Chamonix: I Don’t Like It; I love it, love it, love it.

On our second day in Chamonix, mom and I went  up the cable car opposite of Mt Blanc and up to Le Brevent. From there, we got spectacular views of the mountains and the valley below. I mapped out a run that took me from the cable car stop at Planpraz, up to Lacs Noirs/Lac Cornu, and over to L’Index.

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Game Day, y’all!

The run began with a hike up a fire road before hanging a right and onto lots and lots of rocks — a theme that would continue the entire run. A lot of the run was run for 10 yards, hop rocks for 20, run for 5 feet, scramble for 15. It was delightful. The first two miles I climbed roughly 1200 feet and rocked a 18:00 min/mile average. I was the only one running, but there were plenty of hikers most of the way.

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Long way to go to train for the rock garden @ Stump Jump

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Luckily, the trails were marked well enough to where even I couldn’t get lost

I passed lots of people having picnics, especially when I passed by Lacs Noir. I looked down and there in the valley was just a random lake. Of course, I didn’t look for long as I needed all the help I could get at staying upright. I finally made it to L’Index but wanted to keep going. About a tenth of a mile later, it seemed that the trail just ended . . . until I noticed a “handrail” along the side of rock. I realized that I was supposed to use that for the next quarter mile. So, I thought, what the hell? If I die, at least I’ll die in the Alps.

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So I grabbed it and kind of crawled across the rocks until finally making it to a “trail”. It wasn’t as bad as I thought since it was going slightly uphill. But things got a little scarier when I had to make my way down in the same fashion. I was glad no one was around to watch me do it because it was probably the least graceful thing I’ve ever done.

I back tracked all the way back to the Planpraz cable car stop. My time improved a little bit on the way back as I became a little more surefooted. As I got closer, I started hearing bells. My first thought — is there seriously a Mississippi State fan with a cowbell out here?! (I mean, it was game day after all). Then, I realized it was goats!

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I finally made it back to Planpraz where they had a bar/restaurant. I got some more water, fueled up with Huma (thanks, Steven!!!), and started the 3 miles back down to Chamonix. I had no idea I could go that slowly on a downhill, but with rocks and sharp turns, it was basically a shuffle the entire. A shuffle with an incredible view though:

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Total running time: 2:30; 10.5 miles; 2600 ft’. Not a bad day at all.

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This is my “I can’t believe I’m here, I never want to go home” face

Chamonix, Chamonix Ain’t No Place I’d Rather Be (part un)

Clearly when the Dead wrote that there’s nowhere else they’d rather be than in Tennessee, they had never been to Chamonix. When Mom began planning this trip, I asked her to go to Chamonix which is the home of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc . . . so obviously I was DYING to go run there. As soon as we got off the train, I was in love with this place.

The first day, Mom and I rode the cable car up to Aguille du Midi to take in the breathtaking views of Mont Blanc. From there, I began my first run in the Alps. The terrain was a little more technical than I expected, but it was still pretty runnable. I kept turning around though to take in the jaw-dropping views. IMG_1352

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Most people were hiking except for two other girls, but all were super friendly and encouraging. I even had an elderly dude yell “you’re already late for the beer!” The entire time I was hiking or jumping from rock to rock, I kept thinking “this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done” . . . and it was. Some things are great to experience with others; however, running in the Alps and doing it solo was perfection. And it was just what my body and spirit needed. It was absolutely surreal, and I have never had a better time in my life than when I was bounding along pretending to be Emelie or Kilian. I ran the path from Aguille du Midi to Mer de Glace which is home to an actual real life glacier (Which is NOT the same thing as an iceberg. Deep down I knew this, but my 18 year long obsession with Titanic kept trying to convince me otherwise).

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After reaching Mer de Glace and exploring the glacier with Mom, I ran from Mer de Glace back down to Chamonix.

At Mer de Glace

At Mer de Glace

The first part of this trail was basically all rock and all downhill. It was the first trail in the forest though, and it was spectacular.

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Eventually, I popped out on a giant rock and into the great wide open. I also happened upon a little bar set out in the middle of BFE with people just drinking, hanging, and cheering on runners/hikers.

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I picked up the double track trail and ran the next 3 miles or so down into Chamonix. My first run in the Alps was all that I wanted it to be — Just an all together glorious, unforgettable, I never wanted to stop run.

Hey down there, Chamonix

Hey down there, Chamonix

J’aime courir a Paris

Paris was the second stop on the Bama Does Europe Tour. Our first full day there was a “rest” day for me, but Mom and I walked a ton that day, including 300 steps up and 300 steps down the basilica in Montmatre and down the Eiffel Tower. The next day we were headed to Chamonix so I got up before sunrise for a run. Apparently, Paris doesn’t wake up before 7am because it felt like I had the city to myself.

