Fire Pits and Photo Ops at 5AM Followed by Iced Boobs and Directions from Dean Karnazes: the 2015 North Face DC 50 miler Recap

This toasty hot adventure along a lush beautiful trail in full bloom started with a very early wake up time of 1:50am.  Needless to say, I was so tired.  I need a new word to express my tiredness. Sadly the English language leaves me unable to fully make you aware of my tiredness, so I shall have to invent one right on the spot.

I was Ad-Bay Ired-Tay.

However, because I am a notoriously positive person (and not a bad liar either), I have been trying to tell myself how lucky I am that I get to run all day for 10-12 or even 24 hours straight lately. I mean, it could be worse, right? Surely there are worse things than running all day or night and getting up before the butt crack of dawn to do it. Right?
Am I right?!?

Let’s see here. Shaving the testicles of lions before they get testicular surgery is probably worse. I don’t know… they probably give ’em some kind of lion sedative before they send in the shaver so maybe my current hobby is still worse. Unless the sedative is delivered in suppository form, in which case perhaps the exciting position of lion suppository technician is worse than my adventurous trail running hobby.

In any case, I’d better get going now on this race recap. And maybe later, I’ll find a lion who is need of anal medicine and see how it goes. If I live through it and still have 8 fingers and at least a large part of my face intact, I’m changing hobbies.  After all, it’s my shining personality that keeps getting me followers on FB and Instagram.  They’ll never notice my lack of digits and half gnawed face… as long as the lion doesn’t get at my shining personality holders that are conveniently stored in my sports bra.

So back to the race recap:  I started the dark day with an unusual time-saving pre-race fare.  An industrial strength moisture-wicking endurance bra I slept in overnight beneath my Team RWB race apparel (which I also slept in), 2 balance bars to eat in the car, a banana, two anti-diarrhea caps and a cup of coffee w/ lactose free 2%.

An hour and some odd minutes, I arrived at the Saturday’s pre-dawn gathering at the race site.  I squeezed myself into the shuttle busload of trail runners with obnoxiously bright headlamps on their hats, visors or do rags.  Yet, this did not rattle my pre-race nerves one bit to be sitting so close to strangers in dry max and calf compression sleeves in wildly varying colors eating family sized Costco bags of trail mix while crunching very loudly.

I like these people. These people are the best. I like being around people who run 50 or more miles on a trail in one day.  Even though I don’t particularly like talking, I like talking to these people, hearing about these people and watching these people… whether or not they know I’m watching.

When they are not lubing up their no-no places in public, blowing snot rockets and partaking in equally disgusting personal hygiene activities, I find that trail runners, like road runners, want to talk about themselves.  But truth be told, most of these runners can’t always find someone to listen to them. Even runners who have stuff in common with other people who are married, in relationships or have bestest friends sometimes really never get to be heard. If they can’t find a therapist to whom they can pay a bucket load of money to listen to them, sooner or later they’ll find an innocent bystander and pour out their inner most thoughts and secrets for no good reason.

Apparently I have “innocent bystander” written across my forehead in glowing 24 hr proof Maybelline with SPF as people tend to want to tell me things. Possibly that’s because I ask so many questions to these trail runners. Enquiring minds and all that. I’m deeply and truly interested in the humanity of ultra runners.

I’m a friggin’ ultra humanitarian, that’s what I am.

I’m also a trail mom now.  Especially since I felt the need to clean up that smooshed turd one of ’em left for me on the seat in the porta potty.
Slow down on that Big Grab Mountain Trail mix, Mister!  Ick, I say!  Just, ick!

Even though I made my hands sting with approximately three handfuls of hand sanitizer dissipated into the pores of both palms, I was certain I was still standing in a virtual boiling pot of grossness.  After talking myself down from the OCD hissy fit, I was ready to wait in line with my trail kids who were still divulging their innermost thoughts by the early morn fire pits before posing for individual and group photos on the podium.

This pic features the bravest of Endurance Runners with Team RWB.

And here’s a solo shot that I was sure was a keeper if I didn’t DNF this thing.


Then it was off to Wave 3 to await the official start of the race.

  
The gun went off at 5am sharp and the race was on.  There were about 240 runners, and at the start we were all running together at a decent pace plodding through the trails in the black wilderness.  There are maybe 40 minutes of pitch dark before sunrise this time of year so TNFEC rules list a flashlight and/or headlamp as “mandatory” equipment.  This makes for a magical first half hour of galloping slowly around a cool, dewy, grassy and muddy field with a line of lights snaking ahead and behind.  Weaving and bobbing through the darkness onto the Potomac Heritage trail, we plunged through a tunnel of trees all the while following the dangling neon green glow sticks around the first twists and turns.


I started out running a comfortable 10:40-11:40 pace, chatting with a few runners I’d met at Stonemill 50 back in November and a few from VHTRC.   We stuck together for about 4 miles until I saw a familiar ponytail keeping a steady pace on the trail ahead.  I was feeling strong on the uphills and the downhills at this point, so I thought I’d catch up with this blonde ponytailed run goddess.  She had this easy, understated grace about her that makes her seem entirely above all the monotonous mud we were running through and around at the moment even though she may as well have been screaming obscenities on the inside.

Heading out onto the lowlands area with this new fast friend of mine through the long grass and marshy terrain, I knew this was destined to be a fairy tale excursion filled with good times and sweet memories. In fact, this race would be such a thing of wonder and fabulousness, I felt sure I’d want to write a sonnet about it when I returned to the start/finish. (Possibly an ode even. Maybe a limerick.)

But as soon as that thought occurred, the sun came up across the river to the east and south punctuating the course with some unseasonably sporadic heat.

  
At this point, I guess most of the runners on the course were, like me, not so prepared for 80-85  degree heat.  Even though the first two or three hours felt like fresh spring with a touch of warmish air, but not particularly humid, the Potomac in the DC area can be sloppy and downright muggy when the sun heats up.  Inevitably, sweat began evaporating from runners in bucketloads.

So. The calm before the armpit bubbling heat storm was the first and happiest third of what I think of as a three-part race (Potomac Heritage Trail; 3 laps around Great Falls Park; back on the PHT).  I held good company for a while in this section with the blonde run goddess aka Sara F.  However, I had a feeling she must have been feeling pretty relaxed, running at my pace.

We went our separate ways when mom bladder struck me behind a tree on the Great Fall loop and we didn’t pass again for a few more miles when she spotted some porta potties.  It was in Great Falls Park that we ran a very convoluted 7 mile loop three times, this is where most of the hills and rocks were.  Despite the buckets of sweat, I felt strong the whole time, but definitely did my fair share of walking on the uphills to make sure I had enough in my legs to get through the day.  The first lap, 7 or 8ish miles I guess, went by fairly quickly.  The atmosphere was still not so smothering hot where I’d need to break out one of the few Roctane electrolyte capsules I thought to pack in my vest pocket.  Not too bad, I thought.

Well, wait.
Somewhere on that second loop around Great Falls Park, somewhere around 25 miles, I began to feel it.  Sun and heat rose from the rocks and heat radiated off my salty sweat-laden skin.  My Team RWB shirt was sticking to me and completely soaked.  My Orange Mud VP2 pack was sticky wet with salt-crusted sweat.  The bottles of Tailwind were emptying faster.  I saw increasingly worried, salt-streaked faces on other runners and wiped off salt granules from my own.

  
It was after noticing my salt encrusted hairline in Great Falls that I noticed the 50K runners had joined us on the trails, which was actually a refreshing change of pace.  That is, until I made a wrong turn after the aid station when asking a volunteer if the turn I was taking was the right way to go.

I ran nearly a mile before realizing the famous Dean Karnazes was running behind me.  I decided rather quickly that there was no way he’d be behind me as he was probably a loop ahead.  When I asked him if this was the correct turn after the aid station about a mile back, he appeared puzzled for a second and then helped me come to the definite conclusion that I missed the right turn with the 50 milers I had been running with.  He agreed with me that I should run back to the volunteer who sent me in this direction and get re-routed.  All the while we talked, he stopped running and appeared very concerned.  As everyone who’s ever met him says, he’s such a nice guy.  A real people person.

Meeting Dean while dazed and confused was actually a perfect distraction at this point in the race and the miles just rolled on almost without me noticing up until mile 40 after the lost-and-found-by-Dean incident.

I’m not surprised I got lost because just looking at the map before the race I was thinking, “This won’t work.  I won’t remember this.”  But I learned if I went with the flow of runners I recognized and didn’t ask any questions of the volunteers it does work.  What it all feels like, from a 50 miler’s perspective, is as follows.  Relative solitude over the first third of the race.  When you get to the laps around Great Falls, increasingly busy-ness, runners going every which direction.  The 50k runners join in, their color coded numbers less crinkly and beat up than your reddish number.  Then, you pass other 50 milers, either ahead or behind running both directions on the trail (the loop is not so much a loop as a collection of out-and-backs).

Every few miles, heat rocketed up to deliberately sadistic heights.  The North Face organizers were ready.  Aid stations were stocked with water and volunteers.  There was plenty to fill bottles and pour over our heads.  One of the best aid stations was the one with three buckets full of ice water and sponges.  The DC Striders cheered as runners approached their aid station and were very accommodating as I hit them up for ice to put in my bottles and bra.  I couldn’t wait to get to it again on the next loop as the temperature rose near 85 degrees.

I remember the miles after this aid station just zipping by as I was in my icy bra zone, totally focused on navigating the rock garden, focused on avoiding a nasty fall into the Potomac.

On the final, increasingly grueling lap around Great Falls, I ran ahead, behind, and alongside on onslaught of Team RWB’ers either running the 50 or 50k. This is when the course got way more crowded as the race seems to attract a number of first-time ultra runners.  One of which was a 66 year old heroine who was set to finish her 1st 50k.  

While passing some 50k’ers on their way to the section of the loop I’d just completed with the 50 milers, I saw an EMS vehicle headed in our direction.  All the runners quickly moved to the side of the narrow trail to make room for it to pass.  Later I heard this upper age grouper woman had fallen on rocks and hit her head on the trail. This did not stop her from picking up where she left off, however.  As the EMT’s set-out towards her she swiftly moved in the direction of the continuing loop, covered in blood from head to knee. On her head, a decent size cut and her upper lip was seriously split. She didn’t want to stop running. The EMT’s stopped her well enough to give her a thorough evaluation. She told them she had run 4 marathons and her first marathon was at age 63. This was her first ultra and first trail race so she was adamant about finishing. Begrudgingly, the EMT’s stayed with her for the next 4 miles to ensure her condition did not worsen. She ran an ADDITIONAL 13 miles and finished. You got’ta love her.

Even though I think I may have only seen her once in passing, I will be thinking of her practically every time I run an ultra again. And if I see her again at another race, I’ll have to contain myself from shouting, “You go!” every time I pass by her, she has no idea what a fan she has in me. She has no clue that I am her pupil, her disciple even, although I’m betting it wouldn’t surprise her. I rather doubt she has a problem with low self esteem.

She won’t have time for anything less than insane and total adoration of the incredible woman she knows she is. A true champion!

Kudos to the EMS and 1st Aid volunteers on hand.  No mean feat it is, managing the logistics of four trail races on one day (50 miler, 50k, marathon, marathon relay), followed by three more the next (half-marathon, 10k, 5k).
For the last 15-mile section, back along the Potomac Heritage Trail, we retraced our steps from earlier in the day, back along the river to Algonkian Regional Park.  Here, is where the marathoners joined in on the fun.  Zipping by now and then, as if they inhabited a different time-space reality, the relay runners raced against the heat.   And now and then, the occasional 50 miler, a fellow sufferer; as I passed or was passed, I only had to glance at them to share a wordless solidarity of pain.

Then, after three challenging loops in Great Falls Park it was time to hit the dusty trail home for the last 14 or so miles back to the finish line.  My A goal for the day was to break 10:30 hours (I ran a 10:28:35 at Stonemill 50 miler in November and around the same (10:28:28) at the Destin 50 a year ago February) thinking this course was supposed to be easier, the truth is it’s really hard to compare one race to another, with elevation, temperature, terrain, there are just too many variables to consider.  But anyway I headed out of Great Falls thinking maybe it was possible.

This last section of the race repeats the morning in reverse.  In the first 8 miles coming out of Great Falls, there are steep eroded hills along uneven sediment and hard stones.  One section had us at the top of a ravine, peering downward while the next section had us running down to the riverside.  For relief’s sake, the last 7 or so of the trail flattens and eases up.

I hit the final stretch running, not fast, but strong and passing many people who seemed to be wilting in the heat.  After passing each person I felt stronger and stronger and more confident in what I was doing.  Though I couldn’t seem to shake the negative chatter in my head telling me I couldn’t keep this pace up, that I should just give up and walk.  It was very clear that the challenge was coming from my head more than the course.  But the first 6 miles I ran strong thinking I had only a couple miles left to go.  Strava GPS on an iPhone may not be so reliable out in the forest and I know this, but I was super discouraged when an aid station volunteer told me I had “only” 2 miles left to go when I thought I had maybe half a mile at the most.

  
I would like to tell you I didn’t let this bother me and I kept running, but that’s not quite what happened.  Instead, I ran out of Tailwind powder to put in my water and drank some syrupy electrolyte drink from the aid station (never a good idea with a sensitive stomach and limited anti-crapyourpants caps left in my vest pocket) so my stomach started bubbling and groaning.  I said to myself “I’m not going to make it in less than 11 hours so I should just walk.”  So I walked a bit, got passed by a few people, moaned, groaned, ran some more and walked some more.  Then realized that when I walked I felt really tired and discouraged and even though I was tired I felt better when I ran and so I’m better off running.

  
So I ran in the last 1/2 mile of the race and seemed to feel stronger and stronger the closer I got to the finish line.  I gotta say it felt really good to finish my third 50 mile race feeling strong, if tired, and having weathered the mental highs and lows that the day brought.  My official time was 11:01:42, good for 1st place in my new age group, the 40-44 crowd.


It was a big confidence builder.  As I thought about running 30+ more miles as this in a few weeks at the 24 hr ATR,  I knew it was going to be hard but I felt more confident that I could do it.

And I made no rookie mistakes this race, unless you count asking a volunteer for directions.  I knew I would slow, probably a great deal, over the last 15 miles and in the ever-increasing heat.  But it wasn’t a catastrophic slow.  I ran most of the whole way back, shuffling steadily forward under the afternoon sun.
One of the things I especially like about this race is that I’m surrounded mostly by young chicks as well as older moms and “battle scarred trail veterans”.  I think the next person in my particular older mom category was a close 5 minutes behind me. At one point, when we passed in the last third she commented on how I was, “moving on up”.

I enjoy this stuff.  Seriously, I can’t wait to hit 50.  This age group thing is getting seriously competitive!

After the race:

In the parking lot, I heard one of the winners telling a buddy it was “brutal out there.”  Yeah, well, Mr. Speedy, you only ran a little over 6 and and a half hours.  Try being out there an extra 7 hours on top of that.  That’s when things really got brutal.

I can’t imagine how it was for those out in the heat 13 hours.   I could not have done it.  When I was done, I was put a fork-in-me-DONE.  Albeit, happy having run 52.2 miles (counting the extra ‘lost’ miles) under wretched conditions; 15th place female, 1st in my age group; still alive, not too beaten up, uninjured, and with my 13th ultra under my belt.

I’d better get going now. It’s time to go to start training for my next 50 miler and research all about this lion balls shaving business.  I really hadn’t given the prospect of such a new hobby much thought before now.
I’m thinking I would warm the shaving cream first, but that’s just me.

Running in the Buff: Orange Mud Gear Review

I look good running in absolutely nothing, and I don’t mean the kind of nothing you’re thinking.

Most running clothes look all weird on me like I found them lying in the woods next to a homeless person’s stash and put them on. At 5’7 and a 1/2″ on a good day, tights are always too short and look dorky with my high Hoka shoes tall enough to impress a hooker. Of course I love those groovy platform heels on running shoes, especially when they’re in any hue to match weirdly patriotic colors, but as I am the clumsiest person alive, I fall down even more that usual on the trail. But at least when I’m on the ground my 6 mm drop shoes are cute.

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Well, maybe in a so-ugly-they’re-cute sort of way.

I honestly can’t remember when I decided I needed to change things up and run in the Buff. I think it was earlier last Fall — that much I recall, and I think I picked it up after repeated annoyance at my self-cut bangs inspired by Kim Kardashian’s new forehead merkin style that kept poking me in the eyes while I ran. Plus, this Buff thingy is supposed to keep my scrawny neck warm in cold weather so it was a rather easy sell.

But first and foremost, my goal in finding the right running attire for the face and neck was to at least briefly feel like I am palatable to look at and will not induce vomiting in random passersby while running on the street or trail.

And this is a really difficult goal to accomplish in the thick of winter when my skin turns a lovely color one only sees in intensive care units and funeral homes. Factor in the weird color splotches negative wind chill temps leave behind and you can see why people often stop me to ask whether there is a charity I’d like to have them donate to on my behalf.

That’s why this new ‘Original Buff’ from Orange Mud is the perfect mask to hide and protect my flaws from being seen by the world. Enveloping the face just so exquisitely, it’s kind of like the one neurosurgeons wear when people look up at them with envy.

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That’s right people. This mask makes me feel somehow important and medical-ly. First time I wore it on a 15 mile run, I made a mental note to wear it to the pharmacy next time I go – which will be in approximately 5 minutes as I live in a constant pharmacy going loop.

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See, doesn’t this Buff make me look not at all like an old-looking woman who you’re not at all confident would not make you throw up if you saw naked?

This versatile head wrap thingy from Orange Mud was put to a gear test in training for an upcoming 50 miler and 24 hour ATR on wintry, crunchy snow and ice-covered trails around DC. To be honest, this is my first real winter season since moving to this area after living in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and places where people put sweet tea in baby bottles and dip pacifiers in banana pudding.

Frankly, as much as I was looking forward to this new bone chilling experience of living up north, at this point my one and only motivator is not to be declared legally stupid by being the only person I have ever known to fall down on a patch of ice and die of hypothermia and consequently, failing the running Buff gear test as a result.

I hear once the Running Buff Wearers Commission says you’re stupid like that, federal level stupidity can’t be far behind… and that goes on your driver’s license… just like whether or not you’re a donor. No way I’m having a big, red “S” stamped next to my weight of 110 pounds.

Yes. I said 110 pounds. I may not be smart enough to know how to make a balaclava or sahariane out of a Buff, but I’m plenty smart enough to know better than tell the government what my real weight is. Only the last 10 hairdressers who worked at Fantastic Sam’s know for sure.

First of all, before I get into how my testing of the Buff proves it’s a good product to add to your own collection of running gear, I realize $23 seems like an awful lot to drop on a tube of cloth. However, this ain’t your ordinary bandana type thingy that rings your neck thereby forcing you to make a face that indicates you may have just swallowed some old, warm cottage cheese.

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Wearing a bandana like this around my neck during the hot and humid summer around DC just made me a sour face and reinforced my desire to run away. I just wanted to pack that little bandana with my baby, make-up, my White Strips and my extra shine hair spray, tie the whole she-bang to a long stick and take off with my smelly, chafed-neck self.

Wish I would have known last summer about the cooling properties of this Orange Mud Buff neck thingy because it would have truly been one of the most indispensable parts of my summer and now year-round trail running gear (well worth the 23 bucks).

Here’s why:

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It’s seamless. The Orange Mud Buff is manufactured as a single piece of fabric woven into a continuous tube with absolutely no sewing involved. So there’s no ripping in the washer when attacked by a running jacket or jeans zipper. I initially tried wearing a Turtle Fur brand REI winter clearance special buff for a few weeks in my search for the perfect buff that was not a bandana but had to head for the sewing room after one race and wash with that one.

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With this fuzzy Turtle Fur contraption I ended up needing some fabric, a glue gun, some staples and as many spangles and sequins as I could get my hands on because I so do not know how to sew. In the end, I tossed the snagged up Turtle Fur and ordered up the Orange Mud one because it has no protrusions to get caught on items in the wash or seams to chafe the neck on a long run.

This Buff wicks away moisture. The Orange Mud Buff soaks up sweat and evaporates it. When I initially tried the cheap Wal-Mart cotton bandanas I quickly learned they absorb and retain moisture, they dry slowly and end up feeling slimy and gross requiring me to boil myself in a combination of Clorox and Peroxide immediately after a run. The reason I’m telling you this is so that you don’t make the same mistake wearing a dollar store neckerchief yourself on a hot day. I’m just thinking you could learn something from my insight. And I hope you didn’t touch my picture wearing that bandana above. Go wash if you did.

The Buff is one size. It’s not too tight or too loose, it stays put wherever you put it. This is the perfect material to wrap around the head or neck and I’m even thinking it could serve as a tube top in moments of desperation or if you are into those things. I happened to think of how the Buff could be used for this purpose upon seeing a woman at the dog park wearing a tube top upon which was scrawled a word or phrase of some sort that I didn’t think said ‘Orange Mud’, but given the lack of elasticity in her mammary area, I would have had to lie down beneath her to read it. I opted not to do that. But had she been wearing the Orange Mud Buff instead of a Wal-Mart Always Low Price special she would have required no pulling and tucking of her woman parts in public. This Buff requires no adjustment once it’s on, even during the run. Also, I can attest after much use and accidental tossing in the dryer it has retained its elasticity.

The Buff is pure thermal magic in cold weather. I usually wear a Team RWB or insulated winter beanie to keep my head and ears warm when the temp drops below 30, but I recently found the Orange Mud Buff serves as a noggin warmer just as well. In extreme temps below zero I simply layer my beanie over the top and I feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside. Or maybe it’s the Tito’s Handmade vodka I put in my oatmeal. Either way, I’m totally warm and fuzzy right now.

The Buff keeps wispy and tangle-prone hair in place. This prevents the field of vision to be obstructed by YouTube video inspired do-it-yourself-with-kitchen-scissors bangs and shields the eyes from flyaway hairs and split ends. Upon removing the Orange Mud Buff after a long run I was pleasantly surprised at how well my hair remained in a side part with two braids whereas after wearing the previous Turtle Fur buff my hair looked like my dog licked it near clean. After giving her butt a bath.

So many other uses exist with this Buff.

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Other than a makeshift tube top or even a ‘do rag’, this Buff can also be used as a tourniquet after facing a near bloody death and/or possible loss of limb at the hands of giant bears or rabid wild bores. Simply slip the Buff off your head and fasten a tourniquet around the wound and buy just enough time to get to safety so you can take some awesome Instagram photos of the bloody mess.

Of course, another desperate use for the Buff involves personal hygiene of the butt. Namely, the toilet paper issue. Sadly, I resorted to using the Buff upon returning from my morning run and plopping myself down on the toilet. Stranded with an empty roll, I realized that although the Mr. began his military career as a physicist and spends much of his life nowadays protecting our country from the threat of terrorism, he still is simple-minded enough to believe that toilet paper gets on the little round gold thingie by means of some kind of magic that possibly involves tiny trolls.

I know this because he doesn’t change the toilet paper roll. Even if I put a new roll of TP underneath the dispenser so that when one runs out, there will be another roll right there, he still won’t change it. And, it’s not like he doesn’t have the time. The man spends more time in the bathroom than could possibly be necessary in any situation and I’m including situations that might occur after eating leftover chili that I forgot to refrigerate. Surely he could have figured out the mechanics of the TP dispenser by now.

“Babe, I can’t change it,” he’ll say. “It’s what the trolls live for. It would be like stealing their pot of gold.”

Let’s just say, the Orange Mud Buff cleans up well in the wash.

So, are there disadvantages to wearing a Buff as opposed to a hat or cap with a visor? Sure. For less hairy or completely bald folks, proper precautions must be taken to ensure sufficient warmth in freezing conditions. Furthermore, unlike the brimmed Orange Mud trucker hat, the Buff lacks a visor. This can expose the eyes to the elements so sunglasses paired with the Buff are a must. In addition, I’m thinking I might wear the OM trucker hat in lieu of the Buff in upcoming warmer weather just on those days when I’ve spent a lot of time on my eyebrows and they need to go hide out in the shade.

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You see, there is a regimen of plucking, shaping, brushing, and coloring involved in being a girly girl that I’m not so good at. This morning I was in too big a hurry to go through all the necessary eye-hat grooming steps, so I skipped a couple. As a result, I worried all throughout my run.

Because I felt like everyone on the trail who looked at me thought they might like to Sharpie my face, I kept trying to turn my Buff covered head in search of a flattering eyebrow angle. I’m reasonably certain I looked as if I was afflicted with some malady which causes peculiar head tilting while running.

Any real or imagined disadvantages aside, I still would encourage any runner in any season to add this Orange Mud Buff to his or her collection of everyday running gear. Not only is it extremely functional in design, but it’s easy to put on and run with for miles and miles. Therefore, I award this Buff 5 out of 5 rainbow butterfly unicorn kittens!

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Because sometimes you just need a rainbow butterfly unicorn kitten and 5 are better than 1.

The Orange Mud Buff is available here for its regular price of $22.95 but on occasion you can catch a hot sale or discount and save some cash. There’s only one design available currently but it’s worth the buy as it’s all-purpose and engineered for all-weather conditions. I’m planning to sport it with my Team RWB shirt for the upcoming HAT 50k in Havre de Grace, MD.

In the meantime, I’ve gotta fix the eyebrow insanity that happened today. I’ve gotta set the alarm to wake up early tomorrow and begin plucking and shaping and teasing all over again… always trying to make them perfectly even, because that’s how we OCD’ers roll… until I have tweezed myself into a happy place where the fear of another run up that mountain can’t touch me.

You see where I’m going here, right? I’m all kinds of crazy right now and if I don’t find a healthy way to handle it, I might have to call Eyebrow Club for Women and get myself some implants.

Watch that little picture of me up there on my profile to find out how I’m doing. If I suddenly look like Groucho Marx, please send your eyebrow replacement donations to my paypal account.

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There’s Snow on the Roof, But Fire Down Below: ICESPIKE Review

From the title alone, you could assume this review has something to do with herpes, or pubic lice. Well, stop thinking stuff like that! That’s just sick and gross. Kind of like me and my snot rocket blowing honker in the negative wind chill temps we’ve been having around these parts lately.

While I’ve been on Sudafed Cold Extra Strength, I’ve also been having sick running dreams. Not sick as in “oh gross…that’s sick”, but sick as in the kinds of dreams you have while cat-napping between coughing up phlegm.

I do love having running dreams though. They’re like little guilt free viewings of ultra running documentaries in my head that I’m in no way obliged to click the thumbs up. Though my usual dreams manage to include monkeys in red hats or bearded men in no hats, my sick running dreams of late seem to be incorporating things I’m seeing briefly on YouTube while drifting off.

For example, just last night Chuck Norris had taken up trail running and we were resting at an Aid Station while carving an ice sculpture out of frozen Canada Dry with chain saws when Anna Frost runs in to tell us Scott Jurek uses Flora too and just saved a bunch of money on his car insurance.

Just as Chuck was about to celebrate the news by giving me a diamond ‘Most Improved Snow and Ice Covered Trail Runner’ award, Cheryl Strayed showed up and ruined everything by forcing us to watch her movie with Reese Witherspoon as herself.

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I woke up just as Michael Arnstein was about to make sweet love to a naturally organic banana gel at REI.

By far, the great majority of my dreams often involve running and famous people or people who will do anything to be famous. But lately, the dreams have become more like icy nightmares because for the majority of the winter, I (like most people who live where real winter takes place) run on icy, snowy, slippery surfaces.

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And this powdery stuff is not like ‘snow’ you see on TV. This is the wet, nasty slush that’s been driven over by too many cars so that it’s turned black from the exhaust. We have none of that pure white snow on which only a Lexus and horse-drawn sleighs carrying romantic men and their insanely svelte wives with fat-injected faces are allowed to travel around here. Nope. That is, unless you run far away from city streets to an uninhabited trail somewhere where it’s snowing perfect flakes cut out by angels who drop them from Heaven. But even on those little unusual slices of nature in the DC/NOVA area, traction can be a real problem for about 4 months.

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The thought of slipping and maybe pulling a muscle or a really important leg bone spontaneously popping out of my skin is always lingering in the back of my mind. Over the past few months of living here, I have tried a few over-the-shoe type devices like Yaktrax and have promptly returned those to REI in exchange for Injinji toe socks. I personally find these strap-on products not all that durable and extremely slippery if you get on an icy side slope.

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With Yaktrax on my Hoka’s, I hit the icy pavement, arms and legs in crazy, bent positions and did what I’ve found always works best when an injury of some sort has occurred. I screamed and cried and begged God for the sweet relief only death could bring. It hurt like a bee-yotch. A biker one of those. A biker with a mullet, no front teeth and a tattoo across her bicep that read, “Your skull would look pretty on my key chain”.

Before I commenced to hollering something about a bright light and walking in a beautiful garden, I paused Strava on my iPhone and logged onto Facebook to ask my trail running friends about their ‘screw the shoes’ technique to keep upright during snow and ice running. While icing my bruised backside at home later, I googled to learn more about these contraptions everyone was talking about called ICESPIKE™. Famous author, road and ultra runner, Dane Rauschenberg is an ambassador for the company and frequently mentions how necessary these specialized screws for running shoes are during winter.

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So here’s the scoop on ICESPIKE
(from their website):

“ICESPIKE is a semi-permanent traction system that can be mounted on any running or walking shoe, hiking or work boot, quickly and easily. Take any pair of new or gently used footwear, attach ICESPIKE, and enjoy outdoor fun and peace of mind on any terrain in any season!”

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I was thrilled to learn this so I ordered up a set immediately. With ICESPIKE’s there would be no more slipping and falling or lying on the concrete yelling for Jesus to take me home.

And unlike regular screws (hex head sheet metal screws) that some trail runners swear by and can be bought for cheap at hardware stores, ICESPIKE’s are specifically engineered of cold-rolled, tool quality steel to maintain hardness and integrity of grip in running shoes up to ten times longer or up to 500 miles.

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As a plus, they won’t damage your shoes taking them in and out and re-installing them. I learned this after removing them before the Icy-8 Hr. ATR (which was not so icy after all) and re-inserting them after the race for the following week’s ice and snow storm. The Hoka’s tread was unharmed and traction was just as good as always.

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But, wait! These things screw actual holes INTO the bottom of running shoes? Yes, they do. And yes, I really had to think about this beforehand.

But as it turns out, the holes really aren’t that gargantuan. Really! I initially thought to test them out on an older pair of Hoka’s but these Challenger’s just ride so much better on a trail or tough terrain than any other model.

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And yes, at first I was sure that screwing these into the new shoes was not a good idea. ICESPIKE’s claims that they wouldn’t harm the tread left me tilting my head like Raven the lab dog when I’m trying to entice her to eat her glucosamine chews by getting on all fours and pretending the taste of Science Diet supplements makes me orgasmic.

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But after much thought about the mileage I’d be putting in on icy roads and pavement with the treadmill out of commission, screwing spikes into the bottom of my shoes wasn’t so hard for me to jump right in and do after all. And not for nothing, faking a dog vitamin orgasm is not as easy as you might think.

The Installation:

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The ICESPIKE kit comes with 32 spikes plus 1 “Precision tool” – which is a fancy name for a hex screwdriver. I’m so glad the company thought to include this tool with the packet of spike screws. If they hadn’t I’m sure I’d be using a butter knife like I normally do when installing screw type things back into the kids’ toys even though there are perfectly good tools in the basement.

Then again, I’m not sure what I’d do when coming to the realization that I’d used an eating utensil to touch the bottom of a thing that no eating utensil should ever go near while at the same time remembering that I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and do not like touching things that may have come in contact with a surface that I’m almost positive has touched everything from doggy fecal matter to squirrel saliva to tiny bits of DNA from a park-frequenting pervert.

I’d probably decide to boil myself.

But then there was the time I burned my tongue after I got the bright idea to microwave my coffee that had gone cold and how I talked like my two-year-old who couldn’t say anything with an “S” in it for like a week because it hurt so much. So I wouldn’t.

Boil myself, that is.

Besides, the fact that is saves me from losing a perfectly lovely butter knife for absolutely no good reason, this tool does come in quite handy.

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Besides having a hard time (mentally) screwing these screw thingies into the bottom of my shoes, installation was easy. The instructions were simple step-by-steps and took a total of 10 minutes at most to put in both shoes.

