Topo Runventure Review

RV stock 1Now that I have about 200 miles on my Topo Runventures, it’s time to tell you about them. Weighing in at 7.5 oz (my size) with a 2 mm drop these trail shoes have certainly impressed me.

The good news: the shoes felt comfortable out of the box
The better news: the more miles I throw at them, the better they feel

Topo Athletic is relatively new to the scene but they are making waves by providing high-quality shoes while utilizing feedback received from athletes to constantly improve their line.

Fit
Topo Athletic’s main feature is the wide toe box on their full line of shoes. As a runner with small, narrow feet I never saw a need to have a roomy toe box, and instead opted for that snug fit. After long training runs and races on trails my feet – especially my toes – would ache. I thought this was part of ultra running and shrugged it off. Now that I’ve been running in Topo shoes I realize that my toes don’t have to, and shouldn’t, hurt after long runs.

I will admit that I was skeptical of having a wide toe box on a trail shoe. Surely there would be slippage either laterally, into the front of the shoe, or both. This isn’t the case for me. In lacing the shoes I still get that snug fit through the midfoot and the heel is comfortably snug as well.

A view from above - check out the room in the toe box

A view from above – check out the room in the toe box

Benefits of a wide toe box include:

  • your toes will splay naturally, making them stronger
  • allows more power in the toe-off
  • provides a stable platform

Upper
The upper is made of a durable, dual layer, rip & abrasion resistant mesh. I have put quite the beating on these shoes and so far the upper is showing no signs of wear or weakness. The dual layer has an added bonus of helping to keep debris out, but at the same time allowing breathability.

Dual layer rip-proof mesh upper

Dual layer rip-proof mesh upper

Another detail I find very useful is the ample toe bumper. I’m not the most graceful runner on trails so between the roomy toe box and the sturdy rubberized cap my toes have not complained once!

Toe bumper for added protection

Toe bumper for added protection

Midsole
A stand-out feature on this model is the midsole which includes compressed EVA on top of a full length TPU rock plate (which you can see at various spots on through the outsole).

A view of the TPU rock plate through the outsole

A view of the TPU rock plate through the outsole

In New Mexico I encountered sharp rocky terrain that I do not see as much on my local trails. Not once did I find a “soft spot” on the shoe where I could feel sharp rocks.

Outsole
I was most skeptical about the outsole of the Runventure. Mainly because I have been accustomed to trail shoes with aggressive soles and deep lugs. During my first true test – a technical run in wet conditions – I started out holding back on the wet rocks and descents. However I quickly gained trust once I found that these shoes had great traction and before long I was pushing the envelope to truly test their grit. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by their performance.

All terrain outsole with breaks to allow for a smooth ride

All terrain outsole with breaks to allow for a smooth ride

They may lose some traction on super muddy or loose terrain but in exchange they maintain the minimal ground feel. When I raced at TNF 50k it was a mudfest. At times I was wishing I had a lugged shoe with more traction to get through that muck, but quickly realized that I was happy to not be carrying around the extra weight of mud caked into the tread.

The Topo Runventure offers a ton of protection in every area of the shoe while also maintaining a light weight and minimalist feel. I even heard that Maggie Guterl raced in the Runventures at The Georgia Death Race, where she earned her Golden Ticket to Western States! If that’s not a testament to these shoes… Congrats Maggie!

If you’re interested in trying the Topo Runventure, or any of Topo Athletic’s shoes, you can use code TOPOKLINE20 for 20% off your order. If you want to know more about any of their shoes feel free to contact me!

Happy Training!

Mad Lib! Cayuga Trails 50

madlib

winner

ERIC EAGAN from #TrailsRoc!! (the crowd goes wild) Okay, so my Mad Lib entries were sparse, to put it mildly – but the submissions I did receive were great. Thank you to those of you who played along! Read Eric’s winning entry below. Oh Eric, just wait until you get your Mystery Prize Sack.

