Cross Training and Blisters…oh my!

One of my very favorite ways to cross train has nothing to do with trail running. My second love is climbing and bouldering. I joined a bouldering league with some of my buddies and we’ve been having a blast. Last night, however, I managed to rip my hand open during a fall, resulting in a nasty, gaping blister.

And today was supposed to be a running and strength training day. I decided to grab my new Skin-On-Skin blister dressing pack out of my trail running bag and give it a whirl. It’s made by 2Toms–the ones who make the best anti-chafing sport shield on the planet. I’m lucky enough to be an ambassador for them this year and they kindly sent me this kit to try out. I was a little nervous because I don’t always get blisters on my feet from trail running… but lo and behold I was given a chance to try it out!

The dressing kit comes with this really cool blue sheet of water-based gel material that you can cut to fit the size of your blister/chafing area. It cools immediately upon contact and provides a nice cushioning buffer. Then you can cut the adhesive tape to fit just right and hold it in place. Since this kit is so customizable, I was able to fit my blister really well and get it prepped for some strength training today.

I’m sure at some point I will be needing this during a trail run so I plan on always keeping this in my hydration pack. Awesome product! I was provided this kit free of charge, however, all opinions are my own. And the blister was hard earned 😉

For 20% off your 2Toms purchase, use code ALB20:

Training Runs

Here a run, there a run…..everywhere a run, run!

Training runs. Sometimes they’re solo trail miles where you push yourself for speed on a Saturday morning while your family eats pancakes without you. Some are dreaded treadmill miles after the kids go to bed. Some miles are pounded away around the neighborhood while everyone else is still sleeping.

Some trail miles are more therapy than training.

Some miles come at night, on the trail with sweet friends. Then there are those hill repeats and bleacher runs that are tortuous but necessary. But my favorite of all — those runs in beautiful places with beautiful souls. How lucky I am.

What are your favorite type of runs?

Why I Run

I don’t think this is your typical “why I run” story.  I’ve thought a lot about how I would convey my journey to others. I was recently asked why I run and it took some time for me to put all the pieces together and weave them into the story below.

As a child, I was not an athlete. I didn’t play sports and running seemed like the most tortuous way to spend any length of time. Now don’t get me wrong– I was active and healthy. I enjoyed working out, but being outdoors was totally my jam! I considered myself an avid hiker and spent a lot of time on the trails. The outdoors were, in fact, my favorite place of all.

College came and went. Marriage, grad school and a difficult path to motherhood all ensued. Life was blazing by at an ever-increasing speed. Hardships ebbed and flowed as they do for us all. Getting outdoors and being active became harder and harder. I woke up one day and looked at myself in the mirror. I could barely recognize the person I had become, not because of the extra weight, but because of the stress and anxiety that had wrecked my life. I had found myself in my thirties as a newly-minted stay at home mom to two children with special needs. My first two children came into my life through the miracle of adoption. We had chosen the special needs path and I was learning that this was indeed a lonely and difficult journey. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would soon become pregnant with a child who would also join his brothers in this difficult world of special needs.

One day, on a total whim, I decided to register for a 5K that supported individuals with special needs. I thought it would be good motivation to get into shape and a way to help others. This led to a half-marathon that also benefited those with special needs. It was fun, but I wasn’t yet sold on being a runner.

It turned out that running wasn’t as bad as I had remembered it to be. I was slow, but I was making progress. Then one day I decided to take running to my first love–the trails. And it was in that moment that this ultra running mama was born. I was sold.

What started as a 5K to boost my weight-loss goal turned into one of the greatest passions of my life–trail and ultra running. I had fallen in love with the trails long ago, but now I had found a new way to experience them. Being able to use my own two legs to climb mountains and cover large of amounts of vast trail brought a sense of peace and joy that I cannot describe. Crossing the finish line of my first mountain ultra brought me a sense of accomplishment that defies words. The hardships of my life–the seemingly impossible ordeals I was going through–became much more bearable once I began overcoming the hardships of the trail. It was on the trail–during these difficult ultras–that I had found a strength inside of me that I had never known.

Therapy. Running trails and completing ultras was therapy to my soul.

Why do I run? Because running in these beautiful places reminds me of what a privilege it is to be alive. To have lungs that breathe air and legs that climb mountains…it makes life beautiful.

So tell me, why do YOU run?

So You Want to Run a 50K…

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. -Simon Sinek

I am in no way an ultrarunning expert. I have successfully completed 5 “official” ultras in the last couple of years, DNF’d my first attempt back in April of 2016 and I’m preparing right now for my first 50 miler. I’m a close-to-40, special needs mama to 3, total back-of-the-pack runner and I run ultras for the pure love of the trail. I didn’t even start running until I was in my 30’s.

I love climbing mountains and pushing my body to its limits and care nothing about placing or stats. I get it done with a smile on my face because this is what I love to do–what makes me happy to be alive. It wouldn’t matter to me if I was first place or last… As long as I’m on those trails and climbing mountains.

I’ve had a lot of people who are in similar life circumstances as me, wanting to know how I make it happen. So in this post I’m going to give you my tips and top secrets–which are really just the things I’ve learned the hard way over the past 2 years!

1. Find a training plan, use it…but adapt it to your REAL life.

A simple google search will reveal tons of training plans. I actually look over several plans and then create my own. I came up with a plan that is realistic for me and works along with my crazy life. As a mom to three special-needs kiddos, my weekday runs are mostly treadmill or around my neighborhood. Sometimes I can squeeze in one night trail run with my running group. The weekends are for my long trail runs and I take full advantage.