Our hotel was about a half mile from the Seine so I headed there and ran along the river. It was amazingly lit all the way until I turned off towards the Louvre. I barely saw a soul for that first mile which, after walking through the hustle and bustle the day before, was beautiful. I ran in front of the Louvre, through the arch, and around the Tuileries and Carousel Gardens because they were still closed from the night before.

The Seine

The Seine

The Louvre at dawn

The Louvre at dawn

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

I then picked up the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, ran past all of the stores, and ran all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. It was just beginning to get light, and the Arc was spectacular. I’m glad I liked the view too because with the light of day, traffic was picking up, and it took me quite a while to make my way around the roundabout.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

IMG_1280Finally, I made it all the way around and was back on Champs-Elysees. By the time I got back to the Tuileries, they were open. Apparently, this is where people come to run because I saw many others with the same idea as mine. The gardens with their statues and flowers was breathtaking. Plus, the terrain was kind of “trailly”.

Tuileries: Gardens of the Louvre

Tuileries: Gardens of the Louvre

I passed back by the Louvre and ran back along the river. My pace was faster than anticipated so I had a little extra time. I crossed over the river and ran to Notre Dame. Again, I was the only one there which was great as it meant no one was trying to sell me selfie sticks or Eiffel Tower keychains.

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Notre Dame sans Quasimodo

As I ran back to the hotel to get ready for adventures in Chamonix, the sun was rising over the river which perfectly capped off a beautiful run and my own private tour of Paris.

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London Running

“I [ran] by the river”

London was the first stop in the Bama Does Europe Tour. As we walked around the first day through the throngs of people, I thought that running here was going to really suck. As per ush, I was wrong.

The first day I crossed over from our hotel to the South Bank and ran along the River Thames. My first point of interest: MI6 Building. What better motivation than trying to find James Bond or at least a Daniel Craig lookalike? No luck, but it was still a beautiful run down to MI6  as you could see Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and Big Ben along the river.

Daniel Craig, where are you?

Daniel Craig, where are you?

I continued next to the river until I got to Battersea, and then I crossed over the bridge in front of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull’s old house. I ran along the streets of Chelsea — they did NOT seem used to runners — and made my way through the swanky area of Belgravia. Somehow or another, I found Hyde Park. From there, I saw the London Eye up in the sky and knew that was the way back to the hotel. I ran through Hyde Park and found a “trail”!

London's single track

London’s single track

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

I ran through Hyde Park until finding myself in front of Buckingham Palace, said what up to the Queen, looked for Harry the hottest Ginger ever, and made my way through the Royal Horseguards, past Big Ben (which is probably my favorite sight in London), and finished in front of the London Eye. 14 gorgeous miles.

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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

The next day I took Milner’s and Wade’s advice and just went straight for Hyde Park. It was fun people watching, and there were a ton of other runners out. I ended up following another “trail” until I was in front of Royal Albert Hall and next to what John Lennon thought was a psychedelic rocket. I turned around and ran back towards the ever-watching Eye. 6.5 sweet ass miles.

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Haven’t mastered the art of the selfie without looking like the hag from Snow White

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We left for Paris early on Tuesday morning so in solidarity with my Tuesday morning interval peeps back in Nashville, I did intervals on the treadmill before we left.

To sum it up: London was beautiful, I liked it much better than I expected, and I had a blast exploring it by foot!

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Back Where I Come From

As someone with a personality of the “grass is greener”, the next adventure is always better, my favorite race is always the next race, it can be hard to reflect on the past (unless, of course, I’m using it as training or motivational tool). I hadn’t been back home in over a year when I returned last week to drop Gyps off with her Pop before leaving on our trip. Since it had been so long,  I decided to take the time to reflect a little bit on my past . . . and what better way to do that than on a run.

Big-eyed fish

Big-eyed fish

I started my run as I had done for over ten years – I ran out of my parents’ driveway, out of their sleepy neighborhood, and onto the busy “highway”. Before I had even warmed up, I passed the spot that was exactly 1.5 miles from home. I knew this without looking at my watch; this was my regular turnaround spot for years because who needed to run more than 3 miles at a time?

Standard view on my run for years

Standard view on my run for years

I did the loop where, when I felt froggy one day, I ran 5 miles for the first time ever . . . after which I thought I was going to die and was sure no one else had ever run that far. I ran past my old high school where I lived it up from 2000-2004. While there, I thought I had found my permanent identity, a hodgepodge of hippie/jock/nerd . . . and I guess that still stands in some form or fashion (mostly in the form of running. And the hippie part of me has calmed down a bit). I saw the softball fields that I thought would be my future and my ticket out of town.

