continue on race day:

Lucky number 13. . .twice!

Lucky number 13. . .times two!
Photo compliments of Delcarmen Gilkey, a.k.a. finish line cheerleader extraordinaire

Fact: Beer ALWAYS tastes better when you earn it. Beer and pancakes. Yeah.

I was happy with my time but, at the same time, pondered how much faster I could have run had I trained appropriately, slept more regularly, and ate healthier that previous week. But then again, this was only the first race of the year. There’s still plenty time more to find out the answers to this – and oh so many more – questions in my head.

Ready? I hope so. It’s bound to be an interesting ride. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

It’s about that time. . .

So. . . It’s about that time of year. That time that I cut out all junk food and very carefully think about the balance of carbs, protein, and good fats in everything I eat. . .that time that I make every effort possible to be in bed early most every night. . .that time that some of my friends rely on their memories of what I look like because they come to know me almost exclusively via text messages for months.

Between the Pikes Peak Marathon, the Bear Chase 50K, and guiding for the New York City Marathon, training this year means that I’ll be MIA until early November.

January, February, March April May. . . Sing it, Wyclef!

January, February, March April May. . . Sing it, Wyclef!

It’s about that time. . . Marathon training – trail runs with beautiful, serene views from an incline of about two thousand feet and a quite distinguishable notation of where my dirt-coated ankles end and my socks began; anxious anticipation of speed workouts and a delicious feeling of accomplishment to cross them off my training plan; the consumption of countless Gus and granola bars, all a.k.a. absolute bliss - is about to begin!

The race is officially 134 days, 7 hours, and 43 seconds away; and training starts exactly twenty-five days from today. Really, though, it’s already begun. Not only have I got the first race of the year under my belt; I have also given changes I’m going to make to my training regimen a lot of thought.

Although I’ve only run the Pikes Peak Marathon once, I’ve followed the same marathon training plan twice now. My ascent for the marathon was one second shy of a whole twenty-two minutes slower than my Ascent PR the year before – an ETERNITY in any runner’s world. Yeah, yeah. . .ouch! I know. . .and I’m bound and determined to make this year’s ascent portion of the marathon a lot faster than last year – as it should be!

In thinking back on my training for the past two years, I noted three small things – things I will most definitely do again this year – that were different and that I think made all the difference in running performance.

One: Spending more time on my feet. Two summers ago, I had a part-time job in an awesome little Greek restaurant near downtown Denver, Melita’s – the best chicken souvlaki I’ve ever tasted, by the way – which meant I spent a minimum of twenty-five hours on my feet in addition to marathon training. At my new job, I spend a lot of time at my computer, which last year equated to a lot of time sitting.

My solution? Yup, you guessed it – a self-fashioned standing desk:

Never thought old dissertation materials and all three volumes of Bowlby's attachment series would come in handy like this!

Never thought old dissertation materials and all three volumes of Bowlby’s attachment series would come in handy like this!

Add to this calf raises and a few inclined pushups at the edge of my desk here and there to get the blood flowing, and voila! Even cheaper than anything you can find at Ikea.

Two: Riding JD’s bike – Yes, JD, I know you’re reading this (thanks, by the way!); and I still refer to it as your bike that I will one day return – rather than driving as much as possible to and from the Snug on Thursdays, to and from friends’ houses, to run errands nearby. Just got air in the tires the other day. Good as new!

Three: Doing my Friday run in the morning before work rather than in the late afternoon or early evening after work. I suspect that doing my Friday runs after work last year didn’t afford me enough rest to make the most of our long trail runs – VERY important runs – on early Saturday mornings. And, it’ll afford me more time on Friday evenings to share my running thoughts will y’all on a twice weekly basis. Lucky you!

I think these three things are a very good place to start for a Pikes Peak Marathon PR. Guess we’ll see if I’m right on August 17th. I hope you’re ready for what’s bound to be an awesome ride to the starting line. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

BIG FAT check, check, and check. . .

March 1, 2014. It’s been about five weeks since I made my list of running resolutions. On one hand, it’s already March. Already! On the other, it’s only March; and I can already check a few items off my list:

  • Increase my daily “comfortable” running pace by twenty to thirty seconds per mile.

CHECK! I’ve been feeling strong and relaxed the past few weeks, and I’ve been running faster than is typical for me lately, especially for this time of the year. I’ll take it though, just in time for my first race of the season – the Runnin’ of the Green Lucky 7K in beautiful downtown Denver two weeks from tomorrow. PR, here I come. YAY!

