Monday, August 31, 2015

Product Review: First Impressions of the Buff Hunter Orange UV Buff

Ahoy Mateys!  It was a humid run through the foggy soup of NE Iowa yesterday!

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

A week to ten days ago I received a Buff Hunter Orange UV Buff in the mail to try out and review. The first thing I noticed was the color!  Woah!  That's some bright orange!  Two thoughts then jumped into my head: 1) Those are BibRave colors and will really match our jerseys well! 2) My wife will be thrilled.  Why?  Why would my wife be thrilled at a bright orange Buff?  Answer: Hunting season and/or early morning runs.  It's "Hunter" Orange for a reason...  My wife will be thrilled when I'm out on trails that are also open hunting lands.  She will also be thrilled that I have another bright piece of equipment to wear that will get me noticed as the Fall and Winter mornings arrive with less and less daylight, if any at all, during my runs.

As usual, this full size Buff is great for mopping up sweat as well as keeping the ears warm on a cool day.  It's also got 95% UV protection, so for those runs where there's not a lot of tree cover, (you know, like Iowa, where the other morning I tried to run in the shadows of the corns stalks while traversing several gravel roads), you've got some help in keeping your forehead from getting too burned without having to apply sunscreen, something I do very rarely and reluctantly.  

Another great product from Buff as usual, and I'll let you know more over the next couple of weeks!

Check out their full line up at

Hunter Orange and Bright Lime, what a color combo! :)

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Racing Season: Bangtail Divide 38K, July, 4, Bozeman, MT

It's January and I'm filling out race registration forms for two races in Montana during the coming Summer months when I will be on sabbatical: Wulfmans CDT 14K and the Bangtail Divide 38K. There's a little bit of anxiety as I wonder can I finish the longer of the two races, especially when the first 6 miles or so include what appears to be 2,000 feet of ascent according to the following image:

The Bangtail Divide Elevation Chart, image taken from

Flash forward to April 11, 2015: I am racing the Zumbro 17 Miler outside of Theilman, MN.  Even though in the end I will PR over last year's time at this race, as I slowly ascend and top out on one of the final major bluffs, I keep thinking in my head, "If you are struggling this much going up these bluffs in Minnesota, what are you going to do in Montana at elevation and ascending a mountainside?"  Even though the total ascent in both races is about the same. my mind is spiraling into the "negative zone" and I have to pray and ask God to help me push these thoughts out of my head.  Running is 10% physical and 90% mental, right?

Flash forward to June 12, 2015: I am staying just outside of Custer, SD at an elevation similiar to Bozeman, MT.  I am getting close to finishing my third and final ascent/descent of the highest point in the state, Harney Peak, this time from the harder Northern side.  A couple of ladies have stopped me to ask how long it is to the top as I lean upon my poles and drip sweat onto the trails.  I am in the midst of pushing myself to finish what will be about a 3.5 hour round trip amounting to just a bit more than 11 miles with a gain and loss each of 2400+/- feet.  I note that one of the ladies has a shirt on from the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, and 5K, an event the weekend before where I had volunteered and then run the Fast 5K.  We talk for a minute about the current hike I am finishing and how much further they have to go.  We part ways, and all I think is, they've got a ways to go and get back before dark!  Three and a half hours seems like a long time, but with the rocks and water and elevation gain, it might actually be a fairly good time especially since this trail is rated as difficult which includes this definition for steepness next to a red diamond on one map: "Steepness: Portions of trail, 20 percent grade or steeper."  My time seemed slow, but I kept telling myself this is good training, even though I had a 10K the next day in Custer State Park, the Bark Beetle 10K.

A marmot shares the trail with me!
Flash forward to June 25, 2015: The Bangtail Divide is less than ten days away and having talked to the race director, I have decided on going out and doing one last long run, though in this case, the run will only be just a bit over 14.1 miles.  (My other concern going into the Bangtail was that I hadn't done any long runs/races over 17 miles all year.  But I decided that training for elevation gain and descent was more important as the race day got closer.)  I did just over 7 miles of the main course and then turned around and came back down to my Jeep.  As the Bangtail Divide course is a major mountain biking trail, I saw several riders as well as a couple of runners who would be racing the Bangtail along with me on July 4.  Seemed like we all had the same idea, get out on the course and get to know it a little bit.  I did have one funny incident on the way back when I spotted a marmot on the trail in front of me.  I took a picture, which unfortunately didn't come out very clear, and then both he and I ran down the trail, he about 50 feet or so in front of me.  He turned off into the wood, and as I passed where he turned off, he fell off a tree he must've tried to scramble up!  This led to a squeal from both of us as we scared each other and I tore down the trail for a few seconds.  Then I just smiled and laughed.  The run went well and helped assure me that yes, I can do this!  I would have to hike quite a bit, but that's okay as long as I kept moving and held a solid pace.  Below is one of my favorite photos from that morning.  

