Inspiration, cliff scrambling and as seen on TV

I woke up yesterday morning not wanting to go on my long run. This has been my second week of slightly reduced and slower miles to see if the twinges in my left arch go away (and they have!) so it wasn’t my body giving me the metaphorical finger, it was my brain.

When this happens I make a deal with my brain, I tell myself that I’ll just start out and if it really sucks, I can just quit. Giving myself an out eases the internal resistance and often I’ll find that the desire to just go back to sleep completely goes away. It’s like all my brain needs to know is that there are options.

So anyway, I stumbled out of bed, fed the dogs, got dressed, blah, blah. The sun was just coming up by the time I got on the trails and put in my ear buds. Eleven-12 miles were on the calendar today but I was keeping my options open. I headed from Murrell park towards Rockledge, pleased that my foot continued to feel strong as I ambled through the thick green foliage.

nst1

Well hello there gorgeous

By the time I got to this point-about 3 miles into the run- the sun was completely up and the woods steamy. Ahhh…but I had a secret weapon. Have you seen the Enduro Cool Wrap commercial? (not affiliate link, not compensated) Well I bought one. They sell them for $20 at Lowes and I figured if they work like they say they do, they could change running in August for me.

And you know what? THEY FREAKING WORK. I’ve never bought something ‘as seen on TV’ in my life but DAMN. Every few minutes, I would wipe the rag over my face and arms, keeping my skin cool enough that it felt like I was running in May instead of August. I think this might be my favorite running purchase ever.

So there I am, running along with a foot that feels pretty good and a body that feels pretty rested because I’ve been taking it kind of easy the last couple of weeks (19 miles total last week and 17 this week) and I’m not overheated and the light is beautiful and my brain is still having none of this.

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Okay, fine. Whatever. My body has dragged a reluctant brain along many times. But as I’m moving down the path, I started to think about a conversation I’d had with my friend Anastacia recently.

We ‘met’ years ago on a message board that is now defunct and have remained internet friends. She’s traveled all over the world and is raising a totally cool little boy and is a wonderful artist (one of her buddha prints has a place of honor in my home-similar here) and she was finally in my area for work.

ana and me

We totally hit it off and over two evenings had so many cool conversations-including one about her adventure challenge. For over two months now, Anastacia has challenged herself to find new adventures every day. Everything from hiking new trails to talking to strangers.

So I’m thinking about this as I’m getting close to the cliffs of Rockledge park when I get to a point in the trail where a path leads off from it, down the side and to the water. And I think, why not do a little climbing up the cliffs? Nothing else is working, might as well have some fun. Plus Rough Creek is coming up next month and it has plenty of this crap.

I head down to the water and then look for a place to climb up. Because of erosion (I assume), the cliffs are almost straight up and I have to scramble slowly up in shoes that are not made for scrambling in loose, steep sediment. I get back on the trail until I find the next path down and repeat the exercise.

Kind of weird perspective-I'm at the bottom looking straight up at the trees that rim the edge of the trail

Kind of weird perspective-I’m at the bottom looking straight up at the trees that rim the edge of the trail

I do this a couple of more times and am so into that I look to the right and wait, what? The pavillions of Rockledge Park, which is the turn around/end point for the trail. That was quick. And now I’m energized.

I head into the park and pick up some trash because, hey, while I’m at I haven’t done a One Thing Wednesday for the past couple of weeks. After a few trips to the trash/recycle bins, I rinse off at the edge of the lake and then head back on the trail.

The trip back seemed quicker, brighter and more fun. I joked with the bikers that passed me and took more notice of little things on the trail. I broke out in a grin every once in awhile. Then 11 miles was done and I was still smiling. All it takes is a little adventure-just one thing outside the routine to turn my day around. So thanks Anastacia. :)

Which is good news, because we are going to Colorado for a few days of hiking, running and visiting friends in the mountains. I CANNOT WAIT.

Hope everyone has a great week-

Tired

yellow leaf

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” ― Walt Whitman

I’ve been spending too much time on the internet lately and I feel saturated with it. Not just the overwhelm of constant sensory bombardment that it can provide (the internet being the equivalent of vegas packed into an 11X13 screen), it’s the snark.