Tentative the one time I’ve mentioned it this year, and a reality come late September. . . CHECK! That’s right, peeps. This marathon newbie will soon also be an ultramarathon newbie, and I’ve got the confirmation screen shot to prove it:

No turning back now!

No turning back now!

Though it was a ‘no brainer’ in a number of ways, I’ve given it a decent amount of thought. Dubbed an “excellent race for first time ultramarathoners,” the 50K course includes one small and two large loops, all of which overlap for two short ‘out and backs,’ which means that I will have multiple opportunities to see any friends that tag along to offer moral support.

That, three water crossings, only 1,930 feet of elevation gain – 3,860 feet of elevation change total - and the promise of ”sweeping panoramic views throughout the race” make the Bear Chase sound like an excellent pick for a first timer.

Besides these logistical perks, I talked with someone about the idea of the leap to the ultramarathon from Runner’s Edge of the Rockies after the Great Candy Run back in November. He said – and I quote – “If you ran the Pikes Peak Marathon, you can run an ultramarathon.” Thirty-one days since I first thought seriously about the idea, here I am.

A few years ago, I stopped asking myself “Why?” when I pondered a new venture. I now ask myself, “Why not?” and that philosophy has served me well. I haven’t thought of a single reason why I shouldn’t do many things – and have learned from the experiences - ever since, and I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t attempt my first ultramarathon now.

A mere five weeks after my second ever Pikes Peak Marathon attempt, I’m counting on this ‘check’ to help me out with the only item on my running resolutions list worth mentioning twice - NOT falling off the running map like I did this past year after Pikes Peak.

And last, but not at all least, is one final item. . .

  • Feel like and BE a bad arse. Period.

So far, so good; but I won’t check this one off my list just yet, nor will I ever, really. I’m on my way to what I hope will be a great year of running, but I’ve got a lot of ground to cover - countless gallons of water and lots of Gu to consume on the trails, tons of sweat to wipe from my brow - between now and December to call it a successful year indeed. And that’s just for this year, not long-term ‘bad arse’ status.

As Collective Soul once sang, “I’ve got a long way. . .to run.” Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t. One thing’s for sure, though – I’ll never know until I try.

Ever get that feeling while on a run that it’s gonna be a good year? I’ve had that feeling during and following every run I’ve completed in that past few weeks. Time – and checking additional items off of my running resolutions list – will tell if I’m right. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Little Pretend Broken Hearts

So. . . I’m about as single as a girl can get. . .which means I’ve entertained myself with a few ‘pretend’ boyfriends at times. You know, just for kicks. I had one in North Carolina I called my ‘gym boyfriend.’ He was not too tall but cute from head to toe, and he always wore a baseball hat when he worked out. Weird! Or. . .balding prematurely?! Hmm. . .

At any rate, I mentioned to a girl friend from my gym that I thought he was attractive, to which she replied, “So why don’t you talk to him?” Uh, what? And, more importantly, why?! I would never do that for fear that he’d instantly become unattractive the second he opened his mouth to speak, poor little meat head. Then, I’d have no eye candy at the gym. “Nah, I’ll just look every now and then.”

My latest ‘pretend’ comes compliments of my absolute favorite Denver band – an amazing little outfit who shall remain nameless because, although it’s the slimmest possible of slim chances that one of the band members would ever read this – and an even slimmer chance that any of them would actually know me - it would be pretty darn embarrassing if, by some miracle, one of them actually did.

Just for the record, I never would have acted on my pretend crush. He seemed nice, kind of quiet, a pretty humble guy slash awesome drummer; but, he was also 1 – not my style; 2 – too skinny and not anywhere near my ideal of the male physique; 3 - not the type that looked like he worked out on the regular; 4 - last but most certainly not least, taken!

And, as if all of these reasons still aren’t enough, I saved the best for last – I had my eye on a supah hot boy of my own - Just in case you were wondering; and just for the record, of course.

Long story short, the lead singer of the “hardest working band in Denver” played a free solo acoustic show at one of my favorite grub spots – which shall also remain nameless to protect the innocent, a.k.a. to save me from turning the brightest red ever possible - a few Friday nights ago. A free show by a member of my favorite local band? Um, yes, please!

After his set, said unnamed lead singer retreated to the bar at the back of the venue - and about five or six feet from where I was standing – to hang out with his fellow band mates and allow the second act full attention on the stage up front for their show.

Now, I can ordinarily find a way to strike up a conversation with just about anybody at any time; and I certainly would have loved to chat it up with my boys, no doubt! This particular Friday night, however, I was feeling a bit shy. For those of you who know me personally, YES, it does happen from time to time, believe it or not.

