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 >>
T-minus four days until I start my Collegiate Trail Loop FKT attempt, and I’m drowning in logistics and unknowns. Will Collegiate West be impassable because of snow? Will I be able to get my Esbit fuel between when I arrive on Sunday and start early Monday morning? How will I get to the trail from my Airbnb Monday morning? How do I set up my InReach to track the attempt?
And then, I have trail worries too. What if I can’t make coffee? What if my tent leaks? What if a bear eats all of my food? What if I fall? What if I fail?
Ah, yes. The real question. What if I fail?
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 >>
After the fantastically tough marathon at H9 Dragon’s Spine I wasn’t sure how quickly I was going to recover from the epic ascents and descents. There was a 5k the next Saturday I had my eye on, but I didn’t register right away. Sunday’s shakeout run following H9 was a bit of a slog, but I wasn’t prohibitively sore and had full range of motion. By Tuesday I resumed my training plan, and I even got in a great speed session on Thursday with only a little lingering quad soreness and no hamstring pain.
So it seemed there was no excuse not to run the I Run Opelika 5k—except that 5ks are miserable, terrible things. And I’d already registered for the XTERRA Auburn Trail 20k on that Sunday, and I couldn’t take that back.
It still took me until Friday afternoon to enter my credit card information on the registration site. If I had it my way I’d never have to register for any race until the night before. I like to make sure I’m really, really ready to go.
Once I hit the button I immediately started dreading it. 5k’s are hard.
The day dawned, cool and fresh and … early. I had been in Atlanta since Tuesday, so luckily the 4 AM wake-up call wasn’t as shocking to my system as it could have been (3 AM my time), but I still wasn’t delighted to be awake and racing. In my journal entry that morning, I cursed at myself for registering to race on my only vacation in over a year. Seriously, what was I thinking?
But not only had I signed up voluntarily for this, but I had specially asked to be added to the race and my request was accommodated. I had no choice but to show up.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have chosen an easier race, but this wasn’t exactly a mindful choice. On the Tuesday before race day (Saturday), I woke up and knew I needed to get away. To stay at home meant I’d continue to work and I needed to stop working. I packed up a suitcase, grabbed my hydration pack and a few pairs of running shoes, and I hit the road. I arrived that afternoon in Atlanta, immediately checked out Ultrasignup to see what races were in the area and found the H9 Dragon’s Spine with 99, 50, and 26.2 mile options. From the race description it seemed hard, which never really deters an ultrarunner. When I clicked to register button it looked to be sold out, which was just an additional carrot.
Somewhat relieved, I emailed the race director to see if there was a waitlist. He emailed back within the hour, saying someone had just dropped and the space was mine if I wanted it. I wasn’t exactly sure that I did want it, but I emailed back and said I’d take the slot. I watched myself paying the club dues and a race registration fee. Just like that, it seemed I’d signed myself up for a trail marathon. I mean, I’m not crazy – I did have a four-hour training run on the plan for the weekend, and 26.2 training run is about four-hours for me, so my logic was sound. But 26.2 is about a four-hour training run on pavement or a treadmill. This was 26.2 miles in the trails.
The women’s-only half marathon record dropped to 66:11 this weekend at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Spain. Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta defeated race favorite, Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya), by 43 seconds. Jepkosgei holds the mixed-gender women’s WR of 64:51 but was dropped by Gudeta around mile 8.5.
“For sure the coolest race I’ve run yet and a big honor to wear the USA in a world-class field,” Becky posted on Instagram. She’s racing the London Marathon in four weeks.
This week ended with a FUN running weekend but I have to do this chronologically for my sanity so hang on.
Monday: 6 miles, 50 min, 139 AHR. Woof. After pacing a friend for a half on Sunday, this was very not pleasant. Taught Pilates in the evening, advanced class which meant I got to throw in some crazy stuff.
Tuesday: 8.5 miles, 63 min, 157 AHR. Speed work day. Coach looked at my notes/updated my schedule on Wednesday and was like, “Oh, we could’ve moved this to Wednesday” since I ran pretty hard Sunday. Whoops. At least that explains why it was so hard. Cutback mile repeats starting at half-marathon pace. 6:40, 6:25, 6:16. Windy outside, too. Had a stitch in my side and a kink in my butt basically the whole run. Had to fight for it. Also in coach’s notes he said it was a strong last mile so hey, that’s good.
