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Skipping Over Rocks

Running Arizona's Trails

The San Tan Scramble 26k

With my last two races not going quite as planned, I was hoping for a breakout race where everything lined up perfectly and my recent shift in running longer distances and adding extra strength training, would be reflected. But, with nausea kicking in at just 3 miles, this was a race that almost wasn’t…

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A beautiful start to the day

The San Tan Scramble 26k started at a brisk 42 degrees. Fortunately, there was no wind to speak of. With gorgeous views and ideal conditions, I was hoping for a great race. But a rough week of work and life meant I was more tired going in than I had hoped for. Still, with several extra long training runs on the Black Canyon Trail with fellow friends training for Aravaipa Running’s BCT 100, I had more training under my belt than ever before.

Training during the winter is particularly difficult for me with my fibromyalgia as the cold makes things worse. But a recent shift in my diet to more plant-based, and extra post-run care of my body meant that I was ready for this race.

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Ready to begin the race

Feeling good at the start and wanting a PR from the previous year’s 3:18, I was pushing the pace up the slow steady incline during the first few miles. But a long week and overall fatigue meant this was too much at this point. Nausea kicked in at just 3 miles and I seriously considered just turning around for a DNF. But a few walk breaks and an extra Honey Stinger gel helped settle things and I pulled back my pace for a few miles until I hit my sweet spot. For some reason- around mile 6 of every race, I start to get my legs under me and feel like my race has finally begun. And this is why short races are so difficult for me…

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I continued to try to bank extra time knowing that the dreaded Goldmine was ahead at mile 8; a brutal climb that decimated my legs last year. This year, Goldmine was all mental for me as I started talking out loud to psych myself up to push through the pain and just get it done. My fellow runners probably heard things like “suck it up”, “not today”, and “this is my house!”.

And though my legs were toast at the top, I was still able to resume running and finish the last 2 miles of that first loop. Coming into the start/finish line to refill my bottles and head back out, I was 10 minutes ahead of last year’s loop 1 time. But, losing 3 minutes at the porta potty would end up being a big mistake here.

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Gorgeous views of the San Tan mountains

Knowing that loop 2 last year was when the wheels came off the bus, I tried to keep a conservative pace the first 3 miles. But constant glances at my watch, and knowing that I really wanted to get a sub 3-hour time, meant that I was going to need to make a move.  With 3 miles to go, I pounded some Honey Stinger chews and picked up the pace.

After 2 miles of 90% effort, I came upon my friend, Raul. I told him I was trying to sub-3 hours the race, and with a quick glance at his watch, he said it would be tight. As he started to sprint for the last mile, I struggled to keep up with him. Huffing and puffing, it was all I could do to hang onto his 7-8 minute pace.

But finally, we saw the finish line ahead. I could see that I was just seconds off from that sub-3 hour goal time. 21 seconds to be exact. But, I had set an 18-minute PR, and I just couldn’t be disappointed in that. Next year though, that sub 3-hour will be mine!

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Pickle juice in hand after the race

And as a final addendum, 3 miles of full-out effort at the end of the race lead to immediate calf cramping once I finished. My Acel compression socks had kept any discomfort at bay while I raced, but there was only so much they could do when my body desperately needed salt. Patty came to my rescue with a cup of Pickle Juice and after downing that, and a few pickles, I was all good again.

So, after feeling like I have turned a corner in my training and racing, I’m looking forward to what the future holds and to sharing my adventures with you. Thank you to everyone for your amazing support and encouragement. I could not do any of this without you!

 

 

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on yet another amazing race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running talk.

*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.”

 

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25k

I knew this race was gonna hurt. And it most definitely did. But it was also gorgeous and exhilarating and amazing.

When my alarm went off at 5am and I could hear the wind rattling the window of our house, I knew that my asthma might become an issue. What with the recent change in temperature over the last week moving us from blazing heat to freezing cold. At least freezing cold for us in Arizona.

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Freezing before the start

And so, I, along with the 150 or so other 25km racers at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy by Aravaipa Running, huddled around the portable heaters and fire pits while waiting for the race to begin. After the start, which is filled with rolling hills and a little bit of climbing, my lungs began to burn immediately. Lack of proper oxygen lead to my abs cramping, forcing me to slow down from the start. It took almost 6 miles before I got my legs under me.

Around mile 6, I started to feel better and began to cruise. Trying to enjoy the beauty around me without taking a header on a wayward rock. Twisting and turning, climbing and descending, I continued on the first loop of the course, the 10 mile loop. But, my asthma would continue to rear its ugly head from time to time and I found that speeding up was a challenge, and stopping would be worse. So I plugged along, hydrating as much as possible because dehydration is an even bigger trigger for asthma.

 

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Waiting for the start of the race

As I neared the start/finish line, knowing that I still had a tough 5 mile loop to go, I started to wish I’d signed up for the 10 mile race. But there was no way I was quitting. So after a quick refill of my handhelds with water, I headed back out for the final 5 miles.

I knew that my A goal time was out of the picture at this point, but my B goal was still very doable. But, it meant pushing harder than my body wanted to at that point. And, as my ultrarunner friends definitely know, as long as you aren’t ignoring signs of injury or other issues, sometimes you just need to tell your body to be quiet, and get it done. That’s what the final loop was for me today, sucking it up, pushing through, and realizing that I can do a lot more than I think I can.

After a few final cruel climbs, the end was in sight and I was ready to call it a day and go eat my post-race quesadilla. With a final push and a loud yell, I crossed the finish line of arguably, one of my toughest mental races yet – Exhausted and happy, finishing under my B goal time. 25km done, 2 hours and 56 minutes.

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Absolutely exhausted, but still smiling

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on yet another amazing race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband and son- thank you for always supporting me in everything I do and my parents, for listening to me talk for hours on end about this crazy sport that I love so much.

 

*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.”

 

Pass Mountain 25km Race Recap

After weeks of colds, the flu and other craziness, I was anxious to race the Pass Mountain 25km race on Saturday. This is the second race in the Desert Trail Runner series with Aravaipa Running, but my first this year due to illness. And after tweaking my neck earlier in the week, trying muscle relaxers for the first time, spending the night throwing up said muscle relaxers, and only one day of proper fueling, I knew that it might be a rough day.

And a challenge it was. But after months of racing in the dark to escape the summer heat, this was my first daytime race in a while, and the weather was perfect for a gorgeous race with highs in the low 80s.

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Watching the sunrise at the start of the Pass Mountain 25k

With this race, the real work doesn’t begin until about 9 miles in when you begin your climb. This meant that keeping a reserve over the first half of the race would be key. And so, thanks to some advice from a friend who has run Pass Mountain several times, I kept my speed in check during the first 6 miles or so, feeling great at this point.

But after the first hour mark, my energy really started to lag as I was reminded about my poor fueling during the days before the race. So I accelerated my mid-race fueling and increased the pace of my Honey Stinger gels, hoping that my stomach wouldn’t rebel on me. Fortunately, it didn’t, and though it took about 10 miles and 3 gels, I finally got my legs under me- right as I was making the huge climb. Rocky and technical, this mountain was nowhere near runnable for me at this point. So I spent several miles hiking as fast as possible and conserving my fluid for later in the race. There may have been some muttering at this point as well.

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Gorgeous views at Usery Park

This was the first long daytime race where I decided to run without a hydration pack and only use handhelds. But no aid during the final 8 miles of the course would make this a challenge. Still, I discovered that I really need a lot less water than I ever thought. And, for the first time in a long race, I had absolutely no stomach issues. Avoiding sugar, fruit, alcohol, caffeine and dairy in the days prior to the race seemed to be working.

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Once I hit the top of the mountain, I had hoped to begin cruising on the descent to make up some lost time. But rocky single track with sharp drops that would be really, really bad if I caught a toe, slowed me down. It wasn’t until the final 2 miles that I was able to open things up again and cruised into the finish line with a final time of 3:11 and 15.55 miles run. Not what I had hoped to do, but given the week leading up to this, I was thrilled to be done and have a solid start to my racing series with Aravaipa Running.

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Finish of the Pass Mountain 25k trail race. Photo Credit- Aravaipa Running

Key learnings from this week: My race begins 3,4, even 5 days before the actual start. How I fuel in the days prior and how I hydrate makes all of the difference. I don’t tolerate fruit before long runs. But everyone is different. The key is to figure out what works best for your body.

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Post-Race with soda and quesadilla in hand.

 

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on an amazing race, as usual; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband and son- thank you for always supporting me in everything I do and for my hubby, spending his Saturday cleaning the house for his own birthday party. Happy Birthday my love!

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Always the best races from start to finish

*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.”

 

 

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.

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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.

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!

 

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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!

*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.”

 

 

 

 

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