Monthly Archives: June 2015

Food for Thought

First things first because everyone needs a good laugh, right? At mile 4ish I put my foot down onto some mud and immediately fell on my ass and slid like I was taking home. I had to stop and take pictures because it’s fun to laugh at yourself, right? And now you can, too!

mud collage

When I got to the porta potty several miles later, my shoes were gobbled in mud which is probably what led to me skating on the Poop Loop (I only wiped out once but the ground pulled at me hard the whole 4 miles) and I didn’t realize till much later that my entire outside edge of my right leg was also coated with mud. It’s funny how you don’t realize you use your right butt cheek to wipe the snot off your hand until you can’t do that anymore.

The day was absolutely beautiful: cool breeze, dew point in the low 60s, clear bright sky and lots of mud from the previous days’ rain. The creek had slightly receded from the day before; I love the sound of the speeding river and the hustle of the trains meandering in the distance.

Anyway, on to the lesson that was learned on this run, because long runs always have something to say.

Training runs are when you try out new things and, like me, attempt to figure out the nutrition you will need to fuel your body for anything longer than 15 miles. It’s a never ending search I tell ya and mainly the struggle exists because I really don’t want to eat in the first place. Yet, it’s necessary so you don’t hit the wrong kind of wall at mile 22 of 24 like I did.

clif back

This time I tried something new, again. It’s the Clif Organic Energy Food, the sweet potato and sea salt flavor. I did not bother looking at the back of the package beforehand except to look at the list of ingredients. Notice there is 520mg of salt, 21g of carbs, 9g of protein and only 9g of sugar. Also notice one serving size is the entire pouch and that an entire pouch should be consumed every hour during activity. You see that right? The “For Best Results” section?

Make sure you read that before you’re at mile 19, okay? So that way you don’t then go, “Fuck. I’m still 5 miles away from my car!” Because that’s when you realize you’ve probably only been consuming 50 calories per hour and that leads to what? The Bonk. And in a very hard way.

I check in with Coach while I’m out on the trails so that way at least someone knows where I am. There are trail markers and fire peeps are out on Belle Isle every weekend during daylight hours, but if I’m knocked unconscious no one is going to know where to begin looking if I don’t tell someone. I make up my route as I go along so who knows where I’ll end up. (Hopefully my car but I digress as this smartass says.)

So I left my house with only one pouch to last me 24 miles. That’s a total of four hours of running. With only one pouch. Guess who bonked hard at mile 21? I bet you’ll never figure it out. Guess who had to walk three miles back to her car because her body had tapped out of the running game? I bet you’ll never figure that out either. Go on, I’ll even give you three chances.

*raising my hand* That’s right, me!

These pouches are $3 a pop. I can get them at a discount rate of $2 for one or $12 for six. But with that much salt (520mg!), I’m just gonna buy my own reusable pouches, puree my own sweet potato/avocado/sea salt mixture and remember to eat the entire pouch every hour. And this Sunday I shall complete the full 24 miles without walking the last three OR stopping to take pictures of my muddy ass at mile four. Well, okay maybe that last thing will happen if it’s again really funny, it’s way more fun to laugh at yourself when you have witnesses to share in the hilarity.

Texas Beach was my way back home. I walked as fast as I could muster, noticing these flowers along the way. I’ve run by them probably a handful of times and paid them no mind, so as much as walking was painful and took forever, I really enjoyed these flowers and watching a pit bull pup play in the river with her brother. Happy dogs make happy people. And look, trail love!

 trail love collage

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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in 50 miles, challenges


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Confidence Contingent

The deeper I get into the trail running scene, the more I notice the lack of women getting dirty, which I’ve discussed before. It’s been leading to a lot of thinking and pondering ways to get women involved. What if they want to, but don’t know where to start? What if those women simply need a little push to get out on the trail to discover their happy place?

Recently I read this article, The Confidence Gap, about women and our overall lack of confidence when compared to men. The article is a summary of the authors’ book The Confidence Code that goes into much greater detail regarding the differences and what might influence them and focuses mainly on the corporate and economic sectors. The subject absolutely fascinates me for a number of reasons gleaned from the article and I believe can be applied to our hesitancy to delve into what we don’t know (these are broad general statements), not just in our professional lives.

