Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 4

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You know what’s tough? Gearing up for a race on a Wednesday night when all you want to do is eat dinner. On the couch. In your sweatpants. And the only kind of ‘marathon’ you’re thinking about is on Netflix.

But you know what makes it easier? Meeting up with friends, passing the time telling stories while on the trails and the feeling of crossing the finish line. The post-race chips, salsa and burrito-fest doesn’t hurt either.

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Last Wednesday marked our fourth of five races in the Portland Trail Series, a super-mellow series held weekly in Forest Park in Portland. Read about the previous week’s race here.

The plan for the evening was 5.60 miles. A little longer than the third race in the series, but a welcome change in scenery and a little less elevation.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Alder, down Alder to Leif, down Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, down Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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Two of our buddies got stuck in traffic, so the plan was for me to pace Ashly again, this time to her second trail race finish. I waited until after our Wild Cherry ascent to tell her that my not-so-secret goal for the evening would be for her to finish this race in the same amount of time that we completed the previous week’s race (which was almost a mile shorter).

Even though she was leery of my plan for her to race more aggressively this time, she was a trooper! The course was in our favor, too; it leveled out quickly after Wild Cherry, and aside from a half-mile climb about two miles from the finish it felt like we had a lot of rolling flats and downhills to work with.

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Ashly’s hubby Sean met up with us with about a mile and a half to go, and his extra encouragement gave her just the boost she needed to bring it in strong to the finish. I tried to capture a shot of us in action; I’ll attribute the blurriness to our blazingly-flast pace back down Wild Cherry 😉

Our final time? It was 1:12:07, just about a minute more than our time from the previous week!

I’m already looking forward to the next race. Not only will we get to spend another evening on the (hilly) trails, but there’s also a post-race party celebrating the completion of the series at a local brewery.

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Stay tuned for my report from the fifth — and final — race of the series next week. Same place, same time, new route, plus party pics!

For more information on the Portland Trail Series or to sign up for next season’s series, click here.

July Goal Check-In

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Summer is in full swing, and we’ve been soaking up the sun here on the West Coast. From trips to the beach, kayaking around the lake, hiking excursions and dining al fresco, weekends are for taking full advantage of all the outdoorsy goodness that Oregon has to offer.

There may be no fall marathon on the horizon this year, but we’re still staying plenty active, too. I’m taking this unofficial off-season as a time to finally kick some of those chronic running injuries (SI joint, plantar fasciitis), as well as focus on getting stronger in cycling and — yes — swimming!

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

Between the heat and a packed summer schedule, Ben and I have been dialing back weekend workouts for a change. And you know what? Now that I’m over the initial anxiety of not being on a strict training schedule, it actually feels good.

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Don’t get me wrong — I’m still researching races as I mull over my next move. But listening to my body and being active when and how I want to (like an afternoon bike ride for ice cream or a lunch run with friends or a leisurely morning coffee walk with the dogs) versus doing only what’s prescribed for training has been really refreshing.

2. Training Smarter

My SI joint pain has all but subsided thanks to quitting kettlebell swings. And while I still run a few times a week to maintain my mileage, I’ve been hitting it hard and cross training with all kinds of barre, yoga, pilates and interval training classes.

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My newest discovery, though? Racing for fun.

Ben and I signed up for a weekly trail run series here in the Portland area and have been enjoying running without worrying about pace. Plus, I’ve paced new trail racers for the past two events, and helping them get across the finish line and accomplish something they weren’t sure they could do has been an incredibly rewarding experience!

3. Facing Fears

Huge news on this front: I took an informal swim lesson last week with a few friends! Mary Anne, who did the swim portion of the Pacific Crest long course triathlon along with Ben, kindly offered to hop in the pool, check out our form (or lackthereof) and share a few pointers.

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As it turns out, I’m not totally hopeless in the water! There were three major takeaways: I need to work on my body position (straighter vs bending at my waist), kick (full leg vs at the knee) and stroke (relax and extend more).

I also learned that I need to CHILL OUT in the water because I’m literally trying so hard and moving so rigidly that I’m actually working against myself. Mary Anne shared some great drills, so we made a pact to get in the pool more often to practice. Exciting!

4. Pushing Myself

As I mentioned last month, in lieu of setting training and racing goals in the immediate future I’ve been pursuing professional ones instead. Pulse Creative is officially up and running, so I’ve been digging into client projects, networking and meeting all kinds of interesting entrepreneurs in the process.

