Tag Archives: running

10 ‘Tips’ for Trail Running & Racing [Newbies]

For my first ‘race’ of the year, he found a group of distances happening on a trail conveniently close to our Monterey Bay digs (led by Inside Trail Racing). Contrary to most of the trail runs we’ve done in the past seven months, this wouldn’t require a 6am departure, or even more than 25 minutes in the car. We’d even get a view of the wilderness not-so-hidden in the backyard of our quaint city. Win!

10 tips for trail running_DOTR

He went for the 25K, while I kept it safer with the 10k option. And after a 3+ month hiatus from the trails, I had to remind myself that this trail-running game reads from a very different playbook! So far, this is how I get by, with a little help from the aid stations & color-coded flags:


If you’re a poor race planner, like myself, this one really needs to be in all caps. It’s almost a given that you’ll have to walk up/down at some point, but strategize and be ready for those moments. Know what’s coming and when– it will matter.  For example, this particular 10k course looked like this:


Thankfully he plans ahead, and handed this to me for review on Saturday morning as I munched on my pre-race banana. Well…that’ll be interesting. It’s the total opposite of how 99% of trail races’ elevation rides, but it allowed me to just barrel down those first 3 miles, because I knew there’d be some walking in the last 3 miles, either way.

On that note…

2) Be humble with your distance of choice

My first soiree into this world was a 10-miler (the first sentence of that post is basically this lesson learned). The course wasn’t too challenging, so we lucked out. But those 10 miles felt like 13. And the half we did last Fall? That felt like 20. If you’re just starting out, note that your road-racing PRs mean nothing on the dirt!

3) Bring Hydration. ALWAYS

Would I normally carry water for a 10K race? Nope. But you never know how long those trail miles will take – they seem about twice as long as a road mile, and the aid stations usually seem way too far apart. You will need hydration, either way, so make sure you bring your own.

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My drink of choice: OSMO, for always.

4) Assume you’ll Overheat

I have started many a trail-race in long sleeves, only to curse the decision with gusto as I climb my way up the first major incline. Yes, you can usually count on some tree cover to cool you off here n’ there. But you can also count on some bare, uber-sun-exposed, sections. And your cardio system working overtime to help you climb. Also see: hydration!


No shade. No water left. Not close enough to finish line. So hot right now.

5) Protect your precious skin

Sunscreen and a hat = must-haves! Take it from the girl who just doesn’t think January weather warrants sunscreen (unless you’re on the slopes – in which case, of course you have sunscreen! Why does this logic not translate??), and didn’t have a lick of SPF on Saturday. But I did have a visor! 1 for 2.

6) Invest in trail shoes

I run in the Mizuno Hayates, but prior to that would just destroy my road-running shoes (and feet) on my inconsistent adventures. Trail shoes aren’t all stiff and unrelenting; the Hayates move and shake similar to my Wave Riders, but they’re ready for more challenges. See: rocks, (slippery) dirt, creeks and climbs.

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7) Embrace the downs

In road races, you run a fine line between barreling down hill to gather some speed and gain some cushion on a goal time, and/or destroying your quads. But out in the woods, muscles pretty much get destroyed anyway. You have dramatic ups and downs, you will probably walk (unless you operate in full-on beast mode), and when you do get a downhill? You will want to fly.  

This does go back to point #1 – know what’s coming and when! I’ve even had a few down-hills so steep that I walked, because otherwise gravity would have wreaked havoc.

On the downhill: shorten your stride to avoid killing your knees; stay light on your feet (as much as you can…); don’t fight it; know your (speed) limits. (Of note: this tip comes from someone who hasn’t run more than 13.5 miles on a trails – any full / ultra runners out there? Chime in!)

8) Walk…but not for long

As I’ve now mentioned multiple times, the likelihood of walk ‘break’ is 10x higher on the trails vs. the road. A few reasons for this: the inclines are so steep that you’ll waste too much energy trying to run them all, you heart may explode if you do, and sometimes you just flat out cannot run certain sections (for various reasons of nature’s choice).

BUT! Don’t walk for too long. It’s just as dangerous out here as it is on a road – you give yourself too long a break, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to get going again.

2015-01-31 09.13.52

Photos never do justice to the up, up, UP.

My rule: if I’m walking uphill, I have to start running the very inch in which the incline starts to flatten out or give.