Cayuga Trails 50 Mile Race Report

“My alarm went off at 4:00 am and I looked outside the window to see Jesus (no wait that’s Ian…no wait he cut his hair…it IS Jesus) giggling.  It was going to be an interesting day!  I tip-toed downstairs to eat my go-to breakfast of quinoa kabobs & deep fried bananas before changing into my sweat stanked race gear.

When I arrived at the start line I felt like Pumba from the lion king WHEN I WAS A YOUNG WART HOOOOOGGGG.  It was time to race!  At 6 am on the dot Ian blew into the officer’s breathalyzer and we all started the running man challenge.

During those opening miles I was feeling great & belting out the lyrics to Celine Dion’s I Will Go On.  Even though I was all business I had a muck covered face the whole time.  At mile 13 I planned to take a shit.  Luckily I had a teddy bear strapped to my left tricep.

Around mile 19 I heard someone coming up behind me & was thrilled to see Bernie.  We talked about how are races were going and he told me a story that made me Feel the Bern so hard I donated what’s left to him!  That was a great distraction – thanks Bernie!

As I arrived at the start/finish line to begin my 2nd loop I shouted “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!” to the spectators & they all ran in fear.  This lifted my spirits even higher. By mile 38 I was starting to feel sluggish so I reached for my vegan snack.  Oh crap!!  I burned my eyelashes There’s no time to worry about that.  Onward.

Powering through those final miles was rough, but finally the finish crowd was in sight & I could stop seeing things.  I was thrilled to be finished and excited to get tanked with my friends.  What an amazing day!”

Here are some of my favorite answers from other entries:

“I tip-toed downstairs to eat my go-to breakfast of a Strong Hearts reuben & Earth Crisis milkshake” – Jason Mintz

“Even though I was all business I had a fake mustache on my face the whole time.” – Jason Young

“As I arrived at the start/finish line to begin my 2nd loop I shouted “THE END IS NIGH” to the spectators & they all repented.” – Tom Dee

————————————————————————-

It’s that time folks – taper time!! I have extra time on my hands so I figured I would get a head start on my race report for the upcoming Cayuga Trails 50. And you my friends can be a part of my big day by creating the story or how my race could, or should unfold. If you want to complete my Cayuga Trails 50 Mad Lib you will be in the running for a Mystery Prize Sack! 🙂

mystery prize sack

Click the link below if you want to play. I will have a 3rd party read the entries and decide which they like best. You can make it as crazy as you want! Not following traditional rules, you can read the story as you go to craft your creative responses.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QK3WK8R

After the race I will post the winning entry and even complete the Mad Lib myself (to the best of my ability) with my own version of how things really went down…

Rules

  • 1 entry per person
  • entries must be received prior to the race start on June 4th at 6:00 am EST
  • you do not have to be running this race, or a runner period, to enter!

Have fun & thanks for playing! 🙂

 

A minimalist’s dream – the Ultimate Direction TO Race Vest 3.0

My very first hydration pack was from Ultimate Direction – this was back in the day when I had no use for a running pack that carried hydration, had lots of space for gear, and plenty of pockets for easy access to nutrition and other fun items. I still thought the pack was very cool and mainly used it to run commute in Syracuse – rolling up my “work attire” as tightly as I could to fit it into the pack.

Once I discovered my love of trail running I purchased my first handheld – the Fastdraw – and after trying different handheld options and sizes from other companies I found that I liked the Fastdraw best. It is easy to drink out of, easy to fill, and it fit my hand well without having to “hold on”. But in all honesty, I do not like handhelds. I prefer to have my hands free while training and racing. Handhelds still have their place in my gear closet for those training runs or races where a pack is too much but I still require some fluids. They had a place that is – until I got my hands on the TO Race Vest 3.0.
UD fullI was in the market for a new race vest this year and the minimalist TO 3.0 caught my eye immediately. So much utility packed into such a small vest – it was a quick and easy decision. I will review the features of the vest highlighting the pros and cons.

