Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pushing through the weeds.

Last Saturday I took a friend on a new for him adventure to the Poop Loop. We were both eager since going east allowed us a different vantage point of the city and trail and took us away from routine. The view coming up the hill once leaving the slave trail is something you can’t see anywhere else, it never fails to disappoint even on rainy days.

Soon after entering, we ran through ankle high thorny ground cover. Chevy has always enjoyed this section, I’m not sure why. Over the summer it has become so overgrown the trail is lost without previous knowledge of its whereabouts. The tires of mountain bikers weed whack some of the vines as they pass. We reached the small section where the various greenery to include Queen Anne’s Lace are taller than me and lean over the trail, creating a canopy for the myriad rabbits, turtles, birds, etc., yet blocking humans from seeing where the path leads. I knew there was a path on the other side, I’ve come to this spot from both directions, laughing with joy while I nudge the green aside gently because I don’t want to leave a trace and they’re usually very wet.

This is what the section looked like on June 4, 2015.

This is what the section looked like on June 4, 2015.

My friend immediately said something like, “Hold on, where are we going? Is there a trail on the other side?” Interesting reaction don’t you think? I was his guide, we had talked about the many times I’d been in the Loop since figuring it out months before. I had just run the loop on Thursday. And yet his immediate instinct was one of distrust for me and himself and nature. Not one to coddle, I replied, “Yep, come on, keep pushing through!”

As I was recounting this story later to a friend, I had an a-ha moment. As I sit here semi-injured, writing this post, I’ve thought about that phrase a lot since Saturday and how it applies to our courage to take risks, to lean into the shroud of uncertainty to get to whatever might be waiting on the other side. How often do we take a step forward without knowing if the ground will be there to support our weight? Not being able to see through the weeds scared my friend and many of us are probably nodding in agreement. Not being able to see what your future holds is scary stuff and even on a trail, five steps forward is your future.

Who of you would get to that section, stop, turn around and either go back the way you came or try the other direction in the loop? Who of you would keep moving, curious to see what was on the other side?

Our lives are one great adventure. We wake up each morning hoping for the best but isn’t it a continuous motion of pushing through the weeds to see what waits for us? We are in a constant state of transition, a physics game of cosmic inertia. In a couple months the green will disappear from the trails and the delicate colors of autumn will take its place. And then the earth hibernates while winter wraps around us in a comfortable embrace.

And yet it is up to us how to perceive the risk.

The "other side" back on June 4, 2015. It's totally obscured now.

The “other side” back on June 4, 2015. It’s totally obscured now.

*The friend is a good guy, I merely use his statement/reaction as a catapult.

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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in 50 miles


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Let’s end on a happy note.

Yesterday I told y’all about the humbling reminder that we are never truly safe anywhere. Today I want to show y’all what happened after that, why I was running back to my car in the first place.

Team ESTRA-Gen3

After reading Daughters of Distance I decided to start a ladies only trail running group: Team ESTRA-Gen. Excellent Social Trail Running Athletes, Generation added to get the ‘gen’ part. Maybe I’ll change it to Generalized, hmm. The purpose is solely to encourage women of all abilities to get outside, onto the dirt and enjoy themselves while supporting each other in the process. As you may have been able to ascertain from yesterday’s post, more often than not women feel most comfortable with other women. In my experience, when testosterone gets involved, so does competitive behaviors and they don’t belong on every run or social gathering. Women know what it’s like to be objectified, the stress over juggling parenting duties with training, what it’s like to run with a bad sports bra, how  periods can create calamity and so much more.

In short, we have a Girl Code.

Team ESTRA-Gen2

We should encourage each other to keep at that Girl Code, to support each other and get rid of body shaming judgmental attitudes. I want us to embrace one another’s differences instead of being dismissed because of them. We’re each uniquely human in every way, like snowflakes. We know what kind of hell living in a patriarchal society can sometimes be like; we get enough tearing and ripping of our souls by the outside world and sisterhood is powerful. There is safety in numbers.

Team ESTRA-Gen5

So while my run did have something quite scary and intimidating in the middle, it was bookmarked by happiness. I really want to remember this part of the day because these ladies are why I’m out here every day championing equality for everyone and doing my best to be a fantastic sister. Because, ladies, we are so much stronger when we stick together.

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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in 50 miles, feminist


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What men need to know.

Yesterday I had my first real-life encounter with a creepy man while out running on trails.

Before that happened, I had run nearly 6 miles by myself without seeing a single person. I had even decided on what this post would be about since I prefer to tie life into the running instead of just blogging to blog. I remember being excited about that topic and felt it was timely.

Yesterday afternoon I couldn’t remember what I had decided. Today I still cannot remember what I was going to write about. What happened on mile 6 till I got back to my car at exactly 8 miles has replaced whatever came before.

There was a guy, taller and skinnier than me in black pants with a regular cotton dark green and black striped shirt, walking across the bridge. As I ran by him I greeted him with my customary, “Good morning.” I greet everyone this way, especially men, because it forces me to make eye contact and really see their face and take in their height, features, etc. Life has taught me this is necessary. I continued passed him without much of a thought, turned left to head to the pipeline and back to my car. When I got to the stairs that lead down, I noticed a couple approaching the spot and wondered if they, too, were going to be exploring the pipeline.