Nice single track and beautiful flowers on the mountain along the Bangtail Divide Trail.

Finally July 4th came.  As the drive to the parking lot to catch the shuttle to the start of the race was about 45 minutes away, I got up sometime just after 4am to get ready and head out the door.  At the check-in, awaiting the bus, on the bus, and before the start, I found the racers, volunteers, and race director all very friendly.  In order to keep us all from jamming up the single track at the start of the race, the start was on the gravel road leading to the trail head and giving us about one mile to get ourselves sorted out before the climbing would really get started.  It was during this first mile that I realized I had a potential problem...a nosebleed.  Ugh...while not as big as I sometimes can get, I had to figure out how to stop this pretty quick before too much blood loss would affect me at all on a day when I would need all my faculties about me!

We hit the single track and immediately started climbing.  Even with the initial first mile to help get the faster runners separated from the slower runners, there were still quite a few of us close together that first mile or so of climbing.  While trying to get my nosebleed to stop and figure out the right pacing, I was in the midst of several people who were all part of a constant juggling act passing one another.  

Looking back down one of the sections we would climb early on in the Bangtail Divide.

Eventually I got up that major section of the climb and made it to the first aid station where I had one of the volunteers just give a quick look to my nose and face to ascertain how it looked.  She said it seemed good and since the nosebleed had stopped, that was about the last I thought of it.

As you run along the first several miles of Bangtail Divide Trail you can see the Bridger Range off to the West which seems to loom up over you with it's higher peaks, some appearing to still have a layer of snow upon them like icing on the top of a wedding cake.

A little blurry again, but a pic of the Bridger Range from the Bangtail Divide Trail.

The Bangtail Divide Trail is not too technical, there are some rocks on the ascents/descents, but most of the time it's fairly smooth and buttery.  There are a few sections where the mountain bikes have carved ruts into the trail, but you can typically get thru those by carefully running along the top next to the rut.  Once up top if it's a sunny day, as it was on race day, sunscreen is important as several portions of the trail are fairly exposed at over 7,000 feet.

As I got closer to the second aid station, I kept thinking I had missed it somehow since my GPS watch was indicating that I should have been there by now.  I thought maybe the distances didn't include the first mile of gravel road, or worse, perhaps I had missed a turn.  But, eventually, just before another major section of climb, I crossed a cattle guard and there was the aid station perhaps just a little before half way through the race.  The volunteers seemed glad to see us and thought it was pretty cool a guy from Iowa was in the race.  As with the Wulfman's CDT 14K, I was a flatlander!

Another view of the Bridger Range from the Bangtail Divide Trail.

While at one point leading up to the event I was thinking I'd just be happy to be able to finish within the 8 hour time limit, my recon run on June 25 encouraged me that if I could hold to a steady pace, I might be able to make it just under 6 hours.  Though that's not incredibly fast by any means, it was a target that seemed possible.

As the day wore on, I started feeling the warmth of the sun a bit more in the second half of the run. Even though a lot of the major ascending was done and the course was more of rolling at this point, I still found myself hiking a lot.  Eventually I made it into the final aid station with around 7-8 miles to go.  Kudos to those at that aid station not only for being there, but for enduring what seemed like biting horse-flys!  Those things hurt!

The race description led me to believe that the last several miles would be mostly downhill after that aid station, however, I and others had been warned that there was one last climb:  Grassy Mountain. After dropping down into a nice wide, flat open grassy area, the climb started and ascended like a sting in the tail!  Over 16-18 miles in, (I can't remember exactly), and with the sun out brightly, I went back and forth with a few mountain bikers also riding/hiking up this steep section of hill. I had to stop and get my breath once or twice on the way up as everything was starting to catch up to me a bit even though I was keeping to a pace that could deliver me at the end below 6 hours.

