Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Everything in its place

 After the Badger 100, my plan was to rest, recover and run Arkansas Traveler 100 a month or so later. I have wanted to do that race for years, but it never fit into my schedule.  I was bummed after Badger to have some lingering foot / achilles issues that wouldn't let me run.  When I had to withdraw from Arkansas Traveler, it put me into a bit of a running funk.  If I tried to run,  it hurt.  If I took weeks off, it hurt.  Running was evolving from a stress reliever to a stress inducer, so I stopped.  For a solid 4 months, I have not made a concerted effort to run, and I can't say that I have hated it. 

Running my first 50 miler at the Rocky Raccoon 50 in Feb 2010.

I began trail and ultra running in 2009, and ran my first official ultra - Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in Feb 2010. A few times since, in my 13 year ultrarunning life, I have reached a point of deciding to completely leave running behind (but I have always kept a fresh pair of running shoes in the closet - just in case).  It was too much work, took too much time - running up to 15 - 17 hours a week at peak 100 miler training - and, the excuse that is beginning to creep in - I am getting too old for this shit.  I am not one to just run for fitness.  I am motivated by big goals, and without them, the desire to get out of bed when it is early and freezing cold is just not there.

Finishing the Badger 100 in July 2021.

But, I keep getting drawn back.  The reason that I am so drawn to running is its simplicity.  It is the most basic and oldest form of exercise.  Rarely do we need to run for our safety or to catch our food now, but that primal urge is still there.  Humans are made for long distance running and I think once you experience it, it becomes a part of who you are.

Recently I got word that a dear ultra running friend of mine, whom I met during my first 50 miler, is starting his own 100 miler that will be accessible to runners with mobility issues.  Yes, people run 100's of miles with a stroller (looks like a walker, but made for running).  My friend's name is Will Sprouse and he is on the mend from a major stroke.  Will has run MANY 100 milers with health issues, and has completed 100 milers since the stroke that had the doctors saying he would never walk again. Tell him he can't do something. I dare you.

Will, after finishing the Red Dirt Ultra 100 miler.

So, when registration opens for the Iron Will 100 miler on Christmas Day, I will be buying myself my Christmas present and signing up.  He is offering shorter distances as well, but out of sheer respect for Will and what he has overcome in his life, I will be training for and running the 100 miler.  I don't remember ever visiting Kansas, and I can't think of a better reason than this to get me there.

As soon as registration opens, I will share the link, but if you are a fellow ultra runner, you know where to look.

Here's to a happy, healthy holiday season, and new goals for 2022! 

Happy Running! 


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Badger 100


Waiting for the race start

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to participate in theBadger 100 put on by Ten Junk Miles Racing.  This race began in Orangeville, Illinois, ran 30 something miles to Belleville, Wisconsin, back to Orangeville, then to Belleville for the finish.  It took place mostly on a rail trail - an old railroad track that was converted to a trail system once the railroad was no longer used.  The trail was mostly flat, except for a detour around a tunnel on the trail that has recently been condemned.  

After an informative and entertaining pre race briefing with the RD, Scott ("when in doubt, do like a train would do, go f'in straight"), we were off with temps in the high 50's (Nirvana for the south Louisiana folks).  

Fawn and I worked out that I would see her at every possible crew spot - every 10 miles or so. There were aid stations every 5 - 7 miles on the course, which is perfect, but not every one had crew access. Because I would be relying heavily on my own nutrition, and maybe snacking off of the aid stations, it was critical to either see Fawn, or arrange drop bags to be left on the course.

I broke the race down into three legs, mentally - Orangeville to Belleville,  Belleville to Orangeville, Orangeville to Belleville.  So when I refer to leg 1, 2 or 3, that is what I mean.

On the first leg, my plan was to run right past the non-crew aid stations and take advantage of the cooler temps, knowing the second leg would get hot and I would need to slow a bit.  As I would pull into the crew aid stations, where I would see Fawn, I would take the two bottles out of my pack, take the two pre-filled bottles that she had, then take off.  

Approaching mile 22, bottles in hand to exchange with fresh ones.

