Journey to Me on the Pinhoti Trail

Last weekend a few friends and I traveled 3 hours from Nashville to Dalton, GA for the Georgia Jewel Training Run. Only one of us is running the actual race, the rest of us were just checking out the trail. I’ve been trying to explore different trails in our area and this was a great way to go on a long run with a large group of people in an unknown place.  

Ready for the run to start!
Pinhoti Trail Marker

We all met in a parking lot and the race directors shuttled us to the starting location. This was a point to point run of approximately 17 miles on the Pinhoti trail and the last 17 miles of the official race course. I had not researched this trail at all and knew nothing aside from the fact it was in Georgia so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As we all gathered for a pre-run talk, the RD handed out waivers for us to sign and proceeded to tell a story. She told us that we would be running through what was known as “the rock garden” and that this was to be done with caution. During last year’s training run a man was severely injured. I can’t recall the specific details but they included a broken femur, a wilderness rescue by helicopter and trees that needed to be cut down to extract him. At this point I imagined a field of large boulders like one of the many I had slowly picked my way through in Colorado many years earlier. I imagined rocks that shifted as you walked that would catch your ankle with enough force to break a femur. Regardless to say I took her warning seriously and was looking forward to seeing this massive rock garden. 

At that point we all squeezed into 2 vans and they drove us up a winding road to the Snake Creek Gap trailhead. We were told to follow the Pinhoti Trail markers (a turkey foot) until we reached the end, turn right, turn right and run 2 miles down the highway back to our cars. There would be one aid station at 7 miles. These would be the easiest miles on the trail so if we thought the first 7 were bad we should probably get a ride back to our cars at that point. I was wondering what the heck I had signed up for and my expectations were set for a difficult and treacherous 17 mile run. I was excited. 

We all started slowly up a long climb of switchbacks. We resigned ourselves to what would certainly be a hard run and Brittani and I settled into a nice pace. Within the first mile or so, we realized we were running along with a man who was comfortably keeping pace with us and he and Brittani had a long conversation that I mostly listened to but participated very little in. I was honestly “talked out” from talking nonstop on the 3 hour drive there and 2 nights of no sleep and waking up early so I had little to say but enjoyed the distraction of their conversation, the sound of my breathing, and the rhythmic sloshing of the water in my pack.  

Chris told us that this was his longest run since January when he had a pulmonary embolism and that he had been on blood thinners ever since due to a clot. His son was also doing the training run but he was very fast and was far ahead. It was a hot day and a humid one too. I had forgotten my bandanna and was really missing it. I had no way to wipe my brow and sweat kept getting in my eyes. After the first long hill up, I recall nice rolling hills and ridge lines with very few views. There were a few creek crossings but nothing of significance. Because we were making such good time and the trail wasn’t spectacular I did not take many photographs.  

We made it the aid station in good spirits and feeling great overall. I hadn’t made much of a dent in the water in my pack so I didn’t top off at the aid station with water; however, I did fill up my extra water bottle with Tailwind to ensure I had plenty of electrolytes. Chris and Brittani both refilled at that point and we saw Chris take an electrolyte pill. He had been sweating a lot and had salt all over him and visible on his socks. He told the RD he was feeling great and was planning to run the rest of the trail with us. Apparently his original plan was to turn back at mile 5 since he was just coming back from his aneurism but the conversation and company encouraged him to keep moving.  

