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    Terri Rylander

    Double Bonus: First Trail Run and First Time Finding No Limits

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    desertroad All through February, I jogged/walked on a regular basis, usually putting in about 20 miles a week. I was amazed at how quickly my pace improved. By mid February, I’m already into the 12 minute/mile pace and even broke into the 11’s by end of February!

    But, it was on a recent hike that I really had my perception of distance changed in a most profound way. Yes, I’ve been a hiker for years. When I was a teenager, we used to backpack as a family. This meant hoisting a 35-lb pack on your back and walking for what felt like all day, and always uphill, though it was probably only about 5 miles.

    img_1476-copyI was also a day hiker. In Mesquite, you can walk just about anywhere and not get lost. The desert is wide open, unlike the forests in Washington state. In either place, if my day hike was 5 miles round trip, it was a long way. My hikes were more about the destination and less about the journey.

    img_1504-copyIn February, I went on a hike with friends into the Virgin mountains near Mesquite. The first about 1/3 was a pretty tough climb, gaining about 2800 feet in about 4 miles. It was a beautiful but cool day and we reached snow at the top.  On the way down, we ran through the ankle-deep, crusted snow, punching through and having a ball.

    Trail running. Who knew? Why had I never thought of that? It totally satisfies both my desire to hike and be outdoors, and my short-attention span. With trail running, you can cover nearly twice the distance in about the same amount of time. And, you get the added benefit of a higher calorie burn too. What’s not to like?

    img_1498-copySomething I remember from  that day still makes me smile. We took a break for lunch and were about 11 miles from any road or signs of civilization, when a band of ATVs came driving by. They looked at us in amazement but also with concern. “Are you ok?” they said. They couldn’t believe we were way back in the wilderness with no vehicle. I’ll never forget the pride I felt in that moment–that I could be “one of those” who could even do something like that.

    img_1514The day ended back at the car. We logged over 22 miles. I hadn’t traveled anywhere on foot even close to that distance since I did the March of Dimes Walk in 7th grade, where we walked 20 miles in the city to raise money.  The sense of accomplishment far out-shadowed any soreness I felt over the next several days. I had gone farther than I ever thought I could and still hadn’t reached my limit.

    Good News Bad News

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    Good news is…I ran my first 10 mile run!  Our very small running group ran three laps around the Sun City neighborhood loop in Mesquite. First loop 3.3 miles….felt great, no problem. Second loop…6.6 miles…not feeling too bad. Third loop….9.9 miles….um what’s going on with my knee? Then I get the pressure to make the 10 miles and continue around the maintenance shack. At this point, I’m hobbling but I made the 10 miles.

    The pain was actually alongside my knee. After doing a bit of research, turns out it’s an IT band issue. This is actually quite common to runners and comes from overuse or impact to the point where the IT band is strained trying to keep the knee in alignment. Well, what a drag!  It hurt to run so I had to cut back considerably. This, just after I committed to my first “race” in Moab at the end of the month.

    Lot of ice and ibuprofen on the menu. I’ve been doing some stretching but an IT band isn’t something very “stretchable.” After a few weeks, I will begin doing one-legged squats to a chair. I know my quads are not as strong as they should be to support what I’m doing, so will need to work on that. But…anything that stops the very thing that brings you newfound joy just sucks!

    My First Runs

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    It’s January 27, 2012. I tried it. Did my first run, but also incorporated walking. There’s a great 4-mile loop from my house. I’ve walked it a number of times, but never tried any running. This time, I ran some. The first two miles are downhill, which makes it easier.

    But, as expected, after about a half mile, my shins started cramping and burning. Damn. Why? Reduced me to walking earlier than I thought and hoped.  After another half mile or so I started jogging again. Around to the bottom of the loop.  Walking again. Hoping someone I know doesn’t drive by and see me reducing from jogging to walking.

    My own mind ever the critic. Conversations like, “real runners don’t walk” and “this is way too hard for you, why do you even try?” But, determined, I push on, walking and jogging till I get back home.

    Over the next week, I went out a few more times and managed to rack up just over 20 miles for the week! Wow.  But, with the walk/run strategy, my minute per mile pace was in the 14’s and 15’s.

    So, at 51 years old, 5’6 and 145 lbs, I consider myself in decent shape. But know I’m not the skinny girl I once was. Still I’m pretty capable. Someday I will get back to the person I know I am. Meanwhile, I will track my progress in Map My Run with no particular goal other than to be able to run without walking.

    In the Beginning: I suck at running!

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    People ask me all the time, “How did you get started running?” I just tell them like I’m telling you — I’ve started running probably a thousand times.  The better question is, “How did you stick with it?”

    Let’s back up a little and I’ll tell you my story.

    I’ve always thought running was the greatest sport.

    • You don’t need to buy expensive equipment
    • You don’t need to find a team of people to do it with
    • You don’t need to rent gym space or find an empty court
    • You won’t get rained out
    • You don’t have to drive somewhere to do it
    • You don’t have to wait for sunrise
    • You don’t have to be young
    • You don’t have to be athletic

    I always wanted to be a runner. It seemed like such a contemplative activity–getting lost in your own thoughts and escaping from life for a while. Not to mention, those Olympic track women have fabulous bods!

    But, what I knew about running was just that you tied up your tennies and went out and ran. Countless times I did that, only to be gasping after a few blocks, legs cramping up, my mind telling me I suck at running. With a bit of sadness, I told myself and others, “I guess I’m just not a runner.” It was pretty discouraging from someone who is fortunate enough to pick up most any sport pretty easily.

    But, it was a chance meeting in October 2011 that challenged what I thought I knew about limits. We are splitting our time between rainy Seattle, where I was born and raised, and sunny Mesquite, NV. I instantly bonded with the desert landscape and love the intimacy of the small town, so much that I got involved in Friends of Gold Butte, which is working to preserve a most beautiful portion of the desert I love to play in.

    One day, on our of the outings with Friends of Gold Butte, I met a man who was a runner. In addition to talking about the desert, we had some brief conversations about running. But, as the group decided to break for lunch, he decided he needed to get home, said goodbye, and ran off down the road. Mind you, home was at least 10 miles away! Uh…what?

    We stayed in touch a little while my husband and I returned to Seattle for holidays. And, in January when I got back, I told him my running woes and frustrations. That’s when he, an accomplished ultra-runner, told me how to run. “Don’t start off going all out. Start by running 2 minutes and walking 3. Then run 3 minutes and walk 2. Progress to 4:1 and 5:1. I do this in my long distance races.”

    If anyone else would have suggested that, I would have been offended, thinking they just didn’t know who I was or how capable I was (even though I really wasn’t capable). But, coming from someone as experienced as he was, who still does it today, I gave it a try. My new running journey began in January 2012 at 51 years young.