Weeks 17 and 18 of Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain

It has been a busy, busy few weeks. That’s why you haven’t heard from me here on my blog. Thanks to all of you who’ve checked in on me, worried that something was wrong. I assure you, all is well. Something just had to give in the midst of training, coaching my kids’ running teams, and juggling a jam-packed family schedule. Sadly, writing has become a bit of a luxury these days (at least for the moment).

As I think back over the past few weeks, the word that comes to mind most is “inspiration.” I’ve been inspired by so many awesome people and moments of kindness and creativity, it makes my heart swell.

One highlight was having the privilege of volunteering at the Special Olympics School Games with my husband Jeffrey. The spirit that surrounds these games is phenomenal, and the joy that each of these athletes exudes is contagious, especially during the opening ceremonies. Pure awesomeness in motion, bringing out the best in everybody.

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The best part was sharing this fantastic morning with my husband.

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I’ve mentioned Kate Elliot (aka–Killer Kate) several times here before on my blog. This chiquita brings such joy to fitness, she makes working out at 7 am palatable, even before I’ve had my morning coffee. Last week she kicked my butt in her class at The Lab, then joined me for a run along Chase Palm Park. So much fun!

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Kate’s chirpy attitude inspires me so much that I asked her to come talk to my Roosevelt Running Club. I often ask mentors in our running community to share their passion for running with our kids to help get them fired up about a lifetime of health and fitness. Needless to say, the team loved her as much as I do. Here they’re gathering around her and sporting some of her race medals.

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Another person who inspires me is my running hero, Patty Bryant. She’s an extraordinary ultra-marathoner and Iron(wo)man who takes on some of the world’s most challenging races (Hard Rock 100, Western States, Leadville 100, Mont Blanc, to name a few), and more importantly, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Some of you may remember that I wrote about her last summer when I had the joy of running small portions of  the Aspen Backcountry Marathon with her (click HERE if you missed it). This week I asked Patty if she’d come speak to our Roosevelt Running Club, and she gladly agreed, even in the midst of her busy training schedule. The kids were mesmerized by her adventures and full of all sorts of questions, which was fun to see.

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I know both she and Kate planted tiny seeds in many of these young runners to dream big and chase after life. Best wishes to Patty as she takes on The Canyons 100k race this weekend in the Sierras, along with several other Santa Barbara friends (Monica & Joe DeVreese and Dave & DeAnna O’Dell), and good luck to Kate who is taking on the Born to Run 30 Mile Endurance Run next weekend! Woohoo! Go girl!

Favorite New Gear: New bike shoes! The week before last, just as I was about to head out on a ride, the buckle broke off on one of my “well-loved” bike shoes. Argh. I could no longer clasp it shut, meaning my heel would come out each time I pedaled. My first instinct was to duct tape it (duct tape is God, as we often espoused in college), but none could be found in the short window I had to ride, sooooo….my Plan A schedule quickly went to Plan B…a little shuffling around of my workouts and an added spin class the next day. Fortunately, I was able to get new shoes for my ride a couple days later.

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Riding in my sparkly new cycling shoes (it’s the little things), this girl was flying high–especially on such a gorgeous day! Can you say blue sky?

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Here’s what my training schedule looked like the week of April 18-24:

Monday: Swim 2900 y, Bike 1 hour
Tuesday: Bike 90 minutes (bike shoe broke), worked on strength instead
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Swim 1800y, Killer Kate’s strength & stretch class, Spin Class
Friday: Swim 1000y, Bike 2.5 hours
Saturday: Run 45 minutes
Sunday: Rest

Seeing purple…I don’t know about you, but Prince’s death hit me hard. I’m not even sure why. It’s not like I was an insane “Super Fan,” or anything, but I did like his music, and whenever I heard it, it tickled great memories–mostly from my freshman year in college. Purple Rain, 1999, Raspberry Sorbet…all songs that remind me of college friends and raucous Friday afternoon shenanigans.

As the tributes started pouring in for Prince last week, his level of creative brilliance revealed itself in ways I’d never fully appreciated–especially his collaborations with other artists. If you haven’t seen his performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame paying tribute to George Harrison (While My Guitar Gently Weeps), you might want to take a peek. Holy epic-ness!

