Monday, July 31, 2017

Xterra Magnolia Hill Off Road Trail Run

I came across this trail race and I wanted to sign up right away. I've been dealing with this RA flare and other health issues and wasn't sure it was a great idea, but I really needed to get out there. And the trails have a way of clearing my head and healing my heart! So I signed up. And I decided going into this race that it was just going to be for fun!

I chose to do the 11.5k race. I haven't been running much or running far. I broke my foot in November. I took off 6 weeks completely from everything. I took off running for 10 weeks and then had to start back super slow. I went to months of  PT! And I was in the heart of Ironman training. My longest training run before my full Ironman was 10 miles!! And let me tell you the marathon in the Ironman hurt!! But I did it!! And then there was that recovery. And so I am finally after many months running without pain!!
Race morning I headed out early. It was a little over an hour drive. It was a gorgeous morning! But temps and humidity were on the rise! The venue was gorgeous. Apparently it is private property that they open up to Xterra every year for their off road triathlon and trail race.The course was absolutely beautiful! It was a single track trail and very hilly compared to what I am used to running. I'm lucky to push 100ft  close to home.

But it was really pretty! And the race was very well organized! The course was well marked. The race handled the extreme temperatures by having aid stations set up every mile. And at the end there were ice cold towels and cold water and cold Gatorade! I was very impressed!
When we started I was in a group of girls for about 2 miles. I kept reminding myself to run my own race and not get caught up in the start. I know typically there are many who start too fast and I didn't want to get wrapped up in that. And one by one the girls started falling back. And I started catching up with the half marathoners who went out ahead of us. And I was getting hopeful, but I couldn't really believe it either. I actually started to worry I was off course. Lol!There were some rolling hills that were so close together I tried leaping them rather than going up and down but that didn't work out so well. Haha. And there some parts of the course where you left the forest and were out in the open and let me tell you that sun was blazing! And while I wasn't pushing really hard, the conditions had my heart rate in the red zone from start to finish!

My watch was showing I was nearing the 7 mile mark which should be near the end. But as I passed the aid station the guy called out 1 more mile!! Ok I think I can, I think I can! And that last mile was no joke. I literally came to a hill and stopped and looked at it before I even climbed it! Ha! And then when I saw the finish line I tried to pick up the pace but it was all uphill! I pushed up and crossed!! My watch had the course at 8 miles. I checked right away and I was told I was the 1st in my age group and  3rd overall female! I couldn't believe it!! I podiumed!! Woohoo!!
Going out there without expectations or pressure was amazing! I had a blast and I did remarkably well!! I started all this with trail running and I am so happy to be back at it!! Looking forward to beginning training for Rocky Raccoon 50 Miles!!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Envision It and You Can Do It

"What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create." - Buddha

This is one of my favorite places to run! Before Ironman Texas I would come out here over and over, sometimes to train and sometimes to sit, and I would visualize racing and becoming an Ironman. Now I come out here to relive and celebrate making that dream come true.

Visualization is such an important and productive tool. No matter how hard you work, if you don't have the proper mindset you're going to be held back. Just like you train your body you have to train your mind. 
Visualization is an excellent tool to use in training and also in recovery. 
Here are some tips that help me with visualization.
1. Think about your time leading up to the race/event/goal. Be specific with the details. What are you wearing? How are you preparing? What emotions are you feeling?
2. Imagine yourself at the start line. Showing up is sometimes half the battle. Think of the sounds, the feelings, the electricity of the start line.
3. Imagine yourself at very specific times throughout the course. What are you doing? How do you feel? What are you doing to ensure success?
4. Cross that finish line! Every time you visual make sure you see yourself at the finish line. Look at the expression on your face. Hear the crowd. How are you crossing the finish?
5. NEVER envision failure! Don't ever make this an option. Wipe any of these thoughts from your head and replace them immediately with images of success.   
6. Plan your celebration! Imagine how you will celebrate with your friends and family!
Visualize it, train for it, do it! It CAN be done!!

Seriously love this skirt!! 
And July 15-31 Enso Sports Skirts is having their Midsummer sale - 25% off and free shipping!

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Favorite Orange Mud Packs

We are a family of hikers and I am an endurance athlete who loves running trails. I used my Orange Mud packs training for Ironman and I am training for my first Ultra in February. I am by no means an expert, but I get asked often about my Orange Mud packs. So I thought I'd give you a little review on each of the packs I have. There are more reviews on the Orange Mud site, so be sure to read those as well. I've included stock photos and personal photos to help. There are so many great packs, I hope this helps you find the right one for you. Be sure to use the code AB151-104 for 10% off and save yourself some $$$!

