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FROM 5K TO HER FIRST ULTRAMARATHON
After a few years struggling to find consistency with activity, Ashley decided to forget what she told herself about running and try a local 5k…and she loved it!
Join us to hear how blossomed from training with an app that told her when to walk and when to run (VERY helpful at first!) to freedom flying down hills on the trails for her first ultramarathon.
What will you try next?
FROM TODAY’S SHOW:
Have you tried guided meditation yet? Check out last week’s episode for a quick guided meditation with Hayley, or check out Women’s Meditation Network for a whole host of podcast meditations to start, or continue, your practice.
If you are looking for a way to fill in your Sunday morning service gap, or if you are just looking for some answers with a dash of hope, join me in the livestream of Park Valley Church, my local church’s services on Facebook or through their website, ParkValleyChurch.com.
If what we focus on magnifies, let’s focus on what is beautiful. Come on over to Instagram and share moments that you are noticing in this crazy time using the hashtag #ForcedPause. I’d love to join you in recognizing the beauty all around us.
Until next time, carry on, women of valor.
Welcome back to another episode of finding finish lines. I’m your host. I’m Sally Bulavko. Oh, and I am just trying to live on this planet the same way that you all are.
We are… man adjusting to a new normal, right?
I’ve got ah, a soon to be nine year old and a soon to be 10 year old. And we are embracing this kind of new life where I never pictured myself being a home school teacher. That is for sure. But we’re surviving. We’re getting outside. We are cooking. Were fudge in it a little bit you might have seen on Instagram? We did a I’m doing air quotes here. Just you can’t see me, but I definitely have a history lesson using a league of their own. We did a math lesson using cookies. Moms were fudge in it. It’s okay. It’s even okay to be open about the fact that we’re fudge in it.
We don’t know what we’re doing right now. We’re just trying to wake up every day and take it minute by minute.
So if you are still in that zone where you’re just feeling complete overwhelmed Mama, I see you. I hear you. I understand. I understand completely.
If all of these pictures of people’s you know, crazy schedules and I love that are not your styles don’t do it. Don’t feel any obligation to adopt anybody else’s method of surviving through this very strange period. You got this? We all got it. We can do it.
Okay, A couple housekeeping things I want to put on your radar:
First, over on Instagram Right now I am posting every day using the hashtag #ForcedPause because, like we talked about last episode, I am not going to see this opportunity as a big, scary, miserable stuck-in-the-house, run-and-hide kind of opportunity.
That is not my style. That doesn’t appeal to me. And that is just not how I’m gonna be able to wake up and move on with my day.
So instead, because we endurance athletes and know how to do hard things for fun, I have decided to see it as a forced pause.
This is our chance to take that break that we’re always asking for when we’re running from one thing to another being stressed out.
Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy.
We’ve got a chance right now to take a breath, take a pause, look around and notice of things we don’t normally notice.
So on Instagram just to keep me focused every day I am posting using the hashtag forced pause. Just one thing that I noticed going about the day that I would not normally notice maybe an opportunity I wouldn’t normally have or something that I just don’t see. You know, we talk about the hook sometimes for our attention. And you know, in this life, a lot of times are hook is whatever keeps us busy. So right now we have a chance to see it differently.
And I encourage you to join me, post something that you are noticing or an opportunity that you get that you don’t normally have and share it using hashtag force pause. Because I would love to see it. I would love to see it. So, um, come join me over on Instagram hashtag #ForcedPause
Next, if you are feeling all of the tension and you have not perfected a system to release it, I want to encourage you to give guided meditation a try. If you did not hear last week, my friend and sister Hayley came on at the end of our episode to do a short guided meditation. If you didn’t get a chance to try it, go check that out. You might enjoy it. And if that’s not for you, there are a ton of podcasts out there.
Katie Krimitsos, one of the organizers of PodFest, that major conference I went to a couple weeks ago before the world caught on fire. And, um, she leads an entire podcast on guided meditations. And so I will link that in the show notes.
If that sounds like a crazy hippie thing to do, I wanna encourage you to shift your mindset on that. It’s not necessarily a crazy happy thing to do.
Basically, you’re taking a comfortable seat. You’re closing your eyes and your breathing. Can you do that? Have you ever given yourself the opportunity to try that? I strongly encourage it. I think it really helps us remember. Okay, we can do this. We can do this.
Also, while I was at PodFest, speaking of that, I attended a breakout on overcoming Fear. And of course, in the context of that, it was talking about overcoming fear, to do big things for your show. Maybe to launch it, maybe to change it, to pivot. Um, maybe it’s heck, just even telling people that you have one.
But one of the takeaways that I heard from that was that fear is just your brain saying, “I can’t handle it.”
And the shift that we need to make from operating and fear to operating in peace often is just reminding yourself “I can handle it.” And she highly encouraged us to just write, like a little sticky note that says, “I can handle it,” stick it on your bathroom mirror, stick it on your refrigerator and just a couple of times a day. Just remind yourself whatever happens, I can handle it because we can. We can. It often takes a pivot. It might hurt Mmm. Might not be great. Could be terrible. But we can handle it. Were given that strength, we can handle it.
Finally, the last little thing I wanted to know is that many of us are trying to fill a gap in our Sunday mornings because now that, um, we are all being very responsible and staying home and practicing social distancing for a lot of us are churches have shut or are other places of worship. Or for many of us, we have never been. And right now we’re feeling afraid. We’re feeling that the world is spinning rapidly on its axis, and we’re just kind of looking for something.