Of course, I disregarded the company’s instructions to just use 12 per shoe / 24 total and just used all the ICESPIKE’s for good measure. More is better, I thought. Plus, the screws seem to only go into the rubber part of the sole of the shoe, not any deeper as to affect it’s overall structure.

Testing them out:

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I have tested these numerous times in various degrees of icy-ness outside since I have secured them on the shoes and they work like a charm. I dare say these ICESPIKE’s have repaired just about any damage that the world has inflicted on me during the most recent ice storm.

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Ice and Snow – ICESPIKE’s really are the best in the biz on snowy or icy surfaces. I really felt more secure running up and down the icy hills around town. There is no question of the difference the ICESPIKE’s made for running in snow and ice. They gripped well on packed snow, ice, and fresh snow. Although they make a sound on the ground not unlike metal explosives clicking off in a coffee can, I do not feel they added any weight to the shoe at all. The spikes are fairly weightless during a run. As far as how they felt while running on icy patches beneath– I didn’t notice them at all and on frozen rain affected snow, I really liked the extra traction they provided.

Less Icy Pavement – These ICESPIKE’s gripped well on shoveled or partially cleared pavement. I did not have any problems with sliding around on the pavement like I did with Yaktrax, other Costco versions of those products or regular sheet metal screws from the hardware store. I did, however, notice they were on. Besides the clickety-clack sound effects on concrete while wearing the ICESPIKE’s, I could also “feel” them on the bottom of my soles on hard pavement which in turn, makes me anxious. Not a big deal on intermittent pavement/snow/ice but on straight pavement it does bother me to the point when I can feel and hear the crazy so close, I keep turning around to check for a strange guy with loose dentures and a hat made out of aluminum sneaking up on me.

When the click-clack noises and feel of something on the bottom of my feet get to me like this it’s never just the noise or the slightly uncomfortable feeling that get me here. It’s always more like a big bunch of little upsets during the run which I stuffed the OCD bubble down instead of letting it fly. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a lot like a shaken pop bottle. If you release it slowly and carefully, nobody gets covered in sticky.

Let’s just say that on straight up pavement while wearing these things for more than a few miles at a time, I’m in such a state, it is highly likely anyone who stands near me is going to need a roll of paper towels.

Well, ain’t I a lovely bunch of coconuts?

After all is said and run, here is a summary of the Pros/Cons of ICESPIKE’s:

Even as I typed that, I burped OCD a little. Now I feel like I can’t use the “p” on my key board any more or something -retty bad will happen. That’s just -eachy.

-ros – These are -erfect for what they’re made for – traction on ice and snow. The traction from these is better than any other -roduct I’ve tried over the winter. Installation is simple and fast, the screws are very lightweight and durable. And on most surfaces, you can’t feel them when running in icy/snowy conditions. Traction is also dramatically improved with ICESPIKE’s. These also work in ‘wintry mix’ weather conditions, where roads are mostly icy/snowy with patches of pavement. (I just wrote two plosives p’s in close proximity to each other and have felt less OCD about the letter. This notation is brought to you by the letter ‘C’ for Cognitive Behavior Therapy.)

Installation doesn’t damage the bottom of the shoe from what I could tell either. Despite the clickety-clack attack on nearly bare pavement, they were much more comfortable than other the traction devices I have used in the past that have to stretch under and over while Velcro-ing just so over the top of the foot. With ICESPIKE’s, running is unencumbered by things like strap-ons that delicate Southern girls like me aren’t that used to anyway.

Now with the ICESPIKE’s in their respective places on my Hoka’s I think nonstop about running outside in a dreamy neighborhood covered by fresh, white snow that will stay perfect and white for at least the month of February. Now, if I could get a nice person to shovel my sidewalk for a dollar and some hot chocolate, that would be super-duper.

And more than anything else, I want some TV commercial-type friends who wear proper overcoats, have a nice supply of Ferrero Rocher and plush snowmen and want nothing more than to go to winter gatherings.

In a Lexus, of course.

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Cons – While these are great for running in slippery road and trail conditions, I do not recommend them for consistently running on pavement, especially if you have OCD like me or are generally bothered by the “feel” of something that could be digging up something icky on the ground and just hanging on to it on the bottom of your shoe. Yet, in all fairness, ICESPIKE’s are not made to be worn on pavement anyway.

Final thoughts:

If you spend a lot of time running in slippery conditions, ICESPIKE’s will keep you feeling secure. ICESPIKE has saved me since my new treadmill belt ripped a few weeks into my winter ultra training for upcoming races with Team RWB and the Orange Mud Ambadassador Team.

With these screw thingies in my Hoka’s allowing me to run in whatever kind of winter storm front, my life is extraordinarily magnificent. So magnificent in fact, I think you should stop wherever you are and allow envy to wash right over you. (And then go wash your hands ‘cause envy is full of germs.)

These ICESPIKE’s are essential to winter running gear. For traction on snow and ice, I highly recommend ICESPIKE.

*Disclosure: ICESPIKE was provided to me after I purchased them at full price for test and review purposes. The above review is my honest opinion of the product. If something is good, I will say so; if it sucks, I’ll let you know that too.

That said, I probably won’t waste my or your time writing a post about something that sucks, unless it’s really that bad.

I’d love to stick around right now and produce more Sudafed induced writings, but I’m sleepy again and Chuck and his ice sculpting chain saw await along with my ICESPIKE’d Hoka’s.

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Please do not feed the Ultra Running Ambassador.

It’s no secret. I want to be a famous ultra running ambassador and eventually see my name on a book. Not a pretend book, or a coloring book, or a cook book. I want to see my name on an honest to goodness, bargain bin at Barnes and Noble type book.

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I’m sure when most people think of attaining ambassadorship status or the fame that comes along with it, they imagine themselves singing or dancing or drinking unpasteurized goat milk with lactose intolerance while they vie for one-on-one time with a farmer from Iowa. (Oh how I secretly watch reality TV.)

Not me. I see myself sitting at a wobbly card table in a book store in DC signing “Love and laughter while sipping Tailwind from an Orange Mud bottle, Stephanie Chivis” in the books of the twelve people who showed up and felt sorry enough for me to buy a copy. (In fact, I’ve been practicing writing that for years… on everything from pediatrician bills to student loan forgiveness forms.)

Naturally with phenomenal sales like that, I’ll be rich in no time too. And of course, when I do get rich from selling 12 copies of my book in every store across America, The GMA people will call my people and I’ll be a guest on their show. (I seriously need to get some people.)

And everybody knows that once GMA has you on the show, you become crazy famous and have to wear a wig or lumbersexual trail beard and fake Bubba teeth just to go to the grocery store forever after. I’ll be a best-selling author, stinking rich and so famous that even Matthew McConaughey’s mama won’t be able to get through when she calls seeking my Maw-Maw’s prized recipe for Pig Pickin’ Aid Station Cake as ‘research’ for his new movie.

Wow. I’ve got a lot of preparation ahead of me if I’m going to be insanely famous and stinking rich now that I’m a fancy Ambassador… for ORANGE MUD!!!

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Y’all, this is the bestest of the best things to happen to me this week and it’s a key piece of a new venture in which I’m participating put into place by the Gods of ultra running. If that sounds vague, ambiguous even – well, I will say this much: I am going to be wearing and promoting Orange Mud, the best trail running gear ever made in the U.S. of A. with an ensemble cast featuring other women and men who are better than me in every way. Yes, the guys’ trail beards are effortlessly picked and combed. The gals’ gorgeous locks stay in place beneath their trucker hats while they crack really funny one liners showcasing how smart they are. And they never eat peanut butter on a spoon for breakfast either. (Although I might like them more if they did.)

This is a big deal kids and because of my deep and abiding love for you, I wanted you to be the first to know.

Right behind the chocolate lab, my mama, the lady who answers the phone at Papa John’s, my gynecologist, the guy who changed my flat tire, the treadmill repairman, the twenty-eight year old guy I cougared up on back in 2007, my second cousin twice removed (from our family reunions because she has no teeth and we can’t stand to watch her eat) and Comcast.

They tortured me. You would have done the same thing.

It has only been three days since I’ve exceeded my data usage plan and joined the Orange Mud Team online as one of their ambassadors (or “am-badass-adors” as they like to say) happily promoting the ultra running gear. Although, I’ve been touting how good their packs are since February of 2014.

It was just after giving birth to my second big-headed baby without benefit of an epidural or smack and right before running the Destin Beach Ultras 50 miler that I went online searching for some sort of hydration contraption that wasn’t in belt form where my Mountain Dew would bounce around on my mom bladder.

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Yeah, this hydration belt and 3 of these kids had to go.

Restrooms are far off the beach and a good detour off the race course so I wanted to find a comfortable strap-on-the-back hydration pack that would stay put and off the bladder the whole 50 miles on the sand plus hold my gels and snacks. I first found a new-fangled mini backpack-looking thing from Orange Mud , a fast-growing hydration pack business based out of California. I immediately bought a HydraQuiver, which is the best example of a hydration pack that I’ve ever tried on. It’s light, very adjustable, with a much more comfortable straps than other packs if you’re looking for something that won’t smash your cupcakes, Ladies. It also lodges enough room for a buffet table worth of snacks for a 50k-50 miler.

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In fact, I think it is solely because of this HydraQuiver and its levitational Harry Potter of hydration powers, that I finished that 50 mile race like the fairy tale excursion it was, filled with good times and sweet memories.

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In fact, this beach run was such a thing of wonder and fabulousness, I felt sure I would want to write a sonnet about it on my blog site. (Possibly an ode even. Maybe a limerick.) But alas, I wrote a much publicized review of this flagship product in the Orange Mud line and have continued to wear it near daily while on the run from my big-headed children.

There are bunches of other nifty products worth mentioning in the Orange Mud line. The HydraQiver Double Barrel is the same idea as the original pack, but with two rear bottles. The VP2 has extra space for more gear, and even an add-on middle bag to tote more stuff during longer runs.

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This one’s perfect for long, hot and humid summer runs when toting and drinking more is the better alternative to being without and having to desperately collect rain water in leaves and suck on them. Thirsty while sweating out buckets? No biggie. Just reach back mid-run and grab a cool one. Either bottle will do.

There are so many other new Orange Mud products launching this year, including a single barrel version of the vest pack. They also have some trendy logo gear for every season, including the super-hipster trucker hat.

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I do enjoy wearing this one while en route to an ultra race while seated on one of those beaded cab-driver seat thingies. Talking on my CB radio.

Oh, and the Orange Mud big towel wrap/car seat cover to shield your privates during a fast change or protect your seats from stinky butt business after a sweaty run is a fan favorite for racing as well. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Now that I mentioned all the Orange Mud goodness, I should also go on record as saying that I will not become an obnoxious OM ambassador either. I will still be the same old obsessive-compulsive Steph.

Of course, there will be a few necessary changes. I mean, one does have to change a thing or two when one has Orange Mud ambassadorship thrust upon one. For example, there’s the issue of my diet.

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I will have to give up peanut butter and salted caramel sandwiches once and for all. Hardcore ultra running ambassadors typically eat something called a Paleolithium diet and as soon as I find out what that is, I plan to eat the hell out of it. At the moment, I’m not even sure how to correctly spell “Paleolithium”. For all I know, it’s actually the “make me a nuclear reactor” diet which would mean I’d probably have to eat things like batteries, AC systems and seaweed. No matter how much the other super fit running ambassadors point and stare and administer peer pressure though, I refuse to eat baby seaweed… which I believe are correctly referred to as veal seaweed in Paleo terminology.

Yep, despite being more aware of my endurance running athleticism and measuring up to the other super talented ambassadors on the team I think being rich and famous as an Orange Mud Ambassador who saves a lot of $$$ on trail running gear with my new unicorn-believer discount is going to be way cool. I can hardly wait. I guess all that’s left is to actually write a book about it.

Good news is it probably won’t be published this year. Having to do a forty-seven state book tour, GMA and the Today Show would have really put a dent in my binge Mountain Dew and Tailwind drinking.

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I Feel Dirty Inside. But My Compression Socks Are Clean: An OCD Race Recap of the Icy-8 ATR’ (8-hour Adventure Trail Run)

This race started out to be a humdinger (Excuse me while I giggle. I said humdinger). The Icy 8 did live up to its name despite the ice only lining certain sections of the horse trails and the temp soaring to a high near 50 just as the sun was starting to make her move on the sky. However, because the start was in the low 20s in keeping with the ‘Icy 8′ tradition, the mud on the trails was frozen solid to give the feet a good ol’ beating for the first few hours of running.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

The race course is on the horse trails of Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, VA, which is about 1 1/2 hours south of DC. There were a few horses on the trail that morning and I’m so glad they didn’t have OCD, like me. Not one of the horses kept running back up a hill to make sure something didn’t drop out of their hydration pack onto the ground. And they didn’t have to keep their eyes on the ground at all times so they didn’t step on an ant and get sent straight to Hell either. Nope, these horses and the fine folks riding them for fun or profit were courteous enough to step aside for the Icy 8 runners even though the trails are wide enough to accommodate a 1968 8′ wide trailer, four trucks and a car up on blocks. I couldn’t help but notice some sections of the trail were eerily similar to my hometown in East Texas – loads of space to run free on pine straw and horse poop.

So here’s how the race morning unfolded:

After filling up on Riesling from the cheapest bottle in the fridge along with caramel popcorn for the night, I woke up at 4:00 AM, mad because I didn’t set the automatic timer on the coffee pot the night before. While I posses the Wal-Mart technology necessary to have piping hot java waiting for me when my eyes fly open, I choose to just get pissed off at the start of every day instead. Gets the blood pumping, which is good for ultra running.

I then proceeded to eat PB & Caramel spread on country white bread as a breakfast sandwich with a handful of Rice Chex like I do pretty much every day, but never with milk. I find the addition of milk to my favorite morning treat creates a substance not unlike chunky mucus.

You’re welcome for the image of chunky mucus that will now stick in your head like… well, chunky mucus.

At this point it was time to get a move on, so I sprayed on my deodorant and hopped in the car with my Tailwind to-go cup and drove the near two hours there.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

When I arrived at Lake Anna park, I rushed to use the restroom and then picked up my bib and nice race shirt swag from Race Director, Alex, who magically knew my name because I’m always dressed for an impromptu Flag Day celebration.

image– The usual running attire

With minutes to spare, I headed to the car to warm up a bit before the race brief. I should probably mention at this point that because I was born in the deep south I don’t do cold that well. Back home we use words like ‘squatted’, ‘britches’, ‘Mee-Maw’ and ‘colder than a witch’s t!t’ in even the most polite conversation and though I haven’t lived in East Texas for many, many years, I find that I still express myself in much the same way here in the northern parts of Virginia where folks are forced to wear these things called buffs, tights and dual layers. Pretty much a “you can take the girl out of the south” kind of thing.

It was just in the nick of time that I hopped out of the car and hauled it like the weirdly patriotic runner I am, wrapped up in two pairs of everything, to the start line three seconds prior to the morning meeting. I was overjoyed at how Alex had called out the ultra newbies so they could get a spotlight and asked the ultra vets to provide any advice and encouragement. He also made the briefing what it should be, brief.

Then, the race was on!

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

Since this was an 8 hour race runners had the option to either run an 8 mile loop or a 4.7 mile loop. I signed on for the Groundhog division, which means I agreed to run only one loop in one direction (the 4.7 mile loop) the entire race. As a monotonous crazy person, I knew I’d prefer a shorter loop to a longer one, so why not just sign up for the special division? I was not alone in this thought. Even a few runners who had officially registered for the regular Icy 8 decided last-minute that the short loop was the way to go to maximize mileage in the allotted 8 hour time span. In fact, the eventual overall women’s (regular Icy 8 Division) winner declared this was how she got so many miles in before the clock was up so I felt confident I made the right choice in signing on for the Groundhog replay all day. My initial goal was to get in 42 something miles give or take since I’m lazy at math, or 9 laps around the short loop.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

I started off at a comfortable 11-something minute warm up pace chatting along with other runners mid pack and was able to maintain that for a good portion of the first loop. I tried my best to limit my transition time after each lap so I could maximize the race time available. I also convinced myself to not listen to my iPhone (music and Strava mile split announcements) at full volume in my one ear bud and I’m glad that I did. I was able to socialize with the runners during the entire race and when we all spread out on earlier loops, I was still able to focus on the trails and work on some mental toughness with background music down low. The last four laps, I slowed down considerably due to the course warming up and getting super muddy, but still enjoyed the trails and Bruno Mars at just the right decibel level.

Then, after running out for the fourth lap I realized I underestimated the terrain and slightly overestimated my trail running abilities (considering I’m only fortunate to run a real trail once a month). Since the course is always open to the horseback riders, for the first few laps the muddy and poopy parts were choppy and rock solid. But by the fourth loop, these ‘rock solids’ has melted to mushy mucky parts. It was definitely an easy course to slip and slide, roll an ankle in spots or fall as an unavoidable casualty if you weren’t paying attention. Or if you suffer from a chromium deficiency or something like that.

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I also noted a bi-polar like emotional cycle during this race as every other loop. I would go from having a sudden attack of mania where I wanted to test the Hoka’s to see if it was really ‘time to fly’ to feeling negative, tired, and frustrated that Hoka One One doesn’t give a crap about people with wide forefoot problems.

The first few laps in my new Hoka Challenger’s felt slightly challenging as if I was just doing each loop for the first time. When my fourth lap started, I was settling into an easy pace and just concentrating on the scenery and loving the horse trails. By the fifth lap, I was back down and feeling some blisters on my bunions, and especially pessimistic since I realized I would only get in eight laps as opposed to my original goal of nine. My sixth lap was a good one as I knew I was going to be done in just two more laps and 32 oz of Tailwind give or take a Roctane gel, Tums and change of Injinji toe socks.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

“Thanks for the pic half second after I blew a snot rocket, Paul.”

This is the slumped-over norm when running an ultra. You go through periods of time when you feel like complete crap and times when you feel as nice as if you’d used something with the words “feminine” and “rain fresh” in it.

All in all, I have to say the times between the wild swings of the pendulum of crazy were pretty freaking fantastic. But I did notice I wasn’t the only one struggling mentally after the four-hour mark in the race. I eventually passed one runner alternating between power walking and shuffling along whilst talking to himself in various tones.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

This made me a bit jealous that I don’t have multiple personalities. I’ve often wondered why I can’t be obsessive-compulsive about running and have about ten runners that live inside me as well. No, I don’t mean really tiny little person runners that would somehow move into my body and set up housekeeping, but rather those Sybil kind of runners. I guess God knew that would be way too many hands to tote sanitized wet wipes for.

Suddenly about 34 miles in, I began to bounce back. This is when I reminded myself that I was going to finish this lap within the time left on the clock and therefore I was going to to accomplish my newly set goal of eight laps. I never had a pace goal in mind since I simply set the bar so incredibly low for myself that even a brain-dead gerbil could manage it. With that in mind, I was able to relax and put in some nice miles at the end while catching up with Quatro from the VHTRC who was on his last lap as well.

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Thankfully, Quatro and I finished to see many other runners done for the day with their respective loops so this encouraged me to be more satisfied with how I did with my own laps. According to the official results, I finished 37.6 miles in 7 hours and 28 minutes, but my GPS clocked me at 38.9 miles. I’m going to believe Strava because, ‘if it ain’t on Strava, it didn’t happen’.

In the end, I didn’t hit my lofty goal, but I rapidly realized how unrealistic it was. I also ran nearly all of the course, only power walking the first .25 miles of the last 4 laps (a steep uphill on asphalt) and only in super slick muddy areas as well.

image*photo by Paul Encarnación

And how did I finish with nary a drop of mud or horse poop on my white Team RWB compression calf sleeves? VHTRC’s Gary Knipling commented that he’d like to see me finish a race just once with some sort of blemish from the trail. But little does he know about my OCD preoccupation with avoiding such blemishes caused by near deadly falls on a trail.

Personally, my biggest fear when it comes to dying is that I’ll look downright blemished and awful when I go and as a result, I’ll look awful for all eternity. I simply cannot have that. I haven’t spent my entire life putting on make-up and dying my hair just so some funeral director can make me look like a dumpy house wife. I’m not risking death with a blemish on a trail.

“Oh, it’s just a lil ol’ mud.”

No way, mister. I want control. Total control over my entire funeral from start to finish.

And it’s not like I didn’t bring an extra change of running clothes to change into in case the weather changed or I had a bloody, muddy accident while running. This is something I always pack if I need a new wardrobe in the event of dying. Sort of like those eternal ceramic geese that sit on people’s front porches here on the east coast. They have different outfits for different weather conditions and their owners rush out to change them whenever the season changes. They have little rain coats and rain bonnets. They have little sweaters and snow boots. And I think I even saw one once wearing a little bikini, belly ring and a VHTRC visor hat.

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*photo by Paul Encarnación

‘The legendary Gary’

After thanking Gary for his fist bumps of encouragement on the trail and overly generous compliments, I decided I was tired and it was unnecessary after all to change out of my non-muddy running attire into some cleaner weather appropriate duds, I hung out at the aid station with other salty, sweaty and stinky runners and chowed down on Chex mix until about an hour after the race ended and one of the first timers finished to a very sincere round of applause and high fives.

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*photo by Paul Encarnación

‘Sorry, bud. Misplaced my hand sanitizer. Just imagine two high fives from me, K?’

Then the award presentations began.

Holy cow! The overall winner ran a total of 54.1 miles! This ‘Flying Frenchman’ aka Olivier LeBlond is a super talented ultra runner with an impressive 100 mile best of 14:33:25. He always has a knack of making things look easy. Wish I could have spoken with him a bit afterward. Not that we’d have a lot in common other than I know a spurn is what French people use to eat their Oatey-O’s every morning because I’m a Southern bilingual. Even though I’m convinced if I add a fake accent to any word and simply say it slow enough and loud enough, Olivier and all the peoples of the world can understand me, I determined it was best to admire this fancy Frenchman in his Adidas track suit from afar.

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*photo by Paul Encarnación

Quatro giving Olivier the stink eye’

It wasn’t long before I heard the RD announce it was time for the Groundhog division awards. I was stoked when seeing some other ladies look my way. The race director had handmade wooden plaques made for the Groundhog division which were pretty sweet looking but nevertheless, all three (including a very close tie-breaker for third) went to the guys who raced to the finish with one or two more laps than me.

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*photo by Paul Encarnación

Sadly, there were too few entries in the division to award gender categories. But I did I finish 1st female in the Groundhog Day division according to the posted results!!!

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So, it’s official. I’m soon to be a star on UltraSignup.  We all knew it was coming. I was destined for greatness, designed for fame. The big 50 serving bag of caffeinated Tailwind is finally paying off!

This is my first 1st place finish among the ladies which makes me pretty OK with being who I am inside my soon-to-be 41-year-old woman skin. If you knew even one-third of the things this little obsessive-compulsive girl from Marshall, Texas has gone through to get here, you’d be inspired to put coffee cans with my picture on them in every convenience store near you in an effort to collect loose change on my behalf so that I might go to Disney World… or wherever the severely downtrodden find happiness and redemption. Happy Birthday to me!!!

What an eventful time at the Icy 8!  I got to spend several hours working on my endurance, and I got another chance to hang with some of the best trail runners in the region, seasoned and new alike. I especially enjoyed seeing my Facebook friend, Manuel finish his first ultra and get a fancy plaque for it.

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*photos by Paul Encarnación

I think he’ll agree (now that he’s tackled one himself) that timed ultras are deliriously fun. Instead of running until you complete the official race distance, you see how many miles you can run in the allotted time until you’re out of time, drop from exhaustion or one of your most important leg bones has spontaneously broken right through your skin.

If you’re interested in running an ultra marathon, I highly recommend any of the Athletic Equation events. These timed races are a totally different race experience, the runner camaraderie is unsurpassed and the aid stations have enough food to go underground and survive a Nuclear attack.

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*photo by Paul Encarnación

The next timed run for me is the AE’s 24 hr ATR in May where I hope to make even more friends with other like-minded weird people who are also perfectly comfortable with their own weirdness. I LOVE this ultra running bunch! Gotta go brush up on my Southern bilingualism.

Review of the Sucky Salt Phone Case & Advice to Fellow Humans Falling Victim to ‘Protection from Cold’ Claims

Here it is… Don’t fall for the suck.

Seriously. Just don’t spend your money on stuff that sucks. It’s not that hard. In fact, I’d say given a choice, it’s much more work to give in to something that sucks than not.

If you’re staring at your tablet screen right now with your head tilted like a confused puppy, I’m willing to go the extra mile with you and toss you a couple of easy ways you yourself can stop falling for the suck right now. Today. This very minute.

Act now and I’ll throw in ABSOLUTELY FREE, a closing paragraph that is guaranteed to give you the ability not to fall for suck, even when your natural inclination is to score a suck like there is good money to be had in the grand act of excellent sucking.

(Vague reference to the adult film industry included at no extra charge.)

Here you go:

  1. Don’t buy a Salt case for your cell phone to take on a chilly run. This Kickstarter project is not actually protective in cold weather and won’t keep your iPhone from powering off in below 30 degree winter run as the company featured on CNN claims. The Salt company touts the use of NASA material to block heat as well as Saltbloc thermal layering technology for cold weather. Sure, such a claim made me skeptical from the get-go because even Apple insists that operating ambient temps for an iPhone are in the 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C) range so running with the cell in freezing or near freezing temps has already shortened the battery life and powered off the iPhone on occasion. But ‘judge not the Salt case company’s claims lest ye be judged’, I thought. Hey, I didn’t write these words first. They’ve stuck around because they have value. You know what else has value? Not sucking. image
    The company touts that these are the ONLY phone cases to offer extreme heat and cold protection. The strap and trim are made from genuine leather. Even leather is supposed to retain heat, right? Nope. This case doesn’t actually do anything but get really cold and assist the phone in powering off before 7 miles into a long run. Sadly, it might wind up either in the hands of a garage sale queen who has quarters and absolutely no taste, or a dumpster.
  2. This Salt cell phone case may be smarter-looking than most other cases, more attractive than others, sleeker than others, with more storage pockets than others, more insulation than others, and touted to be better at pretty much everything than other cases. But the fact that it does nothing to keep your phone working in the cold air will bother you to the point that you’ll contact the company to be a pain in the a$$ about it. And when you finally get a reply from customer service five days later confirming that the case really does not keep an iPhone from freezing in 32 degrees or below along with a return policy, you’ll realize you must suck with such force it’s some sort of scientific miracle that your home currently has air.
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    Dearest Sarah, Thx for confirming that your Salt case sucks and my money was wasted. Now I feel like a big ole loser with a capital Loo.
  3. In business or in life, the words “I’m sorry,” are not meant to be followed by a big fat, ‘BUT’. They are very powerful words when spoken all by themselves. When the customer service rep for this company added qualifying words like, “temperature ratings should not be treated not as immutable absolutes, but rather as suggested guidelines under typical conditions” to her ‘sorry’, she diluted them to roughly the strength of expired Mountain Dew at a 30 mile Aid station. If your product’s design is screwed up, say the words, shut up, stop selling crap and let grace do the hard work. It may take longer, but the magic is worth the wait.
  4. Brutal honesty as in, “just like a cold weather boot or frozen beverage in a cooler left outside the temperature will eventually equalize and your toes will get cold…But that isn’t going to stop me from wearing boots in the winter and keeping my soda in a cooler on a hot day!” is a ridiculous concept, Ms. Customer Service Lady. If someone waves the brutal honesty flag in his or her interactions with people, they suck. Honesty is a pure and powerful quality. Brutality is neither one of those things. This CSR is an oxymoron and if she doesn’t know what that means, she should google it along with ‘weatherproof’. Your phone case doesn’t work in cold weather, Lady! Please get your boss to stop selling it and using qualifying explanations as to the ‘suggested guidelines under typical conditions’ to get it to actually function. Got it? No? Then, you suck.

And the bonus, completely free, crazy brilliant, closing paragraph you were promised? Here it is:

If you can be honest in any way, at any time, to anyone – do it and do it immediately. If you think honesty isn’t deserved, be even more honest. You can’t suck when you’re being honest.

(Additional vague adult film industry reference only $4.99 billed to your iTunes account on file.)

Disclaimer: I myself have suffered from all the sucking traits mentioned above. I’m working on it. Right after I tape toe warmers to this Salt iPhone case and stuff it in my sports bra beneath two layers of Cold Gear Under Armour running shirts. Gotta keep it warm while I finish up this review for the company.

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Guess who’s running for champagne and enough chocolate to throw a perfectly healthy person into a diabetic coma?

Meeeeeeee! Because Man, this is good stuff.

I received some exciting news a few short days ago that I’ve been selected as a 2015 See Jane Run (Ultra Running) Ambassador.

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So, how did I score this gig?

Well, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And kids, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it.

If I don’t have it, then I have something that I need to have examined by a trained medical professional because it’s starting to swell and itch. Too much time on the trail, I think.

Regardless, if you’ve read my reviews here for any length of time you know that I create an aura of bull excrement. Basically I use words to convince people to do what I want them to do, which is typically to buy something I think is useful. It’s actually a talent I enjoy very much and I’m even told by some that I’m pretty good at it. If only it were a talent that I could use on my spouse, I’d be one happy woman. As it is, I can’t even persuade him to mercy flush the toilet half the time.

So in the guessing game of how someone of my running caliber was chosen to represent such an awesomely independent and women-owned business like See Jane Run, I’d have to say I suspect it was the thumbs up from the company on my blog stats and amusing Hoka One One and Orange Mud reviews.

Or maybe it was because I begged. That’s it. I shamelessly emailed the company telling them I love them and would be willing to give them something in the interest of any of their many charities. Whether it be a kidney or a cornea or a hair transplant, if I’ve got a spare part, they’re getting it whether they need it or not. That’s what prospective ambassadors do, I told them. I could tell they were skeptical of my wanting to donate my body parts to someone who may or may not need them, but they were just going to have to trust my judgment.

Yeah, I think I was chosen purely based on my eagerness to hand over my innards.

I was initially into the idea of giving See Jane Run a body part, while visiting California last year and first discovering their dreamy San Fran store and deliriously fun events the organization hosts. It was at this point that I knew 1) I would definitely be running one of their races soon and 2) I wanted to see how else I could get involved with See Jane Run on a national level (since I live near DC now). They have ridiculously energetic race announcers at all their events complete with champagne and chocolate at the end of every race. Plus, they make a big deal out of the last person to finish. It doesn’t matter whether or not the chick is within 30 seconds or 30 minutes from the cutoff time and/or looking like the big, bad wolf in a fairy tale, huffing and puffing as if she’s smoked a carton of Lucky Strikes during the last few miles. These people hoot and holler for her with such positive affirmations so precious and encouraging. Of course, the level of exhaustion the last place runner is suffering most likely makes her want to kick everyone in their buttocks. The only thing that keeps her from laying them all out is the fact that she won’t be able to lift either one of her legs up at anyone because she’s pretty sure she no longer has the use of them anyway. But the See Jane Run gang waits for her at the finish and applauds her efforts, which I LOVE!

I’ve became completely enthralled with this company’s approach to racing and running. I can think of nothing other than crossing a finish line and gobbling down melted chocolate squares. I ate breakfast just so I could hurry and eat a Russell Stover while browsing the Ghirardelli catalog.

I also identify with ‘Jane’ because she is simply your average lady trying to be awesome in ways that she wants. This mantra is posted on their website and I can totally relate to every single bit of it.

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      - CHECK!

High heels in back of closet – CHECK!
Run a mile, then a marathon – CHECK!
Chocolate – CHECK! (once a month)

In the words of Popeye, I yam what I yam. If you don’t like it, go eat someone else’s spinach.

I know I’ll never be an elite, win races, or probably even my age group in a big ultra race, but I’m ok with that because if being a part of this eclectic running community (bloggers, twitterers, ultra runners, Janes, etc.) has taught me anything it is that everyone is a winner in their own journey and beating yourself is really all that matters…at least to me anyways ;). Honestly, I never knew I had such an internal competitive side until I started running. Well, when I first started running I began to use lots of terrible swear words some of which I did not even know the meaning, but heard a rapper on TV use. But soon enough, I was increasing my speed and time on my feet and running races and ultra trail events to rack up Charity Miles for Team RWB every chance I could get.

