Northcoast 24 – National Championship 9/16/17

It’s only two hours before race time. Sitting in the hotel bathroom, I page through music on my phone. Where is that track? My nerves are revved up and my mind is racing, thinking of everything unimportant to the task ahead. There it is! I put my headphones on, close my eyes, and dissolve while I play the race out in my mind. In this moment. Right here, right now. Whatever I must do, whatever I will encounter in the next 24 hours, I will fight.


Northcoast 24, which takes place at Edgewater Park in Cleveland, Ohio, was yet again selected to be the USATF 24-Hour National Championship race, and this would be my third running of the event. This year, a win did not equate to automatic team selection for the 2019 IAU 24-Hour race which was something I didn’t realize until about a month before the race. Admittedly, I was a little dismayed, but that was my fault for not doing my homework. The fact of the matter still remained. I was here for a bigger purpose. I was here for self redemption and to run as far as I could.

I felt very confident going into NC24 this year. Not only was my training phenomenal in the months leading up to the race, but the crew members and friends who had stepped forward to help me in the final weeks were extraordinary. My husband, Glenn, who always goes to great lengths to support my racing habits, and our little boy came with me to Cleveland so they could support me as best they could and so that they could be at the awards ceremony afterwards. I had an amazing supportive network going into this race, and I am so thankful for it, because walking into the belly of the beast was much, much more psychologically daunting than I thought it would be.



For the next 24 hours, my crew, Christen McKenna and David Christy would tend to all my needs, lift my spirits, patch me up, and keep me moving forward. Both of them were also crewing other runners as well. David was assisting our tent neighbor, Jimmie Barnes, who was accompanied by his wife. Christen had to additionally manage the needs of her husband and friend, Kristin Anderson. There was my friend, Bob Mohr, who was being crewed by Larry Marsh who both spent a great deal of time with our crew. By the end of the race, this unique combination of friends and strangers with varying levels of knowledge and experience had all contributed to one another, and lasting bonds were made. If these guys weren’t making me laugh, then they were melting my heart with their kindness. When all was said and done, everyone left this race feeling as a family.



After arriving onsite, the crew already had everything set up. My job was to sit and wait for the start. Much easier said than done… never done such a thing! Before long, I was headed to the start line along with Bob. I was feeling increasingly uneasy. I had to do this, but my mind was fighting me.

I started out fast, faster than I promised myself I would. It didn’t take but a few laps before I breezed by our crew site again and I heard a stern, “Slow down,” from David who was timing each lap as I passed by. I backed off the pace and tried to find patience. I finally felt locked into the planned pace and settled in. Follow the plan, I reminded myself, the words my husband would coach to me again and again during the days prior to the race. It was hot and humid – much more so than I had anticipated for, but it never concerned me. Christen was constantly changing out cooling towels as I passed by, and we were keeping fluids moving as best we could. The first 4 hours came and went, and I found myself back at our site for chafing issues much earlier than expected. The damage already done indicated that this was going to be a rough ride, but we had some good laughs over it nonetheless.

After a few hours, I felt like my shoes were heavy. They had become drenched with water dripping from my cooling towels, and we were forced to change out my shoes. After passing 8 hours, David told me I had hit the planned targets perfectly. Everything seemed to be going as planned. It was early, but I was more than pleased with just how good I felt especially now that the sun was going down. It was beginning to cool off; now it was time to move. But things would play out entirely differently. The aftereffects of the excessive warmth of the day were silently lurking in the background.

Just short of the halfway point, around 10 pm, the first major low point set in. This was much sooner than I anticipated. I was struggling to stay focused. My crew had a planned break for me at 12:00am, and I kept that as my driving goal. But my form was deteriorating and careless, and before I knew what was happening, I caught the front of my shoe on a rumble strip bump at the road crossing. I tripped. I panicked. I managed to catch myself with my hands and attempted to roll to protect my knees, but as I went down, I still hit both knees pretty good. Before I even had time to process what had happened, Elizabeth Kelly rushed over to help me up. We walked together for a bit while assessing the situation, and then I started running again.

My right knee was a bit painful. Suddenly, my toes were absolutely killing me. I believed that I must have knocked a toenail completely off. I considered for a moment waiting to stop at my aid site  until the planned break at midnight, but I was in exquisite pain. Liz was so sweet that she had actually run ahead of me to let my crew know what had happened, and they were already waiting for me to come in as was Bob and Larry.

The crew immediately sat me down and fed me soup. Everyone was holding phones and flashlights so we could assess the damage. Christen went straight to work cleaning my knees up which were scraped up but not an issue. My toes were what was killing me. Christen pulled both my shoes off to discover that I had large toenail blisters on both feet. She released the pressure and wrapped them in lambswool. Meanwhile, David was updating me on my pacing and trying to keep me motivated. Then they sent me back out into the night.


Only steps from the tent, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Severe, unrelenting nausea washed over me. I eventually had to stop and throw up twice. I would fight this for hours, unable to stomach hardly anything at all. My crew tried everything to help me, and though it improved slowly over time, the battle with nausea would throw me dramatically off track for the remainder of the race. Being unable to consume adequate nutrition, I began to feel as if I had lost all muscle power, and forward motion became a monumental effort. Hours of struggling ensued that were accompanied by hallucinations, dizziness, and fatigue. It seemed endless, pointless at times, but I just kept hearing that powerful word, Redemption.

Once the nausea finally abated, and I was able to start eating again, things started to turn around, but the damage was done, and my original goal was nowhere in sight. Somehow, I had yet again managed to hold onto my lead from the beginning, and at this point, our attention now turned to maintaining 1st place and hitting at least 130 miles to meet the minimum qualifications for the USA 24-Hour Team.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, it began to heat up very quickly. We were back to alternating cooling towels, icy drinks, and making sure to keep fluids moving. I was so thirsty from already feeling partially dehydrated from the previous day that I could not quench my thirst. I was having to stop to pee every few laps, wasting huge amounts of time. Most of the field still out on the course was down to a death march, pretty much everyone having suffered various consequences through the night from the heat of the previous day.

With an hour left on the clock, Christen and David urged me to pick up the pace, and I began my final push, hoping by some chance I’d be able to at least PR. But with the heat of the new day and the ravages of the previous day, I had already fallen too short, and there wasn’t enough time left. I ran with what I did have left. The final laps brought back flashbacks of being here only a year ago when I tried to throw it all away, and I could have. No, not today. Not, ever. Never ever, ever again. I’m a leaf on the wind.

On the final lap, the thought going through my head was, We did it. We won. So many people were a part of my race directly and indirectly and leading up to this race over the last year. It felt like a joint effort between myself and so many others – my husband, my crew, my numerous friends here at home and spread out across the country who have lifted me up, supported me, and given me a place in their hearts and lives. There are so many people to name, it would be unfair to try to name them all as I would surely miss someone and I would never want to do that. So, yah, the way I see it, we did it.


I missed a PR at this race, but I did meet the minimum qualifications for the USA 24-Hour Team, however, it will be a continued battle to keep it that way until 2019. I won the women’s race and placed 3rd overall with 131.4 miles.

But what I really won? My dignity, my honor, my pride, and I feel like this race was a thank you to everyone who was a part of my journey in the last year. Belief in a person is hard to earn, destroying it is easy. I am blessed with the best friends and family on the face of Earth, and I am honored by them all to stand by my side. Thank you.


Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) – 5/13/2017

Quiet, calm, focused, relaxed. This is what I kept repeating. I glanced down at my watch. Dang, that’s a marathon PR. Is that a BQ or something? I laughed at myself. Am I the only runner left on the planet that doesn’t know what her BQ is? I keep running for a while. Then it hits me. Oh, shit. This can’t be good. That’s not the plan!

Homebase at D3

After last summer, I felt like I had a lot riding on this first race of the year and many people were waiting to see exactly how things were going to unfold. I now had something to prove – that I had come back fighting stronger and harder than ever before, that addiction will not own or define me, and that not only is recovery possible but that it can be used as a mental springboard in the pursuit of personal greatness in life. It was perfectly fitting that I was running Dawn to Dusk to Dawn as part of raising money for The Herren Project, and this made me feel like the ante was upped even further.