Rear
The upper half is open mesh which allows maximum ventilation and reduces the overall weight of the pack. The lower half consists of 2 layered pockets – both which I can unzip and access while running which typically isn’t easy with the minimum range of motion in my shoulders. One pocket has a key clip so that you don’t have to worry about your key falling out when you open the zipper.

Rear pockets

Rear pockets

Along with the mesh on the upper back which extends over the shoulders to the chest pockets, it’s worth mentioning the edging that runs all along this pack. It is super-soft making it comfortable against your skin. As someone whose skin is very sensitive to practically anything that touches it while running, this material is the most comfortable I have come across.

Mesh and edging

Mesh and edging

Front
I’ll start with the 2 pockets that sit closest to the shoulders. They both have Velcro closures which is a bonus. One with a flap covering the pocket (I believe this one is waterproof) and one without.
UD pocketUD flap pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sternum strap clasps are easy to open and close. Sounds like a minor detail, but this is something I have struggled with on other vests/packs – especially when it’s cold and my digits aren’t functioning well. The sternum straps can easily be adjusted to multiple positions along the length of the vest with a simple t-hook.

Sternum strap clasp - a simple squeeze of the blue and you're free!

Sternum strap clasp – a simple squeeze of the blue and you’re free!

Next in line is the bottle holsters. The fabric of these pockets make it easy to get the bottles in and out as the pocket maintains its shape – I’ve found that I can remove and replace a bottle with one hand after loosening the opening using the cord locks.

Bottle holster

Bottle holster

The vest comes with two 500 ml Body Bottles. Once you’ve switched to soft flasks there is no turning back. They conform to your body, shrink as you empty them, and the wide mouth makes them easy to fill & add powdered mixes on the go – you can even add ice to your drinks. The hi-flow bite valves live up to their name – I like a high volume of liquid 🙂

Hi-Flo Bite Valve

Hi-Flo Bite Valve

Below the bottle holsters are 2 more pockets. These mesh pockets are great for stashing nutrition. One issue I did have during my first race with this vest is that once the body bottles were empty these mesh pockets do not hold items in as tightly. I had to stop twice during my race to retrieve gels that came flying out. Now I stash only the nutrition that I will be using in the early miles or once I replace the fluid in the bottles. With all of the other storage options that are easy to access while running this isn’t an issue for me.

Finally, below the mesh pockets are super-convenient trekking pole holders. Although I do not have a use for these yet, someday…

Mesh pockets and trekking pole holders

Mesh pockets and trekking pole holders

I will admit that the first time I wore this vest on a long run I didn’t like it. And I was super-bummed because I wanted to love it. The location of the bottles on the chest make it uncomfortable for women (*note this is not a women-specific vest, and Ultimate Direction offers a women-specific line). The bottles were bouncing around too much making it very annoying. Since I was testing it out the weekend before my first trail 50k I realized that there was no way I could run with this for a race of that length. Feeling dejected after my run I noticed that there was room to tighten the pack on the side straps. Voila! Problem solved – no more bouncing bottles!

1st race in the TO 3.0 - TNF DC

1st race in the TO 3.0 – TNF DC

Pros
lightweight – The abundance of ventilation & lightweight materials make this vest super-comfortable – like you’re not even wearing a pack. (the pack weighs in around 6 oz, just over 8 oz with bottles)
storage – For a minimalist vest there are plenty of pocket options (6) and all are easy to access on the run.
aesthetics – I love the color and overall look of this vest. The fact that it matches my Suunto is an added bonus, and totally coincidental 😉

Coordinating like a boss

Coordinating like a boss

Cons
lower mesh pockets – Although I like the deep storage capacity of these pockets and the ease of getting into them, the only thing holding the items in are full body bottles. Smaller items like gels can easily fall out while running if your flasks are low or empty.
fit – I ordered the small and every adjustable strap is as tight as it can go. For me the fit is perfect. Make sure you order the size that will work for you and spend time adjusting all 4 straps to get that snug fit. If you have any bounce the vest will not be comfortable. (*follow the sizing instructions on UD’s web site). So…not really a con, just a word of advice!

