November 25, 2014

Surviving a stage race: Birmingham Stage Race 2014

Another one from my mind vault (see previous post). Pardon the dust while I clear out my thoughts from the last few months.

This year was my second attempt at the Birmingham Stage Race. You can read about my first attempt here. A ton of kids (read: adults who are fun) around here use this race as training for Pinhoti 100, which is a fantastic idea. The stage race is 53 miles over three days, so a great test for tired legs and depleted systems. As I had no plans to run 100 miles, I was just in it for fun and because it is part of the whole Southeastern Trail Series. Plus, of the million races in this series, this is my absolute favorite. If I could only pick one (or technically three) to run, I would for certain chose this one. There is just something special about the camaraderie you build with the fellow runners/sufferers, the challenge of eating and recovering over three days of racing, and the excitement of hitting a new trail every day (Moss Rock, Red Mountain, and Oak Mountain).

And it just so happens that my photography is a reflection of how the series went for me this year. Acceptable on days one and two with a complete tank on day three. I took zero pictures on the third day. If a blogger-runner tanks in the woods on a 22-mile run and takes no pictures of it, did the tanking even happen?

All three days had about the same weather -- starting off in the 60s and warming up to low 80s, pretty much exactly on the mark with the historical average for those dates. Which means that if you're considering this race, plan for warmth. No gloves needed. But lots of Skin Sake and Endurolytes needed.

Stage racers gathering on day one. Still fresh and optimistic.

Fellow Resolute Runner warming up on day one at Moss Rock. 

Day one is unique because this is one of the few (actually the only one that I know of) trail races in Moss Rock Preserve. There are lots of ups and downs and roots and rocks in this park. Bring your sturdiest set of ankles to survive 15 miles of stage one.

Rope to help guide you along the "trail."

For me, this first race is about conserving some energy. Go out, but don't go all out. Have fun, talk a lot with your friends, push yourself towards the end, and save some for the finish line jump.

Thanks, Mruns, for this picture.

This year, we used the same bib each day. In case you are wondering, these bibs will survive a trip through the washer and dryer.

Accidentally washed and ready for day two.

Day two, Red Mountain Park -- 16.6 miles, started with a siting of my friend who had just run a 100 miler. It's good luck to take pictures with awesome runners, right?!

Me and Olivia (sporting her fresh hundo belt buckle).

Start line action on day two.

Me, Kristie, and Dean.

My day two philosophy was to push while I could because I knew from last year that this course would be the "easy" one. On the second of this two-loop course, I tried to push to the front of the pack. In the end, I held on for second place female and attempted the most awesome finish-line pic of my life. Too bad my swift ninja moves blurred it. 

Blurred but potentially awesome finish. Thanks, Mruns!

When I got in the car and looked down at my leg, I was thrown off by the glittery skin I now had. The sheen of stage race running? Am I actually a vampire? Clearly my mind was muddled from two days of racing in oppressive humidity. That right there is a case of Skin Sake being wiped from your fingertips onto your leg. Um, and hopefully I went home to get a blanket. Chills!


Also, I kind of hate wearing any shirt that I love at these longer races with my pack because they end up get wear marks from the hydration pack. After a few years of swearing that my Camelbak is just fine, I'm looking to upgrade to something that fits more snugly to prevent shoulder, back, and shirt rash. Plus, it would be nice to be able to carry something larger than a key in the pocket. But then what would I do with my pocket bras that I love so much?


With three days of serious humidity, dry shoes were hard to come by. I wore a different pair on the first day, but after wearing these Altra Women's Olympuses on day two, I really wanted to wear them again on day three. Enter the Cyclone fan. I'm just sorry that my family had to deal with the grossness of a sweaty-stage-race-shoe breeze.


After each run day, I dressed in as much compression gear as I had available and rested and ate and rested and ate. Then I bribed my children to massage my legs. 

My children accept Netflix bribes in exchange for feet massages.

Then day three happened. For this day, we ran Oak Mountain for about 22 miles, and from the first step, I knew I was in for a doozy. I couldn't breath. I had no energy on hills. Then, my body decided to reject all gels. After two days, my stomach was done with the sugary goo. Just the thought of them made me nauseated. Even for a week after the race, I (a normally very into sweets person) couldn't even stand the idea of anything sweet. 

