Accidental Overtraining

We’ve all done it, right? Gone out for a hard run. And then a long run. Longer than was appropriate… and ended up in pain.

Last weekend Bryan and I took a day-hike for his birthday. He was the birthday goober, and that’s what the birthday goober wanted to do. After all, we moved up here to be closer to the mountains, so it’s dumb not to use them.

Ain’t he cute?


Anyway, I thought to get a little downhill training prep in for the Horsetooth Half, and run down the mountain. It’s just shy of 2000’ of elevation change over maybe 4 miles. You know, quality time up with the husband, quality training down with the legs. Efficiency at its best.

No surprise I woke up sore on Sunday. All week I’d been looking forward to an 11 mile Sunday long run with the FCRC. They’re cool people, and Sundays are the one day a week I run with others. It’s a nice change for this introvert, plus we were going to meet back at the Rio Grande downtown for margaritas on the cheap. So sore legs, schmore legs. I showed up…and missed a turn in the last mile out of an out-and-back, for total mileage closer to14 than the 11 I was shooting for.


Dumb dummy moron move right there. I have a terrible sense of direction. I shouldn’t break away on a new route like that.


So today I can’t walk. Well I can, but I look like I have a stick up my ass when I do stairs. Or curbs. And flat surfaces, actually.

Case in point, I went down the hill in our backyard to see if the chickens had laid any eggs, and practically fell on my face. There were no eggs. I did some pushups after work, but stopped because it hurt my thighs. That’s right, the pushups hurt my thighs. My arms were fine.

I’ve been running for over 12 years. That’s a lot of experience, and I still do dumb sh*t. Not as often as I used to, but every once in awhile. And you know what? It’s okay. When your social life, athletic goals, and recreational pursuits are all rolled up into one, sometimes you’re gonna overdo it. When that happens you just take some ibuprofen, drink some water, have a snack, and take a nap. You’ll wake up in pain, hungry, and all out of sorts, but it’ll be ok. No harm done – even if there’s pain, it’s probably all soft-tissue. Give yourself a couple days to get your feet back under you, and you’ll be good to go again.


I promise. And I’m right there with you.


HT 1/2 Training

One and a half months until the Horsetooth Half, and the toughest 4 weeks of training up ahead. We’ve reached the training phase where it feels like I’m always tired, hungry, or both. I have less energy for fun social things than usual, or for fun introvert things like reading and painting, either. Would you believe reading takes energy? It does. I also suspended my flute lessons — I really don’t think my instructor was happy to hear about that, based mostly on the fact that he’s ghosting me. 😦

I digress.

It’s that time in training when I ask myself “why do you keep doing this?”
Would you believe it’s not because I love running? I mean, I do, but that’s not the whole of it. What I really live for is racing. I love the rush I get from passing people. I cherish new PR’s like little golden treasures. The morning beforehand is a joyful experience as well, from pinning my bib so it hangs perfectly straight on my jersey, and neurotically nursing my pre-race coffee (don’t worry, I eat breakfast too), to mentally rehearsing the most perfectly paced performance, before warming up for at least 40 minutes. And when the gun goes off?
I race.
As someone who doesn’t naturally cut loose very well, racing is gritty, exhilarating, unadulterated fun.
Now if you’re someone whose passions are more balanced than mine; if you have a rich personal/family/social life and things you value are starting to suffer from increased training,  it’s okay to cut yourself some slack! 
Not everyone feels a PR is worth the investment and sacrifice. Not everyone can commit the time and energy required. Thats fine! The most important thing is that you head into race day with some realistic expectations and the training background to meet them. Clear-sightedness is key. This is an area where having a coach can be invaluable.
Did you know that I’m a coach???
Here are some of the less-than-great side effects of peak training periods:
  • Decreased interest in or energy for cooking, right on time for increased calorie needs. I’ve been eating a ton of rice lately, mostly because it’s cheap, filling, easy to pack, quick to cook. I’ll douse it in olive oil and a bit of fish sauce, and voila, we’re good to go. My husband says it’s disgusting, but as an apathetic eater I say it’s fat, carbs, and salt, and healthier than french fries. This plus a can or two of soup and my lunch is packed for the day. Don’t worry, the soups have veggies and beans, chicken and things, so I’m not actually nutrient deficient. My husband is also an incredible cook who sneaks nutritious meals into my path on the daily. Bless him.
  • Increased sleep needs. I feel deprived on less than 10 hrs a night, which is shitty for a working woman. Either I make up for it by taking a nap at lunchtime (usually I use that time to run), or I have to bank extra sleep on the weekends. I know I’m not getting enough sleep during the week when I need two 2hr naps just to get through Saturday…
  • Resentment of the day-job. Let’s be honest, it would be so frickin’ amazing to be all about running (and coaching), all of the time. I’m just not there yet. So I make a decent chunk o’ change talking to people about their various bodily functions and malfunctions. Sometimes I give shots. And call pharmacies. And stuff.

