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Skipping Over Rocks

Running Arizona's Trails

The Javelina Jangover…25k

Running should be fun, right? Sure, there are days when we don’t feel like getting up at 3am to beat the heat on that early morning trail run. But for the most part, we run because we love it. The same is true of racing. So when I neared the Javelina Jangover 7k night trail race, and just wasn’t looking forward to it, I knew I had to make a change.

Maybe it was the heat, forecasted to be 106 that day. Or maybe it was the 13+ mile race up Pikes Peak that gave me a taste of that mid-distance trail again. And I missed it. So with only the 13 miles at Pikes, and a 16-mile road (ugh) relay that ballooned due to a last minute drop, I decided to jump into the 25km race at Jangover with almost no distance training under my belt. I was hoping my body wouldn’t punish me too badly.

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Wait, this isn’t a 7k bib!

While not quite 106 that day, it was nearly 100 degrees and I knew that heat would be a huge factor in the Javalina Jangover races (held on some of the same trails as the Javelina Jundred- both 100k and 100 mile races held in late October where I pace and crew each year). So I hydrated like never before prior to the race. And, I ate, a lot. Starting Thursday night. I ate as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, including two lunches on race day. Then I stopped eating about 6 hours prior to the 8pm race. Just a granola bar and bread with peanut butter would need to tide me over until my pre-race gel. There was no way I was making the eating-too-close-to-the-race mistake again.

And so, with more pre-race excitement than I had seen in a long time, I toed the line, ready to see what my body would give me that night. I went out conservatively, knowing that the first half of the course was a slow uphill climb. Ready with my full pack of water to tackle the 8.5 miles until the only aid station on the route. I had an A, B and C goal in mind. With C being just to finish without ending up in the ER. By about mile 4, despite my hydration efforts, mild nausea set in and my hip flexors were already angry at me. But I kept trudging on and noticed, amazingly, that I was on pace for my B goal, maybe even my A goal.

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Hangin with friends before the start

It’s amazing to me that you can be racing with 120 other people, and go 30 minutes without seeing a single soul. But that’s how the middle section of this race went. And that meant I was on high snake alert. I knew they were out there- the McDowell Mountain trails are full of them. But fortunately, they stayed hidden for me that night.

Coming out of the aid station after filling my bladder and chewing some candied ginger, I was feeling pretty good due to the shift to a long, slow downhill for the second half of the course. If I needed a walking break, I walked. But only for a short burst, then it was back to work. And while the nausea wouldn’t go away, and neither would the hip flexor and now IT band pain, it was all manageable. You’re nauseous, okay, drink more water. Your hip flexors hurt, take smaller steps. But keep moving!

And finally, those grand lights of the finish line came into view and I knew I had done it. My C goal, my B goal, and within a minute of my A goal time- finishing the 25k race in 2:46. Without the distance training, without my hip strengthening exercises (I really need to resume those clam exercises), but with a huge smile on my face. I was having fun. I was in my happy place again.

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Post race and already working on recovery

***Thank you to my wonderful husband, who always supports me in whatever I am doing. To my beautiful son, who always encourages and cheers on mommy to bring home a trophy. And to my amazing sponsors- Aravaipa Running – who puts on the best trail races, Squirrel’s Nut Butter – who keeps me chafe free, Acel Compression – who helps me recover so I can train harder, and Honey Stinger – who keeps me fueled. And thank you to all of you- for continuing to read and comment on my blog. Your encouragement has been amazing!

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Protesting my post-race recovery plans

*This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be construed as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other person has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.

 

Conquering Pikes Peak

Twenty-five years ago, I attempted to hike Pikes Peak during a youth camp. I made it 3 miles up the trail before turning around. That decision created a bucket list item that I never believed could be crossed off. I was convinced that my asthma, coupled with my fibromyalgia, would make this dream impossible. I was wrong.