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You see, See Jane Run is all about inspiring the average Jane to stop cussing and just get out there and do something good and have a rockin’ good time while you’re doing it.

See Jane Run reaches out to women of all shapes, ages, and fitness level, with the mentality that a girl can do anything she sets her mind to.

See Jane Run is not a running club or organization tailored only to the super-fit or the ultra-competitive. It’s about sisterhood, accomplishing goals – more than you dreamed you possibly could, and it’s about having fun. For someone considering entering a 5K or Half Marathon event after having been afraid to do so (for whatever reason), beginning with a See Jane Run event is the low-stress, fun way to go ‘cause you can handle it.

Handle. That’s sort of a muscular word, isn’t it? I wish I’d named my last son Handle. Maybe it’s not too late. I am his Mom after all. I’ll bet if I just start calling him Handle it would stick.

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This is ‘Handle’, after singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and showing random people on a plane how mucus can serve as a rather delicious alternative to airline pretzels.

With more See Jane Run stores and races popping up around the nation the world will become a land where Paleo is known simply as the anti-Christ and women that are a size 0 and under will be stuffed and displayed in plexiglas cases so that you can pay a quarter to look at them in carnival side shows.

And I mean that in the most Christian way, of course.

Check out See Jane Run races all around the country. The Alameda, California half marathon and 5k event is flat and fast and scheduled for June 21, 2015 with views of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, downtown San Francisco and the Bay.

They also have a pretty awesome website that sells all things running and includes all the best brands like Patagonia and The North Face…although I didn’t spy Hoka in there yet…I’m gonna have to change that. Good thing about SJR is that the company listens to the input of its customers. They’re all about the community of women runners, which is extremely important in my opinion. Without female camaraderie and helpful advice from other women in the know, I would have never been capable of running a marathon or two, let alone 5 50k’s, 2 50 milers and many fun ‘fat ass’ ultra marathons galore.

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Being obsessed and immersed in the online running blogging community, I can’t even begin to tell you how inspiring each and every person and company I have met along way is.

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I could probably show you photos all day long of my inspiration to keep running but I want you to keep scrolling downward so I wont ;). And this post is getting too long so I’ll stop here before boredom sets in. Boredom is a bad thing that leads to bad decisions. I know once I’m bored, I am well on my way to doing something stupid. Unfortunately, when I’m bored, my bad decision-making usually leads to some equally bad eating habits. Cue Russell Stover wrappers and premenstrual acne.

So here’s a brief synopsis on what’s in it for you now that I’m a fancy SJR ambassador:

I’ve got some race fee and running gear discounts in this gig for you too! I am gonna be oh so generous with all the people who aren’t ambassadors like me. I intend to remain the same old Steph, completely approachable and always ready to lend a helping hand.

Like if I was walking down the street and a bum asked me for some spare change to get something to eat, I’m gonna totally have my personal ambassador bodyguard give it to him.

Just kidding, of course!

But then again, it probably would be a good idea for all my ambassador bodyguards to keep at least two dollars in nickels and dimes in their pockets at all times just for occasions like these…

So, if you’re interested in running away to a land where women with tummies from excessive peanut butter and caramel consumption are prized as goddesses, where everything as far as the eye can see is covered in chocolate, where the best people serve chocolate and champagne at the finish line and most important of all, a land where all of the above are considered health foods click to See Jane Run.

If you see something you like let me know and I’ll send a code your way. I’m running over there right now to pick out some buttery-soft Patagonia tights. I love all their running gear. Running gear is always a good thing. No matter how much gear you have, room can always be found for more. The good news is, with my OCD I’ll never come close to running out of gear. I get a discount now that this ambassador thing is official. We all knew it was coming. I was destined for greatness, designed for fame. The five years of braces is finally paying off, Mama! Next up, I need to hire some people so that I can say, “Have your people call my people and we’ll do the lunch thing”.

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Hitting a Local Trail Because Talking About Dieting Makes Your Butt Look Fat

If there’s one thing I hate because I can’t control, (and there isn’t because I hate like at least 1,048 things I can’t control just on this web page alone), it is women who talk about dieting at the beginning of the year.

I’m serious about the New Year/New You diet conversation. I get so sick and tired of hearing women talk about dieting; I could literally scream hard enough that my eyeballs bug right the hell out of my designated eyeball spaces.

And yes, maybe the reasoning behind this is because I’ve literally run my butt off so I don’t need a ‘Fitfluential’ expert’s guidance on Facebook or Twitter to get into a pair of skinny jeans.

I can go even further to say I’m probably about the correct size for a woman of my height. That is, of course, according to the Institute of Making American Women Feel Like Fat Slobs If You’re Not a Size Two. Their Home office is in California, in case you were wondering.

But even so, you aren’t going to hear me talking about how skinny I am and all the protein shakes I drink all the mother-trucking time! I have more interesting things to talk to you about other than how many calories I ate at breakfast or whether or not I can slice off a sliver of a Butterfinger bar with my Lady Schick and still be contractually satisfied.

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Like other people in the Babes Against Dieting And Selling Shakes (BADA$$) Running Club, (a group I just commissioned to get women EVERYWHERE to SHUT THE CALIFORNIA UP about dieting) I mean it. I don’t want to hear it even one more MOTHER-TRUCKING time from any of you.

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I’d much rather be running on this easy and almost hill-less 4.25 mile sometimes dirt, rock, concrete and asphalt path in Northern Virginia than read a tweet from a Team Isagenix sales lady, “I had a 100 calorie serving of rice larvae for supper last night and I was so completely full, I couldn’t even finish my water!” In fact, if I didn’t have this trail to run away from the IsaLean Pro tweet infested iPad, I would probably consider it a service to my country to look up her ‘home business’ address and goat slap her. I mean it.

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If it weren’t for this trail in my backyard, I’d be using real cuss words at all these diet ads infiltrating my inbox. Yes, this trail and all its trippy tree roots and slippery flood waters has taught me that bad words are just bad. Even words that rhyme with bad words are bad. That’s why I’m going to teach my boys not to say DUCK when they get angry. Or FIT. Or Son of a Motherless Goat… which doesn’t rhyme with the bad word I want to say, but I did use it earlier because it is somehow a less offensive animal than a female dog.

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So this trail, aka The Holmes Run valley, across Alexandria’s non-touristy western section in my neighborhood always reminds me of that line in Eat, Pray, Love that sums up exactly what it is I want and have always wanted. (Elizabeth Gilbert is truly as close to who I am and what the desires of my heart are as any chick I’ve ever seen or read about – except maybe Scarlett O’Hara or Rainbow Brite.) Felipe says to Liz, “You don’t need a diet to get a man. You need to eat whatever the hell you want, then go out and find yourself a nice piece of trail.”

At least that’s the way I remember hearing the line as I had already left the movie still playing on the living room TV for the comfort of the kitchen to eat Jif Salted Caramel Spread with a spoon.

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Although I’ll show you a map of this heavenly slice of urban nature, I won’t pinpoint exactly where I live on here just in case I want to sign up for the witness protection program or something. I do seem like the kind who would be involved in nefarious activities and then later turn state’s evidence. I think it’s the thin upper lip. And my head. It is way too big for my body, according to my spouse. I do agree with his observation of this giant cartoon noggin. And with this itty bitty booty, I should not logically be able to hold this enormous cranium upright. It defies explanation…and gravity

Anyway, along the path of this Run Park you’ll most likely encounter other gravity defiant runners often exhibiting some odd behaviors. This can be quite entertaining if you’re into the people watching thing. I’ve witnessed other jumpy folks like myself, always moving around in one way or another amongst the city-owned parklands, healthy marsh areas, scenic and scruffy views, and around a bicentennial oak about 100 yards from the Duke Street entrance that’s older than the town itself.

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Alexandria’s Bicentennial Tree

The path has no blazes and very few signs, but is easy to follow with only one single significant street crossing. The only downer I’ve experienced is that parts of the trail flood easy so it’s best to use caution especially after heavy rains when the water is high and tumbling over the small rock ledges.

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Another concern is that the trail is also frequented by dogs who aren’t always escorted by courteous owners with poop baggies. In other words, dog poop can have a natural ability to somehow always be exactly where your feet are. It’s like the crap gains super powers from running shoes.

Holmes Run Park is also officially considered to be a “scenic easement” and I’m still uncertain as to what that entails after looking it up on Yelp. That’s right, I don’t know everything. I just don’t. As I type this, I’m thinking of people who’ve told me, “You don’t know everything,” or any variation thereof, because I prance around thinking I do. The hard truth is that coming off as the person who thinks their way is the only way makes your butt look fat. So, clearly I stopped doing that long ago.

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Sadly, I suffer from a medical condition called Noassatall and very non-greasy butt skin so I’ll never be able to ‘break the Internet’ like Kim Kardashian.

So with a little copy and paste help from the Yelp listing, “Holmes Run scenic easement is a little over 8 acres of natural wooded area and walking paths in the West End of Alexandria”. There are also countless picnic tables and grills, playgrounds, and exercise stations within the park. Therefore, numerous opportunities exist for long runs on this trail, which is connected to other trails via Dora Kelly Nature Preserve and Cameron Run Park. Bathrooms, parking, water, and trash cans for pet poop bags can be found at Ben Brenman Park, which also features a dog park to the side and a gaggle of geese, doves and ducks.

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Cameron Run Regional Park, a larger park is just a mile or so away from the Ben Brenman path, encloses a miniature golf course, batting cages, and seasonal water park. The access point to Holmes Run trail from this park is right from the parking lot and past the animal shelter to the fork in the sidewalk and then another right turn. Another access point is available from the multi-use path along Eisenhower Avenue, which is a wide lane shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians and crowded during rush hour, like many trails in the D.C. area.

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This multi-use path along Eisenhower Avenue that leads to the trail is not shaded so it is rather armpit-bubbling in the summer months. However, the Holmes Run Trail section running along Holmes Run Creek is mostly shaded for the hot-and-flashy folks of a certain age. Another issue is that it is also downright dark, pre-dawn on the trail behind Foxchase shopping center leading to the Greenway.

In the fall and winter months, I just can’t cut through this section on the morning run because I’m a big ole fraidy cat. Plain and simple. Even at my age and even after the countless nights I’ve spent alone while the hubs is deployed, I still sometimes get a little nervous in the night hours. (Sorry, that whole “even after the countless nights I’ve spent alone” thing sounded a lot less pathetic in my head.) Especially if I watch a Dateline episode right before bed. You know the one. It’s the story of how a perfectly lovely forty-year-old woman was found brutally murdered by the freckle-faced, love-sick, check out boy from the grocery store. I really can’t sleep then. I start thinking to myself, “Hey, I’m a perfectly lovely upper demo age group woman and maybe I was kind of rude to the kid that bagged my birthday cake Oreo cookies the other day at Harris Teeters”. Next thing you know, I’m hearing noises from the trees and flicking the lever up from standby on my stun gun with my thumb so that murdering freak won’t have such an easy time chopping me up into bitsy pieces for the raccoons to chow down.

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This is part one of a cleverly devised two-part plan that has proven to be effective at thwarting check out boys to whom I am rude. The evidence of how well it works is that I am still not dead when I wrap up my runs at 6:30 am. That’s the first sign of a good plan, right?

According to countless Google searches on any crime report ever reported in the history of the run park, the borders along Holmes Run are indeed very safe and pleasant to run, bike or stroll along, even between the dusk ’til dawn hours. My husband is determined to run his first marathon this spring so he uses these Holmes Run pathways as a launching point for his long training runs. In nice weather, many other Alexandrians take advantage of these trails and open spaces, walking to Dunkin Donuts or Harris Teeter’s via the back way trail from Holmes to Foxchase, running with their dogs, playing Frisbee, organizing pick-up games of soccer, or spying on a wide variety of birds, white-tail deer, and even the occasional fox. The trail also bestows an opportunity to partake in a good ole fashioned game of ‘guess that smell’.

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As a mom of two energetic boys that have the natural propensity to smell things off the ground and play in all things dirty, I’m extremely fortunate to live within spitting distance of the park so I can let them run around guessing natural and possibly man-made odors. Or I can run the trails solo for some downtime in the early morning hours. This little slice of nature in the city is the perfect locale for battling some philosophical question on the run. Like the fate of mankind and how I can single-handedly change it. Or whether I could pee standing up on a pile of snow near the creek since the janitor locked the restroom door the night before.

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Good Morning. I Covered Your House in Crap. Here, Put This Jacket On!

Stardate: 12-02-14 Time: 0345 hours

“Hey there sleeping beauty. Here’s a big sloppy doggie kiss for you on your toes. By the way, I have explosive lab dog diarrhea. I felt obligated to alert you.”

“Damn it, Raven! Are you kidding me?”

“Yeah I know. My bad. Sorry about the smell, but in my defense, those snacks you brought me were definitely not high quality. I didn’t get a look at the package, but based upon what I’ve produced in the last hour, the first ingredient is monkey butt.”

“Oh God, Raven! I can’t breathe!”

“I know, right? The walls are alive with the smell of monkey.”

“You’re going outside.”

“That’s cool. That’s cool. I get it. But I have to tell you, Steph – the damage has been done. I do weigh 70 pounds and have the height of a toddler in the 85th percentile, so I covered a lot of territory while you were sleeping. Like a LOT.”

“You couldn’t wake me up DURING this crap-a-palooza? Or I don’t know… BEFORE? Jeez!”

“Don’t hate. It’s not like I didn’t try. I whimpered. I made that grunting sound that annoys the piss out of you. You were talking in your sleep and didn’t hear me.”

“What was I saying? Should I be embarrassed?”

“You know me. I don’t judge. All I know is that whoever this Mark Zimmermann is, he must be all kinds of sex on a stick. Oh and PS – those sounds coming from my tummy right now are what you might think of as my early chocolate lab warning system. This is not a test.”

“Don’t you dare crap in this house again!”

“I’m not picky, yo. Totally your call. Not for nothing – that pounding outside your window is rain so at least the wet dog smell will help to balance out the smell of ape butt.”

“I love my life.”

“You are definitely living the dream, chick.”

So this was the pre-run scenario the morning of my before-dawn run with a pooping dog in this rain jacket. It has been one of the most humid, sticky, smelliest, dog-poopiest summers, wettest autumns and coldest wet winters since records began in the D.C./DMV area. The rainfall percentage here has been high to justify Googling “how to build an arc in 800 easy steps”, which I just did before I found the rain jacket at clearance online. Virtually every run or walk I’ve taken my poop monster out for has been in the wet and now that I have this jacket, I am well and truly ready to skip Wet Winter and welcome Sprinkly Spring.

Plus, for all of the races I am entered into in the near future this waterproof run jacket seems to be a mandatory item to pack.

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This is the epitome of rain drop and poop-repellant running gear.

Under no circumstances or weather conditions is it ever, ever going to let water or anything gross inside. The recent 30 degree temps with light rain showers are perfect conditions to test out this new waterproof and windproof jacket from Salomon, the Tournette Shell Rain Jacket (Women’s – 2013 Closeout).

And even though wearing running tights, shirt, arm sleeves and compression socks with smelly, farting dog on her leash, hydration pack with two bottles and poop bag holder in tow can leave me winded even without the frustration of being weighed down by a rain jacket or wind breaker, this jacket is on for good reason.

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Me, looking lovely in red. If only I were wearing a running skirt made of drapes I would be very much Scarlett O’Hara.

So the key style elements that work for this Salomon Tournette Shell Rain Jacket are:

Completely waterproof
Windproof
Hooded
Light weight
Small stowing

There are no shortage of pro points on this running jacket. It weighs in at a light 8.8 ounces, is highly stowable and with the breathable zippered underarm vents, is designed for appalling humid conditions or freezing downfalls (being both windproof and waterproof). The key selling points are that it is equipped with two large zippered pockets on the front, as well as zipped vents down both arm sleeves which can be opened when it is not raining to allow air inside and cool your bubbling pits.

On yesterday’s poopy dog run, my shoes and socks could not have got any wetter if I had jumped into a shallow pond and quacked with the ducks. My pants looked like I had wet myself a little and I was completely saturated from the knees down, but the Tournette jacket somehow kept my upper body totally dry. The only moisture was from my sweat, as it was too wet to open the vents under the sleeves. I did try to unzip from the bottom of the armpit upward on one side just to test how much rain could enter the inside of the bodice but the Orange Mud single barrel hydration pack straps interfered with this process.

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I’d have to take off the pack to make it happen, which is super inconvenient for me while running with the dog and carrying poop bags, and that’s like three levels more inconvenient than just regular inconvenient. So I skipped this test.

I did feel super secure though with the hood pulled really tight to ensure nothing dripped in via my neck and for all intents and purposes I was sealed within the jacket. The hood tightens by bungee-type drawstring, as does the bottom of the jacket with one drawstring on either side. There are also cuff Velcro adjustments to ensure no rain or wind can come up through the sleeves and knock you over. This is important because if such a chance occurrence happened a raccoon could mistake you for a delicious white trash treat on garbage day and BAM, you’re coon chow. You could become discombobulated, get ten kinds of dizzy, and just fall over if rain or wind gusts got up in there. You could suddenly remember Honey Boo Boo’s mama still has a working uterus, and be overcome with the desire to take a header to your death. OR and this is backed up by American science, the wind could just break your limbs off and you could plummet to the ground. The morgues are full of plummeting to the hard ground victims. Look it up.

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Waiting on a delicious hard ground victim.

This jacket is seriously torrential rain and body-plummeting wind proof. The waterproof coating ensures water simply slides off the jacket, as it is designed to do. What I notice most is how light I feel while running in it, even towards the end of a seven hour windy trail club run traversing DC, crossing over the Key Bridge into Virginia, continuing onto Maryland and back.

One mile east of a chain bridge was basically just scrambling over boulder fields so I appreciated the jacket more for lessening the load on my upper body during this run. I was also appreciative of the waterproof protection just in case I might fall along the really heavy post-rain level of the Potomac where some of the trail was submerged. Climbing along the cliffs until the trail appeared again was not easy but the jacket lightened my load to make it less than really difficult. The odor control panels inside also worked wonders considering I hadn’t washed it prior to two training runs beforehand. But this is ‘okay’ hygiene amongst fellow trail runners. Even the best groomed trail runner is prone to occasionally sitting around in the same holy compression socks she’s been wearing for three days, a rogue potato chip stuck to her chin and her hair caked in what we can only assume is dog saliva. When this is the case with your running mate, try to remember that Jesus made showers and Victoria’s Secret Garden Spray, and in as few as 10 minutes, she can be physically tolerable and even highly desirable, once again.

As for the extra weight of carrying or wearing this jacket, I would much rather unload the weight of an extra Tailwind packet to know that if it comes to it, I am going to be completely safe with the right rain gear if the weather turns for the worst. It can be easy to get carried away with focusing on the very lightest and most minimal jacket but there are other areas I would rather cut corners than not toting one at all. I can see why the elites would carry the absolute bare minimum, but for those of us who get our money’s worth from the entry fee, a little extra will not slow us down.

At a $85.73 sale price it is still not the cheapest jacket out there. My take on this would be, since buying the jacket I have run in the rain for probably at least a month’s worth of days. So let’s see… one rainy day at a time multiplied by my age and divided by the number of years I have left to breathe in and out while running equals… $2.86.

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For arguments sake, if you had to pay by the run, would you rather pay for something cheap from Wal-Mart as you pick up essentials from the deodorant, camping or dog regularity aisles and come back wet and miserable? Or would you rather spend upwards to $3 bucks per run but come home bone dry?

I know, close to three bucks per run seems like a lot of money for a stay-at-home mom but I think I’m going to be okay because I just received an offer of employment from an architect who lives in Bahrain and wants to pay me lots of money to pick up packages for him and mail them. He’ll pay me in money orders, which I’m sure are entirely legit. As long as he doesn’t mind a lingering dog poop smell on his packages, we’re good.

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The Ultra Power of Zimmermann (As Witnessed at StoneMill 50 Mile Race in Gaithersburg, MD)

Do you ever hear some loud laughing girls running alongside someone cracking jokes in the woods and wonder to yourself, “How come no one anywhere ever wants to run 30-50 miles and snort snot out of their noses with me?”

Do you ever feel like you have somehow managed to become so boring that you are now completely invisible to the naked eye and that must be why runners are passing you left and right with no verbal warning?

Do you ever stare at someone’s butt passing you during a race really hard hoping maybe their cheeks will explode a little bit leaving booty parts, body hair and poop all over the place and since no one knows you’ve got the powerful voodoo thing happening, they will never pin it on you and you will totally get away with it? Me neither. But if I did, and I’m not saying I do, I would put my mind on the power of Zimmermann and I’d feel better. Zimmerman is a gentleman that lives near my new running town. I don’t actually know ‘The Zimmermann’ outside of club runs and Facebook. In fact we have never even spoken. But lately I think of Zimmermann a lot. Every morning when I wake up and before I get out of bed, my prayer is, “Lord, in all I do today, grant me the power of the Zimmermann”.

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This older fella is sixty-something if he is a day. His face is time-worn with as many trail sun marks as you’ve ever seen on a human face, and covered in carefully applied sunscreen that accentuates every lovable crease. His cheeks are perfect rosy balls thanks to a frigid Mother Nature.

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His mountain trail beard is outlined in wispy white ice spikes. His long shiny white silvery blob of hair is piled around back of his head, held in place by the industrial strength collar of his trail club vest.

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This is the Zimmerman. I love Zimmerman’s “I don’t give a good damn what you think” trail running style. It’s not just in the way he wears his usual Annapolis Striders vest, HAT Run shirt, cycling backpack his brother Keith gave him along with baggy fluorescent pink Value Village thrift-store running shorts. It’s in everything he does and I like to believe it’s in all he is. If you came to visit one of the area trail runs, you might notice him trotting down the dirt path on the way to the Aid station to throw back hot coffee or a couple stiff ones.

Like Zimmermann himself, his top choice of trail fuel refuses to be ignored. It’s a giant bottle of a thing in a golden brown color and without question, the biggest bottle of illegal magic elixir on park premises. It’s such a huge bottle in fact that Zimmermann can hardly lift the pouring spout to his lips, so he does well… what Zimmermann does and simply adjusts in the face of a potential problem. He throws it back pretty darn quick.

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You gotta love him. Even though I think of him practically every day and have to contain myself from shouting, “You go, Zimmermann!” every time I pass by him by during a 50k or 50 miler, he has no idea what a fan he has in me. He has no clue that I am his pupil, his disciple even, although I’m betting it wouldn’t surprise him.

I rather doubt Zimmermann has a problem with low self-esteem. If a race director announced that a 50 mile trail race would be time-chipped to start promptly at 6am with a 13 hour cutoff enforced at each aid station, Zimmermann would either whip out a broken bottle of Knob Creek and slice him from stem to stern or trot out solo on the 20 degree trail at 3am so he could finish with the 9-10 hour runners. No cut off. Results? Whatever….

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3:12-ish a.m. race start

Zimmermann doesn’t have time for anything less than insane and total adoration of the incredible man he knows he is. So many times I’ve wanted to walk right up to him and ask him to tell me the meaning of life. Would he say it’s love? Would he say it’s following your bliss, no matter how uncomfortable that might make the world around you? Would he tell me the meaning of life can only be found in relentlessly pursuing simplicity while being open to growth, identifying fundamental sources of power and tapping them at their roots? I don’t know, but frankly it wouldn’t surprise me if he said the meaning of life is a good stiff drink and a smoke after a quickie in the McDonald’s restroom stall with a good woman who still has all her teeth.

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The 6am Aid Station

I hear you, Zimmermann. Words to live by.

I wouldn’t have made it without you during this 50 miler. Your fortitude and stamina were the trump cards of the day.

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Time to ramp up my miles and see if I can catch you next race!

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Run Appy Review: Starting over with Strava

Something happened to me over the last few weeks that I found so upsetting, so utterly disturbing, so completely horrific, that I hardly know what to do.

I became a Strava fan.
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You see, there are some basic truths upon which a person can build their lives, secure in the knowledge that there is an order to things in this big, crazy universe. The fact that Strava is less an online mobile running and training application than a big ole dork fest has been one of my steadfast truths. Being able to point and laugh at Strava freaks has given me a few solid months of feeling superior and in comparison, very good about me.

No matter what else I may have been, I was always better than that weird guy in a makeshift bandana ‘Do-rag and headlamp who slept in a tent for three days and buried his poop just so he’d already be at the starting line of a popular ultra event with his Strava cued up and ready to record.
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Of course, I’m still better than him. But after having downloaded the app, I can understand him a little better.

I first found out about Strava a few months ago after moving to the DC area from Florida. Trail runners here told me: “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen.” This seemed to be one of those “northern east coast cool kid things” that is taking a while to catch on in the southern ultra scene.

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Honestly, I didn’t think I was having very much anxiety about the whole prospect of switching from my usual running app to the one everyone else is using. Just as I was about to try to dislocate my shoulder so I could pat myself on the back for not switching over from MapMyRun and giving in to peer pressure, I first noticed there is something about Strava that cannot be described. I also realized that as I am a writer, I am not allowed by law to ever say something can’t be described. That’s for you non-writer type people. I must describe. It’s the nature of the beast.

So here goes – I am ready to share my descriptive review of the Strava app for running:

I reluctantly began using the app around the second week of October. Because I was already using the MapMyRun app and was fairly pleased with it (at least I believed I was pleased with it), I was skeptical about trying a social running app. By ‘social’ I mean Strava encourages you to click on other athletes and friends and lets you track their running or cross training activities.
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Despite the show-off capabilities of the workout stats, I honestly like a lot of the cool kid factors about this app now. Let me first caveat – I used Strava only after I figured out how to transfer my MapMyRun workouts for the last two years over to it with an additional app called fitnesssyncer. Also, I did not particularly want to upgrade to the Premium version which is a monthly subscription that every other distance runner I know uses. It’s just that I’m used to budgeting. It’s what I do. Yeah, I know it’s not nice to use the word budget in mixed company. But I do shop in places where everything costs a dollar and even then, I feel guilty about it. Everybody else who’s been subscribing to Strava premium package shops in places where the saleslady has to whisper the price of the NorthFace apparel softly in your ear, so as not to cheapen their quality merchandise with a vulgar price tag.
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In staying true to my cheap self, I wanted to review the FREE version of the running app from the Online App Store but the bells and whistles were beckoning on the monthly / annual version.
Life is changing, chicken noodles, and so I guess, shall I. I’m morphing.
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So here is what I’m enthralled with in the design:

I find the interface extremely workable. There is a simple red button to push and then you are OFF.
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See that center red button? How elementary it that? When you are ready to stop your run there is a checkered flag to the right of the red button which allows you to finalize your run activity. If you want to pause, you just simply click the red button again and it is paused. Click it again and it un-paused. Both the round red button and checkered finish flag are sizable enough for near-blind runners like me to see. This is important because I’m extremely nearsighted and hate going to the optometrist annually for a stronger prescription in run goggles. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I’m all about personal space and doctors of the eye area tend to want to get up in my face and breathe on me. I don’t enjoy that.

The feeds feature allows you to check out your activity or those of your running friends. When you check out your friends’ activities it shows you meaningful info like their running routes, mileage, times, calories burned and elevation gains.

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Other apps don’t share that much information about the athletes or friends you decide to track. And I have to say the positive affirmations from my new friends in Spain on this Strava app are so precious and encouraging. However, the level of exhaustion I am suffering trying to meet their daily expectations of me is making me want to punch them in their noses. The only thing that keeps me from laying them out is the fact that I haven’t been able to reach their noses. It’s a distance/logistic thing. I do also admit that allowing random people to visit my profile and click on my blog site and read my work in progress has been fun and not a bit scary. The kudos have always been encouraging and very often, absolutely hysterical. It’s great feedback and for an attention starved chick like myself, it’s a real boost.
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The app allows you to create your very own profile and modify it if you want. I sort of like that because it reminds me of Facebook or Twitter except folks are usually sports-minded on Strava and post race pics in lieu of profile pictures with their cell phone in the bathroom mirror – with their shirts off. Also similar to the social networks, Strava allows you to update your profile description. Of course I updated mine to reflect my running product review site so everyone could find me easily. Sixty-two people viewed my profile, seven found me worthy, two IM’ed me, and one emailed me. I’m a bona-fide hot mama now.
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Strava has its own challenge module.  I do wish it allowed us to create our own BUT you can participate and compete with others across the nation who use the app. They vary from fastest time, to distance challenges.
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It ranks you and your effort during the challenge and how big a deal you can become if you place in the top quartile of thousands of participants. I tried to compete with Zach Bitter in the October MTS challenge the other day and whether it was the release of the mighty endorphins or the four cups of coffee and hand full of vitamins I had for breakfast, I was working my butt like I was in the National Finals Rodeo. At one point, I think I might have even slapped it a little. I was invincible Ultrarunnerreviewerandexpertinmyownmind, Queen of the World and tamer of the mighty running butt! Nothing could stop me! I figured after I finished with my run, I would probably go lift the Sequoia up over my head in the driveway just because I could.

Price point basic Strava is FREE and comes with loads of features. I will probably downgrade my subscription next month from premium unless some pretty blog reader person tosses some dough in a tip jar. Sure, the internet is all about free content, but it’s also true that we blog writers are all about eating. If your favorite running blog writer has taken a few days off maybe you should ask yourself if he or she has starved to death and is lying unconscious under their laptop.
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Suggestions for improvement:

Yeah, occasionally I write as a public service. It makes me feel all PBS inside. I really like knowing the world is a better place because I told it what to do.

  1.  So Strava’s feature that enables the app to automatically pause anytime it senses a stop in your run, like after a speed interval when for about 30 seconds I look like the big, bad wolf in a fairy tale, huffing and puffing as if I’d smoked a carton of Lucky Strikes on the way to the run trail — this is a tricky feature. It seems the key to making this auto pause work for you is that you must remember to hit the center button to un-pause the app or else you will miss recording the other part of your run after you paused. UGH! I found this out the hard way during 2 runs and fortunately ran the MapMyRun app linked to fitnesssyncer. Because of this, the results uploaded to Strava, correcting my actual mileage and duration which was… Well, I guess it was more walking than running really. Actually it was more walking backwards, to be perfectly honest.
  2.  It does not integrate with your iTunes or playlist. Right or wrong I listen to music in one ear while I run. Music is just good stuff for head bobbers like me. You know the kind. All the geeky wallflowers at the school dances used to do the little head bob I have perfected. It’s sort of the international symbol for “I’m a closet head-banger but I’m too shy to actually dance because I really can’t”. To solve the head bobbing woes, I run my playlist from the iPhone’s music library which allows me to fast forward, rewind, pause and skip Iggy Azalea.
  3.  I did purchase the premium but it seems a bit expensive. I may be walking away from this subscription price next month with Suze Orman whispering in my ear. “Good job! You know you can’t afford that, Girlfriend. I want you to take the money you would have spent on that wastefulness and pay down a debt. Won’t that feel good???”
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I am sure the premium version comes with an additional host of features but it is taking me a while to get my head around the FREE features. Not completely sure what you get for $59.99/year just yet. But I do know since downloading the app and setting up the subscription through the App Store I cannot update or load other apps. By the way, kids, here’s a little public service announcement from me to you. If you are accustomed to using free starter-type apps it’s almost like you’ve been driving a tiny vehicle. And if you’re driving a Civic, you should never jump in a huge Toyota Sequoia and assume you can maneuver it without killing something. The same goes with iPhone apps. Start small and stay small or else you’ll go against the natural cellular app progression. Darwin wrote all about it.

Overall thoughts:

Kids, this Strava thing is so high-tech. It has buttons and dashboard lights and boostie thingies and it shakes the ground underneath me when I run under a 10 minute mile. And I should know all about it now that I’ve spent a good half hour doing nothing but pushing buttons and liking Spanish-speaking people’s workouts.

Gracias Amigo corridor!

On a scale of 1 (ugliest) – 10 (absolute bestest) I would give this running app an 9. Overall – it is a reliable GPS app to use while running. It is sturdy, shares a host of ways to analyze your run/walk activity whether it be reviewing your course, splits, elevation, and pace. It allows you to socialize with and follow other athletes by giving kudos and leavIng comments on their activities as a means of basic personal interaction.

