How I Run: SweatGuru founder and ultra-runner Jamie Walker

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Jamie Walker is the CEO and co-founder of both SweatGuru, an online marketplace for fitness (disclaimer: where I work!), and Fit Approach, a wildly popular San Francisco boot camp, blog and online community whose “Sweat Pink” motto has inspired more than 5,000 global members and 20,000 monthly visitors to lead healthier lifestyles.

But when she’s not busy being the boss, you will more than likely find Jamie out running the trails like one. She’s an accomplished ultra-marathoner, yogi, trainer and all-around athlete, and it was because of her that I signed up — and completed — my first 50K this year…a mere two weeks after she rocked a 100-mile race.

It’s pretty clear that Jamie’s passion for health extends into everything she does, so I figured it was only fitting that we kick off this brand new interview series by taking a look at what makes this ultra-awesome woman tick:

1. What’s your favorite route? My favorite route is anywhere with a good, long trail…and views. One of my favorite places to run is up on Mt. Tam. I love doing the East Peak Summit run, especially when it involves chasing sunrise.

2. What shoes do you wear? I rotate between Brooks Cascadias and Salomon Sense Mantras for trails and Asics Gel Kayanos for the road.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? My Nathan hydration pack is my all-time favorite piece of running gear. I can pack everything I need and be a totally self-sufficient runner. Plus, it has been with me on some epic adventures (you can probably tell by the grime).

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” I am an ultra runner who believes that all training should be efficient. I don’t slog the “recommended” number of long miles every day or weekend, I do what I can when I can. Running isn’t my job and shouldn’t feel like one. I like to go get lost on the trails and am perfectly satisfied when I put miles in, however many I can.

I’m not a lazy runner, though. I keep a consistent base of fitness and challenge myself with interval training, strength training and yoga. I truly believe that if you build a strong body, you can put in the miles. And to build a strong body, you need to differentiate your workouts. This holds true for any sport.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I don’t know if I’m better than anyone at anything, in particular. But one thing I’m super proud of is my ability to shut it all out. I try not to get caught up in pace, splits, and other runner frenzy (anxiety). I run for me and find my zen through running.

6. What do you listen to while running? The sounds of nature and the voices in my head. 😉

7. What are you currently training for? I’m running Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler in about a month which is one of my all-time favorite races. I’m also doing another Ragnar Relay, which should be a blast.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Recovery…what’s that? I don’t have a specific training plan, as I said before. I try to keep a consistent base of fitness and listen to my body. I try to mix up my routine — between running, yoga, weights, bootcamp — and through that find a way to stay active without overdoing it! Sleep, well, let’s just say that’s something I’m really working on lately!

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? The best running advice I have ever received is “forward progress, just keep moving…” In fact, this has become my own personal mantra. It’s true for running, life and even my career. Everything is all about continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? I think my fondest memory to-date is crossing the finish line at my first ultra – the Dick Collins 50 miler – I was in so much pain and barely hobbling towards the finish, but as soon as I saw it, my body allowed me to give it every last ounce and sprint in through the finish. It felt amazing. I remember laying down in the grass almost immediately and just relishing in my accomplishment.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with ______. Kelly Ripa. She’s probably pretty fast and would be fun to talk to out on the trails.

Thanks for playing, Jamie! 

Runner friends, please give me a shout (info (at) kineticfix.com) if you’d like to be featured!

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Checking in with ultra-momma Sarah Evans

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I first spoke with Sarah Evans earlier this year after seeing that she totally smashed her marathon PR (and qualified for Boston) a mere four months after having a baby.

Inspired and intrigued, I asked if I could pick her brain, and my interview with her continues to be one of the most popular KineticFix posts to this day.

Six-plus months have passed since then, and we have yet to coordinate trail running schedules (one day!), although we do connect every so often over social media to root each other on.

So I figured it was about time for us to catch up on life, running and our shared love for getting lost on the trails…

KineticFix: How has training been going since we last chatted?

Sarah Evans: Training has been fun and one of the things that has remained consistent and steady in my life.

Since the first of the year I’ve ran several races, including a PR (personal record) at the Kaiser Half Marathon in February (1:33:40), a 35k on my (34th!) birthday in March and a fun 5k (tried to break 20 min; not quite there yet!) with my mom in April, culminating in my first Ultra (a 50k) this month!

I’ve continued running, cross training with cycling and have been including a lot more yoga and HIIT (high intensity interval training), boot camp-type workouts to my regimen instead of the boring, slow strength training that I did in the past.

