Monday, October 26, 2015

Keeping My Eyes On The Prize

Today is Monday, October 26 and I'm going a little nuts. 

In less than a week, I will hopefully be at the starting line of my first 100K distance at the Javelina Jundred races in Arizona. I'm freaking out a little bit, but at least I finally purchased my plane ticket. I like to keep it, um, interesting and challenging...

I've been sick for over 2 weeks and my training has gone to shit. Also, someone has been stabbing me in my throat and in my left ear, too. Really.

My long runs have been null and void since October 5, when I did 15 hot and muggy miles with a friend (okay, I managed to do 12 today, but I still think that's cutting it close...)

Cross country has been sucking the life out of me. Chorus has sucked the voice out of me and has given me a very persistent case of laryngitis. Work in general has sucked the life out of me, and I actually love my job.

Did I mention that my training has been pretty much non-existent since the beginning of the month?
I can count on my hands the number of times I have run since then. The run that I did on my birthday felt great immediately afterwards. Then about an hour later, I felt really sick and shivery again. Yeah, that was fun.

Life and the cooties (mine and the boy's) got in the way, plus work, writing, and being interviewed , which is pretty awesome but oddly exhausting.

Also, my husband is currently working in his home country, Burkina Faso. Did you know that they recently experienced a military coup d'etat? Yeah, that. So the worry meter has been pretty high. It's tough to comfort your son when you don't even know if his dad is safe. (He is, just  Skyped with him the other day!)

So that has been my October.

But I am keeping my eyes on the prize. I didn't do all those races this summer for nothing, and I definitely want to have something to show for that effort. I'm going to trust my training and thank my body for making me take what was probably a much needed break, so that I'll be mentally and physically ready for the craziness this weekend!

As I said, I finally got a run in today. The running and chafing part of it weren't that pretty, but boy was it the prettiest run I've done in a while!

Check back later on this week for some more panicking about Javelina!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Run Kit and More!

So many of you have asked me in messages, emails, Tweets, and on Instagram:


I wrote about this over a year ago,but obviously some updating was necessary.

I am currently a size 18/20 and my flat feet are a size 11. I have boobs that nursed my child for 18 months. They are not and never have been perky.

I have thighs. Big, strong, BARREL-SHAPED thighs. I own that.

I have big, super strong calves. My pride and joy--I mean, after my son...

I have a midsection that is floppy and sometimes like to peek above the top of my pants to check out what's going on.

I have arms that are nicely toned in some areas and are floppy in other areas. 

I need clothes that make me feel good, support me in the right places, and don't look like they are from another century, or are and feel like an afterthought. 

This is why I am putting this out here.  I'll write some more posts as I experiment with new gear in my eternal quest to find the perfect clothes (Basically, I  think TNF capris and tights are close to perfect, but PROVE ME WRONG!)

My run kit has gone through many different iterations. I went buying my earliest "running" clothes at Target, to buying most of my gear online. Unfortunately, this is the way many of us big gals have to shop, since most stores will not carry anything over XL. Most XL's are designed for sizes 14/16-18. Sometimes there are pieces that are actually TRUE TO SIZE, but not many. Other companies have weird, "unique" sizing that means nothing unless you can actually try them on at a brick and mortar store...and it's unlikely to occur unless you live near said store. I typically buy a piece online and if I like it, I will buy several of the same to last a few months/years.

Okay so here are a couple of my run kits. Keep in mind that:

1. I always prefer to run on trails. Most of my running clothes I choose because they work well on the trail. This does not mean that they won't work on a road run or a treadmill run, however.

2. I run long. I like shorter runs (3-5 miles, say) but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE long runs. They are my GF bread and butter! I also make sure that my clothes can handle being out for hours at a time.

3. I don't go for fashion, although there are some really cut things out there. All of my friends and family are currently rolling their eyes. Don't worry, I HEAR about it all the time. But wanna know something? My running clothes are WAY MORE fashionable than my work clothes.

4. I don't have separate clothes for yoga and gym workouts. If I could, I would wear my running clothes, well, EVERYWHERE.

5. I don't like baggy running clothes. In fact, I'd rather them be fitted and showing the curves than anything else. Getting used to your body in fitted clothes is a great lesson in self-appreciation and self-love. This is how your body looks. LOVE IT.


6. Good, long-lasting, well-fitting clothes cost money. You may have to buy one piece at a time, even every few months. I will skimp on work clothes but I will not skimp on running clothes!