The app inventors of this one are geniuses.

Or is it genius-i?

Before I forget all this brilliance, I should write this down and preserve the word for posterity. Or is posterity even a word? I may have or have not just made that up as I am not only a running app reviewer but also an inventor of new words for humans to use in their every day comments on Strava.

Hey, when was the last time you invented a whole new word?

It’s official, ladies and gentlemen. Another Strava geek is born. I’m off to be measured for my Queen of Grade-Adjusted Pace costume. I’ll see you at the next convention.
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Have Stun Gun, Will Run: a Not-Actually Tested Review of VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 19,000,000 V Stun Gun

I’ve decided I want to fight bad guys for a living. Not like some of my friends and my husband who have to use credentials and a real gun and a giant ego to fight them though.

I want to fight scum of the earth in a very caped crusader kind of way. I’m of the opinion that to truly be respected as someone who takes fighting off sick bastards seriously, a really cool mask and themed costume is quite necessary. That’s exactly what’s wrong with law enforcement today by the way. Too much badge and too little crazy cool mask.

I know I, for one, would be far more likely to behave myself if I were stopped in the cross walk by a guy wearing spider-webbed red pantyhose over his head with mesh eye cut outs. Everyone knows attempting to flee from someone involved in unleashing devastating combo-focused attacks is futile.

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I don’t want to fight bad guys by anybody else’s definition of what a bad guy is either. I want to pick and choose what guy needs fighting based solely on my whim and desire.

And I have lots of whims and desires.

For instance, this morning around 4 dark thirty a.m., I spotted an inebriated 7-11 customer stumbling out of the store and traipsing close behind me on my way to the run trail off the unlit street. He’s following me, I thought.

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Paranoia. You only have to be right once to make it all worth it.

I looked all around the residential area in hopes of finding anyone who might save me from this repulsively smelly exhibition. While I spotted a man eating Dunkin Donuts in a parking enforcement patrol car that could have easily shot this randy savage right in the head, he did nothing. No shots were fired and no one was handcuffed and taken downtown.

All that has to happen for drunk people to procreate is for those who have guns not to shoot these 7-11 frequenting creeps in the head.

Had I myself been certified as a caped crusader, I could have deployed my lasso, took this drunk guy into custody and gotten the commissioner to throw him out of the city. Of course later on I’d have had to battle him after he fell into a giant tub of acid while trying to perform the Venus Butterfly, but I’d be willing to risk it.

But alas, the drunk 7-11 frequenter turned a sharp corner before I whipped around to stun him with my pink Rechargeable Vipertek Stun Gun with Safety Disable Pin & LED Flashlight. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I will not be talked about every hour on the hour on every TV station for at least a million hours. Although I would be excited to see what Nancy Grace would say about it. I wouldn’t be able to contain myself. Hopefully she’ll interview Myles’ kindergarten teacher to find out whether he colored inside the lines and then segue into an interview with a forensic talk show scientist from Quantico about the warning signs we all missed.

But I digress. This post isn’t about debating the pros and cons of stun gun control. It’s about me… and who I will potentially stun down with this 19,000,000 V Stun Gun tucked between my boobs.

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It’s ok. I’m wearing the ‘Full Support’ bra.

Since a few national news incidents of women attacked on running trails (one incident very close to my favorite running trail) I have a constant desire to tote this stun gun while on the run. My mind has been running wild with the idea. Suddenly I feel like a cross between Annie Oakley and the Terminator. Everyone in my path unknowingly sits in my crosshairs and I alone make the decision as to whether they should live or live with two bite sized burning holes somewhere on their person.

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With the Vipertek VTS-979, I’m high with imaginary power.

Although it’s only dark and desolate a few hours during my morning run at the run park, the past several training runs have given me plenty of opportunity to play my new favorite game.

“Who Would I Go All Annie Oakley On?”

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I would definitely go all Annie Oakley on a guy I saw tooling around outside the park on his little Jazzy scooter. He weighed… no joke here… right about 800 pounds and was a Pig Pen kind of dirty. It wasn’t his size or lack of cleanliness that made me want to shoot him, however.

He found on the ground a gym bag someone had dropped most likely by accident after leaving morning boot camp. He then proceeded to pick it up using what I would guess is his designated “pick-stuff-up-I-can’t-bend-over-to-pick-up” stick. The bag was filled with a few sports bras and workout undies. I know this because he proclaimed it loudly to his much smaller, but equally dirty friend. This guy went on and on about the bras and panties, as he rooted around the bag and held each item up to examine… as if there were any chance in cross dressing chub porn hell he’d ever be able to wear them.

I shot him a pretend round with my stun gun right in his swollen bra and panty hand.

I also wanted to go all Annie Oakley on the check out guy at the grocery store. “Would you like a March of Dimes blow-up water bottle coozy to take home with you today?”

In the history of retail, that is the single dumbest thing I’ve ever been asked, I thought. I considered telling him I’d love a blow-up coozy, but I wanted no part of blowing it up. Perhaps if I could have him blow into it right there in the check out line, I would be more inclined to purchase one.

Sensing he was about to get shot by a woman with a stun gun in her sports bra, he hung his head and said, “They make me say that. I’ve been written up three times because I think it’s stupid and I don’t ask when I’m supposed to.”

That’s when I took him off my Annie Oakley hit list. In his place now stands the grocery store’s marketing executive who is in bed with the March of Dimes people. When I find him, he will suffer a stun gun blast to his inflatables, but only after I force him to ask me something embarrassing… like whether I would like him to ride a Jazzy through the run park and oink like a piggy today.

Now that I’m considering becoming a serial stun gun slinger, I realize for the first time how many people there are in any given day that need to be stunned with this thing. That’s probably one of the first questions they’ll ask me on my security clearance test if I ever try taking this thing out of the state of Virginia.

“How many people do you think cross your path each day that might cause you to want to whip out your stun gun and shoot them?

I believe the answer is 89. Yeah. At least eighty-nine people a day.

I’m gonna ace this security clearance thingy. Sweet.

By the way, I’m sorry I don’t have an actual review here for the extremely affordable Vipertek VTS-979 – 19,000,000 V Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin & LED Flashlight in Pink but I’ve only actually used it in my mind. Deal with it. (Or I might stun you.)

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Due to the rising cost of voltage, I’m no longer able to fire a warning stun.

Thanks for your understanding.

‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’: A Review & Update On the Dog Butt Grooming Market

Dear Person who can read and wants to read what I write,

Regarding my writing lately, or the lack thereof as the case may be: I’m still writing as much as I ever have. I’m just doing it in invisible computer ink.  Also, the frequency of my posts may have been altered slightly because I’ve been burying my nose deep into master novelist Haruki Murakami’s book, ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’.

Yeah, this book has been in the discount bin since 2010 but I couldn’t pass it up when I saw it at the everything-costs-a-dollar store.  And even then, I felt guilty about buying it since it wasn’t on final close out. But that’s just cheap ol’ me talking, the same ol’ chick that buys bread for PB&J’s at a discount, day old bread store that other folks think is nothing more than a place you buy snacks to feed homeless ducks.

However, there’s so much to learn in this novel that I do believe it’s worth full price for the advice.  I say this with other creative runner types in mind because, according to Murakami, every insight he ever had about his art of writing wasn’t discovered in a stuffy office inbox under the subject line: ‘Increase your pleasure by getting a bigger joy stick’.  Instead, it was on pavement or dirt roads — tiny beads of sweat forming on his upper lip and his toes kicking up dirt toward the sun, flinging worms around like he was a running Gardner-Zilla and they were merely tiny, screaming, Japanese worms.

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Try as he might, he knew the short lived excitement his day job promised could never hold a candle to the bliss of worm flinging with his Mizunos.  To Murakami, the art of endurance running is a profound parallel to the meaning of life.  He discovered his total existence had been right on his feet all these years cleverly disguised as a dingy mesh toe box with a waving logo on the side.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Japanese cover via haruki-murakami.com

“Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, writing as well,” he writes.

And man, do I love his writing as much as I love writing. Personally I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t write. It’s truly the best therapy on the planet and the cheapest, too. If I couldn’t write, I don’t know what I’d do. Probably become a serial Hoka toe box cutter or a dog butt shaver. I’m really not qualified for anything else.

Now that I think about it, I’m not qualified to write either. And I’ve heard the dog butt shaving market is a tough nut to crack.

I was trying to calm myself through this realization that a job grooming dog butts is not feasible by deep breathing and slamming shots of Tailwind. Truly I was. But for an obsessive-compulsive female prone to having epic tizzies over minor issues, like whether or not I really did wipe my legs clean with a baby wipe after receiving a splash of pee behind the tree, the fact that I have a 12 hour trail race looming on the horizon makes calm a place I will likely not see any time soon.  So that’s why reading Murakami’s novel is fitting for the occasion and most soothing for my episodic bouts of OCD-ness.

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I find “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” to be a calming collection of short autobiographical essays intertwined to focus on Murakami’s identity as an endurance runner. The book covers Murakami’s views on most everything including great literature, the aging process, nature and the meaning of life.

So many times while reading this book I’ve wanted to skip ahead to the ending to read what he concludes as the ultimate meaning of life.

Would he say it’s love?

Would he says it’s following your bliss, no matter how uncomfortable that might make the world around you?

Would he tell me the meaning of life can only be found in being true to yourself even when it’s utterly and profoundly painful and frightening?

I didn’t know, but frankly it wouldn’t have surprised me if he said the meaning of life is a good stiff drink and a smoke after a roll in the hay with someone who still has all their teeth.  ‘Cause those would be wise words to live by.

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And while I didn’t skip ahead to spoil a good storyline, I did note Murakami’s personality quirks, personal philosophy and outlook on life that launched his fame as a renowned novelist and accomplished endurance runner.

As an OCD ultra runner who streaks out 10-15 miles on average every day, I identify with Murakami’s work ethic and tenacity permeating throughout the entire book. Color me jealous but I’d also love to have adoring fans and be described by those that know me as accomplished. Is that too much to ask? I’m thinking I should make some changes that will hopefully bring out the more professional writer that I am hoping lives somewhere inside me. (That would explain the extra couple pounds.) That or it’s just taper week and the extra PB&J on thrift store white bread is catching up with me.

If I want to become as talented a writer as Murakami, I think first of all, I will need to go buy one of those chains that holds my glasses around my neck. That’s reeks of professional writer-ism. I’m sure that once I have that dandy little item, the beautiful words and dazzling analogies will flow from my brain like Capri Sun through my son’s nose when our chocolate lab farts. (Ok. That was really bad. You can see my need for the chain.)

Not only is Murakami a writer unmatched in the witty category, he is also smart funny and that’s the best kind. He uses words that cause me to tilt my head sideways like our dog does when I make a fake doggie crying sounds.  He also finds the hilarity in things that I had no clue were even supposed to be funny. Although Murakami isn’t as vain as I am and prefers not to plaster his picture all over his literary websites, I’m certain he must be gorgeous and rich and often described by other adoring fans as witty and clever.

In essence, he makes me want to be a better writer. Failing that, he also makes me want to eat my weight in sushi rice and California rolls while washing them down with unladylike portions of Sake.

But of course, Murakami wasn’t always such a literary genius and famous endurance runner.  In his humble beginnings way before his rise to literary stardom, Murakami says he led a not so glamorous life as a manager of a hole-in-the-wall jazz bar, which he established after earning a college degree despite the warnings of financial disaster from his family and friends.

For a little over ten years, Murakami worked morning ’til night, barely keeping the bar in business until the fateful and momentous event “around one thirty in the afternoon of April 1, 1978.”  He was merely basking in the sunlight while watching a baseball game and then a sudden comical thought bolted out of his brain that changed the course of his life events forever: “You know what? I could try writing a novel.”

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So when he arrived home he planted his behind on his desk chair and jotted a working novel onto scratch paper in a painstaking process involving approximately 300 cigarettes and just as many sleepless nights. Good thing is the novel secured popular reviews from readers, and soon enough, allowed him to leave the bar life behind to become a full-time literary genius and novelist who happens to enjoy endurance running like, every day.

Sure, some people think running every single day is a sign of crazy and maybe that is the case since I do it too and really am certifiable. Completely batty. At least that’s what it says on my permanent record.  Personally, I don’t normally have a problem with my own nuttiness and so long as others around me don’t mind my madness, I figure I’m in a pretty sweet position. It’s not everyday someone can deal with their mental illness in such a mentally healthy way.

Way to go, me.

So inspired Murakami-style this morning, I did a stupid, stupid thing. I sat down at my computer at 5:00 a.m. with a cup of coffee and my Coke bottle glasses and started to read his book again on the iPad.  I guess for some odd reason, I felt I needed a boost to my perpetually deflated ego and was somehow sure that by reading Murakami’s work, I would somehow feel better about my own ability to write.

That so did not happen.

I soon was reminded that the literary market is positively overflowing with talented, hysterically funny writers. I also discovered that it’s hard to get coffee out of an iPad.

And for an OCD mother runner like me, there are no accidents and no crayon color in ‘pissed’ that depicts my facial tone after knocking over a giant coffee cup on an expensive electronic that isn’t symbolic of something deep and meaningful that the universe is trying to tell me.

The universe and I are tight, so it’s always trying to tell me something.

So after spending no less than 51 minutes cleaning up coffee all the while telling myself what’s wrong with me, I finished reading about how Murakami sold his jazz bar and pursued his new career, which led him to becoming a renowned best seller with numerous literary prizes under his belt.  Despite Murakami’s whirlwind stardom I realize that taking a similar leap of faith for anyone else (like me) doesn’t always lead to success.  And I cannot figure out where exactly Murakami’s motivation to move blindly into a strange new career and plunge into unexplored territory as a professional endurance runner came from.  And how did he not succumb to doubt and fear and fulfill his family and friends’ worst expectations?  I’m sure he lost friends over his crazy decision.

I love Murakami’s courage in accepting his deletion from certain friends’ lists, but I don’t see how he didn’t feel the need to have a bunch of people around him who love him or at least fake love him when he needed them to.  I need that all the time ’cause I’m needy like that. I like to laugh, to chit chat and to eat food in restaurants with as many people as possible as often as is possible.

The truth is my family needs me to have friends because I am a handful. There is way too much of my crazy for just one or two persons. My family just needs the assistance.

But in Murakami’s case, this is where the quiet motivation and focus of endurance running comes in.

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Murakami explains later in the book:

“Writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.”

“What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” shows Murakami was never concerned with his competitors or judging his life by the standards of other folks.  “For some reason I never cared all that much whether I beat others or lost to them,” he reflects.

Murakami never missed his former friends that never once asked him if he’d like to go in halfsies on a Powerball ticket. Evidently they all wanted to be stupid rich and then have parties where they showed slides of him eating out of a trash can.

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So just like the ‘crazy’ endurance runner he is, Murakami set standards for himself by himself and didn’t bother wasting energy on impressing old friends and critics. And just like the seasoned endurance runner he is, he focuses only on the next few feet stretched out in front of him, conserving energy and moving forward one mile or one step at a time.

From beginning to end, the book follows the process of changing oneself from docile door mat to butt-kicking superhero.  I love a good underdog transformation to butt-kicking superhero story as I’m hoping to morph into a superhero myself.

Think about it. No one laughs at a superhero. No way. When’s the last time you heard anyone poke fun at the Green Lantern or The Incredible Hulk? It simply does not happen. On the contrary, it’s their very greenness and their notable incredibleness that makes you respect them.

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And after reading Murakami’s semi-autobiographical memoir I figure it can’t be that hard to make yourself a superhero.  All you need is some sort of personality disorder to start with and then you simply fall into a puddle of nuclear waste, thereby making said personality disorder the very basis for your super powers.

Or maybe the super powers are intrinsic and only evident when the superhero does some serious goal setting?

“Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything: namely, a time they want to beat. Even if he doesn’t break the time he’d hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best — and possibly, having made some significant discovery about himself in the process — then that in itself is an accomplishment, a positive feeling he can carry over to the next race,” Murakami writes.

With every idea he plants in my mind, I feel myself growing tougher and tougher. By the time I put on my Hoka moon boots with the crazy high platform and Orange Mud hydration vest with stun gun pocket holder and Mountain Dew can breast plates, I will be approaching ten feet tall and bullet proof.

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I’ve had this superhero getup for some time before reading this book.  However, I never knew what the main component was one could use to quickly pump oneself up to be a big, bad superhero.  If I had to guess before I’d have said it likely involved some Tito’s Handmade Vodka and something to do with testosterone.

But I now know from Murakami that it is simply the man’s perspective that can launch his career forward. Again, this is where the metaphor between running and writing comes to fruition: He writes for himself and not for others. As long as he can surpass his own standards and raise the bar for himself on his own terms, Murakami will continue to run farther and write deeper.

I dig this philosophy.  I feel like everyone should have a philosophy. I also think it’s important to throw your philosophy around whenever the opportunity presents itself and it’s always a good thing to use the word philosophy at parties. It makes you sound intelligent.

So to sum up the message here, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” reminds us to stop looking around during the race to see where everyone else is and instead focus on the task at hand so we can be content in achieving our own goals.

After reading his book, I’ve almost decided that to be content in accomplishing my goals, I will simply set the bar so incredibly low for myself that even a brain-dead gerbil could manage them.

So go read the book for yourself and take the advice of the humble, unassuming Haruki Murakami. Strive within your individual limits, surpass your own standards and cultivate your quiet inner motivations to help you slowly but surely plod toward your own finish line.

I believe in those words so much that I’m thinking of cross stitching them in some sort of sampler thing to hang above my sofa. Just as soon as I learn to cross stitch.

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Or maybe I should really try to step it up a little and use some of those big, published author words in my blog writing. I bet that would make me seem more like a Murakami-type professional writer.


Hey, that’s a stupendous idea!

Check in next time when you’ll read words like, “borborygmus”, “sussurus” and “hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” expertly woven throughout my reviews. Surely that will inspire someone to tell me how clever and witty I am.

(And by the way, I know you’re rushing to look up those words at this very moment.)

 

“My name is Stephanie, and I am a Hoka Cutter.”

Yes, I admit it.

And I know cutting is deemed unacceptable in mainstream society where it is considered a freakish, vile and disgusting mental illness.  But I just ask for judgment to be left aside for a few minutes so I can explain why I am okay with acting out in this manner.

And please keep in mind that I don’t act out in the same fashion as say, an Emo attention cutter type kid.  In no way am I looking for publicity because I scratch myself with a needle.  I cut because I have wide Fred Flintstone feet and my moon bootie circus clown shoes that are supposed to make running more comfortable still do not fit my sausage toes.

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You see?  My feet are awful, awful feet inherited from awful, awful people who gathered together to breed and make big-footed, awful, awful children.  Children with third nipples, eyes that go in different directions, a seventh toe, and a propensity to touch and eat their own poop.  But at least I have all my teeth. I am grateful for that every time I see old people cutting their corn off the cob.

Nevertheless, these drastic feet call for drastic action. Case in point:  I badly busted out of one pair of the earlier versions of this particular running shoe last summer during marathon training in NW Florida.

I bought a pair of $170 Hoka One One Bondi’s in an effort to cushion my legs for the super-hilly portion of the Pensacola Marathon. I figured these were unisex and since men wore them, maybe they were wide enough to accommodate my lady Vienna sausages.

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Yes, I look like I’m wearing sensible shoes that no self-respecting person would wear until they are at least sixty-five. However, they worked okay, but the fit wasn’t ideal — they pinched my pinky toes, causing sore feet and the biggest blood blister of my life to the side of my right big toe.  The side toe bust and ensuing blood blister was bad enough that I went to my primary care doc for a look-see. Dr. August Osage County (that’s code so you can’t guess my Doc’s name and call her up pretending to be me and find out how much I weigh) drew me a stick figure with a sad face and lots of arrows pointing to my foot and my bank account.  She confirmed that, despite the raw skin and blistering, I hadn’t broken any toes or stretched a foot ligament.  As Doc cleared me to do any exercise that didn’t hurt, I went back to walk/runs nearly every day in my barefoot shoes until my 50 miler on the beach in February.

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Because these Vibram’s allow my toes to splay out in whatever natural direction they want to, they didn’t hurt too much during the 50 mile sand run.  However, distance of any kind in Vibram’s makes the tops of my wide feet ache to the point that I think perhaps I might die right away. I am still not convinced that when I wear the toe finger shoes that I won’t wake up dead in the morning. I hope not though because I won’t have any make-up on.

I just don’t feel like they give me the kind of comfortable long run Hoka One One shoes do.  With the reduction in mileage, I also felt like I was losing endurance every day, even as my toe blisters and calluses improved. So I set out to try to run again in a different pair of Hoka’s mainly because some runners I really respect rave about them.  They claim Hoka’s help them recover from injuries and reduce the pounding of runs ranging from 20 miles to over 300 miles.

Marshall Ulrich is one famous Hoka wearer and ultra running guru who makes these claims.  He may in fact be the smartest man in the entire universe despite the fact that he had all his toenails removed (http://es.pn/1nG77dA). Wait. Maybe I should consider having the same toenail removal procedure since mine fall off on their own anyway after 20 miles.  So forget I implied the notion that removing one’s toenails may not be considered smart.

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via Road Runners Club of America
Marshall Ulrich, the man who ain’t got time for toenails.

So this guy Marshall is allegedly so darn smart that if he wanted to, he could lift a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew using nothing but the power of his mind. He can also do long division – in French. If he were to have a Brain-Off with Einstein (providing Einstein was not on the other side of the dirt), Marshall would beat him so badly, we would all forever after make reference to the Theory of Marshalltivity.

This man is brilliant in the most literal sense of the word. He is well spoken, and an avid reader of the kinds of books most of us don’t really think people read. Although I never knew what it was Marshall did before he made a career out of being a crazy ultra runner, I’m sure it was something that required lots of letters after his name on all his dinner invitations.

This man, who completed more than 120 ultramarathons averaging over 125 miles each plus about 425 miles in Death Valley during the most blistering summer month in U.S. history wearing Hoka’s, swears by them both for running on pavement and technical trails.  So I thought maybe I should stick with them for my foray into more advanced ultra running.  However, I was still concerned about the narrow toe-box. Ulrich says the latest models have a much roomier toe box like his favorite Hoka Mafate’s (pronounced true to form as “my fatties”) but I didn’t want to drop another $170 on another pair before figuring out whether they would really work.  So I decided to try a little experiment. Inspired by other ultra runners whose feet swell during long, hot races, I cut holes in my existing Hoka Bondi’s to give them more room for my toes. If I liked that, then I could try buying a new model.

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As you can see, they are extra-thick, and the padding definitely helps. I tried walking the kids to the park for a few miles wearing them and I could really feel them doing their magic.  The forefoot and toes felt fine although I could still slightly feel the pressure starting to build on my toes.  However, when I cranked up to running speed, that sensation went away, and I just felt like I was running in nice, soft, roomy shoes.

So I soon began jonesing for another pair of trail-specific Hoka’s after learning a snooty running shoe store carried them in my new neighborhood.  I mention the snootiness of the particular store only because I seemingly appear to running store clerks like a lower income single mom with two hyper ADD kids under the age of 5.  In no form or fashion am I the hip, young $150+ running shoe shopping demo.  Based on appearance alone, I wonder if anyone anywhere even notices me anymore.  I’ve somehow managed to become so boring that I am now completely invisible to the naked eye and can fully expect to wait at least 15 minutes with display shoe in hand before anyone at the running store makes verbal contact with me.  This results in thoughts of my ending the shoe charade and stopping at a sensible orthopedic footwear outlet before I leave the DC area to leap into old mom age feet first.

In sad summary, the local running store isn’t happening for me.  I dutifully put in my time waiting, patiently staring at each sales specialist really hard hoping that maybe I’m a little like Carrie and their head would explode leaving teeth, hair and eyeballs all over the place and since no one knows I’ve got the Carrie thing happening, they will never pin it on me and I’d totally get away with it.

Despite my passive aggressiveness and the lack of attention being sent my way, I still figured since I AM getting serious about running the trail ultras around these parts I needed to wait out my extended walk-in wait time and at the very least get fitted for a newer model of Hoka One One’s.  This store had the Conquest and even though I feel this model is too hard in the soles compared to other Hoka’s I was game to try it on just to get a feel for where my Flintstone feet are size-wise.

So finally, after the third person who arrived 15 minutes after me got served their shoes, I got measured and fitted.  Afterward, I went home and promptly ordered from runningwearhouse.com.

When my mail order of brand new Hoka Mafate’s in size 8.5 men’s were promptly delivered to my doorstep three days later, I proceeded to walk around in them to pinpoint where the toe box would require more “natural” flexibility. After I decided where my toes needed to stretch out of the shoes, I flicked open the box cutter and made two transverse cuts across what I would consider to be the torsion bar part of the sole of the shoe. The extra room from the new slits in the toe box made the shoes feel extra cushioned like a bouncy floatation device.

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So I immediately ran out and put in 10 miles in the freshly cut Hoka’s and only stopped running when I began feeling somewhat less effervescent. I only came down just a skosh from my euphoria. (Unfortunately the fact that I used the word “effervescent” has now made me giggle. Stupid thesaurus.)

Yeah, it was hard to shell out the 125 bucks on sale for shoes and cut them but it is beneficial for both my feet and time spent on my feet.  Cutting the Hoka’s makes me feel good which makes me nervous, quite honestly. In my OCD world, I understand all the way down to my itsy-bitsy, microscopic cells that I have absolutely no right to feel good, crappy as my feet are. It’s not logical.

And I am all about logical. (I could hardly type that with a straight face.)

Frankly, I’m happy with my customized Hoka’s to the point of outright and flamboyant giddiness and the happier I get, the more convinced I am that something has completely shorted out in my brain. I should be spending my time today worrying, fretting and stewing, not skipping around the house in butchered Hoka’s whistling the theme to the Jefferson’s.

This cutting thing has worked out so well I picked up a different model for the trail and commenced to cutting it up also.  Here is one of the Stinson EVO Trail models on my foot, with cut-out in place:

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These Hoka’s are so magnificent and glorious that I will very likely be asked by the Smithsonian to donate a plaster cast of these, which of course I will do ’cause I’m nice like that.

With the freshly cut Stinson’s I finished a decent 4th in a 50k (AG) and recovered well enough to run again the next day.

So this is why I’m okay with cutting up my $170 retail running shoes.

I am also quite partial to the red color in these pair.  Even though red has been done to death in the Superhero wardrobe. It’s a powerful color especially when it’s complimented by white and blue. But, I don’t think any Superhero ultra runner has dressed completely in red, white and blue from head to toe yet. Maybe I’ll do that at my next race.

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How about red leather short shorts and a red leather bustier with my Team RWB shirt? A long red sequined cape. Thigh high red boots. And naturally I’ll need a red tiara with an “S” on it and a long, red leather whip.

Uh-oh. I think I just went from Super Freak ultra runner to Super Hooker. Better tone it down a little. I’ll lose the whip.

I’ll get dressed every morning and fly around town with my toddler and kindergartener in tow fighting injustice and battling evil villains.

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‘S’ is for ‘Super Hoka Mom’ (not to be confused with ‘Super Hooker Mom’)

Once these big Bertha beauties reach 600 miles a piece, I plan to purchase another roomy model for more trail adventures in Virginia.  Even though Hoka is improving “My Fatties” into a ‘speed’ version this season, I’m quite sure the new models will also require some utility knife modification to give them a more comfortable ride.

Am I compromising the integrity of the support of the shoe when customizing it with a cut or two?  Maybe.

Shoes are designed with radii and such to alleviate/control/focus stresses when in use. By cutting them I am making new places for stress to concentrate and this will more drastically affect the mechanical and structural integrity of the shoe. In addition, I am opening the shoe to foreign particles and debris in areas in which it may not be able to withstand, i.e. dirt invading the spongy core of the sole as opposed to the toughened bottom of the sole. Or worse than dirt or mud, a snake! I’ve only had this happen once recently and the snake just looked at me and my toes peeping out from the toe box of the Hoka’s. I looked at him and I did what all reasonable women do when faced with a serpent from Hell. I screamed and ran as fast as I could on my plump tiptoes, being sure to hike my knees as high as they could go. Snakes hate that. It gets them all confused. They don’t know whether to chase you or applaud your Rockettes dance. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Now back to the cutting, the question is how much does it shorten the lifespan of the shoe and is that short life outweighed by the improvements in comfort? Only the owner/cutter of the shoe can decide.

BTW, this same cutting technique is done with car tires and is called “siping”. It’s supposed to improve their traction during launches, cornering, and even in wet conditions. Don’t know if it’s a legit phenomenon or a psychosomatic response to a perceived “improvement”, all I know is you won’t find me doing it to the tires on my running stroller.

But alas, there are some side effects to Hoka cutting to be concerned about. I’m definitely feeling all these strung out emotions and experiencing this wicked insomnia as a direct result of the Hoka cutting. I’m gonna try to meditate or read or tap dance or something entirely calming so that I might forget and possibly even sleep at some point.

Or maybe I’ll go dig out the kitchen shears and get rid of this pesky face fringe and make some Kim Kardashian bangs aka a forehead merkin.

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Hoka cutting – There’s a new blunt sliced toe box in town, and I don’t mean the rude sales guy at the running store in my neighborhood. Apparently other ultra runners are “sporting” a new trend in thrashed footwear and some people are completely shaken up about it. Do we love it or hate it, kids??? We needs to know RIGHT THE HELL NOW! There is a POLL button on this blog site for God sake!

Praise be and pass the box cutter.

I really hope more wide feet, bunion and blister-laden runners will embrace this idea and commence to cutting for their own feet’s sake.  If this idea takes off, men will love me. Women will want to be me. And those mean young sales kids at the running store that I’m sure said nasty things about me after I left with my hyperactive youngins will see me on Katie Couric talking about my Super Hoka self and be so envious of my Super Hoka-ness that they will swear by all that is holy that if ever I forgive them, they will never make fun of me again and will want to measure my feet and hand me Hoka’s to try on immediately when they see me.

What a good plan. I have completely impressed myself with my ability to think outside the toe box when solving a problem. That’s a very Super thing to do.

It’s such a good idea that I should probably patent it. I mean, if I don’t, every time someone gets their feelings hurt, they’ll be running around in clown shoes and buying box cutters. And let’s face it. We don’t want everybody to be Super.

I’ve got to quit writing now. I’m going to go to Katie Couric’s website and submit a couple ideas for her show.

What do you think of these?

“Superhero Hoka Wearers And The Mean Sales Clerks That Used To Laugh At Them”

“I Used To Be A Geek, But Now I’m A Super Ultra Freak”

“Superhero Extreme Make Overs: How Clown Shoes Can Take Ten Years Off Your Feet”

Watch your local listings!

Best Neighborhood/Trails to Run and Watch Weird People In & Around DC

This time of year in Florida is so miserably hot and humid, I can’t even tell you. No really. Before you’re allowed to move away, the Florida Board of Tourism makes you swear on space shuttle Atlantis’ grave not to tell how hot and humid it is there. You’re also not supposed to tell anyone there is really no such thing as winter, spring or fall, so you didn’t hear it from me. I don’t want the tourism Mafia blowing up my Rav 4.

Because I already know all four southern seasons: almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas, I’m now happy to traverse the streets of our fine nation’s Capitol in drastically more pleasant temps, passing through areas where even Navy Seals would be afraid to ask directions. Every morning I exit the Cambria hotel with my toddler in his jog stroller once it is adequately disinfected from the previous day’s run. We smell the breakfast sandwiches from across the way at Azi’s Cafe which is the single most fabulous lunch spot I’ve ever been to, and that includes the Burger King in Georgia that accidentally gave me an extra bag of fries in the kid’s meal and didn’t even charge me for them. An honest to goodness Internet cafe, Azi’s is like being invited into someone’s home where a wild WiFi party is in full swing complete with thick Ethiopian accents behind the counter, strong espresso and turkey panini sandwiches.

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We don’t have northern people clothes just yet so I bag him up like people on the street before we go to Azi’s.

But just as I was about to pull away from the corner of O street and 9th and leave the cafe and hotel in my running stroller dust the other morning, my iMap app gave me directions that would lead me to the safety of a friendly neighborhood street gang establishment where everyone has a special handshake. Wrong directions. Totally wrong directions. These were directions that led me down a dead end road where a long, long line of tricked out, pimped out rides with heavily tinted windows were all parked diagonally and backed in so as to allegedly make fleeing some sort of bloody spree an easier task.

