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Garden of the Gods 10 Miler

June 11th was another big day for Thelen Coaching athletes, with the first race in the Triple Crown of Running for both Merideth and Shana. The Triple Crown of Running is a Colorado Springs tradition -  highlighting two city parks and finishing with the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon. Because of the challenge of the PPA, it's also one of the few races that requires qualifying prior to entering. The usual method is to run a half marathon faster then 2:25 with the Super Half earlier in the year being one of the favorite qualifying races. Shana had gotten her time there and was set to go. Merideth on the other hand hadn't had the best day and missed the time. She ran under that mark at a later marathon, but it was already past the qualifying window. That left her one option when registering for the Ascent - register for the entire series and use the Garden of the Gods 10 miler as her qualifier. There were no second chances with that option - it was run under 2:10 or forfeit the entry into the Ascent. Talk about pressure!

All the workouts indicated that the 2:10 mark would be easily eclipsed. She was running long runs in the Garden, doing hill repeats and putting in the work. At the same time, Merideth was starting to develop mentally as well - gone was the "I'm a slow runner, I'll never qualify for anything mentality." It was now "I'll run that the time I need and my goal will be even faster!" Her goal was 1:50 - To anyone who hasn't run in the Garden, that's a challenging goal. The hills are big and never ending. You are either going up or doing down and the downhill isn't the rest for the legs most people think it is so you are constantly stressing the legs. We reviewed the course the week before, discussing pacing - where to push the pace, where to take a short break and walk and when to eat and drink. Merideth also made some changes to her hydration plan - leaving the vest at home and opting for an easy to refill handheld. All of the work and the planning paid off as she smashed the qualifying time of 2:10 - and was within minutes of her goal time, finishing in 1:50:35. Mark that off the list - she was officially entered into the Ascent!

Shana had a different set of obstacles in the way for the Garden of the Gods. She already met the qualifying time, so didn't have that pressure on her shoulders. But at the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race at the end of April, in the blizzard conditions and muddy rocks the event was faced with, she'd stepped off a rock wrong and severely twisted her ankle. There hadn't been much running in the past month - more damage control. Stabilize the ankle, allow it to heal and still build fitness to be able to finish the Garden. It wasn't easy as even walking was painful to start and she'd been on crutches for almost two weeks to take weight off the joint. Thank goodness for pools and being able to water run and cycle! We had no goals other then have a good time and finish the race. The Garden was just one step along the journey - but one that needed to be finished. Luckily, all the damage control and management we'd done in the weeks right after the injury worked and she was able to run well for the entire event. Shana finished just behind Merideth in 1:50:59.

Coming up in July is the Summer Round Up - the second leg of the Triple Crown. This race is now a three lap affair in Bear Creek Regional park, with another fair share of hills to challenge. And after that? Bring on the Mountain!