So there I stood, donning my UBER orange Elway jersey to show my support for my beloved Broncos on Super Bowl weekend – that game we shall not speak of, don’t even ask! – undoubtedly looking like that single, out of place, wide-eyed girl scanning the room and dancing ever so slightly in place to mask true feelings of awkwardness and sticking out like somewhat of a sore thumb.

A girl hanging out with the band a few feet away noticed me, took a step in my direction, and said, “You’re rocking that jersey!” and I was instantly back in the game and out of my awkward wall flower state. “Thanks!” I was grateful for her taking pity on the quiet girl that could be spotted a mile away by her ’white girl’ dance moves, let alone a bright orange, oversized shirt. We chatted a few minutes. She was so nice! I felt a little better.

A few songs later, the second act was done, as was the live music for the evening and my stamina. It had been a long but good day; and although the night was relatively young, I was ready to call it a night.

Back home, I logged onto Facebook for a pre-’nighty night’ update on my friends’ random posts and pictures from the evening. . .and a quick peek at the band’s Facebook page too. I consider myself a pretty good sleuth when I want to be – let’s call it being “resourceful” – and ended up finding my pretend crush’s Facebook page, only to respond with a dropped jaw when I saw. . .

Wait for it. . .w a i t    f o r    i t. . .

That the sweet girl who struck up conversation about my jersey was his girlfriend!

“Son of a [bleep]! Aww, man!” Aaaaand just like that, my pretend crush was over. I knew he had a girlfriend, but now she was real. . .and really nice to me. I’m a lot of things, peeps, but a home wrecking hussy is not one of ‘em, even if continuing my pseudo crush had only made me a pretend home wrecking hussy.

Just like that, a mere eleven days before Valentines Day, I was nowhere near having a pretend boyfriend – let alone an actual boyfriend – and even more single than before if at all possible. I’ll admit, it was silly anyway.

Sigh.

So. . . What is a girl to do to mend a little pretend broken heart? Let me count the ways:

  1. Gobble up Valentines Day chocolates – candy you buy for yourself – and wash it down with a pint of cookie dough ice cream – real ice cream, mind you, none of that ‘fat free’ wanna be stuff? Nnnnnnnope. Besides, I prefer Oreo cookie ice cream.
  2. Spend an entire weekend watching sappy ‘chick flicks’ and fighting back little pretend tears? Uh uh. No thank you.
  3. Create a profile on a free online dating website? Um, not only no, but OH HELL NO NO NOOOOO!!! No offense to those of you that have tried online dating, it just ain’t for me.

These were not at all viable options. Not for this girl, anyway. There was only one possible option left: an extra trip to the gym. And pistol squats. And handstand pushups. Yeah. I could feel my spirits lifting instantly.

Pistol Squat

Handstand Pushup

NOTE. Neither of these are me!

Valentines Day 2010 was the first time I’d ever done pistol squats – successfully on each leg – all the way down to the ground. I remember thinking that it was the best Valentines Day gift to myself ever. I wanted that feeling again, and my extra trip to the gym just happened to fall on Valentines Day 2014. The best part? I can do them all! Who woulda thought?! I can’t think of anything much sweeter than that.

Running and working out are two of my many loves, and certainly two of the few that have never let me down. And a little love from the both of them is something any single gal can always truly rely on, whether mending a real or pretend broken heart.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Orange and Blue, and Glorious Running Too

Happy new year, fair readers! I can still say that since this is the first time we’ve met in 2014. . .right? Right. Thought so.

So. . . I don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions. I used to make them all of the time, and they were good ones – start playing the piano again, read more books. . . I’ve kept NOT a one over the years. Now, rather than wait for the clean-slate promise of a new year to make positive changes in myself, I do it year round. And, instead of new year’s resolutions, I call them life resolutions.

As many of you know, I’ve been a bit MIA from the blogging scene recently. There, there. . . Dry your eyes, take a deep breath. . . I’m back! What you may not know, though, is that I’ve also been a bit MIA from the running scene ever since my first marathon – the Pikes Peak Marathon - WAAAAAAAY back in August.