I also decided to resign from my job as a medical device rep at the first of the year to stay home and raise my daughter for the time being. Since then I’ve studied for and passed/received my personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and I’m also going to take classes to become a certified run coach next month through Road Runners Club of America.

So I’m really exploring other opportunities in the sport that I love while still being able to stay close to home with my baby girl.

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KF: Wow, you’ve sure been busy! So can you share your latest tips for maintaining a workout schedule with a increasingly-active baby girl?

SE: With having an ever-changing and super-active baby, running has continued to remain my outlet and my ‘me’ time to get out in the early mornings before the day gets hectic (or exhausting!).

I still maintain my Sunday mornings with my friends on the trails; those are my 3-4 hours that are an unspoken religion to me to get out solo, so my husband is very supportive of that routine. But I’m also finding more time to run with my daughter in the BOB stroller, since she’s becoming much more aware, active and awake for longer periods; it’s a time we can spend together and I can start sharing my love of running with her!

During a typical weekday, I’m awake around 5:30/6am to get in a run or a spin on my bike before my daughter wakes up (at 7am). Twice a week I get until 7:30am to go on a longer run if I want, and my husband gets up with our daughter. It gives me some extra ‘me’ time and my husband gets some of those precious morning minutes that are so sweet with a baby. It’s a great compromise and schedule that we have worked out!

On those mornings, I know I have a chunk of my training done for the day, and then me and my daughter can enjoy the morning together taking a walk, playing in the yard or at the park. Then I will add on small/additional ‘workouts’ throughout the day.

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That’s what I think is important for many busy women and moms to realize: You don’t need a full hour or two a day to work out. Just add it in little by little throughout your day! I keep resistance bands, my yoga mat, foam rollers, some small hand weights, ankle weights and an exercise ball out in our living room all the time (hey it eventually blends in with all the toys!).

While my daughter is laughing at her reflection in front of the mirror, practicing crawling or working on developmental skills with some toys, I can get in 10 minutes of core work, leg and butt exercises, lunges (during which I will hold her for extra weight!), you name it. I also have 10-20 minute ‘bootcamp’ or total-body workouts I’ll do, where each exercise is done for one minute.

It’s easy to stop those workouts, if needed, in the middle and pick them up later in the day. And when my daughter takes a nap, I’ll fit in a 20-minute yoga session in between dishes, laundry, taking a shower and preparing her meals. It is truly the small things you do throughout the day that add up.

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Another way I also stay active with a 10-month old baby is by walking (or many times run!) when I do errands. We jog the mile to the grocery store or run/walk the 1.25 miles to the park, all instead of driving the car. We spend a lot of time outside, so that automatically lends itself to being active, in fresh air and staying fit.

And how I maintain my workout and training schedule is truly planning my weeks in advance. This works especially well when you have a training plan for a race mapped out, then you already know what  will be running weeks/months in advance!

I will put the entire plan into my calendar, marking down what mileage or workout I need to do and on what days. Then when I look at my week on Sunday evening, I already know whether I need to carve out time early in the morning, during a ‘lunch-break’ (for me that may be nap-time) or sometimes later in the evening.

This helps because just as I’ll schedule a lunch, a meeting or an appointment with someone, I also schedule my run (or any workout, spin, strength, core work, etc.) It’s  important to make that meeting with yourself, and this way it’s really difficult for me to miss a run or cross training workout because it’s pre-scheduled into my day!

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KF: All great ideas! Speaking of getting active in the great outdoors, you’ve entered ultra territory, too. Why the step up to longer distances? 

SE: I am competitive, especially with myself, and I’m always looking for the next challenge. I found myself wanting another hurdle to overcome (as if having a baby or my come-back from breaking my foot two years ago wasn’t enough!).

I had recently broken my personal records for the marathon and half-marathon within four and six months, respectively, post-baby — so I thought an Ultra (starting off with a 50K) would be the natural next step. Pair that with my absolute LOVE of the trails, and it seemed like a no-brainer.

There’s a big difference going from road runs with speed to the long, slow pacing of a trail ‘ultra’ distance. It taps into a different part of yourself and your spirit, and it seems to exceed a certain fitness level and delves into mental strength…but I like that new challenge!

I’m hoping that this isn’t my last Ultra. The community that surrounds the trails and ultra-running is very unique, open and friendly, and I love the feeling I get from getting dirty, sometimes lost (I think you can relate!) and being out in nature.

