Training for a Monster 100

This September, I am running the Mogollon Monster 100 in Pine, AZ. I am in week 9 of 18. July at a glance. I like to use the training block of weeks 7-11 for some really long runs on Saturday. I do not like running back to back long runs. My 45 year of body responds better to a long Saturday run-rest day-long Monday run. The work I do during the week tends to be speed and hills.

I think that my two biggest challenges with the Mogollon Monster 100 will be the altitude and the technical terrain. This 100 miles the racer from elevations of 5,300 feet at the start to upwards of 8,000 feet at the top of the Mogollon Rim. There will be approximately 22,000 feet of climbing. This is almost identical to Pine to Palm. But, I think the trail will be more technical.

What will help me most is the humidity, running hard hill repeats, and running hard tempo runs on the trail. I love running in the heat/humidity. I love running hills. I love running hard. I am looking forward to the weeks to come. 🙂

Week Mon Tues Wed Thurs Friday Sat Sunday Total
June 26-July 2 14.09


8 + weights 11.2








10.6 81.42


3-9 10.2


9.2 1700’ +

5.2 walk, 250’

2 + weights


11 + 2175’ 7




rest 75


10-16 12.2


8.5, stairs, gym 12.63


2 @15%

2 run







Rest 74.2


17-23 15 6 10 4 10 26 rest 71
24-30 15 7 13 8 10 27-30 rest 80-83



Race Recap: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”” — J.R.R. Tolkien


I had no intention of running this race. I signed up the Wednesday before I ran. I was  coming off of a race in CA, Leona Divide 50, where I dropped at mile 40. I left Leona with a tender right hip that was diagnosed a few weeks later as “hip tendonitis”.

3 training weeks prior to signing up:

  • May 22-27: 46 miles
  • May 29-June 3: 67 miles
  • June 5-10: 56 miles

Tried a few new things: The adage goes, “don’t try anything different on race day.” Sometimes, I say, “why not?” I packed my running vest, but I chose to run with only one handheld. I drank SPRING electrolyte drink the entire time. I did not cramp. My hands did not swell, and my stomach felt great the entire time. I did not use water. I used only SPRING. I ate gels, peanut butter pretzels and a few cups of trail mix, each day. This was a big change up for the weekend.

Weekend Mantras: My thoughts for this weekend? “Run now, hurt later”, “let me be weak, so that God can fill me with his strength”, “Each day is new and it is only 20 miles more”, “Use each day to prepare you for the next”.

Songs on repeat:

  • “Out Of The Woods”, Taylor Swift
  • “Thank You”, Alanis Morrisette
  • “Patience”, Guns & Roses
  • “Good Life”, OneRepublic
  • “It Is Well”, Bethel Music
  • “Castle On A Hill”, Ed Sheeran

It was a very good running weekend for me! Some of my best, aggressive, joy-filled running.

Friday, Stage 1: Raccoon Mountain. Per my watch, 1800′ ascent and 2:55. By far the fastest day. Our weather was decent, 70s, cloud cover and humid. (I love running in the humidity, in case you were wondering 🙂 ) The time cutoff for this day is 4 hours. I am confident that all the runners who I run with could finish this day in 4 hours. The trail is nice and the ascent is almost half of what you will experience on the next two days.

My goal for this day was to run by feel. I was not going to look at my watch and tell myself to slow down. I ran hard. I breathed hard. Gave it almost all that I had. I saved some for the next day.

Saturday, Stage 2: Lookout Mountain. Per my watch, 2800′ ascent and 4:03. This was the hardest day for me. The weather was good, again! The temps were in the mid 70s. The time cutoff for this day was five hours. The cutoff was extended by fifteen minutes on race day.

I think this day felt more humid than Friday, or it could have been that I was running for one hour and eight minutes more?! My body felt great at the start of this day!! I was running with a handheld and gels for this day. I decided to run in a sport’s bra and shorts today. We started and finished at the Lula Lake trailhead. This course seemed quite different to me than the Lookout 50 course, and I LOVED it. There were a few crazy climbs!! My strength is definitely on the climbs. I push the hiking hard. I do not use the climbs to catch my breath or eat. I use them to push past those who are using them to catch their breath/eat. (Get on the treadmill and practice this type of hiking!! Ask me for specifics.)

