First 24-Hour Race Report

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A few months ago, Nicole Ostrom asked me to join her on a 2 person 24-hour relay team for Across The Years: Decade Edition where we would switch off running every hour from 9am Saturday to 9am on Sunday. This isn’t the kind of race I think I’d of ever signed up for on my own as it includes everything I like to avoid: flat, short looped course and pavement. Growing up, I was a gymnast. Ten years of repetitive pounding on my ankles, wrists and knees led me to avoid road running, or anything similar, like the plague. But, when Nicole asked me to join her I decided to say yes. Because I was scared to try something like this. I was scared to get uncomfortable. And isn’t that the most important thing? Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable? We signed up. I told myself I’d learn so much about my body and my mental strength out there, to have zero expectations, have fun and that it would be perfect training for other races I have my eye on in the next several months.

I didn’t train on road, packed gravel or any terrain similar to Camelback Ranch, I truly had no clue what I was getting myself in to. Asking Nicole every week to give me a list of what I needed, what to expect and what to bring with me. Even the idea of a looped course was new to me. This was my first attempt at anything over six hours, a timed format, a looped format and flat racing. Talk about being out of my own league.

After work on Friday I met Nicole at the race (a 10-day event where others were already over 400+ miles!) where both of our boyfriends were competing in the Last Person Standing race. An insane show of athleticism that should have its OWN blog post to showcase it. It was nice getting the lay of the land, seeing “Main Street ATY” where the main aid station, medical tent, warming tents, cots and everyone’s tents for sleeping were set up — aka home base. It made the race a little easier to grasp even with only seeing a tiny portion of the course.

The next morning, I arrived with my suitcase full of every kind of clothing: tank tops for warm daytime miles, multiple sports bras to trade out so I wasn’t wet, lots of socks, two pairs of shoes, long tights for the night, puffy jackets, a vest, hats and gloves for when the temps hit the thirties. There was a chance for any kind of weather and your body responding in different ways and being overly prepared is better than not having enough at this kind of race, where you can easily go off course and access whatever you need. At 9am I lined up along with other members of relay teams to be sent off on our first lap. We were cheered off and there I was, seconds into my first timed race and I was going to be running for 11 more hours if everything panned out.

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Tracing the course around the 1.04 mile loop I got to experience pavement and packed gravel with sections that were exposed and hot and others that were very shaded, wrapping around a pond. I was able to run alongside George, a November Project participant I had run with a few weeks prior, sharing stories and allowing the first hour to pass very quickly. Nicole and I soon traded off for her first hour and I immediately dove into stretching and using the theragun to keep my muscles loose. I was trying to be preventative, praying it would keep me from locking up early on. My second hour I pushed my pace, feeling fast and strong with my music playing. But my third hour showed me that I had made a mistake, at roughly 15+ miles my right IT band began to tug and yell with every step. My knee was irritated and so, I began a run / power walk combo. My first challenge. Accepting I wasn’t running the entire thing and to say walking was okay. I was able to maintain that strategy for 8 more hours.

Running has taught me to never feel like I’m in control, that I can’t be. That preparedness means being flexible and adaptable. Previously, something like pain in my knees and having to walk would have crushed my perfectionist spirit. It wouldn’t launched me into a negative headspace that spiraled for hours, especially on a looped course. I would’ve ruminated on my inability to live up to expectations in my head. Instead, I re-worked my plan, told myself it was unrealistic I could’ve run the whole thing and had my first timed race go smoothly! I kept my music high and my spirits stayed lifted through every hour exchange.

I changed my shoes on my fourth hour, ran one sun-filled sports bra mile that actually felt hot and enjoyed the warmth on my skin, knowing the sunset was coming early and soon I would hit the miles that worried me the most — cold miles where I could still get sweaty and then freeze. I struggle to warm up after I start shivering and it was the thing that scared me the most about this kind of race. Not late night miles or chafing or my muscles and joints aching — but getting so cold I couldn’t overcome it. I had also hoped when we switched directions (going counter-clockwise instead of clockwise or vice versa) would have helped my knee pain, but it continued to tug and express discomfort even after having one of Nicole’s friend elbow my IT band as well as trying to switch up my gait and even run sideways: basketball shuffle style.

Last night around 8:30pm, I PR’d by reaching my longest distance to date (33 miles). I came into the main ATY checkpoint, getting to ring the green bell signaling I’d achieved a new feat. It was perfect timing as a group of my friends had arrived to cheer Nicole and I on. I can’t express how much life it gives you to see smiling faces that love you and bring brand new energy into your day. After running for 5 hours already, they completely refreshed me, celebrating my PR achievement with me by drinking white claws and laughing around a mini heater.

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Simone went out for guest laps with me, helping me through my sixth hour and getting me to 39 miles. It was at this point, still feeling mentally strong, happy and fit enough to keep going that I knew I really wanted to hit the goal that scared me: 50 miles. I knew it was achievable and within reach if I’d continue to get myself out there in the cold each time. It also scared me to realize I could hit this goal that felt so far away from me. When I had started running and raced my first 25k in October of 2018 I couldn’t wrap my brain around 30 miles, definitely not 50. When I achieved 30 miles in May of 2019, I still looked at 50 as this unattainable, crazy distance. And here I was, so close to it.

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As I said goodbye to my sweet friends, I went out for another round of miles, now completely dark and my breath visible in the lights. I put in my headphones and turned on a murder podcast (this IS how I roll). I let my mind focus on the story line as I kept rotating: run, power walk, run, power walk. Over and over until I was at 46 miles. I got back to the tent, shoved my toes close to the heater and decided to get something to eat. The aid station had made vegan mac n cheese and I made a hot cup of tea to warm my hands before heading out for my final four miles. It was roughly 1am at this point and the cold was ominous to continue going out into.

I sat putting off going back out for nearly 45 minutes. But there I was, stuffing hand warmers into my gloves and zipping my coat all the way up to my chin. It was time to finish this goal and make it a reality for the first time. As I began to power walk out for my 47th mile, my shins were sore and my muscles were completely cold. Running was not an option on these laps, so I power walked as hard as I could. I completed my 50 miles at roughly 3am, looping the course with others out there trying to achieve their own goals. Pushing past their own mental barriers, their own physical obstacles, all together mile after mile. Loop after loop. the same footprints over and over. It’s a special experience being out there alongside so many others doing incredible distances, striding beside many of them reminded me I could do this for another hour if they could be out here for hours longer than I had been. Days longer even.

To some in this realm fifty miles is a small number but to me, it was an unattainable amount that absolutely terrified me to consider striving for. But here we are. Only 5 days into the new year. It truly shows that we are capable of ANYTHING and everything we put our minds, will and grit towards. I didn’t continue to push after that, even though we had six more hours to accrue more mileage. I was satisfied and so proud to hit such a big milestone and decided to spare my knees.

I’d of never attempted this without Nicole’s encouragement, the kind and supportive messages, texts and reminders and the breath of fresh air that came from my friends showing up to cheer us on in the cold night.

