What have I done to train for my upcoming 53k race?
-I ran 70-80km a week.
-I did a 34.5km trail race with quite a bit of elevation gain recently.
-I will carb load today. There are ample Bosnian bakeries around to accomplish this.
That’s about it. I am relying on years and years of running long distances to get me through.
I truly never know how I will do until I am in a race. I have these vague ideas of how it might turn out, but really I don’t know what my pace or finish time will be. I am yet to take a DNF (knock on wood). Luckily for my family, the race is providing a live tracker so they know when to be at the finish line.
So, this is how I will kick off my fall break–spending time in one one of the prettiest places in the world. I will run the Dinaric Alps along the Dalmatian Coast, for hours, finding strength in mountains.
Then, I will spend the rest of my break lounging around on the pebbled beaches with my family.
Many women continue to reflect on personal safety when leaving their homes and participating in something that shouldn’t be enshrouded in fear.
For most women, we don’t have the luxury of a completely carefree run.
Personally, I have been doing long runs outside in the early hours of the morning for many, many years. I don’t let fear stop me from running–be persistent in what you want. However, there are some things that I do as added precautions against dangers, some are just good practice regardless of your gender.
Precautions and Tips:
Use knuckle lights or a headlamp, making you more visible.
Stay in lit areas by choosing routes that have street lamps. Often these routes are also popular and have more people.
Mix up the route. While I do often run the same routes, I try to keep the day unpredictable.
Tell someone where you are going. I try to always tell my husband which route I plan on taking before heading out. I grew up always telling my parents the same information by leaving a sticky note in view.
Carry pepper spray. This is also good for stray dogs, which has been a huge problem in the countries I have lived in outside of the US. I used to rely on this as protection against any creepers too, but I recently made a new purchase. See next tip.
Try wearing Go Guarded, which can’t be knocked out of your hand. I have been wearing it for the last month and I feel like it offers more protection than pepper spray.
Ghost a certain radius around your start/stop location when using something like Strava.
Use one headphone or no headphones.
Don’t wear a ponytail. Seems a bit weird, but I have watched a lot of those self-defense videos and they always say men try to grab you by the hair. So, try a bun or a hat.
Speaking of self-defense, take some classes. Be ready to fight.
Trust your instinct. As women, we have spent our lives considering if the guy that just walked by us is going to hurt us or not. If you get a weird feeling, cross the street, take out your phone, prep your pepper spray, duck into a convenience store. Stop feeling insecure about your instincts.
My previous experience running Skakavac Trail is in contrast to this year. Last year, there was a blizzard on the morning of race day in what was an unfamiliar country and terrain, along with my first experience with winter in seven years. I had just arrived from Thailand. To the mountains. In the snow. In Europe. No beaches or 100 degree weather, which is a different kind of combat. It was rough. The markings were either blown away or covered in snow, and again, I did not know these mountains well enough to navigate. My phone had 3% left when I called my husband to tell him I was lost. Search and rescue was getting ready to look for me when I found the next aid station myself. When the trail lost elevation, the snow had melted, leaving behind runoff that resulted in a muddy, slippery, steep mountain to get down.
It did make me feel a little better to hear that local Bosnians also got terribly lost–that it wasn’t just a confused foreigner in a strange land, but in fact the extreme, unexpected conditions.
I finished in 7.5 hours.
I don’t have any pictures of the actual snow storm portion, nor did I bother to take pictures while sliding down the muddy hillside, for obvious reasons. There were a few clear moments where I could stop to catch my breath and capture some of the beauty.
How it went better this year:
In the months since we first arrived, we have hiked many of the popular trails around Sarajevo. Geographically, I was able to figure out where I was nearly the entire race. They provided a GPX file this year, which made me feel better prepared. I carried a backup charger in case my phone battery died due to the cold. Luckily, the weather was not nearly as severe. They moved the race up two weeks to mitigate surprise snow storms. However, there had been snow in the mountains just a few days prior to the race, so really, the mountains are simply unpredictable here. The organizers made huge improvements with the markings by using wooden signs that were hammered into the ground, making the trail much easier to follow.