This outfit is (mostly) brought to you by Torrid. I'm wearing a pair of their Colorblock Legging and the Spacedye Zip Hoodie. Underneath, I have on my UnderArmour UA Tech Tank in pink. My pack is the Nathan VaporCloud 2L Pack, and my sneaks are Adidas Energy Boost (first version, I believe). Socks are Swiftwick. Head band is by Hats Off Headbands. Perhaps most important is the bra. In this pic I'm wearing the Panache Sports Bra. No lie, I've been wearing it as my daily bra, it's so flattering and well-fitting..I found the tights to run a bit on the big side, they did slip down a little bit--I've been losing weight because of all the training I've been up to (ha, just not this week because I have a cold-thanks son!) The best thing about the tights is that they are high-waisted and they hold all that stuff in while you're bouncing around, running, jumping up and down... I love that. Never did I worry about the butt peeking out on this 15 mile run. Even though the legs were sliding down a bit, the waist held tight for dear life. The jacket is GREAT! I love it. The headband works well to absorb the head-sweat and to keep errant strands of hair from tickling your face. I love the Adidas sneakers, but only for road and treadmill runs, as they have very little tread. They are super comfortable for my flat fleet, and aren't extremely bulky. They're just right for long or short runs on the road.

This outfit also brought to you (mostly ) by Torrid: Abstract Print Crop Leggings and Mesh Tank. Again, I wore a Panache Sports Bra with this ensemble. The socks are Swiftwick. The shoes are my old Pearl Izumi Trail M2s, which I will wear until they absolutely fall apart, they're so comfortable. Note: They're not very useful on the trail anymore--they've got many, many miles on them, but are still usable for short runs (1-3 or 4 miles) on the track and road. Headband is another by Hats Off Headbands.

This is a pre-run run-kit, that I assembled before my second Georgia Jewel 35 Miler. From the far left: The newest version of the Pearl Izumi Trail M2 shoes. These are great trail shoes, for both technical and smooth trails. They are particularly comfy and supportive of my low-arched feet. Above those is my favorite Trail and Ultra Running cap, covered by another Hats Off Headband. Next is a lovely cotton/poly blend tech shirt, available from my friends at Trail and Ultra Running. My top layer on what would be a very rainy day was an old Nike long-sleeved tech shirt. My rain-jacket (the little green stuff sack) is exactly that. It's the Patagonia Houdini (men's version, because the women's versions run very small and very narrow. This jacket is also narrow and it has taken me a year to actually be able to pull it over my tummy. Otherwise, a great jacket to help keep your core dry. My socks were Swiftwick wool running socks, my pack was the Nathan VaporCloud, and my capris, which you cannot see here, were The North Face GTD Capris.

Non-running exercise kit ( I was in a live PiYo Class) - These capris are UnderArmour, which you may be able to snag on sale now since the summer is officially over. The top is by Stonewear Designs. My bra is here is a Victoria Secret Incredible Sports Bra.

For my trikonasana: I have 8-inch UnderArmour shorts on and an old Nike tank. And the bra peeking through is a Victoria Secret Incredible Sports Bra.

And here, it's The North Face Capris, Adidas Racerback Tank, Victoria's Secret Incredible Sports Bra. This was at mile 9 of 10 miles. As you can see the capris held up perfectly. They have a hidden drawstring that ensures that the top of your pants don't roll down your tummy roll. Makes running way more comfortable! Shoes are my trusty road shoes, Adidas Energy Boost. I believe the headlamp is my cheap one, Energizer...from Walmart.

Here, I'm wearing my Stonewear Designs tops again, with Road Runner Sports Compression shorts. The Bra is most definitely the Victorial Secrets Incredible Bra. Socks are Tubeless Socks by Swiftwick. Shoes are Pearl Izumi Trail M2s. Pack is the CamelBak Ultra 10 pack--has way more capacity than the Nathan VaporCloud (which is my favorite) but is somewhat bulky for that reason. My trekking poles are Black Diamon Distance Z Poles. If you are doing trails with lots of elevation, these poles will change your life. More about them in a later post.

These are the UnderArmour capris I was wearing during the photo shoot for the 
Runner's World piece. Socks are Swiftwick. Cap is from Headsweats.

