Trail 2 Trail Series: Kettletown State Park Race Recap and a Zombie Pinky

T2T SeriesI’m just FINALLY recovering from my weekend which consisted of a “Wine and WOD” Ladies Only Crossfit Night (Stay Tuned!), a 10K Trail Race (EPIC!) and a kick ass training ride that turned into a time trial after I played cat and mouse with a disgruntled dude on a bike (Winner!). The weekend was fantastic. And left me totally glycogen depleted. Oh. And with a broken pinky finger but I’ll get to that in a few. Nothing an ice pack, a massage and copious amounts of beer couldn’t cure. That’s for sure.

The Start Pre-Monsoon. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/Trail2TrailSeries

The Start Pre-Monsoon. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/Trail2TrailSeries

I (happily) discovered the Trail 2 Trail Series, a competitive racing and endurance trail running series, a few weeks ago. Ever since I fell in love with trail running, I have been on the lookout for local races. The transition from road to trial for this broad has not been, shall we say…Graceful?  Yeah. No. Girlfriend needs practice. And confidence. Enter Kettletown. These races are fortunately right in my backyard. Well, not exactly. The T2T Series is in Connecticut. Which is practically my backyard as nothing is really more than an hour or so away. Their slogan is “We Won’t Do Easy.” And?  They’re not lying. Easy, it wasn’t. Fast, winding trails, very decent climbs, lots of rocks, single track and simply BEAUTIFUL. I suspect it would have been ABSOLUTELY beautiful if Saturday’s race wasn’t in the midst of a monsoon, but there you go. Trail Running is the Original Obstacle Mud Run. Hands down. Thank god I love mud because Saturday’s T2T Series Race in Kettletown State Park, was a greasy, challenging mud fest.  And I loved every slippery second of it. How could you not? Look how pretty it is.

Photo: www.facebook.com/Trail2TrailSeries

I would have snapped my own photos, but I feared my iPhone’s life in that rain. Photo Courtesy of T2T’s Facebook Page. http://www.facebook.com/Trail2TrailSeries

I decided after eyeballing the forecast, that I would run the 10K. They had other options available: 5K/10K/20K/50K all of which consisted of partial or multiple full loops of the 10k route. I was happy with my choice. Kettletown-SP-10kEspecially seeing as how I bit it crossing the one river on a patch of ice rock. After a string of profanities and a potentially broken pinky, I brushed myself off and continued on my merry way. Let’s be honest. It’s not trail racing unless you fall and have some sort of flesh wound. (Trail, 1. Colby, 0.) There were several pretty steep climbs coupled with leaf and rock strewn descents which the rain and humidity had made pretty slick. After my earlier fall, my Pinky and I turned into total Chicken Shits and were a bit more cautious. It is the 1 Year Anniversary of that long run where I fell and wrecked my face, so you can imagine, I was in full yellow-flashing-light mode. Feel free to relieve the horror here.

Along the route there was also really scenic, pretty views of Lake Zoar. The place where as a kid I learned to water ski. Ah. Nostalgia. The best part? I didn’t get lost. The course marking was excellent. Red flags on your left and you were golden. The only time they were on your right was if you were taking a sharp right turn, then then they went back to left. Very simple to follow. The race was sponsored by Energybits and Hammer Nutrtirion, two of my old favorites. I love Hammer Nutrition’s Enduralytes. They have saved my dehydrated ass on many occasions. There was plenty of grub afterwards and a swag bag with a few odds and ends. I think if you pre-reg’d far enough in advance, you could have gotten a race t-shirt. But as a Last Minute Nelly, I was shirtless. (Not topless, shirtless. Silly Fools.)

Such a great course.

Such a great course.

