I love feedback. Leave a comment below!

Project Reverb: 30 Days


30 Days:  They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit.  What did you start?  What did you quit? 

I started eating Paleo. Specifically, no junk, no sweets Paleo, also known as The Whole 30

I read the book It Starts With Food. I acknowledged the fact that I had been unable to moderate my sugar intake. 

I took the plunge. What's 30 days out of my life? What did I have to lose?

It was eye-opening, fascinating and honestly? It wasn't that hard. 

I never went hungry. 

I had never felt this good, in so many ways.

This habit stuck.

Project Reverb: Inspiration


What inspired you this year? How do you think this inspiration will impact the year to come? 

Pacing Katie K on her third loop of The Wild Oak Trail 100 inspired me. Suddenly, my mind was intrigued with the possibility of doing a truly challenging ultra, maybe even another 100 miler.

I think I'm ready to tackle a hundred in 2014. Look out Vermont!

Diagnosis: Insanity!
At mile 89 of the 2006 Vermont 100 with Bob Gaylord.

Project Reverb: Brave

Brave: What was the bravest thing you did in 2013?

The bravest thing I did this year was toeing the line of the Laurel Highlands 70 Miler. I didn't think I would be able to finish, having struggled all Spring with my race nutrition and resulting cramping. 

Starting a race might not sound all that brave, but another failure would have crushed my running heart. There was a lot riding on this race.

LH70 2013 start TEAM GAYLORD
Thank goodness for friends! They make it easier to be brave.

AG Win at Ridge Runners Turkey Trot 10K

11-18-2013 Turkey Trot Cotton Mill
Misty, damp, perfectly cool race morning. 
All photos except the selfie by
Marco Demartin.

I was too slow getting my coffee on Sunday morning to make the trail run I'd intended to do. So I decided to tag along with Hubz and run the neighborhood Turkey Trot 10K instead.

We showed up, paid our money and pinned on our numbers. I love that races still exist where you can sign up an hour before the start.

The place was hopping. Upbeat music blared and a good sized crowd had gathered. Hubz caught up with many of his old road running buddies, and the ThuGs (Thursday Gold's Gym group) were out in force.

ThuGs selfie
ThuG selfie, pre-race

Ed Walsh and Dave Woll showed up after running Stone Mill 50 Miler the day before. Ed and his wife Sandy were there to cheer and Dave was crazy enough to run. It was officially a party!

I had chosen my Salomon Sense Mantras for this race. They're not a 'minimalist' shoe but they're pretty lightweight at 9.2 ounces. I really like the feel. They have a 6mm heel-toe drop that strikes exactly the right balance for me whether I'm running on pavement or on trails. 

I guess I need to state for the record that someone from Salomon sent me these shoes to try, free of charge. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review in the near future.

We started off near the rear (no need to elbow your way to the front when there's chip timing) and immediately began to climb a big hill. Flat and fast, this course is not. 

The ThuGs pulled away from me early and I focused on keeping them in sight. I knew I had to catch Dave or I'd never live it down.

11-18-2013 Dave
Dave, feeling yesterday's 50 Miler a little.
I focused on holding what I judged to be an honest race pace. I hadn't brought a watch so I ran solely on feel. I reeled Dave in around 2 miles, and kept chugging away. Typical of a road race, lots of runners had started off a little too fast and it was easy to spot those who were beginning to tire. Quickly, they came back to me. 

11-18-2013 Tom
Hubz, with his game face

There were lots of long, mostly gentle inclines and declines along the route and very little true flats. I concentrated on my form and hoped that I was dropping the pace as I was intending. 

I saw Hubz and he seemed to be running well. I cheered him on and kicked it up another notch, another long, gentle incline, now a shorter one, then a steeper downhill all the way into the finish, my form going all to hell on the decline as I tried in vain to catch the guy ahead of me.

11-17-2013 Ridge Runners Turkey Trot Finish Photo TC

11-17-2013 Ridge Runners Turkey Trot Finish Photo K

We jogged to our car to put on warm clothes for standing around. When we returned, Dave congratulated us on winning our age groups. Sweet! I think I've "podiumed" exactly twice before in my running career. A win? I was thrilled.

11-17-2013 Ridge Runners Turkey Trot Award Photo
I really need to run more of these small, local races. We both had a blast. Huge thanks to the Lake Ridge Runners for this fun, well-organized, challenging and low-key race.

Fall Beauty

Fall has been beautiful here on the East Coast.

The leaves seem more intensely hued this year. The weather has been perfectly behaved. And my parents came to visit!

Bill and JoAnn
On The National Mall
We spent our days eating at our favorite French restaurant, tasting excellent wines in the cozy cellar of Chateau O'Brien, perusing the Phillips Collection Museum of Modern Art (we even spotted Yoko Ono!) and ambling around the National Zoo and the World War II Memorial.