Logistically, it was a bit more difficult this year. My husband left on an overnight trip with the secondary students, so I organized our babysitter to take care of the kids. Then, a friend drove me up the mountain to the start. While I ran the race, my husband returned from his trip, so he was able to meet me at the finish. I texted him selfies (see below) as the run progressed.
All’s well that ends well.
Progression of selfies
People have asked me how I felt after I finished or what was the best part. My son bombarding me with a hug and “MOOOOooom!!!” You did it!!!” was without a doubt, the best part. This is me seeing his face and incoming hug.
I was shattered and rebuilt in the 5 hours, 17 minutes it took me to finish.
Which is the reason why I run.
The only races that disappoint me are ones where I didn’t cross the finish line a little better than when I started.
It is an unforgiving, brutal, and beautiful course. See you in 2019 Skakavac Trail.
I have been MIA on TaraRunsTheWorld for the last month. I have told people that inquired I am tired, or bored, or various other excuses because explaining the real reasons seem a bit too long-winded. Here is the space to explain the real reasons. The real reason for a blogging cut back? Time is a limited resource and I found it consuming far too much of it to take photos, write about it, and share it around. I also found it made me focus too much on myself, which in balance is important, but I didn’t like the way it was making me feel when I have many other people, hobbies, and outlets to put my limited energy. Last but not least, it made me like running less. I haven’t felt like that. Ever. I found documenting all my thoughts about running sucked some of the joy out of it for me. I can’t have that.
With all that in mind, I figured I could do it more sparingly and still find the good—so many people wrote me to say they had started running after reading some of my posts. That makes me super stoked. The reflection process has also been a positive side-effect to my running.
Sooo, I’m baaack.
You know, a little bit.
I have done a few races since I last blogged, the Sarajevo Half Marathon being one that I had had on the docket for quite some time. I did this one last year, meaning I knew to expect a few hills and higher temps due to a later start than one would consider normal for a half marathon.
It was exciting to see so many people from our little expat community with laced-up running kicks. There were quite a few parents and a couple of other teachers running the half marathon. There were also lots of students running the 4 km with their parents– my son, daughter, and husband included. For me, it is a fairly rare occurrence to be among like-minded runner types. It was nice to not have to explain what I was doing getting ready to run 21 km. They knew.
I have put some work into getting some personal records in the recent past, so for this race, I just ran for enjoyment. I did put effort into it, but I had no plans of anything beyond running and having fun at the event. Which I did.
Europe has some seriously good runners. Many were at this race. I watched them in awe fly by me in their sponsored racing kits. Speaking of awesome runners, this was the day in history that Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon’s world record at the Berlin Marathon at 2:01:39. Sort of made my half marathon time of 1:47 minutes feel pretty wimpy, but I know, I know, we only compete against ourselves. Even Kipchoge?
There were thousands downtown Sarajevo–both to cheer on the runners and those that were participating in either the 4 km, the relay half marathon, or the half marathon. They closed down the streets, most of the town came out to watch and support the runners, and it was a really well-organized race going through the most beautiful parts of Sarajevo.
After, we laid around the park and drank our complimentary electrolyte beverages for a while until the kids got restless.
Then we moved on to the after party barbecue downtown at Kutcha . If you haven’t already, check it out. It has an artsy vibe, fantastic burgers, craft beer, green space to kick back, and good music. Lady H celebrated with her signature dance moves.
Sunday: I absolutely love running out here at Vrelo Bosna. It is beautiful no matter the season. Today it was foggy and damp, making it look like the fall in August. There are always lots of runners making their way on the paths. It is a bit of a drive so we make a morning out of it. The kids run and bike while I get my run in, then we have coffee, pizza, and pasta post run for a family brunch.
Monday: I am back to making Monday my day off. I know most people say if you miss Monday, your running week is shot, but it works for me. With it being the first day of the school work week, I always like to sleep in a little after getting that luxury over the weekend.
Tuesday: Two runs today. My normal morning run and the first practice for the cross country team. They did awesome! 4.5km. We even did hills and they rocked it.
Wednesday: Early at it this morning. I am still getting used to this. It always wakes me up to get my morning run done though.
Thursday: I am sort of failing on the photo front, but it was a beautiful, foggy morning. Fall is starting. Effort wise–I think I need to start doing some speed work to get ready for a few races coming up.