My husband, Glenn, and our special little boy, Quinn, would accompany me this time. This is always a tremendous effort on my husband’s part, but he wanted to be there to support me, knowing how pivotally important all of this was to me. We made the 5-hour drive to the host hotel, The Wyndham Garden Hotel, near Philadelphia. My Aunt Trish lived less than an hour away, and she was coming to stay with us for the weekend to handle most of the crewing. This was her first race to attend and crew.

Me & Trish

We also met with my friend, Amy Mower, who was running the 24-hour as well, and we all went to packet pickup around 7pm. After sharing dinner and drinks and talking to Josh Irvan, Mike Melton, Bill Schultz, Gregg Ellis, and a few others, we all headed back to get some sleep for the night. I fell asleep easily but only netted 4 hours total which is about all I usually get before a race.

My eyes snapped open, and I searched around the bed sheets for my phone. 3:00 am. Too early. Sleep more. About the time I was assuming I wouldn’t fall back asleep, I was jerked awake by the alarm at 4am. My feet were on the floor before I even opened my eyes. This is it; it is time. I scrambled around in the dark trying to not wake my family. I began to prepare physically and mentally for the task ahead, and I don’t know that anyone other than my husband really knew just how much this moment truly meant to me.

Me & Amy

Glenn brought me to the track around 6am, and we met with Amy, who I invited to share my tent, and we picked up our ankle chips. Temperatures were hovering just below 50 degrees. The cold rain and wind threatened to chill us to the bone while the three of us rushed to get the site set up. Water was already puddling in the grass, and at the time I was grateful for my waterproof socks, but my hands were getting numb already. Just before the start, I powdered my hands and gloves, and put latex gloves on underneath my water-resistant gloves.

Right before they announced we would be lining up soon, the moment hit me. My nerves skyrocketed and I felt the weight of the world on me. I got extremely emotional and teary eyed. The battles I’ve fought just so I could be here… I closed my eyes and I bent down to my knees. The rain was running down my cheeks and dripping off my chin. I ran two fingers upwards across the laces of my wet shoestrings feeling for tension, and said, “Just one day, one run, everything you’ve got, and rest will come.” I stood up, put my visor and hood back on, and headed to the start line with Amy.

Courtesy: Jeremy Fountain

At the start of the race, I was gunning it. Originally, this was only to warm myself up some. I planned to slow down after that, but that’s not what happened at all. My legs felt so amazing. I just kept hanging onto it thinking, A bit further. And I went further and further and further. My mind started dreaming… What if, just what if you hang on to this for as long as possible… What will happen?

Courtesy: Jeremy Fountain

My main goal was to break the women’s course record with 144 miles. My second goal was to hit 130-140. My third goal was to run all night no matter what I ended up with. These goals were all great under the realm of perfect conditions in the planning room, but in the cold monsoon weather we were faced with, the difficulty of reaching the lower limb of any of my goals was, well, difficult. But I honestly never entertained the possibility of not reaching any one of them. I just ran. Never thinking, just running.

I kept at it, lapping and lapping and lapping as fast as I could. Then I got close to the marathon mark, and I shattered my marathon PR of 3:53 with a time of 3:36. I admit, I was scared when I started seeing the PR’s coming in. I had no idea what was going to happen from here, and I knew I was putting my entire race at risk. Or was I?

Trish came onsite to crew, and she helped me change out of the waterproof socks, lube my feet, and get into dry shoes. She gave me Red Bull and Ensure, and I was back out in no time. The waterproof socks kept collecting water inside, and it was like I was running with 5-lb weights on each foot for many miles. It was insanely horrible, and they were ditched within the first 30 miles.

I was back out cruising. The day was rolling by so fast. Time seemed non-existent, and I was nearly wholly enveloped within myself for hours and hours, just moving forward in a trance-like state with very few thoughts outside of my internal world. With the persistent rain and no rising and setting sun, there was no benchmark of morning, afternoon, or evening, and the entire day flowed as one whole piece. It was just me, the lines on the track, and my micro climate. Once I get fully focused and block out the world, all I can remember is the physical aspect of what I am doing. I have no idea the world around me exists.

Over and over again, Trish helped me change shoes, socks, lube feet, change devices, feed me Ensure, Red Bull, and anything else I asked for. I felt bad for her first time crewing, stuck out all day in the cold, soaking rain and wind, waiting around just for me to need something. But she was on top of everything as if she had done it many times before. Later in the day she made motivational signs for me! It was very cool, wondering what she might have next time I’d lap back around! It’s funny how primal you get when you are bored for so many hours. It’s honestly just a wonderful thing to see that familiar face again each lap! My mom was sending me motivational pictures she’d made, and my husband and friends were sending me all sorts of words of encouragement. I needed and appreciated everything from every one of them!

Courtesy: Jeremy Fountain

Glenn came out to crew for a bit in the evening while my aunt went to the hotel to get warmed and rested for long night shift ahead. It was during this point that I made my first clothing change. I was so chafed in every inhuman place possible from the rain that I had to finally stop and do something now that the rain had slacked off a bit. Then he informed me of the status of everything and gave me some mathematical scenarios, and then he sent me out on the track again. Glenn stayed until just after dark, and I knew that would be the last I’d see him until 7am. Trish resumed her long, daunting shift of all-night crewing.

During this whole process, I not only set a new record for my marathon time, but also my 50k, 50 mile, 100k, and 100 mile! As I got closer to hitting 100, my husband brought my attention to how close I was to breaking 16 hours. Then, Ray Krolewicz, proceeded advise me and crunched the numbers I needed to hit just under 16 hours. I had to speed up a little more, and so I did. I bared my head to the track, watched my feet, watched the white line, watched the white line, watched my feet… smooth pace, smooth stride, smooth form... this is easy, this is perfect, nothing hurts, keep cruising. It was truly starting to hurt like hell at this point. My shoes felt like bricks, my hamstrings were really tight and sore, and every step took a little more mental energy to make. Then it happened. I barely slid in under 16 hours. My 100-mile time was broken by nearly 3 hours with 15:59:48!

Courtesy: Jeremy Fountain

I spent the next lap around the track trying to get my heart rate back down and reigned in my heightened emotions. I returned to my tent to work on my feet and my chafing, and then I got set into my normal pace again. I started eating some solid foods at the aid station and kept looking for the tables to have sodas out. I was really starting to hurt, not in my quads, but in my hamstrings. The muscular pain was nothing compared to the pain of chafing at this point though. But I just continued pushing. I finally broke through my 24-hour PR of 126 miles, and there was a sense of sudden relief, almost as if I had sighed.

I then began the woeful ritual of looking at the clock. Time came to a screaming halt. A mile seemed to take hours. It felt as if I had stumbled upon a giant mental roadblock after passing 126. I suddenly began to feel sleepy and exhausted and was unable to figure out when I ate or drank last. I started turning my focus more to any pain I was feeling, having more trouble sending my thoughts elsewhere. My legs felt like they didn’t want to fire anymore. It became more and more difficult and took much more effort to run. I was so frustrated and couldn’t reason with what I needed to do. You gotta be kidding me. I fought this for hours and eventually began a run/walk combo. I then knew that I would not be able to pull off the 140’ish miles.

I continued on with a run/walk for several hours and changed clothes again because of the severe chafing. I just kept slowing down gradually until my run/walk became dominated by the walking part. Eventually, I was reduced to limping the track. I joined up with other fellow “limpees” unwilling to surrender! It was actually fun, because I hadn’t been able to really talk much to anyone all day, and now I could socialize during my death march! I didn’t feel defeated though, because I knew that I had truly given this race 100%. But, I’m not done yet 😉

All said and done, I came in first place overall in the 24-hour race with a nice new PR of 132.7 miles and also set the following personal records along the way:

Marathon: 3:36  (watch time)

50k: 4:32:21

50 miles: 7:15:58

100k: 9:08:38

100 miles: 15:59:48

1st Overall with 132.7 miles with Co-Race Director, Josh Irvan  (Courtesy: Jeremy Fountain)

This was an amazingly emotional race, maybe not the perfect race, but it was a perfect comeback in every way imaginable. It was even more meaningful to run for a purpose greater than myself. In about a month, we were able to raise over $700 for The Herren Project leading up to Dawn to Dusk to Dawn. How freaking amazing is that?! I look forward to running Northcoast 24 in September for The Herren Project again along with the huge network of help and support of my family and friends with love and compassion for those suffering from addiction in one way or another.

