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!

April Goal Check-In

Source: Fast Company

Source: Fast Company

First things first: Yes, it’s mid-May. And we’re talking about April.

Better late than never!

Plus quite a bit has changed since I last touched base with my goals, so I wanted to be able to address it in this month’s recap.

Wondering what this is all about? Read more on the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

So here’s my update on how things have been going:

1. Seeking Balance

Quality over quantity. Quality over quantity. If I keep repeating that to myself, it will (hopefully) one day become second nature.

Unable to contain my excitement over living in what still feels like a “new” city, I got over-excited and over-committed myself this summer. Whoops.

Between work, travel, training, LUNA coaching, family events and other obligations pretty much every.single.weekend…the pressure’s started to build.

I’ve been feeling it in my gut with each additional ‘yes,’ but only recently did this start to register in my head. So in an attempt to stay true to this goal, I made some hard decisions this past month and had some even harder ‘no’ conversations…both with myself and others.

Like, revealing to Ben that I don’t think I’m up for both the century ride and a 50K within two weeks of each other this month. Or telling my Ragnar Utah team that I won’t be joining them for next month’s event.

And examining my other summer races in the process. Not just the whats, but also the hows and, most importantly, the whys.

I can’t help but feel some sense of failure — like I’m letting others down, as well as myself. But the fact that there’s a small victory to be found in reclaiming ownership of my schedule — and the relief that comes with that — is also not lost on me.

Balance, I’m realizing, requires bigger-picture focus. And as I get clearer on the vision I have for myself — outside of just training and racing — I feel like I’m getting closer to that sweet spot of being able to keep moving forward and challenging myself without throwing the rest of my life out of whack.

2. Training Smarter

Another motivating factor has been my SI joint, which has been extremely vocal as of late about me needing to reassess my activities in the short-term. Although I’m cleared to run, per my doctor, I’m not able to race or do speedwork without pain, so being more deliberate in my approach to workouts and events will no doubt serve me well.

In the meantime, I’ve been religiously going to the chiropractor, getting monthly massages and hitting plenty of yoga classes. And, thanks to ClassPass and this guy, I’m still focused on all that good strength and mobility cross-training to build a strong core and activate those glutes.

3. Facing Fears

Ben and I we so proud when we mustered up the motivation to hit the pool one Saturday for an early morning workout. Everything was awesome — until we got to the gym and realized it wouldn’t open for two more hours.

Needless to say, with everything else that’s been going on, swimming’s been on the back burner. Although I hope that it’ll be different this month; I do think some time following that black line would be a welcome change for both my body and mind.

4. Pushing Myself

The 50K is fast-approaching on May 25, so that’s exciting! I’m half pumped and half nervous to tackle this event with Ben, however, as it’s our first ultra-distance together…and more than double his longest race distance to-date (13.1 miles).

Most of April has been spent pushing myself on the non-physical front, though. Through the HUSH Meditation community, I met a wonderful friend/coach/mentor, and we’ve been helping each other — me, helping support the amazing work she does; her, helping me better define my ‘why,’ as well as my career vision.

I’ve been feeling scattered as of late; don’t get me wrong — there’s no shortage of great stuff going on, but I’m in the process of wrapping my head around how it all ties together. As a result, it’s made for a more contemplative, less hard-charging month, which is pretty much a theme across the board for late April and early May.

5. Giving Back

Finally, we’re a little more than a month in to Team LUNA Chix Portland Run’s 2015 season, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this group of women. We’ve been doing weekly workouts, and we also just hosted our first clinic of the season — a yoga and nutrition workshop to raise money for our charity, the Breast Cancer Fund (more on that in an upcoming post).

The team is gelling, we’re working on getting the word out so we can grow in size and make more of an impact, and we’ve been getting a consistent group of ladies each week who rally through a few miles together. See for yourself via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts — and come join us Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. at the Duniway Park Track in Portland!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Tiffany Henness

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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)! 