9) Leave the tunes (mostly) behind

Again, I can’t speak to the experience of running anything over 13 miles here – maybe after 3+ hours you’re just flat-out done with absorbing nature’s magic – but I am strongly in the no-trail-tunes camp. For safety, and for bliss. There is so much to take in, no matter what trail you’re running.

10) Wipe your PR (expectation) slate clean

Have no expectations. Just as with road races, every trail is oh-so-different and the challenges you’ll face will never be the same twice (even on the same trail). You never fully know what you’re in for, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with that.

2015-01-31 10.24.37


Seriously. The post-race spread is unbeatable. They really know how to feed a runner’s appetite.

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For Californian’s in the Bay area looking to branch out to enjoy one of these many adventures, check out:

Inside Trail Racing

Brazen Racing

West Coast Trail Runs


Calling all trail experts and enthusiasts: anything you’d add to the list?

1 Comment

Filed under Races, running, running gear, trail running

Convert Confessions: Why I Train+Coach by Heart Rate

If I could talk some sense into 24-year-old me, who gave the “heart-rate training” a try but promptly dropped it because ‘why the heck would I run SO SLOWLY?!’, I’d do it. In a heart beat.

I confess: I’ve been converted. I’ve become dependent on twice the gear and technology that you would have found me wearing as early as two years ago. I’m that runner who checks my watch, quite frequently. I’m the gal who you’re probably passing on the trails, but won’t let it bother me. I’ve become a slave to the training plan, the slow and easy runs, the long hours on the road and the philosophy that “less is more”.

Because it works.



HR: Heart rate.
HRM: Heart rate monitor.
MAF: Maximum Aerobic Function (Threshold).


((My gear: Polar RC3GPS watch and HRM))

I started this year off on a totally different path, wanting a Coach to guide me and teach me something new about the sport of running. I reached out to a friend, curious about how this might work, and promptly answered “okay, I’m in!” when she said, “Work with me!”.

Trickster: she said it would just start out with some HR, a little bit of running by time vs. mileage, and we’ll just see how it goes.

What actually happened: I trained for the Charlottesville marathon solely by HR, MAF and a lot of TrainingPeaks logging. You’re smooth, Coach. Really smooth.


Was it my fastest marathon? Holy geeze, not even close. Was it my best executed? No. Doubt. Whatsoever. Would I have done my training differently? Yep, and it would have done more harm than good.

I learned what it means to build your aerobic base, prioritize training needs, minimize stress, listen to the body, and train my legs to run no matter how ridiculously fatigued they felt. And that meant that in mile 24, as we climbed another ridiculous hill and, mentally, I wanted it to be over 10 miles ago, I was passing people.

While I wasn’t thrilled with my time, I had faith in what brought me there. Left to my own devices, that race would have destroyed me even more than it did.

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What’s all this HR, HRM, MAF stuff about, anyway?

For endurance athletes in any sport, training your aerobic system is more important than anything (aside from managing and minimizing stress). Monitoring your heart rate allows you to objectively measure individual runs and your progress throughout training. Shutting pace out of your head for 90% of your training runs, and basing everything on effort, allows your body to do what it’s capable of on that day and in that moment.

Running at or below your Max Aerobic Function/Threshold allows you to develop your aerobic muscles and systems. The more time you spend doing this, the better. (Don’t worry, there’s some speed, hill and interval work thrown in there when you’re ready!) Your aerobic system functions primarily off of fat for fuel, meaning it’s got juice for days! Your anaerobic system relies on sugar, meaning you tap out quickly. When you give your aerobic system just enough stress, through training, you build its efficiency, therefore, your speed.

There ya go!

Uh, why would I run slow to go fast?

I had a come-to-your-freaking-senses moment in March, about one month out from my Spring marathon and far from any shred of sanity related to this HR crap. Coach gave me a 3-hour long run on Saturday with some GMP-work mixed in and it was one of my favorite runs. I felt exhausted at the end and thought, “OMG FINALLY.”

Then, the next day, I had an 8K race (which Coach knew about, of course). My instructions were simply, “warm-up for 20 minutes, STORM THE CASTLE, then cool-down and do a shake-out jog for 10 minutes”. And my brain was all like, “This chick is crazy.”

I ran 30 seconds off my 8K PR, which was set while chasing Kate two years ago and seemed almost untouchable to me on that day. Until it wasn’t.

I had been running so So SO slowly, and yet I could still run fast.


Fast-forward to June: I had thoroughly recovered from Charlottesville, raced a trail 5K, a road 10K and started packing up for a cross-country move. I also found out I got into the Marine Corps Marathon Lottery. Time for another rodeo!