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That’s not to say I’m not thinking about my next challenge. On the contrary, I’ve been eyeing some destination races for fall travel, as well as potential events to add to the calendar for 2016. More on those soon…

5. Giving Back

Boom! It’s time for the official Team LUNA Chix Portland Run update. But first — how awesome are these ladies?!

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In July, we participated in our first sponsored event, the Portland Parks $5 5k Series race at Gabriel Park (note: we’ll be at August’s event at Laurelhurst Park, as well — join us!). We’re also growing in leaps and bounds — we’ve got an amazing group of regulars who are killing it every week.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info. Come join us, and bring your friends; we’re all levels (walkers and runners) and love seeing new faces each week!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 3

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And, with that, I am an official pacer for hire! Well, I’m free…but I do accept smiles, kind words and the occasional food-based bribe in exchange for getting you across the finish line in one piece.

Last Wednesday was the third of five races in the Portland Trail Series, a low-key (but highly fun!) series held weekly in Forest Park in Portland. Read about the previous week’s race here.

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Syreeta and I had such a blast on the trails last week that she came back for even more hill-ish torture this week — as a seasoned pro now, I might add. And at last week’s practice we even managed to talk one of our fellow Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, Ashly, into joining us for her first-ever trail race.

Ashly’s done her fair share of road racing, but this was her first off-road foray, so she was understandably nervous — not only is the terrain challenging, but the temperature also spiked back up to near 100 here in Portland. Our friend Tiffany joined in on the fun, too, to round out our LUNA Chix crew!

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On the menu? An evening route of 4.78 miles. It’s the shortest of the courses so far in the series, but we didn’t let the distance fool us — there were bound to be some good hills in there.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Keil, down Keil to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Alder, down Alder to Leif, up Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, down Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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We lined up near the back of the pack to let the faster runners go ahead. I wanted to make sure Ashly started conservatively, which meant staying out of the fray and listening to her body so she could go at a comfortable, sustainable pace.

For the third week in a row, we started off by scrambling up Wild Cherry (aka my nemesis). We made it most of the way up at a slow jog but slowed to a walk near the top so we could catch our breaths and allow our heart rates to come down.

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Tiffany and Syreeta went on ahead while Ashly and I deployed a walk-jog strategy: We’d walk up the steeper hills and jog the flats and downhills to help conserve energy and keep the focus on moving forward.

We were about a mile in when all of the sudden Syreeta came doubling back along the path to join us. Ashly led the way, and we followed her lead.

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Of course, we also fell easily into a great conversation, so when we weren’t gasping for breath up the hills we were laughing over stories, and the miles quickly flew by.

Before we knew it, we ran into Yassine from Animal Athletics, who said that not only did we only have a mile and a half to go, but also that is was mostly downhill. We picked up the pace and about a half mile later, we ran into Ashly’s husband, Sean, who had already finished and was coming back to provide some moral support for Ashly in the final mile.

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As we cruised back down Leif Erikson, we rounded the final corner and Ashly kicked it into high gear for the last 100 yards or so to the finish line. Our final time was 1:10:51.

I’m so proud of her for pushing through and dominating a hilly course like that in the heat. And you know what? She’s already contemplating coming back next week and making the step up to a longer distance trail race this fall. Mission accomplished; we’ve got a new trail runner in our midst!

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And, as always, we’re excited to do it all over again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race number four.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

Are you a fan of trail races? 

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 2

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Two down, three to go!

This week marked the second installment of the Portland Trail Series, a low-key series of five trail races over the course of five weeks held in Forest Park in Portland. Read about last week’s event here.

The best part? Syreeta, one of our Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, had mentioned during our Monday night practice that she was thinking of joining us for what would be her first-ever trail race. So, needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited when we saw her at the start line!

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We lined up to get the scoop on the evening’s course, which measured 5.20 miles.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Holman, up Holman to 53rd, up 53rd to Birch, down Birch to Wildwood, up Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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The good news, they said? The course was net zero elevation.

The not-so-good news? It was far from flat, so we could expect a lot of ups, and a lot of downs in return.

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Syreeta’s already a pro on the trails, since she and her husband are avid weekend hikers. Seriously, if you want the lowdown on the most challenging jaunts and most scenic vistas in the area, she’s your go-to gal. 

