The big day is finally here! Today, I start my attempt for the Women’s Supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) of the Collegiate Trail Loop. While this is a goal in and of itself, it’s also the first step in my efforts to prepare for my run across the United States in 2021. Read more >>
In the past few weeks, since announcing and launching the Run Across the USA for Girls on the Run, one thing I’ve come to realize is that imposter syndrome is real. It goes far beyond what I’d originally thought were the limits of imposter syndrome (e.g., my professional life). I realize that by asking you to believe in me, I’m also requiring me to believe in me.
It is a huge challenge to ask for money to support this endeavor; I don’t want to ask at all, and I wish I didn’t have to. But looming even larger is the fear that people think I can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, and shouldn’t ask for money to do it. I’m still not sure I am comfortable with it, but I do know that I believe this run (and series of runs) is important, and it’s important to me that I use it as an opportunity to raise money for Girls on the Run and hopefully to spread the good word about the benefits of running, endurance athletics, and getting active for all.
Girls on the Run provides every girl interested with a new pair of running shoes and the necessary materials and support to make running possible for girls across America and Canada. They offer their service in many places where the opportunity for girls to run, spend time with peers, and have a safe place to go after school is much needed. As a former (and future) coach, I’ve experienced firsthand that the benefits of coaching for Girls on the Run brings even more rewards; it was the single best coaching experience in all my years of running.
That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help to bring the Girls on the Run experience to as many girls as possible. And hopefully, by doing something that seems impossible, I can inspire some of them to dream big.
- Over the next two years I will be applying for grants and sponsorships. I’ll update here as those progress.
- My focus leading up to the start of each FKT attempt will be on building awareness about the attempt and raising the support I need to make it happen.
- During the actual Run Across the USA attempt my focus will be on raising money for Girls on the Run.
My goal throughout the fundraising process is complete transparency, so please reach out to me if you have questions or concerns.
Things are progressing as planned for my FKT attempt of the Collegiate Trail at the end of July. I had a great trial race at Merrill’s Mile (read the report here), and I am getting in some great runs and hikes as I travel throughout July.
Logistically, my biggest worry for the Collegiate Trail is transportation to and from the trail from the Denver airport and support along the trail itself. If you are in the Denver, Twin Lakes, or Buena Vista area and would like to volunteer to join me for a day (or a week, the entire FKT!), I’d love some support and company.
Otherwise, I need to ensure that I can verify the FKT with a GPS device and get an updated trail map. If you are interested in joining me for a segment of the trail (or meeting me at either end) or have suggestions for affordable ways to get to and from the Denver airport to Twin Lakes, please email me at cilantroruns at gmail (or leave a comment below, and I will reach out to you).
In the meantime I’m spending my time watching Rocky Mountain survival videos and reading books on wilderness survival and navigation, spurring a colleague to recommend that a book about this FKT attempt should be titled “101 Ways to Die on the Collegiate Trail.” I don’t hate it.
What questions can I answer? Are you in Colorado and want to join me? Let me know!
As a part of training for my Run Across America FKT attempt summer 2021, I’m planning several mini-challenges for training and to attract some attention prior to my main attempt. For the first mini-challenge, starting on July 29, 2019, I’ll attempt to set a competitive women’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) of the Collegiate Trail Loop and raise money for Girls on the Run. This loop consists of the East and West branches of the Collegiate Trail. The East trail is the original Continental Divide Trail through Colorado, which has been re-routed to include more peaks and less roads, and joins with what is now called the Collegiate West Trail. Each is around 80 miles, making the total distance a little over 160 miles. I’ll be attempting to complete the loop in five days, but have built in 10 days in case I need extra time, and to allow for bad weather, altitude adjustment, and—hopefully—some fun.
