Posts tagged “running

Pass Mountain Trail – Shenandoah National Park

A snowy run during the Polar Vortex. Animal tracks, deer beds and lots of snow made for an interesting and fun climb up the mountain and a fast, ski-like descent back down!

Trail on the climb up Pass Mountain

Trail on the climb up Pass Mountain

Pass Mountain summit

Pass Mountain summit


VHTRC Cat 8 – Massanutten Mountains

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club MMT training run – a cold and snowy run in the Massanuttens. Beautiful views, frosty temperatures, good friends on trail…a fun day!

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Bird Knob

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winter trail

 


January TWOT

The Wild Oak Trail…a 27 mile loop with 8000 feet of climbing. My favorite trail to play on.

Scenes from a wet, cold, windy and fun January day.

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Magical moss

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Winter trail

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Little Bald trailhead

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Gorgeous sunset – our reward after a foggy, wet and windy day on trail


Snow Run on the Appalachian Trail

An early January trail run to Thornton Gap and Shenandoah National Park on the Appalachian Trail.

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Snowy trail sunrise

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Whipped cream snowdrifts

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Winter creek

 


Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K

Rosaryville 50K is run on single track mountain bike trails in Maryland. It’s a 3 loop course that is fairly flat, not terribly technical (perfect for getting lazy and falling!), and extremely runnable. The Veteran’s Day race was much better weather-wise, with temps in the 40′s and 50′s as opposed to the over 100 degree temps of the July race. With the help of Tom and Hai – Sara and I both ran a 50K personal best time of 5:25. What a fun, fun day to run with friends.

Rosaryville State Park, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Rosaryville State Park, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Finishing with triple PRs - Hai, Sara and myself. Thanks to Jon Valentine for this awesome picture!

Finishing with triple PRs – me, Sara and Hai. Thanks to Jon Valentine for this awesome picture!


Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Miler

It was a fabulous fall day to run 50++ miles with 9,000+ feet of climbing in the mountains – on a very tough course. Tight cut-off times made this a bit of a race against the clock, but I had a few minutes to take some photos and finish in 11:32. It was too gorgeous not to capture some of these great memories in photos. What a fun, fun day on trail. Enjoy!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”   – John Muir

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Fabulous fall colors

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The mountains were glowing with autumn colors.

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A beautiful sunrise on the ridge.

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The Lynchburg Reservoir sparkling in the autumn sunlight.

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A patchwork quilt of fall colors.

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“The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.” Sir Francis Younghusband

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The reward at the top of The Loop. Worth it all…


TWOT 50K++ – Views from a fabulous fall day

We went back out to The Wild Oak Trail this weekend because the trail had been calling my name for two weeks since I ran four loops of her awesomeness.  I just couldn’t stay away. This has quickly become my favorite trail. It’s the perfect mix of challenging climbs, sweet single track, technical descents, pine needle loveliness, spectacular views, did I mention the challenging climbs?, runnable double track and meandering ridges. I have truly fallen in love with the Wild Oak Trail and she did not disappoint this weekend. With temperatures in the lower 20′s, it was a chilly sunrise start but the clear blue sky and endless views made the cold not feel bad at all.  The loop is a little over 27 miles, but when one gets too excited that they have managed to stay on trail through the trickiest part to navigate, they just might miss their turn and get 5 bonus miles of ridge running. Oh well, it gave me a sunrise and a sunset on trail (YAY!) and a bit of a darkness run that was a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. Happy running indeed.

Sunrise while climbing Little Bald. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Sunrise while climbing Little Bald. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Little Bald

Little Bald

Near the top of Little Bald

Near the top of Little Bald

Blue skies, beautiful mountains

Blue skies, beautiful mountains

The Wild Oak Trail

Just before the climb to Hankey Mountain

Hankey Mountain

Hankey Mountain – how come the pictures don’t look NEARLY as steep as that climb is?!


Eating Paleo and Running 100+ miles

2013-10-12 11.13.48Last March I did a Whole30 and I have stayed pretty strict Paleo since then – only reintroducing honey and alcohol occasionally. I had such amazing results and felt so incredibly good, it just wasn’t worth it to me to reintroduce any of the foods I got rid of during the Whole30. One of the biggest results I’ve seen is how the Paleo-diet and lifestyle has impacted my running, training and recovery. I’ve run 4 50Ks, a 70 miler, a 100K,  a 50 miler, multiple back-to-back races and long training runs, and most recently a 109 mile race, all on a strict Paleo-diet. If you are curious about the science behind all of this, I strongly recommend reading It Starts With Food, The Paleo Diet and Paleo for Athletes. I won’t go into the science here, but what I will share here is what my nutrition looked like for the Hot TWOT – a 109 mile race with 32,000 feet of climbing that took me 43 hours to complete – and how it worked for me. We are all an experiment of one. This is what works for me and I hope it helps others who may be struggling with the nutrition piece of training, like I was before going Paleo.

