Sunday, February 16, 2014


It has been 4'eva (forever) since I last posted! Since my last posting I have a new job that has kept me busy and new running experiences that have rocked my world!

Lately I have had some pretty great ideas to post on here, but just haven't taken the time to write them. Someone just asked me tonight if I had quit this blog and that got me thinking that I should get back to it. (Thanks David!)

So here I am.

What's my new job? Over the past year I have been working for Orion Racing as a race manager. It is a runner girl's dream job! It's a hard day of work to go in the woods creating trail courses, run to map out an upcoming race, make things happen on race day, and watch people cross the finish line with sweat and smiles on their faces. Not to mention I work for the best boss 'eva and his family has even adopted me. Yes.... they are as nutty as I am and I haven't laughed so much in years! I'm truly a lucky girl to do what I love with people I love. It's called a blessing, but also makin' it happen. Makin' it happen for what you want in life, what brings you happiness and fulfillment, and what brings new adventures.
Orion Racing Team

Team Awesome!
What are some new running experiences that have rocked my world? Finally made that 100 mile race finish! The Bartram 100's - 100 mile race. I thought about writing a report of my experience on this race, but really it would not be that interesting to read. It would have simply read: "Relentless Determination". That's it. Nothing special I did for this race, nothing awe inspiring. I put my nose to the grind and made my feet keep moving. It was a determination beyond what I previously knew. It was a stubborn determination that refused to accept failure. The one exciting portion this race report would have read: "Team Awesome". I had two friends come out and run with me through the night.We are Team Awesome. They gave up time with their families, acquired sleep deprivation, and listened to my nonsense while running in the dark. Words can not describe how incredibly grateful I am for these friends giving of their time and efforts to help me with my personal goal. Without them, my 100 mile race experience would have been much different. I actually enjoyed every minute of this 100 adventure... almost every minute... because of them. The Bartram 100 rocked my world!

So what's next? I have a few adventures planned this year that I will certainly want to write about. I love recapping exciting experiences, it gives a feeling of reliving the moments and I hope it encourages you to take  on some new adventures yourself. As for this blog, my goal is to keep finding inspirational and informative info. I'm thinking 2014 will be a different and exciting year!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

South Africa 2013 Part III: The Grand Finale ...COMRADES!!!

A Running Freak Still Dreaming

After reading my last 2 posts, I hope you understand the true meaning of my trip to South Africa. By no means do I aim to lessen or minimize the work myself and crew members accomplished there with Part III of my report. I wasn't sure I should include something so frivolous...

...but HELLO!!!...

it's COMRADES!!!

Here's the scene: I'm already in South Africa, I just happen to finish work in the village, I'm only 2 hours away from the start line.

Now what do you really expect this running girl to do?

Heck yes I registered and got my butt over to Durban in a hurry to place my feet on that start line!!!!

Comrades  Marathon is one of the premiere ultra-marathons in the world, The Ultimate Human Race. Don't let the title "Marathon" fool you, it is actually 55-ish miles! It was created to become a living memorial to the spirit of the soldiers of the Great War 1914-1918. The first Comrades Marathon took place on May 24, 1921, starting outside the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg with 34 runners. It has continued since then every year with the exception of the war years 1941-1945, with the direction alternating each year between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the so called up and down runs. Currently the race draws thousands of runners from all over the world, with elites packing the starting line to compete for the coveted title.

Lucky for me this was an UP year (said sarcastically).

After spending the previous 10 days traveling, working in the village, and being on my feet from sunup to sundown, I was tired. In fact, exhausted. I didn't care though, this was a huge opportunity to participate in an incredible event... sleep can always wait.

5:00AM and I place my feet at the starting line among a world of people. As I waited for the cannon to signal the start, I had a chill run through my body as I realized I was literally among a world of people. Almost 19,000 people from over 70 countries were about to take on this challenge together.

Scene of the start. See me? (I'm way in the back)
I was tired, didn't eat breakfast, but was happy as I could be running through the streets of Durban on my way to Pietermaritzburg. This wasn't a "race" for me, I didn't care about my time, placement, average minutes per mile. No, none of that mattered. I was craving the experience and only wanted to finish before the cutoff. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the cutoff... 12 hours and you're done. 12:00:01 and you're blocked from crossing the finish line, officials literally turn their backs on runners trying to cross. It's that harsh.