Heat Training on the Trails: How Do You Do It?

 

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If you didn’t know already, I am based in Phoenix, Arizona meaning….July is hitting 113 degrees. Asphalt, seat belts, steering wheels all scald you and you have to pray for your plants to survive. So…how do you run in 90+ temps? If it was easy, everyone would be out doing this and exposing yourself to the hot temperatures can be good for your training and endurance! We, as humans, adapt to our surroundings extremely well — heat is no different. This article by iRunFar goes into thermoregulation and how our bodies adjust to temps, it’s a really informative and helpful read!

From personal experience and reading extensively, these are the tips that are extremely beneficial to keep in mind:

  1. Do the majority of your key workouts during the most friendly conditions: usually the early morning or, if you’re lucky, cooler days. Here in Arizona, that means early mornings before the sun comes up, when the temps are as cool as they’ll be all day. Bonus: you can run with your headlamp and running in the dark is a completely different experience on the trails!
  2. If you truly want to acclimate, running in the heat of the day is probably best for seeing adjustments towards feeling comfortable. However, you have to adjust your speed as your heart rate will spike rapidly with the effort and stress of running in such high temps. Trail Runner Mag suggests, “Different protocols abound, but the general rule is 60 to 100 minutes of moderate exercise in hot conditions every other day for a couple weeks will get you most of the heat adaptations you need.”
  3. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration! Everyone has different sweat rates—you can calculate yours in a lab to get exact results, or use a simple few-step process to get a helpful but inexact guideline (see on online calculator here) If you truly dislike drinking water, keep a water bottle nearby and force yourself to drink your medicine. On the flip side, be sure to steer clear of overhydrating, which can cause hyponatremia, or low sodium levels.
  4.  Have you heard of “precooling“? MapMyRun shares, “This is another strategy you may want to try, especially when running LSDs, a marathon or ultra in the heat. While elite runners use elaborate gear such as cooling vests, try something as simple as eating a frozen Gatorade slushy before your race. This helps cool your internal body temperature and delay the inevitable rise as long as possible.”
  5. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather you are training in: light colors and technical fabrics that will help wick sweat more effectively are key. Protect your eyes and face from the sun with a hat or visor and sunglasses. Continuous access to cold fluids is ideal. If you’re running long, try to plan a route that either loops by your home or a convenience store with access to ice. Wet towels frozen the night before your run can be useful before and during a run. Dumping water on your head throughout your run can also be an effective cooling mechanism since it increases evaporation from your skin.
  6. How is your mental talk? “Adjusting your expectations at the outset will undoubtedly contribute to a more successful race or workout. Nonetheless, don’t always expect the worst. Pace yourself appropriately and you may be surprised by your performance, especially after you have given yourself adequate time to adapt to the conditions.” MapMyRun Not too long ago I was listening to a podcast that talked about positive mental talk, even when you don’t necessarily believe what you’re saying. If you’re struggling or hurting or mentally in a bad headspace, acknowledging that will only lead to more of the same negative thoughts. Instead, saying, “I love the heat! Training in the sun is the best!” may actually assist you to start believing that. Just as much as saying, “I feel better than when I started!” when you’re struggling may actually help you push through walls and the pain cave when needed.
  7. GearJunkie interviewed one of the best hot weather ultra-runners, Jax Mariash, who said, ” Heat train by exercising in a hot room (hot yoga, step-ups, treadmill if possible). To acclimatize, try hot-weather training in the middle of the day. (Bonus: No crowds on the trails.) Also, spend regular time in the sauna. Seriously.”
  8. Electrolytes and Salt Tabs are your new best friends: while sweating more, we also lose a lot of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Be sure your water has electrolytes to replenish these vitamins and minerals and keep up your sodium levels with tabs! My favorites are: Nuun electrolyte tablets for my water and SaltStick Fastchews for sodium replenishment. I don’t go anywhere without them, especially in the summer.

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MapMyRun shared some great things to be on the look out for while running that may mean you’re being dangerously affected:

  •   Heat cramps: These are simply muscle spasms caused by fluid and electrolyte losses. They can be readily addressed by proper hydration and reducing your effort level if you encounter them on your run.
  •   Dehydration: For most runners, up to 4% dehydration is safe, but anything beyond that can cause problems. Start your run hydrated, drink to thirst on your run and rehydrate well afterward.
  •   Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include dehydration, nausea, headache and a body temperature up to 104° F. Stop your workout immediately, and get to cooler temperatures before it becomes heat stroke.
  •   Heat stroke: This is extremely serious and can quickly become life-threatening. Symptoms include a body temperature of 105° F or higher, disorientation with clumsiness, confusion, poor balance and a lack of sweating. Get medical attention immediately!

Do weight lifting and trail running go together?

Before I really turned to the outdoors with hiking and trail running, I was invested in bodybuilding and Crossfit. While both of those seasons of my life were important for their own reasons, I see a vast difference in how I view and use my body now versus then.

When I was more focused on weight lifting, I was really focused on the aesthetics of my body, instead of what it can actually do. While Crossfit upped my endurance and I got in good shape, I still wasn’t utilizing it to become a truly fit and apt person (some do, don’t get me wrong, but I liked the results physically over the things it could allow me to do). Now, I see how weight lifting can compliment my goals as an athlete. It is a vehicle to help me balance out and strengthen muscle groups so that my body functions more efficiently, quickly and stronger over time. When I started taking running seriously I still wanted to balance working out, yoga, and doing other things that bring me joy. I didn’t feel like I could get the hang of what would benefit me as a runner in the gym and what I could be doing to help me get stronger at my new passion. So I started researching.

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If you’re trying to figure out how to balance out lifting and running, I am still working on it. What I can say is: you should do both. Cross-training is really important for becoming a strong, well-rounded athlete and also helps you to stay injury-free. If you consider what you’re doing on the trails, you’ll realize just how many muscles you’re actually working. The act of trail running demands different muscle usage along with uneven, varied terrain with a lot of ups and downs, which means you’re using different sources of power all the time. Consider just the aspect of running downhill: “Effective downhill running requires superior strength of the posterior chain (muscles of the backside of the body) and proper femoral control (the alignment of the femur in the hip),” says Dr. A.J. Gregg, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at HYPO2 High Performance Sports Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. How do you get posterior chain strength? Lifting some weight.

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Did you know there is never a time when both feet are on the ground at the same time when you’re running? Runner’s World states, “Each time you land, one leg absorbs multiple times your body weight at impact so focusing on single-leg strength and stability can add up to big performance gains and injury prevention.” Their great guide for several exercises to incorporate here.

I do a lot of body weight workouts: pushups, pull ups, planks and sit ups, TRX rows and dips as well as weighted upright rows, cable pull downs and so. many. variations. of lunges. Squats, glute bridges and bands have become my best friend.