As I mentioned, my diet is already strict Paleo. This means I eat grass-fed, pastured meats, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies (organic as much as possible), some fruit (again, organic) and a good amount of healthy fats (avocado, olives, nuts, coconut).  I do not eat any grains, legumes, dairy, sugar (I read labels very carefully – sugar is hiding everywhere), or processed foods. I occasionally eat honey and drink alcohol but I did another Whole 30 starting on Labor Day, so I didn’t have any alcohol in the month (actually 5 weeks) leading up to the race. The week before the race I made sure to eat a lot of carb dense vegetables and fruits like spaghetti squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, bananas and zucchini – Paleo “carb-loading” you could say. I had some of these veggies at every meal in the week before the race. The morning of the race, about 2  1/2 hours before race start, I ate spinach, mushrooms and chicken sausage stir fry, 2 poached eggs on an avocado half and I had a banana about 15 minutes before the race started. I carefully chose my race day food based on what foods I knew were good fuel to sustain my energy, tasted good, had no sugar/dairy/grains/legumes and were easily portable or stored in a cooler. Since this was an unsupported race, I had to plan food that could be in my drop bags, cooler and car. It really wasn’t that hard to do.

2013-10-09 18.55.28During the race I ate the following. I’m really bad at remembering exact amounts, so I will just post my approximate intake. I also provided links, since some of these things can be tricky to find.

-sweet potato gu (my homemade concoction, stored in EZ Squeezees pouches, consisting of 1 cup sweet potato baby food, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup applesauce blended) (approx. 6 – 6 oz pouches)

-GoGo Squeeze fruit pouches (approx. 8)

-Ella’s Kitchen baby food (approx. 4)

-bananas (approx. 8)

-cashew butter (2 pouches)

-Trader Joe’s freeze dried bananas, strawberries and coconut flakes

-Applegate Farms chicken sausage (2 links)

-black olives

-sweet potatoes (3)

-chicken broth  (with no sugar – very hard to find – the Imagine brand is the only one I’ve found, small containers will keep in dropbag and you can drink without heating – ideally your own bone broth would be best, but I wanted some to keep in dropbags so the vacuum sealed containers worked well)

-Key West Pink steamed shrimp (cooked beforehand, packed carefully in ice packs in lunch box cooler to keep cold)

-sweet potato chips

-grapes

-tomatoes/sweet peppers/cucumbers and Goddess dip

-V8 (really tasted good late in the race and has good sodium too)

-Epic meat bars (bison and turkey – 2)

-1 hamburger with an avocado (from Jack Brown’s in Harrisonburg, delivered warm by my mom – ahhhhmazing!)

-Kombucha (2 bottles)

-Tazo Awake iced tea (kept in my Hydro Flask bottle with ice)

I had strong, steady energy throughout the 43 hours of running and was hungry and able to eat easily. I stuck with the GoGoSqueeze, sweet potato gu and bananas/cashew butter for the first part of the race until about mile 27, and then added in other things as the race went on. I ate shrimp and olives at mile 93  and they were pure heaven – as was the hamburger after Loop 3 – and the Boulevard Wheat Beer – totally not Paleo – that I had at the finish! I didn’t have any nausea, stomach issues or other common intestinal issues that I’ve had before in a long run. This experience was similar to the other runs I’ve done fueling this way. As I’ve said before, we are all an experiment of one – and this is what truly works for me. In the days after the run I continued to eat carb dense veggies and plenty of protein. I ate when I was hungry (which was quite often in the days after the race!) and made sure to replenish my body. I felt almost 100% recovered body-wise by Tuesday – 3 days after the race finished at 3:30am Sunday – and was able to easily run 6 miles on trails. I was still really tired, but again, following a Paleo lifestyle has helped me see the value and importance of sleep. I took 2-3 hour naps for the five days after the race and went to bed early, making sure I had at least 8 hours of sleep. I listened to my body and gave it what it needed. As a result, my recovery was super fast and I felt completely recovered by the following weekend.

2013-10-11 15.12.47Paleo has worked for me in so many ways. It’s worth a try, especially if you’re struggling with nutrition in your running adventures. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried this and if you have any other real food ideas to add to the list of food to fuel with. Happy running…and eating!