I cannot finish this race report without showing my appreciation and gratitude. First, thanks to everyone for contributing to my “24 Hours for Recovery” to raise money for The Herren Project. Most of you know this is something very near and close to my heart, and there will always be a person to save, a battle to fight, a hand to reach out for, and I want to be a part of saving a life, a family, a future, a mom, a dad, a child. And now, we are doing this TOGETHER!

Recovery is never easy, and the road back is fraught with demons and wars that must be won. Since last summer, this has been a trying season for me to get to where I am now, to be ready to do what I needed to do on this very day, and I feel blessed in so many ways. I may have physically gotten myself to this point, but many, many of you played a vital role in psychologically bringing me back. There are so many people to thank and, unfortunately, I will miss somebody, but you know I appreciate and love all of you!

Thank You All!

Thank you to Glenn Langdon and Trish Mervine for making this possible for me! Thanks for the words of encouragement, support, advice (which many of you stayed up with me all night long!): Donna Westbrook-Cook (I love you momma!), Kathleen O’Connor (I know we’re related), Bob Mohr (#THPUltra!), Wendy O’Connor (always believing in me), Roberta Horn (always make me smile), David Christy “Coach,” and Ray Krolewicz “Einstein.”



Tapering for D3 – The Herren Project


I am in the midst of tapering for my first race of 2017 at Dawn to Dusk to Dawn on May 13th. It will be my first 24-hour race on a track. I trained exceptionally hard for this race as it represents a lot more than just a race to me this year. This is a comeback. Starting around summer of last year, I had developed a very dangerous addiction to benzodiazepines. I could sit here and say it was the result of the PTSD and anxiety I was diagnosed with, but there’s plenty of non-addicts who don’t go to the extremes I did to try to feel better and function.

I very well could have died from seizures with the addiction hole I had become drowned in. Out of the other addictions I have been through, though they were nasty and uncomfortable, to say the least, none of them had life-threatening consequences like this one did. It was scary. It really has taken me a long time to feel normal again in time to race this spring. Maybe in some ways I’m still recovering from the whole escapade. But there’s no time for that. It’s time to race again.

So much of my training just didn’t feel good, and I felt like I was fighting my body to get out and do the miles instead of thriving on it. A lot of it was emotional. I was mentally exhausted and yet relieved that the people I thought I would lose were still there by my side. But there was the physical aspect. Winter was very mild and with that, the trail I have to train on was mostly mud all winter instead of frozen. It was a real mental and physical battle in so many ways. But I wrote out a plan, followed it, and did the workouts, because this had to happen.

Since D3 is a track race, I knew I had to focus on speed this time. This was hard to do on my muddy trail, so most of my speedwork had to be done either on the treadmill or during my long runs on the local track or paved trails. But when I did get the chance to get out to hit solid ground, I pushed the pace. I also simulated a race environment by setting up a table and preparing supplies so my stops were as limited as possible. These long runs ranged from 40-60 miles, and I set 2 new personal records in the process.

Between the mud at home and the fast long runs, my legs were constantly drained, sore, and fatigued all six months of training. I was also doing a downhill session of 5-18 miles at -10 every 1-2 weeks which always produces at least mild DOMS. I maxed out my peak training week with 170 miles, breaking my 160-week record of last year. But this was only two weeks after hitting a 152-mile week. This was a whole new level of training for me, combining a high level of intensity with high mileage. I kept thinking, if my legs ever feel better, I might see what this can do!

So now, I’m tapering. I’ve been waiting for that sign or signal from my body and my legs that we are going to peak right on time. I do believe peaking is highly mental, but there is definitely a physical component that must join the party to at least trigger the mental aspect. Today, I felt it. I just knew everything was perfectly executed. I felt the rebound effect from healing up finally and the mental focus was unwavering. The speed, power, and mental fortitude are ready to go. It is time.

I put my heart and soul into every race I run. The races ARE me. They define me. I am who I am because of them, so I must be everything I can be to go out there and set foot on the course and give it everything I got and nothing less. Do or die. It sounds ridiculous to some, but I know I have to go big or there’s nothing else out there for me.  (At least until my husband and I retire to go bluewater sailing!)


In 9 days I will attempt an epic comeback from an addiction only last year. I will run for The Herren Project, because this is something I need to do. Every mile is representative of those suffering from addiction. There’s such a horrible stigma involved with addiction, and we need to change this! It prevents people from getting the treatment they need.  Please, consider donating to my year-long campaign 24 Hours for Recovery so we can not only spread awareness, but THP also brings a valuable message to schools, provides monetary assistance to those in recovery so they can advance their lives, and provides families with help and assistance so they are not alone in dealing with a loved one with an addiction all on their own.

Learning About Life From the Track

I’ve been banking massive miles on the track in the last few months… well, all my long runs. I miss the trails in so many ways, but I have learned so much from training like this on the track. I find myself in a trance-like state after a couple hours until I break free and think, “What the hell. This sucks. Don’t you have to pee or do anything yet?”

I am racing my first track race in May, a 24 hour. After last year’s very surreal fallout, I made major alterations to all my running goals. They are wilder and crazier than ever before, and so much so that only a few people really know what I’m up to. I wonder if they all think I’ve reached ultimate insanity. But that’s how I roll.

I always write my own training plans. The one I wrote for Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn is  unlike anything I’ve ever considered attempting before. I have never done so much intense training combined with advancing mileage. Honestly, so far, I am drained and exhausted. I know part of this is due to the muddy trails here at home that is where most of my miles come from. (Plus spending long hours at night working on B100M website which is getting close to launch and rising early to work again!). But I’m seeing incredible improvements in my ability to comfortably hold higher paces at long distances on my long track runs. I keep wondering, Where is the limit?

My long runs in the last two weeks: Weekend 1 – I did a single 50-mile run done at 30 seconds per mile above easy pace, rest Sunday. Weekend 2 – I did 55 miles split as 30 Saturday (a modified tempo run) and 25 Sunday (easy with progression and fast-finish). Sunday was really hard. I was frozen with sweat and the wind was brutal. I was horribly miserable! The wind has been insane to try to work with this season. But there’s always something to whine about. No time for that shit.

Last 2 Weeks Long Runs

Running long on the track has actually been very psychologically soothing for me. I can enter a state of deep inner thought and forget about the world around me entirely, and it seems like I can understand, grasp, and reason with a clarity that I’ve never found before. This is an amazing thing that I never would have imagined I would find on these extremely monotonous and mentally taxing long runs.  Instead of being burdened with how tired my legs are or how cold, bored, or fatigued I feel, I can mentally distill. I go somewhere else and shroud my mind in this place of hope, will, and light in the darkness. I’m intrigued by this new element which offers potent implications to racing that I have only begun to tap into.

Thoughts of Last Year

If you’ve been following my blog, you know about my major fallout last year. What I didn’t specifically allude to was how I had allowed the addictive beast inside of me to awaken. It’s a battle I have had to fight most of my life until I found the magic of running in 2011. I let my guard down, succumbing to excuses. It’s been hard to admit just how bad it got, but when you have an addictive personality, anything that makes the moment feel better clings to your next thought like a wet blanket. It’s a horrible trait, disease, or whatever you want to call it.

I thought I was so far away from addiction that it wouldn’t happen again. I was wrong. But now, I am ready with a sword and shield to never let addiction touch my life and or others around me again. I realize the battle never ends, and I must be alert and ready to fight. Besides, I’m worn the hell out from this cycle.

Running Forward

As the fog cleared in my mind, I decided I had to become someone else, someone tougher and stronger with more fierce goals than ever before – no matter the cost. The ashes turned into fire.

Many of my friends know my long-term goal has been to make the USA 24-hour team. While I did meet the qualifications for the 24-hour team in 2016, I was last on the list of qualifiers with 126 miles (Outrun 24). I would have had to run at least 141 miles to make the 2017 team. BUT next year is a new year, and I did accomplish my goal last year of at least qualifying!