However, there was one thing that kept going on in my mind, the trail seemed to be a bit longer than I thought and if it continued to hold true, (based upon certain markers including aid station locations), then I might just miss 6 hours.  Trail races as most of us know aren't necessarily measured exact like road races.  Plus, GPS can be thrown off running through various parts of terrain, or so I'm told.

Looking back after having crossed the finish line at the Bangtail Divide 38K.
Finally the descent started and I wanted to run as much as I could but in addition to being tired, I was wary from having fallen a month before in Hell Canyon on the descent.  So, even though the trail isn't littered with rocks, there were enough in several places to keep my slow.  I could tell I was getting closer as I started hearing the music and then the voices of the people. I passed a two ladies mountain biking, one of whom had lost her brakes and was taking the switchbacks carefully.   She told me to keep going, that this was all for me. I got even closer and started hearing the yelling and clapping, AWESOME!  Then I saw the finish line just over the bridge with the race director and volunteers as well as others all ready to welcome home each and every runner.

My legs were pretty tired and the race director helped direct me to the creek to cool them off while he went and got me a cold can of Coke.  I sat in the creek for a few minutes before getting my drop bag and putting on a dry shirt.  After a little time spent eating and resting, I hitched a ride with another runner back to the starting area and headed home, very tired, but very happy for having completed another great mountain race, even as a Flatlander!  (And, I wasn't last!  105th out of 115 finishers, 5:57:10 for what my watch had as 24.09 miles w/3556 ft of ascent and 3171 ft of descent.)

As a P.S. The race director was very helpful over e-mail, in person, and had great volunteers.  The race as far as I could tell went off without a hitch.

The race director in blue consulting with one of the volunteers at the finish line.

The schwag was pretty nice.  It included a Salomon Tech shirt and Buff UV 1/2 Buff as well as this red Silipint soft pint cup.  Sweet! :)

Salomon Tech Tee, Buff UV 1/2 Buff, and a Silipint!

In the end, all praise to God for the ability and opportunity to run and race a great event! Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord 
     will renew their strength.  
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
     they will run and not grow weary, 
     they will walk and not be faint."

(All pictures are from the June 25, 2015 training run except for the finish line photos.  Here's a few more to enjoy!)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Trail Review: South Cottonwood & Wheeler Gulch Trails, Bozeman, MT

There's a great trailhead hidden just outside of Bozeman, Montana to the South.  It's the South Cottonwood Trailhead, (trail #422), at the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road.  When my family and I were staying in Bozeman earlier this summer this trailhead was just down the road from us and so it became my go to place to run.  What's more convenient than driving about 2 miles down the road and getting right onto a great trail with hills, water crossings, and people enjoying nature walking, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and horseback riding?  

Two cautions in addition to watching your footfalls as normal for trailrunning: 1) watch out for horse dung; 2) be careful crossing the streams on the makeshift bridges if they are wet.  I came across a lady one day who had slipped, fallen, and possibly dislocated her shoulder and couldn't walk back the last mile due to the pain and nausea.  Her husband and son were with her and eventually they called the local rescue team to come out and get her.

Junction sign on the South Cottonwood Trail and a branch that takes you onwards towards the top of Wheeler Mountain in Bozeman, MT.
The trail starts going up right from the parking lot.  (BTW, the trailhead parking can fill up pretty quickly, especially during the summer and over weekends, but it's okay to just park alongside the road.)  You will switchback a little and then head up some more until the trail starts to level out a bit during the first half mile or so.  Then the trail will be rolling until it starts to go downhill to come out at a creek crossing at about the 1 mile mark.  You can cross the stream on the bridge or run through the water.  Then the trail goes abruptly uphill before starting to roll a bit before coming out as singletrack paralleling the South Cottonwood Stream on the side of a hill and probably 75-100 feet up above the streambed.  This is a nice stretch that makes you feel even higher than you already are at just around 6,000ft. of elevation.

As the trail continues to roll up and down, eventually you will come down to the level of the stream and cross it a couple more times, with the crossings in the first couple of miles having bridges.  Around 2-2.5 miles in, the trail will split with the left trail going onwards to meet up trails that come from Hyalite Canyon.  The South Cottonwood Trail continues straight and then branches again, this time the right trail becoming trail #169, the Wheeler Gulch Trail.  

