Virtual long run- Two- #longrun #academia #runchat #oiselleteam

If we were on a long run today, I’d fill you in on the last few weeks of life. This probably won’t be too long of a long run (maybe 1.5hrs? 10miles? What do we feel like doing?) because I ran at a rate that was inversely proportional to the rate at which I consumed cheese and meat over the holidays. Like most everyone out there, December seemed like a whirlwind of events, too, and I didn’t get in all the awesome workouts and training and things I had planned. But really, it wasn’t too crazy. I ran a trail race in 8 inches of snow, I finished my first semester of teaching college sophomores, I applied for a few jobs, I traveled to Michigan for Christmas. I could probably write the “12 days of fall semester ending” song: There was 1 white elephant gift exchange, two Secret Santas, three holiday parties, four students that liked me as an instructor (if I am being optimistic), five reference letters requested, six CV updates, seven lunches and luncheons, eight dinners, nine cookies, make that ten cookies… ok fine, 12 cookies. All long runs should have some singing, right? Anyway, I digress.

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you how relieved I am to have finished my first semester as a lecturer in engineering. Teaching was tough; it required a lot more time than I thought it would (and I went in expecting to put in more time than most college profs given that I’d never taught an entire class before), it required a lot more effort, and a lot more emotional restraint. It was both humbling and rewarding, and I am excited to teach again knowing what I know now. I didn’t expect or anticipate all the questions I was asked throughout the semester, but as we chugged along, I found my stride. It was a steep learning curve, but I definitely know what approaches to take, and what not to take, in the future when I teach again. That is, if anyone hires me… (more on that later). Have you ever taught a class? A lecture? Have you had any teachers or professors that stood out as ones you liked or didn’t like? What about them made them a good or a bad instructor?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you that I have officially started the tenure track (TT) faculty search. In fact, this would probably take up the whole run, so maybe I will save the majority of it for a different post. I will say, however, that this is yet another thing about academia that is not as easy as one might expect (and requires a lot more time than I thought it would). Get a fellowship, they said. It will make you a “hotter” candidate, they said. What I have gathered, in my immature and rather short experience of TT-applying thus far, is that I’m not entirely convinced that the search committees always care that much about that kind of stuff. Cool, you have funding. So does everyone else applying for TT jobs right now (or so it seems).  Nonetheless, I’m on pins and needles waiting… waiting… waiting. Because even if you submit an application on Tuesday, you want (you really, really want) some sort of “cool, thanks for applying” point of contact from a real person, not an automated email, with some sort of “you’re just what we’re looking for!” or, at least, “nah, you’re not that cool” feedback. Because, even though you really want to be that cool, you also don’t like waiting. As I’ve been told, the first round of applications for TT positions tends to be a crapshoot, (or rather in academia) “a learning experience,” and yet another way to develop thicker skin. Also, it’s a way of finding out that the search committees just aren’t that into you, as one might say. And lastly, I will tell you that the TT application process in and of itself is a lot like trying to date someone you’ve had a crush on for a while; the nervous butterflies after you put yourself out there, the checking your phone/email all the time to see if you missed a message or call, the constant sinking “oh shit” feeling that you messed something up (grammatically, of course). Oy. I haven’t dated in a while. Remember when we used to chat about dating on our long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d laugh at the analogies we make now that we are “older,” and obviously more mature. Seriously, there was a time when we ran for hours and talked about our crazy sorority roommate and all the f^&#ing glitter in our upstairs bathroom, or our crazy office mate who didn’t use headphones and drove us nuts, or what freshman we could find to give us a free dorm meal. What crazy stories from college (or earlier years) do you remember that got you through long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you about the awesome race I did a few weekends ago called the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run. It’s a cult race, usually selling out in the first few days that registration is open (this year it sold out in 6 hrs). Fortunately, the race director threw me on the wait list and I got in after bribing him with threats of volunteering and trail cleanup. Also, Pere Marquette is (apparently) a fairly famous area of Illinois; according to my Coffee Guy (@stringbeanPete), it’s the #2 place in the late 1960s for people to go on their honeymoon. There’s loads of bald eagles flying around, and its about an hour away from St Louis City proper. I almost ditched the race because the area got about 8 inches of snow between midnight and 6am, and the roads were in horrible condition. Fortunately, Emily agreed to drive, so we picked up Irwin and we skidded our way to the PMQT visitors center to run a 7.5mile race, in snow. It was fantastic. Lots of fun, actually kind of fast because the trail was basically paved (albeit with snow). There were some slow sections (e.g., getting behind the train of runners from waves that started ahead of me) and super fast sections (e.g., running in the powder and just flying down the hills), and I wound up in second place for women behind Emily herself. We had the speedy car, apparently. Has there ever been a race that you almost didn’t show up to the start line for that was an absolute freakin’ blast to race?

The drive up.

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

The line of people.

The line of people. Photo by Joann Fricke

If we were on a long run today, I’d make a plan to have a long run again on Saturday or Sunday, because it’s 2014 now and it’s time to get back at it. Let’s think about what races we want to do this year, and chat about it in a few days, yeah?

Virtual long run – One – #longrun

A very good friend of mine has maintained a rolling blog series that she calls “Sunday afternoon virtual coffee date,” where she recaps her exciting news as if she were chatting with me (one of her many beloved readers) in real life. Jenn and I used to hang out at Rockford Coffee, or The Daily, when we were both in graduate school at Montana State. We’d talk for hours, plan our next adventure, or just study together and randomly interject with crazy twenty-something gossip. Then, very abruptly (or at least, it felt that way), we graduated and moved away from Montana. Since then, over six years has passed, and we continue to keep in touch through random visits, email, and of course- our blogs. Her coffee date posts have been a fun way for me to touch base and stay in tune with her life happenings over this past year, even if we don’t email or chat on the phone for months. And it’s been a godsend, given her crazy travel schedule over the last nine months (interviewing, moving back to Montana, traveling, adventuring, etc.).

For some reason, it has taken me nearly as long to realize that this type of blog post is something I should jump in with, too. But instead of coffee dates, as I rarely find myself hanging out at coffee shops these days, I think it will take the form as a virtual long run. This rendition was also inspired by a recent Tumblr post from haute volee Oiselle runner Fast Kate on “Notes from a long run”- so here it goes.  Lace up your shoes, let’s give it a try.

