The Need to Run

Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com

Everyone has a why. Whether it’s running, or hiking, trails or not. For many the why that started it isn’t the same as the why they still do it today.

For me my why of why I started running is the same as a story many women are stepping forward and sharing. It’s my #metoo. But that’s not why I am here today. It’s not a story I care to retell anymore. I’ve moved on.

Me getting ready to run at the Crested Butte Ultra 105k back in September

Even today my why can change throughout the year. But RIGHT NOW, RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT, my why is ME. Trail runner, mountain mom – these are the essence of who I AM. But right now, right now I’m the mom of the kid who needs spinal surgery. I’m the mom who doesn’t know when she last washed her hair. I’m the mom who has become better than the care coordinators at the hospital at coordinating care. I’m the mom who can pretty much give you a tour of the entire Children’s Hospital and knows where most every department is – because I take my son to all of them. BUT THIS ISN’T ME

This is not who I am. I hate this. Right now I’m just that mom. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom, just not when I have to do this. Not when I have to lose the essence of who I AM so my family is ok.

The mountains are calling. 

Right now, my need to run is more important than ever. If I don’t do it now, I feel I will be lost forever. I don’t mean that I’ll die, but that I will lose the essence of who I am. I need the trails to remind me what the earth beneath my feet feels like. I need the wind through the trees to remind me what fresh air moving feels like. I need the birds singing to remind me that hospital monitors are not the song of my life. I need the cold crisp air of the wintery mountains to remind me to breathe it all in. I need the colors of the sun against wilderness to calm my overstimulated mind that is sick of city noises.

I need to run. I need to feel my body do something other than phone calls and paperwork.

I need to run. I need to be hungry for quality food that sustains an active life.

I need to run. I need to be physically tired so my mind can rest.

I need to run. I need to feel the burn in my legs and lungs to remind me I am still very much so alive and not the zombie I feel like.

I need to run. I need to just BE ME, even if only for an hour.

I need to run. I need to run on trails. Because if I don’t I just might lose myself.

Even in winter I long to be on the trails.

Topo Runventure 3 Review

Believe it or not I never ran until college. When I did start running for real the only shoes I liked were true minimalist shoes – as in so minimalist you could role up TWO pairs and put them in a Nalgene. My mom called them rubber socks). Prior to that you’d only catch me barefoot or in riding boots (and then military boots). I couldn’t run a mile to save my life when I first started, but that’s exactly why I started running – to save my life from an abusive relationship.

Remember these?! Yea I loved them! I could get 1000+ miles per pair. I wish they would make them again.

Anyways, up until a couple years ago all I wore were New Balance Minimalist shoes…..until they quit making them.

Since than finding shoes has been a pain. Eventually I settled on Salomon S/Labs. These are no longer meeting my needs, getting narrower and a wee bit odder every year (this year they added new ‘socks’ to them). My feet were torn apart from them being too narrow on my last run in them. However I really didn’t want to lose the ability to stick to wet slick rock that these shoes provided. So here began my next round of hunting for new trail shoes….again.

I already gave my brief review of the Topo MT-3 (here). I still love the overall fit of Topo so next up came the new Topo Runventure 3.

Specs

Best For: Trail Running

Stack Height: 20mm (0 drop)

Heel to Toe Drop: 0MM

Weight: 7.6 oz (W7) (215 grams – only 10 more than the new S/Lab Sense Pro SG)

I really like these. One thing though is I wear a full size smaller in these compared to my other Topo’s. However – this means that they fit more true to size in comparison to other brands. So Now I wear a W9 in New Balance, Newtons, Altra, Salomon S/Lab, and the Topo Runventure 3.

I had tried Altras early on in my hunt for new trail shoes while trying to stay minimalist. I really don’t like a heel to tow drop greater than 4mm and definitely prefer 0mm. But for me the Altras were too roomy. They weren’t secure in the heel or mid-foot. I also found Altras to be too much cushion and not enough support.

The Runventure’s are a 0mm drop! Woo Hoo! They are a bit more cushion than I’m used to but they have a nice responsive rockplate in the forefoot and are a fairly firm stiff shoe that really gives that support I’m looking for on trails. They fit much narrower in the heel and mid-foot while still allowing plenty of toe space. Running downhill in these was fantastic. I had room to splay my toes but at the same time I had ZERO issues with my foot sliding forward or hitting my toes on the edges of the shoe. There’s ample toe protection too.

