Things you should know when you inevitably get sucked in to ultrarunning

This post goes out to my friend Elise, who I just recently runabled into signing up for her first 50k.  Congratulations!  Welcome to one of your best bad decisions!

Ultras are awesome.  They are also terrible.  You’ll hurt.  You’ll end up in some pretty dark places, mentally.  But you’ll also be completely exhilarated, see beautiful landscapes, and feel like a total badass.  Also, finish line beer is the best beer you’ll ever have.  You’re going to totally hate it and me sometime around mile 18 on race day, but you’re also going to love it (and by extension, me)!

Things you should know/do/get when getting into ultras:

Running packs aren’t cheap, but they’re worth every penny for the miles and hours you’ll spend out on the trail.  Get one you love and that fits well, because you’re going to spend a LOT of time together.  I particularly love the Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta (more lightweight) and Wink  (my go-to pack of choice).  The Jenny Adventure Vesta is also great.  Those are the go-to ones for tons of the female ultrarunners around here, and they don’t disappoint.

Put together a small trail med kit with bandaids and blister stuff.  Keep it in your pack at all times.

Do the same for a bio bag.  “What’s a bio bag?” you ask.  Why, it’s a little sandwich baggie covered in duct tape (so you can’t see into it) for you to pack out any used tp, etc. for when nature inevitably calls on the trail.  Trailrunners are big supporters of Leave No Trace.

If you haven’t already, get fitted for a pair of trail shoes at your local running store.  Trail shoes have stiffer soles and more aggressive treads than road shoes, which makes a big difference with how you’ll feel after those long miles.

Don’t expect to run everything.  Ultrarunners power hike a lot.  Embrace power hiking and do a lot of fast hiking with a lot of gain to increase your speed while still walking.  If you try to run up every uphill, you’re going to burn out pretty early in the day and have nothing left for later when you really need it.

For good ultrarunning inspiration check out Ginger Runner and Billy Yang on YouTube.  They are two of my favorites for great ultrarunning films.  Some of the ones I watch regularly when I’m on the treadmill:

  • Life In A Day (Billy Yang) – Documentary about some incredible female ultrarunners competing at Western States
  • Amongst The Evergreens (Ginger Runner) – The story of Ethan’s (Ginger Runner) own experience with his first 100 mile ultra, the Cascade Crest 100
  • Run My Race (Bryce Boron) – 2 hour documentary about Bob Fargo, a typical ultrarunner (i.e. NOT an elite racer) as he finally realizes his dream of racing the Hardrock 100 miler
  • The Unknown (Billy Yang) – Coverage of Tim Olsen’s comeback 2016 Hardrock 100 race
  • Wonderland (Ginger Runner) – The story of Gary Robbins’ FKT (fastest known time) attempt circumnavigating Mt. Rainier (93 miles)
  • Altering Expectations (Ginger Runner) – The story of Kim’s (his wife and a badass trailrunner in her own right) first 50k
  • The Squamish 50/50 (Ginger Runner) – Ethan’s attempt at the 50 mile/50k back to back races
  • A Decade On (Ginger Runner) – The story of Brian Morrison’s redemption at Western States
  • Western Time (Billy Yang) – Sally McRae’s story of the Western States 100
  • My Fourth Hardrock 100 Run (Run Steep Get High) – Jamil’s story of his 4th Hardrock 100.  I particularly enjoyed when he got caught in the hailstorm.
  • Mont Blanc (Billy Yang) – Coverage of the Nike Trail Running team at the CCC UTMB

That’s probably good for starters. 🙂  More to come!

Change of Plans!

It’s pretty funny how plans can change so quickly.

Earlier this year I registered for the Colorado 200 50 mile solo race that my awesome coach puts on through her company Rugged Running.  Unfortunately Michele and Wyatt had to cancel the race this year due to logistical issues, which was  a huge bummer but totally understandable.  I was left with no races on the calendar for 2017 and for a brief moment thought, okay, I’m not racing this year.  That’s fine.  But of course, that never happens.  Instead, within the next week, I found myself getting antsy and thinking about all the possibilities for 2017 races and asking around within my group of runner friends for some beautiful and fun local(ish) races.

A bit overwhelmed with a huge list of awesome possibilities, I was at a loss for which ones to go for.  But then the question was answered for me.  Turns out the Never Summer 100k, which I’ve wanted to do for a couple years now and have heard nothing but raves about, is on my birthday this year.

