Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5K Chapter 4… Runner Down

Week 4 has not been great.

I lost a beloved aunt on Sunday.

Even so, I planned to run.

Then the cough started and I lost my voice.

Still planned to run.

Then the fever and aches kicked in.

And like that, I’m fighting a horrible bug that’s moving through the house (perks of having a toddler!)

While I’m still not feeling well I’m really thankful it’s not as bad as it could be. This is one of those moments where I have to listen to my body, rest, & recuperate.

Baby Girl had her shots yesterday so she & I are recuperating, resting, & napping.

So, instead of sharing my (nonexistent) runs this week, I figured I’d share some of my favorite all-natural germ-fighting remedies. I’m not a fan of dosing myself up with chemicals so when I’m under the weather I rely on these to get me better quick.

Probiotics

I take a probiotic every morning but when I’m not feeling my best I will take 2 in the morning & 2 in the evening. Stress & lack of sleep will trigger the gut & brain that the immune system is prone to attack. By increasing the healthy bacteria in the gut I’m giving my body the opportunity to fight back by absorbing additional nutrients & increasing serotonin (the feel-good hormones). My go-to vegan probiotic is from NOW Supplements.

 

 

 

Vitamin C

While Vitamin C does not cure colds & viruses, it does help boost the performance of white blood cells, those strong little fighters in our blood system who attack infections. When my WBC’s are in need of a boost, I cut up an orange, lemon, and lime, bring it to a boil in a saucepan with water & fresh garlic (another immunity-booster & infection fighter) and drink it down warm like tea.  Not only is this soothing to my throat, but gives my system the opportunity to fight.

 

Herbal Tea

When I reach for herbal tea there’s only one brand I grab…  T-We Tea!   T-We Tea has a great selection of delicious teas and tisanes with hilarious names and the perfect herbal/floral blends for whatever ails you.  This particular tisane selection is one of my favorites for cold busting.  Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant & anti-inflammatory to help with the fluish body aches.  Lemongrass also is a pain-fighter, while orange peel helps boost the immune system.  Chamomile blossoms are great for relaxation & sleep (much needed when sick) and carrot chips are filled with vitamins (K1, potassium, A, B6 to name a few) that help fight germs & boost the immune system.

 

Warm Mist Humidifier

I’ve been a lifelong asthmatic, so the humidifier has always been a constant in my home.  When I’m sick, I immediately get the warm mist pumping through the air to keep my lungs open and clear.  Since I’m battling the flu, using warm mist also helps to keep my sinuses clear.  What I love about this Levoit brand is that I can add essential oils on a side slot & pad to add to the healing element.  Currently, I have lemongrass and eucalyptus oil for helping to fight my fever.  At night I use some clove and rosemary to detoxify the air and surfaces around the house.  A much better & healthier option (for me) instead of spraying Lysol or using bleach.

 

 

Water

There’s nothing better than increasing your water intake when fighting the flu.  This is a number one essential for fighting any infections.  Water helps break up congestion and gives your body the energy to fight the nasty bug trying to take you down.  It also feels amazing when fighting that cotton-mouth-feverish duo that strikes.  I fill my bottle with ice cubes & drink it down.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m allowing my body and soul time to rest and heal before pushing it again.  Next week, I’ll get back to smashing my goals, not only because I want to, but because I know my auntie would be incredibly proud of me.

What are your go-to natural remedies?  Runners, how do you get back on track after a bad week?  Please reach out to me on social media @NJGardenTeacher & let me know!  (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat)

Get ready for next Friday’s update!

 

Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5K Chapter 3… Dealing with Quitters

So runners…

Week three has been an interesting one.

Running three days a week has been wonderful. I’m serious. Really wonderful. I am shocked… like, REALLY shocked, that I crave it.  I love those moments when I’m able to be lost in my brain where I’m not only working through the jumble of thoughts in my head but I’m able to take in what’s happening at the moment.

The birds flying from tree to tree…

The Beyoncé playing in my ears…

The sock that has apparently decided to quit its ONE JOB and start creeping under my heel to build one cotton lump in my shoe.

That sock is a quitter.

Now my peaceful run has turned into a race between me & THIS. DAMN. SOCK.  Stop, fix it. Great!  I’m back on track!  Nope!  I’m not even halfway through singing “Come on ladies, now let’s get in formation!”  before this sock is sliding off my heel again.

DONE!

