Learning to let go…The Barkley Fall Classic (or My Major Dilemma)

“You can’t play soccer, you’re a girl!  Girls don’t play sports!” I still remember hearing this from a neighbor in elementary school.  Not moments later the boy was on the ground crying, I  had pushed him down.  I cringed that I had let the older boy get the better of me. (I knew pushing wasn’t the way to solve things) But also secretly proud that I didn’t run away crying like I had wanted, deep down.

Similar Encounters followed me through middle school and high school, and even sometimes now, though I no longer pushed people down.  No matter how fast I was, or how good at soccer I was, there was always someone saying, “you can’t do that, you’re a girl.”  Or, “when are you going to stop running so much and start “being a woman.”  (whatever that means…)

I pride myself on being a strong, smart, competitive woman, even if I am quite slight physically.  I dream big and hate taking no for an answer just because I don’t fit into a stereotype for my interest; ultra trail running.

Currently I am at odds with my competitive-inner-being.  Usually I let her roam free during races, I try to reign her in just enough so I can at least pace myself thought out the whole race, but shes always there, trying to pick off runners, trying to better her time….this time, however, I may actually have to chain her up.

I have been signed up for Grindstone 100 for two years…that’s right, two years! It was cancelled last year, so I signed up again this year and am bound and determined to do as well as I possibly can.  All of my training, all of my racing, all of my summer plans I have kept this race in the back of my mind.  Until, that is, FOMO took over one day.  For those of you unfamiliar with this little demon he lives on my shoulder (maybe his kin live on your shoulders?) and tells me I CAN’T miss out on any runs, races, or anything trail related my friends are doing.

This summer he made me sign up for the Barkley Fall Classic.   5 of my friends were going, Laz totally intrigues me, and this was a challenge that I was ready to accept!  (Ugh, I let Gridstone slip out of my mind for one second..) BFC is a mere 13 days out from Grindstone.  Now I am stuck with a dilemma.

The boys have begun taunting again, “no women will finish, no women are good enough…”  I know in my heart I could finish, and by doing so I could save all womankind! ;) However, then GS100 would be compromised.  Even if I was mostly recovered, that still isn’t as good as perfectly tapered.

You can’t imagine the mental turmoil going on inside of me right now, well maybe you can.  A month ago I told my friends I would be DD, because I was planning on taking it easy, that I would give myself a certain time limit, one that I would limit myself to on a real taper run, and then drop.  DROP?!  How could I forget that its against my whole being, everything I thought I was as a runner. I have never, ever dropped out of a race.  I think the only time I ever dropped out of any sport was when I broke my nose and cheekbone and was pulled off the soccer field.  I ALWAYS finish what I start.

What do you all do when this happens?

I guess I will find out in a few days what I do…

Orange Mud Ambassadorship

Displaying Orange Mud Ambassador.pngI would like to share some very exciting news!   I have joined some other really great athletes as an ambassador for Orange Mud!
They are the creators of my HydraQuiver hydration pack that I blogged about a few weeks ago, titled by “My New Favorite Hydration Pack.”
They are a really young, innovative company with lots of cool ideas.  They have a transition towel you can wrap around yourself post workout and change out of your stinky clothes.  It also doubles as a car seat cover.  They have a whole upcoming line of different packs and bags in the works on their Gear Lab page.
If you are interested in trying out some of their gear click HERE! (Use wispfriends for 10% off.)
And of course, if you have any questions about their gear I’d be happy to answer any questions, so drop me a line!

How do deal with the “Blahs,” the “Mehs” and avoiding the Slippery Slope that is Overtraining

This morning I woke up, 30 minutes before my alarm, as I passed it on the way to the bathroom..I paused…and set the switch to “off.”

“I have been running a lot of miles,” I reasoned with myself.  “I need some extra sleep,” I said.  “I’ll see how I feel after work and run then..”  (I think we have all said these things to ourselves.)

I sighed, uh oh…I have come down with a case of the “blahs!” I went back to bed.

A few hours later I rolled out of bed and went to look at my training log.  While I train hard and am competitive I do try to not to burn myself out, (as I may have had a tendency to do in the past.)  I am completely guilty of having been that stupid runner who will run every day of every month, but several years ago I realized that it was really getting me nowhere competitively.  I can’t do that and expect to have great speed or hill workouts too, rest and recovery are important to any training gains.

I should know this feeling by now, its that you-are-pushing-yourself-harder-than-you-should-and-are-nearing-that-edge-into-the-overtaining-abyss

Even though I try my best to be smart with my training and take proper rest days, sometimes I still get a little overzealous.  My training showed that I had run 370 miles in the last 4 weeks (averaging 92.5 miles/week) and I was probably in need of a break.  But this bums me out even further…here I am physically and mentally feeling low, and now I realize that I haven’t been doing a good job of recovering…damn it Rachel!

So what do I do?  Well to start I text a friend, ok maybe a few.  The consensus, of course, is that I have been slogging too many “junk” miles, and not resting…time to cut my mileage down this week.  It is so easy to fall into the “run your hard runs to easy, and your easy runs too hard.”

One friend threatened to come to my house and hide my shoes if I didn’t dial it back, another wouldn’t tell me his Labor Day weekend training plan because he was afraid my FOMO would get the better of me…FOMO thats a thing..really!! (Fear Of Missing Out)

I know that slow, hot, slogging miles won’t do anything for my mental state.  Shuffling around a hot forest in the summer is never a good mental pick me up…..So what’s the cure?  One word; ENDORPHINS!   Hm, well I know that chocolate stimulates the same pleasure centers in my brain…but that is not the answer.  I’m training for an “A” race right now, Grindstone 100.  No one ever PR’d by hanging on the couch eating bon-bons and watching re runs of Sex and the City.  (Com’on, cut me some slack, I need mindless TV sometimes..)

Ok, onto the next thing…SPEEDWORK!  Short, sweet, and hard!

So rather than my usual week (that looks something like this:

Monday 17+ mile hill repeating long run,

Tuesday 9 miles of stadium workout,

Wednesday 4 hour LSD,

Thursday 15% treadmill run followed by more miles in the woods,

Friday easy 1.5 hours,

Saturday LSD, and Sunday run with the family.)  Are you seeing a theme here…Obviously I like to run long miles, but tend to not put much hard effort into my week.

I did this;  Monday easy hour with the dog and x-train by lifting,

Tuesday proper hill repeats (ie Run HARD up the hill, and recover at the top, Run HARD back down, and recover at the bottom, repeat)

Wednesday 10 total miles, 2 warm up, 5×1 mile hard effort repeats, 2 mile cool down.

Thursday same stadium workout but cut shorter, and also harder effort with a break between each set.

Friday…I SWAM!?  (what?)

Saturday, dare I say it, I took a full day off!


Shorter runs also mean more sleep!  Since these workouts all took well under 2 hours, I had more time to sleep.  I also had more time to hang out with friends and family and could let my “training brain” rest too.

Follow up, this week (Monday after Labor Day) I am happy to report I ran a grueling hill workout faster than I ever have and I am back to being excited about training again…here I come Grindstone 100!

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!