The thing I love most at trail races- even trail races in far less than optimal conditions like this one- is the general vibe. Trail runners are chill. Competitive, but friendly and relaxed. It’s been my experience that there is zero to very little pre-race hysteria more commonly found at road races. You know what I mean, right? The high knees. The sprints. The obsession over Garmins. The occasional attitude. I’ve never experienced that at trail races. And this race was no exception. Everyone here from the race directors to the runners themselves was just plain nice. Gotta love that. In fact, I registered for their next race as I was tending to my wounds from the first. I’m hooked. (And next time I’m getting a t-shirt!) This race very much seemed like it was for trail runners, by trail runners. It was well done and well run. Well, it would have been run well by me if it was drier and I was gutsier, but that didn’t even matter. I loved it. Busted zombie paw and all. See you next time guys!

Have you ever run a trail race? Do you have a local trail racing community? What’s the worst fall you’ve ever taken while running? I think we know mine! 🙂

Zombie Pinky conveniently obscured by awesome Janji singlet.

Zombie Pinky conveniently obscured by awesome Janji singlet.

Sleepus Interruptus.

Here’s how last night went:Sleepy Time

2:01 am: Evil Beagle, the tricolored furnace, has wedged herself between me and My Other Half. I’m on the leg side. She is rigid, paws digging into my collar bones. We are eye to eye. She is snoring as if she is a morbidly obese drunk man with sleep apnea. She weighs 23 lbs. I shove her. She rolls over, entangled in my duvet. She’s a Beagle-rito. I have zero covers. I am freezing.

3:17 am: Evil Beagle and her deviated septum are by our feet. My Other Half is in the throes of a bad dream. In it, he is Manny Pacquiao. And this is a Title Fight. He is punching me and talking in tongues. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I swear at him loudly. Punch back. He mutters he loves me, and blows an air kiss. He rolls over, still sleeping soundly. I have zero covers. I am freezing.

4:32 am:  The Good Dog is up. He is ticky-tacking all over the hard wood floor. I debate clipping his nails at that very moment. I don’t know where the clipper is. He sighs loudly. Life is so tough. He flops back down onto his million dollar tempur-pedic dog bed, and begins to give his undercarriage a bit of a wash. I am in hell. Only I can’t be, because I am freezing.

5:53 am. “Wake-up” to some sort of critter running fartleks. WHAT THE HELL? Is it on the roof? Is in the wall? Did baby critters just hatch? I’m freaking out. The Good Dog growls, runs down the hall way. It’s outside. I’m on the front lawn in my jammies wrapped in a leopard blanket looking at a squirrel about to pull a Flying Wallenda onto the feeder. Is there a hidden camera somewhere? AM I BEING PUNKED?!  Good Dog barks wildly then proceeds to pee on the tree which houses the feeder. You know, for good measure. It does the trick. Squirrel aborts mission. Peace has been restored.

5:59 am. I’m up. And have been. I pour myself a gallon of coffee and pad off into the shower, bleary eyed.

Amount of sleep:  Next to nil.

This has been the story of my life lately.  And guess what? It’s catching up with me. I am a haggard zombie. Even my skin looks tired. I have zero energy and my runs have been feeling it too. They’re “Meh” at best with dead tired legs.  If my legs had eyes, there would be two X’s in place of eyeballs. They’re tuckered.  I have had a negligible amount of sleep for MONTHS. First, it was because of stress, which I am happy to report ended with a big ol’ bouquet of good news. (Relive the joy, here.) And now? Other than last night’s MMA fight circus? It still isn’t back to normal. It’s not for lack of trying either.

I have tried to get my sleep back on track with some minor success. I popped melatonin, drank chamomile tea, cut back on caffeine, and took warm Epsom salt baths with lavender before bed time, all in a bid for Sweet Dreams. Despite the best of intentions, The Sand Man Lost.  Never being one to have sleep issues, I had naively assumed this disruption was transient. When stress went away, sleep would snuggle back in.  Oh no, Poodle.  That hasn’t been the story. Christ. I even bought a new mattress which is RIDICULOUSLY comfortable. I just need to get Princess Evil Beagle her own jazzy bed so she keeps her ass off of ours.