The 24-hour team isn’t big enough now. Okay, fine, yah, I haven’t even achieved getting on the team yet, but it doesn’t matter, because I have PASSION! When I deeply desired to run ultras not long after I started running, I dreamed about podium finishes. I thought my goal was crazy as hell, but I still believed it was possible way before I ran my first ultra.

Why? Passion. Starting with my second ultra, WV Trilogy 50, I knew I was capable of achieving the dreams I had laughed off.Why stop dreaming, driving, hoping, and pushing to be the best I can be?

One day, this will all be over. One day, I will look at the resume of the pinnacle of my life. I want to shed tears at the passion that I had in chasing my goals whether it resulted in victories or not. I want to see the fierceness, pain, glory, and grit that sculpted Tara. I cannot leave the world without this.

I am now working harder to try to go even further than than my original goal. No matter how long it takes or how hard the training is, no matter how tough the competition is, the sleep I will lose, and the sacrifices I will have to make over the impending years to come, I will force myself every step of the way to meet my ultimate goal. What is the ultimate goal? Well, that comes later 😉

Work hard. Go down late; rise early. Devour yourself in passion. Today IS THE day.


Northcoast 24 2016 – “Humbled”

The pain of failure is a beast. It wakes me every night and eerily whispers, “What have you done?”

Restless. Humbled.

Did I see this coming? I can’t remember, I guess. A storm was brewing, the thunder was loud, and every raindrop was a tear. My entire world was imploding around me, and I had let it dig into my soul and take me with it.

But I was in denial.

I don’t know how to even describe severe panic disorder and agoraphobia. You can’t until you’ve been there. I never had it before, but now I suddenly couldn’t open my own front door without having a near breakdown. Our home is very isolated and private; there are no fears here. What was I afraid of? I saw doctors and there was nothing physically wrong… just… my… head. What? Then came the magic medicines. This would fix it. Sure, this would numb everything, even my memories.

My daughter and I had a close relationship. I had homeschooled her for quite some time. We had gone on many very long-distance adventure runs together with her biking and carrying my gear. We were peas in a pod. We were friends. Then she moved out at 18. We didn’t hear much from her, and we were really worried a lot. Long story short with some details skipped, before her 19th birthday, she ended up in jail, charged with felonies… a thousand miles away from home. She lashed out at us in horrible ways. I just kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she love us?” It got worse and worse… and I finally had a very surreal mental fallout. The doctors called it a form of PTSD. Wow.

My beautiful world of trails and fun became smaller and smaller until it consisted of the four walls of my bedroom. I was locked in, very sick, and couldn’t make reason of any of it. I tried medicines and different combinations thereof. Little-by-little, I’m losing a piece of myself, but the original suffering is getting further away. That’s the point, right? Eventually, I’m able to run, but I am a completely different person…


This is very different from any report I’ve ever written. I cannot remember the details. I remember those who helped me, and I am terribly grateful: My husband,  my mother, Hazel Frederick, Amy Patrick and Crew, David Corfman, Kathleen O’Connor, Roberta Glenn-Horn whom I cried my eyes out to after the race was over on FaceTime, and anyone else that was there who I forgot.

I was pulled off the course for sleeping twice. My crew made me take two naps. The second time I woke, the race was almost over, and I went out to see if I could get 100 at least. It was a poor final attempt. I was still passing out, so I told my crew it was over. They turned in my chip, sat me down, and packed everything up and drove me to my hotel. Yah…

It was a wakeup call.

My husband drove all the way to Cleveland after the race because he was scared for me, and my amazing friend, Kathleen, had played a large role in that. Then my mom helped to bring me back from the last fringes of sanity that day. They all saved me, and I owe so much to them and love them deeply.

I wouldn’t even look at my race result for a long time. I distanced myself from this epic failure, because I basked in it. Then, my very close and oldest friend, Jennifer Lipscomb made a special effort to come visit me. She was concerned. She helped to draw me out of the final funk I was sinking in. She asked me if I had looked at my race total yet, and I certainty had not. I was avoiding it all this time. But I knew that she was insinuating that it wasn’t that bad.

I had run 90.98 miles, and I hardly remember it. I have no idea how I ran that far in the state I was in. What was I thinking? Nothing… I was thinking nothing.

My husband and I immediately tapered me off all the medicines. I won’t sugar-coat it, it was a rough ride. At the time, I thought of it as being relatively easy, but looking back, I know I suffered through every second of it. The medications had made me numb to fear, passion, love, hate… everything vital to a human being with a conscious. In return, I had received recklessness, selfishness, amnesia, and dangerous depression. But it slowly, slowly faded all away. As the days passed, I began to see someone who resembled Tara again.

It’s over. I’m back from the depths of yet another hell and have learned how to cope and learned that I cannot let my life be controlled by someone else. I am driving.

I found a renewed sense of life after that whole experience. There’s no time to waste. I need to work harder, set higher goals, believe in myself totally. No matter how the world evolves around me, I stay the path. Since I’m driving, I get to decide who gets in this car and where the hell it goes!

It’s time for redemption.  Again.

Thank you for saving me… all of you.



Outrun 24 (4/30/2016)

You believe. You don’t know why, but you just know.

This is something you can do.


When I left Northcoast 24 in 2015, I knew that any doubts I had were probably unfounded. I just did. And I knew I could have done so much better. I was hooked now on the 24-hour races. I couldn’t help but to think, What is my physical limit in one single day? Suddenly, my whole world of running became focused on only that.

I started fiercely training to take yet another shot at breaking the female record at Outrun 24. This was a goal I had been chasing since the first year I ran it (2014) which, crazy as it sounds, was also my first 100 attempt. Yah, I tend to develop very fervent goals in most things in life.

To say it best, I’m extravagantly obsessive over things I’m doing or into, and I tend to take things to the full extent that I am no longer able to maintain. Then I develop a new passion. I don’t know how or when this will ever play into running since it is different from all my many, many other pursuits so far, but it is a scary thought to think of what could happen if I ever felt like I hit my limit. But that day is not today. Not tomorrow, either.


My training was absolutely phenomenal. My husband made me a fancy prop so I could run declines on my treadmill. I trained 15-20 miles of downhill at -10 to -13% grades once every 1-2 weeks. I set new PR’s throughout my training on 30, 40, and 50 miles. I actually designed a 1-mile loop on my trails at home that so closely resembled the O24 course it was eerie, and right in my front yard, I did almost all my training for it, maxing out at 160 mpw (a new weekly mileage PR).

Then, whenever I could, about 2-3 times a month, I would go run on a paved 1.5-mile loop paved trail with one steep hill that I felt mimicked the race course well. I worked on pure speed for up to 40 miles at a time. I even spent time running on the high school track, doing speedwork for up to 50 miles, setting a new PR as well. I never felt so perfectly fit in my life, and I was dangerously confident.

My trail and it’s lovely mud 6 months of the year

I usually spend two weeks engaging my peak mileage. We had had the mildest winter in a long time, and it just so happened winter returned in brute force right before my peak and didn’t leave until it was over. My dirt trails turned to shoe-sucking mud, slush, snow, ice, and all combinations there in between. It sleeted, snowed, gusted, and rained the bone-chilling’est rain. At any point in all those 20+ mile runs each day of the week, I could have simply walked in the house every tenth of a mile. But I didn’t, and there was a power to that.

Hazel and I at Melt Bar and Grilled

I met a new local friend, a lovely Filipino, Hazel, who had run her first ultra not long ago but has a burning passion for the distance. We began running and training together, and I convinced her to sign up for O24 and to go with me. I had an amazing offer from my long-distance friend, Kathleen O’Connor, to drive all the way from Michigan to come crew for us! We were set.


Hazel and I set up our tent the day before and settled down to prepare for the big day. The next morning, minutes before the start time, my nerves kicked in and I was talking to Hazel in the tent with tears. I was scared I’d disappoint, and all the struggles of this (yet again) horribly stressful year suddenly came descending down on me like crashing waves. She reassured me with a hug. It was time to race.

