Monday, November 24, 2014

Product Review: Runner's Tea, Citrus Mint

Back in September I gave a review of the Ginger Berry Runner's Tea that I had been using on my long runs in training for my second go at TNF ECS WI Trail Marathon.  Later that same week, I cruised to a 10 minute 4 second PR over the prior year.  The Runner's Tea was my fluid of choice, worked well for me, and continues to even as I enter into an early winter training period.  Now having had the chance to try out the company's other flavor, citrus mint, a few thoughts.

Again, as with the ginger berry, (Product Review: Runner's Tea, Ginger Berry), the citrus mint Runner's Tea is a loose leaf tea, meaning that you need to brew it using a tea infuser, French press, or, in my case, an English Brown Betty, an example of which you can find here: 2 Cup English Brown Betty.  The citrus mint tea also has the interesting sage green color right out of the bag but when brewed, as opposed to the ginger berry which comes out more reddish/maroon, this tea stays green like in the packet.

Also, in contrast to the ginger berry, the citrus mint is less sweet, and almost has a slight kick.  (I'm guessing this comes from the combination of ingredients, including ginger root and cayenne pepper.  I like it!)  It smells of a refreshing lemony-minty blend as you'd expect.  However, the mint aroma smells of true actual mint as opposed to fake mint flavoring found in many drinks at this time of the year.  This led to another realization that was key for me and even my wife noticed it...this mint actually did what it was suppose to do, settle well upon my stomach and keep it calm.  Lots of times, if I have something mint flavored, I will actually end up with a slight case of heartburn.  That does not happen with citrus mint Runner's Tea and again points to the fact that they use high quality ingredients instead of cheap substitutes.  

Even at this time of the year I still brew it the night before my long run so that I can take it with me to increase my endurance and keep my stomach calm during the run.  (Last week this actually resulted in a citrus mint Runner's Tea slushie as my bottle froze during my two hour run!  Yummy, but a little hard to get out while running in such cold weather!  Some of it ended up in my winter beard I think!)  
Again, another awesome product, smells great getting prepped, and tastes great going down.  Settles well and works good whether you drink it before or during the run.  The full list of ingredients: matcha green tea powder, ginger root, orange peel, peppermint leaf, lemongrass, lemon balm, ginseng, natural orange oil, and cayenne pepper.  All organic and gluten-free.

As a disclaimer, I am a Runner's Tea ambassador, but also, as a benefit, being an ambassador means I can give you a 10% discount.  Let me know if you are interested and I can DM or e-mail it to you. 

Check out the Runner's Tea at

Make sure to also check out these posts about the tea:

Drink up, enjoy, and go run!!! :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Athlete Interview: Kimberly Haines

Kimberly Haines is a local Iowa runner and as I have gotten to know her this year via social media, I have discovered we actually raced together this past Spring at the Zumbro 17 Miler.  Both of us are planning on going back again for 2015 and hopefully we can connect there at this awesome Midwest race in Minnesota.  Kimberly also recently ran another well known race in Minnesota and set a new PR for herself.  As we exchanged DM's and e-mails, she told me about it and below I share this interview with you regarding this awesome race experience she had recently.

Kim Haines at the 2014 Surf the Murph 50 Miler October 25, 2014.
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Hey Kim!  First, tell us a bit about yourself and your running background.

Kimberly Haines:  I'm a 56 yr old married grandma of five! :)  I have ran most of my life and have loved running as long as I can remember.  I ran track in school but back then I was a sprinter. Now I like to run long & slow.  I started running marathons in 1996 and my first was at Grandma's Marathon and I still run it every year.  I fell in love with trail running by doing the Living History Farm's Race and ended up doing my first ultra in 2012.

Brad:  That's the same year I did my first ultra after having never raced anything over a half-marathon!  Pretty cool!  Now recently you had a huge PR at another race, which one was it and why did you do it?

Kim:  I recently ran a PR at Surf the Murph 50 Mile in Minnesota.  I chose this race because of the awesome course and volunteers at the well stocked aid stations.  They are the best.

Brad:  Had you run this race in previous years?

Kim:  Yes I have ran this course two other times, both the 50 mile and 50 kilometer events.

Brad:  How was your training going into it and what were your goals?

Kim:  I ran Grandma's toward the end of June and took a week off from running.  Then I started training for my 50 mile race.  I started the 1st of July and ran the race on October 25th.  I did back to back long runs on Friday and Saturday mornings, getting up some days at 3:30 AM to run.  My goal was to beat my first 50 miler by 25 minutes, and that was just a hope!   I really thought I might be slower then my that first 50 miler, especially since I was running the first 34 miles alone.

Brad:  What was the result?  Why do you think things went so well?  How did it all come together?

Kim:  The result was a PR by 42 minutes.  I think I did so well for a couple of reasons. The weather was awesome and I could run in shorts & short sleeves.  It was my 3rd time on the course so I knew what parts I could push a bit harder.  Also my hubby ran the last loop. (The course is 3 times around a 17 mile loop.)  I think he pushed me a bit more then I would have running alone.

Brad:  That's incredible Kim---almost a minute per mile faster!  Crazy!  What struggles did you have to overcome?  What did you learn during the race?  Were there any near disasters averted? 

Kim:  I had to overcome the fear of not finishing.  All my friends & family knew I was running it so I didn't want to quit.  I learned your mind is a very powerful thing.  I averted disaster with my legs locking up going downhill the last 3 miles.  I could still run up small hills but had to walk gently down the hills.  I also fell with less then 2 miles to go.