Friday: I was getting a little bored of my usual running spots, so I went around some new streets today. Hopefully this weekend I can get work on my pace. I have five races coming up soon!
Saturday: Croatia consistently impressed me. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. Old ruins, mountains that bump up against the Mediterranean Sea, and trails for days. That last 1.5 km up to our place offered plenty of challenge for my hill work I have been needing.
Maintaining my running schedule and returning to work, like:
But, I am doing it and that counts for something.
Sunday: And just like that, we are back in Sarajevo. It feels good to be back and running!
Monday: I slept exactly zero hours last night but got myself out running, busted out and broke in a new pair of Hokas, and watched the sunrise over the bridge Franz Ferdinand was on when he was assassinated.
Tuesday: Finally got some sleep so that helped me make through the run.
Wednesday: I woke up by dragging myself out of bed. I am still fighting jet lag with the added challenge of rising early for a run and then work. Got it done though! Heck yes.
Thursday: It was the first day of school with the kids today so I needed a little extra sleep. That means rest day in terms of running.
Friday: Early wake ups to catch the sunrise and get my run in before work.
Saturday: It’s the weekend! That means I got to sleep in, drink coffee and read for as long as I wanted, and read to my son. Then I was a powerhouse up the some serious hills. I earned lunch in Old Town and the chocolate chip cookies I just made for family and friends.
Sunday: I had planned on doing an evening run when I returned from our camping trip, but I ended up slipping in some water that had dripped on our hardwood, falling and hitting my head hard on the wall. My first concussion. I spent the night resting and confused.
Monday: I felt better this morning so went for my morning run down by the river. Happy I did, as always.
Tuesday: Getting a little sad to be leaving Boise–it is such a nice place to run and explore, but also excited for our ever changing life. I always like to spend time on these trails before we ship out.
Wednesday: Running against the wind. It added to the challenge.
Thursday: A run down by the Boise River had my heart aching with the thought of leaving. No doubt I am excited to run down by the river in Sarajevo though. I felt strong and happy to move my legs before a long, long 24 hour flight back home.
Friday: We woke up super early to catch our flight, so I couldn’t run. 😦
Saturday: The flight took 23 hours so was forced to take another day off. On the bright side, we made it back to Sarajevo
Bangkok Runners is this amazing and welcoming running group—that is how I was introduced to Chris. On the weekends, runners would meet to run in the Khao Mai Keow jungle, located outside of Pattaya, Thailand. He rarely missed. Sometimes even when I had made no plans of a group trail blaze, I would bump into Chris in the jungle. There is nothing like running among venomous snakes in the hot and humid jungle that solidifies a bond. It takes a certain kind of person to actively pursue those types of runs.
Chris Bell has competitively run countless races. He has moved from Thailand and is now in the United Kingdom, continuing his impressive running stats. I shot him some questions to hear his perspective on running.
How long have you been running? I started running towards the end of 2011 when I was living in Bangkok. I hadn’t been very active for a few years, and felt that my health was suffering. I had never been a runner before this, as I always found myself out of breath and exhausted within a couple of minutes, and that wasn’t much fun. I figured that because it was so difficult, it would be a great way of getting my fitness and health back on track. With the high temperature and humidity in Thailand, I decided to start out by running inside an air conditioned room on a treadmill. It took a while, but eventually I felt my fitness and endurance improving, and progressed to running outside. Running outside was much more fun than running on a treadmill, and I found myself more motivated able to run for longer and longer distances. In June 2012, I ran my first race. It was the Phuket Half Marathon in the south of Thailand. In training I had only managed to run up to 16km, so I was very nervous about being able to complete the 21.1km. Fortunately, the fantastic atmosphere and adrenaline rush of race day made all the difference, and I was able to make it to the finish in a time of 1hr, 52min. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to have completed a half marathon, knowing that running even 100m was almost an impossibility about 8 months before. I was hooked.