If we were on a long run, I’d tell you about the wonderful food I’ve been eating as of late. It’s necessary to get back into the long runs because of all the oil, fat, and butter that goes into the meals I eat. Given Adam’s new purchase of Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home,” our dinners have transformed into some elegant comfort foods that are simple yet something I’ve never had before. He is really enjoying the pursuit of new adventures in the kitchen, and obviously I am supportive. His cooking style is evolving, and he’s really into learning new techniques and styles of cooking, and even in presentation too (we have special plates and bowls that make the meals look just about as good as they taste). Did I mention it’s really nice living with my husband? After being apart for over two years, I know that my life is just that much better when he’s around.

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If we were on a long run today, I’d groan a little about my decision to teach and do research this semester. Oh, and apply for faculty jobs. Teaching has been a lot of work, and one of the main reasons I haven’t been out on many long runs this fall. Teaching a new class, or a class for the first time, has a steep learning curve, but I feel like I am finally at the plateau where things in everyday teaching-life are more routine. I can predict questions and answer them effectively in class and out of class, compared to when the semester first started, when I didn’t know what the students didn’t know. And we can always improve, get better, do more. Teaching is rewarding, and demanding, and humbling, but I like it. I still prefer research primarily, but I think teaching provides a medium to connect with a younger generation and see if what you’re working towards in your career strikes a chord with them. Plus, it helps with articulating what you are trying to say, which is never a bad thing to practice in a scientist’s life.

If we were on a long run today, I’d ask you what you think of the GoldieBlox campaign for girls’ toys targeting design and engineering. The campaign on Kickstarter is incredible. There is a Rube Goldberg machine, little girls in safety glasses singing the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” and it’s just straight-up girl power coming from 6 year olds. On the other hand, here’s a toy that is still clinging to the pink-is-for-girls stereotype. When will there be gender neutrality? And when can we stop thinking of kids as little girls and little boys and start thinking of them as aspiring engineers? A friend of mine posted a thought-provoking commentary on this. But there’s also a big gap with where we are and where we want to be as far as gender neutrality goes. And maybe it’s ok that some girls like pink things, and only play with pink toys, and aren’t interested in LEGOs, just like it’s ok that some boys want to play with dolls and kitchen things. And maybe not every kid is going to grow up and be an engineer. Whatever. If it gets the toy, made to encourage spatial visualization and design and mechanics, into the hands of a little girl because her parents only buy her pink toys or she only likes pink toys, well- that’s one step in the right direction.

If we were on a long run today, I’d ask you what good books you’ve read lately. I’ve been engrossed in the Wheel of Time novels, and because I am a slow reader, I am only on Book 6, of 14. It’s gonna be a while. So I want to know what books to get on Audible, or your cliff notes of the next best autobiography. I have a terrible habit of starting books and not finishing them, especially when I feel like I have got everything out of them that I can.

If we were on a long run today, I’d want to start planning a run-cation for next year. Where to go? What to see? I hope to be traveling a bit in the spring for interviews, but I also want to go to a few conferences, and if a race lines up with a “work” trip, that would be cool. Part of me wants to race a marathon again, just to see where I am at endurance-wise and how I can do, but the majority of myself wants to just get fast. So, I think I’ll put off the marathon for a few more years, maybe until I put together a quick, solid half marathon. Plus, I want to jump on the track for some collegiate 5K races per my coach’s recommendation (why not?). I think it would be rad to break 19, so I might as well race a few 5Ks to increase my chances. Working with a coach has been a lot of fun and very educational, and it’s a topic that could take up a huge part of our long run discussion.

Since I haven’t been on a long run in a while, I’m going to stop here, stretch, and get ready for a feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Finding my flock

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I found out yesterday morning that I was officially accepted for the Oiselle Volée team.

For over the last year, I have been getting back to my roots in running, focusing on trying to reconnect, improve, and rediscover my drive to be better. Better at what, exactly? Well, better at racing, for sure. I took a few years off, as is habit for me I suppose, after ending graduate school and starting my post-doc. It was a tough few years, and it took a while to get into the swing of things, but I’ve been able to find support and encouragement from others to look ahead and see my potential. Besides, who doesn’t want to be better, stronger, faster? But I’m also striving to be better in a lot of other ways, too- like, better at balance. Sure, I want to be a better balanced runner– meaning, I want to actually be able to stand on one foot and then the other without falling over, and I want to feel strong, grounded, and connected with the earth. Better balance in the literal, tangible sense of “yoga-and-closed-circuit-exercises”-sense. But I have also been striving to find better balance between work and “life” things, better balance in – more importantly- life outside of work. I started rock climbing and strength training again, after several years hiatus, and I tag along with my husband when he goes to the trails to ride his bike, so that I can run on singletrack and hills and sand, so that I can get better and stronger and fitter. I eat better, thanks to my husband who prepares gourmet meals as if I am an athlete in the Tour de France and he’s my amazing chef. I even think better; improving my positivity and thinking ahead at my potential instead of dwelling on my shortcomings.

So, when I found out that Oiselle was bringing on some more ladies to the flock this year, I was quick to apply. It was easy for me to apply; the questions in the application were honest and my answers were honest, and the mission of the company is one that I’ve adored for years. In 2009, when my former collegiate teammates and I officially formed Team Mega Tough, I found Oiselle to be the perfect reflection of us; strong, ambitious women, brought together through running, who’ve made the most lasting friendships and have experienced the most remarkable things through each other’s accomplishments. With Team Mega Tough, and now Oiselle, it’s not about me- it’s about the flock. Sure, I want to do better for myself, to race faster and be stronger and have the most amazing balance (can I stand on my head? ok, maybe I don’t really care to do that)… but more importantly, at least to me, I want be there when others in my flock do their best. I want to be the one my teammate calls when she PRs in the 10K after not racing in a few years; when she decides she want to run her first marathon and calls me just to tell me she signed up. When an email chain between five women goes around about running a relay as an ultra team, which means we’d all run more than a marathon- and their first response isn’t: “WHAT? That’s stupid.” It’s: “WHAT? Where do I sign up?” When a friend tells me she wants to race the Leadville 100 mile run, and that she wants to win it, I’m not going to call her crazy; I’m going to buy a plane ticket to Denver and crew for her, pace her until I puke my guts out at 11,000ft above sea level. These are things I enjoy more than racing itself, but these things revolve around running, they are defined by running. And these are things that add up to way more than anything I can accomplish on my own. Running is an individual sport, but there’s so much more to it than doing it all on your own. It’s the meet-up runs in cities while traveling, its the destination races with friends to see more of the country, it’s the 3hr run “just-because” with friends you haven’t seen in months, it’s the bachelorette parties that revolve around trips to islands just to run. Running is at the center, but we flock around it like birds to a lake. It’s about having a team of women that support each other, and I’m proud to say that I run for Oiselle.

