June 30, 2013

Newton Distance shoe review

If you’ve seen Newtons before or had to try them on because their vivid rainbow colors called to you from across a crowded race expo, you know they’re not your ordinary running shoes. The first pair I ever tried on were my physical therapist’s. After telling me at our previous appointment about how she triple swears by them, she brought them to the office for me to check out, and even though they were a size too big, I was impressed by how light they were when I tried them on.

How light? The Newton Distance Lightweight Neutral Performance Trainers that I tested for this review weigh in at 6.8 oz. 

In addition to loving the feather weight, I was like, what the heck are these lugs under my forefoot? If you don’t notice how light they are when you first test drive them, you’ll definitely notice the lugs.

Sole: What are these lugs? Check out these pictures to see them. 

Newton dubs these lugs the biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate, and they say that the plate:
allows you to sense the ground better so you can stride more efficiently and with more stability -- some might even say more intelligently, the way nature intended. Some call this "neuromuscular" enhancement. The foot senses the ground and sends a message to the brain to tell the muscles what to do.
Here's a quick sample of what I looked like using that technology.

As with anything new, Newton wisely recommends that you take it slow with these shoes. In fact, they dedicate a lot of space on their site to educating you on proper running form. Plus, they include this info sheet with their shoes. 

Because I don’t normally run roads in shoes that have a low heel-toe drop and these Newtons are 2mm-drop, I decided to take it extra slow with these. I’m currently up to running about six miles in them, and this fall, I’d like to get up to a half marathon.

For me, the lugs (aka biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate) are the positive and negative of this shoe. They seem to help when running, and I especially noted the extra help on hills. But when I was just standing in them or walking in them, it felt uncomfortable and tended to make my feet sore. Newton addresses that here, by saying that your feet need time to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments that you might not have used with your previous shoe.

Another place that I was surprised by the effect of the lugs was off road. Even though I have the road version of this shoe (they also offer a trail version), I was surprised by the lug reaction when I was on the shoulder of the road. Prior to testing this shoe, I felt like I would only like the road version because I thought the lugs might get annoying on trails. Who needs extra bumps on a trail? What I really found was that I didn’t notice the lugs at all while on the trail, proving wrong my theory that they would be disruptive on trails.

When I wear them: Currently, I am using the Newtons as part of my weekly shoe rotation. I am becoming a believer in rotating not just one brand of shoe but different brands of shoes to exercise your foot in different ways. I’ve noticed the benefit for me injury-wise (as in getting less of them) with rotating shoe brands and giving my foot a break from the repetition of the same foot strike again and again. With the Newtons you will definitely get something different from your other brands of running shoes, and I’ve liked working my foot in a new way.

My local running buddy got some about the same time as I did, and she already built up to running a half marathon in hers. When I asked her how they felt at the longer distance, she said she noticed that they helped her maintain her form, especially at the end when you’re most likely to let your form fall apart.

Width: Now to other aspects of the shoe, the uppers! Other than the fabulous colors that these shoes come in, I give these shoes a 10 out of 10 for upper comfort. My foot isn’t incredibly wide, but wide enough that some shoes (looking at you, Saucony) just won’t work for me. These give you plenty of room in the toe box, plus the material surrounding your toes (metatarsal stretch panel) has extra stretch. If you try them on, try spreading your toes out as far as possible so that you can feel how the material gives you extra stretch. Ahhhh, I love it!

Sizing: I ordered a half size up from my street-shoe size, and that worked well. If you’re near me in Birmingham, they carry the trail and road versions at Trak Shak, where you can go in and figure out your best fit. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a store near you (check here for locations) that sells them, look for their booths at expos.

Summary: I know a lot of people personally who swear by these shoes. They love how the biomechanical metatarsal sensor plates propel them forward and feel like that makes their long runs easier. I have definitely experienced the forward pull of the lugs, especially on hills, and will continue to build my mileage in this shoe. Newton wisely recommends taking it slow with this shoe in the beginning, particularly if you are new to low-drop shoes. Try this shoe if you are looking to experiment with a new shoe technology or if you are looking for a lightweight, zero-drop shoe that gives you extra width in the toe box.