And if you are looking for hope, I happen to know an incredible hope dealer. He’s my pastor, Pastor Barry of my church here in northern Virginia.
It’s called Park Valley Church, and I just want to encourage you. If you’re looking for some answers right now or if you are looking to, fill in a space from your Sunday service or add a service. I encourage you to check out the live stream he is doing. A live stream of service is for Saturday night at 5 p.m. and also Sunday morning at 9 a.m. And you can check those out on Facebook at Park Valley Church. Or you can just go to ParkValleychurch.com and log in.
Nobody has to know if this is something totally, radically different for you. Nobody even asked to know if you what you’re watching in your living room. You could choose for one hour to put down whatever scary documentary you’re watching and maybe take a listen. Maybe it’s for you and maybe it’s not. Maybe you feel better for an hour. Maybe it changes your whole life. Just want to encourage you that if you’re looking for ways to fill in some gaps, maybe looking for some answers to questions that are unanswerable right now, that’s just one method. I’m a big fan of drying out new methods. This is just one Park Valley church dot com or on Facebook, a Park Valley church.
OK, moving on from the housekeeping.
Today, I have an interview that I am so excited to share with you because I got a chance to talk to a friend of mine. Her name is Ashley. She lives in central Pennsylvania and years ago our daughters were in swim lessons together. And one day, while watching our girls learn how to tread water through the window, she mentioned to me, “Hey, I’m thinking about maybe starting to train for a 5K. Do you have any suggestions?”
And, of course, that let me completely on fire. And, um, I probably said way too many words and way too short a time, But it didn’t scare off. She was in. And I have had the distinct privilege of watching from a distance since we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas to Virginia, watching her grow from a 5K finisher, which was super impressive. And I was very excited for her at the time to an ultramarathoner.
Now, anyone who’s ever run with me knows, I’m not a trail runner. I’m an incredibly clumsy person. I’ve always been a Roadrunner, but I am intrigued.
After an experience I had last year supporting another trail runner who was running a big race. I have always been intrigued.
And so this conversation was fantastic to hear from a friend who has, really quickly through incredible perseverance and consistency, taking it all the way up from, um, from a local 5K to traveling across the country for an ultramarathon and how I’m intrigued, and I think I might buy myself very trail shoes. I don’t know.
I find myself in the woods because right now I’m feeling incredibly drawn to all that is natural and beautiful around us. And I have spent more time in the woods lately in the last two weeks, really, than probably the last two years.
So this was particularly timely for me.
I was really excited to talk to her, and I think you guys were just going to love her. So without further ado, I would like to give you my chat with Ashley from 5k ultramarathon.
Ashley, thank you so much for joining me today.
Oh, you’re welcome. I’m so excited to be here.
I remember the day that we were at swim practice, and you first told me that you were going to start, um, taking up running, and we were talking about water belts and all of that kind of stuff. And I would love for people to hear kind of where you were at that time when you decided you know what I’m gonna do? “I’m gonna strap on my shoes and go for a run.”
Yeah, I love thinking about that time.
Um, so I was a not a new mom, but, like, had a preschooler and, you know, works part time and just really hadn’t been in, like, a fitness routine in quite some time. I had been pretty athletic in college. I had done gymnastics and, um, you know, try to, like, lift and go to fitness classes and things after graduation, and things would stick for a while and maybe not so long.
But I started hearing about this Couch-to-5k thing. That was big. The time it was, Yeah, I think it was really going through with it. It was like a fad. And I’m not usually an adopter of fads. But this one caught my attention.
So I had always thought that I didn’t like to run and wasn’t very good at it. But I started seeing all these people, and I was like, “Okay, if this many people can run a 5K, I probably can too.”
I like the idea of a structured program. So I just kind of had to do what I was told. And hopefully in nine weeks that would produce an Ashley who could run a 5k.
So I did that, and I loved it!
I was like, “Oh, my gosh. The reason I thought I hated running and stunk at it was that I don’t know how to pace myself.”
So the idea that you, you know, started on Day one running in 60 second intervals meant if you did that first on too fast and you felt like garbage. By the end of it, you have to try again, and you would probably face yourself better. So I just felt like that program taught me how to run. And it turned out I liked running, and I wasn’t half bad at it, so it just made it so easy to stick with it.
Talk to me about that 1st 5k. Were you there with your whole family? How did that How did that go?
No, Um, I think because I didn’t know what to expect. I Felt probably a little goofy, A little out of place. I just went myself. I chose the Thon 5K at Penn State.
So if people aren’t familiar, Penn State does a dance marathon every year raises like millions of dollars for kids with cancer. It’s such an inspiring cause, um, that it just seemed like a no brainer that that would be my 1st 5K.
So I went up there by myself, did it myself. It turned out to be a great choice for a first 5K because it’s extremely low key. A lot of it’s just students who have signed up to raise money for their organization. Some of them are walking it lots of families with little kids, and it went really great. I beat my goal time by a couple minutes and, yeah, just the whole atmosphere, like I was hooked.
And then what came next?
Um, so that happened in the fall or that winter. I had a lot of trouble running through the winter. It actually took me, I’d say, a couple of years of running to get to the point where I was consistently a winter runner. Um, but the following spring after that, first came another one. And then that summer I checked out a 10k
Made the big jump. Doubled it. Was that also a local race?