But why just hike a mountain when you can race it – time cutoffs and all? First though, I needed to qualify.  And as a trail runner who doesn’t race on the road this was easier said than done. Trail races don’t usually fall into tidy boxes like “half marathon”. But last spring during a charity race, I qualified without even trying. And there my journey began.

Fast forward to March where I would casually check the Pikes Peak website, only to discover that the race that usually fills in a few hours still had a few ascent spots left, and my fate was sealed.

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And so, I took a break from the Phoenix heat in August and toed the line in Manitou Springs, Colorado, for the Pikes Peak Ascent. A grueling 13.41 mile race ascending 7,814 feet up the rocky Barr Trail.

Years of research on this race told me a very important fact- you cannot go out too slowly on this race. And my trail race qualifying time put me in a later start wave that would ensure that I would keep on track here.

Half jogging, half power walking, we trudged along through the infamous “W’s” in a steady stream of racers. I would watch racers frantically trying to pass here on the narrow single track, knowing that I would see them again soon.

 

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And the spot where I turned around as a 15 year-old camper? I recognized it immediately and loudly cheered for myself as I made it past.  Step by step, drinking water, fueling on my Honey Stinger gels, and holding back the reigns on my pace, I continued on.

Knowing that I would need my inhaler later in the race, I did everything I could to delay using the few precious puffs I was allowed until I truly needed them. So hydration was the name of the game- as dehydration can trigger more asthma problems (along with a slew of other issues). And at this point in the race, I only passed when truly necessary- like when I was behind the guy with GI issues.

The first cutoff was at Barr Camp, 8.6 miles in- and I knew I was well ahead of that time and having no breathing issues, or any other issues for that matter. So I allowed myself to run when the trail permitted. Running at this point after hiking for so long felt amazing. But I knew that the race didn’t really start until A-frame, the 10-mile mark.

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A-frame marked the second cut-off of the day, and as I was still well ahead of this time, I began to relax knowing that there was no turning around at this point, I only needed to continue putting one foot ahead of the other and I would finish!

I also allowed myself to use my inhaler for the first time here as we were nearing tree-line and my lungs were starting to complain a bit; but not nearly as much as I had imagined. Still, these final three miles took up the majority of my ascent time as the air had much less oxygen at this altitude, and running was completely out of the question for me (as well as everyone else around me).

I believe the term for Everest climbers is the “death march”. That point where your body is starving for oxygen and you, along with all of the other climbers, trudge along slowly, marching onward and upward.

To my surprise, I was still able to pass up until that final mile- which was a doozy. I was still feeling relatively well, with no nausea issues, and only a mild headache. The final mile was a horse of a different color though.

16 Golden Stairs- There aren’t really 16 of them, more like 60, and there’s nothing golden about these huge boulder step-ups. What followed was a half hike- half climbing crawl over the last portion of the Barr Trail. Spectators and volunteers littered the side of the mountain and cheered racers on by name as they read our bibs as we passed. At this point, I knew that I would finish and achieve my life-long goal. But, as the emotion would surge, my lungs would tighten, and I had to force it back down until I got within a few yards of the finish line.

When the finish line was in site, there was no choking back the emotion as years of doubt flooded my senses. I had finally done it; I had conquered the mountain. The feeling of relief was incredible. I had learned that I can do so much more than I think I can.  And while physical issues may limit me at times, they can’t stop me.

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As to what is next, I’m just happy to be done. And, I’m happy to get back to focusing on the short distance trail races that I have grown to love. Will I be back next year to do Pikes again? I don’t think so. But, I’ve also learned to never say never again.

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—A very special thank you to my amazing husband for supporting me on this journey and allowing me to achieve this very special dream. To my son, who had to say goodbye to mommy on his 6th birthday so that I could board an airplane to Colorado. And to all of my wonderful sponsors- Squirrel’s Nut Butter, you kept me completely chafe free during difficult conditions. Honey Stinger, you kept me fueled through this arduous race on just 4 gels. Acel Compression, for helping me recover with your great compression socks. And Aravaipa Running, for giving me the qualifying time I needed and going the extra mile to put the results online so I could use it for this race.