I’m not saying anything new when I say this but more and more, we seem to talk AT each other, and not TO each other. We repost snide little quips meant to make the ‘other side’ (whichever side is the opposite of yours) look stupid. It’s always flat, easy answers when discussing politics and the middle east and religion and birth control. Ones that don’t see the complexity of human emotion and decision. It’s an addictive little ego game, one that my NEED TO BE RIGHT likes and that scares me. I don’t want to be snarky, snide or holier-than-thou. I want to be open and caring and compassionate but you know, sometimes it’s so easy to quip over a computer screen.

But I’m tired of it. I have running to thank for my impatience for the game that will never be won. Dirty, sweaty, smelly running that laughs at my ego and reminds me how small and insignificant I am. Thank God.

This all sounds so DRAMATIC as I type this. Nothing major happened. I didn’t get in the middle of some horrendous internet meltdown. It just seems like I’m seeing too much anger online and don’t like the part of myself that sometimes wants to dive into and add to it. All that says to me is it’s time to focus on other things (as I write this out on a internet medium. I know).

One thing that’s been itching at the back of my mind these days is to create more videos around running and the outdoors. I had sooooo much fun creating my (very rough) little ‘trailrunner’s life‘ video. And I see so much beauty out there-why not share it?

I have no idea what I’m doing in regards to filming anything but I get a ton of inspiration from other running/racing/outdoor videos I see online so when Jason and I go to Colorado (next week!!!!!!!), I think I’ll try to get some footage and put a little something together.

In other news, it’s not 100 degrees here. That in itself is a news worthy miracle. Hope ya’ll are having fun out there! Be safe-

Weekly recap 8.3-8.9

*It probably doesn’t really need to be said but I’ll say it anyway: I’m not affiliated with or being compensated by any brand/company that I mention/link to in this post. Just sharing some faves.

What I’m eating:

Lentil chips (that are so good, I buy multiple bags when I see them at the grocery store like a hoarder) and ‘guacamole’ (mashed avocado and salt) is pretty much my daily breakfast. And as you can see from the photo, occasionally I trade my morning dr. pepper for a peach iced tea. Because I’m healthy. And a grown up.

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Another new fave is some Justin’s maple almond butter spread on a tortilla-it’s become my new pre-long run breakfast. It’s got a salty-sweet thing going and good texture-I wash it down with some kona cola nuun, which doesn’t taste like my beloved dr. pepper at all but is fizzy and sort of cola-y enough to convince me I’m having soda before I head out the door.

My mileage:

Approximately 21 miles, including two early morning runs in my neighborhood, a 40 minute round on the elliptical and a sweaty-ass 12 miler at my favorite northshore trails yesterday.

the sun just rising after finishing a run earlier this week

the sun just rising after finishing a run earlier this week

I love your, NS, even when you suck

I love your, NS, even when you suck

When I went to the doc about plantar fasciitis last fall, he insisted recommended a 3 day/week running regimen (two shorter runs during the week, a long run on the weekend) that I’ve stuck to pretty consistently. I’ve been wanting to add an extra day of running for awhile now but have been hesitant because I just DO NOT want to go down the PF path again.

The last few weeks, I’ve added a session of hiking up and down the hills in my neighborhood and didn’t seem to have too many issues so this week, I added the elliptical session as well. Unfortunately, I started to feel some twinges at the tail end of my long run yesterday. Ice and rest eliminated any symptoms but I’m backing off again and will only have either the hiking or elliptical session during the week-not both-until I see consistent weeks without any twinges or pain.

Extras sweating:

In addition to running/elliptical/hiking, I do one strength session per week and also do yoga a few days a week at home (for about 15 minutes/time) and this week was no different.

Yoga is something that is as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth at this point. My body/brain/spirit feel more balanced/lighter/more at ease when I practice it and I don’t go too many days without a down dog.

sunset yoga

 

What I’m watching:

I’m such a trail nerd that even on my rest days (like today) when I’m not doing anything running related, I’m watching/reading something about running, specifically trail running. Today it was the Tracing the Edge series by Patagonia, which featured Krissy Moehl, a well accomplished ultra runner.

