All posts by Bunny

It doesn’t get easier

‘Seriously, shouldn’t this [insert distance] be easier by now?!?!’

Just about every time Trex and I set out to run we utter some form or another of this phrase at some point during the run. Whether it be a short and sweet tempo run or a the warm-up for our long slow run, it seems we have some false expectations that it would have somehow gotten easier over the years given the number of miles we have logged. We somehow have this feeling like one day we will set out to run a snappy 5K and it won’t feel like we are trudging through the last miles of a marathon. 

Since we both have logged well over one thousand miles each, [Over 3200 miles at this point Bun] with our longest break being under a month in the last two years straight I tend to scratch my head a bit also when everything seems to whine and complain on an ‘easy’ day. It begs the question, why is there no such thing as an ‘easy’ day after all this time? 

Well I think the answer is fairly simple. It’s not easy because running is work. It’s overcoming inertia in the form of the body at rest, and by the laws of physics and biology our body will always fight us to return to that easy place of comfort (aka not moving). Therefore running will never be easy and it will always feel like work. PERIOD.

But I think also, in our case, we keep pushing the bar further and further out with each new goal we achieve, and frankly we haven’t really stopped to smell the roses. We have continually pushed our bodies to go further, and now into the realm of Ultra distances, which are not for the faint of heart or body or mind. We have relentlessly moved forward in spite of the warnings our bodies have given us, and protested when our bodies revolted. Stubbornly we have forced upon ourselves the willpower of our minds to keep going even when it means we might regret it later.  With each new goal our mindsets shift the bar but our bodies remind us just how much work it will be and just how quickly we can get right back to where we started. That is why it never gets easier. We have to know with every step that we are pushing ourselves, otherwise I think we would feel entitled and unappreciative of our achievements.

To be honest I would settle for a little entitlement right about now, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with a hard day’s work, as the saying goes. So here’s to many more months ahead of hard work, sweat, blood, and maybe some tears that will bring us to our next Ultra adventure.

Preparing for a ‘Real’ Ultra

Having successfully finished two 50k races now I can officially call myself an Ultra Marathoner. Unlike some I feel that the additional 4.868 miles of a 50k over a marathon counts as an Ultra. It’s like doing a Marathon plus a 5k race and then some.  It counts. Period.  The reason I think so it that personally it takes more effort and planning to crank out 31+ miles over marathon. No it is not the same effort as a 50 mile, but it is still requires a little more fuel and hydration, extra time on legs and most importantly the mental strength to go just one more 5k and even more so to go beyond that.  That’s my take on it anyway and frankly I don’t give a rats rear if you’re an elite 50 miler who doesn’t think a 50k qualifies as an Ultra, because it does so there. :p

That said I am not going to lie, I am more than a little terrified to face my first ‘real’ ultra 50 mile race. This weekend’s Go Longer 50k in the subfreezing temperatures and winds reminded me just how horrible the pain can be during a race and at the end of 31 miles; now add on top of that another 19 miles and I am frankly challenged to wrap my mind around how I’m going to be able to do that.  Saturday was a real struggle for me. I hurt, a lot, mainly because of the cold. My head was in a bad place due to fear of some unknowns and the cold wind just made me feel absolutely miserable. It was my turn to be down and need support and that is exactly what I got. Trex was more than upbeat and cheerful the whole way and helped me not to sink too far into the doldrums. I am grateful.

So if I have learned anything from this journey it is to trust my training, stick to the plan (as best I can), lean on your partner if needed, and remember that with every distance the accomplishment is going past the wall, and the wall comes when it comes.

So that’s all there is to it. Right? I mean really it’s just tackling a little less than two marathons back to back. Right? As if one marathon isn’t hard enough?!!! Why am I doing this? (((Begin Panic Attack)))

…..  10 minutes later  (((End Panic Attack)))

Okay with that over and done with I can resume my plans to pack and prep for Rocky. I have exactly one day off every year, today, MLK Day, when my kids are in school, the spouse is at work, and it’s an observed company holiday for me. So after I write this post I will make the most of my time and pack and plan for my race. I actually enjoy packing and prepping for a race, so it will be nice to do it without constant interruption. But before I start packing I am reviewing what I learned from this weekend, revising my To-Do and packing lists, and making notes to ensure I prep and pack having gained more insight. So here’s a list of things I learned from this weekend:

I learned that I can’t eat nearly as much food as I planned, but that having it sorted in go bags was brilliant and saved time. Some tweak need to be made to how label/number by bag sets.

I learned that a combo of Spring Energy fuel with some Huma and PB, Hot Chocolate and Hot Broth sprinkled in does a body good.

I also learned that subfreezing temps slows me way down at the aid stations because my whole body is stiff and my hands are shaking and ridged. Let’s hope it’s not this bad at Rocky.

I learned I should have remembered to use handwarmers on my exposed bottles to prevent freezing. If it hadn’t been below freezing and the straws on my bottles hadn’t frozen I could have saved more time in and out of rest stops.

I learned I need to have rubber gloves or a dry change of gloves so I can more quickly refill my bottles without having to expose my fingers in extreme cold temps.

I learned I am going to have to use the volunteers at the aid stations and need to have an efficient method for handing off my bottles and drink mixes so that the required communication and time are minimal. For this I plan to separate my food and drink mixes and I plan to rotate 4 bottles in my pack and have pre-filled bottles in my drop bag. Two full and two empty so I can easily add mix to empty bottles and just hand those to be refilled. I actually had this setup ready for this weekend but I failed to execute my plan due to a few issues. First I still had water in my front bottles when I arrived at the car aid stations. So rather than swap them I opted to refill them. Two I struggled with getting to my empty bottles stored in the back because the rear storage in my Nathan Vapor Krar 12L is nearly inaccessible without taking the damn thing off or having Trex help me retrieve stuff. I find this to be dangerous on trails as I am likely to trip doing this, especially in the dark. Which is the reason I just bought a Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set. I lucked out and it was on sale today so it should arrive just in time for the trip.

I learned that sticking to Trex’s well planned out pacing workouts does the trick, except for when one of us decides to break pace and “reel-in” some other runners with whom we were not technically competing since they weren’t even doing the same distance as us.

I learned that Altra Men’s Paradigms sort of fit my feet. Remind me to rant about shoe sizing in a later post.

And most of all I learned that I am very very lucky, fortunate, and grateful to have a wingman like Trex by my side.

Je suis prête

On the heals of our first ultra we ran our last long race/runs this weekend, a combo 5K/15K street race followed by nearly 19k on our usual trail loops on Turkey mountain to complete the distance. As mentioned in recent posts Trex has been bouting with injury and this was our last chance at a solid long run before we start the taper.  In total we logged 24+ miles, just shy of our goal, but a strong comeback in my opinion, in spite of the significant amount of pain we both experienced during and now after the runs.

