Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mine to Mine Failure

I never thought my child misbehaving in school and lying to me about it would hurt so bad. I never thought it would send me into a crippling depression. I always knew these things would eventually happen; I just did not expect it to happen so soon or for it to affect me so profoundly.

Yesterday, my daughter got into a lot of trouble at preschool and broke my heart by lying to me about it. Then today, I blew the one race all year that I care about and train for specifically. I felt like a failure as a mother, so it was all too easy to accept being a failure as a runner as well.


The Mine to Mine Challenge in Cripple Creek is my coveted race. I successful ran the distance two years ago, after I returned to living in Colorado. Hills are my nemesis, and high altitude only amplifies everything. Even after running two half marathons and a long variety of other races, I consider this one to be my most difficult. Completing it the first time was one of my favorite running accomplishments, one of the highest highs.

While I ran the first time alone (with a supportive driver), this time, I was joined by a contingent of Zombie Turtles. We gathered in the unseasonable sun outside the Heritage Center, waiting for the race to start.


At the start, we took off down the introductory hill. Just like last time, I gasped for air at the thin mountain altitude of over 9,000 feet (3,000 higher than home). Even running downhill, I was winded. And, just like last time, it caused me to worry for the duration of the race, particularly the relentless hills I knew were coming this time. Yet I just told myself to commit to the breathing, pace down, and take it one stride at a time.

Once the hill spilled down into Cripple Creek and the route began yielding flats and inclines, the heat became painfully more apparent. A fall day in the mountains felt decidedly like the stifling summer that was supposedly behind us. The sun felt low, huge, oppressive, and the sky was wide and vividly clear. While this resulted in gorgeous scenery, my still-weighted body began to roast from the inside, the heat blooming in my core and roaring up into my face like a radiator.

Then the hill started. At this point, the 10 am sun stared me straight in the face as the hill climbed to the east. I could not deny the heat as the sweat poured down my face and into my eyes. I felt nothing but hot. My breathing struggled only against the cooking I suffered. My muscles were exerted but still functional. But that heat.

I pressed, panting and sweating, in deliberate strides. Trisha lingered at my side, sometimes dropping just in front of me, sometimes creeping just ahead of me. Phil blazed ahead; then we steadily crept back up to him. The Zombie Turtles moved around each other as we sluggishly climbed the hill.

After about a kilometer or so of the steady incline and the raging heat, a single tree emerged, casting shade across the asphalt. I ran into the shade, but I did not run out of the other side. Instead, I lingered in the shadow of that tree, basking in the cool.

In that instant, it was over. My goal of running the distance, the object of all my training and killing myself slipped away unconsummated. With the failure achieved and with the dream dead, I embraced the walk break. I resigned myself to it. It was too hot; the nausea was already bubbling up to my teeth. With failure already in my heart, I could not berate myself into stubbornness, into powering through; I could only feel sad.

Usually, when met with a running failure (like the zoo run), I react by becoming devastated and livid, equal measures. This time, I felt the amplification of my existing sadness; then I just went with it. I decided to walk the next kilometer then start running again. I watched Phil and Trisha wog away ahead of me.

Then Trisha waited for me. She joined me on my walk. She allowed me to be distracted from all the failure on my brain.


My temperature did stop raging while I walked. After a kilometer, we returned to our wog, just as we approached the longest stretch of uncurved uphill. Halfway up the killer hill, the heat flared up again. It felt like the sun was actually pressing on my face, igniting every nerve. Since I had already sinned in walking, I walked again. No quams, no self-deprecation. Just more walking. Trisha and I admired the scenery.

My memory of the route after the huge hill from my first run was completely hazy. Potentially because I was near passing out when I successfully summitted it. I was thrilled to see that the last two kilometers were the gentle downhill, flat bridge, and the finish. A cool breeze lapped at my face as we started to run again. I found my rhythm; I fell into my pace; I felt like a runner again. Until I rounded the corner to scale the last tiny hill to the finish and the heat slapped me in the face again.

But I finished. My original time was :59. My goal for this attempt was under 1:10. I finished in 1:05. So while I failed to successfully run the entire distance, I still finished with a very acceptable time. I walked at least a kilometer and a half, so had I run the whole thing, I could have seen my previous time again.

Trisha kept me in perspective, on both the running and the parenting. She waited for me; she distracted me; she said the things I needed to hear against the sea of bullshit swimming on my brain. For that, I was grateful.


Phil ran the entire course on a day I could not. Michelle did the hardest race I know to date when she has been struggling with her runner mojo. Trisha hung back to be just the running buddy I needed. On a day I could have classified a failure, I found myself exceedingly proud of all of my Zombie Turtles.

Next year, I want to run the full distance. I will hope for colder temperatures as my running seems to be entirely contingent on the weather. But this year, even this failure will do.

Christina Bergling


Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!

Hot Chocolate 15K

Fall running is always redemption running for me. After the brutality and stagnation of the summer heat lifts, an avalanche of progress usually surfaces to remind me why I love running and continue the addiction all year round.


This was abundantly true today at the Hot Chocolate 15K in Denver. Sandwiched between completing my half marathon and the upcoming Cripple Creek, I entered the Hot Chocolate race rather apathetic. I wanted to run the distance, as usual, but I did not really have any pace goals or requirements.