Does stalking on Instagram count as meeting someone nowadays? If so, then that’s how Tiffany Henness and I first got to know one another (or, rather, how I started following her and liking #AllThePuppyPictures).

But as far as our first real-life run-in goes, we crossed paths (literally — while on a shakeout jog) one morning at IDEA World Fitness Blogfest with SweatPink last summer. And when I found out we’d both be in Oregon as I was recruiting for our Team LUNA Chix Portland Run, I started bugging her by phone and email, as well.

Digital lives aside, I’m thrilled to have her on the team and to be able to log more miles together this season — not only because she’s super-positive, a great role model and loads of fun to be around, but also because this RRCA Certified Running Coach, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and ultra-runner is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to living a healthy, fit lifestyle.

She’s in the process of launching her new blog (Thoroughly Thriving — check it out!) where you’ll be able to follow along on her adventures and pick up some great tips. But in the meantime we sat down to chat about a mutual love: Running.

1. What’s your favorite route? Anything trail or scenic. I get bored running the same streets too often, so I frequently explore new areas or reverse routes to keep it interesting.

2. What shoes do you wear? I’ve been in Saucony Guide 7’s for over a year now and am very pleased.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? INKnBURN running shorts. Best ever.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” Learning to run with as little as possible has been huge for me. I don’t need a watch, music or a water bottle. I can totally manage running by feel, reaching inward for motivation, and last up to an hour before finding a water fountain or something. It’s freeing, mentally and physically, to be more minimal on the run.

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Ha! I’d say running without music or mental distractions, simply because almost everyone I know believes (falsely) that they simply could not run without music.

I certainly enjoy tunes once in a while, but I’m great at running in silence, entertaining myself, focusing my mind on my breathing and effort when I need too, and being more meditative when I run.

6. What do you listen to while running? Normally when I listen to music during a run it is because I’m on the treadmill. Therefore, I listen to anything with a solid, driving rhythm (Knights of Cydonia by Muse) or even just a song that makes me smile/laugh/want to dance (Uptown Funk).

7. For what are you currently training? Autumn Leaves 50k in October (and I’ll hit up the Portland Marathon on my way there). Of course, all of this is only in preparation for a hopeful first 50 miler in 2016. I have some big longer-term goals I’m chasing.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? There is no routine right now, but when my mileage increases and I start hitting 14+ mile long runs, the routine will reveal itself.

Here is a complete description of my usual recovery and sleep routine. It boils to some active recovery exercises and small snacks followed by lots of hydration, a full meal, a quick nap, and then light stretching/mobility. Occasionally beer or ice cream is also involved.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Well, I’m not a fast runner and — believe it or not — I used to be even slower than I am now. I was sure that people who ran fast must not feel as awful and uncomfortable as I did.

I have a good friend who is an incredibly fast amateur runner, however, and when I said I didn’t think I could ever run as “effortlessly,” he kindly explained that simply because he runs faster does not mean he’s in less pain (not the injury kind, just the regular ‘ol pain of running). His lungs still burn, his muscles still cry out for him to slow down, his body still feels heavy some days.

He said if I wanted to run faster, then I just had to RUN FASTER and learn to handle the increased discomfort and effort that brings.

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10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? So many! Probably my husband (then boyfriend) and I finishing our first marathon together. That’s when I started using running unreasonable distances as a way to learn about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my limits and potential.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with ______. MOXIE!. I love my dog, but she’s rubbish at running right now — tripping me, stopping to sniff and pee everywhere. My dream someday is that she’ll be a great running pal and we can do a half marathon together!

12. Anything else you want to add? Visit me at ThroughlyThriving.com where I write about nourishing, training and giving in order to get the most out of life!

Thanks, Tiffany! I’m pumped that we now live in the same city and will be hitting the track and trails together more often. 

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

Race Report: Hagg Lake Mud Run 25k

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The alternate title for this race write-up? There Will Be Mud. 