Some really useful exercises I focus on are:

1. Bulgarian Split Squats (from Runners World): “Start standing facing away from a bench or chair. Place the top of your right toes on the bench or chair with slight bend in right knee. Place hands on hips for balance. Bend left knee to lower right knee to floor. Press through left heel to return to starting position. Repeat for 10 reps then repeat on other leg. Complete 3 sets. Work toward 3 sets to fatigue (when you can’t do any more reps).”

Why: Split squats build the single-leg strength needed to propel you forward through the trails. They also challenge your balance and help build your smaller, stabilizing muscles that often get overlooked.

2. Overhead Squat (from Runners World): “Start holding the resistance band with both hands, feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out, and raise arms up overhead, elbows locked. Hinge at the hips to send butt back to squat down as low as you can, encouraging gluteal contraction, and keeping your back as straight as possible. If you can’t do a full squat at first, hold on to something stationary at shoulder height. Start by doing three sets of 10 with arms extended, then work up to doing three sets of 10 with your arms overhead.”

Why: You need a lot of power—through a large range of motion—to run fast and efficient on the trail. This is especially true when the terrain heads uphill or is very technical, requiring maximum agility. The overhead squat is a time-tested exercise requiring full-body range of motion. It takes some practice to get it right, but there is no better exercise to encourage maximal gluteal and hamstring activation. You will gain strength and neuromuscular power you could never hope to achieve on a squat machine or with a typical half-depth standing squat.

3. Step-Ups (from MotivRunning): “Using a box or bench at a gym, or a picnic table or park bench, start with both feet on the ground. Step up with one foot, keeping the knee and ankle in alignment, and your hips square (picture keeping a level waistband). Step up onto the box and back down. Repeat with the opposite foot, and continue alternating feet. Build up to maintaining good form under fatigue. Do all reps on one leg before switching to the other.”

Why: Step-ups teach you how to drive one leg at a time to improve running power. They also help build knee, ankle and hip stability, and help strengthen glutes and the whole posterior chain—which is important, Warner says, because runners are generally quad-dominant. These can be done on a box at a gym, on a park bench or even off the edge of a patio deck—with or without dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand.

4. Single-Leg Good Mornings (from MotivRunning): “Stand with knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. Lift one foot slightly off the ground. Keeping your knee aligned over your ankle and your hips square, reach forward as if picking up a tennis ball or barbell off the ground (it’s OK if you don’t reach down that far; hinge forward only as far as you can keep a flat back). Concentrate on stabilizing your spine and maintaining a flat back through the movement and not collapsing your chest as you bend at the waist. Return to standing. Repeat on that same leg.”

Why: Like step-ups, Good Mornings work the postural chain to counter runners’ quad dominance. They work hamstrings and glutes like deadlifts, but don’t require weights. Single-Leg Good Mornings build ankle, knee and hip strength as well, which can help ward off ankle sprains. And maintaining postural integrity while doing this exercise helps reinforce good posture while running, which is critical to being able to breathe deeply.

5. Around The World Toe Taps (from MotivRunning): “Stand with feet hip-width apart, legs slightly bent. Lift one foot slightly off the ground, and reach it forward (picture the 12 o’clock position on a clock face), tapping your toe lightly to the ground. Move that same foot out to the side (3 o’clock), tapping your toe. Move the foot/leg to the back (6 o’clock), tap your toe to the ground. Move the foot/leg behind your standing leg and to the side (9 o’clock), tap your toe to the ground.”

Why: Trail runners need strong—and mobile—hips. This exercise creates hip stability through a variety of positions and also works ankle stability. Plus, it challenges balance and forces strength and awareness through different planes (forward, back, side and side). Since running is moving in one direction, this can help diversify your awareness in different planes.

6. Alternating Side Planks (and any other plank variation!)

Why: Protecting against adductor injury, maintaining posture under fatigue, and improving upper body strength. This exercise also helps knee stability, which is essential for running effortlessly down technical descents. (Running Magazine Canada)

7. Glute Bridges: “Lie on your back with your knees bent and firmly on the ground. Lift at the waist so your body forms a straight line from the knees to the shoulders, and place the weight on your feet and shoulders. Straighten one leg for 10 seconds before switching to the other. Make sure there is no weight on your neck.”

8. Clam Shells (from Healthline):Lie on your side, with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Rest your head on your lower arm, and use your top arm to steady your frame. Be sure that your hipbones are stacked on top of one another, as there is a tendency for the top hip to rock backward. Engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button in, as this will help to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Keeping your feet touching, raise your upper knee as high as you can without shifting your hips or pelvis. Don’t move your lower leg off the floor. Pause, and then return your upper leg to the starting position on the ground. Do 20 reps on each side.”

Why: Not only is it incredible for strengthening the hips, glutes, and pelvis, but the clamshell can also help to prevent injury and ease lower back tension.

Do you have a favorite exercise you incorporate into your routine for running? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

Still don’t believe me that trail running is the creme de la creme of fitness?! Read this awesome article by Core Running that focuses on just how good the trails are for us!

How Running Went From a Weapon to a Helping Hand

I’ll just come out and say it: my relationship with food and fitness was not always healthy. This topic is one I haven’t addressed as much as other things I have tackled. It is harder for me to go back to these years and reflect on just how lost and hurting this version of me was. How I masked all of that with things many couldn’t see on the outside. All of this to say, if you are struggling with the way you look or the ways you feel not good enough. If you feel like you have to make up for living a fulfilling life, eating delicious foods or to look a certain way by exercising, this is for you. Because there can be a healing and a light at the end of that tunnel.

In college, I battled an eating disorder many couldn’t see. Restricting what I ate to only extremely bland, “healthy” foods before struggling with binging and purging. I spent two full years hiding it from close friends and family with extreme guilt, shame, loneliness and fear. I had different aspects of my life that felt were out of control, situations from my past that were eating away at my self confidence and ideas of self worth that led me to the things I felt I could control: my weight and my food.

During those two years, when I would ultimately cave and eat the things I was telling myself I couldn’t have, I’d use running as the weapon to erase the “damage” I’d done. I would spend an hour or two on the treadmill to make those calories disappear. Instead of loving my body, I wanted to shrink it. I wanted to disappear and that said a whole lot about my mental state at the time than the activities I partook in to “fix” my issues.

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Running 6-10 miles a day became the norm in the depths of my internal struggles and while I craved to be thin and beautiful (read: accepted), looking back, even when I was thin…I was never happy (learn more on exercise addiction here). I wish I could hug that girl up there and tell her just how good it would get and just how much healing she would find.

When I graduated and moved out here to Arizona, I struggled so much: away from every friend I had, away from every family member and in a place I had never even visited before moving to, with a job that made me completely miserable. To gain control of the fear, sadness and dissatisfaction I felt, I found another way to grasp control: doing fitness competitions. Prepping for shows allowed me to again, control my food (hello, orthorexia) and the way I looked without having to address what I was really struggling with. I could remove foods and look at it as a good thing instead of how I was depriving myself. Prepping for fitness competitions didn’t require a ton of running and during this time, I realized my attachment to it was coming from a negative place and began to hate it all together. I had never enjoyed the treadmill or the track and it further reminded me of things I’d done to my body that I wasn’t proud of. I worked in sprints when I had to for my programming but that was as far as it went. Running, in my mind, was torture. It was used to hurt, not benefit.