Oh my word! I think it might have been the last 1-2 miles of this day that we descended to the falls and then, hiked a crazy steep section back up from the falls!! LOVED it. This is the day that I cried a bit. 🙂 I breathed hard the entire time. I ran hard. I hiked hard. My fav song for this day was WEAK by AJR.

This was a tough day for a lot of runners. The food at the end was good. I did not leave right away. I spent some time talking with fellow runners and helping out a runner or two with nausea and heat exhaustion.

I believe this would be the most challenging day of the 3 for any runner because of the time cutoff, steep climbs and the final miles, down to the waterfall and back up.

Sunday, Stage 3: Signal Mountain. Per my watch, 3200 ascent, 4:17. This was my favorite day. Most technical day. Most climbing. LOTS of rocks. In places, this course reminded me of Savage Gulf or the gorge section at Fiery Gizzard. The cutoff for this day was five hours and thirty minutes.

Signal Mountain provided the BEST views, LOTS of briars, poison ivy. . . cuts and scrapes. I enjoyed weaving in and out of the overgrown trail. It felt like I was running away. . . It felt like I was being chased. . .

My heart rate and breathing rate were well under control on this day. I think the mix of climbs and rocks kept my heart rate down, so that I could run well on the runnable spots.   Again, the climbing was in my favor. The scrambling over rocks was also something I enjoyed and there was plenty of it!

One of my fav parts of this day was the “break” in trail from about mile 11.4 at Signal Point, past the assisted living facility, Alexian Village of Tennessee. It was a small break, after a steep stair climb on a paved road. 🙂

I think this day is challenging but in a different way from Lookout. It is a slower day because of the technical trail. It takes a mindset of “just keep moving”. It would be easy to slow down and get discouraged on the rocks.

The run to the finish line from the last aid station is totally doable, mostly double track, non-technical. Great finish to the last day of running.

A few things: I would recommend this race, if it fits into your training schedule. Running with a handheld is doable in this race. Each day is different. Focus on each day. I chose not to hold back on any day. I looked at this race as 20 miles each day, NOT a total of 60. Plan on hanging out a bit after. The people are fun. It is fun to share stories and meet new people.


Female WINNER of the Hillbilly Half, Her Story

And our first place female runner, from Franklin, Tennessee, 15 years old, with a time of 1:37….Kathryne Hirt!! The announcer said. I couldn’t help thinking, how on earth did I get here?

