DNF: Did Not Finish or Did Nothing Fatal

Salt Flats sixty-six percent dropout rate was high for an Ultramarathon, even a 100-mile event. The Angels Crest, Hardrock, Leadville, and Wasatch 100s, all have high dropout rates due to their massive climbs, and strict time cutoffs.
I have three DNF’s beside my name (if you decide to google it) for the ultramarathon distances. My first DNF was at Speedgoat 50k 2012, which is advertised to be the most difficult 50k in the lower 48 states. My second was at the Buffalo 50 mile run in 2013. The third, Pony Express 100 also 2013. A DNF comes with the territory of running Ultras. There are so many things that can go wrong when you are pushing your body and mind to their limits over 12, 24, or 36 hours.
Speedgoat 50k is held at Snow Bird Ski Resort in Salt Lake City, Utah. It takes place at the end of July. The weather in July is typically hot, 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the valleys. But, Speedgoat is not in the valley. It starts at 7500 feet above sea level, which isn’t that bad if you live here in Utah because the valley is about 5500 feet above sea level. Speedgoat doesn’t stay at 7500, of course, it climbs over 11,000 feet three times. The total ascent over the 31 miles (50k) is 11,600 feet. The decent is the same. There are strict cutoff times. In 2012, I missed the 21-mile cutoff by five minutes and was pulled from the race. I went back in 2013 and finished the race.
Buffalo 50 mile is not especially difficult, but it is held during the early spring on Antelope Island in northern Utah. The weather in 2013, was extremely unpleasant for running. The race director decided to give the 100-mile runners the option to drop to the 50 during the race because it was so cold. My hydration pack leaked soaking my base layer, and I ended up with hypothermia at mile 38. I decided to drop. I went out the following morning and finished the last 12 miles. In 2014, I finished the Buffalo 50 all in one go.
Pony Express 100, is run on the infamous Pony Express Route used during the American Civil war to transport mail overland using horses and riders. It is a mostly flat course and is challenging because you use the same muscle group over the whole race rather than switching to ascending and descending. Five weeks before the race, I rolled my ankle badly and rather than rest the injury, I chose to continue to run because I had a team race (Red Rock Relay), and I was not willing to let my team down since I was assigned 55 miles of the race. Needless to say, it was not fully healed when I ran Pony Express, and I dropped at 72 miles. I will finish Pony Express this year.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I also dropped out of a duathlon (bike and run) race to take over my son’s spot because he had heatstroke in the middle of the event, and I didn’t want his team to be disqualified. I finished the race, just on another team, so that is also recorded as a DNF.
The decision to drop out of a race is a difficult one and frequently compounded by not thinking entirely clear at the later stages of a race due to exhaustion, low blood sugar, and/or pain. I think many runners consider dropping at some point during a 100-mile event. It’s hard! Race directors do not want their race to be easy. They get great pleasure out constructing a challenging course.
DNF is not a failure. It’s a learning opportunity. The most important thing is to not let it close the door. Each time I have not finished a race, regardless of the reason, I go back the next year, and I finish. I won’t leave it undone.
So to all my fellow runners, who Did Nothing Fatal at Salt Flats 100, get back out there, dust yourselves off, and I’ll see you next year at the finish line.

How Bad do You Want that Belt Buckle?

I asked myself that question at least 1000 times over the 100 miles (161 km) of the Salt Flats 100 endurance event. My answer, I want it really freaking bad. Eight-four people registered for the 100. Sixty- three showed up to run. Twenty-one finished. There were fourteen aid stations on the course. You could have a pacer after mile thirty-one and a crew. On the Wednesday before the race, the race director (RD) sent an email out from the course. He said that there had been eighty mile per hour (MPH) (128 KPH) winds and visibility was about ten to fifteen feet.  

Race day dawned with high clouds, fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius), and a decent head wind of about five MPH. We started right at 7:00 am on the Bonneville Salt Flats. For about 12 miles (19.3 km) we put one foot in front of the other on six feet of salt following the small green flags. The land is barren, and makes it impossible to judge how far away something is. We were headed to a solitary floating mountain.

 Chris from Colorado, strode up next to me, “This wind sucks, huh?” I said.

