Taper Tantrum


Let the great taper tantrum begin.



Running is how I survive all the hard stuff in my life. It is where I find balance, peace, and freedom. It is my time. When I have to start tapering I feel it go against everything in my being.

However, tapering has been proven to improve your running performance, so I am doing it, but in the meantime, there are consequences to my state of being.

How do you all cope with tapering?

“North” by Scott and Jenny Jurek

A Review by Tara G

***spoilers ahead***

Scott Jurek is one of the best trail runners in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from his down-to-earth recount of his experience on the Appalachian Trail. It is incredibly difficult to write anything in the first person and not come of as an egotistical asshat, especially a really good athlete. There is very little boasting or self-accolades. He manages to be raw, reflective, open, introspective, and honest about his record breaking thru-run.

As soon as I started listening to this book, I knew I was going to relate. He references Chris McCandless’ idealism of leaving society and living off the land, Thoreau’s analysis of society, himself living as far from it as possible, and the “doing without doing” Taoist Wu wei philosophy–being natural, effortlessly being. These are ideas that I look up to, strive to make part of my life, and are major reasons I run.

Jurek writes about the give and take of life and how this can be found in nature. Trails can be brutal and how running trails can make one explore their reasons and strength to keep going. Balance. Life starts to get predictable for him, but also painfully real, so he seeks out a new trail, away from his stomping grounds and the familiarity of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Cascade Mountains, to the Appalachian Trail, to regain his gratitude for life.

Jurek wrote “North” with his wife, Jenny Jurek, which is an interesting approach. The spouse of any runner should definitely get a voice and applause for how much they have to support their racing significant other. When it comes to these huge distances the runner needs a lot of support, both emotionally and logistically. It is interesting to hear her much tougher approach toward Scott, or Jurker, as she calls him. She openly admits she is not as nice as husband. She is the one that tells him to get his ass in gear because she is giving up a lot for him. I respect that she tells him not to approach the Appalachian Trail half-heartily, in stronger language than I used. He must respect her too, because he spent a lot of time throughout the book writing about how much he adores her as a person, friend, and partner. As the reader peering into their lives, I couldn’t help but find their recount of their personal fears and struggles incredibly brave. One criticism I do have is I think she was asked to do too much, staying out in the middle of the woods solo and worrying about weirdos while recovering from a miscarriage.

Throughout the book he focuses on finding and restoring balance in his life. He talks about the give and take of nature and draws comparisons to the struggle of completing this thru-run of 2,189 miles. By the way,  he completed it in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes. <- Check out the Runner’s World link to see the map and more details. It isn’t a book you are going to find practical running tips and strategies, it assumes the reader already has those, but rather, it focuses on the why of running–the emotional journey and the perspective one can gain from struggle, albeit an elective struggle.

Audiobooks on the Run

Sometimes I don’t listen to anything, sometimes music or podcasts, but mostly, I listen to audiobooks while I run. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Running can take up a lot of time, and consequently, my reading time. I decided I couldn’t sacrifice either and combined them.

I find myself listening to a lot of books specifically about running. They are tales of incredible feats of the human body and spirit, and through this, they offer a fair bit of motivation and inspiration.

I hear a lot of runners ask what books other runners are reading, so I compiled a list of 20 running books that I have listened to. I rated them. See if you agree or disagree. You may find  your next read or listen.

5 Stars


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

North by Scott Jurek and Jenny Jurek

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

4 Stars


Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner

The Long Run by Matt Long

Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes

Trailhead by Lisa Jhung

Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong

Running Man by Charlie Engle

Going Long by various authors

3 Stars


The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

Meb for Mortals by Meb Keflezighi

Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

2 Stars


Out There by David Clark

Run! by Dean Karnazes

Natural Born Runners by Christopher McDougall

Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.

Opinions of books are usually quite personal. If you have read any of the books listed, let me know what you think of my ratings in the comments. I am open to discussing any of the books!

Save 50.0% on select products from KUUFER with promo code 50KKV3G2, through 6/28 while supplies last.

10 Tips for Running in the Morning: As Told by GIFs

“My sun sets to rise again.”– Robert Browninggiphy10

Working as a full-time classroom teacher, which is far from an eight-hour day, and being a mother of two young children, also a full-time job, the only time I can fit running into my schedule is in the morning. This takes a fair bit of planning, but once you get used to it, it becomes routine. Once it becomes routine, you won’t try to talk yourself out of it as much. Here are some tips that have helped me get out each morning.

