These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you DNF a race, you are suppose to think of your favorite things, right?

Instead of telling you my all favorite warm fuzzy things (like The Baker, carrot muffins and sleeping for 12 hours) that have made me feel better over the past few days, I am going to tell you about my favorite running related things/products from this year.

In no particular order:

1. Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 SLAB pack
Bottles? We don't need no stinking bottles. Though I love and adore my gel-bots for ease of fueling and hydrating, my arms don't like carrying bottles. I use to have really good upper body form until I started running with a hand held. But for a long time it was necessity because I could never find a pack I loved. Thankfully, Salomon created one that I love, love, love. It is super light weight and breatheable. It has easy to access pockets and fits me like a glove. It doesn't bounce and it never feels heavy even when full. It is a smart customizable pack.

2. Floradix Iron & Herbs and Floradix Calcium & Magnesium
I have struggled with my iron levels for a very long time and am always concerned about my body health because I am a high mileage female runner. These two Floradix products are the only things that have shown substantial results by the numbers. My iron has stayed out of the anemic range since I started taking it and my bone health is excellent since adding the Cal/Mag as well. Though the taste of the Iron & Herbs is very metallic, the powerful results make it palatable to me. I have taken pretty much everything under the sun for my iron and Floradix simply works. All runners should take these two products.

3. Vespa Ultra-Concentrate
I have long been a fan of Vespa products and use them as part of my training and racing. I can run longer and harder on an optimized fat burning system. Until the Ultra-Concentrate came out, the only problem with taking Vespa's during races was the size. The larger pouches are harder to carry on your person, so you either had to rely on a crew or drop bags for getting them mid-race. The Ultra-Concentrate size is smaller than a gel and as powerful as the regular. Makes it perfect for racing and long adventures!

4. Gu Watermelon Chomps
I get mid-race gel burnout and these Chomps are where I turn. The watermelon taste is tasty and also does not have a gel flavor equivalent, so it stay fresh tasting. It is the closest I get to eating candy and I look forward to when I get to change things up in a race and have some of these.

5. Suunto T6D with mini foot pod
The Suunto T6D is one powerful little tool. It has an altimeter, with the calibrated foot pod, it can track distance, speed and a thousand other bits of information about your run and then syncs up to Movescount. For me the best feature is its size. It is normal watch size. Many GPS watches dwarf my tiny wrists or bruise my wrist after a long run, the Suunto doesn't do that and is comfortable for every day use.

6. Hypoxico Sleep System- altitude training system
The power to sleep high and train low. Having now slept in this tent for 7 months, I can clearly see the training benefit of this. It really works. We initially got it because Nathan needed to adapt to altitude for Hardrock but we have continued to use it since we have seen and felt the benefits to our overall fitness. My resting heart rate is lower, my oxygen capacity has increased, my body fat is lower and I am sure my V02 max has increased as well. Often times we will be running along quite fast and are able to hold a casual conversation and not feel winded at all. This purchase was a huge boon for our supplemental training.

7. Salomon Speedcross 3
I love the Speedcross. They are my favorite shoe. I love how gnarly the grip looks, yet how many surfaces it responds to is amazing (including a treadmill). It has a very smooth ride and can go distances up to 100k (as far as I have tested!). It is the lightest shoe Salomon makes (I believe) and comes in many snazzy colors, which is important of course in such an arbitrary list as this.

8.  Rudy Project Sport Mask Performance
Weighing in at just .88  ounces these sunglasses are an absolute dream while running. The adjustable nose piece keeps them in place while running and they provide superior eye protection from the sun. I put on these sunglasses and just feel fast.

I feel better, don't you?

Just as you are- reflection from Outdoor Retailer

Running back from the Wasatch Wobble with a fast crew

Mark Darcy: "I don't think you're an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother's pretty interesting. And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever's in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences... But the thing is, um, what I'm trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are." (Bridget Jones Diary 2001)

I've always loved that quote (and that movie for that matter) and I feel that way about the ones I love: I love them just as they are. I love them when the grow and change, I love them when they stay the same. I love their faults and mad skills. Just as they are.