Speaking of heels, it seems that mine took a bit of a beating during our 5/15K combo which was made worse on the trail, and now I have a nasty swollen red lump at the back of my heel that hurts quite a bit when I walk. So I am elevating it and icing it in hopes that there is no real injury, because being injured this close to our race would “sucks major donkey balls,” to quote my RH.

having a plan B–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game.

I took time off running and have been cross training with Trex since I frankly didn’t want to suffer injury as a result of over training, and had had a few early signs of things growing a bit unhappy with me right about the same time his foot started giving him fits. So in a show of solidarity and to grow my cross training muscles I joined him in his downtime in efforts to minimize the impacts of our grueling running schedule on my own body. Frankly I feel it did us some good to take some time to do more alternative exercises. I think we both needed to find some greater balance in our approach to running and sometimes being forced to is how it has to happen.

In an effort to maintain my cardio and core strength I have reacquainted myself with the love of the water, and have been swimming in addition to doing stationary bikes and weight exercises along side Trex. We also tried aqua jogging which I find to be quite awkward, although a good cardio workout, when done without the jogger belt. It will take more time to get used to this exercise and in the end it is rather boring which makes it more of a challenge to maintain focus while doing, that and frankly I feel ridiculous doing it!

But the key take away from this experience, for me, has been that having a b plan–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game. I for one found it very beneficial to be productive physically, even if it wasn’t gaining me ground in my running, because it has been a chance to practice fighting off those pesky mental demons that like to taunt and try to scare me into thinking I’m not ready.

I fully understand the impact to my bodily training by not running. It is extremely difficult to face a race feeling that you may be under prepared physically, but it is crucial to remember your training, and be prepared to face down those mental demons that try to tell you that: a few weeks of not running has undone nearly 2 years of base training. A BOLD FACED LIE!  I am using this time to hone my positive self talk skills, practice how to be supportive to my partner–who is facing those demons daily, and just as importantly to slay my own demons.  And after yesterday’s battle on the streets and trails I know that my plan B has been working. Je suis prête. 

Running Gear Must and Must not haves – Bunny’s List

My list of running gear is ever growing.

When it comes to hobbies and recreation, unlike those of us (a-hem Trex) who are gear heads from the start, I am of the mind that one eases into gearing up in case the venture loses its appeal early and I am trucking off to Goodwill to donate stuff I don’t use anymore.

Unlike other girls I actually preferred to protect my assets by wearing black motocross padded pant$.

So I generally start inexpensively, buying the least amount of gear possible for whatever new thing I am trying out. For example when I started playing Roller Derby my first pair of skates were under $200, my pads set and helmet under $150. By the time I retired from the sport my skates alone, which included high end bearings, wheels, plates and trucks, boot, toe guard, and stopper, were $1500. That doesn’t include the $300 for pads and helmet, or the $95 custom dentist made mouth guard. Yikes! Keep in mind this was my hobby before I had kids 😉

As with any one who becomes serious about their interests, whether it be an athlete, musician, or machinist,  you learn there is a difference between the cheap equipment and the expensive stuff. Just ask any professional golfer what’s in his golf bag. But while there is a difference in the quality of a product and how it generally feels, and moves etc, it is the talent and hard work of the person using the equipment that makes the most difference. I would wager to guess that Tiger Woods could pick up just about any 9 iron and put that ball on the green.

With running, like Derby, I eased my way into the sport, buying first a couple pairs of Asics Nimbus, soon realizing they weren’t going to be what was needed to get the job done. Ten pairs of shoes later, I have slowly but surely acquired and purchased more and more running gear; so much so that I have one large dresser drawer, half my closet, and one side of our hall closet dedicated to all my running stuff.

I have found that like with skates, and pads there is some running gear you don’t cheap out on, such as shoes, socks, and sports bras. But when it comes to clothing I am cheap. So far for general training purposes, and shorter distances, the inexpensive versions of things like shirts and pants are about 80% as good, if not more, over the super expensive stuff when you take into account the wear and tear, frequent washings, and occasional bleaching’s. But for Ultra distances  I am finding that materials and seam placement is going to make a HUGE difference, which is why I just plunked down $65 for a pair of shorts rated for ultra-running to replace the ones that recently caused me to have to run with a thick layer of Desitin where this product is typically applied. Ouch!

At the moment my biggest complaint is that I haven’t found a pair of underwear, shorts, or tights, that doesn’t have a seam or gusset stitching right in the wrong place. With all so called ‘seamless’ underwear there is a major chafe point (CP) where they join the front and back fabric with a rear/crotch seam.  I own several pairs. That seam shows under leggings and tight skirts. I have to go with a thong if I truly want seamless. I have looked and looked and I thought I had found the ones that might work, however when I read the reviews one of the negative reviews was from a women with the same problem I have! It ‘seams’ like the running clothing industry has some catching up to do when it comes to comfortable underwear. Why not go commando you ask? Well I have done this as well and found the seams in the the crotch of the pants eventually give me the same issue. So if you happen by this post and have any recommendations for  running shorts, underwear, or compression tights that are actually seamless in the crotch area, not just visually but physically, then please leave me a comment!

I just purchased some new shorts and tights from some bigger name brands who supposedly design gear with longer distance in mind. I will provide experiential opinions and reviews of such items in future posts,  but since, over the past year and a half,  I have acquired quite a bit of running gear, the vast majority of which I have gotten my money’s (or Trex’s) worth out of it, and because I rely on product reviews and runner blogs for recommendations, I figured I should pass along a few myself. So here is my current (use daily) and past (retired) inventory and what I liked/disliked about them.

Bunny Gear:

Road Shoes: Note I have a wide but average length foot. My width is not in the toe box like all the companies tout, it is in the forefoot at the knuckles, so I am still stuck looking for and purchasing Wide widths in most brands where available.

  • Altra Escalante (Mens 7.5, because the women’s weren’t wide enough! #annoyed / Up to 8K) –   Most comfortable shoe I own, but these are only great for short distances on flat, straight paved trail or road, not much else. Wore these for my first 20 mile run and found them lacking in the cushion/support department. Also annoyed that the women’s version wasn’t wide enough, probably not buying this shoe again since I can’t wear them for a lot of the current distances we are running.
  • Hoka Clifton 4‘s (Women’s 8 wide/ 5K-Half Marathon) –  Wore for my first full Marathon mainly because I trained in them. I liked them, but do find the Gaviota’s fit my foot shape just a tad better so I have relegated them to my Saturday or mid distance run shoes. My one complaint is that Hoka is tapering their toe boxes too much these days!  I don’t mind duck feet shoes if it means my feet don’t hurt after runs!
  • Hoka Gaviota (Women’s 8 wide  / Half Marathon+) – I have raced Half-Marathons, our 20 Mile, and have run the vast majority of our paved long runs in these shoes. They have good bounce and cushion and they fit my wide foot better than other shoes I have tried. I do still have to buy them in a Wide width however as the regular squeezed my foot.