My flight is booked, so next I’m focusing on the details to make sure I’m ready to go. My first priority is ensuring I can complete the trek safely and with the right gear: Read more >>
If you have been reading Salty Running since the early days, you might remember posts about my goal of a Trans-America crossing and record attempt. Unfortunately, in 2015 I had to pull out of my dream. At the time I was entering the final year of my doctoral program, and health problems first landed me in the hospital, then at the Mayo Clinic. It was devastating, to say the least, but I salvaged what I could of the process and the training by donating the funds I’d raised to RAINN and running my first 100-mile race.
Even as my identity as a runner changed, I never gave up on that dream. So I’m happy to share that in the summer of 2021, I will attempt the Women’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) for a Trans-America crossing.
This time around, I will be running to promote the value of outdoor and endurance sports while raising money for Girls on the Run, an organization that helps bring running, empowerment, and advocacy to girls across the United States. It’s the right cause for this run, the reason I’m running, and an avenue to connect with women across the country.
Even though my first bid didn’t play out the way I’d hoped I still learned a great deal from it. As a result, I’m approaching this attempt much differently.
Early in 2016, I moved to Hungary to escape another North Dakota winter, finish my dissertation, and, honestly, because after just a short trip a little over a month before, Budapest felt like home. I was in the final and hardest stage of my Ph.D., the dissertation. I had a faculty job that I’d begin in May. Literally the only thing I had to do over the next five months was finish and defend my dissertation.
In theory, it sounded easy. In practice, it felt impossible.
As I lived in a completely new and foreign place and was completing my dissertation, a process that I had never done before and should never do again, the only consistent thing I had in life was running. And so, every morning before I headed to Mamut (a Hungarian mall) Starbucks, I ran.
I ran without a training plan and simply according to how I felt that day. Some days I ran long, some days I ran and walked as I toured the city, and somedays I ran around a tiny little track a block from my flat. As I ran, I listed to Travis Macy and John Hanc’s The Ultra Mindset. It was, at that time, exactly what I needed to read. It helped me to stay motivated to finish my dissertation, to continue to run even when life got complicated, and is literally at my bedside (and Kindle and Audible) whenever I need a mental boost.
The author, Travis Macy, pulled from his extensive career and education to write The Ultra Mindset. To call Travis Macy an “accomplished” endurance athlete might be the understatement of the year. He set a record for Leadman, an epic endurance event consisting of a trail running marathon, 50-mile mountain bike race, Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, 10k road run, and Leadville 100 Run, all above 10,200′ in the Rocky Mountains. He has completed over 120 ultra endurance events.
Along with his endurance racing skills, Macy also is a coach, speaker, and owns an education consulting firm with his wife. With a master’s degree in education, his background is similar to mine. He incorporates his knowledge as a former high school teacher, experience as an education consultant, and knowledge of motivation research into the Ultra Mindset to create a cohesive text that provides guidance and motivation to complete any major endeavor, not just endurance ones.
The Ultra Mindset is organized into eight mindsets ranging from “It’s All Good Mental Training” to “Be a Wannabe” (which I discussed in this training with a growth mindset) to “Think about your thinking: what and why.” The Ultra Mindset is organized into chapters that discuss each mindset, beginning with the research that supports each mindset, examples of how it can be applied in practice both for endurance sports and life, and personal examples of its application. Each chapter provides useful strategies and exercises to put the mindsets into practice — and the print book has space in the text to complete the exercises, which is part of the reason that I own the book in each of its forms.
While each chapter seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear as I wrote my dissertation, the one that has become my mantra is Mindset 1: It’s All Good Mental Training. Travis writes:
“Viewing your challenges as positive, essential elements of building a winning mindset makes all the difference in the world. When the going gets tough, tell yourself, ‘This is good mental training.’ Which it is.”
As I ran each morning, it helped me to reframe my dissertation from impossible to “good mental training.” Indeed, a dissertation is good mental training for my future life as a researcher. But if I step back, my 100-mile finish at Burning River in 2015 was good mental training for finishing my dissertation. And finishing my dissertation was good mental training for my stage race earlier this year. As with many cognitive strategies to improve learning and retention, training for persistence pays off in every area of our life. To this day, whenever things get hard, I tell myself it’s good mental training for my next race, my next research project, for whenever life gets hard.