He smiled and said, “You gotta look at the positive, it’s keeping the temperatures down.” Chis had finished nine 100 mile races including Leadville, twice. Chris pulled ahead of me with a wish of good luck and I’ll see you at the finish.

Our first aid station was at mile ten (16 km). I had a blister starting on the arch of my left foot, so I stopped and threw some tape over it, grabbed a few pieces of watermelon, thanked the volunteers, and continued on my way. The winds continued as we crossed some mud flats and came into aid station two at 16 miles (25.75 km). From there we followed a dirt road along the base of sage dotted desert mountains. Aid station three, 23 miles (37 km), was found at the bottom of Cobb’s Peak Road. The road wound up the canyon where I found soft pink desert roses, Indian Paintbrush, and the first two trees of the race. I paused to look out over the vast stark white Salt Flats from canyon before the road curved. The desert has a desperate beauty that stirs a place in my soul.

At Cobb’s Peak, was aid station four, mile 25.5 (41 km), and bacon quesadillas. We descended for three miles (5 km) and followed the dirt road over some rolling hills. As I neared the aid station, I was thinking about what I needed from my crew, Justin and Mike. I needed new shoes, new socks, something to eat, electrolytes, and my hydration pack refilled. I needed to get rid of my pullover because it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I ran into aid station five at 31.6 miles (51 km). Justin encouraged me to keep my pullover, but I didn’t want the extra weight. I took my arm sleeves, gloves, and my shell, super light wind resistant jacket, which I could shove in a pocket of my hydration pack.

The road out of aid station five wound around the base of some more desert mountains and then climbed up through a canyon to aid station six at 40 miles (64.4 km). From there we descended a rocky washed out jeep road, requiring some fancy footwork. The mud flats were next, deer and small animal footprints were pressed into the earth. The headwind started to pick up about one mile (1.6 km) in, a county sheriff on horseback was assisting runners who had gotten a little off the course route by about 200 feet, we were following green flags. The headwind increased to 50 MPH (80.5 KPH) and then the rain started. I pulled up my arm sleeves and tried to put my shell on. I couldn’t get it zipped up because my hands were freezing cold, even with my gloves on. I wrapped it around myself, put my head down, and pushed forward.

 “Are you serious?” I called into the wind.

I couldn’t even hear my words. It was like being in a wind tunnel; the only sound was the rush of air. There were runners about a mile or so ahead of me. I couldn’t find the green flags, I was following the hoof prints of the sheriff’s horse. She had said she followed the flags out here. Every few minutes, I glance up to sight the other runners and stay on route, as a swimmer does with buoys. Someone is going to get lost out here, I thought to myself. This is nuts.

 That’s when the question hit me for the first time. How bad do you want that belt buckle? The wind slowed my pace to 17:00 minute miles. As the rain continued, the mud started clinging to my shoes, weighing them down, and my feet slid left and right with each step. A few miles later, we turned into the mountains again, which blocked much of the wind, but the rain continued. I was freezing cold and sopping wet.

Aid station seven, mile 50.5 (81.27 km), Mike and Justin walk out to meet me as I come in with my arms wrapped tightly around myself.

“Get me in the car,” I said. Justin went for coffee and broth. Mike turned up the heat and got me fresh clothing. I sat there for thirty minutes. A huge part of me wanted to quit. I ate a chicken burrito.

“You’ve finished the hardest part, it’s only going to get better from here,” Mike said.

“It’s six miles to the next aid station,” Justin said.

The rain continued to drizzle, I put my ear buds in and turned on my audiobook, and I went back out as the sun was going down. We followed the road over small rolling hills for seven miles (11.25 km) to aid station eight 57.4 miles (92.4 km). I got back into the jeep, soaking wet, but in better spirits than the last aid station. I changed clothes again. The rain started coming down even harder. Mike gave me his rainproof jacket, which hung to mid-thigh on me, keeping me very dry.

Back out in to the rain, I trucked along the road to aid station nine at mile sixty-two (99.8 km). I changed my soaking wet socks and put on a heavier base layer. Justin told me that they are not allowing crew’s at aid ten, which means I won’t see my crew for twelve miles (19.3 km).

“Make sure you are watching for those green flags so you don’t get lost,” Mike said. None of us were happy about this change. I was planning on them getting my drop bag from aid ten so I could use the clothing in it later, but wouldn’t need at ten.