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I ditched fitness competitions after a year of extreme prepping and ultimately, messing with my hormones and feeling no joy in my day to day. I dug into self work and started healing those parts of me that were really wounded and broken. I didn’t need to be small, I didn’t need to fit societal standards, I didn’t need to be beautiful. I needed to be free. I needed to be happy. I needed to be healed. I also really needed to be become strong enough to face (and speak!) my own truths…. and to ask for help.

A year and a half ago, when I laced up trail runners for the first time, I had anxiety. Would this become an issue? Would it be like it was before? Would I begin to hate my body again? It wasn’t the same. I struggled with my abilities and was frustrated with my lack of excellence. I wanted to be good at this, right from the start, just like I had picked up many other sports. Trail running humbled me, forced me to slow down and do a whole lot of deep thinking. And a year ago, when I had a near death experience, trail running became my source of healing.

Everything shifted for me. Instead of using it to punish myself, running became my salvation. Instead of struggling to have control over everything in my life, running began to teach me to let go. To embrace. That nature and the trails can’t be controlled, and therefore, I had to go with the flow. I could look at the weather and it would say clear and sunny but then find myself stuck under a tree in hail and rain, my only option to laugh it off. I began to grow in those areas of question marks where I used to struggle with fear and releasing the reins. I began to thrive in those moments of unknown instead of trying to fit everything into those snug, safe boxes. I began to shed the idea of what beauty and perfection was and began to see that my wild-ness, my wrecked nails, my unkempt hair and dirt-covered legs were perfectly enough for me. The dimpled skin, the few extra pounds and allowing myself to eat the things I wanted to nourish my body up these mountains instead of stifling it into a waif-ish frame became powerful. Look how strong. Not how small.

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It began to teach me that I am mentally and physically strong and that I am resilient and brave. It reminded my body that I can trust it, it showed me my PTSD triggers and how to overcome them while running. Instead of using those miles to erase shame and guilt, I was pushing out miles to face hardship and learn how to endure. Instead of using running to break my body down, it was helping me become tougher, to take pride in my body, to feel it work hard and to praise it for its efforts. Running became my teacher and healer, it taught me how to love my body again and how to appreciate everything it does for me. It taught me how able-bodied I am and brought me so in tune with nature that I can’t imagine diminishing the thing that allows me to experience it all ever again.

It takes a lot for me to share this slice of my story, but I know how much opening up those conversations can do. I know how much our weight, our looks, our sense of self love can effect us. I know how hard it can be. I have struggled to get to this person and I have fought to meet her. The trails and the outdoors have gently shaped me and aggressively encouraged me to grow and I am so grateful to look back at 2012 me up there and say, “we did it, sister, we made it out, and we are healthy”.

 

 

My First Ultra: Race Recap

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This was the first race I went in to feeling calm, zen-like and like I’d done everything I could do to prepare. My first ultra: a 50k. My first effort to run over a marathon. My first experience racing at night. Of course I wouldn’t to hit such a monumental moment by adding the challenge of running deep into the night onto the docket. But there we were, picking up our bibs, laughing with friends and family that had come to send us off, lining up in the corral waiting for the send off. 7pm came and it began…. we ran through the Start line and began the adventure of being able to say I was an “ultra”-runner. Not just a trail runner. 

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The single track was smooth, pristine and rolling. Our conversations were effortless, laughing as we discussed Game of Thrones and the finale…how the four of us each claimed our own throne. We watched the moon begin to rise under a thin blanket of clouds…just wispy enough to make it hard to see without a headlamp.

Runners from the shorter races began to pass us, the leaders of the packs sprinting by, breathing heavily, sweating and working as we moved at an easier pace, our breathing wasn’t labored. It was a completely different feeling to not be pushing and to remember at only 8 miles in, we had hours to go.

When we hit the remote aid station, everyone rejoiced over orange slices, dates and gummy worms as the sky began to clear and the moon shone overhead. We snapped off our headlamps and ran in the dark, holding conversations with other runners we came across as we listened to their stories: finishing 100ks, pacing loved ones…everyone had so much to share, everyone has a story.

The second, shorter loop had a climb that we could see in the distance as we approached. All the headlamps dotting the side like twinkle lights, we could see the different runners spaced out on the ascent. What looked like it would be challenging wound up being really enjoyable as it gradually skirted the hill and dropped back over to meet the big loop. Dirt was flying up into our faces as other runners passed us by, heading into the finish line of their 15k and 25k distances with determination, I wanted to speed up with them! I wanted to feel that push! Again, I had to remember we were only 15.5 miles in to a 32 mile race. Patience was everything, ego had no room here. 

Heading out again into the night, we were facing our second long loop and this time there was no light-hearted conversation, no funny jokes, no laughing. This time all of us were still, in our own minds, in our own zones. Battling our inner dialogues, our bodies, this effort. No one can prepare you for what you face when you challenge your mind and body in this way. No guide can describe the rollercoaster of emotions, the feelings, the doubts, the re-ignition…the depths you meet to keep pushing.

I felt it coming, the sharp itch in my throat that meant tears. I was 21 miles in and I’d pushed the last 5 a little too hard. “I can’t maintain this pace… I know you guys want to go faster and I’m holding you back”. My chest was burning, it was nearly 11:30pm and the mind was becoming a heavy presence. Taking shots of Gatorade I could feel a toenail that was detaching and a blister between my second and big toe that felt… alarmingly large. I tried to ignore them, nothing that can be done about them now. .

We left the aid station as @scott.edward1 reminded me we could slow down, we didn’t need to go faster, he didn’t want to and he only wanted us to finish. My nose began to sting and I felt a few tears well up, I was trying my best and my mind was trying to say my best wasn’t enough. But it was. We slowed our pace as my stomach ached, no longer wanting solid foods or gels.

Scott came up, running beside me massaging my neck, encouraging me as I let out a few frustrated tears. He held my hand in the dark with the big full moon over us and all the insects chattering. My mind started to calm and we ran into our final aid station with him reminding me I am strong the whole way.

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We went out for our last loop, me thinking “6 miles… I do this every Thursday morning. This is nothing now.” I put one headphone in and “Happy Song” by Bring Me The Horizon came on. The playlist I’d crafted a month earlier knew I needed that heavy guitar, the angst…and it worked. My legs sped up, my breathing stayed steady and I pushed before meeting up with Mikey on the backside descent of the hill we’d had to climb. For the last 3 miles we sprinted with what we had left and told each other there was no stopping, we were pushing through that finish line. My body tried to resist, but my mind stayed firm. So we did. And when we did, when we hit that finish line, tears came again because I didn’t reach this goal alone: it took every kind word, every cheer, every bit of support for me to get there.