These capris were not my favorite. They are Adidas capris (XL) whose material feels excellent against the skin but whose design is not for someone who has a shelf butt. My butt may look pretty flat and it is, but there's a shelf up top. Those capris did not like my shelf, and therefore kept running away. The shoes are Adidas Terrex Boost. They run a bit narrow, but are excellent shoes for muddy and technical trails. And look at my calves...just sayin'

I love this The North Face Impulse 3/4 Zip outer layer. This was a fairly cold day, if I remember correctly, and paired with my old Nike thermal, and my trusty old Moving comfort Bra, I was pretty warm after a mile or so. Also featured are The North Face GTD Winter Tights, No need for layers here. The TNF tights are WARM!

This is the race kit I laid out the night before attempting the Lenape Trail 34 Mile Run (of which I only did 20--ten out and 10 back) The only new items here are: a cheap pair of "disposable" running gloves from NY Running Company, a pair of Altra Compression Socks (which also functioned as another layer for the lower half of my legs). Other items featured are: TNF GTD Winter Tights, TNF Impulse Winter 3/4 Zip, Trail and Ultra Running Cap, Trail and Ultra Running Buff that managed to keep my head warm, even though it's super light and breathable. My trusty old Nike thermal (that I've had since 2009!) still works magic and keeps me warm, even in 6-degree, windy and bitterly cold weather. 

Links to gear mentioned above:


Monday, October 12, 2015

Running from Dusk to Dawn and Then Some: The Midsummer Night's Dream Timed Ultra

Marathoners and Ultrarunners, basically.


(JUNE 2015--finally had a second to post the race report!)

I'm an introvert and I don't like parties unless I'm hosting and it's a nerdy dinner party with a small group of worldly friends who aren't picky eaters. I also make sure never to arrive to a party early to avoid having to make small talk or withstand awkward silences.

But this party was an exception. It was a running party, the Midsummer Night's Dream Hourly Ultra, a timed race put on by Tortoise and Hare Racing, LLC  at Boling Park in Canton, Georgia. I would get to see my friends every few minutes but not really have to hold extensive conversations.  I could arrive early without having to pretend to help the host so I could avoid uncomfortable conversation. I could eat JUNK food and drink carbonated beverages with abandon and without judgment, camp in my brand new Marmot Tungsten tent, and best of all, make a go for my next ultra distance finish. 

A timed race is one in which there is a loop of a specific distance, maybe a mile, 2 miles, or 5.  The goal of the the race is to run as many loops as you can within the allotted time. Sometimes the loop is paved, other times it is a trail loop.

At the MSNDHU, the loop was 1.25 on a crushed gravel track with a small quarter mile section on a packed dirt path. The aid station near the start was epic. There was the normal ultra fare- Hammer gels, Heed, an assortment of cut up fruit, CANDY CORN!!!!!, chips, pickles, potatoes, salt, gummy bears, Mountain Dew...

We brought our own sustenance, plus some extra items for total comfort. I 
also packed some GF sandwiches, pickles, frozen watermelon cubes in
my pack, and other delicacies. The Fiber One bars weren't mine--I know better :)

My friend Rebecca and I planned for the party appropriately: snacks (pictured below) and a cooler filled with sandwiches, mashed sweet potatoes with honey and sea salt, iced tea, some celebratory brew for each of our friends (for afterwards of course), frozen watermelon chunks, grapes, a six-pack of Samuel Adams Summer Ale to share, and some water.

There were all types of people of all shapes and sizes poised to run as much as they could in so many hours. Some came to try for their first half marathon, others came to test the waters of their first ultra. Yet others (veterans mostly) endeavored to add an "easy" 60 or 70 miles to their ultra resumes.

I had more shoes in the car...obviously those little ones on the left aren't mine. I have FLINTSTONE FEET.
This is the beauty of a timed race with a fixed loop. You can run as little or as much as you like. You can take a break between laps. You can rest in your tent for a few hours if you're doing the 24 Hour Race, power-nap before your final push during the 12 hour, change your clothes, or use the gross port-a-potties several times say, if you've consumed too much watermelon and pickles together. Also there is no need to carry a hydration pack (I did, though), or toilet paper, or anything really except yourself and your favorite tunes. 

At the urging of some new trail friends that I had met at the Double Tap 50 K Bearpalooza I signed up and began to prepare mentally for running the same loop a million times. I even convinced my friend Rebecca to join me for this momentous occasion!

I knew I wouldn't have any issues being on my feet for 12 hours since that last ultra I had actually completed took me upwards of 13 hours. I knew that running in circles for hours had the potential to be mind numbing and boring. I also knew that coming off of a DNF at Double Tap I would have to redeem myself (for ego's sake) and add another ultra finish to my running resume. My personal goal was to shoot for 40 miles, and I if I was able to, maybe more.