My fun photo shoot when the vest arrived - thanks Eric Eagan for the inspiration

Yippee it’s here! My fun photo shoot when the vest arrived – thanks Eric Eagan for the inspiration

 

 

 

 

 

#FridayFuel – Teff Muffins

You know what I love about muffins? They are perfect little (or sometimes not so little) single-serving, portable snacks that you can pack a lot of goodies into. This muffin recipe is just that – which is why I have been making them for years!

The supergrain teff! Photo: Huffington Post

The supergrain teff! Photo: Huffington Post

If you haven’t been introduced to teff it is time to check it out! Teff is an iron-packed grain from Africa that is gaining popularity and accessibility as it is said to be the grain of choice for elite Ethiopian athletes. In addition to the benefits of easily absorbed iron, it also boasts high amounts of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. Since many females in endurance sports can struggle to maintain adequate iron levels (vegan or not), adding teff to your diet is a great way to boost tissue iron levels ladies!

Teff Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Nutrient dense muffins to be enjoyed at any time of day.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups teff flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ½ cup agave nectar or maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup melted virgin coconut oil
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional – I add a few on top of the muffins)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 small tart apple, diced

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan. 2) In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the teff flour, tapioca flour, ground flax, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together well. 3) In another mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice, applesauce, agave nectar, and oil. 4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk together. Then add the nuts, dried fruit, and grated carrots, and diced apples. Continue to mix with a large wooden spoon until all of the ingredients are combined. Be sure to not over mix the batter! 5) Spoon batter into oiled muffin cups and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. 6) Cool muffins on a wire rack.

Long Course Duathlon National Championship at Cary Du Classic

carydu2016logoThis was my 2nd time racing the Cary Du Classic as the Long Course Duathlon National Championship and to sum it up – I had a bad day. I can say that I went into this race not having the best mental attitude (which I may expand upon during another post after I do some soul searching in Santa Fe), but it really comes down to not having the speed, power, and grit that I normally possess. As much as I try to squash my lack of confidence and convince myself that I’m ready to race at my best, it doesn’t always work and my weaknesses show up on race day. Here’s a brief re-cap of my day.

I arrived at transition feeling rested and ready. I was definitely a bundle of nerves for this race but reuniting with so many great friends eased a lot of that anxiety. There was Yvonne Carter and Cora Sturzl from the west coast, Erica Ruge and Jason Heimink from the midwest, Tracy Lempke, Kristin Allyne, Jeff Guara, Jackie Miller, and my wonderful host Dave Tierney representing the local crew. Although we were missing some key people, it was like a duathlon reunion! I knew that no matter how my race went today it was worth it to be here with some amazing friends doing what we love.

Yvonne and I

Yvonne and I – representing Topo

The female start time was 7:04 am – it was still cool and crisp before the heat and humidity rolled in. When the command to “go” was given I of course shot off the front. No one was challenging me and the pace was manageable so I settled in, hitting the first mile at 6:05. I heard some people behind me and soon could tell from shadows that there were 3 females latched onto me. Looks like I was the pacesetter and with the strength of the runners at this race and my lack of confidence in my run speed I didn’t think this was a good position for me to be in today. I backed off just a touch as one-by-one the 3 of them passed me. I hit mile 2 at 6:14 and soon after that was the turnaround where I could see the 3 females coming back towards me. They all looked amazingly strong – not at all how I felt. I really love watching strong runners even if they’re ahead of me so it was a treat to see this talent. I finished the first 5 mile run with a 6:13 pace and was excited to get out on the bike.

The bike course changed this year and we were now doing 2 loops which cut out some of the climbing. Normally I would be happy to have more hills since I don’t possess a great amount of power on flat courses, but since I had only ridden my bike outside 3 times prior to the race, I figured a flatter course would benefit me. It wasn’t my strongest bike but I think I fared better than I was expecting. Over the 30 mile course I was passed by 3 females putting me in 6th place off the bike.