When I reached Fawn at mile 22, I knew a change of shoes was necessary soon.  I started the race in trail shoes which are firmer than road shoes and have more protection from roots, rocks, etc. This trail was fairly clear of things that bruise your feet, but it was surprisingly HARD - felt like cement hard.  My road shoes are pretty cushy since I have very dainty, wimpy feet, so I knew they would feel better, and I was right. What a relief.  So, after changing shoes, I headed out again.

On the first leg of this race, you run past the future finish line and continue on about 5 miles until you reach Dot's Tavern.  Dot's has been around since the railroad was in place. It was a spot where people could hop off of the train to get a quick beer before continuing on their journey.  It is in an old wooden house, and the tavern is in the basement.

I asked Fawn at mile 35ish to please have a beer waiting for me at Dot's. I didn't want a whole beer, but a little poured into a cup would be welcome.  I chose the New Glarus beer, Totally Naked, for this - great local beer to the area, and super light. It was a good choice.

So, I come off of the trail at Dot's to Fawn handing me my beer, then head down into the basement of Dot's for a "treat" we were supposed to show at the next aid station. Dot's is a popular hangout and clearly has it's regulars who enjoy riding their motorcycles more than running as one pointed out as I climbed the stairs back out with another runner - "I only like to ride my motorcycle 100 miles.  That's probably why you're skinny and I'm fat!"  

Descent into Dot's and a few minutes of air conditioning.

Back onto the trail I go, to see Fawn again at Belleville to restock my pack for leg 2.  

After Belleville (mile 40ish), I reloaded my nutrition in my pack and headed back out. This was another quick turnaround because I knew that leg 2 would be a mentally tough one because it is the nothing leg. Leg 1 everything is new and fun and leg 3, every step is one step closer to the finish line.  
There were so many beautiful farm views on this run! 

At about mile 49, I hit Hollywood aid station.  Hollywood is run by Holly Lindroth, a friend and fantastic human being. Her aid station shined during this race.  The energy was high, the volunteers were super enthusiastic and helpful, and the runner care was top notch.  This is the aid station where I added my headlamp to my pack and took off my right shoe to see what was happening there.  I could feel that I had some blister issues going on (evidently this race has a history of tearing people's feet up - especially my dainty, wimpy feet).  What I saw was a mess.  My big toe on my right foot had a blister under the nail causing it to lift up and hit the top of the shoe, which was becoming painful, so I taped the toe firmly to hold the nail down, knowing I would have to deal with it after the race.

Fawn and I with the Lindroths.  Wonderful ladies, right here.

A few more tweaks and a Porta potty visit and I was on my way.  By the time I saw Fawn again at mile 60, the blisters were taking their toll, and I told Fawn to expect me to slow down a bit from that point.  Until then, I was right on my pace goal of sub 24 hours, but running was becoming more and more painful, so I knew there would be more walking from there on.  

Sometime in this section - between mile 60 - 70, the sun set.

Not long after, it was fully dark, and I was treated to new critters from what I am used to here in Louisiana. 

It was seriously dark - no moonlight made its way to the trail.  Beautiful time to be out there.

During this section, I saw the glowing eyes of what I assume were raccoons up in the trees, and alongside the trail, and I also saw something black / grey flying right in front of my face going after the bugs that my headlamp was attracting. It took me a minute to realize they were bats!  I had to laugh and I thanked the bats for getting rid of some of the bugs for me.  That was pretty cool.

I saw Fawn at mile 70 or so, back at Orangeville - the original starting point.  I took a minute there to change out of my wet shirt in anticipation of cooler night temps, exchange my race vest for a handheld bottle, re-lubed, visited the Porta potty, then headed out for the next 10 miles until I picked Fawn up to pace me at mile 80.

Leaving the mile 80 aid station with Fawn, pulled chicken sandwich in hand (it was delicious!).

When I picked Fawn up at 80, I had to break the news to her that we would be walking most, if not all of the next 20 miles.  My legs were holding up fine, but my feet made it way too painful to run for long.  But, she is a trooper and she has enough experience to roll with whatever the miles would bring, so we set off into the dark.

And we quickly missed a turn, and added two miles to the race - lol!  That is what happens when two nature lovers are ogling the beautiful orange crescent moon and miss the trail markings.  But, we got back on course and headed in the right direction.  The benefit of having doing a few of these is that you know there is very little difference between 100 and 104 miles (the final distance covered). 