Krissy and Ellie running back from the Wobble

Reflecting back on my few days at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, I realized that is not often I ask myself if I extend that sentiment to the way I feel about myself. Do I love myself just as I am? In running, as well as in all aspects of life, I continually try to grow, improve, and better myself. I work hard to do these things and that journey is not always an easy one. There are not always confidence markers along the way to make you feel like you are heading in the right direction. I love to grow, learn, change, strive. But in that pursuit, it is easy to lose sight or focus on the person that you are right at this very moment. I realized while I was at OR that I don't always give myself for the person I am right now, just as I am, this work in progress.

Bonneville Shore Trail.

The fantastic folks at Salomon flew me out to Salt Lake for the show and it was an overwhelming experience to check out all of the new products and see all of the excitement of the show. I had fun talking to Salomon product designers and offering feedback on things, it was cool to check out all the Spring/Summer 2012 products. I got in some great running including a night run with a fantastic group of speedsters in the Wasatch (followed by late night burritos!). 

One of the things I was participating in at the show was the TrailRunner Magazine Uphill Challenge. I came into this challenge with a great deal of self doubt and trepidation. The Uphill Challenge is 15 minutes at 15% grade on a treadmill (up from the usual 10%). You run head to head with another competitor and there are about 20+ total participants over the course of the day. Whomever runs farthest wins (man and woman). 

Boxing Bear Running Climb- night run in the Wasatch

Arriving in SLC, I was definitely feeling tired, slow and nervous. After smashing the SF marathon the Sunday before as a training run and then picking right back up the peak training, I was daunted by the idea of the Challenge. I tried to laugh it off, tried to push out the self doubt but the negative thoughts proliferated as my turn crept closer and closer. They say, I thought, I am not a good hill runner. They say, I am a good road runner, flat runner, downhill runner. I admit it, after its been said so many time both directly and indirectly, I started to believe that sentiment, I started to believe that I am some how less because my best skill is not uphill running.

Krissy and I atop the Wasatch. She is a true inspiration and friend.

I warmed up in the parking lot, watched Krissy and Liza go head to head and was further made a nervous wreck when Krissy had to stop half way through because of a strange flutter in her lungs/chest. I see Krissy as an extremely talented uphill runner and watching her have to pull out mid way through did not instill confidence. She told me that I shouldn't take what happened to her as an example of how it would be, but its hard to accept since she is one of the toughest cookies I know. I was glad she was ok and made a smart decision to pull. 

I stepped on the treadmill, feeling tight, sore and unenergetic. A small crowd was gathered round to watch Gina and I face off. We were the last ladies pair and Gina, running for team Inov-8, was the defending champ. I flipped on the treadmill and did a bit more warming up. I had the incline on 3.0 and inquired (probably a bit desperately) if 3.0 was equal to 3%. I was hoping not, since it felt incredibly difficult, but alas, it was so. I took one deep breathe and thought, hell, its only 15 minutes of my life. I just have to keep going for 15 minutes, I don't have to necessary do it hard or fast.

With a countdown, Ashley Arnold sent us off at 15% and I cranked up the speed to around 5 mph. My strategy was just to run steady and not try to go out to fast. I planned on increasingly slowly, then in the last 1-2 minutes cranking it up to "one misstep and you are flying off the back" speed. I focused my eyes, not on the speed or incline, but on a single spot on the ground. I focused, not on the "I can't do this" sentiment, but on the "I CAN do this. I don't care what anyone says. I can do this." I realized that to succeed I needed to accept myself for who I am, just as I am. I am a good runner, uphill, downhill, road and trail. And I have one thing that mattered more in a challenge such as this than anything else: true grit. For 15 minutes at 15% grade, it is a lot more about what you can bear mentally and physically than skill. For 15 minutes, I could hold on, I could run harder than I thought I could. I could say YES I CAN, instead of I can't, this is hard. I'm not good at this. 

Yes I can get 12+ people into one self-portrait. Oh wait...

Gina and I clicked off identical 10ths of a mile. Holding the same speed steadily as the seconds slid away. 10 minutes gone, I still had legs. I pushed a bit. 13 minutes, I started cranking, pushing and finding my body still had more to give. In the final minute, I had it cranked up to 7.5 mph and felt like I was flying. 15 minutes, done. 1.35 miles. I had won my match up and was the 2nd woman overall for the day. There was a moment on that treadmill when I was able to see that who I am right now, even as I pursue challenges, goals and growth, is worthy. I realized that I am good enough, just as I am. I am good enough not when I achieve those challenges, goals or growth, I am good enough right now. I think it is amazingly easy to forget to give yourself credit for who you are right now, flaws and all, halfway there (half way to where? There is no destination), smack dab as a work in progress. 

