Friday Five: Five Awesome Things I Did This Summer

Hi everyone!  It’s Friday, and I feel like it’s been forever since I linked up with Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar for their Friday Five Linkup!  This week I really wanted to participate because the theme is “Five Things I Did This Summer” and I couldn’t wait to look back on my summer as well as learn what everyone else was up to over the last few months! I’ve been busy asking my students what they did this summer so it’s only fair that I share what I did too.

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1. Ran a marathon relay on the longest day of the year…on a trail!  This race was a lot of firsts for me:  first relay, first participation in a full marathon event, and first trail race!  I ran an 8.6 mile portion of the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon course, which was along a hilly tank trail near the army base.  It was hard but I had a lot of fun running with my coworkers!

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2. Spent some time out on the water.  I had the chance to go kayaking twice this summer – last weekend I took a kayaking class to learn different paddling strokes, and way back over Memorial Day weekend we went kayaking down the Chena River in Fairbanks!  That was a really fun trip that I totally look forward to doing again if I ever get back up there.

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3. Ran half marathon #6.  I ran the Her Tern Half in July and while I was initially going for a PR, I had to modify my goals mid-race due to some leg pain.  I ended up having a blast running the last few miles with my blog buddy Kelsey and I have to say that it was my most fun half marathon yet!

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4. Hiked some incredible trails.  This is Alaska, so obviously there are going to be some epic trails on this list.  Also, this list made me realize that I really like hiking next to lakes…

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Byron Glacier

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5. Ran my very first Ragnar Relay!  Running in crazy high elevation in Colorado with 11 strangers on little sleep and food was the most insane thing I’ve ever done…but also ended up being the most fun weekend of running that I’ve ever had!  I want to do another one ASAP!

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One other exciting thing that happened this summer is that I bought so many headbands from A Rose So Sweet that the shop owner even gave me my own discount code that I can share with all of you!  If you’re looking for a new headband I would highly recommend that you check out her stuff.  She’s got skinny headbands, wide headbands, and head wraps – and all of them are non-slip and adjustable so they even fit my weird head!  The bad news is that she has a TON of prints that she’s releasing all the time, and I get sucked in and buy new ones every month.  You can check out my review of them here, and if you want to save 10%, use the code KRISTENK10!

IMG_4837My favorite head wrap!

What were you up to this summer?  I want to hear all about your epic races and gorgeous hikes!

What I’ve Learned From My Running Shoes

Hi everyone!  As you may be aware, I bought some fabulous new running shoes (ASICS Gel-Kayano 21s) a few weeks ago and have been in love with them ever since.  They’re beautiful, comfy, and even came in one of my favorite colors.  They’re the perfect shoe package!

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But the real win is that they help me run long distances.  They’re literally the reason I’m able to do the sport that I love.  Without them, who knows what I’d be doing with my life?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of my running shoes – even the very first pair – were pretty amazing, life-changing shoes.  And they’ve taught me a lot over the last few years:

what i learned from my running shoes

My first pair of running shoes ever were some Under Armour sneakers that I’d bought at TJ Maxx in college.  I wore them while training for my first 5k because I didn’t realize that the shoes you wear while training actually matter.  A lot.  Despite the fact that they were probably totally wrong for me, these shoes are what started it all!  Without them I’d never have taken that first running step.  They got me through all of my very first workouts – each late afternoon run in the summer of 2012 in Ridley Creek State Park where I was secretly contemplating running a 5k for the first time in my life.  And in September, I finally did it!

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For a while I thought this was the only picture of these shoes that I even had – back then I didn’t blog or have Instagram, so there was no reason for me to take pictures of my shoes unless I was wearing them in a race!  But while looking through old pictures I discovered that they made a encore appearance at the Dirty Girl Mud Run in 2013.  After the race, I donated them to the race staff to be cleaned and sent to women in need.  Hopefully some of their awesome magic running power rubbed off on the new owner!

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About to ditch the shoes after a super dirty race

What I learned:  Yes, I can run!  And that one pair of shoes can change your life.

My second pair of shoes were also random shoes that I wasn’t fitted for.  I bought them at Kohls because they were on sale and pink (note: not the best reasons to buy running shoes).  I wore these shoes through my first winter of running, which included a jump from the 5k distance to the 5 miler.  I also wore these for my very first 10k!  It was the Hershey 10k which was the first race where I felt like  “real” runner – there were crowds of people cheering me on, lots of other runners, and even a medal at the end!

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What I learned: These shoes made me realize that I love to run.  It also made me realize that I needed to get fitted for real running shoes since I could tell I was going to be running for a long time!

And that’s where my Mizuno Wave Inspire 9s come in!  They were crazy bright and beautiful, and most importantly they finally gave me the stability that my feet needed to run faster and farther.  I ran a lot of races in these – namely my fastest 5k and my first two half marathons!  They were the most comfortable and amazing shoes I’ve ever worn, and they were capable of getting me over finish lines that I never thought I’d cross.