As the South Cottonwood Trail continues onwards towards Blackmore Mountain, the Wheeler Gulch Trail crosses the stream, (this time with no bridge, but the water is maybe shin deep at worst), and starts to go up and become much less travelled and more foresty...if that's a word!  It felt like it was more wild than the rest of the trail, with green everywhere and on everything.  I went up this trail maybe 1/3-2/3 mile or so at my farthest run.  

I was mostly using these trails as my standard shorter weekly runs/hikes as I prepped for both the Wulfman's CDT 14K and the Bangtail Divide 38K trail races.  I found that as I told people where we were staying that several knew the area, and for some the South Cottonwood Trail was one of their favorite places to run in the Bozeman area.  I thought I had taken more pictures of the trail, but I cannot seem to find them on the computer today.  If I do find more, I will add them and update this post!

A flat stretch along the South Cottonwood Trail.  

These are great trails and I feel like I just got to know the first few miles well before we had to leave. Looking at the map I bought in town by Beartooth Publishing of the "Bozeman Area," there's a lot more hiking/running/exploring I have to do the next time I go back to this beautiful area!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Running Motivation: Helping Africa Overcome H2O and AIDS/HIV Struggles

The top at Grotto Falls, Bozeman, MT
Back when the temperatures were close to 75F-100F degrees cooler, what we know as sub-arctic winter in Iowa, I took some time to consider how my running miles would count in 2015.  Running is such a solo activity, yet it never needs to be about us alone.  Whether it is a race that supports a charity, or a running group that volunteers to help it's local cross-country team, runners have lots of ways to reach out to others.  

One of the great things I love about the charitable organization I choose to raise money for this year, BLOOD:WATER, is that I can use my talents and gifts to help others as best reflects who I am and what I love to do.  In other words, I don't have to fit into a cookie cutter mold.  My goal and my desire can come from within my heart and soul.  

Shortly after I made my goal of running 1200 miles in 2015 and raising $3000 for BLOOD:WATER, I was featured in one of their blog posts: 1200 Miles for Africa.  I choose BLOOD:WATER because there are 320 million people in Africa who do not have access to safe, clean water and more than 25 million of those in Sub-Saharan Africa are HIV-positive.  Clean water and a healthy body are two important things that many of us runners can easily take for granted.  But, travel to a third world country, and you are quickly faced with the fact that clean water and good health are not always readily available.  

What's really neat about BLOOD:WATER is that they work from within the local communities through those who are already making real change from the grassroots up!  They specifically partner with these groups for at least 3 years or more.  Check it out: The BLOOD:WATER Approach.

Water is such a precious commodity we can easily take for granted.  Grotto Falls, Bozeman, MT.
I want to be honest about something: I hate manipulative practices/cliches/speeches that make people feel guilted into giving money to an organization.  I have never felt that with BLOOD:WATER and do not want you to either.  If you can and want to make a donation to my fundraising, I would greatly appreciate it and certainly those in Africa where the money is applied will be blessed.  I pray that whether you give or not, God will bless you, and thanks for taking time to read this post!  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Athlete Interview: Amy Leon

An interview with Amy Leon, aka 
Amy Leon just started running again after knee surgery.  Amy is a friend of mine via Twitter that lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Her blog, Crazy Mama Runs, speaks of her passion for running, battles with depression, and longing for coffee, (probably intravenously!).  We e-mailed/tweeted back and forth recently to talk about her recent return to running and how she dealt with the hard times people sometimes go through when they are sidelined.

Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Amy, tell us a little bit about yourself and also about your running history.

Amy Leon:  Well, I am a single mom of a teenager (eep!) and I work full-time as a paralegal.  I am also a military brat, so you will see different areas of Atlantic Canada in my answers to some of your questions.

If we go waaaaaaaaaaaaay back, I had a short track stint in Junior High living in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia.   

I really started running full time in 2010 after joining a gym here in Halifax and working with a trainer.  There was a small running group at work that I joined.  I was hooked after the first run and went just about every lunch hour along the waterfront in Halifax.  I ran my first race in May of 2011, at the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon.  I did the 10k in 59:46.