The Runventure also boasts an awesome sticky Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole. While it will be a bit before I can really test these in some mountain terrain (thanks COVID), Vibram has a reputation for having amazing sticky outsoles. And fresh out of the box they were sticking to my floor, so I have no doubt they will be fine. The outsole also has a fairly aggressive tread, but not so aggressive that it’s uncomfortable to be on pavement for sort bouts. These will fair well in wet muddy terrain and soft sandy trails and anything in between.

My biggest complaint about the MT-3 was the lack of breathability. These are much more breathable than the MT-3 with a durable coated mesh and drainage ports. They still aren’t as breathable as I’d like but this I will sacrifice for the rest of the shoe.

The laces are standard laces but they aren’t as slick and slippery as the ones on the MT-3 so they stayed laced with no problem. You’ll notice my funky lacing pattern – most shoes (not just Topo’s) that use standard laces put a pressure spot on the top of my instep. By simply changing the lacing pattern and pairing with a heel lock lace, I can alleviate this issue – Yay no numb toes (took me years to figure out this was why).

My funky lacing to relieve pressure on my instep.

Also happy to announce the women’s shoe is not pink or purple. It comes in Black/Grey or Green/Grey (men’s come in Black/Blue and Grey/Red).

These are definitely comfortable too. Fresh out of the box I happily got a solid 11+ miles with no issues. My friend got a solid 10 miles fresh out of the box with his as well.

My friend John’s new pair after their first 10 miles fresh out of the box.

If you’d like to try them for yourself go here. Bonus my friend John is an ambassador and often has options for discounts. Just reach out to him here or here.

Stay tuned – up next will be one of my new packs from UltrAspire (either the Basham or the Astral 3.0)!

Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 4L Review

So the thing that started this spurt of mini review was that my former favorite running pack – the Nathan VaporMag – ripped at a seam substantially enough that I lost my favorite pair of cold weather arm warmer (which I sadly can’t replace).

Busted seam in my Nathan VaporMag

Nathan has awesome customer service and promptly replaced my ripped pack with a new a one. Unfortunately the VaporMag has been discontinued, so they sent me the closest thing – the VaporHowe 2.0 4L.

I’m going to upfront about my overall opinion – I hate it. It will be going to my good friend who loves the VaporHowe line. That being said there were some good things about it too.

Really the only thing I didn’t like about the VaporMag was the lack of a place to store my poles. The VaporHowe has two times the capacity and still NO PLACE FOR POLES. Also, with the added capacity you’d hope at least one back pocket would be reachable while wearing. Instead they are all deep pockets that just layer outward on each other, with the outer most pocket being a vertical zip. To get anything out the whole pack must come off.

The VaporMag upper back pocket is just open (and no nothing ever fell out). The VaporHowe uses velcro closures. The closures are nice but velcro and long hair don’t mix. My hair was constantly catching on the velcro and geting pulled out.

The VaporMag is a super breathable mesh. The VaporHowe is the compressive stretchy material. This material is super soft, but also super hot and not breathable at all.

The fit isn’t great either. While the size was correct and the pack sat appropriately on my body, the straps made it too tight. Full I couldn’t even buckle the bottom strap without inhibiting my breathing and one strap equaled lots of bounce. The new straps aren’t stretchy (in theory the fabric of the whole pack is supposed to stretch with your body’s movements).

Ok so what did I like?

The one thing I really liked about the pack was the big pocket for a phone up front. It is underneath one of the water bottles and more than fit my iPhone X in it’s case. This pocket is rater resistance line ONLY on the water bottle side, not the side against the body, so sweat is still a big issue here.

The bottles are 20 oz (600 mL) each which is double that of the VaporMag. They also have a spine to help them not collapse (all of Nathan’s soft bottles do!). These bottles also have the straight straw. The straight straw is much easier to clean than the angles one. However, with how the pack sits I kept getting hit in the face by them. The water bottle on the side without the phone pocket bounced a lot once it wasn’t completely full, something with the difference in structure failed to fully support the water bottle. These bottles actually fit my VaporMag and really old Solomon Adv Skin 12 Set better than they fit in the VaporHowe, so they will still get used. (Hopefully they work with my new packs I’m testing as well – stay tuned.)

Above Left to Right VaporHowe Bottles and VaporMag Bottles. Note the round bottomed VaporMag bottles actually can stand up full on their own which is pretty awesome. The VaporHowe bottles cannot.

