September Blog Symposium Topic: Avoiding Burnout.


I touched on this a little a few weeks ago. Here are my thoughts.

Since I have shared my thoughts about avoiding burn out, I thought I would ask two veteran ultra runners; Geoff Scott, and Dan Baglione.

Geoff Scott is 65 and has been running ultra endruance races since 1989.

Geoff out on the Uwharrie course in NC.

Below is our exchange;

When did you take part in an ultra endurance event; 1989, if you count Ironman as an ultra. First ultra run was 1995.

Why? I saw Ironman on TV, thought it was supercool. And a long lost friend had just come back from Hawaii, placing 10th overall, and convinced me that anyone could do it. I needed an inspiration to stop smoking, so this was it.

How many ultra endurance events have you participated in? Counting triathlons, let’s say 75, give or take.

What is your favorite part? Definitely hanging out with younger people; or should I say people who believe in the power of positive thinking. There’s not a lot of room for whiners in the ultra community. If you need to whine, take up golf!

Least favorite? Actually no least favorite. Every single effort to get you to the finish line is a requirement. No training; no finish. No focus; no finish. No fun; No finish. But if I didn’t have fun friends to hang out with, I’d have no training, no focus, and no finish. So the friends make it all possible.

Do you think that the support of your family plays an important role in your longevity: Yes, family is important because they have to understand why it’s meaningful to you. I haven’t pushed this lifestyle on my family, but they have certainly adopted it as their own. Each has paced in mountain ultras, certainly not an easy task, and then gone on to some marathon races of their own. So I guess the sense of fulfillment is contagious.

What drives you to finish? Certainly a fear of failure. There aren’t a lot of excuses out there, it’s just you and a trail.  Other runners aren’t really the competition, the trail is the competition. With a binary result, either finish or DNF. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

How, specifically, have you avoided burnout?  And words of wisdom? Keep an active race on your calendar, always have a “next” race. That way, you never lose focus cause there’s always something to think about.  And find a great group of friends with whom you can  share the emotional intensity.

Lessons learned? Humans need fulfillment to enrich their lives and provide joy.  With the strange exception of Barkley entrants, nobody gets excited about failure. Families can provide that joy, intellectual discovery can provide joy, but I would strongly argue that the biggest adrenaline rush ever is coming around the last turn and seeing the finish line. I never tire of that sense of accomplishment. If you can “bag” that emotional feeling, and bring it out whenever you’re a bit down,  it’s just the best pick me up in the world.  The ultimate in positive feedback.

Geoff just recently finished the Barkley Fall Classic 50k first in his age group in just over 12 hours.  He is also my ultra running hero having encouraged me to run my first 50 mile race, paced me at Pinhoti 100 in 2013, and will be pacing me at Grindstone this year, 2014.

Dan Baglione is 84 and started running ultra’s in the very early 80’s.  I was lucky to meet and chat with him at the Barkley Fall Classic, where he started, but opted to drop before the finish.  I have to say his positive attitude is contagious and refreshing, if you ever meet him, definitely strike up a conversation with him!

Why do you continue to compete in ultra distances? I have this strong desire to keep testing my ever changing limits. I believe this is true of most ultrarunners.

What do you think allows you to keep going? My parents gave me genes which enable me continue that testing, albeit at a slower pace and decreasing intensity with age. In addition to genes, my ability to continue is the result of attitude and lifestyle in that order. I am almost always up. I do not let stress gray the few hairs I have or otherwise adversely affect my life. Granted, what may be stress to some is often exhilaration to me. Similarly, what may be pain out there to some is discomfort to me. laz would probably feel the same about that last point.

What events still call to you? There are still events that call me. I want to make one more attempt at Vol State, but as a go-as-you-please event, unconstrained by any time limit. I shall continue to go to Across the Years event as long as I’m able. As my age increases, I may back down to the 72 hour instead of the 6-day. I’ve told Nick and Jamil Coury that I hope to do ATY when I’m 90.

