12 Things I Learned At My First 100K Race

A few months ago I did something pretty silly and signed up for the Chimera 100 Miler, a race way out of my league. Instead of backing out, I decided to step up my training and have really enjoyed pushing past my old limits. Last weekend I ran the inaugural Cuyamaca 100K as training for Chimera and to catch any issues that I may need to troubleshoot before my 100 miler.

I’ve run one 100 miler at Rocky Road (much easier than Chimera), and DNF’d another attempt at Nanny Goat 100 (finished 55 miles). I’ve also run a 100K distance at a timed (one-mile loop) event, but Cuyamaca was my first trail 100K.

I finished in 15:42, a great time for me. Aside from some soreness and fatigue at the end, I did better than expected and really saw my training pay off. I’ve taken some time to celebrate a strong finish, and now comes the analysis of my progress and what I need to improve:

6 Things I Did Right

1. Handhelds for Hydration

For a few weeks now, I have been transitioning from a hydration pack, to carrying handhelds for hydration. There have been so many benefits in doing this that I’m working on a separate post about it. When I worry about running out of water, I carry a hydration pack with the bladder removed, and put an extra handheld bottle in it. So I’m always drinking from handhelds only.

For Cuyamaca 100K, I ran with only two handhelds. On the final loop, I carried an extra bottle in my pack but didn’t use it. The handhelds worked perfectly and I never ran out of water. The weather was also perfect and I never felt too hot, so that helped.

One tip I picked up for Gordy Ainsleigh is to carry juice concentrate in one bottle, and mix it with water and salt (small salt packets from any restaurant) in the other bottle. This allows you maximum control as far as diluting your fluids to a perfect consistency. However, you do need a separate water source to do this, such as from an aid station. Gordy usually fills up at streams, sparking some debate with his giardia approach. But that’s a whole different topic!

2. Running Uphills

When I first started trail running, I would try to run all the hills and then get burned out. I soon learned the benefits of power hiking uphill, and fell into a comfortable groove walking pretty much everything with an incline. My most recent hill work has been a combination of speeding up my hiking pace, and actually running uphill again. As a result, I’ve learned that I can run more steeper grades. However, that doesn’t always mean that I should. I’m becoming much better at knowing when to run and when to hike, as well as much more confident in my ability to climb quickly.

3. Blister Prevention

Dealing with blister issues is all about experimentation. For this race, I didn’t use any blister prevention techniques and came out completely unscathed. I attribute this to a wise sock and footwear choice. I wore new trail Injinji socks, and ran most of the course with my Merrell Mixmasters. I switched to my Montrail Rogue Flys in the final loop to vary the feel of my footfalls. This strategy worked perfectly for me.

4. Clothing

I had no chaffing issues at all. I wore longer capris, because on some of the training runs the overgrowth on the trail scratched up my legs. The INKnBURN capris worked amazingly well.

5. Power Hiking

On my very first trail race, I was shocked when people passed me walking uphill. These past few weeks, I have trained specifically to improve my power hiking speed, using a watch to time my summits and forcing myself to walk, not run. It all payed off in the final stages of this race, when I was able to match my running gait with a fast power hike. The hike conserved energy, I was able to sustain it for a longer period of time, and it allowed me to keep a steady pace through rolling hills even when I felt tired. When my pacer was jogging to keep up with my hiking pace, I knew I had hit a sweet spot for walking speed.

6. Music

I don’t like to listen to music through my entire run, but I do carry my iPod on some races in case I need to pull through a difficult low point. Music really helps get me into a groove, and boosts my motivation. It takes my mind off any pain and makes the time go by faster. When I do listen to my iPod, I like to use only one headphone so I can stay aware of my surroundings. At this race, I busted out my iPod in the last few miles when I needed a boost. It worked.

6 Things I Need to Work On

1. Night Running

I haven’t been doing enough of this. I slowed down a lot after dark, partly because I was tired, but also because I had a hard time with foot placement and navigating terrain at night. Only more practice can help build my confidence and skill in the dark.

2. Nutrition

I did great with remembering to eat, but then started lagging in the final loop and my pacer had to help me with nutrition reminders. I need to be more on top of it, as I was starting to drain right near the end and at one point I even noticed that my stomach was growling. I don’t have much appetite when I’m running, so it’s just a matter of remembering to eat throughout. I didn’t have any stomach issues, except for a couple of times my belly felt slightly “unsettled”, which is usually the case when I don’t eat enough.