The good part of this day is that my brother came out to run the race with me. The bad part of the day is that by the end of the race, we were both in the struggle zone. He struggled (but not as much as me) because he rarely runs double digits and decided to jump into a 22-mile race. You know, no big deal. 

When we reached the halfway point, I wanted to quit so badly. So far in this running journey, I've never DNFed a race, but this day I came within a breath of saying, "I quit." Actually, I'm pretty sure that I said that I was going to quit, but my brother talked me out of it. I told the aid station volunteers that as soon as I left them I was going to go cry in the woods. Jokes are funniest when they are based on truth. I may have shed a tear or two when I thought no one was watching. My brother really coached me through my desire to quit by telling me that we would just "hike it out" the rest of the way and plan our family Thanksgiving. Ok, I told myself, I can just hike this

I was able to pound a sport drink at the halfway point, which helped with my overall electrolyte situation, but I still had a hard time taking in any nutrition the entire way. Some days of running are glorious and feel right, and some days you just feel like someone punched you in the face (and intestines and legs). Part of the intrigue of distance running for me is constantly tweaking the formula (food, training, racing) to shoot for a better outcome. With that you will have inevitable lows, but if you can learn from the lows, it's worth it. My new goal after this race was to try and eat more whole foods. Gels and gummies are just so easy and a great choice for certain distances, but my body does not appreciate them three days in a row. Lesson learned. 

So the second half of that race was some hiking, some trotting down hills, some hiking again, lots of talking, sometimes laughing (when I wasn't crying inside). My brother's pet peeve is people complaining about recreational activities, so knowing that helped inspire me to stay more positive or at least not voice my complaints as much as I wanted to. I know I would have quit if he wasn't there. Or at least I would have been a lot sadder. As it was, we had fun hanging out in the woods for a million hours (or however long it took), and I still had energy to jump at the finish line. 

Again, thanks, Mruns, for racing and then sticking around to take pics.

Despite the day three bonk-o-rama on day three, I finished third overall for the three days. 

Overall: You have to run the Birmingham Stage Race. Just do it. You won't regret it. Especially run it if you are training for any ultra distance. It's perfect training for learning to operate on tired legs (and tired intestines). 

November 23, 2014

Race Directing 101

My mind is like the front windows of our house. When the windows are clouded over with dust and fingerprints, I just want to close the blinds and put out a No Soliciting sign. But when I wash them (like I did this week after extensive procrastination), I roll up the blinds and soak in the kaleidoscope of leaves floating and zig-zagging all over the street and the rain cutting the scene at an angle. It's refreshing to just sit and soak it all in with a clear view.

Currently my mind is cluttered with the fingerprints and dust of unfinished blog posts and updates, and it needs some cleaning out so I can start fresh and enjoy the process again. So today I decided to sit down and write out all the things that have been floating around untyped in my brain. Half thoughts that need an ending tacked on to make them whole. And they need to move out of my head and onto paper (i.e. the internets) to make space for something fresh.

First Crusher Ridge, my inaugural race director event. Luckily I had a great friend and very organized person who co-directed the race with me, which made it feel immensely less stressful. It helped that we already had an established sponsor, Alabama Outdoors, in place before we even picked up the job. 

Mary and me, race co-directors

Here are some things that we did, learned, and hope to do better next time. If you're a pro race director, a lot of this information will seem like common sense to you, but as a newbie, it was a lot to think about at once. So maybe I can help some of you other newbies out there!

1. Using Ultra Signup. Because they had used Ultra Signup for this race in previous years (I believe this was the fourth year of the event), we went that route. Ultra Signup is super easy to navigate, and if you have questions, you can email them and get a quick response. Even with the easy navigation, I still came up with several questions during the process, and each time I emailed them, they responded within 24 hours. We also used their system for timing, so as finishers came in, our finish line person (thanks, Michael!) immediately typed them in. Once he reviewed the results, he published them, and KAPOW, results were up the night of the race. Fast, efficient, affordable. We did not use timing chips. Having a dedicated finish-line volunteer is clutch to making sure the results are accurate. The fee to use Ultra Signup is that additional fee that pops up at the end of your registration when you sign up. 

This year's 42K winner. Photo by David Christy Photography.