It has a nice little pill pocket with an emergency whistle – unfortunately I lost everything I put in the pocket as is has no closure.

The pack is compatible with a 1.5L hydration bladder and comes with a magnet clip.

The pack comes in colors other than pink. In fact they sent me a blue one. And it has reflective materials/printing on front and back.

If you’d like to try it for yourself you can get it here (or probably your local running store).

Stay tuned for more reviews as I find my new running favorites. Next up the Topo Runventure 3 shoes.

Topo MT-3 Review

Recently I’ve really been struggling with running it seems – not the actual act of but all my gear failing/no longer fitting properly. My pack ripped, most of my running bottoms don’t fit, my trail shoes just ripped my feet apart because they don’t fit right, and so on. So I’ve decided as I start my journey of finding new things I will share my reviews.

So to begin – really I should start with the Nathan VaporHowe2.0 4L but I’ll come back to that one.

For now, the Topo MT-3 trail/road combined surface shoe. (note I wear 1 full size larger in most Topo shoes than other brands)

Specs:

  • Best For: Trail Running
  • Stack Height:25mm (heel) // 22mm (forefoot)
  • Heel to Toe Drop:3MM
  • Weight:8 oz (W7)

These have no rock plate and not too aggressive of a tread.

They are SUPER comfy! Definitely going to give them that. Even running fresh out of the box on beat up blistered feet, I was comfy. They are a lot more cushion than I’m used to on trails but not so much so I couldn’t feel the ground.

They use traditional laces. This is good and bad, I found the lace material to slip a little so over the course of my run my shoes got slightly looser. My heels slip around in these despite having used a heel lock lacing pattern – which I think is because the lacing didn’t remain tight.

About halfway through my run I realized my feet were on fire. It looked like the shoes were retaining my sweat but I wasn’t 100% sure. Afterall, my feet had been pretty hot when I put the shoes on in the first place. I decided I would go stand in the river for a moment – this would both cool my feet off and really give me a better sense of their breatheability.

They took a bit to get wet! Ok Yay they seem to be fairly water resitant. But once they were wet – they never really drained, AT ALL. So I wasn’t crazy that I felt like they were retaining my sweat -they were. I do think this actually would be nice in winter conditions where you don’t want snow to get your feet wet or the wind to make them cold – the rest of the year these are going to be pretty toasty shoes.

I also remember when I first put them on that the upper material seemed really loud and crinkly to me. I just thought it was annoying.

Overall, I think these would be great shoes in the winter. They are definitely comfy, but too hot and not breathable enough for the rest of the year.

If you’d like to try them yourself: https://www.topoathletic.com/womens-mt-3?color=95

So You Don’t Have Time?

Once upon a time I said I was going to write a book on overcoming excuses (particularly around living a healthy lifestyle). Well that never really happened. I did however write this mini chapter on the age old excuse of not having time, so I figured I’d share it with you.

Nobody is too busy; it’s just a matter of priorities. -Unknown 

The age old excuse everyone uses at some point is “I don’t have time.”

The truth is everyone has time. We all have the same amount of time every day. We all get 24 hours or 1440 min or 86400 seconds each and every day. Weird to break it down isn’t it?!

Let’s say you sleep the recommended 8 hours every night. That still leaves 16 hours or 960 minutes or 57600 seconds of your day. 

So when you say you don’t have time, you’re telling me that out of 57600 seconds you can’t find 1800 to set aside to workout out?? To take care of your body? You only get one, remember. 

We all have time, it’s merely a matter of priority. You will always make time for what you feel is a priority. Let’s say you have a deadline coming up and you haven’t even started to work on the project. I’m guessing you suddenly have all the time you need to get it done just before the deadline? Am I wrong? No? I didn’t think so. 

Among all the excuses I hear for why people don’t take care of their bodies, not having time is the most pathetic. Some of the most amazing athletes I know work just as many if not more hours at their day job than the average person. They also volunteer, eat, sleep, oh and that’s right – they take AMAZING care of their bodies. 

Let’s take Clare Gallagher for example. Claire is an amazing young woman. She’s a world renowned ultra distance runner. Women’s Winner of the Leadville 100 Mile race in 2016. She’s also a tutor, an avid environmental activist, traveler, and just down right good ol’ Colorado Mountain girl. My point is she MAKES TIME. She tutors for a living and runs as a passion and to care for her body. It’s important to her so she makes it happen. 