 The summer before seventh grade, I made the decision to start running. I got up every morning and ran 1.5 miles. When I began, I could barely even make it to the corner of my street without stopping, and I really hated it. But I was determined. And when I’m determined, there’s so stopping me. Little did I know that in just a couple of years that I would run to relax.
Fast forward to freshman year of high school. I decided to run cross country instead of playing volleyball. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I could make! The team was more than a team, it was a family. The coaches were very nice and encouraging, but between you and me, could have done some more actual coaching. I made so much progress as a runner, falling more and more in love with running,  every day. By the end of the season, my 5K race time was about 21 minutes. Even thought the season was over, I ran every day, and not just a little bit. I was running 7 miles a day, and boy did I pay for that. I ended up with a stress fracture in my hip, which took two months to heal. Any runner knows that not running for two months is torturous, and it was hard.
I signed up for my first half marathon, THIS June, with my sister, and part of me thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But, my hip healed in perfect timing. I had a couple weeks to get back into shape, and then my training officially started. I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan. To be completely honest, most of the time I didn’t follow the plan. I almost always ran more than I needed to. And rest days? I hardly took them, unless the weather was too bad. I made sure to cross train, running 3.5 miles and doing a 30-40 minute ab workout on the same day. I also made sure that all of my runs included hills, which was not hard to do, living in Middle Tennessee.
My favorite part of training was the long runs. As an endurance athlete, I live for and love running long. The farther I ran, the happier and better I felt. As my runs progressed into the 9 mile and above range, I started to experiment with fueling. I tried raisins (not the best for me since they took more work for my body to digest) and GU energy gels. At first, I was hesitant to put something artificial into my body, but I soon realized that they were the best for me. And the flavors covered every base! Fruit-y, chocolate-y, coffee-y, and even maple bacon! These long runs did mean, however, that my training was coming to an end. And training coming to an end meant one very exciting thing: THE HALF MARATHON!!!!!
This brings us to June 3rd, 2017. My half marathon of choice was the Hillbilly Half. It would begin at 6:30a, which meant I had to wake up a little after 5:00a. I had learned from my training runs that I did not need much for breakfast, so I had Greek yogurt and mixed some Honey Bunches of Oats into it about an hour before running. I made sure to pack extra clothes and shoes, as well as my water bottle and energy gel. I was so excited, and a little bit nervous. So as every runner does, I made a last minute trip to the (disgusting, smelly, gross, etc) port-a-potty before the race began.
All my training was leading up to this moment. And with a ‘bang!’ it began. I weaved between people, moving around them left and right, for quite a few miles. After a while I found my pace, and maintained the same speed. Sticking true to its name, the course was constantly going up and down. It seemed like as soon as we ran down hill, there was another hill waiting for us. I ran by myself for most of the race.
About 3/4 of the way through, I ran alongside a guy going about my pace. We didn’t say anything to one another, but both of us knew we were using each other as a pacer. When we hit another hill, I took the lead. For the last 5K, I sped up. As I hit the last couple water stations and “hecklers” (volunteers dressed up as hillbillies to encourage and to entertain runners), the volunteers were cheering me on loudly, screaming “you go girl!” It made me wonder, was I the first female? And I was! As I rounded the corner to cross the finish line, I saw my mom screaming for me, and the men at the finish pulling the banner across for me to run through it. After I crossed, I got my medal and, best of all, my fresh Georgia peach from the amazing Peach Truck.
After the race, I snacked on some fruit, waiting for the awards to begin. It felt like forever.  When my category was announced, I was ecstatic to have won my very first half marathon at age 15. For the rest of the day, I was on a high, smiling whenever I thought about that morning.
Right now, I’m training for my second cross country season. My goal is to qualify for the state meet this year. Looking ahead, I want to run in college, but have no idea where yet. I love running, and cannot wait to see where it takes me!

Treading Water

MAY 2017

last month of school for 3 children

email from my parents, “we are moving to Michigan on July 24th”

my brother having open heart surgery

my 14 year old headed to High School

my 14 year old having new friends

In the summer of 1993, I completed lifeguard training.

  • swim 200-400 yards without rest
  • tread water for 2 minutes
  • grab 10 pound brick from 8-12′ of water and swim back with it

Fast forward to May 2017, twenty-four years later. I have been treading water, this time,  for 30 days. I swim, then tread. I swim, then, tread. Then, tread/swim some more,  all the while, holding on to a 10 pound brick for the duration.

It’s been physically tiring, mentally tiring, and spiritually tiring.

At times, going under. . . at times, heaving for breath. . . at times, crying so hard that I could not breathe. . . at times, my heart, beating so fast. . .

Swimming, treading water, holding on is a lot harder than running.

So f a i n t, I just wanted to collapse. So w i r e d that nothing in my mind could settle down. So c o n s u m e d, I did not want to eat. So e m p t y, I lost a bit of me.  Truly, the only thing that I had to offer my friends and Jesus was my need, my demand, my urgency, my longing.

Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget,


how much you have always loved to swim. . .

-Tyler Knott Gregson

Race Recap: Leona Divide 50

Ten Hours, nineteen minutes. 10,500′ climbing. 15:28 pace. Forty miles.

I signed up for Leona Divide 50. I finished Leona Divide 40 with a 50K medal. This was my fifth 50 and my hardest to date, climbs to 4000′ and temps in the high 80s to low 90s. The race director (RD) , Keira Henninger, sent an email out to runners a couple of days before the race to make everyone aware of the heat and to offer several suggestions for key places in the race to load up on drinks and ice. The RD specifically mentioned miles 17 to 26 to load up on ice and water because it was a long, exposed climb.

Miles 0-17.8 My goal with this section was to run it as fast as I could comfortably go. This would be the coolest part of the day and I took advantage of it. The start was about 2 miles uphill on the road. Then, double track trail that fed to single track for the rest of the race. The race started at 6:00a. You did not need a light at the start. I ran hard and was WAY ahead of my projected pace/time by mile 17.8. I did need to slow down. The climbs were not too steep or technical. For me, they were challenging because of the altitude.