June 25, 2013

Favorite new finds

Have you ever been schooled on electronics by a four year old? Well, I have. Times two because of the twins and all. It's one of the things that I love about life. No matter how much you think you know, there's always a little bit more to learn. That's what today's post is about, new things that I've discovered or rediscovered -- sometimes thanks to a tiny person. 

1. The first one is absolutely thanks to tiny people. When I accidentally stepped on this kids toy, part of this shape sorter play sorter, I thought, hey, this actually feels good -- opposite of stepping on a Lego. This toy worked well because it's not completely round, so it was easy to keep it on the right plane under your foot, not like a golf ball that likes to slip and slide and slingshot across the room while you are using it as a foot massager. Just goes to show that you don't need to spend a ton of money on foot therapy when you can find therapeutic contraptions just lying around on the ground, especially if you have kids or dogs.  

2.  This one is a rediscovery: lettuce wraps! Remember when fast food places used to sell burgers with these? Or at least Hardee's did for a while. A lettuce wrap adds a little extra crispness to a burger, but I need a salad spinner for all of the extra water from lettuce rinsing.

Lettuce-wrapped burger, corn and grilled portabella mushroom.

3. Well, I haven't received this order from The Clymb yet, but I'm so excited to finally have a rain jacket for running! Has anyone tried a Zoot jacket before? I have a Zoot shirt that I love, so I decided to go for it. Plus I love yellow, second only to orange. Oh, and I could get it at The Clymb for almost $40 less (after extra 20% discount code) than on Amazon. 

This is my favorite time of year to pick up sales on winter/fall gear because you can find the best deals!

I also finally ordered a headlamp to replace the one that was stolen from a bench on which I so brilliantly left it while I went on a long run. Turns out that sometimes people take things if you leave them out in the open. Cry from my own stupidity. 

Discount codes: if you are thinking of putting in an order at The Clymb, use the discount code TAKEOFF20 (expires Wed., June 26th) or MYFIRSTTIME (not sure when that expires). 

4. This was a random new discovery at our local library: a healthy vending machine. I only sort of appreciate that they put it in the kids section of the library because now my kids are going to beg for healthy snacks every time we are down there. 

E.T. phone home. Or give me some snacks.

The up-close selection.

What's your favorite found-around-the-house tool for massaging away running kinks? I also like the rolling pin. 

Do you have a running rain jacket? What kind? I discovered this spring that I really need one. Badly. Especially in Alabama where it rains every other day in the springtime.

Have you seen healthy vending machines in your community? This is one of the few I've seen. Life Time Fitness, where I work, also has a pretty decent one where they sell coconut water!

June 24, 2013

My first time pacing a group

Finally back to training last week, I hit it hard knowing that I have vacation coming up that might force me to slack off again. 

It's been about two forevers since I posted any workout reports on here, so I thought I'd break that streak and give you the ... 

dun, dun, dun

Workout wrap-up!

Monday: yoga. Finally! I've skipped yoga for a couple of weeks, and it felt great to be back.

Tuesday: 2.5-mile run on the treadmill with my gym buddies then foam rolled. Pulled a double and ran 4.5 with the Life Time Run Club that night. 

Wednesday: workout with trainer Mike. See below. 

Thursday: early morning 4.67ish-mile trail run with these cool dudes. 

Friday: 4.11 miles of speedwork (first time in a few weeks, and if felt refreshing and HARD) plus more working out with trainer Mike (bottom middle).

Yes. we did that. But we had just done this.

And this. 

And lot of other stuff to deprive us of oxygen. 

Saturday: run with the Birmingham Track Club. I paced the 12-mile group at 9 minutes per mile. We ended up with 12.48 miles in 1:52:04, and when I typed it into my Runkeeper app, it spit out our average pace was 8:59. Bam, almost right on! Of course, because they are runners, the group was rad.