Yep. That was the Arts Festival race here in State College, which, Yeah, running at your first 10K in July is an interesting choice!
And at this point, did your family get involved in it? Did you start to see a change in how your family received this hobby, or was it still just your own endeavour?
Yeah, at that point, um, it was mostly my own endeavor.
Shortly thereafter, my husband got roped into an obstacle course race by a family member, so he kind of started getting a little bit more active. And then the following year, I signed up for the Beaver Stadium run, which is a race that finishes on the 50 yard line of our local football stadium. And that was the thing that got my husband to run. He said, “Okay, I will sign up for THAT thing!
Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to do that? They’ll figure that out.
So Okay, we went from 5K to 10K in a few months. We went through the season and then when did you start getting the itch for the half marathon or the full marathon.
Um, so I had another little lull in my running.
We bought our first house, which ended up being kind of like a fixer upper. So that took a lot of her time and attention for the following winter.
And then kind of in January, like most people do. I said, “OK, I need to get back on the horse and start being active regularly again.”
So I had come across the Hershey Half Marathon, um, which benefits Children’s miracle Network. Again, really compelling cause. And it was in October, so I said, “Okay, it’s January. I have all the time in the world. I’m gonna sign up and train for this thing.”
Um, yeah, so I did that.
We had a really hot, humid summer thought year. It was a little nervous about my pace on some of those long runs, but you know, you’re a runner. So you know the weather cools off in the fall and like suddenly you’ve got super power. So
It tiger blood or whatever, when you get out there and you’re like, “Okay, I didn’t even know I was able to do this!” Like, these are my legs?
I’ve never heard it called Tiger blood. That’s amazing. I like that.
I think it might have come from, like some one of the weird celebrities like Chuck Norris first.
So you did the Hershey half marathon and talk to me about, like, race Morning. How…what were you thinking as you head to your first, I mean major, race. It would have been the first one that you traveled for, right?
So I spent the night in the hotel. My family was there for that one.
Um, definitely some butterflies. Definitely nervous. Worried about the pace. Really wanting to go under two hours. But, you know, training, run pace didn’t look like something that would get me under two hours.
Um, yeah, but it was so exciting. That was a really big race. Thousands of runners around that one. And you go actually through the park during, like, I think, just a couple miles into the race. It’s definitely in the first half of theories that you run through the park, which, if I were designing the course, I wouldn’t do it that way. It would have been better to be able to look forward to that all day long.
It went pretty well. I had my uncle with me, and he kind of paced me. So I think that made it a lot more possible to hit my goal time. But I definitely remember the last three miles or so. Just being kind of brutal. Kind of like, “Oh, my goodness. I really wanted to do this”
Right? Right in the sufferfest. And do you think that’s when you started to think of yourself as a runner? Or, like, where on this journey did you go from, “This is just the thing I do” to “This is kind of who I am.”
Yeah. Wow, That’s such a good question. Um, I think that happened gradually.
I definitely think that finishing that first half marathon, um, hitting my goal time on the first try, I did go under two hours, kind of made me say, “I can…really I can do this.” And actually, I want explore what else I can do with this.
Um I think that has been like the pattern with me with running. Just you know, every time I try a new distance, a new kind of modality of running and it rewards me, you know? And I think almost it doesn’t really matter what outcome you might have been looking for. Like the experience itself is often so rewarding that for me, that just went away. It’s gonna keep going.
So I always say, like, we do these things because we’re training ourselves to do hard things for fun. And, like, one of the things that we’re training ourselves for is, honestly, sometimes dealing with disappointment.
Oh, yeah, you know, because that is, that is a reality of endurance sports. Sometimes your race day doesn’t work out the way that you thought it would. And you know, it can feel very, very big to you as an athlete at the time. Maybe the people around you don’t get it. It’s not one of those things that people circle around you and want to like, hold you up in the grief of a bad race day. But it really is legitimately something that we grieve.
Oh, 100 percent! Absolutely! I can think of two races I’ve run where the day of the race did not go how I wanted it.
You know, I wrote up a big race reflection afterwards, identified a couple things where it’s like, “Oh, man, that’s that’s where I think it it went sideway. Both of those cases I ran another race a month later and it went gangbusters. Well, as a direct result of what I learned during the race, that was a learning experience instead of bad experience, right?
I’m completely open about the fact that my very first triathlon was a DNF.
My very first one and I was positive I was gonna nail it.
It was a sprint. It was in my hometown and just the swim was in a pool. I mean, for for so many reasons, it did not intimidate me. It should have been fine. And I think because it didn’t because I showed up cocky on that first morning, that race was like, “I don’t know who you think you are right now!” Sometimes it’s not gonna go well, right?
You know,and sometimes for reasons you can’t even put your finger on it, just like not every day your bodies up for it, right? Yeah.
Yeah, I almost fainted on the bike! Oh, my gosh, I had…It was crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like it since I got on the bike. We were in El Paso, so it was straight up a mountain. Um, and I was, like, climbing. And all of a sudden I started feeling so lightheaded that I had to get off my bike and, like, sit on the sidewalk while everybody passed me on. I eventually did get back on, and they had a sprint going on the same day as a super sprint. And the sprint was two laps of the bike course and super sprint was once. So I just did one lap, and then I ran.
