Category Archives: Training to run

I Believe in You

Running has been my rhythm, my passion, my elixir, my antidote for over 18 years, from 10K on the road to 100 miles in the wilderness. Running has energized and empowered me. I want running to energize and empower others too. As a running coach, I get to work with all levels of people. It is fun! It is a privilege.

I am coaching 2 women right now who are training for their first 100 mile trail race. I could not love this more!!! I told these two that they are composed of “grit and grace”. It is grit that will get them across the finish line and grace that will give them pause and joy after they are finished. I will encourage them. I will listen to their highs and lows. I will provide them with the tools and the inspiration when life gets busy (and it does) and when training gets hard (and it will).

Do you have someone in your life that no matter your failures, no matter your setbacks, no matter your insecurities or your negative self talk. . . They refuse to give up on you. They just believe in you? 

There is something powerful that happens when you find someone who believes in you and believes in your dreams. They are the first person you want to call or to text or to cry to, because they are in it for you. They are in it with you. Gosh! I love this about coaching runners. It’s such a passionate thing for me. You put all you have into the time you spend training and balancing life. Such an adventure.

I am going to work on some blog posts to give you some incite into my process of coaching, into their process of training (with their permission, of course!) This will be fun!



Stress and performance. Stress and training.

It is a fine line. . . training. . . stress . . . racing. We use stress in training to achieve a new level of fitness. Stress to the body, presented in training cycles or training stimuli can strengthen the body and take your body to another level.

What causes training to go wrong? When is the “stress of life” more than our bodies can handle on top of training stress? Is this called Overtraining Syndrome? Is it simply stress? I am not going to be able to answer all of these questions, but I will share my experience from this past year of training and racing.

Age, to me, is not the death sentence to your dreams. Just because our bodies age and change, does not mean that we cannot pursue things that seem out of reach. Quite the contrary. As I age, I have bigger dreams and the means to run full speed after them. The trouble sometimes is that I also have to balance my life with my pursuit. Not only am I pursuing my dreams, but my family is pursuing theirs.

Stress. . . I struggled for months to figure out what was wrong with my hamstring. Begging my PT for answers,  for help, for some magic. Then, 3 days before my 50K in Colorado, Dr. Price with Elite Orthopedics told me that I had a hip labral tear. The beginning of my race season, Pike’s Peak Ultra, a week from that appointment, with Kodiak 100, my “A” race for 2018, a month after Pike’s Peak.

My training was a struggle from July (2018) through September. I was training. I agonized a bit over running Pike’s Peak and Kodiak. I ended up taking one week off before Pike’s Peak and one week off before Kodiak. My hamstring was very inconsistent. There was nothing that made it a lot better. There was nothing that made it a lot worse. 

Dr. Price suggested a cortisone shot and I decided to do it. I have never had a cortisone shot, and I think that it was a good decision. It helped my hamstring. I asked Dr. Price about racing and he said that as long as I was trained and prepared that I could go for it, and I did. I finished Pike’s Peak 50K. I DNF’d Kodiak 100 at mile 45.

Exercise itself is a form of stress, which triggers changes that make your body stronger. But the system breaks down if you are chronically stressed, as chronic stress impairs your body’s ability to respond to acute stress—such as exercise—because its resources are essentially used up. “Ten Ways Stress Can Mess With Your Workout”

Stress kills motivation. A 2014 study20 in Sports Medicine came to the same conclusion—stress is likely to thwart your efforts at being physically active. This phenomenon proved especially true for older adults and those newer to their fitness schedules. Not exercising when your stress level rises is particularly unfortunate, because exercise is such an excellent stress-reduction tool.“Ten Ways Stress Can Mess With Your Workout”

There are many signs and symptoms of stress, and everyone is different, so one sign or symptom described by one athlete may not be what another athlete experiences. Ray and Weise-Bjornstal (1999) described seven categories in which an athlete may experience stress. These categories are: affective, behavioral, biological/physiological, cognitive, imaginal, interpersonal, and sensory (Ray and Weise-Bjornstal, 260). Each category has its own signs and symptoms. Affective signs and symptoms include: anxiety, anger, guilt, depression, shame and feeling sorry for oneself. Behavioral signs and symptoms include: sleeping disturbances, restlessness, aggressive behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, sulking, crying, poor performance, absenteeism, and clenched fists. Biological or physiological signs and symptoms include muscle tension, increased heart rate, indigestion, stomach spasms, pain and headaches.