I stopped my run, got in the car, took off the shoe, & drove home without it.  I mean, I paid a lot of money for this pack of name brand socks & I can’t run in them? Why is this?

Fast forward to my conversation with Mer. I sat with her and wanted to know all things runner socks. What’s the best brand? Why is this needed? Where do I get them? And most importantly, why is this information not covered in ANY of the how-to-start-running information I scoured the interwebs for?

Where is all of the information about what essential pieces of clothing (and why they are essential) for beginning runners?  Especially for the Athenas like me… with the tatas that require 3 bras to contain the painful bounce.  And underwear!  Why does nothing tell you to not wear those cute little cotton panties when you’re running because your leg creases will chafe and burn from the friction?

Okay, runners… I know you’re a special group of people.  I consider myself one of you now.  But can a sista get some clothing advice?  I’m not trying to pay $128 for a pair of quality leggings (I wanted to scream when I saw that) but also paying $80 for a running bra (that didn’t work) doesn’t sit well either.  It really makes me feel like this area of the clothing industry has quit on us.  It also makes me feel that the running world is missing out on a group of people who really WANT to join it.  Is it possible that this club has quit on us before ever giving us a fair shot?

Luckily, Mer gave me tons of information and resources, and I won’t let a pair (more like five pairs!) of quitter socks get in my way.

What are your ESSENTIALS for comfort?  Please comment below or message me on social media @NJGardenTeacher.

See you Friday!

 

Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5k Chapter 2… When Your Health Has Other Plans

One year ago today, everything changed.

I had experienced back pain for years.  So many years, I honestly can’t remember not having back pain.  I always chalked it up to the consequence of getting older & all of those gymnastic days/car accidents/falling incidents (yeah..I’m a klutz) of my youth.  Being a teacher, spending long days on my feet on floors with no more than carpeting or tile on top of cement didn’t help. Also, carrying all that extra weight was not helping, and I knew it. However, it was normal to me.

Then I started having trouble standing.

And walking.

And gardening.

And I couldn’t stand and teach a 20-minute lesson without stopping and attempting to stretch out my back.

And I couldn’t walk my students down the hallway without pain that made me want to cry.  

I knew something was truly wrong.

On January 7th, 2019 I had an appointment with a doctor whose specialty is spinal injuries.  She couldn’t even complete her evaluation due to the pain I was in from the tasks she needed me to do.  As the tears were rolling down my cheeks, she told me she was putting me on bed rest until she could review the results of my x-rays and MRI.  

Two weeks later she put me on bed rest for three months & gave me a referral for physical therapy.  She also told me that I had extensive nerve damage along with adult-onset scoliosis and I would most likely end up in a wheelchair within 6-12 months.  

What?!?  

No.

Luckily for me, my Aries personality does not like being told what to do or what will happen to me.  I believe in being the captain of this ship, and no one controls its destiny except me. That prognosis was not going to be my destiny. 

Time for a rewrite.

I did my research.  I went to physical therapy.  I followed (and still follow) every single directive, and then some.  A wheelchair, at this time in my life, was not going to be my destination…

Here I am, January 7th, 2020, and I just ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill, with a 40% incline, at a steady speed of 3.2.  Granted, it took a little over 20 minutes but what a wonderful victory! I am so proud of me and so grateful and thankful to the universe for not only being in this place where I was not supposed to be but for also blessing me with that stubborn, determined personality.  I don’t care if I’m labeled an Athena, or if my pace is slow, or what people may think of me. My story is mine to write and in this story, I am unstoppable.

Here I come 5K…

Click here to see Chapter 1.

You can find Sonya (NJGardenTeacher) on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5K Chapter 1… Not a Resolution. Just the way it’s gotta be.

I’m not exactly the kind of person who does New Year resolutions I feel like setting them just ensures your failure. However, I have set some serious goals for myself for 2020. 

In my younger years (and I’m talking young as in teenager young) I used to run. I was very athletic and loved the freedom that running gave me. After I had my son at age 21, running definitely fell by the wayside and I started picking up a lot of pounds. 

You may call that baby weight. I know I called that baby weight. My baby is 27 now… and I am still carrying that baby weight. 

I’ve decided to commit to discovering what I loved about running again. In the past 6 months, I have lost over 50 pounds in the quest to run again.

Although some people may consider this the easy way (trust me it wasn’t) I had vertical gastric sleeve surgery in February 2019. Because I have been blessed with the wonderful autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, the struggle to drop the pounds is real. But, a goal without a plan is just a wish, and one of the main goals I had set for myself after the surgery was to run a 5k. 

