Join The Family

Taking your running to the next level is tough, but you’ll never feel alone along the way

All sports seem to have a certain camaraderie that goes with them.  Often teammates share a love for their sport or seem to be part of a brotherhood.  In ultra running, the community that runners share seems to go much deeper, way beyond sharing a love for the sport.  There’s an immediate connection with others and you just know “these are my people.”  There seems to be a draw for many runners when they decide to cross over to the ultra distances and experience the community that awaits them.

So what is it about this ultra running community? I’ve found in my experience some unique things that make up the bond in this group of runners.


If you are a distance runner, marathon or longer, you’ve probably been asked by friends and family why you do it.  Many ultra runners are even considered “crazy” by most who just can’t understand their desire or drive.  Within the community of ultra runners, there’s no need to explain why we put ourselves through such long distance runs, pain and suffering.  We don’t have to put into words our drive or motivation, we just quietly run alongside one another on the same journey.  There’s no questions to answer as to why.  Our fellow ultra runners are our safe family of acceptance and give us a sense of belonging.


Short distance races are all about the win, that first place trophy, while longer endurance races are about the finish.  The reward to the ultra runner is the accomplishment of completing the race. In the ultra distance races even the faster runners encourage, give high-fives and cheer on all the other runners.  When ultra runners pass on the trail they look at each other and say “good job” and offer words of encouragement no matter what pace they are moving.

It’s a supportive community where at times the slowest or last place runner has the largest crowd cheering them on as they cross the finish line.  It’s this unusual level of encouragement that greets all levels of ultra runners and truly makes you feel part of the ultra community.


In ultra distances of 50 miles, 100K or 100 miles the runners get help from others.  Crew and pacers are used by runners to support them during these race.  Sometimes supportive family members help, but mostly its other ultra runners step in and help one another.  For some runners it’s a large group that helps get them to the finish line.  They often sacrifice days of their time to help one another accomplish their goals and races.  While on the course if a runner is hurt or needs even the smallest item, from a Band-Aid to food, a fellow ultra runner will stop and offer help or personal items from their own pack to aid another runner.  It’s a community that helps each other cross the finish line.

The ultra running community is a group that encourages, supports and takes care of its own.  Run a race or two and you might find yourself saying, “these are my people.”


Published November 2016



Mind Over Matter

Many people would suggest Ultra Running is only 10% physical and 90% is mental.  I admit I’ve seen my share of runners who I felt hadn’t trained at all for a race and then complete it.  Yet others who seemed to have trained sufficiently, yet ended up in failing to finish.  How can this be and is it really all a mental game?  How do we win that mental game and complete our goals?

Yes, I’ve crossed that elusive finish line many times, but I’ve also tasted the dreaded DNF.  It those experiences which brought me to a few conclusions as to how I stay strong mentally.  It’s not something we can train for, but something we must pull deep from within ourselves.

Add the following tools to your bucket, and access them whenever you need to, to stay mentally strong.


Most runners who are running a marathon distance or longer will at some point in the race begin to question why they are doing this to themselves.  Not everyone starts running because they love to run.  I might even suggest that most don’t start for that reason.

So why did you start running?  Was health your motivation?  Weight loss? Maybe a friend asked you to join them?  For some, it’s a sort of spiritual connection or alone time they seek.  We may not all have started out running with a strong love for it, but somewhere along the way if you are running ultra distances, you’ve found a reason.  So what is it for you?

Ultra runners are often misunderstood as the distance seems so extreme and sometimes unimaginable.  I like to find that place in my heart and mind that brought me to running and use it as motivation to continue.  Tuck a few of those motivational thoughts in your bucket for later in the race when you’re hurting or discouraged.


It is so important to set goals.  Most of us have set goals our entire lives and often not even thought about it.  Maybe your goal was to go to college, follow a career path, buy a house or car.  We set a goal and focus on accomplishing our objective.  Running ultra distances can be a goal.  You set your sights on a 50K, a 50 Miler, maybe a 100K or 100 Miler.  These distances can take 12 or 24 hours, often longer and you can achieve each one, after slowly building up to each distance.  So, we set goals, develop a plan and stay focused. Remembering the goal and what you want to accomplish, is always a great thing to have in the bucket.

Positive Talk

For me, this is the key to it all!  Most of us have those doubting thoughts that creep into our heads while running.  Hours and miles on your feet gives you plenty of time for your mind to start telling yourself all the negative things you’re experiencing.  The key is to “stop listening to yourself talk and start speaking to yourself.”  Make a conscious effort to tell yourself positive things and push aside the negative thoughts we all experience.