“You’ll just have to bring what you can with you,” Justin said. I made a mental list of what I needed out of the drop bag. My good winter gloves, socks, and thermal pants.

“We’ll see you at mile 74,” Justin said.

 I headed out for twelve miles (19.3 km) in the rain in the middle of the night. I climbed the road to aid station ten mile 67 (107.8 km). My headlamp showed me that there were darker and lighter patches of the dirt road. I tried to stay on the lighter stuff because I knew that the darker stuff is super slick mud. Now, I love a slip and slide as much as the next person, but didn’t want to play tonight. I reached aid ten with minimal slipping and sliding. My feet were soaking wet, but I didn’t want to stop too long because I would get chilled. I drank down some broth, shoved things in my pocket from my drop bag, and moved on up the hill.

The jeep trail up the mountain was washed out and covered with rocks of various sizes. Other jeep trails cross over the one I was on. Most intersections were marked, but there were a few where I had to make a choice. The safest bet is always stay on the route you are on rather than turn. It was still raining the trail was muddy and speckled with puddles. A helicopter circled overhead, I could see the red and white and knew someone was lost or hurt. As I reached the dirt road that would lead me to aid 11, an ambulance passed. Not good.

At aid 11, mile 74 (119 km), I climbed back into the jeep to dry out. I changed my clothes again and we put the rain jacket and my gloves on the heater vents to dry them out. I slept for about 15 minutes. I decided not to take my handheld water bottle because it made my hands cold and wet. I couldn’t pull them up inside of the jacket when I had the handheld. It was seven miles to the next aid station where my pacer, Jeff, was waiting for me.

About one mile (1.6 km) in, I was really thirsty and regretted leaving my handheld. I watched the sun come up, day two of running. Another mile in, there was a Diet Pepsi sitting on the side of the road. I passed it at first, telling myself it might be waiting for another runner. But, then I went back. The wrapper was ripped up, so I figured it fell off someone’s car as they drove away. I considered for a second that I could get a cold or something worse, but I didn’t care. I turned the cap and heard the clicking of the seal breaking. It had never been opened. Best Diet Pepsi ever!

At aid station twelve, mile 81 (130.4 km), I ate a cheese quesadilla and drank some broth. I took my socks and shoes off and dried out my feet. I re-taped them and put fresh socks on. My pacer, Jeff, and I headed out in the rain and a headwind with nineteen miles left and the last big climb. Jeff said that a female runner got lost yesterday on the mud flats between aid station six and seven. Search and rescue found her and her body temperature was at 91 degrees Fahrenheit (32.8 degrees Celsius). She had hypothermia. She was flown to the nearest hospital.

 The climb is about seven miles (11.26 km) long and aid station 13 sits at the top, which is mile 90 (144.8 km). Jeff and I have been friends for about 10 years and have run together for the last four years. In fact, my entire crew is on my relay team. We talked and the climb passed by with minimal notice, other than the puddles and slip and slide mud. At aid station thirteen, we drank some hot chocolate while the volunteers told us half of the runners had dropped out. We headed down the mountain. The wind, at our backs was a welcome change. About halfway down, we could see the finish line out on the Salt Flats. It seemed so far away. I knew part of that was the optical illusion created by the flatness.

Aid station 14, mile 95 (152.9 km), I got in the jeep for a few minutes. The wind was cold and blew off and on. I wanted to be done. The remainder of the race was on the paved road. It was the hardest road on the planet. That’s when the aches started to set into my legs. The finish line appeared to get farther and farther away as we approached. Signs count down the last five miles (8 km). Four miles to go. I’m quiet and focused on finishing. Jeff tried to block most of the wind from me. Three miles to go. Jeff talked to me about movies he’d seen and the dynamics at work. Two miles to go. We waved and called good job to the fifty-mile (80.5 km) runners who were also on the road. One mile to go. There was four inches of standing water on the Salt Flats. It was getting warm outside. I had three layers of clothing on.

I could see the finish. The people still milling about, the RD, Justin, and Mike were standing there yelling and clapping as I ran across the finish line.

The RD set the cold metal buckle in my hand. “You earned this,” he said with a smile on his face. “Worst race conditions we’ve ever had.”

“It was a battle out there,” I said. “Can I sit down now?”