3. Lighting

I very much prefer hand held lights to a headlamp, but I didn’t think through the fact that I would also be running with hand held water bottles. I had a hard time holding everything. I also had a headlamp, but I need to combine it with something else for better depth perception. A few times my hand would start cramping up and I had to keep shifting my hand position to hold everything. It was a waste of focus and energy. My coach Jason Robillard also runs with handheld bottles, plus a handheld light. So it can be done. I just have to practice doing this more often.

4. Sore Feet

Many of my long races have been on smoother terrain, so this was the first time my feet got sore from gnarly rocks in the final miles. I wrote to Jason Robillard about this, and he suggests that it’s worth taking a few extra seconds to avoid sharp and jutting rocks from the beginning of the race (even though they don’t hurt yet), to help preserve your feet for the later miles. Minimalist shoes are an added challenge, but I don’t do well with heavier shoes. Again, more practice on rockier terrain will help me improve. As mentioned before, the shoe swap was a really great call for me during this race.

5. Downhill Running

Usually running downhill is my strength, but in the final loop my legs felt pretty trashed and it was a new feeling of discomfort for me. My 100 miler was much flatter, and I have little practice running downhill on trashed legs. Jason suggested changing up my gait for the downhills, and throwing in some more hill training. I think both will help.

6. Suck It Up

I thought I was pushing myself pretty good, but of course after the fact I wonder if I could have pushed a LITTLE harder in the final miles. I did a lot of walking in the final loop, and I maybe should have done more running while it was still light, since the darkness would slow me down anyway. If I had to do it again, I think I would have dug a little deeper right at the end. And next time I will.

Overall, I had a great race and it was a perfect learning experience for Chimera. I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m much closer than I used to be.

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Win Your Autographed Eat & Run Book By Scott Jurek

Today we attended Scott Jurek’s run, talk and book signing at Movin Shoes in San Diego. It was amazing to meet Jurek and speak to him personally. He was really easy to approach and took his time chatting with each person who lined up for an autograph.

Although I already had his book on my Kindle, I bought a new hardcover copy and had him sign it for a giveaway.

So here’s your chance to win your own autographed copy!

The rules are simple:

1. To enter, leave a comment telling me how you first heard about Jurek and how he has inspired your running.

2. For an additional entry, share this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or on your blog. Leave a separate comment and let me know you shared.

Next Friday, June 22, I will choose one comment at random and mail the book to the winner.

Good luck!

Here are some photos from the event:

7 San Diego Fresh Food Changes

 

I’ve been in San Diego for several weeks now and my diet has drastically changed. About two weeks after I had been here, I noticed my jeans were fitting loosely. When I weighed myself I had lost about 5lbs. I knew I was running more, but I was also eating out for almost every meal, so I was surprised to see the drop. Now I eat at home more often and I’ve recently started keeping a food journal because I’m fascinated at how drastic my diet changes have been. I feel great.

Here are seven things that have changed:

1. MORE WEIRD FRUIT

I always liked fruit, but sometimes I feel like San Diego is the freaking Garden of Eden. Most of the fruit here I’ve never seen or heard of. Last week I saw a fruit that I recognized from El Salvador and hadn’t spotted since I went there over 10 years ago.

Even regular fruit is different. For example, in Toronto we have peaches. But here there are more than varieties, and I had never seen white peaches in my life.

The sizes of the actual fruit are 2-3 times bigger. And every week I taste two or three things that I never knew existed. There’s fruit everywhere. Once on a trail run we stopped to pick some cactus fruit and sucked on it for a bit. Then picked the thorns out of our fingers.

On a drive up north, I was amazed to pass a pomegranate tree. I had never seen one and pomegranates are one of my favorite fruits. Sadly, they weren’t ripe yet. But the grapefruit and pear trees nearby were ready, so we pulled off to the side of the road and picked enough fruit to last us for weeks.

Yesterday I watched Shacky eat kiwi until his lips bled. And today for lunch I have some jackfruit, which is by far the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted. It’s sickeningly sweet. Like when you eat cheesecake too fast and all of a sudden you feel like you might gag. It’s just so rich and heavy, it’s almost sickening. I’m having a blast with the fruit options here.

Jackfruit

2. FREQUENT FARMER’S MARKETS

A couple of times in Toronto I walked into a farmer’s market and couldn’t find more than one small table of fruits and vegetables. The rest were sauces and pastries. And I’ve never seen a crowd at my local Toronto Farmer’s Market. Here, I have to fight my way through the mobs to find my veggies. They have fruit, vegetables, seafood, and fresh eggs. I’ve had uni (sea urchin) and balut (fertilized duck embryo) at a farmer’s market, whereas in the past I’ve struggled to just find a decent tomato.

Every Tuesday there’s a market just a few blocks from the house. Then on Thursday we have a CSA pickup at another market. The frequency and availability means we can buy and eat fresh food throughout the week instead of doing a monthly grocery store trip, which is what I’ve been used to until now. Everything we eat is fresh and there’s more flavor in the produce.

Fresh uni

3. GRASS-FED MEATS EXCLUSIVELY

We now buy our meat directly from a very pleasant local farmer whose animals are grass-fed and halal. He’s very clean and very generous. He also gives us the entire animal so we get to experiment with the offal (internal organs, tongues, heads) and get creative in the kitchen trying to use everything. I feel good about this meat. I know where it comes from and I get to pet a cow every time I visit.

4. FRESH DAIRY ONLY

I had raw milk for the first time in my life here (it’s illegal in Canada), and stopped drinking anything homogenized. I was eating Kefir in Toronto, but we only have one brand and the serving is very small and expensive. The bottles here are much larger and there’s variety to choose from. We buy our eggs fresh and we actually know what the chickens were fed.

5. MEXICAN FOOD AWESOMENESS

I can’t write about San Diego without calling out the Mexican food. In Toronto we had one decent Mexican restaurant and it was pretty pricey. The portions and variety were nothing near what I’ve seen here. The first time I got a burrito, it was like three meals for me. I’m used to tiny burritos. But my favorite by far is the soups, which I can’t even buy in Toronto. Menudo = Amazingness. And fountain drink horchata? I hope whoever invented that won an award.

Menudo

6. EATING CONSTANTLY  

I basically eat all day long now. At work, I bring in huge bags of veggies and fruit with some nuts and usually a bit of meat and tea. I have sunflower butter and honey and by the time I’m ready to go home, my food is all gone. That’s why I was partly surprised to see that I had lost weight. But although I’m eating more in volume I’ve never eaten this much high quality, fresh whole foods.

7. A PALEO CHALLENGE

I’m currently trying a 30-day Paleo Challenge. I don’t eat grains or dairy (except for raw milk in homemade shakes, and kefir for breakfast), but the most significant cut for me has been breads, which could explain some weight loss.

I’ll be blogging more about my Paleo results. At the end of the challenge, I will be racing another 50k so I’m looking forward to seeing how my nutrition might affect that.

So far I feel amazing. I’m excited by food and thrilled to try new (and even gross) things. Today I’m visiting the Taste of Downtown with some Noble Canyon friends. This is an event that lets you try food from over 50 restaurants in the city all in one evening. I’ll be there in my loose jeans.

A Canadian Chick’s Guide to American Football

Football season is upon us, and I find myself in a bit of a predicament.

I’m a chick AND a Canadian, so technically I’m not really supposed to like football. But football and I have a bit of a history. Like an ex that you have fond memories of and now you can’t really remember why you broke up.

Football was the first sport that caught the attention of my otherwise bookish mind. It was also the first sport I ever played and enjoyed. And the first sporting event I ever watched live.

Not that I knew what was going on at my first game. And not that I was a great player. I can still watch a football game and only vaguely understand it. But I do understand why it’s good.

When I was 17 I joined a rather disorganized girl’s football team. It was a church-organized thing, and we were really not much more than low-income misfits trying to chase a ball. The coach was the only dude in the entire congregation willing to supervise us. He did it to feed his own ego, because he loved screaming at us and pretending that he was a real major league coach. He made a lot of girls cry, and when I started spending more time consoling crying teenagers than actually playing, I quit.

But from that day on, I always carried a football around to every picnic or beach trip or park. I’d beg people to toss it around with me, and if I got lucky I’d find someone willing to tackle.

What I now feel with barefoot running, I first felt for tackling. There’s something very primal about latching on to someone’s legs and trying to smash their face into the ground.

Here are other things I like about football:

  • Grass burn
  • Watching one body slam against another body, and the aftermath
  • Jumping on top of people
  • The skin-slap sting of the football if you don’t catch it right
  • Wondering if my arms are going to bruise, then realize they’re just gonna be red for a while
  • Walking into a stadium and feeling really tiny
  • Climbing up to the nosebleed section and feeling a little dizzy with all the weird stair spacing, then sitting down and feeling like the King of the World

Football made me happy. But it was one of those things that I loved that I wasn’t SUPPOSED to love, so I stopped loving it.