When I first started running, I often focused on a close friend of mine who had lost her battle with cancer.  She fought a hard battle to beat cancer, and I would tell myself, “if she could fight that hard, I can do this.”  You need to find those positive talking points in your life and then begin to speak it to yourself.  If you fill your bucket with several positive things you can reference so they are always right there for you when you need them most.

Published October 2016






Rim to Rim to Rim, Grand Canyon, September 26, 2016

I’m not sure how to even begin to tell you about this adventure.  It’s not a race but just a very well known run to do in the ultra running community; unless you are an avid hiker or trail runner the term “Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim” probably means nothing to you. For ultra runners it’s a bucket list item. For me (and my group I went with) it meant going down the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim to the Colorado River, then following the North Kaibab Trail across the base of canyon and up to the North Rim, and then reversing direction all the way back to the South Rim.   The route we went, totaled 48 miles which we would complete in less than a day.

I should probably give you a little back ground here.  I had never been to the Grand Canyon before.  As hard as that might seem to believe, at 52, this was my first trip.  I had seen pictures and we’d been planning this trip for almost a year now.  My friends Carrie and Lisa, who I’ve run many ultra marathons with over the last couple of years, have also enjoyed some other great running adventures together. Carrie had done this trip a couple years ago with friends of hers from Wisconsin (where she grew up) and some of them were planning a trip back to experience it once more.  There would be room for Lisa and I to join them on this return trip to the Canyon.  With their previous experience on this run, we left all the planning and details to them.  A date was picked for late September 2016.

So with our plans all set, Carrie, Lisa and I flew into Phoenix on Saturday, September 24th and drove from there to Flagstaff, Arizona to meet up with the Wisconsin crew and another runner from Georgia. Another local running friend from Georgia, Janet was joining us for our run, but because of her tight schedule she would only be able to run down the Canyon to the River and back up, also called Rim to River.  Later that afternoon we all converged on Flagstaff where we spent the rest of the day and most of the next day, before heading over to the Grand Canyon.

My first look at the Grand Canyon, trying to take in what we are about to  do

Our group met up at 4:00am the next morning in the Bright Angel Lodge for a quick group picture before heading down to the trail.  We all have our headlamps on and know that it will likely be a couple of hours in the dark before the sun comes up.  We carefully travel this first steep downhill section in the dark and hit the Indian Garden camp ground just as the sun rises.  This is my first trip to the canyon and in the canyon, so I’m in awe as I take the whole trip in.  I tried to take a few pictures to capture it all, but later when it seems that my iPhone camera just doesn’t do it all justice, I forgo taking more pictures.  Most of the pictures I’m sharing are from Carrie’s snap on camera she wears on her pack.

Our group at 4am and some early photos on our trip down

Once through the Indian Garden Camp Ground area we head down to the Devils Corkscrew section, taking us further and deeper into the canyon.  Soon after we left Indian Garden area two members of our group from Wisconsin told us to all go ahead and not wait on them.  They were only doing the Rim to Rim and staying overnight on North Rim before taking a shuttle back the next day.  So their pace plan would be much slower, and the rest of our group moved ahead.

From Indian Garden down the Corkscrew to the Colorado River

Typically on a run, I would think the whole way down a big hill how I would have to come up it later, but those thoughts didn’t run through my head.  I was really so busy taking in the moment and knowing it would be so much later and mostly likely dark before I was going up, I didn’t think much about that part.  The Devils Corkscrew sections is 3.2 miles that winds you down to the Colorado River.  Then it’s another 1.5 miles along the beautiful Colorado River to what is called the Silver Bridge where we would cross.  It was at the water stop just after crossing the bridge that Janet, our Georgia friend must turn back.  After a bathroom break and water fill up the rest of us head to Phantom Ranch where we stop again, this time for some famous Lemmy’s Lemonade.

The Colorado River crossing and Lemonade at Phantom Ranch

Once we leave Phantom Ranch it’s 7 miles across the base of the Canyon before we start to climb out the North side.  The temperatures were beginning to rise as we made our way across the canyon floor.  I still found myself in awe with each turn and step as I wanted to take it all in and enjoy the moment I was in.  It did seem to get quit warm before we reach Cottonwood Campground on the other end of the canyon base.  There was shade there along with another water stop and chance to eat some snacks and assess how everyone was feeling.  All was well as we headed out just a few miles to the Pump house Station which is the last water and bathroom before going up the North Rim.

From Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood Campground

Now we reach the first real climbing, 3.7 miles up to the Supai Tunnel. Our group of 5 now begins to really spread out more as we climb and chat a little less during this time. Carrie, Lisa and I climb at a more steady pace up the canyon as the other 2 trail behind. The views from the North trail are incredible and somewhat scary as we climb, with a Canyon wall on one side of us and a drop off just on the other side.  Because I’ve not done this before and have done little to no research, but am following the plan set out before me, I really have no idea where we are with regards to the top of the climb.  I hear talk about the tunnel and then certain miles to the top but all of that means nothing to me.  So we just keep climbing and climbing.  Once we finally reach the bridge and Supai Tunnel it’s still a few miles from the top.  We finally get to jump out of the path of the Mule Train coming down, we had waited all day to hopefully see some mules.  During the last few miles of climbing, I start thinking about the Lodge on the North Rim and how I might run down there (1.7 miles) after getting to the top to bring us all back some cold Coke.  After the afternoon in the heat nothing seemed to sound better, and we knew the others were a little ways behind us and might also enjoy a cold drink.

The views coming up the North Rim were spectacular

Once Carrie, Lisa and I got to the top and took our packs off, I looked around for a ride to the North Rim Lodge in hopes of finding cold drinks.  A very nice guy and his son from Georgia (of all places) gave me a ride there.  I did some quick scouting and found that other than a fountain drink there were not sodas or water sold in cans or bottles.  So off I went, running back, empty handed, to the rim trail entrance to meet up with the others and keep them from waiting too long for me.  The others had just gotten in and were assessing how they all felt.  One girl from our team was not feeling too well due to the heat down in the canyon and was resting hoping to feel better.  We discussed who was headed back and when we might go.  I was feeling really good and ready to head out but no one was ready to commit to going back with me.  Carrie opted to stay with her Wisconsin friends until they figured out if the one would be feeling better and able to go back, and Lisa and I headed back together.  Once we left the North Rim we soon realized we would have no way of knowing for certain if one or all of them were headed back or staying the night on the North Rim.  It would be more than 12 hours before we would find out the answer to that question.

Lisa and I were both feeling really good and ran down the North Rim, being a little more careful on the turns and stopping only briefly to get drinks at the water stops. Within a few miles we come across the other two from our group who are only going to the North Rim and saying the night there.  I’m sure they were happy to see familiar faces as we exchanged some conversation and continued down.  We made it back to Cottonwood Campground in what seemed pretty good time.  We both needed to refill our packs, use the bathroom and eat a snack before heading out from there.  Our next goal would be to keep pushing and get as far as we could in daylight, although we went ahead and got our headlamps out while we were stopped.  Once it got dark we found it getting harder and harder to keep our running pace and began mostly hiking the later section to Phantom Ranch.  We came into the ranch as it was definitely dark and were happy Phantom Ranch store was open and we could get some more Lemonade.  We knew less than a mile from here would start our climb back up the South Rim.  I remember us crossing the Silver Bridge and thinking in the dark just how long it was, during the day it seemed to be much shorter and faster to cross.  The climb out would take Lisa and I several hours and most of it not really knowing exactly where we were in the climb with the exception of major land marks like Indian Garden and water stops along the South Rim.  At one point during our climb Lisa and I stopped, sat back against the Canyon Wall, shut our headlamps off and looked up.  We looked at the dark canyon walls in the night with the sky above filled with bright stars everywhere.  Carrie had told us to do this, and it really was something amazing to take in.

Lisa and I finally reach the top of the Canyon and head back into Bright Angel Lodge to have our photo taken by the same lady who had taken it that morning.  She was amazed at our adventure, while we were too tired at the moment to take in our accomplishment.  In many ways, maybe you can never fully take it in.  Lisa and I head to our hotel room for some cold Chocolate Milk and snacks we had waiting for us, warm showers and a warm bed.  I laid in bed afraid to fall asleep for fear of not hearing Carrie come to the door knocking and needing in after she arrived.  It would be several hours later before she would come knocking and me dozing on and off in wait.

Lisa and I just after we finished, also a picture of a neckless that my work (David Douglas Diamonds and Jewelry) made for me before I left for this trip.  I put it in my pack and carried it with me on my R2R2R adventure.  Once Lisa and I got back to our room, I dug it out and put it on.  I’ve been wearing it every since.

The next morning before leaving we would take another look at the canyon and get a whole new perspective of the adventure we had been on.  Rim2Rim2Rim was an  incredible  journey, but not one to be taken lightly.  Our group all runs long distances and tackles some pretty good elevation change on a regular basis, but it was still a challenge to take on the climbing involved in the mile deep canyon.

We take a look back to see just what we did, or really the beginning, the green section down the middle of the big pictures is Indian Garden which is about 5 miles down.  The enormity of the Canyon is more than I can take it.  I’m sure I’ll go back to explore it again!