 

 

Now I sort of want to go climb a mountain.

One Thing Wednesday (OTW):

If you follow me on IG you’ve already seen this but I was able to give two big bags of clothes to CPS (Child Protective Services). A coworker’s sister works for the organization and apparently, they have something they call the ‘rainbow room’ for kids coming into the system. They try to keep it stocked with clothes and school supplies and the like because many of the kids entering their fold have nothing-literally NOTHING-but the clothes on their back. Can you imagine? You are going through hell and you don’t even have basic comforts.

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Jason and I cleaned out our closets and shared what we could with my coworker’s sister. I find more and more with this project that these acts may be small, but because they are direct actions in my community, they seem to be more meaningful. We can’t fix anything for these kids, we can’t take away whatever they went through to land them in the system, but we can provide a little comfort and that is something.

I keep thinking I’d like to create a facebook page or website that focuses exclusively on this little project of mine to see if it can grow..I dunno. To be determined.

What I’m listening to:

Jason turned me on to this group and I love the sort of island-y, sort of reggae vibe. Very mellow. Perfect for car trips or breezy, relaxed runs.

This is on your running playlist too, don’t even lie.

What I’m dreaming of:

Pretty much all my focus is on the Rockledge Rumble 50K-my first ultra race-coming up in November. I’m doing a lot of positive visualization, to the point of creating an inspiration wall in my cube at work that has quotes, images of runners I admire, the course map, time goals, etc.

But…occasionally I let my mind stray from that date and focus on other things. Like running in more states! The hubs and I are going to Colorado in September for our anniversary and I can’t wait to get out on a trail there. And I’d still like to see trails in at least one other state this fall when it gets cooler.

And that’s sort of my week. Now I’m off to read what ya’ll have been up to. Happy running, folks!

Race recap: Cedar Ridge 18K

I mean, what can you really say about racing in July?

hot stupid

Running the trails at Cedar Ridge is an exercise in appreciation. Or in hating your life, depending on your perspective.

Race day started in the dark, with bobbing headlamps guiding us to the check in station, the temps already in the mid 80’s (the high that day was 100 degrees) and the humidity at a delightful 4000%.

Jason and I were running separate distances (note: the race had 3 distance options and was on a very hilly, very challenging single track loop course. The 9K’ers-including my husband-ran the loop once. The 18k’ers-like me-twice, the 36k’ers 4 times) with different start times so we parted as we usually do with a kiss and a fist bump when I lined up first.

Almost immediately I felt the familiar pang of a dehydration headache so I stuck with water for the majority of the first loop and stayed away from a lot of electrolytes or food, save for one orange slice from the aid station. 2/3rds of the way through the first loop the headache was gone but my hands were swelling pretty badly so when I cruised into the start/finish at the end of my first loop, I grabbed a salt pill and a pickle from the aid station before heading back into the brush for a second go ’round.

I stuck to more electrolytes (HEED, pickles, pickle juice) and less water for the second loop and once I got things balanced out, my body felt better on the second slog than the first, despite a fog of heat radiating off of me thanks to increasing temps and the layer of sweat slicking my skin and dripping into my eyes.

The shorter, tighter, more challenging course also seemed to keep the runners from spreading out too much so I was able to have a few breathless conversations when I found myself in step with another runner. Nothing brings people together like shared misery so we commiserated on shoes, other races (one guy I talked to had done a half iron man the weekend prior-no big) and the beauty of the course.

And this particular set of trails is beautiful. I’ve spent plenty of time on those trails as the constant up and down was good training for the Mesquite Canyon half marathon Jason and I did earlier in the year. I tried to keep my perspective on the appreciation I wrote about at the top of the post, enjoying the few runnable flats and the thick of green all around us.

Wild flowers running riot at Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve.

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(photos taken at previous times on the course)

At one point early in the race, I found myself on the only stretch of trail that isn’t within the thick of trees. The sun was just coming up and for a few minutes I was running through golden light, feeling a wide expanse within myself, an amazing sense of freedom and peace. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is nothing like being outside moving and sweating as the sun comes up. Something about challenging your body as you see the start of a new day just feels so epically ALIVE and this day was no different.

shortly after the sun rose

shortly after the sun rose

Then it was back to huffing and sweating as I kicked up more dirt on my ankles.