During the nighttime hours of 100 milers, I have often felt a heavy sleepy feeling - I remember thinking during one of my 100's that if I fell, at least I could lay down for a bit.  During Badger, I did hit one spot where I was super drowsy, but it didn't last long, then I went back to just plain old tired.

Not long after the sun rose, we reached the Hollywood aid station for the last time. Holly brought me ramen with broth in it and it was so good. I also sat for a few minutes - also good.  Then Fawn made me leave to do the last ten miles - lol! 

Off we went to knock out the last 10 miles which included the tunnel detour which gave me the only elevation gain of the race.  It is a paved section with a fair amount of climbing, but with some really pretty views, so it was worth it.  After the tunnel section, we hit the last aid station which meant we had only 3.8 miles to the finish. I stopped briefly for some salted watermelon which tasted so good for the whole race, then we were headed to the finish.  

About a mile before the finish line you pull into the town of Belleville which was a welcome site, and head to the park where the finish line and festivities were waiting.  As we approached the finish Fawn ran ahead (showoff) to get a picture and I stayed on the course.  Once I got off of the pavement onto the grass, I "ran" it in to the finish line to get my buckle and hug from race director, Scott Kummer.

Rene Villalobos, Scott Kummer, Me

All in all this is a great race!  There are distances from half marathon to 100 miler.  It was a great experience getting to run this trail on an old railroad path, and see the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin and Illinois.  I love different, meaningful races, and this one was both.  Tons of history, nature and good people.  All around great combination.

Now to tend to the damage done to my feet so I can pick up where I left off with my training for Arkansas Traveler 100 in October!

Happy running!

Other race pics:
Leaving Monroe Aid Station

Race swag.  Coffee tastes better from this when you finish the race.

When your feet are torn up but you have to fly home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Taper Time - 10 days til Badger 100!

 To say that I am looking forward to running this race is an understatement.  I mean really, who wouldn't want to run a race put on by these guys?

This training season has been a series of tests and challenges.  From losing my big brother at the end of May to COVID (my favorite person since birth), coming back to my busiest work season, spending a week on the couch with a cold (first time in YEARS that I have been sick), and lastly - and this one was a real kick in the pants - pulling a back muscle while choking on my recovery drink. Ironic, no?  There have been so many times when I could have decided that this wasn't the year, but the thought never crossed my mind - mainly because I REALLY want to do this race!  I love these people and I have only met one of them (the best one, in my opinion) in person.  Yes, at some point the race will cease to be fun, but I will approach the start line with so much gratefulness that I will have plenty to carry me through.  

I met with my crew/pacer/little sister/daughter (yes, all in one) today to finalize race and travel plans.  Fawn is a pro at this, and she and I are usually similar mindsets when running long races - all business, little small talk - so it just works. Here are pics of my pacing and nutrition spreadsheets - sorry, I was lazy so I just took pics of the computer screen.

Of course, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.  But, I like starting with a plan.

As it looks now, race day temps will go from mid 60's to mid 80's, and they aren't anticipating rain during the race, but really, who knows?  We will be prepared for anything.  One thing doing these races has taught me is adaptability.  Anything can happen, and you just have to roll with it and consider it a good story for after the race is over.

I am really hoping for this race to be a celebration of life.  Mine and my brother's.  It will be a great time to meet new people, cheer for those who look strong, and encourage those who are suffering.  And, in the meantime, hopefully I will learn a thing or two about myself.  I usually learn something in ultras, whether I intend to or not, so let's see what the lesson is this time.

Fawn will be updating FB during the race. She will be running the last 20 miles with me, so there may be a gap, but we'll update after we are done, and once I get home and rest up a bit, I will do a race recap for you guys.  Send some positive thoughts or prayers before you go to bed on July 31st, as I head into the nighttime hours.  Every little bit helps!  

Happy Running! 

Monday, July 5, 2021

3 weeks? Yikes

According to my training software - which loves to taunt me with the countdown to the Badger 100 miler, I am a little over three weeks from my race.  Three.  Weeks.  

This is the first time I have trained for a 100 miler over the summer, and it has been...interesting.  I have about 600 miles on my legs since the training cycle started in March, and I am looking at about 12 hours of running per week for the next couple of weeks. It seems like my body is responding well to the training - I am a little creaky for the first few steps in the morning, but other than a little stiffness, all is well.  

