25, no 26 worst questions to ask a runner;

questionsI saw this somewhere and it made me laugh, so I thought perhaps I would take a stab at illuminating you non runners.

1.  So you like jogging?  This is that question that every runner cringes at.  Jogging, don’t ask us if we jog!  As far as many of us are concerned, that is a dirty word.  I will not dignify this question with an answer…..like I jog!

2. Why do you pay so much to run a race?  Now this is a good question, I tend to work all of my race fees out in miles, unless its a race I am running for a more sentimental reason.  Anyway, here is what goes on in my head.  $150 for a 100 mile race is a steal, right? That is $1.50 per mile.  On the other hand, a half marathon for $100..that is NOT a bargain!  Don’t RD’s do their price per mile math?

3. Did you win…hmm…well, usually no…but on occasion…so technically this is a valid question.

4. But don’t you get bored?  NO. Don’t you get bored sitting in a cube all day? Don’t you get bored commuting to work?  Don’t you get bored watching tv?  Those are more appropriate questions, I am too busy feeling alive to be bored.

5.  How far is your marathon? (Please look up the definition of marathon.)

6. Cross train? What is a cross train?  Ok, legit question, cross training is something one does to stay fit in other ways.  Sometimes its something an athlete does in their off season (whats an off season?) Sometimes its all an athlete can do when they are injured.  Swimming, biking, yoga, (crying?)

7. How do you hurt yourself running?  Um, well..people can hurt themselves doing just about anything.  I think the more important question is how can you stay unhurt while running!!

8./9. What about your knees? Oh this is my all time most annoying question..can you agree with me runners?!  My knees? My knees are fine!  My leg muscles are strong and they support my knees.  I think my knees are the only things that don’t hurt.  I may be the only one in my family whose knees don’t hurt (and I’m also the only runner in my family…well that’s interesting, isn’t it?!) What about all those non runners that get knee surgery all the time?  hmmm? Perhaps they ran once and hurt their knees..huh?

10.  Isn’t it unhealthy to run so much? Yes, and my uterus fell out also.  Everything in moderation, as if I could achieve moderation.

11.  Is running safe at your age?  I have to say I have never had to answer this question.  Mostly because due to my running I look 10 years younger than my actual age….thank you running.

12.  What are you doing?  Clearly I am being chased, I was just lucky enough to be wearing shorts, running shoes, a running bra and this convenient hydration pack.

13.  Do you need a ride? This one is great, especially when running in the rain. (see above answer)

14.  Don’t you get lost?  Well, no actually, not if I am prepared and follow the trail blazes.  As a matter of fact, I lived in Baltimore for 7 years, and during that time I would get stopped constantly by drivers asking for directions to so and so’s house. (Sorry I don’t know where your friend lives.)  Hello? You are in a car, you can easily carry a map, oh..and there is this GPS thing you can get now, oh ya, and a phone!  So there, the runner directing the driver…is that like the student becoming the master?

15.  You mean you have fun running?  This one gets me, every time.  Obviously I do, I run 100 miles…I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t find it fun, would I?  I often want to respond with, “you mean staying up till the early morning, drinking until your liver hurts, waking up in a fog hungover, is what you call a fun party?”

16.  Why would you need so many running shoes?  This is always my husband’s question…shall I answer?  Well that one is for trail, those are for races with trail and road, those are just for road, those are my track shoes, those I won race x in, those are for really muddy races,  I ran my first 100 in those (can’t you see that I wrote Pinhoti 22:50 in sharpie on the sides of those?!)those are a bit worn, but I can still hike in them…don’t touch those, they don’t make them anymore!

17. Do you really need another pair of running shoes?  Did you not read the above question?! YES.

18.  You’re going to run in the rain?  Yes, and referring back to #13 No, I do NOT need a ride!

19.  Isn’t it too windy to run?  Bring it on! Just another challenge! I mock you wind!

20.  Isn’t it too cold?  I didn’t make the weather, I just run in it.

21.  Isn’t it too hot? Ahh its never too hot!  Bring it on!

22.  Wait, you run outside?  Where else would one run?  Oh, the hamster wheel…that is just a tool to use when I need a mountain to climb, and its so flat I can see for miles around.