Miles 17.8-27 I was happy to reach aid station #3, Aqua Dolce, mile 17.8. The cutoff time was 11:30a. I arrived at 10:15a. I took a few minutes to put ice in my hat, in my bra and around my neck in an arm sleeve.

This section was tough. It was 5.5 miles uphill and about 3-ish miles down. It was exposed except for the occasional oasis of shade. There was a breeze that blew every once in a while to cool my ice soaked body. The top of this climb went to around 4K. The climb to the top and the run down from the top required me to breathe deeply. I unbuckled my vest on the climbs to get a full breath of air.

Miles 27-33  Mile 28 was aid station #4, Bouquet Canyon Rd. The cutoff time here was 1:45p. I arrived at 12:30p. Great volunteers! They were fun and helpful, making light of an insane day. I restocked ice in my hat/bra/arm sleeve. I took a brief, ICE COLD sponge bath, put on sunscreen and loaded up my bottles with electrolyte and water. I do not remember much about this section. It was part of an out/back. Just remember more running up and more running down. The trails were beautiful and runnable. The downhill was sweet.

Miles 33-40  Aid station #5, Spunky Edison. This is where the race got tough for me. I was not mentally prepared to patiently suffer. When I reached this aid station it was about 1:45p. The cutoff here was 2:30p. They were out of ice and they had one container of cold water remaining. The rest of the drinks were warm. I was not prepared, mentally. I wasn’t sure how to process this,  and I started thinking about dropping to the 50K. I would still have to run back about 4 miles to the finish. I decided to move to the next aid station at mile 40, before making any decisions. It was an out/back. . . 7 out & 7 back, then 4 miles to the finish. THIS section was the toughest of the day because my body was hot. I was carrying 50 oz of water & electrolyte. I drank my electrolyte and one bottle of water. It was warm. (bleh)

There was plenty of runnable trail in this section, really ALL day the trail was runnable. My energy was low. My water was hot. I knew I needed to eat, especially if I was going to run back and finish 50. I started 1st on my sandwich, eating one tiny bite at a time. I chased it with a bit of hot water. I made it through 1/2 sandwich.

I occasionally confronted my desire to stop. . . 

“Do your feet hurt?”

“Do your legs hurt?”

“Are you vomiting?”

“Are you eating/drinking?”

“Are you hot?” **KIDDING!! I was hot!**

No. No. No. Yes. Yes. 

It was hard to stop thinking about the 7 miles back to the aid station that did not have ice or coke or cold drinks. I tried eating again. I did not really want to chew, so I slowly sipped 1/2 GU and followed it with more hot water.

I could see the aid station now at mile 40 (I could also see the trail back.) A very sweet, energetic lady came running up the trail to tell me that the aid station was waiting for me with ice and cold drinks. I started to cry. She couldn’t see the tears behind my sunglasses but she saw my mouth turn down and my lip quiver. I made it to the AS with time to spare. I hiked ALL 7 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I arrived at 4:30p. The cutoff was originally 4:30p, but it was extended to 4:50p.

It was too late. I decided a mile back that I was done suffering for the day. I gave up the fight. As soon as I walked into the AS, Sara asked me if I was okay. I said, “no, I’m done. I want to drop.” I think she could have convinced me or anyone could have helped to convince me to go on, but I could not convince myself. I got a ride to the start from a dad, crewing his daughter. I picked up my 50K medal and headed for my car.

Leona Divide: Why run?

  • Fantastic Volunteers, very organized
  • Sweet, runnable trails, not technical
  • Easy to get to from LAX
  • Awesome muscle (race) shirt!


  • -NOT easy for this TN girl at the end of April. In some ways it was more challenging than Pine to Palm (P2P)
  • -Hotter for longer, completely exposed all day in the sun
  • -Minor elevation, up to 4K. The top of the climbs and the top of the downhill was hard. P2P was at the end of August. I trained all summer in the heat and humidity. This helped prepare me for the elevation at P2P.
  • +I did a great job drinking. I knew with the heat and altitude that I needed to drink to avoid dehydration. I think, overall, I drank more than 2+ gallons in 10 hours.
  • -Eating was worse than I thought. GOSH. I ate 1 zbar, 1 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwiches, two handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, one pack of GU watermelon chews. 4 mini peanut butter cups, some watermelon, 1/2 GU, ginger ale, and 4 mini ginger cookies.