Our friends Matt and Christian came in from San Francisco to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Portland, and we’ve got a little tradition every time they visit the Pacific Northwest: Trail runs of escalating distances, which are usually sprung on them at the 11th hour (I’m lucky they’re such good sports — and strong athletes).

Last time it was a half marathon, so this time it was only fitting to bump it up a few miles to a 25K. And since the Hagg Lake Mud Run has been dubbed by Runner’s World Trail Edition as one of the top trail races in Oregon, we figured it’d be a great way to round out their trip.

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If you’re interested in all the details, keep reading. But if you want the short version, I can illustrate the run in just three pictures:

First, here’s the “before” from when we made our way over to the start.

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Next is the “during,” which I took at the first aid station, a little more than six miles into the race. That right shoe had just been submerged (and was nearly lost) in a huge pile of muck.

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And, finally, the “after,” which pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? This shows Ben’s and my feet about half a second before we hopped into the lake — shoes and all.

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If you want all the gory details from in-between, I’ll start over at the beginning…

After a few dreary weeks of fog and intermittent rain, we got lucky with some unseasonably spring-like weather the week before the race. And since our last event was a cold, rainy one, we were thrilled to have ideal conditions for this one: 40’s at the 9 a.m. start and up to mid-50’s by noon.

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Hagg Lake is about 45 minutes outside of Portland, so we left around 7:30 a.m. to allow time for packet pick-up and a port-a-potty stop. The parking lot is about a quarter mile from the start, so we had ample time once we got there to get organized.

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The start area itself was clean, quiet and super mellow — a.k.a. another reason why I love trail races!

We casually lined up, took a quick group selfie and waited for the round of pre-race announcements from the race director.

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After the gun went off, we shuffled over the start line chip-time mats and made our way down the road for the first portion of the race, which is a quick out and back on a gravel road.

They tack this portion on for two reasons: First, to make up the difference in distance (the path around the lake is just a little less than 25k); second, to help runners space themselves out a bit before they hit the single-track trails.

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Also interesting about this section? It’s the largest elevation change in the race, so we ended up climbing most of the first mile.

But the good news is that ‘what goes up must come down,’ so we also got to descend the same distance before hitting the lake trail.

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Talk about some great scenery — and terrific running conditions! We eased in with some lovely damp, spongy footing as we started out on the trail headed counter-clockwise around the lake.

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The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, we were all warmed up, getting into our respective grooves and in high spirits. How much better does it get than this?!

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Well, it was right about then that the mud hit. And shit started getting real…real muddy, that is.

Any hopes I had for keeping my shoes clean(ish) and dry were dashed as we slogged through the slop.

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Try as we might to avoid the worst of it, we eventually gave in and just ran straight through. Between navigating the rolling hills, managing the slick footing and avoiding roots and rocks, it just simply wasn’t worth the extra mental and physical energy to go out of our way around it.

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In between the rolling stretches of single-track trail, however, we enjoyed a few breaks on pavement and through open fields. Both were a welcome respite — not only were they flatter so we could catch our breaths, but the surer footing also allowed for a mental reset for what would come next.

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And what might that be, you ask? Well, more mud, of course.

In my estimation, we got to experience pretty much every kind and consistency of the brown, wet, sticky stuff…from quicksand-like mud that grabs hold of your shoes to murky puddles that are deceptively deep with squishy bottoms…

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…and from fluffy brownie-batter mud with footprints that disguise dangerous tree roots to thick clay mud so slippery and sticky that they have to throw hay in it to keep you from going off the rails around corners.

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And then there’s a combination of ALL of these kinds of mud in one place dubbed the “Pig Pen.”

In fact, this segment even came marked with a warning that if you somehow managed to keep your shoes clean up to that point, you should abandon all hope of keeping them that way.