Kim leading a group down a hill during the Surf the Murph 50 Mile event and on her way to setting a 42 minute PR!
Brad:  So this was no easy walk in the park then, you had to fight for it both mentally and physically. That makes it even more rewarding in the end, truly awesome!  When did you know it was going to be such a huge PR?

Kim:  I had the feeling I was going to PR with about 4 miles left.  I really tried to push a bit harder.  I was willing my legs to go faster. After I got past the last big hill, Pikes Peak, I really started to get excited!

Brad:  What kind of emotions hit you then?  I can imagine all types of things!

Kim:  I got so excited the closer I got to the finish!  When I saw my time I got a new burst of energy.  I was all smiles!

Brad:  Reflecting on all this, and on your past running experience, and even life, do you think that suffering and joy are linked in life?

Kim:  I'm not sure but I think if you don't have any lows your highs are not as high.  I think it's best to feel both emotions then rather coast thru life in the middle.

Brad:  Well put, and I agree.  Locking up with 3 miles to go, falling with 2 miles to go, but then seeing the finishing line with that huge PR written across it---wow!  That's not living life in the middle and just coasting through, you were giving it your all that day.  Again, well done!  Okay, one last bonus question.  We both did the Zumbro 17 Mile race last year.  How does this race course compare to Zumbro?

Kim:  Well when it comes to comparing this to Zumbro, I feel Zumbro is harder. I don't know if it's because of the muddy course the last couple years or not.  But I do think Zumbro is a harder course. It also might be more scenic too.

Brad:  Not having run Surf the Murph yet, it's hard for me to know.  But I hope to see Kim and many others back at Zumbro next year, even with its 3100f+ of elevation gain per loop.   Perhaps I will also have to consider Surf the Murph too!  Thanks Kim!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Athlete Interview: Myles McCormick

One of the runners I have enjoyed getting to know through social media lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Myles McCormick is a regular man of encouragement to me and many others as we pursue our running goals.  A short time ago, we exchanged some e-mails and direct messages after he ran his 7th marathon on October 19, 2014.  The following is the interview that came out of our catching up with one another.
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Myles, you recently had a big race.  What race was it and why did you chose to run it?

The Prince Edward Island Marathon Medal, 2014.
Myles McCormick:  On Sunday, October 19, I ran my 7th marathon, the Prince Edward Island Marathon, (PEI).  This was the site of my first ever race, a 10K.  I have completed several 1/2 marathons at this event and having previously enjoyed the event & location, I decided to run my Fall marathon here this year.

Brad:  What did you learn during this race?  What went well?

Myles:  I learned that I can maintain a set pace for 42.2K on my own along a varied course of trail & road, flat & hilly sections, with beautiful scenery & lonely trails.  (There were only 330 people in the marathon.)  I was pleased that I broke through my wall of getting under 4 hours!

Myles breaks 4 hours but spends a bit of time post-race recovering in the med tent!  All is good though---Gatorade and a medal!!!  #7!
Brad:  That's awesome Myles!  You must've really pushed yourself as the pic you sent me shows you partying in the med tent afterwards!!!  :)  What struggles in training, preparing, traveling, and/or during the race did you have to deal with, manage, overcome?

Myles:  This year I had to see a pedorthist to stabilize my footing.  I also worked with a physiotherapist on a strengthening program.  Also, I changed my running program, form, and training plan via my coach.  

Myles looking good as he runs the PEI Marathon.
Brad:  Wow!  That's a lot of major work.  It obviously helped.  I have never heard of a pedorthist and actually had to look it up and included a link of the basic definition for my readers.  (Perhaps they knew what one is, but not me!  Still learning!)  Though your race went really well, what do you think, if anything, you could have done better?

Myles:  I realize now that I have to take in more electrolytes & gels to avoid muscle cramping near & at the end of the race.  Comfortable running temps & a varied course of trail & road with a lower level of electrolytes caused calf muscle cramping after my finish.

Brad:  Hence the med tent.  That must have hurt a bit.  Do you think that there is a connection between suffering and endurance, and if so, what is it?

Myles:  As running distances & volume increase during training & racing, the body becomes fatigued.  You enter a zone where your mind is also challenged, causing you to pull out resources & routines while on the road to reach the finish line.  It's amazing how one feels with 10K to go.  This is the point where you fight & work to earn your medal.

Brad:  And your PR/PB as well.  Myles, what joy do you find in running?  What joy did you find in competing in this race?  Do you feel joy is easy to attain or fleeting?

Myles:  I find great joy in running solo where it is just you and the open road/trail, where you can unwind and get away from it all awhile, challenging yourself with your training, pace, distance, or the route.  I also enjoy running with friends which always helps overcome difficult training phases.  The sense of comradery and support you receive while on the road is valuable as a resource to improve by learning from others!  

Myles was stronger!
When it comes to distance running, sometimes it is the small accomplishments that provide joy but for me this race allowed me to break through my runners wall and run a sub-4:00hr race---a goal that through injury I found difficult to reach.

Brad:  Myles, your wife and I have both struggled with vertigo.  My cases seem pretty mild and fleeting compared to your wife's struggles.  Has her vertigo impacted your running at all?

Myles:  With my wife being my strongest supporter while battling vertigo, I have learned to take my runners aches & pains in stride as I know that there are others that are fighting tougher battles than my road issues.  For all she has & continues to go through with her vertigo, I dedicated my run to my wife Bonnie & it was amazing as I spotted her at the finish line cheering me on while having a great day after she just ran a 5K.  Runners high & tears of joy for both of us, priceless! 