23.  Don’t you get tired?  We are all human, and humans get tired, how is this question relevant?  Oh, because you think I am a SUPER human! :)  Sorry to disappoint you, yes, I am human, I get tired too.

24.  Wouldn’t you rather sleep in?  That’s what off days and tapers are for!

25.  Are you fast?  Well….I don’t like to brag….but if you are asking me these questions, then as far as you are concerned I’m freaking Meb.  Oh, you don’t know who that is…?

And I had to add this one last one in.

26.  100 miles!? I don’t even like to drive that far!  Funny you should say that, I don’t either, its so boring sitting in a car for that long…but I do like to run that far!

Run on friends!

Altra Superior 2.0; A Good Shoe Becomes a GREAT shoe!

2014 seemed to be the year for Altra to radically update many of their shoe lines.

This is the Superior’s update to the 2.0.Altra Superior 2.0

My first impressions:  Out of the box the first thing I noticed was the laces are different, they are a softer feel and they stay tied!  The colors were the next thing.  It come in grey/purple or yellow/blue for women and grey/green or a darker blue/yellow for the men.  I ordered the yellow/blue and really think they look good.  Not so bright that they are obnoxious, but colorful enough that they get noticed! They felt really good on my feet walking around the house, cushioned yet still firm,  and a really nice updated tread on the bottom.

Lucky me, it was rainy and muddy and cold this morning-perfect for putting a new shoe through its paces.   I ran the 1/4 mile down my street to the trailhead and sloshed my way down the trail to meet a friend.  They were solid in the mud, no slipping backwards up hills on the slick wet leaves, and were protective over rocky sections of the trail.  I ran 13 miles in them, 10 on the trails and 3 back home on roads.  They were comfortable on and off of the trails, not bumpy like some trail shoe tread can be on road.   They felt good, fast, flexible and protective.  I didn’t even notice that I had run in them with out the stone guard in them until I got home and looked in the box again and saw the stone guards sitting at the bottom of the box.  They are also fitted with Altra’s cool gaiter trap on the back of the heel now as well.

The Technical Stuff:

Zero drop, like all Altra shoes have

Weight: Men 8.7oz, Women 7.5 oz (Lighter than the Superior 1.5’s 9.9 oz and 8.8oz respectively)

Stack height: 21mm (which is very close to the Lone Peak 1.5’s 22mm, but is higher than the Superior 1.5’s 18mm)

Upper: Trail Mesh with minimal seems.  After my long wet run they seemed to dry out faster than the Lone Peak 1.5s used to.

Outsole:  Features canted lugs below the metatarsals for better gripping, their signature sticky rubber TrailClaw, and still has the happy little foot shape on the bottom.

Overall thoughts:  Altra has been doing a lot of growing and updating in the last year while still maintaining their roomy toe boxes, zero drop, and good quality.  The Superior 2.0 seems to be taking the place of the discontinued Lone Peak 1.5s.   While the Lone Peak 2.0 was updated further with more stack height and cushion, this means the Superior 2.0 will fit nicely into that place of lower stack height, more trail feel, but with enough protection and better tread than the Superior 1.5 or the Lone Peak 1.5.  You can also make them lighter and more flexible by taking out the rock plate.  This makes me happy because the Lone Peak 1.5s have been my ultra go to shoe for the last year, the Superior 2.0 will be my new go to shoe for trail ultras now, I can already tell.  So if you loved the Lone Peak 1.5, or even the Superior 1.5 I really think this is your shoe.  If you are looking for fast, responsive, flexible, but protective this is also your shoe.   In the land of max cushioning shoes, this is definitely bucking the trend giving your feet that trail feel that they have missed so much.  I can’t say enough good things about this shoe update, well done ALTRA!