This time around? I honor it. I trust it. I know how my body will respond, when to listen to it, when to shut the tantrum up and when to just give a little and leave the watch at home. I know how to be truly disciplined, discovering more and more things about a sport that I love unconditionally.

I put in the work, walk when I have to and mentally talk myself out of the days when it just doesn’t click. Something, some system, is trying to say I’M TIRED or THAT ROAD TRIP WAS TOO LONG or I DIDN’T ASK FOR THAT FROYO and because these are all my actions and it’s okay, I will listen.

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To solidify my convert status, I’ve taken my RRCA Running Coach certification and added in MAF/HR-based training. I’m coaching my first few athletes this way and having a small internal party every time I see progress for them. Go, go, go! It just makes sense. So far I have my favorite dude training for a Boston Qualification, and winning local trail races in the meantime.

This type of training requires a lot of you, the athlete: patience, discipline, and perhaps most importantly, faith. It means you have to bury your ego, until it’s ready to toe the starting line (and then let it get all of that pent up energy out!). It means you have to be ready to see what else your sport has to teach you. And then let that work some sciencey-magic!


It’s not easy, but why should it be?
What will challenge you, will change you.


Filed under marathon, running, training

Blazing New Trails: Running the Bay Trails with Mizuno

This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Mizuno & Fitfluential. #blazenewtrails


There’s a pedestrian trail down by the water; it takes you right along the Bay in either direction, providing blissfully flat terrain, no stop lights and a lot of people who nod, wave and say hello. It requires no thinking, no planning, and no fear that a hill may pop up outta nowhere!

Then, in our ‘backyard’, there is this:

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Trails, galore!

Trails that will take you up hills and around parks and to the a crest that spoils you with a view. I mean, checks it…

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The way my HR currently responds to said hills and trails makes them an enemy to most training runs, but that’s just fine. They give me an excuse to take an afternoon break, lace up my new Mizuno Hayates, and go explore – blaze new trails around our new digs.

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I’ve hesitated to invest in ‘real’ trail-running shoes, despite my recent forays into this aspect of the sport (exhibits A, B & C). They’re usually chunky, stiff, heavy, and not appropriate for the everyday-walk. I prefer versatile footwear. And now I know, I prefer Mizuno’s approach.

They took the road-runner into account with their new line of trail-running shoes. Specifically, these shoes boast a light weight (7.2 oz), a “low, light and highly adaptable” design that can take you right from trail, to road, and back.  I need just that! A shoe that goes from your front door to the summit is a friend of mine.

This shoe stays true to the Mizuno Wave, providing a stable shoe and smooth transitions. Check out the grip, the look and the eagerness to GO:

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On the bottom you see the “X-lug” grip, which any who have slipped and slid all around dirt (or concrete, we’re not judging here) know to be crucial. Keep me on my feet! Last but not least, these are designed to make the trail-seeking-runner happy – the lightweight approach means you “feel the trail, not you feet!”. No stomp-stomping here; just speedy, soft-landing bliss.


Their true test is coming up, with our first {10K} adventure in
California off-road racing!


Filed under running, running gear, trail running

Charlottesville Marathon Recap: Up, On & Over

“It’s not your grace in victory that defines you, but your response to defeat.”

MC {So wise, this guy.}


I crossed my fifth Marathon finish line, felt more defeated by those 26.2 miles than any other race to date, and processed the ins and outs for 48 hours. Now that I’m over the little tantrum that is accepting a race-gone-crazy, I realize those miles taught me quite a lot.

learn from failure dream a little bigger


This marathon neither hides nor spares nothing. The hills of Charlottesville will sprinkle salt on your ego and chew it right up! In no review of this race will you hear anyone saying “it’s so easy!”, but rather “be ready” for what’s ahead. “It’s a beast.” Know that yes, you can have a great day on any course, including this, but it won’t be handing out any favors.

It WILL hand you a unique and picturesque college town conducive to great eats, beautiful scenery and runners with a lot of heart.


I went into this race with a few goals in mind, but training the way I did left a lot of room for questions.  The Coach and I decided that, if nothing else, I needed to start easy (because that’s what you do when there are at least three hours of running ahead of you!), and see how all systems responded to the course.  Because I’m no newbie to this whole shebang – I know what it’s like to blow-up, and I can expect that and accept it and hope-with-all-hope my legs put up with it – it was also okay to have a lofty time in mind.