Photo by Mruns.com
Photo by Mruns.com
Photo by Mruns.com

This was my first time ever officially pacing anything other than myself. It wasn't a race or anything with PRs on the line, but it felt great to stick with a group until the end and know we had all worked hard together. Plus, did you see that Mekelle, my last year's Savannah training bud, was there?! Reunited!

Sunday: trail training. About 8 miles at Oak Mountain, following the Hotter 'N Hell course to prep for the July 27th race. The race is 9 miles (we skipped a small part) or 18, if you feel up for a double loop. If yesterday was any indication, race day will not be hotter in hell but hotter than hell. 

Breaking to wait for runners, who, we later figured out, ran in the opposite direction.

The worst hill of the bunch (below) was around mile 6. It was burning my legs up.

What was your favorite workout last week? The last three days all tie. We were definitely the goofiest at my Friday, pyramid-building workout, so that ranks high up there. 

Which one was your hardest? That trail run was pretty darn hard, especially since my legs were tired from working hard all week. Looking forward to spin class today and no pavement pounding. 

June 21, 2013

Please join me for snakes (and a track club social)

Another week of summer is gone, and every hot day is melting into the next way too quickly to catch up with all that we hoped to accomplish.

One of the cooler things that we made time for this summer was Cub Scout day camp for my eight-year-old son. Camp lasts one week, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the boys get to do organized activities like learning how to identify plants and shooting BB guns and unorganized activities like finding snakes and peeing in the woods (that might just have been my son). 

Oh, and here's that found snake. I don't know what kind it is because I like to stay as far away from unidentified snakes as possible. If a snake expert hands me a snake and tells me it's not venomous, I'm fine with holding it, but I'm not interested in exploring that avenue blindly. Anyone have ideas about what kind of snake this is? It's probably hard to identify from this picture, but I was already peeing my pants getting this close to take the picture. It's not verified that snakes can leap off the ground and strangle/bite you, but in my mind it can and definitely will if I get too close. 

 Much less scary and way cooler than snakes: soda bottle rockets.

You fill the soda bottle with water and launch it with the help of a homemade launch pad and an air compressor. I had to rewind to :25 a couple of times to watch that classic fall.

My other three kids went to the Tot Lot, where for they could do similar activities as the Cub Scouts while their parents volunteer with the den. At $3 per child per day, it was also a really great deal. It took the twins about three seconds to fall asleep in the car at the end of our camp days. 

My personal favorite craft was stamping the leather bracelet. It's probably my favorite because it involves hammers and lots aggressive pounding -- a great way to vent any frustrations.

In addition to the camp excitement, I also had my first post-running-break long run. Nine miles with the Birmingham Track Club.

Natalie, above in the center with her dog, is about to have a baby any day now, but she is still organizing our routes and water stops every week and coming out to get us started. I'm pretty sure when I was 9+ months pregnant all I did was waddle to the bathroom five times an hour and complain about my frozen corn dog supply getting low. I was definitely not waking up at 5:30 to go volunteer outside in the middle of summer. Natalie, if you read this in your spare time (i.e. labor), you rock!

My brother joined me for those 9 miles, and we had a solid catch-up session. Thank goodness for running, or I might never talk to people. 

Shocker of the morning: my water stop was still there when I went to pick it up six hours later. I forgot about it, and it was hard to find the time between chores to get out of the house to go back and get it. Thank you, honest Birminghamites, for not saying to yourself, "Hey, free cooler."

If you live in Birmingham and are looking to run in the morning (Saturday, June 22), come out and join us at the Birmingham Track Club social at Vulcan Park. Here's more info. Starting at 6 a.m., I'll be leading a 12-mile group at 9mm pace. Come run with me!

Do you love or hate snakes? Hate is such a strong word, so I'll go with one step above hate. Lizards, cool. Snakes, not cool.

What was your favorite summer activity as a kid? I loved going to camp too. I went to a yearly girls camp from ages 12 to 18, and instead of hiking and crafts, my favorite activity was playing pranks on people. I'm sure my camp leaders were not at all annoyed by that. 

Long runs: are they best solo or with a group? 