Brad:  That's awesome Myles.  So glad she could be there and you two could share those moments together, they knit us more closely to one another than we sometimes realize.  Anything else you would like to add?

Myles:  There is something special about the support, encouragement, and friendship one receives from fellow runners that extends from one community to another as we continue to learn & improve each time we hit the road for a run.  All the best Brad.

Brad:  Thanks Myles.  Congrats on number 7!  What an awesome job!

Marathon number 7, PEI, complete! :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Athlete Interview: Kaci Lickteig

Last year I met a couple at the Dizzy Goat 3-6-12 Hour Race in Gretna, NE put on by the G.O.A.T.z., (Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz).  Later in September at TNF ECS WI, I bumped into them again and as we were talking, they started telling me about this young lady from their area that was tearing up the trails and winning races one after another, some of them outright.  Her name was Kaci Lickteig, aka, the Pixie Ninja.  

The night before this year's Dizzy Goat, I was staying in a hotel just south of Omaha as a storm unleashed outside.  Both Kaci and I were on social media at the time and talking about how crazy it was pouring down.  I told her I was racing the 6 hr the next day, and she said she'd be there to volunteer.  We made plans to say hi, and sure enough, a few loops in, there she was at the start/finish line aid station, helping out runners as they came through the end of their laps.  Kaci was very nice, encouraged me in the high heat & humidity, and even filled my handheld bottle for me a couple of times.  What other sport do you get volunteers, who just a few days later, compete in the superbowl of their discipline, aka, Western States, where Kaci came in 6th with a time of 20:07:10.  Amazing!  

Kaci graciously allowed me to send her some questions so I could interview her after her most recent triumph at the end of September.

Stream crossing in her Pearl Izumi kit.
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Kaci, you did awesome on your most recent race, tell us about it...

Kaci Lickteig:  Thank you. I ran The Bear Chase 100K in Lakewood, Colorado.  It is a 12.5 mile looped course on mainly single track terrain.  I had run the 50 mile last year and loved it.  It was on a different course in 2013 due to the flooding, so I wanted to see what the real course was like.  I loved the course this year as it was almost 100% trail and it had 3 water crossings per loop. 

I had an excellent race.  I wasn't sure what to expect, since it was my 2nd 100K.  My first was over a year ago.  I started with a pace I 'felt' like I could hold for the 62.2 mile distance.  I was very consistent with my loop splits and only started to slow down on my 4th and 5th loops (5 total for the 100K).  I attribute that to the distance and the warm weather conditions.  However, I ended up finishing strong and I improved my 100K time by over an hour.  It was a great experience. 

Brad:  That's incredible!  Kaci, you won this race outright, 1st overall, and by over an hour---what's that like? A lot of us can dream about that but never actually realize it.

Kaci:  It still surprises me when I win a race outright.  I just know to run my own race and stay within myself and I will have the race I am meant to have.  It is a great feeling, but finishing in itself is just as great and rewarding.  

Brad:  Very true, I remember the emotions that struck me as I prepared to run down the straight away to the finish of my first 50K.

Tell us about this race...what is special about the Bear Chase Race?  Why did you choose it?  Why should others consider it?

Kaci:  Like I said, I had run it last year and loved every bit of it.  It is very organized and runner friendly.  Last year when the race was almost cancelled, the Race Director contacted every runner by phone to let them know.  Now that is admirable by an RD.  I believe it is a wonderful event for beginners to experts to run.  The loops make it crew and runner friendly along with the trails being very runnable.  You get a bit of everything to experience---hills, water crossings, trails, etc.  It is great for beginners because they have multiple distances so that you can get a true feel of what trail running is like.  I highly recommend it!  

Brad:  It sounds very tempting!  Tell us Kaci, what went well for you on this race?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently? 

Kaci:  I ran even splits and stayed focused throughout the race.  I learned that I can push limits that I didn't think were possible.  I would have tried to get in a few more calories my last two laps.  I was on the verge of being nauseated so I had to be careful.  Otherwise, I felt I executed the race very well.

Brad:  Kaci, as you learn to push through your limits and discover more of your ability, the rest of us stand in awe!!!  Keep it up!  Some amazing things await in the future I think!  

At the same time, in most ultras, there's always something we have to deal mentioned nausea, what other struggles did you have that you had to overcome?

Kaci:  I struggled with keeping cool and not getting overheated.  The course is pretty open and there were no clouds out that day.  The temps rose to the mid 80s.  I found that by dumping water over my head and getting cooled down in the water crossings helped.  The important thing was to keep my face and core temperature down.

Brad:  Yes, that's so true.  I loved that at the Dizzy Goat they had those cold, wet foam cloths at the start/finish aid station to wipe/cool off your face, head, neck.  So key on those hot days.  

What do you think is the connection between suffering and endurance, physically, spiritually?

Kaci:  I think there is a strong spiritual connection with endurance events.  I feel like you have to let go and let God in these situations.  I find it calming to pray during the race, whether I am feeling good or bad.  I always think back to times when Jesus suffered, and know that I am in no way close to what he has been through.  I know I can persevere on with Jesus on my side. 

Brad:  I agree.  Whether things are going well at the moment, or things seem to be unraveling, Philippians 4:13 is a good reminder, that "I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me."   Faith is both needed and can be deeply nurtured through the perseverance and strength gained in endurance events like trail and ultrarunning. 

Kaci, what would you attribute your success in ultrarunning and running to? 

Kaci:  I attribute my success in ultrarunning and running to be from having such a passion for running.  I love to run and enjoy being able to see results from the work I put in.  I have a driven Type A personality that helps keep me focused on never settling for mediocre.  I strive to be the best that I can be.  Hard work and dedication is how I have become the runner I am today. 

Brad:  What/how do you find joy?

Kaci:  I find joy in running by feeling free and the rush of endorphins from running.  It is my 'social hour'.  It makes my day complete.  I simply love it!

Brad:  What's next for you? 

Kaci:  I am running a 50K rails to trails race which is part of the Market to Market Relay here in Nebraska.  I am looking forward to running with some fast competition and seeing if I have improved since last year. 

Brad:  Anything else you'd like to add? 

Kaci:  Always keep running fun and interesting.  Never allow it to become a chore.  Believe in yourself and let go and let God!

Brad:  Thanks Kaci!  Kaci is one of the nicest young ladies I have met out there running.  She has a wonderful smile and a very helpful, encouraging attitude.  But don't let that fool you, when she's racing, she's racing to run her best and win.  She is the Pixie Ninja!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Athlete Interview: Rod 'Jed' Paul

"No ordinary runners.  No ordinary race."  That's the tagline on Twitter for the Canada Army Run which was held on September 21, 2014.  While I had never heard of this run, living in the States, several of my Twitter friends are from Canada and many were running in it.  So, I asked Rod 'Jed' Paul if he would let me interview him after the race.  The following is his account of this year's Canada Army Run.

('Jed' is a nickname Rod has on Twitter amongst a group of us runners from around the world who greet and encourage one another daily.  I am honored to be part of this group along with 'Jed.')

Trail Running Faith/Brad Zinnecker:  I understand you ran the Canada Army Run 1/2 Marathon, is that correct?  Why did you pick this race?

Rod 'Jed' Paul:  Yes, I did run the Canada Army Run in Ottawa, Canada.  You have a choice whether you’re participating in the half marathon or 5K.  The courses take you past scenic sites in Canada’s Capital, which is beautiful in September.  Canada Army Run is unlike any other run in the country.  In fact, this event has become the fastest growing run in Canada!  In less than six years, the number of participants has more than tripled, from 7,000 in the 2008 inaugural run to more than 25,000 in 2014.  From the cannon used as a “starter’s pistol” to the “dog-tag” medals soldiers place around all participants necks at the finish line, this unique event is “military” from start to finish. More than anything, though, Canada Army Run, is about Canadians and the Canadian Armed Forces – Air Force, Army, and Navy – joining together in the spirit of camaraderie and community. It’s a chance for the troops to extend the military esprit de corps to Canadians and to thank them for their support. And, it’s an opportunity for Canadians to say thanks to the men and women who serve them in so many ways at home and abroad.

Brad:  That is sooo cool! I am sure the people love being able to thank the men and women who serve them, and for them to turn out in such huge numbers shows the people do truly appreciate their armed forces men and women very much.  What an honor for the people of your Air Force, Army, and Navy.  The runners too, especially with the dog tags as medals, must feel a real personal connection to the soldiers as well.

This is about 50% of the 13,000 running the 1/2 marathon according to Rod who was in about the middle of the starting corrals.
Did you run the race with anyone?  

'Jed':  I run every race with My wife Joanna, she makes every race special!

Brad:  That's really great.  Tell me about your race, what went well?   What did you learn?  What went wrong?  What would you do different next time?

'Jed':  Our timing getting to the event, parking and up to the start area went well. 

I learned a lot around nutrition and hydration. This run was in the middle of full marathon training and as such a lot of the testing and trying different things out continued into this run. It was a good learning experience in this regard.  

I made a mistake with using a single product for my nutrition and hydration…I think for my next half I will go back to tried and true gels.  The nutrition mixed in my backpack hydration pack works well if I can focus on drinking it consistently.   But, when I didn't, I came off the rails and couldn't get it back. The last half of the race I had zero energy and ran on empty...

The biggest issue came from my bladder being full when the race drinking water wasn't really possible.  I made a bad decision to try and run it off...the temperature was cool so I never got to a point where I didn't need to relieve myself like I had hoped and by 10K I had to hit a port-a-potty. The nutrition after that still wasn't enough as I was use to gels that give you a little punch when you take them and the product I was mixing in my water doesn't do that so I burned out on the last half and couldn't get my energy back.

Brad: That's tough and can make for a hard slog at the end.  I also understand you forgot your watch according to what you mentioned on Twitter.  How'd that impact your race? 

'Jed':  At the first of the year it was a huge impact when my watched malfunctioned...completely threw me off my game and race.  This race I was okay without it except that I was using it to time when to drink my hydration/nutrition and without it there to regulate me I lost my way.  Again, another good learning experience.  I am trying VERY hard not to depend on any technology during a race.  In training runs this seems to be okay and I am seeing some progress-but in races I am still using it to see pace.   If it fails I am okay as I can now tell from how hard I am breathing, etc., where I am with pace, so it is becoming less of a concern.

Rod and his wife just before the Canada Army Run 1/2 Marathon.

Brad:  I also heard the weather wasn't good, how'd that impact the race? 

'Jed':  The heavens opened up the second half of the race...opened up as in raindrops bouncing off the pavement.  I don't think it impacted my race but it did impact me after the race as we were stuck in it for about an hour…we got a serious chill and I came home, (a twelve hour drive) with a bad cold.

