chords and cadence

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Archive for the tag “Colorado”

How to Have a Happy Trail Run

Without warning, it hit me: I really, really needed a good nature fix. I was starting to twitch. I needed more than a weekly, leisurely nature walk that didn’t get my heart rate up enough. I need to be out there longer. Sweat. Climb a damn hill with dirt on it. Burn my quads. Do a snot rocket.

The fiance came out with me for a 4.5-mile hike on the Mossy Ridge Trail at Percy Warner park on Sunday after church. Not more than 50 yards on the trail, it gnawed at me: Where have you been? Why not here? for I am nothing if not a girl in her happiest place on Earth on the trails surrounded by tall trees.

Hill Bench in its glory

I like how they put this bench at the top of one hill and the bottom of another. #foresight

As previously posted, running and I recently re-kindled our relationship and that has included small appetizers of trail running on the safe 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail. I was secretly ashamed of myself that a short run like that would wipe me out like it did, but only because I know how much I used to tear it up. I wanted to run more and get back to what I used to do, but fear and self-doubt was successful at talking me down. You can’t do what you used to do three times a week anymore like it’s nothing! You’re almost 27. That’s considered your late 20s… Remember the creaking you hear in your knees? Better do some downward dogs instead.

I decided I’d had enough of the negative self-talk; it was time to stick it to the man/myself. I decided to pick up where I left off with trail running and allowing myself grace, I went for a long trail run and bucked any comparisons to my previous altitude-trained, 23-year-old self. And while I had an undeniably awesome, transcendent time (per usual) I did forget some crazy essential tips that could’ve made the beforeduring, and after a little more enjoyable.

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

  1. Load your car with a fresh towel or two, and a bandanna to bring with you as a sweat rag. Sweat pouring into your eyes and stinging them as you try to dominate a hill is just salt on a wound. Preventable!
  2. Drink up well before the run! Seriously, hydration is and will be your best friend. I’m no scientific expert, but drink enough so that your pee is clear. K? I’d like to make note that this is the first time I’ve talked about pee on a running blog. If you’re a runner, you are so impressed with me right now. Bring along water for after your run, an electrolyte drink (I love Nuun when I have it, or zero-calorie Powerade), and snacks in your car for when runger takes over on the drive home.
  3. Wear an article of clothing with a pocket for your car key. Yesterday, in full rookie mode, I wore no-pocket yoga pants and I improvised. MacGyver skills, while impressive, shouldn’t be necessary when we have been blessed by the existence of pocketed active wear.
  4. Naïveté isn’t cute or safe. Map out where you’re going and check the weather so you know what you’re dealing with. Unless you’re adventurous and have your phone with you, are fully prepared for the elements and have a load of time on your hands, knowing where you’re going and in what conditions are a must.  And since this is trail running, if you can check the elevation gain on the trail, DO. IT. unless you like to learn the hard way that a 4-mile route gains 225 ft. in a quarter mile. Hey, depending on your level of masochism, that may be a picnic! It would be for me on a good day!
  5. Sunscreen and bug spray yourself. I totally remembered this yesterday… totally.
  6. Tell someone who loves you that you’re bad ass and going for a trail run. And/or bring your phone. The good and bad of it is: the world is unpredictable and anything can happen. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” if you really wanna feel like you’re unplugging, but still have a safety net.

    There's no place like a trail that smells like Jasmine

    Right here I had to stop and take a picture because I was breathing really hard but also because it smelled overwhelmingly like jasmine and I felt like I was not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

During

  1. Taylor’s Heaven on Earth = trail running with an eclectic mix that puts her back in Colorado. This includes, but is not limited to: Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, YMSB, String Cheese Incident, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Grateful Dead. If you want my playlist, I’m happy to oblige. NOW: The important part of this that I MUST stress is keep the volume low enough to communicate with others on the trail. Guys, I was coming up behind this girl yesterday with her Beats By Dre turned up and although I was kindly alerting her that I was coming up on her left in plenty of time, she had NO CLUE I was around until I had to slow down and squeeze by her (and give her the stink  eye, because REALLY?). Not only for your own safety (hi, random attacker!) but also for the courtesy of others – keep your volume down so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Be kind and let people know you’re coming up behind them. Call out a little ways out with a friendly “Hey there! On your left!” Don’t whiz past them like they’re in your way – trails are for everyone to enjoy responsibly. Practice the Golden Rule here. Make friends. Be good.
  3. Pick up your feet! Trail running is not without things you will be challenged to negotiate quickly! Get into a zone and pay attention to what’s ahead of you. You will be amazed at how your brain works to anticipate what’s to come and how your body responds. If you find yourself timid to go too fast down a hill littered with roots and rocks, take it slow but prepare yourself for next time by doing some drills: running stairs, high knees, and butt kicks, or lateral exercises like shuffling and grapevine. Strength training helps, too. Now, give me 10 squats!
  4. HILLS – try not to look at what you have ahead of you too much for too long – it will mess with you mentally. Just take one step at a time as you ascend. Yesterday, I was halfway up a hill before I realized I was running up a HUGE one, and guess what? I had enough (mental?) energy to take me to the top! Then, at another hill, I sized it up as I approached it and didn’t make it up without psyching myself out. Trail running is a mental game, like anything else, and there are ways to hack it.
  5. Stop and smell the flowers. Don’t hold yourself to a strict time limit. Allow yourself to stop and soak in the nature and beauty around you. That’s what trail running is about! Recognize you’re blessed enough to be where you are, feel the burn in your lungs and the pulsing of blood in your legs. THIS IS LIFE! THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT! And then keep going.