As I climbed down the ladder to the pipeline I looked up because I was curious about the couple and because I really like to know what and who is around me at all times. Again, life has taught me this is necessary.

That dude I passed who was walking and not dressed as a runner? Was just starting down the steps as I was climbing down the ladder. Which means as soon as I ran by him, he started running after me. Quietly. Every single alarm bell I have started screaming so I got down that ladder fast and started running, thinking the whole time how it would be great to have that keychain my friend K gave me a while ago for this very reason but it was back at my car in the tire well.

I ran on the pipeline without looking back. I thought of stopping to do the selfie trick, but what if the guy was right behind me and that gave him the opportunity to catch up? I thought of the times I was taught by ex-boyfriends on the proper way to punch a guy and wondered if I could really do it hard enough to break the guy’s nose or cheek or jaw because that might be the only way to get him to let go of me long enough to continue running away. I thought of how I really needed to run faster and get to the end of that damn pipeline because if he caught up to me, he could easily toss me over the side into the rapids where surviving could be difficult.

I finally got to the end and the path curves left allowing someone to easily turn their head to see behind them. There he was, not close enough to touch me but still too close to be considered safe.

And that scared the fucking hell out of me because that proved he wasn’t just someone out for a random walk and thought maybe I knew the best routes. He was actually truly following me. I have no idea why and I didn’t intend to find out.

The next bit of trail is filled with roots and rocks and, thanks to me knowing it well and being an experienced trail runner, I was able to zoom over it all whereas he got hung up. That was exactly what I had hoped for. I thought about calling someone, but again that would mean I’d need to either slow down or stop running. (Never did I think of calling 911, I wonder why?) I broke into the open and headed straight down the middle of Brown’s Island. I choose the middle for several reasons: I’m way out in the open so those around me can easily see what is happening; it will help further declare his intentions because if he follows me that way, he means harm; there was a guy throwing a football to his dog at the other end.

I ran straight for that guy and his dog without stopping. I do remember briefly looking back to see if the guy was still there, hoping he got stuck on the roots or something, but there he was walking onto the island. I kept running toward that guy and his dog. When I got to them, I had the opportunity to play with the dog and act like I was supposed to meet up with them which afforded me another chance to check on the whereabouts of the creeper and there he was, running straight down the middle in my direction. I threw the ball for the dog, pet him and told him he was a good dog and then ran to my car which was only a half mile away at this point. On the way, I stepped in a crack on the road and turned my left ankle, shouted, “Fuck, are you kidding me?!” to no one in particular and kept going.

Once I got to my car I grabbed my keys and that key ring. I looked back and that creeper was no where to be seen. I got into my car and drove past the island and didn’t see the guy anywhere, it’s like he was never really there.

This wasn’t my first time experiencing a creeper and being scared for my life. It never gets easier to deal with either.
Guys. Men. This is why women cannot and do not trust you until you prove you can be trusted. Based on looks and first impressions, how do we know who the good guys are? Even after a few dates a guy could prove to be a rapist. You never know.

Men. Guys. It’s our lives at stake. The very presence of breath can disappear in a whisper.

I will not let this incident deter me from future solo trail runs, but it will take me a while to feel safe out there again. I think I’ll start carrying that keychain and maybe find that fog horn.

Also, I will use this and all my other experiences to allow me to sympathize and stand strong with my black, brown, yellow, orange, green, gay brothers and sisters because this might be like what racism and bigotry feels to them. And it sucks for anyone to have to be afraid for their lives just because of one minor detail, right?


Posted by on July 20, 2015 in 50 miles, challenges


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Halfway there.

(“livin’ on a prayer”. Had to get that out of the way.)

Sunday’s super duper long run was well, long. The night before I boiled and mashed 3 large sweet potatoes, mixing them with a bit of oil and a lot of sea salt. I put the mash into a bunch of resealable baggies in order to take with me in my pack. I tasted the mixture as I scooped, it tasted like sweet potatoes with maybe too much oil and not enough salt, a note for next time. The main purpose of this run was to feed myself 150 calories every hour and notice how my body felt during the process.

sweet potatoes

Then I filled up my bladder with lots of water and the rest of my Skratch and put it in the refrigerator, put my watch on the charger, laid out my clothes on the side of the tub and crawled into bed to read a little bit of iZombie and pass out.

The next morning I ate my requisite banana while I drove to the lot. I got to Reedy Creek around 0630, swapped my flip flops for the Altras and got on with it. The beginning plan was to run from Reedy Creek to the Poop Loop so I could get a better feel for the mileage in case I wanted to run that route during the week or on Saturday with the trail crew.

On my way to the flood wall I had the pleasure of first surprising a squirrel and all four feet left the ground at the same time as it jumped straight into the air. That was entertaining. Then I startled a groundhog and it hurried into the bushes. Then as I approached the section of the trail directly under the bridge I noticed what looked to be another groundhog except the body wasn’t quite right and it had too much of a tail. It’s possible it was a beaver. I told myself to check it out after I visited the porta potty but my short term memory almost resembles that of a squirrel so five minutes later I had already forgotten.