Mystery Mountain Marathon, October 9, 2016


This was a hard one.  Well, all of them are hard, actually, but it does seem like some are harder than others.  Sometimes it’s just not our day.  Maybe we are tired, our nutrition might be off, our mind isn’t quite with it, or for whatever reason the run just seems like such a struggle.  We can try to just enjoy a beautiful day for running and some beautiful scenery, but it’s hard to enjoy that while our head is focused down on the trail.


Fort Mountain, Chatsworth, GA

I had a goal, a plan.  I even shared it out loud.  Normally I don’t share a goal.  It’s like bad luck – I might jinx myself or something.  But there you go, I said it out loud – I really wanted a sub 6 hr finish.  This would be my third time running this race.  It’s 26 miles with 7,000 ft of elevation gain, lots of single track technical trails (my favorite), long stretches of rocky fire roads and some gnarly downhill sections.  Previously, my best time was 6:16 and each time I’ve run it, I’ve also been the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher.  This year I have been training with a coach and felt like I was stronger and had a good chance of reaching my goal.  I also asked a couple of my running friends, Bill and Loren, if they would pace me.   I knew with a little push, I could stay running on sections I had walked in previous years, and that should help me reach my goal.

Promptly at 8am, the race started with a bang, literally from a cannon.  Like most races it started out on a short road section before entering the trails, then within a mile or so the trail narrows to some single track and very technical sections.  This is my favorite part of the course, but today it took me several miles before I felt like I really settled into a comfortable pace and run.  I know I’d pushed myself up to the front a little more than normal and was running strong with my two friends, Loren in front setting the pace and Bill just a few steps behind me.  We all stayed together and pushed through nearly 5 miles of trails before Bill took the lead and moved further ahead.  He had been struggling with stomach issues all week and I knew he was not feeling great, so I was happy to see him push ahead and find his own groove.  I also knew Loren would continue to set a good pace and help me to push even when I didn’t feel like it.

At each aid station, we got an update on how far Bill was ahead of us.  Sometimes it was a couple minutes, and later it was more like 5 or 6 minutes.  He would leave word that he expected us to catch up to him as he continued to struggle with his stomach issues, but he seemed to be having a great race anyway.


I really was having a good time

Around mile 9 or so, I turned my ankle.  At first, I wasn’t sure just how bad it was, but I was able to walk it off within a few minutes and begin to run pain free again.  It did, however, make me more cautious so I wouldn’t turn it again.  This wasn’t my “A” race and I knew I didn’t want to injure it seriously.  After the mile 10/11 aid station, the fun really began with a steep power line climb and then a downhill that is called the “downhill of despair.”  I guess that should be description enough.  I was hopeful that once we finished the downhill section, the trail would smooth out and the fire roads would not be quite so technical – a little easier running.  But instead, we experienced more rocks and technical sections that made it difficult to settle into a comfortable stride.

Once we went through the next couple of aid stations that seemed to come quickly on the fire roads, we came to what’s known as Conte’s climb.  Most local ultra trail runners and any GUTS Member (Georgia Ultra and Trail Running Society) knows who Franco Conte is.  I’m sure his ears are burning as many of us go up this long climbing section named after him.  The climb isn’t hard because it’s so steep, but because it’s so very long.  Most Georgia runners are used to hills.  We run on them almost daily, and they are usually short and steep.  Long steady climbs that never seem to end are not our specialty, in most cases.  Two weeks earlier, I had been in the Grand Canyon, so this was right up my training tree.  I had this one.  Loren and I were looking forward to reaching  the Last Gasp Aid Station, but it just seemed to take forever.  By the time we got there, I felt I was a little past my Last Gasp.  We caught and passed a few runners here as we headed into the last section of rolling hills with more climbing.  By now, I’m just ready to be done.  Loren pushed us forward and I kept running even when I really wanted to just walk it in to the finish.   I knew I had to keep pushing to stay with him.  He kept track of our time on his watch and let me know we were doing great, but I didn’t really want to know exactly how we were doing.  As long as we were good, that’s all I needed to know.

Soon we were at the top of the power lines, headed down them and into the home stretch.  We both moved as quickly, but carefully, as possible.  We quickly checked in with the aid station crew at the bottom of the hill, and were off around the lake to the finish line.  I told Loren it would take all his strength to push me in, because I was done.  I kept moving forward, trying to finish as strong as I could.


This was all the push I had left in me

I wish I would have been smiling as I crossed the finish line, because I could not have had more fun.  I got to run on a beautiful course with absolutely perfect running weather, and I spent time with a couple of my favorite runners.  But I was spent.  I gave it all I had that day.  Maybe on a different day it would have been more.

It took a couple of days before I realized I did reach some of my goals.  I did get a PR on the course by 9 minutes, finishing in a time of 6:07, and I was once again the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher!