When we sign up for races, no matter the distance, we think about the good things – the finish line pictures, the free beer/food/swag, the fun we have eating all the food while training, the time we spend with friends on the trails, the badassary confidence boost after nailing it on track day, the exhausted elation that comes after your final run of peak week training…the good stuff, the warm fuzzies, the happy smiles.

What we choose to ignore are the sucky parts. The alarm repeatedly going off before the sun reaches the horizon, the frigid/scorching training runs that flat-out suck, the heavy legs after a long run, the ravishing hunger that refuses to be satisfied, the achy muscles that remind us how out of shape we are, the runs that drag on forever and ever and ever, the stomach issues that pop up at the most inopportune time…all the crappy things that would immediately talk us out of ever racing again if they stuck around long enough to be considered.

Running isn’t always easy. Hell, it’s rarely easy peasy, it’s always demanding our effort and self-discipline.

That said, if it was easy we’d probably get bored with it and move onto something else, like becoming a Juilliard-level ballerina or professional gymnast [two sports I find fascinating and terrifying]. So I guess I’ll suck it up and stick to running, even when it does kind of make me want to chop off my feet and donate them to starving alley cats.

IMG_20150117_100737258_HDR
Me, Cheryl, Logan + Katie…before the sufferfest started!

This past weekend slapped me in the face with just how miserable running can be…but it also reminded me of all the reasons we push through the miles that make us want to quit at life. It really is the hard runs that give your miles purpose! On Saturday morning I met a few IRL + internet friends at the NCAR trailhead in Boulder with plans to run/hike/scramble up Bear Peak and Green Mountain. We had our traction attached to our shoes, the route was loosely planned out and our summit donuts were safely stashed in our packs…off we went.

IMG_9702
The tippy top of Bear Peak – roughly 3.2 miles + 2,500 feet above the NCAR parking lot!

It started out as a fun, chatty run as we all got to know each other the you do while scampering along trails covered in snow, ice and mud. We hit the summit of Bear Peak in good spirits, even as we ducked behind rocks to avoid the gusting wind. We snapped a few #summitselfies and decided to save our donuts for the Green Mountain summit. We bailed off Bear Peak and headed down the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail…and this is where the run got interesting.

IMG_20150117_100654609
Group #summitselfie – we’re kind of awesome, can’t you tell?!

In my defense I had never been on this trail and it really did make the most sense logistically, even looking back it was the right decision. However, no one was prepared for the brutality of the wind…and when you mix that wind with steep, rocky switchbacks and icy snow the descent got tricky. Everyone went into survival mode and did our part to bail off the mountain as quickly as possible.

IMG_20150117_101017792Scrambling off Bear Peak, before we dropped down to the left into an insane wind storm!

The 40+ mph winds shoved us against the mountains as it froze our fingers and noses in seconds. Our traction was great on the snow and ice but clanged against the rocks. We noise of the wind whipping between the trees and against our gear made it impossible to hear each other…not to say we couldn’t communicate. It only took one glance up a switch back to see Cheryl’s bright red glove flipping me off. When I asked her about it over pizza post-run she claimed she “had both middle fingers up the whole way down, just so you’d see how much I hated you when you looked back”. Yup, I excel at making friends on the trails…

IMG_9692IMG_9705IMG_9709
Spoiler: Cheryl did catch me…but she did not stab me, although I’m sure she considered it!

While it was cold and miserable I could do little more than laugh as I tip toed and stumbled my way off the mountain. I was literally swearing and laughing at the same time most of the way down the mountain. Even on the runnable stretches I was tripping myself as the wind slammed into me mid-step. It was insane…but we survived and felt like badasses when we made it to the windless safety of the trees!

We never made it up Green Mountain, instead we opted to head down Bear Canyon and add a few miles on along the Shanahan Trail, telling ourselves it would be more runnable. It was…but we still hiked the ups and when our extra 3 miles turned into an extra 6 miles I crashed through mood swings that ranged anywhere from “oooh, the weather is so great, I love running” to “all I want is french fries, I hate the world”. This is what we call character building, right?!

IMG_20150117_120410642
Wisconsin…this is for you, welcome to Colorado’s version of January!

Looking back, this is a prime example of how long runs can be terrible and awesome all at the same time. While I actually enjoyed the insanity of the descent off Bear Peak, Cheryl hated it…and when I wanted to lay down and whine on the Shanahan Trails everyone else seemed to be loving life and the weather.It was during these final miles that I was reminded it’s not all about muscling through – you need calories and stable blood sugar levels to actually enjoy yourself. I spent the last hour or so telling myself to stop whimpering and eat…it worked!

