New Favorite Hyrdration Pack

My first introduction to the Hydraquiver was back in January at Little River Trail Run, a race that my trail running community hosts.  I was there organizing packet pickup, which meant I could also run the race as well.  This year I ran with my dad and sister, excited for their first trail race!

Anyway, as we crossed the line and headed down the finisher’s shoot I noticed a pack I had never seen before.  Out of curiosity I had to ask her what and where she bought her unusual pack.  I have seen hand held bottles, bottles carried around one’s waist, and even a few in front pockets of racing vests…this one was a bottle right in the middle of her back, just between her shoulder blades.  I asked about it, and she insisted she loved it.  She had gotten it as a Christmas present from a friend who lived out west.

This sort of seemed to be the answer to my hydration pack search.  I always race with a bottle, its so easy to open and refill, I can use it as a cup in a pinch, and if I am breathing heavy I can squirt it into my mouth.  During most races there are aid stations every handful of miles, so typically I don’t need to carry several liters, plus I am small, and several liters of water on my back tends to throw me off my gait.  I like to have my hands free too.  I had a Nathan pack that clips around my waist, but my actual waist is above my belly button.  This causes me gastro-intestial problems from time to time, not to mention that if I want anything from the pack I have to try to spin it around, and usually have to take it off.  I have tried larger bottles in the waist pack, but they all felt cumbersome, and seemed to through off my center of balance, leaving me with lower back pain.

Several months passed, I poked around online, trying to find a local retailer close to Chapel Hill.  Since I couldn’t find one, I just decided to take the plunge and buy one.  So for my birthday in May, you can guess what I asked for.  The single bottle HydraQuiver came just as my training for Bighorn Wild and Scenic Race was ramping up.

Let me preface this, its HOT in June in North Carolina, and we don’t have mountains within a 3 hour drive from my house, so I spend time at the UNC stadium bounding up and down stairs.  The stadium tends to convect the hot summer sun, so I need to hydrate to stay cool.  The HydraQuiver was perfect.   The stadium is roughly 4 miles from my house so I would run there, run the stadium for a few hours, and then back home.  The shoulder pockets seems small, but expand large enough to hold my phone and a bar on one side, and then some salt tablets and more bars on the other side.  There is a pocket in the back that has a clip for your keys, and can hold a map, arm warmers, and gloves.  I also find that a nice ice pack fits in there quite nicely as well….perfect in the summer!

At first glance, when I saw that the straps wrap directly under my armpits, I thought perhaps it would chafe, or pinch, or annoy me, but the material they are made of and the flexibility of the pack doesn’t allow for any of those annoyances.  Even in a sleeveless shirt I experienced no chafing.  One would also assume that it would bounce, but somehow it sits just right in between my shoulder blades which allows my core to rotate so I can properly cycle through my gait….no bouncing and very minimal sloshing.  The bottle wedges into the pack quite nicely, even while launching myself face first downhill it didn’t pop out of the pack when I made contact with the ground…ouch, that left a mark!  The lack of strap across my core also makes breathing feel less restricted than some other hydration systems.

HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2The HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 is the newest addition to the Orange Mud hydration line.  Two bottles, and two extra pockets make this vest go the distance.   I borrowed one for an overnight run and wore it for part of the run.   It was a bit heavy for me, full of water it weighed 10 lbs (close to 10% of my weight and was just too heavy to carry for an 8 hour training run.)
All in all, the single bottle HydraQuiver has been serving me well on all my runs and in all my races this summer.  I have been wearing it since May and have nothing but good things to say about the pack.

Chocolate Peanutbutter Rice Krispy Energy bars (sweet and salty)

As promised, these are the bars I like to eat before, during, and after long runs. They were really good at the bottom of each hill repeat at the JIM, broke up the monotony of the GU’s.

I made a version of these a while back.  Like several things in my life, my energy bars are a product of research, and then my own trial and error :)  These ones are better than the previous trial.  I’m guessing salted peanuts or broken pieces of pretzels.