You know what’s been an unexpected saving grace? The chickens. They’re so cute, fluffy and stupid. They mutter to each other like confused toddlers. Watching them is like watching leaves in the wind: constant movement, without discernable patterns or purpose. It makes me feel calm.

Goin’ thisaway:
Goin’ thataway
All together now!

February Update


How’ve y’all been? Sorry about the spacing in this post. The paragraph function doesn’t seem to be working. At any rate…


I’m enjoying the variable Colorado weather — 60s yesterday, 20s with snow today, and single digits tomorrow… then hopefully back to the seasonally appropriate 30s on Wednesday. The big news with us is our brand new backyard chicken flock, comprised of 4 pullets about 3 months old. They are stupid and fluffy and we adore them already. It’s all part of our master plan to have a sustainable household and enjoyable hobbies outside of work. Now that we’ve had 6 months to get used to town (and Bryan’s job has finally been relocated up here), we’re excited to start making our house a home. Garden landscaping has begun, and we’re looking forward to lots of nutrient-dense chickenshit to enrich the soil.
Just look at this goofy pile of feathers:
“But wait,” you say, “this is a running blog. Why are you nattering on about the dumb clucks in your backyard?”
Well, yes, but even the most dedicated runners need more than one dimension to their lives, if only to have something to keep sane when injured. The nice thing about chickens and plants is they don’t care if you can throw down a 5 minute mile.
As for myself, I’m also a reading fanatic. I devour 1-4 books a week (no homework is surely the best part of adulthood). I just finished Six of Crows, and its sequel Crooked Kingdom. I adore fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and romance. I have a vast tolerance for trashy novels, as well as what I fancy is a connoisseur’s appreciation for the well-written gems among them. I can usually find something enjoyable in what I read, although with Leigh Bardugo you don’t even have to try.
I’ve also started taking flute lessons. For $200 to spruce up the instrument I played through 6th grade, and an additional $120/month, my family gets the pleasure of listening to me fumble around with scales and off-key whole-notes. Most gratifying indeed.
Of course, I do still run quite a bit as well ;). I tried some Hokas out during last Sunday’s long run.
Turns out that suuuuuper chunky heel is more of a cosmetic deception than an actual structural phenomenon. They didn’t mess with my stride at all, and the toe box accommodates a girl with congenital bunions. I still don’t like the thick faux heel, but you’re not supposed to choose your running shoe based on looks, right? Well, I’m sticking with my Newtons. But for the record, Hoka has some pretty cute reps.
That’s the update around here! Lots of spring races to look forward to, including the Horsetooth and Colfax halves (in Fort Collins and Denver, respectively). If you’re registered for either race, forward me your registration confirmation and I’ll take 50% off an in-person coaching session or a month of online training.  You can find me online at, at the Fort Collins Running Club’s training runs for the Horsetooth Half every Sunday from now until race day, and at FCRC’s “Tortoise and Hare” races on the first Sunday of each month through March 31, 2018.
See you there!
P.S. another pic of cool chix:

Sunday Frozen Long Run

You guys, yesterday just made my little runner’s heart glow. It all started with a 7:45 Sunday morning long run, which I was not supper psyched about, to be honest. Too early, for one thing. To make maters worse, there were only 4 measly Fahrenheits bopping around out there. The Minnesota has left my blood. I like things warm.
It was one of those cold, cold mornings where the frost crystals are huge and chunky — not small and delicate. The snow itself had frosted overnight. It was one of those mornings where you intensely question what you’re about to do, and whether you truly need to show up. I pretty much had to because:
  • The race director behind these training runs has graciously agreed to help promote my business [, wink, wink]
  • The race behind these runs has huge hills, and now that we’re only 2 months out, I really do need to practice the course.
  • We’re still new in town, and I need all the help I can get on the social front.
  • Runners are cool people, and the dedicated ones are a particular brand of awesome.
It was scheduled as a 6-8 mile training run. The 8 mile turn-around was half-way up a giant-a$$ hill. As Bryan and I approached the orange cone, the group ahead of us kept going. As did the person in front of them.
“Top out the hill?” Bryan asked.
“Yup,” said I.
A quarter mile further on, we turned around for a hilly descent. Below us, 3 more runners were pressing on past the cone.  I was blown away! 8 miles was the upper end of the day’s run. The hills in the first 4 miles were crazy intense! Topping out the hill added a really tough half mile to an already taxing run. Most importantly, the people who chose the additional steep half-mile were not all part of a single fitter, faster subset. They ranged from speedsters to walkers. However, everybody committed to the same tough, voluntary add-on, not from external pressure, but of personal volition. We did it simply because the hill was there, and it felt better to turn around at the top rather than halfway up.  This group is so worth waking up early.
That’s my husband!

New Year’s Resolutions: Part 2 (i.e. reality thy name is February)

I speculated a while back that I could integrate running to a 12-hr shift lifestyle by doing increased volume on the 3-4 days/week that I wasn’t working. I ran for at least 60-90 minutes on my days off, with interval training at least twice a week, and lifted weights for 30-40 minutes on 2 of those days each week as well. For comparison, I now run 40-70 minutes 5-6 days/week, with occasional bodyweight core work. I do a threshold run once or twice a week, intervals every 10 days or so, and the rest is just recreational miles. Folks, results are in: resoundingly improved race-day performances with 5-6 days of training each week, at distances of 4 miles and under.

The reality is that I changed jobs so I could run more, and better. I couldn’t be happier with some of the results I’ve seen. I learned during my tenure as a hospital nurse that optimal running performance is not compatible with every lifestyle. Of course, the threshold for what’s manageable is different for every person. I think this is important for people to realize when they commit to becoming a better runner, or sign up with lofty aspirations for their first half or full marathon. Not that it can’t be done, but that a new commitment also requires a sacrifice.

On some days, running does feel like a sacrifice. Whether you run in the wee hours, on your lunch, or after work, there is always something else (warmer, drier, cozier, relaxing, social) that you could be doing. But our bodies are meant to move, and exercise enlivens us in a way that today’s sedentary conveniences and busy, stressful mental pressures neglect. I really do believe that exercise is the answer to a lot of problems, and running is one of its cheapest and accessible forms. I believe that the sacrifice is worth it.

So, what I mean to say is, while your running goals and aspirations for 2018 come at a price, the payoff is a big one. Take a cold hard look at your schedule. Is there any way you can sanctify some time each day for exercise — even just for 20 or 30 minutes? If you’re any thing like me, you won’t regret it!



New Year’s Resolutions

It’s no surprise that “get in shape” is one of the most common resolutions of the New Year. Anyone who frequents a gym can attest to the January influx of sweaty, stinky, heat-generating bodies during primetime hours. Just… try not to get carried away.

If you’ve never run 10 miles without stopping before in your life, now is probably not time to sign up for your first marathon. Although people do jump right up to half- and full-marathon distance straight from the 5k, it’s a road fraught with illness and injury. So is any plan that involves too much too soon, all in the name of resolution. Slow and steady is much more reliable for results that last. For example, for a sedentary person interested in taking up running, try working up to 30 minutes of brisk walking, at least 5 times a week. This gets your body accustomed to mild/moderate cardio and repetitious impact, without traumatizing the system. I’m a huge proponent of walk-runs as you make the transition from, well, walking to running.

The same is true for diet: little changes make for long-term success. A 7-day juice cleanse, or cold-turkey transition to paleo or veganism is a great way to make you hangry and cranky. Nothing like hanger to drive you back to the warm, gooey comfort of chocolate chip cookies.


Instead, here are some gentle options that will still have long-term effects:

Eat an orange instead of a bar (chocolate, protein, Clif – doesn’t matter what kind, whole food is always healthier).

  • Run (or walk) one more day/week than you’re used to – even just 15 minutes counts. Aiming for least 40 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week is a great benchmark goal for general good health.
  • Alternate each cup of caffeine that you drink with 12 oz of water. Not that you can’t drink coffee, but you can always drink more water.
  • Do push-ups, planks, and hip-bridges for 10 minutes, at least twice a week.


None of these is going to sideline you with a pulled hamstring or torn quad. All of them will help you feel better, day to day, and will put you in a mindset open to making further changes as these ones become your new routine. No rush. Although it’s good to have a long-term plan, fitness goals work best with mild weekly plans that persist—not drastic overhauls.

Here are my New Year’s Resolutions – and the reasons behind them:

  • No more than 2 cups of coffee a day. I am an anxious person, and caffeine makes it sooo much worse. Duh. Just this afternoon, about 2 hours after cup #3, I got sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, and a pit in my stomach just from checking routine email. How lame is that??? Blech, definitely time for a change.
  • Chickens! Buy them a house. Buy them. Keep them alive. We have wanted backyard chickens since Bryan and I hit about year 4 of dating. This is year 7, (now we’re married), and we finally own the house with the yard to keep them.
  • Coach as many running clients as possible. Within reason, obvs, but that’s not a problem just now. I’m still a full time nurse, but I resolve to say yes to as many coaching opportunities as I can drum up. I am committed to working as many evenings and weekends as needed to help this baby business grow.


And that’s it!


No personal running goals at all because I love it, and am addicted to it, and any additional commitment will probably lead me to burn out before all the fun races of spring and summer even begin.


After all, it’s only January.

Here’s me smiling supportively on all your fitness goals:



Attn Colorado runners: now is the time to start training for the Horsetooth Half! It’s not my first half, but it is my first time participating in the Fort Collins Running Club’s RunningU training program! It’s the perfect thing to do if you don’t want to do Sunday long runs by yourself, and there are monthly Tortoise and Hare races thrown into the mix. Read more about it here:

This is definitely a race that warrants course-specific training. Check out the elevation profile!


Race day is April 15, 2018, starting at 8:30am. Believe it or not, the course is actually net downhill.

Check out all the people who showed up for the first training run! Also check out yours truly leading the dynamic warm-up. Way over on the right in blue and pink shorts.


But in all seriousness, this is a really well-organized race. Fort Collins Running Club does a great job, and race director Nick Clark is clearly passionate about getting people of all ages and abilities involved in the local running scene, as well as running a great race.

You should come join us!

(Sometimes there’re donuts…)


Running in the Dark

Sunrise today: 7:11 am

Sunset today: 4:33 pm

Conclusion: winter running sucks. HOWEVER, the worst thing you could do is wait to run until March when daylight savings time starts. Bad idea. No, for those of us with business-hours obligations, running in the dark is wintertime reality, especially if you don’t feel like shelling out $120 a month for a gym membership. I personally don’t think access to a treadmill is worth it. I mean, who wants to pay money to be bored?


Now I’m young, female, and was raised to be afraid of being alone outside at night. If you are like me, you might be saying:


“Wait Rachel, won’t I get raped by some guy lurking in the park, stabbed 26 times in the neck, and left in a ditch for police dogs to discover 48 hrs later?”


I hear you. I really do.


But I flippantly say some things are worth dying for, and the liberation and chemical high of running after a day trapped under fluorescent lights for 9 hrs is one of those things.

In all seriousness, I remind you that most areas are just as safe at 6 pm on a Wednesday evening as they are at 6 pm in the daylight – even though it’s dark.

You’re much more likely to get hit by a car. Now that is a fear I can get behind (because if you’re behind it you can’t get hit!). But seriously.

I’ve tried wearing a headlamp, but couldn’t stand how the light-path bobbled around. Wearing it around my waist didn’t’ help. Wearing reflective clothing is always a smart choice, but is still kind of subtle. If nothing else, those mesh reflective running vests are about $20 or less. However, my preferred illumination strategy involves a bike light the sort of which is designed to loop around your handlebars. It’s small and lightweight, and you can wear it like a ring:


When your hand is in a fist, the light shines forward into oncoming traffic. When your hand is open, light shines peripherally towards turning vehicles. These lights are usually buttons activated by simple depression of a large, flat surface, which is easy to do without breaking stride. You can keep them off for the most part (which is good because I have crappy night-vision as it is and the small flashlight makes it so much worse), and turn them on as you approach intersections and thoroughfares. And turn them off again when the danger has passed. Human eyes are attracted to change, so flicking the light on is itself a way to make sure you are seen — in addition to the fact that you are now lit.

And it doubles as a brass knuckle (yup, singular knuckle) if you’re attacked.

I’m just saying.


One of the coolest things about running at night is letting your other senses take over. I find myself more aware of the breeze on my skin, and how the temperature drops in low-lying areas. I love running past ponds full of sleeping ducks, seeing the matte darkness of their shapes against the shimmering darkness of the water, and listening to them mutter and clack to each-other. I trust their peacefulness.

Running at night will acquaint you with the phases of the moon. You’ll find yourself planning workouts for nights that are gibbous or full, even if you don’t know what ‘gibbous’ means. You’ll notice when the moon is dark, mark its absence and miss it.

Lyricism aside, obviously some wariness is appropriate. Don’t run on poorly maintained roads or trails if you can’t see the potholes. Keep to heavier-trafficked areas… just in case. Choose roads and neighborhoods lit by streetlamps, well-traveled bike paths, and parks that can be seen from the road.


Trust your intuition. Even if you think you’re just freaking yourself out, you don’t need a reason to turn around and go back (or go a different way).



‘Cause duh.

I’m sick. I hate being sick. I like to go running to convince myself that I’m not sick. And then I get even sicker.

Cue the classic conundrum: what is too sick to work out?

I’ve been down with the snuffles since the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Remember how I was all ambitious about running longer/harder/smarter/whatever? Some people get injured when they increase too fast too soon, but not me. I get sick. Whatever your weakest link, it’s usually the first to go when your body gets overworked. For me that would be the immune system.

Whether it’s your knee that flares up, chronic plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, hip flexor strains, or the common cold, there’s always that one thing that pops up whenever you were too ambitious.

Here’s a graph. Sorry it doesn’t have numbers on it. It models the “J-curve relationship of exercise and infection.” If you’d like more information, the concept is referenced by the National Institutes of Health here:


It means that really avid exercisers are more at risk for upper-respiratory infections (i.e. colds/flu) than both sedentary people and the general population.

I’m writing this post to stave off the stupid plan to go for a run even though I feel like sh*t. I even missed a race today. Good thing it was free.

So let’s refresh our memory, and preempt this January’s season of foolhardy workout goals by reviewing occasions when you really shouldn’t be exercising.

No cardio, No weights:

  • Fever and/or generalized body aches
  • Sinus pain/pressure, nasal congestion with headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Persistent cough/cold with fatigue and/or elevated resting heart rate

All of these tax your immune system even at rest.  Running with these symptoms will make them last weeks instead of days, or even months. The quickest way out is through. Hydrate and rest. Your body is working hard even at rest, and any fitness lost can be regained fairly quickly when you are well. Theoretically you can take about 7 days off before losing fitness. If you’re really desperate, take a 2-3 mile walk. You will probably feel like so crummy after that you will come home and take a 3 hr nap. It’s good for you. If you can’t walk 2-3 miles comfortably, you should not run! Feel free to test yourself if not sure.

No running (cross-training ok):

  • Any musculoskeletal injury that persists while running for more than 2 weeks. It’s not just a niggle at this point. It’s an injury, sorry. Stop running for at least 3 days. The alternative is at least a month or 2 off later.

This is a really great time to brush up on your stretching and ancillary strength activities. Push ups, lunges (side, front, back), planks (side, front, back), single leg squats, hanging leg-lifts, and hip bridges are a good place to start. Then do all of the stretching. If you still have time, practice handstands against a wall.  This should occupy the 30-60 minutes you usually reserve for exercise, and make you feel less like you’re missing out. It will also make you less likely to get injured in the future.

Thanksgiving Weekend

I’ve been sort of silent around the holiday, but that’s mostly on account of the 21 family members from 4 different states who converged on my mom’s house in honor of Thanksgiving 2017. Bless you, mother. And also bless you for living in this town so we didn’t have to travel! That was a fun and exhausting four days, going from living with my husband and sister (yes, it’s an unusual family of 3 over here, but her rent helps with the mortgage, and our low fee makes grad school affordable for her), to the family circus on steroids. I got to meet 2 new baby cousins, and see the other kids all about a foot taller than they were last year. I was also reaffirmed in our decision never to have children of our own. No thank you, sir. Not that they’re not nice to visit, but I’m not really the ‘mom’ type.

I suppose I’d have more energy for all that with less running, but where’s the fun in that?

Fort Collins has a CRAZY fast Turkey trot. Check out the 2017 results! But seriously, there were professional runners in the mix, plus a bunch of Boulder Track Club-ies. It sure was humbling to run my own fairly good race, and still have my ass kicked. It’s those kind of races that help you see room for improvement in your training plan: places to squeeze in daily core strength and stretching, longer long runs, that sort of thing. Goals people, it’s races like that which give me goals.

I did get this nice photo from my mom in which I actually display some rare leg musculature. Mine is a physique that does not show muscle easily. This is a one-in-a-million shot.


Here’s another for comparison:


That’s more like it. Goodbye muscle. Hello not-fit-not-flabby absence of definition.

The moral? Don’t let race photos get to your head one way or the other. We all have double chins when we look at our feet. Cherry-pick the good ones and frame that shit, because it doesn’t happen every race.

P.S. that is the face of a good hard kick. Also not photogenic.

I was super motivated to do a long run in the foothills west of town on Black Friday. There were a handful of folks out there with me, but not many. It was glorious.

blue gray skiesgray skiesgreen landridges

Can you believe this is 10 minutes’ drive from our house?!? This right here. This is why we moved.

P.P.S. As the holiday season descends upon us, a shout-out to my fellow depression/anxiety/mental illness warriors. It’s ’bout to get real dark real soon. Like, 4 p.m. soon. It’s ’bout to get real stressful, with exams, families, junky holiday food, and high holiday standards. Plus probably some nostalgia lurking around. As if that’s not enough, there’s always bleakest February creepin’ ’round the corner…

The truth is that winter is tough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Take care of yourself. Take your meds. Call your doctor if you cry too much, can’t sleep, feel tired all the time, can’t eat, binge like a maniac, think about hurting yourself, actually hurt yourself, and/or have a panic attack.

P.P.P.S. ‘panic attack’ is a blanket term for any uncontrolled shaking, hyperventilating, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, and/or sweating, and may also include sobbing, screaming, numbness/tingling, and feeling like you’re suffocating. You think it won’t happen to you, until it does.

If you experience a panic attack, know that they peak within minutes, and you will feel safe and calm again when it’s over (albeit weak and fatigued). It’s just another symptom, nothing to be ashamed of.

Schedule self-care in advance, things you’ll look forward to doing. This is a running blog, and I recommend races. They’re community events that get you out in the fresh air, socializin,’ exercisin,’ and moving your body the way it was meant to move. They present a project for you to work towards, and are also a good way to be around people without having to talk, if you don’t want to.


 “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t!”

Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

Don’t shoot your husband this holiday season.