Sunrise to moonrise and back again: Racing Ragnar Trail Tahoe with Team @TheGearJunkie

It’s 2AM and it is taking all the concentration I have to keep my eyes open. I’m on my fourth of six laps in total, my second time on the trails. 19 miles down, 15 to go. I have to convince myself to stay alert, to look for rocks, to pick my feet up. Keep moving. Down the fire road. The faster you get down this mountain, the sooner you can sleep. But really, I could sleep right now. I could curl up alongside the trail and just. Sleep. The descent becomes more dizzying, my eyes continue to accrue mass, my mind is heavy and a blur. It seemed like hours by the time I made it back to transition; my watch battery had died and I was out of water. With my teammate’s worry replaced by relief, I crawled into my sleeping bag for a few hours of shuteye before my last laps.

This weekend, I raced the Ragnar Trail Relay in Tahoe as an honorary Gear Junkie team member on their ultra team. I won a sweepstakes in May for an all-expenses-paid trip to Reno and registration to the Ragnar Relay, as well as a plethora of amazing running gear, thanks to Gear Junkie, Salomon Running, and Suunto.

Pew pew! This way to the awesomest team at Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

My teammates included, in pseudo-reverse running order, Mr. The Gear Junkie himself, Stephen:

Team captain, Stephen, prepping for his first two laps.

Firepants McCoy, AKA Sean:

Dude is fast.

 And of course, Chris, who also won the contest:

Fooled you. This isn’t Chris (it’s Salomon runner, Theodorakakos Dimitrios). Photo by Salomon Running

LOL. Fooled you again. This isn’t Chris either, it’s Salomon runner, Kilian Jornet. Photo by droz-photo/Salomon Running

This is Chris. For real. Photo by Sean McCoy/Gear Junkie

and of course, myself:

Cruising the singletrack like a boss. Photo by Ragnar Trail Relay

I wasn’t the only girl in our Gear Junkie camp, though. Amy came along as logistics coordinator/beer-and-cheese-balls wrangler, which was an invaluable service when you have an entire team made of native Midwesterners. She even jumped in as pacer for a lap, although who wouldn’t when the loop started with a ride up a chair lift?

Amy and Sean doing actual work, particularly on the cheese balls.

We convened on Reno on Thursday night, with Sean and Stephen on the same flight as me out of Phoenix, and Chris meeting us in the smallest big city after a could-have-been-better flight out of Milwaukee/PHX. After harnessing the power of the Awful Awful burger and contemplating a climb up the side of a building (which was actually encouraged), we swung by Walmart for some essentials (coffee, beer, and cheese balls, obvi) and then… finally… rolled onward to the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort. Setting up camp at midnight made us feel a little like assholes, until another party arrived around 3am to do the same thing, only with inflatable air mattresses. Approximately three hours of sleep later, it was up and at ’em for an action packed day of hydrating, eating yellow #5, and enjoying the entertainment of enthusiastic athletes in costumes.

Setting up camp, with a view that wasn’t half bad.

Our start time was 2:30pm, and Chris was reeling to go. We got the low-down from Ragnar Trail Blazer, Steven, as usual:

This dude is legit. He MC’s for hours on end, while us weenie athletes sleep between our laps in our tents and stuff our faces with s’mores and Nuun.

Ready…. SET… Ahooooo!!! There’s Chris on the edge of the shot.

The three loops, Green-Yellow-Red, were done in order over and over (G-Y-R-G-Y-R… etc) until everyone runs each lap once, or twice in our case since we were an ultra team. That meant that Chris’s first leg, totaling two laps, was Green-Yellow, with Green being 2.6mi up the bunny hill and back down a steep sandy grade, and Yellow being a 6.7mi grueling fire-road climb with a fast descent down a fantastic singletrack. All trails converged with 0.5mi remaining, which was a steep and tough climb, and Green/Yellow converge with about a mile left. So, there was some overlap between loops, but each loop was distinct in its own way.

Leg 1: 4:30-6PM:

I started my first run of the weekend’s race in the Salomon Sense Mantras on the red loop, which meant I got to ride the chair lift to the top of the mountain (at 9,000ft) and run down. Or at least, I thought I’d get to run down. There was a fantastic jaunt across the top of the mountain for about two miles before the descent began, and when it did, it was on fast fire road for a solid 4 miles. I was hauling. The miles ticked off quickly at 6:30min/mile pace, and I was sure that I’d put us in a good position heading into the night laps. But then the descent ended, and I found myself climbing up singletrack, with sun blazing and legs and lungs burning. It all balanced out, and I got back through transition and onward to the Green lap. I didn’t know quite what I was getting into, so I took the climb up the bunny hill conservatively. It reminded me a lot of running up Ripley, with the sun beating down, the exposure and sand and lungs burning. When the trail split between Yellow and Green, I followed the Green downhill, and fast. I was unsure how the Salomon Sense Mantra would handle the sandy and steep terrain, but damn if I didn’t run in these shoes much before the race.  I felt like I was flying down the side of a cliff face like a mountain goat. I was connected to the earth, but didn’t roll my ankle or feel sluggish. I felt fast.

I cruised into the last mile’s arduous false flat into the finisher’s climb, turned the corner and let loose down the hill, handing off the race belt to Sean as he cruised through the longest two laps (Y-R). I knew that I still had a lot of miles to get through, but I was happy to find myself feeling ok with the altitude. My next lap wouldn’t be for several hours, so I got some food, shade, and water and relaxed until the time came.