So, like I finished the course or whatever, but it was it was a DNF, but yeah, there is so much to be learned on those days where it just doesn’t go great.
You never could have predicted your body was gonna do that on the bike. Ever
And it and it’s so important for the rest of our lives just to give ourselves these opportunities to try really hard stuff.We live in America in 2020 and other than right at this exact moment, life’s generally pretty cushy for us. You know?
Sports are the only way for most of us who are this privileged to explore, you know, trying to find that kind of grit within our souls.
So you finished the half marathon. It was a big day, hit some goals. And then what?
So that was in fall of 2015 and then almost simultaneously, I mean, a week or two before that race, I had a friend who I had heard him mentioning running before. So I had told him, “Oh, I’m running the Hershey half Marathon.” And he said, “Road running? I’d rather eat sand than run on roads!”
I’m like, “Okay, tell me more.”
So he introduced me to the sport of trail running. He said, “Well, you know, like trail running’s great. If you’re gonna try it out, you have to be comfortable with the fact they’re gonna fall sometimes.”
And I said, “Oh, so you mean it’s adventurous? I’m IN!”
As a former gymnast, you know, that was a very adventurous kind of sport, and I hadn’t found anything that quite fed, you know, that part of me up to that point.
So I was definitely intrigued by trail running.
So 2016 was an interesting year because it was there when I decided I was going to train for my first full marathon and also the year I started really exploring some trail races in more of, like the, um, like half marathon – 25K type distance.
So I did all kinds of new and fun, exciting things in 2016.
And actually, I think the marathon was the only road race I ran that year. But I probably ran six or seven trail raises that year.
So did you train for the marathon, the road marathon, out on the trails?
I did a lot of it. Yeah.
Um, at that point in my life, I was probably running four or five days a week. It might have even only been four.
Um, so trail runs would be, you know, like my long run might be on trails and maybe one short run and then a couple of runs would be on roads just for practicality. It’s just easier to walk out your front door run than have to drive to trailhead. Um, but that being like a neurotic runner who’s used to following a plan was really tricky because, you know, the Hal Higdon plan would say, “Go run seven miles today.” And I was thinking, “Well, if I ran seven miles on roads, it would take one amount of time. And if I did that on trails may take 50% longer, and that doesn’t quite feel like the spirit of what, Hal had in mind when he had seven miles in the plan.”
So I trained for that first marathon using Higdon plan, which is written in miles. And then after that, I wised up and started using training plans written in minutes because that felt like a much easier conversion where I could do it on the road or doing on trails and still kind of hit the volume that the plan was looking for.
That is a huge mental shift!
I know that that sounds silly, but to go from miles to minutes, did you still feel like you had all of the confidence like this is definitely working the way it should? Because I’m so used to, you know, training one way. like You know, I’m not a trail runner. I think I might give it a shot…
Oh, that’s exciting.
…but I have been full always training in in miles both on the bike and on, um, and running. So how was that scary to make that jump? I don’t know.
Quite the opposite! It was liberating!
I spent so much of that year in my head about, “Like am I doing… Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?”
Um, because the trails where I live are so incredibly, you know what in trail running we will call, “Technical.” Which basically very rocky, very root-y. You’re going to just move a lot slower than you would move on the road.
Um, so just to have the plans say, “Go run for two hours.” That meant, you know, I could move it. Whatever pays made sense for that terrain, which might be a hike. Honestly, if I’m going up a steep climb, and that was fine. My heart rate was definitely an aerobic zone. I was getting the right work out, and I think it just allowed me to feel like I could prepare for trail events and keep working toward that marathon at the same time.
And actually, I think, you know, so many new runners struggle with the idea of easy minutes, like running hard, a truly easy pace. You know, What I found was that if a plan is written in miles, you know, go run four miles today. Well, if you’re in that head space where you just want to get it over with, you’re not gonna stick to easy pace. You might run hard just get it over with faster.
If the plan says, “Go run 40 minutes.” That kind of gives you the freedom to just run it easy, cause you’re gonna move for 40 minutes whether you’re making yourself miserable or you’re having a good time.
So, yeah, I’ll never go back to mileage based training. Actually, my plans right now we’re in minutes. And that makes me happy.
And just pure honesty. How is it for a woman running trails?
Do you… I mean…do you train by yourself? Do you always train with a partner? What sorts of things do you have to think about that? Maybe a roadrunner doesn’t?
Yeah, that’s such a good question.
Um, because, you know, often I am, like, in the middle of nowhere by myself. Um, I used to bring my dog a lot. She’s gotten a little older, and it just isn’t right for her to go much farther than three or four miles anymore.
Um, I often bring pepper spray. I either won’t listen headphones. Or if I do listen to headphones, I do the bone conduction ones that don’t really cover your ears side a little more situational awareness. Always tell my husband where I’m going. And otherwise I just try to relax. I just try to say, “You know what? I might be in more danger on roads.”
Yeah, it’s true.
Someone could drive by and scoop me up into their car. On the trails, I feel like I at least have a shot of outrunning someone.
And I just I’m not willing to let that fear hold me back from what I love to do.
So you know, as much as sometimes I’ll be laying in my bed at night and think, “Oh my gosh, I have to do a double digit, you know, mileage run tomorrow out in the woods by myself what could happen?”
