Curse words make you faster.

Let’s talk about something fun for a bit: Mantras.

Whether you use them to get through a tough training session, or to push for a PR at a race… most of us probably have a couple go-to phrases that we like to repeat to ourselves. I have a potty-mouth, which I censor for this blog, but for this post, be prepared to cringe.

The first one I use is for my race alarm on my phone. (Sometimes I even write it on my inner-arm in Sharpie as a reminder). “Let’s Fuck Shit Up.”

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The story behind this mantra is that Shalane said this to Kara at the Olympic Marathon starting line in London. It resonated with me. If you are more PC, you might say, “Let’s Shake Things Up,” I suppose. But I like the aggressive version. It is like an on-switch for beast mode, yes?

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Next up, I have a bracelet with “Relentless” engraved on it. (Which is a nod to my blog name). The other bracelet I have is a bit more edgy. “HTFU” which means “Harden the Fuck Up,” since I would feel awkward having curse words on my jewelry. I even wear this bracelet to work on days that I am struggling. (Lupus is a bitch.) It is my own little nudge to not give up. For cyclists, they are likely familiar with HTFU as one of “The Rules” from Velo. (They also brought us the fabulous equation n + 1, which can be applied to running shoes as well as bicycles.)

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During the race, I have a lot of phrases going through my mind. One that is usually on repeat “Move Your Ass.” Tough love. It works for me anyways. I am a lot more supportive of my sons when they run, mind you. I tell them “Kick!” and “Dig!” and “Don’t You Give Up!” And Bowie sometimes gets a “Move Your Butt!” when he kicks at the end.

What mantras do you have?

Triathlon 101: Gear for the SWIM.

I think a good place to start with Triathlon 101 is to talk about gear… and since swim is the first leg or the race, we will begin there.

Our expert for swim is Jennifer Harrison! (You can find her bio at the end of this post).

Let’s talk about what gear we need from head to toe. Here is a general swim gear checklist:

  • Race Day:
  • Swim Cap
  • Googles
  • Swimsuit or Trisuit / kit
  • Wetsuit (for open water, water temp dependent)
  • Speedsuit (again, for open water, water temp dependent)
  • Tri-Glide or other wetsuit lubricant

DR: It seems many triathlons tend to supply a color-coded swim cap. And really… If I need to provide my own, I tend to just pick ones that I think are neat. And it is a bonus if it will pull over my long hair. Do you have any personal preference for swim caps? I know they make them from different materials, but I have not experimented much.

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My favorite TYR swimcaps

JH: They offer latex and silicon caps.  Latex are cheaper and more popular.  I personally like the latex ones  – I find that they are not too hot or not too loose.  I do not like caps that are loose!  And, latex caps are less expensive so races usually offer the latex ones.  Silicon ones tend to be heavier, hotter but also less restricting.

DR: I have also heard that some athletes wear two swimcaps, to prevent their goggles from being pulled off. Do you find that to be a problem? (Now I am worried about getting beaten up in the big races! Maybe I am lucky I tend to do ones with smaller wave starts!)

JH:I do not personally do this, but many do.  If you do this, make sure you practice it in training first.  Also, make sure you like the double caps and do not get too hot in the water.  BUT, many people like the security of the double caps to ensure their goggles stay on.

DR: Speaking of goggles… I have been thru a lot of pairs of them to try to find the magic pair that won’t fog up, won’t leak water, and won’t leave raccoon rings around my eyes. It seems like since we all like different goggles, it is probably specific to the swimmer, and personal preference on fit. Do you have any goggles that you like in particular?

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My TYR swimcap and goggles on the long course

JH: I absolutely LOVE Speed Women Vanquishers.  I have like 30 pairs.  I used to be superstitious and buy a new pair before EVERY race.  I don’t do that anymore, but I still have many pairs.  Goggles are a personal preference, but finding the right pair is imperative!

DR: I have purchased TYR anti-fog for my goggles. Do you have any other tips to keep them from fogging up?