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Gear used:

Racing tank + shorts: Janji Apparel

Shoes: Hoka One One SpeedGoat

Pack: Nathan FireBreaker 6L

Headlamp: BioLite

Chafing Cream: Squirrel’s Nut Butter (Vegan)

Gels: Spring Energy

Salt Tabs: SaltStick Fastchews

Recovery Aid: Runners High Herbals

I just want to start upping my mileage…how do I get there?

 

56528989_10156916317180619_4536699449967116288_o While some desire speed most, others are more interested in learning how to put in longer and longer distances. That is what my goal is and if you’re anything like me, sometimes wrapping your head around some of these bigger distances seems nearly impossible. 

My first race was in October of 2018, the Sky Peaks 25k in Flagstaff which equals out to roughly 16 miles. A week before that I had never run over 10 miles. A week before. While there are some who are naturally gifted, some who have been in the running game since high school or have built up their long distance endurance with hiking, others of us really have to work to pursue those miles. For me, adding on mileage has never felt “easy” or “simple”. I feel those added miles and it took me nearly six months of running 5-6 mile chunks before I felt confident enough to pursue double digits. It took one person to believe in me and tell me I could do it while running that 10 miles along side me, pacing me, to convince me I was capable. Once I hit that 10 miles, my confidence rose so much I felt like I could conquer any distance with the right mindset. 

So, how do you start inching up your mileage?

Slow Pace: while you may be able to do 3-5 miles at a faster pace, as you add on you want to slow your pace down. When you slow your pace down you aren’t stressing your body out which means you can run further and further without over-exerting. Your beginning pace should be aerobic and allow you to hold conversations easily without feeling out of breath. If you’re feeling good it means it is easier to pick up your pace at the end of the run and finish stronger instead of going out full force and bonking a few miles in.

Flatter Trails: Instead of focusing on elevation gain and a lot of vertical, as you are adding mileage you should focus on trying to stay low and focus on just that: distance. Working in runs focused solely on climbing or speed is also necessary, but allowing your long runs to be just that: long, is really helpful and your body will appreciate it!

Mid-Run Fueling: when you start upping your mileage you need to become much more mindful of your caloric intake during your runs. By rule of thumb you should be taking in 200-300 calories/ hour. As REI.com states, “the exact number of calories depends on several factors, including the length and intensity of your run and your body type: A larger person will likely need more calories per hour than a smaller person. Likewise, someone doing a very strenuous run will need more calories per hour than someone doing a short, easy run.” You will learn what foods your body is able to handle as you begin adding on mileage as well as what it feels like to “bonk”. If you are starting to feel fatigued, clumsy or emotional: it’s time to sip more water and eat something!

Positive Self-Talk: If you go out saying “I can’t hit 10 miles” you probably wont. Our mental self-talk is so important and it is crucial when you’re going further and further. If you can tell yourself, “I am going to be out here for two hours,” you are more likely to be successful. You’ve already prepared yourself for how long you’ll be running and any walls you face within your run, you can talk yourself through. You can break your runs down into 30 minutes segments or by mileage: 2-2-2-2-2 =10. Sometimes giving yourself benchmarks is what it takes, even if that is just telling yourself to get to the next cactus or trail post. Telling yourself you can do this, even if you are having a hard time believing it is so important – even outloud! Give yourself those words of encouragement loud and proud.

Training Partners: nearly everything is better together and that is no different when it comes to long runs. When you’re uppingyour mileage it is so helpful to have friends out there along side you, cheering you on, helping you through the discomfort and the walls you may hit along the way. It is also helpful to have a “rabbit” — someone who is a bit ahead of you so that you have someone to follow after if you’re going through a tough patch. Being able to feed off of other peoples energy can be extremely valuable because lets face it, when you start passing that 5 mile mark, things can be a struggle. Muscles hurt, things chafe, your mind can really fight what you’re doing and having support through those moments is a game-changer. However, getting to the point where you can support yourself in these long runs is important too — getting to know yourself and in your own mind is super valuable if you consider racing or want to pursue hitting trails solo, you’ll know how to tackle your blocks internally and your confidence in your own abilities will continue to grow. 

Weekly Goals: say hello to my favorite feature on strava. Setting goals allows me to hold myself accountable by setting weekly mileage goals or time goals. If I plug in that I am aiming for 30 miles during the week, it will subtract the distance I do each day, letting me know how close I am to hitting that goal by the end of the week. It lights a fire within me to reach it without any other outside influence. I also really enjoy going out for time-focused runs as those are great for getting your body adjusted to being  up and moving for that long. Your feet need to adjust to taking that kind of pounding for hours too! The more time you spend running, the stronger and more prepared your body (and mind) will become.

Two-A-Days: Sometimes breaking things down into smaller chunks is the way to go, as trailrunnermag.com states, “as your volume climbs, it’s more difficult mentally and physically to get all of your running done at once. So use the time you have—run in the morning, then again at lunch or after work. Even better: run commute to work in the morning and evening. Many professional runners throughout history have run twice a day for many reasons, including somewhat controversial ones like optimizing natural hormone production. But stripped down to their essence, double runs allow you to add more stress without the injury risk that consistent longer runs entail.

I’ve always been on the more cautious side as I’ve upped my mileage, preferring to take it little by little instead of large jumps in distance to protect myself from injury or overworking muscles that aren’t used to so much volume. Playing it conservatively, in my opinion, means I will be healthier and able to do this for longer! It may seem tough to follow your own pace and listen to your body instead of doing (or wanting to do) what everyone else seems to be doing around you, but I promise, if you listen, your body will tell you what it is ready for. There is a difference between discomfort and pain as well. One is temporary as you are in the moment, the other is telling you, “hey this is an injury”. Being able to determine what your body is telling you is extremely important as you start adding on. “Is your body dehydrated? Heat-exhausted? Just sore? Is something really wrong?” Your mind will always try to stop you before your body will and knowing what you can safely and healthily push through and what you need to stop for is key. Adding on 2-3 miles at a time, I think, is a great goal. You may find that that is too much and you need more time or that you can add a little more volume. It also really just depends on the day and how strong you feel! Allow yourself to be just where you are and you will find: this sport has so much to show you about yourself and your capabilities!

I’m nervous to join group outings…is it worth it?

I’ve been avidly exploring the outdoors for nearly 5 years and I will admit, at least 3.5 of them I sought out being alone most of the time. I loved the solitude, I didn’t have to bend to anyone else’s schedule, pace, time frame. I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable in silences or worry I wasn’t saying enough or too much. I didn’t have to do a trail I didn’t want to do. I could go out in any condition I wanted. I truly, fully enjoy my own company and I had told myself: this is good enough for me. I convinced myself this was just me in my truest form: a lone wolf that was independent and didn’t need anyone else. And while I still love my solitude and am very independent….I have learned that community….is literally everything AND I had just been afraid to reach out and form connections with women because…it is scary, the risk of being rejected or it not being a good experience. Let’s face it, in our pasts, we may have had bad experiences try to “fit in” or connect with other females. And truly: I think female connection is the most powerful thing on the entire planet.