WWII Memorial and Washington Monument
Washington Monument and World War II Memorial

Reserve Cellar Tasting at Chateau O'Brien
Cellar tasting at Chateau O'Brien

Wax room
Laib Wax Room installation, The Phillips Collection

After their far-too-short visit, we headed to the mountains for a trail run in Shenandoah National Park. It did not disappoint. 

In true Fall mountain run fashion, the morning started out cold and got windier and colder. On the other side of the mountain it turned sunny and quite warm, causing us to sweat. 

Deep layers of leaves concealed but did not cushion the rocks beneath our feet. Twenty miles, six hours, several big climbs and descents, and one bunless burger (thanks to Elkwallow Wayside!) later, we were satisfied with our day.

Photo Nov 03, 8 39 10 AM
View from Overall Run Falls, Shenandoah National Park

Photo Nov 03, 8 17 57 AM
The guys amidst vivid yellows and golds

Wherever you live, I hope you are out taking in Autumn's beauty.

Another Army 10 Miler

The Army Ten Miler took place this past weekend. I don't know how I keep ending up at the starting line here, but I'm glad I do.

It was the perfect October day for a race: The sun shone, the breeze was brisk, the government had opened at long last.

Huddling in the chilly breeze at the Army 10 Miler start
Selfie: Huddling for warmth in the security line
Somehow, amongst the crowd of 35,000, Hubz and I bumped into our friends Kris and Kyle and the two Yonases.

Kris and I had each run a hilly marathon the previous weekend so we had no goals for this race. I'd run eight miles the day before and had struggled with low energy. We decided to run together and simply enjoy the day.

We started off at a leisurely pace, chatting away and working through the sluggishness in our legs. Yet we remarked on how easily we ran the small inclines on the course. Hills, they do a body good!

Running across Memorial Bridge toward the Lincoln Memorial early in the race
Running across Memorial Bridge early in the race

Near the four mile mark I ducked in the bushes to answer the call of nature, then hurried to catch up with Kris. Somehow I ran past without seeing her. Soon I caught up to Kyle. The sluggishness in my legs had dissipated. The faster pace seemed to suit me and after a mile or so Kyle sent me on my way.

My stomach had started growling just as the race began. My breakfast of a single hard-boiled egg, a slice of prosciutto and a mug of espresso with coconut milk was a little on the skimpy side considering I'd eaten it two hours before the race started.

I always forget about the waiting game at road races. I hadn't brought any gels or other fuel, since I hadn't planned to "race" this. Besides, I'm fat-adapted. My body has all the fuel it needs for a couple of hours of running, right?

I continued to pick up the pace as the miles ticked by.

Luckily, being fat-adapted really works. I had all the energy stores I needed, despite my hunger. Let's just say it's good I didn't run by some spectator holding a bunless burger. I'd have cut a bitch for one of those.

I kept running, passing the many who had begun to fade. The effort was beginning to feel harder, but there were a few more inclines, and a lot more weaving through the crowd. One of these years I am going to start in the proper corral!

Two miles from the finish I calculated my time. My PR wasn't quite within reach, but I gave it all I had. I finished strong, less than 2 minutes over my best time here. Not bad for lollygagging the first four miles and my utter lack of tapering.

ATM splits 2013

After the race Hubz and I wandered around, enjoying a little post-race barbecue, searching in vain for his buddies. We walked from the Pentagon across Memorial Bridge and into DC to avoid the metro madness. It was a beautiful, crisp Fall day and those extra miles on foot helped us work out the kinks.

I enjoyed running hard and soaking in the energy that is unique to big road races. I won't be trading my trail runs for them too often, though.

On Witnessing Greatness

This weekend I had the privilege of pacing a legend-in-the-making.

My good friend Katie did what has been done by only a few other mortals: She finished the rugged 108 mile, four loop, 32,000 feet of climb TWOT 100.

To put that in perspective, that's more climbing than any of the 100 milers that comprise the Grand Slam. Hard Rock 100 has just slightly more climbing -- 33,000 feet.

KK's Grand Slam elevation profiles
Elevation charts by Keith Knipling


Steady, strong, upbeat, relaxed, consistent, happy, focused. She was all of these. She never wavered in her resolve and she never faltered, though she did have a few choice words for Hankey Mountain as she began climbing it for the third time.

As we marched around that rocky, punishing course, I was struck anew by the beauty of this trail. The hours of blackness in the night, steady drizzle, fogged-in views, blood-drawing briars, ethereal mist, stunning fall colors against dark, rain-soaked trees ... I felt truly alive and ever-so-grateful to be out there.

And was I ever-so-grateful that I only had to complete one loop!

Katie Keier, it was an honor to share in your momentous accomplishment! I haven’t been this inspired, or felt this full of possibilities in a long time. My heart thanks you from its depths.

As for my quads, they have a few choice words for those long descents ...

Great Allegheny Passage Ride

Surly LHT on The Great Allegheny Passage Trail

One of my favorite places to visit is the Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

I am lucky to have friends who live nearby. I try to make the most of my visits, though it is never an easy choice: Run the Laurel Highlands trail? Kayak the Middle Yough? Bike on the Great Allegheny Passage?

This past weekend Hubz and I chose the GAP trail for a fall bike ride. We were rewarded with falling leaves, a bit of changing foliage and perfect temperatures. 

We passed several cyclists with loaded panniers. I wonder if they were riding the entire trail?

Despite having explored only a few miles of this trail, we are deeply enamored with its scenic beauty, smooth 'packed crushed limestone' surface and easy-as-pie average 1% grade.

The foliage has already begun to turn up here in southwestern PennsylvaniaOne of my favorite spots between Ohiopyle and Confluence on the GAP

The trail narrows near Confluence.We always make a point of stopping to refuel and refresh ourselves at the sun-kissed deck of The Lucky Dog Cafe. There's something for everyone here whether you're vegetarian, Paleo or just want a cold beer. They even have grass-fed burgers!

Our favorite stop along the Great Allegheny Passage. Grass-fed burgers!

Bridge over Casselman River

We had a wonderful day on our bicycles, and rode just shy of 40 miles. 

One day I'd like to complete the entire route, either in sections or on a multi-day trip. 

Rumor has it my friend Lisa is riding the GAP and the C&O for a total of 334.5 miles. I am envious of her adventure!

Weekend Bike Rides: Nats + 50 States Ride

Photo by gypsybug

Fall weather seems to get us on our bicycles more often.

Friday night, I took Hubz on a "Secret Date" to see the Washington Nationals game. As is our custom, we rode our bikes there. The Nats caught fire in the sixth inning and kept hammering to an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins. What an exciting game!

The ride home is always glorious. We were stoked about the Nats win, and about avoiding the crowded metro. There's just something exhilarating about summer night bike rides, whizzing through the streets that look a little different under the cover of darkness.

The following morning, we hopped on our bikes again. Destination: The 50 States Ride

Deciding on this ride was a tough choice, because it meant we couldn't ride the Back Roads Century the next day (we are not as hard core as some). We really enjoyed this lovely ride last year, where we rode the 50 mile option in the interest of keeping it fun. We had planned to return for the full century this Fall. 

In the end I chose the 50 States Ride since we hadn't done it before. 

Bonus: We didn't have to get up early since the start was less than a mile away! As soon as we arrived we recognized several friends from both our biking and running circles. 

50 States Ride
Friday Coffee Club Tweeps! @Ramblingrider @Bicyclebug @JDAntos & @Rootchopper

50 States Ride
Our running buddy, Gray, was a ride marshall
The day was cool, but a bit humid. The sun couldn't make up its mind. There was an occasional breeze, and the threat of rain lurked.

Ed and Mary, whom I often refer to as 'The Ultrarunners of Bicycling' had invited us to ride a few miles with them. The two of them (and Twitter) are the reason I am a part of the #bikeDC community. They had the brilliant idea to start #FridayCoffeeClub and that's where I met and got to know so many cool kids on bikes.

Kirstin, Lisa & MG
Photo by Felkerino

We had a great time riding with them for stretches (then watching them pull away on the many hills), detouring for an illicit coffee stop early in the day, and chatting at all the rest stops.

50 States Ride
Mary, Hubz, Lane and Ed at Chinatown Coffee

We also rode many miles with Kevin, Dave S., Justin, Lane, and most of all Lisa* and John** during the ride. There were some hills on this course where I inevitably fell behind everyone, but someone always made sure we weren't too far behind. It was a real pleasure getting to ride with all of these #bikedc friends whom I've gotten to know over many Friday Coffee Clubs.

50 States Ride
Mary, Lisa, Ed and half of me
The ride itself involved a lot of stoplights and hills, and large groups of cyclists early in the day. Skipping the southwest quadrant section to get coffee with Mary*** and Ed allowed the crowds to thin and made for a more pleasant experience. 

50 States Ride Elevation
The hills on our version of the 50 States Ride

The 50 States Ride was very different from a scenic century in the countryside, but we have a great affinity for city rides. It was in the midst of a bike date in the city that I first realized I was in love with Hubz.

While keeping my pedals cranking and checking my cue sheet hindered my ability to leisurely gaze at things around me, it was a treat riding in parts of the city I hadn't seen on a bicycle.

The rain began to fall about the time we hit Rock Creek Park. It relented, but as we reached Wisconsin it began again in earnest. Since we weren't far from home, we decided to call it a day. We logged 53 miles, our longest ride ever. We are proud of that!

Hats off to WABA and the many volunteers who made this stellar event happen.