 Finally, over this last week, my runs are starting to get "easier" (sucking less).  The humidity isn't feeling quite as stifling as it has and the heat is a little less oppressive.  On most runs. I am hoping the slight difference in temps in Wisconsin and slightly lower humidity give me a bit of a boost.  Current conditions:

Either way, in a little over three weeks, I am running 100 miles on what looks to be a beautiful rail trail (old railroad track converted to a walking / running path).  The crew putting this race on are top notch humans, so I know it will be a great event.  I am looking to have fun, but also to push myself depending on how I am feeling on that day.  

I am getting my race day nutrition fine tuned on my long runs, and I think I am close to having it dialed in.  This is the first 100 miler that I have trained for that I have really paid attention to my nutrition, and tracking my calories during my efforts, and it is paying off.  I am planning on getting a fair amount of my calories in liquid form (Skratch Superfuel and Tailwind), and supplementing with calorie dense foods at the aid stations, averaging at least 200 calories per hour. Because of the way my heart rate reacts to caffeine in the heat (soars), I will be staying away from that until I really need it (about 2 am during the race), except for the occasional sip of Coke at aid stations - its the nectar of the Gods when you need a quick boost.

Travel arrangements are set, thanks to my pacer/crew person/top running buddy, Fawn, and it is looking to be a great trip all around.  Ready to get out there and see what running 100 miles at 50 years old feels like.  This will also be my first time flying to a 100 miler so trying to get off of the plane when we land back in NO should be entertaining.

Big shout out to my coach and good friend, David Theriot.  He has been a great resource for nutrition and training guidance, and I am looking forward to working with him through Badger 100 and into the Arkansas Traveler 100 (October 2nd).  If you are interested in running an ultra, and want some expert guidance, David is your guy!  Check out his info here:  https://www.theriot.run

Tapering in a couple of weeks, so I will plan a post about packing for a 100 miler and outlining the gear that goes into these races.  In the meantime, here is a quick video made at the inaugural Badger 100 in 2019, if you are interested.

Happy Running! 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Oy! Getting Older (Thank Goodness!!)

 So, I am 12 weeks away from the Badger 100 and training is going well so far.  A few tight spots, but nothing too surprising.  One thing I was beginning to notice, even before training started was just how fatigued I was.  Fatigued as in, can't peel my face off of the pillow, feeling like I will fall asleep driving home from work, fatigued.

I keep pretty busy, but that was an unusual level of fatigue.  I still get out and get my runs done, but they are slower than usual and I don't feel like I am fully recovering.  Then, it hit me.  I am getting older - lol.  I turned 50 last November, and while I haven't had any real signs of menopause, outside of one freak hot flash, there is a real good chance that my tiredness may be hormone related.

I contacted by doc and she referred me to a compounding pharmacy to do a saliva test to check hormone levels, which I did last Saturday.  It takes about 10 days to get the results in, and if your hormones are out of whack, they will mix something specifically for your needs.  I'm not going to lie - I hope they find some type of hormone imbalance so I can get going on treatment.  I am still getting everything done, but it is way harder than it needs to be.

Also - big news on the coaching front that I will address in my next post. I am excited about my new partnership, and confident that it is the right decision to help me reach all of my goals this year! 

Current mileage - 35 - 40 miles per week (this week is a down week with 35), with one day of spadework and two workout days.

Happy Running!  


Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 Boy was I right about jumping into a training plan being like starting a cold engine.  But, the good news is that with a little persistence, things are beginning to fall into place. I had a tempo run this morning and wasn't terribly disappointed with my paces.  I have a love / hate relationship with speed work.  I enjoy doing it because it changes things up and makes the run go by faster - my 6.5 miles this morning was over before I knew it.  It is also the best way to track your improvements, or see where you might be overtraining.  The reason that I dislike speed work is because it is speed work.  It is hard and not fun when you are in the middle of an interval, but it always makes me feel good about the run after. There are opposite opinions on whether there is value in speed work for 100 milers, for your average runner at least. This will be the first time that I consciously add it to my training plan, so it will be interesting to see what happens. I am optimistic about it though. 