Dear ol' high school . . . where the magic happened from '00-'04

Dear ol’ high school . . . where the magic happened from ’00-’04

All of these places and experiences shaped and molded the present day me — for better or for worse. For instance, my right arm will always be massively bigger than my left thanks to 10 years of pitching/softball. I recognize the importance of acting like everyone is watching because, well, they were. I appreciate the “big city” of Nashville. On runs, I learned how to hurdle road kill, how to dodge trucks who think it’s funny to drive directly at you while you’re running, and how to answer cars that pull over asking “do you need a ride?”.

"Downtown"

“Downtown” Alex City

Even though I won’t stop obsessing over what I’ll race next year or the next or where I’ll live in the future (looking at you, CO), it was a cathartic and cleansing visit to the past.

Shrine to me . . . or my parents' house

Future shrine to me . . . or my parents’ house

Shelby Park 6 Miler Sponsor Spotlight: Spring Rewards

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Nashville Running Company hosts multiple races throughout the year, including the NRC Trail Race 6 Mile Series. The 3rd installment, RunWILD Shelby Park 6 Miler, is quickly approaching! This fun race takes place on October 4 @ 8am at the Cornelia Fort Airpark — which is right in NRC’s backyard.

One of the sponsors of the RunWILD Shelby Park 6 Miler is Spring Rewards. If you’re already a regular at NRC then you probably know a little something about this awesome company. Spring is a platform that provides branded loyalty and reward programs for local businesses and restaurants. It’s a smart and fun way for customers to get rewarded for shopping LOCALLY! Everything is held on credit/debit cards customers carry so there’s nothing to keep up with like another card, voucher, or proof of purchase. Easy! And the rewards are sweet. For instance, if you enroll in their rewards program with NRC, you get $25 back for every $500 you spend in the store, which, as any runner knows, adds up QUICKLY!

Rowanne McKnight is the Nashville market manager, overseeing all sales and marketing here in town. In addition to working at Spring and driving her 3 children all over town, she’s also an avid runner and yogi. She says she isn’t a pro at either one but loves the physical and mental benefits she gets from both (I actually met Rowanne on a RunWEST run, and she’s a GREAT runner). She’s a certified yoga instructor, has run 15 marathons (!), and is training to run Chicago in October! She loves getting geared up at NRC — “everyone there is approachable, knowledgeable, and fun!” Couldn’t agree more, Rowanne! Thank you and Spring Rewards for your generous sponsorship of the RunWILD Shelby Park 6 Miler!

Things to Keep in Mind When Dating/Married to/Friend of/Parent to an Ultra & Trail Runner

  1. When we say we “need” to go for a run, we mean it. Whether it’s for sanity’s or training’s sake, we literally need to go run. After we get that run in, we’ll stop talking about it . . . until the next day. In that same vein, we may sometimes complain about HAVING to go for a run. Yes, we know we could technically “not go” . . . wait, actually no, we have to go. If we don’t, it’ll pick at us all day, everything will remind us of the fact we didn’t go, and we’ll be cranky and miserable because of it.
  2. However long we say we’ll be gone on a run, it’s safe to add AT LEAST an hour or two. Sometimes, we fail to take into consideration travel time, bonk time, refueling time, or “we felt good so we just kept going” time.
  3. Grocery bills will increase along with our training. And yes, we are eating AGAIN.
  4. Friday nights are usually more tame than any other night of the week BECAUSE Saturday morning alarms for long runs are usually much earlier than week day alarms for work.
  5. Vacation time is still running time.
  6. We may accidentally leave wet shoes, dirty clothes,  or sweaty hydration packs in our car from time to time which means it may smell like a dead body in there from time to time. We’ll also come home smelling like ass, covered in sweat, mud, and God knows what else. We promise we’ll take a shower and get back to our normal, sexy selves as soon as we peel ourselves up off the floor.
  7. We think about running . . . a lot. We follow obscure races and geek out over runners you’ve never heard of before. This only intensifies when we get around our ultra/trail running friends. Eventually, we will talk about other things; be patient with us.
  8. Ultrasignup can be a more dangerous website than Ashley Madison. If you see us on there, rein us in. We could easily sign up for 10 races in 10 different states at any given time if left to our own devices.
  9. We, at some point, will likely (literally) fall victim to our sport. We may twist an ankle, bruise/skin knees, pass out, need IVs, or piss blood. Yes, we know we brought this on ourselves. Still, listen to us talk about it again and again, tell us what bad asses we are, and try to spare us a lecture (until at least maybe the wounds and urethras are healed). We also realize you’re only concerned about us and appreciate and love you for it.
  10. We love our sport, and we love you. We also understand that you, more than likely, are not obsessed with what we do (or at least to the degree we are). And that’s ok. However, nothing makes us happier than when you show an interest (even if feigned) or want to crew/support/spectate/talk running. That being said, it’s not always expected. We know we’re weirdos and are thankful you love us in spite of it.
Gratuitous Jenn and Tony pic

