Monday, January 21, 2013

Big Bend Ultra!

All bundled up at the starting line!
Insulated tights, Stonewear Rockin Jacket,
hat, headband...but it warmed up quickly
in the desert climate of Big Bend
National Park!
If' you're relatively new to a fitness practice, and you're looking for a challenge for next year, may we suggest the Big Bend Ultra Run in Big Bend National Park?

And ULTRA, you say?  Not a crazy-long trail run???  The nice folks organizing this race (Friends of Big Bend National Park) know a long trail run might not be for everyone, so they offer a manageable 10K as well as a 25K and 50K lengths.

Truth be told: I've run the 10K twice now and so far, it is my favorite race.  The scenery of Big Bend National Park is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the race is extremely well run.  The race organizers take VERY good care of you!

By mid-race it warmed up significantly!
We had a ball at the water station on the
Rio Grande!  The other side of the river
is Mexico!
This year, following my New Year's Resolutions, I invited a friend of mine to run with me.  The last time I ran this race, it was for speed.  I ended up placing first among the female Masters....I had something to prove.  This year, I wanted to run with my friend, Mary, and help her through her first 10K.  She didn't need my help.  She got through it just fine, and we had a ball visiting throughout the run, noting the beauty of our surroundings and the quiet of the park.  We even stopped at the water station mid-way through the race to have our pictures taken at the Rio Grande, and visit with the volunteers and other runners.  We had a pokey approach to the entire race...our goal was to have fun.  And fun we had!  The opposite bank in the photo?  Yes, that's Mexico!

There's nothing like setting a goal and working hard to WIN something, but there's also joy in sharing it all with a friend.  This year, it wasn't about placing or time, or goal-setting.  It was all about helping a friend discover fun, accomplishment and the appreciating the beauty of the wilderness.

BIG thanks to our friends at Stonewear Designs!  I wore their stylish Rockin Jacket at the beginning of the race.  It was perfectly cozy at the very cold start, and as it warmed up (more than 20 degrees in an hour!) it was easy to tie the arms around my waist and complete the race, hassle free! I love the paisley cuffs!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Getting Better

Getting Better
by Monte Riggs

As these mornings get gradually colder I strangely no longer look for excuses to stay home. In fact it has become a kind of test of strength that I've begun to relish in a way I haven’t as a runner in a long time. Why this kind of insanity? For several years I began to think my body was in steady decline and allowed myself to slip into sad acceptance of that apparent deterioration. After 3 decades in which running had become a big part of my life I started to wonder if my running days might be over. I had seen it happen to friends. Perhaps my time had come as well. But now, for the first time in a long time, I am seeing evidence of improvement in both strength and endurance. I realized it is my mental outlook that changed the most.

I moved to Presidio County in June, coming from an altitude of less than 100 ft. to almost 5000 ft. When I first started running here I quickly started to dread the morning run. The modest hills on Mimm’s Ranch road combined with the altitude left me wheezing and walking before I reached the top. The rough washboard texture of the road made my ankles and knees hurt and finding a comfortable place to step difficult at best. I had grown accustomed to a well worn foot path whose 3 mile loop I had long ago memorized.

This morning is cold by my standards, at least running north where the rough gravel road takes me into the teeth of a north wind for half of my run. The return is warmer with a slight tail wind and brilliant sunshine heating me enough that I often have to shed a layer of running gear. Waves of sparrows or chickadees in silhouette against the bright morning sunlight break away before me, launching themselves from the tall grasses and creosote bush to scatter across the road ahead of me, their flight pattern a rhythm of rising and falling just above the tops of the grasses surfing on the slowly warming air. I find that regardless of the conditions, my focus is more on the beauty of my surroundings rather than any discomfort from running. Occasionally I am so moved I feel compelled to stop and watch a small raptor gliding low across the pasture or the color of the grasses and sky even on a cloudy day. Because I have bad feet, running for me has always been accompanied by some level of discomfort and pain realizing that at age 63 I can get better makes the daily ritual of exercise fun again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Way to Get Inspired: Watch a Marathon

If you're new to running, there's nothing more inspiring than watching other people meet their goals.  (And you think, "Yeah!  That could be me!")  This morning we found some fast runners near the end of their Houston Marathon, working HARD in COLD, RAINY uncomfortable weather at mile 22 and 23.  It didn't look easy.  It didn't look like something a person would do unless they had a darn good reason for being out there. 

It was a good reminder:  Every runner has a story.

That's what I love about watching races.  Motivations differ: to get healthy, to lose weight, to face personal demons, to distract oneself from sorrow, to inspire someone else, to just plain take control of one's life....every runner has their own story.

What we don't see are the days of self-doubt.  We don't see the miles logged in the dark cold days of winter, nor the wet blanket humid days of summer.  We don't see the decisions made--to work or to run?  To spend social time with friends and family or training hours pounding out mile after mile?  Yet there they are, running in pain after 20+ miles, and they just keep going.  It inspires me every time.

It is also fun to cheer the runners.  "Way to go!"  "Good job!"  Your encouragement does make a difference.  Be noisy, be exuberant!

Here's another way to get in the groove:  visit the Expo, especially one before a big city marathon.  There are bargains to be had--discounted shoes and running clothes--yahoo!  Want to know about heart rate monitors?  Talk to the product representatives.  Eager to try new sports drinks and energy chews?  Check out their samples.  Looking for a new challenge?  Visit with volunteers and race directors from other runs and marathons...perhaps you'll be inspired to set a new goal.  Best of all, you'll see runners of all shapes and sizes there, each excited about their upcoming run.

Big city marathon expos may schedule talks or autograph sessions with running legends.  Last year's Houston Marathon Expo had Frank Shorter (r) the 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion and Rod Dixon (l) Australian Olympian and bronze medalist at 1500 meters.  This year, Ryan Hall was at the Expo, and there was a long line waiting for an autograph from the first American to break an hour in the half marathon.

After the race is over, check the final results for your age range.  You might find your training run times are closer to the top of your peers than you realize! What inspiration for next year's goals!