June 20, 2013

When to take a running break

Remember how that last 50K broke me. Afterwards (aka during -- like with each step), I decided that it was time for me to take a break. Not only were all of my toenails throbbing and pleading for no more torture, but my mind just needed a rest from worrying about anything that had to do with running. I wanted to take the running slate and wipe it clean and blow away the dust.

There was nothing broken or seriously injured (minus those toenails), so how did I know I needed to take a break? Well the obvious part is that I've been running like a crazy person for months and months. Although compared to some people, like all of my buddies running Western States, what I run in a month is like a wimpy weekly mileage total for them. But with me and my newness to the 50K and running three of them since February, my body was telling me that it was time to take a deep breath and just recover. 

In case you're trying to decide for yourself if it's time to take your own little running vacation, here are some of the key factors for me in deciding when to take a running break:

  • Natural downtime in your racing schedule. Because I don't have another race until the end of July (and it's just for fun, or so I tell myself), this was a great time for me to take a break and let my muscles and bones focus more on recovery for a couple of weeks. 
  • Your legs are fatigued. This was actually the determining factor for taking a break after this last 50K. From the first step, my legs felt sooooo heavy. I knew then that they just needed a break from the intensity. After a couple weeks of breaking, they already feel much fresher than they did at the adrenaline-pumped start line of that race. 
  • Before starting a new training plan. Starting a new training plan with fresh legs can help you build confidence from the start. In July, I'll start marathon training for Savannah. Even though I'm not racing that one (I'm pacing my buddy in her first marathon!), I'd still like to go into the training plan with fresh legs. 
  • When you're just not excited about running. I definitely had the feeling during this last race that running just wasn't fun that day. Did I feel that way for an extended period? Not really, but I wanted to take a break before I got to that point. It's sometimes easier for us to listen to the signals our bodies give us -- like, oh, my Achilles hurts so darn bad that I can't walk straight, so I should probably take a rest. Whereas, it's harder to listen to the mental voice that says that running is losing the magic for you. If you spot it happening, take a mental, meaning an actual, break from training. Hide your training plans and find other positive activities, like hanging with the family and friends, to fill your time. 


  • If you're sick. Your body has a lot of clever ways to let you know that you are worn down. One of those ways is being more susceptible to illness. Here's a short and informative article on illness related to running activity. Either way, if you are sick, don't be afraid to take a break until you recover. 

  • Decline in performance. If you've been out there grindin' and haven't seen any improvement in your results lately, you could be suffering from a performance decline linked to overuse. Check out this article for symptoms of overtraining
  • You're on vacation. Vacations are the perfect time to take it easy on yourself and your training. Because vacation time is usually focused on family and friends, it's easy to put running into perspective. Running is definitely worthwhile and therapeutic, but it is not as important as your family, which is easy to understand when you're busy swapping stories with them about who wins the award for most tortuous older sibling. My older brothers used to pin me to the ground and spit in my mouth along with telling me that if I tattled on them I would get sent to be made into glue at the Elmer's factory, named after Elmer who told on his big brother -- of course. So they win. 
  • You have an injury. I actually forgot this one in my original post, and I had to come back and add it in. Unfortunately, this is the cause of so many of my running breaks. In my opinion, I could have avoided these forced running breaks due to running-related injury if I had taken more of the optional running breaks listed above. That's not a guarantee, but man, I just feel it in my stress-fractured bones. 

This article recommends taking at least one three- to four-week break per year. Sounds easy until you get into the thick of running things and realize that taking a break now would interfere with the almighty race schedule. So plan your breaks in advance and with as much care as you put into planning your races. Don't just rationalize that you will eventually get to that. 

And even if you haven't preplanned a rest, listen if your body is signaling for a one. That training plan will still be there in a few weeks, and you will probably be a lot happier to see it. 

By the way, I am the worst at this! There are so many for-fun races on my schedule that I forget that even when I'm just doing a race for fun, it still saps lots of energy from my legs. 

