My First Ultra: 50k Dream to Reality

Two years ago I sat at my son’s baseball practice with a magazine in hand. It was the newest edition of Runners World magazine; a special trail edition at that. I had recently started reading this magazine and was totally enthralled at all it had to offer. I simply couldn’t get enough of reading into other people’s running adventures, mis-haps, and accomplishments that were very much like mine. As I got into my reading, I came across articles written about ultra-running, and it seemed like something that was so foreign to me, because it was. Here I was, just a running girl who ran 3 – 4 miles at a time.I had never even run a race. I was no ultra runner, but I wanted to be. I wanted something that seemed so unacheivable. I hardly knew anyone that loved to run, much less anyone crazy enough to run hours upon hours in the mountains. I could not relate. So there I sat that day dreaming of what it would be like to be an ultra runner. To me, these people were like rock stars, running the ultimate race.

Since that day, I dreamt of running an ultra.

It’s funny how in such a short period of time, so many things can change. Things that you didn’t think were at all possible suddenly seem within reach.

Deep in me I knew that running an ultra-marathon was something I was going to do, but it was going to take work. I put that thought on the back burner and ran like I always did. Little by little. Then I started running farther and farther. I became a different runner. I no longer was the runner who ran fast, (well kind of fast) all the time. I was the runner who slowed down to appreciate the run. I was the runner who wanted to spend the entire day running. I wanted to see how far across town I could run. I wanted to explore new ways to find my way home. I wanted to get lost running. I wanted to get lost in my running. So I did.

Still on the back burner sat my dream. It was time to make it real. I made a goal for myself that I was going to run my first ultra by the time I turned thirty. Why wait?

In two days, let me repeat that. In two days, I will be running my first ultra. I have trained explored countless hours. I have discovered new places to go. I have run this race in my sleep. I have cried over this race. I have made amazing friends because of this race. I have changed my eating habits because of this race. I have become overwhelmed with joy because of this race. This is my race.

All ready for my first 50k !

Is it really all about the race? No. It’s the fact that I had a goal, a dream, and I made it a reality. Hard work pays off. I worked my ass off for this and found myself along the way. In two days I will be able to say I worked for something and did it. It’s going to be a crazy emotional day for me with good reason.

50k-dom, here I come!


Tuesday’s Tip From the Trail

Sometimes trails can tricky and I know this seems like a very obvious thing, but watch your step!

When running on trails, part of the fun is turning the corner and being surprised at what lies ahead. In this case a giant hole in the trail was up ahead that took out two feet of this single track trail (which doesn’t leave very much behind.) This trail obviously has seen some better days, and with one wrong step I would have slid down the slope unexpectantly.

Review : Brooks Green Silence

When I started running years ago I didn’t know too much about different products that could help or deter you from being a better runner. I would always go out in my pair of Adidas whatever’s that didn’t fit just right because they were not a half size bigger, my hat and usually my iPod. My shoes were nothing fancy because I was not willing to spend a ton of money on shoes to run in. Plus running is running right? You just get out there and do it.

So I ran like this for a while, and suffered. I constantly had sore, bruised toes and blisters. I also was unable to run any distance farther than 3 miles because the problems with my feet would really kick in. It occurred to me that I would not be able to run this way forever, and maybe shoes were the issue. So I got a bigger pair of New Balance shoes. The difference that a bigger shoe could make was amazing! I didn’t suffer from the same problems, but also was not too happy with the change. It seemed to me that a traditional running shoe, which is what these New Balance were, were what you were supposed to run in. All the added cushion and support was going to allow for your foot to be able to strike the ground for longer periods of time, without causing issues. The shoes were going to add a layer of protection against whatever type of road or dirt path you were running on, and the majority of the running community wore shoes like this. It was the norm.

It was not for me. I was still unable to run any farther in these shoes, and I actually didn’t feel like I was running. With each step my foot landed in this cozy little box, protected from all elements while the rest of me was working hard. My foot is big and with each step my foot was confined and restricted to spread out to where it should due to all that cushioning. Plus these shoes were heavy, and I was used to walking around barefoot or with very thin sandals. It didn’t seem right that I was shoving my foot into these things.