Brad:  That's pretty good for your first race.  However, in the last couple of years, you started having some knee issues.  Tell us what was going on and how this affected your running.

Amy after the 10K at the Valley Harvest Marathon
Amy:  This most recent knee issue started during a trip to the Dominican Republic in April of 2014.  I slipped in the washroom after washing my hands.  I didn't feel anything, went back down to the beach, and then when I went to get up for lunch, I couldn't straighten my knee, it started to swell and I had to limp up to eat.  I had it elevated and was applying ice, but it wasn't getting much better after a little while.  I had it wrapped and was given some anti-inflammatory cream by the resort doctor. Upon returning home to Canada I went to see my family doctor.  I was told it could be a possible meniscus tear, so I was referred to physio and told not to run.    After a course of physio, things were not where my therapist was hoping, so she sent me back to my family doctor to be referred to a sports ortho.  I requested Dr. Stanish, (he is amazing), and after an MRI in June or July, I had a follow up where he asked me about my previous knee scope.  Then he gave me the news: I had Osteochondritis Dessicans.  This is a condition where a part of the bone in your femur dies and fractures.  My fracture was up in the joint part of my femur.  He referred me to one of his colleagues, (as he only consults now), to get looked at further and have surgery done.  He told me I could run, but to take it easy.  I ran a little bit, but as time went on, it became more difficult.

A short run after Dr. Stanish met with Amy the first time and cleared her to go easy.

I met with Dr. Legay in the fall and he sent me for x-rays and a CT.  He advised that I not run at all until we had this figured out.  He confirmed my condition and advised me that there was a good sized piece of femur floating around in my knee.  We talked about surgery, the options, and I was put on a waiting list.  Free health care is great, but sometimes the waiting isn't, LOL!  He advised if I had any further issues to let him know.  I could bike, elliptical, swim, but NO RUNNING.

In December I had another incident where my knee locked and I had a very hard time getting it straight.  I called Dr. Legay, he saw me in early January and booked me for surgery mid-February.  I have not run full-time since April of 2014 until recently.

Brad:  You've been pretty open about the fact that you've struggled some with depression.  When the knee started acting up, how did that effect you mentally?

Amy:  I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2011 after a breakdown and have been battling it every since.  There were some low points for me after my injury for sure.  Running was my outlet, my sanity.   I could find peace in a run.  Getting a good sweat on is great for stress, but a run was meditative.  Struggling with the fact that I was losing my main outlet was very hard for me.  

People tried to help during the period before and after my diagnosis and surgery, giving me alternatives, but those with mental illness know one thing:  once the switch is on, sometimes you can't turn it off.  I would go through times of activity and then plummet back into non-activity.  I would get mad at people telling me what I "should" do.  I knew what had to be done, but I was so upset at the fact that my knee was screwed up that I did not want to hear it.

I got mad.  I internalized.  I shut down.

Depression takes over your whole body, not just your brain.  When I am having a depressive episode everything hurts physically as well as emotionally.  Once that happens, I don't want to move.  I just want to sleep, eat and be left alone.

In my mind, it was like "Well if you can't run, then forget it".

Brad:  My guess is that there are a lot of runners who would agree with your final statement when similarly injured, but not realize the mental toll of having running being taken away from them. Would you agree that many of us runners go through bouts of depression due to injury, exhaustion, over training, coming down from big events, and so on?  

Amy:  I definitely think it's possible.  As runners we place very high expectations on ourselves.  We maintain a very intense focus on our goals, our PBs, our pace and mileage.  We push our bodies, especially during training and then don't know what to do with them during the "come down," during a taper, or the aftermath of an event.  

When we face an injury or over train and it takes us out of what we love to do or "ruins" our race, we shut down.  Our world is thrown out of whack.  All of the hard work and dedication gets thrown out like a baby with the bathwater, even if you know you will come back.  It is disheartening and you don't see the end game.  You only see the NOW and get caught up in it.

Brad:  How did you deal with your depression during this time?

Amy:  It was not easy.  I did and I didn't....

I did start my blog shortly after my injury.  I needed an outlet for my frustration.  I wanted to know if other people felt like I did.  I wanted to share my story and help others that may be in the same boat that I was.  Becoming present on social media allowed me to connect with other runners and share information.  The running community is an amazing support system!   