  • Women seem to be more honest about our shortcomings, or lack of skill.
  • Men talk out of their ass a lot, as in they put on a fake bravado and sell it well. They seem more successful at the concept “fake it till you make it”.
  • Women tend to focus on perfection first, success second, meaning we like to be 100% sure we can complete a task before we take it on.
  • Men are more comfortable taking on responsibility and duties even if those don’t match their skill set.

Are you nodding your head yes to these? I did and I’ve added both the Confidence Code and Womenomics to my reading list.

This article in conjunction with the chapter in Daughters of Distance titled “Putting on the Big Girl Panties (Confidence)” got me thinking even more about women’s participation on trails and specifically in endurance events. It is a fact, though not solid, gender participation in the shorter distances have women at a little over half the registrants. When considering the half and full marathon distances, gender participation evens out. Yet when you look at the gender participation for endurance events of 50k or greater, women’s participation drops significantly to an average of 25%, or one-third that of men.

Wow, right?

There now exists an abundance of research that suggests a woman’s body is better suited for endurance sports and that is based almost solely on physiological findings. Example: our bodies have an ability to store and burn fat slowly and efficiently. There just aren’t many women running these monster distances and a huge part of me wonders what is keeping us from completing these great feats of endurance and confidence and its roots seem like a very good place to start.

It takes a lot of time to train for any distance over a marathon. Hell, it takes a lot of time to train for a marathon; on average, you’ll spend 15-25 hours a week training for whichever goal you have set for yourself. We may have young children at home, unsupportive partners or family, comfortable couch, demanding job that requires travel or long hours, etc. There are myriad reasons one could give.

Also mentioned in the article is how women feel more confident in their abilities when they have people who believe in them, perhaps that suggests a woman needs one or two trusted people from her inner circle whenever concentrating on a new task. From my own experiences, I have done better and thought more of what I’m attempting to accomplish when close friends and family have supported me from start to finish. It’s almost as if my brain suggests to me why bother if no one else likes the idea either, ya know? Certainly not all of are the same and there are variations of this of course. Many emotions are on a spectrum with predicted ebb and flow.

So I ask, have you noticed how often women preface their story with, “I’m not a good runner,” or, “I’m not a good bike rider,” or, “I haven’t been running much,” and, “I haven’t been keeping up with my running…”? Start really listening to our stories and notice the trends you hear. It’s very interesting how often we qualify our abilities before we can be judged by others. It leads back to the perfection piece and needing to know without a doubt we’re good at what we are currently attempting and only when we have become the best can we say, “We are enough”.

For centuries society has tried hard to keep women from knowledge and confidence, enacting many laws and creating an entire language around men in order to keep us from being fucking amazing. We need to stop being ourselves apologetically.

Which inspired me to begin a ladies only trail run in my city that meets once a month: Team ESTRA-Gen*. And to take on the chair position of a local race for the Arthritis Foundation. And to become an ‘ambassador’ of sorts of a local trail race series. And look for a woman new-er to trail running to pace me the last 13 miles of my 50 miler.

You never know what will happen till you push your limits, it’s the only way to know what you’re capable of accomplishing.

You confidence of self is not contingent.

*Irony is 2 men coming up with the name of a women’s only trail running group. Double irony is finding 4 used tubes (fireworks) on the inaugural run with labels that read: CONTRABAND 54. WARNING: SHOOTS FLAMING BALLS.


Posted by on June 22, 2015 in 50 miles, gender


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Running. Period.

Let me just get this out there before I go into greater detail: this run sucked and it sucked hard. I knew it had to happen eventually so I was prepared. Before even half my run was over I had the title for this post, if that gives you any indication.

This run SUCKED in every possible way. Running on the first day of your period isn’t usually fun but it’s not the worst thing either; many of us adapt and go with the flow*. However, running 22 miles on the first day of your period isn’t something I would recommend. Ladies, y’all understand where I’m coming from. Hormones are playing hockey in your Self: the ovaries and uterus are gurgling, swollen; emotions are all over the spectrum; body is fatigued with all that effort going on at once and it was too fucking hot.

I woke up to the alarm, grumping. I got dressed, grumping. I grabbed my banana hydration pack extra clothes extra water, grumbling. I got in the car, grumbling. I parked and picked up trash to put off the run a little longer, grumbling. I finally started running, grumbling. I decided it was going to be one of those runs where I run checkpoint to checkpoint yet I also knew I needed to be finished with the big loop before the bike race and sprint triathlon started. Oof.