The miles breezed by effortlessly through mile 30. I ran the hill through the first 50 miles and then switched to walking it each lap, bombing the downhill section thereafter. I was having a great time with no cares in the world. Nothing was hurting or aching yet, and I was feeling reassured I hadn’t set goals too high. I was thrilled to see my “Outrun Family” again and had a blast talking and running with them all.

Just passed the marathon mark

Kathleen was spot-on awesome crewing from the get-go. She was ready with whatever you needed before you needed it. Motivating before you’d lose faith. Driving and pushing. Awesome. Every time I saw Hazel, I’d check in and throw out words of encouragement. She was doing so great, and I was so proud.

Everything was very uneventful until almost 10 hours in. I suddenly had horrible nausea. What? I never had that before! I tried to keep going, but it was getting worse and worse, and I finally pulled into the pit stop. Kathleen was on top of it. She sat me down, fed me ginger cookies, and our awesome tent-neighbor donated ginger ale to our cause. Suddenly, we were green for go. A whole 45 minutes was permanently gone, but I was cruising again.

I finally started feeling the pain, but it never really escalated from there on out, amazingly. Then the rain came. The brutal 12-hour rain. (I don’t know if it lasted 12 hours, but it sure seemed like it did!) It was pouring so hard at night that I couldn’t see where the trail was and ran off into the ditch on the side of the trail numerous times. It was insane. But I had trained in conditions exactly like this on my long runs. I just kept thinking, Bring it on!

Then my dinosaur-age tent flooded. Then our umbrella that was set up to keep our table dry blew far, far away. Kat was all over the place trying to keep home-place together! It was crazy to say the least, and I felt so bad for her. She had to move out of the tent because it was so horrible and demoralizing. There were holes in the tent floor I didn’t know about and there were worms in the tent! She started crewing me from the race aid station. Hazel had hit her goal of her first 100k and crashed for a nap. She had a rough ride, but she knew what she wanted to do and went and made it happen.

Mile after mile went by, and Kat and I were watching the splits, knowing 120 is the minimum now. We were also keeping an eye on the first place spot. I was battling it out, trying to reach 1st place overall, but the leader, Troy Allen, kept up a relentless race. The pouring rain seemed endless, and then it stopped. The sun rose with a few hours still left to hang in there, and Troy was not going to let me catch up. I had broken 120 and was on my way to meet my main goal now of 125. I had already met the goal of breaking the female course record which was 111 miles.

For so many long hours, my feet had been agonizingly painful from being wet for so long. They had become horribly, horribly macerated. I really believed the skin had fallen off my feet. I didn’t even want to look because I knew it would have a psychological effect.

Man, it hurt so bad.

I was dead-set on stopping at 125. Then I came through the finish line, planning to stop, and Steven Parke (who set the CR the previous year with 127) ran alongside me for a few seconds, “Tara, just one more. Just one more!” I knew he was right. I couldn’t quit till there was no time left. I kept going for one more lap (oh, and I had to pee) with a final total of 126 miles. Damn, that hurt.

This is it. It’s almost done.

I crossed the finish line in tears. I had finally proved to myself that I could do what I have believed I could do all this time. Finally, I’m not crazy for thinking I can do these things.  It helps to have such an amazing crew, family, and friends who believe in you!
I had done it.

Me and Kat (She’s awesome)

Post-race recovery was unbelievable. I was barely sore. I was running in 2 days with no pain. Something I was doing worked. Something was right. Now, I had to dial that in and go for more!

The silver/gold buckle for the 1st male and female. Finally, I got it.

Northcoast 24 (9/19/2015)

In the final hours, there is nothing to do but wait. A deep inner strength awakens and something becomes that once never was known.



Tent City at Northcoast 24 with the Cleveland Skyline


I had a deep sense of frustration following my spring race at Outrun 24. I felt like I was being toyed with. I was absolutely certain there was no reason now that I couldn’t reach 120 miles and probably more on a flat paved course. Even though I’d convinced myself I was trail-only, I signed up to NC24 to find out what the possibilities were.


Spring and summer was an incredibly busy this year and distracted me a lot from following a very strict training regimen. Life was also waxing and waning with various doses of stress, and several times throughout training, I considered not even doing this race. Following Outrun 24 in early May, through mid-July, my mileage was relatively low and inconsistent compared to my usual training. During this time, most of my runs were under 10 miles and many were doubles or triples.

I started pushing the miles up by the end of July and banked regular 70 and 100-mile weeks up to two weeks before Northcoast. I had completed a decent share of 20-30 mile long runs during this time, but much less than usual. I made sure the majority of my training occurred during the warmest part of the day.

Almost 3 weeks out from the race, I grew concerned about the little training that I had completed on pavement. Minus some of my long runs, nearly all my training had been completed on the dirt trail at home. During my taper, I drove to town to spend every mile running the roads to hopefully mitigate my uneasiness. All the runs were combinations of speedwork and inevitably hilly, and I was seeing some leg turnover that I hadn’t in some time. I was unsure how well my body would handle 24 hours of pavement.

I was quite apprehensive about my training or what I felt was a lack thereof and didn’t really know what to expect. I decided that I would basically wing things at Northcoast, hoping I could hit 120-130 miles, and didn’t bring a pacing plan. I told myself I was going to have fun and relieve some of the stress I had been carrying all summer.


We arrived the day before the race, and my husband and I walked the race course. It was actually a much nicer and more scenic course than I anticipated. The 0.9-mile paved loop path circles Edgewater Park with the Cleveland city skyline looming overhead with part of the course running along Lake Erie. I checked the weather that night and things looked pretty bad. They were predicting pretty bad storms the afternoon of the race. I was fine with all the rain it could dish  out, but I’m scared to death of lightning and was worried about how I’d handle that!

Race morning we set up the tent, and I proceeded to waterproof everything. I had chosen to wear only compression clothing to avoid chafing from the predicted rain. Donning my trustworthy Skechers Ultra, I made my way to the start line. The final seconds before the race started, I said my little mantra, “Let’s run for just one day. It’s only a day. Then… then, you can rest.”

The first hours of the race blew by quickly, as usual, but it took me a good 20 miles to really feel locked into a comfortable pace. It was way too easy to over-pace on the pavement, and I felt like I was checking off miles way too fast. My husband came and went throughout the day, returning to our hotel to take care of our special little boy.

I ran the first 4 or 5 hours without stopping and then decided to take a short break, visit with my husband, eat, and drink, and then proceeded in this fashion every 10-20 miles thereafter. After all, I thought, I had come to have fun. I wasn’t trying to run any particular pace or make any particular splits, but as the mileage went by, it became apparent that I could be set for 120-130 miles if things went right, and things were going very right.

Nothing like cold pizza with the hubs!

During the afternoon, clouds moved in and things started looking nasty, but the rain was mostly light and refreshing. It was pretty windy running along the lake, taunting you for being crazy enough to run for 24 hours. Every time I looped back around I expected to see my tent gone as it was being assaulted by hurricane force winds and is probably 30 years old! But the weather never became a real problem, and the rain had cleared up before sundown. Things remained extremely uneventful. I was having a great time, talking to runners and goofing off at my tent and eating ice cream my husband brought me.

Just a little rain!

Night fell and the course was bright enough that I ended up ditching my headlamp. It was a little chilly running past the lake with the cold wind gusting and blowing cool water off the little waves as I ran by. Eventually, my stepson came out to take night shift crewing while my husband went back to the hotel to get a nap. I began waiting for the “hour of hell” to sink in, and around mile 80, the low I was waiting for finally worked its way in and the challenge began.

I ran quite a bit during the night with Laurie Dymond who is an incredibly amazing and inspirational runner as well as Jenny Hoffman. The three of us were in the lead female positions. I knew at this point there was no way I could catch up to them. They were both still running phenomenally strong races, and I was struggling. They knew that, and they both were very kind and tried to pick up my spirits and offer great advice. That’s one of the most beautiful things about ultrarunning… the comradeship no matter how you lie in the pack, everyone is there for you.