Cognitive signs and symptoms are frustration, worries, distortion, exaggeration, unrealistic performance expectations, self-defecting statements and self handicapping. The imaginal signs and symptoms include images of failure, images of reinjury, flashbacks of being injured, images of helplessness, and images of embarrassment. The interpersonal signs and symptoms include withdrawal, manipulation and argumentation. The last category, sensory, includes tension, nausea, cold sweat, clammy hands, pain and butterflies in the stomach (Ray and Weise-Bjornstal, 260). There are many signs and symptoms of stress, which are not all experienced by each person, and each person can experience a variety of signs and symptoms. -United States Sport’s Academy, “Stress and Anxiety in Athletes”

Sports performance is not simply a product of physiology (for example stress and fitness) and biomechanical (for example technique factors) but psychological factors also play a crucial role in determining performance. However, every athlete has a certain stress level that is needed to optimize his or her game. That bar depends on factors such as past experiences, coping responses and genetics. Stress during sports, as in anything else in life, may be acute, episodic or chronic. For the most part in sports, it is episodic, whether during a competitive match between friends, or a championship game. While acute stress may actually act as a challenge, if not harnessed, it can evolve to not only an episodic stressor that can affect one in the long term, but can also hamper one’s play. -Ashwani Bali, “Psychological Factors Affecting Sport’s Performance”

I went through a period of time where I felt like I was in constant “fight or flight” mode. EVERY problem, big or small, significant or minor, triggered a “fight or flight” response. It was exhausting.

It is difficult to differentiate between over training syndrome and (excessive) stress. If you look up the symptoms of each they are almost identical. Trying to maintain a high level of training PLUS saying “yes” to more things than I could handle, caused a significant stress response in me. I grew tired in the physical sense and the weary sense.

After my finish at Georgia Jewel 100. . . I was tired. It was time to  r e s t, really rest. Take the time off that I rarely need to or want to. AND, I was actually looking forward to less. I sat on the bike and did some light strength training, mostly bodyweight exercises until the end of November. I did run on occasion.

It’s December. . . I hired a coach for Georgia Death Race (GDR). I started back with my strength coach. I am feeling rested. I am feeling good. My hamstring has been a complete NON ISSUE. I am still pinching myself about this. It just seemed like it would never change. I have been working hard running and my body is loving it.

Stress and overtraining are different for every athlete. Not always easy to define or determine. Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to your emotions. Pay attention to your mind.


Race Report: Pike’s Peak 50K

I chose this race back in February, after my trainer, David, suggested that I travel to the “Garden of the Gods” in Colorado Springs, CO to run at altitude for a weekend in order to prepare for the altitude at Kodiak 100.

I decided to see if there was a race to run rather than just go out and run for training. I found Pike’s Peak Ultra, 50M, 50K, 30K. It fit perfectly into my training schedule, climbed to a height of 11,200′, started at 6,800′ and averaged between 8000-8500′. The total gain in climbing was approximately 9000′ in 15 of the 31 miles. (half up/half down)

It was easy to get to the start. It started and finished at Bear Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs. Plenty of parking and plenty of bathrooms at the start. They staggered the start, 50 milers started at 6:00a, 50K at 6:30a, 30K at 7a.

I hiked and jogged the first 7 miles. These trails were a mix of scree-lined double track, fire road and beautiful single track. Aid Station one was at mile 7.5. This is also where the 50K and the 30K split. The next section continued uphill to the highest point for me at 11,200′. This is the highest altitude that I have ever ran at.

Woo Boy! The hike up to 11,200′ was slow and go. I was proud of myself for not stopping. I did not need to catch my breath. I took it easy and maintained a steady cadence. This got me to the top. It was very cool to look down at my watch and see 11,240′.