After what has felt like the longest winter EVER, we had a 50* and sunny morning for race day. The high was 65 – essentially this was perfect. For a system used to a few more layers and a lot less warmth? This was, uh, new. But that’s what you get with Spring marathons and that’s what we took. No gloves, no ear-warmers, no sleeves – exactly what’s expected when you think of “wonderful Spring” mornings.

cvillemarathon_before   cvillemarathon_startLine

Elevation Chart_Chartlottesville Marathon

“Easy” for today meant sticking right around the 8:45 min/mile pace for at least the first 10K. The course is split by the following sections, though: 1-5 with the half-marathoners, 6-12 loop, 13-18 out-n-back, 19-20 too close to the Finish Line area downtown, 21-23 out along the river, 24-25 UP up up, 26-26.2 finish with whatever juice you can squeeze out of those legs.

I’m at the base of the mountain running uphill
You’re either running for the top,
coming down,
or you stand still.

Miles 1-4: told me very quickly that if an 8:45 felt like this, it would be tough to drop down to 8:15s, but maybe not impossible once I warmed up. Miles 2-4 felt like a pretty steady climb, and my calves started to fight me. We’ll call that Sign #1 that this day would not be totally mine.

Mile 4 was the first family sighting, as we approached the Full-Half split (mile 5) and headed towards our own separate challenges.

cvillemarathon_mile4.2  Marathoners took a turn towards the UVA campus and started up another climb.

Miles 5 – 12 took us around the University, into a neighborhood and back. It was rolling and I fell into a stride and everything seemed A-OK. The photographic-memory knew things would be tough from here on out but I was still in a place of peace with that. Will this be a PR? Absolutely not. But it’s a marathon day, so you fight the battles in front of you.

Mile 13 couldn’t come soon enough – I needed that “halfway point”. When it did show up, I quickly saw “Mile 18” on the other side. And shortly after that? We started down Down DOWN a paved trail that twists and turns and drops you off into another neighborhood. I witnessed Elites coming up the other side, struggling. And a few stopped for water. And I thought, “Holy Whoa, this won’t be easy.”

Way up, way on
Way UP, ON and OVER

Miles 14 – 18 almost broke me. Look at that chart and you’ll know why; it was hard to swallow that we’d have to run it all TWICE (out-and-back). There were switchbacks and long miles and the sinking feeling that you still have 12, 11, 10, 9…miles to go. And that you’re counting.

Then, after that loop has snot-rocketed your ego to the dirt, you still have EIGHT miles to run. And those eight miles ain’t easy either, yo!

Are you sensing a trend?


In more moments than I cared to count, I considered stopping right here at mile 20. I knew I’d see the crew, that he would be ready to hop in with me (after running a freaking killer 1:34 half + hangin’ out for an hour), that Meg would be cheering and that we were only blocks from the  “Finish” area.

Ambivalence defined these moments. I couldn’t even project to an hour after the race, or that evening, or tomorrow and assume that I’d be disappointed. I felt I wouldn’t be. I’m almost always able to convince my mind that it’s worth fighting the moment’s fantasy of fatigue to get the satisfaction later. Not today. There was no fight, no goals, no oomph. It was just the matter-of-fact that I hadn’t trained for this course and it wasn’t “my” day. That happens. It’s fine.

And after all and all and all
It’s just a wheel we’re spinnin’ on.

What’s not fine is totally dropping the ball, anyway.  C’MON SYSTEM, we’ve gotta see this through.

He hopped in here (mile 2o) to join the party that is the last 10k…

This last loop was also the end of the half-marathon, so I got his insight – what to expect and where to expect it. We stopped briefly at the mile 22(ish) water stop, and I did a little mental check. I also got his stories for a much-needed distraction, and his pacing efforts for a much-needed boost.  One thing I knew to be true no matter what the race-day conditions: my legs have been trained for these miles. They’ve been tested over and over and taught to run through fatigue and resist with all they’ve got! Every recovery run after a Long Run, followed by the “one hour easy” Monday run brought me to these last 4 miles. I may not be flying up or down the hills, but I can absolutely run.

Miles 22 – 24 were the flattest of the entire day. We ran right along a river – with shade and cool air from the water, but without crowds – and I passed people as I let the muscles do what they could. We maintained somewhere around an 8:50 – 9:00 pace and that was that.

Miles 24-25 were demoralizing. This is THE HILL. Any glance at this race’s course chart provokes one of those “What the…” reactions – are they really throwing this in at the end?! Rude, man. So. Rude.