What is the longest distance you have run? Over the years I’ve upped the distance on the races I’ve entered. One of the biggest milestones was my first marathon in Bangkok in November of 2013. It was extremely tough, but after completing a race of this distance, I genuinely believed that any distance was possible with sufficient training, motivation, dedication, and a fair amount of stubbornness. After the marathon, it wasn’t much of a jump to do a 50km ultra-marathon, although since it was a trail race, it took a lot longer to complete than a marathon. 7 hours and 6 min to be precise. That’s a long time to be on your feet in the sun, but it gave me the confidence to go on to even longer challenges. My next major milestone was 100km at the North Face 100 Thailand in January 2016. It was a long and very hot race, but it felt incredible to cross the finish line. After a few more 100km races, I took on my biggest challenge to date – a 100 mile trail race in Sherwood Forest, England in September 2017. Despite a few issues during the race, my stubbornness helped me to make it to the finish in 17 hours 46 minutes, and take the overall win. It feels amazing to think that 6 years before I couldn’t run 100 metres without being completely out of breath, and 128 races and a lot of training later, I was able to win a 100 mile race. It just shows what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it.
How does one train for races that last through the night? I haven’t really given much thought to training for races that last through the night. I suppose it’s just the same as any long race – you just need to focus on keeping moving forward. As long as you keep yourself fed and hydrated and keep going, you’ll make it through to the morning. If you keep upping your distance, over time you become used to running while exhausted, and that prepares you for long races in the dark.
Trail or road? Why? For me, trail is far more enjoyable than road. The variety of surface, the challenging climbs and descents, and the amazing scenery of trail running makes it much more fun than running on flat roads. Every runner should try trail running.
What has been your favorite race so far? My favourite race so far is a difficult one. There have been so many great ones that it’s almost impossible to choose. Transylvania 100k is up there due to the amazing scenery and the difficulty of the course and conditions. The London Marathon was a special race due to the great support from the crowds and the fact that I’d watched it on tv many times when I was growing up, and never thought that I’d be out there running it myself. If I had to choose one race though, it has to be the Ocean to Ocean relay race in Thailand in 2014. This was a 120km road race that started on the west coast of Thailand (the Indian Ocean side), and ended on the East coast (the Pacific Ocean side). What made this race so unforgettable for me was the people that took part in the race with me. The 8 of us knew each other slightly before travelling down together, but by then end of the event we were all great friends who would go on to share many other great adventures together. Running can be a very solitary sport sometimes. A lot of people train on their own, and end up racing alone, even when surrounded by many other runners. I would highly recommend that people try a team relay event if they get the chance. It’s really nice to be able to share the race experience so closely with others, and this can bring a bond and friendship between you that lasts long after the event has ended.
As a fellow traveling runner, what are some travel races you would suggest others to venture to and take on? Although I have completed a lot of races, I’ve not done that many in different countries. Having been based in Thailand for almost 12 years, I’ve done a lot of races there. After relocating back to the UK, I’ve started to tick off a few of the races over here too. Other than that I’ve only done a marathon in Tenerife and the Transylvania 100k in Romania. In my limited experience, I’d have to recommend the Transylania trail race to any experienced trail runners out there. It’s not one to be taken lightly though, and is a serious challenge no matter which of the different race distances you decide to tackle. Although I haven’t done much in the way of long distance travelling to races, it’s something that I hope to increase in the future. It’s a great way to see new countries, and have a fantastic race experience at the same time.
What is a race you would like to forget? If I had to choose a race to forget it has to be the Bangkok Marathon. Amazingly, I did this event twice. The first time was my first ever marathon, so I guess it holds a special place in my memory. However, the course itself was awful. The route went along an elevated 3-lane expressway in a straight line for 13 miles, did a u-turn and then came back the same way. It started at 2am, so everything was dark and the only thing you could see was the white lines on the road and the concrete barriers at the road sides. There was no support, and nothing to take your mind off the long straight road ahead. Mentally, it was extremely tough as it felt like you were not making any forward progress. It stands out above all other races I’ve done as the most boring and tedious race out there. I still don’t really know why I signed up a 2nd time, but I regretted it for pretty much the whole way around and vowed not to sign up a third time.
You are about to leave for a fell race. Could you explain the history of fell races? Fell running is a traditionally British sport, and is sometimes referred to an hill running or mountain running. A fell is classed as a hilly or mountainous area that is usually barren. It is often very rocky and may or may not have clearly defined trails. What makes fell running stand out from trail running is the focus on steep, technical climbs and descents, and the need for navigation skills. Fell races often don’t have a clearly defined route, but instead give out the co-ordinates of a number of different locations that must be passed. It is up to each runner to decide which route to take. You may choose to follow small trails that are easy to follow but can be long and windy, or go the direct route straight up near vertical ascents over even more technical terrain. The best fell runners know the local terrain like the back of their hand, and are strong on the climbs and fearless on the descents.
What are your thoughts on doing this race? It is an intense and exciting form of racing that requires a lot of concentration, fitness, and a touch of madness. I’m always excited and a bit nervous when I head out to fell races as I know that in order to do well you have to push yourself to the limit on the climbs and take big risks on the downhills. I always get a big rush of adrenaline, and a feeling of relief when I get to the finish in one piece.
The classic running question–why do you run? Why do I run? I started running purely for health and fitness, as I mentioned earlier. However, I found that after a short while I began to love it. The feeling of freedom running through forests and jungles, over hills and mountains and along rivers and coastlines under your own power is something that always fills me with joy and makes me feel alive. Knowing that I am getting such a lift whilst also doing a lot to improve my health and energy levels is a huge bonus. I’ve also found myself making some great and long-lasting friendships with people from all around the world through running. No matter the background of the runner, we all share a common bond when we run, and this brings everyone together. Running is fundamentally such a simple thing, but it has the power to change lives. I encourage everyone to get out there and give it a try.
With our little tribe, we did our annual camping trip with my dad and his wife. It is a highlight of our summer each year. We loaded up our Trail Blazer with all the gear and made the three hour drive to the middle of Idaho. McCall, Idaho is a good meeting point for us because it is half way for both sides. My sister and her family also live there, so they usually join us for a little bit.
After unloading and setting up camp, we fatted out most of the day. In the morning, we were ready to find some places to hike. My dad knows Idaho like the back of his hand, spending every waking moment seemingly hiking all over the state. Side note–he has been to over 400 alpine lakes in Idaho…since he started counting 15 years ago. Along with all that knowledge of the land, comes maps for every area. He busted out his trusty dusty map and found around 10 options or so for our day hike. Looking at the map, it was a little unclear the distances to each lake, but we chose Deep Lake after some discussion about elevation gain vs. distance and availability of road and trail access. Keep in mind we have littles in tow—a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old.
We headed to the trail head of Deep Lake and were prepared for what we thought would be a 3 mile hike in.
It was a fairly steep ascent into Deep Lake, but ended up being much shorter than we anticipated. It was about 1.5 miles into the lake. I am fairly certain my husband just considered it good luck and that would be that.
My dad busted out his trusty dusty map again and we found some back up lakes. We looked a few to try and find, but had not settled on anything solid. After spending a little time running around the lake, we started our hike back to the trailhead.
Lady H hiked 1.5 miles back with a little help from her brother. Watch below.
Lady H is already a little trail runner. When she wasn’t climbing over logs and rocks, she was bombing those little legs down the dirt.
After stopping and talking to some people we met on the trail and getting some sound advice, we decided to try to find Lake Rock Lake.
Yes, that is the name.
We drove down some more dirt roads and landed back on the main road. We pulled off the side where we thought the trail might start. We started hiking and realized it would be a solid amount of bushwhacking and crossing creeks, sans trail. We turned around and kept driving…about 50 feet down the road. Nailed it. We found the trailhead and started some serious elevation gain.
It was this little lady’s nap time–she needs to be going at a certain pace to get into the groove of Manduca sleeping. This meant I had to head straight up hill and a fair pace, leaving behind the group.
She did get a solid nap in, even if it did fall a little short of her normal time frame.
Once Lady H had fallen asleep, I picked some huckleberries and waited for the rest of the crew. Not being in constant motion did end up waking her up, but she was happy enough as long as I made goofy selfie faces.
After carrying 32 pounds of toddler up 1,600 feet of elevation gain in 2 miles, I was pretty stoked to see water.
Not a bad view, and as my son said, “This was totally worth it!”
And just like that, back out.
Going down was much easier. I also made my husband wear the 2-year-old.
After we got back to camp, we sat around and drank some cold much-earned beers. Few things taste as good as a cold beer after hiking all day.
The next day, we soaked in the hot springs at Burgdorf. So good.