So that was easy.

The new race calendar for 2017:

And tentatively for 2018, depending on how this year’s races and my Ph.D. stuff go (I will hopefully be finishing up this time next year):

I’ve been enjoying the beautiful spring weather here in Boulder and getting out for more trail time.  I always seem to have a hard time getting out in the winter, no matter how much I say it’s going to happen.  You know what?  I just don’t like to be cold, dammit.  But once the gorgeous spring weather rolls around, those trails start calling my name.  Last weekend I took Rocket out for a loop of North Table Mesa in Golden and we had a ball.  I also enjoyed the part where he slept for the entire rest of the day/evening once we got home. 🙂  It takes a lot to wear that dog out.

In addition to ramping up my training, I’m also conducting a bit of an experiment with my nutrition.  I’ve wanted to try to fat-adapt for a couple years now but never actually dove in and tried it.  But for the past week and a half, I’ve been sticking to a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet (yes, you can do this as a vegetarian!) and am really loving it so far.  For that first couple days, my run energy was pretty low as my body started to make the switch (it usually takes a few weeks for your body to fully adapt, but some people – myself included – start to feel better within a few days).  But after about 5 days or so, I was feeling much more energetic, no longer had swings in my blood sugar, had lost all my carby/sugar cravings, and was feeling constantly satiated.  I also had an amazing run around North Table Mesa and felt a dramatic improvement from how I felt on previous laps of the same location when I was supposedly in better shape and better trained.  So that’s been good inspiration to continue with this experiment!  I’ll write more about it and in more detail in a couple weeks when I have more of the story to tell.  So far, so good.

Creamy Vegan Aloo Gobi

Here in the mountains just outside of Boulder, we have a fabulous Nepalese restaurant called Kathmandu (I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in this area).  Pretty much everyone around here is obsessed with this place, and their food is amazing.  My personal favorite is the aloo gobi.  No matter how many other menu items I try, I always go back to my first love.

I started trying to re-create Kathmandu’s creamy and ever so slightly sweet aloo gobi a while ago and never got it quite right until today.  But finally, everything came together.  This is definitely not a “throw it together super quick” kind of recipe, but man it is worth the prep time!

Creamy Vegan Aloo Gobi – Kathmandu style

Makes roughly 6-8 servings (We cook in bulk in our house so we have leftovers for lunches.)

I’ll take a better picture next time I make this. I wasn’t expecting to inhale it so fast!


  • 1 large head cauliflower – washed and chopped into florets
  • 4-6 russet potatoes (depending on your desired veggie:sauce ratio – I used 6) – washed, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion – peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves – peeled
  • 1.5-2″ ginger root – peeled and chopped into chunks about the same size as the garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews – soaked in hot water for ~30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil (or whatever other oil you prefer)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt to taste


  1. Soak the cashews in hot water for ~30 minutes to soften.  While the cashews are soaking, chop the (peeled) potatoes, cauliflower, and onion.  Place the potatoes in a large stockpot, cover with water, and bring to a boil until just tender (they will cook a bit more later so they don’t need to be completely tender yet).  Drain and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling and cashews are soaking, place the peeled ginger and garlic into a food processor or blender and add 1 tbsp water.  Blend the ginger and garlic to form a paste and set aside into another dish (you’ll need the food processor/blender again in a minute).
  3. When the cashews are done soaking, place those in the food processor/blender with the remaining 2 tbsp water and blend into a paste.  Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil on medium heat in the stockpot (you might be able to get away with a skillet, but it likely won’t be big enough – I would recommend re-using the big stockpot), and add the garam masala.  Cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Then add the onion and sauté until golden.
  5. Add the garlic and ginger paste and sauté for another minute.  Then add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate (stir regularly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom – depending on your stove, you may also want to turn the heat down just a bit here to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick).
  6. Lower the temperature a bit (if you haven’t already), and add the cashew paste, chili powder, coriander, and turmeric to form a masala paste, and cook until fat begins to come out the sides of the paste (you’ll see it, trust me).  Stir continuously to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan or burn.
  7. Add the cooked potatoes, cauliflower, coconut milk, vegetable broth, and salt to taste.  Mix well.  Cover and let simmer for ~20 minutes (or longer if you want thicker sauce).  Stir occasionally while simmering to mix the veggies in and make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.
  8. Serve as is, or with rice, naan, etc.
  9. Try not to eat it all at once. 🙂

NOTE: If you want to reduce your cooking time on the day of, try making the garlic-ginger and cashew pastes ahead of time.