4 cups of Brown Rice Crisps from 365

1 cup of brown rice syrup

2 cups of natural peanut butter

1/2 cup of maple syrup

dash of vanilla extract

a few dashes of salt

several ounces of dark chocolate rough cut

Since this was an experiment the only thing I really measured out were the 4 cups of rice crisps, everything else was “eye-balled.”

Like typical rice crispies, make sure the 4 cups of crispies are in a heat safe bowl.

Find a pan that is at least an inch or two deep, and line it with tinfoil for your treats once they are all mixed together in the heat safe bowl.

Then warm the brown rice syrup on a medium stove top, add the maple syrup, vanilla, and once its softened add the peanut butter, a few dashes of salt, and some of the chocolate. (don’t boil it, it burns. It should be warm, but not too hot to taste-test; which is what I advise so you can adjust it to your own liking.)

Pour it over the crispy rice.  Once mixed in, add the rough cut chocolate and let some of it melt but leave some as larger unmelted chunks.  If it isn’t salty enough for you add a few more shakes of salt (This is running food after all, so there is no such thing as too much sodium..well ok, there is..but you get my point.)

I wanted it a bit more peanut-buttery so I redid the same thing as above with out the chocolate, but I used about 1/2 of what I used before (smaller amount of brown rice syrup, maple syrup, vanilla, and peanut butter.)  Once melted, I poured it over the mixture in the heat safe bowl.

Now that its all combined pour it into the pan lined with tinfoil and press it down.  Refrigerate for a few hours, and then cut it to the size you like.



Jarmans Invitational Marathon; Did it Suck?

Training for any mountain 100 mile race has its share of “sucky-ness” from time to time.  Whether its the super early morning wake up times, the slogging through rain, mud, or snow, blisters, muscle aches, or just missing out on other social activities, sometimes following your training plan just plain sucks.

So when I saw a fat ass that billed itself as a race where everything “just sucks” I was quite intrigued.   The closest hill near me goes up for close to 3/4 of a mile, and peaks at 800 feet (300 feet of elevation from the bottom to the top.)  This is pretty wimpy when I think about the hills in Grindstone that peak at 4,400 feet (with 2,800 feet of gain) I figured I needed to step up my training game asap!

This started at 900 feet and went up to 2,430 making it a total of  7,610ft elevation gain and loss over 29.0 miles.  MUCH better than my “mountain” that I train on at home.  As a matter of fact the top of the road crosses the AT and Skyline drive.  I joked that if it really started to suck I could just hop off onto the AT and go run some trails.

This weekend also happened to fall on my 8th wedding anniversary weekend, since my husband is such a great guy, he booked us a hotel room so we could make a weekend of it.   We hopped into the car at 7 am (for the noon start) and drove the 3+ hour up to Charlottesville VA.   On the way up I tried to decide, would this be an easy, chatting, enjoying the day training run, or would I actually try to run it hard?  With the 29 mile JIM my week would total at 97 miles, so there was no tapering for this…so I eventually decided I would just see how it went and how I felt.

Happy runners goofing off..

I was actually most excited to meet some of the speedy VA ladies there.  Two of them being Sophie Speidel, and Jenny Nichols.  Ultrarunning is a small niche sport, and well known women in it is even smaller so we have mutual friends, but its always nice to meet face to face.

Anyway, back to the day.  Drew dropped me off and went to explore VA, while a friend (Ben) and me got ready to run.  The first lap up I recognized several people from different races around and chatted, interested in what they were training for, if they had run Grindstone before, and just asking general questions (can you tell I like to talk yet?)  I love the downhill, especially since it wasn’t technical…all I had to do was let go, and make sure I wasn’t running too fast.  There was no way I was going to bonk!  Not driving 6+ hours just to drop out!