1. Go to bed early


This might seem obvious, but I made this mistake a lot when I first started running in the morning. I would try to stay up as late as I had when my runs were taking place in the afternoon, and it just didn’t work. I would be too tired to get myself out of bed, or if I did manage to get myself out and going, I was terribly exhausted the rest of the day. For me, I have to go to bed by 8:30 or 9:00 pm on work nights, so I can wake up by 5:00 am.

2. Check the weather report


If you don’t already, get a weather app on your phone. Check it before going to bed so you know what to expect for your early morning run. There is nothing like waking up to a downpour you weren’t prepared for to you to make you want to turn around and go back to bed.

3. Set out your clothes


After checking the weather, set out the appropriate clothes the night before. Have them sitting next to your bed and be ready to get dressed. I have heard of some people even sleeping in them, but I cannot imagine sleeping in all that spandex. Not for me.

4. Have everything charged 


Make sure your GPS watch and phone are charged for the morning, so you are ready to go without excuses.

5. Set the alarm


This one might seem obvious too, but I would struggle with this. Sometimes I would forget to set it. Now, I have my alarm set so that it automatically goes off Tuesday-Friday for 5 am (Monday is my day off) and I don’t have to set it every night. It is a handy feature and one less thing to think about.

6. Get dressed ASAP


Get dressed as soon as the alarm goes off. Don’t think about it, just get dressed. Once you have gone to all the work of getting dressed, you will feel obligated to run. If you wait, it will definitely lessen the chance of getting out the door.



You should have prepared this the night before so all you need to do is hit a button. The coffee should be in the French press ready to have hot water poured over it. No messing around with the coffee. This is serious. I absolutely must have coffee before I run and won’t jeopardize this by not having it ready to go.

Sitting down, sipping my coffee, catching up on some morning news or reading my book for a minute before I head out helps me wake up a little. I take about 20-30 minutes before running, enjoying my time and knowing I will be energized for my run.

8. Think about how you will feel if you DON’T run


On days when I struggle with running in the morning, I remind myself of what I feel like when I don’t run. I don’t want to feel like that all day and it is usually all the motivation I need. Even if it is raining, snowing, dark, or cold, it is better to run in that and feel good about my day, then to not and feel miserable for the rest of it.

9. Enjoy the quiet


You are getting that time to yourself. Enjoy it. Most of us are surrounded by others all the time and we need that time in our own heads, doing something for ourselves. Take it. Enjoy the peace. There is a lot to be learned in the early hours.

10. Feel like a badass


You will feel like a badass for the rest of the day. Before most people have woken up, you have run (taken on the world), considered important life moments and decisions, taken care of your body, and have enough energy to get your day done right. That makes you a badass.

Stay rad and keep running, my friends. 

50k Gear Check


Do I send her with

a stake, silver bullets or

a garlic necklace?

An accidental haiku, by Mr. G

As you likely know, I am preparing for my first Ultra. I have been gathering my needed gear for months now. What do you think–am I prepared or am I forgetting anything?

1. I am pretty proud of myself that I managed to figure out how to upload the GPX file for my race. Fingers crossed I won’t need to use it, but it will be invaluable if there are any visibility issues related to weather.

2. I picked up a battery charger as backup for my phone and Garmin. Considering how long the race will take, I will need it.

3. They are asking runners to bring their own cup because the race directors are awesome and don’t want to use a bunch of plastic cups. However, I don’t own a collapsible cup and bringing a regular cup would provide awkward in my hydration pack, so I will be doing this little trail running hack I picked up somewhere along the way. Turn a juice pack into a portable, collapsible cup. See below for photo instructions.

Apropos because the Bucegi Mountains have a lot of bears.

4. Compass. Getting lost is a possibility.

5. A whistle built into my hydration pack, also in case of getting lost.

6. Airhorn. For bears.

7. Trekking poles for the steep mountains.

8. Hat, two waterproof jackets (because I can’t decide which one), long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, two pairs of gloves, windproof pants, legggings, headlamp, light neck gaiter, and Hoka ATR trail running shoes.

9. Paper map of the course provided by the race directors before the race.

10. Emergency foil blanket.

11. First-aid kit that includes a bandage wrap, alcohol wipes, bandaids, aspirin, safety pins, and a plastic garbage bag (just in case).

12. Food. Lots. Along with electrolytes and magnesium supplements.

13. Phone.

14. Garmin.

15. And my Nathan  hydration pack to stuff it all into.


This visual checklist makes it seem much more real. I am getting excited!

Running into the 50k Ultra World

“Face your life, it’s pain, it’s pleasure,

Leave no path untaken.”

-Neil Gaiman

ancient-architecture-blue-460659 (1).jpg
Bran Castle, the starting point

Elevation, oh my!

That was my first observation of Transylvania100. The elevation gain for the 50k is 3,328 meters, which is 10,919 feet. That is not the peak elevation, that is the gain!

I have wanted to do Ultra for years, but haven’t felt brave enough, or been in the right place and time. The stars sort of aligned for this and I didn’t have an excuse not do it. Naturally, I signed up.

BIB Nume de familie Prenume Categorie Status
 5135 Gaines Tara United States Senior 18-39 ani / years  

It isn’t feasible to take my family, considering the costs of the flights and all that, so I am going solo. I haven’t traveled that far solo before, much less for the biggest race I have ever tackled. I am a bit concerned about the whole thing logistically. Luckily, I have figured out a coping mechanism–don’t think about it too much. Just run.

Run I have. I run on average 70-80 km a week anyway, and have upped that to about 90 km. That isn’t too much of a change in distance, but what I did do differently to start training is adding some elevation gain to my runs and trying to get that elevation gain on trails. I recently did a 24 km training run and was surprised by how much my legs were not used to that. I had to load up on electrolytes after each training run. Transylvania will be completely trail and in the Carpathian Mountains, so some pretty wild area.

I currently am living in Sarajevo, which is in a valley, surrounded by three large mountains and some other hills. This is fortunate for my training. During winter, I had been a bit lazy and done mostly flat runs. Lazy, and in fear of the ice on all the steep roads. This training has been good for me to kick myself back into action.

Sarajevo from one of my runs, headed above the city.

For my training runs, I really have only done a couple of these longer, steeper, trail routes. Some of my others shorter runs I still sought out elevation. I am a bit worried that this won’t leave me prepared enough, but I am hoping that between these runs and my base fitness level, it will carry me through.

I am now at the tapering stage. I hate tapering so much that I haven’t actually started it. I will probably wait until a few days before to kick it down to 40 or 50 km a week, but that is also unlikely. Tapering is by far the hardest part of training for me and I often just avoid it all together. However, I do better in a race if I do taper, so this will be a mental struggle that I grapple with in the weeks to come. There are infinite considerations in the tension between what we should do, and what we want to do.

If you check out the website and look at past results, it takes the best runners much longer to finish than your average 50k. It is a little hard for me to tell based on names, as most of them are foreign names, but it appears that the fastest woman came in around 9 hours last year. It also looks like there will be snow, wind, ropes to help climb the trails, and did I mention, elevation? I am trying to plan for all four seasons in one 50k. If everything goes right, I am hoping to come in around 10 or 11 hours. At the end of the day, I just want to finish without getting lost or injured.

I am looking forward to seeing what I am capable of both physically and mentally. In these types of races, you come out a changed, improved person. I think if you can’t figure yourself out in a race like this, it isn’t happening. I hope to find balance in nature and, consequently, in myself. I must travel to an unknown land and an unknown place within myself to achieve this.

Cheers to what can only be described in my book as an adventure.


Below is a video of the race from 2016. So much snow for May!

Wanderlust, from Burma: A Throwback

Traveling to Burma with a 17-month-old is not for the faint of heart.

The idea to travel to Burma started in 2010 when they opened their borders, allowing the Burmese to explore the world and in reverse, allow others to experience their country. I believe it is because of this late acceptance of tourists in this Southeastern Asian country, that it has remained culturally rich and a place resistant to the changes of our current, fast-paced, consumer oriented, and slowly homogenizing world.

I should preface that my husband spent nearly two months collecting facts, papers, and 42 emails in an attempt to get our visas for our family of three. He did forget about Beck’s, but was gently (ha!) reminded by me that Beck probably needed one too. This spurred the last 20 or so emails and Beck’s was presumably ready for our arrival.

I’ll glaze over the driving, waiting in airports, and the actual flights, as few want to hear about how long you had to do this for. Just remember that it is in-between these paragraphs, and let me remind you, we have a 1.5 year old that is extremely verbal, has a passion for refusing naps, has a strong leaning toward cranky when he doesn’t get said naps, is determined, stubborn, and like all toddlers, active.

We arrive in the Mandalay International Airport. At this point, we are that family that no one really wants to make eye-contact with due to our verbal (this sounds nicer than loud) toddler. We follow the sea of people, noticing that there seems to be a fair amount of distance that fellow travelers are keeping from us. The flow of people slows around customs. This is the moment of truth. The haves and the have-nots. The group diverges. Those looking so smug and confident that they had done their research, and then the group that is furiously rechecking the papers they have. We fend for ourselves with the latter of the groups in a small and quite crowded room. Within seconds, we find ourselves swarmed with at least 10 Burmese visa officials crying “Baby, baby!” and trying to hold Beck.  I look at him, throwing an all too familiar tantrum, and don’t hesitate. I hand him over. He quiets, laughs, and then plays with them contentedly for the duration of our time in the visa office. With the nicest, most genuine smile I have seen in a long time, the visa lady asks where one of the forms is in the already huge, disorganized pile of papers that I had handed over. I look at her, panic in my heart. “Don’t send us back. Please,” I am thinking. I tell her, no we don’t have the paper in question. She smiles, and offers me her phone to call our visa agent. Feeling ill-prepared at not having his number, I have to ask her if I could use her computer to look online for it. She looks at me, smile fading. Concerned she says, “No internet.” This is the airport. There is no internet in the airport. No. Internet. This is where I fall in love with Burma.

After a couple of hours trying to sort this out, and many conversations about sending us back to Bangkok to see out our holiday, they shrug and say, “No problem, don’t worry,” and give us our full page visas, sans photo and a few other important pieces of information. I notice that our visas say they were issued on February 16th and valid until February 16th. If this works for them, I won’t point it out. They are letting us in, however illegally. I think they just like our baby.

We have plans to fly from Mandalay to Bagan after our two day stay in Mandalay and it is protocol to pick these up in the airport a few days before. Two hours behind schedule, we head over to the lone man standing behind the Air Mandalay counter to ask to pick up our tickets. He leads us past bag security, past a desolate airport check-in, and into a homey room with a few other friendly and excited tourists from Seattle. There seem to be a lot of tourists from Seattle landing in Burma. They are trying to make small talk, while I ignore them and scan the room for one of those small credit card machines to indicate they will take my card. My hopes are feeble and for the reasons I fell in love with Burma, I am realizing it is going to be the reason that I shake my fist at it. Intense love that proves the most challenging, is the most worthwhile and rewarding though, so I am not deterred and am ready for them when they inform us “cash only.” Now, I knew it was a cash only country, but for the same reason I thought they would have internet, I thought they would take credit in the airport. The problem with cash in Burma is that it is hard to get it. The cash needs to be USD, the serial numbers cannot include AB, AC, or CD (thanks to North Korea trying to launder money a few years back), they need to be printed after 2003, and of course, flawless in every way. You are supposed to arrive with the amount you will spend, as there are only a few ATMs in the biggest cities of Mandalay and Yangon and the banks, strangely, don’t have cash. What the banks do, I am yet to suss out. We leave without our tickets, but with promises by Air Mandalay that they will hold our places on the plane for us if we will bring them the money two hours before the flight. In Asia, they tend to tell you what you want to hear, but I truly believe them. The Burmese are honest in their want to help.

We are down but not out at this point. We head to the taxis. I hand one of the many that swarm our address. He says, “Not Mandalay.” I shake my head, not willing to believe this. I move to the next taxi man. He shakes his head, “Not Mandalay.” I assume they are reading it wrong. Next driver. “Oooh. Three hour drive. Not Mandalay.” The problem about hotels in Burma: you have to organize these months in advance. With the new influx of tourism in the last three years, they haven’t had time to catch up and there are just too many tourists for the amount of hotels. It’s a bottleneck effect. They are almost always fully booked. Most of them were fully booked two months ago. This is where I feel like we may be properly screwed. A hint of dejection settles in. My love falters. No visas, no flight, no hotel. I know my love is strong though. It can get through this. They are all very willing to help. Picking up their phones, they are all trying to find a place for us. Time and time again they echo “fully booked,” but there is one driver that finds one hotel with one room left. Without missing a beat, we take it, hop in his car, and make the hour drive to our hotel. In that hour I settle into how incredible it truly is here.

Up until this point, I had only seen the airport. Now I am seeing Burma.  People are paving the roads…by hand. I mean, literally by hand. Older women are crushing the rocks, stirring the tar, laying the gravel using their hands. We drive by farmland, huts, cows pulling plows.

The driver honks the horn and Beck laughs. The driver laughs. The tourists we are sharing the ride with laugh. This repeats for the duration of the ride. So. Much. Love.

Once we hit the roundabout, it turns full on. Mandalay is a city. A busy city with people buying, making, and living their lives like they do in any other city, except it seemed to be standing still in modernity. There aren’t any western franchises, tall buildings, or stop lights. The roads are dusty. Pot-holed. Perfect.

Our hotel is in the heart of the city. It has *gasp* internet! It includes breakfast. It is moderately clean. They serve beer. It is all we ask for in a hotel and then some. The desk points us in the direction of a place to eat. We ask for a map, they laugh. “Just walk that way. You will find it,” and we do. In seeming contrast to all things Burmese, the streets are extremely well marked and organized. We are the only tourists we see on the walk. Actually, we only see four other tourists in our two day stay in Mandalay, outside of our hotel. Because of this, we stand out. Really, Beck stands out. A fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed baby in a Kelty backpack isn’t a sight they see often. Everyone that we walk by stops, points, smiles, and wants to play with him. He loves it. When we got to our restaurant, we order one meal each, and receive 15 bowls of currys, rice, and soup for $5. For two and a half people. I thought something must be lost in translation but, this is how they serve meals here. We get Beck out of his backpack and are preparing to eat a meal like one does with a toddler, disastrously, the waiters swoop down, pick him up and play with him the entire time. They teach him how to write in Burmese and show him off to the cooks. Josh and I have a conversation. I could get used to this.

And so went our stay in Mandalay.

I go for a run and find myself soaking in the local morning routines. Monks take my picture. I wander through a market of homemade sausages, shark, stalls selling army gear, spices, art. The streets are full of old bicycles and cars from the 60’s, reminiscent of an Orwellian era.

With the help of our hotel, we find the one ATM in Mandalay that would recognize our American debit card. Things are working out. Flights to Bagan, check.

Bagan. One of the most beautiful and pristine places I have yet to see. In an attempt to describe a place that holds its own, the best I can say is that it is slightly reminiscent of Angkor Wat’s spirituality, with the laid back, untouched feel of Luang Prabang, Laos. Their bright red mouths stained from betel nut reminds one of India. The dirt roads are groomed, lined with temples, pagodas, and stupas. In its time, between the 11th and 13th century, there were 10,000 Buddhist temples. Over 2,000 remain with another 2,000 under renovation after an earthquake in 1975.

We hire a driver, U Aung, to take us to so many temples and pagodas that we lose count. They are as beautiful inside as out. Along with massive, gold Buddhas, they have the original paintings, doors, and bricks poking out of the necessary renovations. Eventually, we have to call a nap hour for Beck though. We make plans for U Aung to pick us up in the late afternoon so we could see Bagan at sunset. After going back to our hotel, laying Beck down in his bed of blankets, and drinking a much deserved beer on a hot day, we start to waver about leaving the quiet of the moment. This was the climax of our trip though. We rally. No rest for the weary. When our driver arrives, I scoop a sleepy Beck up and set off.

Our driver takes us to a remote pagoda, off the dirt path that already had little, to no traffic. He meets up with his friend that unlocks the doors for us and leads us inside with flashlights in the quiet dark, spotting Buddhas recessed into the walls. Light is shining through the windows. If I were the type to believe, this is where one could find religion. Even Beck quieted. There is peace in this place.

Truly, there aren’t going to be the right words to describe the sunsets, the temples, the inherent kindness of the people, and the slow, peaceful way of this place. If you do find yourself in Burma, tread lightly and appreciate the kind soul of this country.


“True and sincere traveling is no pastime, but it is as serious as the grave, or any part of the human journey, and it requires a long probation to be broken into it. I do not speak of those that travel sitting, the sedentary travelers whose legs hang dangling the while, mere idle symbols of the fact, any more than when we speak of sitting hens we mean those that sit standing, but I mean those to whom traveling is life for the legs, and death too, at last. The traveler must be born again on the road, and earn a passport from the elements, the principal powers that be for him. He shall experience at last that old threat of his mother fulfilled, that he shall be skinned alive. His sores shall gradually deepen themselves that they may heal inwardly, while he gives no rest to the sole of his foot, and at night weariness must be his pillow, that so he may acquire experience against his rainy days. So it was with us.”


-Henry David Thoreau


May’s Top 10 Running Songs

I love finding new music to fuel my run. I am a bit of an indie rock junkie.

Keep it rad, moving, and enjoy these songs as much as I have.

Continue reading “May’s Top 10 Running Songs”

%d bloggers like this: