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You Win Some, You Lose Some

Sadly, the Western States lottery gods did not smile upon me.

Truth be told, I couldn't feel too let down. It was my first time applying and I know so many people who have been trying to get in for years. I didn't really want it as much as they did. And I was so totally thrilled that my friend Robin got in, it honestly overshadowed my own fleeting disappointment.

I contemplated signing up for the Miwok 100k lottery. My friend Tracy had run it in 2014 and raved about the beautiful course. I was sold. With Western States out of the picture, I made my decision and registered. Hubz thought this was such a great idea that he applied too.

I knew getting into Miwok was also a long shot. I debated mailing in a registration for Laurel Highlands 70 miler just in case. But I held off.

On Friday, I got the good news - both Hubz and I got into Miwok 100k!

A view from the Miwok course

The course description reads: Very hilly (approximately 11,800 feet of cumulative elevation gain) with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais, Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Now, we've got to get serious about our training. Four months is not that far away, and we've got some climbing in our future. 

Miwok 100k course profile

Mountains of Virginia, I'll be seeing a lot of you this winter!

So You're Saying There's A Chance!

For the first time ever, I applied to The Western States® 100 Endurance Race

I had a qualifier with my Vermont 100 finish, so I figured why not throw my name in the hat? 

This is by far the most expensive race I've ever entered. Should I be lucky enough to be chosen, my credit card will immediately be charged $393.42.

WS 2015 total tickets

Since it's my first year in the lottery, my odds are 1 in 6601.

That's a 4.7%
chance I'll get in.

Hubz is wildly excited about the possibility of me running Western States and says he has a good feeling about it.

Meanwhile, I'll be busy trying not to freak out.

If you've also applied, check out this post on 10 ways to distract yourself from lotteries!

Check back on Monday to find out if I got in, or watch it yourself.

The 2015 Lottery will be held December 6, 2014, 8:30 am PST.

Live results will be posted at ultralive.net

Live Video Feed at ultrasportslive.tv

Good luck to all my friends!

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Adventures in Hiking and Snowshoeing

Fall is the perfect time to slow down and relish things more fully.

I make it a habit to hike and snowshoe as much as I can. It's a winding down of the running season.  It's a nice change of pace (literally).

Pass Mountain trail in Shenandoah National Park near Sperryville, Virginia

The Appalachian Trail near Linden, Virginia

Nicholson Hollow Trail in Shenandoah National Park

Stream crossing on Nicholson Hollow Trail in Shenandoah National Park

A fortuitous early snowstorm led to a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to Whitegrass

Any adventure is more fun when shared with good friends

View of the pipeline and Weiss Knob

We weren't the only ones out enjoying the snow

Relaxing at Mountain State Brewery, a bar with an open fireplace and outstanding beer.

Great Pumpkin Ride + Coffeeneuring

My Precious Surly LHT and me in my tutu

I've been looking forward to the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton ever since Rootchopper and I rode a metric century there in August.

It was a chilly, sunny morning, perfect for a coffeeneuring ride. Every fall, I look forward to Mary G (@coffeeneur)'s wonderful coffee-fetching-by-bicycle challenge. I had been planning to visit Red Truck Bakery since I read Rootchopper's account of it last year.

I talked my friend Boots (@bootsni), a fellow ultrarunner and bicycle enthusiast into coming along. She's always excellent company, and a strong athlete who is up for anything. I knew we would have a fun day no matter what transpired.

Boots and I had arrived early (in fact, I was the first to arrive at the parking lot. This is unprecendented). We gave ourselves plenty of time to linger over a hot caffeinated beverage.

I had mapped out a route designed to get at least two miles of riding, but my sense of direction handicap got us a little extra. Already the laughs were plentiful and we hadn't even started the official ride.

Coffeeneuring #2: Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, VA

Coffeeneuring #2: Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, VA
A few of the many offerings at Red Truck Bakery
Destination: Red Truck Bakery
22 Waterloo St, Warrenton, VA 

Date: Oct 25 

Distance: 2.4 miles

Drink: half-caf drip for me, full caf for Boots 

Bike Friendly? No real parking, but there was space to lean your bike against the wall. 

Notes: The renowned orange and cranberry muffin did not disappoint!

Our bellies full of hot coffee and delicious baked goods, we meandered back to the parking lot and found John (@Rootchopper) and Lisa (@ramblingrider). They were only planning on riding the 43 mile ride, though, so we took off as it was past time for the longer riders to start. 

We promptly missed the turn for the 70 mile ride and when we realized that, we quickly accepted that fate had dictated a shorter route.

The first refreshment stop was at Old Bust Head Brewery about 10 miles into the ride. They had samples of two of their fine beers for us. I am signing up for this ride every year.

Delicious beer samples at Bust Head Brewery

They also had a spread of food you would not believe. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin whoopie pies. Pumpkin soup. Bananas. Granola bars. Candy.

They even had a few GLUTEN-FREE options! How great is that? While I have the luxury of indulging on occasion without too serious repercussions, it's wonderful to have choices for those who can't (or are doing a clean eating challenge). Kudos to the Fauquier Trails Coalition for this and everything else they did to make this a truly wonderful ride. 

The weather gods smiled down on us and suddenly we had a glorious warm fall day. The foliage was hit or miss along the route but when the colorful leaves were framed against the cobalt blue of the sky, it was stunning. What a fantastic day to be out riding in the Virginia countryside!

I particularly enjoyed this ride because the vibe was friendly. No one seemed enraged to have to pass us in their cars, and the police were at intersections directing traffic just as they would be during a running event. When I thanked them for their help, they smiled.

This was in stark contrast to the Back Roads Century where the police made it clear from the start that you were on your own at high speed crossings, they were only there to issue tickets to those didn't come to a complete stop. Fair enough, but did that require scowling too? Perhaps that ride field is just too large. Or maybe they need to figure out a way to provide a greater economic boost to the community so the inconvenience is worth it.

A particularly lovely wooded stretch
Those thoughts were soon forgotten in the warm sunshine. Crisp leaves fell steadily into the thick carpet of the woods and crunched under my wheel. It was a captivating, delicious music to my ears.

Boots got a ton of compliments on her awesome lobster hat.
The theme of our ride was "Soaking up Vitamin D" and it was apt. If you didn't know, Vitamin D deficiency in our age of sunscreen is widespread and has serious effects on health and well-being. Getting some exposure to sunshine provides an incredible amount of benefits.

Boots and I soaking up Vitamin D
As the ride came to an end, my right knee was getting tender on the inside. I was glad to be done and my stomach demanded we go straight to Molly's Irish Pub for a beer and hot food. The beer was delicious and it went straight to my head. The burger hit the spot. Later, we joined John, Lisa, Reba and her husband Robert at their table and chatted until it was time to head home. 

A good time was had by all. See you there next year!

Freedom's Run Marathon

I signed up for Freedom's Run Marathon last year after hearing about the beautiful course from my friend Kris. The other appealing fact is that it's a small field. After running ultras on trail for so long, crowded races make me cranky.

When the government shut down and the race had to change the course to omit the C&O Canal and Antietam Battlefield, I took the deferral option. I forgot all about it and agreed to crew a friend at Grindstone 100. Oops. Well, I wasn't going to back out of a commitment. Besides, I hadn't done much running since Vermont 100 in July. It was probably for the best.

Posing near the end of the C&O Canal section
Proudly wearing my Punk Rock Racing
shirt on the C&O Canal

And then my friend pulled out of the race due to an injury. I figured I'd just slog through the marathon since I'd paid for it, and simply enjoy the scenery. After all, I had run 100 miles in July, and a half marathon in September. Surely that would suffice for training?

I started off with Mary of @coffeeneur fame and a bonafide bad ass runner to boot. She also claimed that she had not trained for this run, and I figured since she had biked 60 miles to Harpers Ferry the day before, I could take it easy and keep with her. But she was soon disappearing into the cool morning, running her own race. That woman is STRONG!

The course was as lovely and scenic as promised, though by the end of the ten miles on the C&O Canal I was ready for a break. It's a wonderful place to run, but I got too much of a good thing when I trained on it almost exclusively for my first two marathons.

Despite my eagerness to be done with the C&O Canal, the end of my time there also meant the end of the flat, runnable surface. Now there were hills. Relentless, steep hills. I bet a lot of marathon PR dreams die right about here. 

Antietam Battlefield was a moving place to run through. The hills and a gusty headwind gave me plenty of time to contemplate the suffering of those who fought here.

The course then finished with about 4 miles on the road. Typical road, and boy was I ready to be done. I kept moving steadily and finally saw Hubz, Ed and Mary waiting along the finish route. Into the stadium, and finally, across the line.

Mary nears the finish
Mary running strong into Shepherd University

I collected my very rad ceramic finishers medal and then we migrated to the party at The Bavarian Inn. This was the perfect end to the day. Mary and I received a complimentary pint glass as finishers plus a beer to fill it, and we toasted in the warm sunshine while taking in the stunning view. There was Bavarian food available for purchase as well.

I'll be back, Freedom's Run Marathon, and I'll stay at the Bavarian Inn next time! And someday, I'll ride my bicycle out there the day before. But I'll probably spectate that year.

Love the unique finisher's medal!

100 Miles on A Bicycle

I'm ridiculously far behind on this blog, but it has been for good reason, people!

I finally rode my first century. Based on my conversations with friends I am apparently the last person to do this.

Kirstin in Pursuit
Enjoying the cool morning. Photo by Rootchopper.

Once again my friend John (Rootchopper) joined the fun. Having him along always makes me feel more confident. Why I don't know, I should know by now this means I'm going to get dropped over and over again by a guy on small-wheeled bicycle. Oh, my bruised ego!

Little Nellie, Weathered Church
The tiny-wheeled Bike Friday, AKA Little Nellie. Photo by Rootchopper.

The morning dawned cool on the last day of summer. Later on it turned into a truly summer-like day. I didn't mind a bit, even when the sun beat down in the afternoon. The course is pretty and bucolic and we pedaled along blissfully, drinking in the splendor surrounding us.

Photo Sep 23, 9 33 51 AM
Scenic view from the southern end of the course (I took this in 2012. Too busy pedaling to take any this year!)

I had good energy all day on my ride fueling with Epic bars, RXbars, sweet potato baby food pouches and Chapul cricket bars. At the 50 mile mark I was able to make a quick stop by my car to eat real food (meat, veggies and fat) which was probably crucial.

The rest stops were well-stocked, and I want to express my sincere gratitude to the sweet, thoughtful volunteers. The ice they provided kept me from overheating. I didn't eat anything because there are really a dearth of options that are gluten-free. I'm fortunate that I only do so by choice, and I'm happy to bring my own fuel. Just a little food for thought. (See what I did there?)

Photo Sep 23, 10 46 50 AM
Another 2012 shot.

The last quarter of the course is hillier than the rest, with one really long steep climb. What is it with these long road rides always ending with an uphill?

It was worth it though for the screaming, cooling downhill that preceded it. Steep descent and gravel ahead? Ride with caution? Oh, hell no.

Backroads Century
The descent and climb around mile 87.

Rootchopper's report of our ride is here.

Endurance road biking is wonderful. I love how far one can go and the different scenery to be taken in compared to a run.

I'm really looking forward to the Great Pumpkin Ride on October 25. Having ridden most of the course in August during my accidental metric century I'm eager to see the course in all its autumn colors. 

In conclusion, having run 100 miles  and biked 100 miles this year, I guess my next goal is to swim 100 miles. Should be doable, right?

Merrell All Out Rush and All Out Fuse Review and Giveaway!

A few months ago, the folks at Merrell were nice enough to send me two pairs of shoes to test, the All Out Rush and the All Out Fuse. 

Merrell has generously given me two pairs to give away to you, dear readers. 

If you'd like a pair, leave a comment below on which shoes you'd like to win and why. You may also Tweet or Facebook about this giveaway for another chance to win. Let me know you did so in your comment and be sure to mention @MerrellOutside in your Tweet or Facebook post.

Using RandomPicker, I'll choose two winners by the end of the day Thursday, September 25.

THE WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN! Congratulations to Elizabeth Cleary and Shelly Cable! Send your contact info and I'll have Merrell send you the pair of your choice!

Thank you, Merrell. I have really enjoyed running in both pairs of these shoes. Below is my review.

Merrell All Out Fuse

The All Out Fuse
I basically live in the minimalist-leaning All Out Fuse. 

They are very lightweight (just 13 oz - that's for the pair). They fit like a glove and they're what I want to run in on all my short to mid-length runs on pavement or dirt trails.

When I have worn them on rocky trails, they aren't so minimalist that this is a deal-breaker. I simply wouldn't choose them for exceedingly rocky trails like the Massanuttens or the Appalachian Trail in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

These shoes are fantastically responsive and light. They have surprisingly good toe protection and a tread that really grips. The more I run in these shoes, the more I fall in love with them.

Merrell All Out Fuse
Merrell All Out Fuse

Another bonus: I get frequent compliments on the All Out Fuse when I wear them with casual clothing.

The All Out Rush
These babies are noticeably more rugged than the All Out Fuse. This is the shoe for my rockier runs. 

The All Out Rush performed equally well on the super-technical, rock-laden Appalachian Trail and the hard-packed jeep roads and soft dirt trails of the Vermont 100 miler. They loved the trails of Rock Creek Park in DC as well as the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia. I can take these shoes anywhere and know I'll be running happy.

Merrell AllOut Rush
Merrell All Out Rush after a trail run in West Virginia
Once I had them on my feet I mostly forgot I had them on. That's the true test that a shoe is working well for me. They simply performed solidly.

The feel of the slightly low cut around the ankle took a little bit of getting accustomed to at first, but in the end I really liked that feature. Anytime I can find another couple of degrees of freedom, I'm excited about that!

They're lightweight and nimble at just over 14 oz for the pair. They run a little wide, I think; I have a narrow foot and noticed that the toe box puckers a little when I tie them. The rigid sole provides more than ample protection while still allowing me to feel connected to the trail beneath me.

The traction is top notch. Though I have not yet had the chance to run in wintry conditions, they handled everything else Spring and Summer threw at me with aplomb; grass, mud, dirt, big rocks, sharp rocks, wet rocks, gravel.

Jo and I took one short sitting break at Jenne Farm, mile 45.
Merrell All Out Rush at the Vermont 100 Miler 

These were both excellent shoes for trail running and I've already bought a second pair of the All Out Rush. I plan to buy another pair of the All Out Fuse after a few more miles, too. 

Don't forget to leave a comment to be eligible to win a pair for yourself!

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Trails in George Washington Forest

far end of Rockcliff Lake
Scene from Rockcliff Lake Trail, early September

I'm dipping my toe into the waters of race directing this Fall, bringing back an excellent 50K that has been on hiatus for the past few years. I'm not going it alone, thankfully, I have a veritable team of co-RDs standing behind me.

I've been lucky enough to visit the course three times over the summer. Each trip gave me the opportunity to observe the subtle changes in the forest and to appreciate the beauty of these trails.

Rays of sunshine
Chimney Rock Trail in early September

Long Mountain Trail, early September

It's frequently misty and cool here. Magical.
Misty Day on the Bucktail Cutoff Trail, late June

Pond Run Trail
Pond Run Trail in late June

Approaching The Big Schloss on Mill Mountain Trail.
Mill Mountain Trail, late June

View from the Big Schloss
View from The Big Schloss, late June

Overlook atop Tibbet Knob
Misty Morning on Tibbet Knob, late August

Tibbet Knob Trail, late August

Indian Head 46 Mile Ride

With the Vermont 100 Endurance Race done, I'm training for my first brevet. 

A brevet is just like an ultramarathon, only on a bicycle. Also, everything is pronounced with a French accent. Bruh-vay. Once I complete a brevet, I will be a Randonneur. Rahn-dough-nur.

I've set my sights on the Flatbread 200K based largely on its lack of mountain climbs. A 200K brevet has a time limit of 13 1/2 hours. I hope to finish a bit faster than that.

Just like ultrarunning, it's a lot more fun to train with friends. So I twisted Rootchopper's arm to get him to accompany me again. 

Selfie in the Morning Sunshine

This time we signed up for an organized ride, where it works out just fine to blindly follow color-coded arrows on the road. The Indian Head Century was held on another spectacular late summer day with low humidity and mild temperatures. Oh Summer, never leave.

We spotted @MrTinDC (Ted) of Friday Coffee Club who was nursing an inflamed elbow but determined to completed the full century nonetheless. Rootchopper and I were taking it slightly easier, he with his big weekly commute mileage and the 50 States Ride coming up and me with a house that desperately needed tidying before my Mother-in-Law arrived for dinner.

Me, Ted, John representing Friday Coffee Club!

Off we rode into the cool morning, starting off with a nice downhill grade. We chatted as we rolled through Charles County, a place time seems to have forgotten, at least since the 1970s. 

There were no McMansions here (yet), just small, older houses and an occasional trailer home, all with several late-model American automobiles parked outside. There were even some old houses covered in that awful multicolored Insulbrick stuff.

Off to a lovely start.

Cheery yellow wildflowers lined the road. The insects weren't as vocal as last week, just a few crickets half-heartedly chirping from the grass. Fall is coming.

Rootchopper was feeling pretty good on the hills, but my legs were feeling my mountain run from the day before. I still can't quite keep up with him but he always soft-pedals and lets me catch up again. 

The rest stops were well-stocked. The first one had fresh-off-the-grill eggs, ham, cheese on an English muffin! I was able to get a standalone egg but they sure looked good with all the fixins.

Egg muffin with cheese and salsa!

Little Nellie and Surly LHT.We briefly discussed opting for the 60 mile ride, but a rare sense of responsibility kicked in and we dutifully executed the 46-mile turn. We regretted it the rest of the way.

The big highlight of the day was the loud call and clear sight of a Pileated Woodpecker as we rode right past. What a magnificent bird!

I also rescued a turtle who was right in the path of cyclists on the bike path. His shell was shut tight so he might have gotten thumped before my arrival. Nothing looked broken so I set him down in the grass and we were on our merry way.

Traumatized turtle I rescued from the bike path.

Lovely marsh.

We also passed a nice marsh in the final miles. It's definitely the kind of place you could easily spend an hour or more taking in the scene.

Indian Head

Much too soon, we arrived at the finish, with 45 miles in the bag. We enjoyed a little post-ride food and then we headed back to reality. 

All in all it was a really good day on the bicycle. I'll be back next year to ride more miles in Charles County.

A Fortuitous Metric Century

Longhorn cattle. Apparently they're shy.
Rootchopper and Little Nellie with Longhorn cattle

I've been meaning to go on a long bike ride with my friend Rootchopper for ages.

I had met Rootchopper (whose real name is rumored to be John) at Friday Coffee Club a couple of years prior. Besides riding some serious miles just by commuting to work by bicycle, he posts photos and blogs about weekend rides in lovely places. He tells some pretty amusing stories and is good conversation. I was really looking forward to riding with him.

I said I'd love to do about 50 miles, and he had offered up a 43-mile route he'd done at The Great Pumpkin Ride last fall. Close enough. I could always do a few more miles on my own if I felt like it afterward. I figured that would be pretty unlikely.

At the start of the bike path in Warrenton
Obligatory selfie at the start

The weather couldn't have been better. In keeping with our unusually cool August this year, we had low humidity and pleasant temperatures. Though the sun made a few brief appearances, we were happy for the cloud cover.

The ride began with a lovely downhill grade on the Warrenton bike path. Then we popped out onto a two-lane country road. Confession: I had never done a road ride outside of the DC area that wasn't a part of an official event. While I am perfectly comfortable riding in the craziest DC traffic, I was a little tentative about riding country roads with their curves, hills and absence of any real shoulder. But there was no time to dwell on it.  We were well-lit, had ample reflectors and once we were pedaling through the serene countryside, my trepidations were mostly forgotten.

Rootchopper had kindly printed me out a map of our route which I promptly tucked away and lazily allowed him to navigate. The turns all followed yellow arrows which were still plainly marked on the pavement. How easy was this? 

We rolled pleasantly along through verdant woods and past open fields. There were cows and tractors and hay bales and even a tiny dog at one farmhouse who gave chase. I don't think he could have reached my pedal.

Riding through some lovely woods
Through the woods

Past green fields
The "Welcome to Stafford County" sign was our first clue that we might be a little off course. Right at 50k into our ride, we stopped to check the map against our smart phones. 

By "we" I mean I sucked down some Whole30-compliant beet and sweet potato baby food while he did all the work.

Hmm, I don't remember this ride going into Stafford County ...
I don't see this road on our map.
Turns out we were more than a little off course. I was kind of excited that we'd be getting a few more miles out of this picture perfect day.

On we pedaled to rejoin our planned route. We stopped at a couple of country corner stores. I haven't seen stores with that little on offer in awhile. They had cold water, soda and iced tea, baked beans and other canned goods, a few bags of chips and some local fruit. That was about it. 

@ultrarunnergirl at a food stop
Me and My Precious at Grove's Store in Somerville. Photo by Rootchopper.

As we were about to ride away, a young couple emerged from the store. The woman stammered, "Excuse me - this road, can I ask you -- this road --"

She seemed unable to get it out, so I interjected,

"Just so you know, we don't live around here, so we probably won't be any help, but go on."

"I mean, this road, we saw some other people on bicycles earlier. Well, it was another road. But no, it was you! I mean, is it safe to ride here? I'm, you're just, I'm so INSPIRED that you're out here riding your bikes in this beautiful place. I really am!"

The guy never said a word.

Once we recovered from all that, Rootchopper assured her it was quite safe.


We continued our ride, and the hills started to show up a little longer and more frequently than in the first half of our ride.  But the scenery was so lovely, I could hardly hold a grudge. I had to employ the crazy low granny gear on my Surly Long Haul Trucker at least five times.

  Soy. The GMOs, they are everywhere.

Thankfully, Rootchopper proved to be a true friend because every time I fell off the back, he let me catch up again.

Mid-ride selfie.
Bike Selfie. I might be getting a bit loopy at this point.
He had warned me at the beginning that the last section would be uphill. We joked about how marathon spectators always tell you lies like "it's all downhill from here" and "you're almost there."   

Metric Century Elevation
Yep, it felt totally like this in the final miles.

I was thrilled to see the bike path once again, and also to see 64 miles on my watch as we pulled up at my car. My first metric century!

Thanks, John. That was a fantastic ride, and the company was top notch. Let's do it again soon.

See Rootchopper's Ride Report and Photos.

Metric Century Route
Our route.