I was on medication full-time for my depression/anxiety since 2011 (I came off my medication in March of this year, and so far, so good!).  It kept me level, but I found that during this time of struggle, I was not able to keep myself above water as well as I once had.  I had times where I was active and felt great.  I had a new found love for yoga and joined up for some hot yoga classes last summer.  I went on hikes.  I walked.  Things were good.

Then, things weren't so good.  I started to internalize a lot.  Even though I have an amazing support system, there are times that I feel like a burden to those that love me (and I am a mom, so I was like, I can't break down.....I can't.....I have a daughter to raise).  When I tried to reach out for support I would backpedal and say I was fine, it was just a moment.  The voice of doubt in my head started to take over.  I tried to write as much as I could during this time, as I found it very cleansing.

I also began meditation as a way to focus and stop myself from the obsessive thoughts I was having.  This was off and on during that time.  My structure got lost in the depression/anxiety vortex.

In the end, I let myself feel what I was feeling.  I let it come and then let it go.  It was a weird way of getting myself through this.  My stubborn self would fight back every now and again.

Brad:  It must have been frustrating for sure, a rollercoaster of emotions.  But then your surgery got booked and you were excited to know that there was some hope on the horizon, I remember that from conversations over Twitter.  What type of knee surgery did you end up having and how did it go?

Amy:  I had a knee scope done on February 18 of this year.  They were hoping that the piece of bone would be able to be pinned back in, but once inside it was determined that it was not salvageable.  Too much growth around the bone for it to be placed where it used to be.  They removed the 2cm bone fragment and did some debridement on my femur.

Amy doing her physical therapy post-surgery.

Everything went very well.  My time in the recovery room was short and I was overjoyed to hear that I could run again.  On the way home I had my parents stop for a milkshake!

There is osteoarthritis in my knee and I will be a candidate for a high tibial osteotomy in the future. This is where they take a wedge of bone out of my tibia and then use a plate and screws to pull that together, transferring the weight from the arthritic part of my knee to the healthy part and prolonging the lifespan of my knee joint.

Brad:  I'm so glad the surgery went so well1  Now, you recently went for your first run...what was it like getting prepared to head out the door? 

Amy:  I woke up, got dressed and went out the door.  No thinking was allowed! LOL!  I was scared that if I hesitated at all that I would chicken out!  Not running for so long had me spooked a little bit.

Ready to run, the regular leg selfie!!!

Brad:  Tell us about the run.

Amy:  It was awkward, sweaty, and I felt like I had clown feet.  But the feeling of it, the endorphins and the serenity, it was amazing.  I took walk breaks, as I needed to slow myself down and this will be the norm until I can get used to pacing myself again.  

Brad:  What were your emotions like when you finished? How long was it?  Have you run since?

Amy:  I have to felt surreal.  I had to look at my phone to make sure I had actually logged a run!  Since it was a solo run, there were no tears, even though I thought there would be.  It was like a covert op, LOL!  I ran 1.47kms in 10mins 38 secs.  I've run smaller distances, up hills and down to see how I felt.  I have also run 2 kms and yesterday, (Aug 3rd) I ran 2.6 kms with a 6:18 average pace (it was 6:30 before I synced, then it showed 6:18, wooooo!) - 5:45 split.  Super happy!  

Brad:  How's the knee now?

Amy:  The knee is feeling good!  I am running smarter and strength training.  My schedule now will be run one day, strength train the next, so that I can get my feet under me and not be worried about the knee.  Having been told there is early osteoarthritis also has opened my eyes about running smart.

Brad:  What advice would you give to those in similar situations to yours, depression or needing knee surgery?
An excited Amy after a recent return to running!

Amy:  Reach out!  It's hard, there is no denying it.  Talking about it to those close to you helps so much.  Talk, talk, talk!  Also, the running community is an amazing support system.  They get injuries and will keep you focused.  Having a support system in place is extremely important.  So is having an alternate outlet.  Find out from your physician/physiotherapist what you are able to do while you are waiting for surgery, healing, etc.

Brad:  What keeps you motivated and going Amy?

Amy: Knowing that physical fitness is paramount to my mental health.  Running is my meditation, my serenity, my outlet.  Going through the roller coaster of last year was very hard.  I had some really down moments and became a lump.  My daughter is my biggest source of motivation.  She is my anchor and a big reason I get out and move every day.  My friends and family have been a great motivation.  The running community, as I have said many times before, is an amazing source of motivation!  
Brad:  What helps you deal with suffering when it comes into your life?  