And that’s where our fairy tale of wanting to live full-time in downtown DC and run the streets everyday ends, kids. Although it hasn’t been all that bad running in the alphabet letter named streets (until you get to P through S and sometimes T), I do so love alphabetizing and sanitizing so I’m compelled to say it’s been a good trip overall.

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So glad I’m on FB. Otherwise, I’d have to send 1,133 texts to my friends and family just to let them know I went running in DC today.

With the weather getting warmer here, I see the DC natives pulling out their running shoes and pounding the pavement alongside me, the dog and stroller. So many things to buy, eat, and do are within walking distance in DC and what better way to get things done than to run around the (safe) streets of this beautiful city. Plus, I’m a total people watcher and always have been. Although I detest mall shopping, I thoroughly enjoy the Fashion Centre Mall at Pentagon City while sitting and watching. You may have seen me if you were there the other day. I was the brunette chick in last season’s American Eagle shorts sitting atop the pink kid’s ice cream truck coin operated ride watching you through binoculars because you fascinate me so much, especially if you’re a weird person. My 5 year old is forever getting on to me when I am in close proximity to weird people because I become so engrossed in watching them, I forget that I am staring. Typically he gives me the old, “Mama! Stop staring!”, and I can always tell by his tone I’m about a second away from getting pinched on the fleshy part of my arm.

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Myles loves running in the parks in and around DC. He also loves playing an inappropriate game of “Who Pooped in the Park?” There’s no mystery this 5 year old detective can’t solve.

Although my family has only inhabited the area for a little over a week now, I’ve had numerous daily weird people watching adventures in DC. I’ve also seen numerous outdoor running enthusiasts showcasing a fantastic way to get the body Virginia Beach ready before the summer hits. So far it seems DC is an adventurous city to run through and has a plethora of trails/paths to be discovered, so here are my top 6 (so far).

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via travelpod.com

6). Embassy Row – When people think of Washington, DC, they probably think of the White House first, then the monuments, then maybe political corruption. What probably isn’t the first thing to pop into most minds, but is something evident to those who have traveled by foot in DC, are the more than 175 embassies scattered all throughout the city. Massachusetts Avenue, NW is known as Embassy Row because it offers a unique experience you will not find in any other city. Starting from Dupont Circle, if you run straight up Mass Ave for a few miles you’ll hit some good gradual elevation to work the quads. Along the way you’ll a also pass embassies from Haiti to India. With wide sidewalks and low schizophrenic homeless people traffic, this is an ideal spot for road marathon training.

Plus, you might just meet some new people and wind up having lots of dinners with people who have very recognizable yet hard to pronounce last names. This causes concern for me, however. I’m terrified I’ll show up for dinner thinking we’re having veggie burgers and French fries only to find the Prime Minister of mother truckin’ Cambodia and a table covered in silver platters of fried tarantulas and snake livers.

5) Beach Drive – On the weekends, miles of this beautiful winding road through Rock Creek Park are blocked off to cars. Runners, cyclists and walkers unite in a community of fitness at all hours of the day. Even one woman tribute bands like myself are allowed access to this blocked off road. Yes, that’s right. I hate that I’m not allowed to sing in public when accompanied by my family because I so love to sing and most especially when I am plugged into the iPod. How in the world is a person not supposed to sing when they have an iPod? I sound freaking fantastic when I have my little Bose ear buds implanted because I have the uncanny ability to sound exactly like everyone from Iggy Azalia to Seal (http://t.co/4OPsrbCL24).

If you ever want to see my show, feel free to sit in on a bench on Beach Drive. Or better yet, on the street in front of our new digs in Alexandria when the grass is tall. I will look forward all week to mowing day because that’s when I’m outside, away from my critical family, and therefore free to do what I do best besides finding new places to run around DC, walking back and forth in straight lines.

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via owlice1 on photobucket
I just know when I finally see this I’ll think, “What’s that smell?” Then I’ll realize it’s me.

4) C&O Canal – The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail runs 184.5 miles along the Potomac River from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. This is where I’m going to run away. In all fairness, I threaten to run away on average about three times a day. I figure it keeps everybody on their toes. If they think I am apt to just disappear at any moment, maybe they’ll be nicer to me while I’m around. But, I’m really gonna do it now that I live around DC. Truly I am. I’m packing my little bandana with my anti-aging serum, my teeth whitening kit and my brunette pony tail holders, tying the whole she-bang to a long stick and taking off to this beautiful trail. The C&O is a popular hangout for both cyclists and runners, as it is very well kept and consists of a mostly crushed stone surface. In fact, it is because of the C&O that many DC runners are actually trail runners and don’t even know it.

3) Trails of Rock Creek Park – Rock Creek Park is home to over 30 miles of dirt singletrack and trail. Most of the surface is smooth and wide, making it perfect for fast trail running, while other sections are technical and steep, allowing for more technical terrain. These are the makings of a potentially quiet, cool, and peaceful escape from the bustling roads just a short run away. However, I have to admit I am sort of nervous before running Rock Creek. This is my first visit/move to the DC area and as I tend to have tiny freak out seizures when I am in a crowd, I feel there is a pretty good chance this park will be over crowded with entitled cyclists and I’ll wind up rolling on the dirt path with my tongue hanging out and my eyes rolling back in my head.

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To tell you the honest truth, I also have some concern that the place will be packed with Gen Y ‘millennials’ that have only recently fully completed puberty. Even though I enjoy running alongside the youngsters, I truly believe in the good rule of thumb that it’s ok to be forty and act like a twenty-something, but only when you are not standing in close proximity to an honest to God twenty-something. Otherwise you stop looking like a cute older lady and just start to look like an old chick in need of Botox and bipolar meds. That’s never a good thing.

2) The National Mall – Nothing says DC like the National Mall even though I don’t like malls. I also don’t like people who like them. In my opinion, no good can come from a mall. It’s not that I have anything against a nice Tropical Smoothie and a Forever 21 casual club-wear outfit. Who doesn’t love wearing spandex and paying $8.00 for a runny drink made just for you by an acne covered 17 year old boy who thinks that sign warning employees to wash their hands before returning to work only applies if the number two is involved?

It’s just that malls were created by the Devil, that’s all. So it’s a good thing the National Mall is not really a “shopping mall” even if it does have a few bookstores and gift shops at or near some of the memorials. Tourists flock to this small division of the city to soak in the sights, explore the numerous museums, and nearly melt from the armpit bubbling heat. That also means just like a real mall, the National Mall can be a breeding ground for germs. Hundreds or even thousands of people are sneezing and coughing and spitting and rubbing their noses and touching hand rails and hangers and doorways.

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via pva.org

But that shouldn’t keep us runners out. In fact, the smooth paths circling the National Mall offer a very unique American experience that can’t be obtained anywhere else. To beat the germy crowds, all you need to do is go out for that run in the morning or evening. On a Sunday morning in early fall, you’ll be joined by a beaucoup of runners just like yourself. Just be aware that because of construction on the “National Mall” many footpaths have been blocked off so this can add time and mileage to your run.

1) Holmes Run Park – I did not know this was a “scenic easement” until I googled it after locating it down the street from my new address in Alexandria, VA. The Holmes Run Park is a little over 8 acres of natural forestry and walking path in the West End of the town. There are picnic tables and grills, playgrounds, and exercise stations inside the confines of the park as well.

This Run Park makes for a pleasant stroll, especially after heavy rains when the water is high and tumbling over the small rock ledges. It’s also a great place to take the kids to learn about a wide variety of birds, white-tail deer, and even fox.

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In nice weather, Alexandrians take advantage of its trails and open spaces, running with their dogs, playing Frisbee, organizing pick-up games of soccer.

I’m fortunate to live within spitting distance of the park so I’ll use it frequently. Cyclists are also lucky they can use Holmes Run’s paths as a launching point for longer rides. I expect to take lots of long runs on these trails, which also connect to Dora Kelly Nature Preserve and Cameron Run Park. On nice days, throngs of runners are at Holmes, enjoying this little slice of nature in the city. I just know this Run Park has the potential to be weird people central. I know I’ll spend the better part of the day staring to the point of drooling as I see other runners, walkers and cyclists breeze by because my 5 year old will be in year-round kindergarten and not there to pinch my batwings, and I won’t be able to help myself. I will be gawking like no other.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be in my people watching glory while running in this park. But as I watch and think about who these people are and what they have waiting for them at home, I wonder whether anyone ever watches and wonders about me. Could it be that when I’m out and about running someone, somewhere is eyeballing me and trying to figure out why I’m so weird?

Nah. Couldn’t be. I’m as normal as blueberry pie. (That is a saying, right?) How ’bout, I am to weird as Mountain Dew is to monkeys (http://t.co/WDCR0IqJJb). (But that’s not right either is it?)

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Dreadmill Mom Discovers iPad Mini ‘Virtual Runner’ App Made Possible by Mad Drunken Midget Friend

I had a cool new iPad Air once upon a time a few days ago.  Then my mean drunken midget friend aka toddler dropped it on the hardwood floor on Mother’s Day. 

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iPad Air via apple.com

“iBreak it.”

This prompted my husband to ask if I would like a replacement iPad as a gift for making me a mom of said midget in the first place and ruining all my fun.  So I commenced to making a decision on whether or not I wanted to go with the Air again or downsize to the Mini which might prove more durable and safer with a protective cover should it land in mini midget hands.

It’s not that I NEED another iPad.  The word NEED is reserved for food, internet service, and Injini toe socks (http://www.blogher.com/blister-proofing-bunions-snake-deterrent-injini-toe-socks).  But the iPad Mini is almost a necessity because there are so many things that can be done with it if the iPad fairy leaves one under your contour memory foam pillow.

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The iPad Mini isn’t just an oversized iPhone 5.  It’s an iPod Touch Maxi!

I personally take my iPad everywhere because I believe that’s what you’re supposed to do.  When you have a cool new gadget, it does not reach the maximum pleasure standard until all your friends are jealous of your new gadget.  Therefore, it goes with me to Walmart, where I whip it out and check my Facebook as I wait in line to pay for my lemon Jell-O. I also take it to parties, where I use it to play games while waiting for my turn at beer pong.

When running on the ol’ ‘dreadmill’ I usually watch videos on the iPad Mini from Netflix’s “watch instantly” streaming option but the other day I figured out how to work a few apps specifically for running. I have an iPhone synched with my Mini, so that means I can say to my peeps, “Hey peeps! I just scored a mad new app.” As of now I have so many apps that other treadmill runners at the neighborhood Y are simply in awe of my app-iness and app-titude.  I’m also looking into legally changing the name of my chocolate lab running partner to ‘Appy the Uni-dog’.

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via krapps.com & Younicorn on the App Store

“Make every day magical” by turning your dog into a unicorn.

A few days ago I spotted an app called ‘Virtual Runner’ and I finally had the chance this week to try out its downloadable courses ranging from 5Ks to Marathon runs. On a busy afternoon when only a 6 mile run would fit in with our PCS moving schedule I decided to go with the ’10K Run Along the Potomac’.  To start, I downloaded the ‘Virtual Runner’ iPad app then downloaded the Potomac course. This required a few attempts to get right as it was really frustrating how big these video files are.  My poor little 32gb iPad couldn’t handle it at first, so I had to clean out a few things (aka finish line selfies and mad drunk midget friend pics) before I could download.

I have to say downloading the running course was the most disappointing part of this app.  Each race course can take 20-40 minutes to download.  I left the app open after pressing install and almost 10 minutes in I received an error message. To add further disappointment to the download process, the app would leave the halfway downloaded course on my iPad Mini so I’d run into more issues with space.  I learned it’s ok to delete and reinstall the app if this happens.  The courses purchased will automatically show up in the available courses when you reinstall.

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This speeds along the process.  Evidently.

The instructions are fairly easy to comprehend.  I know this because I took time to download and read an installation guide as if it were a juicy book on my iPad Mini. I read this thing like it was a mommy porn piece in the most obnoxious way so as to seek attention from the most people noticing me read something on my new gadget. I read about this runner’s app at the convenience store where I enjoy an occasional twice-a-day Big Gulp Mountain Dew. I read at the library while peering in a superior way at all the old schoolers who waste valuable energy turning pages. I read in slow moving traffic at stop lights and when people around me got a little horn happy, I stood up through my sunroof, waved my iPad Mini at them and yelled, “Hey! I’m reading a mother trucking installation guide on my iPad Mini, M’Kay?!”

Many painstaking hours of reading and learning later I figured out how to install the course.  Simply plug the iPad Mini into a wall charger, change iPad screen settings so the display is always on, and then leave open to the installation screen and most importantly, don’t let a mad drunken midget toddler touch it.  Nothing will pop up to say that the course is downloading, but it will be running and doing its thing in the background.

Everything from this running app’s download on is pretty simple.  Just go back to the main screen of the app, click on ‘run’, select the course and you’re ready to rock it as much as you can on a treadmill.  ‘Virtual Runner’ also contains a unique feature where it’ll sync up with ANT+ devices so the video will automatically adjust to your pace. I don’t have this so I used the preset 10:00 min/mile pace for the Potomac video.  This can be adjusted in the settings.

I wish I knew more of the ins and outs of downloading on the iPad Mini so I could accomplish the process at a more rapid pace.  However if I did know everything there is to know about this I’d probably pretend to be Steve Jobs back in his whacked out fruitarian days.  I’d be taking a butter knife to my iPad Mini and disassembling it and screwing around with the insides with the same look on my face I get when trying to figure out where the “off button”  is on my talkative 5 year old or whether or not the ducks at the duck pond are practicing their teenage girl faces.  Then I would probably put it back together, using some duct tape, Saran Wrap and pond water.

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via krapps.com

Yeah, Steve Jobs was a God, sure.  But he ain’t nothing compared to Steve the Unicorn.

I do admit that despite the slower than usual download process, the course was exceedingly clear and smooth-sailing. It really felt like I was running The Potomac and before I knew it, I was almost done with the run.  Now I just need to purchase one of those new-fangled tablet holders for the treadmill so I don’t have to bungee cord the iPad Mini in place.  I made a text note with the ‘Notes’ app to buy one in Wal-Mart next time I go – which will be in approximately 5 minutes as I live in a constant Wal-Mart going loop.

Running with this app didn’t feel like a typical treadmill run.  This was also the first treadmill run that I wasn’t constantly staring at the time elapsed ticker on the headboard or clicking around constantly on Netflix TV shows or surfing the net for Botox coupons or plastic surgeons that accept old L’Oreal mascara tubes in lieu of MasterCard.  I usually hate the treadmill, but I need it.  Our relationship status is complicated.  But with the ‘Virtual Runner’ app, the run was fun and a much faster way to knock out a few miles than packing up a stroller to push 40 pounds of my mad drunk-on-almond milk midget friend throwing his sippy cup in the street every 5 minutes.  The ‘Virtual Runner’ app trimmed almost a minute per mile off my run time.  Now if only I could pee while I run to save even more time…

Did I just say that?  Please excuse my social awkwardness.  I stay at home with a mad drunken midget friend determined to break my iPad all day.

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“I also opened up all of mama’s tampons today and watched ’em expand in toilet water.  It was gnarly.  You should all try this at home.”

So would I buy more running courses from Virtual Runner? Yes and No

The Pros

The videos are LOVELY – I genuinely felt like I was running the Potomac like it was a fairy tale excursion filled with good times and sweet memories. In fact, this run was such a thing of wonder and fabulousness, I felt sure I would want to write a sonnet about it upon hopping off the treadmill.

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Maybe I’ll even write an ode or a limerick about it.

Once done with the timely download process, the app is simple to use However I’m certain the downloading would be less time consuming on a different device or with a different user as I was born missing many of the Best Buy ‘Geek Squad’ skills along with stereotypical feminine skills like: cooking, cleaning, and making napkin rings out of old paper towel rolls.

Unlike ‘Map Your Run’ and other running apps, ‘Virtual Runner’ doesnt drain your battery – My iPad Mini only used 2% battery running the Potomac video for an hour.  But if you ever want to spare your battery and get unlimited life on your iPad Mini, just turn it off.

I know lots of stuff y’all.

The Cons

Price – This app doesn’t come cheap. Although Virtual Runner is initially free, each course costs $7.99 so if you want to run Boston, the 26.2 miler is split into 4 files for a total of $32 and almost 8gb of iPad Mini space.  I’d like to run Boston this weekend but as it’s grocery buying weekend, which in my opinion is the most evil of all the weekends, I have to forego buying the videos. I hate it terrible, but I’ll do it because my family insists that on occasion I feed them something other than peanut butter and barbecue chip sandwiches.  They are so self-centered.

Space – The videos are clear and pretty to look at but at a major cost in the long run as far as iPad Mini storage.  But at least I can still flip the thing over and put on makeup with it. The back of the iPad Mini looks pretty shiny. A shiny surface is all I need.

Download Process – This process needs to be upgraded as it’s currently a major time sucker.  Maybe I was doing this whole thing wrong but in the downtime of waiting I almost had time to get myself some kitty babies implanted in my uterus after cleaning out all the cobwebs with a gynecological Swiffer Vac.  Thankfully I have a limited shelf life on my baby making parts so I’m glad to report that no kittens were birthed during this download session.  However, I’m thinking of running the Falmouth Road Race video and since I’m not certain my tube tying procedure ‘took’ a few years back I could end up with five more babies by the end of the download.  Maybe just four if I don’t catch uploading hiccups in the process.

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via Outside Interactive from the App Store

Unicorn easily disguised as a blonde treadmill runner (to avoid suspicion).

“… Just running with the Virtual Runner app on the iPad. No unicorns here. Please don’t stare.”

Treadmill powered by biodegradable unicorn poop.

I’m off subject now. Somehow I meandered my way from a virtual running app that shows almost real time race course scenery all the way around to the plight of my uterine spider web colonization.  However I do hope my review and suggestions are useful to Outside Interactive ‘Virtual Runner’ app designers, and if I can be of further assistance in consumer reviews of this product please send me a pretty unicorn with a syringe full of Botox in his horn and a fist full of hundreds tucked under his tail, minus the fist.

Do You Have These in a Sporty Plastic Appliqué Design? A Review of the Best Daily Wear Contacts for Near Blind Runners



I can’t see to run without my corrective vision eyewear or lenses. But, because I’m both extremely narcissistic and irredeemably hopeful about a supernatural healing of the near-blind, I attempt to see the world in bits and pieces every day without prescriptive assistance. However, not wearing my contacts or glasses when I should be (which is most of every single day) often lends to misinterpretation.  For instance, as I ventured out to stock up on the exciting new brand of active sports tampons I’d seen in a women’s running magazine ad, I was disheartened when a helpful Walgreens associate explained that as far as she knew, there was no such thing as a feminine hygiene product with a sporty plastic ‘appliqué’ design. Or even a tampon that was ‘cross-stitched’ in a fancy fashion.



Upon additional research and with my glasses on my eyes this time, I found the word ‘appliqué’ does decidedly contain some letters in common with ‘applicator’. 



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via Target.com & NewfoundApplique in Torbay, Canada on etsy.com


Honest mistake



Regardless of the current unavailability of this embroidered menstrual merchandise, I maintain the belief that applying the appliqué process to products not customarily subject to cross-stitching embellishments would add much needed enthusiasm to a stuffy group of manufacturers whose last big innovation was to add wings to something that will never fly. I’m so sure ‘Always with Wings’ wearers feel safely protected each month knowing there’s a little grounded F-35 with adhesive strips cradled in their underpants. But I digress.



So after the Walgreens incident, I realized I’m blind as a bat and all that and really should wear my geeked out cat-eye frames for reading, shopping and seeing and stuff. I most certainly need the specs or lenses when running in or around Florida traffic. By indulging my vanity going spectacles-free beneath my running visor, I have dangerously swerved the run stroller to miss one too many a phantom snake in a sidewalk crack or black bear in a red track suit and Arby’s hat. 



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via tmz.com



Honest mistake



In addition to the nuisance of having to balance specs on my slippery and sweaty nose while running, the taking them off part is not so pretty a sight either. Something peculiar occurs that causes me to go all crazy-eyed the exact instant I remove my corrective, yet trendy, eye wear. 

I may be peering right at you from behind the spectacles, but the moment I slip them back in their case, my pupils start rolling around in their eye sockets like spinning plates. I look like I’ve been head boxed by my two year old when he’s after my iPad so hard my eyeballs were tapped loose. (Raising a toddler is much like having a mean drunken midget friend.)



Anyway, while running in the neighborhood without glasses, things began to change. I couldn’t see the faces of passersby who say hi, so most of the time I would just ignore them while pretending to listen intently to the iPod and looking down towards the ground because I couldn’t see what I was stepping on during the run. When glancing upward and around, I mistook road signs, license plates and mail boxes for unicorns that were being very, very still.

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Dogs biting mailmen are so last year. Now it’s all about unicorns stabbing them with their heads.

Contact lenses seemed like a quick fix to this issue but they weren’t originally my first choice because the first ones I purchased felt dry and I was always approached by stoners when squinting at the microscopic print on the back of eye drops in the eye care section of Walgreens. 



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I buy ’em for my contact lenses. I swear.



So some days I’ve run without corrective vision just because it’s less of a nuisance to do so despite being as blind as a bat in need of a guide dog. I know what you’re thinking. Why not get me some of that fanciful eye surgery that fixes all eyesight wrongs, right? 

Well according to my eye care professional at Walmart, I am not a candidate for the laser. And I’ll trust her word on this and forego a second opinion because I hate placing my chin on a germ-infested chin holder and pressing my nose into the very same nose hole that people in the waiting room blowing their noses into their shirt sleeves had their noses in mere seconds before me. This requires me to squirt the contents of my ever present bottle of Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer over the entire surface of the eye-tumor detecting machine from outer space.

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via cafepress.com

My 5 year old asked me if this connected to an XBox.

I’m also a bit of a loner chick and all about personal space. Doctors of the eye area tend to want to get up in my face and breathe on me when they shoot an air rifle blast into each eye, none of which I particularly enjoy. 

But even if LASIK were a possibility, there is no amount of mind-numbing pharmaceuticals that could relax me to the point of allowing anyone to prod me in the eyeball. 

So when seeing is essential on a run, I wear contacts.

The first brand I wore was a line that Coopervision carried, Expressions. These lenses were good for one month wear and costs $67.99 a box (6 lenses). I also tried Freshlook Colorblends by CIBA Vision contact lenses that are $52.99 for a box of 6. These are supposed to last for one or two weeks. The colors are pretty enough for me to see on my fingertip and if they happen to fall in the sink I can see the color well enough to retrieve them. But like the Expressions, they don’t seem to last with me. My eyes start feeling itchy after a few days. Neither brand of colored lenses was budget friendly since I sometimes changed out pairs before their expiration due to the Florida humidity warping the fit while also turning my head into that of the Lion King.

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Humidity swells my ankles too but no one really seems to notice.



I also do not enjoy giving the contacts manufacturers several hundreds of my dollars for a few millimeters of plastic I know full well cannot possibly cost that much. I’m a bargain shopper from way back and it peeves me that I have to pay retail for anything…ever. I guess I was hoping I’d find a pair of prescription contacts at a garage sale or lying on the side of the road somewhere.

I just used the plural of the make-believe word “peeve”. See how annoyed these people make me?  

So I soon began to look for a cost effective daily wear lens that would also ensure eye infections weren’t a common occurrence. That’s when I happened upon a new brand that saved me from my running woes: Focus Dailies by Ciba Vision. After some research, I found out that Focus Dailies are more oxygen permeable than regular brands hence more breathable and comfortable.

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via 1800contacts.com & reddit.com



1800contacts.com carries the Dailies for $29.99 a box of 30.  Admittedly it’s a good deal for disposable lenses on the cheap. First of all, they’re comfortable and feel as if you’re not wearing anything. And this feeling of brand newness can last all day long even through a 50 mile ultra on sand. These lenses can feel less comfortable toward the end of the evening after such a run, but in total, it can last me up to 16 hours of wear in a day. Not bad. 

To save even more money to sock away in my magic running shoe bank account, I found a place that carries Focus Dailies at a cheaper price than most, discountcontactlenses.com. The catch is that you have to buy a whole box for a three month supply. So one box at $44.95 good for 90 days is not too shabby. As for Lens cleaner solution – you won’t need it because you’ll be trashing these lenses at the end of the day every day.



Putting in contacts in an abbreviated prep time before a run takes some getting used to. But now it takes less than two minutes to do–at least most of the time. Running with clear vision is a great change. I don’t need to look directly at the ground when I’m running, I get to see people’s faces and I no longer think mailboxes are unicorns with red flagged horns. Plus, I can see the letters when Vanna flips them now during my treadmill workouts.


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via ct.gov

I’d like to buy a vowel please.

In closing let me say that I sincerely apologize for the use of the words ‘tampon’ and ‘Always with Wings’ here today. While I try to always obey the law of pretending women are majestic creatures and newborns come from a big bird who sells pickles and ice cream on the side, I am missing that special filter in my genetic makeup that prevents me from blurting out obscure facts about feminine hygiene.

Sometimes I think of something so wrong and inappropriate my little black heart skips a beat with delight. My friends and family warn me not to write about every thought I have. They think they’re better than me because they can see tiny words. I don’t have my lenses in right now anyway, so for all I know I wrote about Tampa Bay or Groupon or some girl named Tamara.





Avoiding Big Boob Saggage Baggage on the Run

I often contemplate. I’m a contemplator from way back. I contemplate lots of things and then I contemplate whether anyone else contemplates them or if I am the lone contemplator. Because OCD is my invariably loyal companion, I never know if what I am contemplating is normal or if other, so called “normal” people have the same contemplation.

It ain’t easy being me. (Or being cheesy, Wheezy or Breezy, so I’m told.)

I reflect on things past, things present and things future. If I were a statue, I’d be “The Thinker”…with bodacious ta-tas and a bronze-from-a-bottle mane of braided hair, of course.

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So lately I’ve been ruminating way too much about boobs and not because they’re a scarce commodity. There are more boobies than there are people on this planet so that is more than enough for every person to have one boob each.

After verbalizing my thoughts on the one boob per person notion the other day to one of my running friends and agreeing with her that most women runners’ arms look awkward when running because two gazongas take up a lot of elbow room on both sides I immediately clicked around for research on this topic.  This is how I happened upon Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, a full-time practicing OB/GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York.  She does a lot of biomechanical analysis on boobs.  Evidently, the manner in which you swing your arms (or do not) is in direct relation to how good a bra you’re sporting.  If you are too busy holding down your boobs to use your arms to propel yourself you are unintentionally slowing yourself down and adjusting your trunk to halt your Bahama mamas from bouncing up and down and all around.

To sum up Dr. Dweck’s running bosom analysis, the reason boobs are so locomotive is because they’re made of pliable fatty tissues which also control everything from the amount of fat in a newborn’s breast milk to a woman’s ability to dance slutty for her husband.  This fatty boob tissue is supported by delicate ligaments and skin. So when a woman runs, the breasts bounce and these Coopers Ligaments can become over-stretched, causing pain while transforming the boobs into exact replicas of large tube socks filled with warm oatmeal. 

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Boob scarf made from tube socks via Lourdesoftheflies on Etsy.com

If they don’t get some support soon, people are gonna start thinking they’re nuts.

Obviously, women with larger cup sizes are more prone to this irreparable droop and saggage.  But that doesn’t mean that women with A’s and B’s don’t feel awkward irritation when their bee stings bounce around; they are just as likely to experience torment and the jarring effects of gravity.  I know as I’ve experienced discomfort from both sides of the fun bag fence.

I honestly don’t know why I coasted through my first 30 years of life with no blinkers when they mattered so much to me and here I am now waking up to run every day in my 40s looking like I’d been stung by nuclear scorpions in my general boobie region.  Dudes in high school used to tell me to stop buying bras and start buying Band-Aids. Now the joke’s on them, yo.  However, I am kind of thankful I did not buy big boobs in my early 20s because if I did, I would spend all my time figuring out new ways to develop my evil boobie power and I wouldn’t get anything else done. If I could go back in time to the day I trusted Dr. Bridges of Bridges to Beauty and Bodacious Bazookas in Louisiana with 500cc’s, I would have him implant a testosterone magnet in my boobs like Molly Ringwald had in the 80s.  In every movie the cute boy wound up loving her awful, didn’t he?  I know for sure I’d use my testosterone magnetic boobs to get free stuff like jewelry and tires, but I’ll bet there’s a lot more they could do if I spent way too much time thinking about it…

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But back to the pondering over future droopage of my saline noobs, Call it CDO (that’s OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order as they should be), call it Type A personality, or call it just being me, but I think it’s because I like to control matters before they get out of hand. Not with just a little control. Not even partial control. Freaky Miss-Jackson-If-You’re-Nasty Control.  So in the words of Janet Jackson before Nipplegate at age 40, “We are a part of a droopy nation.” Or something to that effect. Janet knows what’s up (or pointing down as the case may be).  Plus, she’s a Jackson so we all know she gets a family discount on plastic surgery.

Not that I’ll consider a return trip to the massive mammaries Doc again but I do want to take measures to counteract the ill effects on my beamers that running creates with its continual up-and-down movement.  I also want to educate other runners with a desire to keep their chick parts in tact as well.  I want to read all the research ever researched on whether or not running exacerbates sagging if done regularly like every day for 17+ hours a week.

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As of now, and Dr. Dweck’s work aside, research is limited on this topic.  However, much blame can be placed on running as a major cause of boob droopage since it involves lots of repetitive up-and-down and side-to-side movement of the breasts.  All that figure eight-shaped movement appears to be one of many factors that can lead to sagging.  But before tossing out your running kicks and signing up for yoga, hear the chick Doctor out.  Dr. Dweck says it’s difficult to determine the extent of how much running is involved in the droop process because of genetic and physiological factors.  She doesn’t have to tell me about preggers boobs, genetic boobs, PMS breasts and Oh-sweet-Lawd-where-do-I-begin boobs.

Ever since I weaned my last child, something in my sore, swollen PMSy scoops of flesh goes hay wire once a month and the boobie hormones need to be tweaked.  That’s when I want to set ant hills on fire with hot grits in the Florida sun and knock down owners of dogs without leashes. My sore, PMSy breasts make me both mad and sad at the same time, which means that even though I will derive crazy pleasure from knocking a walker out from under somebody’s dirty old grandpa with my bloated bosoms, I’ll cry about it later.

However even through bouts of bloated-breast infant-feeding and PMS, I’ve noticed my male counterpart NOT noticing any changes in their shape or size.  I think when boobs concern men all pairs are just fine except for the extra saggy ones hanging 6 inches inferior to the top set of abdominals. Regardless, I’m thankful most men don’t have a pair of their own breasts, because if they did they’d never leave the house.  They’d just sit home all day and play with them.  And if they did this I wonder what the odds are that they awaken in the morning feeling bloated and find themselves on the prowl for someone to make them feel pretty for a minute.  Do men do that, too? You think they stand in front of the mirror pulling their boobs up under their necks so they can see how they’d look if they had a breast lift? Is it possible they sometimes push their boobs together and ask their wife if they’d look better if they had them done? Could it be that men are more like women with boobs than women with boobs have ever thought they might be?

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via VH1.com “Best Week Ever”

Matching body types are strong compatibility indicators.

While pushing my boobs together in my high impact sports bra this morning, I reluctantly found that I could be 3/4 of an inch away from the designated sag marker near the top of my abs if I don’t take precautionary measures soon.  I’ve known this sag effect was coming for some time as most of the time my cupcakes just feel too bouncy, on the verge of becoming too floppy and definitely not sweater worthy. I’d get brand new elastic fake ones shaped into perfect round globes but my selfish family wants me to spend my money on food and electricity and stuff.

So what does Dr. Dweck recommend?  She says to keep running. 

Despite my misgivings I’m gonna try and do it because I always do what people in white coats tell me to do. That’s why I buy stuff from the makeup counter lady and why the seafood manager could identify my boobs in a police lineup.  Not that my boobs have ever been in a police lineup or that I would ever flash a man cutting up cobia but there’s always tomorrow.

So to sum up the Doc’s findings, the health benefits far outweigh the possibility of a little extra breast stretchiness so we shouldn’t worry much about saggage of big baggage.