When I look around I see groups everywhere: on Facebook, MeetUp, through local businesses and organizations. What drives us to seek this out? What value does it bring us? Biologically we’ve been in groups for centuries but since I’m not a history buff I will share my personal thoughts that stem from seeking out female outdoor companions and ending up forming our own small weekly group.

About a year ago I felt like something was missing from my life: connection. I had gone through a traumatic experience and I found, while I needed healing I also craved the community of other females. I have close girl friends but I was used to spending my time alone or one-on-one, groups weren’t really in my comfort zone and made me socially anxious. I started saying yes to meeting up with new ladies I felt in my gut I would connect with and little by little…those girls would bring a friend and I would find myself in a small group that felt…safe. We’d get into conversations that would only happen in the wilderness: with no barriers up, no masks and so much vulnerability. I thrived after those days out, sharing and exploring. This blossomed into more and more experiences that weren’t alone that I valued so much I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done this sooner.

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I had wanted to go to a group trail run but was intimidated to go by myself (because…so many strangers that were probably better and faster than me) when one of my friends offered to go with me. When we went, my anxieties and fears of a group of strangers began to wash away. Having one person offer helped me break down a barrier I’d had up for quite some time. We started running together and soon we realized, how many other females must feel this way? Nervous. Intimidated. Uncertain. We wanted to empower and encourage other women just like us, who truly were feeling fulfilled and capable and confident because of being together.

The first week it was three of us simply meeting at a well-known trailhead to do a small run. We knew each other well, we hit the trails and talked as the sun rise came up and celebrated after with coffee and donuts for a belated birthday. THIS. We needed this to become a tradition.

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The next week there were five women….then seven….then nine. What is coming from this group we knew we needed but didn’t know would be so enthusiastically sought out? Maybe you’ve been wanting to go out and join one of the group meet ups or ask to join some ladies or invite other ladies to join but are too nervous to do so. Maybe you’re wondering… what is there for me to truly gain from being a part of a group? Especially of all women?

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Authenticity. Connection. Accountability. Growth. Goals. Support. 

  1. Authenticity — It can be hard to reach out and ask to join something or invite others to join You. It takes so much to put yourself out there and take the risk. We come out here with the simple goal to spend time with females who love pushing themselves and getting outdoors. Showing up exactly as you are and meeting new ladies that you can learn from and lean on. It’s an open invite and welcoming people warmly is the most important thing.
  2. Connection — there is no better place to make deep connections than in nature. Setting up this group, it was destined to bring genuine, deeper discussions that fosters bonds that go beyond a “hey how are you?” kind of talk. Instead of feeling like a “lone wolf” you feel like you’re a part of something bigger, where everyone wants you there and you belong. Belonging is essential to us. We need love, we need to be heard. We need to be seen.
  3. Accountability — Having a set day every week makes it easy to get into a routine. There is also a slight amount of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that can come up if you think of backing out because honestly, seeing everyone together with coffee and donuts after makes it worth it. It means you are expected and wanted to show up and therefore, you begin to hold yourself to the accountability of attending. It feels good. You feel good. It’s a win win.
  4. Growth — You’re guaranteed an hour of exercise and honestly, seeing each other push themselves, hearing what other people are pursuing winds up inspiring others to set their own goals, reach for new ones and achieve things they didn’t think they could. As I like to say, “it takes ONE person to tell you you’re capable, for you to start believing it”. Having a group of cheerleaders makes you feel like you can truly do anything. Watching multiple ladies say “I’m want to hit my first half marathon, this is my first five miles, I want to run my first race, this wouldn’t be happening without you all” — that is everything. E55A9FCC-AFD2-42E5-A1C8-A8BACAB1AAC5
  5. Support — Creating these bonds means you can struggle and share, ask for advice, ask for comfort and naturally people will reach out to be there for you. They want to support your goals, your achievements, your struggles and challenges. There is nothing more powerful than having people accept you and show you they are there for you no matter what.

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We are all looking for some sort of connection and in this group, it is happening. If you’ve ever considered attending a group meetup for hiking or running, please go. Go and put yourself out there. Try the new sport. Go to the painting class. Learn the new language. Reach out to the girls you want to join in the outdoors. Foster the connection because so much growth and good comes from it.

Do you have any experiences from joining these groups outside that have made you better or have become huge positives in your life? Please share!

The Post-Racing Blues… is this what I’m feeling?

IMG_5392I really want to use my blog to give tips, tricks and to also share the REALness that I experience as I am growing in this sport of trail running. It is not always easy, the miles aren’t always effortless and sometimes, things get hard….really hard. I want to share and diminish stigma that is connected to some of the topics I come head to head with and the Post-Race Blues happens to be one of them.

Saturday I ran my first ever trail marathon race with Desert Dash Trail Races in Nevada and when I crossed the finish line I felt good. I felt proud and sore and aching but overall, happy — the emotion I had expected to feel. But as the day went on and we drove the 3.5 hours back to Arizona I began to feel…heavier. This continued as I drove the 2 hours more back to my home and once I stepped foot into my apartment those feelings of elation had diminished. I found myself voicing to my boyfriend that I was feeling depressed and to be honest, I have had some heavy feelings weighing on me to begin with (I’m coming up on my 1 year anniversary for the traumatic situation that led to my PTSD). HOWEVER, I had worked so hard to get to this race, to feel those sore muscles, to hold the medal at the finish line. Why did I feel so OPPOSITE of overjoyed?

Sunday I didn’t want to much of anything, I felt groggy, slow and exhausted. These tendencies match up with how I feel when I’m struggling with bouts of anxiety and depression and being able to label this has somewhat helped. I let myself lie around, nap, did some light stretching and just tried to be gentle with myself but still…the blues were hanging over my head. I found myself researching, “is it common to feel depressed after a race?” And you know what? It is. *Queue the weight dropping off my shoulders*

TrailNerd has the best example for what I’m feeling as they share, “After a long bout with huge spikes in excitable hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine as you might experience in the 10, 12, 18, 30 hours of an ultra, there has got to be some physiological payback. It’s like taking your favorite t-shirt that you wear gently every day, and sending it through an industrial car wash over and over again. That t-shirt is going to display some obvious signs of wear and stress and fatigue, both visibly in color as well as below the surface in the strength of the fibers and the resilience of the cloth. Your body, after an ultra, has a massive spike in all kinds of “bad” things like cortisol, cytokines, other stress hormones. Those, coupled with a change in training load (like maybe down to zero for many days in a row), are going to have an effect on your general state of wellbeing.” Wow. This makes so much sense. I have put my body through an industrial car wash of hormone manipulation, obviously this is going to mess with my overall wellbeing for a bit. While I had run a “fun run” trail marathon, it is different when it is in a “race” setting. You don’t stop and relax at the aid stations like you can with your friends on a Sunday. You have people running up behind you, passing you, you are running up on others…this can be exhilarating but also stressful. You’re exposed to the elements while also trying to push yourself because….this is the playing field where you do try to press just a bit harder than you would during a casual run. AKA: A lot of different elements that are going to over-exert, over-stimulate and most likely, deplete your body.