But then I say, “No, actually, go do it.”
And interestingly, nine times out of 10, once I get out there, I’m fine. I’m in my element. I’m in nature. It’s where I’m happy and I just go for it.
Um, but in the interest of total honesty doesn’t always work.
Sometimes I just get the creeps on.
I can’t explain to you what I’ve gotten the creeps. I don’t you know it… Maybe it’s a spot on the trail. Maybe it’s noise I’ve heard and I feel that adrenaline rush and my heart’s going faster and I kind of suddenly easy minutes go out the window and I get out of there and get you a part of the trail where I feel better.
Um, I think that stinks that it’s something women that we have to think about that. I’ve said that to my male trail running friends and you know, they invariably say, “Wow, I never think about that when I go. Never.”
My husband, my husband trails, run trail runs in the dark through the winter by himself, and he thinks about the Coyotes sometimes. But he certainly never thinks about being attacked by another human.
Do you ever encounter people out on the trails like, is it a a busy place for you? Or is it normally just just you,
Um, if I trail run on the weekends, I definitely encounter other people. I’ve been known to shriek at mountain bikers.
So I’m really lucky in that I work four days a week, so I typically do my long run on Mondays because my daughter’s at school. My husband’s at work. No one cares if I disappear in the woods for several hours and that’s when I can be alone. And that’s when I’m a little bit more prone to get the creeps. Because no, on a Saturday on a heavily trafficked trail, if I scream, someone’s gonna hear me. I get a little more nervous on those those weekdays
That’s another element, I guess, in doing hard things for fun.
Like you have managed to take trail running, to overcome whatever; fear…anxiety. You’re totally willing to recognize it and accept it and then just say, like, and “It’s not gonna hold me back.”
So that’s an incredible gift.
Yeah, I would say that’s true. That’s true.
Running has definitely encouraged me to be a little bolder. Alittle more… You know…self assured. I’m just gonna go do this thing and you know it’ll go how it goes.
Trail run racing. How did that start? Where did where did we begin?
Yeah. Um, so I think I went into that a little blind. Um, I signed up for what was advertised as a 10K about three weeks after that first half marathon
Jumped right in!
Jumped right in! Should have taken note that the race was referred to as a “Power Climb.”
Oh man. The first mile and 1/2 or so of that course, it’sjust kind of rolling over kind of grassy trails. And then you get to the bottom of… have you ever driven down a major highway and seen, like, a power line where it’s the woods almost cut out, and there’s this huge power line now?
So that was the power climb.
h, my gosh. It was like a mile of trails that yeah, there were switchbacks. Then it’s straight up the mountain. But holy cow is that steep! And it was just all rocks. So it was just a mile that probably takes 25 minutes to get up. Just trudging up this thing.
Yeah, I couldn’t even believe it.
My time for that 10k was maybe 13 minutes less than it took me to run the road half marathon. Wow, it was that crazy.
But once you got to the top of that mountain, I ran kind of a flat, rocky section, and then a downhill, and that is like my jam on the trails, like just flying down a screaming downhill.
Yeah, it just makes you feel like a little kid. It’s so fun. I am, like, totally fearless in that moment.
So the fact that the race culminated in that it was fine, it was like, Oh, I have to hike up a humongous hill, you know? No problem. If it means I got to do this afterward.
Do you have two different shoes like, do you use certain choose for the road and certain shoes for trails.
I always used to do that. I definitely… there are some, you know, areas and kinds of terrain where you could totally get away with a road shoe on the trails.
Central Pennsylvania is not that place.
It’s simple. You Absolutely new trail shoes. Um, and I have gotten so comfortable on my trail shoes that actually, that’s usually what I road run in now. Okay. Yeah.
So you go screaming down the back half of that race. And at that point, were you thinking like, “I have to make a choice road running our trail running?” Or were you thinking like these two things just totally mashed together or where was your head at?
Yeah, honestly, I think it was, “I love this trail running things so much I might never road run again.”
It was more of that… Um, yeah… I was just all in.
This was just such a different adventure. And the trail running community is really different.
Um, it’s just a much smaller community, partially by nature of the events like there’s only so much parking. Um, the it’s you know, government organizations that are in charge of the trails will only allow you to have so many people on the trails for an event, so it just makes it a more intimate community. So the finish line of these things are great.
You know, there’s usually lots of hot food. There’s usually free beer. People hang out for a few hours.
Yeah, so I was totally hooked. Road running, plays, like, a different role in my life. They are all more pace oriented type of running where you know, you go to a road 5K or a road marathon, and I think most of us have, like, a time in our head that were really shooting for.
Um, trail running, that kind of goes out the window because you do have the miles where you’re hiking up a huge climb and you have the miles where you’re flying down, you know, down the mountain.
Um, so there’s less of that pace pressure and more like just go have an experience. Go have the journey of this course that the race director has laid out for you.
I went to go support a friend who was running of 100 miler around here recently. And you’re right. The vibe at a trail race was so radically different from the vibe I’ve ever experienced at any road race.
I mean, from from a local race to runDisney, it all has sort of an element of like, “Here’s my costume. And here is the big party in the big spectacle of all of it and all of these people with signs and this big finish line,” everything seems very fancy and it almost like a little produced, you know.
But you’re still really digging in to try to beat yourself, right?
So it’s like it’s like really exploring yourself in this very well produced experience.