As we left the aid station we were told we’d have 2-3 miles of nice runnable hills followed by 5 miles of rock garden and then the paved road to end the run. We ran a few miles, not sure because I somewhat lost track, and at some point Chris called ahead to Brittani and I and told us to go on without him. He couldn’t catch his breath and wanted to rest before continuing. In most circumstances I am sure we would have kept going. Everyone needs to go their pace and we had no commitment to stay together BUT this man had just told us his medical history so quite honestly we were nervous to hear him say he was short of breath at that moment. We had not sped up and were not on a difficult section of trail so we didn’t see a legitimate reason for him to suddenly be so winded. And we were about to head up a hill. Brittani and I looked at each other and agreed we did not want to leave him alone at this point. We had him rest a few minutes and then encouraged him to slowly climb the hill with us. He struggled up the hill with short rapid breath and unsteady legs. He urged us multiple times to leave him but all I could think about was him hitting his head on a rock if he took a fall in the rock garden (which we were nearly at) or having a heart attack. At the top of the hill we discovered he was out of water and had no cell phone. I’ll be honest. I had some internal struggle here. On the one hand I was running with Brittani. This was her long training run for a race. She was making great time and we felt great and I felt an obligation not to let her down. On the other hand, there was a stranger who probably just needed to rest and he’d be able to struggle his way out like anyone else. This last year I have been trying to listen more to the little nagging voice in my head that tells me right from wrong and follow that voice instead of what my mind tells me to do and that voice told me to stick with Chris. In the past I pretty much ran my own race, oblivious to what other people were thinking or feeling. In general I don’t think you should feel obliged to stay with someone just because they are tired or slower than you but in this situation I honestly was worried his life might be on the line (as dramatic as that sounds). My mind wanted to get the faster time on my watch and I hated myself for thinking that. 

At this point, one of our other friends had caught up to us and the three of us decided to call the RD (thank God she gave us her number and our phones worked). We gave her the information, asked her to send Chris’s son in with water to help his dad get out. At this point he was laying on the ground in the middle of the trail somewhat delirious. We each gave him 1/2 of what was left in our hydration packs and let him rest and cool down. After what might have been 30-40 minutes he started to sound more coherent and his breathing had normalized so we decided to walk with him for a bit. Thankfully he was able to walk a mile or two and somewhere in the rock garden we saw his son sprinting to his father with concern on his face and water in his hand. This is where we parted ways and ran the remainder of the trail. After everything I had imagined the rock garden to be, I was somewhat disappointed that instead of bouldering for miles it was actually a path that had a lot of rocks. This did make the running more difficult because it was hard to get a rhythm going but it was so much less than my own imagination. We were low on water so I’m glad it was less technical than I thought it would be.

All in all a great trip. I was able to do what I thought was right, run in a new location, make new friends and create memories with current friends. Even at 43 years old I am learning about myself and shaping and fine-tuning who I am. This year is about the journey and deciding who I want to be from this point on. 

Rock Garden on Pinhoti Trail
Pinhoti Trail Rock Garden- off trail
Trail profile. I borrowed this photo off the Georgia Jewel FB page
Post run smiles!

#trailrunner #betruetoyou #Pinhoti #georgiajewel #50ktraining #ultradirtbag #huma

Chafing…. I’m Against It! Check out this Easy DIY Recipe 

I was in the process of purchasing squirrel nut butter due to my chafing experience this weekend, and as I was reading the ingredients I realized they were very similar to a lotion bar I made about a year ago. I hesitate sharing this information because I consider myself a supporter of small businesses BUT I also love DIY homemade items. So, if you want to try making your own chafing cream that doubles as a high quality moisturizer, read on for an option. 
Base Ingredients (from Whole Foods publication):

1/2 cup cocoa butter (if in your budget, buy the unscented- makes a big difference)

2/3 cup beeswax

1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil

1 tsp. Vitamin E oil

10-20 drops essential oil (such as lavender, tea-tree oil for anti-fungal properties, or experiment with your favorite). 

If you plan to use the balm in sensitive areas (seriously) you might not want to use anything too spicy if you get my drift.

Combine all ingredients except for essential oil in a glass measuring cup and place glass measuring cup in a saucepan with about an inch of boiling water. The hot water will gently melt the oils. Stir occasionally until melted (10-15 minutes).  

Remove measuring cup from heat. Let sit 3 minutes. Add essential oils and stir. Pour into silicone non stick mold (you can use a soap mold, silicon cupcake pan, or even empty applesauce containers). 

Let mixture harden for about 3 hours. Gently remove from mold and store in parchment paper or upcycled tins.  

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So, you have your homemade anti-chafe cream…… now what? You can either rub it directly on your skin using a generous amount (as shown in this photo) or use your finger nail to scrape a good portion off and warm it up in your hands for easier application. Apply liberally to desired area. I have only tested this once so far and it worked equal to Body Glide. I haven’t done a lot of testing or comparing to other brands because my goal was not to spend money since I already had these ingredients and a prepared bar. If you’re a local runner and want me to bring a sample to one of our runs so you can try it before you attempt to make it let me know. I’m always happy to share. If all else fails go buy yourself some Squirrel Nut Butter!