JH:Throw it away!   The secret is Johnson’s baby shampoo – put a drop in your goggles before you get them wet – and then rinse them out in the pool and they are GOLDEN!   Trust me on this!  NO anti-fog stuff – it will ulcerate your eyes if you don’t get all the stuff out – not good.

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Photo courtesy of Jaime Berry

DR: How about different lenses for a pool swim versus open water, where you might get more glare from the sun?

JH:All swimmers should have a clear pair for very dark/cloudy days and then a mirrored pair or tinted pair for sunny days.   And, always carry both pairs for your races!

DR: Do you have any tips to keep the goggles from letting in water? I usually wet them a bit to get a good seal, but that tends to give me rings around the eyes.

JH:  We all get rings around the eyes – no getting past that if you want to keep the water out.  So, it is a balancing act.  I like my goggles tight, so I live w/ the raccoon eyes.  To me, way better than water in the goggles  – especially “dirty” lake water.  So, it is usually one or the other.

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Photo courtesy of Rebecca Ann Neumeier

DR: Let’s talk about swimsuits for a bit. I think many athletes just getting started often wear a swimsuit for the swim and then throw on a t-shirt and shorts for the bike and run. And for short races, that is a good option since chafing won’t be as much of an issue. However, if they chose to move onto longer races, they will want to invest in a trisuit or trikit. Do you have a preference for a one-piece versus a two-piece kit? I like to wear a one-piece trisuit when I can because I find it more comfortable. Often, the tri-tops ride up while I run and I have to pull them back down a lot.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Cho Oyler

JH:Correct, the one piece is also very aero-dynamic and does not move much from racing.   I like the 1 piece too sometimes, but I find that they are hot sometimes.  I actually race in the 2 piece more just because I like to have the ability to lift my top up if I am hot.

DR: A wetsuit probably isn’t something an athlete needs right away, but sounds like it is really vital when doing a Half Ironman or Ironman. (People seem to get really upset when the water temperature is not wetsuit legal). What advantages are there to wearing a wetsuit? At some point, it might take longer to get it back off than it would save in the water, right?

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Photo courtesy of Lindsey Dillon

JH: An athlete – regardless of their swimming ability, is always faster in the wetsuit and also spends less energy swimming when in a wetsuit.  IF the wetsuit is legal, always wear it, no matter how short or long the race is.   Even if the athlete swims “easy” in the wetsuit because the water is so hot (76 degrees is HOT) – the athlete will expend less energy and be overall faster in the wetsuit.  

If the athlete practices getting the wetsuit off, it is fast and very limited time is lost.  However, the GAIN by wearing the wetsuit is priceless.

I always wear it – always when legal.   

 

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Photo courtesy of Jaime Berry

DR: Can you tell us about the rules for wetsuits and water temp?

JH:USAT dictates this -→

As per USAT rules, if the water temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or below then wetsuits ARE allowed. At 78.1 to 83.9 degrees Fahrenheit participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion; however, wearing a wetsuit in the temperature range will mean that the athletes are ineligible for awards.

DR: I think the first time I put on my wetsuit, it took me an hour (haha! Kidding!) . I used Tri-Glide like I was spraying myself down with Pam! Do you have any tips on how to get a wetsuit on without dislocating a shoulder?

JH:It does take awhile to get into a wetsuit, but if it is taking the athlete an hour to get in the wetsuit, the wetsuit may not be the best fit.  It may be too tight and thus too restricting.  Suit Juice is a GREAT product for lubrication.   Body Glide also works out well.

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Photo courtesy of Kendra Krueger

DR: Do you have any experience with speedsuits? When would you wear one of those? And how are they different from a wetsuit?

JH: A speedsuit is what an athlete would wear OVER their tri kit for non-wetsuit swims.  They provide no buoyancy but they are aero-dynamic and “speedier” in the water.  They are very tight and offer a limitation of gapping from the TRI KITs.  I would recommend using them for all non-wetsuit legal swims.  My favorite is the ROKA.