For this particular rest period, I took two weeks off. Did I run at all? A few times, but I made sure to keep it very fun and easy. Very, very easy. I ended up with about four easy runs total during the two weeks. This article gives some recommendations for how to stay in shape during a break period. Or if you're feeling like it, just pause everything and don't worry about losing or maintaining fitness. I didn't run distance for over 30 years, and my body caught on fairly quickly. Three weeks of resting will not kill you, but it just might make you stronger. 

When was the last time you took a running break? 

Do you schedule breaks on your race calendar? 

How often do you take breaks of two weeks or longer? 

What's your favorite activity during your running breaks? Reading and yoga. I made a little more progress on my nightstand's stack of book over the last two weeks. 

June 17, 2013

The 50K that broke me. Psss, I'm talking to you, Rockin Choccolocco.

About two weeks ago, I went over to the Pinhoti trails for the inaugural Rockin Choccolocco 50K. The title of this blog post is a huge spoiler alert, so if you're still reading, you might want to know just how broken I am.  Nothing required hospitalization or anything, but my body just was not having it with the heat and the running and the fueling -- so pretty much every aspect of the race. Luckily, I had a kick-a running partner who pulled me through.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty. 

Getting there: It was a haul from Birmingham down to Heflin, AL. After we got into the state park, we drove and drove and drove down narrow, dusty dirt roads. So long that we required a pee stop or two. For this drive, factor in that a lot of your driving time will be spent on slow-going dirt roads. Just when I thought we would have to turn around and go back or get eaten by a bear, we saw a tiny Rockin Choccolocco sign with an arrow. It would have been nice to have a couple more of those along the way so we knew for sure we were on the right path. Although they gave very specific driving instructions on the site that were accurate, it's just nice to have a little extra assurance. I really thought we left in plenty of time to get there, but we actually ended up with just enough time to check in and use the bathroom.

Race parking

A lot of our friends from Birmingham opted to camp out the night before at the Coleman Lake campground that was so close they could reach out and touch the start line. After I visited the camp facilities, I thought it would be a great choice for next year. The bathrooms were pretty darn clean and had a nice shower.

Some of the Birmingham folks before the race.

Pre-race: You could check in the morning of the race, which we did with no problems. There were some bathrooms near the race start plus the additional set of bathrooms (which I used) near the camp sites. Can you tell I have a one-track pre-race mind? Where is the nearest hole in the ground, and how long will it take me to make it through the line? Because we took a little extra time to walk to the camping restrooms, there was virtually zero line. We made it back just in time to catch the tail end of race director Todd Henderson's pre-race instructions. I'm really not sure if I missed anything, but I think this was the first time I realized that we were running out and back along the same trail.

Lisa, Sonia, Michael, and Kelli

Race course: Since I had already been on the Pinhoti trails for the Cheaha 50K, I was expecting water and hills, but fewer hills because we were significantly down the trail from Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. I got the fewer hills and less water, but there were still a handful of spots along the course that I just couldn't avoid getting my feet wet. If you are really careful (i.e. cross very slowly), you could navigate the rocks and keep your feet pretty dry. Also note that we ran this race during a pretty dry week, so the water might be higher if you're in a rainy spell.

My Garmin did not work very well at all for the first few miles, and we didn't have any cell service at all -- just a note for anyone trying to figure out what technology might work while they're on the trails. My running buddy Michael also noted that about 9 or so miles in was when we picked up the trails that they run for the Pinhoti 100. I was thinking that the whole course would be on the Pinhoti 100 trails, but the race director added a little bit of new territory.

Overall the trails weren't too challenging hill-wise, especially compared to Cheaha. It felt like there was a lot of downhill on the way up to the turn around and back. I'm not sure how we accomplished that in both directions on the same trail, but it felt like that.

The start of the race included a little piece of road, which we didn't run again on the way back, so the turnaround point was actually a little more than halfway. The half marathoners did the same thing, except their turnaround point was earlier.

The aid stations were pretty spread out on the course. There were only three aid stations, two of which you pass twice and one at the turnaround, with drinks and snacks. There were three or so more others that were unmanned, water-only aid stations. You will definitely want to have some kind of fluid with you, especially considering how hot it was and could get in June.