Race Recap: Savage Gulf Marathon 2017


The course will be the same as last year: Beginning and ending at the Stone Door Ranger Station, with 26.2 miles of the most brutal, unforgiving, rocky, steep terrain you could imagine in between.

The Savage Gulf Marathon fit perfectly on my training schedule in preparation for my April 22nd race. The weekend of Savage Gulf (SG), I had 31 miles on my training plan. I knew that SG would be a difficult event. It would feel like a moderate 50K. So rather than run in Percy Warner for 6 hours, SG it was!

A few fun facts from the day:

  • 4-5 slippery, swinging bridges to cross
  • 4-5 water crossings, enough water to get your feet wet
  • 62 degree high for the day
  • 4 aid stations on course. Food/water/soda at the end.
  • wet, muddy course
  • 4330′
  • 29 men
  • 14 women

I’ll break this up by my selection of sections.

Miles 0-2.5 very runnable and non-technical. You had better start out running! I settled into the back of the pack. For this race, especially, I wanted to have the space to s l o w down on the rocks. The rocks were slippery and the trail was muddy and wet, due to rain.

Miles 2.5-5 so, so rocky. You head down the Stone Door, a steep, stone, staircase decent. The rocks were slippery. I was very cautious. I did not want to hurt my ankle. I was pretty discouraged at this point (mile 2.5!) because I had to walk this section. I continued to scale rocks until the first aid station around mile 6.3. My average pace from 0-6.3 was approximately 14.55.

Miles 6.8-11 was a climb up, moderate at times, steep for sections. SURPRISE! More rocks. Boulders. Teeter-Totter rocks. Medium rocks. My average pace for this section was 17:12.

Miles 11-18 for the first time in the race that I was able to run on the smaller rocks for a longer period of time. The last 2 miles down to aid station #3 at mile 18 was all runnable. I finally started to get in a better mental place. My average pace for this section was 15:50.

Miles 18-23.6 great runnable section was now gone, enter MORE rocks!! Oh my goodness. At this point, I was so over the rocks. You guys, the rocks were the trail. Good grief. Then from about mile 22.6 to 23.6 was the last steep climb out of the Savage Gulf. I was actually in good shape to hike this one. My heart was beating fast. It was like my body was generating energy to either breathe or keep my heart beating. I pushed the hike and kept my fingers crossed for the last 3 miles of the race!! My average pace for this section was 19:21.

Miles 23.6-26.2 RUNNABLE! I decided to see what I could do with the last 3 miles. It was great running. For the most part, NO MORE ROCKS. Definitely, not as technical. It was hard, but I pushed the pace. I worked very hard. My average pace for this section was 10:00. I was really stoked for that pace!

My stats: 6:57:33. #6 lady out of 14. #29 out of 43 total. 4,330′. (joyful exhale)


Running fills a need so we make fewer demands on others. Running reveals the roots of negative thinking, so the weeds can be pulled. Running reconnects the soul to the source, inspiring hope and creativity.

-Kristin Armstrong





Race Recap: Music City Trail Ultra 12K (guest post)

Trail Race Virgin

My first official trail race . . . 7 to 8 miles (Hardwin Adventures race which apparently makes the race mileage a bit, fluid, shall we say?) didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  I mean, I’d done training runs of that distance in Percy Warner a couple of times and felt fine so I really went into it more excited than nervous.  Honestly, I didn’t really care how long it took me, I was really just looking forward to some uninterrupted time on the trail in the woods.

I showed up a bit early the morning of the race to pick up my number and get my bearings.  I was running this race alone, but ran into some acquaintances at the start which was fun.  As I dug a handful of rusty safety pins out of the zip-loc bag full of pins provided and crumpled up my race number (only newbies leave it clean and pristine, right?), I had flashbacks to road bike racing days and started to feel some of those old pre-race jitters.  I told myself I was just here to “run” and not “race” and I just needed to simply enjoy being in the woods for a few hours without needing to feed or clean anyone else (Mom of 3, 7 and under, #reallife).