Time to get on to that 2nd run and see if I could chase anyone down! As soon as I started run #2 I could tell I was fading fast. I was eventually able to pass the 6th place female, Allie Norman, but I wasn’t confident that the pass would stick. I started getting pretty bad stomach cramps (which I believe were a result of a minor nutrition error) and I could only imagine how bad I must have looked trying to hold it together. I remember telling myself “you’re running slower than your training pace“, which wasn’t actually true, but it sure felt that way. The first female I saw on the return was Cecilia Davis-Hayes and she looked so damn strong – it was awesome! I gave her a big cheer as I plodded along. After the turn-around I saw Meghan Fillnow storming down the hill and knew it was only a matter of time before she blew by me. I did what I could to keep my momentum going and told myself it was okay to be passed on the run, but this was the only pass I would allow 😉 Sure enough she made her pass with a mile to go and I stayed focused on getting to the finish line.

Photo: Dave Tierney

Photo: Dave Tierney

My performance earned me the bronze medal in my age group and 6th overall female for the day. Not the result I was shooting for but I raced with all I had in me that day. I absolutely love racing – good, bad, or ugly – it’s always an experience I cherish. Today was no exception. Many of my friends also earned medals for their strong races so there was much to celebrate!

Me, Kristin, and Cora

Me, Kristin, and Cora

Run #1 – 31:05
T1 – :33
Bike – 1:21:28
T2 – :29
Run #2 – 34:07

#FridayFuel – Coconut Quinoa and Sweet Potato Curry

curryspice

Jars of curry spice mix to save prep time

If you haven’t noticed I am a big fan of curries. I could eat curry every day. Easy to make, so much flavor, and so many benefits for athletes! I always preach that the best way to recover from a hard workout or race is with a nourishing curry. I cannot tell you the last time I’ve popped a NSAID – it’s been so many years. Why take a pill created in a lab when you can use natural spices to keep inflammation at bay?

As I enjoy curries so often, I find it convenient to mix up a few single-serving jars of my curry mix at a time. Although it doesn’t take that long to throw a mix of spices into a dish on the stove I find it quick and easy to simply open 1 jar and dump the entire contents in the pan when I am in a hurry to get dinner made!

Coconut Quinoa and Sweet Potato Curry is one of my favorite go-to curry dishes. After my evening workout I can throw the quinoa and chickpeas in a saucepan while I hop in the shower and prepare the rest afterwards.

Coconut Quinoa & Sweet Potato Curry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: VegWeb.com

Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas with liquid
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 15-ounce can lite coconut milk
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ginger

Directions

  1. Add chickpeas with liquid and quinoa to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat – simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Use another saucepan with a steamer basket and bring water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and steam for 5-10 minutes until tender.
  3. In a skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add your spice mix, the chickpea quinoa mix, and sweet potatoes to the skillet and add coconut milk.
  5. Mix well and bring to a boil before covering and reducing the heat to low.
  6. Simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the coconut milk reduces to a thick curry.

#FridayFuel – Avocado Chickpea Salad

A slight twist on your typical chickpea salad – I use ripe avocado in place of vegan mayonnaise as a healthy, creamy fat alternative. There are many ways to enjoy this dish – I like to load it into romaine lettuce wraps (and then add pickle slices on top for even more dill flavor!). I also enjoy it as a topper to a spinach salad. You can add it in a wrap or pita with other veggies and sprouts. Or simply eat it out of the bowl with a spoon 🙂

Avocado Chickpea Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 stalk of celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into large pieces
  • 1 Tbsp onion
  • 1/2 of a ripe avocado
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp dried dill (I prefer lots of dill!)

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain chickpeas.
  2. Add celery, carrot and onion to a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop.
  3. Add the remainder of the ingredients and pulse a few more times, scraping down the sides as needed, until well-mixed but with some chunks remaining.