Wednesday: 5 miles, 40 min, 145 AHR, with RR. Surprised I was able to go that fast. Ran pretty early, squeezed in my strength session, taught Pilates, went to a networking lunch, taught Pilates. Um yeah 3 1/3 hours of working out on Wednesday. Ouch. Coach adjusted my schedule on Wednesday because, well, we added a half marathon to race and a half marathon to pace, but didn’t change any of the workouts in between. Two hard Tuesdays, two hard Saturdays, plus lifting twice a week … woof.
Thursday: 7 miles, 54 min, 145 AHR. Went while Morgan was at the groomer. Dreary, gray day and I didn’t really feel like running. Good thing coach adjusted it down. Originally it was 8 miles and 3 miles of 30 seconds hard/60 seconds easy; when I logged on Thursday I realized it was 6-8 miles with 2 miles of 30/60s. I took my feeling of relief as a sign I should stick with the 6 mile option, although I went out a little far and ended up rounding up to 7. Taught Pilates in the evening.
Friday: REST DAY. I did the Jasyoga Comprehensive Hip & Hamstring Reset and that was it.
Saturday: 4 miles, 34 min, 140 AHR. I did this run around the NCAA D1 Cross Country Nationals leading up to the women’s race, so this involved: 1) leading the UVa girls to an easy fence-hopping spot; 2) hopping a fence; 3) stopping by a tailgate and talking to people (yes, we tailgate XC Nats); 4) running most of the course; 5) taking photos; 6) spectating the women’s race and running from place-to-place on the course; 7) running back to my car. I used to help with a youth XC team and there were three girls in the national championships I knew from that! So exciting! I ended up leaving before the men’s race because the weather was looking crazy and we had to be somewhere at noon.
Sunday: 10k trail race; 9.2 miles total, 78 min.
Harrods Creek Trail Bash Recap
This was a new event directed by a friend of mine and I was excited about it. I love running and racing on the trails, although I don’t do it often enough. (Logistics — it’s easier to just walk out my door and run 8 min pace than to drive 15 min each way to a trail and run a min/mi slower.) My goal was to win the women’s division and hopefully not work too too hard to do it, since I’ve run pretty hard the past two weekends and am racing again on Thanksgiving. #poorplanning I was hoping I could run around threshold pace and just call it a nice tempo day.
A bunch of my friends were there including another New Balance Louisville teammate who also ran Chicago. I went out comfortably and my HR was right on target after the first hill. I picked off a few people in that first half mile, and then another youngster (I mean, like 8 years old) on the next hill. I was encouraging him and trying to call out the terrain tricks as we went — it was muddy and slick — and he was doing the same for the adult guys behind him. So sweet. My friend, Lowery, was up ahead and he was calling back to me. I love trail running.
I mean, really. Just zipping along at a “comfortably hard” effort through the woods, with hardly anyone around. Over rocks, arounds trees, across wooden bridges. The challenge of going uphill, and the freedom of coming down.
I might love the 10k now. I’ve never run a 10k I liked. We are not friends, that distance and I. But the woods, the woods make everything better. Friends.
The first loop was over before I knew it. I was checking my heart rate occasionally, but trails don’t leave much opportunity for checking. The miles were marked (in a trail race!) and I was surprised by how soon the first lap was over. I sailed back through the start/finish, my friend Lowery ahead. I stole a couple of backward glances during the beginning of the second loop and saw no other girls, so I kept the heart rate and tempo up and lost myself in the trail. A loop course on trails always comes with two things: knowledge of what’s coming; extra muck. I knew the places that were already treacherous and they were even more so the second time.
That’s what I love about trail running. I love the slip-slip-slide, the gluck-gluck of treads sucking into the Kentucky clay, the sheer necessity to run uphill with good form — up up on your toes, dig in, up, always up. The focus, the concentration — watch for roots, watch for rocks, watch for switchbacks, watch for course markers.
Trail running is running with a special clarity.
So often on the roads we look to distract ourselves. Even more so on the treadmill. Think about anything other than what you’re doing. Podcast. Music. Television. To-do list.
Try that on a trail and I’ll come give you a hand to pick yourself up.
On the trail, you must pay attention. Pay attention to what’s ahead, but also to yourself. You can’t fatigue too early for risk of sloppy form and falling.
Back to the race. The second loop.
Fly through the grass path, up the hill. There are a couple of guys behind me and I’m not interested in being passed. A wave and a joke with the volunteer at the top of the hill; zip down. Up again, this time rooty, rocky. Remind myself — again — this is my advantage. I love technical trails. Gritty, nasty, twist-your-ankle-the-second-you-look-away, gnarly trails. Up and away from the men behind.
Past people on their way back in, all encouraging and happy to step out of the way. I say hi, thanks, good job. A man tells me I’m in third, first lady. I expected there to be more guys ahead. I’m not terribly worried about catching Lowery and I don’t know who is in first. Heart rate is staying where it should and I’m clipping along.
Oh. Just 1.5 to go. Oh. Just 1.2 to go. Oh.
It’s so fun. On the second loop, we come back down the first big hill. I have .60 to go, and I’m in the nice flat grassy part. Technically (literally) less fun but much faster. There are people still headed out for their second loop so I’m well-wishing while I feel like I’m flying.
The second loop has a bonus trail bit, so up one more bit at mile 6, rejoin the first loop, over a creek, and a nice downhill finish.
Open the legs up on the pavement downhill, cruise into the finish.
3rd overall, 1st female, 52:06. That’s 8:24 pace and yes, that’s much slower than I’d run on the roads. My HR average was 166, though, which is 85-ish% of max. I topped out at 175-178 on a couple of the hills. Garmin gives it 540’ of elevation gain. Whatever that means. It was not flat.
In addition to all the fun I had, I won a handmade birdhouse made from an ash tree killed by the invasive borers. We also got a t-shirt, a cool coaster made from reharvested wood, and locally-made beer cheese. Plus a fire pit, coffee, and chili at the finish — trail race style.
Before I end this long recap, I’ll share one more story. A story that propelled me along the trail.
My friends RR and HL were both at the race. While I run with RR somewhat often, HL took a break and is just starting to come back. Our lives are all over the place, and I don’t remember the last time we were all together.
Today we were. And it marked just two weeks shy of my first marathon, Memphis 2007, where RR and HL ran the half marathon alongside me until it was time to turn off. My first marathon, which I ran because I had trained all fall with HL who was hoping to BQ (she did). My first marathon, where I BQ’d and ran with HL the next spring (those were the days, when you could BQ in December and run Boston the following April). Where RR got the bug, so HL and I paced her in her first a few weeks after Boston, getting her BQ.
Now, here we were. 10 years later. Almost to the day. Man. What a day.
Totals: 39.7 miles run (dammit), 4 hours strength/Pilates/Jasyoga.
Throughout the 16-mile race, running up and down a mountain in the heat of the day, I found that I was not mentally as strong as I had trained to be.
Not because of the heat and humidity that characterizes my new life in the Deep South, although that was making everything about running harder than it had been in the west and Midwest. I wasn’t struggling because this was my first race back in almost a year, a year that was mentally and emotionally so tough that running was largely out of the question except for a few miles in the morning to prepare my mind for the day ahead.
Yes, I was out of shape and unused to running in sauna-like conditions, but I was mostly struggling because I knew that even after I finished the race today, I had another race tomorrow. And, in contrast to the “gentle” inclines and descents from Saturday’s race, tomorrow’s race would be 20 delightfully difficult trail miles.
I hadn’t signed up for two difficult races coincidentally held on consecutive days, I’d signed up for one stage race. Intentionally. The race was the Birmingham Stage Race, a three- or two-day event that was the result of a race organizer’s dream to run up and around the major trail systems in the Birmingham, Ala., area. While I was only able to do the two-day stage race option because of a Friday meeting (fortuitously, as it turned out, because stage racing is for real hard), the three-day option had started with another tough and technical trail Friday morning.
It’s called stage racing, and it’s amazing.