Our weekend of biking got us excited to do more, especially knowing that The Coffeeneuring Challenge is just around the corner

*Read Lisa's excellent 50 States ride report here.
**Rootchopper's double (he rode 50 States AND Back Roads) starts here
***Mary's account of the day is here.

Women's Half Marathon Trail Race

This past Saturday I ran my tenth Women's Trail Half Marathon. 

I took a big step back in my mileage after Laurel Highlands, to give my legs and spirit a break. I spent time in my garden, vacationing and seeing family. Though I wasn't putting in a lot of miles, I did add hill work and intervals and felt I had gotten stronger. 

I hadn't raced anything short in quite awhile, and I had no idea how my legs would perform on this hilly course at a fast pace. Lately, my runs had been lackluster. I felt like I was due for a good race. 

I freakin' love this race!

I have serious home course advantage on these trails. I know every root, rock and hill on the course. I'm a decent technical trail runner, with little fear of face-planting on even the biggest downhills.

I know that the first mile on the road must be run at death sprint pace to avoid getting bottlenecked on the trail.

I know that the Do Loop hills must be respected, lest one emerge depleted with half the race yet to run.  

9-18-2013 WHM Elevation
Many, many hills

After a good warmup in the chilly morning air with Sara, Cherry and Meg, we lined up near the front. We started at a brisk pace, though it seemed slower than in past years. After working hard the first hilly road mile, we reached the trail in great position.

I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't out of breath and my heart rate was right where I wanted it to be. My speedwork and hill training had paid off!

All the same, I backed off the pace and let my friends pull ahead. Quite a few women passed me. I didn't want to push too hard too soon. I hoped I'd be reeling many of them in later in the race. 

I marched up the hills while others ran them. I used my downhill and technical trail skills to close the gap time and time again. I picked up the pace on the runnable sections. I kept my breathing controlled.
I felt strong coming out of the Do Loop and I began to pass runners who were starting to show signs of tiring, despite being less than halfway in the race. Those Do Loop hills are killer.

Usually, I reach Fountainhead (mile 8) with my mind and body protesting loudly. This year, I was ready to kick it up a notch. I began overtaking runners one at a time.

All too soon the lovely long downhill was over as I reached the turnaround. I was able to see that Jen, Katie, Cherry and Sara all had pretty good leads on me. Could I catch them?

Two and a half miles to go, with a long uphill to start it off. I was pushing now, feeling strong, not fatigued as I usually do at this point.

Game Face!
My Game Face.

When I hit the next mile marker with two miles to go, I knew I needed to make this hurt.

I cruised along the trails, faster and faster. My legs had found their rhythm, and they seemed to still have more to give.

I flew down the last big hill, passing three more runners. At the top of the final switchback, I poured it on. A few more women came back to me. There was still no sight of my friends, and then I burst out of the woods into the open field and the finish line.

Though I didn't beat my PR here, I did run my second fastest time. Unusually cool weather made this a great day to test my mettle. I felt good about my race plan execution. I was happy with my day and for my speedy friends

Next year ladies, as Bob says, watch your back! I'll be hot on your heels!

All photos courtesy of the inimitable Aaron Schwartzbard

Virginia Tannat Tour

Vines at Chateau O'Brien

I closed out the final days of August tasting wine with my cousins. We were blessed with mild temperatures and low humidity, a rarity in Virginia.

My cousin Pamela's husband, Laurent, hails from a little French town where they grow the Tannat grape. When we visited them in Paris last summer, we promised him a Virginia Tannat tasting tour.

Introducing a Frenchman to Virginia wine? The pressure was on.

Our first stop was The Winery at La Grange, where Hubz and I first discovered Tannat. They have a beautiful tasting room and grounds, and wide range of wines to taste. My favorites were the Viognier, Cabernet and Tannat.

Linden Vineyards
is probably our favorite Virginia winery. The views from their peaceful deck alone are worth the trip. Their tasting always delights, and the cellar tasting is really something special.

Julie, Kirstin and Pam on the deck at Linden Vineyards
Cousins on the deck at Linden Vineyards.

Grapes on the vine at Linden Vineyards
Grapes ripening on the vine at Linden Vineyards

Tom, Laurent, Donna, Julie and Pam at Chateau O'Brien
Hubz, Laurent, Julie's friend, cousins Julie and Pamela
The highlight of this day was the reserve cellar tasting at Chateau O'Brien. What a treat! We got to hang out with the owner, Howard, in a cool yet cozy crushed stone cellar. We tasted several wines including an impressive Tannat, partook of wonderful cheeses and other nibbles and listened to Howard talk about his wines. 

The wines were truly some of the best Virginia reds Hubz and I have tasted. I was proud to introduce my cousins to Virginia wine, and blissfully happy to have spent a wonderful day with them in the countryside.

Here's to the last days of summer. Cheers!