Mile by Mile on the Way to my 50k!

Today was a big day for me. 20 Miles in 100 degree heat index. This doesn’t sound very far when I think about my amazing Ultra Running friends but this was a big confidence boost for me. 


My friend Brittani is training for a 60k and agreed to drive with me an hour and a half to the Sewanee Perimeter Trail. We filled our packs with water and nutrition and started on our self supported run. It was a hot, humid day and although the temperature only reached the low 90s, the heat index creeped up to 100 degrees. We ran at a conservative pace due to the heat and only saw a few people the entire trip. Below are some pictures from our run and few of the lessons I learned for next time. 


Brittani and I both like to experiment with nutrition during our training runs. Today I tested out home made sweet potato chips, jicama with salt and lime, orange/cherries with salt and frozen grapes. Of these, I will definitely repeat with the frozen grapes and salted oranges; however, I think I’ll try a baked sweet potato next time. I like the sweet potato chips but I think a baked sweet potato will be easier to digest. Also planning to buy more Tailwind for long runs. 

Hands down the worst part of the run was all the chaffing. I have never had so much chaffing before and it started before we reached the half way mark. The combination of all the sweat plus the heavy clothes was a recipe for disaster. Next time I am definitely buying and using Squirrel Nut Butter and wearing lighter shorts and a different sports bra to see if this helps. I currently have my Beautycounter Baby Balm on and know I’ll heal up quickly. 

Another opportunity for improvement was with hydration. I brought a LOT of water BUT because of the heat and distance I ran out at the end. Next time I will not leave my water filter in the car and I am going to try freezing my bladder half full to see if that helps.

It was a great run! Overall my legs felt fine. The biggest struggle was the heat and my heart rate. Planning to do more hills and just keep up with the training. 

We only got lost a handful of times. The scenery was beautiful, I enjoyed the company of my friend and I gained significant confidence from the distance. Can’t wait to work up to longer distances so I can spend more time exploring the trails and having adventures. 

Not All Calories Are Created Equally – Your Goal Determines Your Needs

Years ago, when I was young and felt immortal, I remember thinking that as long as I kept my calories within the USDA guideline I was being healthy. I am sure someone at some point explained the basic principles of nutrition to me but during my 43 years of experience I have learned that what people learn and what people teach are subjective based on their own level of understanding and each participant’s desired outcome. For example, if my desired outcome is to eat whatever I want and also to lose weight, I might read studies and listen to educators that support my desire to eat pop-tarts as long as I stay in my calorie range (and there are studies out there to support this). From my experience, this mentality may work for some people in the short term but at some point (which I am sure is different for everyone) this method will either stop working or will affect the body in other ways. 
For several years now I have viewed my body as a machine and food as fuel. When I add low quality fuel to my body my engine might still run (maybe not as long as an engine that is better cared for) but the result might be less efficient, slower, more painful, and moodier than when I use optimal fuel. My goal is to use nutrition as a part of my healthcare. If my desired outcome is to have more energy, less pain, less stress all while enjoying the fueling process; I need to pay attention to what I eat.

Each of us is an experiment of one with foundational similarities and variations due to genetics, personal allergies, pain threshold, etc. While we all need the building blocks of amino acids, protein, carbs, and fat, the ratio and sources may be different for each of us. My question to you is what is your goal? If your goal is to be healthy, minimize your risk of developing painful lifelong diseases like Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease, ADHD and all of the co-morbidities associated with those, then learning about how to follow a Low Inflammatory Nutrition plan using whole foods might be exactly what you need. This is my goal and I will try to share with you information that I find and resources I find helpful.

CURRENTLY, I am focusing my self-experimentation on eating whole foods while trying to fit those in macros. If you do not need to lose weight, I do not suggest limiting yourself in this way. Read all about functional nutrition at Being Brigid’s blog (Being Brigid)for great information and recipes to get you started on a healthy diet without counting calories.  