IMG_1885Rocking my Mizunos at the Corn to Run 5k in Delaware – my current PR

In fact, I was so desperate to keep them around that I even got them studded and wore them last winter!  But they’re officially retired now and I miss them a lot.  Mizuno, bring these back please!

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What I learned:  That I’m capable of anything I set my mind to, especially if I’m wearing good shoes that actually fit!

After my trusty Mizunos started to get high up there in milage, I got fitted at another running store and was placed in Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 6s.  They were neutral colors and I liked that a lot…but what I didn’t realize was that they were also neutral shoes!  I wore these during my first summer in Alaska and ran two half marathons in them, but ultimately they messed up my hip and caused a huge injury earlier this year and I got them out of my life so fast.

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What I learned: make sure that you’re getting a shoe that fits your foot or injuries will happen.

After lots of tears, x-rays, and an MRI, I found out that my hip was going to be okay.  And that I need to stick to cushy stability shoes.  Skinny Raven here in Alaska fitted me in ASICS Kayanos, and I haven’t looked back.  These shoes have taken me through 2 half marathons – most notably through Zion Canyon in Utah – and over 300 miles on treadmills, in GOTR practice, on tracks, up hills, on trails, and across lots of finish lines.  And I loved every single mile.

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What I learned:  You’ll be surprised where a good pair of running shoes can take you in this world!

Now that I’ve got a new pair of shoes, I’ve got to wonder what they’ll teach me.  They’ve already taught me a few things at Ragnar: that running at high altitude is no joke, but that no matter how tired you are you can run one more mile.  I’m excited to see where the next 300 miles in these shoes takes me!

Do you remember your first pair of shoes?  What did you learn while wearing them?  How many pairs of running shoes do you currently own?

The Most Alaskan Weekend Ever

Hi everyone!  Since moving to Alaska, I’ve been trying to make the most out of each and every weekend here.  The problem is that when you’ve lived here long enough, you start to settle into a routine where you end up using the weekends to relax and refuel just like people living in every other place on earth.  But since the summer is starting to wind down, I’m starting to feel like I need to go out and do ALL THE THINGS before it starts snowing.  And this weekend ended up being jam packed with all of my favorite Alaskan activities!

Saturday:  Andrew and I used a Groupon for kayak lessons out on Wasilla lake.  We’ve gone so many times but never actually learned how paddle backwards, sideways, or how to stop.  Our class was really thorough and I learned so much!  It was crazy foggy on the lake for most of the class but it cleared up by the end.

IMG_6290My first time in a single kayak!

IMG_6284Our view on Wasilla Lake

After kayaking, I knew that I had to run 6 miles to get ready for my upcoming race.  But it was such a gorgeous day that I just didn’t feel like doing one of my typical running routes.  So I called up my friend and we went for a trail run on the Powerline Pass trail!  It’s only about 20 minutes from my apartment but I’ve never run there before because I am really afraid of bears.  Running with a buddy (and bear spray) made me feel so much better.  But it was still really tough – trail running is hard but beautiful!  The trail is really wide but really rocky so we had to walk some portions to stay safe.

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IMG_6297Taking my road shoes out on the trail!

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Later that night after the run we were hanging out at our friend’s house, sitting around the fire, and we happened to look up…and right above our heads was the northern lights!  It’s super rare to see them while in the city because of all the light pollution, but they were really bright and were even moving!  So we grabbed our cameras, jumped in the car, and drove up to Glen Alps to see them better.  My friends and I spent hours laying on the parking lot wrapped in blankets staring at the northern lights, which were literally filling the whole sky with green and purple moving light.  I’ve never seen anything like it and people are calling it a “once in a lifetime” show!  One of my friends took a ton of pictures which don’t do them justice at all.  I wish there was a way our cameras could capture their movement so you all could see it!

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aurora6Looking straight up!

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Sunday:  Since we were up all night, we slept in pretty late and had trouble getting started with our day.  But it was another gorgeous sunny day, so we went on a hike to Rabbit Lake.  We took the trail from Upper DeArmoun Road, which was 8.8 miles round trip.  Finding any information about this trail is hard, so if you’re in Alaska and want to do this hike here’s what you need to know:

  • There’s two ways to get to the lake:  McHugh Creek which has a big parking lot and is steeper, and Upper DeArmoun which takes more effort to drive to but has a long and gradual elevation gain.
  • To get to the more gradual hike, take the Upper DeArmoun exit on the Seward Highway.  Drive towards the mountains until you get to an intersection with Canyon Road.  Turn right on Canyon, and follow the road for a few minutes.  It’s a pretty bumpy dirt road, and it will eventually pass through an open gate.  If you have a good SUV, drive as far as you can up to the end of the road and park wherever you can – there’s not really a parking lot.  The potholes were insane so take a car that can handle that.
  • The trail is really gradual and we saw lots of kids and dogs on the trail, but most of those groups turned around way before the lake.
  • Despite the fact that it was warm and sunny, once you get above the tree line it’s really windy and cold.  Bring layers and be prepared for any weather!

The trail took us a few hours round trip and was so worth it – the view was incredible!  We didn’t bring enough layers for the high level of wind that was coming through the pass so we were pretty cold the whole time, which kept us moving fast.  I think I’d like to try the trail from McHugh Creek next time I want to get to the lake because I’m sure the views of Turnagain Arm are amazing!

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After doing all of my favorite Alaskan activities this weekend I’m pretty worn out.  I don’t think I’ll get a weekend to relax for a while, but it’s worth it when you get to fill your weekends with gorgeous views and awesome friends.

What did you do this weekend?  Any trail runners out there?  And have you ever seen the northern lights before?

Falling Into Some New Things

Hi everyone!  Sorry it’s been a few days, but I’ve been crazy busy this week!  School started this week and between meeting with principals and teachers, recruiting students to join my classes, and writing lesson plans I’ve been totally swamped!  But I’m honestly getting really excited about the arrival of back to school because it means that fall is almost here!  In fact, we’re already getting cooler mornings in the 50s and dark nights where we can see the northern lights!

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This will be my first real fall in Alaska.  Last year I left in mid-september when the leaves were just starting to turn, and then I came back in mid-October to 30 degree weather and bare trees.  So I’m looking forward to being here to see Anchorage’s fall foliage!  The leaves aren’t the only thing that changes color – the tundra does too!

anchorage fallI had to google this picture, but I’ll have one just like it in a few weeks!

For the fall, I’m still trying to decide what my running plans are.  I’m still occasionally feeling that same pain that I got in mile 9 of Her Tern – a weird pain behind my right knee near my hamstring.  It happens occasionally and I’m just trying to be super conscious of my milage each week.  Now that Ragnar is over I’m looking forward to doing some fall racing and some different things to keep myself healthy.  As of now, I’ve got the following things  on my fall list:

  • Run another relay!  I don’t even know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’m running the Klondike Road Relay the weekend after Labor Day!  It’s a 24 hour, 109 mile run from Skagway, AK to Whitehorse, YK in Canada!  I’ll literally need my passport to run this race!  Two of my coworkers are on the 10 person team, and the rest of the people are acquaintances from around Anchorage.  I’ve got an 8.8 mile leg that should set out at around sunrise somewhere in Canada, so I’m really excited!
  • Join another training group.  I was about to sign up for the local running store’s Run Club group, but then I found out that some of my friends are doing a different group that costs less money and runs longer.  It focuses on both speed and technique with specific pacing based on my actual pace, not just feel.  It starts in a few weeks and I’m excited to see how it differs from what I’ve done in the past.
  • Clean up my diet.  I eat okay during the day, but after work I’m a hot mess!  Lately I’ve been feeling super tired and sluggish, and I think my sugar addiction and crappy diet are probably part of the problem.  I’m thinking that in September I’m going to try to cut out many of the processed foods I currently eat.  It’s going to be a huge struggle because it’s almost PSL/pumpkin everything season, but I really need to clean up my diet and cut back on a lot of the sugar and bad stuff I’ve been eating.  I think if I give myself at least 3 weeks of some serious change it will become an easier habit to keep up throughout the rest of the year!  I’m not sure how intense I want to be about this – I’m not comfortable doing Whole30 because I feel like I’ll need carbs with all the running I’m doing, but if you know of any other clean eating challenges I’d love to try them out!  I seriously love a good challenge  :)
  • Join a better gym.  My one month intro membership to Anchorage Yoga is done, and I’m not sure if I can swing the full price membership plus my Planet Fitness membership too.  I got lucky and one of my friends got a job at the Alaska Club, and she signed me up for special privileges to get a membership as long as she works there!  They’re a pretty intense gym to join, but since I’m not paying I get to skip that awkward part and go straight to using the multiple facilities all over town and the endless amount of classes they offer all day.  I’ve been wanting to do some strength training, and now I’ve got the opportunity to take some really great classes!
  • Get outside as much as possible.  Alaska is gorgeous all the time, but fall is stunning and it makes for the best hiking weather!  I can’t wait to spend every free minute outside enjoying it.

It seems like the end of the summer is the perfect time to make some big necessary changes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out!  My main goal always is to be healthy enough to run, and I think these things will get me there.  And hey, I’m always down for some healthy new fall recipes to try, especially if they contain pumpkin!

Have you ever done a clean eating challenge?  What would you recommend, and would you want to do one with me?

What I Learned From My First Ragnar Relay

Hi everyone!  It’s been a week since coming home to Anchorage, but I’m still riding my rocky mountain high from my very first Ragnar Relay in Colorado!

IMG_6172-0So proud that I earned this medal!