The Impact of Running

No, I’m not talking about the physical impact of running. When I took up running, I had no idea just how much it would affect my life. As my family and friends know, I don’t do anything in a small way. Go Big or Go Home, that’s my mantra. Running has not been any different. Sure, it started out small and cute.
Diet: I’ve completely changed my food choices based upon my running. My body needs specific nutrients to be able to do what I want it to do. If you had told me eight years ago that, I would give up cake, bread, and snicker doodles just so I could run farther than 26.2 miles, I would have laughed hysterically in your face. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what has happened. My diet has slowly morphed into what it is today, low carbohydrate (less than 50 a day). At first, I just started to eat healthier, fewer fats and sugars. I tried to make a conscious decision about what I was shoving in my mouth knowing what I had already put in there that day or week. I noticed that I was more aware, less likely to overeat or choose cookies over fruits. I also noticed that the cravings for those things dissipated and then were gone. I don’t eat much processed food anymore. I eat a salad every day. I make my own bread from almond and flax seed flour. And I feel great all the time. I have energy that doesn’t roller coaster. My weight is stable, and so is my mental state.
Parenting: Running has provided me with wonderful insights into parenting my two boys. I know that things don’t change just because I want it and ask for it. I need to have a training program and follow it to its end. I know there will be good days and bad days. I know there will be challenges in the form of mountains, boulders, weather, wild animals, and strange people that appear along my route. I also know that I choose how to deal with them or not. If I choose to deal with it, I become stronger. I know I need rest days, and when I’m hurt, I have to take the time to heal, learn why it happened, and come up with a prevention plan. I know that sometimes in order to get better, faster, and stronger I need to recruit my supporting muscles and cross train.
Social: I have grown closer to my friends over the last four years that we have run together than ever before. Being locked in a van with five other people for 30 + hours running relays builds bonds of love and affection, just like any traumatic experience. Just kidding. No really, the bonds are unbreakable after ten relays and the trauma is easily forgotten. Running has also created friendships I would not otherwise have had because people like to know what is wrong with me to make me run 100 miles, morbid curiosity. It gets the best of us all. I’ve also become closer to my parents since becoming a runner, which is one of the greatest gifts because my relationship with them has not always been great. They are my number one and two support teams in all of my running endeavors.
Professional: I do a considerable amount of thinking about the families and children my professional decisions affect while I run. I compose opening statements and closing arguments. I go over possible outcomes and strategies to help put families back together. Running has also given me a chance to connect with at least some of the foster kids through a running group. I would love to start a group for the mother’s in residential substance abuse programs in the future.
I don’t believe that there is a facet of my life that running has not touched. Some people try to tell me that running as much as I do is harmful, and I’m sure there is research out there that supports their arguments, but so far, running has done right by me, and I intend to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I reach the final finish line in life. Run to live. Live to run.

Reaching Youth

A good friend of mine asked me to speak to a group of teens who are graduating from drug treatment and juvenile drug court. I’ve been thinking about this over the last week trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between the teens and me. I know that I can’t walk in there as the attorney and ultrarunner that I’ve become. If I cannot bridge the gap, nothing I say will even register in their minds.

But I haven’t always been an attorney and ultrarunner. My specific pits of despair are very similar to those kids including substance abuse, living on the streets, running away from home, drug dealing, teen pregnancy, teen motherhood, high school dropout, gangs, and more.

Life has never been along the straight and narrow path for me. Life has never been along the straight and narrow path for me. The one thing I have in common with them is their struggle. The struggle for life and the discovery of self-purpose.

So many of our teens lose their belief in themselves, it flies out the window along with their ability to dream ambitious and crazy childhood goals. I prevailed over my struggles because I rediscovered my belief in myself and one other person never lost her belief in me, my mom. I have found that the farther you go in search of who you are, the farther you get from it, because it’s right where you started from in the first place.  

Reigniting the fire of their dreams and childhood goals can be very difficult. However, it is easier than rebuilding their belief in themselves. One little talk from me is not going to leave them with a fully reconstructed self. It might, if done right, lay a brick in the foundation, if I’m lucky.

What I can give them is an external anchor until they rediscover themselves. I can show them that it’s possible to come back, to rise against all the odds stacked against them. Running, for me, is a confirmation of my inner strength and determination to continually face my fears and never back down from the struggle.