Leg 2: Midnight – 3AM:

I threw on a pair of Cascadias and and rolled out of transition a little after midnight. In hindsight, I should have napped, or at least scored some caffeine an hour or so before my night run started. The first loop of my second leg was Yellow, followed by Red; Yellow was faster than I expected, given that the first half is an incredible climb up fire road that included switchbacks but was mostly just straight up the side of the freakin’ mountain. I think it helped to do this lap first at night, as opposed to during the day when you could see exactly where you were going; I knew I was climbing but I didn’t know just how steep it was, or how much longer I’d have to go. Eventually I turned onto singletrack and got a little unnerved by cracking branches in the woods; some other runner probably tripped or stumbled, but I took it as some other bear or cougar is out to eat my face. The adrenaline went through me a little too early, and I cruised through the lap on time. It wasn’t until I got to the chair lift for the second time on the Red loop that I realized just how euphoric this experience truly was. I stopped running, wrapped up in the blanket, and sat on the chair, lifting me up up up the side of the mountain. I turned off my headlamp, and the moonlight reflected off the boulders below me. I ate a Snickers and put my feet up, in awe of the stars and the moon, and then the tiredness hit me.

As I got off the lift, I highfived the lifty and flicked my headlamp back on. I careened around the top of the mountain, but by the time I got to the descent, I knew something was off. The Snickers didn’t do it for me, and I started fading fast. It took all the concentration I could muster to keep my eyes open, to stay alert. I passed a few runners and could barely get out a gruntly “great job.” My feet hit the ground so heavily, and my ankle turned a few times. I was ready to be done, but the descent just kept going. I didn’t remember it being so long the first time. Eventually, I made it onto the singletrack, where my GPS watch battery died, but knew that I just needed to get back to the road; the road meant there was less than a half mile to go.

Arriving back at camp, I handed off to Sean and forced myself to grab a banana and almond butter. I ate it while crawling into my sleeping bag, and was asleep before my head hit the sweatshirt pillow.

Leg 3: 10:30AM- 12:30PM

I was up and moving by 6AM, but felt like I had slept for days. I grabbed a coffee, threw on a loaner pair of Salomon shoes from Josh and the Salomon gang (I tried the Fellcross 2), and gathered myself for a hot, late morning run, and waited. Other teams had started doubling, and tripling, up their laps; if there were more than two runners left that had Green loops to run, they were to run together in order to complete the race by 6PM. As an ultra team, this was not that feasible, but we weren’t too concerned about finishing on time- the projections still had us finishing at or around 4PM.

Snagging a pair of demo shoes from Salomon.

Feet up, resting, waiting for Chris to finish his final leg (and rocking the new Fellcross 2)

Chris cruised through transition and handed off the race belt, and I soared through the Green Loop just 2 minutes slower than my first go at it. And I felt good; I was trying to hold myself back so I didn’t blow up on the Yellow, but I also wanted to use my strengths (false flats, downhills) when I could.

The Yellow Loop’s grinding climb was not as runnable the second time as it was the first; I think because I could see just how onerous it was. I ski-walked to the best of my ability, and once I got onto the single track, cruised and ate a gel. The singletrack on the last loop of the race for me was the most awesome singletrack I’ve run on in a while. Up and over boulders, over logs, under logs, across riverbeds, flowing trail that was so well designed and fast. And the Fellcross were an amazing shoe; so light and grippy, low to the ground, and I didn’t have any rolled ankles. By the time I got to the fire road at the end of the singletrack, I tried to put the hammer down. I knew I had just about 2 miles left, and 2 miles is not that far. My legs burned, my quads just ached, but one foot in front of the other got me to transition.

Lap time estimates to guide us in predicting the next runner’s arrival time.

Sean and Stephen both cruised through their last legs, just absolutely flying. Amy, even with fresh legs, couldn’t keep up with Stephen on his last lap of 7.7miles on the Red loop. As he came around the final turn down the hill toward the finish chute, we hopped up and hit the trail behind him, crossing the line around 4PM.

All in all, the weekend was a fantastic blast. I was able to meet up with my teammie, Margot, in South Lake Tahoe for a swim and a burger, and the crew and I enjoyed a sunset over the mountains. We got back to camp and the party wasn’t completely dead, so we hung out with another team playing Flippy Cup and drinking Coors Light. Staying the night after the race is the way to go, for sure.

Doing a trail relay as an ultra team is my cup of tea. It’s fun either way, but I like the extra miles and the challenge of keeping my head in it. It’s not as hard on the body to do the trail relay as an ultra as it is, say, doing the relay as an ultra on the roads. Trails are just easier on the bones, but may be harder on the lungs. The trail relay teams are smaller than the road relays, too, which is seemingly easier to organize and manage. I am really looking forward to doing more of these, and am grateful for the opportunity to race with the Gear Junkie team at this year’s Tahoe race.

Special thanks to Salomon Running and Suunto for the amazing gear; the Sense Mantras are a fantastic trail shoe that is light with excellent traction, and their clothing is comfortable and wicking. I ran in the Start trail running shorts for two legs, and never had any chafing or rubbing. I also purchased a Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab handheld, which was fantastic to use (and incredibly lightweight!). Suunto really hit the nail on the head with the Ambit2S- I absolutely love this watch and I don’t even know how to use it to the best of its abilities. And last but not least, thanks to Gear Junkie for picking me to be on your team. What an honor! I look forward to racing with you guys again!

Training update: 9 weeks until race day

Today marks 9 weeks until my goal marathon, the Fox Cities Marathon in Appleton, Wisconsin. Training is ramping up, and I even hired a coach(!) which I will talk about at a later date. Fox Cities will be my first marathon in nearly 3 years; the last one I did was the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October, 2010. I mildly trained for the Rock and Roll St Louis last year, but bailed on the full and raced the half instead, which was the first half marathon I’ve ever raced (and it was super fun, by the way).

I decided to register for the Fox Cities race because it seemed like a great time to run a marathon (late September), and I’ve heard wonderful things about the course and race. Now that I will be teaching an undergrad engineering class in the fall, I am a little less sure it will be a great time to run a marathon, but hopefully life doesn’t get too crazy.

Speaking of crazy: Remember how I won a rad contest through Gear Junkie for a Ragnar Relay entry and a bunch of sweet stuff from Salomon and Suunto? Well, I’m now less than one week out from the Ragnar Trail Relay in Tahoe, and I’m getting pretty excited. I found out early last week that the team assembled by Team Gear Junkie (which includes me) will be doing the relay as an ultra, which consists of 4 people instead of the “regular” 8. That means a total of 34 miles in a 24 hr period, which is the most I’ve done in … a long time. And it’s all on trails! Bangarang. Fortunately, I don’t feel completely underprepared; I’ve been training with higher mileage and on trails, so that’s a win. This weekend, I enjoyed some quality time on trails in Lost Valley. It was hot, humid, and full of awesome, and it made for great training. I felt surprisingly great, which was an extra bonus, although I do feel a little under the weather today.