Why do you think you have avoided burn out? In my ultrarunning career, I have never competed with another runner, only with the course, the conditions, and myself. I enjoy the camaraderie with other runners, especially in fixed-time events on loop courses. I am not interested in single age awards or awards simply because I am the only entrant in my age group.

How does your family fit into your ultra-career? My wife, my 3 daughters and 1 son, and I just cope. Running (now walking) is something I do for pleasure. I have tried to minimize the impact my running has had on my family, especially my wife; but she has been very tolerant (but if I tried to make a 5th attempt at the Badwater course, she might break one of my legs). She has benefited from some of my races. When I did the Athens International Marathon, she traveled with me and we spent 30 days touring Greece, Italy, Sicily, and Spain. She wanted to stay in a castle in Spain and she did.When I did the first Everest Marathon in 1987, I flew her to Kathmandu for the award ceremonies; and we toured a little of Nepal, Bangkok, a side trip to the Taj Mahal, and Hong Kong. She accompanied me to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras marathon, and we spent some time in the French Quarter, boating through bayous, and touring a plantation home.

In addition to running, I like being up high in mountains. Hiked to 20,000 feet on Aconcagua at age 69, spent 1 to 2 months a year for 20 years hiking mountains in the Leadville area.  Also hiked to 16,000+ ft on a couple mountains in Ecuador. Basically, I have lived life in such a way that if I die tomorrow, no one need grieve because I have made it a great life. I have loved and been loved by the same woman for more than 62 years. How much better can it get?

Dan recently took part in 6 days at the Dome in Alaska.  He completed 166 miles.


Dan at the 2014 Barkley Fall Classic reminiscing…







Lessons I have learned from these two men;  Keep looking ahead to races in the future to keep you motivated.  If you can, find a community of like minded ultra runners, there is nothing like ultra friendships to keep you motivated, remember that ultimately its you against the course, and finally…a POSITIVE attitude with get you everywhere!  As Geoff says, “there is no room for whiners..”
May you all get out there and run, with a positive attitude!

BFC50k or Bust?

So I guess it was a bust…

Thursday afternoon I was packed up, and ready to go.  I was so excited to be running the inaugural Barkley Fall Classic, and couldn’t wait to get out to the mountains. My friend, Geoff, pulled into my driveway just before 2pm, and we were off on our adventure.

I first heard about the Barkley in 2011, when I first started trail running.  One of the guys in my trail running club, Joe Lea, was preparing for Barkley that spring, he finished the “fun run” of 60 miles and brought back some great stories.  Between his stories, and Geoff’s stories from the early 2000’s Barkley started growing into a mythic tale in my head.

I dream big, but knew from their tales The Barkley was out of my reach, (for now) so when I heard about the BFC50k I thought it was my chance to get a little taste!

6 of us signed up last spring in a rush to be part of this new race, though as the summer progressed many of my friends ended up unable to run it.  In the last week it was down to 3 of us, the day before 2 of us, and that morning I decided to pull the plug after not having been able to really eat or drink the few days prior..but I digress…

So back in the car on Thursday, as we drove through Asheville, I stared to feel “funny.”  I pushed it out of my head and told myself it was just nerves.  We stopped overnight in Knoxville, TN.  Friday morning we were up and off to Frozen Head State Park to do a little recon.

Geoff had run the Barkley in 2000, and 2001 so on the ride over we hypothesized which parts of the Barkley would be part of the BFC50k.  We were almost sure Rat Jaw would be in it, so we drove straight to the nearest pull out and hiked to Rat Jaw.  No surprise, there was Laz’s arrow marking the turn towards the power lines.

Geoff and I hiked our way over to the base of it, he looked up, and chuckled softly.  What greeted us was 6 feet of very dense, very thick brush, and saw briars…all.the.way.up.  “Well, in the early spring the foliage is much less dense,” he pondered while he started looking for a route through, around, across and somehow up the hill.  We eventually decided that by the time we arrived some of the front runners would have beaten down a path to take, or a path not to take.