Ellie left a piece of herself on the Wasatch

I stepped off the treadmill genuinely surprised by myself, not because I did so well, but because of the depth of self-doubt that I had to overcome. I was surprised that I had forgotten to give myself credit or celebrate the person that I am. We all do it, of that I am sure. But I am happy that I had that moment as I was cranking along, where I said Yes to myself again. It makes you feel superhuman to believe in yourself, just as you are.

Over the rest of the show, I walked and ran around feeling renewed. I have been challenging myself with big pursuits this year and it is the first time that I have genuinely felt empowered by how I am going after it, instead of feeling like I am not doing enough, that I could be doing more. I let go of the self doubt and with it came levity. To face challenges with yes instead of no makes the difficult pursuits seem so much easier. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way I think.

Joe, the mountains and the sunset.

Salomon Advanced Week

Hiding out from the Gripmaster's camera before testing gear.

I have often wondered what professional athletes in other sports feel like. Wondered how they spent their days (training, duh!) and wondered how different my life would be if I only had to run to pay the bills. I also wonder what it would be like to own my own bakery/cafe or write a book, as I tend to be a day dreamer. While the latter may not be something I see come to fruition in the near future, last week I got to have a glimpse into the life as a runner. Just a runner.

Prototype shoe testing. Pictures of new shoes not allowed!

Last week, my amazing sponsor Salomon flew me out to France to be a part of their Advanced Week. There I joined over 30 other Salomon trail running elites from around the world, including 3 other Americans, for a week of product testing, running, interviews, photo shoots and video shoots. I left San Francisco on Saturday the 13th and flew to Marseilles, France by way of Paris. Then I was scooped up and driven to a small town called Bedoin which is less than 30km from the top of Mont Ventoux.  We spent the first few days trying out shoes, clothing and gear. I am "blessed" to have a sample size foot and got to spend a morning doing 10 minute repeats in prototype shoes. You get to know the feel of a shoe very quickly when you are sprinting to keep up with some of the fastest men on trail in the world.

Fast guys. Blinding speed, blinding white clothing.
I tried to keep up.

Our days were spent running multiple times, eating at the hotel restaurant and getting to know our worldwide Salomon teammates. After the first three days of testing, running, photo shoots, etc we were all looking forward to a big group run up to the top of Mont Ventoux. The top of Mont Ventoux, AKA bald mountain AKA the hardest stage in the Tour De France is still covered in snow and apparently has wind speeds of at least 56mph 240 days out of the year. Sounds about right having experienced it.

 Salomon Crew before heading up Mont Ventoux

One of the things I had to be really good about during Salomon Advanced Week was monitoring myself and keeping myself reined in. I am in taper for Lake Sonoma 50 miler this Saturday and American River soon thereafter. I couldn't afford to let my ego take hold and try to keep up. I could have but it wasn't the right decision. I had to eat a good portion of humble pie over the week and watch everyone hammer out their runs and get pretty competitive with one another, in a good way of course. I felt good about my paces for the week and successfully navigated the situation. Our run up Mont Ventoux was an absolute blast. Especially considering the distance we were doing to go so close to Lake Sonoma (10 days out), I went really conservative up the mountain, took lots of pictures and think I managed to be one of the few people without sore legs the next day. After hanging with the main group for the first few miles, Jen Segger, Caitlin Smith and I went the rest of the way up and back together and it truly was an adventure navigating up the mountain. We hit scree, huge steep snow fields and some crazy, crazy wind at the top.

Seriously steep snowy climb
Coats on! The wind made it frigid up there!

The run was a blast. We covered about 40k and did about 6,000 feet of climbing. All in all, Salomon Advanced Week was a true taste of living the life. We ran, we ate, we rested, we talked about products and how to make them better, we tested, we did photoshoots. Sometimes it felt like work, sometimes it felt like play. I was happy to get home, I was happy to have the experience. I think the coolest thing is knowing that Salomon is working really hard to create products that are beneficial for us and meet our needs. They are listening, developing and working on doing great things in the sport and it was really cool to be a part of that.