Clare at 2019 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run going through Robinson Flat Aid Station. She went on to win this race too!

Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to show up for the others that matter in your life. 

So let’s break the day down further. I promise you still have time even with a job and community activities. 

We’ve already determined sleep leaves us with 57600 seconds in our day. Let’s assume you work 8 hours a day. That will leave you with 28800 seconds. Commute time for many is about 2 hours a day: ok down to 21600 seconds. Time to get ready in the morning and time for dinner at night totals 3 hours: leaves 10800 seconds. 

Did you read that?!

You still have 10800 seconds every work day left!

This isn’t even looking at weekends. All you really need to take care of your body is 1800-3600 seconds per day to workout! This would mean you still have 7200-9000 seconds every day to do whatever else it is you like to do. That’s a lot of time.

Alright you get it. You do have time. But how do you prioritize? How do you “make” the time (you that you already have)? How do you get over it? 

First things first. You have to want to have time. No matter how much you may need it, I guarantee if you don’t want it it’s not going to happen. Let’s look back at that project. You may not really like what you’re doing for that project. It’s probably why you procrastinated in the first place. But if you don’t finish it on time you will lose your job. Therefore; you inherently want to finish so you don’t lose your job.

If you honestly don’t like working out and taking care of your body then look at the other reasons why you’re doing it. You want to live healthier because?? Because you want to see your children and grandchildren get married? You want to go on a cruise and be comfortable in that new bikini? You want go places you can’t go by car? Etc…Write these out. Put them on your wall. Remember that yogurt commercial where she hung her “Itsy bisty teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini” on the wall until she fit in it? DO THAT!

Second, look at what you are doing. What are you doing during that time you could be using? Are you moping about how you don’t like the way you look and feel? I promise doing something about it will help more than moron about. Are you watching TV? Playing video games? Dinking around on Facebook? All that time could be used to take care of yourself!!! Heck there’s a lot of things you can do while still catching up on your favorite shows. Hop that dusty old elliptical for example. Or pre cut some veggies so they are easy to add to your next meal. Honestly there are lots of things that can be done while watching TV. Still watch live TV with commercials?? Every commercial break is now a mini workout. Tadaa! Multitasking at its finest. But seriously, do you NEED to be doing these things? Heck do you REALLY want to be spending hours on Facebook? Set your phone down, turn on some up music, and move your body!

Third: SCHEDULE IT! Yup, that’s right, put it on your calendar. Make your phone go off an hour ahead of time. It’s a mandatory meeting between you and your body. If you are a procrastinator there’s a couple options. Schedule it for first thing in the morning. Then it’s done, it’s out of the way of everything else and you don’t have to think about it the rest of the day. This is also a great way to get blood flowing and help you wake up on the morning. Another option is in the evening. Then it’s your last thing, your making it happen because the deadline is up, you are out of time so you have to fit it in. Downside is for many this can keep you up if it’s too close to bed. I recommend it be a couple hours before you plan to sleep. One thing I did in college to get through my long days was scheduled time right smack dab in the middle of the day. This helped break the day up and gave me a new burst of energy to go into my afternoon labs with. 

It’s all a matter of making yourself and your health a priority. Priorities always get time preference. And remember: you only get one body and you can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself first. It’s true when they say you can’t pour from an empty pitcher. So make yourself a priority and I promise you, you do have time to fill yourself up. 

Trekking Poles…Everything You Need to Know (Including Why You Need Them in the First Place)

All right let’s talk about trekking poles. If you’re like most people I know you don’t use trekking poles because you don’t need them.  But trekking poles are one of those things that once you learn how to use them, and start using them, you never go back.

They have so many benefits and there’s so many different styles out there. It’s almost a little overwhelming. So let’s pause, take a step back, and talk about why trekking poles are so fantastic. 

First, they help relieve some of the weight and pressure you have on your knees and your back, especially when you’re carrying a baby. Let’s get some of that weight off your back by putting it into your arms. 

Me trail running with the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles.

Second, they help with balance, another super important thing when you’re hiking with your child. It’s a lot easier to lose your balance when hiking with your baby, and trekking poles can help you maintain your balance. I cannot count the number of times that poles have saved me from falling on my ass or dropping my baby face first down a mountain. Kind of scary to think about, but in reality, it happens. People trip. People fall. Trekking poles can help you to not face plant your baby down the mountain. That, in and of itself, is enough of a reason to use trekking poles when hiking with a child. 

