Adventures in Trail Running

Me and Jessica crossing the creek at mile 8.5 of the race. Photo credit: Zach Harvey

I purposely didn’t put any races on my calendar after Ironman Boulder this year because I knew I’d need a mental break from intense training and I didn’t know how my residual limb would react to that amount of exercise (mostly the running) in one day.  I’m glad I was smart about this because for almost 2 months afterwards, my left leg was sort of a wreck and I wasn’t able to do much running because of swelling in my residual limb and pain in my left hip.  For a brief moment in time, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run again, but luckily my body eventually recovered once I allowed it enough time to rest.  I still have some weird swelling in my stump that I didn’t have before Ironman, but it has at least improved enough that I was able to get back to running this fall.

As September rolled around and my mountain bike clinic came to an end, I felt the urge to sign up for a something coming back…  but I wanted to do something different and purely for fun.  I had been eyeing a few trail races, and then the universe gave me a nudge when my friend and fellow Skirt Sports ambassador, Tiffany, offered me a discount code that I could use for The Great Trailhead Foot Race.  I reached out to my friend Jessica, who is arguably the reason I stuck with running when I first started 5 years ago, and she said she had been looking at doing the same event as her very first trail race, so she was in.  I next ran it by Coach Mark to make sure he thought it was a good idea (or at least not a bad idea) and he was all for it.  So, 3 months to the day after Ironman Boulder, I signed up for my first trail race – a 10 mile run through Bear Creek Lake Park, which is west of Denver.

Over the next 6 weeks, Coach Mark slowly built me back up to running between 5-7 miles, with most of my runs ranging between 2-3 miles.  The race would be my longest run since June, but because of my Ironman experience I now have the confidence to trust myself to be able to gut it out for much longer than 10 miles, so I felt ready.

Jessica and I got to the race early so we’d have time to get our bibs and use the port-o-potty before starting, and it was a small race so that was no problem.  Her boyfriend Jef came with us, so he got the obligatory pre-race photo of us and then we were off on our trail racing adventure.

ej chilly start
Me and Jessica at the start of the 10 mile trail race. Photo credit: Janet Miller

We ran through the woods, over rocky trails, avoided tree roots, then went through a hilly field, and then back through the woods.  Some of the narrow parts were difficult because we had to change our stride to fit our footsteps on the path, and I had to be extra careful not to kick myself in the “good” ankle with my prosthesis.  The other sections that were a bit more difficult for me were those that were really rocky because my prosthetic foot bounces off the rocks at an angle and that can sometimes mess with my knee.  Since we were out there purely for fun and to enjoy each other’s company, we took walk breaks when the footing was questionable.

Me & Jessica running through the woods.  Photo credit: Zach Harvey

There were two optional water crossings – one around mile 1.5 and another around mile 8.5 – and although we skipped it on the way out (it was cold!), we decided to run through it on the way back.  Zach as there waiting for us and he got a pretty funny video of Jessica and I traipsing through the water.  It was pretty rocky and slippery, so my plan to run through it turned into wobbly walking to get across without falling in and soaking my whole body.  (Check out my Facebook page for the video)

It took us about 2 hours and 17 minutes, but Jessica and I crossed the finish line together and still had the energy for a jump shot, although we should have switched sides because we both kicked our legs towards each other…  now we know!  It was really fun to try something new with my amazing friend Jessica by my side the whole way, and I encourage all of you to seek out adventures and then talk your friends into joining you!

ej jump
Jessica and I jumping for joy at the finish line and almost kicking each other.  Photo Credit: Janet Miller.

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