Hot TWOT – 43 Hours on The Wild Oak Trail

Fall magic on TWOT

Fall magic on TWOT

2013 has been an amazing year of running for me. My nutrition, training, meeting the most fabulous running friends in Team Gaylord and my passion for ultrarunning all came together this year to give me several personal bests and more fun than I could have ever imagined on trail. All year long I had Grindstone 100 as my goal race. I was excited to return to the course and significantly improve my time over last year. When rumors started that it may be canceled due to the government shutdown, I really didn’t think that could possibly happen. Until it did. When Clark, the RD, sent out the first email alerting runners that it was postponed a week and would be cancelled if the government didn’t open by Wednesday, I knew I had to have an alternate plan. My dear friend Kirstin suggested the VHTRC “Hot TWOT” – a low-key 100 miler run on The Wild Oak Trail (hence the name, TWOT). I signed up for Hot TWOT…just in case. It was a good thing I did, as Grindstone was cancelled. I turned my thoughts to Hot TWOT and repacked the drop bags. Again. Nothing like a 3-week-roller-coaster-waiting-game-taper ride to get you ready to run 100 miles! YAHOOO!

Majestic views

Hot TWOT is a basically unsupported 100+ miler.  The course is a 27+ mile loop that you run four times. It is not marked, other than with the white trail blazes. You can have two dropbags that are placed on the side of the trail at mile 10 and 16 (with fingers crossed that no one messes with them) and your car back at the parking lot (the TWOT Lot) as your sources of aid. This year we were lucky to have several volunteers who manned an aid station in the TWOT Lot and helped out by supporting runners throughout the weekend at Camp Todd and the road crossing. A huge thank you goes to Quatro, David Snipes, Hannah, Jill Quivey and Deb! Seeing your smiling faces every loop made such a difference.

The day started off cool and cloudy, but luckily the rain held off for the first loop. Seventeen of us gathered in the TWOT Lot for the brief briefing from Quatro and then we were off for the 8am Friday start. We all started out counter clockwise, which meant Little Bald was our first fun mountain to

Race briefing by Q

climb! I spent the first loop chasing Art and Larry and absolutely loving the feeling of running on these trails. After a 3 week taper, my legs were so ready to go. I felt like a puppy who had been cooped up in a kennel for a week. I couldn’t wait to get out on trail and RUN! The Wild Oak Trail is beautiful, rustic, pure and pristine. It has grueling climbs, rocky descents, some sweet and welcoming jeep roads to run, spectacular views and a lot of autumn magic in October. The first loop flew by and in exactly 8 hours I found myself back in the TWOT Lot. Antoinette, who completed 4 loops the prior weekend and was back again for another 4!, had advised me to change clothes after each loop and I took her advice. I put on a fresh change of clothes, ate some chicken sausage, sweet potato gu and a banana and took off. My pacer Kelley hadn’t arrived yet for my Loop 2 but Quatro assured me she would meet me at Camp Todd – 10 miles later.  A huge thanks to him for giving her a ride there!

A climb on TWOT

I started Loop 2 with Betsy – Art’s pacer, who was trying to catch up with him – and enjoyed a few minutes of climbing with her. I quickly realized that there was no way I could maintain THAT pace and let her carry on to meet up with Art. I settled into a steady pace, climbing, running and enjoying the early evening peace on the trail. I really loved running a good portion of those first 37 miles by myself. I did a lot of reflecting, thinking and celebrating all the good that has happened in my life over the past year.  I realized that afternoon on the trail how genuinely happy I am. Even (especially?!) while climbing a mountain in the rain.

I picked up Kelley at Camp Todd right after dark. After having a little scare by some lost guys in a pick-up truck yelling at us, we flew up the trail leaving Camp Todd and settled into a comfortable pace.  The rain had started and it was quite cold on the ridges but Kelley and I were having fun, talking and laughing – enjoying being out on the trail together. I don’t get to run with her very often and it was just great spending some trail time together. Then the first wave of sleepiness hit me. I knew I had some strong Tazo Awake iced tea in my drop bag so I powered through, knowing that caffeine would soon rescue me. We arrived at the drop bag and I sat down to get out some more fuel – GoGo Squeeze fruit pouches, a sweet potato, a banana and the wonderful caffeinated tea. And then came my lowest point of the entire race. I spilled the tea. I watched as it dumped over in slow motion….debating how much I could suck out of the pile of moss it spilled on. I remembered the wonderful advice Bill Gentry gave me going into this race, “Think Small. Translation: control what you can control. Ignore the rest. And the worse it gets, the smaller you need to think.” (advice that got me through the week before the race and works quite well in life outside of ultras too)  I may have yelled some choice words…but quickly realized there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Kinda like the rain…it was out of my control so no need to spend any time thinking about it. No worries, Hankey Mountain was up next. And that was sure to wake

Hankey

Hankey

me up. We climbed Hankey (wow, that mountain is a beast) and then ran the jeep road – moving at a pretty good pace despite the rain, wind and my tiredness. Kelley was an awesome pacer, keeping me awake and chatting it up as we climbed and descended. We finished that loop in about 10 1/2 hours and arrived back at the TWOT Lot with Loop 2 done. I had been warned that continuing after Loop 2 could be the most challenging point of the run. It never entered my mind that I would not do the full four loops. I was tired, but otherwise felt great – and tired could be easily fixed! The parking lot was full of people and a lot of people had dropped after 2 loops. It was a huge boost seeing everyone and hearing so many encouraging words.  I went to my car and changed clothes. I then found a caffeine pill (the only one I had to take the whole time), drank some iced tea and kombucha, ate some chicken sausage, chicken broth, a banana, veggies and goddess dip and got ready to head out on Loop 3!

Kirstin woke up from her cozy nap in her warm Element, and was ready to pace me for Loop 3. We took off around 3:30am Saturday in a cool rain and began the climb up Little Bald – for the 3rd time. Kirstin and I had a blast talking about everything under the sun – including favorite vegetables and shouting a few obscenities at the lack of switchbacks on the trail.  As the sky began to lighten, we arrived at Camp Todd for a quick refuel and then we continued on our merry way. The rain continued off and on, and the ridges were cold, wet and windy. Our rain jackets were on and off and on and off and on and…until Kirstin’s ended up left on the trail. Thankfully Dave Quivey found it and delivered it safety to her in the parking lot. Loop 3 was a lot of fun – we refueled again before Hankey with cashew butter, bananas and sweet potatoes. Then we tackled that bitch Hankey with a vengeance. At the top of Hankey we saw a bunch of mountain bikers (or unicorns?) getting ready to ride down and back up

Kirstin and I at Camp Todd

Kirstin and I at Camp Todd

Hankey. Seriously?! Now that’s a special kind of crazy. After the climb we ran strong on the jeep road. It felt so good to run after that climb. KIrstin was an amazing pacer – giving me lots of encouraging words, good conversation and many laughs. Halfway up Hankey our talk of food and recipes got the best of us and I had to text my mom to bring us hamburgers to the TWOT Lot. We were both starving! The rocks were quite slippery by this point so we weren’t able to run as much of the descent back down to the bridge, but still made pretty good time – arriving back in the TWOT Lot at 2:00pm Saturday,  in a little under 11 hours. My mom met us with WARM (amazing) hamburgers from Jack Brown’s in Harrisonburg which I ate with avocados and kombucha. It was a little slice of awesomeness. OK – maybe a BIG slice. It tasted so good…almost as good as knowing that I was headed out on my final loop!

Brett was there and ready to pace me for Loop 4. He told me that Nick, Dave, Bur and me were the only ones still going for 100 miles. I had the privilege of meeting Dennis Herr and thanking him for letting me run this amazing race. He promised me my apple butter if I finished the last loop. Best prize ever. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. Four loops is what I came here for. I felt great and was so excited to be headed out on Loop 4. I ate my hamburger, changed clothes again and put on dry shoes. At this point my feet were fine. No blisters, no hot spots and feeling really good in spite of being quite pruny from being wet for the previous 12+ hours. My legs were still feeling strong and the tiredness from the night before had not returned. Jill and Deb

Brett and I headed out on Loop 4!

Brett and I headed out on Loop 4!

were in the parking lot and were pacing and crewing Dave. They took a cooler with my food and iced tea to have at Camp Todd. I was so grateful for this because I was really sick of the sweet potato gu and GoGoSqueeze fruit pouches that were in my drop bags. Thanks to them, I had shrimp, olives, V8, sweet potato chips and bananas for the final loop.  Brett and I took off and the miles clicked by. We saw several of the runners who were there on Saturday doing one loop and I loved hugs from Carter and Kate. Nothing better to brighten the day! We climbed Little Bald in the blowing rain and wind for the last time and arrived at Camp Todd just as it was getting dark. We navigated across the river with only one foot getting soaked, and found the drop bags. I had crossed that river three times before with no problems, but for some reason the fourth time was quite a challenge! I was getting quite cold at this point and was so grateful to have an extra dry shirt in my drop bag (thank you Bob Gaylord for that advice!). We put on the head lamps and started up the next climb. The rain and wind continued but we were moving pretty steadily. I got a little nervous through the bushwhacking section where the trail was difficult to spot. I hadn’t gotten off trail at all the prior 3 loops (which was HUGE for me – since I’ve been known to have some navigational issues…)  and I really wanted to stay on trail for the final loop. We navigated through that portion without any problems, other than a few more gashes on my legs from the thorns, and happily saw the pond – a welcome sight that assured me we were on the right trail and done with the thorny overgrowth. The fog had settled in and it was a bit surreal. The wet leaves glittered like crazy and the rain and fog played major tricks with my vision through the headlamp glow. We arrived at the road crossing around mile 93 and saw