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KF: Oh, yes! I like to say that if there’s a way to get lost, I’ll find it — especially on the trails. What’s next on your list, and can you share your game plan for getting there?

SE: I’m looking forward to kicking it up a notch and getting back into speed work and intervals when I start training for the Chicago Marathon, which I will be running along with my mom for her first marathon! This was also my first marathon in 2008, so I am looking for another personal record and Boston Qualifying time.

I’ll create my own training plan; I enjoy researching and finding new workouts to add to my runs and being my own coach. There’s not the pressure of answering to a coach, but I’m also my own worst critic, so I do a pretty good job at keeping myself in check!

I am also working out the details of registering for the 2015 Boston Marathon (with my last marathon qualifying time) and then trying to get into the Boston to Big Sur Challenge next April where you run back-to-back marathons, six days apart, on opposite coasts of the country. And I’ve always been a big fan of The North Face Endurance Challenge, so that could possibly be another 50k (or dare I say 50 mile!?) opportunity.

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On the exploring and fun side, I have a deep desire to also run Rim to Rim (and maybe Rim!) in the Grand Canyon, so I may be putting together a group for late next Spring.

All of these races really are just a celebration for the running that I do on a daily, weekly basis. I don’t run just to race, the races just seem like a great opportunity to add on challenges to my running, which I still do purely for the freedom, joy and love of it.

I am very excited to share this passion with my daughter and possibly run a race with her one day, as I am doing with MY mom this year! I am also very lucky to be able to spend time at home with my daughter in her first year of life and to start to use my personal training and coaching certifications for my own knowledge and to share with my friends and family who seem to enjoy picking my brain for advice and input in their own active lives.

Now, as I look at my plans for the next year, there seems to be a lot going on. But in the end, it’s done for the fun of it all, to spend time on the trails with my running crew and to celebrate our training with races…not to mention coming home to my husband and daughter and going out for Mexican!

It’s the easy, simple things sometimes 🙂

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Special thanks, Sarah, for taking the time to chat. Can’t wait to follow along on your adventures over the next year — and hopefully hit those trails with you soon!

10 tips for recovering from a 50K

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Let me be the first to say it: Finishing one 50K definitely does not qualify me as an expert in all things ultra marathon.

But I have been training for, running and racing all kinds of distances for almost 20 years now (crap, that makes me feel old), so I am somewhat of an expert on my body and how to help it bounce back from pretty intense endurance events.

This is by no means an exhaustive checklist; it’s just what I like to do to help kick-start the recovery process, which — if done properly — is where the real gains in your training can occur.

1. Celebrate — You just ran 31 miles! Accept that round of hugs, collect your medal, then take a load off for a few minutes…preferably in the shade.

2. Eat — Refuel your body so it can repair and rebuild. For me, this equates to fistfuls of candy at the finish, but I always follow it up with a good meal.

3. Drink  — Celebratory glass of Pomegranate Cider (see step no. 1) aside, I spend the rest of the day trying to rehydrate until my pee runs light yellow.

4. Assess — Do a head-to-toe check for injuries or issues. From blisters to poison oak to tweaked joints, it’s better to recognize it sooner rather than later.

5. Address — I pop Advil for aches, wear compression gear to soothe muscles, apply Tecnu, and bathe in ice or Espom salts to reduce inflammation.

6. Sleep — Restless legs may make it tough to sleep the night after the race, so two nights later I aim for a long, deep sleep to allow my body to reboot.

7. Rest — More than just sleep, this means taking a day (or two) off after a race that gives my body — and mind — and break from the training grind.

8. Reflect — Drafting up the race report while the event is still fresh in my head lets me figure out what worked well — and what didn’t — for next time.

9. Move — I start with light walking the day after and ease in with a gentle swim on day two. By day three, I follow it up with an easy session on the bike.

10. Plan — Last but not least, it’s important to continually set goals to stay motivated. This usually comes in the form of a new race registration!

What are your best strategies for recovering from a big event? 

Race Report: Canyon Meadow 50K

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The short version? I LOVE TRAIL RUNNING!

The long version? I’m still processing things, and I don’t feel like words can fully give it justice, but I’ll give it a shot…

Wow. What an incredible day! I went into this race with a crazy mix of emotions: Excitement at attempting a new distance (my first ultra!), confidence at having an accomplished ultra runner friend pacing me, yet fear over the unknown of how my body would respond to a new distance over different terrain.