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It was around this point, as Ben and I slipped, slided and skidded through the nastiness, that I wondered if Matt and Christian might be cursing me and cancelling any future travel plans.

Last race it was “Nutcracker Hill” that was the final insult, yet this race may have had that beat with a muddy mess of a stretch that was both physically and mentally demanding.

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Even though the mounting mileage was starting to wear on us, Ben and I both managed to keep our shoes. Whew.

A small, but much-needed, victory to get us to the finish!

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After we emerged from the Pig Pen, we had about a half of a mile to go, so Ben and I picked up the pace to bring it home.

Because we were both admittedly under-trained going into the race, my loose goal for the day was to complete the course in fewer than three hours. We crossed the finish line together in 2:51:54.

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Matt and Christian, who are both training for the Big Sur Marathon this spring, finished together in an impressive 2:28.

The best part of the race, though? You cross the finish just steps away from “Hagg Lake Spa,” which is also known as wading into the water, shoes and all.

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Waterlogged and jello-legged, we then made our way up to the (heated!) pavilion for a delicious feast of chili, hot dogs, grilled cheese, beer, cookies, candy and all the other usual ultra fare.

After chowing down, we hobbled to the car and began the process of stripping off filthy clothing, scraping off caked-on mud and getting ourselves just clean enough to get in the car for the ride to our next destination…brunch!

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And, of course, my wheels are already turning when it comes to planning the excursion for Matt and Christian’s next trip up north…

I’m thinking we continue the trend and shoot for 26.2. What do you say, guys??

Race Report: Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon

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Is it too late to change one of my responses in last week’s Best & Worst of Racing post? Because this weekend’s Silver Falls Half Marathon just took the cake as the most beautiful course I’ve ever raced.

Of course, it’s November in Oregon, so the start was cold and wet. Here are Hubby and me waiting for the gun to go off with our friends Christian and Matt, who were in for the weekend from San Francisco.

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And the finish? Well, that was just colder, wetter and even more windy, as you can see from this shot taken as we bolted from the post-race party at the pavilion back to our warm car.

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But the best part was all the awesome stuff in between. Here’s a quick look at the elevation chart to see what we were up against for the day. Note to self: Study this more carefully next time before the race, so you’re not surprised when you start hitting the wall during mile nine’s hills. 

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The half marathon started in two waves — one at 9 a.m. for runners who estimate they’ll finish in less than two hours and another at 9:15 a.m. for the runners and walkers who will take more than two hours. Knowing how trail races go (and knowing that it’d be a mere two weeks after my full marathon), I had signed us up for the later wave.

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After standing around casually at the start (love that about trail races!), we took off down a paved road for about a mile before winding around on a few smaller trails. The first four miles or so were pretty flat and uneventful — we looped around by the parking lots and saw some gorgeous fall foliage, but no sign of the waterfalls for which this race is famous.

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Between the chill in the air, the race-day adrenaline, the elation of being with friends and the awe-inspiring scenery, we ambled along, giddily bantering, and (in hindsight) probably took off a bit too quickly, considering the length of the race, the coming elevation changes…and the fact that I’m still not recovered from my 26.2.

But restraining yourself can be tough when there are mid-run WATERFALLS to be seen!

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Up and down we went over rolling hills before we headed out on the large Rim Trail loop, which took us along a whole series of waterfalls. The footing was technical, at times, with sharp rocks jutting up from the mud, a thick layer of leaves on the trail and plenty of slick stairs…but we made our way through the lush landscape, just trying to take everything in.

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That’s about when “racing” evolved into “stopping and taking photos at every waterfall” because each was more gorgeous than the next. Case in point: when we got to run not only directly next to, but also behind three of ’em.

I don’t care how fast you’re going or what kind of time you’re aiming for — seeing this mid-race will stop you in your tracks.

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Yeah, I guess you could say we were pretty pumped with the experience from the looks on our faces. And please disregard my knuckles in the shot; I was too excited to notice them at the time!