Splendid singletrack.

The best post-run snack.

Other than the trail run, this week’s training has been a bit low-key, but I did get in a semi-quality track workout on one of the hot evenings (oh, right; it’s July in Missouri, and they are all hot). I leave Thursday for Tahoe, and I’ve been popping zinc for some added insurance that I don’t get sick before flying across the country and sleeping at altitude for the weekend. One of my MegaTough teammies, Margot (who flew to Missouri for my birthday to run 30 miles over the weekend with me), will be joining me in Tahoe, too, to hopefully add in one more run for the weekend on Sunday. Add that to a swim in a cool mountain lake, and I think it will be one of the most fantastic weekends of the year.

More summer training adventures

Training lately has been going well. I’ve had some quality training sessions on the track and off the track, in multiple states even. And, best of all, I’ve been feeling great.

I think that it’s all in the small details; I drink more water during the day (since moving desks to the office instead of being in the lab), I eat incredibly well thanks to my fantastic spouse, I run consistently 6 days a week, and I feel rested. I even took a nap three days in a row last week. Who does that? Well, professional runners, of course. I am by no means a pro, but I do feel exceptional when I am getting the right balance of intensity and recovery. Did I mention I eat incredibly well?

Backing up a few weeks, Baberaham and I traveled up north over the 4th of July weekend to spend some quality time on trails in the Keweenaw. We hit up the Tech Trails right away, and I hammered out 8 fantastic, fast, and flow-y miles on some of the best single track in the Midwest.

Then it was off to the shores of Eagle River, where we enjoyed one of many perfect sunsets on the sandy beach. We camped, drank whiskey, and caught up with friends we haven’t seen in years. Literally. It was fantastic.

On the 4th, we headed all the way up north to the northernmost town of Michigan, Copper Harbor. The IMBA Epic certified, Silver level Ride center that absolutely does not disappoint. I don’t think I could ever get enough of these trails; well, minus the biting flies, of course. But the flow and the climbs and the descents are just so fantastic, and the views are breathtaking. Seriously:

Photo by Hansi Johnson

After a day full of running (me) and riding (B), we went back to Eagle River for some smoked meats and campfire, but made the better decision to head back to town and stay with our friend, Tim, in “town.” We enjoyed a comfortable pull out couch and slept, a lot. Well, I did. B got up and biked more, and I took a rest day. It did get pretty hot, so I was glad I made the decision.

B made a fun, Game-of-Thrones-ian dinner at our friends’ house, and we we slept like rocks again at Tim’s. On our last full day in the Keweenaw, I got a big breakfast in my belly and headed out to tackle my favorite of workouts: Ripleys.

Mont Ripley is the ski hill in Hancock owned by the University (Michigan Tech), and it makes for a great summer/fall training ground. In college, my teammates and I would tackle the “long” route (mostly under the tutelage of our first coach, Gary) and the guts (under the tutelage of our second coach, Joe). The good thing about the long route, you usually only had to do one. The good thing about the guts, they were over in 3 minutes. Either way, though, they were pain, suffering, and shear VO2-max-inducing awesomesauce. It was hot again, and humid, and I haven’t been doing much in the world of hill work in Saint Louis, so I started out by aiming for getting through three guts. After 2, I decided to take a “break” and hike the long route to the chair lift at the top, so I could take some photos and get oxygen to my brain.

Check out more of these on my Instagram

We spent our last night at The Fitz, which is quite possibly my favorite place on Earth, and had a delicious meal with fantastic whiskey and amazing friends. I am ever grateful for having Mike and Marc in my life. I worked at The Fitz as an undergrad, when Mike and Marc were just out of high school and Mike’s parents owned the place. Now, these guys run the show, and it just keeps getting better and better. We had our one-final-amazing sunset on Lake Superior as we sat at the bar, Marc pouring us the perfect pours of Stagg and Ardbeg and Pulteney…

And when we woke up in our comfortable queen size bed with the sound of waves crashing against the beach outside, we packed up our things and rolled out of town. We were just as sad as the weather to be leaving, but it was time to head back to the real world. Fortunately, the Keweenaw will be there when we are ready to escape next time.

Race Face: June Racing Recaps #findingmyfast

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged, and I’ve raced a few races. In fact, I’ve raced THREE! Ah, sorry for not giving each their own post, but they were short and I haven’t quite figured out how to indulge literarily (is that a word?) on running events that take less time to run than it does to write a post about them.

So, on with it.

I sort of did a reverse-distance race plan for the month of June, in which I ran a 10K, followed a week later by a 5K, which was followed two weeks later by a 1 mile race. I have really been digging the idea of just jumping into races, and fortunately, the Saint Louis area has a ton of races. The weekend I did the 10K, there were over a dozen running events in a 50mile radius. But, I chose the Route 66 10K because it was the Central Region RRCA Championships, and I wanted to see how fast I could run a 10K with the training I had been putting in.

So, first race on the list: Route 66 10K. Obviously, I am not a pro at racing 10Ks. I have only ever run four in my life, including the one I raced earlier this month at the Midwest Champs. This race distance takes practice to dial in, and I think that the 10K is one of the toughest events (that, and the 800m on the track). So, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t race it well. I definitely, without a doubt, went out too fast. When my watch said 6:08 at the 1mi mark, and I was shooting for 6:45s, I panicked a little. I let off the gas, and rolled through mile 2 with a 6:35. Ok, a little slower, that’s good. But then my time kept rising. Mile 3 = 6:45. Mile 4 = 6:55. Mile 5 = 7:20. Eeek. I just pulled myself together to cross the line. Good way to get the first race of the year out of my legs.

10k

Moving on to the second race on my list: The Go! St Louis All-American 5K. This one is self-proclaimed to be the fastest 5K in STL. And it was; net downhill, point-to-point, perfect time of year (mid June), and lots of fast people. Holy, crap. We’re talking Saint Louis University’s 10K record holder, Hillary Orf, and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Julie Lossos. Fast women. I was more excited about this race;  I LOVE 5Ks, they are quick and relatively painless. Plus, I needed redemption.

