50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA Events

….and My Story Runs On….

Yesterday, I did the XTERRA White Tank 20K “race”. I put race in parenthesis as you know I normally use races as training runs for my bigger races (first 100K in 6 weeks!). I already blogged about Aravaipa races awhile back.

This race is no joke from an elevation profile. Their website describes it as:

“For those who prefer a course with pain and punishment, the long course is 20k of grueling single track with over 1500 feet of climbing. Starting from the group campground, runners wind their way up Ironwood to the Waddell trail. Once you reach the first aid station be prepared to go up, the next three miles are all climbing….”  You can see my Tom Tom results here.

Cheryl Miller from Miller Endurance Coaching is one of their sponsors and she hosted a preview run a few weeks ago that I was able to attend. I actually did this race back in 2012 when I was training for my first marathon but I can’t find my results anywhere. At any rate, I knew what I was getting myself into…

Which is why I wanted to do it!  Hills are part of most trail races and I love to train on them to keep improving my ChiRunning technique.  White Tanks are also a great change of scenery for me so I was excited to do this one.

First I want to thank XTERRA because a portion of their race proceeds go to my favorite local charity Girls On The Run Maricopa County (GOTR-I’m currently on their board of directors serving as Secretary). If I’m not racing their events, I’m volunteering because I really appreciate their support!

Now on to my learning lessons from this race!

The more running story develops year after year, I have found that I prefer to preview runs if I have a chance. This gives me a chance to get familiar with the course and know what to expect vs the element of surprise that I used to like more before. Even though I did part of the course backwards on the preview run, I knew what I was getting into!

Even though this was a “training” run, I wanted to race it…my version of racing it 😉 My race strategy was:

  • Bring my hydration pack so I wouldn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations.
  • Power hike the uphills and run as much of the runnable part as possible
  • Focus/improve upon on my ChiRunning hill technique (runnable/non runnable hills, uphill and downhill. I just taught a ChiHills class yesterday so it was all fresh)
  • Continue to get more out of my comfort zone on rockier trails and improve my technique there
  • Get myself mentally psyched up and excited for this race no matter what (this has become a regular strategy for me. Why got all worked up and nervous?  I start thinking about the friends I will see, that I’m getting to spend a “few” hours in nature, getting some ME time, burning some calories, etc.  Literally think of as many positive things as I can to get pumped up for the race to get positive energy flowing)
  • Last but not least, as much as I don’t like always setting time goals for races, since I did the preview run in 3:17 and I wasn’t as racing, I was shooting for a 3 hour finish.

It was a beautiful day! I got there in plenty of time to pick up my packet and run into many friends including GOTR volunteers/board members.


Holly is our Vice President and was racing as well!

I started running right away knowing that the grueling part would be around Mile 2. I had to stop momentarily at the first aid station to get this selfie with Bob and Cindy Hansen who are huge supporters of GOTR and I love seeing their smiling faces!


Bob & Cindy Hansen, GOTR volunteer superstars! Love the rays of sun shining on us!

Then it was all uphill so I started power hiking and using my arms, core and obliques more (which are all sorer than my legs are today!) I knew I was at the back of the pack already but OK with that. Every time there was a wee bit of level terrain or not too many rocks, I ran a bit…however if I know I can power hike it faster and use less energy, that is my strategy. (one of the many things I love about trail running as it’s more “acceptable” to walk due to the hills.) I had several more friends at aid stations that called my name out as I ran by which is always motivating!


We are pretty high up there! Pictures don’t do it justice for sure!


If you look closely, you can see the trail on the other mountain going down hill…

It was finally time to come downhill!  Was cruising in several locations but the trail was rocky so this slowed me down more than I wanted.  I was really trying to focus on relaxing as much as possible as I know any tension mentally or physically slows me down (which is why I get pumped up before a race too…to keep from having mental stress!). I almost tripped a few times but never fell.