Post Script: Many people are finding that sizing up 1/5 a size from the Superior 1.5 to the 2.0 feels best.

UPDATE:  I took them on a true tread test just yesterday on a very rainy, very leaf covered trail.  Uwharrie National Forest 20 miler.  This is my standard test run to see how my winter fitness is for early 2015 races.  I have run this the second week of Dec for the last 3 years, its a relenting rocky, rooty, slippery, wet undulating trail with no real runnable sections.  Its one of those trails that you can’t take your eyes or mind off of for a second or you will twist an ankle or slip on a rock.  I ran it 3 weeks ago in the old Lone Peak 1.5’s before the aggressive tread update, and I slipped a lot.  I was expecting something similar this week, I have run this course at least 10 times and have tried out many different types of shoes on the terrain.  I was so happy with the Superior 2.0’s tread and grip, I just kept repeating to my friend over and over, “these shoes just stick so well, they are so grippy, they are so comfortable too….I am SO happy!”  And I am, SO very happy!  This will definitely be a shoe that I spend a lot of miles in!

Guest Post: Ruck Funning; A Little Salty to Balance out those Last Sweet Posts.

Fuck Running

by Ben Syzek

I have a love hate relationship with running. Then again who doesn’t? I guess there are those sickos that enjoy it for it’s own sake. But like I said, they’re sick.

I primarily run early in the morning, and every morning I wake up and think, “why the fuck am I doing this?” Running is terrible. Every step hurts me, and I don’t particularly enjoy pain. The funny part is that even though I hate it and wonder every time why the hell I’m doing it, it’s still better than anything else I do all day. Pretty sad, huh?

It’s true, though. Even though I hate it and it hurts it’s still more worthwhile than anything else I do. Somehow all that pain and suffering is still beautiful. I can’t say that for the majority of my activities. Eating isn’t beautiful. Driving isn’t really beautiful. Ok, showering is beautiful, I’ll give it that, but brushing my teeth isn’t.

Running sucks, but if I don’t do it, then that day has a stain on it. The stain of inactivity. A stain that permeates all other activities I engage in. Running is the Tide stick for that stain. Running makes all of the other activities beautiful because they don’t matter. That day has been worth it simply because I ran. All the other activities are just placeholders, time fillers, filling the void until the next shitty painful run. How can something so painful and awful be so beautiful? I hate it. Wait, I love it. Shit…

Ben is an avid ultra runner who has quit the sport after nearly every single race, only to inevitably sign up for another one the following month.  Most recently Ben quit ultra running after the Grindstone 100, but he’s currently training for several in January and February.

10 Things I am Thankful for this year, in my Running Life

Its that time of year again, the holiday season is upon us.  Thanksgiving is just 2 days away and so I thought it was the perfect time to reflect on all the things I am thankful for.  Since this is a running blog I am going to keep it as running related as possible.

1.  I am so VERY thankful and grateful for an injury free 2014 (my health.)  I mean there are always the little niggles here and there; day after an ultra, fell down a hill…but I am oh so thankful for no real injuries in 2014!  There is nothing worse than a cranky, unable to run Wisp (yes, I just referred to my trail-self in the third person.)

2.  Altra and Orange Mudaltra I am thankful for them both being super companies, putting out great running gear and allowing me to be part of their team as an ambassador! (or as we say at Orange Mud; Am-badass-ador)

3.  Number 2 leads me to this next thing I am thankful for= TRAIL FRIENDS!  As a person who loves to go out for a 3 hour run on the trials just for fun, (no race training required) I get lots of funny looks and questions.  Its so nice to meet other like-minded people and be part of a community that shares my love for the trails!  bhlunchThank goodness for the TrailHeads and all the friendships I have made over the last few years.  Thanks to you all for the many miles on the trails, for pacing me, and being up for some cool adventures!


4.  My dog, Emmitt.  Ok, this may be a bit silly, but he is one GREAT running buddy! Early mornings, mid days, late nights…he’s there.  All I have to do is put on my running shoes and its like Christmas morning to him!  He’s there immediately dancing at the door.