I’m just off.  I’m hoping the change of season- longer days, natural sunlight and temps above freezing- all help. I’m also going to take a good hard look at my sleep, diet, training, health- the whole shebang. Something isn’t right. From sleep on down. I feel like I never recovered well from the Ultra I ran SIX DAMN MONTHS AGO. That’s just pathetic. I’m just kind of broken. And I need a fix. STAT.

Do you feel like a Sleepy Slug lately? How many hours of sleep do you get per night? Has your bunk mate ever punched you in their sleep? Sheesh.  

‘Twas the Night Before Race Day

20141126-222452-80692928.jpg‘Twas the night before race day, when all through the town
No sleep would be had by the runners around;
Their race clothes were laid by the door with care,
In hopes that a PR soon would be there.

The rest of the world – they were snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
But for runners like me, sleep would not come,
We tossed and we turned until up came the sun,

Only then did our bodies succumb to a nap,
But then – BOOM! Our alarms went off like a slap.
We frantically pulled our clocks to our faces,
To make sure we hadn’t slept through our races.

Next: Check the weather. Sunny or Snow?
Running through heat or twenty below?
Even though we’d stalked the forecast forever,
We needed that last minute check on the weather.

Time to get dressed, get stressed over layers,
Yes, it’s cold now, but what about later?
Sure we can shed some clothes as we go,
But where goes the damn race bib? We know it must show.

Once our wardrobe is finally complete,
It’s time for the Glide and to deal with our feet!
Glide is easy: everywhere it goes
More difficult is dealing with feet and with toes.

Long or short socks? Compression or not?
Too risky to try the new ones we’ve bought?
And no matter how much we adjust our right sock,
There’s a bump in it that feels like it’s hiding a rock.

Next come the sneakers, a whole different stress
One wrong lace and BINGO! Your feet are a mess.
First they’re too loose. Then they’re too tight.
On race day they never ever ever feel right.

Next up: some food, though it’s barely daylight
And who wants to eat when it’s still kind of night?
So we choke down bagels, maybe oatmeal instead,
And toss back some coffee to wake up our heads.

Breakfast is over, so now we must pack
Some fuel to eat for a mid-race snack.
Chompers or gel? Sport beans or Gu?
Too many choices, so we just grab a few.

We’re dressed! We’re packed! We finished our meal!
Time to head out – shit’s getting real!
But of course we cannot just head out the door,
Without visiting the loo, at least one time more.

Off to the race site, time to check in,
Stare at the elites – those guys might win!
Then straight to the porta potties – get in a line,
We know that is where we will spend most of our time.

After spending quality time at the John
We realize the moment has come to move on
And make our way over to the starting line;
Adjust our Garmin and pacebands one final time.

Do a few stretches, hand to your heart,
As the national anthem signals the start.
Excitement builds, you’re ready to burst,
Whether it’s your fiftieth race or your first.

The countdown begins and off goes the gun,
It’s finally here – the race has begun!.
So we look up and wish on the new morning star,
“HAPPY RACE DAY TO ALL, AND TO ALL A PR!!

Heal, Achilles. Heal.

Ok, Achilles.

CUT THE SHIT.

I have been all, Little Miss Rest for over a week and while you’re DEFINITELY turning a corner, you ain’t exactly Let’s Throw On My Kicks And Hit The Trails for 15!

Not by a long shot.

And it’s making me BENT.

wtfgo

I am happy to report that while I am definitely on the mend, I’m not 100% post VT50. In case you missed it, you can relive the glory and read how I busted my paw here. The swelling is long gone. No weird bumps or nodules exist. And I can do a toe raise with very mild to zero pain. So like a good impatient patient runner, I’ve been showing it some love. I’ve been rolling my whacked out calf, doing simple calf drop stretches, bitching, whining and telling Sir Achilles how strong and handsome he is. Yes, in that order. Guess what? Flattery ain’t gettin’ me no where.