In subsequent chapters, the authors discuss how and when to focus, when extrinsic motivation might be helpful, how to make the space to accomplish your goals, and permission to quit when a dream is no longer your dream. From start to finish, each time I read it, it helps me to stay motivated and persist, regardless of what race I’m training for or what is happening in my life. It’s the one book I recommend first when people ask me what my favorite book about running is (and I’ve read a lot). For whatever runner you are or want to be, I recommend this book.
And, for one lucky person, you can win this book and a Team Macy Endurance Coaching cap. Check out our Holiday Book Guide for details.
It’s good mental training helped me through my races this year and to finish out my first semester as a new professor. What in your life has been “good mental training” for your next running or life challenge?
The entire week preceding the 5k road race I was nervous. More nervous, by far, than I had been for my first stage race that was 12 times longer and on pretty technical trails.
This 5k wasn’t my goal race. It actually wasn’t even really a race, but just a time trial added by my coach the previous weekend when we realized that I needed a new gauge for pace in the the heat and humidity that characterize my new life since moving south. I was nervous to find out exactly how much fitness I’d lost since my last race. I was nervous because I knew that this race was going to hurt. And hurt bad.
I’d run two 5ks in my life: my first as a new runner where I struggled to finish with 10:00 miles, and my second three summers ago that I’d won. In both cases, they hurt real bad for the entire time and I wanted to vomit by mile 2. Did I mention that they hurt real bad? What I knew about 5ks was limited to pain and extreme discomfort. I anticipate that both of those things will happen in an ultra distance race, but rarely for the entire race. As a result, my anticipatory stress about this time trial 5k far exceeded reason.
Race morning, I did my warm-up, strides and drills, and headed to the start line. As expected, the weather was hot and humid, with humidity at 100% and the temperature in the 80s. This was a small race, but even so, I felt the butterflies, anticipating the pain that was coming (and also, I now wanted to win, despite lacking any indication that I was in shape to win anything). The gun went off, and we started fast. The first mile felt great (despite a poorly-marked course where I made a few wrong turns and had to stop and turn around). And then the pain started. Once the pain started, my motivation to win started to diminish. It just hurt so bad. But I wanted to win and I wanted to prove that I hadn’t lost all fitness over the past year. I wanted that more than it hurt, so I persisted.
Around mile 2, the pain started to exceed my motivation to win and run fast, and by mile 2.5, I felt myself start to slow down. I finished, and I was first woman, fifth overall. I achieved my goals, and it hurt just as bad as I’d anticipated.
It wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized that there is a benefit to racing 5ks beyond the race itself. One of the things I’ve been vocal about here and in real life is how important it was for me to learn how to hurt to race well at the ultramarathon distance. I’m still fairly new to actually racing ultramarathons, despite having run them since 2012, and it wasn’t until I started actively focused on training my abilities to persist through painful situations without backing down that I broke through my running barrier and started meeting and exceeding my racing goals.
While controversial, the first step for me was adding functional training in the form of Crossfit-style functional training, where workouts were short but wicked painful. That taught me to endure through the pain and also had a measurable impact not on my fastest pace, but my ability to maintain that pace while it hurt. Similarly, the 5k taught me to push through pain. More beneficial, perhaps, the 5k taught me how to persist through pain at a tough effort in a way that was running-specific.
As I reflected more on the process, I realized that there were additional benefits to adding 5ks to an ultra marathon training plan. While I (really, my coach) follow an 80/20 approach to training, the bulk of my runs are long and easy paced. Adding a 5k puts in speed training that is relevant to the 20% part of my training plan. Since 5k races are run at max effort because I’m competitive like that, I’m actually running in Zone 4-5, which is where I want to be for the 20% hard effort part of my training. It’s been found that runners often run their easy runs too fast and take hard runs too easy, so the 5k eliminates that possibility for me. Additionally, with a warm-up and cool-down, it’s still at least a 6-mile day, so it doesn’t feel like a lost training day (if you are worried about that sort of thing).