A very cool blue lizard

A very cool blue lizard

the Quivey’s Element with Jill and Doug inside – a beautiful sight from the trail. Brett and I stopped to refuel and had “freaking Thanksgiving dinner” as Brett put it – Key West pink steamed shrimp, olives, V8, sweet potato chips and iced tea. It was amazing. My stomach felt good, I was hungry and taking in a lot of calories with no issues, my legs felt strong and my feet were ok – just a few hot spots forming. I changed into dry socks and lubed up my feet – hoping they would hang in there for the final miles. We left and began the final climb up Hankey. I must say I was pretty happy to have that one be the last journey up Hankey for a while. As we were starting up Hankey we saw headlamps. We assumed it was someone doing the loop clockwise. It was Nick and his pacer Dave Frazier – but they were not doing the loop clockwise. We found out later that they had gotten turned around in the fog at the top of Hankey and ended up doing the “Hankey Yo-Yo” – climbing it, descending it, realizing they were going the wrong way and climbing it again. Ack. Now those are some bonus miles.

Brett and I ran most of the jeep road – with his gentle and awesome pacing reminders to “let’s run!”. I was still feeling pretty good

trail magic

but could feel some hot spots on my feet and a few small blisters forming on my pinkie toes that were hurting a bit when I ran. I started seeing some hallucinations – cats in trees, cars on the side of the trail, and SO much glitter everywhere – the rain on the leaves and rocks was like running through a field of diamonds, it was amazing – but no dinosaurs like last year, unfortunately. Ha! The last few hours were a weird deja vu like loop in my head. I was certain that we were running the same stretch of trail over and over again and was convinced we were off trail (we weren’t). Thankfully, Brett calmly kept reassuring me that we were on trail, that we were going the right direction and that we were almost there! He was an awesome pacer! I was so happy to see the swinging bridge and the headlights on the road. We saw Quatro, crossed the road and then ran to the finish at the TWOT Lot. We finished around 3:15am Sunday – 43 hours, 13 minutes total time. It was a 108+ mile race, with 32,000 feet of climbing. I was the second finisher (out of four) and the only woman finisher.

At the finish!

At the finish with Brett!

I truly loved every minute out there on that beautiful trail. It was such a fun, extraordinary experience. Running trails in the mountains makes me feel alive and happy. I’m so lucky to be able to do this and to have the amazing friends I have who support me in so many ways. Thank you to my wonderful pacers, Kelley Fitzsimmons, Kirstin Corris and Brett Lance.  I couldn’t have done it without you. It was a pleasure sharing laughs,  quad busting climbs, slippery descents, good running, lots of stories and a rollicking good time on the loops with you. Thank you to my mom and Susan who delivered the burgers. Holy yum. You got me through that final loop. Thank you to Team Gaylord – for taking me into your group and making all those training miles this year so fabulous. Each of you helped me finish TWOT.  Thank you to the many friends who texted me, messaged me and believed that I could do this. Having people believe in you and not think you’re just plain crazy – or at least consider you a “special kind of crazy” in a loving sort of way, (which is a totally different kind of crazy), makes all the difference in accomplishing a challenge like this.  And thank you to Dennis Herr, Quatro Hubbard and David Snipes for organizing and making TWOT what it is – a pretty awesome Fat Ass on a sweet little trail with good people, good running, good climbing and good vibes. Happy trails and happy running!

Love my finishers prize!

Love my finishers prize!

Many people have asked me about my nutrition before, during, and after this ultra. I fueled the entire race in a strict Paleo way (no sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, processed food) and I will write up another post in the near future with the details. It worked amazingly well – I had no stomach issues, constant and steady energy and recovered very quickly. Check out this post for more information.


Scenes from Grindstone

Grindstone 100  - 2013 was canceled tonight because of the government shutdown. Thinking of happy trail memories from the training weekend in August as I post this. Ultrarunners are pretty good at maintaining relentless forward progress, so many of us moved to Plan B and this weekend will bring Hot TWOT, with 100 miles of trail play on The Wild Oak Trail – and Grindstone 100 will be run again next year. Happy running everyone!