So I said good morning to all the toads and frogs I saw on Northbank, warning each to stay to the side for the next handful of hours so they didn’t get ran over by the fast heavy MTB tires. And I said good morning to the ducks on Texas Beach, running face first into a few spider webs as I trekked back to the bridge. The view from the Nickel Bridge is always spectacular. Buttermilk was a beast as usual but I didn’t stop until I got to Reedy Creek. That’s where I met up with a trail buddy by accident, which is usually fun. He was just about to start his jaunt through Forest Hill so we decided to keep one another company. He said he was going slow, I laughed and said that would be most excellent since I wasn’t even wanting to run in the first place.

That was at my mile 7ish. I was a sweat waterfall and had only been running for a bit over an hour.

We got through Forest Hill, splashing through Reedy Creek, and asked the course marshal the expected arrival of the riders. He said we had about 20min and we agreed that was plenty of time to get through the remaining 1.5 miles. At some point I did move a tiny turtle off the path, it was no bigger than a quarter, telling the turtle as I moved it the bikes wouldn’t be able to see it and all life is valuable. Maybe the tiny box turtle appreciated it, I’ll never know.

About 5 minutes from finishing the bikes started coming and they were zooming! We got out of their way quickly. The guys at the front of the pack plowed through while the guys in the middle apologized for making us move off trail. We told them no need, we were the ones in the way!

The friend and I parted ways shortly after that, he going back to his car and me onto the remaining 11 miles. He joked about solidarity and I assured him the 4 miles was a welcome distraction and thanked him for joining me. Then I ran to the flood wall and ended up sitting underneath the bridge in the shade for too long, eating my second gel and salt pill, even taking a picture. I checked in with Coach because my hands were finally dry enough to allow the swiping of my touchscreen and then off I went in the strong bright sunshine to continue the self torture.


As I jogged slowly over the flood wall, a pack of 4 people cheered and clapped. I probably should have told them I wasn’t racing and pointed out the runners would be coming from behind not their front, but to be honest, it put some pep in my step. I had run 11 miles at this point, all under the shade of trees. It would be another 2 miles before I encountered shade and I was missing my sunglasses.

The slave trail was in sight, I got to the Poop Loop and headed in. I noted my mileage so I could track how much I do in there, winding my way all over. That was 14.39 miles. Half a mile later my watch beeped, signaling to me I had run a half mile. This is where I fell apart. I was pissed. I said, “Only HALF a fucking mile? I feel like I’ve been in here forever already. This is stupid. Why am I even out here? I just want to go home and watch OITNB and drink a beer or two.” And it went on and on for what I discovered later was a whole mile. I sent text messages to Coach, one in particular that read,

This sucks.

This sucks.

This sucks.

This sucks.

His reply:

Just keep going.

Just keep going.

Just keep going.

Just keep going.

I hated it. I didn’t want to be told to just keep going or swimming or running or whatever. I wanted him to tell me he’d come pick me up and soon this misery would be over and I could sit on my couch and watch OITNB and drink a beer or two. But this is also why the Former EC is my Coach – it’s strange to many of you, I know, but now you might understand why. He knew I’d work it out, shut down those nasty negative thoughts and keep going. I knew there was no way in hell I was quitting because I knew I’d feel like a failure for quitting. And Coach knows that about me, too. I cried and screamed and ranted and raged. I hated everything right at that moment. Everything sucked. I just wanted to go home and sit in the air conditioning and not move ever again. Coach won’t coddle me; he and I both know that, while training, I need someone to yell at me. Even as my EC he didn’t coddle me, which I was okay with most of the time because I don’t coddle either and because we’re grown ups. We need to suck it up and get the fuck on with it, right? And funny enough, I decided I was tired of myself and I needed to get the fuck on with it because I would get back to my car much faster if I ran. It felt like I had been walking forever, yelling at myself, but then my watched beeped right after I started running again.

My total meltdown had lasted exactly 1 mile, or 12-13 minutes.

So then what does any self-respecting person do on a run they already hate? They run the Poop Loop twice! After that I allowed myself the time to sit on a log, eat my final gel and another salt pill. I watched 3 MTBs enter the Loop while I sat there. Then finally I got up and  headed back to my car, which was about 3 miles away. Deer flies are an excellent motivator, just sayin’. Bonus: not all snakes are sticks, and not all sticks are snakes.

snake not a stick

And then I was done. Many triathletes were starting their run portion as I was finishing, I wouldn’t have seen them had I quit.