I hate looking at my watch to reach a time goal (again more mental tension) but at this point I could tell that I was close to my time goal. I had conserved my energy so I knew the last 2 miles should be pretty easy. I didn’t realize mile 11 was a wee bit of an uphill and I started walking a bit.  I knew I was cutting it close on the time goal so I decided to put my playlist on speaker just to change up my energy and get some motivation.  Funniest thing was that I turned it off in less than 2 minutes!  The music was too distracting. I was in a really good zone (had been for the entire race between my ChiRunning/ChiWalking form focusing, being present and truly enjoying the beauty of the trail.) On a side note, I find it interesting that as my running story continues to develop, I used to only be a social runner. I couldn’t run unless I had company and someone to talk to.  Now, my solo runs hold a special place. I can’t describe it but there is something to be said about being alone with yourself for hours in nature, running on a trail.  Time flies by somehow…Mile 11 was my hardest mile of the entire race and I started thinking I wanted it to be over with.  With 1.5 miles to go, I got it together and started really focusing more on my form and breathing. Before I knew it, I could see the finish line and was getting excited. I was at 2:52 and knew I would make it on time if I kept my pace…..and I did! My official time was a 2:57:37! (and my fastest mile was my last one!)

I felt amazing and was so dang proud of myself when I finished!….


Thanks to my friend Diane for taking this awesome photo of me finishing! It truly describes how I felt!


The GOTR Executive Team..2 of us running and 2 volunteering!

…..Until I started comparing myself to other runner friends….that is another blog post…for now, you can watch my 5 minute facebook live video from yesterday here.

All in all, this was one of my best races from strategy to how amazing I felt at the end.

Do you use races as training runs? Share your comments below!


My badass friend Diane who is an Ironman and did her first 8K trail race!


Selfie with Terry who is an amazing athlete who will be 60 this year and placed first in her age group and 13th woman overall!


You know it’s going to be a great day with this sunrise!

Click here50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Adventures of my 50KM training

….and My Story Runs On….

I never thought My Running Story would take me this route….remember, I said I would never do a half marathon and now I’m tackling my first 50Km on trail.  Scared yet really excited at the same time.  I decided to do this 50KM now because I already have marathon #4 on 1/19 (Pf Changs Rock and Roll) and marathon #5 on 2/1 (Sedona Marathon)…..seems like the right time to add a few more miles while I’m training for these….ironically now these marathons have become training runs for my 50KM.

This last weekend I did an 11 mile training run on the Sedona Marathon course (hills and elevation training) and then did the XTerra 20K race at White Tanks on Sunday (ChiRunning hills and trails training).   The scenery was gorgeous on both (pics below).

Here are a few of my AHA moments:

  • I’m learning to enjoy the recovery process as part of my journey.  Usually I don’t like to take the time to foam roll, do leg drains (more on these in another post), hot baths, etc.  It used to feel like a chore.  Recently I’ve discovered how important this process is, especially when doing these distances and back to back long runs.  I can feel a noticeable difference when I do these and since I prefer not to be sore, I realized this is just part of the training process now.
  • The reason for back to back long runs is to get used to running on tired legs.  I’ve been feeling this the last few weekends for sure.  I described it to my boyfriend: “It’s like my legs are heavy and just dangling from my hips.”  But since I was doing hills all weekend, I felt my core as well;  I’ve never felt my core this fatigued.  In ChiRunning, core muscles do most of the work so legs don’t have to.  I do feel it on long runs but it felt like I had done an ab workout and feeling the effects the next day.
  • Upper body, mainly neck area was sorer than normal too. I try hard to focus on using my eyes to look ahead rather than looking down at the trail (which puts pressure on your cervical spine when constantly looking down).  This is clearly why the training is important so I can be aware of what my body wants to do but also work on improving my form in these areas.
  • Last but not least, I realize that nutrition is going to be a bigger piece of the pie.  I follow my intuition when fueling and I’m kind of anal about electrolytes (I don’t like Gatorade or any products that have high sugar content, or chemicals like red dye #40 , etc).  I love the Honey Stinger products and recently started using salt pills as well.  Now I’m on a mission to learn how to fuel the week and days before my longer runs.  I’m looking forward to learning some more hear. One of my friends recommended these 2 books which I’m planning on purchasing: The Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables.