I knew that barefoot running was out there, but I also didn’t know if that was for me. Not that I didn’t think that I would like it, but is it not uncommon for me to run in places where their would be broken glass all over the ground or other types of things that I was not going to let my foot strike the ground and get into. I did like the idea of less is more though. Running this way you can feel with every step; it feels like running.

So I needed some form of protection, with nothing more. Then I discovered minimalist shoes.

My first shoe of choice were the Brooks Green Silence for more than one reason. First, they are made with recycled materials. Since I heart the earth, I loved this attribute. Second, they are lightweight. At only 6.9 oz, it felt like running with no shoes on. I actually found that I was running faster 🙂

Third, they have mesh upper on them that allowed for my foot to breathe and move freely as it wanted.

Fourth, with a heel-to-toe offset of 8mm, this shoe provides protection but also allows you to feel the ground underneath you.

What I learned from these shoes

These shoes are considered a racing flat per Brooks’ website. These shoes allow you to run fast, and that is their intention. I am a chicken when it comes to running on dirt with shoes that have minimal to zero grip and these definitely fit into that category. While they allow you to run quickly on pavement they don’t work so well on a trail. The bottom of these shoes are flat and have no teeth or lugs to endure a trail (they aren’t made for trails). Maybe that’s an obvious observation but I felt it was necessary to point it out.

Also I found that after just a few times out with these shoes signs of wear and tear on the tread of the shoe already show. I am unsure if this is because the shoes are made from post consumer materials or what. It makes me think that in the long run, replacing the shoes would happen a lot sooner than with shoes that are not made from the same materials.

My favorite thing that I learned from these shoes is how to run freely. While wearing these shoes I ran fast and far all with the feeling of running with no shoes at all. Best of all, these are the shoes that I wore while achieving a half marathon PR (personal record.)

These shoes helped me change the way I look at running and for that I am forever grateful.

Happy Running!

Whats for Breakfast? Beer.

Ok so maybe I’m not really drinking a beer for breakfast right now, but it certainly is breakfast time, and I’ve got beer on the mind.

So when I announced my 30 day plant-based diet challenge 3 days ago, I was instantly bombarded by friends who know me with one serious question:

“Can you still drink beer?”

This made me appreciate the fact that these people do know me so well, and are very aware that beer is something that I do.

Eat. Run. Beer.

It occurred to me that I had to do some research because I became super concerned with my decision. I came across a few websites that contained valuable information on the subject.

The Vegan Connection – This site is a no frills website with great information and a whole tab devoted to just vegan beer! Score! I also browsed through their recipes and they have a “101 reasons to not be a vegan” list which is intriguing.

VegNews – This site has the most comprehensive list out there that I have seen. I really appreciate that their beers are organized by brewing company so I don’t have to wonder if the certain beer from the brewery on the list qualifies. It is researched and stated for you. And to my surprise many of my favorite beers are on that list.

So my recent research brings new hope to the challenge. If I can still have my beer, then everything will be okay.

My 30 day “Plant-Based not Vegan” Diet

“Vegan is a dirty word.” – Robert Shackleford.

The word vegan, or veganism, is similar to vegetarianism in the sense that meat is not part of your diet.

No cows allowed

In a vegan diet though, no animal products are consumed. That means that first you don’t get to eat chicken, pork and anything that was once alive, and secondly you also don’t get to eat eggs, milk, cheese or any other type of food that was once derived from an animal.I have been considering giving the vegan diet a try for some time. I am not a picky eater, and for those of you who know me know that I probably will eat anything placed in front of me. The idea of attaining all nutrients from non meat sources intrigued me as well as the ability to show non support for meat processing and packaging facilities. Plus I like to experiment with foods.