I completed one circuit of the Poop Loop and stopped at the prescribed hour to feed my body the Clif Organic Energy Food, update Coach on my progress/whereabouts and then do another circuit going back the way I came. So far my body and my head were doing great.

I traveled the pipeline and decided to run across Belle Isle to Forest Hill because I can handle North Bank when I’m tired and sore, I cannot say the same for Forest Hill. Just before reaching the pedestrian bridge that would take me to Belle Isle, I saw this repurposed door in the lower parking lot.

door art

Pretty cool, huh? Apparently this is part of a larger initiative to end homelessness.

This was my second hour thus my second stop and I ate one of my home squished baggies of sweet potato mush and drank more Skratch water while I watched three mountain bikers (MTB) get ready to ride. I was pretty sure they shouldn’t have been out there since it had rained pretty hard and long the past two nights but I was only basing my opinion on the Poop Loop which was like a skating rink. I took off for Belle Isle and the trail on the east side of the island. Yep, almost too muddy for my feet let alone heavy tires. Am I allowed to remind the MTBers of this?

I tackled Forest Hill (it was uneventful as far as runs go), stopping afterward in the parking lot at Reedy Creek for my third hour snack and decided to change my shoes, socks and shirt. Wow, what a difference dry clothing can make! However, I switched from the Altras into the Peregrine and within half a mile I realized that was a mistake. The Peregrine are great shoes, but they are not meant for ultra running or maybe even marathons. My feet were already hurting because I just did 17 miles on rough rocky terrain and putting the Peregrine on my feet only exacerbated the soreness. So they are officially fired from long run usage. Otherwise, I was still feeling fantastic and was excited to be in the single digits for the remaining mileage.

I got to Texas Beach and was so happy because I only had 5 miles left! And then I got to North Bank and it was mile 21ish! I stopped to take pictures of this guy because hey, beautiful black spider whose webs I probably take down with my face and they eat the bugs like mosquitos and gnats that have no ecological purpose other than to spread disease.

big black spider 4

While I was stopped on the side of the trail trying to get my camera to turn, two guys ran by me, one of them yelled way too loud, “Runner up!” I remember thinking it was just his friend with him so why was he yelling so loud. Shortly after they passed I caught up to them as they walked up a “hill”. I was elated because this meant I could run “with” them for a bit, maybe even tell them what I’m doing so they can distract me for the next few miles. Except they let me pass and even on mile 22 I was still running faster than them. Damn. I was actually a bit disappointed. After about a mile I caught up to three hikers and their dog. The kudzu on that side of the trail is overwhelming which has made it hard to pass. The greenery makes you feel like you’re in your own sci-fi movie as the ivy reaches out threatening to wrap around your ankles and suck you into its vastness.

I went on to the east trail on Belle Isle again. I made it to the section by the skills course when I saw four little MTBers get on their bikes and say, “Yay, let’s go!” and head straight for me. Did they wait until I passed? No. Did they not even try to miss me? No. Did the last one almost hit me in the gut with his handlebar? Yes. Did I glower at the dad person as he followed them onto the trail? You bet. He was kind of smiling till he saw the look on my face because in my head I was screaming, “I’m on mile 22 of 24 and stopping at this point really sucks and your kids just fucked up my mojo and damn it now I have to start all over again!” As I started running again, I heard the dad person tell the small people they needed to watch out for others on the trail. If I could have talked, I would have mentioned the rules of the trail are important for them to know before they start riding.

And then I only had 2 miles left.

And then I only had 1 mile left.

And then I was done. I walked the half mile back to my car and just sat there for a bit before taking off those damned Peregrines. I had run 24 miles in 4 hours, 37 minutes. My average pace was 11:30. I was exhausted and I started crying because I was exhausted and these runs are getting harder mentally because I’m exhausted. And now I know why I have to run so many super duper long runs, I need to know what my body and mind are going to feel like when trying to run 50 miles at one time. I am not a crier and I don’t think I’ve ever cried during or after any run, especially not a training run. (Complain and whine, yes; cry, no.)  I think I cried because I have already completed SIX super duper long runs and that is the most I have ever run so close together. Before I started training for this 50, my average monthly mileage was somewhere around 150-200, sometimes even closer to 250. But none of that includes super duper long runs only 7 days apart. When I began this run, I didn’t think of it as 24 miles but instead as six miles I get to run four times. I only ran from hour to hour. Perhaps that is also why the relief of it all came out as tears once I had finished; I did what I had to do to get it done, no thought going into the finish, just the now. It’s amazing, running these super duper long runs just because I have this life goal of completing a 50 miler.

As Coach said: it’s hard and I’m doing it anyway.

Still yet to come: I get to run 4 trail marathons over the next 5 weeks – there’s a down week in the middle. Too bad that still won’t qualify me for Marathon Maniacs.

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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in 50 miles, challenges


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