Seeing Is Believing

So I’m working on my list. First up - running with the local chapters of Achilles International and Lending Sight. Check! This past Monday in Denver’s beautiful Wash Park marked my fourth run with the groups, practically local celebrities thanks to recent attention from features in 5280 Magazine and most recently on Channel 9 News.

I was greeted by a familiar group of smiling faces and tore myself away from conversation about racing with one of my newest ol’ buddies ol’ pals Randall to catch up with Jessica before our second run together. But first, we took a minute to say ‘Cheese!’

Quickly becoming some of my new favorite people!

Quickly becoming some of my new favorite people!

As it does this time of year, the sun sets quickly. By the time we got started, light was quickly fading, leaving us to lap the park in the dark. This was new to me. The last time I ran with the group, summer was still in full swing; it was lighter later into the evening.

The dark was one more thing – in addition to others on the dirt trail circling the park, their pets, their strollers – to get in the way of guiding Jessica tonight. It made me a bit nervous. I was happy that another guide, Scott, was going to run with us.

“How many laps are we running tonight, Jessica?” “Maybe just one.” She had recently hurt her foot and had been having pangs of pain periodically when she ran. “Maybe I’ll run one and walk one. We’ll see.”

The first lap went smoothly and seemed to go by quickly. “So that’s one lap. Want to walk one?” “I’m OK. I want to keep running. The pain’s not that bad.” And so, we continued on for a second lap, this time without Scott. OK, one more. Here goes.

“Just let me know if you need me to slow down or if you want to stop and walk for a bit, Jess. We can run/walk if your foot hurts.” “OK.”

As we ran, I found myself breaking up the trail into pieces – smaller stretches of trail rather than miles - in my head and trying to focus on reaching the endpoint of each piece, something I typically do during speed workouts or long runs. Just like in those cases, it was helping me to accomplish the feat of guiding through the dark park lit only by occasional lamp posts offering short-lived illuminated relief.

Like the other athletes, Jessica didn’t miss a beat. Every time I turned back to ask, “Are you feeling OK?” or “Your foot holding up?” she was close behind, didn’t need to stop, never missed a beat. In fact, I had to speed up more than once to keep just ahead of her as she preferred of her guides.

With only about a quarter mile to go, I was finally able to relax. “Just past this turn coming up on the left, we’ll be done!” And, finally, we were there. A “Nice job!”, friendly conversation, and short walk back to the rec center later, we were reunited with the group. I was happy to have been a part of the evening. It was a great feeling to start off a new week!

Running challenges me – one of the many reasons I love it so much – and guiding will be a new kind of challenge for me, one that I hope I can meet while helping others in the process, one that I feel will prove especially rewarding.

I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful relationship. And I don’t need to see it to believe it.

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

Welcome to the club!

I love running, and I love sharing my passion for the sport with other people almost as much. Just in the past few months, I’ve had three people approach me with questions about training and running in general. I’d be a BIG FAT LIAR if I said it didn’t boost my running ego just a tad every time.

I almost always tell them, “You have to be careful. I can talk about running for days!” No matter how busy I am or how much is going on at the moment, I’ll always take the time to talk then and to later dig up what I think are some useful resources to share. I am happy to do what I can to help light their own running flames, no matter how simplistic or complex the task of addressing their questions.

The only thing I love above passing along these resources and any of my own experiences that I hope might prove some gem of winged foot wisdom is hearing back with training updates – “I ran three miles for the first time the other day!” “I’m up to six miles now!” “You’re awesome! How do you know so much about running?” OK, OK, so maybe I’ve never actually heard this last one. A girl can dream, right?

So I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when my good friend Imee started joining us for Thursday night Snug runs this past summer. An awesome addition to my already stellar running crew slash best beer-guzzlin’ gal pal? Uh, yeah, I’m IN!

This past Thursday marked quite the momentous occasion for Imee and I alike, one that makes my little running heart go splish splash in a beer-filled ocean of love for the one and only Irish Snug Running Club: her. . .TENTH. . .Snug. . .run!

It’s official. Welcome to the club, Imee!

Imee's 10th Snug Run 4

If you’ve read this blog before even a handful of times, I’m sure you can guess what we did next. . .

Pinkies up - The only way to drink a good beer

Pinkies up – The only way to drink a good beer.
Photo courtesy of our pal Dave Thakurdin. Thanks, Dave!

Bet you were thinking car bomb – Gotcha! Well, not really. Of course we threw back a car bomb too. Think of that as dinner. . . This was our dessert, if you will. Just making sure you’ve been paying attention. Gotta keep you readers on your toes!

I’d like to think I had some part in inspiring Imee’s renewed running repertoire; but I didn’t, not this time. This one, along with some other very positive life changes, was all Imee and Imee alone.

Rest assured, though, that I’ve got big plans. BIG plans to hopefully help motivate others to come to love running as much as I do. In the mean time, I’m quite all right with being the one motivated instead.

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

California Dreamin’

It’s funny how much even just a little time can heal what feels like the severest of wounds. This simple truth gave me the most comforting of feelings paired with the most ginormous of grins to myself during my extended weekend visiting friends in southern California.

I didn’t think twice about the six miles my old NC pal slash second ever personal trainer slash triathlete and marathoner du jour Kat - who, by the way, just had yet another article published on Active.com, the timing of which couldn’t have been more perfect for me lately - had planned for us to run with her beau Scott on Monday afternoon before dropping me off at the airport.

Even in NC, Kat was ALL California girl

Even in NC, Kat was ALL California girl

I was looking forward to running with Kat again, but I had no idea of how important those six miles in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park would prove to be.