A year ago I tried a pesco-vegetarian diet. This meant that I was able to consume everything that a vegetarian could in their diet with the addition of fish. I don’t care for fish too much, but I felt that it would give the advantage of additional protein where other wise I might struggle to find it. I did this diet for about 6 months, and really didn’t crave meat at all. Since I enjoy all types of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, I knew I would be able to do it. Eventually I started to eat meat again, in smaller amounts, simply for the fact that I always had to prepare two meals for my family. I live with a meat-eater who was not totally on board with my decision because of the way it could affect the food he eats. So it lasted for a while, but meals became more work. Not that I don’t love cooking, but I honestly don’t have all day to do it. Not to mention that I actually eat food, not processed food crap.

I recently started reading Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run. For those of you don’t know, Scott Jurek is an ultra runner with numerous wins and course records under his belt. He also is a vegan plant-based eater. While reading his book, I imagined that I would be able to consume the foods that he ate, and that I would still be able to perform at my current running abilities, if not better. In other words, I might be able to do my best and feel as amazing as he does. Scott is not vegan so to say but instead a 100% plant-based eater. This is where that quote by my friend Robert Shackleford  a.k.a Shacky, comes into play.

A plant-based eater is someone who actually fills their plate with foods that are or once were plants. They are able to eat vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and legumes. This means that eating a bunch of processed food crap is out of the question. Someone who consumes a vegan diet can easily get away with eating foods such as potato chips, and McDonald’s french fries (yes, I know french fries come from potatoes). Neither of these are foods I care to eat. These items may not contain animal products, but that doesn’t mean they are good for you. Processed foods like these most likely contain high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial food coloring, and not to mention lots of additives that are unwanted in the body. If you chose to eat vegan why would you fill yourself with preservatives, additives and crap? This is why Shacky says, “Vegan is a dirty word.” If your diet consist’s of plants then let’s call it what it is, plant-based.

So here is my challenge. I don’t eat a lot of meat as it is, nor do I consume dairy products, and definitely try to stay away from processed foods. I am challenging myself to eat a clean, plant-based diet, rather than a vegan diet for thirty days. I don’t think I will have a problem with the exception of eating eggs and imagining new foods to eat. Getting enough protein now is going to be a challenge in itself, because that’s where the eggs played a role before. The health advantages to eating this way are huge. The risk of developing diabetes and heart disease among other diseases can be greatly reduced, granted you keep up the protein intake with beans and legumes as well as consume the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. It will keep me on my toes as far as what I choose to put into my body, and maybe, just maybe, I will become a better runner because of it.

Could you challenge yourself like this? Comment and let me know why.

Stay tuned for updates on my new challenge as well as fun recipes that I may dream up 🙂

Rattlesnake Encounter While Running – What to do?

This past weekend I headed out to some local trails, for an afternoon full of running adventures. The weather was starting to cool, but in some parts of the trail, the sun was very bright and warm. So after running past native shrubbery, horses, and rabbits, I turned the corner and heard a hiss like noise that sounded the way a bush would sound if it were really agitated. Now, while running on the trail, hearing bushes shake and sounds 3-5 feet off the trail is completely normal. There are plenty of animals that are camouflaged in their natural habitat that we never see, but that get startled as you run by. This was a different sound, probably because it wasn’t 3-5 off into the bushes jus off the trail, it was more like a foot away from where my foot just struck the ground. I looked down, and there is was sitting there in the sun… a rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake camouflaged in the landscape

My reaction to jump steps back happened before I could even gauge what was going on, which I was thankful for. Then I remembered, among all the types of animals you would see on a trail in Southern California, rattlers are one of them that you should never forget about. It’s easy to though. Once you get going in your own running adventure, without actually seeing a threat on the trail, you can tend to forget that these things are out there. So after announcing to my running partner what I had just discovered, we stood there and watched it watch us for a bit, until it decided that it was safe to slither away.

We stood amazed as how beautiful it was, and how scary it was at the same time. After it went on its way up the hillside is when we continued on the trail. This was the first time my partner had ever seen a rattlesnake out there on the trail, being that she just moved here from the other side of the country. I was glad that she got to see what kind of nature we have here, but then she asked, ” what would we do if it bit one of us?” Well, we would surely be in trouble is what I told her.