The unique challenge of this race would be that it would happen overnight. All races started at 9pm. I prepared for this by going to bed at 3am each night the week prior to the event and taking naps to adjust my sleep schedule accordingly. I also woke up early in the morning to run and work out, and then did the same at 9 or 10pm to ensure that I would be able to stay up throughout the night. This is very difficult for me as I normally wake up at 5am to work out and am fast asleep by 10:00pm.

The Marmot Tungsten 2P tent on the left is DA BOMB. The other one, well, not so much.....
On race night, we set up my two tents beforehand. My son had the pleasure of his phone, my tablet and portable charger, and the entire night before him (think multiple seasons of Family Guy on queue) with only occasional visits by mom.

The race began promptly at 7pm, just as the sun had finished setting and the stiflingly hot air became instantly cooler.  Some people wore wings. Others wore sparkle skirts and Marathon Maniac singlets.
At dusk there was an angel.

And there were twinkling lamps, butterflies, and other sparklies at the back trail section of the course.
Much thought had gone into making this event a magical one. When people endeavor to do anything that is difficult or out of their comfort zone (mileage, time, running in general, staying up past 10--which is me--, or literally running in circles for manymanymany hours), anything that makes this effort a more enjoyable experience despite pain and profound disillusionment is highly appreciated. It was indeed magical (and somewhat disorienting, particularly during the witching hours) to suddenly enter into a land of Teva and Chaco-clad faeries.

There were also faeries
The hours passed. The mosquitoes flew back to wherever they had come from. The air was cool, the night was quiet, and a random deer hung out right near the start, wondering why there were faeries and colorful lamps on the periphery of her homestead.

There were people that were in for three, six, twelve, and twenty-four hours. The numbers dwindled seriously after the 6 hour mark. There were a few left for the 12-hour and even fewer left for the 24-hour, because only truly demented people do that.

I ran and walked, walked and ran. Shuffled some, sat some. Stretched, changed shoes, talked with friends, offered encouragement to them, and received the same.

You know what? You actually can eat too much watermelon, which is basically a Fiber One bar in water. Lesson learned. The port-a-potty would be my best friend the entire night, in addition to my son's iPod.

I even gave Rebecca the side-eye when she mentioned that her feet were hurting after 16 miles.

"So? You keep going."

And she did. Rebecca finished a marathon that morning. She had never run any distance beyond six miles prior to the MSND hourly race. I was and am exceedingly proud of her! How many people surprise themselves like that in such a profound way? Rebecca is now a proud owner of a 26.2 sticker.

I did 32 miles and was finished. Done.

We both took a nap in the sun that had already dried up the copious amount of dew that had covered everything. At 9:20 we were given medals. At 10 we had breakfast, and at 11 we drove back to our respective homes.

Friday, October 9, 2015


When the going gets tough, the tough say things. I talk and sing to myself a lot on the trail. I sing when I'm in a good place (and also when I'm spooked), and talk to myself when I'm in a low place. There are a couple of mantras that I use, some original and others lifted from various people and books depending on where I am mentally and physically. Feel free to use them or create your own to help you through a tough race or training run.

Because sometimes you feel like this. (I took this picture right after I 
finished 31.5 miles at the Montour12 Hour Race in Danville, PA. 
I think I was still repeating mantras even after I was done.
If you do have any original mantras, please share in the comments. Let's spread the joy, and pain...

This one comes from one of the books my son loved for me to read to him when he was a bit younger. It's from the somewhat disturbing fairy tale, Tikki Tikki Tembo. In it, an old man helps a boy save his brother from drowning in a well. They have a long journey ahead of them and the wise old man says "Step over step, step over step" to help the boy to keep moving forward.

This is actually the title of a staple of ultra running by Bryon Powell, Although I love the book, its infinite wisdom, and awesome training plans, the title is all you really need. Repeating this phrase over and over, in my mind and out loud has helped me through many a low point in a race or long training run. Sometimes the phrase runs through my head while I'm at work, and I LOVE my job.

Because really, that's all they are. Miles. I don't know how or why I started saying this to myself, but it is so completely comforting and reassuring. Repeating this phrase is akin to having a conversation with my mom after a stressful day. It puts things into perspective.

Because in most cases, it is. This is Whether or not the mind is willing is another thing.

