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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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When you aren’t the only runner in the family anymore

10659286_10202905677592246_4323240366889049457_nI am the oldest of three girls and we have always been competitive. My sisters are more gifted in the hand-eye coordination area and I was the only long distance runner in the family ( my youngest sister was a sprinter in high school in the soccer off-season).

That changed recently, my middle sister has joined me in those ranks. I started getting pictures of her Garmin and every present has become a request for running clothes. She has slowly built her mileage and plans how to run everyday. She is getting her master’s degree and works in a lab the majority of the day. Running has become the way she gets outdoors. The greenway is right behind her apartment and she tries to go farther on it. It makes me happy that she enjoys it so much. I am so over joyed to be able to share it with her

. “Bring your running clothes and shoes” was the text I received the morning the SO and I left for Thanksgiving with my family. I laughed a little bit for we had already been on the road for two hours (we had to drive to Seattle to fly to Nashville) but assured her they were packed. Thanksgiving this year was her birthday, and before the relatives diverged on the house we went on the run. We ran through the neighborhoods and noticed the changes, we talked about life and explored my old running haunt of the VA. Before I knew it, she was kicking my butt. While I have been trying to get into a routine,  she has been building fitness and speed.

We have decided to run a half marathon in May and it will be fun to share her first half marathon experience. I’ll be training so she doesn’t have to wait too long at the finish line for me.   -Cara

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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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I’m a runner?

Before the Spring of last year (2013), I had never run more than a mile. I was actually a smoker for 10 plus years. I know. Disgusting. Though in relatively decent shape (or so I thought), I didn’t have great lung capacity and just never felt ambitious enough to tackle a sport that, for the most part, is based on self-accountability. I had not even considered that there might be support groups of females who could identify with the challenges I was facing that might be there to lend a supportive hand or even just an ear when I needed to vent about my running frustrations.

When I started out, I signed up for as many races as I could throughout the entire course of 2013, with only the goal of showing up for and finishing each race. I ran a few 5Ks (both fun runs and timed), ran a 10 mile race (the Crim in Flint, MI) and finished my first half marathon (the Detroit International Half) all in 2013. For me, that year alone was a year of firsts. I haven’t yet gotten to a place where I’m tracking my personal bests, for me the accomplishment is having given up something that hindered my ability to be as fit and active as I’d dreamed of being, along with overcoming a state of mental defeat I often found myself in before I even started a run. Within the first mile of a training run I would hear myself saying… “You’re not a runner… what are you doing out here? You’ve got other work to do…”

The most challenging part of all was finally accepting that this is something I need to do for me. It’s something that helps me stay focused, relieve stress, and better equips me to handle daily struggles associated with this messy thing we all live together – LIFE. So, until next time… Keep up the good work ladies.


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Build Better Bones By Tiffany

As athletes, most of us know that calcium is important for bones but for many of us, that’s about where our bone mineral savvy ends. What you may not realize is blood calcium is very tightly regulated at 1% which means when dietary calcium is inadequate your body starts breaking down bone, the storage sight of calcium, to compensate. After adolescence, 1000mg/day is usually enough to maintain healthy bones, teeth, nerve function and muscle contraction but when it comes to absorption, there are a few other factors to consider for maximum efficiency.

For example, alcohol reduces calcium absorbition and inhibits the activation of vitamin D. Carbonated beverages have also been associated with reduced bones mass because of their high phosphorous content. In addition, excess sodium cause increased excretion of calcium in the urine. Some natural occurring plant toxins, like oxalic and phytic acids found in spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes and beans, can also bind to calcium so it is best not to take supplements with these foods.

You typically absorb 30% of calcium found in food. Good sources include dairy products, greens, almonds, tofu and molasses with smaller amounts occurring in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains. However, for athletes, especially female athletes or those unable to digest dairy, a supplement is a good idea. Nonetheless, the array of supplements is overwhelming. So what should you be looking for?

First of all, there are two major forms of calcium: carbonate and citrate. Citrate absorbs better (you can take it without food) and does not cause GI discomfort. However, the percentage is smaller so you’ll be popping about five pills a day and it’s generally more expensive. Pills should be taken with low iron meals in doses less than 500mg.

Next on the list is vitamin D which is essential for absorption. You want vitamin D3 and the RDA is 600mg. Very few foods (cod liver oil, eggs, fish) contain vitamin D so this is especially important during the winter months when the sun is too far to stimulate your skin to produce adequate levels of this vitamin.

Magnesium is also paramount for calcium storage. Apricots, bananas, avocados, whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables are all good sources of magnesium so if you’re eating whole foods, you should be set. However, if you find yourself relying on supplements to fill in your nutritional gaps, you should add this mineral to your list of things to look for in a calcium pill. Research has shown that magnesium citrate is superior to magnesium oxide and the RDA is 400mg.

Other cofactors for strong bones include boron and vitamin K but these are often found in adequate levels in the diet. In summary, while exercise is good for building up bone strength, intense training can cause increased risk of fracture and hormonal changes that decrease bone density. Since peak bone density is achieved in your early 20s, calcium is vital to maintaining optimal performance.

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Girls and Sports

There are a ton of web pages targeted at sports fans on the web these days. I stumbled across a great one today, called Women Talk Sports (WTS). WTS was started my a former steeple chase extraordinaire named Ann Gaffigan, a former basketball player Megan Hueter and an award winning writer/producer Jane Schonberger
. Sounds like a great group of people to me.

If you are like me and have just graduated from college and missing your teammates, WTS is the place to go. It is a calumniation of awesome women for you to surround yourself with (there is some boy’s sports in there also). WTS is basically a ton of different bloggers, talking about an array of topics under one roof. The blogs mainly have to do with promoting women and strength/sports. The blogs aren’t just all about race results either; they have fun topics like “Vote for the new Wonder Women” or “Can you surf better than this Orca whale?”. Although, if you are itching to find an outcome to a race there is a tab called “Race Report”, where you can get your fix.

Whatever you are looking for this is a great find, and they are adding a climbing tab soon so stay tuned ladies.