20 miles complete. 5 hours of moving time. 4 hours 37 minutes of running time. I averaged about 5 miles per hour. I drank the entire 2L of Skratch water, most of it during the second half.

When I started: dew point 70*. Humidity 89%. Temp 81*.
When I stopped: dew point 70*. Humidity 68%. Temp 89*.

The Huma gels still work lovely, taste gross and I’m not sure they’re enough. On order are the new Clif organic whole food pouches, sweet potato and sea salt. I have 6 more super long runs to figure out this nutrition thing!

*pun totally intended

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in 50 miles


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Solo Club Run

MTR collage 1

Running (haha) a bit late, I decided to start from Tredegar since I would get there right at 0600. This would allow me the full 2 hours to get in as many miles as possible before I met up with the Monthly Trail Run (MTR) group.

So I parked, quickly changed shoes, grabbed my pack and got it situated, picked up some of the trash lying around, then off I went to cross the pipeline without the dog. It did feel kind of liberating to be able to run on the catwalk instead of walk and then climb up the ladder without a 70# dog on my lap. Then I ran across the bridge to the Slave Trail saying ‘good morning’ to the fisherman and one fisherwoman as I passed. I stopped at the porta-potty then disappeared into the Poop Loop. Since discovering this loop it’s been my favorite and I try to run it as often as possible.

The loop didn’t disappoint: dark, damp, twisty and lonely. It’s a lesser known trail so isn’t frequented by hikers, MTBers or runners as much as the trails around the river. The ground was soft and muddy because the dew point and air temperature have been almost matchy matchy for the past 2 weeks meaning the ground hasn’t been able to dry out due to the amount of moisture present in the air. That also means you sweat a lot and lose a lot of salt in that sweat so hydration (endurolytes!) is very very important in these warm months. But I digress.

For some reason the Loop smelled like Old Bay, it was quite intriguing. My theory is the Queen Anne’s Lace. There is so much of it in this Loop, fields of it, and they do have a distinct aroma. I think because there is such a concentrated amount of the plant the smell resembles Old Bay. I only noticed this scent when in the Loop, too. Once I exited the spice stayed behind with the Loop. As I left, I said ‘good morning’ to a fellow runner who was headed inside.

When I ran back to the Slave Trail, passing 2 porta-potties and thinking I was home free till I got to the Isle, my tummy reminded me how irritating and unsatisfied it can be at times. Being a bit less than a mile from the porta-potties, did I think about turning around and going back? Hell no. That would mean retracing my steps and taking additional time to get to the MTR crew. It was only 0700 and I had just run 7 miles in 1 hour (I later got yelled at via Messenger, complete with stickers) so there was no one around and my usual routine is to need a potty about an hour into a run so it’s not like I shouldn’t have expected the distraction. So I did my thing (trail runners love this part of running in nature) under the overpass which ended up being a good thing because I wouldn’t have met Leo otherwise.

Leo was running up the hill to the top of the flood wall just as I was getting to the bottom. We met at the top, both passing another guy walking up while smoking a blunt. Leo and I both bid the guy a ‘good morning’, Leo talking to him for a bit, and we continued up the hill. Leo and I ran together for about a mile, crossing the bridge together. He told me about his intended route and how going that direction meant a little bit of a climb for him but he’s just out there to run and love life. He was maybe in his late 60s, early 70s, dressed in a white cotton tank top and cotton shorts and probably not the best running shoes. We chatted about the trains and how watching them cross the river and head into the city was so awesome and how he loves listening to the trains. This was good practice for me because I asked him questions about himself to make small talk and I even introduced myself! We parted ways just after the bridge ended, calling out “nice to meet you’s” and “happy running” to each other.

As I ran back to the pipeline, the guy that had been in the Tredegar parking lot collecting cans was at the trashcan at the entrance, also sorting through the recyclables to get the cans. I laughed as I ran up to him and said, “You know what’s funny?” He stood up and smiled in that uneasy, not sure what to expect from a stranger who blurts out such a random statement kind of way and said, “What?” I said, “I was hoping you’d still be in the area over on Belle Isle so I could tell you to come by this can because I saw there were a lot in here. But you figured it out so now I don’t have to tell you!” He laughed, much more at ease now, and said, “Thanks.” Then I climbed down the ladder and back across the pipeline I went. I ran passed my car and onto Northbank, now only 3 miles from meeting with the MTR crew.

