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The Summer of Fun Run Comes to a Close

“The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank.”

George A. Sheehan

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It is hard to believe that it has been six years since I have graduated college and even harder to believe that it has taken me just as long to figure out what it means to be a post-collegiate runner. Running is my exercise of choice and so much more. As I struggled to keep a consistent training schedule and set realistic goals, I was liking it less and less. I didn’t look forward to racing because I was just going to be let down.

This summer, I decided I was just going to race, not worry about times and just enjoy being out there with a group of people striving. It helped to have great running friends who recruited to these numerous races. Quite frankly, I ran so many fun ones that if I was thinking with a time goal, I might not have ever run. The list includes: a glow in the dark 10k, the PAW-louse 5k ( I borrowed a dog), a duathlon (pro tip: don’t use a bike you have never ridden) and a few low-key races that made me just feel better about myself including a mile time trial and a 10k.

But by far the craziest race I did this summer was this past weekend’s Ragnar Trail Tetons race. 15 miles, 3 legs and lots of elevation gain was in store for each participant. My team was awesome, mostly strangers that all knew the team captain but not really anyone else. Our team captain kicked major booty organizing and being the supreme queen of all e-mails. I barely had to lift a finger to be involved. Travel started Wednesday night when four of us left Moscow to get to Tetons and likely the most dramatic event was a bear ran away from us while we were driving. We camped and finished up the rest of the travel on Thursday. I could spend many sentences on the beauty and the varied terrain the trip took us through but I’m not a poet. We arrived Thursday night, signed in and got prepared for our 8:40 a.m. start.

Our team due to injury and other circumstances was widdled down to five runners, we knew we would not get an official time but we believe it worked out better in the end for us. We were able to finish a bit earlier and there wasn’t so much waiting. My first leg took me 5 miles across a ridge with two climbs and since I did it in daylight, the views really struck me. I kept it below 12-minute pace and was able not to get too light headed with the elevation. I spent the rest of the morning watching our legs come and go and getting all the recon I could. I was able to roll really well on my 3-mile leg, keeping it around 10-minute pace,  with the slowest mile being the first (the climb was killer). I was off to sleep and wait for the crazy 7-mile leg. The 7-mile leg was to the top of the ski lift with around 2,000 ft of elevation gain and the downhill on the “sticks and stones” trail was very technical plus well, there could be bears.

After dinner and a nap, I dressed in my multiple layers (temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s) and put on my pack with my bear bell to wait to start my leg. With sequins, glowsticks and sparkly tights, I started my last leg at 9:30. It was dark and if our first runner hadn’t given me a small flashlight to use on top of having my headlamp, I would not have been in a good spot. I started the power hike to the top, I maintained sub 20-minute miles as I followed the headlamps to the top of the 3.5-mile climb and was thankful to reach the top. As I made my way down, I could hear a flurry of f-bombs from numerous places and just tried to watch my feet. I was able to run with a few other runners but by the time I reached my last mile, I was alone and the thoughts of bears filled my head. I started to sing songs from Alexander Hamilton to just fill the air. Luckily, my bear spray was never used. I finished the run in about 16:11 pace. My team finished at about 4 a.m. The exhaustion, happiness and pride that overcame us was hard to express being wrapped in blankets but we had a great time. Will we do it again? Likely, but we might have to forget a bit first.

During this summer, I hit a milestone in age- I turned 29. I have decided to make one last go at my 5k PR. This week, I’m sitting down to write out a plan but be sure to follow me here and on Twitter (@carabyrd) to see how it goes.


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My favorite podcasts to run to besides Serial

brevardPodcasts seem to be all the rage since Serial went viral ( if you haven’t listened to Serial, it a podcast that is an investigation into the 1999 Murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore and is worth a listen). I discovered in college that podcasts are perfect for lonesome runs especially long ones. Often times, you can find me listening to a few at work. So here is my list of my favorite podcasts.

This American Life– This is the quintessential podcast and I would be surprised if you haven’t heard it once. For an hour, Ira Glass and his crew explore a theme typically in three to four acts. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.  I adore this podcast so much that I went and saw Ira live. You should also check out Fred Armisen’s impression here.

SModcast-This podcast is the opposite of This American Life. A stoned Kevin Smith, known for Clerks, Dogma, Mallrats and Tusk, joins his friend Scott Mosier and the two meander around in a hilarious conversation for an hour plus. This is the podcast for super long runs. I can’t even describe how funny this podcast is except maybe to say that I have stopped a time or two because I was laughing so hard.

UnFictional– This is a new one for me and has been perfect for my 30 minute runs. Each episode approaches a subject much like a documentary. The subjects range from man haunted by Montgomery Clift until he writes a script to a man who as an 11 year old survived a plane crash that killed three others.