Enjoying Shut in Trail near Asheville

Enjoying Shut in Trail near Asheville

Chewing on a bone, snoozing on the couch…forget that, drop everything…lets go run!  He never says no to a run!

5.  Post run pig outs.  I think this is self explanatory.

6.  The runner high, or maybe not high..but that satisfied, tired out feeling you get after a really great long run.

7.  ULTRAS!  I mean after all that is the reward at the end of the training.  I would certainly still run a lot, but having a race to train for is like the icing on the cake.   Thanks to all you RD’s out there that work so hard, and put in so many hours so we can have a fun and safe time out there on the trails.

8.  Race volunteers.  This goes almost with out saying.  No wonderful race volunteers, no ultras!  Thank you volunteers for feeding me, filling my water bottles, and for your infectious enthusiasm!

9.  Mud, rocks, roots, mountains, vistas, rain, sun, trail love, that salt crust that is everywhere after a hard effort in the summer and everything else that makes trail running so much fun!

10.  Finally last but not least, my husband.  Though he doesn’t quite share my love of trail running, he is always there for me.  I am thankful for our Sunday family runs together, his pacing and crewing at Grindstone, hanging out with me while I soak after long runs, foot rubs, feeding me when I am so tired and so hungry post race, and just being his wonderful self!  Thanks AMK!

What are you all thankful for this year!?






Altra The One2 Review

Taking the One2 on some non-technical trail.

Taking the One2 on some non-technical trail.

In 2012 I mostly hung up my road shoes in favor of trail running.  I always had one, maybe two road days just to keep up leg turnover.  I was hooked on the trails and ran both trails and roads in my trail shoes.  I would get a new pair of trail shoes, and my old shoes would become road shoes.  Not the best thing, but it worked for awhile, especially since I was just having the hardest time finding road shoes I actually liked.  I think in 2013 the closest I came to liking road shoes was the Nike Free, but as far as I was concerned, they still weren’t as good as running in my old Lone Peak 1.5s.

Altra The One

Altra The One

Just this summer, actually, I found a line of Altra’s shoes I really liked for the roads.  So much so that I now have dedicated trail and road shoes.  That shoe was the One.   They came with me to the gym, and I actually got back on the roads, and back to stadium repeats happily with this shoe.

Now this review is about the One2, not the One.   As many of us finicky runners feel about shoe updates, when they updated the One to the One2 I was a bit worried.  (I know you know what I mean, I’m sure we have all LOVED a shoe, only to have the updated pair not work with our feet at all!)  Would I like it, it was a completely different shoe.  So much so, that its almost not worth comparing them, it would be like apples and oranges, very comfortable apples and oranges though.

Taking the Ones out to the UNC stadium

Taking the Ones out to the UNC stadium

Fancy that, they match!

Fancy that, they match!

So lets talk specifics;

They have the same male/female specifics that all Altra shoes have.  They are also zero drop, and have the same wonderfully roomy toe box for toe spread that all of the other Altra shoes boast.

Weight: 5.4 oz

They feel quite light on my feet, but still have enough cushion that when I use short rocky trail cut-throughs to get around town my feet don’t feel the rocks and roots underfoot.

Materials; Altra uses Abound which is made from recycled materials and reduces the impact of pavement (or rocks) underfoot.

So far I have taken them in total around 100 miles in the last few weeks since I got them and my feet are VERY happy.

Feeling good in my new shoes.

Feeling good in my new shoes.

I would recommend them mostly for road, stadium, track , crushed gravel, and the gym.  However, like I said I have worn them on semi-techinical trial and on grassy fields and they have done well.  I wouldn’t pick them for say, Hardrock, or very steep slick rock running, but every other “everyday” running surface they are the “One” I use.  I am happy to report, the One2 update was well worth the update and my feet are very happy in them!

Are you feeling lucky; Are lotteries in ultras the best way to manage growing interest?