I made it with 10 minutes to spare. Plenty of time to take off my pack, switch shirts, ingest a Huma gel (mango flavor), ask Kathryn to roll some ProShield on the parts of my shoulder blades that were chafing and suck down a lot of Skratch water. The gel wasn’t all that tasty but the best part is it didn’t upset my stomach either and that matters way more than taste. Then we took off and I was still going way too fast which surprised me but also sort of worried me because this is 22 miles! I need to slow my ass down! But the throttle got stuck and fast I still went and it felt great. I took a salt pill when we got to Reedy Creek, telling my friends I was taking a salt pill because last time I took 2 of them I got real lightheaded and loopy feeling. Jokes about how me acting weird wouldn’t be any different than other days were made and laughed at because it might be a little bit true.

We rock hopped to Belle Isle, picking up trash along the way. It seems people are able to carry their stuff in but unable to carry it back out which is very frustrating. It was excellent watching 40+ people hopping across the rocks in the James to get to the island, accumulating trash along the way. Many of us made our own way, others followed the leader like we were an ant family. Then we did the loop around the Isle and headed to Northbank.

Friend B wasn’t in the front of the pack per his usual so I asked him if he was broken. Come to find out he was tapering since his ultra is in 2 weeks and he had run 20 miles up in the mountains the day before. He told me I shouldn’t be running as fast as I am because long runs are about time on my feet and pacing myself and I laughed, telling him I had just gotten yelled at by my coach via Messenger, complete with angry yelling stickers, expressing the same thing. We got a kick out of that. It was nice hanging with Friend B on the run since he’s also an ultra runner and has run many ultras already so I was picking his brain about the climbs since it’s hard to simulate that when you’re below sea level most of the time.

We got back to the lot and I chatted with Friends K, K and G while they played with G’s camera on his iPhone taking various videos of them running up the slight hill back to the lot. That was enjoyable. Then I chatted with other Friend B for a bit about our upcoming races and off I went to complete my final 5 miles. I ran back via Texas Beach so I could stay off the road and get some peace and quiet; I ended up stopping about a full mile in to sit on a rock, listen to the river rapids and eat my final gel and take another salt tab. It was so nice! I squatted in order to stretch out my quads a little since they were feeling tight and just be’d. It was lovely.

On Northbank, I passed a guy on a MTB and soon after I passed his girlfriend, also on a MTB. She said, “I’m not a good bike rider.” As I ran by, I said, “We all have to start somewhere!”

Shortly after that I approached the portion of Northbank where I could start hearing the river and I almost celebrated. That meant I was only 1 mile from my car! I was not 1 mile from being done, however. As that realization sunk in, I was a bit disappointed. But I ran past my car AGAIN and onto Belle Isle to do a loop. I decided to do a big loop so I could finish while still on the isle and walk back to my car which would afford my legs the opportunity to work through some of the lactic acid and help my muscles cool down and repair themselves. Walking for even half a mile after running that many miles helps you be able to walk the next day.

As I was walking back across the pedestrian bridge where I would finally get to take off my shoes and get into my car, I saw that boyfriend/girlfriend duo again. As she passed I said, “See! You made it!” She said, “Yeah, I did!”

As did I. Finally. I was back at my car 4 hours and 30 minutes after I had left it there. Total running time was 3 hours and 37 minutes. Whew.

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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in 50 miles


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We’re going down, down, down.

Sunday, May 31 was a down week meaning the miles to run were decreased in order to give my body a chance to recover and rest from the longer miles the previous two weeks. I wasn’t sure I’d like the down week, but turns out I needed it therefore embraced it fully. For a change of scenery, some friends and I went to Great Falls Park to run the trails up there. It was a great time and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I think it took us about 3 hours to run the first 7 miles because we kept stopping to look at the scenery, rock hop, yell “Goonies!” and simply enjoy being together and not in RVA.

Total mileage for the day was 13.1. We began at 0845 and finished at 1315. It was 74 degrees when we set off and 91 degrees when we got back to the car. And we were starving.

GFP collage 2


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