Since my weight loss has not been as dramatic as I thought it would be, I had to pick myself up by my sneaker laces and figure out how I was going to achieve this goal. Setting a goal for running is much easier when you have friends who also run. I’m thankful to have such a wonderful friend in Scoot a Doot’s own Mer because she always encourages me and celebrates my small victories with the same (or sometimes bigger) excitement as she does large victories. She knew I wanted to get back to running. I happened to be talking to her about my goals on the phone today and somehow wound up signing up for the Hot Chocolate 5K in Philly on April 4th

Immediately after I messaged her to tell her I signed up, I was really concerned because I haven’t run since October.

Then suddenly it popped in my head… Get out there and run. Now the weather today is not the best. It’s cold. It’s raining. And I have natural hair. If you don’t know, raining does NOT go well with natural hair. (PS – I also hate cold weather!)

However, I got out there in the best running outfit I could put together, drove to my local park, and did the None-to-Run Week 1, Workout 1 interval walk-and-run for 30 minutes. There were times I could run a little more and there were times where I skipped the short-run and opted for the walk. 

Most importantly, I got out there and did it. It was far from pretty or quick, but I said to myself if you can do this on a day that is cold, rainy, and you know you’re going to get soaked, then you can do this no matter what. Guess what I discovered? I can do this, no matter what. 

Wish you could see this soaked Athena in the freezing rain?  Well, your wish has been granted!  See you next Friday!

You can find Sonya (NJGardenTeacher) on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Guest Post: Ana Gets a Medal (and Wine)

I’m back and I’m happy to say I no longer sit the bench on Medal Mondays!

In my previous guest blog, I mentioned registering my sister and I for her first 5K. Looking back, I’m not sure why I did that because she probably hates running more than I do. But if you ever want to learn about someone, you bribe them to do something they don’t like with wine and bling. Oh, the fun we had!

I decided Run the Vineyards Bellview 5k/15k hosted by Good Day for a Run in early September was something we would both laugh through. Assuming the weather would be cooler and the vineyards would be loaded with delectable grapes, I envisioned an entertaining time with awesome big sister.

We had the option of picking up our race packet on the morning of but I couldn’t wait. Our pick up was at Running Co. of Mullica Hill. To my surprise (and my husband’s misfortune), the entire store was 20% off on pick up day! Needless to say, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for new inserts and adding to my wish list. The packet consisted of our bibs and a shirt. We both opted for a tank top instead of the t-shirt.

My sister and I decided we were going to jog/walk this race at her pace because this was her first outside run. Because we have never run together and often dispute our paces, we decided to figure out the intervals once we started moving. This worked out well for us as race day was about 20 degrees colder than the previous days and it rained the entire time. She was comfortable and I was cold. I wanted to run faster and get it done and she wanted to run slower and enjoy the rain. (I’m starting to believe all the stories they told me about being found in a box as a baby.)

This is when I have to give Good Day for a Run credit for a job well done! It had rained nonstop for days leading up to the race. I received countless emails with course conditions and an updated map of the new course. GDFAR did everything possible to keep the runners safe and maintain the feel of running the vineyards.

With the said, we did better than expected on the first half of the race which was on the road. At the halfway point, there was a super fun DJ and water station. We slowed down here as the path took us through the vineyards on the soggy grass.  At this point we decided it was safer to walk this part. This is when I learned that my sister loves rain and finds being out in the rain sexy. She started making plans on how to train outdoors, when our next 5k should be, etc. The smile on her face was worth every raindrop!

After we crossed the finish line, we headed straight to the area with the medals and souvenir wine glasses. There, we were graciously offered KIND bars, Skinny Pop Popcorn, Bark Thins Chocolate, and bottled water. Every vendor had a smile on their face regardless of the rain. With snacks in hand, we made our way to the wine.

Can we talk about wine for a minute? Remarkable reds, wonderous whites, and everything in between! With your race bib, you get one ticket allowing you to taste up to 8 wines and another for a glass of wine. We also had the option of skipping the tasting and getting 2 glasses of wine instead. If you are ever at Bellview Winery, I recommend you try their warm wine with spices. It was described as Thanksgiving meets Christmas in your mouth. It did not disappoint! With our wine in hand, we visited one of the food trucks which was phenomenal! They even had a video game truck. If it hadn’t rained, this  would have been a great race for family spectators of all ages!