I settled into the start line two or three rows back, knowing full well that lots of people would sprint out of the gate. I didn’t want to do that, but I did want to get into a good position. After the gun went off, I settled into pace after the shuffling of people in front of me toned down about 100meters in. I cruised through mile 1 feeling great, and looked at my watch. 5:55. Ok, well… that’s a little fast, considering I was shooting for a 19:45. Whatever, roll with it. Use the middle mile as a relaxed-but-tactical mile. I pushed a little on the ups, but not too hard, and I used the downhills to my advantage. Mile 2 was a solid 6:30. That felt like a 6:3o. I picked it up a little, pushed a little harder. Mile 3 was 6:25. Fantastic, I think that’s the first time in my life that the third mile was faster than the middle mile. The course, with its net negative elevation gain, did have a few blips of uphills, including three teeny ones in the last mile, but I felt strong and finished in as much of a sprint I could muster, with a time of 19:36, good for 11th woman and 3rd in my age group.

In between the 5K and the mile, I headed to visit my parents’ in Michigan. Unfortunately, my mom was admitted to the hospital for side pains the Sunday after the 5K, which – after a CT scan – led to the diagnosis of pulmonary clots… so for a week, I learned more than I thought I could about what it truly means to be strong, and to be patient. By the end of the week, she was released from the hospital on strict orders, and while I would have loved to spend time with my mom on better terms, I was reminded once again of the love and caring family I have. While she’s not out of the woods yet (she’ll need to go to the clinic at least once a week to get blood levels checked for the next six months), she is feeling better, and at home, and is also making progress on her physical therapy (she had her rotator cuff repaired 6wks ago, too). I love you, Mom!

OK! Finally, the third race on my list, the Macklind Avenue Mile. I’ve lived in Saint Louis for nearly three years now, and I’ve volunteered at this event for the last two years. It is so much fun; loads of spectators and racers, and tons of enthusiasm all around. This year, I decided to follow through with my new mantra, to find my fast, and decided to race it. I had no idea how fast I would go, since I haven’t run a mile since high school. High school! That was 12 years ago. Seriously, that’s a long time. And I don’t honestly remember what my fastest time was. I think it was 5:45. I think. Have no idea. I think that I ran a low 5 in the 1500 in college, which probably translated to roughly a 5:30 mile, but that was on a track when I was training for short stuff. Anyway, back to what I said: I had no idea what I’d do.

So I signed up for the Macklind Mile as soon as I got home from the All American 5K. The MM is really unique; the races are segregated into a “community” event, which is for those who are looking to race with their family or dogs or whatever. Then, there is a “competitive men’s” and “competitive women’s” race, followed by an “elite” race (top 10 fastest seeds from men and women are eligible). I chatted with some friends before the race, and warmed up a bit, but was not sure how quick my legs would be.

The open (competitive) women’s race was after the men’s, and I lined up in front next to a few youngin’s and some older women that I recognized from other races and group runs. The first part of the race is a steep downhill, followed by a small climb, and the last half is all downhill. I tried to not go out too fast in the first quarter but I didn’t want to lose contact with the front. Through the 400, I was at 1:20, which was about right given the downhill and my recent paces on the track. I settled in a little, and floated through the half at 2:43. I was surprised to see at this point that I was next in line behind the leader, Heidi, who crushed me in the 5K two weeks before (she ran a mid-18). I could hear a small pack behind me, and felt another girl inch her way alongside me. She got ahead of me, and around the 3/4mi mark, I realized I could be running faster.

Photo taken by Brent Newman

So I did. I pushed, positioned myself back in 2nd, and crossed the line behind Heidi in 5:22, 2nd open woman. It’s rare for me to finish in the top three overall. In fact, I don’t know that I ever have in a road race, regardless of the distance. The pessimist in me says, “well, the elite women were in a different race, so you really finished 8th.” But, really, I am proud of this race and how I did, and proud to have pushed at the finish and cross the line in second place.

Photo by Brent Newman

Thanks to Big River Running Company for being a part of two of the three events I raced in June; these were fantastic. BRR puts on exceptional events; they are well organized, well orchestrated, and I always enjoy them. The Macklind Mile is truly a unique event, and Saint Louis has such an amazing running community- thanks in part to the crew at Big River. I went to their weekly run from the South City store right after moving to this city; it was the first exposure I had to the St Louis running community, and it’s truly a great one. I am so glad to be back into and focusing more in the sport, and it’s events like the ones I raced in June that help reinforce why I love running, and racing, so much.

How to write your own training plan #marathon #training #racing #running

Everything that’s in this post is based on what I’ve learned over the last decade either by those who have coached me (i.e., collegiate endurance sports), what I’ve learned from teammates, what I’ve learned from graduate-level exercise science courses, and what I’ve read out of books. I was an assistant coach for my collegiate XC and track team during graduate school, and I followed the “training bible” of Jack Daniels, PhD, closely under the tutelage of the teams’ coaches. I do think that, over the years, I’ve learned quite a lot about endurance training and running in general, and yet my strategies for marathon and endurance-training are ever-evolving; that being said, after much exploring, I have honed in an ideology of training that really synchronizes with my physiology (and psychology) and I’ve clung to it. Every time I’ve trained for a marathon (all eight), I’ve done so by coaching myself.

Obviously, like I said, I was coached in college, but I didn’t run marathons competitively (or at all) in college. I had my first running coach when I was in middle school, with whom I maintained a strong coach/athlete relationship throughout my high school years, and also consistently had a running/endurance coach throughout my collegiate career (two coaches, actually). In graduate school, I no longer had any sort of official coach to guide my workouts each day, but I (thankfully) paid attention during my coached years and learned “the pattern,” and therefore was able to maintain more-or-less of the approach I was exposed to during my “developing” years: run more, run often, and mix it up with varying levels of intensity. And, because I was coached by numerous different coaches with different styles and approaches, I was able to identify what training methodologies worked for me, and what methods led to burnout.