This race was not a goal race for so I had no goal time and finished in about 2:40, which was about what I’d expect given my experience on this trail and the heat/humidity. So I finished in a fair to middling time but Jason had a freaking FANTASTIC experience. In the 9K race, he finished first in his age group and 4th male, in the top 10 overall. Rock on Jason!

We celebrated with post race tacos-chicken for him and bean/cheese for me and a Dr. Pepper that yes, I brought from home.

post race dp

 

This was another race from Endurance Buzz and as always, the race was super organized and the volunteers super friendly. I love their races and highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys trail running in the DFW area. And I totally mean that even though I told the RD that we needed to have a serious talk about his obvious sadistic streak.

And now that I’ve shared my recap, I’m off to read all of yours. Have fun out there and bring plenty of water with you.

What I’ve been doing

Where I’ve been:

church

What my conversations have been like:

Friend: So, what are you up to these days.

Me: Running.

Friend: …

Friend: Anything else?

Me: Eating. Eating is super important to me. OMG I LOVE FOOD.

healthy flavors meme

Friend:

waynes world meme

 

-or-

Me:….and I’m training for an ultramarathon

Friend: What’s an ultramarathon?

Me: It’s any race longer than the marathon distance of 26.2. Most of them start at 50K which is what I’m training for in November.

Friend: How long is 50K?

Me: 31.5 miles.

Friend: You’re crazy.

Me: I agree with you.

What I’ve got coming up:

Cedar Ridge 18K is this weekend. I’m using it as a training run but still taking it a little easier this week in a modified taper. A friend of mine (who is also a runner) and I were talking about how we don’t have to taper like we used to when we were first starting out and what a good feeling that is. Sometimes the signs of improvement are not in race times, they are in how your body feels, even at a greater level of activity.

One Thing Wednesday:

My one non-running related activity! I didn’t post about it last week but am still doing one thing a week to try and make the world a little brighter/healthier/happier.

This week I’ve been focusing on taking my lunch to work more. I’ve gotten in the bad habit of picking up lunch from somewhere around the office-which is always encased in plastic that just gets thrown away. Bringing lunch in reusable containers means I don’t add more non-biodegradeable trash into the environment. I was probably bringing my lunch with me about once a week and the goal is to increase that to 2-3 times a week. I feel better, I save some money and the world has a little less trash in it. :)

And on this front, I also talked to my friends Mark and Melanie-who are some of the most genuinely positive people I’ve ever met and also went a whole year without using plastic-about this little idea of mine. The thought to grow this project keeps popping up in my head and I wanted their opinion: could this project be interesting to other people? Was it interesting? How could I grow it?

Well they were super encouraging and supportive-to the point that they even posted about it on facebook and created a hashtag! We are still in the planning stages of how to get more involvement in One Thing Wednesday but if you are interested in doing one thing and want to share, you can #onethingwednesdays on facebook/IG/etc.

If you’d like to learn more about it, you can go here to see how I got started and what my motivations are.

And what about you guys? What are ya’ll up to? Is it a million degrees where you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trail runner’s life

So I got an idea to put together a little montage video of what my life looks like as I gear up for my first ultra marathon in November (hint: food and dirt basically).

I had so much fun putting together this video! Like more than I thought I would-and somehow or another, it make running more fun as well.

Hope you enjoy it!

A mid-packers guide to trail racing

I remember when I started trail racing and how intimidated I was -and there didn’t seem to be a lot of information/stories/anecdotes out there (at least that I’d found at that point) from and for mid-packers like me. Lots of the info I found were stories from the lead pack or advice for those that wanted to be part of the lead pack and realistically, that is info is not that relevant to me.

And now that I’ve had several trail races of varying lengths under my belt, I’d like to share what I’ve learned and found important for anyone who isn’t quite at this point and isn’t sure where to get started.

Some of the points are sure to change/evolve as I change/evolve in running, some of the points are things I have to remind myself of almost constantly. I assume the list will grow the more I do this because I want to always be learning and refining and discovering. And, of course, all points are my opinion based on my experiences and may not be relevant to you personally.