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I am also learning that I don’t ‘Do’ injuries well. It’s making me stressed. And feel like a blown out Blerch. Amazing how you can go from feeling FIT! to Amorphous Slug! in a weeks time. I’m still moving. And planking. And lifting. But I’m not running. Not like I want to. And to be honest, I’ve never looked more forward to it. Running is such a gift. Soon, Colby. Soon.

Oh. What’s that you ask? How’s my toe?

That poor bitch is about to audition for a role as an extra Freak in American Horror Story, Freak Show. It’s down to her and The Lady With 3 Boobs.

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I bet she nails it.

How do you deal with being sidelined? Do you: Binge eat? Binge drink? Binge watch Netflix? Or just rock in the corner and suck your thumb?

The Vermont 50. An Ultra Adventure.

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I’m sitting here with my tired paws up, staring at a soon to be black toe nail with an ice pack on a very swollen and bruised Achilles’ tendon. And, I am smiling.

Yes.

Goddamn SMILING!

I DID IT!!!

I ran my first Ultra Marathon at the Vermont 50 at Ascutney Mountain Resort in Brownsville, Vermont. I ran the 50K or, as in Vermont Speak 32.5 miles. I heard this new bonus mile and a half distance at the very calm and relaxed pre-race meeting. If this were Another Period In My Life, I would have thrown myself into a running tailspin, then dry heaved. But when a nice, friendly, soft spoken man tells you you’ll be running 32.5 miles in 20 minutes time, you really have no choice but to nod, gulp and embrace the “Meh. What’s another 1.5 miles? It’s all good, People” vibe.

Milling around at the start. Calm, cool, collected.
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Relaxed. That is one word I would have never thought synonymous with an Ultra Marathon. Such a relaxed, chill atmosphere. Far more chill than any marathon I’ve ever run. By a long shot. From packet pick-up to the start. And it was contagious. I loved it. And embraced it fully. Garmin? What Garmin? I didn’t even wear it. For me, this was a race I wanted to finish. I had zero expectations with regard to time. I wanted to run. Farther than I ever had. Farther than I have ever though I could.

And I did.

I am ready! Obligatory pre-50K Selfie.
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The Start. Honestly I think someone just yelled, “Go!” I didn’t really hear it because My Fierce Ultra Runner Friend Carly and I were talking and laughing about something non-running related. That’s how chill I was. Every marathon I have ever run I’m usually in a panic. Adjusting earbuds. Resetting my Garmin. Thinking I should have peed again. Fidgeting. This time? No earbuds. They aren’t allowed. And rightfully so. You wind up sharing the trail with Mountain Bikers and YOU NEED YOUR EARS. Three if you have ’em. I didn’t miss them. No fidgeting either. Just calm. Next thing I knew we were running. I forgot to be nervous. I just ran. Within minutes we we climbing. And I’m going to just cut directly to the chase here: I climbed for hours. It was like 7 hours of hill repeats. And no, I’m not trying to be funny. This shit is REAL. And HARD. And BEAUTIFUL. 20140929-210355-75835648.jpg

That’s about all the photos you’re going to get out of me. I had everything to do to keep moving forward. Selfie snapping and Instagramming was completely out of the question. I was unplugged. And it was glorious. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that I ran thru some of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. And across the most beautiful private properties. Those Vermonters are awfully nice letting 100s upon 100s of mountain bikers and runners traipse through their land. #ILOVERMONT
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The first half of the race is really a mix of dirt packed roads and trail. Other than several hairy climbs and a false flat that went on for miles, it wasn’t all that awful. Mostly because it was still cool out. In fact, if it had stayed 60ish it would have been perfect. Instead, it was a perfect, cloudless, 82 goddamn degrees. On September 28th. In Vermont. Yeah. I know. Insane. I have done 4 races in Vermont: a Half-Marathon, a Snowshoe 10K, a Marathon and an Ultra Marathon. Every damn one was in extreme conditions. From -6 degrees to mid-90s. No. Joke. My point is this: If you sign up for an event expecting ideal conditions you are all but assured to have Mother Nature lift her leg and piss directly on your dreams. Then laugh throatily in your frost bitten and/or hypothermic face. Just sayin’.