Directionally, the trails were well marked and easy to follow. We almost got lost at one point because someone who we thought was with the race crew told a whole chain of us to take a different path around mile 3. I had my doubts about their advice because there was clearly a race flag in the opposite direction. We veered off course for a few seconds but quickly realized that following a random non-racer's advice was probably not the best choice in this scenario. Don't listen to strangers in the woods!

Photo by David Christy Photography.

My race: It was hard not to spew my painful race experience in that last segment, but I was trying to contain all the agony for this portion of the review. That may have been an even bigger challenge than this race.

The sad news is that I really thought this would be my best 50K yet. For the first time, I wasn't going to have to run through a half foot of gooey mud with each step of a 50K. I hadn't run any crazy long distance races in the few weeks before the race, so my legs should have been OK for the distance. The hills were going to be mild, and the distance runner with the most positive running attitude in the world agreed to run that day with me. Seriously, the outcome was looking very positive.

Until I started running.

From the first mile, my legs were dragging. They just felt like they had been through an egg beater and were now perfectly mushy and ready to bake. Granted, I had told my coach that I wanted to use this race as just a training/fun run, so my training plan didn't call for any taper. I did strength training with a friend the day before the race, and I did speedwork the day before that. So, yes, my legs should have been a little tired, but I wasn't expecting them to feel that tired from the first step.

I know they didn't. Photo by David Christy Photography.

Then there was the whole heat situation that sapped even more energy from me. The high for the day was 86 F, and when combined with the humidity, it upped that to a hot cavern in hell. At the last manned aid station with a few miles to go, I realized that my Camelbak was out of water as I was running into the woods, and I panicked at the prospect of losing instant access to water. I spent ten minutes with my Camelbak straw in my mouth still sucking on it, just in case there was one last drop of fluid in there. Wasted effort. That thing was drier than a Mormon wedding.

The sun invading the tree shade. Darn you, sun!

It was so hot that I needed fluids constantly, but my body was not able to process them as fast as I needed/wanted to take them in. After every aid station, I had to walk it out for several minutes to calm down the stomach sloshes and let some of the food and drink settle in.

Have you guys experienced those stomach sloshes before? I'm guessing you get them because your body is using all of its energy to power the run and has less energy to digest food and drink. It feels like when you take a big gulp of fluid that it just stays there creating tidal waves for a while and not being absorbed at all. It's very uncomfortable to run when that is happening, and I think it's worse when it's hot because you are trying to take in even more fluid, and you create even bigger tidal waves.

One good note, I was able to tolerate/not hate HEED during this race. I'm not sure if it was just mixed differently or if it was a different flavor, but it didn't have the revolting plastic taste that I remember it having last time. The flavor was strawberry, in case you are wanting to try one of them. A lot of the trail races around here use Hammer products, which I love for the gels, and now I'm happy that HEED is starting to grow on me too.

Another new thing I tried was drinking the coke at the aid stations. I felt like I needed the caffeine to pick my legs up, and part of me hoped that the fizziness would somehow settle my stomach. That may not be a real thing, but whenever I was sick as a kid, my mom gave me Sprite. So, what the heck, I was willing to try anything during this race. It's been a loooooong time since I've had diet coke and an even longer time than that since I've kicked back a regular coke. Actually, I can't remember ever drinking a regular coke, although I'm sure I have at some point. Maybe. But I did starting at the second aid station in this race, and I just kept going for it after that. I also had orange slices, chips, bananas, and about four or five gels. I filled my Camelbak up twice, giving me about 90 oz. of fluid, plus I drank a couple cups of something at every aid station we passed. I should have filled my Camelbak up one last time, but that is a lesson learned for next time. Always check how full your pack is!

Headed to the finish with a totally empty Camelbak. Photo by David Christy Photography.