DR: So once we are dressed and lined up in the water and ready to race, I like to splash the cold water on my face so that it isn’t as much of a shock when I dive in. What is your biggest tip for a successful swim?

JH: A few good tips:

  • KNOW the course.  If you can, swim the course the day before (parts of it, of course) and know how the sun will be during your race.   No surprises!
  • Know the buoys and how the course will flow.
  • If you are a timid swimmer, let the gun go off, let the swimmers go and wait just 5 seconds and go.  You will get cleaner water and less commotion.  It is worth it for 5 seconds.
  • Make sure your goggles will not fog up.  I mentioned using Johnson’s baby shampoo to clean out the goggles before you start (and fully rinse).  Do that!
  • Warm up in the swim for 5-10 minutes with a few 10” pick ups if you can.  The swim is always a very fast and hard start, so prepare your body for that!

Thank you, Jennifer! If anyone has any questions on swim gear, please feel free to reach out. We will talk more about swimming later when we cover the swim course, transitioning to bike, and training for the swim. Next we will continue our gear talk with bike gear!

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BIO: Jennifer Harrison has been racing for 20+ years and has competed in over 200 triathlons from sprint to Ironman distances. Jennifer also coaches fulltime and runs a triathlon company called JHC Triathlon Coaching.  Jennifer lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Jerome, and her teenage twins, Graham and Morgan.

Beating the heat.

The heat index is over 100 today in my neck of the woods, so it is the time to start talking about safely training in the heat. Many people, understandably, will resort to treadmill, indoor track, or indoor crosstraining like swimming or rowing… But those stubborn folks who continue to run and ride outside need to take special precautions. Running early in the morning or late at night might help a little, but it is still pretty miserable (and dangerous) then.

There are lots of graphics that talk about how much to slow the pace based on temperature and heat index, so I won’t even go into that. Instead, I will talk about a few ways that I try to train as safely as possible. Since I have autoimmune, I really have to be careful and listen to my body. My heating and cooling systems are just not as efficient. Also, if I am in the sun for any length of time, I get horrible itchy sun blisters. (Lupus is just the gift that keeps on giving).

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First, we all know hydration is key. For track workouts, we fill a giant insulated jug with ice and water, and try to keep it in a shady spot. (Bowie has evening track practices twice a week – so I am sure to make sure he always has water available). For runs and rides, I fill up all my insulated bottles as well as my hydration vest. (Shameless pitch for Orange Mud here because they are just the best!)

If you will have an extended workout, you might consider something a bit more than just plain water. I like to use Nuun Hydration tabs. One bottle of Nuun, another bottle of cold water, and I am good to go. (They even make a new “performance” product that can be used for nutrition /fuel.)

Next, apply sunscreen before you even go outside, and be vigilant about re-applying once you are on the go. Make sure you apply under the edges of your clothes. (I recently reminded myself of this after I got a super-bad burn from where my shorts slid up while sitting in a lawn chair. I had a 4” bright red band around my thighs were supposed to be.) Be sure to hit the backs of your ears and back of your neck! There are a billion sunscreens out there, and everyone has a favorite… but as someone with lupus, I need one with Zinc.
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For clothes, I like light, breezy layers. I like to feel like my skin is breathing and the sweat is being wicked away from me. Wrestling my way out of a tight, sweaty top isn’t much fun. Right now, I am liking Rabbit Race-her Back and Bunny Hop tops with Hopper and Catch Me If You Can shorts.
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(I just joined their running team, but I am not selling anything! I swear!) And like, all the Body Glide I can possibly apply on my thighs and armpits to fend off sweaty-chafing issues.

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I do like to wear a visor to keep my hair out of my face and sun out of my eyes. (I find a hat holds in the heat too much). I really like my Orange Mud visor. I just received a BOCO visor, so I will give some feedback on that once I have a chance to test it out.
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I am sort of hit and miss on wearing sunglasses. My prescription sunglasses broke, but I do have several pairs of regular sunglasses. Sometimes I have issues with glasses pinching behind my ears, so I end up stuffing them down the front of my sports bra. (Which makes for really gross glasses when I am back in my car!) I actually just received a pair of polarized sunglasses from XX2i. I will be taking them for a test “run” this weekend , but so far, for everyday use, I really like them (now that I am getting used the the “polarized” lenses). Review on that coming once I have really had a chance to train in them.