Trail Runner Magazine has an article that talks all about this and how it is very common for athletes and yet hardly ever talked about. This consistently blows my mind that so many will face these feelings, struggle through them and never open up and share with others about it, meaning…you just face it alone. This should not be the case, for anyone, at all. TRM states:

Post-race blues could involve situational depression, with the blues developing at least partially in reaction to an outside stimulus like a poor race or injury. Situational depression is semi-controversial because it doesn’t meet some of the requirements of clinical depression, but as described by the Atlantic article, it can lead to that outcome for some people.

It could be related to the “arrival fallacy,” a term coined by positive psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Happier, where reaching a long-term goal reduces happiness levels since the “atmosphere of growth” was what mattered most all along.

It could be a combination of psychological principles, a type of post-achievement let-down where reaching a goal moment leads to a loss of purpose that manifests similar to other depressive episodes. ESPN described it as Post-Race Let Down, or PRLD. Google “post-achievement depression” and you’ll see 94,000 hits of people with similar experiences in wildly different parts of life.

Perhaps there is an evolutionary reason. You don’t want to get complacent after killing the antelope, because the lion could be coming any moment.

Maybe it’s biological. Hard events release the stress hormone cortisol, affecting homeostasis in the endocrine system.

It could be genetic, involving a family history of clinical depression. It could be hormonal, stemming from a lack of endorphins in the days following an event. Or it may just be a byproduct of trying to get by in a complicated world.

For me, this is the foundation I use to check-in with my body. Where are these feelings stemming from? Where am I feeling these emotions in my body? I immediately resonate with the “arrival fallacy” term along with the post achievement depression term. I also highly feel the lack of endorphins and how much stress and energy doing something likes this takes from your body. I feel my heaviness in my eyes, my head feels a bit foggy and I feel somewhat disconnected from the things happening around me. I tend to feel a bit more reclusive and giving energy to others around me is very challenging to do. I need the time and space to recharge and get back to “me”.

I feel like these “Post Race Blues” are completely relatable for other things as well: the big trips we plan for the year that come and go, completing your first big summit, completing an epic thru-hike. The ends of things we build up to can be really hard to process (yet these emotions aren’t always talked about with others). So how do you handle them? Trail Runner Magazine gives great guidelines:

  1. Talk to someone about it: share how you’re feeling with others and you may realize they have felt the same way and you’re not alone and at the least, you’ll find comfort in not just dwelling in your own head. Talking to a professional is also VERY highly recommended for anything coming up*
  2. Let your body recover: racing and pushing our limits with our physical bodies is a form of trauma. It maxes out our hormones, breaks down our muscles, causes inflammation and can effect the endocrine system — all to achieve our goals. Our bodies also deserve the REST needed after to get back into tip top shape.
  3. Process Over Results: Results are now behind you, a brief moment in a long life. It’s OK to care about results to add meaning and purpose to the life process, but to put them on a pedestal is almost always a mistake setting you up to have the arrival fallacy give you a rude awakening. I have seen athletes win some of the biggest races in the world, and post-race blues come for them just like they come for all of us. There is no result that will ever satisfy the achievement monster lurking in most of us.

They also give a great tip to write out affirmations for yourself:  “I am enough” or “I am freaking awesome” or “I love me some me.” If you’re in the midst of post-race blues, you might not believe it right this second. But hopefully, with some time, you will soon be able to see just how true those statements are.

TrailNerd suggests the work of “mentally re-framing the whole situation: those “bad” stress hormones that pile up after an event? It’s probably better to think of them as recovery hormones. They are what your body is doing to repair what you just endured.”

Learning more about this term and that I’m not crazy thinking I’m feeling out of sorts seemingly “out of the blue” has helped a lot to remind me, I’m just doing my best and I’m human and so many others feel what I’m feeling right now and maybe just don’t voice it. You’re not alone either and if this resonates with you, I hope these tips and little ways of analyzing what is happening in your body helps!

 

How Running Is Helping Me Tackle PTSD

7E45EC6E-CE9B-453F-B79F-D8EC71F2BC4FLast year on May 1st, I faced a life-altering experience. An experience that led me to my first trip to the ER, my first IVs, my first near death experience, my first loss, my first ambulance ride and my first surgery. It was a day I will never forget. A day that still rocks me to my core. It led to PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (I highly recommend reading up on this as it effects many more people than you think, and it may be someone you love dearly).

How does trauma and PTSD affect a person? Psychology Today states, “Many individuals who have survived severe events can talk about what they experienced and hold tremendous insight into how it affects them, yet they still do not feel any better. So many of us are walking around with an activated body with no cognition to make sense of it. Traditional methods of such as talk therapy and pharmaceutical intervention often fall short in fully treating trauma. The lack of mind-body connection in conventional treatment is why many traditional talk therapies often fail.

Once I was home from the hospital I didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t do much of anything for two weeks, the pain and hormones were overwhelming. My body hurt, my mind was consumed, everything felt…heavy. Heavier than I had ever felt in my entire life. That heaviness held on for days….then weeks…then a month. I got through my days hardly functioning, hardly talking to anyone else, hardly able to keep myself afloat. The strange thing about PTSD is that every single moment feels like a land mine, waiting to set off your anxieties and emotions. Instead of risking stepping on one, I would turn inwards. I became even more of a hermit, as I am a pretty big introvert as it is. Groups made me nervous, the idea of being around strangers made me quake. I felt disconnected from nearly everything and everyone. I was angry, sad, depressed, confused…I was grieving and mourning and terrified. Nothing made sense anymore and it became a downward spiral for my own health.

By June, I sought out a trauma-focused therapist. We began working through my symptoms, my triggers, my childhood. I cried more than I had ever cried, I felt things I had never allowed myself to feel. I unearthed a lot of my own truths I didn’t even know existed. It is scary. It is humbling. It is eye-opening to face your real self and come to terms with things you’ve lost, things you need to let go of and the ways you’ve coped for so long…it felt normal, but not healthy.