Despite the weather, my sister and I had a great time and. I think I created a 5k monster… and I don’t regret it.

Ana Soley is an entrepreneur who opened her own business with her husband, Fast Response Plumbing, LLC She’s having a great time raising 2 kids and 2 stepkids while trying to keep her humble abode from imploding. Loves the outdoors, kayaking, archery, walking the dogs, and hiking. She’s a big fan of a good sweat but hates running. But loves medals!

Guest Post: Oops! I Did It Again!

Last time you all heard from me I was complaining about how I hate running. Well, don’t you worry… not much has changed. But let me explain what happened.

So one day, I was minding my business when my buddy, Meri, sent me a text about the Philly Hot Chocolate 15k/5k. Without hesitation I agreed to do the 5k. My excited 6 year old self immediately turned to my husband and said, “I’m doing a Hot Chocolate 5K in Philly with Meridith!” He spontaneously laughed out loud and said, “Why? You hate running.” My response was simple. “They give you chocolate and marshmallows as you’re running,” and I proceeded to walked out of the room like a boss.

For those of you not local, the Philly Hot Chocolate run was in early April and last winter was frigid and forever long. But I wanted chocolate and had to train. Therefore, I ran laps inside my house (which is not big at all). I ran up and down the stairs to better my cardio! I even ran outside when the temperature hit 40! Could I have trained harder? Of course, but that’s all I had because I hate running with my soul.

Now, if you want to hear all the details about how we got there, weather conditions, etc, read Meri’s blog. She’s great at that kind of stuff. I’m going to tell you what I learned.

I run for swag. That’s right, I said it. I’m in it for the swag! I can’t explain how excited I was to receive my first race packet in the mail. I open up the envelope to find a drawstring bag, sturdy enough for multiple uses, stuffed with my goodies. The first goody I pulled out was the super warm purple shirt. Next I pulled out my first bib, which I was ecstatic about. 

And FINALLY, the hat that almost never happened. You see, Meri was kind enough to share a code that would award me a hat. Being who I am, I forgot to enter the code during check out. A few seconds after the infamous Homer Simpson palm to the forehead “D’OH”, I sent an email to the magical beings that host these events. I was thrilled with the quick response and generous accommodation for my error. Great customer support!

I have the best friends in the world and I love running with them. Meri didn’t have to run with me at all and I would still love her, but she did. As we patiently waited for our start, she planned out our run asking what intervals I would like to try first.

We started with 1:1 (one minute run one minute walk) which I quickly grew impatient with. We moved up to 2:1 which worked better for me. I’m not sure if it was the intervals, the chocolate, the great crowd, or Meri’s company but I really had a great time.

The run did not feel like torture and I did not dread the next mile nor the last. I have tried running the same intervals at home and it isn’t the same. I love running with a buddy. Maybe it’s the distraction. Maybe it’s the laughs. Or maybe it’s both. Either way, I had a great time and would have run 4 miles that day….OK let’s not get crazy. Strike that.


Lesson Number Three was not realized until Sunday night and affirmed last month when summer arrived. I don’t mind running in cool weather. Actually, I prefer it. Over the years, I have avoided outdoor activities once it get below 55 degrees because I am ALWAYS cold! Don’t get me wrong, I was layered up for the Philly Hot Chocolate 5K, but it was tolerable. Actually it was enjoyable. Now that  I have experienced cold weather running, I no longer fear it.

Lesson Number Four,  I WILL BE RUNNING THIS RACE EVERY YEAR! Where else can you go that they hand you chocolate and marshmallows as you run? Not the cheap Halloween candy kind either! And after you run? You get hot chocolate, fudge, a banana, pretzels, and a Rice Crispy Treat in a nifty little bowl! Jackpot! If you haven’t experienced this race, you should!

Someone once told me that “Everyday you learn something new”. Well, this race taught me five lessons. What’s the fifth lesson you ask? Getting to that.

That I’m a glutton for punishment and signed up for the Run the Vineyards – Good Day for a Run 15K/5K in September. Don’t worry… I signed up my sister too! Maybe both of us will start to like running one day? In the meantime, I have to figure out how to tolerate running in this humidity. YUCK!

Want to join Meri and Ana at the Philadelphia Hot Chocolate Race on April 6th? You should register NOW because the code FALL2018 saves you $5 through tonight, 8/10 at 11:59pm CST. AND, don’t forget to use the code BRHCPhilly to get a free phone armband!