Now where was I? Oh. The VT50… 20140929-210404-75844506.jpg

Thankfully, aid stations were abundant and staffed with the most kind, compassionate volunteers with S-Caps and bowls of salted potatoes. Best. Snack. Ever. There were 7 aid stations on the 50K route which saw you merge with both the 50 mile runners and Mountain Bikers. I wondered how we would all “get along” and other than having to jump off of the trail several times on tired legs to let bikers pass, everyone couldn’t have been more polite and considerate. I was impressed. Considering the amount of Suffering going on, they were awfully chatty. And encouraging. I never found myself alone. Or lost. And lets be honest, I had no goddamn idea what I was doing. I just ran. Like I would thru the woods when I was little. With a big ole’ toothy grin. I loved it.

Fallon’s Aid Station. Mile 18. Here’s where everything took a turn. For a while there I was, running wildly. It was great. I envisioned myself running swiftly, like one of those leggy chicks in the magnificent trail running pictures in magazines. Effortless. Graceful. Until…

I fell. (Hard.)
And yelped. (Loud.)

I tripped over one of the few rocks protruding directly into the middle of the trail. How I didn’t see it is beyond me. It was massive. This sucker had been there since the Ice Age. I am quite certain it was anchored directly to the core of the earth. That rock didn’t budge. And I kicked it like David Beckham. Hard and just perfect. I honestly thought I broke my toe. In the process I wrenched my ankle. Seized my calf. My Achilles twinged. And I promptly fell flat on my face.

I was momentarily stunned. And helped to my feet foot by a very kind runner. She was met by Colby the Sailor Pirate.

Me: FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKAAARRRGH.
Kind Runner: Oh my god! Are you ok? The aid station is right behind us. Want me to take you?
Me: Fucking no. Fucking toe. {Yelps.} I’m finishing this fucking race. I DONT CARE IF IT FALLS OFF. I. WILL. FINISH.
Kind Runner: {Giggles nervously. Darts off.}

The string of profanities continued each and every time I wailed that same busted up foot on every rock, stone, root and patch of grass for the next 14.5 technical, off-camber, brutally steep miles. Which translates to roughly 14.5 more times. I started to think I had a neurological issue. Or minimally, Tourette’s. Come to find out, I was just exhausted. And clumsy. I was in pain and I was limping. Yet it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t finish. Ever. I started this race knowing I would finish. Even after the tough terrain, crazy heat, horrible stomach issues (I won’t even go there. Because I was there. And it was horrible.) and now busted paw and wonky Achilles- I never considered stopping. Not once.

Where does that come from? I still don’t know exactly. Somewhere from deep within, I found it. I found The Drive. It was so strong. So clear. So confident. I have never felt more certain of anything my entire life. I was hurting. Yet, The Drive trumped The Pain. There it was. That’s what I’ve read Ultra Runners experience. I had it. And I couldn’t believe it myself.

1.5 Miles to go.
20140929-210400-75840629.jpgThis was one of two signs I saw during the VT50. It wasn’t being held by a sea of screaming spectators, it was tacked to a small tree in a gorgeous, quiet section of trails. Yet it couldn’t have screamed louder. I managed to snap a picture of it. I also teared up. And started running. Really running. As fast as my busted paw could carry me. Then I heard the cheers. 20140929-210356-75836866.jpg

And emerged from the trails into a series of switch backs that wove across and down the mountain. If you ask me 40 years from now, what the hardest thing I had ever done was, I will tell you with the utmost certainty the 2014 Vermont 50. No question.

It is only when you push yourself farther than you ever thought possible that you really see just how far you can go. I pushed. I saw. And it was amazing.

Oh what a run I had.