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and even though I had crazy dreams the previous night — running naked through poison oak, for instance — I slept well and felt rested by the time my alarm went off on Saturday morning. I did my usual race morning prep, met up with Jamie (my trail angel), Casey (her fiance) and Maria (another ultra-awesome runner friend), and we were on our way.

The drive over to Oakland from San Francisco was uneventful, and we actually arrived early — a little more than an hour before the race was scheduled to start at 8 a.m. But by the time we did the three pre-race P’s (park, pee and packet pickup) we had just 15 minutes until go-time.

No corrals here; everyone just casually lined up for the start and we chatted with a few other friends who were running. I love how much more relaxed the environment is as compared to road races where the throngs of people only seem to increase my anxiety.

Right before we took off, Jamie and I got down to business and went over our game plan. As my pacer, she said her goal was to get me across the finish line without “bonking,” which would require a careful mix and continual monitoring of running strategy, smart nutrition and mental stamina.

After all, as the race distances grow longer, so does your potential chance of something going wonky. And Jamie was focused on having us run a conservative race to give me a great experience for my first ultra distance.

Loop One: Miles 1-13.1 (~2:37 total time)

We crossed the start line and immediately started climbing. And climbing. Jamie warned me not to get swept up in the crowd since we’d have to tackle this big hill two more times (at the beginning of each loop), so we stayed to the side of the path and went at our own pace, alternating jogging and walking.

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After we cleared the top of that first huge ascent, things leveled out a bit and we got to enjoy running through some rolling hills. The weather was a perfect 60ish with a mix of fog and clouds, so we crossed our fingers and hoped that it’d stay cool as long as possible.

Not too far into the first loop, Jamie and I ran into Vivi and Molly, my partners in crime from the Lake Chabot 30K back in February. They were doing the 30K to prepare for a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon run next weekend, so we ran with them for a bit; great conversation is always a welcome distraction, regardless of distance!

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Jamie wanted us to keep things slow and steady for the first loop, so we kept the pace conversational after broke off from the ladies. We also made sure to eat every few miles (I made rice balls and salty balls) and drink every few minutes.

There were aid stations at miles ~5 and ~11, so we stopped each time to fill up on electrolyte drink, salt tabs and snacks. For some reason PB&J sandwich squares and pretzel crisps were hitting the spot, so we’d grab handfuls to munch along the way.

At that second aid station, the volunteers told us that the next station was ~3 miles away, so we knew we were coming up on the finish line area (the first of three times we’d travel though it!). We were in high spirits, and I was proud that I hadn’t once checked my watch (Jamie threatened to take it away from me because of the mind games the mileage can play).

As we spotted the flags near the finish line, I was pretty excited to see that we had completed the first half marathon in ~2:37, and Jamie said she thought we were making great time. We pulled up to the aid station to refill as another friend, Marlana, flew up behind us into the finisher’s chute to complete her 30K!

Mentally, it was a little very daunting knowing that we’d have to pass through here again before coming in for the finish. But rather than dwelling on it, I tried to focus on the task at hand: the second half marathon.

Loop Two: Miles: 13.1-26.2 (~5:17 total time)

We started the second loop just as we did the first — with lots of climbing. Yes, it was tougher this time. But we were chatting away and laughing — as you can see, Jamie and I were determined to put the “fun” in 50K.

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Oddly enough, even though we were repeating the same 13.1-mile loop, there were parts that I remembered clearly and others that I didn’t recognize at all. I also experienced a few moments of “ultra-runner acid trip,” as Jamie called ’em and started seeing a few things out of the corner of my eye, like a runner crouched behind a tree or a polar bear (it was a stump and a fire hydrant covered in plastic, respectively).

Visions aside, Jamie said that this loop was a crucial one; if we could make it through smart and strong, we’d be in good shape for the last five miles. So even though the sun was starting to heat things up and our legs were showing the first signs of fatigue, we continued our strategic mix of walking and running.

This time, the aid stations seemed to come a little more slowly. But we passed the time chatting away and kept up our eating and drinking schedule, particularly at the aid stations where we upped our intake of S! Caps salt tablets to two at a time.

Before we knew it, we were at the mile 24 aid station, with the next aid station a mere 2.2 miles away at the finish line area. I knew that would be a big mental crossroads, so as we pulled in we kept our stay there pretty brief so as not to lose momentum.