2. Spreading the word about the race. By the time we volunteered to help with the race, we had a really short timeline to work with. About a month and a half. The first thing we did was make sure that Ultra Signup was ready to accept registrations. Then we started posting links online in various running Facebook groups and trying to get the race listed on as many calendars as we could. We also gave away a few entries at local running events to help get the word out. Then we made all of our friends and family sign up. No really, I called my brother and sort of made him sign up. Plus, I encouraged my daughter to sign up for the 5K, her first trail race. Our biggest goal in improving attendance next year is starting the process earlier! With these longer distances, you just need to be able to plan and train more than a couple of months in advance. 

Comrades on and off the course. Photo by David Christy Photography.

My daughter's first trail race! Photo by David Christy Photography.

3. Deciding the distances and course. In previous years, this course has been a 21K, 42K, and 63K, all looped on the same 21K-course. Because there was not huge interest last year and because we were a week before a really popular 100 miler in our area and because we were getting a late start in planning, we decided to scrap the 63K. We also wanted to open the field to people who hadn't already been training for months and possibly to friends and family of people doing the longer races, so we added a 5K. Because the course was already designed by the previous race director and resident trail bada++, Vanessa Stroud, we only had to decide if we were going to continue to alternate the direction of the course as they had in the past. Yes, we did. So if you are planning to run this next year, think backwards. All the ups will be downs, and the downs will be ups.  

It will get dirty out there. Photo by David Christy Photography.

Unfortunately we did have some lost souls this year. We marked the course so that flags should stay on your left (there were multiple lollipops on the course to see the crushers), but I don't think everyone heard that in the morning's pre-race announcements. We also put course sentries in the most confusing intersections too. Next year we are going to make sure to not use paper that you can see through to the directions on the other side when the sun shines through it. Oops, that was my fault (sometimes recycling isn't the greatest).

4. Shirts. Basically the thing that we were worried most about getting made in time for the race. Although it doesn't take long for companies to actually print the shirts, there is still delay time with getting numbers together and getting artwork finalized. We opted for the soft cotton, gender-specific shirts because we had gotten them before at other races and really liked the feel and fit. And we are tired of tech shirts! The only problem with most of these shirts is that they run small, so it makes estimating size needs more difficult. We also brought leftover shirts from last year in case someone didn't like this one or in case we ran out of their size. Because we didn't close registration until the night before the race (and a lot of folks took advantage of signing up at the last minute), we got really nervous that we would run out of shirts. We had a handful of shirts left over after the race, which we gave to our volunteers, which left zero shirts remaining from the race. Some things I might do differently next time: add a note about shirts running small (if they do) on Ultra Signup and only guarantee shirts in chosen sizes for people who sign up at a certain date (like two weeks) before the race. 

Final version of the 2014 shirt.

5. Medals. One of my greatest friends in Birmingham has a son who goes to the Exceptional Foundation, a center that provides social and recreational activities for people age 21 and over who have special needs and are no longer eligible for services in the school system. We thought it would be really cool to bring the trail running community together with the Exceptional Foundation to create these medals and spread the word about the greatness of the services EF provides for families and participants. Not only was the Exceptional Foundation fantastic to work with, but the medals that the participants created turned out so beautiful. I hope we get to do this again next year!

Race medals made by the Exceptional Foundation

6. Know your location. Ruffner Mountain is 1,000+-acre urban nature preserve here in Birmingham and was formerly mine land that produced up to 200 tons of raw ore per day. The crushers that the race is named for were used to do just that, crush giant rock into smaller pieces, and they are still on location throughout the park so that runners can see this piece of history during the race. 


It helps to have spent a significant amount of time exploring your race site to figure out where you'll put aid stations, how you'll access them, and how to transport materials to them. Even when you try and pick the easiest routes for aid stations, you may end up hiking a mile carrying folding tables and jugs of water. 

Working before the race to set up aid stations.

7. Finding sponsors. Because we already had Alabama Outdoors in place as the main sponsor, we didn't have to put quite as much energy into this as we would have if it were a brand new race. AO provided raffle and award prizes and other swag (and insurance!). We reached out to a few other companies that we love as well. In addition to the Exceptional Foundation creating our medals, Oiselle donated prizes for the race, and David Christy Photography spent all day taking amazing pictures. If you don't already have sponsors lined up, start with products or stores that you respect and frequent. Then work out from there.

