My journey to trail running and ultra racing began around the middle of 2012 after a devastating foot injury that abruptly ended my track season (5K). I was absolutely devastated, taking tons of time off to really heal – road biking and aquajogging to maintain some kind of fitness. My friend Ashley had already been putting the bug in my ear to start racing them with her every since she completed Avalon 50 in January that year. Finally, after being a part of her crew for San Diego 100, I finally saw the light. Total light-bulb-in-the-dark-kind-of-thing. I was amazed and impressed and I knew that is what I wanted to do. Before I knew it, it was July and I was registered for Cuyamaca 100K
with her and we were going down for a 50K (!) course training run. This would be my longest run distance EVER, and it was the day I realized I knew NOTHING about trail running or ultras including all the things you actually need and not just because they look good. Read about this dreadful 50K training run here.
Although I still feel new to ultra running, I have trained, raced, crewed and paced enough to experiment with gear and nutrition to know what works for me and to know exactly what I like.
Here is a short list of items that I believe in — all of them carried me through 2013 and I feel confident in recommending them to anybody.
SHOES: PEARL IZUMI
Trail – E:Motion N1 – $125 (www.pearlizumi.com)
Love on the trail!
I bet you saw this coming, especially after my announcement about joining Team Pearl Izumi -Ultra
a week or so ago. Well let me tell you – I don’t promote stuff I don’t believe in, and, I won’t be on just any
team for the shoes. My love for the brand happened after I received my first new pair of TN1’s for my birthday in March. Until that moment, I was having problems finding the right trail shoe. I just couldn’t find anything that I liked, I was experiencing nagging injuries and I was discouraged. At first I was nervous to train and race in a light and neutral shoe because I thought I needed more support and cushion for steep descents and rough terrain, but they actually worked out great…AND looked sexy! The rock plate saved my toe nails more times than I can count after accidentally “kicking rocks” and the traction was enough to keep me upright (most of the time – I have a tendency to fall — A LOT, out of clumsiness). I tried and tested these shoes climbing to Mt. Baldy, raced Leona Divide 50 (dnf), took them to the Sierras, to Bishop, paced at San Diego 100 and finally trained and raced in them at Los Pinos 50k. I just love these shoes! After logging in more miles than I should have, I finally, and reluctantly tossed them – but not before receiving a pair of shoes for winning Los Pinos 50K. Guess what shoe I chose? Yep, N1s but in a different color (thank you Steve, Carlos and Run With Us). Note: The N1 has a 1MM drop. And for distances longer than 50K, I prefer to run/race in the N2 for extra protection from long hours of pounding and more technical terrain.
Road – E:Motion M3 – $125 (www.pearlizumi.com)
Pearl Izumi EM M3
A few months after getting my N1s, I decided to give the road shoes a try. Although I wear a neutral shoe without any issues, I slightly pronate on the right side. The Pearl Izumi M3 seemed like the best fit as I wanted a shoe with light stability and decent cushion for loading on my weekday miles on the road in preparation for my marathon. I was extremely pleased when I opened the shoe box – they looked amazing, and the colors were so bright and bold. After logging nearly 100 miles, I had became a full-fledged Pearl Izumi fan. I ended up racing in them for my marathon
to as I had only trained on the road in this model. Typically I would have chosen a lighter racing shoe (Road M1), but since I didn’t train in them, I didn’t race in them. I prefer wearing a more cushioned road shoe when I log in higher mileage on the road – kinda makes me feel safe (from injuries), my legs and feet feel less fatigued the following day, and when I switch to a lighter road shoe for speed work and tempos, I really feel like I am flying! Note: This shoe has a 4mm drop.
Injinji – $12-$15 (www.injinji.com)
RUN 2.0 Original Weight Mini-Crew
I swear by these socks and until someone tries them, they are a little weird-ed out by the toe sock theme. I wear injinjis during all my runs – to help keep a lot of the dirt out between my toes that would otherwise rub and cause blisters. I also like my feet to feel dry and since my toes don’t touch skin to skin, I never have to think about it and get grossed out again! After long trail runs it’s funny to compare my feet to someone who is wearing regular socks – mine come out dirty, but WAY more clean. Admittedly, they do feel weird until you put your shoes on then you don’t think about it again.
There are three thicknesses – Lightweight, Original Weight and Midweight. I only run in Original and Midweight and I wear Lightweight to work or whenever I wear regular shoes that require socks. I prefer running with the No-Show on the road and Mini-Crew on the trail to keep debris out. Not much else to say here except to TRY THEM! Oh yeah, I saw on FB that they were going to be coming out with some crew length styles in 2014 – YES!