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One Sleep

freakout

This time tomorrow I’ll be running my face off. I’ll admit. I’ve been freaking out. Big time. But now, with one sleep until the Vermont 50?

It’s on like Donkey Kong!

Tapered. Rested. Dried out. Massaged. I am goddamn ready.

I just got back from an easy 3 mile shake out run and I’m feeling good. Really good. I love running in the morning. Even though I rarely drag my ass out of bed during the week to do so. Today was beautiful. Quiet. Crisp. Calm.

zen

Just Me and My Legs. We had a zen moment. I visualized the race. The climbs. The finish. And the feeling of accomplishment that will come with pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone. I will finish. We had a nice chat, My Legs and I. I told them how proud I was of them. How strong they’ve become. How sorry I am for beating the snot out of them. I promised them it would be worth it. And that I’d pamper them afterwards. We just need to finish. They’ve come a long way, these Little Legs.

And they’d better get ready…

‘Cuz they’re gonna go longer. 🙂

Ultra Freak Out.

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There it is.

That’s the countdown until the VT50. At least it was when I started writing this blogpost. By now it’s whittled away further.

Otherwise known as the Vermont 50.
Otherwise known as Colby’s First 50k.
Otherwise known as What the fuck was I thinking when I signed up for an Ultra Marathon in the Green Mountain State?!?!

I think I just blacked out.

This taper has been faaaar more emotional than any other taper for me. And I’ve done 7 of them. I’m not quite sure why I’ve been on the verge of mental collapse the past week and a half, but there it is. I have been.

I’m a goddamn mess.

Perhaps it’s tapering + life stress? Perhaps it’s because I made the critical mistake of reading some bullshit “You don’t have to be crazy to run an ultra marathon, just prepared!” article which listed Tips To A Successful Ultra when I should have read it 4 months ago? The first tip was: Stay flat. Yeah. I pretty much blew that one right out of the box. Perhaps it’s because I’m a “Roadie” who segued into a “Trail Runner” which is totally unchartered territory for me? Or perhaps it was the teeny tiny voice of a Little One the other day?

Yeah maybe that was it.

So on Sunday, My Other Half, His Two Quarters and I went for a walk with The Beagle. Just the 5 of us. We always take the kids to the beautiful trails near our house, where I have learned to love trail running. There is an estuary there and there are always all sorts of amazing birds fishing for supper. I was feeling blue on Sunday. Life stress. Work stress. 50K Stress. Taper stress. Running stress. Achy body stress. All at once I felt overwhelmed. Really overwhelmed. So there we all are watching this beautiful bird, a green heron, fish away. She was teetering on the edge of a thin branch, patiently waiting, dangling 2 inches from the surface. Still. Calm. So focused. So controlled. So determined. So confident in herself. She was on the precipice of disaster on a very weak branch. But she kept at it. I envied her. And her wings.

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Little One: She must really be hungry. She really wants that fish.
She sure does.
Little One: Have you seen her here?
No Sweetheart. Never.
Little One: {Surprised.} You explore a lot.
I do Sweetheart. A whole bunch.

She pauses. I can see her thinking. Really thinking. A slow smile creeps across her face.

Little One: You are a Runner.

I feel myself well up. And actually choke back tears. Out of the blue. There it was out of the mouths of babes. It was just what I needed to hear myself say. Out loud. Clearly. With conviction.

I am sweetheart. I am a Runner.

Let the countdown roll on.

Tapering Out Loud

I’m officially Tapering.

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How in the name of The Tarahumara did THAT happen?

Good grief. Did I even train for a 50k? I can’t remember. It’s all a goddamn blur. My legs are exhausted, so something happened. I feel stronger, so I’m guessing the hill repeats worked. I have a case of The Nerves already, so the VT50 has got to be close. It’s kinda like being in college. You know when you wake up hung over, in last night’s clothes, on your buddy’s futon with a mustache drawn on your face in Sharpie?

Kind of like this…

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Me, muttering: I guess I had a good time?

{Staggers to mirror.}

Me, bellowing: Oh yeah I did!

It’s kind of just like that actually. A big old: WHAT. THE. HELL. Why didn’t someone stop me before it was too late?? So over the next two weeks I solemnly swear I will make a valiant attempt to keep my shit together. Here is the plan: The way I see it, it’s going to go one of two ways.

1. Lighter, quality runs. Some hill repeats. Core work. Paws up. Lotsa sleep. And an increase in carbs.

Or.

2. Several anxiety attacks. Self doubt. Phantom aches. A hysterical breakdown. Insomnia. And an increase in carbs.

Either way, I’m ready. 🙂

How do you combat The Taper Crazies? What is the one Taper Ritual you do every time? Have you ever woken up with a mustache drawn on your face? {Fact: I have not. And here you thought I had. Silly Rabbit.}

NEWSFLASH! Tina and I are on Twitter!!! I know. Welcome to 2014 Girls. Follow us on Twitter! Here we are!

See a penny pick it up…

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…all long run you’ll have good luck.

Hey. It’s my penny and I can wish if I want to.

I found this little banged up, broken down penny on my run today. I saw it glinting in the dirt under a bright September sun. It was 88 with 92% humidity, so you can believe me when I tell you that I thought it was a goddamn mirage. I snatched that little sucker up.

And made a wish.

Tomorrow morning I’m running long. Long long. It will be my last long run before My First Ultra, a 50k at the VT50. If you’ve been keeping tabs on Our Little Blog, you know the following about me:

1. The last long run before the Vermont City Marathon resulted in a trip to the emergency room, 3 stitches, Dermabond, abrasions and one Badass Shiner that lasted for weeks. It also resulted in permanent facial scarring. I see a plastic surgeon soon for a scar revision. And quite possibly a brow lift. Either that or I’m laying off of the salt. I’m beginning to look like a Shar-Pei. You can recount the horror here.

2. I ran the Vermont City Marathon, my lucky number 7th marathon, complete with shiner and shit eating grin. It was not my fastest, but it was one I was most proud of. You can re-live the glory here.

3. I developed PMWS, Post-Marathon Withdrawal Syndrome and being a blogger, documented the whole damn thing. Do you think you have it? You can check here.

4. In a moment of pure insanity, I pulled the trigger and registered for my first Ultra. You can read that death wish here.

It’s been quite the Running Trip. So here I am, Last Pre-Ultra Long Run Eve, rolling that gritty little penny between my fingers, and thinking about my journey.

We’ve come a long way, that little penny and I.

And she’s gonna go longer in the morn’.

Gear, Glorious Gear!

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It’s Christmas up in here!

There are few things greater than receiving all of the items you’ve recently purchased online on the SAME day. What are the odds, right? Ok. Maybe getting all the items you’ve ordered for free would be better, but alas, I am still like a 6 year-old on Christmas Morning who dances with glee on the fireplace hearth when she sees the UPS guy walk up the driveway. With the VT50 slowly creeping up on me (like an itchy, irritating rash), I needed some new gear. More specifically new socks, new visor, new hydration vest, and new legs a new pair of trail running shoes. The new kicks weren’t a part of the recent order. I got them weeks ago and LOVE running in them.

IMG_1184.JPG The Product: Injinji Performance 2.0 RUN Light Weight toe sock. After the Great Toenail Revolt of 2014 at the VermontCity Marathon, I decided to look into Injinji toe socks. I had heard wondrous things about them. The fit. The comfort. The lack of issues associated with wearing them. People seem to love them. Seeing as how I only had 7 toenails left, I figured I had not much left to lose. I decided to give them a go.

The Verdict: I really dig them! I am going to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to love them at first. I put them on and they felt weird. And I looked like a Hobbit. Or Jack Johnson. After several runs, I am really liking them! You lose the- there’s something between my toes- feeling pretty quickly. They are super comfortable and had zero issues with rubbing or blisters. They feel snug and supportive without being tight and restrictive. I bought the lowest profile sock. And they didn’t budge or bunch up during any of the 5 trail runs I went on. Thumbs Toes up!