While I already recapped my race experience (check out part 1 and part 2 if you missed them!), there’s still so much that I haven’t covered yet.  Mostly, how I got across that finish line in one piece!  I was really nervous going into my first Ragnar experience, so here’s what I learned for my next one:

  • Van 1 is definitely the place to be – I was runner #2,  and my legs happened at approximately 8:30 am, 9:00 pm, and 7:00 am.  None of my legs were super hot, and all of them were at “normal” times of the day for running.  I didn’t have to worry about running in the middle of the night (although some of my van mates did so I was still awake for that) and I had plenty of time between runs to recover.  I don’t think I could ever run a Ragnar in van #2 because they’ve got the late afternoon and middle of the night legs – but if that’s your type of thing go for it!

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  • Pack carefully – I did some research on the best way to pack for the trip and I would highly recommend this strategy to all future Ragnar runners:  pre-plan each of your race outfits and store them in labeled freezer bags.  This helps you find everything you need really quickly even in the middle of the night, and it gives you a place to store your smelly wet running clothes after you’re done with them.  I did this with all 3 race outfits, as well as 2 outfits for the in-between times and an outfit for our drive home after the race.  But I actually didn’t end up needing the in-between outfits at all because after each leg I ended up just changing into my running outfit for the next leg.  As long as you have a clean set of clothes for each leg of the race (including new socks and underwear), as well as a hoodie and sweatpants for the night/early morning hours and a clean outfit for after the race, you should be good!  Overpacking takes up more room in the van, so pack as little as you can while making sure you’ll be as comfortable as possible while running and resting.

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  • Recovery isn’t as hard as it sounds – Because I race frequently, I knew that racing can sometimes be hard to recover from – but I also have created routines and strategies for recovering from running hard.  I knew that I needed to go into this race with all of my best recovery skills because I was going to mostly be recovering in a cramped van with 6 other girls.  And what I did actually worked at keeping me feeling pretty good over the course of 24 hours!  I felt pretty hungry and tired by the time runner #6 was finishing up, but overall it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.  After each run, I did the following:
    • Immediately drank water and Nuun
    • Refueled with chocolate milk and a bagel
    • After cooling down, I wiped off with cleansing wipes and changed into a new outfit to stay as dry and clean as possible.
    • After a few hours, I ate a Honey Stinger waffle
    • At every other exchange point I used my roller stick to roll out my legs
    • I ate two major meals during the race and they were both pretty carb heavy and plain (cheese pizza, and a waffle with bacon) so my stomach felt fine
  • Sleep is overrated – Napping is where it’s at!  I didn’t nap during the day, but I did start napping around midnight and managed to get some real, uninterrupted sleep from 1:00 am to 5:00 am while van #2 was running.  And while I was pretty tired on day 2, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Although I did go to bed as soon as I was done eating dinner!
  • Running at night is the best part – If you’ve never run at night before, it can be pretty scary, especially if there’s any kind of crazy wildlife out there.   But getting to run in cool weather under the stars felt amazing!  I loved that I could see the blinking lights of runners off in the distance guiding me on where to go, and also that I couldn’t see the hills that were coming my way.  I just blissfully ran along, occasionally looking up at the stars.  If this still sounds scary to you, know that you can run with another person at night (I did, but not by choice!) without a penalty.

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  • Leg #3 isn’t that hard – I was certain that by leg #3 I’d be zombie-walking my way through my 5.1 miles, but I actually ended up feeling really great (you know, minus the giant hills and lack of elevation).  In my last mile I was flying downhill at top speed staring at giant mountains and gorgeous scenery, and it was probably the best mile of the entire race! I think that the adrenaline of being almost done really helped carry me through my exhaustion and lack of sleep to get to the finish line.

IMG_6149I’m done!

  • That post-race shower will be the best shower of your life – Seriously.  It was amazing.
  • Team spirit is everything – From planning your race name to picking out silly outfits to decorating your van, team spirit is super high at Ragnar! And it extends past the silly pictures and fun hashtags to the more serious side of running a multi day relay.  No matter how tired you are, how hard your leg is, and how little energy you have left, your teammates will be there cheering you on to the finish.  That’s the best part of Ragnar – you’re not running alone!
  • You enter as strangers, but leave as friends – Once I realized I’d be in Colorado for a work conference the day before a Ragnar Relay, I knew I had to run it.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a team!  But after checking out the Ragnar Colorado Facebook page and contacting a few teams who needed another runner, I found an all-female team with my chosen leg available.  I was crazy nervous going into this race knowing no one else on the team, but we all got along really well and had a blast!  I learned so much about running from those girls, and I’m hoping I can run more Ragnars with them in the future!

Ragnar Van 1 Finish

For me, Ragnar Colorado was 14.9 miles of hills, high elevation, and unknown challenges.  But after over 24 hours of racing I learned that I could conquer anything that Ragnar threw my way.  There was never a spot where I felt sick (although I did get super hungry while waiting for my van mates to finish running), and the elevation didn’t totally knock me out.  I even finished strong after only 4 hours of sleep.  And once I was done running, I wanted to do it all over again!  If you’re on the fence about running a Ragnar and have the opportunity to join a team, DO IT!