UltrAspire – ~$55 (www.ultraspirestore.com)
UltrAspire Spry Racing Vest
When I first started trail running, I took my pink 1.5 L Camelback everywhere until I started having a few issues: back chafing on my spine and pilling on the front of my favorite running tops from the straps rubbing. Because I didn’t just have the money to simply replace it, I started using handhelds. One morning LeftLane sports had a special on UltrAspire packs for 50% off and I jumped on it immediately and bought the Spry (1L) pack without the bladder. Like I said, I really started to like carrying handhelds – and, if I really needed a bladder, I could purchase on separately. I used this pack for a while and really, really liked (liked as in past tense because I no longer have it – another story I will have to tell later) for several reasons:
Color – I am not the biggest fan of primary colors and I especially don’t want a pack that is solid red or blue (too plain, boring and unisex looking) – I want something bright and pretty. This lavender-like color coupled with the slate grey was definitely a keeper.
Comfort: With this pack, or racing pack as it is referred to on their site, is really small and lightweight. It scored huge points since I could run in a sports bra without chafing and scabbing my spine (or anywhere else). I did also test this pack with a shirt and didn’t have any issues with pilling. Another thing I liked was the breathability – the mesh all around pack didn’t have me over heating.
Versatility: Since I didn’t use this pack with a bladder, it instead became very useful for carrying all the other stuff I “must-have” with me when I am running or racing and can’t fit it all in my handheld pockets or fanny pack. I utilized the bladder section to hold my jacket or any peeled layers. I could store my empty or full Amphipod bottle there too – these bottles have a flat back to them that sit comfortably against my back instead of a typical cylinder-like bottle.
There are three front pockets – two large and one small magnetic closing pocket. I always regretted having a pack with pockets located on the back because I’d have to take it off just to access something I needed — not very convenient nor efficient. The left-side pocket has a zipper closure and I liked to stow my cell phone or camera (I am sure you can relate to this challenge). The right-side pocket has an elastic drawstring type closure that was big enough to put a bottle of water (my least favorite use) – I preferred to store my gels, RunGaurd, small first-aid kit and whatever else I thought I needed that day. BTW, there is a small mesh storage space on the outside of the zippered pocket that is great for storing gel wrappers. Finally, the Magnon Electrolyte Pocket™ – a very small convenient pocket that is closed by the force of a small magnet — brilliant. This water-proof (well, it seemed like it was water-proof) pocket held my ibuprofen and salt pills naked – I didn’t have to store them in a baggy to keep them dry there. Very convenient to access when running and moving. I like to keep a few bobby pins in there too since they don’t get lost and are typically stuck to the magnet.
I mentioned earlier that this pack can utilize a 1L bladder that is sold on their site. This pack wasn’t really made for long treks, it’s more of a lightweight racing pack, but there are several other models available (including a 2L option). This pack holds a little more than 1-1/2 standard handhelds out there. It is much smaller than my 1.5 liter Camelbak (about the same as 2-1/2 handhelds).
Fitletic Ultimate Running Belt – $27.95 (www.fitletic.com)
I posted about this belt in February 2011 and I still use same belt and still highly refer it (they last a long time and are very durable)! When I bought it, it was called an ifitness belt while now, the company seems to have re-branded and is now calling it Fitletic. I use this belt when I carry handhelds so I can have a safe (and dry) place to store my phone and more room to place my gels. I have copied and pasted what I had previously said about it below (changing the name to Fitletic to be more current):
With all the stuff I carry with me, I need somewhere to put it. I started with the Spibelt but everything was flopping around all over the place and I ended up getting bruises from it. I didn’t like the fact that I had to carefully pack the items inside to keep it from flopping. During a run or race, you have you need out of it without even looking down at it. The iFitness belt is really comfortable, doesn’t budge and it is also made of a neoprene fabric that protects the stuff inside from getting wet: cell phone, salt pills, etc. As a side note, I use the Ultimate Running Belt Style since it has particular places to hold the gels and I can also attach my racing bib to it.
Hydraform Handheld Pocket™ – 20oz. – $19.50 (www.amphipod.com)
I have tried so many other branded water bottles, but this is the one for me. I avoided buying this one for the longest time because of the color. Yes, I said that. After trying it out, I try to only use this one. The design is ergonomic and hit fits comfortably in your hand. It’s easy to pull the top open and it’s easy to close. I remember after breaking my finger that I quickly grabbed a different water bottle before my run and I had problems squeezing the water out because my finger was absolutely useless – it was this run that confirmed why I like it. I don’t want to struggle or have my hand in a position that is uncomfortable for hours on end. It’s just really a no-fuss, easy-to-use type of bottle. Several other styles available.
Big Sur International Marathon 2011 — 9-mile race
I am so happy to say that this is my third week running – hooray! I still can’t believe it. The setback really felt like it took forever! My first week back was pretty laid back, mostly test runs and by that Sunday, coach let me race the 9 mile run at Big Sur. It was more like a training run – nothing fast to brag about(Click here for a quick recap). Last week was my second real week back and I got in around 46 miles, pilates and one spin class. This week I feel much stronger than last and I was exhausting myself just worrying about how much fitness I lost in six weeks. Right now I am just trying to focus on staying healthy and I am not really talking marathons at this point.