Poles also help give you more of an upper body workout. With trekking poles, you can take a little bit of the workout out of your legs and get more of a whole body workout. The very first time you use poles, do not be surprised if your arms and shoulders are crazy sore and you can’t figure out why. Probably your poles. 

Trekking poles help you to find soft spots in the ground, especially in the winter or after a fresh rain or snow fall. They can keep you from post-holing, whether it’s post-holing into mud or snow. Post-holing, for those of you who don’t know, is when you basically you take a step and your leg goes down and makes a big hole, like you would make if you were digging a big hole for a fence post. Hence, this is why it’s called post-holing. Post-holing is extremely common in the winter. Poles can help you avoid post-holing. Yes, it’s still going to happen in the winter. It’s guaranteed to happen if there’s snow on the ground. But if you live in an area with quicksand, you can avoid post-holing into quicksand. You can also avoid post-holing in soft ground, muddy areas, because nobody wants to post-hole into a pile of mud. So by having poles or you can kind of poke and prod what’s ahead of you. 

Those are the major benefits of poles. There are a few other benefits, but being able to take pressure off your back, maintaining your balance, increasing your upper body strength, and avoiding post-holing are the major benefits. 

Heading down Mt Sanitas in Boulder. It was so windy that day, even with my son on my back, I thought I was going to blow off the mountain.

All right. Let’s talk about the different types of poles, because choosing which poles to buy can be overwhelming. 

There are summer poles. There are walking poles. There are hiking poles. There are ski poles, snowshoeing poles, winter poles, et cetera. 

There are poles that fold down into a three. Those are called Z poles. Those are my all time favorite. We’ll get back to those. There are telescoping poles, which are the most common and least expensive kind that you are going to find out there. For winter poles you’re going to want telescoping. We’ll come back to that one as well.

Poles are made out of different materials. You have poles made out of cork. (Yup, just like your wine corks). You have poles made out of aluminum. You have poles made out of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber poles are my all time favorite, except for in the winter when you’ll want aluminum. 

Poles also have different types of baskets. There are summer and winter baskets, and even different types of winter baskets, depending on snowfall.

So how do you choose a pair of poles?

Start by putting yourself on a budget. Poles range anywhere from about $40 to a $200, depending on what you are looking for.

So, what kind of pole do you need, and what budget do you have? 

Do you want a single pole or a pair? I highly recommend a pair. You can always just use one of the pair. 

And then you want to talk about materials. Aluminum is going to generally be your least expensive. Cork and carbon fiber are going to get more expensive, with cork being the less expensive of the two. Why?

Carbon fiber is super duper light. Carbon fiber Z-folding poles are what I use for ultra running, for when my poles need to fit in my pocket basically. If you’re a super lightweight hiker, where you only like the lightest weight gear, you want carbon fiber. Expect to pay more for carbon fiber. Also consider whether you need a fixed height or if you’ll want an adjustable height. If you’ve never used poles before, I highly recommend you start with an adjustable height. Technically speaking, the handles of your poles should leave your arms at a perfect 90 degree angle, while standing on flat ground in whatever shoes you’ll be wearing when hiking. That being said, you may want your pole height to adjust for different terrains or different shoes. Sometimes you want longer poles going downhill. You may want shorter poles going uphill, especially if it’s super steep. It kind of just varies. I like fixed height because I’ve been using poles for a long time. I know exactly which height works ideally for me, in general, on all terrain, and I know how to adjust my grip if I need to. But this is something that you can only get with practice.

So those are your starting points as you consider which poles are right for you. 

Summer baskets versus winter baskets are pretty self explanatory. Summer baskets are going to be these small little itty bitty things, basically just to prevent you from dropping your pole down into a rock and breaking it. They don’t really do much as far as debris or anything. Snow poles, or winter poles, usually have what we call snow baskets. They’re usually a couple inches around  and have little holes in them. They basically help keep that pole from sinking down into the snow, which is super helpful when you’re snowshoeing or hiking in snow. Even though a lot of times if you’re hiking in the winter your actual trail is gonna be packed, the sides of the trail probably won’t be, so having those snow baskets can help you.

Heading out to a snowy trail in Breckenridge – using my MSR Deploy TR-2 winter poles

If you’ve never had poles before I highly recommend you go with something that has an adjustable height.

Most of those are going to be telescoping, at least partially. You can get an adjustable height aluminum and then get something with interchangeable baskets.