Does my family count as a sponsor? They were glad to get me back at the end of the day.

Mary, me, and Greg (our Alabama Outdoors pro)

A few of the many great pictures from David Christy Photography

Photo by David Christy Photography.

The perfect picture for when we want to embarrass my daughter later in life. 

Photo by David Christy Photography.

Photo by David Christy Photography.

Photo by David Christy Photography.

Photo by David Christy Photography.

8. Volunteers are the glue! Seriously, we could not have done it without the many volunteers for this race. They helped mark the course, staff the aid stations, work the finish line, point people in the right direction along the course, sweep the course, track the runners, and hike that table out that we hiked in.

Volunteers at the BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) aid station. Photo by David Christy Photography.

It helps to make a list of specific jobs that you know you need assistance with and what times you need people and fill in volunteers according to their availability. It also helps if you can bribe them with swag, like shirts, race entries, or free socks. Or you can just pray that people will step up to help because they love it. We are for serious so lucky to have tons of willing volunteers in this community! Especially the ones who volunteer at race after race. You know who you are!

9. Take all the notes. The whole time we worked, I took tons of notes so that I could try and remember what we did, what we liked, what we hated, complaints people had, music we wanted to play next time, sealant we could spray on the baked clay medals, food we ran out of, and Coke we forgot at the finish line (how did we forget this!).


10. Bullet list race day. Run down what has to happen when and what time so that you can start the race on time. I feel like you can forget a million things that people won't notice as long as the race starts on time. My personal favorite part of race morning was giving people unexpected free SmartWool socks (thanks, Alabama Outdoors) when they were checking in for the race. And we assigned every job we could think of to volunteers so that Mary and I could handle all the things that came up that we didn't expect, like running out of cups at the aid station or helping lost runners get back on track.

What do you love to see at the race finish line? 

What could you live without on race morning? 

Top three most important things to you during a race (excluding awesome weather:))? 

November 21, 2014

Find some beautiful place to get lost

That's my goal for tomorrow. My last big race of the year, Tranquility Lake 50K. And following the theme of the Thanksgiving month, I have to say that I'm so thankful for all that I've learned this year. I've learned to slow down and enjoy this running business. Sometimes your body forces you to do that, but if you follow your body's lead, you might just learn a thing or two in the process and appreciate the journey even more. Yes, it's fun to chase numbers, but it's also just as fun to forget about all of that and run free.

I will be giving it my all tomorrow and definitely trying to not get lost (at least not course-wise), but this song captures the peace that running in the woods gives me.


There isn't any other place I'd rather spend tomorrow morning kicking up leaves and inevitably face planting a time or two. Not getting lost but getting lost all at the same time.

November 11, 2014

Top 10 best ever running songs

Even though my headphones were a big disappointment at my race this weekend, my playlist made it worth fiddling with them for 26.2 miles.

Headphones story: part 1. I got a pair of cloth-corded, waterproof Yurbuds with my Life Time bucks, and they seemed like they would be really tough and withstand many an accidental trip into the washing machine. And they achieve toughness: like tough to keep in my ears. They seemed fine the other times I used them, but once they got really wet (like when I dumped water on my head), they kept slipping out of my ears and just plain would not stay in. But they proved that they are definitely waterproof. After dumping cup after cup of water on my head, the sound quality stayed clear and consistent. 

Also, I discovered at Savannah this weekend that I really like having a fast forward button in a big-effort race, and these headphones sadly don't have that feature. I'm usually fine with listening to a playlist straight through, but sometimes when you are pushing hard at the end of the race, you just need to fast forward past the Lady Gaga song that seemed fun when you were belting it out with your offspring in the car on the drive to the race but now reveals itself as the most grating song that ever existed. That last sentence is not based on actual events. 

But I found some new-to-my-playlist songs that also really worked for me, and since we're into sharing around here in the blogosphere, I present to you my top 10 most favorite of this race this weekend in Savannah ever.

Caught up in a random dance jam.

And I will now give the list a dramatic title to make it worthy of internet attention grabbiness. 

Top 10 Best Ever Songs for Running
But really just my favorites from this race. And not in order of motivational ability.

1. Fireball by Pitbull. "We're takin' it, we're takin' it, we're takin' it down." You gotta move when you hear this song.
2. Breed by Nirvana. Best for keeping your running tempo up.
3. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. That's right, I'm not ashamed that I love this song. OK, a little bit, but not enough to stop me from proclaiming it on the interweb. "But I keep cruising. Can't stop won't stop moving."
4. Uprising by Muse. "They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious." When you are behind someone and are trying to hold your pace to pass them.
5. Black Dog by Led Zepplin. "Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove." Classic.
6. The Walker by Fitz & The Tantrums. "Oh, here we go. Feel it in my soul. Really need it, need it, so go. Gotta feel it, body takes control. Really need it, need it." Just all around great.
7. Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins. How is this the first time this song has made it onto my running playlists? Perfect for raging it out when you need to power up a hill by getting mad at it. "Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage."
8. Sink In by Dick Aven. For when you're ready to go from rage to happy. "Fear is the greatest enemy of power."
9. Stubborn Love by The Lumineers. "Keep your head up, my love." Somehow a slow but upbeat jam at the same time.
10. Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks. For its general rocker-ness.

So what's your most recent run jam? 

November 7, 2014

Pacing Pinhoti 100: round 2

Two years of pacing Pinhoti 100 is building up to one giant desire to make this race my only goal of 2015. Some of you (no one) may remember that after the 12-hour race I did back in May, I swore off long distances because of that little almost-dying incident. I love running, but it isn't more important than staying alive. Weird, I know. But as with any painful moment in your life, the sting of nausea, vomiting, and your spirit slowly leaving your body and going toward the light, all slowly fade. Now I can only remember how vivid the trees looked when I was on the verge of hallucinating and how those bikers, strangers whom I unnecessarily told that I was going to squat in the bushes, promised not to look -- you know, the good things, only remembering the good things.

Things you enjoy seeing after running all night at Pinhoti.

The key that makes Pinhoti an actual option is the weather. This year and last year, the temps were chilly, and this year, they even dipped below freezing, which for Alabamians might as well mean you traveled to the North Pole to run. It's not that we aren't tough enough to handle it, it's just that we spent all summer training our bodies to handle heat, sweating, 100% humidity, and all things electrolyte depletion. So much so that runners in the South have been spotted wearing puffy jackets in the middle of summer -- that's how well we trained our bodies. So well that the slightest breeze or any sub-82 thermostat setting gives us chills.

As a runner who does not perform well in heat, as evidenced by the almost-dying-due-to-heat-stroke business, I know that the only way I will ever run a 50 miler again or a 100 miler ever is if I can pretty much guarantee that I will not have to run in any temp with a 7 or above as the first digit. That includes 7 degrees because that's just crazy (standards, gotta set 'em somewhere).

Even though I have never run Pinhoti for my own self, it teaches me something new every year. This year's stand-out lessons: I can run all night (huge! never done that before), nutrition is a game changer, and you have more to give even when you thought you reached the bottom of your barrel.

When I was talking to my chiropractor, who just laughs at all of these crazy running antics (but never tries to discourage me from running, which I appreciate!), he wondered aloud what the point of running 100 miles is. And to quote my soldier sister Vanessa Stroud (who was quoting someone else and now I will paraphrase), it's all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I see life lesson after life lesson after life lesson in just that little sentence. And even my chiropractor, who thinks you and I are all nut cases for choosing the punishment of running, said, "That actually makes a lot of sense." He's never said that about anything running, ever!

And the runners aren't the only ones learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As an extension of this, my family learned that there are never too many blankets. And when a sea of blankets, sleeping bags, and thermals can't keep out the cold, you go turn on the car and get inside. Sorry, ozone layer, it was that or frost bite.

On the way to our Pinhoti campsite. 

Making dutch over cobbler. 

Eating said cobbler.

?? Help us ??

And here's a little more on the story of this year's pacing. I was set to pace Mindy, who is probably the most positive runner I know, from miles 69 to 85 with an estimated starting time of 12:45 a.m. I got there around 11 p.m. to wait because I was so nervous that she would accidentally beat me there and because I couldn't sleep/rest anyway. Porter's Gap (our meeting spot and the start line of the Mt. Cheaha 50K) was hopping with warm food, rockin' tunes, and a giant pot of ramen noodles. By the time I got there, I got the message that Mindy would be a couple more hours, and I now had the option of taking a nap. But of course I couldn't! First, because naps leave me feeling unrefreshed at times, and second, because I just wanted to get out there and see what was happening at the aid station. The whole time I was there waiting for Mindy, I saw familiar face after familiar face, which I loved. I even loved seeing/helping the unfamiliar faces. There was most definitely a sense of community and a feeling that we're all family helping each other out.