As I delved into therapy, we began running more. The more I ran, the more I felt….alive. Free? Unburdened? Everything. I felt everything. Running became my source of truth. It opened me up and allowed me to be vulnerable when I tried to resist and bury it down. When I went out, I would feel my breath quicken, which brought on panic attacks. I would begin to cry on the trail, being completely ambushed by emotions I wasn’t facing. Soon, I’d have to train myself that my faster breathing while running wasn’t panic, it was work…and I had to learn the difference. I had to re-teach my body and my mind that I was safe. I had to learn how to regain my own body’s trust. It was like holding a child’s hand while crossing a very busy street. Over and over and over again. Sometimes this child still pops up. My fear of a panic attack still bubbles to the surface, especially when I’m running at elevation. The tightness in my throat and chest as my body works to gain more oxygen actually makes my body feel like I am out of control and in danger. It takes a lot of learning about myself to realize how to recognize and calm these triggers. Psychology Today directly comments on these sensations saying, “while running an individual can experience an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, discomfort in the stomach and overall muscle tension. These feelings are also common experiences of the trauma survivor. In teaching the body that it can experience these sensations, while staying safe and in control the individual can help work through these previously stuck sensations and help the body restore to a balanced state.

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Psychology Today wrote an article about how running may help address psychological and emotion wounds, which I quoted above. How does running fit into the healing process? PT states, “Research has started to demonstrate that aerobic exercise not only increases levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are important neurotransmitters involved in thoughts and emotions but that it may also combat the effects of stress and anxiety on the brain. The body’s natural opioids and endocannabinoids, which are responsible for experiencing a sense of euphoria and well-being, sedation, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects as wells a decreased sensitivity to pain are also found to be released during aerobic exercise (Portugal et al., 2013). You can imagine why naturally triggering these neurochemicals could be important for any of us, especially those of us carrying a trauma story.

This is what running has become to me, a moving meditation. My feet rhythmically striking the ground over and over. My breath repeatedly moving in and out, in and out. The air is fresh, nature surrounds me…I don’t hide away from struggles, I run through them. I face them head on, I feel what comes and I let it go. I leave those heavy emotions on the trail behind me and with every mile I am becoming a stronger, more grounded version of myself. Marrying therapy and running together for me has been profoundly healing. I have gone from struggling to run 2 miles to hitting 26.2. I only run on trails and I feel like this has impacted me greatly. You have to face steep climbs, rocky descents, animals, flowing water, pokey plants, bad weather…you face it all. Every trail I am on teaches me something new about myself. Sometimes they make me dig deep into my own struggles, sometimes on the flat trails I have more time to reflect and think. Other times they make my heart feel like it may burst, they lead to singing, shouting, laughing out loud…and sometimes crying. It is the most freeing and truly vulnerable space I have outside of my therapists office. It is the most safe place I have ever found. It allows me to be, to feel, to face…whatever I need. I am still healing. I am not recovered. I feel a lot of deep emotions and after effects to this day. I am continuously unearthing things that feed into the triggers I have had. I am continuously growing and humbling and peeling off layers of myself that don’t serve me and don’t better me.

**IF you feel like you may also be facing PTSD, I highly recommend you seek out a trauma-specialized therapist to speak to. I highly recommend every person speak to a professional as nothing has been more profound for me than taking that step. I highly recommend you put YOU first and take care of your mental health as much as you take care of your physical body.

Trail running recovery tips that will keep you on the move

 

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Being active, whether it is lifting weights in the gym, going to yoga sessions or hitting the trails, is a lot of work. Your body will feel and recover differently based on the activities you partake in. One thing I’ve noticed is that many people don’t realize just how much energy and strength trail running takes! Balancing on loose terrain, pushing your body up and down trails and being out in the elements is a completely different type of workout that will leave your body aching, tight and sore in ways you may not be accustomed to.

So how do you recover from a trail run? I’ve found there are quite a few things that make recouping more manageable so that I can consistently hit the trails without them taking a serious hit on my muscles.

 

  1. Epsom salt – I take baths with Epsom salt religiously now, probably 3-4 times a week if we are being honest. I am sore in one place or another regularly and soaking in salt for 20+ minutes makes a difference. Epsom salt baths aid in the absorption of magnesium and helps to reduce muscle pain, soreness, bruising and strains. I add roughly 2 cups to my bath and just relax.

 

  1. Foam rolling + stretching – There’s nothing I dread more but absolutely need more than stretching and foam rolling. My psoas and IT bands get absolutely wrecked running and I fear how tense my muscles are when I attempt to roll out. But once I’m done, I feel nearly brand new. Being consistent with rolling and stretching is key to being able to stay consistent. Massage sticks, foam rollers and balls that help with trigger points in deeper tissue are a must. Don’t know where to start with positions to roll out? Here is a good source focused on runners’ needs! Stretching is also very important to implement. Muscles get so tight and won’t work properly if they aren’t given the attention they need. Here are a few great stretches you can incorporate into your days to keep your body moving smoothly!

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  1. Runners High Herbals – This is a local AZ company that is changing my running game one oil and rub at a time. Runners High Herbals uses ingredients that are wild-harvested (in a sustainable manner) and/or organic; and free of GMOs, gluten, synthetic perfumes and dyes, parabens, and un-natural preservatives. They have a line utilizing hemp (CBD) that I swear by. I use their Super Herb Plus roll on oil and their Some Like It Hot balm for pre and post runs. The balm is spicy and I use it on my sore, achy areas to relieve pain, inflammation and irritation. The oil I rub on any muscles that are feeling strained or overused.

 

  1. Massages – Massages may be a little pricier and I don’t do them nearly as much as I should but they save my life every time. Getting deep into the tissues and releasing built up toxins and fluids is so important for running. They recommend you come every 2-3 weeks, especially if you’re extremely active in the sport. Common styles of massages for runners are deep tissue massages that target superficial and deep muscle layers and fascia with deliberate, focused, sometimes intense work, Swedish massages for big competition days, recovery after hard workouts and pre-race, Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) for injury focused work and Trigger Point massages for injury work on IT band tightness, calf strains and hamstrings.

 

  1. Eating – Fueling up for recovery is essential! According to REI journal, post run should be fueled by foods high in protein while hydrating with electrolytes. High protein post run will help your muscles rebuild tissues and simply recover from the hard work you’ve put in. Electrolytes (like Salt Stick) will help replace the sodium and potassium that you lost while you exerted so much effort. I’m all about my food intake and can feel how hungry I am after a big, exhausting run. Usually I will crave a lot of vegetables (greens are harder to get on the trail) and something hardy like a big burger.

 

  1. Staying active – the first thing you may think to do when you’re feeling really sore and achy is to not continue moving. DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) can feel brutal and the last thing you want to do is move some more. However, that may hinder your body from healing properly. Active Recovery, aka gentle movement, allows the muscles to gradually slow down, keep working and then start to repair so you are ready to go when you ask your body to do something again. This may be through biking, walking, light hiking, swimming or yoga (my favorite). Yoga tends to be my go-to active recovery method because it not only helps my body heal but also soothes my mind and continues to help me train my breathing techniques. I get a lot out of my yoga practice and it shows when I hit the trails if I am being consistent or not. Recovery does also include rest days and low effort days, but completely taking the foot off the pedal may be more of a negative than a positive!49343328_10161568721895529_6846670189040238592_o