They cost a little bit more but then you don’t have to buy a second pole for winter.

The handles come in different grips. Some of them are what we call a foam. Some of them are cork. Some of them are hard plastic. Winter poles especially are often a hard plastic or even a foam because they stand up longer to cold temperatures and are easier to hold with gloves.

Winter poles are going to be a bit thicker, whereas summer poles can be small and thin.

Basically there’s a whole bunch of variety. So, go to a sporting goods store, such as REI. Ask for some help finding some poles. I guarantee you they will have lots of options and be able to help you find something that you feel comfortable to start with. Also Montem Gear has some decent lighter weight poles for beginners.

Poles can even be used to set up shelters. Some tents use trekking poles instead of coming with pole and any tarp or canvas can be made into a tent with the help of a pole or two. And yes – I slept there completely dry through a rain storm that night.

So, you found yourself some poles. How do you use them? Find your height, where your arms are at a 90 degree angle standing flat on ground, and then you’re going to stick your hand up into the loop and then bring your hand down to the grip. This is so that if you lose your grip while hiking, you don’t lose your pole. You might drop it out of your hands, but that strap is going to keep it attached to your wrist, which means that even though you’ve dropped your pole, you have not lost it. You do not have to bend down to go get it. You don’t have to take five steps backwards to find what your pole just got stuck in. It still attached to you. This is super helpful when you have a kid on your back and you don’t want to bend over.

There are a couple different styles of use. Your ski style usage is where you take both poles forward and then you walk into them. That’s one way to use them. Another way is to use them alternating legs. So your pole hand will go forward with the opposite leg. So if you’re going to go forward with your left arm your right leg is going forward at the same time and you alternate just like you’re walking. For going fast, which is actually what I use the most, you’re going to find what’s comfortable for you. It’s gonna take a couple tries. Both techniques are valid. It just comes down to which way feels most comfortable to you.

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I am going to talk a LOT about different runners- especially one man very dear to my heart- but I promise you that this involves women (freaking scary amazing ones I might add) too!

Just WOW. This was epic to be a part of. The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (aka – WSER) is an epic ultra distance trail run from Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA that was started officially as a running race in 1977 following the horse race of the Trevis Cup Ride that began in 1955 – 100 Miles in 1 Day. The first woman, Pat Smythe ran in 1978 and finished in 29:34!! (more on history can be found at https://www.wser.org/how-it-all-began/)

This trail race is mostly single track with 18,000 feet of vertical gain and 23,000 feet of vertical decent. The weather varies year to year but often includes lows in the 30 (F) and highs in the 100 (F) with the lovely California humidity to add. Not to mention the forests are home to lovely plants like poison oak, muddy cold creeks, and often large patches of snow (this year included so much snow there were slight reroutes around it!). Oh and poles are NOT ALLOWED and the cut off for finishing is 30 hours!

To truly run 100 Miles in 1 day means in under 24 hours. And “No Sleep ‘till Auburn” applies to not only racers, but also to volunteers, family, crew, pacers (second half of race, racers may have 1 person at a time run with them and trade off at different aid stations) – and my wee man tried to apply this rule to himself too….

Needless to say it’s a long epic day for tons of people. Top runners in the WORLD toe the start line with everyone else. This year the Women’s Elite lineup was bigger than the men, including ladies like Clare Gallagher, Courtney Dauwalter, Camille Harron, Francesca Canepa, Kim Magnus, Camelia Mayfield, and many more. The race had 24% female starters making it the largest female ratio to date! (They have a goal of 50/50 ratio). So YAY ladies for getting out there.

369 racers are allowed to start. 319 finished in the 30 hour cutoff this year.

The man’s silver buckle for finishing in under 24 hours.

I got to be a part of this! It was amazing. If you’re a road runner think Boston Marathon but on trails and multiplied by 4. Everyone is out there! This year my man ran. I got to be a part of what we call crew or the people who meet the racers at different aid stations to help refill water, change so many and shoes, get food, give pep talks, deal with blisters and puke, etc. I also got to pace my man to the finish! This was amazing.


He left it all out there on the trails, finding many breaking points towards the end. He was in epic amazingly high spirits while the sun was up, even being a goof running like an airplane trying to cheer up our wee man at one aid station. Goal: just to finish. Estimated reality time: 27ish hours. Actual finish time: 23:24:09!!!!!!! He finished in 102nd place for 100.2 miles, earning some epic bling of a silver (yes real silver) handcrafted belt buckle and I got the privilege of taking him to the finish line!!