*This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be construed as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other person has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.

Running on the surface of the sun

 

“Do you really train in this?” I get asked this question a lot, being a trail runner living in the middle of the Phoenix desert. And the answer is Yes, Yes I do. Do I run when it is 114 degrees out? I do. But I have also learned over the past 3 summers of heat training just what my body can and can’t do. So let’s talk about heat training.

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Heat training in the White Tanks on the competitive trail loop

But before I talk about what TO DO when training or racing in the heat, let’s flash back two years to the Hypnosis 25km race with Aravaipa Running. I had a great race, felt really strong throughout the run and after. Drove home feeling good, and ended up in the ER later that night. Over the course of the race, I’d consumed about 200 ounces of water plus sodium. My ER diagnosis: dehydration. How is that possible after 200 ounces of water and electrolyte replacement? If you are a heavy sweater like I am (I think we have established this in the past), and you don’t keep pushing the fluids after the race, it is indeed possible.

Fast forward a couple years…What am I doing differently these days? Well, here are a few of my tips and tricks for training and racing during the hottest days of the year:

  • I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a full workup by a qualified medical professional. I get an annual physical, blood work, and over the years, have had my heart thoroughly checked out.
  • Start slowly. I don’t just wake up one morning after having trained indoors all summer and hit the trails in triple digits. During the summer, the first few weeks of heat acclimation is always rough. Give your body time to adjust to the added stress of cooling your body while running. There are lots of scientific articles on the benefits of heat training and how the body adapts physiologically to the added stresses placed on it.
  • Drink, drink, drink. I can’t stress enough how important hydration is. So, I’ll spend a bit longer on this one. Hydrating for a run or race begins in the days prior to the run. I prefer to train at night, even though it is hotter than early morning runs. So, I am hydrating all day long. In fact, I can see a 10 bpm difference in my heart rate on a run where I haven’t hydrated as well as I should. I personally prefer water both pre and during my runs. In this heat, my stomach just doesn’t tolerate electrolyte replacement drinks, and I have tried most of them. But I make sure that I have something on hand for immediately after my run to replace the fluid I’ve lost, and the sodium too. Whether it is your preferred electrolyte drink, sodium capsules, pickle juice, or a salty food, use it! And keep drinking. I’ve mentioned my race rule- I don’t get to go home until I pee. This rule would have saved me an ER visit.
  • Slow down. It’s just not possible to run the same pace in 100 degree weather that you would in 50 degree weather. For longer runs, this may mean adding more walking breaks into the mix to help keep your core temperature down.
  • Cool your core. Wearing breathable fabrics and less clothing so your body can utilize its natural cooling mechanisms is very important. And, ice is your friend here. Rolling up ice in a bandana to tie around your neck, adding ice to the bladder on your hydration pack or in your handhelds, or simply tucking ice in various places can make a huge difference.
  • Use the buddy system. I try to do my longer, hot weather runs with a friend. Suffering it out together is better than going at it alone. But on days when this isn’t possible, I write my route down on the refrigerator for my husband. Should anything happen, he knows where I’ll be. I know that trail and park names like “Tanks”, “Sidewinder”, “Pemberton” mean nothing to him- but if it is written down and I go missing, there’s a huge Facebook group of Trailrunners that will descend on that mountain like a swarm of bees until I’m located.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit. Some days, whether our hydration or eating has been out of whack, our sleep inadequate, or our recent training too intense, we just don’t have it. No training or race is worth our health, or our life. Don’t be afraid to call it a day and head home. There will always be another trail to run or race to conquer.

Hydrate well, stay safe and have fun. I’ll see you on the trails.

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*This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be construed as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other person has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.