Long distance running is a metaphor for life. You chose to get out of bed and face your run, sometimes not knowing the route you are about to head down. At times, it is dark, and you can’t see what or who is coming from the other way.


You come to the foot of a hill or a mountain, and you chose the best or worst path to take, up and over. Sometimes it is too big, and you decide to try to go around which results in you being utterly lost. Puddles appear, and you happily splash through them or skip around them to avoid the miserableness of soggy feet.


At twenty miles, you hit the infamous wall. Your mind is telling your body it cannot go another step, but you do, and you get stronger. After a mile, you feel your strength return. You hit another wall at thirty miles and then forty miles. You know they will keep coming, but you know you can keep going because you have done it all before.


Some days you hit your zone gliding on top of the world, flying down hills, or floating over the mountains. Some days you trip over rocks, roots, and your own feet, falling on your face. But, you stand back up, and keep going. Life has its mountains and walls. You choose how to deal with each, and sometimes you glide, on top of the world.


Drop Bags…

Drop what? A drop bag is a foreign object to any runner who does not run farther than a marathon. To an ultrarunner, a drop bag is your savior. Well-placed drop bags can even replace a crew for the more experienced ultrarunner.

The purpose of a drop bag is to store gear and supplies that you will likely need later in a long race, such as a fifty or one hundred miler. If you plan to be out on the trail for twelve or more hours having a place to stash some things is very very useful.

I spent about two hours organizing my gear into drop bags yesterday. Salt Flats 100 allows drop bags at every aid station other than number one, which is ten miles into the race, that’s right the first aid station is ten miles in. That may come as a huge surprise to any marathon runner who has a aid station every one and a half to three miles during their race.

In order to pack your drop bags responsibly, there are some things you need to know about your race such as elevation, likely weather conditions, and the aid station food and drink selections. Without this information you will be packing things you don’t need or not packing something that you do need. You can’t carry everything you may need out on the course. And, even if you could, you really don’t want too. It is better to have a drop bag at every aid station than care unnecessary gear especially in the later stages of a race.

Elevation gain and loss changes your gear requirements. It influences temperatures and the technicality of the trail. It affects your speed and the thus the time you will be reaching particular points in the race. You need to be able to calculate about the time you will be reaching each drop bag to be able to include necessary items. The drop bag you will reach just before sun down needs to include things like a flashlight or headlamp. Possibly a jacket and long pants, if it is an early or late season mountain race. Might there be snow at the higher elevations? Or river crossings requiring you to change your socks multiple times during the race? Is there an extreme climb where trekking poles would be helpful, but you don’t want to carry them through the flat sections? You need to look over the elevation map and consider what you might need at each point in the race.

Weather conditions changes your gear requirements. In the desert, it is hot during the day and below freezing at night. The sun beating down on you is unrelenting. Wind changes things as well, think about keeping dirt and other debris out of your eyes. Wind can drop the temperatures even on what would otherwise be a perfect running day. Rain creates mud and excess water, in addition to sopping wet clothing, it could change your shoe choice or pre-race foot preparations. Heat and a dry climate can cause chafing issues requiring glide or some other type of lubricant for bodies or feet.

Food and drink supplies change your supply requirements. Ultra-aid stations have a buffet laid out for their runners. You will find various candy choices, a trail mix or two, chips, fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and during the night hours soup or other warm foods. Drink options are just as extensive, water, Gatorade, heed, EFS, there are a bunch of them out there and it all depends upon who is sponsoring the race. There is generally salt tabs and some type of gel. It’s a good idea to check on the race website or contact the race director to find out what is going to be there. If it is something you don’t use, you have two options either test it out to see if you can tolerate it or bring your own supplies.

The Salt Flats 100 has approximately 5500 feet of climbing over the entire race, so relatively flat for a 100-mile run. The weather conditions are pretty much ideal, 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit with the possibility of thunderstorms. I will have drop bags at miles 31, 50, 57, 67, 81, 90, and 95. My crew will be meeting me at each aid station other than the 90 where no crew is allowed. I pick up my pacer at mile 81.