In the process I also got the opportunity to watch the winner run through (Jim Walmsley finishing in 14:08:29 breaking his OWN course record by over 21 min!), I also saw Camille (pulled out just after the halfway point due to injuries acting up), Clare (1st female – will share more), Courtney (was epic to watch her run and was in first until something happened with her hip and had to pull out), and (for my CO folks) Dave Makey!

Dave has been an ultra runner for years. A few years back he was in an incident on the trails that left him trapped under a boulder for several hours, eventually leading to the amputation of 1 leg. While he didn’t make it to the finish line this year, he continues to be an inspiration to keep preserving for many of us out their on the trails.

Now let’s talk about Clare Gallagher AND Heather McGrath; the first and last female finishers.

Clare is another CO gal. She caught the ultra running world by surprise a few years back winning the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky (with frosting in hand lol). This year she finished WSER in 17:23:25 as 1st female and 17th overall. She used her winning speech as a time to bring awareness to many things including climate changes and how it affects both the local area, our trails across the country, and places she recently endeavored like the Arctic. I’m still waiting to see the full interview from her win and I haven’t heard back yet if she brought any frosting.

Heather McGrath – a name I’d never heard before. The last official female finisher with a time of 29:59:01. While I don’t know much about her I do know this: she is a badass. She finished WSER! 100 miles on foot. She advocates for our land and trails.

If you’ve ever considered ultra racing or even trail running, I promise you ladies will find an amazing tribe of strong encouraging women who will never cease to amaze you. It also opens up many opportunities to raise awareness for causes and run land you’d otherwise be prohibited from crossing. And only in ultra and trail racing do you get to participate with the best in the world!!

PS: More on WSER can be found on my IG and Facebook as well as WSER.org

How to Spot an Ultra Runner (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

Ok, so you’re on a backpacking trip with the plan to cover a 24-26 mile loop over the course of 2 nights/3 days and all the sudden some lady with absolutely no gear comes passing you and you’re at mile 15. What the heck?!

My dear friends let me introduce to you an Ultra Runner!

My man ‘pacing’ our friend up Hope Pass during the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run.

First off what is an Ultra Runner?

We are the crazy people who run distances farther than 26.2 miles (marathon). We tend to run that distance as our weekly (YES WEEKLY) long run. So when you’re on the trails here are some tips to know you’ve spotted one such rare beast called an Ultra Runner.

1: We are only wearing trail running shoes, shorts and a shirt (maybe) and sometimes a hat or sunglasses.

2: Our gear consists of as little as nothing, whatever fits in those tiny ass running short pockets, maybe a handheld bottle with a small pouch that doesn’t even fit most phones, or a hip belt or pack UP TO 12L. And my friends that’s a big ass pack. Oh and we may or may not have poles with us- but I can guarantee you that our pair weighs much less than one of yours – this also means we’ve been known to be stupid enough to not have enough with us – so we love you when you save our asses by offering your extra food or water!

Sometimes our “gear” is hilarious and only has a small purpose….we carry it anyways…. like said stuffed fish.

3: We are running…..out in the middle of nowhere, up that crazy mountain, through that big river (ok sometimes we might power hike, walk, or even crawl…but we gotta get home. Remember – we don’t have sleeping gear!)

4: We are miles into our day before you’ve even taken down camp – and that extra cup of coffee you brewed- we’d love to chat for a minute and help it not go to waste.

My dear friend of https://lightningpickles.wordpress.com/ running across our CO Rockies …. Damn, that view!! 

5: We eat WHILE we move – but hey, if you invite us to sit with you for lunch and we have time we probably will!! Because SITTING!!

6: Your 26 mile multi-day backpacking loop is our long training run – PLEASE keep sharing your trips! We read these to plan accordingly and they can save our lives- especially when you talk about where water is available!!

Because this is fun to run through too.

7: We are probably covered in mud or trail dust – no we usually aren’t really THAT tan.

8: We have a watch, but not just any watch. It’s a fancy GPS mile recording, heart rate tracking, Strava linking, performance checking, backtracking fancy ass watch (they make really awesome ones that are great for any type of back country trips!)