So don’t worry.

How hard is that? Come on people. Telling me not to worry is like putting a Double Decker Oatmeal Cream Pie in front of me and telling me not to microwave it ’til the Little Debbie head pops off the package before I devour it.

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via http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-little-debbie-oatmeal-creme-pie-i233343

After enough snack cakes, no one is a Little Debbie.

So scientists are still conducting research on how running might expedite the sagging process but in the meantime, we shan’t worry our pretty little mosquito bites or colossal Cadillac bumper bullets.  We should just go run.

Here are some take away points for torpedoes to towel racks and every sorted pair of ta-tas in between:

If you get boob pain when running then you are probably over stressing the tissue and Coopers ligaments so you need a better bra.  Sometimes while running boobs can become tired.  So what if your boobs are just exhausted? What if they collapse half way through your run and as a result you teeter down to the ground on the road or trail?  I know you probably get regular health exams to prevent such a tragedy but what if you have boobs that look perfectly healthy and happy to be running with you, but are secretly bi-polar? Isn’t it conceivable that they could suddenly have an attack of mania and decide to fly?  Better buy a good bra to keep ’em strapped down.  http://www.blogher.com/under-armour-protege-big-boobs-and-saline-noobs-running-bra-review

When the ol’ droobies are grazing the race belt, you must heed this as a warning sign.  You don’t want to just wear the same old thing you have been wearing for years, as you change shape the sports bra won’t change shape with you.  The material will degenerate just like your running shoes will after so many miles. Invest in a good one that you can wear frequently like the ones Oprah approves for the big-breasted high impact wearer.   You’ll feel as pampered as Ms. O herself and no one can ever be sad enough to fling themselves from a high window while wearing an expensive bra featured on Oprah’s favorite things list in O Magazine. (Until they receive the MasterCard bill at which point the potential for self-harm increases 1,693%.)

The main takeaway from Dr. Dweck’s research is to wear a good bra.  Just wanted to reiterate this droop-avoiding tip so that your rolling hills not only stay bodacious but remain the audacious, brazen and best running partners you’ll ever have.  Yes I know a few of these references to your boobies are a little frightening, but nevertheless I hope you appreciate them and that I had you at ‘audacious’, pretty blog reader.

As always, sending good boob vibes of the non-bouncing variety your way.

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via theinspirationroom.com

The Doyenne of Double-Wide Strolling, A BOB Ironman Duallie Review

I am a mama. I have two boys… that I know about. So it is my firm belief I should buy things that say “Mama of 2″ on them at every available opportunity. But not those stick-people decals for rear windows on cars that say “stick mom, stick kid & other stick kid”. I would rather light my ear lobes on fire with a Bic travel lighter.  However, I do love, love, love this BOB Ironman Duallie run stroller because it’s the doyenne of double-wide strolling. It’s bright sunshiny yellow, and it says “Super Mama of 2”. If it said “Distant-3rd-Cousin-Twice-Removed” on it, I would still think it’s neat but I probably wouldn’t want it as much depending on the price. This one is from bobgear.com.

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via bobgear.com

You can buy this regular priced for $559 if you like. Sure you’re going to be eating ramen noodles for a month, but sometimes you just have to do something for yourself.

First off, let me say there’s no place for a BOB Ironman Duallie like Florida in 90-100 degree heat. So I thought I’d personally test this stroller to see if it could keep the kids high and dry and help them stop hollering and/or brawling. Now I can say that the BOB Ironman Duallie is one of my favorite running items. Deciding on this stroller was not a decision I took lightly when I learned my second boy was on the way, however. When I read stroller reviews, so many of them would start off listing all the strollers they had previously owned that didn’t work and how they wish they had just gotten a BOB stroller in the beginning.

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My neighbors said this brand was about as reliable as a 99 Cent Only plastic container in the microwave.

So when selecting a two-seater stroller to run with, I thought I’d do it right the first time. I knew I wanted a BOB because of the reputation, and because I only planned to use it for running, I chose the Ironman Duallie, which is designed strictly for runners since the front wheel is locked and not completely collapsible when folding for storage and travel. Original and retail pricing ran upwards to around $700! As a stay-at-home mom on a budget I have to pay attention to spending, budgeting, and saving money. Just like fun-sized Butterfingers, money doesn’t grow on trees.  So I snagged a prior year’s model much cheaper. Sometimes you can find them for $235 on eBay “gently used” but only if you keep an eye out for them. It’s kind of like the ice cream truck. You know it’s gonna stop by sometime during the day, but if you wait to get the money out, throw on a decent sports bra and flip flops, and unlock your front door, that dog-gone thing is going to be long gone before you even get out of the house. So it’s always best to put your future marathon and ultra race running career ahead of the game by being prepared for any opportunity that might arise to get that BOB stroller during the day and night.

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Xavier chose a bottle over a cone.  I guess I could’ve made ice cream from breast milk but that would’ve been an udderly bad idea.

So, why the BOB Ironman Duallie?

Honestly, the Duallie was just too big and bulky to really use as an everyday stroller but if I weren’t using the stroller as an everyday one anyway, I figured I should get the stroller intended specifically for running. Plus, this double-wide held a massive amount of storage for kid and dog snacks and running stuff that I like to pre-pack the night before a morning run. I’m a ditz at 6am, about as flaky as pie crust, so I have to pre-pack. Cell phone, keys, wallet, the dog – I have to keep an eye on her as well.

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I also have to check to make sure I’ve got that leash latched before I take her out for a run. One good thing has come out of my ditziness. I’ve finally gotten to see what everyday life is like for Hugh Hefner’s wife.

Oh, and the color is nice and cheery for a long run. This Caution light yellow #41 makes me feel good inside, as if I’d eaten a ray of sunshine or swallowed a butterfly.

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Please know I would never actually swallow a butterfly because that would be insect cruelty and these boys are cute and need their mama at home instead of in a lockup facility. So please don’t report me to Citizens Against Butterfly Cruelty.

Pros

Running with the Ironman Duallie is ten kinds of Omygod sauce and I cannot imagine a better running stroller. I am going to avoid the technical features like the pneumatic tires or describing the suspension system because I’ve never had the urge to google and learn what that means so, instead, I’ll tell you what I like about it in layman mom terms.

Here’s my list:

It has tires like a 10 speed bike and, I don’t know why exactly, but that makes a huge difference. The stroller feels like it is floating even with a 40 and 25 pounder riding inside and it is honestly not as hard to push as you would think, especially when you consider I’m pushing almost a hundred extra pounds (the stroller is 34lbs and the boys are over 65lbs together). However, I have to admit on the first run I was a little nervous about the fixed front wheel and wondered if it would be hard or awkward to turn. It’s not. It was easy to adjust to and simple to turn the stroller by adjusting your weight or pushing on one side. To make a right or left turn, I normally pop a slight wheelie in the front and turn on the back wheels. The kids enjoy the stunt and it makes all the difference in their ride. And when the ride is 10 miles long, they’d much prefer to be flying higher than their mama at an open martini bar.

Another benefit about the suspension system is the extra smooth ride for the boys even when I pop the front tire up or go over bumps. In addition, both seats independently recline and have their own sun visor, which I personally think is good shade and sun protection in the Florida heat. The visor shades also have a large viewing area squared off so I can check on the boys from above. A weather shield is also available online which is at the top of my wish list because of the everyday-at-noon pop-up showers here. The shield would also allow me to be able run with the boys in the winter. I also used an infant head and body insert to help support my littlest when I began running with him alongside big brother.

Potential Cons:

The Dualie is heavy (a common trait of all double strollers).
It’s bulky.
It’s expensive when purchased brand new and is not accompanied with any accessories. All accessories (car seat adapter, weather shield and snack tray) are extra.
Traveling is tough to nearly impossible. Attempts to fold and carry on a plane lend to first world problems and fit mom hatred.

My first run with both kids strapped down was a 6 miler and I felt as if I could keep going when it was over. The best way to describe my initial impression was that it felt comparable to Kirk Cameron finding God and doing bad movies. There was an adjustment period with the next run extending to 9 miles and then up to 12 miles. Then I decided to split mileage during the day into two or three runs to total up to whatever mileage I set out to do each day making the duration of the run easier on both the boys and myself. Initially, one of my biggest concerns was having to go to the bathroom while both boys were in the stroller with me on the run. I found a solution in the wooded neighborhood nearby. The stroller is too big to get in a gas station or grocery store bathroom stall with me but it can easily serve as a shield for a quick pee on a tree so no one can see. Now that I can shield myself with stroller and kids in tow, there really is no drama in executing a long run with pit stops. Every day is filled with peace, happy thoughts, snacks and Gatorade. I’m about as happy as Billy Ray Cyrus when he cashes his daughter’s checks. All in all, every pit stop is good.

Now here’s what I loathe about double stroller running:

It’s not all unicorn droppings and rainbows when you run with 2 kids in a stroller. Beside occasional meltdowns in front seating, hills and wind can kick your @ss. Forget about running uphill in the wind with a Duallie stroller. It also requires more effort to push the stroller while running. I thought this would pay off in a similar fashion of how a weighted vest strapped on the body pays off and I’d be surprisingly fast when I’m stroller-free in races.

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I duallie stroller trained for this 50 miler (on sand) but it was still as challenging as Shakira’s English.

Sad to say, I’m just as average slow as the next recreational runner. However, I have an inhuman amount of endurance to run past the marathon mark and make progress in the ultra world. It’s sheer delight to pass the 18-34 year old women in a 50 mile race. The Dualie has done that for me by allowing me to jump in weekly mileage from 55 miles to an average 90-110 miles per week. A nearby kids’ park, grocery run, dog-on-leash run, one-kid-sits-while-the-other-runs-with-mom run, the running list of running possibilities with the Dualie is endless.

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The BOB Ironman Dualie is the best bang for the bucks in the running stroller business. No lie, because I wouldn’t be dishonest with another adult. I do, however, tell fibs to my boys to encourage them to sit still and enjoy the 10 mile ride. I lie to them – a lot. I’ll have to break the news when they are much older that their hands won’t fly off if they stick them outside the moving stroller, there is no pizza fairy, and I’m not at all confident there really are starving children in China who want their veggie chips. Especially since I sold the Chinese government my invention to solve the over-population problem – birth-control rice.

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Keep Calm and Sleep On

You’re an awesome running stroller, BOB.

P.S. Sorry for the right front seat urination.

So if you have kids I want to know – do you run with a double or multi-seat stroller? What models or features are your favorite?

If you liked this review on the BOB Ironman Duallie stroller, I’m ecstatic. I’d be super ecstatic if you shared it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and at the next big thing you have to bring a veggie tray to.

Oh, and if you have mounds of money lying around that you wish to give me just for some awesome product placement on my review blog page you can contact me and I will tell you how to throw money at me. I will also wear your company T-shirt, drink your Kool-Aid, ride in your car, wear your athletic swag and sing the praises of your brand of unicorn poo. Truly. The only thing I won’t do is say your running product is good when it’s really crap, because that would make me a liar. I have my morals.
But, on the other hand, if you’re offering free stuff to run in, send me a proposal. I said I have morals – not that I’m a freakin’ saint.

Blister-Proofing Bunions with Snake-Deterrent Injinji Toe Socks

I will admit I have butt-ugly bunion-laden feet.  And I love toe socks. Wait. I said that like you’re interrogating me under the hot lights and I’m finally willing to tell you all about my deformed feet and love of toe socks. I’m such a running geek. I don’t know who first thought of making socks to cover ugly feet with separate full-coverage compartments for each toe.  You probably don’t either. I guess that means I could say I did. Pass it on. I want my boys to have a reason to be proud of me after I’m gone, and inventor of socks with toe compartments for people with ugly feet would do the trick.

My fascination with toe compartmentalization in footwear began when I happened upon some anti-blistering toe socks after clicking on govx.com for some sweet military discounts.  This website makes me salivate. I can almost always find a crazy good deal on all sorts of running things, but toe sock discounts have been my favorite.  My most awesome buy was this pair of toe socks crazy discounted on Govx’s partner company, RoadrunnerSports.com.  The brand name is Injinji, which apparently is French for “slightly-expensive retail price but worth it in anti-blister toe sock awesomeness”.

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Via Injinji.com. This pair of socks is precious. Don’t you love this little toe sock? Don’t you want to buy it a little unicorn or give it xoxo’s or something?

Injinji toe socks are made famous as some of the best running socks in the world and positioned as the companion sock to Vibram FiveFinger shoes, which I first paired with these socks during winter for added foot warmth. The toe compartments are soft and snug and I am in deep lust with them.  But I wondered most about the anti-blister component.  These socks have gotten quite popular in the running community as amazing blister-free socks so I thought I’d run them through some ultra-long running tests to see for myself.  After running a 50 mile sand ultra on Destin Beach sockless in Vibram’s last February I had ferocious water blisters.  So I was determined to find a blister remedy to keep these blisters from re-forming or else a psychotic clown wig and water tower situation would be coming on soon.

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Via Roadrunnersports.com.  These blue Injinji’s come in a 3-pack and are cute as bugs. (Not cockroaches or picnic flies, but more like Lady Bugs and pretend cartoon bugs in kids’ movies.) 

Before making a purchase of the blue ones, I viewed other toe socks with similar blister prevention claims and even bought some Blister prevention kits at zombierunner.com.  However to make these blister kits work, you have to know how to handle poisonous and harmful substances and materials.  I use industrial strength glue to adhere fake toenails to my nail-less big toe at least once a week so I thought that might qualify me.  Nevertheless the kit was a fail.  Folks who are smarter than me, (and probably with prettier feet and less toe cleavage) know how to use these blister prevention and repair kits and I do not because I can barely turn tap water into boiling water for microwave mac-n-cheese.  The easier option was to try the anti-blistering Injinji’s for blister-free performance on the road and the trail.  After all, that’s what Injini’s are made for and although these toes socks are defined as “the five-fingered socks for the minimalist shoe lover”, I now wear them with my maximalist Hoka running shoes. 

The Injinji’s work in any shoe, not just funny-looking toe shoes.  Even when wearing the Hoka Kailua Tarmac running shoes (and ditching the Vibram Five Fingers), the Injinji’s feel more freeing. You can wiggle your toes around in the shoes, and it feels like you’ve got a warm & fuzzy second skin on your feet.  Because of this, they also make excellent stay-at-home mom shoe replacements because you can still stretch your toes and feel the texture of the floor or razor-sharp Lego blocks a kid left out.

Injinji toe socks are also odor-protective.  I know this because I’ve only washed the Hoka shoes once in 300 miles when they began to smell like funk. I’ve got smelly feet also.  So when the shoe and feet stank permeates the socks enough for them have a stench and I forget to throw them in the wash with toddler poopy pants, I can just wash them in the sink with dish soap and they’re dry and clean smelling by the time I wake up the next morning.  On top of that, my Hoka’s themselves don’t stink up as quickly as before when I’m wearing these socks.

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Still dry after a humid, sticky-icky 10 mile Florida run!  I like these socks. I like them hard. It’s for that very reason that I plan to own many more pairs.

Injinji toe socks also keep the feet dry.  Not only have these socks NEVER gotten wet from my sweaty feet, but they also don’t stay wet long even when I plunge them into a mud bath on a swampy trail ultra. I’ve used them to put a barrier between myself and ugly looking snakes slithering around water crossings at Bear Lake in Milton, Florida.  It’s almost like they could see these toe socks coming and were deterred from latching on to compartmentalized toe sock toes.  These snakes were not in the least tempted for a tasty bite of toe-age.  They simply slithered back into the depths of the muddy water trenches with the rest of their reptilian fam.  I’m guessing either water snakes are the cheapest of all to feed or these Injinji toe socks have magic. I’m almost positive it’s black magic.

Plus, the Injinji’s are super comfortable!  These socks just feel good on feet and they’re easy to slip on despite the added time spent maneuvering the toes into their respective compartments.  I never read instructions but I can imagine the Injinji package details use words like “simply remove the sock from the cardboard insert” and “add one toe compartment at a time” to make one believe he or she can actually throw them on in a fast second. Later today, I’m going to use that same kind of Jedi mind control to convince my toddler he can “simply poo poo in the potty.”  At any rate, after the socks are on the material fits tightly like a second skin.  And the individual toe wrapping lets you wiggle your toes around in the socks, which feels amazingly freeing.  They’re soft, warm enough in the winter and sweat-wicking in the heat.  I’ve no idea how Injinji did this, but these socks are never uncomfortable. I’d wear them on my feet on a cold morning, and my feet would always warm up.  And in the Florida heat, even in the 100%-chance-of-showers-everyday-at-12-humidity, I’ve never had my feet feel too warm in the shoes when I’m wearing Injinji’s, nor sweat so much that my socks get wet (both problems I have with just about every other sock). 

The thin ones are comfortable enough to wear with dress shoes too.  But I would advise against wearing the white ones with shiny black shoes if you’re a man.  Men that wear white socks with black dress shoes are just a stone’s throw away from becoming men that wear socks with Jesus sandals or those backwoods men you see on Swamp People that never have their shirts on. Those types of men are satanic. Ladies, never breed with them because they have the capability to produce little white sock wearing children.

My Injinji toe socks are still going strong after 400 miles of heavy usage.  Other runners report 9 months of heavy usage before their usefulness started to drop.  And I mean heavy usage. I’d often rotate these socks as I have 3 pairs. There are also times I’ll wear just the socks to walk around outside on pavement with the kids.

I take that back.  I now rotate out 2 pairs.  My toddler stole them from on top of my shoes and now they’re lost somewhere with toothbrushes, hairbrushes and contact lens cases under the couch or bed.  Also, I don’t recommend wearing them on pavement, as I think that’s a big contributing factor to them wearing out.  But as far as maintenance is concerned, not much is necessary.  These socks could be worn daily, washed twice a week in the sink, and dried overnight.  If they get wet and I have to run, I can squeeze all the water out and throw them in my drop bag, and they won’t leak any water at all.  After many washes and muddy runs, they kind of look tie-dyed.  But they’re still springy and sweet.  The Injinji’s also weigh nearly nothing and take up no space in the packing process.  You don’t even notice these socks much when you’re wearing them. The individual toes make it feel more natural.  The Cost ranges from $10-$16 a pair, and you can easily get by with just two pairs for about 9 months of hard usage, I hear.

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via injinji.com.  I’m more than in love with these turquoise slate Injinji toe socks found on www.injinji.com. I actually need a bigger word than “love” to express how much I heart these.  Perhaps something in French.

Injinji toe socks are the best anti-blister remedy I’ve yet discovered.  These socks are a work of art and engineering. Injini is incredibly talented at toe sock making.  Go now and buy up everything they sell.  It’ll bring you good karma. Oh and by the way, I’d never seen other colors than the blue in these toe socks before, so I went to http://www.injini.com and sure as I am craving goober grape PB&J right now, they have beaucoup colors, stripes and kid sports toe socks.

Pay no mind to anyone else’s fashion advice on toe socks, just wear them because they feel good and won’t cause blisters.  Ignore toe sock haters, have fun and know you look better than sugar on grits at the pre-race breakfast table.

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Kids SPORT Lightweight Micro via Injinji.com.  Just found this pair that is about to cause me to stroke right out. I would have FREAKED OUT over a toe socks like this as a little girl during my Rainbow Brite phase.

I am still swooning over these toe socks.  Try them for yourself and if you don’t love them something awful, I will find you to be a highly suspicious character and feel it my duty as a human to report you to some authority. Perhaps the Earth Citizens Against Wierd Toe Socks Tribunal.

P.S.  Hey, gorgeous blog reader person, have you seen my post on “Moon Boots with Mad Flavor”?  http://www.blogher.com/moon-boots-mad-flavor-review-hoka-one-one-kailua-tarmac
You’ll love it harder than a wild boar in heat loves a Goodyear tire.  If you liked this post or any past post, would you share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and with those friends you haven’t seen since you were in high school? I will appreciate it, and you’ll lose 5 pounds. (Disclaimer: weight loss promise is most likely a lie.)

Moon Boots with Mad Flavor: The Hoka One One Kailua Tarmac Review

After running a few ultra-marathons over the past two years, I kept noticing guys and gals bouncing along and floating by me on these cloud-like squishy shoes that looked like a cross between astronaut boots and Skechers Shape-ups. These new-fangled foot contraptions were getting these ultra-runners through 30, 50, even 100 miles in one day. I decided to try out the Hoka One One Kailua Tarmac.

 

Hoka One Kailua Tarmac review 

After running a few ultra-marathons over the past two years, I kept noticing guys and gals bouncing along and floating by me on these cloud-like squishy shoes that looked like a cross between astronaut boots and Skechers Shape-ups. These new-fangled foot contraptions were getting these ultra-runners through 30, 50, even 100 miles in one day.

I admired them for having the intestinal fortitude to wear these shoes. They reminded me of people who have the guts to put pink flamingos in their yards.

 

Pink FlamingosThe kind of people you should always make the effort to get to know. Still from Pink Flamingos by John Waters. 

Plus, I wondered if the extra cushioning in these moon boots might ease some plantar fasciitis pain I had developed. With PF, my heel hurts like hell—but I try not to complain, because it’s not like I have diabetes, lupus, lyme, MS, Ram, or Gigantic Ball Syndrome (which will someday cause me to carry around my 132-pound testicles in a sweatshirt tied to my waist. Thanks for putting that image in my brain, TLC.)

So In attempts to help the minor PF issue, I gave these Hoka One One moon boots a go, running in the Bondi, Bondi 2, and recently, the Kailua Tarmac while minimizing my mileage with the minimalist Vibram FiveFingers Speed models.

For me, going from minimalist shoes to the moon boots was like lying on a yoga mat one night and sleeping like the dead on a Tempur-Pedic bed the next. I could talk to you all day long about what a pleasant surprise the Hokas were. I could go on and on about the insole cushioning, about what luxury shoes they really are, and about how they take off from zero like a bat out of whatever running shoe Hell is called. I’m a total fan after running in the Hoka One One Kailua Tarmacs last Saturday on the muddy, swampy trail of the Bear Bait Ultra Marathon 50k. But even while running marathons in the chunkier Hoka Bondi 2s, I knew the Hoka One Ones were running shoes that deliver in every way more than any other shoes I’ve even been in,and that’s a natural fact.

 

Hoka One Kaila Tarmac One Do these shoes look four sizes too big? They do make tip-toeing away in a stealthy manner virtually impossible. 

The reason the fit and ride is so comfortable is because Hoka One One is well known for launching maximalist, super-cushioned running shoes, while most other shoe companies are streamlining toward minimalist, barefoot-type or lightweight racing shoes.

 

Hoka One One Kailua Tarmac 

As I mentioned, I broke in a few of Hoka’s original Bondis and Bondi 2s running marathons before venturing over to the Kailua Tarmac running shoes from Hoka One One. The Bondi 2 is a beefy-looking, although fairly lightweight (about 8.8 oz.), cushioned Cadillac of a shoe that still proudly exhibits its foamy superstructure after 500 miles. But for more competitive ultra-speed, I began to heart the more “minimal” Hoka, the Kailua Tarmacs, which are delightful.

 

Hoka One One Kailua Tarmac 

And I don’t use the word “delightful” often. (Unless I’ve had a Big Gulp jumbo plastic cup of ginger ale and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, in which case I have been known to call Chris Brown “delightful” when by all accounts, he is not.) These Kailua Tarmacs were also only $104-something with shipping from runningwarehouse.com with a coupon from Active.com, which makes me really happy on the inside. I’m also happy about the minimum of 24.5-29mm of cushioning and an approximate 4.5mm heel to toe drop. These are stiff enough for a running shoe without being hard, yet deceivingly light. I found them to be a great shoe for recovery, long runs, and any kind of downhill running because the cushion in these shoes is stupid good. That’s better than regular good.

 

BASIC INFO:

 

 

Height: 21mm forefoot height/26mm heel height/5mm drop. Similar to other Hokas.

Weight: The Kailua Tarmac is exactly 9oz in my size (US women’s 9.5), with a comparatively svelte structure compared to other Hoka models.

Upper: An extremely breathable construction provides a secure fit. The tongue is a thin, suede-like material with a bit of mesh cushion on the inside. And it’s a gusseted tongue, meaning that it’s attached at the sides to the rest of the shoe.

Laces: The one-pull speed laces are extremely effective, as they kind of remind me of drawstrings, and I think drawstrings are hot. Since I can’t pull it off in a top (the curse of the big boobs), and I’m not too sure about draw string pants for women my age, the shoes have it.

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Hoka One One review 

When you look at the shoe from the front, without the cool Hoka Race-Lace System (RLS) in it, you can see the tongue area very prominently. If you open up the tongue and look at the side, it’s a continuous piece that extends to the rest of the uppers. Because the tongue extends almost all the way to the toe, I thought this was unusual construction as part of the toe box, but enjoyed the almost waterproof protection while running through muddy-water terrain of Bear Lake for the Bear Bait Ultra marathon 50K last weekend.

 

Muddy Hokas“If you drop a Hoka into the mud, the Hoka will get muddy but the mud will never get Hoka-ey.”—Ancient Northwest Floridian Proverb I just made up 

The sides wrap around the foot and over the tongue up to the stitches by the toe like a burrito. The tongue closure makes for a comfortable and roomy fit with decent forefoot volume. Although the Tarmac is a bit narrower than the Bondi, it ran true to size while I was wearing thin Injini socks, with plenty of room for my 6th toe (a.k.a. water blister).

 

Hoka One One review 

Midsole: This has up to 2.5 times the volume of cushioning, compared to competitor running shoes. Hoka claims to have a more responsive ride and a lot of rebound. I like to think of rebound in terms of a woman who’s just had her heart unexpectedly torn from her chest cavities. I think this is true when comparing the Tarmac to older Bondi models. But I wouldn’t know anything about chugging down boxed wine like water and listening to Michael Buble records on repeat.

 

Hoka One One 

The Tarmac also has more forefoot flex than the Bondi. As a signature design of all Hokas, the midsole extends up and around the upper to create a “bucket seat” for the foot. This creates the illusion they are jacked-up-to-Jesus, like my hair in junior high. However, Kailua Tarmacs really are stable running shoes and although I do think the cushion is real, as it breaks down over time, a placebo might be at work.

Outsole: Kailua Tarmacs were sturdy lugs for most of the Bear Lake terrain. However, I am seeing some accelerated wear on the outsole prior to the trail ultra as I collected over 200 miles on the road before the ultra. Par for the course for Hokas and like the Bondi, the shoe goo gunk may come out after 500 miles or so. The goo extends from carved out areas in the midsole for increased flexibility and these Kailua Tarmacs flex in the forefoot as well as any trail shoe. I still run in my last pair of Bondi 2s, and I have noticed the shoe goo deteriorating around the toe box. They are such good running shoes that I may find a few free hours to superglue and/or craft decoupage them back together. And I won’t even have to be drunk or held captive by happy Pinterest pinners.

 

Hoka One OneFather, forgive me, for I have glued.

 

 

Overall geometry: Kailua Tarmac’s overall outsole width is narrower at the heel and forefoot than the Bondi or Bondi 2. I’m sure this is because the Tarmac is positioned as a racing Hoka. Because it is far more flexible than other Hokas, the rocker effect is also less pronounced.The Ride: I have run over 250 miles so far in northwest Florida, about 200+ road miles in the Tarmacs over the last month. I’m still feeling the cushioned-like running-on-grass while on-the-road Hoka feel. Because I still feel as if I’ve eaten a muscle-relaxer omelet for a pre-run breakfast every day, I’m a bit surprised that they still have that feel-no-pain cushion in the heel.

 

Hoka One One 

At the forefoot, they generally feel as flexible as a “normal” running shoe. I have not had the occasional metatarsal pain at my big toe that I have on occasion experienced with the 2012 Hoka Bondi. Still, the soft forefoot cushioning and flexibility seemed to lack a bit of stability on parts of the very technical swampy, muddy, roots and snake-infested Northwest Florida terrain of my first trail ultra. There I was in the wilderness of the marshy swampland, battling some philosophical question like the fate of mankind and how I can single-handedly change it, or whether I could pee standing up behind that tree without the race photographer noticing and splat! I lost footing over a slimy board crossing and fell butt first into a mud pond.

So in no way are the Tarmacs magic superhero shoes, and they did not provide the bomb-proof downhill performance of the “traditional” Hoka Bondi. However, these Kailua Tarmacs were very smooth over most obstacles, including a snake, tree roots, and a chameleon-like tree-rooted snake.

 

Hoka One OneSnakes on a trail are no good and anyone who says different is suspect.

 

 

Before and after the trail run, my feet felt great running at a comfortable pace while back on the road, pushing the boys in the twin jog stroller and hauling the lab on her leash. Prior to the Bear Bait Ultra, I did several test runs on a 10-mile course, running at a moderate easy pace, with less perceived road shock and effort. I believe this has to do with the Tarmac’s lighter weight, lower profile and flexibility.

These qualities make it a faster shoe than prior Hoka models and a good candidate for the hills of the fall Pensacola Marathon, or better yet, the downtown Atlanta marathon. With hills in mind, this is a great Hoka model for folks struggling with injuries such as worn-out joints or plantar fasciitis, like me. With my plantar fasciitis orthotics inserted, the Tarmacs still felt plenty flexible, despite the many occasions where it was necessary to traverse trampled chicken wire blanketing muddy sod on the trail. Because of this, I believe the Kailua Tarmac is a more responsive uphill trail running shoe than the bigger Hokas, and I think it is damn near ten kinds of awesomesauce.

 

Hoka One One 

I did grow a bit nervous running in the Tarmacs on the off-camber sections of the trail, but they are actually the grippiest shoes on wet, gritty/muddy conditions. This really surprised me. However, as slope increases and the rocker angle of traditional Hokas is exceeded (about 10 degrees), I found the need to have plenty of knee lift to drive up and forward.

Last year, I ran mostly in Vibram Speed FiveFingers. Compared to the top-of-foot pain of nearly barefoot running on concrete sidewalk trails, the great, confidence-building Hoka cushion is on a somewhat narrower, less stable platform, but also has greater responsiveness and terrain feel. Wearing these, I forgot momentarily that I was even running on a trail. I focused in on the lake, and fantasized about putting a lounge chair out there to hide away and write the Great American Novel while tossing out as much chicken feed as these chickens could eat, wherever they were hiding.

Overall: So there’s a little less of the Hoka “cloud” cushioning/secret foam wound from unicorn horn fibers in these Hokas than in other Hokas. I also think some of the deceptive high heel/closer to heaven structure stacked with cushion may be a trick on the eyes because of the tall foam on the outside structure. In any case, this Hoka moon boot is a big party on the outside, promising luxurious cushioning and a smooth ride.

Hoka One One calls its Kailua Tarmac a “performance cushion running shoe with a faster ride.” I call it… therapy. A Kailua Tarmac on each foot is like dancing with Prince Xanax—totally relaxing. Over the course of the last month of ultra-training, I ran in these Kailua Tarmacs with less soreness and legs that felt fresher the next day. With more flexibility and less weight, these Hokas are good to go for a longer run on the road and after running the Bear Bait Ultra last weekend, I know they can tackle the trail in any condition. The Kailua Tarmac is a true hybrid running shoe, good for anything you can throw at it. So I’m stocking up. Since the 50K last Saturday, I’ve torn this internet up looking for the best sale on this exact model that I can find. I plan to buy up every single pair, God willing and the creek don’t rise. (That was a positive affirmation so that magic money winds up in my shoe bank account.)

 

Hoka One One 

As for these Kailua Tarmacs, which cleaned up nicely after their 32.46-mile mud bath, they’ll most likely sell someday on eBay for a giggety-thousand dollars once I become famous for my product review blogs. Think Michael Jackson’s dentist auctioning off his dental device to a Beverly Hills surgeon who wanted a DNA sample. Same-same.

Thanks for reading/getting me, running reader! I want to buy you a unicorn. If I had a lot of money, I’d buy you some Hokas.

Running Commando? My Runderwear Review of My Quest to Find the Perfect Running Panties

As a service to women everywhere suffering silently from this uncomfortable nether region plague, I decided I would scientifically test various sweat pool prevention panty products and offer my unbiased findings. And by “scientifically,” I mean that I applied all of the products listed below to my own butt. As long as it fit, didn’t ride up the crack too much, or cut off circulation under my running skirt, it got put on my body.