Personally, I have some excess fat I would like to lose in order to move faster on runs and fit better in clothes so I am experimenting with counting macros. What are macros? In a nutshell, these are a number of grams to consume for 3 categories: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. I am in week 3 of this experiment and it has been a challenge. The plan I am following is called Avatar Nutrition. There is a cost of $10/month. You enter in your personal statistics (height, weight, age, body fat %, goal) and the system calculates macros for you. You are responsible for weighing, measuring, and logging your food to ensure you consume within 5% of each macro target per day. Then, each week, you weigh in and report your compliance on-line and the system re-calculates your macros. I was also added to a Facebook group where thousands of other people are tracking their macros using this system with varying goals (lose fat, gain muscle, etc.). What I have found is that if someone wants to eat all packaged and processed food, they will do so within their target ranges and get the results they are looking for. In my opinion, this is not the best approach long term because of the health impacts due to the lack of quality nutrients in their food. From my perspective, I would like to try to optimize my nutrient intake, without spending a lot of time cooking or preparing elaborate meals and see if I can accomplish my goal to lose fat by sticking within certain macro nutrients. I may discover that this is not the best way for my body to accomplish this goal; however, that is what the experiment will tell me and I am happy to share my results and learning with you along the way.

Below is a photo of my breakfast from this morning along with the macro nutrients and calories. Compare that to 1 pop tart (usually 2 in a package – so double that if you eat the whole package). I think you will notice that my breakfast option looks more filling and is more nutritious. I am sure there are objections to this such as: pop tarts cost less, I can eat pop tarts in the car, on the bus, etc., I don’t like eggs… no worries! There are other options of healthy portable food that you can make for a reasonable cost. I just wanted to show you this one comparison.

Other health benefits to eating whole foods and minimizing processed foods are: clearer healthier skin and hair, less mood swings from eliminating processed sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, and better sleep.

If this is something you are interested in learning more about please comment below and I will be happy to write and share more on this topic!

Xoxo

Jennifer

Training for the Blood Rock 25K and 50K

Running on trails is more than just running. In my opinion, you don’t even need to like running to love trail running. There is something magical about being out on the trails and tuning in to the world around you. Each trail has different features and the same trail seems different no matter how many times you run it. Are there birds on the trail? Which species? When are they active (at a certain time of day or season)? Does the flora change at different points of the trail, at different elevations, in different seasons? Do new species of plants and animals magically appear after a rain storm? Can you hear the traffic? Do you run through spider webs? Are some rocks slippery and others not so much? The diversity and challenge of the terrain with rocks, roots, inclines and declines allows you to stay interested and focused while stretches of soft dirt allow your mind to drift and dream.

One of my dreams has come true!! I get to share my love of running the trails with my almost 16 year old daughter as we train together for a trail race. I am training for my first 50K and she is training starting at 0 for a 25K. My daughter Isabelle may well be the most stubborn person I know – which gives her an edge for becoming a successful trail runner.  Our official training with Fleet Feet Nashville begins September 2, 2017; however, we are “base” training until then to get in training shape.  Neither one of us is the fastest runner or hiker but both of us are strong willed, passionate and determined.  In addition to introducing Isabelle to the sport of trail running, we will be joined by one of her wonderful friends. I am beyond excited to watch them as they become independent adventurers and trail blazers.

I plan to share some of our experiences here on the blog in hopes of inspiring others to get out and try something that calls to them. Maybe that is trail running or hiking but it really doesn’t matter what IT is as long as it interests YOU.

Below are a few photos from the Blood Rock 25K in 2016. This is the race the girls are training for and if all goes well I will run the Blood Rock 50K on the same day.

Blood Rock 2017 Race Description

 

 

First blog post

Does the world really need another blog? Probably not.  Deep inside me there is a desire to share. I find value in how everyday people (like me) can accomplish their goals while struggling to maintain a balance of work, family, exercise, nutrition, etc.  I often feel like a tiny speck on this planet, one of billions and somewhat insignificant in the big picture and I don’t like feeling this way. I’d like to reach out to as many people as I can to feel connected and a part of something larger than my small community.