And sometimes we hike…. 9: When we do backpacking trips we cover more ground than most and start as soon as it’s light, they are just power hiking training trips – simply because we honestly don’t know how to slow down or not get up and going (example: backpacking with my 23 mo old this coming summer we plan to cover 90 miles or 14 miles per day on average). 10: You’re on a multi day trip and see us on two different days but we had dinner at home and slept in bed in between and still covered the same miles you did – while I love my bed I am jealous you get to sleep under the stars – it’s just really hard to run and carry sleeping gear. Don’t be intimidated. Sometimes a chatty walk break about craziness is exactly the boost we need to make it home. So flag us down, wave, say hello, help take that crazy picture (because it’s not real if it isn’t documented right?) and know we love these trails just as much as you.

Me in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Run….ALL SMILES

SCORE! Budget Saving Deals (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

Disclaimer: No affiliation with any links provided in the post. No commission being earned.

Backpacking, hiking, running … supposed to be the ‘cheaper’ sports. Just lace up and go. But anyone who’s done even the slightest bit of research knows that it still ain’t cheap.

So with a major trip coming up that requires a major purchase (a pack in my case) how do you save money?

First off, not everything needs to be new. Check out Craigslist and the Facebook marketplace for local used stuff. I recommend staying away from used shoes unless they are a pair someone tried once and just didn’t work for them. If you are an REI member they have Gear Swaps once a year and often have killer deals in their garage sales (now available online too YAY). In CO I also recommend checking out local small gear shops. We have tons scattered around the state. And a newer up and coming bigger store is Feral Mountain Co. (https://feralmountainco.com/)

For new stuff: The biggest money saving thing is to remember that 90% of the time last year’s model is just as good (sometimes better) than this year’s new model. Closeouts can pretty much always be found 25-50% off their original retail price. For example, I’m getting last year’s model of the Deva 80 pack by Gregory. This year’s model retails at $349.99. I’m getting last year’s model for $179.99!! That’s $170 saved just for getting last year’s model.

Previous models are regularly found on discount sites. They often carry clothes and footwear seriously discounted as well. All have reasonable return policies too for when it doesn’t work out. These are my favorite to check out and all run their own sales and coupons too. (No affiliation with any, just sharing)

Sierra.com

Backcountry.com

TheClymb.com

MooseJaw.com

For the newest and latest REI often has great sales, especially around Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Plus their members discount days, 1 year return policy for members, and the opportunity to earn dividends (aka money back), makes them a great choice. Also, most major gear companies run their own spectacular sales. If you can wait for major sale weekends I suggest you do and shop around.

If you’re a blogger with major audience or a professional in the outdoor/fitness industry in some capacity, chances are you probably qualify for some pro discounts too.

Going the distance…with an infant?! (Originally posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I often get double checked on my distance when sharing my adventures with my son.

With my upcoming backpacking trip people keep asking how far I think we’ll go each day. And then their jaw drops to the floor when I answer 12-15 miles.

Most people don’t realize my background. I’m an ultra distance trail runner. That means I run further than 26.2 miles at a time on mountain trails. I’ve been doing this for years.

Me running in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile run

My last multi day trip was 155 miles in 3 days. The longest day was 55 miles. That’s all carrying about 30lbs dry weight (not counting water weight). So when you compare that to miles carrying weight and sometimes a kid that’s not too bad.

We’ve also been hiking together since he was a few months old; working on building my strength carrying him and his tolerance to altitude. So far our longest single day hike (leaving after breakfast and being home before dinner) was 12.34 miles and gaining about 2300 feet in elevation.

First overnight with the wee man. This pack doesn’t fit right and made for some rough times.

So when I say for a multi day trip I think we can do 12-15 miles each day, I’m not joking. If you break it down. 12 miles per day at 2 miles per hour (30 min mile) is only 6 hours of hiking. That means more than enough time for lunch and breaks and naps and never rushing out of camp in the morning. We’ll be going in July when sunrise is before 6 am and sunset isn’t until well after 8 pm. This leaves more than enough time to have daylight for all activities without setting up or taking down camp in the dark.

Another consideration is that my last multi day trip was in the same area. We’ve also done lots of day hikes in the area. I’ve hiked every single mile of trail in the wilderness area we are going. So while I don’t have our exact route planned yet, I know the area very well.

I know many people think I’m crazy and that’s ok! It’s crazy fun and I love it.

Memories from my last multi day trip in the area we’re going. This was about 5 pm after a day of torrential rains.

First overnight with wee man. So peaceful once I got him down to sleep. We share a double sleeping bag.