Powering through my training days following Prince’s death, his music popped up on my playlist many times, and each time it made me both happy and melancholy…and a tad bit nutty. Okay, okay, I gotta admit it, I was the lunatic Continue reading

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Runcation: Day 10 Aspen Backcountry Marathon

Today was an exceptional day to be a runner (when isn’t it?)! I’m still buzzing from the excitement of being in the mix of the Aspen Backcountry Marathon. Although I didn’t officially run the race, I did run about 8 miles along the course, taking pictures, cheering on the racers and acting as an impromptu support crew at times.

The Aspen Backcountry Marathon is coined as “one of the most challenging and scenic marathons you’ll ever run,” with lots of ups and downs, spectacular views, and high altitude to kick your butt.

The Aspen Backcountry Marathon Elevation Chart

The first part of the course goes straight up Smuggler Mountain, the old silver mining road I ran a couple days ago and shared with you (click HERE if you missed it).

I was excited that this race happened to coincide with my visit to Aspen, and even more excited that my Santa Barbara friend, Patty Bryant, was running it. Yet another “small world” moment to enjoy.

After running/hiking up Aspen Mountain yesterday (you can read it about HERE if you missed it) and also running two days in a row prior to that, my legs were a little tired when I rolled out of bed. It made me fully appreciate what all these runners were about to tackle today.

The morning was spectacular here once again, and since logistics were tricky with my family and one car, I decided to run from our hotel at Buttermilk Mountain to meet Patty at mile 18, at the bottom of Cemetery Lane, just as she would be coming down from Sunnyside Trail, a fairly tricky trail with a lot of exposure.

On the way, I passed several of the frontrunners and took pictures and cheered them on. I’m sure they were wondering who this one-woman cheering brigade was (read: lunatic). I can’t help myself though; there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing runners in their element, pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones, digging deep and still managing a smile as they pass by.

Photo of runners at the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

It was already hot by the time I started down Cemetery Lane. The runners had been going for 3 1/2 hours and were making their way from the aid station at the bottom on the Rio Grande Trail, up the concrete bike path toward the golf course.

Photo of a runner during the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

On the way down, I passed several runners and cheered for them wildly. When two women approached me, one said, “Come on, run up the hill with us.” When I replied that I was heading down to meet my friend, this charismatic Spaniard, whose name I later found out was Laura Buitron, was one determined chiquita. “Come on, we need you to get us up this hill,” she said. “We’re going to use the energy in your legs to carry us up.” What could I do but laugh and say, “Of course. Let’s go!”

Photo of Laura Buitron running the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

Laura Buitron convincing me to run up Cemetery Lane with them.

What a privilege it was to be able to do this, and to be part of this larger running community. I didn’t know Laura when she asked me to run with her, but I felt a kinship to her and appreciated her effort and enthusiasm. Once I got her and the other young women to the top of the hill, I turned back around to try to find Patty. I knew her approximate mile time and only had to wait about ten minutes before I spotted her running down Sunnyside Trail.

Seeing the surprise and delight on Patty’s face made my entire morning. She didn’t know I was going to be at this spot, but I chose it because I knew Cemetery Lane would not be the most inspiring part of the course.

Photo of Patty Bryant running the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

You would never have known that Patty had just run 18 miles on some really tough trails on a hot morning. She was all smiles and her chirpy personality and chirpy yellow shirt lit up the aid station as she refueled before we ran up the hill together. She even asked if somebody could take our picture. Really? In the middle of a race?

Photo of Patty Bryant and Becky Aaronson at an Aid Station during the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

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In no time we reached the top of the hill as she chatted and laughed the whole way. I thought I was supposed to be the one entertaining and distracting her during this part of the course, but she was the one doing all the work. Her joy of running is irrepressible.

As she turned right to head around the golf course, then up Buttermilk Mountain, I went straight and told her I’d meet her near the Chapel around mile 24 so I could run the final couple miles with her. I ran through the Marolt Open Space, past the Chapel then on toward Tiehack. All along the way, I photographed and cheered for runners making their way toward the end of this grueling race. The sun was beating down and the altitude was pressing hard on their lungs and legs. Continue reading