So, aligned with my hated of new year’s resolutions, I’ve made several running resolutions for the near future and for the year as of late. Ah-HEM! And they are:

  • Follow a training plan for the Frank Shorter RACE4Kids’ Health 5K on April 13th. This will mark the first time I’ve trained specifically for a 5K since 1999 – For all you math majors out there, that’s about fourteen and a half years ago now!
  • Follow a training plan for the Bolder Boulder 10K on May 26th.*
  • Devise my own marathon training plan – a cross between Bart Yasso’s intermediate and a more advanced plan – for none other than the Pikes Peak Marathon – one of the absolute truest of my loves – on August 17th.
  • Increase my daily, “comfortable” running pace by twenty to thirty seconds per mile.
  • Inspire others to give running a try or to pick it up again.
  • Enjoy some of the most beautiful views that my lovely home state of Colorado has to offer from the peaks of hard-battled trails thousands of miles above sea level.
  • NOT fall off the running map like I did this past year after Pikes Peak.
  • Rejoin my Florida Ragnarians for a rematch, this time in California for the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley - yes, you heard me right when I said NAPA VALLEY - in late September.
  • Run the Bear Chase Trail Race 50K in late September.*
  • NOT FALL OFF THE RUNNING MAP LIKE I DID THIS PAST YEAR AFTER PIKES PEAK.
  • Feel like and BE a bad arse. Period.

*Note. Tentative at this point in time, but MOST DEFINITELY on my radar in general and occupying my thoughts always when finding myself in boring conversations or long meetings at work.

To reiterate, I DON’T do new year’s resolutions. Not anymore. These just happen to coincide with the beginning of the new year. OK? Good! I’m glad we got that straight.

Is there any better way to start a brand new year of running than with summer running gear on an unseasonably perfect day? I think not!

Sunday, January 19th brought a gorgeous, sunny, short-sleeved tee and shorts day and a 26-16 Denver Broncos victory – PFM! - over the New England Patriots to secure a trip to the Super Bowl - le football crème de la crème. Before the big game, junk food, and beer - um, but of course! - the beautiful weather beckoned me out for a run. What’s that, you ask? How many miles did I go? THIS many:

You're welcome, Denver. Photo courtesy of the one and only Bryan Krause

You’re welcome, Denver.
Photo courtesy of the one and only Bryan Krause

 

Those are, as a matter of fact, my ‘skinny jeans.’ Now ladies, certainly you can understand just how significant this moment of comfortably fitting into my skinny jeans in January must have been. Not that anyone’s keeping track or anything, right?!

Here’s to stunning days of randomly amazing running weather. . .to fitting into skinny jeans year round. . .to a brand new year of running resolutions. And, um, GO BRONCOS!!! WUUHOOOOOOOO!!!

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

A New Kind of PR

So, the last time we met, I gushed about the beauty and splendor of a day on the trails, a day that just happened to be sunny and gorgeous – short and short sleeves weather – at the very end of November. That was not the case for the Snug run a few Thursdays ago. Much to the contrary, in fact, that run represented a new kind of PR.

Nine forty-three in the morning. “You still going to run tonight?” “. . .Supposed to be below zero tonight as of 6:00.” Eleven thirteen. “Sounds like JD’s running so I’ll give it a shot.” Five fifty p.m. “I’m going to heard out to run. Be careful. See you soon.”

And, just like that, we were all running in a temperature that surely marked PRs for all of us – for our coldest run to date.

The air was still, and it actually felt great when I arrived at the Snug. This isn’t so bad. It’s a gorgeous night for a run! About forty minutes later, though, I chewed up and swallowed each letter of those words and washed them down with a cold beer.

Everyone else I knew to also be running were already on the course; I was the last one from the usual crew who had yet to start out. As I signed in and was just about to head up the back staircase toward Marion Street to start out, JD was just getting back.

He was all bundled up, from head to toe. The only bare skin you could see was the bit of his face around his eyes, just wider than what a pair of binoculars might hide if held up to his face. Not much, right? Even exposing so very little skin, the weather had still found him; and it left its mark. . .in the form of icicles on his eyelashes. Yep, you heard right! Actually looked pretty cool, like some fancy Hollywood movie makeup.

If I don’t go right now, I’m not going to!

The first mile wasn’t so bad, just a few frosty fingers and toes, nothing I hadn’t encountered before. Still, the trail through Cheeseman Park was empty; and the frigid night air felt a bit lonely. Almost there. Then, my watch beeped. Finally done! Mile two.

I was too concerned about the icy patches on the sidewalk eastbound on Eighth Avenue and then along northbound York to pay much attention; but by the time I reached the Denver Botanical Gardens entrance, I noticed. And by the time I was about to leave Eleventh Avenue to return to Cheeseman Park, I could no longer ignore it.

My fingers – all ten despite two pairs of gloves - were beyond chilly, beyond cold, beyond needing yet another pair of gloves. They were devoured in searing pain.