Whereas trail running is really like, yes, I don’t know. I feel like there is definitely something about having your feet in the mud, you know, or just being out in the elements where it feels like none of it is produced.
I was so shocked. I told her I was gonna do one of the loops with her. And when I got there, she was at, like, miles 60 and, um, I couldn’t you know, like it was it was so rocky. It was so, uh, I don’t know how she even knew where the trail was. I mean, that’s how far behind I am in figuring out how to do this. But it was so impressive.
It’s intimidating. You’re right. It is just a completely different experience than, um, road running. And I think some people are super intrigued or super intimidated right away like I was. I wonder if you went out on a trail training run with a friend…
I think I think for sure, Yeah, if I knew what to expect and just went for it. But I was definitely not gonna be like, “Don’t go run your race. We need to stay with me.” Well, so I don’t fall on my face or…
Right. That wasn’t that wasn’t the scene.
It definitely has me so intrigued because you’re right there, something just just really about a trail run that I don’t think I’ve seen in any other sport. You know, just being out there, just those people. I’ve never met them before, but they were so nice to me, like “Anybody want some soup?” You know, it’s just a different just a different experience.
Very, very down to earth community. I think one of the things that, um, that sets it up to be such a down to earth community is that, you know, oftentimes on the course you’re running single file out of necessity. The trail is that narrow, which means that there has to be a lot of cooperation.
If I want to pass someone, I have to ask them to let me around. Which means that there’s, you know, there’s that willingness. There’s that teamwork. Or even if someone trips and sprains their ankle in a road race, you know e m s can be there in two minutes on the trail. Oftentimes someone has to sacrifice their race to help that person limp to the next aid station, which could be miles. So I think it just attracts a breed of people who are down to earth and who are attracted to that. That camaraderie in that kind of collaborative spirit of the sport.
Now you have me even more intrigued.
I love it. I love it. If I turn like one person over to trail running, it just made my day.
Tell me about this latest experience. I know that you were just traveling. Tell me all about it.
Oh, my gosh. It was it was the best. So, um, last year last June, I decided to take on my 1st 50 k. Um, which is a pretty standard. I don’t want to say standard, like, Easy because I wouldn’t take anything away from the fact that an ultramarathon is never easy. But in trail running, lots of people run 50ks. It’s almost like our marathon. Um,
It’s like a benchmark of some sort.
Definitely. Yeah, it’s 31 miles at, you know, at the point when I signed up for that 1st 50 K, I had run to road marathons, so that seemed like a manageable next step. So we did that last June, and I really liked it. It was that 1st 1 was really hard. It was on very rocky terrain on an extremely muddy day like ankle deep mud in some places were on flattering that otherwise would be Runable.
You’re walking because there’s no running through that. But I knew I wanted to try again and do another one, and I also knew that this year I really wanted to do a destination race. I wanted to use a long run as an opportunity to get a tour of trails I had never seen before.
Um, and I had heard about this race called The Way Too Cool 50K, because it’s one of the oldest 50 K’s in the country, and it shares some some of the trails with the Western states 100 which is probably the most famous ah 100 miler in the country. Um, so that just seemed like a perfect, you know, a longstanding race that has a great reputation in a place I’ve never been before. Get to check out the Western States trails. And as a bonus, I had a friend who moved to California a couple of years ago who just lived a couple hours away, and she was totally into running it with me.
So it was that that’s what we decided to do. So I flew out there on a Thursday, was exhausted, just went to sleep that night. Yeah, that was grueling, but spent Friday kind of hiking and taking pictures, you know, as my little shake out and just being like overwhelmed by the beauty of the trails out there. Just these, like rolling green mountains, hills, things beautiful River canyon. It was amazing. And then the race was awesome. Because for as much as I’ve told you, Central Pennsylvania trails air Really technical Rocky Rudy These trails were so smooth, just rolling hills for days. Just really a couple of climbs that had to hike up and they were much more forgiving than Central Pennsylvania. So I just got to run happy all day.
Did your friend run it with you, then?
We didn’t run it side by side. Um, I’ve run against Jo enough times to know that she is faster than me. So I let her go to her things. She finished about 20 minutes before me, but that was great, because I got to look forward to seeing her at the finish line.
And what did you do after that? What does one do when they complete a 50 K?
Oh, that’s a good question. Um, both of the 50 K’s that I have run. The first thing to do is to get out of my soaking wet clothes and get get those shoes off my Yeah, um, So get changed and then eat all the food. Um, yeah, I’ve noticed for shorter races where you’re may be running a little faster a little more intensely. It sometimes takes me a little time to get my appetite back. But after a 50 k, it is like, man solid food right now. All of it, here, uh, was really chilly at this race, so we didn’t hang out too long for beers, But but often that would be on the menu for sure.
So then a couple questions: What do you think…Somebody who was transitioning from road racing to trail racing, are there things that you think if you owned these things, it would make the experience better? I try not to lean too heavily into buying stuff for the experience, you know, just figuring it out. But is there something that, if you were going to start would definitely make your life easier?