Here’s the basics on how to set up and design your own training plan (or, how to pilfer it from somewhere else):

  1. Do your research. Not every plan will work for every person, that’s why there are so many books and plans and coaches out there (in other words: If one thing worked for everyone, wouldn’t everyone do it?). We all have different lives, different priorities, different physiology, and different goals. For example, if you are a veteran marathoner wanting to train for a faster marathon, and you have been consistently running bigger mile weeks without injury for the past few years (we’re talking 50-80miles), then you may be able to successfully execute a marathon training plan with 60+ miles per week in training (but what you do during those 60+ miles will influence how fast you race). On the other hand, if you’re new to the distance and have never run more than a 40-mile week in your life, jumping into a high mileage plan without making any adjustments should be avoided as it will likely set you up for injury. The most important thing is knowing yourself and your limits, knowing the basic concepts behind the plan, and fine-tuning them for yourself.
  2. Find the right plan(s) for you. Like I said in #1, there are hundreds of books out there providing insight on how to train for a marathon. Finding the right one for you is tricky. The first thing to do is ask yourself: “Does this plan fit into my life, or can I make it fit?” If you work 50 hours a week, have three small children, and a spouse that also works full time, training 20-25 hours a week may be something you’re looking to avoid. However, if you know you can manage the training time required to get in 80 mile weeks, then by all means, set yourself up for higher volume (that is, if your body is ready for it). But just remember, running more does not always mean running faster. There is a threshold at which you will become more and more fit the more time you put into training, but once you get there, your performance can plateau.
  3. Find the pattern and follow it.  Setting long-term goals is important when setting up your own training plan. Cookie-cutter training plans taken from running websites or books are helpful for beginners and those interested in exploring other training options than they’ve tried in the past, but they are generic and are rarely designed specifically for you. What cookie-cutter plans do provide, however, is a skeleton schedule that is already ironed out and easy (well, easy enough) to follow. For example, a plan from Hal Higdon’s website details specifics for daily mileage, with every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday aiming for an easy run or off day, every Tuesday aiming for a “strength” day, every Thursday aiming for a “tempo” day, and every Sunday being a longer run. That schedule skeleton establishes a pattern that is easy to remember, once you get through a few weeks of it, and the pattern eventually becomes routine. Sure, the strength and tempo days are usually different; you may need to find a hill to run up or a track to run on, but it is more or less a consistent pattern that takes the stress out of figuring out your daily workouts. In general, most plans follow this type of schedule; oscillating between low and high training days (low being rest/recovery and high being intensity/duration). We need the rest in order to excel at the intensity days. This is called microcycle periodization, where – within a short duration of time, say a week – your body is stressed at different levels and allowed to recover and make gains. Periodization also occurs at the meso- and macro-scale, too, where training adaptations are targeted to monthly or quarterly cycles, respectively. Mesocycles are typically designated as “preparation” and “competition” phases, but can also be designated as different phases (strength-building, speed-building, skill-building, etc.) depending on the goals of the plan.
  4. Build up slowly and, when in doubt, rest is (usually) best. Taking on a new training plan is a stress to your body in and of itself. There are times when the stress is good, where it builds fitness and strength. But if the new training plan deviates substantially to what you’re used to doing in training (e.g., dramatic increase in mileage), easing into it is a good idea. Avoid dramatic increases in mileage quickly; many physiologists and coaches recommend no more than 10% increases in total training volume per micro- or mesocycle when building up to a volume that you either haven’t seen in a while or have never seen in your life. There’s a balance between feeling sore and stiff because you just ran 20x400s at 5K pace for the first time in ever, and then there’s teetering on the edge of getting injured. Knowing this limit is also one of those magic questions that only you can likely answer. So be honest with yourself, don’t be arrogant and bullheaded. Regardless of who I was coached by, the most important thing I learned during my coached years was that there is strength in consistency, and that I had to absorb the rest days just as much as the big training days. And, what I continue to learn is that, when I was 20 years old, it was a lot easier to recover from a big training day than it is now that I am 30.
  5. Adapt or get left behind. What cookie-cutter plans lack is specificity, and a lack of specificity can leave veteran and advanced runners in the dust. In order to get faster, stronger, better, we need to adapt, and if we always run the same thing every week, we aren’t going to adapt. So, although out-of-the-book plans are … ok … for beginner/first-timers, as veteran runners, we need to put a little more thought into how we are going to adapt our training plans in order to adapt our bodies. This may mean we go on longer runs, or we incorporate more repeats on strength days, or faster repeats, or less rest between repeats; maybe we increase our consumption of hill repeats, or we incorporate two-a-day runs, or we add a few mornings of weight training or plyometrics. Some believe that, in order to make fitness gains, you should simply run more miles. Obviously, there are limits to this, and it takes some figuring out on your own behalf to know how far is far enough, and how far will lead to injuries and lost speed. In the simplest terms, designing a training plan is a game of balancing residuals: extra miles can lead to gains in fitness, but too many miles can lead to injury and fatigue. Getting to know how to optimally train is the magic question, right?
  6. Don’t be afraid of mixing it up. Swap cross-training (maybe a bike ride?) for one of your easy runs (with the 1.3hr bike time for 1-hr run trade); learn how to swim or aqua-jog and swap that out for a run to keep the heart rate up without building on accumulation of high impact from running; run on gravel or trails whenever possible instead of roads/sidewalks. Easy runs don’t have to be time, or mapped out (if you are “supposed to do six miles,” try just running for an hour instead of mapping out the miles and stressing about getting a nice round 6.0 on the GPS). Most importantly, RELAX. It’s not baking at altitude; you don’t need to follow everything by the half-teaspoon measurement. I feel like Ron Burgundy (I have many (leather/paper-bound) books), but the truth is, I love to learn about training and exercise science. Some books are better than others, but there’s always at least little gem or two that can be pulled from the pages of books written by “the experts.” But my favorite, and perhaps most adventurous, thing about having multiple books on different training methodologies? Designing my own in my little training/racing melting pot. True, some training methodologies are complete 180s of other training methodologies, and perhaps my library fits more under the “scientifically proven” category (again, I am a big fan of Jack Daniels). But, finding the connections between different strategies and racing theories is almost like a game to me, putting together my own story (or literature review, for the academic geeks out there) in order to make sense of it all. If that’s not for you, don’t worry… Most of the books out there reference other books in the long line of endurance training literature, so the authors, in a way, do that work for you.

What training plan(s) do you use? Do you design your own, or rely on a coach for guidance? In your opinion, what is the biggest unknown in the realm of endurance training strategies that you wish you had the answer to?

Staying on Track: Update

This week, I logged my first official track workout in a series of speed sessions, all by myself on the St Louis Uni track. It. was. fantastic. Technically, I wasn’t alone. I showed up to the track on Wednesday night, and it was a happenin’ place, with nearly 30 kids and their parents bustling around. Six-yr-olds practicing 4×100 relays. They were better at hand-offs than some college relay teams I know. It was cool to watch as I ran lap after lap.