If you could run any Ragnar, what would it be?   Now that the newest Ragnar location has been revealed, who wants to run Ragnar Hawaii with me next October?

Ragnar Colorado Recap: Part 2

Hi everyone!  It’s time for the final part of my Ragnar Relay Colorado recap!  If you missed the first part of my recap, go here!  Warning:  this one may be a bit long and picture heavy, but as I was preparing for this race I loved reading all of the details on other blogs that I’m putting in this post.  It’s such a hard race to prep for mentally and physically and all advice helps!

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In case you forgot where I left off, I had just finished running my first leg – 6 miles at 9400 ft above sea level.  Even though I knew I was done running my longest and highest leg of the race, I was still nervous about what was yet to come.  I didn’t know how well my body would recover, what it would feel like, and if I’d even be able to run later.  But I didn’t have time to think about it because we had to rush off to our next exchange point.  Runner #3 was running back along the same route I’d run on, but her end point was right along Lake Dillon.  It was gorgeous!

IMG_6101Celebrating with runner #3!

After she ran in, we drove off to meet runner #4.  At this point we had access to a real bathroom in an outlet center, so I got to clean up at bit and change my clothes which was the best feeling EVER.  While runner #5 was running we found a spot to pull over and cheer her on, which was hard to do for most legs on this course.  The views in Frisco were awesome and I was so excited to be running in such a beautiful place.

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Once we met up with runner #5, we headed to our first major exchange point back in Copper Mountain.  There was basically a giant party with lots of swag and food for sale.  Once runner #6 ran in at 3:00 pm we were done until 8:15 at night!

exchange12Our team in Copper Mountain minus runner #6

Our first order of business:  FOOD!  We found a pizza place and I literally asked the pizza guy to give me the biggest slice he had.  And he didn’t disappoint!

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After eating, we drove out to the next major exchange to rest for a few hours.  We got to use real bathrooms again and some people napped on the floor of the rec center.  But I was too busy taking awesome sunset pictures to sleep at all!

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ragnarsunsetThe sunset + our reflective vests = one awesome picture!

And once the sun set, it was time for our second legs!  I was feeling much better than I’d expected, and really enjoyed the cool evening weather and the fact that I was now only 7000 ft above sea level.  I headed off a little before 9:00 pm decked out in full safety gear.  Our van driver wanted to run at night too, so she joined me on my leg.  While I was kind of bummed to not get the full “running alone at night” experience, it was nice having her there so I wasn’t alone.  My second leg was 3.8 miles, and most of it was downhill.  It turns out that elevation only affects you when you’re running flat or uphill, and I was doing amazing on my second leg!  I was running some parts of the course in sub-10 minute miles and ended up coming into the exchange point 1 minute per mile faster than I’d planned.  I was so excited!  I even got to see the Milky Way as I was catching my breath back at the van.  It was the coolest feeling ever and made me realize that I love running downhill at night under the stars!

IMG_6127Pre-night run

Honestly, after wiping down and changing into my running clothes for the next morning, I was pretty beat.  I started dozing off around midnight and woke up just to cheer my teammates on at each exchange (and to drink tons of water!).  Around 1:00 we were finally done running and we headed off to exchange #24 for a few hours of…sleep-ish.  Half of our van attempted to sleep on a wooden gym floor, while me and two other team members chose to sleep in the van.  All I had was a thin blanket so even though I had to sleep sitting up, it was more comfortable than the hard floor!  We woke up at 5:00 am and I could tell that this was going to be the hardest point of the whole entire relay.  We were all tired and stiff, and too exhausted to even attempt to shower (plus the lines were pretty long).  We all tried to eat breakfast as we sent our captain off for her last leg of the race!  I didn’t start until around 6:30, and all I knew was that I was running 5.1 miles.  As we drove to my exchange, I learned that I was near Carbondale and that my leg would be on a dirt road…and it would be hilly.  I seriously had no idea what was coming!

IMG_6133All smiles heading into leg #3!

Before running I was actually feeling pretty good and was really excited about the gorgeous landscape around me.  But once my leg started, I quickly realized that this leg was going to be super tough for me.  Most of the first 4 miles were uphill – a constant, steady uphill climb with a few flat parts in the middle.  After trying to run the first two hills and ending up gasping for air, I decided to conserve my energy (and breath) and power walk up each hill instead.  I was moving at a 15:00/mile pace, but ran up any flat or mildly hilly part to try to get it back down.  And everyone around me was walking too!  Although during this leg, I only saw about 6 other runners.  It was such a quiet and beautiful run, and even though it was really hard I did everything I could to enjoy every second of it.

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At the top of a very long, very brutal hill, I discovered two things:  the start of a 1 mile downhill portion to the exchange point, and this infamous sign!

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I was so excited to finally be flying down hill at top speed with no breathing issues.  And once I handed off the bracelet to runner #3, it was time to celebrate.  I was finally done!

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IMG_6152Checking off my final leg on the van!