Why #dammitjeremy?  Well, basically, that is me blaming my friend, Jeremy Howard, for giving me the nudge to follow my own misguided urge to sign up for the Arkansas Traveller 100 miler that happens just 9 weeks after the Badger 100.  This will be the closest I have ever run two 100 milers, so it will be an interesting test for me and for my coach (Stringbean).  

Badger 100 is a mostly flat, rail to trail course while AT100 has about 19,000 feet of gain over the 100 miles.  My goal for Badger is to be in shape to run as much and as quickly as possible.  My goal for AT100 will be determined after I see how well I recover after Badger.  I think stacking these two races is a realistic goal, but I may have a skewed idea of what is realistic?

The good news is that I will not fail due to lack of support.  I have the famous Fawn Hernandez pacing me for Badger (she has always been famous, just now more people know it), and Roger Rholdon - the winner of the 135 mile Voodoo Ultra pacing me for AT100.  Both high quality people and tough runners who will motivate me to keep my complaints to myself and keep moving forward.  

Really looking forward to these adventures! 

Current mileage:  about 40 miles a week and climbing

Current phase of training:  Tempo and hill workouts. This training block will be about building your high end endurance fitness and ultimately fatigued resistance. Build mileage into the 50's. Incorporate higher weight strength training to build muscular strength

Happy Running! 


Saturday, March 6, 2021

Warming up a cold engine

 A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.  A 50 year old body that was mostly stagnate for a couple of months prior to starting a new training plan will resist any effort towards motion.  I can't say this surprises me, but man I wish it wasn't so.  

I knew that the first few weeks of training would be like starting an old car engine on a cold morning.  I was right, but as much as my muscles are protesting, I have to say that it feels really good knowing that if I stay faithful to the training before me, all of the protesting parts will fall into line and become stronger.

One week and 6 workouts in.  Thanks to the strength workouts for reminding me of muscles that I had forgotten about, and to the running to remind me that even with heavy, sore legs, I can call on past experience to push through.

20 miles and change down this week.  Ready for warmer temps - yep, I am a hot weather runner.  I like the heat - remind me of this when mid June rolls around, please.  

In the meantime, I am excited to start using my new COROS watch next week - great price and impressive battery life that should get me through my 100, as well as testing out a new liquid nutrition - Skratch. I have been using EFuel and EGels for a while with great results, but the EFuel gets too sweet after a while and I tend to stop drinking when I still need hydration.  I'll post updates on the gear as well. 

Have a great week and happy running! 


Monday, March 1, 2021

Older and wiser?

 It is hard for me to feel excited about doing something that I have already done, and done fairly well.  Like running 100 miles.  I am satisfied with what I have achieved in ultra running, so after 12 years of being very involved in the sport, it is hard for me to find a challenge that is enticing enough to cause me to commit to 5 - 6 months of rigorous training.   Until now.  See... I have run 100 miles a few times (even 130 miles once), but I have never done it as a 50 year old.  

Some insight into my decision ... I stink at guessing people's age.  When I meet someone and somehow their age is mentioned, I have one of two thoughts - "Wow!  They are holding up great!", or the more common - "Wow - I hope I don't seem as old as they do".  It's not just looks that age people - it's attitude, habits, fitness, health... so many things play into how old a person appears, that the external part of it is really minor in consideration.

I regularly hear people my age complain about aches and pains, and how things are getting harder to do (ALREADY!).   It kinda freaks me out.  I don't understand why some people (legit genetic health issues aside) are so willing to allow themselves to deteriorate.  It's like their odometer gets to 6 digits and they just figure it is time to sit back and watch the wheels fall off.  Crazy stuff.

So, I hired a fantastic ultra distance athlete (almost half my age)  to coach me for the Badger 100 on July 31st in Wisconsin.  Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy has done some cool stuff, but more importantly, he has a great personality, and clearly he doesn't shy away from a challenge.  

Tomorrow starts my official training program, and for those of you interested, I am hoping to chronicle it here with a short post every week or so to track my training, and highlight the new challenges that I might face now that I have a few extra miles and years on me.  

This is more of a training diary for me, but I am happy to share it with you guys.  Maybe someone will read it and think, "Well, if she can do it..." 

Until next time

Happy Running!