I can’t wait to have my leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

UPDATE: Leftovers were delicious!  This reheats wonderfully.

2017: Goals and getting started

For better or for worse, 2017 is upon us.  I have never liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions, and refuse to make them.  However, I do find the beginning of a new year to be an excellent time to reflect on the previous year, and use that information to formulate a plan of attack for the upcoming one.

Things I didn’t do enough of in 2016:

  • Being kind to myself
  • Training consistently
  • Stretching and strength training
  • Eating in a way that is satisfying, and still provides quality fuel for my body
  • Saving for future plans
  • Exploring beautiful nearby places in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona through hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing, etc.
  • Cooking actual MEALS
  • Reading for pleasure/personal growth

Things I did too much of in 2016:

  • Eating too much, and/or eating junk (not junk food, per se, but definitely not eating healthily)
  • Getting down on myself when things didn’t go as planned
  • Spending money on things I didn’t NEED
  • Stressing about things I don’t need to stress about
  • Wasting time

I would like to improve upon each of these in the upcoming year, but trying to do everything at once never works out well.  It’s a rare person who can overhaul every single thing all at once and stick with it, so instead, I’m going with baby steps – one week at a time.  This week, my focus was meal planning and cooking meals for my family, and only spending money on “needs” and not “wants.”  The meal planning and dinners went over wonderfully, and every single thing I made was voted to be a “definitely make again” recipe, and will be going into the “tried and true” family recipe binder.

The meal plan for this week:

Every single one of these was delicious.  I would highly recommend them all.

The other thing I was working on this week was getting back into the habit of tracking all my spending.  I used to be meticulous about this, but I’ve let it slide over the last couple years, and I want to get my good habits back.  Especially since we have some pretty big plans for the future that will require careful saving and planning.  So I got the old excel budget tracker file out (I am a HUGE excel nerd) and dusted it off, and have been logging all my expenses for the week.  This helps so much when it comes to curbing my spending, because I actually see it laid out in front of me, instead of just being some nebulous thing out there that I don’t really have quantified.  I’ve also put my credit card away, so I can’t spend money I don’t have.  It’s still available in case of emergencies, but it’s not the first thing I reach for anymore.  And finally, I set up an automatic $5 daily transfer to my savings.  It’s $5 per day, which isn’t really noticeable by the day, or week.  But it adds up quickly.  That’s an extra $150/month to my savings, and $1,825 per year.  And once I’m done with school and am back to having a normal income (grad student incomes are notoriously low – often close to minimum wage when you break it down by hour), I can always increase that.

As far as running-related financial things go, I made my peace with only having one (totally awesome) race for this year – the Colorado 200 Mile Endurance Run – 50 mile solo race.  I’m really hoping to do the full 200 in 2018, but for 2017, the 50 miler was the perfect option for me.  It’s beautiful, challenging, incredibly well run, and full of awesome people.  Plus then I get to volunteer at aid stations for the rest of the week and help out all the fantastic runners that I got to share trails with for the first 50 miles.  There were many other races that I wanted to have on my calendar as well.  But financially, I really needed to pick one favorite and just go with that.  And the CO 200 was an easy choice since I loved it so much last year.

One other thing I’ve been doing a lot more of lately is reading for pleasure.  As a Ph.D. student, it’s so easy to find yourself only ever reading technical journal articles.  I have always been an avid reader, and missed reading things just because I wanted to.  So I tracked down a bunch of interesting and inspiring-looking books, and have been working my way through the stack of them one (or two) at a time.  There have already been a few that I’ve enjoyed and found extremely helpful:

I found those first two (The Power of Habit and The Slight Edge) particularly interesting and useful.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention:

I got that book for my best friend who is an incredible person, but often doubts herself.  It took her a while to actually pick it up and read it, but once she did, the absolutely loves it and now tells everyone else to read it.  So it comes with a glowing recommendation from her.

Now that this first week is nearly done, it’s time to look ahead to plans for the coming week.  I won’t add much, because that’s when things break down and fall apart.  So instead, my focus for week 2 is to continue with the habits that I have been establishing this week, and add in a short run each day (30 minutes/3 miles), and tracking my food intake.

I should also mention the app that I found this week for habit tracking – Strides.  It’s been excellent!  Definitely worth checking out if you’re trying to create new habits (also read that Power of Habit book!).