Sweet 16 and None for Gretchen Wieners

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The last month or so has been strange from a training perspective – I managed to get sick twice, injure my knee, and get myself entirely off routine by way of vacations, happy hours, and more.  I had an MRI on my knee and multiple doctor appointments (and thankfully, just got the news that I’m in the clear and only need an injection for some ITBS).  I did my first solo long run since our March 1 half over St. Patty’s weekend and struggled to get through the run – to the point that I started crying at mile 9 and relied heavily on Carly Rae Jepsen to get me to 10 (don’t judge – that Tom Hanks video is amazing!).  With all of this, it’s safe to say that as we approached the 8 week mark out from the Colfax Marathon, I was starting to have some doubts about my ability to actually finish this race.

This last Saturday, Kelly and I embarked on our first big training run in a while – the first of many over the next few weeks before we begin our taper.  This week’s goal was 16 miles.  For some reason, more than most weeks, I think we were both feeling like we just needed this run.  Not in a “Oh crap, I need to train for this race” kind of way, but in a “I miss how good it feels to see my Garmin say ‘New record!'” kind of way.  We both felt like we needed an exercise in pushing ourselves, and this would certainly do the trick.

Kelly was awesome and mapped out our 16 miles ahead of time on Friday.  Her route had us touring Denver through most of our usual Saturday running haunts – Observatory Park, Wash Park, the mean hill on Downing, Cheeseman Park, City Park past the museum, and up through Mayfair, then back.  We tried to avoid massive hills in this one due to doctor’s orders, and our goal was to keep ourselves slow so we could actually get through the run.

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I’m not going to lie – after a month of setbacks and frustration and feeling out of shape, this run was exactly what I needed it to be.  From the start of the run, I felt great.  We kept ourselves consistently around 11-12 minute miles, something that proves tough for both of us, and we enjoyed staying in the moment while we got through mile by mile.

We hit 8 miles at Colorado & 17th, and as we stood at the intersection waiting for our green light, I was convinced that the first half had gone so well that there was no way the second half would feel as good.  As we ran up 17th Ave., I was expecting for the lactic acid to start accumulating in my legs, for my legs to start feeling like bricks, for my knee to start throbbing… and that never came.  It helped that this part of our run was filled with banter about how all the streets were popsicle flavors (Cherry, Lemon, Grape) and how Glencoe St. just makes me think somebody’s telling me, “You go, Glen Coco!” It’s nonsense like this that gets us through our long runs with smiles on our faces, afterall.

As we turned around and passed Glencoe the second time, I was feeling so good that internally, I literally thought to myself, “You go, Glen Coco!

I became acutely aware about 12 miles in that my Camelbak was rubbing against the one spot on my shoulders I must’ve missed with BodyGlide and that a blister was developing on my left foot.  Even with that, I was feeling like I could run forever.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had stamina like this on a long run before – even running 8-12 miles, I’ve hit a wall sooner than I did here.  Granted, our pace was substantially slower than we normally run, but it felt great being on my feet this long.

As we came up Marion towards Wash Park, there was a tall man in a bright orange rugby tech shirt running by us.  We all came to a stop at a red light and started to stretch, all 3 of us echoing each other’s “Oh man, that’s sore!” sentiments as we bent and swayed.  Because Denver’s running community couldn’t be any more awesome, this guy – Greg – actually ended up running with us for a little over 1.5 miles and chatting with us.  Maybe I was just judging the book by its cover, but I was definitely not expecting it when he told us he’d done 15 IronMans and “Oh, probably 10 marathons” on top of that.  It goes to show that runners really do come in all forms!  Running with our new friend Greg was easily the highlight of our run for me.  It made the move from 13.5 to 15 miles feel faster, and Greg was (in an entirely humble and helping way) happy to offer advice on how to prep for the race to ensure we’re feeling ready in a few weeks.  He asked us if we had practiced starting and stopping, told us about his favorite races he’s done, and gave us tips on how to prep for the hills near Sports Authority Field.  The running community has always been a welcoming one in my experience, but this just added a nice treat to the end of our hard-fought achievement for the day.

Kelly and I split off from Greg and left Wash Park – of course, as usual, to realize we’d be ending on a hill because apparently, that’s just how we like to roll these days.  As we hit 15.5 and then 16, there were lots of high fives and smiles and affirmations of our awesomeness to go around – but this was a big day for both of us to help boost our confidence going into the peak training weeks ahead.  Being able to finish 16 still smiling – even without the help of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” – was a big step for both of us!

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We walked to cool down, stretched in the US Bank parking lot, and went into Atticus to meet up with our Run Club counterparts for bottomless (wait, “topless”?) mimosas feeling like we’d earned our brunch and our fun.  On the first weekend of Spring, we conquered 16 miles – and I have an epic blister and a cut on my shoulder to prove it.  As Spring progresses, we’re only moving forward from here, but this time with more confidence and enthusiasm than I think we would’ve had if not for this sweet 16er.

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To that I say, “You go, Glen Coco!

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