As told by Colleen Clarson – At first glance, it was only a daunting fitness challenge. At second glance, it was terrifying…if not seemingly impossible.
Known as “One of the most scenic trail races in the country,” the Golden Leaf Half Marathon was clearly not meant for Florida flatlanders. Starting at Colorado’s Snowmass Ski Mountain at 8,500 feet elevation, quickly ascending to 9,500 feet, them plummeting 1,700 feet on trails into Aspen, it was impossible to truly prepare for this terrain from sea level Florida.
“I Need Your Help”
And with only 2½ weeks notice to train, it was tempting to let this rare opportunity pass by. BUT, after bravely sending out an S.O.S. to Mike Ryan, whose fantastic advice for severe plantar fasciitis got me to the Boston Marathon finish a couple of years ago, I gained confidence knowing Mike could relate to this scary challenge and provide priceless advice. And because Mike said ‘You can do this,” I decided to take that to the bank.
Advice For Off-Road Hill Management
His advice for preparation was spot on:
- Shorter “baby steps” on the ascent and descent
- Think “calves to butt” when running downhill
- Lean forward into the hill and increase elbow bend to keep forearms parallel to the hill when climbing
- Calf stretches every mile
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
- Aggressive “down dog” stretches for the posterior chain stretches before and after the event.
Somehow I managed to finish the 13.1 miles, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty! While I was worried about being booted off the course for not achieving the course-required time checks, somehow I managed to keep pushing forward with Mike’s advice and encouragement running on a loop in my head, and made it in time to the descending finish into a beautiful golden leaf Aspen park.
What stays with me today is what I tell my personal training clients: you don’t really know what you’re made of until you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Even though I’ve run numerous half marathons and marathons, I’ve never run a trail half marathon at lung-busting elevation. And I took confidence in Mike’s encouragement, knowing that his advice was based on years of personal experience, professional expertise and an eternally optimistic coaching style. I never could have embraced this event so out of my comfort zone without his fundamental support and coaching.
Jacksonville athletes are so very fortunate to have Mike Ryan’s unselfish sports medicine expertise and coaching, THANK YOU MIKE!