But since it was her first trail race, we decided to run together and let her set the pace. My goal, I said, was to get her across the finish line A) in once piece, and B) smiling. Her goal was to run as much of the course as possible.

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Wild Cherry, again, did not disappoint. #WhatTheHill

But Syreeta powered right up without stopping, so we chugged along and caught our breaths while enjoying a beautiful downhill section on the back side.

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We kept a solid pace through a number of rolling hills before hitting a pretty long uphill, which I think it was the Holman and 53rd section. After taking the first part at a jog, we rounded a corner and saw it keep going up, up, and away…so Syreeta made what I thought was a great judgment call and started hiking up.

Not only would this allow us to keep moving along at a good clip (a purposeful walk over a long, steep hill can be just as quick and effective as a slow jog), but it’d also allow us to conserve some energy for later.

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I was beyond impressed with Syreeta’s positive attitude and willingness to lay it all out there — her second wind hit with about a mile and a half to go, so we picked up the pace again and headed for home.

Luckily it was all downhill from here…

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Syreeta led the charge to a strong finish; we wound our way back down Wild Cherry and crossed the line with a final time of 58:10.

This even included a quick backroom break about a half-mile from the finish!

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We met up with Ben and got sidetracked as soon as we spotted a booth for Bogg’s Trail Butter, which was nothing short of delicious. It reminded me of my beloved PocketFuel, but instead of a gritty texture from sugar (which can start to trouble my tummy during longer races) this had more of a chunkier/crunchier texture from all the nuts.

My favorite flavor was the Ozark Original, which combines many of the ingredients found in a classic trail mix. Nuts, seeds, raisins, cranberries and a hint of semi-sweet chocolate hit the spot.

Plus, we learned a great new way for prepping food for the trails — spread the nut butter on a flour tortilla, roll it up, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant!

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Can’t wait to do it again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race no. 3.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 1

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There aren’t many places I’d rather be than summer in Oregon. And this week only reinforced that belief, thanks to the Portland Trail Series!

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The Portland Trail Series is a low-key series of trail races held in Forest Park in Portland. Three five-race Series (Spring, Summer and Fall) are held Wednesday evenings from May-October, and each race covers a different, challenging course, ranging from four to six miles.

Here’s the summer schedule:

  • Race 1 – July 15, 2015
  • Race 2 – July 22, 2015
  • Race 3 – July 29, 2015
  • Race 4 – August 5, 2015
  • Race 5 – August 12, 2015

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First up was a 5.98-miler for the kickoff race this past Wednesday. And, as you can see, they stay true to the “low-key” description with a super mellow start — just two tents at the trailhead, plus a few self-serve jugs of water and electrolytes.

Although they capped registration at 150 runners, only 101 people showed up to run (so feel free to come with $20 cash if you want to drop into the next one).

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Ben and I grabbed our bibs and promptly bumped into one of my running buddies (and badass triathleteAnabel Capalbo who was there to cheer on her college roommate. Gotta love the small-town feel of Portland, especially the endurance scene!

Around 6:15 the race director gave us a quick run-down of the route, complete with a warning to watch out for owl attacks on one of the trails. My strategy for the evening? A) Run it for fun and enjoy the experience. B) Stick close to someone taller, in the event of an angry owl (thanks, Ben! #takingonefortheteam).

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Each race in the series starts and finishes at the gate at the Leif Erikson trailhead. For this first race, we started on Leif Erikson and went up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Dogwood, then down Dogwood to Leif Erikson, then out Leif to Alder, up Alder to Wildwood, Wildwood to Wild Cherry, Down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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Although I find it tougher to get pysched up for an evening race because I’m used to working out (and racing) first thing in the morning, we really couldn’t have had a more beautiful night for trail running. And after a casual countdown from 10, we were off!

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After about a quarter mile down the main trail, we made our first turn and immediately started climbing up Wild Cherry. As far as trails go, this one turned out to be quite a zinger.

This is also when I felt my recent lack of trail running kick in. We were spoiled in SF with hill training built into nearly every run, and it’s clear that Portland’s flatness has softened me!