100% of the course is on road. It was amazing to run through so many towns and villages. I traveled through  suburbs, rural towns, communities of various races, and topped hills that showcased the beauty of the South African land. Beautiful only begins to describe the scenery.

Comrades is a huge event for the country, being televised from start to finish... that's 12 hours of live coverage! The streets were lined with locals taking part in the festival. They were grilling, drinking, and offering up food to runners. The Running of the Bulls flashed through my mind as I ran past so many spectators filling the streets. It was one big party throughout the entire 55 miles!

I'd like to say it was the best run of my life, but actually it was tougher than tough for me that day. We experienced record heat and humidity along with a really gusty headwind for over half the race. And did I mention it was an UP year? I seriously don't remember ever running on anything but a hill! It was a tough course, but combined with my exhaustion, lack of breakfast, and weather... I was doing everything I could to hang on. I wanted to quit more times than I can remember... but who the heck quits running in South Africa at Comrades?!!! I had to dig deep and take out the mental and emotional portions of myself at that moment. I had to make forward progress at all times. I kept pushing forward, breaking things down into their simplest form. So simple that I was counting my steps to make sure my feet were still moving forward at one point. (I later learned that almost 5,000 racers either dropped out or didn't make the cutoff time to cross the finish line. It was a tough day for many runners.)

Then I could smell the barn... I was almost home! The finish line was only 10k away and I found a surge of energy thinking about getting to that line before cutoff and maybe even earning the bronze medal given to those that finish sub-11hours. With my speed increasing, the kindness of strangers giving me salt to avoid cramps (one spectator even ran with me a couple of blocks to help me during a leg cramp!), and with the thrill of the day's experience... I made it to the finish line in 10:56 to earn the bronze medal.

Pushing through to the finish line.
The Comrades Marathon is absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of my running career. It is the most well supported, organized, highly attended, and spectator friendly races I have ever seen or even heard about. The views throughout the course are incredible and the surge of energy throughout the runners and crowd are unmatched. I highly recommend joining the party if you get the chance, it will be one you will never forget.

One more thing... there is a special medal for completing back-to-back Up and Down years. I think I'll need to go back next year to earn it!

Monday, July 1, 2013

South Africa 2013 Part II:Zulu Racing 5k and Big Peach Outreach

A Running Freak's Dream

I have been a continued supporter of LCM, but have not made the trip to South Africa before this year. That all changed when Zulu Racing asked me to go alongside LCM and direct the Zulu 5k in the Vulindela Village. Are you kidding me? Heck yes I'm going! This is a race manager and running freak's dream! I could... not... wait... to give back to others what running has given to me.

Zulu Racing has been working with LCM in hosting a 5k within the village over the past several years. This race brings people from within and outside the village to compete and earn some nice running shoes provided by Big Peach Outreach (BPO). This year, BPO provided almost 250 pairs of shoes to hand out to racers that crossed the finish line. Zulu Racing also provided 100+ race shirts collected from Atlanta area races to be given out to finishers and Area 13.1 medals to the kids. Can you say "Sweet Swag"?

Race day started with me and a crew marking the course, and when I say it was freakin' amazing... it was freakin' amazing! Let me see if I can paint a picture for your mind... The course started on a dirt road and traveled through the village. After about 1 mile, racers veered left onto a narrow foot path (single track for all you runners) surrounded by wheat-style brush. The path stops just short of  the edge of a breath-taking gorge. Racers then turn right to run alongside the gorge. As they make the bend, the gorge is on their left and the Indian Ocean is in front. (If this property was in the USA, you wouldn't be able to afford it!) Racers make their way back on more path and eventually onto the same dirt road they started. It's a fast downhill to the finish.

The gorge alongside the race course (This is not photo-shopped, it's really this beautiful!)

Locals started to line up for their bibs at least an hour before the race. They were excited, ready to run! Among the 250 racers toeing the line were several elite runners, parents, children, men and women of all ages, and even a few grandmothers! As I glanced into the crowd of anxious racers I noticed a young boy, probably about 14 years old, holding his sandals in each hand. I wondered if he was going to hold them the entire race.

Minutes before the start.