My first ever ultra was Uwharrie Mountain Run in 2012.  Sign up began at 7 am, and was online.  Several of my training partners were hoping to run it as well, so I was thrilled to run my first ultra with friends.  I set my alarm to make sure I was up, knowing it filled up fast.  I pushed back my morning run so I could hover around my computer waiting for 7 am, my fingers itching.
Lottery Test
7am came and I immediately jumped onto my computer..as did everyone else apparently.  The screen froze…NO!  Suddenly my inbox notification started chiming with new emails.  It was several friends on our trail running listserv, also panicking.  Questions like, “did I get in?  Did it accept my credit card twice?” were coming in from several other people sharing in my confusion.
It turns out we crashed the server, I did get in, and the next year the race switched from first-come-first-serve to a lottery system.
The growing number of ultra participants in a blessing and a curse.  It is really inspiring to see so many people take the leap from marathoning to ultra-marathoning.  According to Ultrarunning.com in 2013 that number was 69,573.

What that means for races, however, is that while new ones are popping up everywhere,  tried and true races are having to deal with how to include everyone.


So the question becomes, whats the best way to deal with this?   How can RDs make sure everyone is included?  How about a lottery?
I believe that lotteries are on of the most fair ways of trying to include both newbies and veterans.  One of the oldest 100 mile races does it best.  The Western States Endurance run.  For lack of a better comparison, its the Boston Marathon of the ultra community.  Its been around the longest, it has made names for several individuals, it draws people back every year.  Not only for the competition, but for the camaraderie, the community, the scenery, and its exceptional organization.The details for the Western States lottery can be found here, the RD and board of directors work really hard to make their lottery as fair as they can.  If you look through their history they have tweaked their lottery processes several times.

First come first serve race entry is becoming harder to find.  Another popular race that I have run, in the mid atlantic, is Bull Run Run organized by the Virgina Happy Trails.  This was my first encounter with a lottery system, and I have to say it was much easier than rushing to my computer and panicking while trying to hit refresh on my computer.  Their system is similar to WESR, however, rather than random names pulled they use the DOW in an interesting way.  During the period that their application is open, each person who fills out an application will be given a unique, randomly-generated number from 0 to 999. Once a number is issued, it will not be used again. The starting number is determined by using the least three significant digits of the closing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) as it is normally displayed. The date of the DOW will be specified before entry begins.
I know the lottery system isn’t always perfect for everyone.  I have friends who have put in for WESR several years in a row, and still have never gotten in, while others get in on their first try.
If you are still unconvinced that races are trying their best to make sure people are included, many will allow people to volunteer one year, for entry in the next.
Of course, if you are just unlucky in lotteries from time to time, fat-asses and smaller low key races that don’t fill can still be found around the country.
As for me, fingers crossed…this is my first year putting in for the WSER lottery!

Off Season.

So, last time I was on here I was deep in my post 100 “greys” (not blues, as I mentioned in the previous post.)   As per usual, those feeling have passed, I have been out on the trials just enjoying the fall, running no longer than 2 hours a day.   The colors are back, and just in time for enjoying the changing fall foliage.

Its been nice, actually.  I haven’t run in the dark all fall, instead I have been enjoying sunrises from the comfort of my bed.  Part of me feels like a slacker, but the other part is welcoming a little break in training.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited Emmitt, my whippet/mix, is.  He is thrilled that I’m not focusing on training, so I can focus on taking him on trail runs instead!

That’s not to say that I haven’t been planning my racing calendar for 2015, or even obsessing about my training plan (for when I start training again..)

Instead I have been doing several things I tend to put off when training;

House projects! Caulking and painting the exterior

Cooking, I have been making a lot of soups from scratch lately.

Having lazy weekends, laying around on the couch with my husband and watching movies.

Yoga, biking, and core work that I neglect when I am running lots.

I have also been trying to decide what races I want to put in for 2015.  I plan to put in for WSER, maybe Bull Run Run, and Mogollon Monster in AZ late Sept.

What do you fill your time with when you are on your off season?