(blah, blah, blah let’s get started)

1. Prepare for what you can.

If I had to impart only one piece of advice to someone new to trail racing, this would be it. In other words, get to know your race as much as humanly possible. Most race websites will provide course maps, info on aid stations and a course profile, among other things. LEARN THEM.

Rough Creek course elevation profile

Rough Creek course elevation profile

If your race looks like this, it is in your best interest to run some freaking stairs. And maybe cry. But seriously, if you are a new trail runner or a road runner moving into trails, you will be experiencing a much different environment and it is probably steeper, more rocky, more technical and hotter than you are used to. Know what you are getting into and prepare accordingly.

You may also find it useful to know how often you are going to hit an aid station and what goodies they provide, what weather conditions are expected to be like and if there are bathrooms along the course (VERY important info IMO).

But no matter how much you prepare, there will be stuff you can’t prepare for which leads me to my next point:

2. Know what you can’t prepare for.

When we did a race in Arizona, I knew it would basically straight up a hill (and then straight back down) so I prepared for that as much as I could. What I couldn’t really prepare for was the difference in humidity between the swamp of north Texas where I live and the arid conditions of Arizona and I knew it. I think it can be just as important to know what you can’t prepare for because if you know, you can accept it, compensate for it if possible and most importantly, not stress about the unknown.

running meme

 

3. Read the pre race document.

One of the best ways to ensure points #1 and #2 is to read the pre-race document that the RD (race director) sends out, usually about a week before the race. I have never run a race (and so far, I’ve run them in 3 different states) where the doc wasn’t super detailed and helpful, not only for specific race info but also the ancillary stuff-parking details, bathroom availability, etc.

4. Carry plenty of water.

Unless you don’t live in the hottest place on earth, then this may not be relevant information. Or you are naturally camel like and can store water in pockets in your body. But a lot of times, races are held in very warm conditions and in my opinion,  the last thing you want to do is stress about running out of water between aid stations. It’s cliche but it’s true-it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Samantha Gash, youngest person to complete the Desert Series

Samantha Gash, youngest person to complete RacingThePlanet’s Four Desert Grand Slam. You probably won’t need as much water as she did.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

In my experience most trail runners and aid station workers (who are usually also trail runners) are friendly people who are more than happy to help you if you need it. And getting cramps/tired/hurt/disoriented is something most trail runners have had to deal with at some point in their life and will go out of their way to lend some support to someone else going through it.

6. Pay attention to your surroundings.

This isn’t some flat road race with police barriers and volunteers guiding you through turns. If you are running a trail race, you are probably in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and aid stations 3 miles apart and that’s it. Now I personally have never been on a course that I didn’t think was well marked with signs/orange tape/etc but you know, runner brain sometimes makes you a little less cognizant of these things and it’s not unheard of for someone to get off course. Just don’t let yourself zone out too much is my advice so you don’t end up 3 miles in the wrong direction and have to hoof it back.

7. Keep going.

You may have the most fun, upbeat races ever and never experience low points, painful points or dreary points. But if you do, my advice is just to keep going, even if it is at the slowest walking pace ever. Just don’t stop. Because unless it is a serious injury, my experience is that if you keep moving, the low points will turn themselves around.

Me having zero fun. Photo credit Movin Pictures.

Me having zero fun during a race. Photo credit Movin Pictures.

But even during the crappy points, don’t forget to…

7. Have Fun.

Photo credit: Moving pictures

Me having lots of fun. Photo credit Movin pictures

The most important point of all, of course. I find what works for me is to prepare as much as possible leading up to the race and then once I get to the start line, I don’t think about it anymore. Because at that point, you can’t change anything, you can’t get any more conditioned and worrying won’t get you to the first aid station any quicker. When you let go of expectation, you leave space for joy and isn’t that the point? So you might as well stop stressing and just take the experience as it comes because no matter what, it will teach you something about yourself and you’ll come away stronger and a better person for it.

So that’s my advice. Any experienced trail runners out there that have any to share? I’d love to hear it!

p.s. I didn’t forget One Thing Wednesday-I talked about it on IG if you are interested…