American chicks seem a little different than the weeping football teammates I grew up with. Cut from a different cloth perhaps. And I daresay that if I had grown up here, I might have been a die-hard football fan by now.

Last week there was a city-wide power outage in San Diego, coiciding with the beginning of football season. This is how things went down in my office:

  1. All computers and lights shut out.
  2. A collective groan is heard throughout the floor because none of us were saving our work.
  3. One second later, piercing the silence, a girl’s voice screams in horror, “OMG NO FOOTBALL??!!!”

A few weeks ago I won football tickets. Because I’m a Canadian chick I didn’t even realize they were pre-season. But still. I had only been in San Diego for a few days then and maybe it was a sign.

Maybe football can be something I used to love but wasn’t supposed, but decided to love anyway.

And it’s just like running. Only you get to push people more.

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7 San Diego Fresh Food Changes

 

Happy Friday!

It was a weird day here yesterday after all the power in the city went out. Thankfully, the worst the happened was I missed posting my blog. They let us off work early (there was nothing I could do anyway as an Online Editor without a computer), but I had bummed a ride to work in the morning, so was now stranded.

Traffic was insane, so I decided to run home (approx. 5 miles). I threw my sandals in my purse and set off. The traffic was bumper to bumper, and I was easily passing everyone. But I was wearing work clothes and clutching my purse like a baby under my arm, so I must have looked at least a little crazier than normal.

About 2 miles later a car pulled up beside me and a little Asian chick asked if I wanted a ride. At first I said no (mama told me not to get into stranger’s cars), but she insisted – she said she had seen me running barefoot from a while back and she felt so bad for me. She really did look sympathetic, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her I do this crap for fun. Plus my feet were started to feel the hot pavement and I thought I might start to develop heat blisters (it must have been close to 100F, if not more). So I got in her car. She was a pretty small girl, so I felt I could easily take her if she tried to attack me.

She turned out to be super nice. She gave me gum and told me about places I could visit in San Diego. It turns out she used to live only a few blocks from me, so she knew the area. It was so nice of her to take the time to drive me home, even though traffic was horrible.

I used the daylight that was left to shower and do some chores. Then I sat around and waited for night to fall. It was a gorgeous evening and it was kind of nice to be unplugged from everything for a change. We went for a long walk and tried to find some constellations. The guy on the radio said the streets were “weird and eerie,” it was sort of like a zombie movie. Double tap!

We didn’t have anything ready for dinner since we had planned to go out, so I drank some pickle juice and Shacky polished off the Jack Daniels. It was a good dinner.

Tomorrow we’re heading up to buy some fresh lamb from a local farmer. He also has some fruit trees (Asian pears, pomegranates, grapefruit, apples), which we picked from last week. So I’m excited about that. Add some running in there and it should be another great weekend.

Finally, I’ve been meaning to post this video for a while because it’s awesome and genius and I can play it over and over without ever getting bored. I hope you love it as much as I do. Have a great weekend!

Direct YouTube link HERE.

What type of runner are you?

On Tuesday I decided to try an organized lunchtime trail run with some co-workers. Since I just started working here I didn’t actually know anyone, so I was eager to meet some fellow trail junkies. Nothing like finding a friend who shares your addiction.

The posting said “Guided Trail Run,” which immediately gave me a hard on. But it turned out not to be quite what I expected. I feel we need to break down each of these words.

GUIDED.

In my mind, this meant that there was a high possibility of getting lost. My workplace is right on top of a canyon so I could totally see myself all mixed up down there (Note: This is exciting for me). I thought the “guided” aspect would allow me to see some awesome trails without actually getting lost. But to my disappointment, we were basically running in a straight line, turning around, and running back.

Even with my horrid sense of direction, I’ve never actually gotten lost in a straight line (knock on wood). So no real need for a guide. This is really nobody’s fault, but I do blame Noble Canyon for spoiling me and getting me lost on my first trail run in San Diego. Now I just want to get lost everywhere.

TRAIL.

I have decided we need a new definition for the word TRAIL here. From now on, a trail is a place where I CANNOT run barefoot. Because it’s too rough and jagged and cars can’t drive there and people don’t walk it. THAT’S a trail from now on.