We hiked back to the car wishing it was already time for packet pick up so we could find out what the route really would be.  Since we still had 3 hours until packet pickup we went to find food, and I napped..hoping I could sleep off the yuck I felt.

Eventually time to get our packets and maps arrived and we headed over right away.  As we entered the basement of the hall, immediately Mike Dobies recognized Geoff.  We chatted with him and found that he wouldn’t be running, but was going to be the check point and bib punch after the first aid station.  I listened to them reminisce about the “old days” of trail running.  As we sat, Dan Baglione came over.  At 84 he was picking up his bib and getting ready for whatever awaited him on the trail.   He knew he wouldn’t be finishing the entire race, but was mentally prepared to just get out there and enjoy himself for as long as he could.  I would have to say he is one of the most positive people I have ever met.   He attributes his ultra longevity to his positive attitude.

After meeting and chatting with many of the other runners, it was time to head out to the hotel.  That night I lay awake tossing and turning with stomach pains, nothing I wasn’t used to, but I kept telling myself it was just excitement and nerves.  I won’t go into the details of my symptoms, but I got dressed in the morning anyway.  By the time we got to the start, I finally accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be participating in the way I had planned.  I end up too dehydrated and dizzy after these episodes to chance running, so I changed my plan on the fly.

There were several people volunteering, so I hopped into one of the Forestry’s trucks and rode out to the “12/18″ mile aid station to help fill water bottles and give words of encouragement.  To my surprise Carl Laniak was at the aid station to help, We were pretty busy so I didn’t have a ton of time to chat with him about his Barkley experiences, but it was cool to meet him, nevertheless.

We saw the runners come in off of a jeep trail section, they would leave the aid station and do an out and back around up then up RatJaw.  On their way out they were all happy and chatty, most were prepared for the difficulties of the course, a handful seemed quite under prepared..but we sent them all on their way with bottles and tummies filled.

It was like sending people off for a long day of hard labor.  They went out looking pretty good, and came back like they were casualities of the war on saw briars.  Most people had figured a way along, or around, or minimally through the briars, so the carnage wasn’t too bad, but the greenhouse effect of the thick brush had super-heated the section of RatJaw, and many were coming back covered in brush, and needing to sit to cool down a bit.

The aid station is also strategically positioned right at the junction of “quitters road.” Which was just a short, but technical trail that cut the course back to the parking lot. Several people dropped here, but I was happy the the majority of people kept on track.

Once the aid station slowed down, I hopped onto “quitters road” which took me about 3 miles downhill to one of the next aid stations.  Unfortunately I missed my friend Geoff, so I kept running back to the car.  At this point I had probably gone for 30 hours with out any real food or drink and I had a smoothie in the car that I was hoping would stay down.  Luckily it did.  I lazed around the finish line while a bulk of the female finishers crossed the line…GO women!  :)

I estimated that Geoff would finish before sunset, so as the sun moved lower in the sky I started heading back up the road to where the runners popped out of the trail for the final mile on the road.

The sky was turning a pretty orangy-pink of sunset as Geoff emerged from the woods.  He hadn’t fallen once, and was in much better shape than countless many others that had finished ahead of him, or come through quitters road.  He worse a wistful look of pride as he trotted down the road to the finish.

From Stever Durbin: 50 DNS, 65 DNF
“The comment I heard over and over at the finish line was that it was hard, and fun.  rat jaw was the topic of the day.  never seen it that overgrown.
the 13hrs, 20 mins was perhaps a bit generous, as 65 finished after 12 hours.”

Geoff finished first in his age group (60-69) with a time of 12:05.

Was this what I had planned, no.  Was I disappointed, yes.  Did I regret the day, no.  Lemon aid out of Lemons and sign up again next year I guess.  In the end I am thankful that my stomach has returned to normal, and I am eating and sleeping normally again….and that Grindstone is in less than a week!!

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.