The participants lined up at the start and pledged their commitment to giving their all and running with humility and respect for the land and their fellow runner which of course made me choke back a sob because #waterworks ever since birthing aforementioned children.  Then just like that, we were off!  After a brief stint in an open field we started a climb.  Not a bad climb, really, but the crowd made it feel like I was in a ride line at Disney.  Now, if you don’t know me, you must know that I don’t really like to walk or hike when I trail run, I like to run everything – albeit very slowly at times – so this queue was frustrating to me at first.  I felt like I could have run this climb if it hadn’t been so crowded but I just sort of settled in and hiked and coached myself by remembering that this would save me some energy for later.

The initial climb led us up to a brief ridgeline where the crowd thinned out.  Before long we came to our first significant challenge . . . a descent and subsequent ascent that required sideways footing and the occasional bracing of self with a hand on the hillside.  This part was crazy steep!  If I’d tried to run down (which I didn’t see anyone do), I feel certain I’d have tumbled head-over-heels cartoon style to the bottom.  The ascent on the flip side was nearly as daunting.  It was not runnable for me (Boo.  See previous note, regarding me not liking to walk/hike) but I went into the race knowing that, so I was truly okay with hiking and had fun passing a few people who had to stop to catch their breath.  All this ascending and descending was further complicated by thick mud resulting from rain overnight that was covered by a heavy layer of fallen leaves.  These things worked together to make it less of a trail race and more of an adventure race for me.

After the steep ascent and descent the rest of the course fell into a regular rhythm of jeep roads punctuated here and there by climbs and descents of varying degrees of difficulty.  My least favorite section was another steep descent down a trail-less hillside coated in thick mud covered with inches of dead leaves to a creek at the bottom followed by a climb with roughly the same conditions just on the other side.  Really, nearly the entire course was like this which made it not my favorite, to be honest.  Once I came to the first aid station across the creek I knew I had only about 3 miles left and I felt sort of home-free because the race manual had described this section of the 12K to be where you could really start to pick up some speed to the finish.  Maybe I read that wrong, but I did not find that to be true.  There was still much climbing to be done and I feel like when I wasn’t on a gravel jeep road, I was on one of the plentiful trail-less sections of the course guided by little multi-colored flags sunk in the thick mud and leaf icing on the cake that was the Music City Trail Ultra.

It’s kind of funny . . . another thing about me is my covert competitiveness.  I like to think I’m “only competing against myself” and just “trying to do my best” and while that’s true . . . . towards the end, I came across an acquaintance I’d chatted with at the beginning.  Given her experience and my lack thereof, I didn’t figure I’d see her at all after the start but here she was.  All of a sudden it turned into a race for me.  I tried to block out thoughts of “I must pass her, she cannot beat me” and tell myself I didn’t care who crossed the line first but she was so close.  I noticed she walked the hills so I became determined to jog them if at all possible.  At some point, I came up on her and she seemed surprised to see me.  Then I passed her and didn’t see her again until sever minutes after I’d crossed the line.  So, maybe I am a bit competitive.  Could be genetic.

Takeaways from my first race . . .

  1. This race was tough but my training had me really well prepared for the challenge of it.  Thanks Coach McClain.
  2. This race was not my favorite, but it was accurately described by the organizer and I feel like he did a fantastic job with the event. The course was really well marked, swag was fun and the atmosphere was chock-full of comradery.  Bonus points that it was really close to home!
  3. I literally crossed the line looking forward to my next race, whatever that will be. I’d really like one that has you on actual trails, though, not trail-less flag marked hillside.  I will say – this is not the fault of the organizer and I don’t feel like the event was mis-represented in any way, shape or form.  I just really enjoy gliding up and down packed trails.  I’m cool with obstacles but this course was just too fraught with less than ideal topography and conditions for me to call it a favorite.
  4. This is one time I can say without hesitation that I gave everything I had. Oftentimes out of fear of failure I find myself sub-consciously holding back a bit.  Not here, folks.  When I crossed that line I did it with my last ounces of energy.  That, my friends, is a pretty cool feeling.