Within our first mile, we took off from the car, across the park, and through the trees to quickly find ourselves on a narrow dirt trail, seeming to suddenly be headed to the middle of nowhere. Woah! This is awesome!

And then, we approached the first of several inclines we would run within the next hour or so. Funny thing is that I didn’t even fully grasp the fact that we were running up a short but fairly steep incline until we were half way up it. And then, it hit me. “This is the first time I’ve run up incline since that trail race after Pikes Peak.” Didn’t feel like giving up, never once thought to walk like I did at Devil’s Thumb Ranch exactly one month and one day previous, didn’t even flinch.

Much to the contrary of my mental state ever since the Pikes Peak Marathon, I loved it, pushed right to the top and looked forward to the next. Aaaaaahhhhhhh!

The rest of our run was equally amazing with a gorgeous, sunny California afternoon to guide us through single-track trail ebbs and flows, around the baseball fields and cheering of a little league game, and back to the trails, when Scott said shortly before we got there, “Push yourself up the switchbacks,” which we did. And you know what? It felt GREAT!

Once we left the trails, we zigged and zagged through the strolling crowds amidst the park’s collection of museums donning beautiful Spanish architecture, then ran back through the park to our starting spot. I felt so inspired. That. Was. AWESOME.

I can’t think of a better way to end a visit with Kat and to get a quick peek at only one of several reasons why I’ll definitely be back for a longer visit than a weekend.

Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that most significantly impact the grandest of victories. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get back to wanting to race again sooner than I thought. Gracias, San Diego, for unveiling my true running form and reminding me of one of the many reasons I love running most – No matter where on Earth you are, if you’re running, you’re home.

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

Ah-MUSE Me

It’s been seh-ven weeks and two-ooooooh days

Since Pikes took his love away. . . Sing it, Sinead!

Oh yeah. Totally belting it out.

Oh yeah. Totally belting it out right now. You too, Sinead.

Absolutely NOTHING compares to Pikes, but I’m feeling a little bit of a need for a new muse lately. And, although you can’t go wrong with more Muse, I don’t mean the British-based band that totally rocked the Pepsi Center a few Wednesdays ago. What I do mean is a new running muse, but only temporarily, of course. Pikes knows my little running heart goes pitter-pat for him and him alone.

Easiest way to fix that is to pick an upcoming race, add it to the ol’ calendar, and start training. The hard part is that I don’t even want so much as a shadow of a thought about a race – not even a teeny tiny 5K - entering my brain for at least the next three months. What’s a nerd in running shoes to do?

Venture into uncharted running waters about which I’ve always been curious. That’s what. I’ve got a few things up on deck already:

  1. Running with the local chapter of Achilles International and Lending Sight. The two groups join forces to pair visually impaired and disabled runners and walkers with volunteer guides for a few laps around beautiful Wash Park on Monday nights.
  2. Volunteering with Girls on the Run of the Rockies, one of several Girls on the Run programs across the country that encourages positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development in girls ages eight to thirteen years through training for a 5K.
  3. Getting involved with City Running Tours, a company that pairs personalized and group running and tourism in several cities across the country. Mmm hmm. . . Could be fun!
  4. Try a new running group on for size. Tuesday nights at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos for one. Not to take the place of my beloved Irish Snug Running Club, mind you. The good ol’ ISRC, much like Pikes Peak, has my little running heart in the palm of its hand.

These oughtta do the trick to keep my lazy butt from planting itself on the living room couch all night, especially with the dark and cold nights of winter up ahead. Gotta keep moving! After all, my next Pikes Peak Marathon is only 311 days, 5 hours, 55 minutes, and 50 seconds. . .49 seconds. . .away.

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

Enough!

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta put your foot down.

During marathon training, I put so much of life on hold to be sure to get in my weekly mileage and to ensure adequate time on the trails. And, ever since Pikes Peak, I’ve told myself that it was time to get back to those other things on the back burner. So that’s what I did. I finally finished cleaning and unpacking in the new pad, finally got caught up with some friends.

And, as needed and wanted as putting running aside and getting back to life has been, life is now starting to get in the way of running.

I first started to feel it last week. Monday, dinner plans, then a few errands for work. Tuesday, worked late. Wednesday, Colorado Rockies versus the Boston Red Sox and Todd Helton’s last home game of his career. You will be missed, #17! I felt like exercising so much that I walked home from Coors Field - took about an hour – despite the fact that my sandal was rubbing the top of my right foot raw.

These were all good things, and I was excited for them. Still, they kept me from running. Three nights of beautiful weather - home a bit after dark at the earliest and past my bed time at the latest – zero miles.

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

Then it really hit me on Thursday afternoon as I sang to myself while driving to and then home from a meeting to round out another day at the office. I was dancing in the driver’s seat and soon found myself antsy. I CAN’T WAIT to run at the Snug tonight! The weather was superb – not too hot, slightly cool, air still – and I felt good for the first time in a long time. So I ran an extra lap.

It was during that just over six mile jaunt that what I suspected had become undeniably clear: Averaging ten miles per week – as I have been since the race – was no longer cutting it. I’m ready to run again; and I have to start making it happen, no matter what. Chores and ‘to do list’ items will have to wait. They will still be there when I get back. Phone calls and e-mails to friends will still get made and sent, just a little later.

I have a date with my running shoes – and some mental ‘RnR’ while I’m at it. I’ll be a better person for it. Promise.

This week, I am bound and determined to run more than two days and ten miles per week. I am running straight for the open arms of one of my absolute truest of loves. And I CAN’T WAIT!

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