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Because of the unrelenting ascent (and, let’s face it, my lack of recent trail training), I had trouble getting my heart rate down and breathing under control for the first mile and a half or so, so we alternated hiking the hills and jogging when it leveled off. After the initial climb, however, we were treated to a lovely downhill on Dogwood and had a blast bombing down the hill to try to make up some time.

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After a series of rollers, there was another climb up Alder (read: more walk breaks!) before the final descent to the finish. Our final time was 1:01:36 — not a record-breaker by any means, but we were satisfied with the roughly 10-minute-per-mile average pace after a rocky start.

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The best part? We get to do it all over again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race no. 2.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Kristin Minto

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In honor of our inaugural Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season, I’ll be introducing my teammates via this interview series throughout the next few months…get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for a run Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland (click here for details)! 

As a fellow dog-lover, runner and wine connoisseur, there was no question that Kristin Minto would make a great addition to our core Team LUNA Chix Portland Run group. She and Ben go back to their days as OSU Beavers, but it wasn’t long after we moved to Portland that I was plotting to get her to convert from orange and black to (LUNA’s) yellow and blue.

When Kristin’s not working alongside oral surgeons by day, you can find her getting her cardio fix at Burncycle, working on her conditioning at The Edge, hitting the philanthropy circuit (she’s on the board of the Children’s Cancer Association here in Portland) or cuddling her adorably-gigantic pooch. She’s just one of those incredibly-inspiring people who seem to have found 27 hours in day and make the most of each and every one of ’em.

After dominating the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland half marathon this spring, Kristin’s also started training for her first 26.2 at the Portland Marathon this fall. I see quite a few long runs in our future, and predict a few good stories in the process, so you’ll have to stay tuned…

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1. What’s your favorite route? We are so fortunate to have Forest Park located right in the heart of our city that I would have to say my favorite route would be a good ‘ol trail run. Aside from it being beautiful, I like to mix up my training so I’m not just road running 100 percent of the time.

2. What shoes do you wear? Brooks

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? My iPod loaded with great music!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” If I’m running short on time and can’t get a decent run in, I run stairs. There are a couple sets of stairs in the West Hills and near OHSU that I frequent.

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Ooh boy… Not sure on this one! I would say I’m probably better than most at dodging the photographers during races. I’m not a big fan of having my picture taken mid-race. However, I usually get a good laugh out of the ones that do get snapped. They really know how to capture some doozies!

6. What do you listen to while running? Everything from Pitbull to Guns N’ Roses as long as it has an upbeat tempo. There is nothing like a playlist loaded with upbeat music to put a little kick in my step when I’m feeling a little sluggish or unmotivated for a run.

7. For what are you currently training? The Portland Marathon.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? I will admit that I could be a little better in the sleep department just because it seems there aren’t ever enough hours in the day. I try my hardest to average seven hours a night, though.

Hydration and foam rolling are typically part of my recovery routine, and if it’s a post-race recovery, I can usually be found rewarding myself with a mimosa and brunch!

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9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? “Listen to your body.” It’s so true. Sometimes if I feel like I can’t catch my breath or just feel “off,” I will pull out my earbuds and just asses my breathing and what’s going on while I’m running. I can usually straighten out whatever is going on and get into my normal groove.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? Running my first race and crossing that finish line for the first time. It’s so rewarding and such a great feeling of accomplishment!

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. My pup Oscar.  I would love to go on runs with him more often, but he’s a big boy and tuckers out quicker than I do, so I only take him on 3-6 milers.

It gets a little embarrassing when we come to a stop light and he lays down on the sidewalk at an intersection for a break…. Like EVERY intersection!

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Thanks, Kristin! Can’t wait to hit up some trails, long runs and, oh, maybe even tackle a relay together this summer. 

Runner friends, shoot me a note — info (at) kineticfix.com — so I can feature you, too!

How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Natasha Henderson

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In honor of our inaugural Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season, I’ll be introducing my teammates via this interview series throughout the next few months…get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for a run Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland (click here for details)! 

Introduced through Jamie, our mutual friend and running buddy, Natasha Henderson (aka Tasha) and I hit it off immediately over a double date with our husbands at a local brewery last summer. While the boys chatted about their shared obsession with love of all things Boston, us gals bonded over our own favorites: long runs, good beer, hard laughs, curly hair and delicious meals.

So when it came time to create this year’s Team LUNA Chix Portland Run, Tasha was a natural choice. She’s the brightest ray of sunshine on those cloudy Portland days — an embracer of life, healthy cooking and a good farmer’s market; a blogger who runs marathons, skis double black diamonds and climbs rocks.