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Up and down, we ran.

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Around and around, we wound.

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Then came more stairs to tackle, and the fatigue started to set in.

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We stopped to catch our breaths on the ascent, turned around and saw this.

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Matt and Christian charged ahead like champs — it was Christian’s second half marathon and Matt’s first, although they’re pros at tackling the Bay Area’s trails. Hubby hung back with me because I tweaked my right ankle around mile eight just before the wheels started coming off around mile nine.

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I distracted myself with more picture-taking and tried to use the scenery to help inspire me to get through miles 10 and 11, but fighting through fatigue and trying to navigate technical terrain was starting to take its toll. I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we saw the marker for mile 12 — one more mile! — although it was short-lived because we turned the corner and saw a sign for “Nutcracker Hill.”

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Hm, I thought, that can’t be good. And true to its moniker, we began trekking up the steepest, muddiest, slipperiest portion of the whole course, stepping gingerly to avoid rocks, sliding despite our best efforts to remain stable, and not making much progress compared to our overall effort.

But we continued marching forward with a purpose and soon found ourselves navigating the steep descent on the back half of the hill toward the finish. Arms raised above our heads, Hubby and I crossed together in 2:24:03, with just six minutes to spare to make my loose goal of “under 2:30” for the day.

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Awaiting us at the pavilion was a roaring fire, hot beef stew, apples, pears, peanut butter and gummy bears. After spilling half of my bowl of soup down the front of me, we proceeded to huddle in a corner and devour our remaining food before making a beeline through the wind, rain and cold to the comfort of our car.

All in all, a great race experience — I’ll battle the elements and crawl my way out of the pain cave any day to be able to see these kinds of sights along the way. And I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Trail running rules.

Link-Up: Best & Worst of Racing

Best (or Worst) of My Racing History

Linking up today with Jessie over at The Right Fits to share some of the best and worst of my racing history! I read about this via my Coeur pal Erin over at SweetSweatLife and enjoyed her post so much that I thought it’d be fun to take a little walk down memory lane.

So without further ado, here are my best and worst…plus a few extra categories I added just for fun!

Best Start Line

Hands-down, the 2014 Detroit Marathon. I mean, c’mon, is there anything better than being in your hometown and hearing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blaring over the speakers as they count down to the start?!

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Best Finish Line

There’s nothing like crossing the finish line in your first 26.2, so my personal favorite here is the 2002 Chicago Marathon. But if I can also count a race I haven’t run (yet?) but attended, I’d have to go with Boston — an iconic race in a city full of spirit.

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The shot above is from 2004 while I was living there and going to grad school; we’d start our day at mile 26 to cheer runners along the last stretch. The shot below isn’t from the actual race (it’s from the Pats Superbowl parade), but gives a good idea of the crowd support at the end; I worked at Boston Sports Club Copley at the time, and we’d finish the day standing on that very same rooftop to watch people cross the finish line.

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Best Expo

Nobody puts on a pre-race party quite like Nike, which is why the expotique from the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon takes the cake for this category. From live DJ, fashion show, social media integration and a host of other activities, it’s something that ever runner should experience at least once.

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Oh, and if your gut can handle it, they have a pretty sweet spread there, too. Care to carb-load with a macaroon, anyone?

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Best Crowd Support

Hm, this one’s a tough call. While 2002’s Chicago Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart for the thousands of people lined up along the route, it’s probably a close tie with this year’s Detroit Marathon.

Why? Well, anytime you can run through the wall (and not hit it) while running 26.2 is a win.

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Hottest Race

No question, I was burning up for most of the 2014 HITS Napa Olympic triathlon. Not only were we battling hot temps while on a course with little shade, but I also found out later that I was racing with a low-grade fever.

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Coldest Race

Hubby and I rang in the start of the holiday season with the 2010 Walnut Creek Turkey Trot…and froze our buns off in the process. At the last minute, I threw on an ill-fitting vest to try to keep warm, but ended up tugging at it for most of the 10K. Outfit fail!