If you know much about me as a runner, you know that I LOVE uphill climbing/repeats. Downhill? Not so much. 

Now the descent to the finish, approximately 15.5 miles. The first 8 miles was mostly single track, steep in many places. The single track ended at a jeep road (very similar to Frozen Head in grade and look). One last aid station and the jeep road dumped to a paved road. The last 7 miles was the same as the first 7 miles. The road ended at the Park trail, that lead to the finish line.

Hardest place in the race for me: The entire descent! HA. Really, mile 20 was a low spot, but I at some bacon-wrapped potatoes and bounced back! The last 4 miles were complete with a thunder and hail storm. I love this stuff.

I would highly recommend this race!! Easy to fly to Colorado Springs. The race had fantastic volunteers, great aid stations, plenty of parking and it was well organized. I had a great time and may go back and run the 50 one day. It would be tough!

Humidity: Let’s Get Practical

It should be no surprise to you that I absolutely love to run hills in training. My favorite trail, lately is mostly hills.  Now, I get to add humidity to my training recipe. DOUBLE LOVE.

I talk about this every year, as a reminder, as an encouragement. You cannot live in Middle Tennessee and train for races or run for leisure in the summer without having to deal with humidity.

Studies have found that, in addition to an increased rate of perspiration, training in the heat can increase an athlete’s blood plasma volume (which leads to better cardiovascular fitness), reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate, increase skeletal muscle force, and, counterintuitively, make a person train better in cold temperatures.

Meaghen Brown Outside OnlineThe Positive Benefits of Training in the Heat

Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former decathlete at the University of Oregon. “Heat acclimation provides more substantial environmental specific improvements in aerobic performance than altitude acclimation,” he says. And in contrast to the live low, train high philosophy, we more quickly adapt to heat stress than we do to hypoxia. In other words, heat training not only does a better job at increasing V02 max than altitude, but it also makes athletes better at withstanding a wider range of temperatures.

Training Effect

Numerous studies have shown that training in heated conditions, two to three times per week for 20 to 90 minutes, can produce a multitude of beneficial training effects. These include:

  • Lower core temperature at the onset of sweating
  • Increased plasma volume (Plasma is the liquid component in your blood. If the volume is increased, you can send blood to cool your skin without compromising the supply carrying oxygen to your muscles.) *To produce more sweat
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Increased oxygen consumption
  • Improved exercise economy

Allie Burdick, Competitor Running Online, “Why Runners Should Train in the Heat

Let’s get practical: Slow down. Be patient. Relax. Bring Water. Drink electrolytes. Have a route with plenty of water stops. Dress appropriately.

Slow down: I run approximately 1-2 minutes slower on humid days, and 2-3 minutes slower on really hot/humid days. I can run closer to my “cool temp” pace, if I push. But, as we are just entering the “heat/humidity”, it is important to slow down and to get your body comfortable sweating, dripping, being hot.

Relax and be patient: I think these go together. I certainly do not go out on a run with a temp of 75 degrees, “feels like” of 80 and give myself a time limit or try to squeeze in a run before an appointment. I have really enjoyed slowing down, getting out, being okay with being slower. Walk, if you feel like your heart rate is getting too high. It will lower your heart rate a bit and give you a break. If you need to stop, to cool off, find a shady spot to stop in.

Bring water and drink electrolytes: this to me is not optional. Carrying a handheld gives me a “cup” for water refills. If I am starting a run with a temperature above 80 degrees, I will make sure to drink electrolytes and water. I find that I need more than just water. *Also remember to “drink before you run”. Do not use your long run to catch up on water intake. Drink before you run, drink during your run, drink after your run.

Route with water stops/shade: This is important for a longer run. Run in the shade as much as is possible. Even a portion of a run in the shade will give your body a break.

Dress appropriately: I like to wear compression shorts in the summer, if I am running long. I do not feel nearly as wet and I usually do not need to bring a change of shorts. I also like to wear a “bra top” or just a sport’s bra. I know that some of you are thinking. . . “there is NO way I am running in a sport’s bra without a shirt”. Okay! Find the lightest tank possible to wear over your bra and choose a light color.