Finally, it’s good practice to get into the habit of preparing for race morning without the labor of four or more hours on my feet that follow if I do this on long run day. Racing Saturday morning (I do my longest long runs on Sunday) allowed me to test race-morning nutrition and my warm-up protocol. The race is short enough that despite the high intensity, I recovered well enough to do my easy-paced long run the following day. We know that we should never try anything new on race day, but we can try something new for a 5k that we are running to practice. It becomes a trial effort for more than just pace.
While I’m not about to race a 5k every weekend (although I might do the local 5k series here in the spring), I can see clear benefits in adding 5ks to the schedule. They help me learn how to push through running pain and become my speed tempo session for the week. They are also usually pretty cheap to enter and easy to find — there were five in a 50-mile radius of me this weekend.
It’s also a great way to connect with the local community and see a wide array of running abilities. The atmosphere at these local 5ks is pretty low pressure, which is good if you are like me and put all that pressure on yourself.
So sure, ultra runners might scoff at the 5k in terms of distance. But I think the benefits of racing 5ks are worth a second look, even for ultramarathoners.
Disclaimer: I am not advocating that you should take up Crossfit. In fact, I don’t do it much any more, although I do incorporate Crossfit-similar workouts into my twice-weekly strength sessions. It did not, however, ruin me as a runner or lead to injuries. It just, quite simply, isn’t what I need to be doing to be competitive, although it was great to maintain fitness during my off year.
Trail running season is in full swing and the West Coast is finally beginning to dry out after the wettest winter in over a decade. After years of drought and wildfires, this winter’s flooding caused excessive damage from mudslides and erosion. There were daily reports of road closures along major highways and even emergency evacuations because of the risk of dams breaking.
This was the wettest winter I’ve ever experienced as a runner (cue the laughter from the other Saltines) and I sloshed my way through some very wet and muddy runs. Trails turned into creeks of running water, already rutted trails turned into giant mud pits, and “runs” turned into a fun combination of slip and slide and full body mud baths.
As a trail user, I like to *think* that I follow proper trail etiquette rules. But, after an incident in which I was called out on Strava for breaking park rules after a rainstorm, I realized that, perhaps, living in seasonless, dry, Northern California, I’ve grown used to running wherever and whenever I feel like it, unaware of official or unofficial rules of trail stewardship. Now that the weather has turned glorious and the trails beckon, I thought it would be a good time to brush up on my own knowledge of trail etiquette.
Sometimes when you’ve run a certain distance a few times, you begin to get sloppy. You start to treat it like it’s no big deal, and you take your training and health for granted. Last weekend, I was humbled. I ran my worst race ever at the Mendocino 50K.
I realize now that I’d grown a little too confident after I successfully raced a 50 miler last fall. It didn’t help that this past New Year’s Eve, I ran up one of the biggest hills in town and felt on top of the world. On New Year’s Day I signed up for a 100K later this summer with 14,000 feet of elevation gain at altitude. I popped iron pills, cut back on alcohol, ran a practice 50K and kept a consistent core routine all to prepare for this race, the Mendocino 50K, which was going to be epic. Read more >>
I didn’t start running expecting to have any sort of epiphany about my place in this universe, or even to learn lessons about resilience, confidence or ego. I started running to be a little more healthy, and because I thought running a marathon sounded cool. True, my life needed a little shaking up, but I didn’t realize it at the time. What I realize now, seven years after my first marathon, is that running a marathon is fun, but that’s only just the beginning. It’s cheesy, yes, but ‘tis the season: running has changed my life.
As other Saltines have written, running has given me community, strength, and perspective, but as I reflect on a weekend of fabulous trail running, a Saturday morning half marathon in the sideways rain with a great friend and a Sunday morning “church” run on my favorite trails with my favorite people, I’ve realized that the greatest gift running has given me is a sense of wonder, appreciation and adventure in the outdoors.