Freaknomics Radio – Based on a book of the same name, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore various problems from economic stand point.

The Moth Radio Hour– When I was in middle school, my English class did a storytelling unit where we had to memorize a story and retell it to elementary school students. This podcast is also all about storytelling. The Moth travels across the country, holds storytelling events and records stories. These stories are much better than anything I ever told.

Sword and Scale– Do you love Law and Order or any show ID? Then you will like this podcast. Sword and Scale is a true crime podcast that will have you sprinting to get home.

Radiolab– This podcast is another you can find on NPR (along with This American Life). Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. My favorite one is this one about distance running.


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Baby, its cold outside

Happy 2015! If you are like me, you are likely still asleep (you have to love a good scheduling tool). Typically, blog posts around this time do one of two things; talk about goals or reflect about the previous year but I’m not going to either of those. I have already written a blog about goals and this past year was a bit of a mix bagged.
Instead, let us talk a little bit of subject that has been hitting me hard this week that is running in the cold. By hitting hard, I mean the high was 14 degrees yesterday. I know many of you would scoff and consider this warm but I was born and raised below the Mason Dixon line. Let me put it this way, I own only four pairs of tights. I had no idea fleece lined tights existed until this year.

ColdoutsideWith that being said, cold weather has a negative effect on my running. Mainly, I don’t hydrate enough and I don’t want to run in the cold. I’ve been able to tackle the hydration issue pretty easily but drinking lots of tea. There is nothing quite like a warm cup of tea after a cold run or even during the day. I have also discovered the NUUN makes a pretty warm drink. I stick to the caffeine free teas. I have found that I drink more tea than I did water.

The issue of going out to run in the cold hasn’t exactly been resolved. For Christmas, I asked for lots of layers and warm athletic gear which helps. I also purchased a cheap (like $3.00) drawstring toboggan that allows me to wear it around my nose (see pic). I also received a white reflective vest and a head lamp that helps me navigate night run (will also make Beer Chasers Wednesday night group run heck of a lot nicer). If I’m really not motivated, I stick a few dollars in my pocket to purchase a hot drink on the way home. I will admit I do wimp out sometimes and use the indoor track at the gym. Miles are miles.

What do you do to help your running in the cold months?
I hope everyone is having a great new year! I’m looking forward to getting married and running my first half with a new last name in May.

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Gravity has taken better women than me

This is not a blog about falling or inertia. No, this is about cross-training. So to understand me a bit better let me get one fact out of the way, I have no hand/foot eye coordination. I was fast but never great at ball sports so when it comes to cross training I tend to like to stick to cardio classes. Spin class is my go to cross training activity in the winter and cycling when the weather is nicer. The second fact you should know is that I have little to none upper body strength. I despised weight room days in college and was by far the worst part of track.

But when I looked through the classes that University of Idaho offers, I was drawn to the class “gravity” mostly due to the name. I secretly hoped that it would be Cirque du Soleil like. The description of the class is “Dynamic workout on the GTS, designed to provide group strength training that be individualized to each participants fitness levels-without sacrificing technique, variety, challenge & importantly ‘fun'”. This to me sounded like a class that I could do and not be over my head.

WP_20141118_18_23_05_ProI will admit I was little nervous going to class especially when I saw the instructor who looked like he could lift two me over his head and the machine looked a bit like a torture device. As I settled in on the sliding board on the machine, I just prayed I could keep up. I had not nothing to be too nervous about, the class focused on glutes (which I have covered) and abs (also, I’m still pretty strong there). Luckily, the machine made it easy for you to use your own body weight which helped quite a bit. We did end up doing pull-ups and I’m super sore from it today. The instructor was much scarier looking than his personality. He was great with showing me how to adjust the machine. And I was only a little disappointed that it wasn’t like Cirque de Soleil.

I’m going to keep exploring classes in order to become stronger (though I am running tonight). What are some classes that help you with your running?


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Fall Goal Setting

I ran my first and only marathon in Chicago on Oct. 10 2014 (10/10/10). I was 23. I told myself, I would run one again at 25 but life got busy. I graduated with my M.A. in advertising that year, moved to Colorado Springs and started a new job. I was just trying to get a handle on life.

Four years later, here I am again thinking and plotting about running a marathon. I’ve moved to Washington, took a new job and getting married next year. I am contemplating another go at the marathon. The goal is to do another and PR by the time I’m 30.