Also while waiting, you learn things. Things like how to pack your drop bags. Thank you, Michael R., for teaching me about packing toothbrushes! Why have I not thought of that before?!

Vanessa in action with her ultra (get it!) organized gear pack. It folds into a square.

Also, you see new products that your friends swear by and you are tempted to try. RunGoo, anyone?


Mindy arrived sometime after 2 a.m., and she was smiling. But having run with her many times before, I knew she wasn't 100%. I mean, who would be at mile 69? But she didn't eat much at the aid station, and when we took off, our pace that started off as a hike got slower and slower and slower. Eventually turning to a weave. Of course, at the time, I tried not to mention to her how worried about her I was. About a mile before the aid station she started asking me about cut-off times, but I didn't want her to freak out about the time. So I tried to gloss over the numbers and then told her that the only thing she needed to worry about was taking in some food at the next aid station. She had been nauseated and unable to eat, but she was going to have to find a way to keep something down because the truth was that the cutoff times were getting closer and closer to us while we got slower and slower. If she could get down some salty broth and some calories, she still had a chance to finish. 

About that time, two trail angels, I-still-think-they're-twins-but-they-claim-to-just-be-sisters Emily and Jennifer, came smiling and bubbling happily along the trail and offered some espresso beans. Mindy ate two or three, which woke her up a miniature bit and got her to the aid station.

Pinnacle, the next aid station at mile 70ish, was run by our local BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) crew, so every face was a familiar one, and they all wanted to know how Mindy was doing. At this point she was doing still doing really crappy, but I didn't want to say that out loud to them. Instead of voicing that it was getting sketchy, I made weird faces like this. 


And talked about how much better she was going to feel after she ate. 

The effect of food was almost immediate. She went from a walking zombie to a talking, non-weaving person again, and we were able to pick up the pace and run some of the flats and downhills. Slowly fighting against those cutoffs that had gotten scarily close. 

I knew that my family campsite was .8 miles before our handoff point (meeting another friend to pace to the finish) at Bull's Gap, mile 85, and we kept thinking we were almost there, then of course not being there. As soon as we saw the tents and heard the kids yelling at us, I looked at my watch, and we had 12 minutes. A lot of time to run .8 miles on a normal day, just not a huge surplus when you are at mile 84 of 100. Where I had been ahead of Mindy pulling her up the mountain with my invisible pacer rope, now she took off ahead of me for the first time the whole night and used her 47th wind (she was way past her second) of the race to book it to the aid station and fight against that cutoff.

Basically, with all of the pain and fatigue weighing her body down, she was able to shake it off and push past it when it was time to fight. 

The two miracles of the power of nutrition and the power of the human spirit will stay with me long after this night. Oh, and Mindy didn't let the cutoff nab her! She continued pushing and crossed the finish line in a little over 29 hours. That's 20 plus 9 hours of running. Incredible!

Handing off Mindy to Elena.

Some other things that I learned:

Pinhoti has nailed-in reflector dots on the trees (at least on the paths we were taking), which at the time seemed like the coolest thing ever. 

Can you see the reflector pins?

After running all night, sunrise is the best medicine for weariness.



And I learned that I can run without sleeping for 24 hours! I was of course exhausted the next day, but it was possible and really not that bad to keep moving cloaked in darkness until sunrise. So I didn't have to run 50 miles and then continue running through the night, but I still feel happy with the accomplishment because I've always seen running through the night as a hurdle to running a 100 miler. 

What's the most you've ever run at night? What type of gear do you count on for dark runs? I just had my Black Diamond headlamp and a handheld flashlight as backup. 

What top three items would you put in 100-miler drop bags? I am adding toothbrush to my list. Those gels are so horrible for your teeth. 

Have you ever paced anyone? For what? I love pacing people because it gives me a chance to make someone else's goals a priority over my own, and there is lot of joy in witnessing friends (and even strangers) reach their goals/dreams.