So if you’ve got an event in mind, I would definitely do a little research on the nature of the course to figure out if you’re really gonna make your experience much more pleasant by buying a pair of trail shoes. If it’s gonna be a smoother, more kind of packed-dirt, grassy situation, you’d probably be fine. If it’s going to be rocky and root-y, I really would invest in the trail shoes partially because the traction is a lot more conducive to that terrain and partially because they tend to have things like like a toe bumper. So you’re not gonna go home with black toenails, or sometimes there’s even like a plate under the four foot so that you’re not gonna feel those rocks kind of going through the soul.
And then the other thing I would really think about, especially for races that would take about two hours or longer, is ah, hydration pack. Um, because in road races, typically you’re expecting an aid station, maybe every two miles or so and in trail running, that’s just not possible. You know, you have to lug those giant water coolers and all the snacks and things to a location, which means they’re gonna put the aid stations wherever the trail intersects. With a road, you could go five or six miles between eight stations, so you’re gonna need to be eating and drinking more often than that, especially because you’re probably going to be moving a little slower on the trail. so being kind of accustomed to using a hydration pack comfortable with it just is gonna make your day go better.
And when you look back from where you are right now, I mean, you just traveled across the country and ran a 50k in the woods. And you’re like, This is a wonderful experience. I loved it so much. What does Ashley now have to say to Ashley, who was considering your first 5K? I mean, I would imagine it was not even on the radar.
Uh, no. No. I would have told you you’re nuts.
Um, actually, right now would say to her like, “You just have no idea what you’re capable of.”
And that’s not me. Like, there’s nothing special about me in that regard. That would be anyone. That would be like the woman who it doesn’t have physical activity in her life right now regularly and isn’t quite sure where to start. You just have no idea where just being consistent, working at your own pace over a long period of time and finding ways to find joy in that process. You have no idea where that’s gonna take you. And and once, once you have some exciting discoveries, like, that 1st 5 K that 1st 10 K, that first marathon, that understanding just grows and grows.
And I think that’s even true if 5K is going to be the ceiling! Do you know what I’m saying? If that is your sweet spot, your favorite race, and that’s where you’re going to stay, I feel like still, every single time you do it, you’re gonna learn something else because you don’t just stay doing five case at exactly where you are right now. You know, it gets easier. You get faster, like it’s just starting just going on that journey and seeing what you’ve got in the tank that you’ve just never had a chance to see.
Yeah, I think that’s so true.
Um, yeah, when I think about that 1st 5K compared to 5Ks, I’ve run in the last year, totally different things! I can’t, you know, like seven years ago, I never would have envisioned.
So yeah, I think that’s one of the fun parts of running that you can take it in so many different directions.
You know, you can stick with those short distance races, you can get into the obstacle course stuff. You can try all different kinds of terrain. You can use it as a way to travel. Or you could use it as a way to to make a local group of friends. You know what? Maybe you and your girlfriends running five together in your own hometown every couple of months, and that’s honestly the social aspect of running has been one of the greatest parts for me. You know, the actually you met at the pool. You know, all those years ago she didn’t have a lot of friends. Like as a new mom. I hadn’t met other mom friends. Um, my friends for college had all moved away. And since getting into running like those are all my favorite people hang out with.
And how about for your family? I mean, when I look around the idea of raising kids who have always been around the racing community, it’s just it blows my mind to think about what our kids have been exposed to just because you decided to try?
Yes, absolutely. We didn’t talk much about that part of the story.
But as I got into trail running, volunteering is huge aspect of trail running. It just takes so many people to prepare the trails to flag the trails to man those aid stations to volunteer, you know, at the start of the Finnish, um, so my family got into volunteering for the races I was running, and then that was almost a gateway for them to actually running. The race is my husband at this point, has run, You know, he runs almost as many races as I do.
At this point, my daughter’s done lots of volunteering, and here in central Pennsylvania, we actually have a kid’s race. Oh, that is put on. Every year it’s free. The kids get a shirt, they get socks, they get a medal. There’s an ice cream truck at the finish line, handing out free ice cream. It’s the coolest experience. Lots of kids go run it independently. Lots of kids running with their parents and maybe their parents have never run a trail race.
So this thing, where the adults are trying to get the kids into it, we’re inadvertently getting new adults into it as well. It’s It’s been so cool for the family and even just the way it’s for hiking into our life. You know, if I’ve discovered trails out running and then taken the family to go hike them together and yeah, it’s about camping into our life. It’s just been a total a total lifestyle change
That you just never could have expected. Picking up an app that tells you I mean, you can’t get much, much further away from an app that tells you run and now walk and run. And now look until you’re ready to trust yourself that it’s time for me to run or walk, and now you’re out in the woods doing whatever feels right. I mean, what away to start to, learn how to trust yourself and where to move your feet.
I mean, who could have seen that coming?
Yeah, and that’s an amazing observation because that trusting now it’s time to run. And now it’s time to walk is a huge part of the sport of trail running on. I wouldn’t have even drawn that connection that that was the foundation of my road running.
So, um, what’s next? What comes next? Now that you have traveled the whole country and run part of western states.
Um, it’s an interesting time that you just that you asked me that question because right before we got on, I, um I saw on Facebook that they are cancelling all events in the state parks here in March in April. So my answer to what’s next would have been different before than it is now. Um so I think what’s next is I’m gonna run some 25K distance races on trails.
It’s kind of fun to go twice that distance and then go back to that distance and see how it feels different goes differently.