#FridayFuel – Killer Kale Salad

Kale salad is one of my favorites! It is my preferred meal base the night before a race. This recipe is taken from my favorite eatery here in New Paltz – Karma Road’s Kalecado. It’s super-easy to make a big batch of salad that can last for a few days.

Killer Kale Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3 large carrots – grated or shredded
  • ~ 1 cup salted cashews
  • ~ 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Wash your kale, remove stems, and rip into bite-size pieces.
  2. Scoop out the insides of your avocado, roll up your sleeves, and massage the kale by mashing the avocado with your hands until it’s full incorporated.
  3. Add carrots, cashews, and cranberries – give it another good mix to incorporate all ingredients.
  4. Store in the fridge.

 

In Beauty May We All Be – Leatherman’s Loop

A celebration of 30 years! Photo: Closer North

A celebration of 30 years! Photo: Closer North

This was my 3rd Leatherman’s Loop and I find myself already excited to return for the celebration next year! The founders and race directors have really created something special with this race – steeped in tradition and approached with the utmost respect by each runner and spectator – it is easy to see why this is likely the largest trail race on the East Coast drawing over 1300 runners to tackle Ward Pound Ridge Reservation’s natural obstacles. I promise you – come and experience this race once and you too will be hooked by its charm.

Giant peace sign made of flags. Each runner was asked to take a flag - a piece of peace - home with them, as that is where peace begins

Giant peace sign made of flags. Each runner was asked to take a flag – a piece of peace – home with them, as that is where peace begins. Photo: Flint

Maybe it’s the theme of peace that surrounds you when you enter the park. Maybe it’s the way Tony Godino is overwhelmed with emotion when he climbs the ladder to address his captive audience. Maybe it’s the way the Loop’s long-time, loyal friends and legends are introduced and recognized one-by-one for their achievements. Maybe it’s the way we are reminded to reflect upon and celebrate this very moment on this very day when we all come together to share this experience. Or maybe it’s how Danny Martin invites us all to recite the Leatherman’s Loop poem along with him before we are sent off into the wild. It’s all of this and more.

But once the start command is issued the craziness begins! A stampede of eager racers erupts and no matter how prepared I think I am for the punishing pace and battle for position, I always find myself getting quickly sucked backwards in the funnel. Today was no exception but I decided to take a chance and cut left so I could reach the outer edges and hopefully have a better chance to hold my own in the flurry. It worked! I was pushing myself to a pace that no one should be dumb enough to attempt in the opening 1/2 mile of a race but I was gaining ground and moving my way up the field just in time for the single track. I’m never quite sure how I make it through that initial field sprint without taking a terrible tumble. The ground is uneven and with the high grass it is hard to see the terrain beneath – getting tripped up seems inevitable. However I survived again – must be the spirit of the Loop!

That initial mile left my lungs searing but that’s part of the fun! You redline from start to finish at this race. All of the nuances of the loop come rushing back to me as I make my way up and down the risers, over rocks and roots winding through forest paths. I wore my Topo Runventures for this race which offered the perfect lightweight protection and grip to tackle everything this course throws at you. Occasionally there are some spots where you can make passes, but for a lot of the time you either keep up with the pace pushing behind you or get out of the way! I was holding my own and having a great time, naturally. Although the course seemed slightly drier this year the first water crossing appeared to be as deep as usual but I was able to make a pass or 2 running across.

First water crossing. Photo: Hailey Ivey

Exiting the first water crossing. Photo: Hailey Ivey

You reach a clearing which means it’s time for the first sand hill. With a mariachi band serenading runners with some upbeat tunes you can’t help but be feel excited to tackle that hill 😉 From there you make your way to the halfway point which means after a sharp left-hand turn you’re into mudflat territory. There’s no avoiding the deep mud lagoons along this section so you may as well embrace it and have fun! Once you tackle the flats there is one more sand hill to conquer, this one hosts a bagpipe player beckoning you to the summit, before the hard part of the course is behind you.