Now on to the worst decision of the day, my shoes. As I was looking in my closet for shoes the night before, I realized that my New Balance 1010s were falling apart. No wonder I had been tripping so much lately! One of the pods on the bottom was peeled back and dangling off. How had I not noticed this during my runs? Plus these were the shoes that I wore every time I had the severe Achilles pain, so I decided to go with the Salomon Women's XR Mission, even though I haven't worn them for over 13 miles ever.


Because I had issues with the original inserts giving me blisters, I swapped them out with some Mizuno ones I had hanging out in my stash. I'm not sure if it was the inserts or the shoes, but every time my feet got wet in one of the many water crossings, the shoes retained the water for miles and miles. Also, even though these shoes give me plenty of toe room, for some reason, they started killing my toenails. There was a lot of downhill, and maybe the shoes were loose causing my toenails to hit the front of the shoe on the way down. Also these shoes are just plain heavier than I'm used to with the New Balance shoes, so there was extra weight. And they are just more stiff in general. About two thirds of the way through this race, every step became painful. Downhills, which are my favorite part of running (minus the cool people), became my worst nightmare. The pain was extremely intense. My toenails were part of it, but also my feet just hurt all over, maybe because of the rigidity of the shoe. I'm not sure the exact cause of all the foot pain, but that night in my bed, I could not sleep because if felt like someone was taking a hammer and pounding my toenails. Not the most comfortable feeling. I was really thankful for over-the-counter pain meds that night.

Curse those shoes. Photo by David Christy Photography.

There is a bright side to the shoe story. My Achilles was totally fine after this race. So it seems that getting something with a little higher heel-toe drop helped. I really wish there was a magical way to combine all the shoe elements you love into your perfect custom shoe. When I find a race genie, that will be one of my wishes.

Running: always more fun with friends. Photo by David Christy Photography.

The other bright side of the story is that there were tons of cool people running this race that kept me mostly distracted from how painful it was. If I was alone during this, it would have been miserable. As it was, I was in pain, but I still count it as a fun day out in the woods. The conversation with my running partner Michael and the other runners kept my spirits from totally crashing and burning.

Race tip: If you start to not have fun during a race, find another racer to talk to to get your mind off of the hurt.

See, at least we can act like we're having fun.

And the final results, 6:31:54. Six minutes slower than Mt. Cheaha 50K but somehow still fast enough for third place. Weird, but I'll take it because I got a coupon for free socks.

Post race: One of the highlights of this race was seeing the race director frying up burgers on the grill as we rounded the corner to the finish. I immediately hobbled over for water and then hobbled over to take my shoes and socks off and commence commiserating with the other runners who were finishing. When my feet felt ready to walk again, I shuffled over to stack a plate with a burger, chips, potato salad and pickles. The pickles tasted so amazing. I wish those were at some of the aid stations. Seriously good stuff. It's like I turn into a pregnant lady at races.

About to dig into a pile of pickles.

The other cool part about this venue is that the camp showers weren't far away, so I showered and changed clothes before heading home. Guaranteed there was poison ivy out there waiting to happen, and I didn't have any after this race thanks to that shower.

Swag: First, I got some swag that I missed at Mt. Cheaha 50K. They had a box of leftover canning jars. How did I miss these at that race?! I love to use jars for storing cut up veggies in the fridge. So, yes, I was more excited about this jar than anything else!

Some drink samples for the race or later.

Wooden finisher medals.

The shirts were plain white with no ads on the back. I got one in Amory's size because they were out of smaller sizes. So far none of the races I have been to in this series have had lady-sized shirts. 

Overall: Don't go into this race thinking it will be easy even though the course doesn't look too tough on paper. It's an out-and-back course, and the heat is a huge factor in this one. Hydrate well and bring fluids with you! There are water crossings, so make sure to wear shoes that drain well. And you can use the water to cool off during the race. We came across several racers fully submerged in water crossings to try and cool off. Aid stations are fully stocked, but there are not a ton of them. Stock up while you can at the manned stations. At the finish you can get freshly grilled burgers and a shower. Definitely take on this race if you are looking to explore a new part of the Pinhoti trails or if you want to take on the heat challenge. Also if the heat is too crazy on race day, you can choose the half marathon option.