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Most Beautiful Course

I’ll let the picture from the 2014 Lake Chabot Trail Run 30K speak for itself. You can see why it’s so easy to get hooked on the trails!

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Most Coordinated Outfits

Put a hot glue gun in my hand, and I’m not responsible for what’ll happen next. Case in point: I got a little crafty before the 2013 Turkey Trail Trot XI and made Hubby and myself some matching outfits to get into the spirit of this wacky race.

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Funniest Memory

Easily the 2011 Detroit Half Marathon. Here’s the before, with my sister, whom I was going to pace for her second half marathon.

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And the during, in which I proceeded to not only chatter incessantly in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain, but also take a bunch of pictures along the way to document our experience. She was clearly not amused.

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Best New Experience

Running a new distance (especially an ultra) can be scary. But tackling it with a friend, who just so happens to be an accomplished trail runner and fabulous pacer? Awesome, as you can see from this shot from 2014’s Canyon Meadow 50K.

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Best People Watching

Bay to Breakers. Every year. ‘Nuff said.

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Hilliest Course

While it may not rank as my hilliest race in terms of actual elevation, I remember the hills in the 2005 U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco shocking me the most mid-race. Not only was it my very first 13.1, but I’d never run over the Golden Gate Bridge before, so the steep ascent, steady climb over and switchbacks on the Marin side were a rude awakening to Bay Area running!

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Flattest Course

I’m sure I’ve run on many a pancake-flat course, but the 2011 Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon sticks out as a particularly level one. It also helped me snag my second sub-two-hour time!

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Course That Took the Most Mental Strength

The picture below is from this year’s HITS Napa Olympic triathlon, and it’s also one of my toughest racing moments to-date.

Those other guys in the shot? Yeah, they’re done with their swims and headed out on the bike. Me, not so much — I’ve still got my second lap, and I’m pretty much trying A) to force myself back into the water for round two, and B) not to cry.

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Most Disappointing Start

Making a rookie racing mistake at the 2009 Nike Women’s Half Marathon meant that I had to run it without a time chip (forgot it in the hotel room), effectively meaning I didn’t do it (i.e. there’s no official record of my participation).

Lesson learned: Now I always put my timing chip on my shoe or bib the night before the race, and make sure to double-check it on race morning!

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Most Disappointing Finish

My face says it all in the shot below: Try not to puke.

In 2007, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon and didn’t respect the distance. Not only was I under-trained and went out too quickly, but I was also coming down with a cold and mistakenly experimented with some Airborne and cold medicine that morning.

Big mistake. My poor friend Marlene was such as saint as I slammed into the wall at mile six, then proceeded to poorly manage gastrointestinal issues and leg cramps for the rest of the race before ending up in the fetal position at the finish line.

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Crappiest Weather

Despite Oregon’s reputation for rain, they say that it’s only been wet once or twice during the city’s very popular fall marathon. So, of course, my 2010 Portland Half Marathon was one of those lucky years where we experienced a downpour.

And, in case you were wondering, that’s not happiness on my face to be running, soaked and chilled to the bone.

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Most Surprising

My very first triathlon — a sprint in the local quarry — was 2010’s Tri for Fun in Pleasanton, Calif. My goggles leaked, the water was warm and full of goose poop, my bike was a poor-fitting Craigslist purchase, and my legs cramped on the run…but I finished with a smile and enjoyed every moment!

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Most Rewarding Race

Helping my sister cross her first 13.1 finish line in the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Not only is the city one of our favorites, but to share that experience with her was also something I’ll always remember.

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Coolest Medal

No one will argue with the Nike Women’s Marathon “medal” (below is last year’s version). As far as bling goes, you can’t do much better than that pretty Tiffany necklace!