Me and Jenny Hoffman at the end

It wasn’t long before I found myself finding excuses to stop longer than required. The porta-potty became a hideout! (That’s pretty bad!) I began texting on and off with my mom and husband, both of which where trying to keep me moving. At 90-something, I had retreated to my tent, sat down, and almost cried. My legs were screaming and felt like I had snakes crawling through them. I texted my husband and said, “There’s no words made that can describe the pain I’m in…,” and he asked me if I wanted to quit. I said, “No. I’m running again.” He said that he would do whatever it took to keep me on that course then. My mother stayed up all night, watching my splits, asking me what was wrong if I didn’t lap after a while, and sending me photos of her holding homemade signs of encouragement! It was so unbelievably moving.

I finally crossed through hell and hit 100. I was completely renewed and refocused on my goals. I started suddenly getting chafed from all the dried salt on my clothing. I tried to change, but I was too sore to get out of my compression clothes or take my shoes off. My husband came and helped me change! I realized by then that I was at a crossroad. It was going to be really hard to hit 120 now, and by 110, I started to lose hope and settle for less. Then, it hit me. “Not today. Today is my day I get what I came for.”

4 miles left.. In tears.

I had 5 miles left to 120 and only a mere 45 minutes… there was no way after running for nearly 24 hours I could check off 9s or 8s! But I had too! Somehow, I had to! I thought, “Just go all out. Less than one hour. You can find it. Go.”

There it was. I was running at an incredible pace, and the splits kept dropping every mile, all the way down to a sub 7 the last split. By the last loop, I was sprinting all out. I had tears running down my cheeks; I had given it all I had at the end, and I knew that I had given it my best shot. The question still remained, did I get it? The course is 0.9 miles, so I still was on edge whether or not I had hit that 120. I would have to wait until they released the final measured distances.

I was nearly sobbing when the race finally ended. My husband threw warm clothes on me, and we made our way to the post-race breakfast and awards ceremony. I landed 3rd female with 120 miles and even got some money. Yeah, wow, I forgot about the money part. Jenny took first place and Laurie came second. Laurie and I ate brekkie together and shared some great laughs.

It was amazing. All of it. But I knew, there was more left in me. I had to go find it.

Postrace with the hubby… The deed was done!


Outrun 24 (5/2/15)

Pain… I know you are there. Not yet, not yet.


This was my second attempt to hit 100 at Outrun 24, but of course, I had bigger things in mind! With the splits of last year’s race in mind, it seemed absolutely feasible to not only go after the women’s course record (111 mi), but to attempt 120 miles. Last year’s race at O24 (my first 100 and 24-hour attempt) was simply an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, see-what-happens kind of thing. It ended prematurely in what turned out to be a mild ankle injury, but it was good that I didn’t push it any further than I had, because the healing time wasn’t that bad post race.

After running Burning River 100 in 23:20 and finally having that first buckle in-hand, I had the most important tool I needed. I had confidence in my ability to cover the distance and now believed 100 miles was not that far. Not only that, but I finished BR100 knowing not only that I could run faster, but could have run farther. Finally the pieces to this 100-mile mystery were starting to come together!


IMG_0826I trained for 6 months, beginning in November. My training started off with a good base, and I was running consistent 100-mile weeks by January. Long runs of 20+ miles were done at least once a week, and occasionally I would run doubles and triples during weekdays. Throughout March I continually ticked the mileage up further until peaking 4 weeks before the race with a 150-mile week. I started a long taper dropping only a certain percentage of mileage each day until I was at zero the day before the race.

Winter was fearsome and staggered my planned mileage all over the place since I was adamant about keeping most of my runs on the trails. Banking the mileage I did through deep, snow-covered trails and negative temperatures was undeniably beneficial and was very mentally hardening. If the snow was too deep to run, I would either hand shovel a quarter-mile out-and-back of my trail or get my husband to drive the truck back and forth over it. I was determined, to say the least.
Spring rolled around and inevitably graced me with plenty of mud, further slowing things down. By the time I was peaking, everything was starting to dry up, and I was finally able to dig into serious speedwork on a regular basis.

Though most of my training was centered around the long-slow run, I dabbled with more speedwork than I had previously in training, particularly on long runs. During the taper, I upped the frequency of speedwork and added more tempo-type running and even some sprinting. I felt very good about my training this time. It was much more structured and purposeful than had been in the past.


IMG_0961I had prepared a “tentative” pacing plan that would gradually slow down every 4 hours. The goal was to hit around 65 miles at the 12-hour mark. I knew I’d probably fall off schedule somewhere during the last half of the race, but I felt like I had given myself a wide enough margin that I would be able to significantly  slow down at night if needed and still make it to 120.

The morning started off great and the first 20 miles went by really fast. My husband was crewing while my friend Amy was back at the hotel babysitting. I was fueling off Ensure Plus and all kinds of cool treats my husband kept bringing me.

I stayed perfectly on target all day long, and things remained pretty uneventful. The afternoon was a little warmer than I had hoped for, but I had done enough heat training to be able to maintain my goal pace. My husband was concerned that I was not sticking strictly to Ensure at this point and eating too many solid foods. This led to food just sloshing around in my stomach which was annoying, but there was never any nausea. There were quite a few runners having problems with the heat.

13012799_994491770645453_5672729084502834544_nAround 50 miles, I was feeling slight pain in my right hip and was a little concerned this early in the race, but luckily it never escalated from there. Amy came out to run 10 or so miles with me around 4-5 pm and then returned to the hotel for a nap. I reached 65 miles almost perfectly on time and took a break, switched shoes from my Speedcross to Skechers Ultra, and ate a little bit of Subway. At this point, I stopped running the hill, and in retrospect, the decision to run it for the first 65 miles, may have been what ultimately led to injury.

Things continued to go well but I began to have this nagging cramping and aching sensation in my left calf muscle. Amy returned to pace me around mile 70-75.  I was increasingly worried about the intensifying pain developing in my calf muscle. The pain became so bad, I had to have Amy dump rocks out of my shoes. She brushed her arm against my calf muscle and it sent a shockwave of pain up my leg. Something was really wrong, and it was probably insanity to continue to run on it, but I was getting too close to 100 to stop now.

IMG_0963I stopped at the aid station around mile 90ish, completely mentally drained from fighting off the pain in my calf. The aid station volunteers (always amazing people and friends) offered me up some bacon, pancakes, and syrup. That motivated me to keep going for a few more laps. I simply could not come out from underneath this low point with the level of pain I was in, and I was extremely worried about what the hell was going on. I even refused to look at my calf for fear I would have to quit. Amy was relentlessly trying to pick up my spirits and keep us on target.

I lingered at the aid station yet again, expressing my deterioration, and the previous year’s course record setter (120 miles), Jim Van Orman, was working at the aid station and offered to run a lap with me. This gave me a boost of confidence and brought me out of my low long enough to push hard again to 100. I told Amy and my husband that I’d have to evaluate things at 100, look at the calf, and make a real decision whether it was safe to continue or not. I was a little off and tried to convince Amy the sun would come up soon even though it was only 4am.

I came through the timing area and hit 100 in 20:08, on target, and in a great position to bank a lot more miles and with a nice new 100-mile PR. This washed over me in a wave of relief and accomplishment and I found myself in tears. I returned to the aid station to figure out the next step. I spent a large amount of time there and eventually decided to head back out into the night to see what would happen.

I was down to a mix of walking and running, and I was in extreme pain. I was getting nervous but worried I was not in the right state of mind to make any decisions. I talked things over with Amy and then with Glenn, and by the time we got back around the loop I was freezing from walking and changed into warmer clothes. I sat down by the fire pit and looked at my calf muscle. There was a huge red lump protruding from the length of the side of my calf that was encircled by rings of black and blue, and it was painful to touch the skin.

IMG_3271 (5)That was it, 101 miles, and I called it off. There was nothing left I could do. I was freezing and some girls helped me to the bathroom to get warm and chatted for a while. I still didn’t turn my timing chip in and returned to the fire pit to wait things out. I just kept thinking with all the time I had left, if I just sat and rested the leg, maybe I’d be able to at least walk again, but I was fooling myself. Amy left and Glenn said he would be on his way. I sat and talked with friends and watched and cheered the runners that were still out there.