Other Retired Road Shoes:

  • Asics Nimbus 18 (Women’s 8/ Up to half marathon) – Purchased when I was dealing with Plantar based on reviews that they were the best for this. Found them to be too narrow for my feet and just not up to the task of providing support and space for longer distances.
  • Hoka Clifton 3′s – (Women’s 8.5 / half marathon) Initially these were a bit narrow, but I got used to them and found I really liked them. These were my daily and long distance shoes until they wore out and I tried the Clifton 4’s.

Trail Shoes

  • Altra Timps (Women’s 8.5 / Marathon + / Moderately technical terrain) – Have worn for all short and long distance trail races and runs this year. Generally well cushioned, noticing some breakdown in support now after about 200 miles. Fit isn’t great however. I can’t use the last eyelete to lock lace as it hit the top of my foot and hurts. They are a tad sloppy because I had to go a half size up to accommodate my wide forefoot. My foot slips a bit in the shoe when we run Carl or Lip buster. I don’t quite feel like they grip sandy rock or slippery muddy surfaces as securely as I would like.  All that said, I ran a full trail marathon in them without any issues so can’t rule them out as a solid option as my alternate trail shoe.
  • Altra Lone Peaks 3.5 (Women’s 8.5 / Very technical terrain) – Newly purchased on sale since I need to figured out what I will be running our first 50K in.  I have run a total of 7 Carls in them and am extremely happy with how they performed on the steep rocky accent and decent laps we did this weekend. They fit a little better than my Timps, not as sloppy (yet?) and they grip the ground like no bodies business.
  • Topo Terraventure (Women’s 8.5 / 5k) –  Wore these in the early days of our trail running, but realized quickly they were not supportive enough for long distance for me. So I mostly use them to mow my lawn in or occasional run short runs. I liked the width of these but I feel every rock under my feet in them so they just aren’t padded or cushioned enough for my sensitive feet.

Hydration Vest & Belts:

  • Nathan Vapor Krar  (Marathon +) – Used during all major long distance runs after 30k for self-supplied hydration and supplemental nutrition. Highly recommend for comfort and lightweight materials. Storage pockets in back are a bit hard to reach for my short arms. Wished pockets in front were a bit bigger.  See our detailed review of this pack here.
  • Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure 1L (Half Marathon) –  Use for all daily summer and winter runs. Hard bottles are easy to refill. Have extra bottles I often fill and freeze and keep as spares in my car for swapping out during our longer weekend runs. Love the water proof pocket for my cell phone and car key. I think ALL utility belts and vest should have this. Storage is extremely limited, but works for shorter distance needs. Don’t like how narrow the band is, and the velcro will eventually give out, rendering this belt useless unless is repair it some way. Have to synch belt super high and tight around my waist to keep it from bouncing.
  • Flip Belt Zip w/  11oz bottle (5K – Half Marathon, supported, cooler weather) –  Used this prior to buying the UD for all my cooler weather shorter runs. Comfortably fits my iPhone, my car key, 2 gels, and the hard bottle which fits snuggly with no bounce.  Also found this is a great option for taking to an amusement or water parks for carrying phone (in a waterproof case) with cash and car key. Would like to see this come in a PUL material or with a waterproof pouch.
  • Cotopaxi Veloz 6L Hydration pack  (Half Marathon  – 30K trail) – Used up to 30K prior to purchasing the Nathan. Limited front pocket storage doesn’t allow for much storage of alternative liquid fuel options plus gels and cell phone. Stiff shoulder straps were not ideal for longer running. Liked because the straps and pockets don’t compress by boobs. Huge design win. Also like the pocket arrangements in the back compared to Nathan. Like the Kangaroo pocket which I used to store extra bottles of electrolyte fuel. Paired with Flip Belt for cellphone storage.

Accessories 

Used for every Run unless otherwise stated.

  • Halo II Sweatband Pullover –  I hate sweat in my eyes and these really work. I have been using Halo’s since 2006 and I have never been unhappy with any model or version. HIGHLY recommend.
  • Injinji Toe Socks –  After my first run in a pair I have never worn anything else. I have these in various weights and lengths for trail summer, trail winter, road summer, road winter. LOVE THEM. HIGHLY recommend.
  • Garmin Fenix 3HR – Bought mine from Trex when he upgraded to the 5. Have worn it every day since, on every long run, in the pool to do lap swims, etc. This is a great watch! I feel like it will last forever. A few minor glitchy issues every so often, but nothing a reboot and sync didn’t fix. Functions I couldn’t live without are the Garmin and Custom Workouts features, and GPS Livetrack.  Also occasionally use the compass, and course mapping. I use notifications for text messages, and still get amazing battery life. I love how durable this watch feels. I debated on getting the 5s because of how big this watch is on my wrist but I have come to like the security of a large piece of durable hardware on my wrist. Kind of like Wonder Woman’s wrist cuffs!
  • Stryd Live – Bought since it was less expensive than its predecessor so I could more precisely run our distance intervals and paces for races. Since Trex and I run according to HR levels and not power I use it for distance only. There is some evidence that Power Training for Trail running is reliable however it’s rather complex to figure out and frankly as my fellow Oklahoman Sweet Brown would say  “ain’t nobody got time for that”
  • Wahoo HR  – Handed down / gifted / loaned indefinitely to me from Trex when he graduated to Garmin and his Scoshe. Had no real issues to report.  Have had to buy a few replacement bands, but I buy the cheaper generic knock offs from Amazon.
  • RoadID II – all the cool kids are wearing them these days. Plus I had to have something to put my ‘Winner’ charm on when I beat Trex in one of our earlier races. Since then as tradition, we typically gift Distance charms following big milestone. I wear mine constantly and never take it off like a wedding band, because I am lazy, unlike Trex who changes his band to color coordinate with his watch bands.
  • Plantronics BackBeat FIT – Waterproof Wireless Headphones – Love these. If you need a pair of headphones that you can always count on, rain, snow, sleet or shine, these are an excellent choice. I have two pairs and will buy more when these finally quit working. I love the fact that the connecting wire between the ear pieces stay off my head and neck the controls are easy to use to adjust volume, skip music, answer calls etc. And most important for a trail runner like me  (GASP!) who likes to have a bit of music in the background while I run, they are very durable and water resistant. I have taken them in the shower and been in pouring down rains in these. I have taken calls on the trail using them and the microphone sound is pretty decent according to most receivers. If you are picky about sound quality of your music then they may get a few points in the minus column as they are not Bose quality in that area, but I can hear my music and they keep me from having to hear Trex whine and complain all the time and they have held up through a lot of wear and tear.
  • OOFOS: Recovery flip flops – Love these. Wear them all the time, not just for when needed post run. I wouldn’t recommend the lighter colors for anything other than home use as they pick up grime and turn black and ugly fast, but otherwise these are a MUST HAVE.
  • Target Champion C9 – Tops, tights, and shorts. I generally use Target C9 wear for my daily short distance and even long distance runs. Besides the THINX sport shorts they have been my only shorts. I own some race shirts and my CDRC shirt, but generally unless I am wearing matching gear with Trex, then I am probably wearing something from Target. As I said above these are great for the price and how well they hold up.