Brad:  Yeah, that cold has hung on a bit for you.  Tell me Rod, as you came to this race, what were your goals?  What did you want to get out of it? 

'Jed':  This race marked one year of running for me.  This was my ninth 1/2 Marathon and I wanted to finish it with a PR.  My wife was sick all week and didn't think she was going to be up to the I was okay to just go run with her, turned out she was on fire and it was me who was dragging!  We finished in 2:04.  (This was my third 1/2 marathon in as many weeks…I was dragging more than I thought.)

Brad:  Wow!  That's a lot of racing in your first year and especially over the last few weeks.  It kind of leads into my next question.  In distance running, suffering & endurance often go hand in hand.  What do you think we gain from suffering in racing? Do you think suffering & endurance in running and/or life can lead to joy?

'Jed':  I don't know if I would agree with is the wrong word for me, I push myself in endurance running.  I don't suffer but I do hurt at times.  It is a good hurt as I know it means I pushed the limits and grew because of it.  I never consider it suffering as I enjoy it too much.  If I over do it and injure myself then I pay the price of not training smart.  I practice a lot of injury prevention techniques and to date I have not had a bad injury.

Brad:  Lol!  I'm not sure everybody always enjoys it!  That's pretty incredible that you have raced so much in your first year and yet had no bad injuries.  It seems so common for a majority of runners to struggle especially when they first come into running and racing.  

Looking back over the Canada Army Run, what joy did you get from the race? 

'Jed':  I met twitter friends for the first time.  I went on a road trip with my wife to beautiful Ottawa. I got to run with some amazing and inspiring soldiers who defend our country and way of life, some were injured and were there running or wheeling with was a very inspirational run and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Rod's wife Joanna, Rod, and our mutual Twitter friend Jane.
Brad:  Anything else you want to add?

'Jed':  That about covers it.

Rod & Joanna get their dog tags!!!  Congrats!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Race Season Change and Update, 2014

So, 2014 has been good.  I have done 9 races in 6 months in 4 states with two very big PR's in the 25K and 26.2M.  I have also done well in some of the shorter races including an age group placement.  I have run 25K, 17M, 15K, 5K, 6HR, 8K+, 5K, 26.2M, 5K, all trail races in either IA, MN, NE, or WI.  

Recently I had decided to run the 13.1M at the Three Rivers Trail Run while one of my sons ran the 5K.  But due to various logistical reasons, we have decided to forego this race.  I believe this will benefit me as though I have had some good runs recently, I do not feel fully recovered from TNF ECS WI race weekend in mid-September.

Instead, I will run the RCC Run the Woods trail race with two other family members.  Two of us did this last year and had a blast.  It's a tough late Fall run with a simple but awesome lunch afterwards. (Wonderful beef stew from the Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant!)  For one of them this will be their first race over 5K, just as it was for the other one last year!  This will be race number 10 for me this year, but taken at an easy pace.  

This will also allow me to spend some time out in Pine Ridge, Sac & Fox, and Sand Springs Conservation Areas, figuring out the race courses for the Fall 2015 races others and I will be putting on for Hardin County Conservation.

My goal is still to run 1200 miles for the year, but right now I am a bit behind at 866 when I should be just over 900.  So, we will see.  Hopefully I can at least pass last year's 1106+ which is my biggest year.  I will also be volunteering at The Runner's Flat 50K.

More interviews to come soon too!  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

P.S. Get 20% off with code "wonderful" for The Runner's Tea, but hurry, it's only good today and tomorrow, 10/2-10/3.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Athlete Interview: Paul Starling

This past weekend, a Twitter friend of mine ran a 24 hour race in North Carolina.  Paul Starling is 47 years old and has been running since high school days when he competed in track and cross country. His marathon debut was in 2002 and he ran his first ultra in 2008.  Currently, he has run 37 marathons and 35 ultra races.  Last year, at the 2013 Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra Classic, Paul ran 101.36 miles.  Below is a Q & A I did with him just after this weekend when he went back to Hinson Lake.

Paul at the Gator Trail 50k at Lake Waccamaw, NC - 1st place masters winner!
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Paul, tell us about your most recent race, why did you choose it and what were your goals going into it?

Paul Starling:  My most recent race was the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra Classic in Rockingham, NC.  I chose it for several reasons.  It costs only $24---$1/hour!  It is located about 1 hour 45 minutes from my home.  And finally, my past experience with it having run it last year.  My goal going into it was to surpass last years mileage of 101.36 miles.  However, I fell short with 79.5 miles this year.

Brad:  What went well?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently?

Paul:  The first half in daylight went well.  I had a friend to come pace with me.  I learned I needed more sleep the night before the race.  I had tried but only got around an hour.

Brad:  That night before a race is always tough with sleep.  I've heard it said that the night's sleep before doesn't matter as much as the night two days before the race and/or consistently good sleep leading into the race, perhaps during the taper.  But, still, one hour isn't much.  You mentioned the race was tough when we communicated with one another on Twitter.  What was tough about it?

Paul:  It was tough for several reasons.  The obvious lack of sleep.  When the sun went down, my body just didn't want to keep going.  The heat of the day---I do not do well in hot races.  I got sick during the night, becoming nauseated and having dry heaves.

Brad:  Yeah, I can see how the lack of sleep mixed with heat could lead to some unpleasant experiences.  Dry heaving is the worst.  I hate that.  So physically exhausting yet with little, if any, relief for the body.  We know that suffering and endurance are part of ultra & trail running, as well as life.  What do you think we learn through suffering and endurance in running that crosses over to life and vice versa?