I still have a whole mile to go. I don’t think I can take much more. OOOWWW! So, I did the only thing I knew to do, you know, besides knock on a random door and ask the kind stranger who answered to allow me to stand inside the door until my hands stopped stinging. I unzipped the pockets in my coat and ran the rest of the way with my hands balled up in them, right hand holding onto the icy metal case of my camera.

Lucky you, my hands warmed enough to snap a quick photo to document my coldest run yet – a new kind of PR – with about a quarter mile to go:

ONLY eight? Are you sure, UMB Bank?

A whole eight? Are you sure it was that warm, UMB Bank?

Once back, I wasted no time getting through the wrought iron gate and side door leading to the Irish Snug basement, out of the frigid air, and into the cozy company of my fellow crazy running peeps – back to the great indoors where warmth, and, arguably most important – BEER – were waiting.

I think it took a good fifteen minutes before my fingers and toes thawed out enough to stop tingling, a feeling I certainly did not miss.

Wise? Absolutely not. Gutsy? Mmm, maybe. Would I do it again? Most definitely.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Long way to run. . .

One of the oh sooo many things I love about my beloved Colorado is the wonderfully wacky weather, like Mother Nature momentarily loses her mind in a bipolar fit of rage.

Sometimes it means experiencing spring and winter on a single trail run as I did in Steamboat Springs in September, and sometimes it means a high of a beautiful, sunny fifty-seven degrees one day and a low of one negative degree and several inches of snow the next, as was the case very recently in Denver.

And sometimes, it means a freakishly beautiful day during winter, which was the case the weekend after Thanksgiving. Dakin’s text on Friday morning was like a breath of fresh mountain air: “Anyone interested in doing a trail run Saturday afternoon?” Um, YES, please!

We headed out around one o’clock to Apex, one of our typical locations with which we rotated Mt. Falcon Park on Tuesdays this past summer while training for Pikes Peak. Neither is easy, but Apex is the easier of the two, or at least I think it feels that way.

A nice five or six-mile jaunt through the Enchanted Forest, up to the top, then back down would be just enough of a challenge and still offer the serenity of the trail and a beautiful view without overwhelming my current running state – marked by an undeniable lack of physical prowess since Pikes Peak. . . Or so we thought.

Instead of the wide-open parking lot and row of trees hiding the trail entrance, we were greeted by chain link fence, brightly colored tape, and signs telling us that the trails were closed for maintenance. “Guess we’re running Falcon instead.” Ugh!

I love running the trails at Mt. Falcon Park, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of my absolute favorite places to run, no doubt. It is, though, like I said, hard. Most of the first mile alone treads up steep, technical terrain with a pristine view of neighboring Red Rocks Amphitheater and a distant downtown Denver. If you’re smart, though, you don’t see either because your eyes are locked on foot placement between sharp rocks.

Dakin and I are the best and the worst running duo out there because we are so much alike. “Ugh, I’m nervous now!” “Me too!” But, no matter how much we both dreaded the burning in our legs and possibly also our lungs and the mental strain that was to come with it, turning back was not an option. And so, we took off.

“Oh, I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. At least I’ll die in a place that I love.” OK, here goes.

The first mile hurt a little. The arches of my feet started to cramp - a feeling I hadn’t felt in quite some time while on a run – and I’m sure it was pretty slow compared to the last time I had met the trail. The beginning of mile two at the top of the first climb meant a little bit of a break. From climbing, at least. Made it! Thank God!

Snow covered trail forced me to slow a little bit when I wanted to really run, but I don’t think it was such a bad thing. I knew what was waiting once the short break was over: more fancy footwork while climbing over lots more rocks, every step bringing with it the possibility of further burning in my legs and cramping of the arches of my feet.

And, where the Turkey Trot and Castle Trails meet, the climbing continued. And continued. . .and continued. . . You’ve come this far. Just a little more. . .

And, after a little longer, I finally saw the picnic table where the trail leveled out a bit just shy of the three-mile mark. A quick right-hand turn to head toward the Summer White House Site, I made it; and, much to my surprise, it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

My work for the day was done. Going downhill - in my opinion, at least - is the fun part. Don’t believe a word from Dakin and JT when they say it’s not. It wasn’t as fast a downhill trek as I would have liked, but it reunited me with the undeniable, unconditional, true blue love I have found in trail running and left me looking forward to more next spring in preparation for a Pikes Peak Marathon PR.

Oh yes, it will be mine.

Look back, so many miles I’ve come, and yet, still have a long way to run.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.