It is really weird to see the number 30 and I know I am referring to myself. So much can happen between now and 30 and I’m nervous I will get side tracked. I know that even my upcoming nuptials will be a large roadblock. So I know I need to be deliberate in setting my goals.
Goal Setting
I’m not a motivational speaker or accredited in any way with setting goals. But, I have a nice way of thinking of them:
• Define
• Plan
• Do

So I have defined my goal pretty well-marathon before 30 under 3:59. The next steps are harder. I have read up on training cycles and consulted my online coaches (I do use an online training program). I am going to focus on short races building up to a half marathon next August or September. I am going to add in core work and cross training. Finally, I need to follow-up and stick to the plan. I know the next few months are going to be hard with the holidays, wedding and just adapting to a new place. I am going to continue to make sure to interact with my online group of runners and luckily, I’m joining up with a running group or two here. It is time to set myself up for success.

How do you set yourself up for success?


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Thoughts about the Long Run

I remember when I use to dread the long run, I was a middle distance runner so what was the use. In high school, my teammate (also now maid of honor) and I started to log longer and longer runs in the summer usually laughing and joking the whole time. I fell head over heals for the long run (or head over hills considering the type of terrain I like). The awesome part about the long run, it makes the shorter ones seem easier.

I like to do my long runs a little different than most people, I take whatever is the slowest pace that I want to go and calculate the total time then I go get lost on trails. By lost, I mean I go out for say 40 minutes and then turn around to find my way back. So on good days, I might cover more mileage than what I record and on bad days, I still get the mileage I need in. The best days, I get to have quite the adventure.


I’ll share a couple adventures I’ve had on the long run (or as Shalane Flanagan calls it “the church of the long run) . It was the day after Halloween, I had been out the night before at the parties but not super late and I had made sure to drink 2 bottles of Gatorade (FYI NUUN works better). The next day, I woke up surprisingly early and feeling OK. I tiptoed through our house, my other roommates still asleep, and slipped out to Panther creek. Panther creek was the perfect place to train for cross country and beautiful in the fall.  I don’t know what moved me to do it, but I decided to explore a new trail. Two miles into the run, it started to climb. I crunched the leaves with every step and slowly my mind started to realize what I had gotten myself into. After deciding not to turn around,  I reached the top of the summit and I was able to see the whole park. My muscles ached and I felt dehydrated but the view was worth it. I began my descent and well got a bit lost. I ended up doing 13 miles. Suddenly, the 5k cross country races did not feel as bad.

The next long run that stands out in my mind is one of the first I did in Austin on town lake loop (or Lady Bird lake for non locals). I was training for the Chicago marathon, I needed to get 20 miles in. Luckily, town lake is 10 miles long, so 2 loops and I should be done. I had also not ran the complete loop before but rather would go out for a certain time and turn around. I was adjusting to running life in Austin by getting up early to beat heat and crowds. I also had my first official date that day with a guy I had met and it was brunch date. While doing my 20 mile run, I had met a friend for a few of the interloping miles and got completely turned around and lost (notice a theme) by the time I left her. While looking at a map, I heard my name being called. Lucky for me, it was my future date who then directed me back towards my apartment. We had a great date and now we are getting married in 100 some odd days.

A month or so left in Colorado Springs and I will be enjoying every long run! What are some of your favorite long run memories?
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Race Recap: Riverbank Run

Yay! My first race of the year is now under the belt.  I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, and extremely excited for what will be in store for the rest of my summer races. I ended up with a PR time of 1:44.21 for the 25k (15.5 miles) and it felt so good to be running fast again.   I was also encouraged to see how I stacked up against the competition in my age bracket, because this race doubles as the national championship for road 25k, meaning that many of the ladies I was competing against in my age bracket were professional runners.  It was amazing to have that kind of competition in a local road race, and one of the reasons why I keep coming back to the Riverbank run.

Another reason why this weekend was so great is because this race and I go waaaay back.  The Old Kent Riverbank run, as it was named back then, was my very first 5k I ever entered at the wee age of 10.  I had joined the Little Cats Running Club at my elementary school and the culmination of all of our after school practices was to trek up to the big city of Grand Rapids and complete the 5k at the end of the year.  It amuses me to look back and remember how long 3 miles felt to those little legs. Now I can say that I have competed in the Riverbank run every year since (with the exception of last year when I was in Africa), bumping up to the 25k the last four years. This race tradition has become so engrained into my running life that I can’t really imagine kicking off the summer running schedule without it.

This year it was particularly special to compete in the Riverbank run because this year I had the support of UR SPORTSWEAR.  They supplied me with a uniform and offered encouragement throughout my training. I was proud to be running for a team again and also for the chance to help this great company reach more athletes.  The shorts were amazing to run in, and would recommend them to anyone looking for some quality spandex that stay in place, look fantastic, and even have a pocket for all your racing necessities. Can’t wait to represent them again at my next race!