If you’re embarrassed by panty talk, move on to the next blog post. We’re talking about ladies underthingies and working out.

Our underpants cannot just be any old pair lying around on the floor. They have to fit snug, close to the body – but not too close! They have to be INVISIBLE, but comfortable.  They have to not shift or get sucked into the vortex.  They have to be attractive-looking because we like to feel pretty in our underpinnings, or feel a tad stylish while wandering around the house in a tank top and underwear. It’s complicated.

Add to this conundrum the fact that when running or working out hard, we ladies get Sweat Down There. Some running shorts are brilliant because they have built-in underwear made of a lightweight mesh that allows your hot spots to “breathe.” And after 10 miles of sweat, there are some places where you want a little air and you can’t just resort to cutting strategic holes in crotches of your underthings.

But then there are all the running shorts without built-in underwear.

As a service to women everywhere suffering silently from this uncomfortable nether region plague, I decided I would scientifically test various sweat pool prevention panty products and offer my unbiased findings. And by “scientifically,” I mean that I applied all of the products listed below to my own butt. As long as it fit, didn’t ride up the crack too much, or cut off circulation under my running skirt, it got put on my body.

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Image: Dawn via Flickr

First, here is what didn’t work.

Anything Made with Cotton

Sure, cotton is lightweight and breathable, which are both good qualities when it comes to your lady parts. However, underwear made from all cotton is recommended for lighter types of exercise such as yoga or strength training where you’re not moving a ton. With something akin to running or biking, the cotton will absorb your sweat, get soaking wet, and sag.

Victoria Secret’s Boy Shorts

By the way, do you know what Vicky’s secret is? It’s that she has no cellulite or stretch marks from having babies.

I took these out for a spin, determined to not be intimidated by her standard. As expected, these boy shorts will NOT stay put when running. I’ve also had problems with the top bands rolling down. This undies style offers fuller coverage so it may help keep your bum warm during winter workouts. However, you may not find them comfortable with the extra material down there which isn’t good for moisture management.

The only Victoria’s Secret underwear that’s ever really worked for running were these low rise, thin-banned little ones that they used to make in their active wear line. Once they started marketing to preteens all of that stuff went out the window, and now they mostly sell underpants with words on the butt. These are fine for just wearing around the house, but I’m afraid to do that for fear of having my head hacked off. (In every horror movie, there is always one white chick that decides to go check out the creepy noise in the basement wearing nothing but her cute little panties, which ultimately leads to having her head chopped off with a rusty lawnmower blade.)

So as far as these undergarments go, I personally think ‘boy short’-cut panties suck for exercise. I think that extra little leg part is cute, but it really rides up when you move a lot and provides a convincing argument to go commando.

Going Commando

If breathability is a top concern when it comes to your special area, then wearing nothing seems like the perfect option, right? The issue with this is that if your workout bottoms don’t contain a wicking panel in the crotch, you’ll end up with the same problems you would if you were wearing nonbreathable undies. So check your shorts or pants before going commando. As for me, I’m too afraid I would have some weird freak accident like peeing a little while trying to break an 8:45 mile. That would be my luck. But it all comes down to personal preference.

Moving Comfort Workout Bikini Briefs

I wore these briefly (get it?  briefly?) but then found out that skinny long-distance guys wear them too and that must be why there is extra material in the crotch. I saw online where a male long distance runner loves to wear Moving Comfort underwear for women because he doesn’t experience chafing at all. He can’t tell that the underpants are there due to the light feel. Thongs and bikinis are great for him, he says.

I won’t call out this particular male panty runner by using his real name because here in the virtual cosmos of peculiarity, what you write will show up #1 in a Google search for him. Oh, and as he is a music director at a big Southern Baptist church, so in writing about him, you risk a tsunami of locusts.

Anyway these briefs, being a bit baggy in certain spots to accommodate man parts, are kind of like typical granny panties. When I wore them, I was always terrified I would have an accident and a handsome firefighter with big scissors would have to cut my clothes off in order to save my life and he’d be all, “Yuck” and I’d be all, “I swear… I really don’t wear these granny workout panties all the time.” But he wouldn’t be able to hear me because I’d be dying and everything. Later he’d tell all his equally handsome firefighter friends how he had no choice but to let me die because I had on granny panties and hadn’t brushed my hair or put on any make-up, and he doesn’t get paid with a full benefits package to deal with that.

Thongs

This style prevents wedgies and panty lines, but it turns out that it’s not the best choice, health-wise. Since it’s tight-fitting, staying close to your body and sliding back and forth as you exercise, it’s perfectly designed to move fecal bacteria to your hoohaw, which can lead to UTIs or bacterial infections. I know some women swear by their comfort, but I personally don’t enjoy flossing my butt.

Seriously, I have no desire to sport floss in this region. If your booty is made for it, knock yourself out, but it ain’t happening here. So for running, I’d say thong be gone. Really, why would I willingly let my booty hang out? If baby got back – junk in the trunk – it just wouldn’t be right to have it go unconstrained.

Now here’s what may work.

The ‘Pure Stretch’ Cheeky Brief by Under Armour

This is a sportier style with a built-in moisture-wicking crotch. These panties are specifically made to move moisture away from your sensitive parts while sweating — especially on longer workouts — because they feature anti-microbial material that inhibits the growth of bacteria and ensuing smelliness.

The only negative I see in this panty has to do with the “cheeky cut”… as in, it doesn’t cover a muscular, perky booty. Especially when these panties transform from beginning to end of run from ‘cheeky’, ‘very cheeky’, and ‘ultra cheek-a-riffic’.

If you don’t have a flat, supermodel rear-end (basically if you’re normal), these panties won’t make you feel or look skinny. But that’s okay because we all know supermodels don’t eat giant hamburgers that are too big for their delicate mouths, and whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” never ate a hot-buttered biscuit smothered in Grade A fancy clover honey either.

Abiding by the law of Truth in Advertising, the ‘cheeky’ looks like brief/hipster/’boy short’-type underwear on the picture on the box, but when worn, it allows your jiggly bits to hang out the bottom of them. In a sense, they sort of resemble an uber-sexy torture device for those on the go. Or thongs, with about 3 inches of extra fabric in the back. Perfect for getting wedged up your @ss.

Other than the preposterous claim on the box that “one size fits all athletes,” the brand says these undies will be able to “banish VPL” – “Visible Panty Lines.” I was skeptical at first because the fabric seemed stiff, but after washing and wearing, they are fine. I especially like the fact that they are seamless and I get no lines when wearing capris to pick up my son at preschool or pick up Tito’s Handmade Vodka from the liquor store.

So far, these “runderwears” are the best sports/athletics undies I have tried to binge drink or run over 10 miles in. The cheeky bottom doesn’t ride up anymore after the first few miles of a long run. I usually wear a small in Under Armour undies, and these weren’t too small or too big. So I guess I’m saying, don’t be scared if when you first open the package it seems like it won’t be what you want. I encourage you to try it and maybe you won’t be disappointed for $12 a pop, which is a bit pricey. Maybe someday Under Armour will change its mind and sell these in 2 packs or something (hint hint).

CONs — If you have “curves” then they may not be as comfortable because they are “one size fits all athletes.”

PROs — If you want something that doesn’t give you underwear lines or sagging then these are a must have! Also, they dont “smell” like sweat after you take them off.

Oh, and one other benefit to the cheeky style of hipster underwear is that the stretch of the fabric yields plenty of clearance to pee like a guy standing up. Trust me, it only takes a little practice, and it’s a nice option when the quads are shot. Although I’m still jealous that I can’t “scribble” a pee line in the sand like the guys in an ultra race.

So now I turn it over to the comments. Where do you gals go for your go-to running panties? I need rockstar ultramarathon undies, and I won’t stop the hunt until they are found.

American Shaving Horror Stories and ‘Run Rash’ Avoidance in the Southern Climes with Shave Secret (A Rather Personal Review)

After reading this, you must infer that my brain is not working. I admit dignity has taken a major hike and I’m pretty sure I’m going to need Post-Traumatic Stress counseling after this blogging event mostly because it’s just downright difficult to talk about the freshness of the lady garden without scrunching up on the floor in a mass of billowing bashfulness.

So, allow me to preface the following review on Shave Secret for avoiding chafing and rash “down there” by stating that I do most of my running in my home state of Florida where it’s common practice to groom the nether regions before outdoor activities. Even while driving.

Yes, just a few years back Florida resident, Megan Barnes lacked razor-sharp focus when she crashed her car in the Florida Keys while shaving her bikini line in traffic.

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/cops-woman-crashes-car-shaving-privates/t/story?id=10065885&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Not-so-smooth Megan was Florida’s first bikini-shaving-related traffic offender that year. (I don’t know how many we’ve had in the last few years). Apparently, the 37-year woman unleashed the kraken and was too busy trimming it to slow down her Thunderbird so she slammed into the back of the SUV near Mile Marker 21.

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I have nothing to rival Megan’s shaving horror story since I do my hair removal usually in the bathroom instead of in a moving vehicle but I can share my worst experience with shaving down there was done by a Floridian nurse in prep for a Caesarean. I argued with the hospital staff to let me do the shaving. In the end the staff won when they gave me a spinal block, but I was heard down the hallway yelling, “This isn’t very sexy!”

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styled by the staff of Baptist Hospital Pensacola

And here I am, a sloppy pruning-of-the-pregnant-lady-garden survivor reviewing a personal shaving product for the active person. And I have to admit, I hate shaving before a run. I hate that I have to spend my time shaving my legs, pits and lady parts while I could be doing other things that probably wouldn’t make me bleed in the crotch of my running briefs. I also hate that one bad swipe could cause razor burn for days. The latter can also prove torturous when running shorts also have seams in the southern climes.

Chafing from course hair or stubble is a pretty obvious problem, not just for us girls but also for men and their mounds of body hair. Not only does thick, coarse hair repopulate the rainforest and create an extra element of friction when running or cycling, but it has a tendency to retain all that sweat that they’re trying to keep off of their skin. That’s why more men are also embracing the idea of body-hair removal for the… well, men don’t like to use the term bikini line, so let’s just say the area where their crown jewels reside. It’s true many manly cyclists shave to preserve their jewels. The reason they shave this area on down to their legs is to avoid the embarrassing consequences of getting the stuff caught up in their seats and front chain rings, I think.

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Yeah, I’m sure that’s the reason.

Getting jungle hair caught up in these traps could cause one to pitch over the handlebars with his GT in a serpentine embrace with his inferior limbs. This would hugely inconvenience the shiny triathlete who was about to demolish him and now has to extract his tri-bars from his nostrils, whilst roughing up his impeccably combed forearms.

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Oh, and it is also apparently easier to get dirt and gravel out of a wound if the skin is shaved, as it can’t get stuck in matted up hair.

Not that I’m an expert on manscaping for the cycling camp, but I’ve always heard this dilemma can be solved by shaving with razors specially made for sensitive skin before straddling a bike. Or for the runner, shaving with a sensitive skin razor is best before trotting out in built-in brief-lined running skirts or shorts. However in the past, I’ve adhered to this advice and not only did I look like I’ve rubbed my thighs across asphalt while traveling at 30 miles per hour, I was also in a little bit of pain — not enough to arouse genuine sympathy from others, mind you, but enough that I notice. So basically what I’m saying is that shaving, even with a special expensive razor, has always sucked.

And don’t get me started on Nair. Nair does nothing for hair down there except worry my nether regions and environmentalist friends about the bio-chemical load. I tried other techniques to get the bumps and irritation to stop, including really expensive Brazilian bikini wax on, wax off method that did get rid of unsightly hair. Just not all of it. This method is not for those of us of German descent who have the kind of hearty hair that’s meant to be shorn and woven into World War II parkas, trousers, mittens, head covers and liners to stave off the coldest winters and comfort one during famine from Allied occupation.

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My one experience with Brazilian waxing was more painful than having my uterus taken out of my body during both cesareans.

And of course, laser hair removal is the latest trend my sister keeps informing me about. She let me take home her Tria hair removal laser and told me it would feel a little like soft rubber bands bouncing off your skin. Well, maybe it feels that way on the back of her fair-skinned blonde Swiss Miss pudding girl hand but upon first patch of my olive-toned inner thigh skin, I cussed her name from the confines of my bathroom because she’s a damn $!&/*@’ liar.

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The 2 people in which laser hair removal works for

In addition to zapping my most sensitive areas with a blast of fire similar to that of a not-so-graceful twirling majorette midget trampling across my privates and forcefully dropping her fire baton on my 50 yard line, Tria emitted an accompanying burning smell. So I had to keep checking to make sure that my lady parts had not smoldered into a full-blown field fire.

So back to the shaving… this appears to be the best and only option to prep chafe-prone areas for a good long run. Even though it was never enjoyable. Razor burn is no joke. And neither is a certain spiky, off-putting quality to the razored flesh.

So it was a Godsend last fall when, in my race packet for the Pensacola marathon, I noticed a small sample blister of Shave Secret. The company is promoting its product now to runners because I’ve since seen it in other race packets and running expos. There are only a proprietary blend of base oils (cold pressed seed and nut oils), essential oils, RX grade menthol and natural fragrance oil in Shave Secret.

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So it’s basically a transparent shaving oil you rub on your skin instead of using shaving cream. Shave secret allows you to see clearly where you’re going. To reduce irritation, you shave in the direction of hair growth. (It’s also wise to defuzz at the end of your shower so that the steam has softened your hair and skin.). The pros are that you only use a few drops, you get an amazingly smooth irritation-free shave, and it loves you long time.

The only negative I perceive from this moisturizing goo is the gunk that can collect in your razor if not cleaned thoroughly. At first I tried picking oil-skin-hair cement out of my razor with a race bib safety pin and even though this be stilled my OCD heart, I quickly found out about the alcohol trick. Try this out: rinse your razor with rubbing alcohol after you use it, dry it on a towel, then take two shots of vodka in one cup of ginger ale. You’ll love me for this tip, you’ll think your clean razor rocks and you can significantly extend the life of your razor while feeling really good on your long run despite decreased reaction time and coordination.

Even cheap double-edge blades from Wal-Mart perform well with Shave Secret and can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Only thing is they aren’t too nice on the environment so I’m losing even more of my online vegan friends this very second for mentioning this.

Regardless and even if you’re not a chafe-avoiding freakazoid like me, you can benefit from my addiction to this product. I’m always happy to tell you what I dig and (if you want) what is stupid and dumb and should never be purchased by any human ever.

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I guarantee you that Shave Secret is the best item to get rid of unwanted hair growing wildly across your tundra.

Shave Secret is one personal grooming product you ought to have in your bathroom drawer right now. Today. This minute. Purchase it at your local retailer and while you’re there, also purchase a lovely thank you note because you’re gonna want to write me one. This magic potion is only about 4 bucks at Walmart for a month’s worth of daily shaves. And For some reason, it’s in the men’s section with after shave, but if guys are willing to put it on their faces, I figure I can put it near my hoo haw. The packaging also says that it can replace all the other products you currently use. Just a few drops of the stuff as a pre-shave oil will prepare your privates and moisturizer them for hours afterward. It can also help lubricate electric razors, apparently. So, yeah, secret’s out.

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Oh, and Shave secret is also VERY GOOD for reducing ingrown hairs. Because of Shave Secret, my bella no longer looks like the acne-prone face of a teenage boy just learning to shave. It’s shaving without chafing, and I’m sufficiently enthralled with it. Thanks to Shave Secret, hair removal before marathon training no longer eludes me. I am the long distance running She-rah, ultramarathon fighter of all wayward body hair and maker of smooth skin extraordinaire.

With my legs this smooth, I’m almost positive I look exactly like Heidi Klum from the waist down. We’re the same age and both have long legs. I’ll try not to stand near her so people won’t be confused by our equally beautiful selves.

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Heidi Klum has the best hair, doesn’t she? I’m convinced if my hair color was exactly like hers, she and I would be twins. Naturally.

Despite feeling silky smooth and despite being scrunched over in a crumpled mass of abashed shyness after exposing the various gardening techniques for my southern climes, I can hardly contain my joy over being hand-selected to receive that sample of Shave Secret in my race bag. This golden bottle of goodness must be handcrafted by angels in Heaven and you can only get to try it for free if you’ve done something really great in your life – like crocheted cute socks for homeless kittens or donated your hair to Miley Cyrus so that she may walk among us unnoticed.

I’ve not only fallen in love with Shave Secret, I’ve kind of turned into a freak about it. I would go so far as to consider myself a Shave Secret Evangelist, kind of like Ted Haggard, but with less preacher-hair, meth, and same-sex escorts.

I gotta stop preaching about Shave Secret and its ability to wipe out run rash for today though because I have to go throw my hair in a pony tail, put on dark sunglasses and hunt for a replacement bottle at Wal-Mart. It sucks to be me.

But if you are even a tad bit like me, you’ll go ten kinds of crazy for this stuff. Be brave and go get it.

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Final disclaimer: I was not compensated monetarily for this review from the company in Cuero, Texas that produces Shave Secret. If you are reading this post and you cannot sleep at night unless you know once and for all whether I was paid by Shave Secret, comment below or email me. I will laugh at you for not having anything to do other than comment or email me, but I will answer.

 

 

Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP2 for People Prone to Tripping While Holding Stuff: a 50K Run Test Review

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If you remember from earlier this year, I wrote a review on the Orange Mud HydraQuiver Single Barrel pack and its ability to help me levitate and read the minds of other humans.  Since writing that review, the owner of Orange Mud (and creator of the Harry Potter of hydration packs) read it and thought I was crazy (as I could read his mind while performing a perfect levitational maneuver).  However, he graciously sent me a totally rad race challenge headband with patch in return for my ecstatic review of his hydration pack. As a result, I have become greatly enamored with his company’s customer service, business approach and especially the excitingly different product line Orange Mud offers ultra runners.

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First of all, I want you to know that I am deeply in love with the Orange Mud vest both in a way that should scare the CEO a little as everyone knows people with obsessive-compulsive disorder often become dangerous when you make them fall deep in love.

Or when you get them wet.

I’m no fair weather psycho, either. I have loved my HydraQuiver through the good times and the bad times.

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Single barrel, I was always right there with you. No matter how high you let my Mountain Dew fizz in your bottle coming dangerously close to my ponytail or even that one time you took in some Kiwi flavored Gatorade laced with penicillin and made me throw up in my mouth, I continued to be your biggest fan.

Not biggest fan as in some lady who hasn’t left her bed in 22 years because of her addiction to Butterfinger’s and Mountain Dew, but biggest fan as in I am a HydraQuiver fanatic.

So imagine my insane and potentially brain-exploding excitement when I found out the vest was now available online!  Sweet lord. How is a girl supposed to sleep a wink knowing something like that? I could barely stop running around my house screaming, “The VP2 pack vest is here!!!”

(Please pardon all the exclamation points. Typically I do not throw them around all willy nilly, but when Orange Mud put two water bottles in a hydration pack with a vest…together no less…nothing says excitement like overuse of punctuation!!!!!)

Needless to say, I popped on over to the website to purchase that hydration vest thereby ensuring that my vest would be on my person by the date of my next 50K in Rosaryville State Park, Maryland.  And I have to say I was somewhat surprised. I may be a little out of touch with all you crazy rock n’ roller ultra types, but I had no idea hydration vests, the new object of my affection, could cost about as much as my womanly boob squash procedure minus the insurance.

Just clicking a quick search online, I see other hydration packs from competitor vendors costing an approximate average of one-jiggetyy-jillion dollars each. Not only is the OCD ultra mother runner crazy in that special obsessive-compulsive way that makes me irresistible to psychiatrists, I am also crazy cheap.  I tend to see money as something evil that I will never have enough of…therefore, I should never spend it on anything fun or frivolous. So the online price of $149.95 made me uh-skeerd. That’s right. UH-SKEERD.
That is southern for tremendously terrified. Feel free to use it in your day to day conversations.

I quickly recovered from my skeery condition however when realizing this vest pack is competitively matched in cost by other hydration pack brands like Ultimate Direction so if I shopped elsewhere I’d probably be shelling out more dough and settling for a bladder type vest pack which is nearly impossible to keep clean and not at all what I was looking for in the first place. 

I found Orange Mud is also slightly cheaper than some well-known brands like Salomon.  As far as storage comparisons, the compact arrangement of the VP2 Pack is more sufficient in that it offers more comfort than a Xanax flavored smoothie with a vodka chaser and tiny little pistol you can use to threaten the runner in your age group should she try to pass you in any way.  Not that I would pack such items for an ultra race but the storage is there.

But with something as important as a hydration pack for long runs and ultras, comfort and usage trumps cost.  Sure, my kids selfishly prefer food over my desire to have a fancy hydration vest. Truth be told, they probably would have preferred college over my Roctane gels and Hoka shoe spending, but that ship has sailed. There are some things an OCD ultra runner can’t live without… no matter what. And I’m sure they can find work at a good gas station someday.

The only reason I mention the slightly high cost of the VP2 is I know how hard a decision it is to spend this kind of cheese on a vest to hold water and stuff.  However I do admit that the cost of this vest is worth the wear because once on in an ultra race, you’ll think a little less about the bling and the things and a lot more about what’s on the inside.  In other words, it’s nice to have the ability to wear all your stuff, rather than having to hold it while you run.  I discovered this and more about the vest pack, the HydraQuiver VP2 (Vest Pack 2 Bottle), in the Rosaryville 50K Trail Run in Upper Marlboro, Maryland recently.

Before I go any further, you should know that in addition to being a running product reviewer, I am a graceful gazelle. Actually it would probably be more accurate to say I am a graceful gazelle that falls down all the time on the trails when I use a handheld water bottle.  I fall on tree roots, I fall down blind curves, and I fall up hills. If falling can be accomplished in any ultra race while holding a water bottle, rest assured I will get it done.

So imagine the relief of having my water bottle on my back, hands free to grab gels and Butterfingers from my front vest pockets with no loss of balance the whole 50K on a single track dirt and gravel trail.  This vest allowed me to run unencumbered by things that true Southern girls aren’t that used to anyway, like carrying heavy things such as food and water in our finely manicured delicate hands.

Once the waves of euphoria from wearing the vest subsided (I had to take some Dramamine at the last aid station) I took the time to complete another glowing review, complete with photos of the pack, and some comparisons between the vest model and the HydraQuiver pack.

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This HydraQuiver VP2 is Orange Mud’s first and only vest style product.  The Single and Double barrel packs both include straps fitting over the shoulder and under the armpit.  The VP2 falls further down the frontal area on each side, snapping into place with a single buckle across the boobs, which can be slightly cumbersome and makes me think this vest was initially designed for the male demographic.  But it’s all good because I love men. I married one of them. I can’t imagine a world without men. It would be a place I’d never want to live… mainly because it would be a land over run with spiders and flat tires.

The vest also consists of a strap on each side that runs toward the back, assisting in keeping it in place without restricting movement or breathing. The VP2 also uses a new lighter mesh material than the mesh with padding on the single barrel HydraQuiver.  However, I wouldn’t recommend wearing it bare back or with only a sports bra layered beneath. 

I learned this when stripping down beneath the vest in the hot, humid middle of July just because my armpits were bubbling and I needed some sweet relief that usually only death can bring from the scorching sun.  Well, that and I have no taste. There. I said it. I feel as clean as if I’d used something with the words “feminine” and “rain fresh” in it.

A large part of the summer I can manage to fake having just enough class so that decent people will be seen speaking to me as I run in the neighborhood. I also wear at least one bra when in close proximity of impressionable children just so you know.

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But see what I mean? No taste. No couth. And blisters to prove that near nekkid is the wrong way to wear the pack.

Lesson learned, I’m back to running around cloaked in pretend classiness so that to the untrained eye, or someone who lives in a single wide whose landscaping plan includes tires with flowers in them, I might actually look like an okay gal.

And despite my blistering without a shirt beneath the vest, I noticed it is well constructed which involves less heat because of the thinner layer of padding than the single barrel pack.  At first I assumed this genius design must have been handcrafted in Uganda by women who have nothing better to do than make mesh backing for hydration vest packs.  That’s probably because their days aren’t over-scheduled the way mine are with things like eating food and living in a house.  But then I remembered that all Orange Mud products are manufactured in the USA. 

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On the front of the vest, the VP2 carries the same stretch shoulder pockets of the single and double barrel packs.  These are good for keys, gels, Butterfingers and other smaller items.  The iPhone fits in here nicely too but I prefer to house mine in one of the larger front pockets to better hear the mapmyrun app lady announce my splits.  That’s one of the best storage differences between the VP2 and the Single Barrel.  The back zipper pocket on the single pack held a few gels or a tightly rolled tech shirt with no problem but the two large stretchy pockets on the front hold cans of Mountain Dew and bags of Cheetos.  This front boob placement accessibility with plenty of allowable expansion is ideal on a trail with limited aid stations like this one.

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Aid station?  Or just a small space on Earth with things that twinkle, glow, spin, and/or shimmer. If I can find something that does all those things PLUS fills my Orange Mud hydration bottles with Mountain Dew, I have a little seizure and must be revived by a Butterfinger.

The pack indeed stays true to Orange Mud’s mission of keeping hydration bottles on the upper back in the same fashion as the Single and Double Barrels. In addition, the VP2 also offers the rip cord on the back for fastening down a jacket or another bottle for instances when aid stations are few and far between.

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Orange Mud’s claim of “no bounce” hydration packs is right on.  The VP2 matches the Single Barrel design’s snug fit, stability and limited movement while on the go.  Once the straps under the pits and over the boobs were secured comfortably tight enough, I never had to fiddle with them again.  The fit was second skin smooth even over some quick and steep ascents and descents.  The vest held all its contents in a sturdy fashion and never slid around the ribcage.  Movement is unlimited with this contraption.

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Here I am wearing the vest and still moving along at mile 22.  One of the guys behind me said, “You may feel like hell, but you sure smell good.” (If that’s not a greeting card sentiment, I don’t know what is.). I have to say, despite the humidity and having to tie my shirt up to catch excessive boob sweat, the vest stayed pretty dry and comfortable.

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The VP2 pack is extremely light and airy.  I didn’t feel excessive weight on my back or shoulders, even with the steep hills and downhill portions of the trail.
It’s easy to wear.  During most of the 50K, I didn’t feel the vest at all.  However, I did experience some rubbing around the collar area so I definitely recommend using body glide or baby butt paste as needed.
The storage capacity is endless.  The front pockets are large enough to tote anything needed in an ultra or long training run.  The rip cord in the back is also handy, whether you want to carry a rain jacket or an extra bottle on an armpit bubbling day in July. 
And like all other Orange Mud products, it’s made in ‘Merica!

I heart you guys, Orange Mud. Don’t get too impressed though. I sort of heart everyone. It’s how I do.

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I loved the first HydraQuiver Single Barrel from the minute I wore it for my first 50 miler.  I never thought a pack could get better than that one, but Orange Mud just topped themselves with the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2.  The VP2 offers all of the benefits of the Single Barrel, with additional storage space, one or two extra hydration bottles and a vest to hold all the essentials for an ultra race.  From the company requests via email to review my Orange Mud purchase, it’s evident that the company appreciates feedback from their customers and brand ambassadors and utilizes the suggestions into new products and upgrades.  The only suggestion I have is cosmetic.  I know the brand color has to be orange, as in ‘Orange Mud’, but I’d like to see one in red, white and blue.  And maybe one in Stars and Stripes for this patriotic weird girl.

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If you found this review helpful or in the least little bit entertaining, please follow me at:

Blogher: http://www.blogher.com/member/stephaniechivis
Twitter: https://twitter.com/stephaniechivis
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Tomorrow, once I’ve had a chance to breathe in and out and unpack at least 1/12th of what I over-packed for the 50K in this vest, I hope to return to the blog site to make you at least chortle if not a full-on shoot Mountain Dew out your nose laugh.

The HydraQuiver Single-Barrel from Orange Mud-The Best Invention for People Prone to Tripping When They Have To Hold Stuff

After a meager decade of running, I was reminiscing to a fellow runner I just met at the Destin 50 miler about all those various pieces of gear I've purchased to hold my water bottle so I can trot happily down the road. And yes, I like to reminisce with people I don't know. Granted, it takes longer.

Anyway, I proceeded to explain that after a few issues with my Nathan fuel belt purchased in 2009 (leakage, and elastic drawstrings stretched out and sliding off), I needed to search around for a replacement. Almost a year later, I saw an Orange Mud Facebook ad. I viewed the single sports bottle system product description on the company website. One sports bottle in a pack is called a "single barrel". I am also called an "OCD lady with too much time on her hands". (Not by Orange Mud. Mostly by family members and people who love FOX News).

Anyway, I liked the single barrel hydraquiver on the website so I hit the "like" button and stated I would try it out in my status on Facebook. Then someone in my family proceeded to make a snide comment, which turned into that awkward moment when someone's comment on the Facebook status has more likes than the actual status.

However, after seeing the Hydraquiver for the first time, I was almost positive nothing would make me happier than to own this single barrel contraption from orangemud.com. Nothing except a magic unicorn, that is.
Nothing beats a magic unicorn.

So exactly three days after ordering the HydraQuiver from Orange Mud, in my very own mailbox I received a package containing the highly coveted single barrel Hydration pack for the back. (I will not include the picture of the package as I found it in my mailbox because it includes my address, in case you are a rapist or a killer... who also enjoys an easy-to-use water bottle in a portable backpack).

Let me also state here that the company sells a double barrel HydraQuiver as well but not everyone could get it until recently, and for good reason. Because of the dual 24 oz bottle packs of awesomeness in the double barrel, they sold out immediately. The few the company must have had left in secret stock were only given out to the most elite people in Northern America, not small beach towns in Northwest Florida. Even so, I was still ecstatic to receive the exclusive single barrel in a color other than Barbie pink because Orange Mud realizes something my family, kids, friends, gynecologist and most fashion designers do not – not all women want to wear pink when they run. image
Oh, and did I mention that I am a highly influential blogger and former radio and TV personality? Because of this, I am happy to share the joy that was and continues to be, my Hydraquiver single barrel experience with you. I know it’s kind of a big deal to get up close and personal with a Hydration pack so I did what all fancy blogging celebrities do. I photographed the hell out of it. image My review of The single barrel hydraquiver, by Stephanie aka Ultra Marathon Mom aka Expert-About-Hydration-Packs-In-My-Own-Mind…

As you can see, the Orange Mud HydraQuiver has everything anyone could need in a hydration pack:

It's easy to wear like a pair of Victoria's Secret angel wings (without the stilettos, Of course.)
It's easy to use while on the run (from loose neighborhood dogs with crabby old owners, especially.)
It's got some unique storage capacity for gels, Butterfinger bars, sandwiches you don't mind squashing flat, etc.
It's durable and can be washed in the washing machine with every thing else a toddler throws in there. Or poops on.
Women don't have to settle for pukey pepto bismol pink (there's also grey and black).
It's super comfortable, lightweight and requires good posture to wear (Mama is proud of how I look in my race photos). image
Disregard this photo, however, as I am not using good posture at the finish line. And I look sad. And rather homely.

The first thing I noticed about the Orange Mud HydraQuiver was that it was really angelic light. Resting between my shoulder blades, this little pack rides high. It has a 24 ounce bottle, which is as much as I might need for about ten miles or a little over an hour and a half on a run in Florida summer. The back is fully padded and mesh covered. The strap webbing is soft, comfortable and completely adjustable around the sensitive armpit area.

50 mile beach run test:

Although the single barrel hydraquiver is comfy and very light (weighs 314 grams, less than 3/4 pound), I was a little concerned that it might bounce around and cause blisters around the armpits. However, with the straps pulled snug (and the water bottle full), I could hardly feel the pack! The sound of water sloshing teasing my mom-of-two bladder that it might not make it to the next aid station bathroom was the only reminder it was on. After a few minutes of running, the sound faded into the background of crashing waves on the packed sand and I forgot all about it. I sweated a little where the pack rests, but that is normal for any kind of belt or pack. I've had no chafing wearing it except under the armpits where I didn't think to wear body glide. Or baby butt paste. It's a long distance running mom thing. Trust me, it works.

Ease in use

During the 50 mile beach run it was easy and quick to reach back and grab the bottle. I was able to do a one-hand grab, drink from the spout top, and return it with the same arm. SUPER easy for chugging on the go. image
I think the Orange Mud HydraQuiver is pretty. Like jewelry. Think I'll display mine.