One of the country’s top ultra runners walks through the parking lot of a Panera Bread in Louisville, Kentucky on a Thursday afternoon. She has a faded tattoo around one ankle, sunbleached hair, the type of tan one gets from spending hours outdoors, and most of her toenails, at least for now.
Traci Falbo is well-known in the ultra-running scene, but can have lunch at this restaurant completely undetected, despite the fact she’s earned a place on four U.S. national teams. Traci, 44, specializes in races of 100km (about 62 miles) and up. On Nov. 27, she was part of the bronze-medal winning women’s 100km road race World Championship team, comprised entirely of master’s women. In 2017, she’ll be representing the U.S. at the 24-hour World Championships in July.
You might think she was always a gifted athlete, and that a long list of athletic achievements started during her childhood. But Traci, like several of our Saltines including myself, is an “adult-onset” runner, and her story is an inspiration.
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 was still rehabbing an injury and had just finished my personal worst 50K. Humbled by the mountains outside of Malibu and still nursing an injured hip, I was sharing beers with friends of a friend when a tanned, blonde Californian said this to me. It was one of the most offensive things anyone has ever said to me after a race:
“So this was your first trail race.”
“No,” I responded, “I’ve done a bunch, including two 100s.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have, like, real trails out East.”
Real trails? Really? I have about 125 miles of very real trails to run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), just a short drive from my front door. Cleveland also boasts an extensive MetroParks system consisting of more than 23,000 acres of parks and hundreds of running as well as newly added mountain bike trails.
As we’ve said before, Cleveland is a tough city with tough runners. We have a strong elite development group and hundreds of local races, amazing local running stores and a running group for every runner to find a home.
And the trail community surrounding Cleveland is no different.
After a summer and fall of trail running, the road 5K I was scheduled to race last weekend didn’t seem quite right. Looking for a break for my body and mind, I found a small trail race in a neighboring town with a 5.3-mile option. Perfect!
During the race, however, there were many times I thought to myself: “Huh, this is really a totally different ball game than racing on the roads! I wish I had known….” Those short 5.3 miles taught me a lot, but how much better could I have done if I’d been forewarned of a few key things? Maybe I could have even out-kicked that young runner in front of me at the end; who knows?
I resolved to do my research for next time, and to share my findings with you. I polled my Salty sisters for their best trail-racing tips, and combined these with what I learned. So here you have it: our Salty Collection of Trail Racing Tips for Road Runners. Read more >>
I might be unfriended by several of my best running friends by posting this one and maybe even Salty herself, but I’m going to just come out and say it:
I am a trail running atheist.
Don’t get me wrong. I love nature; natural beauty inspires me and makes me feel wonderfully insignificant, yet totally a part of something bigger than myself.
But trails? They just don’t do it for me. Read more >>
Traveling is great, but as you’ve probably experienced, it can certainly interfere with training. I planned on spending the summer in Boulder, running along Boulder Creek Trail, Wonderland Lake and Coot Lake, hiking the numerous trails in the Indian Peak Wilderness, cycling on Left Hand Canyon Road, reading books and starting some new writing projects. Instead, we sold our home there in June and have spent much of the first half of the summer on the road.
I love to travel but not so much in a car: my body aches from sitting for so long and unless I’m driving I get motion sickness on winding roads. But when life hands us lemons… I decided to take advantage of the change in plans and convert some of my scheduled training runs into a way to explore new areas. Running is a perfect excuse to get up early, check out local trails, and get the body moving before getting back into a car.
As we’ve traveled throughout Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and back to California I’ve had the pleasure to run some truly amazing trails, and thought they might make some nice food for thought next time you’re planning a running vacation! Read more >>
Trail races are absolutely a different beast than your traditional road race. As a city dweller, I don’t get many opportunities to commune with nature in the great outdoors, so the chance to run a trail half marathon in a state park about 2 hours north of New York City seemed like something I should try at least once.
I will always love New York and Central Park, but I’ve often thought that one of the best parts of living in New York City is when you get to leave New York City. You’re reminded that there is the rest of the world off of the island full of space and greenery and quiet. Bear Mountain State Park, located along the Hudson River in upstate New York, is certainly a world away from the hustle, bustle, and buildings of Manhattan. Read more >>
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