After a quick clean up in the van and an outfit change, I was feeling awesome!  I managed to cheer on every single one of my teammates while eating as much recovery food as possible.  And at 11:00 our van was done and it was time to finally eat our first real meal of the day!  We chose a place that served breakfast until 1:00 and I can honestly say I’ve never eaten that fast in my life.  After eating we headed over to Snowmass to check into our hotel for the night and to FINALLY shower!  And before we knew it, it was time to head down to the finish line to cheer on our final runner!

IMG_6160My first time on a ski lift!

ragnarfinishWaiting for runner #12!

At about 5:30 pm we saw her heading down the mountain, and team Cirque Du Sore Legs ran across the finish line together.  After 34 hours, 43 minutes, and 27 seconds of running, eating, and kind of sleeping, I was officially a Ragnar Relay finisher!

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We celebrated with lots of pictures, food, and an early night of sleep.  We even got to sleep in the next day!  And after driving all day in crazy traffic, we got back to Denver just in time to send me off on my 8ish hours of flights home to Anchorage.  And in case you’re wondering, I totally took off work on Monday.  I think I’m still recovering from the lack of sleep and less full meals than usual, but it was all worth it!  I absolutely loved my first Ragnar experience and would definitely do it again!  Next week I’ll share a few more final thoughts on my experience.  But for now, I’m still celebrating!

Have you ever run a Ragnar Relay?  If not, do you want to?  And do you have space on your team for me?  :)

Ragnar Colorado Recap: Part 1

Hi everyone!  Guess what?  I DID IT!!!  I’m officially a Ragnar Relay finisher!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  It’s been a week since I updated you on what has been going on in Denver, and quite a few things happened since then.  First of all, on Monday I got pretty sick.  I had a huge migraine and felt nauseous and dizzy all day, and ended up going to bed at like 8:30 because I didn’t know what else to do.  It was awful, and everyone said it was the elevation!  I became so incredibly nervous about the race, but luckily on Tuesday I felt better and was even able to go for a 6:00 am run with my manager.  My plan was to go to bed early again to keep myself feeling good, but then I headed out on the town with my coworkers (no drinking because alcohol at high elevation is crazy!) and I learned that Denver has a Voodoo Donuts!  I am OBSESSED with donuts and have always wanted to go there, so a few of us went over at 11:30 at night and braved the crowds.

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The donuts were seriously the best I’ve ever had!  I couldn’t choose between them all and eventually got three.  I ate the Oreo peanut butter one that night, the glazed for breakfast the next morning, and the chocolate iced cake donut after lunch.  If you’re ever in Denver or Portland you need to get these, no matter how long the line is!

After leaving my hotel on Wednesday, I was officially on vacation!  I headed out to stay with one of my old sorority sisters in Aurora.  She took me to the original Chipotle for my last dinner in Denver and I was so excited!  And if you’re counting, that’s 4 times that I ate there on this trip.  I love Chipotle so much!

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I also got the chance to sleep in and try to physically prepare for Ragnar.  On Thursday afternoon one of my teammates picked me up, and while I was super nervous about what I was getting myself into we had a lot of fun getting to know each other.  We met up with our team captain and drove up to the start line in Copper Mountain to meet the rest of our team.  The drive was gorgeous but as we climbed up to the continental divide my head started hurting again and all I could do was chug water and hope that I’d feel better by 7:00 am!

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For the Ragnar newbies, our first order of business was buying some Ragnar swag!  I bought a grey and orange zip up (which I wore 90% of the time because it was so much colder in the Rockies than I’d anticipated), a finisher’s shirt, and a really cute Ragnar Colorado Bondi Band.  We also picked up our race shirts and the very important slap bracelet that we’d be running with over 194 miles.

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By the time we were finished around 10:00 we were starving, so we ate a very late dinner and then hit up Safeway for some last minute bagels and chocolate milk.  We didn’t really get to bed until midnight, and had to be up by 4:30!  So we were starting off our sleepless weekend with a pretty crappy sleep situation.  The next morning we rushed to get ready and could not find coffee anywhere – it was too early and nothing was open!  We finally found some at the race start, and everyone else drank a cup while decorating our van and trying to pack everything into the trunk (I was too worried about stomach issues drinking it too close to my run, so I passed on coffee).

IMG_6080The starting line!

I chose to be runner #2, and was so nervous for my first leg which was scheduled to start at about 8:30.  But I did have lots of fun cheering for my team captain, who headed off in the 7:00 am start wave!  And once she was gone, it was my turn to get ready and hang out in exchange #1.  I was crazy nervous and so excited to finally be starting my very first Ragnar leg – a 6 mile run towards the town of Frisco!

IMG_6081The view at my first exchange

When runner #1 passed the bracelet to me, all my nerves went away and I was so excited to finally be racing!  But I quickly realized that running at 9400 ft above sea level was going to be really, really hard.  I was gasping for breath by the end of mile one, and started to need walk breaks in mile two.  Like, a LOT of walk breaks.  More than I’ve ever taken in a 6 mile run before!  It was pretty cloudy and cool, and the views were awesome, but despite the perfect running conditions I could not stand to run more than 2 minutes at a time without walking to catch my breath.