Ana Soley is an entrepreneur who opened her own business with her husband, Fast Response Plumbing, LLC She’s having a great time raising 2 kids and 2 stepkids while trying to keep her humble abode from imploding. Loves the outdoors, kayaking, archery, walking the dogs, and hiking. She’s a big fan of a good sweat but hates running, as can be determined by this blog post as well as her previous one!

The Real (?) Thing

As I write this post, I’m sidelined: sofa city, sweethearts. Why? Last weekend’s 5K ended with
this happening at the literal FINISH LINE:

Yeah, ouch. (Jsyk: the doc said it was a mild sprain, and that two-ish weeks off should be
good. I have a very sexy ankle brace to wear, too. Meeeeeeow.) Honestly, though, my pride
was probably more bruised than my ankle; nothing like crashing and burning suuuuuuperpublicly!

But the funny thing is, in the aftermath, I’ve felt SO legit. Like this was my ticket into the Real Runners’ Club or something. Because when I explained why I was limping, or wearing a brace,
people nodded knowingly, as if to say, “She’s one of those people. She runs on purpose.” Is
running really that extreme of a sport these days, when on tv we regularly watch people with
2% body fat tackle giant monkey bars over a pit with ACTUAL FLAMES spurting out each
side? (If someone could explain to me what is actually happening on American Ninja Warrior, I
would really appreciate it, kthnxbai.)

Well, regardless of whether one sprained ankle really is enough for membership in the Real
Runners’ Club, I’ve had a hard time thinking of myself as an athlete since I started running.
Probably it’s my inner Fat Kid shaking her head in disbelief at the idea that I’m doing anything
that’s more strenuous than diving into the latest Maggie Stiefvater novel. All I know is that when
someone does refer to me as an athlete, I have to stop myself from looking behind me to see
who that person is talking about.

Do I have nagging self-esteem issues? Of course; who doesn’t? Although I’d love to say
running has somehow managed to instill supreme self-confidence in me, I’d be a liar if I did.
But something that has changed since I started running is my ability to appreciate what my
body can do for me. Sure, my thighs might jiggle more than I want them to, and my tummy
might not be practically concave anymore like it was in my twenties (sigh), but those thighs and
that tummy? They carried me through all the races I’ve run. Suck it, self-esteem issues.

What do I hope you’ll take away from this? Other than, “Wow, she sure does have good taste in
reaction GIFs”, I hope you’ll remember to be a little kinder to yourself the next time you’re
questioning your athletic ability (or your appearance, or whatever). More than likely, the hot
mess that you picture in your head is not what everyone else is seeing when they look at you.
Unless you’re featured on peopleofWalmart.com, that is.

Guest Post: You Are Full of Power

Several months ago now, I ran a half marathon, and Kyle asked if I would be interested in writing something about my training process. I would sit down and type a little bit, only to feel dissatisfied with what I had written, and ultimately, I never responded to her request. I don’t know what prompted this realization, but this weekend I figured out why I was hiding from expressing my thoughts and feelings.Despite training for and completing the half marathon, over the past year I’ve regained 45 pounds of an 80-pound weight loss, and I have felt like a failure. I have been letting a setback eclipse a huge success. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to celebrate my victories, and allow them to motivate me to rise up from my setbacks. From a lot of reflection this past weekend about the mental and emotional aspects of health and fitness, here are a few thoughts I want to hold onto, and want to share with others on the journey:

Every person on a health and fitness journey is qualified to be an encourager. My feelings of unworthiness to speak into someone else’s journey are based on a lie – that I have to “get there” before I can be a true encouragement to someone else. There are people who I find inspirational, who I look to for where I want to be, and then there are people who are or have been where I am now. Those people are just as important – they “get it”. They understand the frustration of having to redefine a relationship with food because it can’t be completely cut out. They understand the mental tightrope of eating to fuel your body vs. forcing yourself to exercise more than necessary so you can eat things in excess. We’re all walking this road together, and the people walking with you are just as qualified to speak into your journey as the people who go before you.