Me to him: “And the worst part? You can’t even justify this by telling yourself it’s the last hill. ‘Cause it’s not!”

I walked up this beast (probably just slightly slower than I would have run), until I was passed by the 4-hour pacer. Nope! That wasn’t going to happen. I picked up my feet and convinced them to push off and we ran. And we rolled over the remaining hills and listened to the crowd saying “Almost there!” and “one more hill!” and “just around the corner!” and we kept going until finally there were NO more and that Finish Line was crossed.

cvillemarathon_mile26 So close so close so close SO CLOOOOOOSE.


And just-like-that, it’s over. Relief pours into every muscle fiber to tell them they’re done, it’s time to relax and put on some flip-flops, and they’re still alive.

Charlottesville Marathon – 4/5/2014


Funny story: after grabbing some food, water and other life elixirs, I heard them start to announce AG winners. My name was called for F25-29 2nd place, and I started laughing –  there’s no way – and thinking, that’s your clear sign that this course is no joke!

cvillemarathon_done.us cvilledone_certificates

Left: what?! …I ran a…how is this…HUH?!
Right: Man, what a weird day.

As it turned out later, those announcers were pretty far off! I was actually 7th in the AG. Our AG winner ran a 3:40:xx.


cvillemarathon_Crew   cvillemarathon_watch

Would I do this course again? Definitely not the Full, but maybe the half just for a good hard challenge and an excuse to hang out in Charlottesville again!

I’m glad the box is checked. As I’ve been reminded in the days that followed, it’s not how you respond to success(es) that define you, it’s how you handle, and perhaps admit, the days of defeat. Learn the lessons, take them with you on every subsequent training run, and then the race(s).

Fuel the fire that will light up your legs for
whatever limit you plan to push past next.

Up, On & Over – Bronze Radio Return


Filed under challenges, marathon, Races, running

RW Festival 1: 5(K) & Dime (10K)

Let’s start with this: if registration was already open for the 2014 Runners World Festival, I would already be signed up (probably going for hat-trick II).

Yep, they’re that good. But would you really expect any less from a Runner’s World race?

The hat-trick challenge started with two of three races today (Saturday). On deck: 5K at 8am followed by the 10K at 9:30am. Our RW-blogger team had the luxury of shuttles to/from the race this morning, so we hopped on the bus at 6:45 am and headed in for our “5 & Dime” morning.

Bloggers Prerace_5andDime_RER 
Thanks for the {too early} group shot, Monica!

It’s been slightly cooler-than-expected (read: prepared for) on these mornings, but ya know, RW has us covered. Waiting inside {the Arts Quest Center}? Yes, c’mon in! Indoor bathrooms, too? Of course.

Bag-check was easy and available for a stop-in between the two races. All good things, RW! Nice work.

RWF_Group ArtsQuest

Another group shot, thanks to Katy! We’re sort of awake…getting there!


Bag-check: check! Heading to the Start line with Susan & Jocelyn.

RWF_Start 10k

GOOD MORNING, Runners! 3.1 miles to go – let’s do this.

The 5K course is pretty simple with a great view across the bridge and a few hills to keep it just on the side of challenging but not too miserable. A few blogger-team runners took this thing by storm (Susan: first in the AG!) and a few of us just took it easy. 24-ish minutes later…

RWF_Finish 5K

Up for grabs: the 5K bling, water, bananas, Larabars, apples & bagels. And open for runners to stay warm: the Arts Quest & Steel Stacks Visitors Center. This is how you know the race is planned for runners, by runners.

We stayed nice n’ comfy in the Visitors Center, waiting for the 45+/- minutes until the Dime began. And then we lined up for round 2!

RWF_Shoes 10K

Neon & SHOES: Linda, Sara, Heather & me.

This felt so much easier than the 5k – warmed up (literally, and…muscle-y) and pumped that when this Finish line is crossed, we only have one more race to go! The course was similar to the 5K but with an extended tour of the town and an extra hill or two.

Bethlehem, you are quite cute. Fall leaves, homes, downtown shops & eats and friendly spectators all around.

The Finish line was full of us! And a lot of other relieved hat-trickers 2/3 done.

RWF_Finished 10k

Linda & I ran the whole thing together, coming in at 47:31.

And now, there are two blings.



Sunday, we wrap it up! We go 3-for-3.  13.1 miles are waiting for us…


Filed under Races, running