Paul:  Life is hard!  We all know that.  Running ultras is also hard.  I have had to learn to endure the pain and suffering in these races just as in life.  Sometimes you have others to help you along, at other times you have to do it alone---the alone time helps develop patience.

Brad:  For sure.  Do you think that trail & ultrarunning can help us confront our struggles in life?

Paul:  Yes, I feel ultra runners have a lot of determination---a characteristic needed to help overcome the struggles of life.  Often I find myself thinking about life's problems while out running. It seems to help clear the mind and help me think about how to work through them.

Brad:  That's true for a lot of people.  Do you think that as suffering pushes us in endurance, endurance can lead us to joy?

Paul:  Absolutely!  If I didn't find joy in running there would be no way I would be running these crazy distances.  The reward of pushing through those difficult moments is very gratifying and many moments are shared with people I truly love.  My running friends are some of the most cherished people in my life and with the shared experiences comes much joy.

Brad:  That's awesome!  And I totally agree.  Those moments of coming across the line and seeing loved ones you care about, who are excited to see you finish and may have been part of your inspiration, is wondrous and awesome, even if we look and feel like death warmed over!

  Paul and his buddy, Nathan running the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer in Hampton, Virginia.

Continuing on, how do you manage through the tough spots of a race?  Life?

Paul:  I manage the tough spots in a race because I've put in the work---training!  It helps prepare me for those moments.  My past experiences going through tough times reminds me that I can do it again.  I also have support of others which encourages me to keep on pushing.  I also draw strength from my faith in God and often find myself singing songs.  One of my favorites is "You Are My All in All."  I like the lines---

"You are my strength when I am weak,
When I fall down you pick me up,
And when I am dry you fill my cup."

This speaks to me physically and spiritually.

Brad:  Totally makes sense when you are running.  How many of us have been dry, weak, or fallen down, perhaps all in the same race.  The same is true in life, how many run around dry, weak, and falling down, looking for someone to sustain them.  God does that, He made us to be satisfied in Him and Him alone to paraphase Augustine in the beginning of his Confessions.  

Paul, what brings you purpose and joy in life?  Where/how/in what do you find joy?

Paul:  My faith in God brings me great joy and purpose along with my family and friends.  I work as a teacher assistant in an elementary school so I find great purpose in my job.  I certainly find purpose in my running as it motivates me---I love competing!---and it helps me stay healthy.

Brad:  Paul, thanks for your willingness to respond to my questions, especially so soon after such a tough weekend.  I truly appreciate your time and honest responses.  Good job this weekend in tough circumstances.  Hopefully sometime I can make it down to North Carolina and meet up with you for a run or race!  Keep on moving!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Scouting Trail for Next Year's Trail Race in Hardin County

Today was the second time in three days that I spent some time scouting trail for a trail race next year in Hardin County, Iowa, just north of Steamboat Rock.  Wednesday two guys that work for Hardin County Conservation and I toured potential trails on the east side of the Iowa River in the Sac & Fox Overlook and Sand Springs areas.  

This morning, one of those guys and I went back and looked at the west side of the Iowa River in the Pine Ridge area of conservation land.  Below are some of the pictures I got with my GoPro which was set to go off at 30 second intervals.
This trail heads up from where the race could start from below in the Pine Ridge campground.
After continuing up a bit and passing a pond on the left, the trail opens up like this...
...and into more open prairie like this.
Eventually you come to a hill that we could mow a path down and go through the trees way down into more open prairie!
Coming back up that hill could route you back around to a hill that would take you down to the Iowa River thru the woods.
You can see the river thru the woods.
For the longer race, we'd like to find a low spot and cross the Iowa River and run into Sac & Fox and Sand Springs.
What goes down must go up, just to the left, steeply up thru the trees---we were huffing!
View from the top is awesome and looks into Sac & Fox.  The strip off right of center is the path up to the overlook at Sac & Fox.
More prairie running.
You can just see the pond off to the right of the trees as we head back to the car.  There's also another loop near that hidden in the woods we'd probably use but didn't have time to hike today.
Heading back to the potential starting area...and my hand!!! :)

Just a few shots to whet your appetite and get them out there for people.  We really want this race to benefit Hardin County Conservation and showcase the great trails and potential enjoyable usefulness of the Pine Ridge, Sac & Fox, and Sand Springs areas near Steamboat Rock, Iowa.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Summer Racing Season, Part 4b: The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Wisconsin, (TNF ECS WI), Trail 5K, September 14, 2014

It was 3 am and I was sitting in a tub of hot water eating Nutter Butters.  It was barely more than 12 hours since I had finished TNF ECS WI trail marathon and had PRed by just over 10 minutes.  Now I needed to get up in about 3 hours to get ready to run and help my eldest daughter finish her first 5K.  But, I wasn't asleep, instead I was trying to relax my legs so I could sleep while satisfying my hunger from being calorie deprived due to the stress of the marathon.

Out of the tub, I quietly slid back into bed, careful not to wake my wife or the kids that were in this room with us.  Then, BAM!  6 am and my alarm went off.  "Oh man," I thought, "I've got to go race again...I'm so tired."  

We got around, had breakfast, moved everything from one room into the other since we could only get an extension on 1 of the 2 rooms we had booked.  Then back down the road to the race start.  

My middle son would start running before us as he was competing in his first 10K.  The clock counted down to 9 am and he was off.  
Ready to go for his first 10K!
Fifteen minutes until my oldest son who has raced several 5K's over the years, myself, and my oldest daughter would take off.  Honestly, I wasn't sure how this was all going to go down.  My daughter had shown signs of good running as we would train together, but also had had several mental meltdowns.  I was concerned that the mental aspect of this race might be very hard for her and take its toll on me, a dad already exhausted from day 1 of this 2 days of racing.

Ready to go for the 5K, daughter with face-paint included!
Initially once we got started, my daughter had some problems with the headphones she brought staying on her ears, so I took her iPod and stuffed it in my pocket.  After that, we got going pretty good. While she had to walk at times, she did even run some of the initial paved hill up to the trails. Plenty of people encouraged her and when she was prone to get discouraged, there was a lot of remembering that if she wanted to be counted as a finisher, she had to do so within an hour to get a medal.  She would walk for a minute and then suddenly start up and I'd have to catch her.  Then she'd stop again and walk.  We went back and forth with several people as she did this and eventually made the half-way turnaround.  We were on par to definitely make it under an hour, though there was some worry about her older brother making the cut-off.  Eventually we passed him and encouraged him to make the turnaround.  Then we came up the hill and hit the 2 mile marker.  Just a little over 1 mile to go with a large chunk of that on pavement.  We made it down the hill and turned onto the road that the park is on where the start/finish line was and I pointed it out to her, except that I was pointing to the wrong place and it seemed so far away to her.  As we got closer, I corrected myself but it still seemed far away.  She was getting tired as we made the final turn onto grass and had less than 1/10 of a mile to go.  She kept telling me it was so far away and I started pointing to her that we just needed to cross this path and run up there a bit and we were done.  Everyone was cheering her on and finally the truth registered and we took off, crossing the line together.  She did much better than I thought both mentally and physically.  We weren't super fast, but we finished, 41:20.

Approaching the finish line, stride for stride, perhaps my favorite pic of the weekend!
My son running the 10K got it done and as the only male 19 and under, won his age division, but we didn't know until later and forgot to get his prize!  D'oh!  My fault!  Should've thought of that before leaving!  My oldest son did good too, and though he's not a big runner, he got the race done before the cutoff.
Our 10K finisher!

A satisfied, butterflied, first-time 5K finisher!  She did awesome!

Another 5K completed for my oldest!  His confidence helped get him home!
On a final note, if my eldest daughter had run the whole 5K at the pace she did when she would take off for a stretch on the flats and downhills, I think she would have left me in the dust.  When she gets this all put together, I'm going to be in trouble!  My son who finished the 10K ran a cross-country meet 3 days before his race and 2 days after.  His times for short distance will soon probably surpass me, and I might find in the shorter races with him, I no longer have the fastest time in the family!  Yikes!  But I don't think any of them will be racing long-long distance anytime soon!  So at least I have that for a while! :)  They all did great, including two of the youngest three who ran the kid's 1K with their oldest sister the day before after I had finished my marathon.  I guess technically, she ran 2 races over 2 days as well!!!

Batman and his sisters are ready to chase Sponge Bob down in the kid's 1K fun run.

The shark tent my friend Scott Gall, (2nd in the 50 miler Saturday) gave us, was a big hit!!!
Praise God for kids!  They make life fun!  We had a great weekend of racing, and now over a week later, I think I am the only one still recovering!  Oh well!  Joy makes the tiredness and the pain worthwhile!  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Summer Racing Season, Part 4a: The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Wisconsin (TNF ECS WI) Trail Marathon, September 13, 2014

The North Face logo.svg

Ten minutes, four seconds.  After a week of dealing with a last minute lower back injury and the subsequent doubts if it could be accomplished, God guided me to a PR at TNF ECS WI trail marathon.  As I turned the last corner to run up to the finish line, I could see the clock counting and knew I had a shot at a 10 minute PR.  Incredible!  At the 17.2 mile mark I was ahead of last year's time by just 2 minutes 59 seconds with 9 miles to go.  That means I ran the final 9 miles 7 minutes 5 seconds faster than 2013 and with a sore back!  Incredible!  Thinking back on it now, wow...just wow...

The entire week before the race I dealt with a bad back, taking ibuprofen, using Bio-freeze, alternating heat and ice as well as going to my chiropractor, Wayson Family Chiropractic on Monday and Thursday, coupled with lots of prayer to God.  This finish is to His glory!  Thanks for all those who prayed and encouraged me as well.

Race-day began as probably the coolest day we have had since late last Spring.  I actually started off in long sleeves, though they were quickly shoved up my arms for most of the run.  I had decided during the week to forego taking two bottles, (handheld and waist-pack) in favor of just the waist-pack along with an additional 5 oz flask I could hook to the front strap.  This gave me 26 oz of fluid as opposed to 42 oz, but I thought I could make it work since the aid stations were only about 5-6 miles apart.  I filled them both with frozen Runner's Tea, adding a bit of water to the larger bottle. The small zippered pocket on my Ultimate Direction water belt allowed me to stuff in gels, salt tabs, a fruit strip, some ginger candy, and a sample pack of Bio-freeze I'd apply about half way through. The Runner's Tea melted during the day, so that as I added water to it, I was slowly downing two cups of tea all during the day for a little extra endurance oomph!  

While I told myself I would need to start out more conservatively than last year, I still began the race a bit quicker than I thought might be good, but it is sometimes hard to restrain yourself!  I still held back some and was much better mentally in dealing with figuring out how to couple my running/walking strategy as well as my potential back issue.  Knowing the course from last year was a great help in planning on when to push and when to ease off.  I knew if I could keep to a particular average pace the first 3-4 hours, this would allow me to go slower towards the finish if I needed to when things might get tough.  In the end, because I was under or held that pace overall for most of the race, I was actually able to come a bit under it overall, accounting for the 10 minute 4 second PR.

26.2?  No problem!
As I passed a final (extra aid station) I was told we had about 1.8 miles to go, which sounded about right.  At that point you slowly ascend uphill for probably 1/2-3/4 mile?  I hiked this whole hill, then ran the flat, descended back down the other side and was almost home free.  I broke through the woods and knew I had a little less than 1 mile to go, which was good, because the muscles in my inner thighs started going into spasms as I ran down the pavement towards the park road and entrance before the finish line.  As I crossed the line, I saw my son, who would next day line up for his first 10K.  My wife was there too and the rest of the kids were milling about in the finish area.  I was spent, but stoked at the results.  Praise God!!!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, "But the Lord said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Look, I grew elf ears out on the run!!! :)
A little bit after I had something to eat, 3 of my younger kids ran the kid's 1K run.  After which my middle daughter said she was never running another race again in her life, to which my youngest son said, "I'm not running another race again in my life either."  Well, I had another race in the morning, so it was time to get back to the hotel, enjoy the night, and get ready for the next day.  More to come!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Athlete Interview: Raina R/Small Town Runner

Hi!  Around a week and a half ago, a Twitter friend of mine finished her first 50K.  I was glad to encourage and pray for her during her training and on race day.  Below is a Q & A interview with Raina of from shortly after her completion of this milestone event.  Enjoy!

Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith: What race did you do?  Why did you pick it?

Raina R./Small Town Runner: I ran the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K, (MRTR).  I chose it because it is close to home and it looked like an "easy" race for a first time ultra. If an ultra can be "easy"...

Brad: Yeah...right!  How did it go?  What went well?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently?

Raina:  This race went really well for me. I had no idea if my body was healed or not from an injury, so I ran very conservatively to begin with.  Early on I found a woman walking all the uphills.  She seemed like she might be experienced, so I got in behind her and started talking to her.  It seems this "walking the beginning through the sharp lava" got her some good race times, (5- 5.5 hours) the last 3 times, so I stayed with her! Then she fell on the lava and her race changed instantly. We had to part ways at the first aid station so she could get bandaged up, which takes maybe 10-15 minutes.

A Collage of Raina's first 50K race!
Later on in the race, I could tell my hip was going to be OK, so I began to run more of the uphills, but I still kept the whole first 16 miles pretty conservative.

I mostly survived on gels, water and Gu Brew. I drank early on, which I think is very important. The only solids I took were at the mile 16 aid station, when I ate some salt and vinegar chips (Lays Stackers), and watermelon slices I had in my drop bag.  I didn't realize I was getting sloshy until I finished, so next time I'll try to eat a bar early.

Brad: Watermelon is great!  I love watermelon on long runs!  What other struggles did you have?  How did you get through them?

Raina: My foot was a little sore from a mysterious injury months ago, so at that same 16 mile aid station I put in a pair of arch supports. They felt better for my feet, but lifted me up and made me a little unstable. Then I turned my ankle, to the outside, and felt it sharp in my foot where it's been hurting... I think I know how I got hurt 11 weeks ago now!  Eventually it calmed down and I was able to start running faster for the last 15 miles.

Brad:  Ouch!  That couldn't have been easy to run on for 15 miles.  How about something more positive: what was your favorite moment of the race?

Raina:  My favorite moment of the race? I don't have one particular. However, the Coke at the last aid station was absolutely fantastic!!! Caffeine and sugar could not have come at a better time.

Brad: Yeah, sometimes Coke and M&M's are a great snack to partake of at the last aid station for a little boost to the finish line.  I used both this past weekend around mile 22+ of my trail marathon.  On a different note, what do you think is the connection between suffering and endurance like we often experience in long distance running?  Do we learn anything from these experiences that can help lead to joy in life?

Raina: I did a fair amount of praying while I ran. I find that prayer helps me to disconnect from thinking about any suffering while running, but also running helps me to focus and pray.  (I wouldn't call either "suffering" though...)

As I got closer to the end, I had more trouble praying because all I could think about was trying to see the finish line.  There were specific people I had on a list based on blog comments, Google+ comments and e-mails, plus personal concerns that I was praying for.

The connection between suffering and endurance?  God promises that this life will not be easy. It IS suffering, but there is a sweet reward for putting up with all of it!  I suppose a race is a really really good reminder of that promise.  But I don't think you have to run races to identify with the endurance theme and Glory of His Grace.

Brad:  For sure.  The race of life can be hard enough at times for many of us.  Anything else about the race?

Raina:  I trained very little for this race, except the long run. God saw me through it!

Brad: Cool!  What's next?

Raina:  I'm already looking at another race!  I'm not sure if I'll do one, both, or either...but I'm looking at a trail half marathon in 2 weeks and another, much harder, 50K in early November if it doesn't fill up. Thanks for interviewing me!

Brad:  You're welcome.  And thanks to you Raina for taking the time out to share your thoughts and reflections on what sounds like a great race experience!

I'll hope to have more of these types of interviews with other runners, so if you are interested, please let me know!  I will also be posting a couple of more race reviews  in the next week or so from my own experiences at this years The North Face Endurance Challenge Series - Wisconsin.

Make sure to check out Raina's own race review and more pictures too at

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