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By the halfway point my head was starting to hurt and I was humiliated by how many people were passing me.  But my van drove by and cheered me on, which helped me keep going even though it was so hard.  I felt like my legs were moving through water!  I didn’t get one of the famous “One mile to go” signs on my first leg, but I eventually could see the exchange point and told myself to push hard to the finish line.

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I was so happy to be done!  As soon as I stopped I realized how hard I was gasping for air and had a mini panic attack as I tried to calm myself down.  After a few minutes I realized I wasn’t actually going to die…and in fact, I had survived my hardest and highest leg of the relay!  I was so proud of myself and was so excited to see what I’d be able to do at a slightly lower elevation on my next two legs!

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Check back later this week for the rest of my recap!

Have you ever run at high elevation?  What was the hardest race you’ve ever done?

How to Run A Ragnar Relay

Hi everyone!  You may have remembered that I’m running Ragnar Relay Colorado this weekend (forgot?  Read this!) and while I’m really excited to do my first Ragnar, I’m also really worried that I’m in way over my head on this one.  The fact that I had to pack for a week-long business casual work environment AND for a 3-leg relay in the same suitcase made packing a bit difficult.  I also have no idea where/how I’ll sleep, what I’ll be able to eat to refuel while also fueling, and how that darn altitude is going to affect me.  So in order to cope with all of the unknowns, I did the same thing I did before the Disney Princess Half Marathon:  I read blogs and researched what to do from experienced runners who know how to run a Ragnar!  Here’s a list of posts that I found after some quick Google searches and were super helpful in getting me to the start line of this race:

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How to pack:  I found this post which breaks supplies into categories and this post which has a solid list of items to check off.  Both are from Ragnar’s blog which detail everything you might possibly need to bring in your van.  I love that they have links to where you can buy some of the supplies because it’s not like everyone has a portable foam roller and a reflective vest just laying around!

How to eat:  This is so hit or miss depending on what your body needs and can handle, but this post is a great first step in deciding what to pack in your cooler.

Some Dos and Don’ts:  This post has some awesome tips on what to do/what not to do while running a Ragnar relay.  I love it!

So you want to run a Ragnar…:  This post made me laugh because I feel like I’m going to have one just like it after the race.  I’m just hoping my teammates are less of a hot mess than I am and we can all finish this thing together with smiles on our faces!

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And now for some Ragnar Colorado specific ones:

The top 10 reasons that Ragnar Colorado is secretly awesome:  This post seriously is what made me want to sign up.  It makes it sound like a blast!

40 pictures from Ragnar Colorado:  Oh yeah, these pictures made me want to sign up ASAP too.  I’m so looking forward to seeing these amazing views in a few days!

5 things a newbie should know about running Ragnar Colorado:  I’ve learned a few of these already but this post was super helpful in breaking down the biggest things to be aware of!

10 things to do in Colorado after the race:  I have no idea what to do in Denver/around the race so this post was helpful!  Note that it’s mostly beer related which is fine by me  :)

I can’t believe this is actually happening in a few days!  Here’s your last chance to give me any last minute advice you have.  What is your biggest Ragnar advice?  What is your favorite Ragnar memory?

Greetings from the Mile High City!

Hi everyone! I’m currently in Denver typing this up from my fabulous hotel room! This is my first trip to Denver, and I’m quickly learning a few things about it: 

  • It’s HOT. Like 90 degrees every day hot. There’s no humidity so it’s not like East Coast 90 degrees, but it’s a lot more than my body is used to. 
  • It’s high. Literally a mile above sea level! The altitude has been slowly hitting me over the past few days – I’ve been tired, dizzy, and nauseous on and off during the day and I get winded really easily. The race this weekend is going to be interesting. 
  • It’s big! For some reason I thought it was a smaller city, but there’s tons of traffic and it takes a while to get to places. 
  • It’s not near the mountains. Sorry Denver, but after Anchorage I’m not exactly impressed by the closeness of the mountains here. They do look beautiful and huge off in the distance though, and I can’t wait to actually go into them! 

 A view of the mountains from my room downtown

Overall I’ve been so busy at the conference that I haven’t had too much time to enjoy the city. But I have made some time after work for Lower 48 eating – I’ve had Chipotle twice already and I ate at the Cheesecake Factory last night. I’ve also done some shopping at TJ Maxx downtown and had the chance to shop at the outlets with one of my old sorority sisters who now lives here!  The Mountain Hardware outlet got me all hooked up for the winter :)

The hardest thing has been working out on this trip. I’m an afternoon runner, but after work each day I’m busy eating dinner with all the new people I’m meeting all over the country and shopping at places we don’t have in Alaska and can’t seem to fit one in before it gets dark here. Plus, running in 90 degree heat does not feel good! So I’ve been trying to fit them in before work instead when it’s nice and cool. On Friday I ran a couple miles before our first day of training on the Cherry Creek Trail.       
 It was super hot (even at 6:30 am!) but I loved getting to run along a creek past all the buildings downtown! I plan on doing 2 more short early morning runs while I’m here so that I’m all ready to run in higher elevations this weekend. I love running in new places so I’m having so much fun planning out new routes near my hotel to check out!