I did pause long enough to look at the clock, though — 5:17 for the marathon! That was just the boost I needed. I still hadn’t checked my watch, so I’d been running “blind” with no idea how we were doing on time, although Jamie had assured me we were still steady and strong.

I didn’t want to let my mind get too far ahead of me — Jamie’s advice was to focus on the finish rather than the numbers, on which I tend to get fixated — but I did tell her then that I had secretly wanted to finish in less than seven hours.

And now it seemed within the realm of possibility (after the race, she told me she knew we’d be coming in under 6:30, but didn’t want to get me too hooked on expectations = an awesome pacer).

Loop Three: Miles 26.2-31 (~60 mins for final 5 miles)

Again, we went up that hill. Although this time (as you can see from the elevation chart above), it wasn’t quite as long. Well, maybe not in distance — but it sure felt about five times as long as the previous two climbs due to the accumulated fatigue in our legs.

But Jamie kept us moving forward — she gave me tips on not only how to maneuver up the hills and to take advantage of the downhills, but also how to keep consistently moving forward in the mounting heat, which was starting to get to me.

By the time we got to the turnoff where the trail split into the smaller final loop from the previous two loops, we knew we were in the home stretch. But at this point, moving was starting to be more of a struggle with stiff legs, achy knees and a flutter in my gut that I’d been managing over the previous miles.

Instead of backing off the food and water, though, we doubled down when I’d feel my gut start to go, which did help. And soon we were back running under a canopy of redwoods, so the cooler air combined with the softer pine-needle-packed running surface was a welcome respite.

After what seemed like a whole lot more than four miles, we made the final turn back toward the finish and saw a sign marking where the half marathon loop and the five-mile loop met. I started getting a little emotional because I knew we were so close, but Jamie reeled me back in to focus on the final portion, which was a series of paved paths through the park.

She warned me that it would feel endless. And it did. But at the same time, it flew by in a blur and we saw the finish line flags through the last set of trees. We turned the corner, sprinted (or as close to that as we could) toward the finish line, and Jamie slowed at the last second to let me cross first…

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Final time: 6:17:34 (30th overall, 8th female, 3rd age group)

I think my exact words were, “Holy shit!” as we saw the clock. Not only did we finish, but we finished strong and well under the time I was expecting. THANK YOU, Jamie! We hugged the sweatiest hug and collapsed in the shade under a tree near the finish line.

Only then did I check my watch, but unfortunately the GPS must’ve skipped when we were under the canopy, so it only read 30.58. Right then and there I told Jamie I was doubly thankful that I listened to her advice — I had a great run by feel without time, and I knew that the GPS being off would’ve totally thrown me for a mental loop.

Luckily, though, she had recorded it on her Strava, so I’ve got proof!

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What did I learn from this experience?

  • The company you keep can make or break your day — even though Jamie was feeling the effects of the later miles, too, I never knew it because she was so focused on keeping things positive for me
  • Nutrition and hydration are critical — Staying ahead of the curve (eating and drinking before you’re hungry or thirsty) is the most important part of maintaining efforts for long periods of time
  • Salt tablets are your friend on hot days — We took ’em at every aid station to help keep us drinking and ward off muscle cramps
  • Don’t be afraid to walk, but do so “with a purpose” — As with eating and drinking, don’t wait until you need to walk; use it strategically up hills to conserve energy so you can make up time on the downhills and go the distance
  • Training will only take you so far; attitude is everything — I agree 100 percent with Jamie’s philosophy: It’s not all about the miles; you’ve just got to build a good base of fitness and the rest is smart strategy on race day
  • Embrace the unknown — It’s damn scary to push your mind and body to a new threshold, but so worth it

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So there you have it. As I told Jamie yesterday, if you asked me a few years ago, I never would have considered doing ultra-marathon. In fact, a little over a year ago, I wasn’t even sure my body could handle the 26.2 distance again.

But now? Well, thanks to her encouragement and guidance I had an amazing day out there. Hitting that new 31-mile milestone was an incredible feeling; not just because it was about redefining my limits — it was about resetting expectations for myself.

And you know what? The sky really is the limit.

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Thank you, Jamie, for making my first 50K experience “ultra-awesome!” Now, when’s the next one??

Canyon Meadow Ultramarathon: The plan

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Holy crap. What did I get myself into?

Right now, my brain keeps going back and forth between two thoughts:

I can’t wait to hit the trails tomorrow and make this happen.