One factor to consider with a backpack style hydration system is that you will need to take off the pack to remove a shirt if you get a hot mama flash and wanna strip down to your sports bra for onlookers to gawk... or if you wanna get something out of the back. This could be a hindrance, but I would trade a few seconds of pack removal on a long run for the storage of a shirt or larger items (see storage below). The storage on the straps allows you to access Butterfingers while running.

This was easy enough to use, and unnoticeable enough, that I would wear it in a trail race and possibly even for a hundred miler now that I'm such an ambitious runner wearing my hydration and butterfingers on my back. image
I’m in mad love with this hydraquiver. Who wouldn’t love this? It’s like sunshine drops and unicorn poo.

Storage

You'd be surprised what I could cram into the HydraQuiver! image
Everything shown in the photo above fit inside: 24 oz water, iPhone in case, arm warmers, a ladies small tech T shirt, fun size butterfingers, and I easily fit 2 Free aid station gels into each strap pouch.

After taking the photo, I tried stuffing a small bottle of Mountain Dew into the strap storage on front. It fit with plenty of stretch to spare, as did my iPhone! Wearing larger items like a bottle of Mountain Dew in the strap storage will alter how the straps feel. It will ride better and not tease your bladder if you don't have a bottle sloshing around in there, but if you need the space, it's there! For my 50 miler, I had about half that stuff inside and it rode without bouncing.
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As you can tell, the hydra quiver makes me believe I could run a mile on sand in under 10 minutes - faster if I take my Flinstone Chewable Testosterone pills first.

Durability and strength

The dishwasher-safe 24oz bottle closes tight and opens with a little tug of the teeth. It had absolutely NO leaks during my test run. (Yay for that! This made me crabby with my old fuel belt). Constructed of breathable nylon and soft padding, the Orange Mud HydraQuiver stitching is tight and sturdy, and it's MADE in the USA.

Retail Price $84.95 (I figure it is worth the price as long as it is not made from the souls of virgin kittens or manufactured by kidnapped Scientologists.)

Retail price for the double barrel on sale now again is $109.95.
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Although I don't currently own a double barrel hydraquiver and I have an issue with the cost, I will eventually own one. If I have to divorce and get with the ugliest, harriest, most cross-eyed Prince of some hard-to-pronounce nation that believes donkeys are holy, I will get this double barrel pack.

Evaluation

This pack is quickly becoming a part of my running routine, as I enjoy the freedom of being without a belted bottle bouncing on my bladder-- but still prepared for anything. I really can't be happier with a pack style arrangement. In my heart I am convinced the hydraquiver can give me the power to levitate. Or be invisible. Or read the minds of other humans. It is indeed the Harry Potter of hydration packs.
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The HydraQuiver from Orange Mud-- It's a water bottle on your back.
You reach behind your head, get it, and drink from it.

P.S. Orange Mud did not pay me any American dollars to tell you that.
(But they should have.)

The OCD Runner’s Guide to the CU Cherry Blossom (Close Enough To 10 Miler) Race in DC: A Recap

I wasn’t too sure about running this mid-April race, first of all.

I’ve been busy. Busy, busy, busy. So busy in fact that I didn’t have time to sit down and write something funny and clever and completely narcissistic just to please you…. and we both know it would please you.

No matter how much you want me to write something about running that is mildly amusing so that you can escape from your mundane life for a few minutes, I’m telling you I absolutely do not have the time. No time do I have. None.

Why, you ask? That’s so like you. Has anyone ever told you that curiosity killed the cat? Well, if it’s any of your business, I have no time because I am spending every spare minute I have training for a 24 hour trail race. I am marginally good at getting in a high volume of mileage during the week. Currently my training wheel is in full throttle, baby.

Which is why I have no time to write silliness for you. Business first. That’s my motto. Well actually, my motto is “Marry first, ask questions later”, but I think a girl can have more than one motto.

There was no ‘morning of’ race bib pickup for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. To run the race Sunday morning, runners had to pick up packets either Friday or Saturday in one of the busiest sections of DC during a specified window of time. The window would entail missing pickup time for my 6-year-old after kindergarten, karate class, out-of-town birthday swim party and movie day. Also, missing the kids’ activities meant hauling around 2 and 6 year olds on the metro and streets of downtown DC.

Thankfully my new run blogger friend, Marsden aka RunningLonely, agreed to pick up my bib and hand deliver it to me on race morning at the start. Besides being angelic, this guy is so funny, I can’t stand it. I’m so jealous that I seriously hate his guts. And, I mean that in the most Christian way. Check out his site featuring his pink pig, but be advised you should not read his work while drinking a beverage of any sort as you will undoubtedly spew it out your nose.

I have to admit I was sort of nervous before meeting him and other new friends I’ve made online in the DC area. This is my first year in the area and as I tend to have tiny freak out seizures when I am in a crowd, I felt there was a pretty good chance I’d wind up rolling on the ground with my tongue hanging out. To tell you the honest truth, I also had some concern that the ‘short’ race would be competitively packed with young speedsters that had only recently fully completed puberty.

A good rule of thumb is this: It’s ok to be forty-one and act like a twenty-something, but only when you are not standing in close proximity to an honest to God twenty-something. Otherwise you stop looking like a cute older lady and just start to look like an old lady. That’s never a good thing.

So I wore my most modest run skirt with Team RWB gear, Orange Mud HydraQuiver and VHTRC trail running hat and spent the morning hanging with fellow Team RWB members to psych myself up. I kept reading about how flat the course was (which was perfect for TNFEC 50 miler taper this week) and how beautiful the blooms of the cherry blossom trees were lining the course.

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I had eaten a quick bowl of rice Chex with OCD & IBS gut bomb proof lactose-free milk before heading to DC. There was some time wasted getting the morning coffee just right, however. I cannot drink coffee unless I put enough cream in it so that it’s the color of faded khaki’s. I don’t chalk that up to OCD though. That’s just because I make terrible coffee that’s so strong it walks up to me every morning and introduces itself.

So after filling up and packing up, I rode over on the metro at 5am with the rest of my go-cup of khaki coffee and a pack of other runners who looked anxious to get their speed on.

Some kept to themselves, some were morning people telling funny stories, some were nice and some were so dressed up in fancy running gear it made me feel completely inferior as a human being. But that’s ok ’cause nothing wakes me up like a great cup of coffee and the fresh smell of inferiority in the morning!

So upon arriving to the race start after exiting the Smithsonian station and meeting up with Marsden for my bib and safety pins, I made a trip to the porta potty and stood shivering as the sun rose over the monuments.

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Just seeing the sunrise over the Washington Memorial and the group of Team RWB Eagles holding the flag made me feel so lucky to live in such a gorgeous place and be among such a group of brave soldiers. I’m only a civilian/military spouse member of this group. Most of the members I run with on this team are men and women in our United States Armed Forces or veterans, which means they are simply not ordinary men and women.

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They have a fire inside them, each and every one. A fire that cannot be artificially lit, but rather a fire that must be burning at the very moment you are born. A righteous, determined, proud fire that demands all men, women and children have the right to breathe freedom. No matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter how hopeless the promise of freedom seems, these men and women are willing to sacrifice everything, including their very lives, to purchase that freedom. Just standing there waiting after the group picture and listening to the national anthem, I felt like crying at the thought of this beautiful and amazingly unselfish gift they are happily giving the world.

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Wiping my watery cherry blossom infested eyes after the announcement to locate our corrals, I made it over to the blue section with a few minutes to spare, shoving my elbows in through the jam-packed crowd.

Once I found a spot I took my free ill-fitting cotton t-shirt out of my race bag and donated it to the stash of other runners’ throw away clothes and started my Strava.

So there I was, ready to start. I near about had an OCD freak out fest over having touched the porta potty door handle earlier and realizing I had left the hand sanitizer in my car parked at the metro. I shook a little almost as if shivering in the cool morning air and some folks noticed, asking if I was cold. Good coverup so I went along with it. Hey, I am the first one to admit that from time to time I do exhibit some behaviors that “normal” people would find odd. Funny even. It’s true.

For example, I do have a germ phobia like no other which very often causes me to cover my hands in Germ-X and twitch a little because I had to touch a door someone else touched. When the shakes subsided, I decided to just enjoy the scenery and feed off the high of the other runners. At 7:35ish am the horn blew and the first bunch of runners in my wave were off to run with the rest of the near 18,000 runners.

The first mile felt challenging with that many people invading everyone else’s personal space. I hate this aspect about running a crowded road race. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I’m all about personal space and runners at this race tend to want to get up in my area and breathe on me. I don’t enjoy that. So I packed it up and left a few heavy mouth breathers in the dust. Because of this, I could tell I was pushing myself faster than I’d normally run at the beginning of a 10 mile run but as soon as I focused in on the scenery of beautifully bloomed cherry blossoms and the Lincoln Memorial I smiled with gratitude again that I was able to run at a place that holds significant meaning to our Nation. When crossing over the Memorial Bridge, I kept a steadily increasing pace and settled in among the other runners going around 9 minute miles. As we made out way back across the bridge and down along Rock Creek Park/the end of the Capital Crescent trail, I began to think it was smart to back off a bit so I walked a few seconds to drink from my Orange Mud bottle. I knew there were miles to go but didn’t want to continue on too quickly on a taper week before TNF EC 50. So I set my sights on some slower running accompanied by sideshow superhero spectacles on the side of the road. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Robin were holding signs and dancing to cheer on the runners. Wish I had thought to snap some iPhone pics of my idols. Like my little boys, I’ve always had the childhood dream to fight crime in a very caped crusader kind of way. I’m of the opinion that to truly be respected as someone who takes crime fighting seriously, a really cool mask and themed costume is quite necessary. That’s exactly what’s wrong with law enforcement today by the way. Too much badge and too little crazy cool mask.

I know I for one would be far more likely to behave myself if I were pulled over by a guy wearing bat ears and a black mask. Everyone knows attempting to flee from someone involved in a dynamic duo situation is futile.

So after watching Batman and Robin dance and after looping back near the Kennedy Center I saw mile marker 3! I was relieved to know we were already almost 1/3 of the way through the race and appreciative of not having to stop at the water stations with droves of folks or stand in the frustratingly long line at the porta potty. The Strava mile split lady announced my pace to be 9:20. Holy crap on a cracker, Batman! I really needed to slow down to get back to a 10 min/mile but wasn’t doing a good job at doing so, I guess.

So I started going over mantras. “Run conservatively like your ultra pace.” “There will always be someone elbowing you and passing you, and someone eyeballing your butt behind you,” and “Leave something in the tank for the 50 miler coming up” as I knew I should make this a true taper run. Regardless, I kept running at the same pace because it felt natural to do so. Still, other runners were cutting in front of me in the pack and age grouper ladies were elbowing me in the ribs as they squeezed by but for the first time I didn’t let it bother me.

I am wearing one of those blue Complaint Free World bracelets this week in an effort to you know… stop complaining about people. The idea is to switch wrists every time you catch yourself complaining thereby becoming a better person and hopefully throwing some good karma in your direction.

In other news, my wrist is sore.

So mile 4 passed relatively quickly and then mile 6 when I realized I was running a 8:55 mile pace and began to feel the endorphins buzzing. Only a third to go! This section of the course loops around a long peninsula called Hains Point. From glancing at the course map beforehand I thought I’d really enjoy this stretch of land with water on both sides. But when actually running it I quickly determined that this section has the potential to be long and boring to someone not used to running in a monotonous manner such as myself. It’s an over 3 mile loop with not much view of the water from the path, especially with all the other runners crowded in. This section is also more secluded so there were hardly any spectators. Just a regular stretch of road. No balloons blown, streamers strung or dancing super heroes breakdancing on my behalf. Until that point I didn’t realize how much I was feeding off the crowds like I was running a road marathon or something. Three miles of silence later, I was truly grateful to pass mile 9 and hear all the cheers of the crowd lining the course again. And music. Lots and lots and lots of music.

As I fell into sync with similar runners keeping a steady pace, I overheard one runner proclaiming that the hill was awaiting us. Because I’d never run the course I didn’t know how big the hill was or how long. I only surmised that it must suck a little if not a lot. Passing the sign noting 1200 meters to go, I resolved to kick it up a notch before reaching the 800 meter sign and thus the beginning of THE HILL. Come to find out, it was a hill but with not much notable incline in comparison to the rest of the course. However, it was MUCH shorter than I anticipated. I dug my forefeet in, kept my knees high and pushed toward the top. I was grateful I left something in the tank as many other runners around me started to crash from their Gatorade and GU gel induced highs. Many slowed down to a snail’s pace and spent the next few minutes in a state medically defined as wasted until catching their second wind.

From the top there’s a short downhill ride where the Washington Monument is visible along with the finish in the distance. Throughout the race I carried a large and small bottle of Tailwind, a just-in-case GU Roctane gel, Tums cherry chewables and my trusty stash of Immodium AD so that I never risk being covered in poop and in a public place.

I finished the small throw-away bottle of Tailwind along the course and a bit of the large bottle. At this point, I dug in and gave it a strong finish. In the last 100 meters or so I started passing a few people until an Asian tourist stepped out along the course in my path and I kindly stopped to give her a look to hopefully prompt her to run quickly to the sideline and out of the way of runners. This look was futile, however because she stopped directly in front of me and ducked.

Actually she probably wouldn’t have been able to run very far out of the way because her gigantic head would keep throwing off her balance. I know it’s mean, but the sight of her stopping me right before the finish line and not getting out of my way made me think perhaps she really did have an unusually large head and as a result, a problem with quick movement to avoid collision and would therefore have to wear a helmet and teeny-tiny little shoes to run a few feet OUT OF THE WAY!

I finally escorted her to the side of the course clearing her from runners behind me after cooling down and biting my tongue, of course. And I did learn a valuable lesson from my encounter with crazy up close and personal tourist lady and I am happy to share it with you.

It’s almost never a good idea to put your body and nice expensive camera directly in front of runners on a race course no matter how pretty you think it looks.

So a few seconds later after my near collision over the tourist road block, I was back into full speed mode at 8:18 mile pace with the intent to finish strong and well under my usual relaxed 1:40 10 mile time. It worked as I came in at a solid 1:27:02!

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The quarter-mile race to the public toilets

As soon as I crossed the line to the finisher’s chute I followed folks to the line of occupied porta potties. Looking toward the Smithsonian station metro, the appetite for bananas and chips at the finish festival tables quickly subsided as I saw the crowd again so I crossed over the chute toward the busy train to head home and meet up with my boys. I felt awful about my lack of social inclination after the race but the cherry blossoms have really screwed with my sinuses.

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My daily morning run trail

The truth is, I have a Benadryl addiction that has really gotten out of control and I think I need professional help. Help that will require me to be admitted somewhere that is not here for at least a month. Last week I was so stoned I couldn’t remember how to use a fork and my 6-year-old son had to help me tie my Hoka’s. Almost wish I had left the speed laces on.

Yet, despite the pollen in the air, lack of elbow room in the race crowd and the typical schizophrenic homeless people on the streets and standing next to me on the train, this was really an easy flat course that’s extremely well-organized. Even in the hour before the race when a motorcycle hit a pedestrian causing part of the course to be closed for a police investigation, the race officials hopped to damage control and changed the course, albeit shortening it by a half mile. Despite the almost 18,000 runners and some a little pissed that the run was now not an official 10 miler, there was not a single hitch. There was hydration at every stop, what seemed like thousands of energetic, helpful volunteers and a well-run organization by race staff. I loved that they printed names on our bibs as hearing “Go RWB Stephanie!” felt empowering. I spent a good portion of the run thinking of all those folks who graciously gave up their Sunday mornings to help make this big event possible.

And you’ll be happy to know I didn’t have a single major total freak out moment, despite the fact that when I used the porta-potty I walked in on a friendly drunk guy peeing who waved at me like he was a homecoming queen in a parade. The beer table was great (I’m told), there were very few alcohol induced brawls and I got to see some online running friends I haven’t had the pleasure to meet in real life where Photoshop doesn’t exist.

So the next time you’re sitting around thinking, “Gee, I’d love to sit in a field in cherry blossoms with about 18,000 of my closest, drunken running friends and listen to a live drum band”, I highly recommend the CU Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.

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Maybe I’ll see you there next year. I’ll be the weirdly patriotic OCD lady in the camo skirt with an extra pocket on my trail running hydration pack for extra strength hand sanitizer in the event a smelly schizoid spits on me while cussing his imaginary friends.

Yuck, I say.

Btw, this is the only pic MarathonFoto offered to me out of the millions taken along the course.

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Actually, I was not actually offered up a race photo at first because the company said my image was ‘unidentified’. After an obsessive amount of time flipping through unidentifiable images on their website I finally checked the male images as a last resort. Bam! There I am. In the ‘male’ section.

Maybe I’m not the woman I thought I was, no matter what my driver’s license says. Maybe I’ve gone so far into the perimenopause zone that I’ve actually turned into a man. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m going to go to the pharmacy right now to pick up an estrogen filled Pez dispenser. And maybe another twelve pack of Benadryl.

Maybe I need to give road races a break for a while and get back to the woods for a good piece of trail so I can find myself as a strong woman again.

Oh what am I saying? I am a woman. I know that because my driver’s license says so. I wear make-up, I use many products in my hair, I generally smell pretty and men who are both toothless and balding give me the “Hey Baby” eye at Wal-Mart. Yep. I’m a woman.

Run the HAT 50k If You Have an Overwhelming Desire to Just Wallow Around and Oink: A Race Recap

The snow and ice that was so relentless in NOVA, DC and MD this winter into spring had me kind of depressed. Honestly, it was the kind of depressed that causes good women to wind up on the 6 o’clock news.

I would start sentences I can’t finish about things that make absolutely….

See what I mean? I have no idea where I was going with that so I must not be totally healed yet.

Maybe it’s the mudslide ride called HAT 50k or maybe it’s the continuing cold weather into spring or maybe it’s because I’ve been sick with lingering stomach virus issues similar to the swine flu. I’m not sure if vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of the swine flu but I lost 7 pounds without bending at the waist or giving up salted caramel spread from the jar. And last night I had an overwhelming desire to treat myself to a mud mask… and so I did.

All I know is that something’s not right under my skin and I can’t figure it out – which means I can’t find a solution.

And I’m a solution kind of girl.

For example, the snow-mageddon 2015 surrounding DC made trail running hard to come by so my solution was to spend countless hours running on neighborhood roads in ICESPIKE’s only to return to a house full of boys stricken with cabin fever and a pissed chocolate lab with all her whining and her nails clicking across the floor and whatnot. So when the first day of spring was approaching (and I lucked out to get bumped up from the HAT wait list), I checked the long-range forecast on the weather channel and actually believed what it had to say (out of wishful thinking) and began setting my sights on kicking up some fresh Spring dirt at the 50k in Havre de Grace, MD, home to Susquehanna State Park. I cannot begin to express the straight up awesomeness of what this trail run sounded like to me in my mind. The location seemed so quiet, I bet myself I could hear a pin drop – if I were to drop a pin for some reason I can’t quite wrap my mind around. I don’t sew. Why would I have a pin. Or is it pen? Why am I dropping my pen? Could be an early warning sign for something awful. I should see a physician at my earliest convenience.

But alas, I thought it would be a good run for some much-needed ‘alone time’. Today, other than my 3am run and subsequent trip downstairs to the laundry room to wash my smelly winter running apparel, I have enjoyed no alone time. But on the days I get lots of it, like a weekend long run on a trail, it makes me a tiny bit giddy and whatnot. And I needed that because lately I’ve been getting almost NO time alone. None. Zero. Zilcho. Don’t get me wrong. I loves the men who inhabit this space with me – but I would LOVE to know what it feels like to LOVE them from afar for a minute.

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So the sound of relentless snow crunching on the ground of Susquehanna State Park two hours away after paying the $4 toll to enter the great state of Maryland was almost more joy than I could stand. And I say this even though I’m a terrible trail runner when it comes to running on snow and ice. For some reason though, I was thinking that given the way I was forced to run on the roads after the treadmill broke, I might have turned a corner. Man, was I ever wrong!

Seems the day prior to the race, Havre de Grace, Maryland received not only a late season snowstorm blanketing the trails with about an inch of snow, but also rain to mix and mush things up a bit. Oh, well. It was only an inch of powder. How much harm could the rain do? It probably just rained in a few spotty areas of the town, I was thinking. And despite having just recovered from a violent kid-gifted stomach virus two days prior, I was enthusiastic about feeling the soft snow beneath my Hoka’s even if it was a bit mushy.

Since I had never been to that part of MD or mostly anywhere in MD since I’m not from around here, I arrived a full 120 minutes early. Totally an obsessive me thing to do. I don’t like to be late and I don’t like people who like to be late. I only forgave myself last month for being two weeks past due when I was born.

The drive from VA to get there was great weather in the dark, pounding music and best of all, I managed to avoid breaking down across from the Bates Motel. Of course, I had not made the return trip home just yet, so Norman may still have a shot at me, I was thinking.

Arriving at the course, the realization of white fluffy snow on the ground quickly faded as I laid eyes on the remaining blanket of slush with a side of chocolate mud glistening in the morning sun. But unlike my garbage disposal this didn’t scare me. (I keep having the thought that maybe I’ll be walking past the garbage disposal one day and suddenly have the overwhelming desire to shove my hand in it and flip the switch. Say hello to my little friend: OCD). But on the bright side, the disposal was a two-hour drive back home and this slushy stuff, well it was only a few inches. And my travel hand sanitizer could take on that mud if need be.

So I commenced to doing the usual registration stuff like signing a consent form that if I die I won’t sue and letting them know whether or not I have a living will. I wrote down that I plan to keep on living. That’s my will. And then, I was completely baffled when handed a nice tech shirt and a snazzy new insulated bag with handles.

HAT 50k

I never actually got anything so lavishly padded with logos and well-sewn seams before in past ultras. Having been around the ultra scene for near two years now, I’ve gotten lots of presents from the races I’ve run. Some were wonderful, some were awful and some were unidentifiable. It’s when I receive something in that last category that I suffered a little embarrassment. After looking at the bag thingy for an inordinate amount of time I finally figured out this must be a cooler style drop bag thingy to hold your stuff at a check in/aid station. So I plan to put it to good use in May for the 24 hour ATR so my Butterfinger bars don’t melt. 🙂

Shortly after making a trip back to the car to stow the bag, loading up my Orange Mud VP2 and pinning my bib to my tights, I was standing in a patchy snow and slush covered field with close to 400 other runners doing what I always do before going on a long run. I began to sweat profusely, count the number of leaves on every tree I saw while simultaneously tightening the front strap on my pack. After a few inaudible words from the RD in the distance, my ears perked up to finally hear the long anticipated word, “GO!”

HAT 50k

Photo by Shawn Bowman Photography

At the slightest echo of that word through the bullhorn we were off running through the field following a few happy men in neon and Robin Hood hats as they led us on a 1.4 mile out and back to spread out the slush atop the chocolate mud frosting.

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Merry Men to lead the way

Photo by Shawn Bowman Photography

My plan was to keep my TAUR running friend Rob in sight to position myself smack dab in the middle of the pack and reduce my efforts in passing runners slower than myself through slippery mud later in the afternoon. The plan did not work as Rob felt a burst of Harry Potter-type energy and went flying levitational style toward the Merry Men in green hats.

From this point on, I found myself solo amidst a shuffling conga line of runners through mudslides for the remainder of the race.

After passing through the start/finish area for the first time I began the 2.2 mile loop through a mix of fields and woods in a somewhat testosterone-filled pack of men more experienced at slick mud and slush running than me. With some patches of snow still covering the trail, I settled into an easy trail training pace. Then, the short loop was over before I knew it.

Passing through the start/finish area for the second time, I reminded myself of my two Orange Mud bottles filled with Tailwind that would last through 16-ish miles so I scurried through the start/finish aid station and moved back out to the trail for the first of two ~13.7 mile loops.

From the short field section followed by wooded single-track, I was eyeing the melting snow and kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe my feet are still dry.” Then it hit.

HAT 50k

Photo by Shawn Bowman Photography

A knee-deep stream crossing 4.1 miles into the race. From here on out my feet were sopping wet the rest of the day. After more rolling single-track I was at Picnic Area Aid Station #1 grabbing some water to wash down a Roctane gel.

Continuing the loop I noticed the snow was beginning to completely melt and the trail was becoming a nonstop mud pit.

HAT 50k

Good thing I enjoy running in mud. Not! The rest of the day proved to be one delightful pig slop session as I slipped and slid every which way in my Hoka Challengers and worn-down-by-500+-miles ICESPIKE’s. Between Picnic Area Aid Station #1 and #2 the trail is a mix of woods and road. For road lovers, this is a shot at making up for lost time. But as soon as the road ended, it was back to 3-4 inches of slippery black mud the consistency of a vat of chocolate pudding.

HAT 50k

via bravetart.com

Now, I like chocolate pudding as chocolate pudding goes. But, after you’ve had it for days in a row, you get good and tired of it. You hesitate to throw it away, however because who knows what you might want late one night. So, you tuck it behind the cottage cheese and yesterday’s chicken breasts secure in the knowledge that even though you probably will never have a hankering for it again, it’ll be there waiting just in case you get a sweet tooth. And you’ll get super pissed if someone else touches it.

Who knows if I’ll ever want to run in this again, I was thinking. I couldn’t decide if I’d be inclined to tackle this chocolate pudding next year. I imagine I’ll find it highly upsetting to stay home and see pictures on FB of someone else eating my pudding though.

Stopping at Picnic Area Aid Station #2 I took my mind off chocolate pudding for a few minutes to stuff myself with the best French fries ever since that time I ate at a flea market in Tampa, Florida.

HAT 50k

Those were some ultra good fries! So it’s a compliment to say that HAT aid station fries are the equivalent of flea market fries. I should know because I am among the elite few to have ever been served a barrel full of fried food… out of a trailer… by a man wearing a beard hair net and a T-shirt that read, “Ass, grass or gas. Nobody rides for free”.

And a vest. A leather vest.

AND I stood in line for nearly a half hour for the privilege.

Feel free to allow the waves of envy wash over you.

5.3 miles of rolling single-track after that aid station, in the woods, fields and on the roads and I was back at the start/finish for the third time. During those 5.3 miles I assessed what I needed to finish this slop fest and formulated an attack plan for the final loop since I now knew the mud would be even more wet and even thicker after 400+ runners had mixed it up further.

I didn’t bother changing into dry Injinji socks since I knew my feet would be wet again in just 0.7 miles, but I did make mental note of how effective Run Goo is for blister prone Obsessive Compulsive people like me and how gaiters would be a good item to have for keeping rocks and debris out of my shoes for the next race. Maybe some red, white and blue ones since I’m a patriotic weird girl.

The final half marathon plus mileage was a mental struggle since I knew the middle of the pack I had been running with were now officially the back of the pack since the back of the packers had been timed out by race officials or dropped out after seeing the mudslide slip-slop fest they were in for after the front leaders dug their heels in. I maintained my 24 hr ATR training pace with periodic hike breaks up the slippery slopes, had fun making my own sideways trail alongside the ever-increasing mud pits and conversed with fellow hurting and/or now disabled runners as I barely passed a few in really bad shape themselves. Other than having to run extra slow and cautious, I felt no real pain to speak of but that probably has something to do with the handful of preventative pain pills I took that were left over from my last C-section. I chased them with vodka just to be sure. No sense in risking my health. (Kidding!) But I did do my best to offer words of encouragement to others along with Advil gel-caps and Roctane electrolytes.

During the last 5.3 miles of the race I reflected on the importance of finishing this race even though over 200 registered runners opted either not to finish or even start it. Here goes a summary of my thoughts:

The course is a good one with hills that give back. The chocolate pudding mud just camouflaged all this glory. For runners like me who like downhill running, this course would be 100% runnable minus the mud. There are no real steep or long climbs despite the 6,000+ feet of elevation.

HAT 50k

On a rookie level, I did not consider the trail to be a technical one. However, everybody’s definition of ‘technical’ varies. Also, I’m fairly certain there is no way ever to keep feet dry while running these trails. With the two knee-deep stream crossings, the only option is to wade right through. The ice baths are exhilarating for potential hot spots on feet and toes though.

HAT 50k

Photo by Shawn Bowman Photography

There was also a little bit more road than I was thinking after reading about the race beforehand but at least the traffic was minimal with only one driver having cross words with a ranger. Plus, the scenery was beautiful with exception to the muddy bits. The volunteers were friendly and the aid stations were well-stocked until the nearing of the cutoff time. There was also an unmanned aid station somewhere after Picnic Area Aid Station #2 but I totally missed it. Picnic Area Aid Station #2 was blue ribbon best complete with hot food and folks working the crowd like the hair net wearing people at Costco stationed every three feet with snacks for customers to try. It was at this aid station I nearly died in a head on collision with a chick in a short sleeve top who was clearly out of her mind with starvation. I had no business being between her and a sample of a Pierogi sandwich.

Death would have been my own damn fault but no one would ever know for sure what killed me as an autopsy can’t be performed on a body that was eaten by a sweaty woman in the Polish Sausage Dumpling section of an aid station.

But I was just as uncouth myself as I damn near had a simultaneous stroke alongside that woman when I discovered a package of chocolate espresso beans that could feed an entire coffee deprived nation. Or just me.

That aid station #2 was the aid station of all excesses! I’m talking huge bags of chips and boxes of cookies so big that if I took them home and cut a door in the front, my little boys and chocolate lab could invite all their friends and dog friends over to their pad for punch and cookies. (And butt licking in the dog’s case ’cause that’s just how she rolls.)

Crossing the finish line in my slowest 50k time to date at 7:38:52 after Strava showed 6:27:32 ‘moving time’ with 33 miles and 6,205 ft of elevation, I was handed a hat and umbrella and pointed towards more food.

HAT 50k

Only 277 runners out of 402 finished which is way more than I was expected. So I guess it was a good training run.

HAT 50k

One final thought:

I was feeling a tad angry finishing with my suckiest time for a 50k ever. Maybe it’s an early mid-life crisis or maybe its too few before breakfast cocktails. Who really knows what causes a good woman to go bad. All I know is I have an unbelievable desire to put on black leather, get a skull tattoo and be mean to someone.

I’m writing this race recap as I’ve jumped back into 100 mile training weeks for TNFEC in DC and a 24 hr ATR in May. My body is feeling pretty good but I do have some sore calf muscles still probably because of all the self-braking going on in the mud.

I have to keep reminding myself that finishing this seemingly hard race that plenty of other folks deemed unworthy to finish was the right choice to make for me personally. Finishing in over 7 and a half hours was therapeutic in a way that defies explanation… at least a really good one. When I left NOVA to drive to MD to do this, I left in fear of what the terrain might look like. Much was going on that terrified me. Father Winter was a drunk old man who wouldn’t go home this March and he wanted to hurt me real bad. I was nervous I’d never be able to finish if I fell hard on the course and even worse, cracked one of my early osteoporosis-stricken bones. The thought of running on this mess felt very scary.

But in the six or seven miles it took me to find my footing in some near close-call falls, I threw off all of the worry. I wasn’t making conscious choices to release it, of course. Looking down and around and across what was below me on the trail and feeling the rush of cold wind on my face and body – nothing mattered. Only that very moment. Only trying to swallow whole everything around me.

For me, running this muddy course was symbolic in every little way. I can do this now. I got this.

Swallowing whole one little mud pie at a time.

HAT 50k

Photo by Shawn Bowman Photography

Thanks again to the numerous volunteers (I hadn’t seen that many volunteers at an aid station before in any ultra) for hosting such a good event. It is because of the folks involved with putting on this race that I’m over my initial down mood upon finishing and now in the mood to exclaim, “Yee-Haw! Whoopee! Hot dang!” Bring on the slush and mud again next year, Baby ’cause mamma’s buying a brand new set of ICESPIKE’s and saving ’em up for the occasion and she can’t wait for the big springtime snowstorm to move on through. I’m going to slather up my feet and tailbone with Run Goo, grab my liquid painkiller and have a mudslide party. I encourage anyone else to consider putting the HAT on the ultra bucket list and join me. Just make sure you bring your own Tito’s.

I’m not sharing.

HAT 50k