I spoke to my coach today and she told me to start thinking of some goals and (short) races so we can get me on track. I have been very curious how quickly I can run a 5k because right before my injury while training for a marathon, I would have bet that I could run around 18:00 because I was consistently running good tempo and hard track workouts. Now anything in the 19:00 range seems scary. I know that these short races will also help me improve in the mary so I am willing to do them even though they are way more painful than 26.2.
Besides running, I haven’t been up to much — well except stockpiling new gear. I have a problem, I know. But I am really excited about the two newest purchases which include Oakley sunglasses and little 6oz bottle that I can add to my favorite running belt (click here for my marathon must-haves). I have wanted running glasses forever but I am not a fan of anything masculine on me. As it is, when I am deep in training, I kind of get a complex that I look like a boy. Note: I ALWAYS wear earrings, pink and I never race without my Mac Fluidline eyeliner! Say what you want but I love being a woman… Anyway, I have already wore them in a few of my runs and they are awesome. LOVE them. Problem is that I found out I can buy different colored lenses to switch things up a bit and I really shouldn’t buy anything else. The belt bottles are really cool because they are small and I don’t like to carry things when I run. Last time I ran with my coach, she wouldn’t let me run with my huge bottle because she said it would mess up my running form and she carried for me (after first pouring out some liquid so it wouldn’t be too heavy). Thanks coach! I never liked fuel belts because they look really dorky (sorry, they do) and they bounce around a lot. I think when I add the bottle or two to it, it will look exactly like one but I don’t care anymore. As long as it works – right?
Anyway, as always, THANK YOU for all the kind words of encouragement!!!!
Love these! You see red in the lenses and I only see pink. 😉 $200
Can’t wait to test these out. $18 for two 60z bottles.
Big Sur bling. Besides the ocean views, I come for the medals!
Me and Goose. He ran the marathon while I went to CVS to buy more shampoo. At least I was there at the finish! Big Sur
Me, Ahsley, Dom and Randy. I saw Randy’s trashbag at mile two on the ground on my way in to the finish! Big Sur
These pictures are showing up more often! This is how I get real sleep – in the car!
David P – This is the third race where we ended up running into each other. He ran fast this day — 3:28 Big Sur Marathon!
I told you. They think it’s funny. So mean. BTW, my next hurt the following week.
Oxy Invitational 2011 – My coach, my inspiration and my motivator. She ran the 5000 in 17:20 but she will run 16:20 or faster in July when it matters!
Oxy Inviational – Eli Rodriguez. Speed demon. He ran 14-something for the 5000. Ouch!
I totally prepared for this photo ahead of time by wearing a yellow headband - can't you tell?
I can’t believe how crazy things seem to get! I had a billion things to do today and I didn’t get any real food in me until around 3:00 pm – talk about feeling super aggravated! The first stop was the expo to pick up my bib. Dom and I quickly navigated around there rather quickly after picking up some LA Marathon gear before heading over to the USATF booth to renew my membership (I think being a member is a good way to support one of the sports I love). We had to leave rather quickly because Dom needed to study for an exam and I still needed to see my doctor one last time before the race. We checked into the hotel and I left Dom to head to the Westside to see my doc.
Geez, I am on a roll with my blogging – let’s see how long I can keep this up? The truth is that I always have things to blog about but I get lazy and then the moment passes.
First of all, I have been experiencing a weird feeling on my left calf. I didn’t think too much of it until yesterday when I noticed it was significantly more painful. I iced last night, slept with compression socks and then iced again this morning but the pain was still there and I was really, really worried. I called my coach who immediately told me to get a deep tissue sports massage so I left work early to get worked on. The massage was sooo painful! Almost immediately I was told that it was a muscle spasm. We spent one full hour just working on my gastrocnemius muscle and it just wouldn’t let up. Of course I am all worried because the timing is so bad! My coach thinks I am dehydrated and depleted of minerals – she is probably right though because even though I am working my ass off with all this training, I am totally neglecting my normal diet. I don’t drink enough water and my bf is always telling me to drink more. Last week I had major headaches and my tongue felt really weird and dry and then I remembered that I hadn’t had much to drink over the past few days. Crazy huh? True. Also, I am putting in around 45 hours a week in at work and always short on time. It is rare that I have anything decent for breakfast and dinner (lately anyway). I eat a good lunch but then I just fall asleep with an empty stomach. Heck, when I eat at home, I do it standing up. Regardless of what is going on with my calf, my habits must change! I am going to try to prepare my meals on Sunday for the week ahead. Let’s just hope this spasm thing goes away ASAP! I took today off and am going to rest tomorrow too. Fingers crossed!!!
OK…enough thinking about that! I finally got my Boston Marathon stuff! So excited! I assume I shouldn’t wear it until Boston – right? I am a little disappointed with the shorts, I ordered a small and they seem a little snug. I think I need to try them on again to make sure I am not crazy. Either way, the colors rock – lime green is one of my faves (behind grass green and then neon pink)!