Other Stuff worn/used as needed Occasionally:

  • Zensha Compression calf sleeves (usually for trail and long long distances) – Like these, no complaints.  Feel they help as are designed.
  • Rock or K Tape – I preferred K tape over Rock tape until their quality of materials stopped adhering to their former standards. My issue with Rock Tape still holds, they fray around the edges and also leave glued edges on my skin when I peal them up. But as of this post they seem to hold better than my last rolls of K Tape so I will stick with them for now.
  • Pandana buff – This is a light weight neck cover that worked well for me in the winter. Will probably buy a Buff brand at some point just because they are available everywhere in so many fun patterns. Likely Trex and I will have matching ones at some point.
  • Black Diamond Head Lamp – These have been worn on our Snake trail and Midnight Madness in the dark. Good for night time paved trail runs IMO, but read Trex’s run report to get a more technical perspective on how to avoid spiders and snakes when running in the woods at night.
  • Mace: Small Hand Held Pepper spray – I carry this on occasion when I run solo. I fit it in my hand comfortably rotating the head so I can press the trigger easily without the need of my other hand. If you have ever encountered a stranger on the trail or road that eyeballed you a little too long then you will understand why this is a part of my arsenal.
  • Speedo Large 35L Teamster Backpack – Bag I use to haul all my crap around with when traveling to races. I have owned a few of these over the years, including one as my diaper bag, my Derby Bag, and originally as designed as my swim gear bag. The water proof bottom and extra large opening is ideal for all sorts of stuff.

Girl Gear:

  • THINX Sports Shorts – I wrote about these a little while back, and unfortunately I made the mistake and wore them during a long hot run recently and found that the thick inner fabric was too coarse and the seams in the crotch were in the wrong place resulting in the above aforementioned need to apply liberal amounts of Desitin where they caused serious chaffing. These are being relegated to short distance running only which means I am going to have to find an alternative should the stars and moons align again.
  • Sports Bra’s – I wrote about my experience with my go to bra’s here but I wanted to include the updated list here
    • Zensah  Seamless Sports Bra:  Zensha has been a good fit so far for long distances. The reviews hold true, light and soft, but I wouldn’t recommend for larger busted women as this product won’t support you enough.
    • SheFit Sports Bra
    • Brooks Sports Bra
  • Diva Cup #2 – I have been pleased with this for daily use, but not for running. Which is why I am trying the FemmyCycle next. Since women are all shaped and sized a bit differently I recommend researching here a bit before buying.
  • FemmyCycle report coming soon.
  • Pibella Travel Pearl – Because sometimes I don’t feel like sitting on a porta potty seat or baring my a$$ to the world when nature calls. Highly recommend carrying individually wrapped Femwipes or toilet wipes and practice practice practice! Seriously, practice in the shower for a good week then with clothes on only after you have achieved expert level status in your aim and can insert this thing blindly with one hand. Also don’t wait till you have to go like a race horse, it will get messy.

I think that pretty much covers what I generally wear or carry on my person, or have worn for running. Obviously this will adapt and change with experience and distance.  Lastly, I  want to give a heart felt shout out to real people who take the time to write reviews and blogs that provide solid information about the products you use in your everyday running and why or why not. Sponsored reviews are nice and all but they tend to gloss over the nitty gritty and downplay the issues that could wind up costing someone like me hundreds of dollars in gear that doesn’t work for me. That kinda thing really chafes IYKWIM!

~B

NOTE: I have or Trex has purchased all of the products mentioned in this article at retail price, from retail stores, for personal use. We have no affiliations with any retailers, companies, or suppliers. This is strictly a user review of these products.

A note about Anchors

I have run well over 1000 miles with Trex, including during my (our) most triumphant and worst races thus far in my (our) running careers, and from my perspective he is most definitely my Anchor.  On this we agree. It’s just we don’t quite agree on which particular definition of the word applies to our partnership.   While Trex has this nagging feeling that he is dragging behind and slowing me down he is anything but that. So allow me to set the record straight.

Anchor leg
anchor leg is the final position in a relay race. Typically, the anchor leg of a relay is given to the fastest or most experienced competitor on a team. The athlete completing the anchor leg of a relay is responsible for making up ground on the race-leader or preserving the lead already secured by their teammates.[1] An anchor leg is typically part of a running relay, but may also be part of swimming, skiing or skating relays.[2][3]

Having swam competitively in HS, I was often the anchor swimmer on relay teams. I can still hear the voices of my swimming sisters yelling my name as sprinted past the other swimmers, cheering me into the wall, and shouting how much they loved me at the moment we all realized we had just earned first place on the podium and qualified for State at our first regional meet.  It was a proud moment in my life and has always stayed with me.  Coming from behind, and over taking my competition was something I thrived on. Ask my family or friends and they can attest to my fierce competitive nature. I love to win.

But a few years ago, while serving as the captain of a Roller Derby team, I had my first daughter and I came to realize that there wasn’t enough room for the fierce competitor in me and the nurturer. This was a hard day.  I realized that in order to be the mother I wanted to be that I had to make room for myself to grow in this capacity. At the time it meant I had to retire my skates because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to balance both sides of my nature. Frankly I am still not, which is why I don’t really compete with anyone but myself in running. Instead I take pride in the fact that I constantly work at balancing being a wife and a mom, with having a full-time (stressful) career, and run long distance. This is no easy task and for me it means keeping my competitive nature in check.

So today I am part of a two person team, and we are our own competition and I am more than okay with this. There simply aren’t enough me hours in the day to let my raging ram loose on the course (I am an Aries btw). While she is in there I don’t have any more time or energy available to do what it takes to complete with the likes of runners such as RAbbit or other women, who dominate the course in my age group, without paying the price of missing out on my family life or falling behind in my career.

So frankly I don’t give it my all, I give it what I can, day in and day out, saving enough for the rest of my life. Sure I most definitely have it in my veins to go faster, but at a serious cost. I have to keep this drive in check to maintain balance. I am my own boat anchor {1}.

an·chor
ˈaNGər/
noun: anchor; plural noun: anchors
1.  a heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom, typically one having a metal shank with a ring at one end for the rope and a pair of curved and/or barbed flukes at the other.
2.  a person or thing that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation.

It is because of my natural tendency to want to take off and race to the finish that I have needed a little help learning to stay grounded with running. It has been a learning process and I am more than grateful for Trex’s influence in this area. I have never known anyone as steady like a rock (or an anchor as the case may be) as Trex.

To start, if it is a run day, he runs. His words, not mine. If it is 1 billion degrees outside, raining flaming locusts, and it’s a run day, then he inevitably has some gear for just this occasion, pulls it out, and he runs.  Yes that is a tad bit of an exaggeration, but the analogy holds. I don’t know anyone who is as thoughtful about preparedness, and who is as dedicated to finishing what he starts as Trex. I have adopted this same credo to help maintain a place for running in my life. My family and co-workers understand that running is important to me so if it is a run day, I run; perhaps not as fast as I am able, but I run. Period.

During my runs I have also come to rely on Trex’s metronome-like rhythmic foot falls to keep a steady pace and structured form. This has helped me steadily improve my running and most likely prevented numerous injuries and has ensured I have enough fuel left in the tank to complete the ever increasing distances we have tackled over the past year.

Anchor
A person or feeling one uses to keep his or herself grounded or in a calm state when things are not well. He’s my anchor. You know, he keeps me calm on days everything seems to go wrong.
#anchoring #helpful #anchors #anchor #kind

Lastly,  there have often been days when my busy life has left me feeling like a one arm juggler in a circus, and when my emotions threaten to devour me like the hungry lions perched around the ring. Running has helped to be an outlet for times like these, when I feel, quite literally, like I have to “run off the crazy”. On those day’s Trex is more like my very own #luckdragon helping to pulling me out of my emotional storm by the sound of his steady rhythmic pace, his friendly optimism, and his calm demeanor.   I count myself lucky to have such a running companion.

So I guess in the end Trex was right. He is my #anchor and for it I am #better.

Okay I know, enough with the hashtags already. #whatever

Tearing down the Wall

I have written a bit before about what it’s like to face my personal walls while running, but I encountered an interesting experience during our back-to-back 30K/15K and I feel it is worth a few lines to describe it as it seemed rather significant and useful for future use.  At least to me, myself, and I anyway.

As T-Rex mentioned in his report, I have had a bit of knee pains the past week or so. I don’t think it is my shoes as I am alternating between 4 pairs of shoes and don’t quite have enough miles on them to be the cause. As such that pretty much leaves strain due to weakness & overuse, sooo I am going to have to up my PT game a bit. I have done band exercises (mostly) on the two days a week, that are our only non-run days, but I guess I will have to do them more fervently and frequently.  I would rather not have to do all this work only to bench myself as a result of injury.

Anyways I have had a bit of extra pain while running. Who doesn’t really? So after we started our second long run for the day my knees complained loudly. My right knee especially using rather colorful profanity from the beginning threatening to force me to turn around. The right had griped a lot after our earlier 30k, so during the day I iced it and applied liberal amounts of Biofreeze gel. I don’t know that any of this helped but it made me think I was doing good anyhow.  So not one to listen to “a bunch of b*tchy little [knees],”  I willed them into submission by running long enough for everything to warm up and loosen up. Thankfully this only took about 15 minutes. Bunny 1, knees 0.

So as the pain subsided I found the 7-min/2-min run/walk cadence helped me get into a decent zone faster for the first half of the run. I agree with T-Rex, our runs have improved with the return of the run/walk repeats.  But one problem I have with this pattern is that towards the end of our longest runs I hit a point when the stop/restart of running and walking becomes extremely painful and it feels better to just simply trot than to change gears. So painful in fact that at the restart of the last run of the night, after an extra-long walking bit, both T-Rex and I, in unison, belted out four letter expletives at our discomfort. The pain was real my friends.

It was during the last 3-4 miles or so of our run/walk that I felt my wall beginning to form. Brick by brick. And not the Yellows kind either.  Perhaps it was the hypnotic atmosphere created by the dark, mingled with the strong light of the high full moon, (or the delirium brought on by the pain and late hour), but somehow I was able to consciously observe the construction process in an almost disembodied state which gave me the opportunity to deconstruct the wall before it could form a solid obstacle.  This disconnected deconstruction process struck me as rather remarkable, and as it repeated itself over the last half run cycles, it allowed me the opportunity to meditatively experiment with my thoughts over my state of being. It went something like this….

Muscles: “Everything hurts, we are sooo done with this sh*t.”
Brain: “I concur, this sucks. F@#k it I’m out.”
Conscience Observer: “Wait a minute, we’ve totally been through this before guys, remember? Let me remind you that we have twice this distance to cover in a few months so cut this moaning crap out and let’s finish strong!” (Rocky theme begins to play)
Muscles & Brain: “But it hurts! And it’s hot. And we are tired. And this sucks. And it HURTS!”
Conscience Observer:  “Ya ya heard it all before, shut the hell up, we are just fine and we are damn sure not quitting. Here think of this…. We are half way from finishing our first 50k and the end is nowhere in sight, we are in the middle of the high desert with no aid nearby and, did I mention, we sure as hell aren’t quitting now? So what would we do then?” (Duh duh duuuun)
Muscles  & Brain: “Sh*t.”
Conscience Observer: “That’s what I thought. Now shut it, we’ve got a long way to go.” (Whip crack sound effect)

I know what you’re thinking… but as Sheldon would say “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

The not-crazy-like-at-all thought cycle continued to roll through my brain, and each time I would conjure up the idea that “we” simply were in the middle of a much longer run and, in fact, had no choice but to carry on. I basically tricked myself into thinking the end wasn’t near and it worked!   Well that is until the next time my muscles and brain tried to unionize and strike, forcing me to remind them of their ‘At Will’ contracts as I cracked my proverbial whip. (cue Devo song).  In those moments I somehow, not through the use of hallucinogens, stepped outside of myself and talked some sense into my brain and body. It was a rather surreal experience. But I am curious to know if other runners have a similar trialogue with themselves, or if perhaps insanity is creeping in with stress and age. Probably the latter. Hoping it’s the former, for Trex’s sake.

While I can’t say that I didn’t struggle with the wall, I can say I learned how to not allow it to form solidly, gaining me the clarity and abatement of the pain needed to reset mid-run. It also gave me hope that I have what it takes mentally to finish Ultra distances.  Or I am mental. Either way as long as I can keep my machine from giving out on me I intend to give it a try.

Brooks Running Bras Stink

I have owned two Brooks running sports bras since I started running just under two years ago. I started with the Juno model two sizes ago, and now I am into the Rebound Racer. These two bras alone have hugged my girls and kept them nice and snug for all of my major races and long distance runs.  I also own and use a C9 (Champion Target Brand) and a SheFit, which I use for day to day running mostly, choosing the Brooks because they have softer materials and fit better as they are quality bra’s, but they are not without their issues.

Brooks Juno & Rebound Racer Pro’s & Con’s (The short version): If you want a bit more back story read below the bulleted lists for my personal experience in each of these areas.

Pros:

  • Good soft materials – doesn’t really cause chaffing (with the exception noted below) during distances up to a Marathon.
  • Durable materials – has taken almost daily washings and been worn for over a year (Juno) and a half (Rebound) without showing visible signs of wear and tear (one major exception also noted below).
  • Snug fit – my girls don’t bounce and the front tacky strap adjustment helps synch them in nice and tighten on the fly.