The second time up I chatted with a few different people that I recognized from the Grindstone training run last summer.  Marc Griffin and Christian Dahlhausen.  Its always nice to meet and chat with other ultra runners…makes me feel less like a running freak.  I also met John Andersen, another Altra ambassador, and owner of Crozet Running.  He and his wife were so nice and so very knowledgeable when it comes to running gear, if you are in the area of Charlottesville you have got to go say hi at their store!

Nicholas DiPirro, me, male/female winners of the fantastic beer can awards!

Anyway, the next two laps went by uneventfully, and I realized I was almost dead on pace each up and down, just a little over an hour per lap. Great, so that turned into my new goal, even splits.  I was still waiting for the repeats to suck, but the overcast sky, and the great company made it way less sucky :)

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Altra Ambassadors collide!

So while hill repeats suck, heat sucks, getting chased by a dog sucks, rocks in your shoes suck, what the RDs forgot to mention was that all the great personalities there negated the suck-factor! It was easy to enjoy the day, with all the high fives, and smiles that greeted me up and down the hill…it really boosted my mood, and I hope my enthusiasm made others feel the same.  This group of VA trail runners was so warm, and so comfortable…it was like a class reunion or an extended family get-together.  I loved how everyone was just happy to be out there, and with each other!  I even got to meet the ever famous ultra runner David Horton, who was recovering from knee surgery.  Even though you could tell he was dying to be out there running, he was biking with words of encouragement, and goofing off at the start/finish with all the runners and their kids.  It was a great afternoon, followed by a wonderfully chill evening with my husband after!

#DANton, me and David Horton

I ran in my Lone Peak 1.5s, my TrailHeads shirt, my hydraquiver pack, ate 1 Powerbar latte energy gel, 1 Huma chia energy gel, and 1 GU Roctane Energy gel, a handful of S-Caps several home made peanut butter/chocolate rice krispy bars, and lots of water.

The Peanut Butter Bar recipe will be my next post…

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well!

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Anniversary hiking the following day



Local places for Hill Repeats/Tempo runs (Chapel Hill, NC)

I have been meaning to put this post together for quite a while now.  Living in a flat area, while competing in mountainous races makes one creative.  Here is my top 4 list of ways to train for mountain trail ultras in the Chapel Hill area.

1.  I hate to say it, but the treadmill.  There is no where one can drive to on the east coast that has unlimited uphill.  At the beginning of a training cycle I usually walk uphill for as far as I can get in 45 minutes at 15% grade, eventually the walking becomes running.

2. Stadiums.  Much like #1 this is a really underwhelming place to train, but if you run every other step up and hop (with both feet) down trust me, your quads and glutes will be talking to you the following morning.

3.  Umstead Park.  Ok, now we are getting outside.  Umstead Park is located in the middle of Raleigh, its even convenient if you are flying in/out of the area and need to get in some hill repeats.  If you park at Reedy Creek and follow the Loblolly trail over to the Reedy Creek and drop down to the Lake that is a decent hill to do repeats on. Turkey Creek is good for short steep ups and downs.  Finally the Group Camp road makes for a nice long gradual uphill for repeats.  I ran 10 miles of multi use trails for a warm up, and then ran 7 miles of hill repeats gaining 1,448, and losing 1,300 feet.  Not too bad for a fairly flat park in the middle of a city.  Most of the climbs are around 200 feet.

3. Tempo run at Occoneechee State Park in Hillsborough.  This is my garmin info. In 15 miles I was able to get 2,836 feet of elevation gain.  If you park in the parking lot and circle around clockwise the trails take you up and down for 2 miles, then straight up some erosion beams to an overlook, if you continue past the overlook and take a right up the wide trail to the radio tower…from the bottom by the Eno River, up to the top of the radio tower is 355 feet up.  It gets monotonous but I loop up and around until I get up my mileage.  Its also good because you get everything from very technical rooty trails, to stairs, to steep, loose gravel road.  Also because one loop is just over 2 miles you can leave all your supplies in the car and eat or drink every time you run by.