Amy:  I am a spiritual person.  I believe that we are given difficult times to strengthen our resolve.  I know it doesn't seem that way when we are deep in it.  I now have a regular meditation practice which allows me to stay focused and appreciate the present, to enjoy everything around me.  We have this one life, and I am determined to live it with as much joy as I can, which in turn I hope will spread to others!  

Amy and her daughter!

Brad:  Thanks Amy for taking some time to share your story with us.  It is so great to see and hear about you running again post-surgery!  Yay!  Go CraZy LaDy Go!!!  (P.S. That's a nickname of mine for Amy!)

Finally, depression is a serious issue and not to be taken lightly.  If you need someone to talk too, please reach out to those around you and/or consult your doctor and/or pastor.  Knee issues are also serious physical issues, especially for runners.  If you are having major knee pain, don't think you can run through it, get it checked out.

A pond Amy passed on one of her recent runs!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

2015 Racing Season: Wulfman's CDT-14K, June 20, 2015, Butte, MT

Along the Continental Divide Trail.  Photo by Michael Chapman.

WOW!!!  The Wulfman's Continental Divide Trail 14K race is one I will never forget.  The build up to this odd distance event included probably 10 or more race e-mails with various specifics.  As they kept coming in and the date got closer to the event, I started getting a little anxious.  "Why are there so many e-mails?"  I figured, and it was confirmed on race day, it's because there simply are a lot of details that eveyone needs to know when you are doing a point-to-point, staggered start, limited field race on 14 kilometers of the Continental Divide.  Knowing those specifics is important so that everyone gets to the starting line at the right time, in the right order, to enjoy a great event where there is also limited parking and access to the course and later for the awards and after party.

The Wulfman's CDT is limited to a field of 240 runners that start one at a time in 10 second increments.  Your starting time is based upon your own predicted finishing time, with additional awards for those who finish closest to their predicted time.  The first runner starts at 9:00:00 AM. The next runner starts at 9:00:10 AM.  Your start time also determines which bus you take to the start in an odd numbered year like 2015.  Also, as it was an odd numbered year, the course ran from South to North, from Pipestone Pass to Homestake Pass in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest along the CDT.  (Even years the race is run North to South and finishers are bussed back to the start.)

The race start with our emcee relaxing and calling out the runners.  Note the start clock.  Photo by Bradford Zinnecker.

start time was 9:33:50.  As I got to the start and prepared to get in line, the emcee was calling out people's names, start times, and hometown/state.  I think I was probably the only Iowan!  He asked me how I came to be there and I told him I was out there with my family on sabbatical.  The lady who started behind me and I talked for a moment.  Then, as my time drew closer, I got in line and watched the clock.  As your time approached, a woman checked you off on a clipboard as present and a little device went from red to green and signalled you to start.

The course starts climbing fairly early on and really takes off around 4K to hit the high point around 6K as the course switchbacks several times.  Since I assume everyone started off doing a little bit of guess work on their predicted times, the race becomes one where you pass and get passed with regularity. That's not always easy on singletrack, especially as you are working hard uphill and flying down switchbacks on the other side.  However, everyone was quite friendly and open to moving over and appreciative of those who moved over for them.  I met quite a few people and had some fun snippets of conversation along the 14K route which included several hills.  It was really neat to watch others as they flew back down the other side of these hills, crushing the switchbacks.  What a fun experience to both hunt and be hunted as you raced the course.  (BTW, just about every K was marked along the course so you had a pretty good idea of where you were the entire race and how close your GPS watch was tracking.) There was only one aid station that I remember, but that was all I really needed to refill my bottle and keep going.  It was probably somewhere after halfway.

Also, somewhere after halfway I think, the lady who started behind me passed me, but told me I was doing a good job as a "Flatlander."  I met a guy whose brother is a policeman in a neighboring town to where I live, and I saw on the course and afterwards, quite a few female superheroines!

Some of the superheroines after the race!  Photo by Michael Chapman.