On Tuesday I went out in my Invisible Shoe huaraches expecting rocks and gravel and got a flat, smooth surface. I felt like an idiot for not coming barefoot. On the plus side, now I know I CAN run barefoot at lunch. But it’s not a trail.

We didn’t even go down into the canyon (I think there were trails there). We ran alongside the parking lot all AROUND the canyon without actually going down. For me, looking at a canyon and not running into it is cruel and unusual torture. I did notice some other people (not part of our group) going down into the canyon. They looked happier. So I think I might just come out on my own next time and seek them out.

RUN.

I have to accept that not everyone runs the way that I do. Some people actually wear watches and keep track of their time. Not everybody stops when they see something interesting. Not everyone tastes leaves that look edible. Not everyone changes their pace whenever they feel like it. And some people stick plugs into their ears so they can’t hear me say interesting things.

The group I was with was aiming for a negative split. I was the only one without a watch and the only freak without shoes. I don’t know what my splits were, but I know the canyon looked fucking awesome and I never got to go down into it.

The guide said because I didn’t have a watch, I should just try to stick with someone. So I thought I would keep pace with the girl in last place, because that way I could encourage her if she needed it. In my mind, we were going to be best friends. But she stuck in her headphones instead.

WHAT TYPE OF RUNNER ARE YOU?

I’ve seen some articles that come up with cool little lists about what type of runner you are. They give you a name and a description. I can’t do that because I’m slow – it took me 30 years just to figure out what type of runner I was. I can’t possibly write up a box for every other runner in the world.

But at least I can now speak for myself:

I’m a trail runner. And I don’t always wear shoes. I will always be attracted to the person in last place. I’d rather be the last runner who saw a cool thing that everyone else missed, than to be the speedy runner who won the race. I don’t particularly give a shit about negative splits. I don’t always know how far or how long I’ve run, so I estimate when I log a workout.

I like to run until I feel good. Then I like to keep running until I feel shitty. If there’s a stream, I want to splash in it. If there’s a tree, I want to climb it. I feel that people should look up more often from their watches to realize what a fucking beautiful city this is. And how amazingly lucky they are to run alongside a canyon over lunch.

I don’t talk much during a run but I hear everything. I’m not always the best conversationalist, but I do want someone around in case I spot something awesome. Like a bug.

Trail runners are incredible people. They’ll literally take the shirt off their backs and give it to you. Or pour the last of their water into your bottle. They’ll sit down with you if you need to sit. They’ll run when you want to run. Even if they JUST ran. They don’t care who you are, they’ll look out for you.

Trail runners don’t really go to scheduled Guided Trail Runs. They don’t really plan or schedule ANYTHING. They just make their own way into canyons and naturally gravitate towards each other there. Like magnets.

6 Must-Haves for my 20-Mile Trail Run

On Saturday I ran/walked/crawled 20 miles of Noble Canyon in training for the fast approaching Noble Canyon 50k. Every run out there kills me out. It’s a beautiful route that basically consists of running down a mountain, running back up, and running a few stretches at high elevation. It’s a run that you can both love and dread. Incredibly challenging.

I’ve tried to experiment with hydration, fuel, and footwear out there. In the process I’ve found some products I like. Here they are, from toe to head:

1. VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails    

VIVOBAREFOOT has been good to me and I’m impressed with their high customer service quality. They’re quick, I feel like I’m dealing with a real human being, and they generously rushed two free pairs of new Neo Trails for me and Shacky to use on Saturday’s training run.

I should point out that I haven’t worn shoes for running (minimalist or not) in almost a year. My previous Noble Canyon runs have been in Invisible shoe huaraches (more on those later). So I had no idea how I would handle a run in VIVOBAREFOOT’s product.

I was very pleasantly surprised. First of all, they look awesome. I was also very surprised by the ground feel. I was expecting little to no ground feel, but I felt the rocks a lot more than in my Vibram KSOs. I like that because I feel closer to being barefoot. I still felt like I had to watch my step and plan my strides. Post run, my feet suffered no ill effects.

Here are some stats on the Neo Trail:

  • Sole thickeness = 2.5mm base and 4mm lug height
  • Weight = Men’s 248g, Women’s 198g
  • Hydrophobic mesh (non toxic, lightweight, water resistant thin mesh)
  • Toe guard

Shacky tested the hydrophobic mesh with some creek crossings, and we were surprised at how long it took for the water to soak through the shoe. He basically had to stand fully immersed in water for a minute or so. Running, they wouldn’t get wet. However, once they WERE wet, the sloshiness was hard to dry out.