Gratuitous Jenn and Tony pic-photo cred: luis escobar

Newton Distance IV Review

Obviously, trails are my true love, but out of convenience, a lot of my runs are done on the road. Thanks to Strava, I can keep track of how many miles my shoes have logged. My road shoes have over 600 miles on them, and I thought that warranted my review of them.

Since 2012, when I first started shopping at NRC and discovered there was a whole world of running shoes outside of Brooks, I’ve only worn Newtons on the road. I have had no less than 7 pairs, including the Distance III. I’ve loved each and every one but not like I love my latest pair, the Distance IV. As soon as I put on this shoe, I was obsessed. I’m not saying that it was exactly like Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” but it was close. Two days after I got them, I ran a marathon in them. Two weeks after that, I ran a 41 mile race in them, and my feet felt great (well, for having run 41 miles on the road. In hilly Tennessee. In May).

Rocking the Distance IV at Strolling Jim

Rocking the Distance IV at Strolling Jim

There were just a few changes from the Distance III, and aside from the color, I think they were all for the better. Newton is known for their lug technology; the lugs encourage midfoot running, as well as maximize running efficiency. The Distance IV is a part of the POP 1 (POP = point of power) group so there’s a whole lotta lugs. The lugs on the Distance IV seem to be more prominent than on the other models, and they haven’t worn down much even after 600 miles. Also, I definitely think that the lugs on the IV are more responsive than with lugs past. I feel a little more pep in my step from these. The heel of the IV hasn’t worn down as much either which I can only assume stems from the advanced lug technology (and perhaps, I’m finally getting better with my form). The tongue has less material and is less “cushy,” but it actually stays in place better. Even though the IV is a little heavier (and by heavier, I mean .6-.7 ounces), I haven’t been able to tell a difference.

Probably, the biggest thing for me is the toebox seems a little wider. One of the issues I’ve always had with Newtons is that my pinky toes would start hurting in the middle of long runs. The IV hasn’t given me this problem at all. Like I said, I ran a marathon and 41 miles in them, and my feet were about the only thing that felt good at the end.* My only complaint, and which really isn’t a complaint at all, is based solely (ha get it) on aesthetics. I may be one of the few people who is not a fan of flashy, loud shoes, but color is no reason to buy or not to buy certain running shoes. The Distance III was a beautiful white while the IV is BRIGHT YELLOW (which is still better than pink). The neon yellow was blinding at first, but after 600 miles, they’ve dirtied into a more pleasant, subdued hue. However, even if these shoes bright orange and blue, I’d still wear them. They’re that good.

Looking pretty good for 600 miles

Looking pretty good for 600 miles

So to sum up this succinct review — I really, really flipping love these shoes.

*Full disclosure: I wear currexSole insoles in all of my shoes as recommended by my PT. I have terrible arches and a (finally) healing but weak ankle.

**Super full disclosure: I run on NRC’s Race Team which is sponsored this year by Newton, but as I said earlier, I’ve been wearing Newtons since 2012, long before I was fast(ish) or on the team.

One of the Guys . . . and Girls

Anyone who knows me knows I love me some Anna Frost and that I follow her on every social media outlet (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder . . .). So, basically, I’m instantly aware of any move Frosty makes. This held true when Flora posted their new campaign featuring her, Stephanie Howe, and Krissy Moehl.

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And I was instantly pissed. Here were three incredibly talented, strong, bad ass women who were being vamped up (yes, I said vamp) to sell a product. Where were their dirty faces, running clothes, hydration packs, trucker hats, and other signs of their trail running awesomeness? Why would they try to eschew indications of their ferocity and strength for femininity and sexuality just to sell a product? And as I put my dress and makeup on for work the next day, I looked into the mirror and thought, “you bloody hypocrite.”