A simple start to the race and they were off! Minutes later I was at the finish line waiting for the winners. I knew they would be fast, and the course was slightly less than a true 5k, but I really didn't realize how fast these winners would be... 1st place 12:52, 2nd 12:54, and 3rd 12:59!!! More amazing was the majority group of runners came into the finish line between 16-18 minutes! The grandma's were finishing up in about 35 minutes! Seriously? Are you kidding me? What an incredible event to witness.

Photo op with the top 3 finishers and their new BPO shoes.

And the young boy carrying his sandals at the start? He blasted downhill to finish in about 16+ minutes still carrying his shoes and left with a new pair too.

Still carrying his sandals! (Look closely on his arms)

Thanks to Zulu Racing for helping to send me on this trip, the work you do with LCM, and for bringing the joy of running to rural South Africa. Thanks also to Big Peach Outreach for providing shoes to people in need and putting smiles on many of their faces. You both are doing amazing work spreading the Love, Joy, and Run!
New BPO shoes!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

South Africa 2013 Part I

Part I: Love, Joy, and Run

It's almost been 1 month since I returned from my trip to South Africa. My time there carried so much depth that I'm not sure I can process all that I had experienced, much less put it into words. I will try.

First, I want to try and explain how dollars raised through my fundraising efforts of running Iron Horse 100 have impacted the lives of others. So many friends and family gave with such generous, kind hearts, that we were able to raise almost $4,000! All monies raised went to LCM to help support their work in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. LCM's mission is to establish, help, empower, and provide humanitarian relief to impoverished communities. On May 24, 2013 I traveled with LCM to the Vulindela Village, Eastern Cape Region of South Africa to take my turn in giving back. I wanted to assist others in need and I wanted to spread some of the Love, Joy, and Run God has given me.

LCM has been working with the Vulindela Village for several years in an effort to empower its people and support the growth and education of its community. Within this community, LCM has drilled a well for fresh water, built a community training center, built a hydroponic greenhouse with passive sub-irrigation, and converted some land into a soccer field for children. The major project this year was building a library in the local primary school. We knew this would be an enormous benefit to the school, but we could not anticipate how big. While there, we learned that this was the first-ever library in the entire school district, that serves over 100,000 students!!! This was huge!!!!!!!! To have a small role in preparing the library and witness the opening of the only library in the area was priceless.
Mdatya Primary School Library

Opening ceremony of the Mdatya Library

 My personal experiences there are countless! I fell in love with the people, especially the children. One of my favorite moments was walking down the street from the primary school just after school had let out. Here I am... this white American woman... walking down a dirt road with 50+ young African students... none of which speak English... laughing... teaching them to play thumb wars... having them touch my hair... girls giggling at me as they touch the skin on my arm... watching an enormous bull freely roaming the road 100 feet towards me before entering a field... looking up towards the valley and picturesque land... and then running with these energetic children. It was a surreal moment, almost like an out of body experience. It will always be like a favorite movie in my head.
One of the best moments of my life, running with the children after school.
I'm not sure I will ever be able to process, explain, or understand all that I experienced and witnessed. I do know that it was an experience I am better for having, the people of the Vulindela Village enriched my life, and I would do it all again. Maybe next year...

Celebrating after thumb wars!

Coming next... Part II: Zulu 5k and Big Peach Outreach

Monday, May 13, 2013


Ultra-bonded: A friendship developed as a result of experiences shared amongst two or more people during an ultra-marathon event.

The past couple of weekends I have run 2 ultra races with some pretty cool people. Every time I go to one of these events, I leave having new friends. I continue to meet the most interesting, diverse, and  inspiring people.

I guess it might sound silly to say I leave with "friends" after only meeting her/him only once or twice. Like it makes us blood sistas or bruthas just because we "ran" together. Pshhhh... I mean really... how much could we know about each other?

Apparently we learn a lot! ...
"Running makes me constipated." "Really? I have to take Immodium."
"How many toe nails have you lost?" "I'm down to 4 toenails."
"I get chaffing under my bra." "I get chaffing in between my legs."
"Sorry if you are running behind me, I'm farting a lot today."
"You go ahead, I have to poop." .....

You know... we are out there being all cool and everything.

Then there are other conversations that go a little like this...
"I don't think I can keep going." "Yes you can, keep it up!"
"You go on without me." "We'll walk a minute, then jog further ahead together."
"You can do this, you're a strong person and a strong runner." ...