I still can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened. I don’t remember a specific day or run where it hit me. There was no voice in my head, no doctor or coach or friend telling me what was happening. It just happened. I was burnt out, overtrained and sick of running.
It all happened gradually, a slippery slope. I had come off an amazing 2014, when I had several podium finishes at ultras and even a win at my first 100K. It was Christmastime and life seemed pretty good. I was starting to bump up the mileage again in anticipation for the Sean O’Brien 50 mile in early February. It was going to be my first time in California and first time out west. I was pretty excited to crush it. Then at our annual waterfalls run, a local trail run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park along which runners take photos with waterfalls and enjoy the day after Christmas running with friends, I was finishing up the run and started feeling a sharp pain in my right hip. By New Year’s Eve, I could barely walk, sit, stand, put on pants or do anything without pain. It should have been a sign; I needed a break. Worse still, I was on the brink of overtraining.
At the ripe old age of 37, I seem about as capable of resisting peer pressure as I was as a 20-year-old. Luckily, now I choose my friends more wisely so the things that I agree to do are at least legal, although often totally outside my comfort zone. When my friend began talking about her need for a 100-mile belt buckle on run after run, without hesitation I told her I’d help pace her.
That 100-miler has come and gone, now. My bad ass friend did it. I did my part. And I learned a lot … a lot of reasons that I will never, most definitely ever effing run a 100-miler. Read more >>
Since joining the Salty team last spring, I have been training for my first 50-mile race, the Dick Collins Firetrails 50, using Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra training plan. I had just completed Boston-to-Big Sur, and knew I had the foundation for a strong training cycle. During summer vacation, I armed myself with a new book, Trail Runner’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area and adopted an adventurer’s mindset. That, combined with mild weather and strength-building trips to the mountains, provided ideal training conditions.
However, as with all training cycles, it wasn’t perfect. I struggled with my hill workouts, I neglected my core, and vacations prevented me from hitting all of my miles. But, I knew I prepared as best as I could, and upon reaching my final taper, my left knee and hip screamed at me that I was done, and it was time to get the show on the road. Read more >>
Last year Steve Taylor, founder of the Collegiate Running Association and head coach of the Richmond Spiders track and cross-country team, invited me to race a 10k that his organization was helping to put on. Sounds simple enough, right? Six point two miles ain’t no thang.
Then he told me the important part: the 10k is a mountain 10k, which means you have to run that six point two miles straight up a mountain. I think I nodded and smiled politely but the dialogue in my head went something like:
HAHA, it’ll be a cold day in hell before these legs run up a mountain!!
Six months later and there I was with my goal to race 10k straight up a mountain … and I was excited about it! What convinced me was that the race was the USATF Mountain Running Championship, and the top four women in the race would make team USA and compete at the world mountain running championships in Bulgaria in September, 2016. Read more >>
If you’ve been following my training logs, you know that I have been training for the Mt. Hood 50k since I recovered from the Chuckanut 50k in the early spring. I used Krissy Moehl’s book, Running Your First Ultra, to train for Chuckanut, even though it wasn’t my first ultra. And after Chuckanut, I contacted Krissy and she coached me individually for this race. Thanks Krissy!
My goals going into this race:
A Goal: Win or PR (Sub-4:44:00)
B Goal: Top Ten or Sub-5:00:00
C Goal: Finish
Overall Goal: Be mentally tough Read more >>
When I went to Florida a month ago, I packed running clothes and a dress. She had pneumonia (again), but something didn’t sound right when I talked to her the day before. It was a Wednesday morning.
I said that Thursday night I was going to let her be scared and vulnerable and small, and then on Friday I was going to talk to her doctors first and then have one last “come to Jesus” talk with her about the weight and her health.
I thought I was going to go for an early morning run on Friday and wear a DRESS. I thought I was going to walk into the room with the juice and the root beer she had been asking for for a week, and she was going to look up and say, “Oh Starrie, you look so pretty.”
Forty hours later, I would be on the floor of the ICU in my pajamas, still holding my dead mother’s hand. Read more >>
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