Cons:

  • Stinky Fabric – After about 3 months of summer wear, both models have a breakdown in the materials and begin to trap odors which are released while wet. NO it’s not just me, or my laundry routine.
  • Outdated Design – Sports bra’s should be easier to get on and off. Especially when one is wet with sweat! See below for my opinion on the matter.
  • Price – are you kidding me? I paid full retail marked up price for mine at local running stores, and if they were perfect I would happily pay that price. But come on, I get almost as good support and coverage from my Target bra and it never stinks!

All in all I would recommend these bra’s for fit and comfort for longish and short distance, mainly because I haven’t found anything else that I like better. But for the price I would like something I love and I don’t love these bra’s. I use them because I bought them and I like to get my monies worth. But given the issues I have had with them I am on the hunt for a better bra for my Ultra distances.

More In-depth experience:

To begin, as mentioned before in other posts, I am rather sensitive to the feel of the material against my skin, so it is EXTREMELY important to me that the materials be soft (to me). I don’t like rough seams or scratchy edges, or stiff materials. And as I am upping my distances chaffing is going to be a HUGE concern.  So to be noted, with the Juno I occasionally had a problem of chaffing just above my breast plate where the fabric sagged into my cleavage. It started happening during my first marathon and happened a few times after that. My guess is that my boobs shrank just enough to allow this to happen, or I simply hadn’t run far enough for it to happen before that time. Either way I don’t like the burning sensation it caused during my post marathon showers.  Since boob shrinkage is a real thing thanks to running, I had to move down a couple sizes and purchased the Rebound Racer, and I have not yet had this chaffing issue, instead I have had a different problem.

With my Rebound Racer the straps compress over my collar bones during long runs and have left bruising on both side after races. Of note this occurs primarily when I have to wear a my Nathan Vest. Now you could argue this is the vest’s fault and not the Rebound, but I wore my vest with my Juno during Little Rock and didn’t have this problem. The fact is that the strap material of the Rebound feels thicker and doesn’t seem to absorb/compress softly enough over my skin and bones to prevent this from happening. Not sure if this is the Bra’s fault but worth noting nonetheless as it is a BIG factor in why I won’t be using it for our 50k.

My next complaint with both of these Brooks Bras would be the design. I don’t know about you but I HATE, with a passion, pulling a nasty sweaty sports bra off over my head. Not to mention wrestling into one before my runs. While you have the options to unstrap the shoulders on these models, I tend not to because they are a PITA to re-thread through the eyelet due to the velcro.  I also HATE the old fashion hook and eyelet adjustments on the back. I find myself looking like a contortionist every time the hooks catch over the fabric and won’t find the eyelets!  I would seriously like to see an open front option, and a velcro back adjustment maybe like my SheFit; the key here would be for the fabric and materials would have to be just right as to not cause chaffing or pressure points, I haven’t found my SheFit to be perfect in this department hence why I still wear the Brooks.

But so far my number one complaint about these two bras is that that they stink. Literally. About 3 months of wear during the summer months and both bra’s developed a stink that is released after they get wet with sweat. A smell like dead rotting vegetation wafts up into my nostrils and is most unpleasant during my runs.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that I have poor hygiene or don’t know how to wash clothes let me explain. First I don’t and have never had this issue with any other bra or sports equipment for that matter.  My husband is also a runner and his stuff doesn’t stink.  I wash our running clothes immediately after use in a detergent (Nellies Natural Laundry Soda) which I used to wash my babies dirty cloth diapers and my Roller Derby pads, so I know it is NOT my laundry routine that is the problem.  Again it is only these bra models I have ever encountered this problem.

With the Juno when the problem occurred last summer I tried using Biokleen Bac-Out before washing, as it is an enzyme based odor remover, but that didn’t help. The only thing that has helped is Bleach, which seems to kill whatever bacteria is able to develop by the way the fabric traps in sweat.  I did a sniff test yesterday after I ran in my freshly washed Rebound and it seems to be the mesh fabric that traps the smell. It wasn’t the fabric that lays over my breasts, but the waffle woven dry fit fabric that surrounds the padding on the inside, which I thought was interesting.  So into the bleach it went. Problem solved.  I am sure Trex’s nostrils will thank me. He’s never said anything but I am sure he’s just being polite.

So my search continues. I guess one plus of moving into the ‘itty bitty’ category is that I don’t need quite the support as I did before, so I can move away from these thicker fabric models. Wish me luck in my endeavors to find a replacement for my first Ultra.

~B

NOTE: I purchased all of the products mentioned in this article at retail price, from retail stores, for my own personal use. I have no affiliations with any retailers, company, or suppliers. This is strictly a user review of these products.

Running with the DivaCup and Thinx

How I earned my Red Badge of Courage

Attention male readers, the content below is targeted for those who are interested in the use of menstrual cycle products as they relate running.  I give you permission to stop reading here (that includes you Trex).

I have been rather lucky when it comes to the timing of my long runs and races. But as the stars and moon would have it, eventually my luck ran out and for both Midnight Madness and our 15k night time training trail runs I ran into a few issues that only girls can relate. But with a little support and a costume change I fought the good fight and for it I have now earned my Red Badge of Courage.

I have failed to find any good blog articles that were helpful about how to prepare for long distance running while on my period, which is why I am telling my story here in case some other female comes along and wants some helpful / useful information.  Now to start there are several articles going around the Internet, like the ones on Livestrong, and RunnersWorld about how you will run/perform better for hormonal reasons during your cycle. Allow me to debunk that crap right now. It is total BS. While I have felt ok-ish energy wise (possibly due to Keto), which might support their evidence, that is minor in comparison to all the other stuff you have to deal with. No I can say for certain it is not helpful, not helpful one bit.

I highly recommend a useful little app called P. Tracker (or something like it) that I use on my iPhone that tracks the dates of my cycle easily and allows me to project out to the day (if my body plays nice) when I will start/end. Whenever we discuss doing a particular race I first check where that falls in the month and until this last month I have lucked out.  Just before the Little Rock Marathon I had a near panic attack as I had an ‘early’ warning scare and thought I was going to have to run my first marathon wearing the traditional forms of female protection. But it was only a scare and my body stayed on schedule. Whew! But this lead me to do some research and I found what I hoped would be the right combo of protection to avoid significant chaffing and leakage, and wouldn’t require equipment change midrace in a porta potty. Yuck!

So as it happened Midnight Madness was my first long race during which I would actually get to test out the reliability of my new female only gear, the Thinx sports shorts and a Diva Cup, both purchased for the inevitable times like this race when being a women feels like a curse. I chose the cup for the main reason that it fits better than most tampons do for running, and it can be worn for 8-12 hours depending on the day. That is important when running on trails where there are no bathrooms or for during long 6 hour races.  NOTE: I was not paid for or sponsored for this review. I purchased these products out of my own desperation at full retail price and here is my experience using them (both good and bad)

Before the race I had tested the cup a few times, but only on shorter runs, and had a dry run with the shorts to know they were comfortable to run in, but race day was my first use of them together as the pair to serve as my shield and armor.