I have always loved being “one of the guys,” and this has definitely proven true with my venture into trail and ultra running. My best running partners are guys and that’s who I feel more comfortable running with. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy runs with some girlfriends, but honestly, I’d rather run with the boys. So much so that at East Nasty the other night, I ran faster than intended just so I didn’t have to run in a big group of ladies. I don’t mind conversations about clothes, nails, and boys, but I’d prefer them to be about running clothes, black toe nails, and Krar/Sage/Tony/Max. I want to geek out about all things trail running, get muddy/dirty, have completely inappropriate, NSFW convos, laugh about shits in the woods, ass water bottles, and dick chafing, and run hard. As I’m writing this, I realize how stereotypical and sexist I sound; if I want to, I can have all of these same conversations and experiences on runs with my female friends (looking at you, Donica and Jewly). And as much as I love my trucker hat, braids, and running shorts, I enjoy getting all dolled up for work or outings.

Because, while trail running defines who I am on the inside, it doesn’t always have to define who I am on the outside. I can wear a skirt and still be taken seriously as an athlete. And being a woman/girl doesn’t mean that I can only talk about kittens, rainbows, and unicorns. I can tell That’s What She Said jokes and drop the F word in every sentence if I want to. As women, we can be bad ass and beautiful, foul-mouthed and feminine, strong and sexy. So, I am sorry group of East Nasty gals, Stephanie, Krissy, and Frosty, and to my gender in general. I am proud to be able to hang with (most of ) the guys, and I will always enjoy being one of them (or at least trying to be). But I also love and embrace being a woman* (all sternum jokes aside). And as a steward of trail running, I should love, embrace, and accept anyone who is awesome enough to get out on the trails.

*Side note — calling myself a woman kind of nauseates me as I still view myself as young enough to be considered a girl, but numbers don’t lie . . .

Top 30 Reasons Joy Travis is the Best Friend Ever

Everyone knows of David Letterman’s Top 10. Well, my best friend of 11 years, Joy Travis, turns 30 TOMORROW, August 1. In her honor, this is my top 30 of why she’s my bestest friend ever.

30.  We can go years or months without seeing each other and pick up exactly where we left off (albeit a little older and only slightly wiser) *fortunately, we no longer have to go years without seeing each other’s face.

29. She can rock Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in karaoke like nobody’s business. Seriously, she was bought MULTIPLE shots for her performance in NOLA.

28. Speaking of NOLA, she’ll stay out on Bourbon Street until after 6am and then completely rally to be the best Maid of Honor/only Bridesmaid ever.

27. She completely understands my love of DMB and the Boss.

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26. She’ll fly across country, schlep up to Jersey, spend an eternity converting a sunscreen bottle into a flask, and party her heart out at DMB caravan. To this day, it’s one of the best weekends of my life.

25. She knows the importance of “MAYDAY!”

24. She knows when to hide the Jack Daniels . . . and then where to find it months later.

23. She has your back when the woman at the Arby’s drive thru window tries to get sassy with you.

22. She was the co-creator of the short-lived game, Tot-zar.

21. She understands the importance of keeping a running “shit list” and how even the smallest of things can warrant placing someone on there. We’re still looking at you, girl in the library circa 2005.

20. We can have complete and coherent conversations using only lines from HIMYM (Because we’re awesome).

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19. She doesn’t judge you when you eat an entire tuna casserole by yourself . . . straight from the casserole dish.

18. She knows the correct pronunciation of “mozzarella” and “facebook”.

17. When you decide to leave your job in Florida and move back to Nashville, she’ll help you pack and then drive your car the entire 11 hours for you.

16. When you move back to Nashville and have nowhere to live, she lets you move in with her. And her mom makes you vegetable stew to take to work every day.

15. She drives an hour to come pick you and your dog up from a gas station after you’ve been in a wreck, totaled your car, and the cop just drops you off there.

14. She knows that, sometimes, if you turn your head really fast, you can see Abercrombie models in concert lights.

13. She understands that “Whiter Shade of Pale”  can sometimes be confused as “Tears in Heaven”.

12. She doesn’t flip out on  you when you decide to dye your hair in the shared bathroom and you (naturally) get the dye everywhere.

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11. She thinks taking pool balls from a fraternity party is hilarious . . . and she’s right.

10. She knows the importance of putting your “happy face.”

9. She understands the Mexican food and Dr. Pepper are the PERFECT Sunday food.

8. She gets that pizza and wine can fix just about anything.

7. She takes care of my girls at the drop of a hat anytime I ask her to.

6. In fact, she’s one of the few people in Gypsy’s “inner circle”

5. She indulges my existential, 1/3 life crises without judgement and with total understanding.

4. She’s put up with my crazy and my flakiness for 11 effing years.

3. Her texts help me get through life most days.

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2. She passes the front porch test with flying colors.

1. She’s my person.

my person