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Finally… a sort of girly topic. Hair. I have long hair, so I am always trying to keep my hair off my neck and out of my face. Putting hair in a ponytail all the time can cause breakage. (If you only put it up for training, you might be OK). I have been working on managing my hair without the ponytail pulling. Lately I have been twisting my hair up into a bun and securing it in place with a couple bobby pins. (And it actually stays put!) If I am feeling fancy, I even braid a little section before pulling it up. If I am feeling frisky, two little baby buns are kind of fun. I have done braids a few times, and that is actually easier to fit a visor or hat over. Just throwing that out there since my hair becomes a nasty curly rats nest if I don’t keep it under control in humid weather!

Notice: I am an ambassador for Nuun, Rabbit, and Orange Mud but I was not provided any free products or paid for my opinion. All opinions are my own!

Murder on the trail.

I recently sat down for a chat with a local friend who has this awesome (and topically diverse) podcast called Iconoclast of Things. Each podcast has a “thing” to talk about. For that episode, the thing was the Indian Creek Trail. The recent string of murders on the trail made him wonder how female runners deal with fear, harassment, etc. The podcast episode is AMAZING and I hope you give it a listen here.

That said, I wanted to talk a bit about Indian Creek Trail and the string of murders that really seems to be serial killings but I don’t think have been labeled as such.

I have run Indian Creek Trail many times. I first learned of Indian Creek Trail from the races the Patriots Running Group puts on there. I have raced many times there. I also was interviewed by a local news station for a weather advertisement they made. (How people rely on reliable forecasts… and how I use the information as a runner). They shot some nice footage of me running over the bridge near “The Other Place” bar in Olathe.

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Running Grass Skirts and Hawaiian Shirts race in -16 temps on Indian Creek Trail

Most recently, I was using Indian Creek Trail from long runs. I wanted something with some rolling hills, that was well-maintained… but mostly I was trying to avoid the bugs that I was encountering on my night runs on my heavily wooded trails. I reasoned that as a suburban paved trail, it  would have less bugs and would be pretty safe.

For the most part, I felt pretty safe. I would have a friend meet me every few miles to check in. It was OK. The 17 mile trail snaked through Overland Park, Kansas with most gentle hills and a few steep inclines.

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Martini Madness 5K at Indian Creek Trail

There were sections that I was uncertain of. I felt pretty good running by golf courses and residential neighborhoods. But there were many times that the trail would cross the highway, and that meant running down into the underpass. This put me on edge. I told myself that in Overland Park, Kansas, there probably weren’t homeless people camped out. I would be OK. Just keep running.

After running there a couple times, I just couldn’t shake the fear I felt running under the highway. I started bringing my pepper spray along — not something I typically do. I usually save my deterrents for isolated trail runs, not running in town.

Looking back now, I am happy that I took those precautions to protect myself.

The fifth body was found along the trail this week, although this murder seems unrelated to the other four. It doesn’t fit the profile of the other four victims: older white men walking their dogs along the trail.

Walking their dogs along the trail. They were with their dogs. I have no idea what breed of dogs they were walking… but that is a thing we tell women to do to be safe. “Take your dog with you!” I began running with my dogs on the trails, pretty much every run, when I wanted some company. It was reassuring to have my dogs with me when I was running in the dark in the middle of nowhere.

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Evening trail run with Atlas the Wonder Mutt

There just aren’t any answers yet. All I can do is to stay vigilant and protect myself while running. I will continue running with my very large dogs. I will continue to carry pepper spray or a stun gun. I will continue to vary my routine, and let my family know where I am. (Here is a post I did on how I carry all the gear with some pictures of how I load everything up.)