Eventually the sun started to rise and my husband showed up. He helped me get to the car for a short nap while he took down our aid site. We made our way back to catch the end of the race, breakfast, and awards. I ended up 10th overall, 3rd female with 101 miles in 20:52:55 and nearly chafe-free!

Though I had accomplished so much, I still didn’t go home with the feeling that I had. There was so much more left to give, and yet again, I left this race injured. I was now on a mission to figure out what I was doing wrong, and intensely determined to find out what potential was still not tapped into.

Healing was fairly fast over the span of almost 2 weeks. I never really knew what it was or what caused it, but further research lead me to surmise that it could have been massive muscle trauma from running the hill or even a blood clot. It was definitely probably something I should not have been running on for 11 miles!

Back at home and back to the drawing board, I decided to sign up for Northcoast 24. Paved, technically flat, fast… now I would find out. This time things had to be different…

024 2015


Transformation & New Beginnings!

After many requests, I’ve decided to bring back my blog! If you’ve ever visited my previous blog, “Breaking the Pace,” then you’ll be quite familiar with my story and this is simply a continuation of that.  All of the old posts which appeared on “Breaking the Pace” have been imported here so as to incorporate all my old race reports as well as the illustrative journey over the years which I’ve taken to get where I am now.

If you are unfamiliar with “Breaking the Pace,” then briefly, my story was simple. Around my 30th birthday, I looked in a mirror, and I saw a woman staring back at me that I hoped never would be. I didn’t like what she looked like or who she was and knew dramatic changes had to be instituted. This led to me discovering a passion for running, and I fantasized and dreamed of running ultramarathons. Year after year, I worked and chipped away at getting my way to the start line of a 100-mile race, but by the time I got there, a new fire was burning inside. I wanted to be a podium finisher one day at one of these races!

Things will be a bit messy around here for a short time while, over the next week, I’ll continue to edit old posts, add missing photos, and will begin to include new race reports and other information that will pick up where “Breaking the Pace” left off. I will also be using this blog to keep you all updated on the progress of my upcoming book, “Breaking 100 Miles,” and the concordant launch of its sister website which provides extreme in-depth guidance and advice on the training and racing process of 24-hour and 100-mile races!

Stay tuned and happy miles! Thanks for visiting!

Burning River 100 (8/2/14)

Race morning started off appropriately. My clock was somehow behind by 10 minutes. I didn’t even realize it until we were about to leave the hotel. I hadn’t eaten yet and wasn’t really hungry. My husband drove me to the start and was insistent on finding me something to eat, but that 10 minutes had me feeling uneasy about stopping. We arrived at the start line about 30 minutes before the start at 5am. We dug through my crew bags and fished out a bag of mixed nuts. Breakfast!IMG_2506

Burning River 100 was more than just a goal race to me. Training and preparing for this actually began back in 2013 with the running of Highlands Sky 40 mi and WV Trilogy 50 mi. These were just stepping stone races towards what I termed my “Year of 100s.”

After multiple logistical complications in the last two months leading up to the race and even almost coming to the point where I was probably going to have to DNS, my husband stepped up to the plate and became my crew. Him crewing for me was a logistical feat all of its own.  We both knew this time a finish was certain barring any injury especially since I had my failed 100 mi attempt at Outrun 24 driving me. The 81 mi I did at O24 in April taught me the tools I needed to run BR in a time I could be happy with. My biggest fear was that I would be running without a pacer, and I would be forced to face my fear of running alone at night.

Once the race started, we headed out across the field from Squire’s Castle and onto road for quite some time. I actually don’t remember a lot about the early miles of the race.
I was cruising along at a comfortable speed but much faster than I anticipated holding throughout the race. I wanted to get the first quarter out of the way and get into my stride. I took advantage of the fast road mileage at the start and came into Polo Fields (13.6 mi) in 2:13. The course changed to easy bridle trail, and I found myself still running way too fast and constantly trying to slow myself down. IMG_2514Somewhere after this point I met David Corfman who has quite an extensive 100-mi resume. David gave me excellent advice and “coaching.” I was so fascinated with his expertise and willingness to share his experience with me that I ended up running almost all but the last 10 miles with him as well as the very seasoned ultrarunner, Keith Straw. The good conversation, jokes, and stories made the entire day fly by.

My husband met me at Shadow Lake (24.38 mi) for the first time since the start. I ate a few aid station snacks, gave him my headlamp, filled up one of my bottles with Red Bull, and drank Ensure. Then I was off again. By the time I got to Oak Grove (39.73 mi) where my crew was set to meet me again, my toes were starting to blister from the Hokas. When I arrived at Oak Grove, my daughter had come with my husband. It’s so awesome to have family crewing, but it was so hard to not stay and visit with them!


IMG_2488 (1)

Keith Straw, Me, and David Corfman

Anticipating mud after Oak Grove, I put on my Speedcross. My poor swollen and blistered feet were not happy. I really enjoyed the trails from Oak Grove to Boston even though my feet were in bad shape. It started to rain a little and thunder, but under the canopied singletrack, we all stayed relatively dry.


Oak Grove – 39.73 mi

At mile 54.59, Boston was my next crew meet. I came into Boston, and saw so many familiar faces! Boston was booming with people, crews, and spectators. I wanted to stop and greet all my friends, but I knew I had major foot surgery to do here and it was going to cost time. I grabbed some aid snacks and found my husband who had brought our teenage son along this time. It was lightly sprinkling. Nervously, I ripped my shoes and socks off to reveal massive blistering on both big toes. I lanced the biggest one with scissors and taped it with Leukotape. (Surely, I’d regret that tomorrow when I tried to take it off. Leukotape is some serious stuff!).

I knew there was no way I’d get away with wearing the Hokas at this point and resorted to my back up shoes which were my daughter’s street Reeboks which were a good half-size bigger. After eating a couple slices of pizza my crew brought, drinking a Red Bull and an Ensure, I headed back out again. For the first several miles, every step was blister torture. I was concerned that I had made a huge mistake popping that one. After some time, however, the pain slowly subsided. The shoes were comfortable, and while they lacked any manner of tread, I instantly knew they had saved my race from many long hours of suffering.IMG_2520

Time passed really fast between Boston and my next crew point at Pine Hollow I (72 mi). Other than taking a fall that could have been really nasty, everything was going pretty good. I was starting to have some thigh chafing but felt it was nothing a big slab of Aquaphor couldn’t fix. I ate just a little from the aid station and took time to lube up extensively. This was the last time I would have crew access until mile 91 at Botzum. It was starting to get dark. I grabbed my headlamp and was physically feeling okay but starting to hit my first mental low. It got dark really fast during the Pine Hollow loop, and about a mile out, I realized my headlamp was dimming and I had forgotten my spare batteries. I contacted my husband and asked him to meet me on my return to Pine Hollow with batteries. By the time I got back, it was very dark. I grabbed two sets of spare batteries and changed my old ones out. I set out into the dark and regrouped with Dave and Keith.

We arrived at Covered Bridge I (81.96 mi), and I was still feeling physically pretty good but a pinch tired mentally. I started wanting to just be done. The singletrack Covered Bridge loop was somewhat demoralizing for me. There were often muddy sections, and the road shoes I was wearing were not performing well at all. I had to really hold back and watch my step. My blisters were screaming at me on every downhill, and I was afraid I’d slide right down every decline with those shoes on. I was very appreciative to have company on this section, because I know I would have been really freaked out running it alone. That 4.45-mile loop was the lowest point of the whole race for me. It seemed like it took an entire lifetime and required so much more focus than I was prepared for.

I was so relieved when I left Covered Bridge II and hit road. It was immensely uplifting. Soon I would get to see my husband again at Botzum (mile 91). I was running down the road and turned onto towpath as I neared the Botzum aid station at mile 91. My husband texted that he was there waiting for me. I finally heard cheers from the aid station. I wondered if those were cheers for my friends who had gone on ahead of me. I stopped for a moment. I had been alone for a little while running in the dark. The sky was decorated full of stars, and I turned my headlamp off and took a second to take it all in. Soon I would be only 10 miles from the finish. “This is it,” I told myself. I came into Botzum feeling a little tired and woozy, but I was so pepped up again to see my husband waiting for me. I downed a Red Bull at Botzum, grabbed a flashlight, switched GPS watches, and headed out for Memorial Parkway.

