The Grand Canyon and Training for Moab Trail Marathon

It's amazing how posting regularly to a blog can get away from you, especially when you're new at it! It's been more than 4 months since I've posted, and A LOT has happened. I wanted to write a (hopefully) brief update of some of the Senz Family Adventures and my own personal experiences this fall.

First and foremost, my mom, dad, sister and I took two weeks to raft the entire Grand Canyon. I have to say, if you have the money, do it!! This experience is so life changing, and I probably should have devoted a whole blog post to it, but I want to keep it brief. If you ever want to know more, come find me and ask about my epic run down Lava, a scary swim in Walthenberg Rapid when my ducky flipped, the coldest baths of my life, and about sand in just about every place imaginable.

Here's the take home message from our two week expedition. We spent the entire time together, bonding as a family, and sharing more laughs than we had in years. Without the distraction of phones, internet, or cars, we were finally able to open our eyes to the love and friendship we had right under our own roof. Mia and I became like best friends, Dad and I enjoyed some serenity on the duckies and watching after each other on hikes, and of course, I spent every moment I could hugging my mom, telling her I loved her, and sharing laughs. It was just the trip our family needed, something to strengthen us for the future, to enjoy each others company without any tampering of school, jobs, boyfriends, what have you.

As for me, the trip gave me a new perspective on what it really means to live life to the fullest and to get out there. I suppose all this time, I was pretty aware of nature's wonders, and I've always loved camping, hiking, and trail running, but I had never immersed myself in nature the way I did in the Canyon. The world is full of massive, breathtaking features, and I really got a good taste of one during this trip. The river itself is more than 200 miles long, which, on a raft, takes a long time. But without watches or phone calls or day to day activities, it all seems to blur together in a way that lacks measurement. It seems like forever, but not long at all at the same time. The walls soar above you, and most of the time you can't even see the rim because it is so far up and the geological layers pull away from the water. Standing on the rim, you can look down and see the "tiny" river, but in reality, the river is huge, and you can look up 800 feet from the water's surface and know that it isn't the top. On the note of water, it's really cold, and it doesn't give a damn about you. I've recently thought I was strong, but the way the rapids can flip an enormous boat and toss you into a whole mess of riptide, 20-50 foot waves, and a frigid 50 degrees is terrifying. I've been a swimmer for 20 years, and I'll tell you right now, it doesn't matter a bit. Just hold on to your life jacket, swim when you can, and take breaths when you can.

What I'm trying to say is that it was humbling in the most epic sense of the word. We are so small, and within the comfort of our homes, air conditioning, and home cooked meals, we forget that we are nothing compared to some of the wonders of this earth. Get out there and be humbled like me, just once in your life. It really brings a sense of ease about the "problems" that flood our life every day (hint: they really aren't problems in the grand scheme of things).

This is already turning out longer than I expected. We finished our summer, and I started training immediately for the biggest race of my year, the Moab Trail Marathon. I've tried a marathon before in 2013 and got too injured to race. This year, I was determined to train smart, train hard, and do it right. Not just for myself, but for my mom too. I grew up with a marathoner mom, and she was tough as nails. I never realized it because I was young and a mile seemed the same as 26.2 in my eyes, but now that I'm training for my own marathon, I realize just how much determination and grit it takes.

With mom's recent treatments and the cancer she is facing, we don't know if another marathon is in the cards for her, but she's still inspiring everyone by running half marathons and 15ks despite a cough, fatigue, and most recently what we believe to be a fractured rib. She's an absolute superhero, and every time I try to put myself in her shoes, I'm at a loss of how I would ever handle the obstacles she faces. I love getting to run with her every chance I can, and we enjoy our fair share of sunrises. The reasons I chose to do a trail marathon at the end of my year were two fold. One, some of my most fond memories from becoming an endurance athlete are the trail runs I shared with my mom. It was our well-kept secret, getting up before the crack of dawn to run 10 miles along the flatirons, to see the sunrise, and to chat about life through the rocks and dirt. I want to honor mom's fostering me into running by doing it on our favorite terrain, which is off-road. Two, I've never been a particularly fast runner, and I simply wanted my first marathon experience to be more about the adventure and the act of finishing than about my pace or my time. The race itself is very technical, with a steep climb at mile 14, ropes, climbing ladders, and to top it off, we are finishing the last three miles by running through the 5k obstacle course. My only goal is to finish with confidence, and to know in my heart that marathons are very doable (perhaps even at the end of an Ironman!?!).
My mom and I on a run in 2011... before I had ever raced a triathlon or half marathon!

Training is now entering its 13th week, and the race is on November 7th. I started out very discouraged and intimidated. After spending two weeks on a canyon without running, biking or swimming rigorously, the start was rough. I fretted about how I would ever work up from the 8 miles I was attempting to 20 miles. How on earth would I be able to run for 4, 5, 6 (hopefully not) hours straight without falling apart at the seams? My mom assured me to be patient, focus on just getting out for time, and stay positive.

I can say now that I have finished my last really long run before the race. I ran 20 miles in Lakewood and essentially took a tour from Bear Creek High School to D'Evelyn High School, up the highway to the top of Green Mountain, and past Green Mountain High School. A slight Jeffco tour that took nearly 4 hours with the wind and ascent up the mountain. I've learned a lot in recent weeks, and the biggest tidbit I've learned is that long distance running is more mental and emotional than anything. Usually after the first 2.5 hours (which are pretty easy these days), the real struggle begins. Your legs stop listening to what your brain is telling them, and you start to feel like you might cry.

"Why am I doing this? Everything hurts. I want to sit down." I think to myself.

I've learned that no matter what, DON'T SIT DOWN! Just keep moving forward. Make small goals, like running to that rock, or that tree. Even if you're walking, keep walking forward. Eat a snack. Time passes, and before you know it, you're elated with a runner's high again. The rest of the run proceeds like this in waves of boredom, depression, frustration, elation, clarity, and determination. It's pretty interesting, and I experienced it for the first time on a 3 hour 45 minute run on the Mesa Trail in Boulder. I made it home, collapsed on the floor, and talked to my mom. I told her about the big nasty hill I had to walk, about wanting to cry, about my legs tripping over every rock. She completely understood, then she whispered, "Can you believe that I used to run the whole thing without stopping?" We laughed at first, but then I realized how blown away I was at my mom's athletic prowess. She may not run like that now, but when we talk about her past endeavors, I realize I have a lot of growing to do! I can't wait to run this marathon and make her proud.

As usual, I will be racing to raise money for Epic Experience, an amazing program that brings cancer survivors together to realize that they are more than their diagnosis. Epic gets these people out into nature to conquer their fears, to realize they can do anything, and to put strength in their bodies to face whatever life throws at them. I'm so thankful for the support I've received this year, and I want this marathon to be a big gesture of my intention to race hard, enjoy life, and live like my mother lives every day. I will race with the belief that even though life is short, I can fight hard and achieve anything I set my mind to. I hope you enjoyed my long-winded update, and the link to donate to Epic is at the top right! Thanks for reading!


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