You are full of power. A friend told me this weekend that I engage in really negative self-talk, and that I should be kind to myself more often. Her son, a teenage boy in our church, had just been talking to me about my progress in my quest to learn how to play hockey, and he said to me, “Mrs. Katie…your body looks like you are full of power.” Sometimes I place so much importance on being honest about where I am and what I struggle with that I forget to repeat to myself the positive things that are true: I AM full of power. I am capable of reaching my goals. Fit your mantra to your season – my new season of self-improvement and self-empowerment, each lift and sprint and hockey drill, will be marked with a mantra of kindness to myself; the true and life-giving reminder that I am full of power.  

There are success factors in your life already. Give thanks for them, even as you struggle. I tend to get mentally trapped in the rut of what I can’t do and what I wish I could change. I think about how I’m not athletically inclined, not a person who loves yogurt and vegetables and healthy things, etc. But another realization I had this weekend is that in certain and really significant ways, I am set up for success. My husband will eat whatever Skinnytaste recipe I decide to make for dinner without complaining; he never pressures me to cheat on my meal plan; he will agree to make room in our budget for any and all fitness activities that I enjoy and think will help me progress. He never asks me to lose weight and only encourages me to do so for myself, so that I will feel better. He ran some really slow miles on his days off to help me get in my long runs during half marathon training. Whatever is against you – body type, health issues, busyness – remember that there are things that are working FOR you, and to give thanks for them. Gratefulness can combat the feeling of deprivation when you choose not to eat that thing that everyone else is eating. With regard to my half marathon – I ran the Savin Rock Half Marathon and despite the weight gain I’ve seen over the last year, I was able to finish and meet my two goals for the race in the process: to run/jog it all without stopping to walk and to do so in under 3 hours. I finished in 2 hours, 50 minutes and jogged every last insanely steep hill in the fierce spring winds of the Long Island Sound. One mental hurtle cleared, and now…I’m ready to crush my next goal, stick on the ice, head in the game, to be the first woman on my husband’s hockey team of Air Force bros. And I’m GOING to crush it, because I am full of power.

Guest Post: What it really takes to train for a 50K ultra marathon

You may be considering running a 50K because your friends have promised that you’ll get to eat M&Ms at each aid station with abandon. Or because you like the idea of an ultra marathoner sticker or magnet on your car. You may have even run a bunch of half and full marathons, and think it can’t possibly be much more difficult.

It is. Really. But so, so worth it.

I’ve only run one 50K but I am in the middle of training for my second this September. I can tell you it’s incredibly difficult, but also more rewarding than any other type of running I’ve ever done.

Whatever your reason, here’s the skinny on what it really takes to train for an ultra marathon:

  1. An indomitable spirit with a sprinkle of insanity. In a word: grit. There is no way you’re going to get through five runs each week plus cross training plus making sure you get enough sleep if you’re not dead-set on reaching your goal. Our Saturday morning long runs start as early as 5:30 a.m. Who wants to get up at 4:30 on a Saturday? Crazy people, that’s who. And only those of us who are not-quite-normal will get to the start line.

    An especially crazy 18-mile run, made better by great company.

  2. A lot of time. The training plan my friends and I are using calls for four time-based runs, from an hour to an-hour-and-a-half each, plus a long run on Saturday mornings. When you’re slow like us, a long run can take from three to five hours at a time. And — get this — you have to run for at least an hour the day after your longest run of the week. It helps to have a familia who is OK with all of this, or at least one that likes to sleep in a lot.
  3. Patience (a.k.a., a sense of humor). Tell someone you’re running a 50K (or longer) ultra marathon and be prepared for lots of questions about your sanity. Even non-runners understand that some people sign up for — and run — marathons. “Run a bunch of miles to prove to yourself that you can? Got it.” But an ultra pushes you right into freak (or unbalanced) category. “What, a marathon wasn’t long enough for you?” I actually had a 15-minute conversation with a nice man at work. A former runner, he wanted to chat about why I run longer distances instead of concentrating on shorter races, but trying to get faster. Bless his heart. (See #1 above).
  4. Friends who are just as crazy as you are. Bonus points if they’re experienced and can share awesome tips like what to pack for your ultra, including the need for a drop bag. Most importantly, friends who may think you’re crazy, but who nonetheless support your insanity by meeting you for runs at 5:15 a.m. a couple of weekdays before going to work.

    Some of my crazy runner friends.