When you are on vacation, how do you make time to workout? How do you find local running routes in a new city?

Just In Case You Forgot…

Hi everyone!  Since things have been super busy with the Her Tern Half for the past 13 weeks I realize that there are some things that may have been overlooked in my life.  Like this:

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Just in case you forgot/somehow missed it, I’m running my very first Ragnar Relay NEXT WEEKEND in Colorado!  In fact, I’m leaving for Denver tomorrow morning!  I’ll be busy from Friday through Wednesday at a work conference, and then I’ll meet up with my teammates on Thursday before running 200ish miles on Friday and Saturday with 12 total strangers through crazy high elevation and awesome mountain views.  And then I get back to Anchorage at midnight on Sunday.  Here’s the FAQs on the situation:

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Have I trained for this at all?  Um, not really.  No two-a-days or running at crazy hours of the night.  All I’m doing to prepare for this is banking on the fact that I ran 13.1 miles two weeks ago and hiked 16 miles last weekend.  I feel like I can handle any of my assigned legs after powering through those distances!

What exactly am I running?  I’m runner #2, which is honestly exciting because I go right after our captain and I don’t have to wait too long to get started.  The nervous pre-race feeling is the worst part!  And I’m not even running crazy distances or at any super weird times of the day so I got really lucky.  Here are my legs and projected start times, which are based on me running an adjusted 12:00/mile pace due to the heat and high elevation:

Leg 1:  6 hard miles at 8:27 am Friday
Leg 2:  3.8 easy miles at 8:43 pm  Friday
Leg 3:  5.1 moderate miles at 6:11 am Saturday (ugh that’s early)
Total:  14.9 miles in 23 hours!

Do I know anyone else on the team?  Nope!  When I found out I’d be in Denver a few days before this race I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to run it.  So I found a group of girls on the Ragnar Facebook page who were looking for another runner, and I signed right up!  The only tough part is that they all live in Colorado and a few have met before, so I’m nervous that I’ll be the odd girl out since I don’t live there.  Plus I may be the only one who dies from altitude sickness which would be pretty lame.

What am I most nervous about?  Honestly, the elevation is terrifying.  I ran the Zion Half at around 4000ish miles above sea level and definitely felt the effects of it towards the end, but leg #1 of this race has me ending at around 9400 feet!  That’s the highest leg out of my three and also my longest, so I’m worried that I’ll get hit hard in the beginning and be a hot mess for the rest of the weekend.  I really appreciated the advice I found on this website, which really breaks down what I need to do as a sea-level runner/hiker to adjust and to stay safe.  It’s good that I’ll be in Denver for a week to give my body time to adjust, although Denver is still significantly lower than Copper Mountain.

What am I most excited about?  Crossing a new state off of my 50 states list, running in a gorgeous place, testing my limits with running, and meeting lots of new runners!  Also, I’ll be eating a lot of Chipotle next week.  Which has nothing to do with running, but I’m just really excited about it!

How am I preparing over the next week and a half?  I’m planning on doing a few 3-4 milers while in Denver with a longer run on the weekend – maybe 7 miles?  I’ve also been stalking free/cheap yoga classes near my hotel downtown so that I can keep stretching throughout my time there, and plan on getting some kind of portable foam roller I can stick in my suitcase to keep my legs feeling fresh.  Oh, and these should help too:

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I’m so excited about my new shoes!  I realized last week after running an easy run that my feet, shins, and ankles were kind of feeling off.  It was that “Time for new shoes” feeling and the fact that I’d already run 300 miles in them this year made me realize that I needed new shoes before Colorado!  So I upgraded to the ASICS Gel-Kayano 21s.  When the saleswoman opened up the box I literally gasped – mint green is my favorite color!  They are so much prettier than my pink/orange/purple Kayano 20s and honestly I’m excited that for once in my life I found cute running shoes that actually work with my overpronating feet.  They fit perfectly and my test run in them last night was awesome!  No more pain at all, and I ran so fast that I caused a 6.2 earthquake!  (Just kidding.  Tectonic plates caused the earthquake, not me.  It was the biggest one I’ve ever felt and I had to take cover since things were falling off walls and shelves!  Oh, Alaska.)

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Overall, I’m honestly pretty excited about my first Ragnar!  My priorities are to have fun, take it slow, and not die out there, and my teammates are feeling the same way.  Next week I’ll take a closer look at what I’m packing and what advice I’ve been using to plan for the race, so stay tuned for that!

Have you ever run a Ragnar relay?  do you have any advice for a first timer/someone who lives at sea level and has to run at high elevation?