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Sunrise on Reddish Knob

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The Bridge

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Lush summer creek

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Misty mountain trail


Dipsea Trail

The Dipsea Trail is the home of the oldest trail race in America. This 7 mile trail goes from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, CA, through a variety of ecosystems and beautiful, changing scenery.  Here are a few photos from a quiet, peaceful run on a cool, foggy morning.

A few of the 688 steps that start the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley.

A few of the 688 steps that start the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley.

A funky sign reassures you that you are on the right trail as you navigate through the neighborhood.

A funky sign reassures you that you are on the right trail as you navigate through the neighborhood.

A foggy morning on the Dipsea.

A foggy morning on the Dipsea.

Almost rainforest-like as you wind down the trail

Almost rainforest-like as you wind down the trail

Not a lot of views that morning, but a wonderful run on the Dipsea.

Not a lot of views that morning, but a wonderful run on the Dipsea.

Changing scenery on the Dipsea.

Changing scenery on the Dipsea.

The Dipsea Trail

The Dipsea Trail


@VHTRC Trifecta Day 3 – Jeremy’s Run

Day 3 brought us 21…or so…miles of nice, runnable trails, good climbs, warm temperatures, blue skies and a sweet swimming hole at the end. A few (ummm…a lot) of us got off trail in the first mile and added some bonus miles to our day. Probably should have paid better attention during the briefing, but bonus miles are always fun!

Trifecta accomplished! A huge thanks to the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for planning 3 great days of trail antics. Looking forward to next year!

An early climb - after we missed the first turn

An early climb – after we missed the first turn

beautiful trails

beautiful trails

nice views from the top

nice views from the top

sweet swimming hole

sweet swimming hole


@VHTRC Trifecta Day 2 – Sophie’s Death March

Day 2 was 24 miles of the “Greatest Hits” of Shenandoah National Park. We started at White Oak Canyon, climbed to Hawksbill, stopped by Skyland, passed Stony Man, turned in at Corbin Cabin Cutoff, past Old Rag and death marched in on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road back to White Oak Canyon. A long and fun day playing in the mountains!

White Oak falls

White Oak falls

View from the climb up White Oak Canyon

View from the climb up White Oak Canyon

View from Hawksbill

View from Hawksbill

mmmmm runnable trails

mmmmm runnable trails

The fizzy fruity drink man aid station on the fire road leaving Old Rag

The fizzy fruity drink man aid station on the fire road leaving Old Rag


Sugarloaf Mountain – A Monadnock

I love the word monadnock. In case you weren’t enamored with geology in college like I was, here’s the definition:

monadnock or inselberg is an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain. (Wikipedia) 

Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland is a monadnock covered with a multitude of technical, rocky, steep and challenging trails. Enjoy!

Lots of rocks...lots of climbing

Lots of rocks…lots of climbing (are you sure we aren’t in the Massanuttens?!)

Cool rock formations

Cool rock formations

Nice views from the top

Nice views from the top


Why do I run?

Great Falls

I often get asked, “why do you run so much?” I’ve read a few inspiring blog posts lately where friends shared why they run. It got me thinking about my own answers to these questions. Here are a few of my random thoughts as to why I run trail ultras.

I run because it makes me feel strong, invincible and alive.

I run because it allows me to be in the moment – to be fully present to the here and now.

I run because it quiets my mind.

I run because it allows me to experience nature in a way I would never have the privilege to experience any other way – the changing smells of the forest through the seasons from spring rain to honeysuckle to the smell of freshly fallen snow – the trail magic in a blooming lady’s slipper, glowing moth’s eyes, the changing tapestry of browns, bright greens, dark greens, reds, yellows and oranges as the mountain trees evolve in the cycle of seasonal change – the morning dew on a spider web, the evening sunset sparkling through the trees, the moon and stars shining down on me, the beauty of a mountain waterfall and the views from the mountains that renew my soul.

Trail magic

I run because it challenges me to move beyond my mind and body and to see myself as a tiny part of something much, much bigger than me.

Birthday Run

I run because of the friendships I’ve made on the trail. They are like no others.

I run because there is nothing like that feeling at the end of  a long run – when your body is covered in DEET, sweat, and sunscreen, tingling all over, burning, tired, energized and electric in that post-run happy feeling that I can’t even think of enough words to describe. Runners, you know what I mean.

I run because I’ve met the coolest people in the world on random trails in the middle of nowhere. And they are instant friends.