No matter how well you plan, you have to expect the unexpected. I have learned this not only in ultrarunning, but in parenting too. Being a single mom of two teen boys, the unexpected tends to happen so often that it loses it chaotic feel. One of the most important things you have to also accept and be willing to do is completely scrap the entire race plan on the fly and just deal with things as they come up. If you are too tied to your plan, it can and will wreck your race.

So train for six months, plan all you want, organize and reorganize your drop bags, have a million and one meetings with your crew and pacers and in the end be ready and willing to throw it all to the wind. Only then you are truly ready to run an ultra.

Appreciating the Support

Salt Lake City Marathon was fantastic. I finished slightly under my goal time of 4:30. I didn’t want to run the race quickly with Salt Flats 100 next weekend. The new course wove through beautiful neighborhoods lined with old gnarled trees. It slalomed down City Creek Canyon and skipped through the center of the city. It then cascaded to the south only to return you back to the center of Salt Lake.

I love watching people finish a marathon. You can generally tell who the first timer finishers are. They are beaming with pride and glowing with joy. All right and their knees are wrapped in ice and shoes are kicked off. The sun has burned their cheeks. And they are collapsed beneath the trees surrounded by family and friends.

Honestly, I don’t think many of us could be runners without or family and friend’s support. I know I couldn’t. Especially, the distances I run. My family and friend are my pacers and crew. My dad helps me with my boys when I run relay races that take between two and three days to complete.

Family and friends are a valuable resource to runners for so many reasons. They provide encouragement and support throughout the training program and the race. The possibilities for helping out during training are endless. At race time, they can volunteer for races, be at the starting line, finish line, and out on the course cheering you on.

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support. Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try, or not.

If I have someone at the finish line cheering for me it encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going. As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes

Supporting and encouraging a runner is a big responsibility. Our families deal with us being gone on our long runs on the weekends. They ignore our grouchiness from being tired after our long runs. They are quiet when we are going to bed early, as if we are seventy-five years old instead of thirty.

They help save money for us to buy our hundred and twenty dollar shoes every four hundred miles in addition to the gels, registration fees, and clothing we need. They smile at strangers who watch us wolf down entire pizzas at a restaurant after a race. They listen to our crazy stories and ideas that come to us out on the trail and road. They pick us up when we don’t meet our own expectations. They cheer as we cross the finish line and even when we don’t.

So make sure and do something special for those who support your crazy running!

Twas the night before…

Twas the night before Race Day, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, along with the pile of GU, your shorts, shirt, shoes, glide, nip guards, sports bra, and whatever else you deem necessary to complete 26.2 miles on foot.

Many runners have very precise pre-race procedures and superstitions they follow before every race they run. I am no exception to this rule. I make sure and set out all of my clothing, including anything I might need, such as a jacket. My race bib, shorts, shirt, sports bra, socks, shoes, race belt, handheld water bottle, stuffed with almond butter (aka low carb gu), Garmin, salt tabs, and camera are all piled up on my kitchen table.

The second thing that I do is tape my feet. As one of the unfortunate blister prone runners, I take every precaution to prevent blisters rather than trying to deal with during the race. I’ve tried a various lubricant, powders, socks, and tapes. The thing that works the best for me is Kinesio tape such as Rocktape or KT tape. I tape it across my forefoot where I get blisters and zap! No blisters for the race.

Many runners carbo load before races. There is research that supports carbo loading. Why carbo load? The human body can hold approximately 2000 calories of glycogen in its muscles. Once you burn through that your body has to resort to burning fat, which it doesn’t do well, so you eventually hit “the wall,” bonk, crash, or whatever you want to call it. Pre-race carbo loading can improve your overall time and push back the fatigue by about 20%. To carbo load you increase your carbohydrate intake by 50-75% three days before the race. Be careful not to eat too much fiber or you will have gastrointestinal issues.

To prevent hitting the wall once your glycogen stores do become diminished runners consume carbohydrates while they run. Many runners use a combination of sports drinks, GU, Hammer Gel, or another sports gel or gummies. Your body can only digest about 230 calories of carbs an hour and these conveniently come in 100 calorie packets. How much you need to take in per hour of running depends upon your body weight and speed and is something you should experiment with during training. At 130 pounds and 8:15 minutes per mile, I used two GU’s an hour to maintain that pace.