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The Product: Nathan Zeal Women’s (2L) Hydration Vest Pack. If there is one thing I am paranoid about during long runs it’s running out of water. Camel, I am not. I usually wear a hydration belt, drop water bottles along my route or use a hand held bottle. While all of them are perfectly reasonable, I figure tackling a 50K with longer stretches between aid stations might require something more substantial. And more comfortable. Enter the Hydration Vest.

The Verdict: I love it. Really love it. It fits. It doesn’t bounce or chafe AT ALL and I used it all oppressively humid week. I was impressed. There are plenty of straps to fine tune adjustments and also plenty of zipper pouches to stash Gu, keys, your iPhone, real food, whatevs. It has a 2L bladder which I found plenty huge. It’s also really easy to clean and invert. I’m not all that big (a GIANT 5″2) and the Women’s Zeal fit just right. The other nice thing is the strap across your Lady Bits adjusts (it slides up and down) so you don’t wind up feeling like you’re wearing a push-up bra and running in the Lady Marmalade video. Again. I was impressed. Add another 18oz SpeedGrab bottle in the front for your performance drink and you’re golden. The bottle also does not hinder your movement. I had no issues whatsoever. Oh. And another thing. She’s got a whistle attached. Of course I blew it wildly.

IMG_1186.PNG The Product: Betty Designs Signature Visor. I’ve never been a visor girl- always a full on hat. But sometimes full on hats can get hot, so I figured I would try a visor and let my head breathe and my ponytail flip freely.

20140904-215031-78631932.jpgThe Verdict: In the interest of full disclosure I will admit I bought this visor because IT’S FREAKING BADASS. I love Betty Designs, their logo, their whole philosophy. They make fantastic cycling kits which I have, love and recommend. See? That’s me being a Badass Betty in my rad kit which fits like a glove. They’ve got great designs—not super girly girl. Just super badass. The visor is made by Headsweats and embroidered with the Betty Designs logo. It has this awesome elastic band which is super comfortable and FITS without cutting off the circulation to your brain. There is also a terry band near the brim that keeps the sweat out of you eyes. I may have purchased this initially because it was beyond cute, but I found it’s super functional. LOVES IT.

IMG_1189.JPGThe Product: Pearl Izumi Women’s EM Trail M2. I wasn’t happy with the trail shoe I had been running in and I expressed my disgust with my Blogger Friend Carly @ The Next Finish Line who suggested I take a gander at the Pearl Izumi’s. Happy Feet! Happy Feet!

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If I had to sum up how I feel about this trail shoe I would have to say: Smooth, smooth like a buttermilk biscuit. They also feel extremely secure. Like I’m not going to roll an ankle or slip and fall on my ass, secure. They grip without feeling like your stuck in a glue trap. I know- I am SUPER technical. They have a wide toe box, allowing you to freely wiggle your toes which I desperately need to do at all times. I also think there is a pretty good chance my feet will be swollen like sausages during this 50k, so I figured the more room I have, the better chance of retaining my 7 remaining toenails. Let’s hope I’m right. They are really well cushioned, not quite pillowy, but definitely cushioned.

20140904-214001-78001399.jpgStep on a rock and it doesn’t feel like it’s slicing your paw open. They also have a toe guard to ward off stubbing. I am flat-footed and the stability they provide is more than adequate for me. Shock of all shocks, they’re light. They also have these super cool shoe laces which stay tied. I feel much more sure footed in these babies. And they’re purple. I swear they make me run faster. Leon James loved them too. Thus the Happy Dog Photobomb.

What is one piece of running gear you can’t possibly live without? How much cash are you willing to drop on running sneakers? And while I’m on the topic, how often do you replace them?

All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I purchased the items with my own cash. If I didn’t like them, believe me, you would know. 🙂