 

Heat, Hypnosis and Hydration

“This isn’t going to be pretty.” At over 100 degrees at the start of the race with no air movement, I knew it was going to be hot. But I had no idea just how truly hot it would be. And I’ve never wanted to quit a race so badly in my life. An 8k race at that!

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Start line for the Hypnosis 8k race- Estrella Mountain Park

We started out the 8k Hypnosis Race at an easy 9 mile pace heading up the slow grade at Estrella Mountain Park. A field of about 100, I thought there would be more crowding during the initial mile of the race. But the triple degree heat was like being slowly baked in an oven. And trying to run at any kind of decent pace just wasn’t happening.

Shortly after the right turn onto the technical portion of the competitive loop that says, “Experts Only”, the true suffering began. Every time I hit an uphill portion, I struggled to maintain even a slow run. My heart rate was too high, my body was already overheating, and I flat out wanted to quit. Over and over, I thought about turning around and just calling it a day. But then I realized that nobody was passing me. And it dawned on me that maybe everyone else out here was suffering just as much as I was.

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An ominous warning a mile into the race

And so I pushed on, walking and trotting whenever I could on the slow uphill battle. It wasn’t until the midway point of the race as we hit the top of the biggest climb that I realized I had no choice but to keep moving forward. After all, my car was back at the finish line.

Thank goodness for the water drop. While the water was hot, it was still water. And after I refilled my empty handheld, half of the water was poured on the back of my neck in an attempt to cool my core and the other half was quickly consumed. Fortunately, we had just one minor climb followed by the finish line after a nice downhill descent.

During the final section, I was able to move a few places ahead out of sheer determination to get to the ice bucket where I would proceed to shove handfuls of ice in variously clothing areas and begin what I knew would be a long hydration process.

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Nothing left in the tank at the end of the Hypnosis 8k. Photo thanks to Aravaipa Running

See, I have this new rule. “You don’t go home until you pee.” After an ER visit two years ago following the same event, but with a longer distanced race, I vowed to never let that happen again. It took 3 hours of constant drinking to get to that place, but I wasn’t about to spend the evening in the ER again.  And so I drank and drank and drank until finally, I was able to go home.

So while nothing about Hypnosis was pretty for me I learned that my mind is the first thing that can get me out of the game, and the best tool that I have to keep me in it. Still, somehow I managed to finish in 6th place for the women. I’ll take it. I will definitely take it.

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Shortly after the finish- posing with my swag-a  custom finisher’s glass

Oh, and as I have a birthday on Friday- this is my final race before becoming a master’s runner. 40, here I come!

***Special thanks to Aravaipa Running for a challenging, but amazing race, Squirrel’s Nut Butter for keeping me chafe free despite massive sweating, Acel Compression Socks for keeping my legs and feet healthy, and Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled. An extra special thank you to my wonderful husband and amazing son, for always supporting me in all of my endeavors. And, to my amazing parents that are teaching me more and more each day what it means to persevere through even the toughest of situations.

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Before the start of the Hypnosis 8k- my friend won the race

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Big Pine 6k and … ?

I had big plans for Aravaipa Running’s June 11th races in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was registered for the Big Pine 6k race in the morning and the Blackout 6k race in the evening. In between, I was scheduled to volunteer all day at the remote aid station for Squirrel’s Nut Butter. On top of this, Little Man was along for the ride with daddy out of town. But things didn’t quite go as planned. Still, any day running in the outdoors is a good day…

After an early morning wake up call, Little Man and I headed up to Flagstaff from our home near Phoenix, Arizona. Little Man had never seen me race, so I was putting extra pressure on myself to do really well at these events. But I knew that my asthma might be an issue at the much higher altitude. Still, it was a great test for me prior to my big race up Pikes Peak in August.

And so I lined up for the start of the Big Pine 6k race with much more tension than usual. Little Man stood next to a friend and waited for the countdown to send us off. I was later told that as we began the race, he started yelling that I was in second place and then in first! While this would not last for long, it was thrilling for him to see me at least begin the race in first place.

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Race Start for Aravaipa Running’s Big Pine 6k- Photo Credit: Aravaipa Running

Shortly after the start of the race we began to climb. Granted, at flatland, this wouldn’t have seemed like much of a climb. But at 7,000+ feet, it was a doozy. As my lungs began to strain to get enough oxygen in, I started to pant. It was then that I heard a man tell his wife behind me to “take deep breaths”. I decided to try it myself and found that it really helped! While I still had to resist the strong urge to start walking, I was able to at least keep moving forward at a slow run.

The rest of the race would continue to be a struggle as I just couldn’t get enough oxygen to my starving muscles. This forced a slower pace than I wanted, but at least it was forward progress. And after what seemed like much longer, I was able to finish the race in just under 40 minutes. Fifth place female- not what I wanted, but I was happy with the result nonetheless.

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Mid-Race in the beautiful pine tree forest. Photo Credit- SweetM Images

After a quick change, it was time to head over to the aid station to volunteer for the next 10 hours and recharge for my night race. And while I had a fantastic time volunteering with SNB, the morning’s effort was beginning to take a toll. I could feel that I had pushed myself over the pain cliff, and a flare-up was coming. Though I spent most of the afternoon trying to combat this and get myself in race ready shape again, I knew that it was just too much.

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Volunteering for Squirrel’s Nut Butter- Photo Credit: SNB

This brings me back to the CAN versus SHOULD discussion from my last blog. I knew that I could pop some pain pills and get myself to the starting line, maybe even podium- and that was where my struggle lay. I really wanted to podium for Little Man. But with hubby out of town, I knew that the aftermath would be bad. And it just wasn’t worth it. So I got in the car and reluctantly dragged us both back down to Phoenix and home where I could rest and recover my body. Knowing when you should or should not line up on race day is one of the most important aspects of racing if you want to have a long and healthy running career. There are always more races to be run and more trails to travel. And with two weeks until my next race, there was much to look forward to.

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Awesome finish line swag for Big Pine 6k

**Special Thanks to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for keeping me stocked with anti-chafe, healing lube, to Aravaipa Running for putting on such great races, to Acel Compression socks for keeping my feet and legs healthy, and to Honey Stinger for giving me fuel to run.  And always to my husband and son who encourage me to reach for my dreams.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Am I really a Trail Runner?

It’s been a while since my last blog post. To be honest, since deciding to switch back to short distance trail racing after Mesquite Canyon, I’ve struggled to find my voice. Do people really want to read a race recap about a 40-60 minute race? Am I still a trail runner if I am only racing short distances. As to the former, you’ll have to be the judge of that: as to the latter, I believe the answer is unequivocally yes. And that brings us to the subject of this blog post.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I have Fibromyalgia. While it does not define me, it does limit me. And let me tell you, I rebel against this concept every single day. I like to believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. And while that may be true,  it doesn’t mean that I SHOULD do everything I put my mind to. Take for instance, the big word- ultramarathon. Which means, anything beyond 26.2 miles. Could I do an ultramarathon race and finish? I believe that I absolutely COULD. But, that doesn’t mean that I SHOULD. When I’m being truly honest with myself, I know that the aftermath of pushing my body to that place, would be brutal. Fibromyalgia flare-ups are not fun. Fatigue, headaches and migraines, pain- as in, the feeling that your nerves are on fire; it’s all there. And pushing myself past the point of no return could send me into a spiral that I would struggle to get out of. But, I can still enjoy the ultramarathon world by participating in other ways. Take the Javelina Jundred – I’ll be crewing and pacing a friend as she races this event for the fourth straight year. And let me tell you, if you haven’t been a part of this event yet in one form or another, you really should- it’s a blast!