Now, as a low carbohydrate runner, I don’t carbo load or ingest carbohydrates at all while I run. I drink water, take electrolyte tablets, and snack on almond butter mixed with espresso beans and salt.

Sleep the night before a race can be challenging if you are nervous or excited about the race. I try to focus on sleep the night before, the night before. I go to bed early and sleep as late as I can and then whatever happens the night before the race happens, but at least I know I got good sleep the day before.

Happy Race Day to all, and to all a good night!


The Marathon. It represents so much more than 26.2 miles. It’s epic battle for freedom from oppression and slavery. The overthrowing of a delusional ego manic set on world domination. It’s the strength of mind over body.  It’s an illustration of the endurance and strength found within the human spirit. It’s the compassion of the human heart. It’s the will to live life rather than watch it pass you by.

The name Marathon as most of us knows came from Greece and the city Marathon and the great runner Pheidippides. He ran 155 miles, not just 26.2. There is a race that commemorates his actual run, the Spartathon, which goes from Athens to Sparta is approximately 153 miles. Runners have thirty-six hours to finish. The Finish is at the statue of Leonidas. Not many runners make it to the end. In fact, more than fifty percent don’t finish the race.  However, that never stops the race from filling up every year. Why? Because of what the Marathon represents.

The Spartathon may be way out of most runner’s league, but running a marathon is an achievable goal for any healthy adult, who has the desire to complete the distance. Some 36,000 runners will be toeing the starting line on Monday for the Boston Marathon. Many more will be standing tall at the start of their local marathon this Saturday. The ING New York Marathon is the largest, hosting 47,000 runners. In 2012, 471,595 people ran a marathon in the United States alone. There are 850 marathons throughout the US, which you can choose from. The average finish time for females is 4 hours and 42 minutes. For males, it is 4 hours and 17 minutes.

It is a sixteen-week commitment to train for a marathon, even if you have never run before. Checkout my training programs by clicking on that page at the top of my blog. Even people who are not in the greatest condition can start training and finish the race. Most training programs are going to include one day of speed work, one day for a long run, and a few easy runs. Your longest run is 20 miles, unless you are using the Hansen method then it is 16 miles.

If none of your friends or family will buck up and run with you, join one of the many charity groups who run marathons. Team in Training does an excellent job assisting first time marathon runners in getting ready for their race. They choose incredible destination races, help you raise the money for your donation and most of your costs for the race. MarathonRookie has a whole list of charity organizations http://www.marathonrookie.com/marathon-for-charity.html

The marathon is a wonderful distance. It is far enough to be a challenge, but short enough to be within the reach of anyone who wants to try. The last 10k is where the real work begins in a marathon. Your body is exhausted and wants to quit. Your shoulders begin to hunch and your feet just skim the ground. It’s at that point that you have to draw upon your true strength and forge ahead.

I ran Salt Lake City Marathon as my first marathon in 2009. I finished the race in just under four hours, which was my goal. It was on a beautiful April morning. I rode the train to the starting line of the Salt Lake City Marathon. The train was full of contemplative bouncing runners packed shoulder to shoulder. I listened to everyone talking about other marathons they had done. I counted my GU for the fifth or sixth time. I wiped my sweaty hands on my shorts. I took some deep breaths. Not finishing never occurred to me, I knew I could do this.

I didn’t have any problems during my twenty-mile run. Sure, I was sore the next day, and I expected to be sore after the marathon, but as far as I could tell, it was a successful training season. We all piled out of the train and lined up at the port-a-potty.

The gun went off, and so did I, as if I was running a 10k. I had never been a part of a race with so many participants. It didn’t matter where we came from or who we were in the real world, only the next 26.2 miles mattered, and we were going to get there together. The course starts in Research Park by the University of Utah and winds its way down to Sugarhouse Park by mile five. The marathon and half-marathon runners split at that point and didn’t join back up until about 21 miles into the marathon.

At mile twenty, I hit the infamous wall. I slowed, and my form was falling to pieces. I continued to shuffle along the route. I kept moving forward.  The last couple of miles were a hill. Nothing serious, but after 24 miles, any hill is serious. I struggled across the finish line. A volunteer hung a metal around my neck, commemorating my achievement, and I collapsed into a chair. I sat there for a few minutes and then a few more minutes.

I’ve run many other marathons (I run them for training runs now!), but Salt Lake City will have a special place in my memories, always.