I’d like to get a few more trail miles in these and then post a more thorough review. So far I’m very much enjoying them. I think the fact that I could go from completely shoeless to running in these for 20 miles without an issue, says a lot about the quality of this shoe.

2. Injinji socks 

Already a staple for barefoot and minimalist runners, I mostly wanted to mention this to direct people to the great Toe Salad Injinji giveaway that’s going on this week. You can enter HERE. Injinjis are awesome and if you haven’t tried them yet, definitely do.

3. Dirty Girl gaiters

Until last week, I didn’t even know what gaiters were. I saw my trail buddy Christine wearing them and they looked super cool, so at first I thought they were just for style. Then I saw several people wearing them at the Stairway to Heaven 15k so I asked what they were for.

Gaiters are basically funky looking sleeve things (Kate called them ankle warmers) that prevent stones and pebbles from falling into your shoes. Trail runners use them. You don’t need them when you’re barefoot.

Because we’ve been testing out some trail shoes on very rocky terrain, Shacky was kind enough to pick up some gaiters for us. He got Dirty Girl gaiters which I loved because they’re all made by hand. He got me the scissors print which I was SO EXCITED about because I have a shirt that says, “I run with scissors,” and for a while I was.

Back in my woods in Toronto I would carry scissors on my runs so I could forage for dandelions and other greens. I’d use the scissors to cut into the dirt for wild dandelion roots. Running with scissors is badass and my scissor gaiters make me feel hardcore. Dirty Girl has so many awesome prints, it’s hard to choose just one favorite.

But the best part is probably the woman behind the gaiters. I was told that Dirty Girl once opened her shirt and asked Kirby (fellow Dirt Devil runner) to pour ice cubes into her boobs during a race. To further solidify her awesomeness, a quote from her website regarding design prints: “There is no such thing as too much leopard.” And regarding shipping: “Slow is the new fast.”

I am honored to wear Dirty Girl’s gaiters and would buy a thousand more.

4. Zensah calf compression sleeves

I don’t like to trail run without my compression sleeves. I already wrote about these, so you can read more HERE.

5. Sport Kilt

This is the company that sponsored me and Shacky to race Noble Canyon. I didn’t wear the kilt on my training run, but I will be wearing it for the race. Last year, Shacky raced this in a non-Sport Kilt kilt (another company’s kilt), and overheated. I love the kilts because a) They’re super cute and b-f) They’re light weight, easy to wear, and ideal for runners. I also love the deep, discreet pockets. And they keep you cool.

6. Navitas Power Snacks

 

Nutrition is a never ending experiment for me. I tend to shy away from the mainstream runner’s gels and aim for whole foods as much as possible. Convenience is obviously an issue – I need to find fuel that is both natural and compact. Easy to carry and tastes good.

I am pleased to report that the new Navitas Power Snacks fit all of the above criteria. Not only are they natural, the ingredients are also Paleo (fruit and nuts), so Shacky was happy to fuel on them as well. He was pleased with the fat/protein ratio and the fact that they were low in sugar. They are also gluten and dairy free.

We had some Navitas Power Snacks at the midway point of our run and shared with some other runners in the group. Then later we sat down again on the trail and ate more.

The snacks are small, bite-sized pieces. I packed a few in a ziplock bag and carried them in my hydration vest pockets. They were easy to pull out and eat while walking or running. I also loved the texture. They weren’t as hard and chewy as a bar, but not as watery as a gel. They were soft and easy to break down, but didn’t leave you with a mouthful of sticky goo.

I received two flavors from Navitas – Citris Chia and Cacao Gogi. Shacky liked the chia and I loved the gogi. We’ve almost finished both of them.

Here is some more info I received from Navitas via email:

Offered in an 8-ounce re-sealable and recyclable pouch for a SRP of $8.99, Navitas Power Snacks are chewy, bite-sized nuggets that provide robust flavor.  It is a healthy bonus that they contain no refined sugar, and are gluten-free and dairy-free. Navitas Power Snacks and other Navitas products are available at a wide variety of retail locations throughout North America including Whole Foods Markets, Wegmans and HEB, and at many online stores such as Amazon.com and NavitasNaturals.com.