So this got me thinking. Considering the fact that I run on trails, and that these things live in trails, I really should know what to do if I (or anyone else) suffered a rattlesnake bite. So I did some research. I by no means am a doctor or any other type of certified rattlesnake expert, but here’s a bit of information that I discovered.

Rattlesnake Facts:

  • The majority of rattlesnake species live in the American Southwest and Mexico.
  • Rattlesnakes are the leading cause of snake bite injuries in North America.
  • Rattlesnakes are predators living off of birds and rodents.
  • They will generally avoid humans if they can sense their approach.
  • Rattlesnakes have a venomous bite that destroys tissue.

Symptoms Of A Rattlesnake Bite:

  • Swelling
  • Severe pain
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Hemorrhaging
  • perspiration
  • Heart Failure

If treated properly, rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal!

If A Bite Occurs:

Rattlesnakes rarely bite unless they feel threatened or provoked!

In Southern California, rattlesnakes are common in rural areas, but it is not uncommon to find them in residential areas that are located near hills and open land. Just because you may not be on a trail doesn’t mean you could never encounter one. Here’s what to do in a bite situation.

  • Remain calm, and retreat from the snake at least 10–15 feet. The victim needs to receive medical help as soon as possible. While on a trail the arrival of medical personal could be difficult to get depending on how far in the trail the victim is, so act quickly.
  • Remove restrictive clothing from the victim including watches and jewelry.
  • Stay calm. The victim’s heart rate does not need to go up which will only allow for faster circulation of the venom. Walking back to the trail head if the victim is not too far into the trail could be an option, if the pain is not too severe. Doing so might help get assistance faster. If it is too far or requires too much work, staying put is probably best while waiting for medical personnel.
  • Tourniquets, incisions or sucking the venom out of the wounds should not be used or performed. These are proven to be ineffective, and may actually cause more harm than good.

These snakes live out on the trails, so it’s not fair to harm them when we enter into their territory, but it’s important to know how to coexist with them. If you are running and run into one like I did, stop and step out of its way a good 10 feet. These animals don’t want to bite you because doing so will waste energy on something that they are not going to be able to eat, but they will if they feel threatened. Calmly walk away, but remember where you saw it as to warn others that are approaching in the area. Also check out this site for more information on the topic, Wildlife Encounters – Part I.

Be careful out there on the trail!

Happy Running!

The Hunt for Rapper Ridge : Part 1

The hunt for Rapper Ridge, well officially Raptor Ridge, began a little over a week ago when my friend Trisha and I planned on running on the course that our upcoming respected races would be held on.

Since becoming friends with Trisha, her and I have run in places together that I would never venture to, Raptor Ridge included. So while waiting for the date to come around of our planned attempt to do damage on said location, I looked up maps and trails to make sure we would not get lost, even though I knew of the general area. Trails can be tricky sometimes, and during an exploratory run I would be all over the place looking for the coolest trails, but we weren’t doing that. We were specifically going to annihilate Raptor Ridge. In my searching for anything related to the trail  I discovered that Raptor Ridge is simply the name of the hill, not the name of the trail.

So we headed out on planned date and time, ready to do work on this hill. It was a warm and sunny day, but that didn’t discourage us. It was decided that this particular trail would be great for heat acclimation training due to the complete lack of shade in the first 3 miles. The beginning of the trail was easy enough though, just a flat straight trail that headed toward some hills.

Usually running on trails includes some climbs to actually make you feel like you worked, and some interesting scenery. This trail had neither one of those elements. We only planned to run 5-10 miles, so actually destroying the hill seemed out of reach, but funny thing is, we never even saw it. Apparantly my complete lack of direction showed itself during this run, and we ran 4 flat miles before turning around. Beer was on our mind from the get-go. There will be other opportunities to find the hill, and all of that can be discussed over a nice cold beer.

The after run beer is the best!