We are running for HOURS together. We share personal details of our lives and families. We support each other to reach a common goal and know how crossing the finish line makes us better people.  We undergo similar pains, weakness, and lows along with joy, laughter, and adventure. We share an indescribable camaraderie by taking a journey together that bonds us. We become Ultra-bonded.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Strolling Jim 2013: The Red Shirt, Legends, Poncho, and a Dog

I signed up for the Strolling Jim 40 (41 actually) Mile Run a couple of weeks before the race with wanting to experience a long road race. Several ultra-runners I know love this race and is the only road ultra they will run. This must be one heck of race if they love it and I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself. Oh yeah... it's got just a few hills.

The Red Shirt
Week of the race, I was told runners could earn a gold shirt with a sub-5hr, a blue shirt with a sub-6hr, and a red shirt with a sub-7hr finish. Well... I'm not an elite runner, but surely I could earn that red shirt. 

I've been training a lot this year, I'm a decent runner, all I have to do is maintain a 10:00 mile pace and the red shirt is mine. Seriously, how hard could this be?

My plan to just go enjoy the race, run for the love of running, singing amongst the cows and horses, and taking in the gorgeous scenery had now turned into "I want a red shirt!!!!!".

Race day morning... 100% rain and temps in the 40's. Yea! 41 cold, wet miles! If I already hadn't made the trip, there would be no way I would run that day. One thing I can't stand... running in cold rain! As my race room-ie Candy said that morning, "It'll make for a great story." OK, whatever... I sucked it up and headed to the start line. I stood at the start, already soaked, not knowing what to expect, but surely with the low temps I'll run OK and get that red shirt.

Started the run and found myself running with ultra running legends Ray K and John P. Ray singing, talking about being born in 1911, and letting me take some "respectful" cracks at his expense. I loved how it lightened the mood, made me laugh, and started the race relaxed. Ray took off down hill and left John and myself to talk over the next 8 miles. I had just met John and picked his brain about running and his experiences. I was running with a trans-con, Britain crossing, AT trekker, ultra-triathlon man. The stories were amazing and his conversation with me brought joy to my run. Somehow we became separated, probably at a water stop, so I got back to business of earning that red shirt.

The rain continued, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, actually part of me didn't mind it. I'm pretty sure it rained 99.9% of the race. The previous year's race brought people to their knees with the heat, so I felt lucky to not be subjected to endure the sweltering heat, humidity, and aroma of steaming manure. The views were absolutely gorgeous! "Rolling" hills, pastures, cows, horses, farms, flowers, vibrant green trees, and buttercup fields. Definitely one of the most beautiful courses I have ever seen.

Mile 17 and those darn hips of mine started to tighten up, so I slowed down and tried to stretch my legs out. Now I'm walking and running slowly, trying to get through this dreaded low point of my run. I'm completely drenched and by mile 18 I am starting to shiver. 

Here comes my stupid, mental, badgering self: What the heck am I doing out here? I'm freezing, stiff, this damn run feels awful. No, no, no... Suck it up Buttercup!... Rachel, you really suck. This ultra stuff isn't for you. Who do you think you are? Really, you thought you could earn a red shirt? You really suck! You can't get a red shirt and it's not even hot! I hate you SJim! No, no, no again... you're not a quitter! Make it to the next aide. (Sadly, that wasn't even half of the crap that was running through my mind!) 

Mile 20 and my shivering turned into white, numb fingers, blue lips, uncontrollable teeth chattering, and I thought for sure hypothermia was on her way. I was 1 mile from calling it a day and writing off this ultra business. Then the poncho showed up....

Mr. Bill K, another legend, came up and checked on me. He just happened to have another poncho in his back pocket. Really? Who the heck pulls a poncho out of their back pocket?!!! He helps me put it on and stays with me to make sure I'm OK.

 "Thanks, I will be fine now. You go on." I told him.  

Now let me get on with my business of quitting.

 He would run a little in front of me then walk until I caught up.  

Aggggg!!!  Can't he keep going so I can quit!

 "Have you been taking in your nutrition?" he asked. "Yes" I replied.  

Oh crap! I haven't eaten anything.

I stopped to get my PB&J and was now wobbly. I walked and ate while Bill dragged me along.  

Oh I definitely have to DNF now, I'm cold AND wobbly. No, no, no... Just make it to the next aide. You can't quit on Bill. He just adjusted his race for you. Suck it up Buttercup!

My core body temp was now up, I was actually warm, and the food got my energy level back. 

Wow, I'm actually OK.

I made it to the 26.2 mile marker with Bill, feeling good, actually running again (at a darn good pace), and enjoying my conversation with Bill.

Red shirt or not... I'm finishing this thing.... I am NOT a quitter.... I will WIN this battle!

The Dog

I usually don't run with other people for long periods of time during a race, but I stuck with Bill. He not only helped me, but he turned this dreaded, wet run into an awesome adventure. He's an old-school ultra man and shared his stories and ultra running advice. The kind of stuff you can't find in a book.

Mile 29 and we entered "The Walls", a beautiful single lane road covered with a canopy of trees. There we were joined by another runner, a sweet good ol' country dog. We ran, she ran, We walked, she walked. We stopped for water, she drank water.  There were even times when she ran slightly ahead and would turn around to give us a look of "hurry up". She just kept truckin' on with us, keeping us company and keeping my mind off of running. This dog was awesome! Her peppy face and wagging tail added another happy piece to my story on what almost became my Running Doom's Day.
I crossed the finish line, Bill crossed the finish line, and the dog made it 12 miles to finish too.

I hugged Bill with tears in my eyes to say, "Thank you. Thank you for not just helping me finish, but for not allowing me to be a quitter."

Ultra-running is humbling. It will shred you physically and terrorize you mentally, chew you up and spit you out, handing out a reminder slip that you are a mere mortal... but... Crossing the finish line of an ultra gives you the opportunity to slap that physical and mental battle back in the face, to put your foot on the chest of an enormous beast, and walk away with honor. That's what Strolling Jim 2013 handed me.

As for the dog and red shirt.... I drove the good ol' sweet girl back to her starting line to make her way back home. Didn't get that coveted red shirt, but you know I'll be back to try again!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Strengthening the Gluteus Medius For Pelvic Stability

I was going to post this a couple of weeks ago, but time slipped by quickly. Busy with family, home projects, work, and a race thrown in there has made me a little behind of schedule. But alas... exercises to strengthen the gluteus medius for pelvic stability when running or walking. *Read my previous post as to why you need to strengthen your backside!

Several videos are posted below that are excellent and I have personally been doing myself and with clients. After recovering from my hip injury a couple of months ago, I began implementing several of these exercises on a weekly basis. Are they working? Definitely! I just ran a 12 hour run and maintained pelvic stability throughout the run as well as ZERO pain or strain in my hips! That's a huge improvement considering a couple of months ago I was in excruciating hip pain trying to accomplish my first 100 mile run.

Choose a couple of these exercises, or all, and implement them at least twice per week. No need to schedule a separate workout time during your week for these, just tack them on to an existing run/workout or when your watching the news. Strengthening the weak links of your body will help you find your true strong!
*As with any new exercise program, consult your doctor to ensure it is appropriate for you if needed.

The Hip Hitch
The purpose of the exercise is to isolate the gluteus medius and minimus muscles, training their ability to abduct the hip in a running specific position. Start with 2 sets of 20 for each side, performing the exercise slowly by lowering for 1 count and returning for 1 count. Progress to 3 sets of 45 for each side, ankle weights can be added for further progression.
Band Walk, Band Squat, Single Leg Bridge, and Clam Shell
The exercises shown in the following video are EXCELLENT! Definitely incorporate these into your weekly routine.
  • Begin this exercise while lying on your back with both knees bent at about a 45-degree angle and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Let your arms rest at your sides.
  • Slowly lift the hips by pushing on the floor with your feet until your knee, hip, and shoulder are a straight line.
  • Repeat for 2 sets of 12 reps.
Lateral band walks
  • Put resistance band on above each ankle.
  • Separate feet slightly as you get into a 45-degree angle squat with your abs tucked (feel like you are trying to touch your belly button to your backbone).
  • Step laterally.
  • Keeping your shoulders even, bring other foot in towards the lead leg to finish your step.
  • Repeat in the same direction for the length of the room.
  • Return to the other side of the room facing the same direction.
  • Foundation Performance - Michael Silva MS, PT, CSCS
  • Athletico Physical Therapy -
  • The Sports Injury Clinic -