Look at this high tech training plan I hang on my fridge! 😉

2. Add in yoga and strength training when you can.

Being injury-free is obviously a vital part of any training plan. I hope to be a lifelong runner. Staying healthy and injury free is one of my biggest goals. I incorporate strength training and yoga at home when I’m not running.

3. Whenever possible, train on the terrain you will be running for the race.

When I have a very difficult ultra coming up, I like to actually do training runs on the course (or on something as similar as I can find.) There’s nothing like knowing exactly what has to be done on race day–especially when it comes to elevation gain and technical trails.

Training runs on the actual course will go a long way in preparing you to complete the race successfully, especially if you are back of the pack like me.

4. Nutrition matters

When you are pushing your body to it’s limits, you need to make sure you are fueling it properly. Adequate protein along with adequate rest is vital for me. But nutrition during long runs is just as important! Use long training runs to prepare for the nutrition you’ll be using on race day. No surprises! Get your nutrition and hydration plan squared away long before race day. I typically use a combination of “real food” (i.e. pb&j sandwiches, salted potatoes, trail mix) and energy gels. I also use salt capsules instead of electrolyte drinks (see number 7 below.)

5. Recovery is part of the plan

Learn to listen to your body. Pushing is good when training for an ultra… but pushing beyond your limits is not. When I’m training, I like to make sure I get plenty of rest at night and take an unscheduled rest day if I need it. No guilt in missing a day of training here and there.

6. Just know that you’ll have to enter the “pain cave” at some point during your ultra.

You’ve trained, you’ve prepared and now it’s race day. But eventually you will probably hit a wall and enter what I like to call the “pain cave.” Everything hurts and you question your sanity. Why in the world am I running? Why did I do this to myself? I’m never running again! You will feel like you cannot go on and that you are physically depleted. This is when the race becomes all mental. One foot in front of the other and you push yourself towards the end. I have found that as my training progresses and my experience grows, the pain cave fades away. But I sometimes still throw a pity party for myself out on the trail. You’ve got to gain the mental toughness to push yourself forward even when your body is revolting. Long, tough training runs with friends are a good way to prepare for this!

7. Good gear can make all the difference.

Nothing can ruin a long run quicker than chafing, dehydration or blisters. These are some of my favorite tools for dealing with these long run spoilers! One reason I chose to be an ambassador for 2Toms is because it works, every time!! Their products are the only thing that prevent chafing for me, especially under my sports bra. Every ultra, every time.

psst…use code ALB20 for 20% off your 2Toms purchase of sports shield or blister kits!!

So there’s my list of tips for preparing for a 50K. What else do you wanna know?!

Watcha Wearing, Lauren?

OK, ladies… here’s the deal. I spend way more money on my running shoes and gear than I do on real life clothing. There’s no shame in my game! I want to look cute doing what I love, but I also need it to be high quality and performance-based. That’s why I’m a Skirt Sports ambassador.

{love running ultras in my Hover Skirt!}

Odds are, if you see photos of me running, you’ll see me in a skirt. Watch on for a review of my favorite outfit and the skirt that carries me through most of my ultras. If you’re interested in trying out some Skirt Sports gear for yourself, use code 67Beif for 15% off your purchase!

Hover Skirt and Free Flow Tank Review:

Mt. Mitchell Challenge, 2018

Where: Black Mountain/Mount Mitchell State Park, NC

When: February 24, 2018

Stats: 37.4 miles, 5,220 ft elevation gain

Bottom Line: an epic, well-organized mountain race

The Mount Mitchell challenge was a total blast! It was an epic day on the mountain for me for many reasons. This was a run I had been wanting to do for a long time. I had run the marathon (aka “fun run”) twice. But I knew one day I wanted to actually go all the way and summit Mt Mitchell–the tallest peak in the east. To my delight, I got in the lottery this year and was so stoked but completely nervous. The first cut off for challengers is the turnaround point for the marathoners. You have to get about 14.5 miles up the mountain in exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes to be allowed to continue on to the summit.

Since I had run the marathon the past two years, I knew the course and terrain very well… I knew exactly what I had to do. But I am a back-of-the-packer for sure, so I had mentally prepared myself for possibly missing the cut off. Long story short, I made the cut off with two minutes to spare! I had one of my best buddies running with me to keep me on target and I also had a lot of inspiration to help me up the mountain. (See my previous post for all the details.) It felt really good to be running for something bigger than myself. No doubt it played a large role in this race being successful (and meaningful!!) for me.

All chipper at the beginning

The race begins in downtown Black Mountain. From the start, you run about 2.5 miles on the road before you head through Montreat and begin your journey up the mountain. You follow some lovely single track for a couple of miles before hitting a wider but very rocky off-road trail. You run this up to the Blue Ridge Parkway – which serves as the turnaround point for marathoners and the cut off point for challengers. From the parkway you have a few more miles of pavement. The theme here is up, up, up! Closer to the summit, we were able to take an awesome singletrack trail up to the top (the Old Mitchell Trail.) It was described by the race director as “burley.” And lemme tell ya, this trail did not disappoint! We were creeping and crawling over wet, slick boulders and shuffling through a gorgeous forest until we finally reached the clearing at the top.

There had been rain off and on throughout the day so the views were hidden in a cloud at the summit. But man did it feel good to pause and take it all in!

I know this will not be my last Mount Mitchell run. I think I may even go for the summit again next year. 😉