The workout: hammer out 12x400s with 400 rest, shooting for my 5K race pace. Truth be told, I actually broke it down a bit faster. I tried reigning it in, but no matter how much I felt I slowed down, I ran faster. When I run a big block of repeats on the track, I try breaking it down into sets so A) I don’t lose track and B) I don’t get bored/overwhelmed. For Wednesday’s workout, I broke it down into groups of 4:

First set: 1:29, 1:26, 1:26, 1:23
Thoughts: Ok, these were a little fast (the last one 10sec faster than my goal pace) so try not to implode on the next set. Stay relaxed, you have real estate to slow down a little.

Second set: 1:23, 1:22, 1:24, 1:22
Thoughts: Seriously, slow down. The last set is going to be painful.

Third set: 1:20, 1:21, 1:21, 1:19
Thoughts: Ok, well then, don’t listen. The final 400, #12, was a “might-as-well-see-how-fast-you-can-go” with the last 100 a sprint, but I never felt … tired. It was great. Very confidence boosting.

Next up, I have a 5K in mid-June (All American 5K) and I may or may not jump into a 10K in Edwardsville the weekend before. Did I mention that I’m signed up for the Fox Cities Marathon in September?

Speaking of marathons, and 12×400 repeats on the track at 5K race pace, I recently updated my marathon training library with Luke Humphrey’s new book:

 photo IMG_20130601_090853_608_zpsdc0d2875.jpgThis book was super appealing to me for two reasons: I am a big Hansons Brooks fanatic, and the methodologies aren’t too crazy off-the-wall compared to what I’m familiar with. While the 18wk plan (advanced) that I’m following just started last week, and I missed a few 6-milers because of travel to NY, I am feeling confident and focusing on being consistent and running nearly every day. That being said, yesterday’s 6-miler turned into only 2, because 10minutes into my run, the tornado warning sirens went off.

To me, the interesting thing about the Hanson’s method for marathon training, compared to other plans out there that millions of people follow (Galloway, Higdon), is the lack of mega-long runs and incorporation of consistently maintained physiological stress during the week; If I follow the Hanson’s Advanced marathon training plan as it is written to a T, I won’t run anything longer than 16 miles.  When training for a marathon, a lot of runners find this blasphemous. But truthfully, when I look at my week of training midway through the plan, I get a little excited. It reminds me a lot of training in college, under a modified Jack Daniels plan, that incorporates speed, tempo (what we referred to as Lactate Threshold, or LT), and a longer run with consistency and speed. I won’t necessarily have high volume weeks because it’s not practical for me right now (the highest mileage week I have planned is 63 miles), but I will have high physiological stress and cumulative fatigue.

In the past, I’ve cobbled together my own plans in the past based on insight from highly successful coaches (including Pfitzinger’s, Daniels’s, etc.), which follow similar methodologies and likely guided the Hansons in developing their own marathon method. Jack Daniels, an expert exercise physiologist and running coach, literally wrote the book on endurance run training (and also shifted my endurance training mentality during my junior year of college, when our cross-country team welcomed a new coach who followed his methodologies to a T).  What I didn’t embrace before, but is clear after reading the well-written book by Humphrey and reflecting on things here and there that I overlooked in my marathon training over the past five years, is that Daniels’s running methods specifically instruct runners, regardless of their goal race distance, to not incorporate long runs >25-30% of their weekly volume. Even still, I admit that in the past, I ignored this advice in order to just get that “big long run” in on Sunday morning, even if my training during the week was inconsistent, because- well- that’s just what you do when training for a marathon. You gotta have a big, long run. Turns out, actually… you don’t. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know:
 photo daniels_zpsa51dcb1b.jpg

Of course, depending on my total weekly volume, the absolute duration  my long run is irrelevant (remember: it’s 25-30% of my weekly volume at most!); if I design a training plan with the highest volume week of say 100 miles, the longest run of the week would be more than 16 miles. But, 100 mile weeks for me right now are not practical, and I’d probably get injured.

My success and failures in marathoning thus far hinges on cumulative fatigue. Last year, I was ill-prepared for the St Louis Rock and Roll marathon and switched to the half… during the race… even though I ran several long, 3hr+ runs. But I lacked consistency, with typical weeks of training only consisting of 4 days of running per week, and I didn’t accumulate physiological stress to adapt and be faster for longer. The best marathon I’ve had I raced 5 weeks after my first Ironman triathlon, and the accumulation of training 20-30hr weeks with one stellar (albeit forced) taper during post-ironman recovery served as a fantastic tuning for a fast and – most importantly – fun marathon.

Stay tuned for a post about writing your own plan for your goal race while taking into consideration your physiology. It involves one of my favorite hobbies: Doing the research!

Winner Winner, Frickin’ I’m going to Tahoe @RagnarTrail @TheGearJunkie

This weekend, I was notified that I was a finalist for The Gear Junkie’s Ragnar Trail Relay Sweepstakes. I applied in April, after managing my training schedule and deciding that, yes, I was indeed all-in for a seriously fun year of training and racing and finding my fast again. I had the itch for some quality time on trails, and it was scratched by my trip to Zion for the first-ever Ragnar Trail Relay. When I noticed this sweepstakes on Gear Junkies’ website, I didn’t hesitate to apply.

Actually, I didn’t apply right away. I had this big grandiose plan to make a cool Vimeo video of running on trails with friends and stuff, like when my friend Margot came to St Louis to run 30 miles with me for my 30th birthday (which I still have yet to blog about) or when I ran around the Lunchloops in Grand Junction, Colorado, with my friend Erik until he ran me into the ground and I had to walk 2 miles back to his house. But, in both of those instances, I only took one single goddamned photo, and it was of a giant-ass snake, not anything to do with running… needless to say, I didn’t capture any magical moments on video.

So I resorted to pouring my heart out in a story for the Gear Junkies. It meant a lot to me, but I knew it was a long shot. Somehow, amazingly, it got me into the finalists’ round… and …

I am so thrilled, excited, pumped, ecstatic, … what else? Honored! The Gear Junkie guys (and gals) are a force to be reckoned with, and I get to race with them in all the Tahoe/Ragnar/Salomon glory. Special thank you to Salomon for sponsoring this sweepstakes and making Ragnar Trail events so fantastic (seriously, Josh and KO and the rest of the Salomon crew really know how to show up to an event), to Ragnar for the race entry and for putting on amazing events, and to Gear Junkie for picking me!