IMG_20150117_132501022
I rarely wear GPS watches…but when I do they better tell me nice things, like how I’m a rockstar… [gotta love the Bia Sport watch!]

Taking the time to dig some food out of my pack was worth it – being a few minutes behind the rest of the group meant I got to eat, which lead to a much better mood + pace in less than 10 minutes. Food [or maybe just sugar + caffeine?] is magical like that. This is the stuff I need to remember when I suffering alone through the first 100 miles of the Arizona 200M!

As much as I’d love to offer up Boulder trail secrets I don’t have any, I use this website to plan – Boulder Open Space Interactive Map

And because I’m a glutton for punishment I headed out to play on the pavement Sunday morning. Had the weather been the least bit fickle I may have bailed but when it’s January and you have the opportunity to run in 50-60 degree temperatures you get your butt outside! Which is exactly what I did…after two hours [yes, 2!] of dilly-dallying around the house.

Was it worth it?! Heck yes! It felt good to just run on clear, nearly flat pavement after a day of hiking + dodging ice on single track. My legs were tired and heavy but in a good way, not a broken way. Yea, yea, yea…I passed my Bia watch more often than necessary to throw mental temper tantrums…er, stretch. But I’m glad I got my butt outside to play and sweat in the January sunshine – it was my second day of running in shorts + tank top, I really do love Colorado! If all goes well today I’ll have another sweaty shorts day to brag about!

Running shouldn’t be easy…and I hope I never take it for granted.
I like the challenge, the suffering and the sense of accomplishment that comes with survival!


12 Comments

Brenda @ Don't Lose the Trail · January 19, 2015 at 8:20 am

Challenging runs like this are always the best once they are done – I remember times when I was summiting the 3rd peak of the day and in 40 degrees, driving wind, and 100% humidity near tears and hoping just to get blown off the mountain….only to feel AMAZING by the time I made it back down to the cars. These are the runs that make it possible for us to get to those start (and more importantly, finish!) lines. They are the MENTAL conditioning that go along with the physical. Seems like a great day over all! Beautiful pictures!

    Heidi Nicole · January 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Yes! It’s about those moments where you’re 100% in survival mode and your only goal is to get out of that head space/off that miserable mountain — you look back at them and think “heck yea, I’m awesome, I survived!”.

Robin · January 19, 2015 at 11:57 am

What a great blog post! Loved the photos, what a spectacular place to run, even with the challenges.

    Heidi Nicole · January 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Thank you — it really is beautiful out here!

Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead · January 19, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Um, thanks for the invite to the run. Just kidding. 🙂 <– I spelled that out because I don't know if it's still cool to say j/k. Anyway, I'm glad you survived and didn't hate the whole run! 🙂

    Heidi Nicole · January 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Ha. And now you know why you weren’t invited…you just don’t know what’s cool!
    Kidding!
    I do need to loop you in on weekend run emails, sorry, I suck! I’m laying low this coming weekend but will be planning stuff for the last weekend in January — I’ll fill your inbox with gibberish! 🙂

Jamie King · January 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Great photos, looks like such a beautiful run and such a great group!

    Heidi Nicole · January 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you! We had a lot of fun — a great group to suffer [and smile] with!

Heather (Where's the Beach) · January 20, 2015 at 2:29 pm

The funny thing is about running is that even at it’s most difficult, we’re crazy enough to keep going back for more 😉

    Heidi Nicole · January 20, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Yup — it’s those hard days that give you a reason to keep getting out there!

Kristen · January 20, 2015 at 10:37 pm

You seriously have the best run recaps! Every time I read your posts I start getting antsy for summer so I can try trail running! Also, I had no idea Colorado could be so warm in the winter. My husband and I moved to Alaska last year and if we ever get sick of it Colorado will probably be our next choice 🙂

    Heidi Nicole · January 21, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you! 🙂 It’s beautiful here in CO! Granted…it’s currently snowing in Denver so we’re paying for our 55+ degree weekend, but it’s always worth it. The Front Range is surprisingly nice in the winter!

Share Your Thoughts

Related Posts

friends + feelings

Accepting Reality // I Can Fix This…Probably. Not.

As I pull my phone from my ear + thumb over the red “hang up” button my mind is overwhelmed. For myself + more so for my friend. Ideas pumped through my mind, already full Read more…

runventure

Leaf Peeping // Fall Colors

Tis the season…of fall colors. While I’ll always talk about missing the reds + oranges of the Midwest there is no denying the beauty of the Colorado yellows. It may not be the end of Read more…

friends + feelings

Meandering Dirt Ribbons

Sometimes I have a million + a half words to throw down on a page. Words about the trail or words about my feelings or words of advice or…just words. Other times, I have no Read more…