One of two sand hills. Photo: Michael Rodgers

One of two sand hills. Photo: Michael Rodgers

I had been taking it “easy” on the hills during this race – more than once reminding myself that this was not an ultra and I needed to hustle up every hill I encountered. Telling myself didn’t work, and during the 2nd half of the race I found myself being passed by a few guys on the uphills only to turn around and pass them back once the trail flattened out. Trading spots with these guys over the last 2 miles helped keep me motivated and on my toes for the last section of the race.

Once you exit the forest you have a short field to run through towards the final act of this race – SPLASHDOWN! You can hear the roaring crowds from far away – this is by far the main attraction of this race. And for good reason. Runners can’t see the bottom through the deep, rushing water so every step is an adventure! Being my 3rd time, feeling like I should be a pro at this by now, I had it in my head that I was going to charge through Splashdown like a maverick – impressing the crowds with my water crossing skills. Which could only mean that I should expect the exact opposite… First step in and down I went! Okay, I still have another large section to navigate – I got this. I climbed over the median and leapt into the next section with total confidence. Down I went again. All I could do was laugh at how far removed I was from my visualization of this. But there was no time for laughing at myself – I heard the crowd screaming “you’re the first female – GO!!!!!

Photo: Closer North

Photo: Closer North

I popped out of the water and began my final charge up the hill through the tunnel of spectators lining the way to the finish line. There was that familiar feeling – like I just ran through wet cement, not water, and now with the air hitting my legs each step felt like I was getting slower as I grew colder. I forgot to bring my watch to this race which was actually refreshing – I didn’t really need it and why not race without worrying about time and pace? Once the finish line clock was in sight I was sad to see that this had been my slowest Leatherman’s Loop yet. However that disappointment was fleeting because no matter what my time, or what my place at this race, it is so exhilarating to be out there pushing so hard on a challenging and fun course.

I was able to defend my title of 1st overall female for the day, but it wasn’t by a longshot! The crowds screaming at me to GO in the Splashdown knew what they were talking about. 18-year-old Gemma Nuttall was a mere 30 seconds behind me. I’m going to have to do some work to maintain my streak against the young talent that dominates this event!

Photo: Deborah Burman

Photo: Deborah Burman

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy holding on to that spot for one more year, and the award that comes with it. Each year I receive a large bag overflowing with goodies! If you know me, you’ll know that awarding me food is always a plus 🙂 And so I celebrated that evening with some pancakes and local maple syrup courtesy of Leatherman’s Loop!

Victory pancakes!

Victory pancakes!

One more awesome thing to note about this race is that every year they collect food pantry donations to directly benefit families in need. I wish more races would take advantage of the sense of community trail running fosters. Even if only half of the runners bring 1 item to donate, that can still make a huge impact. It definitely adds to the sense of family that this race nurtures.

Finish time: 48:14

 

#FridayFuel – Avocado Chia Chocolate Mousse

Is it just me or has it been one heck of a week? Sooo…let’s talk dessert! Although dessert doesn’t always fit in to our training and racing goals, I’ll be the first to admit that there are many times when I’m craving something sweet & chocolatey. That’s why this super-easy Avocado Chia Chocolate Mousse is one of my favorites! And why it is featured on my Lighter profile.

How easy you ask?

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor
  2. Process
  3. Pour into serving dishes & pop in the fridge
  4. Eat 🙂

You do want to let this mousse chill for a few hours before enjoying, so I normally prepare it in the morning so that it’s ready for my after-dinner treat. I separate it into 4 serving dishes and seal tight. That’s almost a whole week of desserts!

**the recipe on the Lighter profile is for a single serving, the recipe on my page creates 4 servings

Avocado Chia Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

When training volume is high and I need an extra dose of healthy fats this dessert/snack doubles to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (or use raw cacao powder for an extra boost of nutrients)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 4 Tbsp agave (or less if your taste allows – you can also use maple syrup)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high power blender and process for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.
  2. Pour into a serving dish, cover and chill for a few hours.