This is me being a teacher and coach to myself. Do the work. Get it done. Because there really is no other option. There have been times when I have not finished doing all the work for various reasons: I knew that my race was over, the race director said that my race was over, or that if I pressed on there would be long-lasting physical consequences, like not being able to drive myself home or function the next day. Otherwise, I get it done.

And my newest, most FAVORITE one:

Penultimate day of difficult,  all-uphill backpacking in
Brevard, North Carolina. 
This one came to me as I was having a moment during the Georgia Jewel 35 Miler. I was wet, tired, extremely hungry and DONE.But then when the moment came that I questioned why I was doing this to myself, voluntarily, I stopped and gained some perspective. There are  people who don't get to spend inordinate amounts of time moving their bodies in the way they want or need to. There are people who are so disenchanted with their lives that they are stuck physically and emotionally. At this point in my life, I am grateful to not be experiencing any of those things. I am grateful to be living the dream.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Outside beckoned. I obliged.

This afternoon I had absolutely no INTENTION or MOTIVATION to run. None, whatsoever. It wasn't the rain--that doesn't usually stop me.

It was the crushing fatigue that had clouded my daily existence over that past week. That's what it was.

Here is a a brief summary of my week:

  • Driving home on Sunday morning--I actually stopped at Dick's Creek Gap along the Appalachian Trail for a short hike to get the blood moving in my tired and sore legs. 

  • A rehearsal for Monday's presentation on Sunday evening, and then a marathon (pun-intended) of a week:

  • Monday-up at 4:30 am for an international phone interview, then class preparations, then wake up kid, then work, then meeting with parent, then XC practice, then duty in the dorms until 11:30pm.

  • Tuesday-Friday: Up at 5am everyday--more meetings, more phone interviews, more writing, more XC practices and meets, a concert (the reason why Someone Like You by Adele was in my head for three hours during the GJ35 last weekend), parent meetings, and finally an injured and sick kid who needed to be transported and catered to..."Mommy, can you make me some tea and popcorn? And can you rub my feet? And can we cuddle?...."

Rabun County is the wettest county in Georgia. It's part of the world's only
temperate rain forest. Sometimes while out on the trails, I pretend I'm in the
Costa Rican jungle. A girl can dream...
Also *sigh*, I lost my wedding band on Thursday afternoon. It flew off my finger as I was flinging plastic bottles into the recycling container at our town garbage dump. It left me emotionally exhausted, stunned, and also a bit tickled that I hadn't even noticed how much thinner my fingers had gotten over the past few months. Who knew?

Gear: Patagonia Houdini Rain Jacket*, TNF Capris,
Feetures Socks, Nike Long Sleeved Tech Shirt,
Panache Sports Bra, Brooks Pure Grit Trail Shoes,
Fast forward to today. Woke up to a relentless, cold rain and wet everything thanks to the effects of Hurricane Joaquín on the Eastern Seaboard. (My Pearl Izumi Trail M2s have not even dried yet from last weeks race! That is how wet it is in Rabun County!)  I had slept for an entire 11 hours--9:30pm-8:30am, and hadn't even been able to finish my ritual Friday night glass of Malbec. (Yep, I'm snooty like that...) Anyways, sleeping for 11 hours straight is definitely not my norm so it meant only one thing. My body NEEDED it desperately.

I kept looking outside and sighing. There was NO way I was going to run. Too dark, too gloomy, too Hurricane-y and I'M TOO EXHAUSTED.

But then magically, after coming home from grocery shopping--tired and soggy, and mad at myself for forgetting to buy my weekly bottle of Malbec before the STUPID no-alcohol sales on SUNDAYS rule was in effect, I looked outside, and outside beckoned me to join the rain party. 

I knew what it was. I wanted to see what it would feel like to be out there TODAY when no one else was. My body wanted to move in the outdoors, unencumbered by thoughts of what-do-I-have-today-tomorrow-and-forever. It wanted to pound the pavement, since it had been four whole days since the last outside party.

My body knew intrinsically that, if it was going to deal with the fatigue, it was going to have to run first.

So I did. It wasn't easy. In fact, the first half mile was downright miserable, my legs were still tired from GJ35. But once the body warmed up, the rain and the cold breeze were no longer an issue and it was pretty smooth sailing in the turbulent sea of Joaquín inspired rain.

If I hadn't run, I would have missed inhaling the woodsmoke coming from a small country house about halfway through my run. I stopped and smelled, listening to the rain pelting on trees just about to go dormant for the winter, turned around and ran home. 

*If you have a butt or a tummy, buy the next size up in this jacket. You will not be disappointed.