After

  1. That towel you packed? Sit on it and save your car seats. Wipe the sweat and dirt and mud off ya, if you got so lucky.
  2. Luxuriate with these. Especially if you want anyone to actually come close to you when you get home. Or, any baby wipe will do.
  3. Drink water, eat something. Avoid headaches, literally, and thank your muscles with carbs and protein.
  4. Check for ticks. Lyme disease ain’t no joke.
  5. Foam roll within a couple hours of your run so you’re not out of commission for the next three days with Icy Hot as your main squeeze. Foam rolling can really ruin a DOMS party in your muscles.

I won’t admit to how many of the above I had to re-learn yesterday, which was the real impetus behind this post. But that’s what I get for staying away so long!

Returning to the trails to run them made me feel more than ordinary; I was no longer a boring person with a desk job. I sank into my zone, listened to each and every note in my hippie music and didn’t do a whole lot of thinking otherwise. It was simple: I had a happy trail run, and after reading this if you go out and try it, I really hope you do too.8926bb1859448aa8bd7cdcc00995a5c6

 

Running on bluegrass, survivng a mid-run bee sting, and R&R: Colorado style

Right now I am sitting in my parents’ living room in Evergreen, Colorado with my feet up and football on tv (Broncos on soon!). The sun is shining the prettiest light on the golden aspen leaves outside, and any hints that it snowed two days ago are long gone.

One week ago I was eating huevos rancheros with extra hot sauce in a sleepy, bluegrass-hungover Raleigh, NC, jonesing to come home to Nashville.

Life has been a bit of a blur lately. I’ll catch you up as to why.

World of Bluegrass Week

Remember that metaphorical marathon which was the subject in my last blog?

Well, I didn’t get a picture with Steve Martin. Nor did I technically meet him, but that’s okay. We sat by each other offstage during Punch Brothers’ set and I’ll take that memory to the bank. I also sat backstage while Tony Rice accepted his Hall of Fame induction, and miraculously got his 20-years-gone voice back. I met Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Noam Pikelny, Fiddle Player of the Year Jason Carter, and THE Del McCoury. I heard amazing music, and got paid for it. THAT was my metaphorical medal that I took back to Nashville. It looks good in my apartment, trust me.1276333_10151733233498759_2074428410_o

SO – World of Bluegrass went as well as we hoped, and then some. We blew away everyone’s expectations of the week, even our own. It was a 100% success.

As for the literal marathon training, I got up at 5:45am five out of seven days to run on the hotel’s fitness center’s treadmill, totaling 26 miles the whole week. I was thankful for the clean and open facilities, but would have loved to run outside. It was just too dark to do that. At the end of each day, I was rendered completely spent after running a business conference, award show, seminars, and putting out fires everywhere in between. Even being so social all the time was draining! By the end of the week, I felt increasingly in need of alone time, and for a good long run outdoors.

Back in Nashville

My first full day back in Nashville, I had the opportunity to seize my nature fix. So I did. For the first time in too long, I started off on the Cane Connector trail at Percy Warner. The weather was perfect; a crisp 72 degrees, with no doubt that fall was starting to make itself comfortable. I listened to the Eddie Vedder Pandora Station (highly recommended) and was feeling refreshed, fast, and blissful with every hill. During a Led Zeppelin song (“Back to California” to be exact) I felt an odd, sharp pain on my left index finger. Still running, I looked down and saw a determined little bee, the source of the sting. At first I didn’t know what to do; I was kind of stunned. I was at least three miles from my car and was worried about the effect the bee sting would have on me since I probably wasn’t hydrated well, and was prone to feeling woozy anyway. I put on my Big Girl Pants and kept running, figuring the adrenaline would ease the pain of the sting. It did, mostly, and I survived the run while still meeting my projected pace. Still waiting on my “I’m Brave!” sticker… should be coming in the mail soon, right guys?

I thoroughly enjoyed back-to-back nights of yoga (inversions, ftw!), and a great 6.5 miler with my East Nasties. Being without World of Bluegrass work responsibilities, I felt like a kid on Summer Vacation with extra time and less stress on my hands, filling it with yoga, running, Girls on the Run, and friends. It was spectacular.