That first step after 26.2 will put me officially at the longest distance I’ve ever run…and then I’ve got five miles — and some decent elevation — to go after that. 

Physically, I haven’t kept as regimented a training plan as I usually do for long-distance races. Quantitatively that concerns me a bit, but qualitatively I’m actually not too worried about it because my focus is on covering the distance — which I’m pretty confident I can do — versus racing the clock.

What I have been doing? Getting time “on my feet,” which means long runs (10-15 miles) every weekend, plus oodles of cross-training during the week to ensure I stay in shape without (literally) running myself into the ground.

But I’ve also been taking some time to tend to some of the non-running aspects of the race which, according to recent Born to Run 100-mile finisher Jamie Walker (yep, 1-0-0, that’s not a typo), are just as critical to getting across that finish line in an ultra.

Namely, this means doing some mental preparation and making a plan for staying on top of fueling and hydration during the race. And having an awesome pacer to help me navigate the day is a huge bonus (THANK YOU, Jamie!).

Jamie gave the Feed Zone Portables rice cakes a glowing review for keeping her tummy happy mid-race, so I’ll be following suit and hoping for the same good results. Plus, I’ve whipped up a batch of Hailey Manning’s famous Salty Balls as a second snack option.

Mentally, I know there will be ups and downs throughout the day…but I’ll be keeping two things in mind: First, I just have to keep moving forward. And second, I get to be out there — no one is forcing me — so I might as well enjoy every moment of it!

Finally, I just finished Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography, A Life Without Limits (sensing a theme about awesome female athletes in this post?), and it’s also inspired me to get out there, push those “limits” and see what I’m capable of doing.

In fact, Wellington sums it up pretty perfectly here:

“To my amazement, at so many stages along the way, the limits that I thought I could see in the distance dissolved as I approached them. They turned out not to be real at all but mere assumptions. And that has been the most exciting revelation of all.”

No better motivation than that as I take to the trails 🙂

Stay tuned for the 50K race report!

If at first you don’t succeed…

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…trail, trail again!

That was the theme this past weekend as Hubby and I tried to squeeze in one last trail run before my 50K on May 31.

Our first attempt was on Saturday morning in Marin. We’d done the Tennessee Valley Trail once before, but ended up cutting off about two miles because A) navigating trails is never easy, and B) if there’s a way to get lost, I’ll find it.

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So this time we were determined to hug the coastline and reclaim those lost miles. No matter what — even if it meant going down a single-track trail that slowly disappeared into thick brush.

Long story short? Some of that “brush” we were wading through turned out to be poison oak.

Combine that with four snake sightings, plus something hissing at me under a rock (my guess is snake no. five), and Hubby and I high-tailed it back to the car and called it a day after two miles.

But not before stopping to pick up the skin-saving miracle called Tecnu. We slathered ourselves in it head-to-toe, and so far so good…

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Cut to trail attempt, take two, on Sunday where we decided that a 13-miler around Lake Chabot — the scene of my 30K this past February — might be a better option.

The poison oak and another snake sighting (yup, both are all over right now) turned out to be only minor annoyances, though, as compared to another factor that reared its ugly head: heat.

Our “summer” — i.e. foggy, barely 60-degree — days have definitely softened us. Despite drinking all the water in my vest, I was still super dehydrated by the time we finished (but my fueling was good, as you can see — thanks, Hubby, for catching me mid-mouthful).

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Although we both spent the remainder of the day trying to re-hydrate — seriously, we couldn’t get enough water — it was a great reminder going into my race to drink more frequently.

In fact, experts say that performance is impaired when you’re dehydrated by as little as two percent of body weight…and we experienced that firsthand when we both started dragging in the later miles.

But working out the kinks aside, you can’t really complain too much when you’re running with these kinds of views.

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After all, as one fellow trail runner said to us in passing, “It’s just another horrible day in paradise, isn’t it?”

Happy trails, friends!

Fave Fix: My must-have gear for trail running

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past few months on the trails, it’s that running off the roads is a whole different beast than running on ’em. Aside from the obvious terrain and elevation challenges, it requires a new approach — from gear to strategy to fueling — to get from Point A to Point B, especially when we’re talking ultra-distances.