*Ladies-as hormones fluctuate during the month, so does your body’s ability to cool itself off. During the second half of your menstrual cycle, your body must reach a higher temperature before your thermostat compensates and begins to cool itself. In other words, you will be hotter before sweating starts to cool you off. 


Racing in 2018

I am excited about what I have planned this year. It has not been a training season without bumps that is for sure. Let me tell you what I have planned.

Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. June 15-17

Pikes Peak 50K. July 28

Kodiak 100. August 17-18

Lookout Mountain 50. December 15

2018 racing in brief: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race was SO MUCH FUN last year. VERY hot and humid and I loved it!! It was cool to start and finish with the same group of runners for 3 days, to share stories, run together, laugh, groan. . . My fav day was day three on Signal Mountain. MAN! The last time I ran on Signal Mountain was for my first trail race in 2012, Stump Jump! I had an entirely different comfort level and experience this time around.

I am running Pike’s Peak 50K in Colorado Springs approximately 3 weeks out from my 100 miler. Pike’s Peak 50K starts at an elevation 6,200′ and climbs to 11,224′. This will be the highest elevation that I have climbed in a race. I am not nervous. I just have absolutely no idea what to expect or if I will make it! 🙂 A D V E N T U R E!!

The Kodiak 100 Ultra Marathon is a dream course with a lively Start and Finish downtown in The Village of Big Bear Lake. Runners will circumnavigate the entire Big Bear Valley including a visit to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (9,963′)** and a trip through the rarely visited Siberia Creek Canyon. This is a true mountain 100 miler, with technical footing and a lot of running above 7,000′, per the course description.

**at mile 65, begins approximately 8 miles of climbing to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain at mile 72. Approximately 7,000′ at mile 65 to 9,963′ at the top of Sugarloaf.

Lookout Mountain 50. If I am able to run LM 50 this year, it will be my fourth consecutive year. I almost have a set of 4 glasses, and they had brown sugar bacon last year!! It is a nice end of the year, closer. They added a 20 miler two years ago. It is a beautiful 20 mile course.

Bumps along the way: My hamstring!! My hamstring has been bothering me since January. Nothing crippling just frustrating. I personally do not like running when my body does not feel at least 98.9% normal to me.

In April and May, I completed all of my training miles, and I took specific steps to alleviate my hamstring irritation. I continue to work with my trainer on Thursdays. I love this day. It is usually hard, but I have enjoyed the creative ways he is targeting my muscles this training season.

I had several visits with a Physical Therapist (PT). My PT, Craig, told me that I have a strain in my hamstring. He was helpful. I think he was most helpful “calming some of my worst fears”. He does not want me to stop running. Some days I wish it was as easy as “not running and getting better”. I think it IS this easy but there is a cost. I am not sure I want to stop or that I need to stop. So, I will trust and be patient.

I have completed all of my training miles for May and I am so, so much enjoying running in the heat and humidity, again. THIS weather is a bonus to those of us who live in the South. It is a free training benefit. I will take it!

. . . add several days of hill repeats to the heat, humidity and triple the bonus!! Love it or leave it. I choose to LOVE it.

As far as my hamstring goes, I am feeling better. I am being patient. I am being conscious of how it feels, how I feel and I am pressing in to month two of training!!




Lookout 50 2017: training

“There’s never a top to the mountain. Each summit just gives us a better vantage point for the next peak. How high do you want to climb? Give yourself permission to be a giant. “Realistic” is an interesting word we throw around, but we’re talking about going past your current context. Who cares if your big picture goal is a bit unrealistic?”

-Chandler Stevens, “Go Big: Be Your Own Coach” from Breaking Muscle.

“Being prepared means getting to the point where you can forget about all the preparation you’ve done, because you trust that it’s done. You can do all the training in the world, but if it doesn’t translate into trust and confidence in yourself, you’re never going to be able to relax. If you can’t relax, you can’t improvise, or respond intelligently to the actual situation as it unfolds in real time. ”
-Riley Holland, “Get a Samurai Mindset: Unshakeable and Invincible” from Breaking Muscle

“The idea is to be brave not perfect. It’s to be resilient not flawless, confident not complete. . . The best athletes don’t train to be perfect! They train to tolerate discomfort. If you cannot adjust, you lose. Life will never conform to your plan.”