The mission of Navitas Naturals is to provide premium organic superfoods that increase energy and enhance health.  Nutrient-rich whole foods are at their best when they are produced via organic agriculture and minimal processing methods.  That is why all Navitas Naturals products are certified organic, and use methods such as freeze-drying to ensure maximum nutrition.  Food safety is very important to Navitas Naturals, which is demonstrated by the rigorous third-party testing of their superfoods.  Since its founding in 2003, Navitas Naturals has been committed to socially responsible business.  Their direct purchasing partnerships expand fair trade opportunities for farmers in developing regions around the world.  For more, visit www.navitasnaturals.com.

The experiment for optimal gear and nutrition continues for me. I’m lucky to have so many great friends and companies willing to help me find my place on the trail.

I should have been born white.

The first man to imply it was my dad. Then years later my (now ex) husband would say it. And my partner after that. A unanimous verdict from all the men in my life. All of them Hispanic.

They meant it as an insult of course. I remember my dad taking me out for meals and talking at length about why white women were not REAL women. Why they could never please a man. Why they were so cold and so wrong.

But Hispanic women were beautiful. They were gentle and kind and always did what they were told. They served others and they had kids. Lots of them. They cooked and were happy with very little. They never wanted anything more than what they had, never asked any questions, and never did anything without permission.

The Hispanic women I knew all did actually fit this mold. They could take abuse like “real women”, be it verbal, physical, or emotional. As I understood, that’s what made them beautiful. That’s what men wanted.

Over time I started developing what I knew were “white” qualities. Stubborness. Imagination. Ambition. A desire for something better. My own voice. This would upset the men around me, and if I didn’t try to suppress it – they would.

I was horrible at making friends with other Hispanics. In the company of Spanish-speaking women, I felt awkward. I didn’t talk about the things that did – cooking and kids and sex. I talked about books and ideas. The men would look at me like eye candy and nothing more. I was accused of thinking I was too good for them. I felt white.

A few weeks ago I was told my decision to move to the States was a “white” one. And I hope that’s the last time I hear that word used as an insult.

The funny thing is, since moving to San Diego, I feel more ethnic than I did in Canada. I have more opportunity to speak Spanish. My skin is better at soaking up the sun. And I’ve eaten more Hispanic food in two weeks than I usually do in Canadian months.

Running these hills and mountains, it seems I’ve spent most of my life feeling homesick for a place I’ve never been. A place like this. Miles away from brown or white or black or yellow. A place where I can just be myself. Ambitious and determined. Maybe even a little stubborn. But still beautiful.

Race Report: Stairway to Heaven 15k

Many new experiences:

  • First San Diegan race
  • First real trail race
  • Hardest race of my life so far

It’s been a few days after Sunday’s race now so I’ve decided that I had a blast. But there were definitely a couple of times during the run when I was hating life.

Shacky signed me up for this race and later told me it was probably the hardest trail race out there. I was excited to hit it up as my first San Diegan race. I figured I had done a lot of hill training in Toronto and I always said that I liked hills. So I thought, how hard can it be? And it’s just 15k.

I started off pretty slow and steady. I figured if I paced myself I might be able to take the first hill. Then I SAW the first hill, and I wished I had just gone faster at the beginning. Because pace yourself or not, the first hill makes your legs feel like they’re about to explode. And it doesn’t end.

First of all, these are not hills. They feel more like cliffs (ie – you want to use your hands to help you climb), and completely unrunable (at least for me).

Apparently I have to work on my hill walking technique because I discovered I only have two speeds: running and half-dead crawling. I’m not used to walking up steep hills. I’m used to hills that I can actually run, and EVERYONE was walking faster than me. Fat people, skinny people, old people. Everyone.

I did manage to recover pretty well at the top and start running again. I learned my lesson and stopped trying to pace myself – I knew I’d be walking again regardless. I ran through some nice stretches that reminded me of Toronto. Hard packed dirt trails instead of rocks, surrounded by trees. I flew through those sections; they were exactly what I was used to. Best compliment of the day: A lady behind me said, “You’re like a little gazelle in those sandals!” I was wearing my Invisible Shoes Huaraches. I was feeling great. And then I hit the Stairway.

This may be the Stairway to Heaven, but Satan himself built those steps. You’ll never climb steeper, more torturous “stairs”. All I could do was stare at the ass of the person in front of me and claw at the rocks to keep moving. There was a great cheering section at the top of the steps, but by the time I got there I honestly didn’t give a shit. I wanted to quit running forever.