I recently learned of a group called “One Ear Out” which advocates for running with one ear uncovered while running. (Their daughter was struck by a train while wearing headphones.) This is an excellent practice as you should always remain aware of your surroundings. Another option might be the new bone induction headphones that rest on the cheekbones instead of in the ear canal. I did a review of one brand here, so you can see how they work, but there are many options with these as well.

Stay safe out there, friends.

Update: A couple people asked what products I use. Note that I am not selling anything – but am happy to make recommendations.

Pepperspray

I have a handheld one that wraps around my hand with elastic and velcro. I don’t like things on my hands, so I push it up onto my forearm, and I practice pulling it down and getting my thumb on the trigger before each run. Mine is black, but here is a pretty pink one on Amazon. You can read about how they work and how often they should be replaced here.

Stun Gun

Stun guns are legal in my state, so if I feel I want to be extra cautious, I slip a small stun gun into the front pocket of my hydration vest. It is easy to access if I need it, and has a safety so I won’t zap myself if I fall down. I feel like even just pushing the button and making the big ZAPPPPP in the air would make someone leave me alone.

I have this one, but there are lots of other options on Amazon as well.

ID Bracelets

In the event of an emergency, it is good for responders to be able to identify you and have a contact number for your family. I have reviewed Road IDs here. They seem to be the most popular option for runners, hikers, bikers, etc.

All this gear fits nicely into my hydration vest, along with my phone, nutrition, TP in a ziplock, etc. Link to my vest in main body of post.

When your new miracle medicine sucks.

I disappeared for awhile. I hemmed and hawed about what to write about. My training plan came crashing down. I put my coach on hiatus. I have spent the last month trying to muster up the energy to get out of bed.

I started a new medication last month that I was oh-so-hopeful that it would magically make me “ME” again. But in actuality, I spent the first couple weeks throwing up and surviving entirely on dry gluten-free toast and Sprite. I have been able to start tolerating bland foods lately, so I am hoping good stuff is on the way. I did lose some weight – but definitely not in a positive manner.

My new medicine is an injection that I do every morning in my abdomen. It is supposed to fix my insulin resistance. I am not the expert by any means, but I can say I do not have Type 2 diabetes, but insulin resistance related to my autoimmune issues. Maybe I can go off the injections someday? I hope. The autoimmune stuff is all inter-related with my Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, low ferritin, low Vitamin D, leaky gut, wheat allergy… It goes on. And it isn’t an awesome list. But I am doing my best to be a trooper and manage the obstacles as they come.

Back when I was hopeful that my racing form would return, I registered for a few races. The next race on my calendar is Hospital Hill Half. I entered the Re-Run option for a 5K Friday night and a half on Saturday morning. So, yeah. Obviously that isn’t going to happen. I am bummed because I love this course, and have PR’d on it before. My plan is to run the 5K, and if my body allows, I will drop to the 10K and be happy that I ran at all. Autoimmune is a bitch.

Given that I have not ran or rode in a month, I want to start easing my way back in a plan. A low-key plan. A simple “if I don’t feel like doing my workout tonight, no big deal” plan. I am thinking 3 milers and a slightly longer run over the weekend. Mix in some biking as well. Some swimming if I am feeling like getting crazy. I have some triathlons penciled in, and I am hoping this whole phase passes. (Can you call two years of hell a phase?)

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On the upside, my little Bowie is really shining with his running. He took some time off for cyclocross and soccer, but he is back at it now. He had a great run at the Pi Day Half, where we dropped to the 5K due to weather. A couple weeks ago, he came in 5th male in the Skyline Shuffle 5K, and a PR. Last week, he beat that PR at a hot evening run called Ad Astra Summer 5K Series. (He finished 25 out of 100) runners).

Not too shabby without any training. I want to give Bowie the best shot at his goal race this fall, so I plan to get Bowie working with a kids track team this summer. When he is not a sprinter, I think track workouts will be beneficial to him.