Any advice or feedback to share based on your experience?  Comment below and let me know…

Here are a few photos from the weekend along with my training plan 😉 (click on them to increase size)

White rows are plan, blue is my actual mileage and the green are miles on trails.  Having to make some adjustments as I approach PF Changs marathon weekend.

White rows are plan, blue is my actual mileage and the green are miles on trails. Having to make some adjustments as I approach PF Changs marathon weekend.

Training run in Sedona...GORGEOUS views...and elevation and hills ;)

Training run in Sedona…GORGEOUS views…and elevation and hills 😉

6 miles of grueling uphill...not sure if you can see the little people on the switchbacks...

6 miles of grueling uphill…not sure if you can see the little people on the switchbacks…

At least when there is an uphill, there is a downhill too!

At least when there is an uphill, there is a downhill too! (White Tanks XTerra 20K)

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

The Youngest ChiRunners I’ve ever met!

….and My Story Runs On….

Happy Runner Girls!

Happy Runner Girls!

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to assist Danny Dreyer, the creator of ChiRunning, at his workshop in Houston. As much as I want to rave about that experience, I need to talk about the fastest,  youngest and cutest endurance runners in the county:  Kaytlynn and Heather Welsch.

I was registering participants as they were arriving at the workshop and these 2 little girls appear before me with their Dad.  A guy behind them immediately said, “Oh, I know these girls, they are famous.”  I asked if they were twins and they said no.  But quickly told me that they shared the same birthday, just not the same year.  They immediately took their seats and I was amazed that a 11 and 13 year old could not only follow the material (some of the ChiRunning concepts are hard for adults to follow!), but you can tell they were totally into it.

At one point, Danny said: “let’s go outside and start practicing”.  I happened to be looking over at them and they had huge smiles on their faces, like someone just told them they would get free chocolate for the rest of their life.  It was OBVIOUS to me that these girls love to run.  Watching them run was an enlightening experience.  We always say that children have natural running form because they haven’t had the posture issues that we get as adults, and although they have a few things to work on from a ChiRunning technique perspective, they had a beautiful gait and form.  It was OBVIOUS again by the smiles on their faces that they were eager to learn but enjoyed running.  They were just gliding around the tennis court lapping the adults, happy as can be.

Of course, when I arrived home, I had to google their names to see what I could find on them.  And lo and behold, there is quite a bit of controversy around them.

These girls are amazing athletes.  They’ve both completed over 100 endurance races, mainly half- and full- marathon distance trail runs at an average pace of 6:23/mile!  Last year, Kaytlynn won the XTerra won the women’s field to become the youngest ever champion of an XTERRA trail half-marathon, placing 11th overall with a time of 1:39:31 (only 10 men were ahead of her!).

I do not have children, only nieces and a nephew so I was interested in reading the various controversial blog posts that were out there:

Of course the controversy is about their age and whether it’s appropriate they are racing this hard at their age. I also found this great video clip from Rock Center with Brian Williams: http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/07/16883813-too-fast-tween-sisters-log-miles-in-endurance-runs that I really enjoyed.

So what’s my opinion? Well, for starters, since they are clearly using the ChiRunning technique which promotes injury-free running, they are on the right path!

After watching the video and reading the blogs,  it seems to me that their parents are doing the right things for them and taking all the right precautions by getting them regular check ups with doctors.  I imagine that parents know their own children more than anyone.

Bottom line for me?

They love to run, they are enjoying it, they are using an injury-free technique and are supervised by their doctors….so who am I to judge them?  Run free and happy and I’m sure we’ll see these girls in the Olympics some day!  I’m just honored to have met them and be inspired by their passion for running.

What are your thoughts?

From My Running Story to Yours…. (if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)