Colorado: Surprise!

If you don’t have a best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I’d suggest you finding one. Thanks to my best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I was able to make an impromptu trip back to Colorado just four days after getting back from Raleigh. My parents had plans to go to Vail, invited me to join, and suggested I surprise my sister. Surprising my sister made her cry (in a good way), and I also surprised a good friend from college.

Surprises spice things up for the people you care about in life. Pro tip: Do it as much for you as you do for them. It’s awesome.

Whenever I’ve come home, my version of R&R consists of being even more active and playing outside, and this time was no different.

My mom proved that even though I’m a marathon runner, she can still kick my butt. “Let’s go to Tabata class and stay after for Butts and Guts!” she said. “It’ll be fun!” she said.

My hamstrings, butt, quads, calves, toes and eyelashes can attest that it was very fun. They’re still shaking from having so much fun.

We decided to forego a rest day for a hike in the high country, taking in the awe-inspiring fall colors and taking advantage of the crisp autumnal weather. I’d like to believe I’m much more eloquent through the written word than I am through the spoken one, but even those colors leave me searching for words. It is impossible not to believe, or even entertain the idea, that the leaves changing colors is proof that God exists. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a forest of golden aspen trees with the sun shining through, and snow on the ground, you’re lucky enough.

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Today, I took a shake-out run around our neighborhood in the hopes that the lactic acid would get to moving around in my sore lower-half a little more. It felt good, but I noticed the thinner air.

Looking ahead

I head back to Nashville in a few hours and tomorrow resume a normal work week with a normal routine. But I forget what ‘normal’ is.

With less than three weeks to go until 7 Bridges, I’ll start getting into the tapering phase of training, even though ‘training’ has been a relative term this go-around. But I’m not looking behind me in my lost mileage, lost long runs, lost speed workouts. I’m only looking ahead.

Rewind: May

Lots happened in May, guys! Lots of really great things.

I ran, I went to the beach, I ate well, I drank well, I saw live music, I danced, I saw mountains, I saw my family, I flew, I laughed a lot, and I ran some more.

Total mileage: 75.5

My mileage decreased because I didn’t have any marathons, nor was I training. I was just running for sprints and grins (but still keeping track of mileage because I am just a tad OCD. We’re all a little weird).

Within this Rewind, I have a race recap! (TA-DA!) of the Bolder Boulder. I’m still pinching myself because it was so dang’d awesome.

I flew home to Colorado for a super quick weekend…needed to see my kick-ass family, mountains, and friends. Since I was back, I wanted to soak in all of the outdoor goodness my higher elevation home offers. So, I ran stairs with a friend at Red Rocks, hiked 6 miles, biked ~20 miles from Frisco to Breckenridge and back. Then I turned 24 and ran the Bolder Boulder 10k (America’s All Time Best 10k!) with my awesome mother. I know. I sound like Iron Woman. I wasn’t always like this, but I’m glad I am now.

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The Coughlins take a photo op in Breckenridge

The past couple races I ran were grey, squeaky, and wet. The sun decided to peace out on me for those races. But as we drove into sun-kissed Boulder on May 27th, the sun wasn’t peacing out anytime soon, and the sky was blue, speckled with white clouds. The Birthday Gods and the Race Gods supposedly had a little get-together and agreed that there would be nothing but sunshine for my day. Thank you, Birthday and Race Gods. May I see you working together in the future!

My mom and I took places in our given time waves, and as I slowly moved up to the starting line at 8:15am, my adrenaline started pumping and I had a shameless shit-eating grin on my face. I will never get sick of that at-the-starting-line feeling.

Throughout the 6.2 mile course, I ran with men painted like tigers, Teletubbies, firefighters, fairies, hippies, dads and daughters, moms and their moms, kids, superheroes, and wheelchair racers. I ran past belly dancers, the first house I lived in as a sophomore at CU, a slip-n-slide, and friendly college kids on summer break offering tempting cold cans of PBR. I was beyond thrilled to run in Boulder on such a beautiful day with such happy people. It was just a dream for me, guys. It’s how I want to spend my life: Outside, being active, and surrounded by happy, active people. I wouldn’t complain about free PBRs either.

My time was 52:50, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I wasn’t looking to PR anyway. Plus, I figured the slower starting time held me back a little. And the altitude. And the walkers. And being tempted by cold PBRs. But as much as I try to just run for joy and whatnot, I still am a perfectionist when it comes to running and yes, times DO matter. We’re all a little weird.

What was really, truly the icing on the (birthday) cake was not running through Folsom Field (oh, the memories!), and not seeing the thousands of people cheering on the sidewalks and lawns and street corners, but being surprised by these two girls (the sister and photo-bomber excluded).