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Best Worst Experience

A friend joked with me that Hood to Coast was the “best-worst race experience,” and after running this year’s event, I couldn’t agree more. It’s exhausting, intense and overwhelming at times, but so worth it for the 200-mile bonding experience…and getting to cross that sand-filled finish line!

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Got a best (or worst) race memory? I’d love to hear!

How I Run: Ultra-mama Sarah Evans

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Can’t you just feel the pure joy radiating from that photo above?! Not only is Sarah Evans an amazingly-inspiring social media pal from the Bay Area, but she’s also one of my very favorite runners to interview because her attitude toward life — and running — is positively awesome…and infectious.

We chatted on two previous occasions (about bouncing back after a baby and how she balances a growing baby with mounting mileage), but I wanted to include her in my new “How I Run” interview series to get her take on the questions below.

Read on for details on a few of Sarah’s favorite things, as well as this ultra-mama’s plans to tackle a “mother” of a distance (50 miles!) come December:

1. What’s your favorite route? I love a Mt. Tam summit (2,400 feet over 4.5 miles) or any trail in the Marin Headlands; there’s nothing like the view coming down Diaz Ridge switchbacks with the Pacific Ocean spanning in front of you…then knowing you have one heck of a climb back up and over!

2. What shoes do you wear? Asics Gel Nimbus forever!

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? As a Type A runner, my Garmin Forerunner 620. And my Headsweats visor!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” Literally ‘running’ my errands to get in a run. Or if I want to get out for some fresh air instead of going for a walk with my daughter, I’ll run (you get more places, faster that way anyways!). I also always lay out my clothes and program the coffee maker for all my early-morning runs. It’s harder to make excuses with the smell of coffee and a trail of clothes waiting for you at 5am!

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Consistency. I have a strong mental game about not giving in or up. And maintenance. If you don’t do the maintenance work, you won’t stay healthy. Do the work ‘behind the scenes’ (meaning rolling, stretching, hip/glute strengthening, yoga, etc.) and your running will remain and continue to get stronger.

6. What do you listen to while running? A lot of relaxing streaming music (mixed with a few pop/upbeat songs) or my own thoughts and daydreams 🙂

7. What are you currently training for? Chicago Marathon in October (update: she PR’d with a 3:18!), then the NorthFace 50-miler in December.

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8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Compression socks, lots of hydration and legs-up-the-wall pose all help with recovery…plus, a burrito the size of my head doesn’t hurt either! I try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night — yes, this takes effort and work in itself to get enough sleep, but it’s just as important for a healthy being as anything else. I try to be in bed by 9:30 with no electronics, and a TV isn’t allowed in the bedroom. I value sleep!

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? First, if it feels ‘good,’ you’re not maxing out your potential or running hard enough…during a race it should ‘hurt so good!’ Second, run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never stop moving forward (this particularly pertains to Ultra running). Third, fuel and hydrate early and often.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? Running during my pregnancy is a time in my life that is full of some of my favorite running memories. And not because I was breaking personal records or climbing the highest peaks, but because I felt strong, happy, relaxed and excited to share my love for running with my little one so early.

I enjoyed every last step of each run because I knew my time would become limited once baby arrived, so I didn’t take the freedom to run for granted. I ran some memorable races while pregnant, including a marathon the day I found out I was pregnant, and crossing the finish line at Boston marathon in 2013 only 10 minutes before the tragic bombing events, which put a lot into perspective.

I realized my full love and potential for running during my pregnancy, so it has to go down as a time of favorite running-related memory!

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman, two amazing women who are moms, Oiselle pros and inspire me to be a strong mom, woman and runner!

12. Anything else you want to add? What running means to you will change in your life as time goes on; embrace that change and go with it. You may fall in and out of love with running, but it is always there for you when you need it. It’s a kind of therapy in itself and is the simplest, least expensive activity you can do anywhere!

Thanks, as always, Sarah! Runner friends, please email me — info (at) kineticfix.com — if you’d like to be featured 🙂