  5. Gear. Sure, you can train for a half or full marathon wearing a tech shirt and shorts, plus nice running shoes. An ultra requires an extensive list of must-have items, ranging from a water/hydration vest so you don’t die from dehydration during your long runs, fuel (like Gu or SportBeans or, in my case, even cheese sticks) so you don’t die from hunger, and salt/electrolyte tablets so you don’t die from dehydration. I’m not exaggerating about that whole dehydration thing; training for a fall race means long runs in July and August when it’s just plain hot. Another must-have: A nice running watch that not only tracks your mileage and pace, but one that can last whatever time you think it’ll take you to run 31-plus miles.
  6. Access to trails. A lot of ultras are run on trails. To run 31 miles on trails, you need to train on trails. There’s just no way around that. Trail shoes are optional, but well worth the investment. (See #5 above).
  7. Accepting that you will be hungry. All. The. Time. There’s a reason why people training for 26.2 gain the “marathon many.” I tend to eat every two or three hours anyway, but the extra running has be starving an hour after my last meal. It’s easy to put on a few pounds during training.

The goal race: Run Woodstock 50K in September.

Bonus: I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a tribe of experienced runners, so I asked them to share their best tips on what it really takes to run your first ultra. Here’s what they had to say:

Vicki: “It takes friends to run with and motivate you.”

Melissa: “Don’t skip mid-week runs. That will come back to haunt you mile 28…”

Emily: “Loss of sanity. Other insane friends cheering you on and assuring you you can do it.”

There you have it. If after all that, you still decide to take on your first ultra, I hope you succeed. It’s a fun, crazy, insane, exhausting, time-consuming, expensive endeavor. But I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

What’s on your race schedule this year? Have you ever done an ultra? What are some of your favorite tips?

Gisgie (geese-g) is a Puerto Rican runner blogger who has not died despite running’s best attempts to maim and injure. It’s fun. Really. She’d love to hear from you at lachicaruns.com, @lachicaruns, facebook.com/lachicaruns and instagram.com/lachicaruns.

Guest Post – More Life Less Running

The last few months have been rough, I’m not going to lie. I’ve battled my share of injuries and illness (the flu, major IT Band pain and a sprained shoulder), as well as two family deaths and a couple other issues. All of which derailed my running to the point that since May 27, I’ve had my running shoes on a total of 4 times – and 3 of those came in the last week when I finally felt well enough to run again.

While I’ve missed running, really missed my running buddies, and started to panic about some upcoming races I haven’t been training for, it’s also given me a chance to enjoy other activities and more time with my family – time that normally I’d be spending putting miles in. So instead of running, I’ve been focusing on other outdoor activities that I can do with my husband and stepdaughters (none of them are runners – unless perhaps they’re being chased by something!).

My husband and I have been camping almost every weekend – we own a small motorhome, so each week we draw a circle on the map, see where we can go within 2-3 hours of our house, and head out. From our home near Lansing, Michigan, we can get to locations in Indiana, Ohio and even Canada pretty quickly. We’ve discovered new parks, lakes, historical attractions, hiking trails, and off the beaten path places we wouldn’t have otherwise. We both love hiking and biking, so we try to find places where we can do one or both activities.

The whole family owns kayaks, so we’ve headed out to local lakes to enjoy some family time away from our electronics. If you’ve never kayaked, I highly recommend it – especially on lakes, marshes or streams with limited activity. When it’s quiet you get to see things like turtles, heron, muskrat, river otters, water snakes, birds, frogs and more. It’s amazing what goes on in the water when you can just sit and observe.

While this isn’t a family activity, I happen to work at a university with an outdoor 50m pool that staff have access to in the summer. As a former competitive swimmer, I still find myself more at home in the chlorine than in running shoes, so I’ve been putting in as many laps as I can a few days a week. Swimming bonus – I’ve developed an awesome swimsuit tan on my back as a result! 😉

What being injured these past couple months made me realize was that running had started to consume me – and while I don’t plan to give it up anytime soon (I still have a couple goals to conquer), it forced me to find a balance to do other things, especially things with my family.

Some might not agree with me, but life’s too short to be spending it all working out. Take a couple nights or weekends off, grab your kids, lace up your hiking shoes, rent a kayak and get outdoor and enjoy life’s treasures. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Who is Jessi? Jessi is a runner, triathlete, Jaycee, chocoholic, Disney fanatic, traveler, Broadway addict, boardgame enthusiast, and sock collector whose favorite mantra is Not All Who Wander Are Lost. You can find her supporting her two stepdaughters in their activities, camping with her husband, doting on her cat, and spending her free time with family and friends. Read more about Jessi’s adventures on her blog www.runningthroughlife.wordpress.com