Because of that, I wanted to share an inside look at how I’m planning for my first ultra marathon — the Canyon Meadow 50K — at the end of the month. See below for what I’ll be wearing, eating, drinking and using to help me recover when all is said and done…and (fingers-crossed) run 🙂

Feet First: The Brooks Cascadia 8 came highly recommended from several trail runner friends due to its traction and responsiveness, plus it was my favorite of all the brands and styles I tested at San Francisco Running Company. I like to buy my running shoes a half size up to allow for feet to swell, and I may add a Superfeet orthotic insole for a little extra support.

– Keeping Cool (& Chafe-Free): I love a trucker-type hat with breathable mesh and a wide brim to block the sun. And under my technical, sweat-wicking t-shirt, I’ll be wearing a Coeur Sports Checkmate Sports Bra, which has anti-chafe seams that are perfect for long race days. On the bottom, I’ll pair the Lululemon Groovy Run Short with CEP Progressive+ Calf Sleeves to promote circulation and protect lower legs, plus Balega Blister-Resist Trail Socks to try to keep my feet from getting too torn up.

Accessories & Extras: Because I’ll be in and out of the sun, I’m slathering on Banana Boat Sport sunscreen and wearing Tifosi sunglasses, which adjust automatically when exposed to UV rays. Electronics-wise, I’m taking my Jaybird Bluebuds bluetooth headphones and am hoping for an early birthday present (hint hint, Hubby) — the Garmin Forerunner 910XT — to help me track mileage and stay on pace. I’ll also use the easy-on, easy-off Fuel Belt Race Number Belt and apply ample amounts of TriSlide to avoid hot spots.

50KJenny

One of the most essential items on the trails, though? A good hydration pack, which not only allows you to carry and consume water between aid stations, but also makes it easier to have other essentials — such as fuel, extra clothing, first aid items, etc. — at your fingertips throughout the race.

Focus on fit and function; you want something that’s comfortable, compact and efficient so you have everything you need without extra bulk. My favorite is the 2013 Trail Runner Magazine Gear of the Year Award-winning Ultimate Direction Jenny Women’s Ultra Vesta, which is made specifically for women with an adjustable fit.

50KJenny2

No more water bladder slapping against your back here; the Ultra Vesta’s front strap-mounted holsters offer quick, immediate access to twin 10-ounce water bottles, which are concave against the body and positioned higher on the chest to keep from bouncing against…well, you know.

Besides all the pockets for my cell phone, gels, keys, etc. there’s also a main rear compartment that will accommodate a 70 oz. reservoir (sold separately) for longer treks. And, believe it or not, there’s even an ice axe loop, two trekking pole loops, plus reflective accents for low-light visibility, making this a virtual Swiss Army Knife of packs for all kinds of outings and conditions.

50KFuel

So what am I planning on putting in the pack while running? Well, hopefully not too much…I’m aiming for that delicate balance of being prepared between aid stations (which are usually very well-stocked) and not over-packing, which will fatigue me more quickly.

Ward Off Hanger: What’s been working well in training runs is a mixture of PocketFuel for sustained energy, Salted Caramel Gu Energy Gel for a quick hit of sugar and Bonk Breaker energy bars for something more “food”-like. And, of course, Gin Gins Candies from The Ginger People and good ‘ole TUMS to help keep my stomach settled.

Quench Thirst: I’ll fill my water bottles with Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration for the first leg, and I’m aiming to drink every 10 minutes or so throughout the day. Ideally, I’ll refill the bottles at each aid station, most likely with a mix with water and whatever electrolyte drink they’re providing on the course.

50KRecovery

And although the first goal of the day is to cross that finish line in one piece, setting myself up to recover well comes in a close second. The body takes quite a beating over the course of 30-plus miles, so it’s key to remember a few things to aid with muscle repair and regeneration.

– Refuel and Rebuild: Immediately after finishing (while hitting up the post-race buffet!), I like to mix a packet of Vega Recovery Accelerator in a bottle of water. It’s an all-natural, plant-based recovery drink mix specifically developed to replenish energy and electrolytes, reduce inflammation, muscle and joint pain, support immune system and protein synthesis, and reduce recovery time. Then when I get home, I mix up a recovery smoothie made with Osmo Acute Recovery for Women, a banana, almond milk and ice for an extra boost of nutrition.

Relax and Recover: Finally, one of my favorite post-race treats is a hot shower followed by an afternoon nap in compression gear, which helps reduce swelling and just plain feels good on tired legs. I’ll usually layer Coeur Zipper Tights with Vim & Vigr socks and elevate my legs to start the healing process and make it easier to get out of bed and maneuver around the next day.

What’s your favorite gear to get you through those long trail runs?