During the stretch between Botzum and Memorial I had multiple lows. It was a long mental rollercoaster. At many points I asked myself, “Why push so much? Won’t you be happy with just finishing?” Yeah… that sounds good but is so not true. I just kept running with whatever I had left and reminded myself to clear my mind. I had spent too much time dawdling at Botzum to walk much now. I didn’t have time to spare anymore if I was going to get that sub-24. I already felt like the podium was out of question, but I still had sub-24 within reach. This section was very runnable. I kept looking at my watch and finally forced myself to quit when I realized only seconds separated my glances.
IMG_2515I finally came into Memorial where my husband was waiting for me again.

I arrived at the aid station feeling so renewed. It seemed like I would never get there. From here it was home-free! I ate a few snacks and left my iPod and one of my water bottles and headed onward for the final 5.59-mi stretch to the finish. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about the run to the Finish except that I gave it my all. I was feeling a lot more highs than lows and started seeing the finish in my mind. I was climbing steps on the trail and found myself suddenly thinking how much fun I was having. I had speed back in my legs and felt like I was flying though the dark almost effortlessly!

I emerged from a trail onto the road which I knew led to the finish. Finally cresting the hill my eyes filled with tears, I could see it. My husband ran towards me from a sidewalk and ran beside me for the last quarter mile to the finish. It was incredible. The moment I had been dreaming, training, and craving for the last 8 months was real. I crossed the finish line in 23:20:01. I placed 25th overall and 4th overall female. It was done, finally. I had missed the podium, but I had my sub-24. The first few words out of my mouth I think were along the lines of, “I don’t know if I’ll ever do that again.” Yeah, that’s a load of crap, and I’m sure my husband knew it!

There was some degree of suffering, but it was not as bad as I had anticipated. I was more than prepared for the mental anguish. I was prepared for the blisters and chafing. I was apprehensive but prepared to face my fears of running alone at night. I was prepared to let nothing come between me and that finish line. I set three goals for myself. First, I wanted a podium, crazy, but I am driven, and so far it’s not been a bad thing. My second was finish sub-24. The third was just to finish at all costs.

There is no way I can properly express my enormous gratitude towards my husband for helping me pull this off. The effort it took on his part alone was incredible. He not only managed to take care of our 3 teen kids, one of which is severely disabled, but was also there for me hand and foot every time I needed him. I am without words enough to describe how grateful I am.

I once read somewhere that running 100s changes or takes something away from you every time you do it. I don’t think it took anything from me other than I have little desire to run anything less than 100 now. I gained a true sense of patience and calmness. I experienced more human emotion than I knew was possible during the last 10 miles and again during the last 2 miles. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried twice in the same hour for two completely different emotions. Seeing the finish line of a 100 mile race is an experience unlike any other I can describe and know of no other way to duplicate that. It’s incredibly addicting.


Hoka Stinson

I starting getting bad blisters all over my toes by mile 40. Maybe these would be better if they were a half to whole size larger. The toebox is a bit narrow for my feet and not good for long, long miles – very unfortunate for what they cost. They do drain well, surprisingly, but I’m not too impressed with their performance in muddy conditions.

Salomon Speedcross

This would have been my shoe of choice from mile 40 onwards, but my feet were so blistered and swollen by mile 50 from the Hokas, they only aggravated the situation. I dearly missed being able to wear lugged shoes during the singletrack sections at night.

Reebok Dual Turbo Fire

I brought these shoes as emergency backup. They are my daughter’s running shoes and are a half size bigger than mine. I didn’t foresee using them, but they were the only thing comfortable enough with the swelling and blisters. I wore these from mile 54 to the finish. They certainly changed my outlook on paying a lot for shoes. Having that extra room for swelling makes a huge difference. This was the first time I had experienced this degree of foot swelling especially this early on in a run.

Skins A400 Compression Shorts

These shorts stay put… period. They don’t ride up and are nice and cool considering the length. I do not particularly like shorts this long, but these perform so well. The little back key pocket felt like it was irritating my skin after 60ish miles, and a little Aquaphor solved this for the rest of the race. I did have to constantly reapply Aquaphor to my inner thighs which wasn’t surprising, but the chafing was much less than I had earlier this year at Outrun 24. They wick sweat really well. In the future I think I will consider changing into clean clothes around mile 50-60. I’m a very, very salty sweater, and the accumulation of salt becomes somewhat abrasive after so many hours of running. For now, these shorts remain my choice for long distances.


I started out in a really cheap brand of thin polyester socks that I have been running in for years. However, I speculate if these enhanced my blister issues in the Hokas. They don’t wick water as well as other socks, and once they got wet they probably fueled the blister fire even more. I will probably not attempt to wear these over 50 miles again. I switched to my thin Injinji toe socks at mile 54 which not only helped keep the tape on my toes but definitely helped keep new blisters from forming. I have yet to say anything negative about Injinji socks. Had I worn these from the start, I likely would have prevented a lot of issues early on.

LED Lenser H7.2

I truly love this headlamp. For the price, you really can’t beat the features. It’s extremely adjustable both focusing and dimming, and very bright on the highest setting at 155 lumens. There is a rechargeable model, but I prefer batteries. I only changed batteries twice, but easily carried 6 extra AAA batteries in my bottle pocket for backup. It’s not that comfortable to wear for a very long time directly on skin, so I always wear it with my visor, and this works really well. I forget I even have it on.

LED Lenser flashlight

I didn’t grab this until I didn’t even really need it which was about the last 10 miles. It would have helped a lot on the singletrack at night. It’s a little heavier than I like, but it’s pretty bright. It was awkward trying to carry it along with 2 bottles, and I think a second headlamp worn at waist or chest level might be a better choice if I am carrying two bottles.

GPS Watches

My poor Garmin 305 battery has just about had it and is only getting about 5 hours now. While I would have liked to have recorded the whole run, I would have had to carry my mini USB charger and worn my pack. I didn’t see the need to wear the pack and felt like I could eliminate a lot of extra weight by carrying bottles.

I switched watches constantly with my husband and went between my 305 and my daughter’s Forerunner 10. This set up was plenty good enough to keep an eye on my pace and distances between aid stations. Since I was calling/texting my husband about 7-10 miles before I needed him, this helped me give him a good idea of when he should arrive and eliminated a lot of long waiting on his part.


I still have yet to have any stomach issues whatsoever with running. I’ve been really lucky, because it seems this is a huge problem for a lot of runners. I honestly didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to eating and just ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I carried one bottle of water and one bottle of HEED or Red Bull at all times.

My crew gave me several Ensure Plus’s, a sausage biscuit, and 2 slices of pizza. At aid stations I would generally take a couple S-Caps, refill my bottles, and mostly ate lots of M&Ms and cookies, a little pizza, and a few salty potatoes. I carried one gel for backup and never needed it.


  • Running a 24-hour timed event prior to Burning River was an excellent way to prepare me for the challenge. It will test your mental fortitude at 3am when you have to leave the comfort of the aid station every lap. It’s also a great way to test drive all kinds of nutrition and gear in a scenario that you would not otherwise be able to easily recreate in training.
  • Aid stations are huge time drainers. They suck you in especially at night and become harder and harder to get away from. While they can be great mental/physical rechargers, they have to be used efficiently and strategically. Have a plan before you arrive.
  • Any minor issue or irritation realized in training is significantly magnified over such a long distance.
  • Focusing on running from station to station works. At mile 85, it seems like the end will never come, but by mile 90, the light at the end of the tunnel appears, and I found a new energy I didn’t know I had.
  • Finding new friends and good conversation can make the miles fly by.
  • Be prepared for the night…seriously prepared. The comfort of having others to run with at night cannot be underestimated especially if you’re not used to being alone in the dark. It can get weird at night! I did not have a pacer but was very lucky to have the company of 2 other runners throughout most of the night for which I am so grateful. My husband told me about a terrified runner who came into an aid station at night who said she’d never run at night again.
  • 100 miles is not really that far; just keep moving!