And then there is this race called Boulder Beast, where you It’s a 25-ish mile trail run that involves this gigantic boulder field that you get to hike up. It’s super cool. Um, and I ran it a couple years ago, and I just feel like now that I’ve run a few ultramarathons, I could execute that so differently. I just cause I feel like in retrospect, even though it’s 25 miles, it feels like an ultramarathon, so I’m kind of ready to just go straight up.
…Go climb over some boulders.
And what is one piece of advice you would give to somebody who is seeing all of her friends start running, throwing on their sneakers or their trail shoes? Who is wondering if she has it in her?
Um, my advice would be to just be brave.
You know, I think running does require us to be brave because we’re always continuously getting outside of our comfort zone in running, but also that you absolutely can do it. And if you’re someone who needs to do things with a buddy for a first time, grab a buddy. If you’re someone who needs to go hide and see what this is like before you’re gonna do it in front of anyone else Oh, my God. You go do that. Um, just just give it a try, because it’ll probably feel really good. Yeah,
I agree with you completely. Just try it. Yeah, I’m really excited to share this because I think I think it’s beautiful.
It’s really just such a success story of just starting and then, you know, being consistent and seeing the growth.
And I feel like that’s just what I want for everybody is just It’s just a start. You just don’t have any idea what it’s gonna mean for you and your family and your community and all of it just because you started.
Yeah, I think that’s so true. I think that if a, I think that what I know now is the way I got here was just being extremely consistent and just making such a long series of tiny, incremental changes. But all you actually have to do is start, you know.
Like, you just have to set that train in motion. And I have found so much joy along the way that it’s not been a chore. It’s been a joy to make those incremental changes.
It is one of the few times in our lives where you can’t just buy success.
It is so real.
You just have to see whoever you show up as that day. Whatever work you put in, that’s what you’ve got. There is no cheating it.
That running is such a combination of hard work and luck. You know, like you don’t always get the outcome you’re entitled to like you might have been super prepped for that sprint and still got blindsided. And that’s definitely happened to me. You know, where either blind sided by my body just didn’t cooperate that day. The weather just wasn’t conducive. Y
Like there was one race, where there were literal mudslides. Like Jason got held up at this point where people were very carefully crossing the mudslide on the trail one at a time, he said. He stood there for 20 minutes. He watched his goal time go out the window, and that had nothing to do with preparation.
You know, like sometimes you get the outcome you’re entitled to, and sometimes you don’t. And that even that, like the emotional grit of that I think, is a cool part of running and makes it so much more exciting on those days when it goes right when the luck on the hard work come together,
He didn’t look at the mudslide and go, “Well, I’m done!”
He waited and he kept going.
I trained my, um, second marathon was in San Antonio and the weather…it was pouring rain and 40 degrees. The streets, because they don’t normally get rain, were flowing rivers, and they didn’t cancel it. We just did it and it was like at first looking at it like, “Why am I doing this? What am I doing? How is it possible that they’re still having this race?”
And then you just show up anyway and you realize I can actually run through moving water on the road. It’s terrible, but I mean, I did it. It’s my favorite race to date. My very favorite.
I lost… I de-gloved an entire foot by the time I took my shoes off. And it is my favorite race because it was just so ridiculous.
Everybody was laughing the entire time. It was horrible, but everybody was just laughing. And it was like, “All right, well, you know, we can…we can do it anyway.”
Yeah, that was definitely the mindset I had to shift in during the mudslide race. I just said,” It’s a comedy, not a drama. Get over yourself and just take this for what it is.”
This is absolutely not gonna be the race you pictured all those hours. But it’s the race that is and and we can do that.
We can take what life is giving us, and we can just walk through it. You know, we could walk through months like this,
right? Make a memory out of it. You know, maybe it’s not the victory you were looking for, but the boys is it a memory!
Yeah. And you know what? Maybe it is a victory.
It just just not what you thought when you signed up for it.
Well, this is so good. Thank you so much for joining me. I cannot wait for people to hear this success story.
Well, thank you so much for asking me.
So there you have it. It’s that simple. It could just be a conversation from a friend who says, “I’d rather eat Sand than run on the road.”
These tiny moments in our lives have such enormous impact.
What kind of impact are you having on the people around you? Are you using your words to be helpful? Are you introducing people to new things? Are you encouraging them to be active? Are you encouraging the people that you love to adopt healthy habits?
Are you encouraging yourself to adopt healthy habits if there is something that has been calling to you?
If there’s something intriguing out there in the world, then why haven’t you started?
Give it a try. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all of the gear. You don’t have to have all of the answers.
In fact, it’s highly likely that you will have neither of those things. Just give it a shot with what you have. Just give it a try.
So if this episode has encouraged you to, try a 5K, to download couch to 5K and give it a whirl, to head into the woods and try running over roots and rocks and all of that insanity that you and I…I guess… we’ll be trying together because I’m gonna give it a shot, too.
Maybe it has encouraged you to dust off your bicycle from your garage and take it on a loop around the neighborhood.
Whatever it is, if this has helped you at all, I would love to hear it. Please send me an email sent me a message on Facebook or instagram at finding finish lines. Leave a comment on the blog post with the transcript. Just let me know. I would love to hear how you are implementing small, healthy steps in your life.
Okay. All right, everybody, we are going to be in your ears again next week. In the meantime, try to find ways to release some tension. If you need some me time exercise is an excellent way to do it with little guilt.
Okay, Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.
And until next time, carry on women of valor.