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Bowie at Bunker Hill, Clinton Lake – Lawrence, KS

He can put in his big miles with the Trail Hawks group runs, at least until mama is back at it. (Please be soon! I miss long runs! I miss speed! I miss the burning lungs!)

 

Training for hills

The benefits of hill training are endless. It is speedwork in disguise, yes? But with a hilly race course, hill training is a must. The first time I trained for Hospital Hill Half, I was kind of terrified. And with good reason.

Runner’s World has rankled it as one of the countries toughest half marathons. It was also included in the “Sublime Climb” list.

How to Conquer It: “Don’t go out hard; be conservative early on,” says two-time Hospital Hill champion Mark Curp, who set course records here in 1983 and ’85. “I doubt there’s more than half a mile that’s flat.”

Hill Story: Hospital Hill gets its name from the medical facilities established there in 1869. The final hill rises 50 feet in one-tenth of a mile, an 8.5 percent grade.

The current course record was set by Julius Koskei of Kenya, who ran the course with 3 teammates in 2012 as an Olympic training run. (They were looking to acclimate to humidity and hills.). The Kenyans finished the race first, second, and third. (I won’t ever look to set a course record.)

I do believe in going in prepared. In the case of Hospital Hill, I look for the biggest, nastiest hills I can find and run repeats ad nauseum. (Yes, there are hills in Kansas. In fact, in my area, it isn’t easy to find a flat stretch!)

My closest option is a gravel road that the high school (and I believe Baker U) cross country teams uses for training. This nasty guy is known as “Signal Oak Hill.” At the top of this hill, there used to be an oak that settlers hung lanterns from to warn neighbors of “ruffians.” That tree is gone, and hopefully too are the ruffians. There is a monument there now, and an amazing view of Lawrence, KS.

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Signal Oak overlook

It is a half-mile up with some points reaching over 14% grade. If you can conquer this beast, you can conquer anything!

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Speaking of Lawrence, KS, I spend a lot of time on the University of Kansas campus. A tour of the campus will give you a variety of ways to torture yourself.  My favorite KU Campanile Hill.

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Beautiful Torture

The campanile is a WWII memorial on the hill above Potter’s Lake. It is no slouch with over 13% grade. This paved loop is really popular for training so no one will look at your funny for running in circles!

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Campanile Strava

I will keep looking for more horrible places train for hills. Hope to see you on a hill soon! If you are interested in joining me, you can use code BIBRAVE for a sweet discount!

 

Disclaimer: I received a race entry as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Kick it.

I must say that although my “torture” sessions with the chiropractor to work on my calves and quads are quite painful, I am making progress. After lots of ART stretching and Graston, and lots of teeth gritting, my legs felt better. I was able to sit with my legs folded under me, and my butt touched my heels. That is the benchmark of progress for me. My weekly visits will continue until I can get all this autoimmune under control. All the inflammation in my system is wreaking havoc on my muscles.

In keeping with my goal to always run right when I get home (because if I sit down, my fatigue will catch up and I won’t be able to get moving again), I got ready for a shorter / speedier run with Bowie. Since we needed a 3 miler, I decided the stretch of Flint Hills that runs out of Ottawa toward Rantul would be a good spot. The segment is exactly 3 miles and we’d hit a trailhead that we could be picked up at.

It was pitch black when we started but weather-wise, it felt great. We have been running in shorts all week! (Just in time for snow for our race on Saturday. Grr). Bowie was a little nervous about running in the dark. And to be fair, the Flint Hills trail is creepy at night. We picked up the pace a bit each mile. When we were at 2.5 miles, we could see the headlights in the distance. I started kicking at .25 to go and actually surprised myself that I passed Bowie and stayed out front. That never happens anymore. At the trailhead, I asked Bowie how he managed to get out-kicked by his old mom, and he told me he was just extra tired today. Fair enough.

Bowie has soccer practice on Thursday night, so I will do a last run by myself. We will take Friday off to rest our legs a bit, then come up with our race plan for Saturday morning’s half. Yay!