Fostering Strength

One of the things I love about running is being alone in my head. But, as much as I love that aspect of running, I have a group that I run with on Wednesdays. I had never even considered running with a group because I enjoy running alone so much. It took a very special group for me to join the ranks of runners who have a running club or group.

Running groups are an excellent way to stay motivated and committed to running. When you have to be accountable to others for showing up to run it is a little harder to say, “I’ll do it later” They can help you keep pace whether you’re doing an easy run or speed training. They can provide reassurance when you’re having a bad run because everyone has an off day.

I have one of the most inspirational running groups I can imagine. I run with teens who are placed in a foster home (taken out of their parent’s custody and care and placed with strangers) because their parents have made harmful decisions. These teens are an amazing group of kids. Trying to determine who you are, who you want to be, and finding your place in the world is hard. It is a challenge to any emotionally driven teen to then lose the support, identity, and structure of home, no matter how dysfunctional home was, can be an unsurmountable blow.

But these kids stand tall and strong letting the world know they have not been defeated. They won’t be held back by the poor decisions of others. They fight to the front of the line and many, more fortunate kids, are left in their dust. Not only in races, but in education and community involvement.

There is a certain point in nearly every race, particularly in the marathon and longer distances, where your body says NO MORE! This is known as the wall. When you hit the wall, you have to dig deep inside of yourself and find a reason to keep pushing. Each one of these kids is a reason for me to push on and finish strong. Because, that’s exactly what they do every day, when they get up in the morning to face the world and to face their own demons. Even though the odds are stacked against them, they push on.

I hope your running group inspires you as much as mine does me and if not, find some foster teens to run with. Their courage and strength are contagious.

So I’ve heard that stretching doesn’t do much…

“Wow, that can’t be good,” I said to my son as we finished the ab workout he designed.

“What’s not good?” he asked.

“My quads are really tight. I can feel them strain against my knees sitting just here.”  I was sitting back on my ankles. My legs folded underneath me, knees on the floor.

Tight muscles are not a runner’s friend. Sure, sometimes they loosen up as your body gets warm during that first mile or so, but you risk tearing them if they don’t get warm enough. Tight muscles also cause problems up and down the kinetic chain because they restrict the mobility of all muscles and tendons connected with them. It also requires opposing muscles to work harder.

Stretching or not stretching is not the issue here. The question is when to stretch. Many research studies show that stretching can reduce your chances of injury. It also assists in maintaining a good stride. That said never ever stretch cold muscles. You will tear them. If you need to stretch before you run, do a 10-15 minute warm-up on a bike or jump roping or something that does not require big movements.

 Using a foam roller or The Stick, in my opinion, is the best way to warm up before a run. You can get them at most running stores, and I’m sure Amazon has them. You use it by placing it on the floor, lying on the tight muscle on top of the roller, and rolling it down the length of the muscle. Try to put as much of your body weight on the roller as you can tolerate. If there are knots in the muscle, it will be painful, and it can leave small bruises if you are aggressive with it. I stop and rest on the knot for 30 seconds or until I feel it release. The Stick is another massage tool (and it’s more portable than a foam roller). It is approximately two feet long, and one inch in diameter. It has beads along its center with handles on both ends. You can also find these at running stores. Many chiropractors use them.

  I roll my quads, hamstrings, illiotibial band and calves twenty five times each with the Stick before my runs. By doing this, they are warm and knots are worked out of them. Blood is flowing nicely to them, so they have plenty of oxygen, and they are ready to go.

 I have worked through ITB syndrome, ankle sprains, shin splints, and trigger point issues in my calves with the foam roller and stick. I love them, and they go to all my races.


Stretch after you run. I also use a foam roller after my run and again before bed, if I notice any knots or tight spots in any muscles. I recommend using a static stretch (no bouncing) on your groin, quads, calves, and hamstrings. Hold each stretch for 25-30 seconds. Holding it longer does not help. Rotate through each stretch two or three times.  Do not stretch to the point of pain only until you can feel the tightness in the area.


Hopefully, I can get my quads to loosen up before the marathon on Saturday (Salt Lake City Marathon) and surely before Salt Flats 100 six days later. I will be rolling around on my foam roller each night and stretching at my desk and between court hearings until go time.