Cilantro’s Black Hills 50M Race Report

My customary pre-race selfie!

To be clear, the Black Hills 50-mile ultramarathon is only 50 miles.

And yet, I ran 55.

But I think I am getting ahead of myself here, so I will start at the beginning.

I registered for Black Hills shortly after choosing Burning River as my first 100-mile attempt because it fit into the time that my training plan called for a 50-mile race, and it was within the 500 mile radius that I try to fit my B and C races in to save money, gas, and painful 20+ hour drives (like last year’s Trail Rail 50M and HURL Elkhorn 50M). I didn’t learn my lesson last year to read about the course before registering, and erroneously assumed that the course would be like my memories of driving in Eastern South Dakota (flat and flatter) instead of my memories of Mount Rushmore (mini-mountains). Black Hills is held in Sturgis (it begins in Silver City) which is on the western and therefore more mountainous side of the state. I am not sure I will ever learn this lesson, as I still have no idea what the course at Burning River is like. Read more

Badwater and Cystic Fibrosis: Why I’m Breaking my Rule and Running for Charity

It's about more than "Running Badwater."

It’s about more than “Running Badwater.”

I’m running Badwater for charity, and it’s not an entirely easy decision.  I’ve long struggled with fundraising and running for charities, and here’s why:

A number of years ago, DB and I asked my mother to stop getting us “things” for birthdays and Christmas.  In truth, being that we are in that reversed financial position where we are better off than our respective parents, we didn’t want gifts at all, but we also didn’t want to hurt feelings or pride.  The point being, my mother’s very thoughtful solution was to begin donating to charities on our behalf – but they weren’t necessarily charities that were meaningful to us, or that we would typically support.

Because charities, causes and fundraising are very individual matters, and our own lives bring each of us to those that we are individually and inextricably linked to.  DB and I have a very personal connection with the Mid-Ohio Marine Foundation as well as Lima Company, an incredible group of local Marines who suffered tremendous and heartbreaking loss in Iraq ten years ago.  We are animal rights supporters and in particular support no-kill shelters and animal rescue/adoption services.  We have also found our lives touched time and time again by Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system.

Which is not to say that we haven’t donated to a variety of other causes.  That we don’t support a number of charities benefiting cancer research and cures, or high school boosters, or community programs.  It’s simply to say that these are the causes most important to us – individually.

And therein lies the rub. Read more

Clove’s Badwater Training Log – 6.26.2015

This is how I'm currently going to two-hour spinning classes, as well as doing some runs.  Five weeks out when this photo was taken last Monday!

This is how I’m currently going to two-hour spinning classes, as well as doing some runs. Five weeks out when this photo was taken last Monday!

It is strange, a bit, to post training logs in arrears.  Since I am feeling the present (rainy, again) day, I will start by speaking of today.  I am exhausted.  Just completely worn out.  Still not overtraining, which is almost disappointing, because then I’d get to back off before the taper.  But I’ve come this far, and with only 12 working days before the taper starts, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My morning resting heart rate remains in the low 40’s; consistently between 41 – 43, with lows of 39 and 40 the past week.  While I have specific aches and tweaks on certain days, I don’t have lingering, chronic or all-over soreness.  I do have a lingering, chronic sense of boredom sometimes, but we’ll get through that.  That’s today, after big workouts this weekend not covered in this specific log.

Here’s last week: Read more

My Running Philosophy

Sometimes going your own way can lead you to the place you most want to be!

Sometimes going your own way can lead you to the place you most want to be!

When I first began running (again), I just ran. I wanted to get faster, and I thought to do that I had to run more. And sometimes that is true: if you’re a novice runner, often adding mileage will help you run faster. But eventually the newbie gains fall away and you have to try something different. But I didn’t know this. I just knew that, for most runners I knew, running faster meant running more.

Runners, especially new runners, feel a lot of pressure to follow strictly a training plan given by experts in the field. If you can follow the plan and it works for you, that’s great! But a plan that you can’t, don’t, or won’t follow, is actually a terrible plan, no matter how great it may seem, or how much it benefits others. The best training plan is one you will actually stick to, even if most people tell you it’s not optimal. By breaking all the “known” rules for running, I created a training plan that worked for me and this can work for you too. Read more

The Effects of Various Types of Birth Control on Runners

My friend, Sarah Crouch, the author and self-taught expert on birth control and competitive running via Runners Connect.

My friend, Sarah Crouch, the author and self-taught expert on birth control and competitive running via Runners Connect.

This post was written by my friend and professional runner, Sarah Crouch for Runners Connect.

It is sometimes hard to believe that there was ever a time before the Internet. Today, one can date, shop, attend school, chat, and share meaningful life events, all without leaving the comfort of home.

In many ways, this age of technological dependency is wonderful. It seems that you can find an answer on the Internet to almost any question. Over the past 10 years, as a runner, the Internet has been an invaluable resource, letting me know when to ice a sore muscle and when to heat it, filling me in on what vitamins the Olympians are taking so I can up my arsenal, and showing me where the best trails are when I am visiting a new city.