4. Damascus Church Road.  As far as roads go, if you want to practice fast leg turn over and steep descents this road is the best I have found.  (at least one that isn’t too busy with travel anyway)  There are several hilly drops, 100+ feet in 3/4 of a mile.  Often I will pair this road with the treadmill or stadium.

Next time I will write about hilly/mountainous trail runs with in 3 +/- hour drive to train on.  Happy Trails!



The Third, and Final Post; Estes Park CO

So now I was done, blissfully, happily finished with my first real mountain race at altitude. I gorged myself on watermelon and salty chips and awaited the 100 milers arrival. bhfinish

The crowd was thinning out and the sky was turning a beautiful orange of sunset. The TrailHead group gathered under a pavilion with a perfect view of any runners coming down the trail to the finish. There is nothing like eating and laughing and sharing stories after a race with friends. Finally we saw Snuffy coming around the corner, we all followed him to the finish cheering him on through the finish line chute, finally collapsing on the ground. Soon after Grub and Bobcat, and Bobcat’s daughter came in just after cut off. Grub was all smiles, his first 100…what an accomplishment!

Grub still smiling 24 hours later!

Grub still smiling 24 hours later!

We all went to bed exhausted and smiling that night. The next day we were up early and off to pick up buckles. I went out for a short shake out run to see the other side of town, and then we met up for lunch and to caravan to Estes Park CO, our next destination.bhlunch

As we were heading out of town we could see some very ominous clouds behind us, and most of us enjoyed a lightning show from afar.  Unfortunately one car got stuck in it though. The wind and hail was so strong they had to park under an underpass and fell nearly an hour behind the rest of us.

As we drove through the canyons up to the park we could still see all the damage along the banks of the river from the flooding 2 summers ago. It was sad to see the condemned houses, and eroded banks.

The road wound up and the mountains came into view. Its wonderful how, just a drive apart, mountains can look so very different. The bighorn mountains were rounder in contrast to the sharp verticality of these CO mountains. Our late arrival on a Sunday evening meant we had to scramble to find an somewhere to eat, and ended up ordering pizza.  For the second night in a row, we all fell into a deep sleep.

Monday morning we were up early and hungry! It seems to take my stomach a few days to catch up with my activity level and I was ready for a big meal finally! (Yay gluten free pancakes, lots and lots of pancakes!) Gumbi found a really great breakfast place, Notchtop Bakery and Cafe. (which we actually ate at each morning during our stay) the food was excellent, the portions were large and the cost was cheap. With our bellies full of eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, breakfast burritos and whatever else we all ate we headed out for a short hike before a majority of the group needed to head back to Denver to catch their flights home. The best thing about Estes park is that a good hike with views of the mountains and city is no more than a 5 min drive away.IMG_20140623_130224

Gem Lake was the chosen destination, it gave everyone just enough time to get out for a hike, see some pretty views, and get to their flights on time.   The up felt really nice, it was the down that wasn’t so wonderful on  my very trashed quads.  Most of us groaned a bit on some of the steeper descents, but it was nice to be moving and getting the blood flowing.

By that night, everyone but two close friends, and my husband had left.   We poked around the artsy downtown and did some touristy things, ending the day  chowing down at a really great Mexican place for dinner.

Tuesday we were determined to hike the single 14-er in Estes Park, Long’s Peak.   Refueling back at Notchtop, we were ready to hit the trails!   Long’s Peak is part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountain National Park.  The first 10 minutes we were struggling for air a bit, but eventually it seemed our breath evened out and we were soon on our way up to the snow fields.   IMG_20140624_183401The views were breath-taking, coming from the East Coast where you can climb and climb and not see much of a view for hours, the notion of having a view as early as 30 min into our hike was fantastic!  I just couldn’t get over the beauty of it all, I didn’t want to leave, I was ready to move (at least for the summer until it snows anyway.)

After the hike we decided to drive through the park to the Continental Divide Trail since we only had a few short days there and wanted to see all we could.IMG_20140715_184751  I would recommend this drive around the park if you don’t have enough time to hike it all.  It was chilly, extremely windy, and even snow flurried on us, but the views didn’t disappointIMG_20140625_202951.