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Finish line at Aravaipa Running’s Adrenaline 10k night race- Photo thanks to Aravaipa Running

So, that being said, I don’t race ultramarathons. And as of recently, I am officially a short- distance trail runner. And herein lies my struggle. I’ve read countless Facebook posts on trail and ultrarunning boards from people stating that you aren’t REALLY a trail runner until you have done a 50k, or a 50 mile, or … But I disagree. I think that anyone who has the courage to step out onto the trails and go for a run is a trail runner, whether they even race or not. It’s time to stop belittling our accomplishments and embrace how truly great we are and can be. And if you do choose to race, it doesn’t matter if you are up on that podium or dead last. By challenging and pushing yourself to toe that line, you are accomplishing things that most never even dare to consider.

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Aravaipa Running’s Dam Good 2 Mile Podium

As for me, I’ve found that I am better at the shorter races. (In fact, I won the short-distance race I ran right after Mesquite). And the training for the shorter distances is much more conducive to a work-from-home wife and mom who is homeschooling a 1st grader who spends 5 hours in karate classes on Saturdays. But I’ve also found that I really enjoy racing the shorter distances, especially now that I am actually training for them.

And so, stay tuned here for many more race recaps – of short distance races. While I can’t guarantee that they will be any shorter to read than those from my longer races, hopefully they will be just as enjoyable.

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Aravaipa Running’s Sinister 9k race- Special Thanks to SweetM Images for the great pic

**Special Thanks to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for keeping me stocked with anti-chafe, healing lube, to Aravaipa Running for putting on such great races, to Acel Compression socks for keeping my feet and legs healthy, and to Honey Stinger for giving me fuel to run.  And always to my husband and son who encourage me to reach for my dreams.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

Mesquite Canyon 30km Race Recap

You know that song that gets stuck in your head, repeating over and over?  When you don’t run with music on the trails (which is always a good idea in the Arizona desert), you tend to spend a lot of time repeating the same phrases over and over. The “Everything is Awesome” race was a little annoying.  The Mesquite Canyon 30km I ran last week was narrated in my head by Steve Austin from Broken Skull Ranch. It was very fitting.

I’m not a morning person. My husband calls me a bat because I don’t like lights. So getting up early for a race is always a challenge, let alone eating much before the start. But as this was my final daytime race before the summer night series begins, I shoved as much food as possible into my mouth as I drove out to the White Tank Mountains for the Mesquite Canyon 30km race set to start at 8am. I knew I was going to need every calorie I could get that morning if I wanted to survive Goat Camp.

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My training partner, Crista, and I before the start

I arrived at the park entrance a good hour before the race was set to start. I was meeting the owners of Squirrel’s Nut Butter at their aid station before heading over to the race start. I’d stumbled upon this amazing anti-chafe salve at a few local races and was immediately hooked. I’ve tried almost every kind of lube on the market. I tend to chafe. A Lot. And it’s never pretty or fun. This stuff not only keeps me from chafing, but also heals any areas that have chafed because I forgot to apply lube. You know, those upper arm areas that rub against your pack… So, I was really thrilled when Chris from SNB contacted me and invited me to become an ambassador. This was a no-brainer for me. And SNB had a huge box of goodies waiting for me that day. It was a great way to start the morning.

The Mesquite Canyon 30k race is the final event of the Desert Trail Runner series by Aravaipa Running. And it’s a doozy. But the White Tank Mountain trails never disappoint. So, after quite a few obligatory pre-race selfies, I lined up at the start and got ready for the (hopefully) four hours ahead.

The first 4-5 miles of this race are mostly rolling double track trail that are completely runnable. These miles ticked off easily as I did my best to pull on the reins to conserve energy for Goat Camp. The first aid station was staffed by the good folks at Squirrel’s Nut Butter, and was situated at the start of the toughest part of the course. After refilling my pack bladder, I headed off for the climb ahead. I think the elevation profile says it all.

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That climb is a doozy

And so, I began the slow climb up Goat Camp. Fortunately, I’d remembered my inhaler this time. Because the 50 mile and 50 km racers left earlier, and were traveling in the opposite direction, there was a lot of cross-traffic. This made the climbing a bit slower as I was stepping to the side of the trail a lot to avoid a collision. It was at about this time of the race that I began to hear Steve Austin’s voice in my head. I’ve been binge-watching Broken Skull Ranch lately. And climbing up Goat camp, I felt strong and powerful. I may not be super fast, but I can usually plug along and grind through it.

After what seemed like forever, I reached the top of Goat and let out a yell. I’d made it! And though there was still a lot of race ahead, it was mostly downhill from there. Fortunately, the weather had been kind to us this day. Mesquite Canyon is usually a really hot race. This year, the temperatures were in the mid 60s. But even in 60 something weather, with the direct sun and no shade, you can still sweat a lot. And so the 9.3 miles between aid stations meant that I would run out of water in my pack with about 3 miles to go until the next aid. At this point, I had settled behind two guys who were cruising along at a good pace. But now that I was out of water and reticent to start sucking down too much of the pickle-juice-like concoction in my front bottles, I told the guys I had to make a break for it and off I went.

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Filling up my pack bladder before  the tough climb up Goat

I clicked off the next few miles quickly. I just wanted water! Thirst is a great motivator. And, I had a goal finish time in mind. I was going to complete this race in under 4 hours. A quick stop at the second aid and my pack was full again. I knew my time was going to be close, but the aid station guys gave me the final mileage, and the course was a bit short. That would be the break I needed.

I didn’t even pause at the final aid station; this was going to be tight.  And nausea had kicked in despite the water, sodium and 5 Honey Stinger gels I’d consumed during the race. I so desperately wanted to walk, but there wasn’t any time for that. So, step after step, I trudged along. It’s amazing how long that final mile of a race can be. You can see the finish line tents in the distance, but then the trail turns and you feel like you are running the other way.

But finally, and with 4 minutes to spare before my self-imposed 4 hour deadline, I did it. I crossed the finish line, grabbed the finisher reward glass being handed to me, and flung myself on the ground. I’d given everything I had to finish that race and do it under my goal time, and it took everything out of me. But then, I started to look around, and see the smiling faces of all of the friends I have met on these trails and at these races, and suddenly, I remembered why I do this. The friendship, the camaraderie, the freedom you feel when running the trails and Skipping Over the Rocks. It is worth every single painful moment.

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**Special Thanks to my sponsors: Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me stocked with anti-chafe, healing lube, to Aravaipa Running for putting on another great event, to Acel Compression socks for keeping my feet and legs health, and to Honey Stinger for giving me fuel to run. And, thank you to my husband and son for always encouraging me to reach for my dreams.

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Finish Line swag

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant Mountain 35km Race Recap

I recently ran my longest trail distance ever by completing Aravaipa Running’s Elephant Mountain 35km. It was an exciting, exhausting, and humbling experience.

Two weeks before a race is not the time to switch to an entirely new brand of trail shoes. But with numb toes and nerve pain from my existing shoes, I had no other option. Feeling your feet while you race is kinda important.

And so, with minimal miles on a new pair of shoes, I toed the line at the Elephant Mountain 35k in Cave Creek, Arizona.

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Intently listening to Jamil’s pre-race briefing.

Heading out on the rocky course, I was feeling pretty good until I hit the switchbacks of Go John and realized that I had forgotten my pre-race inhaler puff for my asthma. Not a great start. I would really regret that mistake for the next few hours.

Aside from the whole, not able to breathe really well on the hills thing, the first half of the race went well. Elephant Mountain is an out and back course – heading up to the Spur Cross aid station, where you turn around to re-run the same trail back to the start.

I felt great at the turn-around. Gave the thumbs up sign to a few friends at the aid station, and headed back. Everything was in place. I was fueling and hydrating well. And, I could feel my feet. All good.

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Racing up the Go John switchbacks.Special thanks to SweetM Images for capturing this shot.

I was back out on the trail and beginning the trek back to the Go John trailhead where the finish line awaited. But about a mile or so into my return, I started to feel fuzzy and lightheaded. No problem, I thought. It’s over 80 degrees out here in full sun. I must be either dehydrated a bit or need some salt. Fortunately, I mix pink Himalayan sea salt and lemon juice in my front bottles, since I sweat so much. I know, gross.

This two-pronged approach seemed to do the trick and I continued my forward progress. But, try as I might, I just couldn’t get any “get up and go” in my legs. No matter what fuel I threw at them, my legs were done for the rest of the race. I had no choice but to just trudge it out.

Fortunately, it was about this time that I happened upon another girl in a similar situation. Hannah and I spent the next 8 miles or so together. Sometimes we picked up a few others and formed what we called our train. It made the suffering a bit more bearable.

My finishing time goals had long gone out the window; now I was just going to finish! And since my car was back at the start, that was never a question.

Finally, we crested the hill that revealed the top of the Go John switchbacks. Without a word to Hannah, I took off. I was so happy to know exactly where I was, and how far I was from the finish that I was going to end this, now! And so, with lots of loud groans as I mustered past hikers on their way up the mountain, I made my way to the finish where I knew a group of AZ TraiLeggers friends would be waiting.

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Thrilled to finally be done.

It wasn’t pretty, but I did it; finished 22+ miles of trail. My longest distance to date on the dirt. And, the longest distance I have completed since the LA Marathon 14 years ago. I’ll take it.

The next morning, I awoke to my 5 year old telling me he didn’t feel well. And thus began a week of our family battling the flu. At least now I know what happened to my legs out on the trail.

Don’t worry, Elephant Mountain, I’ll be back. And with a score to settle.

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Post-race and post-quesadilla.

*** A special thank you to my amazing husband and son, for always supporting me in my running endeavors, to Aravaipa Running, for putting on such a great race,tTo Acel Compression socks for helping me quickly transition into new shoes with no issues, to Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, and to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for keeping me chafe free!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

ACEL Compression Socks

I’ve been a fan of compression socks for a while now and have previously had the opportunity to review some on this blog. However, based on that review, I was contacted by a new company that has created a line of compression socks that they believed to be of better quality and price than the others I have used and reviewed. So, I was given the chance to review this new line of socks and put them through their paces.

 

I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at following instructions on care, especially for items I use for trail running. I’m a busy wife and mother with a full-time job and am homeschooling as well. I really don’t have time to hand-wash anything. So these socks were going to be put through the ringer as part of my super-scientific testing process.

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I spent months trying these compression socks and I am pleased to say- they are the best compression socks that I have ever tried- bar none! The graduated compression on these socks is really noticeable and allows me to run farther with less muscle soreness and fatigue in my calves that really take a beating on the trails. They come in a variety of sizes based on both your shoe size and calf diameter- so you know you are getting a good fit and the right amount of compression. And I love all of the fun color options, as I like to be stylish on the trails. ACEL has also recently released a new line of thermal compression socks for the winter months. These socks are extra warm and soft with some additional fun colors and prints. The full-length sock keeps rocks and other baddies from making their way to my skin, and I’ve been able to do double-digit training runs with no blisters or other issues. As an added bonus, removing compression socks after a long run really works your core.

 

So, here’s the 411:

 

My Favorite Compression Socks: ACEL Comfort

My Favorite Color: Pink

Where to buy them: www.acelcomfort.com or Amazon

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*A Special Note: After providing my feedback to the company, and sharing my experience with friends, I was offered a spot as an athlete ambassador for this new company. I am sharing about these socks and this company because I love them. I am not an affiliate and don’t receive any commissions from any sales.

 

**I received a pair of ACEL Compression socks as part of my reviewing process.

 

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