I didn’t want to sit so I kept walking, but I was DONE. I wanted to go home. I felt every incline from that point on, and running was starting to hurt. Finally I turned to the person next to me and asked, “How much further??” Just under 3 miles.

The last bit was mostly downhill, but I wasn’t in any state to enjoy it. My huaraches were a challenging to run in through these sections – I kept feeling like I was going to fall. It didn’t help that my legs also felt like noodles. Because of all the shifting through uneven terrain, my right sandal started coming loose in the last 2 miles, while the left one was feeling tight on my Achilles. I had to stop to adjust the tightness, but was able to continue.

I got stuck behind a girl who kept cheering loudly to herself and others (basically me since I was the only other person around at the time). I wanted to punch her in the mouth. I had no breath to spare at that point and I figured if you had it in you to scream, you should run faster and leave me the hell alone to die in my misery.

That said, I found it truly motivating to be greeted at the aid stations by people I actually knew. That was a new experience for me. I’ve always only run races with strangers, and organized by strangers. Seeing familiar faces along the way was a breath of fresh air.

The final stretch was flat and I was still trotting along, but barely. The finish line sort of snuck up on me. I didn’t see it because I could only focus on a few feet in front of me and quite honestly I wasn’t sure there even WAS a finish line. But somehow I crossed it.

The lovely Theresa met me at the finish, put a cool dog tag around my neck, and asked me how I did. I wasn’t sure. Race results aren’t in yet and I wasn’t wearing a watch, but I think I came in well over 2 hours. That was giving it all I had.

For my first race, I’m pretty happy with the ass-kicking. I figure it can only get better from here and my body will have no choice but to adapt. I feel like these trails are at a whole new level than everything I was doing in Toronto and I’m definitely humbled by them. I love it here.

Elevation profile for this race

NUUN GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations to BRANDON who won the Nuun giveaway! Brandon, please send your mailing address to vanessaruns@gmail.com so I can send off your prize.

New Runs, New Home, New Life

As some of you know, I’m currently in San Diego. I have been living in Toronto, Canada since I was 3 years old and travelled here one week ago. I came to train and race my second ultra, Noble Canyon 50k, on a generous sponsorship from Sport Kilt.

This is my first athletic sponsorship and a very exciting opportunity for me. Although I’ve done a fair share of traveling through the States and overseas, I have never been in a city that felt quite like San Diego. There’s something about this place that grows on you. In other parts of the world I’ve felt like a tourist, happily passing through and experiencing new things. But San Diego feels like home.

The running here is like something straight out of my dreams. Hills and mountains and beaches and caves and canyons. Tough but breathtaking. I feel so blessed and fulfilled running through these trails that it’s hard to see myself living anywhere else. (The picture above is where I ran yesterday.)

In seven days, this city has opened its heart and its doors to me. Sometimes it’s big things – like being offered a great job, work visa, and an opportunity for me to stay permanently (more on that later). Or little things like winning Chargers game tickets. Or even the fact that in seven days I have more friends here than I ever did in Toronto.

But mostly it’s the running that’s blowing my mind. I can’t do these trails justice by describing the scenery or taking pictures. I can really only describe them by the way they make me feel and what they make me think. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had on my San Diegan trail runs:

1. Mostly I try to figure out how I got here. What I did right, or what turn I took to end up in such an amazing place. What I’ve even done to deserve this kind of beauty. How scenery so breathtaking can be free. I wonder whether I went the long way or the hard way or whether I hurt people to get here. Maybe I took some shortcuts or maybe I could have been here sooner. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m here. And I’ve found my personal heaven.

2. I feel closer to God.  This is something I’m reluctant to admit because I don’t really consider myself a religious person. This also doesn’t fit with what I’ve been taught about God. I’ve made enough wrong turns in my life to be told several times that I will never find peace. That God will punish, not bless me. I think the people I’ve hurt need to believe in divine justice. They need to think that God is paying me back. So it is with a bit of guilt that I bask in the feeling of being near Him. Of being loved and highly favored.

3. I don’t listen to much Christian music, and it’s been years since I’ve heard hymns. But when I run here, there is one hymn that always comes to mind. The lyrics embed themselves in my brain like a mantra, and I don’t know where they come from. But it makes me feel that the God I’ve been taught about isn’t the God that IS. That the real God perhaps doesn’t prioritize rewards and punishments. But instead teaches me daily what really matters: The rich, orange sand between my naked toes. And getting lost on the side of a mountain.

(Direct YouTube link HERE)

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