The final hike we hit was the Bear Lake hiking area.  It was pretty touristy, but most people stayed within a few miles of the parking lot, so once we hiked from the immediate area the trails became quiet.   Emerald Lake was worth the trip, and it was a nice relaxing way to end the hiking part of our trip.

We drove back to town, and had to hit one more place before we left.  Its a little known fact that Steven King wrote the Shining while staying at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.  My husband introduced me to the movie back in College.  I had never seen it before.  He had a novelty screen saver back then, when you turned on his computer it would say “Here’s Johnny”  the icons were things like the elevator with blood, get the idea.  Anyway, we had to go check out the hotel just for fun.   Many people go there to hunt ghosts, personally I just like the histories of the old mansions-turned-hotels.  Another one of my favorites is here in NC, the Biltmore House in Asheville.   Anyway, the tour guide was great!   She was enthusiastic, knew all the history, and played to the curious ghost “hunters” in our group.

I have never recovered from a race by hiking steep mountains before, and though many of the descents really stung my very tired quads, when I returned home I felt much better than I had after any other race before.   Typically it takes several weeks of tripping all over roots post race before I fully recover, after hiking for a week (knock on wood) I didn’t trip at all in the following recovery weeks.   Note to self, hike lots of quad searing downhills to recover from hard down hill races!

Hope you enjoyed my little tale of the Mountains, thanks for coming along with me! :)

Ultra-Food on the run

There has been much talk around social media lately about best foods for long runs.

Eating vegan and gluten free I have a few favorites:

Peanut butter stuffed dates

boiled potatoes and salt

Corn tortillas with guacamole (also really good recovery food, add sliced up tomatoes and spinach..mmm)

salted almonds

dark chocolate covered coffee beans

Kind bars, my favorite are Dark Cherry Cashew, and Pomegranate


roasted and salted sunflower seeds

Watermelon, thing for hot summer running!

Orange slices

peanut butter and banana slices

Dried pineapple slices

Dates rolled in coconut

These are just a few of mine.  What are your favorite foods while you run? Please add yours in the comments below.


(OK back to finishing up Bighorn part 3)

Bighorn Wild and Scenic: Part Two

Ok, where did I leave off…oh yes… A little about the Bighorn Mountains first though.  Located in north-central Wyoming, the Bighorn Mountains are a sister range of the Rocky Mountains. Conveniently located halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Parks. No region in Wyoming is provided with a more diverse landscape – from lush grasslands to alpine meadows, from crystal-clear lakes to glacially-carved valleys, from rolling hills to sheer mountain walls.   It was a beautiful area to visit, I would strongly urge anyone thinking about running it to stay on longer and explore the area.  More information about Bighorn National Park can be found here.bigstartscene

Ok, back to my story.  It was 3 am Saturday morning as Drew and I packed up the car to head to Dayton, WY.  We arrived and decided to follow the buses up to the start so he could see me off.  I always get nervous right before I run any race, no matter what distance, so I spent most of the ride trying to relax and stretch a bit.bhstart

As the sun rose, we could see the snow covered peaks off in the distance.  We didn’t drive all the way to the start earlier in the week, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect for snow and cold.  Growing up in New England, people don’t really mention snow unless there is more than a few inches.  Fortunately as we crested the mountain what I saw was very spring-like..not much snow, mostly just mud.  Compared to what I ran on Mt. Mitchell earlier in the year, this was nothing.  I was quite relieved!



Up at the top several of the 100 milers were getting onto the buses to be driven back down.  Overnight it had gotten quite cold, and had thunder-stormed, and the cold, the rain, and the mud had been just too much for several folks.   We wandered around at the starting line with the other runners, we even watched a moose graze lazily in the early morning sun.  Soon enough we were lining up and heading off into the sunrise.

The first section of this course was wide open bumpy and muddy grasslands, punctuated by random groupings of trees.  Here the mud puddles were deep and cold, I didn’t waste any time jumping right in, I knew it was going to be muddy for at least the first 18 miles…so why tip toe around getting my feet good and wet?!   The first 18 miles rolled up and down, but mostly down so it was a lot of fun.  I usually run races with a waist pack carrying a single bottle, for my birthday this year my husband gave me an Orange Mud pack.  I like bottles for races because its so much easier to refill them when my hands are cold, and I can also tell how much water I have consumed, making sure I don’t get behind my hydration.  I warmed up in the first 5 miles shedding my long sleeve shirt.  The pocket in the pack wasn’t really large enough to fit the shirt and trying to tie it around the pack took up more time than I had hoped.bhstart2

The alpine meadows I passed were beautiful, it was hard to keep going at times.  I just wanted to open my eyes, breath in the fresh air and watch the view..though I was running with purpose and didn’t stop.

Soon I came upon my friend, Remus.  I happily called out his name and gave him a hug.   A bit further down and I ran into Ringo and his wife Carrie.   He was all business, ‘first place is 5 minutes ahead of you.”  I thanked him, while mentally telling myself it had only been 15 miles and that really the race hadn’t even started yet.

We left the alpine meadows and moved into to some beautiful, yet rocky, single track.  I could hear the river rushing below and the cooler air coming up from it, felt nice….until I fell.  Just took a mis-step and landed hard on the pointy rocks.  My palm immediately swelled, as did my knee.  I cursed myself for letting my mind and eyes wander off the trail, and look around at the scenery.  I could still wiggle all my fingers, so nothing was broken, just some nice cuts and bruises.  What hurt more was that I was passed by the next woman while I was shaking off my fall still. Ah well..

I entered the first big aid station soon after, foot bridge.(approximately mile 20 for me)  I was so happy to see many of the 100 milers; Gilly, Grub, Bobcat, Gumbi, and Sidetrack…Gilly brought me my drop bag asking what I needed. (what great crew…but wait, wasn’t he running the 100?!)  I started inquiring about how their races were going, and wondering why they seemed so relaxed.  It turned out that many of them dropped overnight and were just hanging out at the aid stations helping.  It was just Snuffy, Grub, Bobcat, Ringo, and Remus left at this point.  I was a bit bummed for them, but headed off for “the wall.”

The wall was the section I had been dreading the most, but Sidetrack hiked a bit with me and helped lift my spirits as I started up.  The climb started nice and shaded, but soon became exposed.  It was here that altitude really caught up with me, every step seemed to leave me breathless.   As I climbed I passed runner after runner doubled over gasping for air, and even one woman who was just laying off to the side of the trail.  I asked if she was ok.  She nodded and said she just didn’t want to continue up, nor would her quads allow her to go back down, so she was just enjoying the sun.bigflowers

It took me several miles after the wall to really recover my heart rate and my legs, so this is where I finally began hiking.  Back into the trees, and mud, the trail rolled up and down once again.  We popped back out into the sun, and I saw Snuffy!  He was hiking pretty well, and seemed to be quite focused.    I left him feeling better, I love running races where I know others, its always a mental boost!

Soon I could see the Dry Fork aid station in the distance, thankfully Squonk had warned me that it can be seen miles and miles before you get anywhere near it.  bighorndryforkAnother runner near me announced that it was close, but I kept my head down and tried not to get too excited to see Drew for the first time since he left me at 6am.   As the heat of the day started to cook us all, I could no longer run anything uphill, and was starting to hit a low point.  I was now in 6th place, and was thinking about dropping.  I told myself that just because I wasn’t running how I wanted to, that it was no reason to drop.  I was only a bit bruised, I was perfectly fine, no stomach issues, no hydration problems…no excuse to drop, I was going to finish!bigdryfork

The hike up to Dry fork seemed to go on for a long time, but the cheering of the crowd, and the prospect of seeing Drew kept me moving up and up.  This was mile 38, more than half way!  Drew, Gumbi, and Bobcat’s daughter were there, and it was great to see them all!  Drew remembered I had been concerned about sunburning at this section and with out any prompting started rubbing lotion on my arms, while Gumbi filled my water bottle.  Drew hiked out of the aid station with me a bit, but I was soon off on my own.