Naturally, when I decided it was time for me to start considering a form of birth control before my impending wedding, I turned to my beloved Internet and searched, “effects of various types of birth control on runners”.

Nothing. Read more

Readers Roundtable: National Anthem at Races

Does your reaction to a prerace national anthem depend on who sings it? Image via

Does your reaction to a prerace national anthem depend on who sings it? Image via

Two days ago I was standing in Central Park with Honey, packed in like sardines with 5,000 of our closest friends waiting for a NYRR race to start. In the midst of the jumping to stay loose, the stretching, the watch setting, barely anyone noticed as the national anthem was introduced. Back in the middle of the pack as we were we could hardly hear the announcer over one another’s chatter. But then those familiar marching notes strike and the angelic vocal chords of….someone…resounded: “O-o say! Can you see…”

And nothing else much changed.  The jumpers kept jumping, the chatters kept chatting, nobody took off a hat or stopped poking at a phone and someone’s watch was beeping as he clicked through settings.  I couldn’t help it. I started to giggle when I noticed the contrast between the pageantry of the race and the casual attitude of the runners.  Honey and I looked at each other and wondered out loud about the whole scene.

So this week we want to know what you do while the national anthem plays on the starting line. Do you always stop with your prerace nervous routine to place your hand over your heart and sing along or do you continue on with getting yourself race ready?  What do others around you do? Do you think the national anthem should always be sung or played before a race, or do you not care one way or the other?

As always we’ll take your answers in the comments!

The Junk Miles of Life


Contrast: a necessary part of training ,.. and life.

I’ve learned a lot over the years in my running career about understanding the point to each workout. Knowing that it’s not all about the end goal, but the journey of a thousand workouts that leads you to that goal. Slow runs are ones where you keep your heart rate down so low that you might even walk. Hard runs might be so killer that you want to keel over, gasping for breath. I learned how each one in the schedule made me better; how I need both of them in order to move forward.

When I trained with a coach, one of the things that we used to talk about were junk miles. The miles that you run, that are too fast to be easy, but too easy to be fast. The ones that don’t help you recover. Or get better. The ones that really just break you down. The ones with no purpose. The ones in the grey area. Junk miles are to be avoided. (Salty explained junk miles in this post a while back.)

Maybe it’s a stretch but I am beginning see my life in those terms. Read more

Lake Wobegon Marathon Recap

After hanging out in the hospital for way too long, I was really excited to race a marathon!

This was the race I had exactly zero intention to run. Which I think is the opposite way one normally approaches a marathon, considering that it is slightly longer than a 5k, which is the last race I ran on a whim. However, because of my training to run across America prior to getting sick (or while getting sick), I had the fitness to run the marathon, so it was not completely out of the realm of reality.

Prior to my hospitalization for extreme bloodlessness (yes, that’s the medical term), I had planned to run the Brookings and Fargo Marathons as a part of my training.  Both races had graciously comped my entry into the races, and I was looking forward to what were advertised as very flat courses.  The week of Brookings, however, was the first week that I spent at the Mayo Clinic, and it was clear by the end of that week that the run across America was not going to be feasible for me.  Plus, the procedures done at Mayo had left me pretty week and feeling rotten, so I knew a marathon at Brookings was out of the question.  But even if I was feeling amazing, I didn’t think it was ethical for me to run a marathon on an entry that had been comped to me based on an event that was no longer taking place.  I emailed the race director and withdrew from both races. This was a big bummer for me as I was really looking forward to some marathon-related running fun.

But all hope was not lost. Read more

Less Running, More Biking and Swimming: Will I Still Be 100-mile Ready?

As I alluded to when I posted about having to defer my Run Across America dreams, I have been cleared to run and train for my upcoming 100-mile race at Burning River (also my very first 100M race, although not my first ultramarathon, I have done two 50-milers and one 50k). However, even though the doctors say I can run as long as I feel up to it, based on having hemoglobin levels that are finally on the low end of normal I feel like running six days a week is really hard on my still recovering body.  I feel best, fitness and recovery-wise, when I am running 3 days a week. Not much more and definitely not much less, as running is still my best stress-buster–a much needed outlet in the final year of my PhD program.

Keeping my running limitations in mind, I wondered if it would still be possible to train for the 100-mile race I am registered for in three running days a week, so I reached out to a local coach to see what he suggested. Much to my surprise, he not only thought it was possible to train effectively to finish a 100M – he even thought it was a good idea! He suggested that I approach my training in a new way which would mean, in essence, that I would take up triathlons. Read more

A Low Iron Case Study: How I Discovered and Recovered from Anemia

Redblood cells can't do their job without iron. Image via wikipedia.

Redblood cells can’t do their job without iron. Image via wikipedia.