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Ashlee (far right) and Maddie behind her. Kara (sister) is on the left, and Photobomb King.

Ashlee and Maddie have been such strong, positive, solid friends (I wish Emily and Erika would have been there to complete our group!). We’ve laughed about boys, shared beds in hotel rooms, and have many great pictures and stories that we will never share outside of us. We are that group of girl friends and I am blessed to have ’em.

I hope to do this race again, but I know it’ll never be as good as the first time (insert ‘that’s what she said’ snicker here).

Ashlee, me, and Maddie having some fun at the Boulder Creek Festival after the race.

Ashlee, me, and Maddie having some fun at the Boulder Creek Festival after the race.

And that, my readers, was May.

New eyes

I’m on the plane going back to the only other place for which I’d leave Colorado. I wish I could say it with more eloquence and have it carry the same conviction without a hint of embellishment, but I just had one of the single best weekends of my 24 years.

Everything I anticipated happening, happened: quality family time, patio sitting among pine trees, drier skin, altitude headaches, and then some. I was appeased to no end (save the headaches and dry skin), rendering me lying in bed at night, reminding myself that I have it all.

Growing up in Evergreen, driving the same narrow and curvy roads, seeing the same trees, waking up to the same encompassing mountains, and breathing the same thin air never seemed special. It was just life. It was frustrating to always wait until your parents could drive you to your friends’ because it was too far and mountainous to walk or ride your bike (and face it, you were too lazy anyway and your parents were probably frustrated, too). It was normal to wake up to elk in the front yard, go for a walk around the lake (not the mall) and talk about life and complain about boys and confess secrets and cure hangovers (note: not discovered until this trip #toolate).

While we took a hangover-easing walk around the lake (thank you, Little Bear), I told my best friend that I felt like I was seeing everything through new eyes. She nodded and knew, which is why we’re so solid.

It’s not as relevatory as I’ve made; I’ve had an affinity for the mountains for quite some time. This time was just different. And it wasn’t just that I missed the elevation, the laid back mountain lifestyle, or the ridiculously beautiful scenery, it was something internal, too. I’m still trying to figure it out…probably something along the lines of discovering what my “spirit animal” is or whatever. I’m sure a trail run this weekend will bring some clarity and there will be a new blog post next week (so stay tuned?)

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As serendipity would have it, I came across this quote when I was bored and browsing through Pinterest on my phone, waiting for the plane that would take me back to Nashville, my other beloved home, and it solidified:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust.

Oh, indeed, Marcel. Indeed.

Running back home

547531_10151349092791469_726117115_nI went back home for Christmas last week.

Back to 7,220 feet above sea level.

Back to thinner air and colder ground.

Back to Ponderosa Pines and granite rock and elk poop in the yard.

Within an hour of pulling into the driveway, I hastily pulled on my full-length spandex, added some YakTrax to the Pearl Izumis and hit the trails like I was back to see an old friend, which they precisely are.

The snow at Elk Meadow had been wind-whipped and the dry air had rendered a crunchy surface. In the places where it wasn’t a little iced over, it sunk up to my shins. It was cold and I was happy.

I didn’t really notice the change in elevation, not too bad anyway. I would later lie and say ‘oh yeah! whew!’ when asked, so I didn’t sound cocky. But those five hilly, snowy miles were the sweetest welcome home.

Fast forward to the next morning… I had an 11 miles ahead of me, per my marathon training schedule. I ran from my parents’ house down to the lake and around it twice, up by my old high school and around the track, up to Three Sisters, through a neighborhood and back down. In the almost 10 years since we lived in that house, I had never ran that route when I could have so many times. I mentally kicked myself (ya jerk!).

As a cross country runner in high school, I had run the same roads, trails, and tracks over and over, usually a little slower than expected by my coaches. My teammates and I had gossiping and flirting to do because we were in high school, after all.

I thought about myself at 15 and 16 and how immature I was. How I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do about a math test I didn’t plan on studying for. How I had a crush on a guy who went to another high school and it seemed like the end of the world I didn’t see him every day. How I only did cross country because I wasn’t good at any other sports (choir geek right here, y’all). How I never would have believed it if anyone would tell me I was going to run a marathon…ever. The Taylor Eye Roll would have been all  over that one.

I thought about myself now, at 23-and-a-half. I thought about how I finally know who I am and (mostly) what I want. How much I’ve changed, how much I’ve seen of the world, and how much my fingers were freezing (but I wasn’t going to admit it to Mom who told me to dress warmer).

But no matter what I thought about myself, it always came back around to running. It’s been through everything with me, even when I didn’t want it, and especially when I did. It has stuck with me longer through all my ugliness, awkwardness, and biggest life changes.

Going back to Colorado after having moved 1,158 miles away confirmed what I already knew: Running and I are in it for life, you really can go home again, and always listen to Mom when she tells it’s gonna be cold.

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