Out of Dry Fork there is another climb, this time on a dirt road rather than single track, like the climb out of Foot Bridge.  I felt truly alone on this section of the course, and my mind wandered to Hal Korner’s race report and how he was chased by a moose.  I started to think that I didn’t want to see a moose, or bear, or mountain lion for that matter…I was just too tired to get myself out of some weird situation like that.

The course leveled out a tad so I was able to run again, and was looking forward to the downhill section!  I was just dying for those last fast 5 miles in the canyon to the finish!  Unfortunately, before I could get to the canyon a very large, very close storm cloud came up over us.  I had caught up to some 100 milers and their pacers at this point, and we all quickened our pace to get away from the electric fence that was following along the right side of the course!  ZAP, was all that I could think.

The wind picked up as the storm moved closer.  I had my trusty trash bag in my pack, and not knowing how cold or how long the storm would last, I put it on.  Did I look and feel silly, yes, did I care…nope!  We were past the electric fence now, but still up on a high open meadow.  ZAP/BOOM!  The storm was right overhead and was pelting us with hail.  This was about when I heard a woman scream, my head spun around to where the scream had come from, only to see a woman with her runner yelling at me to take cover with them under the trees.   I thought it best not to, and told them I was just going to continue down the mountain.  Finally I was reaching that steep decline…only to have it now covered in fresh mud-slick as snot!   The three of us were now running, er sliding downhill together trying desperately to stay upright.

Once the storm passed, we were left with the steamy sun, and the slippery mud.  The storm was a good 40 minute time suck, and I was really happy to hit the canyon.  It was now late afternoon, and I knew the heat of the canyon would be rough so I doused myself at the next aid station, and hoped that all the running in the hot NC afternoons would pay off.bighorn

I have never been happier to run the last 6 miles of any race.  It was like something switched in my head and legs, and I took off.  Slowing down for the mud in the previous few miles had let me eat and drink and allowed my legs to recover enough to maintain an 8min/mile pace the final 6 miles.   This is my joy, this is my favorite part of races, that last push to the finish, and its even better when you can reel people in.   The miles ticked by and soon I saw Drew walking up the road towards me.  He had hurt his hip flexor the week before playing soccer, so we had abandoned our plan of him running the last 5 miles in with me..but he jogged in with me as far as he could.

Friday, Spinz and I decided to walk the last few miles of the race together so we knew what to expect and where to go for the finish.   I was playing it over in my head, down the road, past the bend in the river where it comes right up to the road, over the bridge, across the street, around the park….Soon my memory and surroundings were synching up.  I was so close, keep going legs, keep going legs, there is no walking allowed now!  Spinz and Lynx where there, cheering me on as I reached the bridge to head over to the park and the finish line.bighornriver

I was all smiles as I rounded the corner and crossed the finish line.   I headed straight for the river, and tried my best to wash off my mud covered, well…everything.  It felt SO good!  My Lone Peak’s were just covered in mud, but they had done their job, minimal slipping, no hot spots, no twisted ankles, or lost shoe (several people had their shoe’s sucked off in the mud.)  I finished in a time of 10:59, 7th female overall, and 3rd in my age group.

I was joined by Drew and Juice, grabbed a watermelon, and flopped down on the grass with the other TrailHeads! Phew, that was great!  What a race, what scenery, what a day!!  It was well worth every mile of hard, wet, muddy, beautiful, electrifying, rocky, trail.  Happily I finished my first ever real mountain (with altitude) race.  Ahh running bliss!   I didn’t even care that just about every muscle in my body was cramping, I was surrounded by friends, by other runners, and by beautiful mountains!

bighornmePart 3: The 100 miler’s finish, and vacation in RMNP!…