Iron is one of the most critical nutrients for runners. It makes red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your muscles; it’s like the gas to our aerobic engines. But some of us, particularly women runners, don’t get enough iron to keep up with our athletic body’s demands. Iron deficiency occurs when the body has low iron, and anemia occurs when the body has a low red blood cell count. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when a low red blood cell count is caused by low iron. Iron deficiency anemia is also the casually mentioned “brief medical mishap” in my intro post. Read more

Running Retreats: Summer Camp for Adults

Ginger and Cardamom might like the FIRST Camp which preaches the "Run Less/Run Faster" method of training. Image via the Furman Institute

Ginger and Cardamom might like the FIRST Camp which preaches the “Run Less/Run Faster” method of training. (Click on this photo for more info!) Image via the Furman Institute

I envied my sons all their various summer camps during their growing up years: Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama (which now has adult and family camps), kayaking and hiking camp on Catalina Island, cross-country camp at Lake Tahoe with quad-burning runs up the trails of Squaw Valley, and one summer, as I tried to fill my younger son’s while we worked, cooking camp, rocket camp, boogie board at the beach camp, cartoon-drawing camp, and water park camp.

After my boys were grown, for a milestone birthday and a more formal introduction to creative writing, I attended a writers’ retreat on Whidbey Island, six women, each with her own tiny cabin, an established author-in-residence, delicious meals, and gatherings at the farmhouse in the mornings and evenings to discuss the day’s assignments. The camaraderie, beauty, and learning combined for a lasting memory.

I think we adult women runners could use a little of that summer camp experience, don’t you?  Read more

Marion Rotary Marathon Race Report

This is what it is all about. Traveling, experiencing, and a little racing. Doesn't it look like we are in Vegas? It's actually the World's Largest Truck Stop.

This is what it is all about. Traveling, experiencing, and a little racing. Doesn’t it look like we are in Vegas? It’s actually the World’s Largest Truck Stop, off I-80 in Iowa.

I traveled to Iowa once. I remember it being relatively flat, beautiful actually. That year we had traveled to a small town called Bloomfield for the wedding of our two good friends, Rick and Emily. A few years later, Rick and Emily moved 2 hours north, near Cedar Rapids. It only seemed fitting that we visit again. I decided to tie in a trip with a spring marathon. I researched the state and stumbled upon this little gem, The Marion Rotary Marathon For Shoes.

Read more

Readers Roundtable: The Impact of Trans Runners on Women’s Running


Transwomen are women runners.  Now that awareness is rising will there be changes in women’s running?

Do we non-transgendered people have a right to care about Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner? While I am happy that because of Caitlyn more transgender people feel empowered and perhaps less afraid to be themselves, I do wonder what transgender-acceptance means for the world of competitive sports.

I distinctly remember what happened to Caster Semenya who won some gold medals in the women’s 800 meters at the World Athletics Championships in 2009 but was forced to undergo genetic testing to determine whether or not she was a man because of her masculine appearance. She was eventually cleared to run as a woman.  I know this is different from being transgender, but the outrage was horrendous.  Can we expect the same treatment to transgender individuals?

Personally I don’t feel the need to know the gender of the people I race with.  I focus on my race and my pace. But do most people think that way? I don’t want any of us to have to have to prove we are who we say we are.

So is it fair for transgender women to race against ciswomen? Do those who once had the advantage over women by being born male have a competitive advantage after making their transition? Or will there be an ‘other’ category like there is when we are asked to identify our race? Will we all have to prove our gender if we are fortunate to win prize money or place in the top of any race, or will our appearance be enough? Or will gender tests be given to the elite runners alongside drug tests? What exactly what would those tests prove? How would they be administered? Would athletes take them (consider the uproar caused by Dr. Renee Richards when she refused to take a chromosome test at the U.S. Open)?   At what point during her transition would a transgendered woman be on an equal playing field with her ciswomen counterparts?

What do you think? Should transwomen like Caitlyn Jenner be allowed to compete as women in sports unconditionally, with conditions, or not at all?  As always, we’ll take your answers (to any of the questions raised in this post) in the comments.

5 Tips for Dog Walkers from Runners

fri5Runners and dogs. Dogs and runners… Every runner has an unpleasant dog experience or two…or her history.

I am an animal lover. I really do like them, but I admit I get scared of dogs when I run. I’ve been charged at, chased and jumped on. I’ve witnessed dogs biting other runners. Sure, the vast majority of dog owners are awesome considerate people, but not every dog owner sees what we see.

Our goal today is to shed a little light on what runners would like from dog owners so that we can peacefully coexist with their sweet, furry companions. Read more

Introducing Cardamom!

Elle at Wineglass Half in 2013

Getting back into running was one of the best things I ever did!

Hi Salty Readers! I’m Elle, but you can call me Cardamom! I’m a runner/blogger/academic living out my New York cliché dreams by marrying a banker and living in Brooklyn. Somehow I survived dating in New York City; believe it or not, I found my husband online. Unfortunately it was not through Amazon because that would have been too easy.

Although I’ve been running on and off for several years (a story for another day), for this recent revival of my running career I’ve been running for the last three years. I may live in the Big Apple now, but don’t be fooled. This girl is a die-hard Californian who thinks Mexican should be its own food group. Read more