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Tasha’s one of those people who not only shows up, but each time she does, she brings her A game. Whether it’s concocting recipes in her kitchen, “runching” along the waterfront, being a hostess with the mostess or meeting up for mid-week workout dates, her enthusiasm is only surpassed by her warmth, which makes her an incredibly inspiring person to be around (not to mention she’s on my short list of belay partners who I trust to literally hold my life in her hands as I scale a 55-foot-high wall).

Tasha started running in junior high school, and says she’s been hooked ever since. She prefers trails over roads and is looking forward to running her first trail half marathon this year.

If she’s not navigating her way through Forest Park, there’s a good chance you’ll find her grabbing a quick lunchtime run along the waterfront in downtown Portland. And as far as favorite mid-run convos go, Tasha’s topics of choice range from peanut butter, skiing at Mt. Hood, lip gloss, hiking and camping to cooking a good meal for her friends and family, food blogging, used book stores, yoga and coffee!

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1. What’s your favorite route? I love catching a run on the Portland waterfront during the week days. At least once a week I like to go there to squeeze in four to five miles at lunch. It’s such a beautiful loop, and on a sunny day and it energizes me for the afternoon to come.

2. What shoes do you wear? Right now I am running on hot pink Nike Air Zoom Vomeros! Before that, I was running on Asics. I’m due for a new pair of shoes soon, so we will see what the future brings!

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? I’m not sure if it counts as “gear” but I absolutely love using the Strava app. It makes it easy to track and log my runs, plus I like that I can follow my running buddies and see what type of running mischief they’ve been getting into.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” I’m all about planning ahead and always trying to think of little things I can do to make my day (and running) easier. I am NOT a morning person, so for early morning runs or races, I literally lay out every single piece of clothing that I will wear the next morning, set the coffee machine and even prep breakfast. Not only does it save me time, but it also keeps me from forgetting something!

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I’m not sure if I’m better than anyone else at it, but I am I’m great at saving a little bit so I can kick into high gear at the end of my run and finish strong.

6. What do you listen to while running? I am totally indiscriminate about my running music. So much so that sometimes I’m a little embarrassed if a song from my running mix comes on when there are others are around. Really, I’ll listen to anything with a good beat that keeps my feet moving. When I am in a running slump, I download a few new songs and they usually motivate me to get me out the door.

7. What are you currently training for? I am so excited for the Trail Factor Half-Marathon! This is my longest trail race distance so far, and I’ve been very dedicated to my training. After this I’d love to do a trail marathon, and maybe even a 50k!

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Sometimes I have some tummy troubles after long runs, so my recovery planning starts pre-run by keeping my pre-run fuel simple. My favorite pre-run breakfast is a cup of coffee and banana with a little Chia Seed Peanut Butter Bliss (if you love peanut butter – you’re going to love this stuff!).

After my run, I like to put my legs up, re-hydrate and then re-fuel with something easy to digest. I am working hard to get more sleep, especially now that I am training for my race, but it’s still something that I struggle with because I am a total night owl. I definitely notice an improvement in my performance (and in everything) when I get a full seven or eight hours.

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9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Very recently on an especially hilly nine-miler, my good friend Jackie told me to take five quick steps after I got to the top of every hill. It kept me from pooping out at the top and helped me keep my pace steady.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? In junior high school, I had an especially great performance during a race at an away track meet. I was sitting in the bleachers after the race — not feeling very well — when some cute guys came up to talk to me. One of them said something like “great race,” and as soon as the words were spoken I proceeded to puke all over the place.

I still vividly remember the look of horror and disgust on their faces before they walked away. At the time, I was horrified but looking back as an adult, I find a lot of humor in the whole situation. Plus, after relaying the story to my mom, she felt so bad for me that she bought me a brand new two-piece swim suit!

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with ______. Lauren Fleshman.

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12. Anything else you want to add? Check out my blog, Tasha’s Dish, for recipes, meal prep ideas and my musings on running and working out!

Thanks, Tasha! Can’t wait to hit the roads, the track and the trails with you this season, along with other sweaty endeavors, I’m sure 🙂 

Runner friends, shoot me a note — info (at) kineticfix.com — so I can feature you, too!