For the first half of the race I was totally fine. Happy that I had the right combo of equipment and felt secure, confident and comfortable. But as the run went on I could feel the cup was just not seating quite right and it would need to be readjusted, having been jostled somewhat during the run. But much to my chagrin, mortification, and utter horror I found that I had a wardrobe malfunction around mile 8 of 20, when the Thinx shorts couldn’t handle all the sweat plus small amount of leakage caused by the running and the ill positioned cup.  Let’s just say I was utterly grateful for a night time race and my dark sweat towel.

Thank goodness for my DH, who just happened to be done with his race and met us along the way just in time. Like a saint he drove and retrieved my spare clothes (which I packed in my mobile aid station just in case!) and met me at the turnaround. Not wanting to slow us down too much with a wardrobe change I picked up pace and booked it ahead of our little gang and swapped my shorts out for a different set of Thinx underwear and a different pair of shorts and I was good to go again by the time they were ready to leave. At least for a while.

My change of clothes and the cup held up slightly better the second half of the race; and I felt good until about that last 3 miles of the race when all hell broke loose. Every so often my body likes to remind me I am a mere mortal and punishes me with a bout of cramps so bad they would bring a Dino to his knees; and well, my body chose the last three miles of my 20 mile race to dole out this punishment. I had the usual leg aches and pains, but those were insignificant against the low back, abdominal cramps, and a tender soreness of my nether region that I haven’t’ felt since my youngest was born. The pain was such that it actually induced severe nausea and by the end of the race, as we were all sitting around a carrot cake singing happy birthday to Trex, I was doing everything within my power not to ruin his hard earned homemade celebratory dessert.

Now I know for fact that this was not food related. I had no indigestion, or significant trouble intestinally during or after the race. And as I said, I have had bouts with this sort of pain before, but not quite this bad that I can recall.

After the race I drank some Traditional Medicinals Womens Healthy Cycle herbal tea which gave me relief from the cramping and pain, took a long hot shower during which I discovered that I had chaffing where no women should chaff thanks to the ill positioning of the Diva Cup; then crashed in bed for the remainder of the morning.

Last night I experienced a milder version of the above. Having learned from the previous experience, I doubled up on my Thinx under layers, had a black towel at my car, extra feminine towelettes and water. I had to adjust the cup a few times to reseat it which is why I carry black towels and wipes.

Given conditions and my anatomy, frankly at this point I don’t know what will actually hold up, and not cause chaffing, leakage, or considerable discomfort, as the above combo just hasn’t been quite up to the task during my heaviest of days. I think really I just need a different shaped cup for running, or maybe a wet suite. Who knows?

I have since talked to a co-worker of mine who finished her first 100 miler and she too agreed my equipment of choice was the right way to go, but we agreed I should try different brands in search of one that will work better for me for longer distance runs. I found a website… putacupinit.com that seems promising at helping me in this search and it has wonderful information on how and why to use cups verses the more traditional options. I for one love the Diva Cup for everyday use. I also love my Thinx, but if I am at some point going to run 100 miles, I really hope it won’t come with another Red Badge of Courage.

Ketoinued – Running at Midnight is Madness

So last month we went madder than the hatter and ran a 20-mile race starting at midnight.  Then last night we ran our first back-to-back morning then midnight 15k’s. As Trex has already given you his Race report, I suppose I should give my take since it was a tad bit different.

Having been on a Keto diet for month it was a preparing for races and long runs are different in many ways.

First no carb loading the days before the race and long runs. I have to say, while I am honestly not really craving carbs I did miss our pre-race ritual meals, Thai or Indian for dinner two nights before the race, and Honeynut Cheerios and bananas for breakfast (dinner in this case). Instead I eat more veggies,  avocados, fatty meats and fat bombs, drink lots of water and electrolyte drinks (Propel so far is my favorite from a flavor standpoint).

My vest isn’t laden with gels and treats, instead I bring Lyteshow, salt sticks, hammer electrolyte extreme endurance, Nuun Energy tablets, run gum and Rx Nut Butter,  Ucan and Propel server drink pouches.

Fueling for long runs is a bit different as we can’t depend on carbs. So I did some reading and found a few recipes for alternative fuels for Keto running. I bought some reusable squeeze pouches on Amazon and made up a few batches. One of pb,  ghee, avocado oil and salt. The other was pb, Lilly chocolate chips, and coconut oil. Lastly I fill a pouch or small water bottle with Gut Shot garlic and dill. Since I started Keto I crave pickle juice. This has really been a life saver and has helped with leg cramps, which I experienced around mile 13 during the Midnight Madness.  I also made lemon keto fat bombs (made with Coconut butter, which I don’t’ recommend) and usually have a couple in my ice chest.  Other snacks I pack for pit stops now usually include pickles, pickled okra, Moon cheese, Parmesan crisps, macadamia nuts and pork-rinds for crunchy salty.

With our race routes and long runs being on the same city trails we normally run, we park our vehicles to serve as our own aid stations. For Midnight Madness we parked right next to the race aid station, in the lower lot of Turkey Mountain, which stocked foods and drinks we can’t consume on this diet, so no aid there for us really.  It has worked out perfect and has ensured we have the right fuel and plenty of cold water at critical times during our runs.  Like most trail races I will grazed a bit when we stop, taking in little bit of the variety of goodies. And so far, by the time I do feel a bit tired and low on energy we are able to refuel and go.

Midnight Madness, being my first really long run on Keto I would still give it high praise for sustainable energy. During my 10-mile run through the Santa Cruz mountains and yesterday’s back-to-back 15k’s I didn’t bonk out. I feel like Keto has been way more of a help than a hindrance, at least for that distance/pace. On the other hand I have definitely noticed an impact to my HIIT runs and distances. My HR runs higher and I still find it harder to catch my breath, this is also impart due to the heat of the summer but I encountered this in San Jose so I am confident it is the greater amount of blood oxygen it takes to burn fat that is the cause of this particular issue.  Overall in terms of running condition I have felt really good for my long distance runs having started Keto and plan to continue to stick with this at least through our fall races, unless something drastically changes between now and then.

Santa Cruz Mountains trail running, worth a good bite on the ass

I am one of those kinds of people who fully embraces any opportunity to travel with open arms because of the excitement I get from thinking of all the different possibilities a new or different city holds within its borders. So when my job duties called for a trip to Silicon Valley I wouldn’t say I jumped at the chance since this is my third trip here in the last year, and frankly I don’t relish the idea of missing my family for a week; but since I can’t just quit my job and stay home with them, then I see no reason not to make the most of this trip.