Then I saw the pacer holding the sign with my pre-pregnancy average pace: 11:30. Seeing that number, that I had been chasing since returning to running, snapped something in my mind. After crossing the start line, I did not wog gently. Instead, I pushed myself. I ran to my (reasonable) limit.

At first, I took off in front of the pacer, in her white shirt, with her little time sign, incessantly checking her watch. Then she crept up behind me. I would push myself again until she fell back behind me. Once, she even disappeared into the distance, and I considered abandoning my foolish goal.

As the increased pace began to burn in my belly and the pacer continued to nip at my heels, I settled to make the 5K portion in 11 minute miles. Yet that sign came and went, and I continued to push. Where my float usually greets me after 2-3 miles, at this elevated exertion level, it waited. I vividly felt those first miles, perpetually talking myself into pushing harder.

I did find my float somewhere around 5 miles, just over halfway through the race. Then it began to ebb and flow. I would smile to myself at how good it felt to run like this; then I would slam into a wall, where my body begged me to stop, to slow.

I just kept going.

The 10K sign came and went. The pacer and I continued to alternate lead until I ultimately pulled ahead of her, and though I routinely checked over my shoulder, she did not reappear.

Near mile 8, my true wall slammed into my face. Full force. I stuttered and slobbered like a sedated basset hound. I puttered and staggered. But I would not walk in the last two miles.

I just kept going. And I made it.


I was too nauseous to eat my chocolate fondue finisher’s cup, yet it was satisfying just to hold it. When I looked at my time, I did even better than I thought during the race. I lived under 11:30. Like I always used to, once upon a time.


I had thought I would not be able to achieve my pre-pregnancy running until I returned to pre-pregnancy weight. I have proven to myself that that is not true. I have run a half marathon. I have run at my old pace for 9 straight miles. All I needed was a little cold weather; all I needed was to truly push myself past what I thought I could do now.

I don’t have to be who I was before; I can be this version right here.

Christina Bergling


Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!

Training for Downhill

(Note: I AM NOT A RUNNING EXPERT. This blog is merely a compilation of research and the personal experience of a sluggish runner.)


My running mates and I spent the spring and summer training for a downhill half marathon. Over 13 miles of decline. As much I adore running downhill, even I knew that I would need to train up for something this huge.

With research and experimentation, I quickly learned that my downhill form was abominable. I leaned into the gravity and ran hard, allowing all the impact and my weight to jam down on my joints. While this made it fast (and easy), there was no way my knees, hips, and ankles would be on board with such form for so many relentless miles. Especially at mountain pass grade.


We started with research, like this Runner’s World article we found on the Revel training page. Our research summary seemed to indicate that three things were paramount: form, strength training, and the change in cardio level.

Form. I think form was probably the most important element. I tried multiple approaches gleaned from articles and other runners. One suggestion was to slightly bend the knee with each stride, a miniature plie each time your foot struck the pavement. Another recommendation was to keep the legs bent and cycling under the pelvis like wheels. It was also important to maintain mid-foot striking rather than leaning forward into the toes or back into the heel.


I found my form in somewhat of an amalgamation of my original, flawed practice and selections from all the research. I continued to lean into the grade and allow the gravity to really do the work; However, I engaged both my quads and my calves to keep my knees soft at each impact and to keep my foot falling correctly. As the grade increased, I would begin cycling my legs, moving them circularly under a stable pelvis. It required more exertion, but my skeleton, ligaments, everything thanked me wholeheartedly for it.

Strength Training. In order to make these form corrections, I needed stronger muscles. Stronger muscles run better; stronger muscles protect joints. I loathe strength training, but in the interest of safeguarding my running, I was willing to suck it up. Between our group (and the internet), we pooled our collective knowledge of personal trainers, classes taken, sports played. We crafted a strength training workout that focused on the core and lower body and included doing most exercises to fatigue.


Cardio Change. For me especially, downhill running was an extreme cardio change. As we ran downhill during our half and our practice runs beforehand, I felt barely an exertion. My breathing, my body temperature, everything but my muscles felt like I was just walking along. This cardiac shift was deceptive. It made it feel like we were not really working; it made us feel like we could press harder. Until muscle fatigue and running aches crept up to overtake us. Maintaining pace became dire, refusing to be seduced by steady breath and calm temperature.

All three of these elements were honed in necessary practice. We ran downhill to cement our form and learn our pace, stretch our distance. We ran uphill to build our muscles (and, in my case, remember to appreciate the downhill). We found the best downhill stretch to develop a rhythm in the adapted form, the building muscles, and the shifted level of exertion.

I also employed the breathing technique I learned earlier, which helps in every situation so far.

Ultimately, these methods were successful. I completed my downhill half marathon without taking a break or incident, and to my utter shock, I was minimally sore afterward. I managed to protect my joints with my form and muscles; I managed to keep control over my pace (with some gentle reminders from my running mate).

These changes in my running have also improved my experience overall. I find that my knees and hips ache far less often post run. I definitely have tamed my downhill running to be both productive and beneficial.

Now, training shifts with the seasons. With Cripple Creek around the corner, it becomes all uphill, all the time!

Christina Bergling


Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!