I run because setting impossible goals  - and accomplishing them – is a damn good feeling.

At the finish line of Grindstone 100

I run because being scared and moving past that fear is extremely empowering.

I run because I can solve any problems the world throws at me during a run.

It's not all running...

I run because trail conversations are the BEST, and could never be had in any other place. Where else could you have hours long conversations about neuticles, unicorns, dinosaur hallucinations & chafing…just to name a few choice trail topics?

I run because I can be myself.

I run because it is how I play.

I run because it makes me happy.

Why do you run?


Laurel Highlands 70.5 Mile Trail Run

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

I returned to Laurel this June in a much better place than a year ago when I ran it for the first time. I was well-trained, had my nutrition dialed in, had 6 friends running it with me, and 7 friends crewing and pacing. My goal was to improve over last year – when I finished with only 10 minutes to spare before the 22 hour cut off. DFL. I was hoping for a 20 hour finish, but really just wanted to enjoy the day and run happy. I surpassed all expectations – amazing even myself – as I finished a strong, and FUN, race in 18:34 – a PR of over 3 hours. Once again, my whole food Paleo nutrition plan worked perfectly. I ran the first 35 miles on my homemade sweet potato gu and Peter Rabbit Organics fruit pouches. I then switched to eating protein, fat and a few dense carbs at the aid stations with steamed Key West Pink shrimp, chicken sausage, olives and bananas (provided in my cooler by my fabulous crew!). A few Larabars were good in the final miles.

Having friends along the course to run with, friends at the aid stations taking excellent care of me, and a friend to pace me the final 24 miles to the finish made this year’s Laurel Highlands a wonderful, fun experience. Once again, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be a part of the ultrarunning community, to experience the trail magic that happens over 18 hours of running and to have the friends I have – who love this as much as I do.

Enjoy a glimpse into the magnificence that is the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

magical lush ferny paths

magical lush paths

rock mazes

rock mazes

huge ferns

huge ferns

Laurel Highlands finishers!

Laurel Highlands finishers at the start!


24 Hour Adventure Trail Run – Prince William Forest

Here are a few sights from the 24 Hour ATR run in Prince William Forest. Each 10K loop was technical, hilly, beautiful and green with spring. In a 24 hour race, runners are challenged to see how far they can go in a set time period. Eva Pastalkova won the women’s event with 106 miles – a course record! She was incredible out there! I was happy to do 62.5 miles, 10 loops, for a 3rd place finish. An abundant aid station was set up at the start/finish of each loop, so runners didn’t really have to carry anything other than a water bottle with them.  Athletic Equation runs a well-organized and wonderfully supported race, with 100% of proceeds going to charity – the Semper Fi Fund and Navy SEAL Foundation. It was a fabulous day and night to play in the woods!

The bridge at the start and end of each 10K loop.

The bridge at the start and end of each 10K loop.

The first half of the course followed this sleepy creek.

The first half of the course followed this sleepy creek.

"Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul."

“Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.”

Fabulous trails in Prince William Forest.

Fabulous trails in Prince William Forest.


Bull Run Run 50 Miler

Bluebells. Friends. Challenging trails. So much fun. A fabulous day on trail!

The bluebells in full bloom - magical!

The bluebells in full bloom – magical!


90 mile week on #Whole30

Warning: This post is more about food than trail running…although I do think the two are inseparable. Without proper fuel, our bodies can’t perform at their best. And I’ve experienced this exact thing over the past several weeks. I just finished my first 90 mile training week and am truly amazed at how good I feel. I know a lot of my blog readers are interested in performance and doing well in  running and in life, so I wanted to share a big life change that has made a huge difference in my running and my life.

images-5On March 10, I woke up with an overwhelming urge to CHANGE SOMETHING. I had been reading about the #Whole30 on Twitter and a friend at work shared a blog post with me. I had read a lot about Paleo and this sounded similar. I was intrigued. I was extremely open to a restart or a detox or whatever you want to call it. I was excited to learn something new. That morning I read through the #Whole30 website, downloaded the book, It Starts With Food, and decided to venture into a #Whole30 eating commitment (I read this word somewhere – I like “commitment” instead of “diet”. It’s empowering and speaks to honoring and making a commitment to myself.). My refrigerator was full of “good” food I didn’t want to trash (homemade lentil soup, hummus, oatmeal, etc.), so I started that first week with no alcohol, no sugar and no dairy while I finished off the grains and legumes in my fridge. I officially started the #Whole30 eating commitment on Sunday, March 17. Today is Day 14 of eating mindfully and eliminating all alcohol, sugars, grains, legumes and dairy. It is Day 14 of eating wonderfully prepared meals full of vegetables, fruits, lean, grass-fed meats and lots of yummy fats like coconut oil, clarified butter, ghee and olive oil. It is a huge commitment, but as the book says, this is not hard. “Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard….It’s only for 30 days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in your lifetime.” So while it’s been challenging, it has not been hard. And it’s been a lot of fun!