Last year when it was Trex’s turn to make the journey for his job he went begrudgingly so, but luckily Karma overlooked his lack of enthusiasm, and he came back with a new found friend who is a lover of this crazy sport we call Ultra Running. She is not only a lover of the sport she is also a badass while doing it, and has certainly fanned the flames of my (our) interest in increasing my (our) distances, and venturing out to more scenic places to run than on paved city trails.  So when the chance came for me to take advantage of a company paid flight to California I booked the earliest flight out of town I could reasonably take to arrive with just enough time to take her up on the offer to play tour guide through her ‘playground’, the Santa Cruz Mountains; and oh what a playground it is, I have the bite marks to prove it!

The text conversation leading up to the trip started out something to the effect of  “I want someplace awesome to run that will make Trex greener with envy”– greener because well, he is already a green reptile; which was followed by some evil laughs and scheming to find a trail, elevation gain, and distance that wouldn’t kill me–since I am not quite the badass ultra-runner our friend is, but that would induce a fit of jealousy that might provoke a Trex to overcome his reluctance to travel.  So full discloser, this article will contain considerable bias in favor of the latter statement.

It is obvious the second you step outside in San Jose why people pay the astronomical price to live here. First and foremost the weather is freaking perfect. Pleasant, sunny, mild with a light warming or cooling breeze. Just freaking damn perfect. Next would be the views. Flying in you can see the mountains and hills that surround the ‘valley’ and they are most definitely a far cry from our little Urban Wilderness reserve Turkey Mountain. Here you are in proximity to so many outdoor activities and options, coupled with perfect weather that you can truly take to the hills to unwind after a long day and really recharge. And taking to the hills was exactly what we did.

Now, like us, our Rabbit friend (her nickname earned proudly from her exceptional navigation and skill of popping up all over the trails), is currently in training for her next big race, so she had to clear the planned distance for my scheduled run with her coach since we were running on her ‘easy’ day.  I of course laughed at this because I knew that my pace would be so much slower than her easy running pace that this would be like walking for her. But none the less time on legs and feet, while ascending close to 2K feet is wear and tear and the last thing we want is for her machine to become injured while she is in pursuit of her next big race, which is not just any race, it is none other than the Finlayson 100K. Look it up, it’s not for the faint of heart. So she, having “maps for brains” found us a good segment that was within my abilities and meet both her and my needs in terms of elevation and distance.

Our fair Rabbit friend picked me up after I arrived in town and took me for a bit of shopping therapy at her favorite local running store The Sports Basement.  This is a fun store, think REI meets TJ Maxx. They have all the big brands for all things sports but are generally sold at a discount. Truly a retail haven for the thrifty yet serious runner. We weaved around the store where Rabbit found the items on her shopping list. Myself I restrained from going nuts and limited my purchases to consumables for on the trip. I wish sincerely we had this store in our area.  Both eager to hit the hills we crammed a few protein bars in our bellies, that we picked up at the Basement–they have a huge selection, and wound our way up the sharp curvy Big Basin way to Skyline Trail. Once at the top, me a tinge nauseated from the curvy drive, with the usual preparations (water bladders filled, sunscreen and bug spray applied) we were off for our run.

What I noticed first and foremost was the clean fresh smell of the air. Unlike our trails the air was dry and fragrant with natural vibrant plant smells. Nothing reeked of rotting vegetation or stagnant water. It was just fresh and cool. The trails are mostly single track packed dirt with occasional up-cropping of  rocks and roots just to keep you on your toes. It is not too rocky or gravely, and a nice mix of a few interesting technical areas with long stretches of rolling trail which is perfect for running.  There is a great mixture of sunny areas and shaded areas that wind through the amazing tree canopy created by the mighty Oaks and Sequoya that cover the mountains. The vegetation that lines the trails stands out to me as one of the more memorable and enjoyable aspects. At several points along our route we encountered trees that were hundreds of years old with huge trunks and crocked limbs. There is a plethora of poison oak along the side of the trail that in a few places requires stepping carefully through where it has crept over the path.  There were small riveletts and gulley’s and even a waterfall or two. There were very enjoyable sections where climbing rocks and actual stairs were required and rather steep deadly drop offs which fueled our vertigo just a tad and restored a healthy sense of respect for natures boundaries.

     

But the absolute best part of this run of course were the vistas. Around the bends and through the trees you could come to vast views of the expansive mountains with a birds eye view of the cities far off. I was told by our fair Rabbit friend that the trail we were on runs through to the ocean and at several spots we could see the vast blue sky that touched it below the other side of the range. The feeling that over took my senses was a general sense of my own insignificance. When you stand next to trees so large they feel like buildings or look out to the cities below made microscopic by the height of nature you simply feel microscopic yourself.  It is a feeling I rarely encounter in my area of the world, and it is a good reminder to the ole ego to know just how unimportant I am in the grand scheme of the Earth. Now that’s not to say I don’t consider the importance of being a good citizen on this planet, but as a singular person I felt quite negligible. 

Along the way we passed several “civilians” as Rabbit likes to call them. Day hikers who carried clunky water bottles and cellphones in hand wearing sandals and street fashion athletic shoes and clothes. At least one needed directions and most had no clue about proper trail etiquette. I am sure most of the experienced trail runners had already come and gone during the cool of the morning, likely positioning themselves to see the sunrise over the valley. That’s what I would do if I had these mountains to play on back home. The temperatures varied quite a bit along the trail. In the direct sun on the rocky sides of the trails it was on the warmer side, but nothing compared to the heat back home, but just about the time I was feeling hot we would slip back into the canopy and the temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler in the shade. But in general through the heat of the day the weather was simply perfect. Perfectly warm, perfectly cool, and perfectly sunny. Darn you Californians with your perfect damn weather.

Rabbit and I bounded through the trails at a leisurely pace, walking much of the inclines and clipping down a few of the downhills.  We covered approximately 10 miles with 1900ft of elevation gain. That is comparable to the first segment accent we will cover for our 50K, so when I frankly wasn’t really all that sore the next two days it was a relief to know I am in much better shape than I thought I was preparing for our biggest race yet.  So except for the times when I nearly fell off the side of the trails whilst being bitten on my ass and neck (and not in a good way) by a few hungry yellow jackets which were attracted to my “fatty meat” smell  due to my Keto diet, I would say the run was by far the best trail run I have experienced to date.

I managed to fit my two scheduled training runs in the morning before work on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of the 30 degree cooler temps, and the clean freshness of the air of the Lower Guadalupe River Trail that I ran on, these were very pleasant and enjoyable morning runs compared to the 104 degree temps I will be returning to for our evening runs.

Now as I write this from the middle seat of a Southwest flight back home and look out my window at the vast land formations, I feel the pull to get out there and give those yellow jackets a piece of my mind, but I miss my family more and am happy to be heading home. I count myself fortunate to have “broken trail” with our fair Rabbit friend and look forward to the next opportunity to hop around the mountains, whenever that may be. And maybe just maybe I can convince Trex to come too. (Not holding my breath though).