-Eddie Pinero, “Your World Within”

“Average is the norm for a reason. Being exceptional demands extra effort, sustained inspiration and uncommon discipline. When we attempt to give flight to our dreams, we have to overcome the weight of opposition. Like gravity, life’s circumstances constantly pull on our dreams, tugging us down to mediocrity.”

-John C. Maxwell

Some of my fav quotes above, this training cycle!

I ran my 100 mile race, Mogollon Monster, on September 17, 2017. For the first 2-3 weeks, after the race, I did little to no running. I start with no running or exercise for about 5 days. Then, I sat on the bike for a few days. I ended the 2-3 weeks, post race with the bike and hiking on the treadmill, mixed with some running.

I started training for Lookout 50 in October. Here is a brief overview of the months post-100 and leading up to my race next weekend!

October 2017 (249.46 miles/32,455′)

  • October 2-8:  48.33 miles
  • October 9-14:  53.13 miles, 6504′ of ascent
  • October 16-21:  74 miles, 14, 870′ of ascent
  • October 23-28:  74 miles, 11,081′ of ascent

November/December 2017 (365 miles/65,636′)

  • Oct/November 1-4:  75 miles, 11,833′ of ascent
  • November 6-11: 74 miles, 11,507′ of ascent
  • November 13-18:  73 miles, 13,753′ of ascent
  • November 20-26:  73 miles, 16,341′ of ascent
  • Nov/December 27-3:  70 miles, 12,202′ of ascent

My goal for Lookout 50 is 10:30, which is a 12:36 pace. 

I like to try new things with each training cycle. Each race, distance, training, prepares my body for the race coming next. I work specifically with my trainer as I prepare in the weight room. I mix up speeds/climbing as I prepare with my training cycle.

For this race, I tried 3 new things. First, because of my time goal, my trainer suggested running parts of some of my running at race pace. I did this for a week and decided that I needed to get a little more uncomfortable. Race pace was not easy, but it was not uncomfortable enough. I decided to run 4/6 runs during the week, faster than race pace. I did this for the middle 6 weeks of my training. Second, I hiked on the treadmill for 3 miles at a time, rather than 2 miles at a time at an incline between 15%-18%. My race has a significant hill that is about 3 miles long. Finally, my trainer and I worked on power and plyometrics in the gym.

I am looking forward to race day!!



107 miles in 6 days, done & done

Without knowing it, this week became a celebration, a culmination of the word DONE and the apex of the last 3 months of living.

DONE with my 100 mile week. This was physically exhilarating. Days of fast, days of slow, days and days and days of climbing. I love this kind of stuff. I live for the big weeks, the hard weeks. It really makes me feel alive.

DONE getting my kids in school. . . lots of firsts this year. I have a high schooler, now. There were some fears going into day 1, but to my surprise, each of my children had a better than expected start. It was a relief to pick up each one and hear a similar story of how excited they were about their friends and teachers and school.

DONE with my parent’s move. This is a tough one, still is. My parents moved to Michigan at the end of July.

DONE trying to orchestrate the matters of a 14 year old’s heart. This was a huge surprise to me, this friendship, this relationship. It caught me off guard in too many ways to name. Boy,  did I have a lot to learn about beauty, about being 14, about caring about other people, about boys, about girls. Still learning here.

Monday Trail: 18 miles, 3177′

Tuesday Track: 9 miles/Stairs: .30 (10 minutes)/Trail: 8.7, 1300′

Wednesday Trail: 21.3 miles, 3300′

Thursday Road: 7.16 miles/Trail: 7 miles/Treadmill: 1 mile @ 15%, .60 @ 5%, 2078′

Friday Road: 8 miles/Trail: 19.5 miles, 3175′

Saturday Trail: 6.25, 965′

107 miles and 13995′ uphill 

Great people and great athletes realize early in their lives their destiny, and accept it. Even if they do not consciously realize the how, the where, the what.

-Percy Wells Cerutty