Here are just a few of the changes I’ve experienced in only 14 days of eating whole, clean, good foods:

-I’ve had shoulder/arm pain for over a year. Acupuncture didn’t help and my regular doctor said it was tendonitis from the repetitive motion of running. (an arm injury from running…seriously?) I had pretty much resigned myself to pain getting in and out of my sports bra, pain while writing on an easel in my job as a kindergarten teacher, pain on long runs, and the inability to do push-ups or other arm weight workouts. I woke up last week and the pain was GONE. Completely gone. It hasn’t returned, despite a 50K and a 90 mile training week! I’m certain the pain was caused by inflammation due to a grain, dairy or sugar intolerance. Whatever the cause, I am just thrilled that I can do my push-ups again and am in NO pain.

-I’ve had eczema all of my life. It’s on my hands and can be a real problem, sometimes reaching the point where I would need a steroid IV to get it under control. It is now completely gone. My hands are in great shape and this alone is worth never having a cupcake again.

-I’ve had issues with blood sugar since I was a kid. I used to go through my day with lows and highs – intense food cravings an hour or two after that bowl of oatmeal for breakfast…NEEDING my sugar fix mid-afternoon, feeling shaky and like I was going to pass out frequently through long runs and everyday life. These feelings are GONE. I have a steady feeling of energy and have not experienced the lows and/or highs at all. This has been amazing in my long runs. The HAT 50K was one of my best runs with no dips in energy and no shakiness at all. I fueled that run on homemade gu (sweet potato baby food, coconut milk and applesauce), bananas, and Peter Rabbit Organic fruit packets.

I am also sleeping better and waking before the alarm clock. The #Whole30 plan asks you not to weigh yourself, but I do know my clothes are fitting a whole lot looser. I am cooking WAY more than ever before and trying new foods and recipes. An evening of playing around with food as I prepare dinner and lunch for the next day has pleasantly replaced an evening of having a beer or two on the couch. I am mindful of what I eat and am enjoying food so much more. My head is clearer, my body is stronger and I am overall a lot happier. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks on the #Whole30 and to a future of Paleo, healthy, whole & clean food eating!

I had a lot of questions about this before I started. Perhaps you do too. I would recommend reading over the website and searching the #Whole30 hashtag on Twitter. If you want the answers to “WHY no sugar/grains (but oatmeal is GOOD for you!)/legumes (peanut butter?!?!)/dairy????” then read the book, It Starts With Food. The authors do an excellent job explaining all of this. I can’t begin to explain it here. I can only share the remarkable results that I’ve had. And we’re all an experiment of one, yes? Happy eating!

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VHTRC Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K – Massanutten Mountains

A fun day in the mountains with the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club!

And the rocks begin...

And the rocks begin…

One of many stream crossings

One of many stream crossings

Climbing on the ridge - that resembled a stegasaurus' back

Climbing on the ridge – that resembled a stegasaurus’ back

The views from the top are always worth the work it takes to get there.

The views from the top are always worth the work it takes to get there.


Fountainhead

A beautiful blue sky trail run on my favorite local trail with the promise of spring just around the corner.

photo-173


Hashawha Hills 50K

A winter 50K put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club – Hashawha Hills starts at the Bear Branch Nature Center in Westminster, Maryland. It’s a 2 loop course that takes runners on a wild ride through frozen and muddy fields, hills, streams, fire roads, and horse trails surrounding the park. Great day playing on trail – and a most fabulous finishers mug made by a local potter.

butt slide hill

butt slide hill

one of several ICY stream crossings

one of several ICY stream crossings

as the frozen mud began to thaw....

as the frozen mud began to thaw….

mud...lots of mud

mud…lots of mud

pine needle trail

pine needle trail

sweet finishers mug
sweet finishers mug

 


Appalachian Trail in February = Winter Wonderland

A snowy run on the Appalachian Trail from 522 south towards Mt. Marshall.

View from the climb towards Hogwallow Flats

View from the climb towards Hogwallow Flats

Pristine trails in a winter wonderland

Pristine trails in a winter wonderland


Old Rag

Rock Scramble on Old Rag

Bouldering over Old Rag

 

Running down Old Rag

Running down Old Rag – a perfect blue sky winter day

 


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