Frankly, eveyone seemed in a really good mood at this race and to be really enjoying themselves. People were cheering for each and every runner as they neared the pavement that marked the end of this section of the Continental Divide Trail and the finish line.  I was able to then pick up my schwag, get a quick snack, and also an initial print-out of my finishing time and placement.

Then, after walking across the overpass of Interstate 90, I got into my Jeep and drove about 4 miles down a narrow gravel road to the Homestake Lodge.  The lodge held the food and the owner's outdoor pavillion and lawn was set up to enjoy eating outdoors while awaiting the awards.  I enjoyed the beauty of the mountains God created while I ate and talked with a few of the friendly people I had met including folks from Montana and Idaho.

Enjoying lunch on the lawn of the Homestake Lodge.  Photo by Michael Chapman.

The lawn and pavilion at Homestake Lodge near Butte, MT.  Photo by Michael Chapman.

The emcee setting up a race supporter's sign before announcing the awards to the gathered runners at Homestake Lodge.  Photo by Michael Chapman.

The emcee for the event did a great job of keeping us entertained and going through the awards. He seemed like a nice guy who enjoyed doing his part for this great event.

The following is a quote from the website for the race and describes the purpose of the event and how it benefits the local trail community:

"The 14 Butte-iful kilometers along the CDT between Montana's Homestake and Pipestone passes in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest are completed, and that section offers scenic vistas with majestic rock formations.  This race along that route celebrates the trail and the memory of one of its greatest local proponents -- the late John "the Wulfman" Wulf, who was the God Father of Butte's Piss & Moan Runners. The race is run on Summer Solstice Saturday, the anniversary of the Wulfman's last group run.  Race proceeds are used to help build and improve trails in southwest Montana." 

Six weeks have passed since I did this race and I can honestly say that I am tempted to go back next year, though it's over 1,000 miles away, just to do this great Montana race.  Friendly people, great volunteers, an awesome course, good food, beautiful vistas.  What more could you ask for in a race?

Around 12.4K in the Wulfman's CDT 14K on June 20, 2015 and still smiling!  Photo by Ed Braun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Product Review: Buff Minnesota UV Half Buff

At the end of the hike up and down Raspberry Mt, (10,600+ft), outside of Divide, CO w/the MN UV Half Buff.

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

I have had my Buff Minnesota UV Half Buff for about 2 weeks now and I can honestly say that I really like it. Just before getting it, I received my first UV Half Buff as part of the race schwag for the Bangtail Divide 38K outside of Bozeman, MT.  Both of them are great additions as lightweight, one size fits all, multifunctional gear.  Buff notes on their packaging that the Half Buff blocks 95% of UV radiation.  Additionally, the UV Half Buff is odor resistant, wind resistant and dries quickly.  I would agree with those statements.  That's part of what makes them great for early morning hikes/runs.  You can start out with the Half Buff over your ears to keep them warm when it's cooler, but then make it an old fashioned head band to keep the sweat out of our eyes when it warms up, or vice versa.

On top of Grouse Mt, (9800+ft), in Mueller State Park, CO, 

The Half Buff means less material rolled up on your head for those times when it gets really hot during a run in the Summer. While there may not be as many ways to wear it as the Original Buff due to being half the size, the Half Buff is just the right amount of material and since it's so small, it's easy to stash in your pocket so you can take it along almost anywhere.  I suppose it would also make a great on the fly ponytail holder for those that have that much hair, which...I don't...

I mentioned I would also display my small collection of Buffs in this post, so here they are below along with my (second) cup of coffee from this morning!

A Buff Headband, Polar Buff, 2 Original Buffs, and 2 UV Half Buffs along with my (second) morning cup of coffee!
s you can see from the picture, a Half Buff is quite literally, 1/2 of the size of the Original Buff. The popularity of Buff and the multifunctional uses of their products, (as well as their various design options), makes them something that people really like and want to get their hands on around the world.  I gave away one of my Original Buffs to a friend when I helped her complete her first ever 5K in New England back in 2012.  When I travelled to Brazil in 2013, I had a couple of women ask me to bring them Buffs from the States after they saw me wearing them during a run.

If you would like to get a Buff UV Half Buff or other gear, head over to and enter BIBRAVE10 to save 10%!!!

(Catch my First Impressions Review of the Buff Minnesota UV Half Buff by going here: First Impressions of the Buff UV Half Buff)

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