1. Handheld Hydration Pack $29.95
The handheld is really great for those short runs or track workouts or even just on the go. It has a pocket for your phone, gels, keys, etc. It holds a 21 ounce bottle. It's very comfortable to carry. I personally don't love carrying anything when I run so I never take this on long runs. But it's great for a grab and go for me!

2. Sling Bag $32.95
I love a good sling bag and this one is super nice. It's very well made. Lots of sling bags are super thin. This one is really durable and good quality. It has an interior pocket so no digging for keys. It also has three front pouches which are great! I use the center one to hold my drink. It holds a water bottle perfectly!

3. Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 - $119.95

My Hydraquiver Vest Pack 1 gets a lot of use. It is so hot and humid here in Houston I even take it on my shorter runs. It's super important to get the fit right when you're wearing it. I have read some people have issues with chafing under the arms. I have not had this problem. Orange Mud has a video on the proper way to wear your vest and it is super helpful. It holds a 25 ounce bottle. It has two shoulder accessory pockets and two chest pockets to hold gels or your phone. I also use it to carry my GoPro. I don't have movement from the vest or sloshing when I'm running and that is important to me. My only problem with the single barrel is my ponytail. I can't braid my own hair, so sometimes my ponytail gets in the way. It doesn't stop me from using it, but I want to give full disclosure. Just another reason I need to learn to braid my own hair. But I have 4 boys, so I doubt that's ever going to happen. Ha!

4. Hydraquiver Vest Pack 2 $134.95

The Hydraquiver Vest Pack 2 is another one you'll see me wearing a lot. It is the same footprint as the Vest Pack 1, but holds two 25 ounce water bottles. It has the two chest pockets and two shoulder pockets. Great for carrying everything you need.  I wear this on the majority of my runs and while hiking with the family. There is no bounce and it is very light. Again proper fit is very important, so watch the video Orange Mud provides. I find this pack very comfortable and convenient. And the pony tail issue is resolved. I love both vest packs because they are water bottles and so easy and convenient to throw in the dishwasher to get clean.

5. Adventure Pack, 12L $139.95

The Adventure Pack has become my go to pack for long family hikes because it is a backpack and I can carry more gear and snacks for the kids. I was initially hesitant because it is has a bladder and I have never been a fan of bladders. But the Orange Mud bladder is so great. The top opens completely with a fold and slide system that makes it very easy to fill and super easy to clean. And this pack is awesome for my long runs as well. The bladder it comes with is 2L but it can even fit up to 3L. I also have the flasks listed below that hold 15 ounces each and fit in the front pockets of the vest for extra hydration. I typically put water in the bladder and an endurance drink in the flasks. You can carry trekking poles using the nylon cords on the back. I have folding poles and they fit perfectly inside the bag. This pack is extremely comfortable and it amazed me how light it felt even when I had it packed to the brim and filled with fluids. I am excited to use this pack for ultra training. This pack is the 12L. The 20L pack has the same footprint, chest harness, and materials. So you have options for sizes. The 12L is perfect for me.

6. Ultraflask - Hydrapak 15 ounce $18.95
These are great for extra hydration!!

I hope you find my reviews helpful. If you have any questions feel free to ask me, but also be sure to check out the Orange Mud website at for more information, reviews, and helpful videos. I also want to mention that Orange Mud has some of the best customer service and quality products there are. They are great to work with for any questions or concerns about their products.

Monday, June 5, 2017

My Latest RA Flare

In the last three weeks I have been to 9 doctor's appointments and one ER visit. I came down on the dosage of my prednisone from 12.5mg to 12mg and this small adjustment has led to an RA flare. It has affected my vision, caused bleeding from the bladder, and made it difficult to walk. 

Unfortunately my vision has taken a hit from my Rheumatoid Arthritis - both figuratively and literally. I have been having headaches, dizziness, difficulty focusing, and vision loss. I have inflammation in my eyes due to an RA flare. It turns out I have ciliary spasm and uveitis which is the leading cause of blindness. At this point the doctor is hopeful with treatment we can manage the symptoms and keep it under control. I have to admit it's a little scary. Most days I fight and feel like I'm winning. Other days are a little tougher.
Good news is inflammation is starting to go down. Still working on Meiobian Gland dysfunction. The doctor had to put me in multifocal lenses. To fix my distance it compromises my vision up close so we had to accommodate for both. And there is some permanent loss. Vision went from -6.5 to -7.5 in right eye and -8.0 in left eye.

This is what my urine sample looked like and what had the doctor send me to the ER. I am on a constant regiment of antibiotics due to my compromised immune system and persistent UTI's caused from RA. After several hours, blood work, urinalysis, and CT scan, they sent me home with yet another antibiotic and antispasmodic. At my follow up with my urologist, we decided to discontinue my constant source of antibiotics and treat it reactively rather than proactively to save my stomach a bit. This is the procedure used for transplant patients and patients with a compromised immune system. At the first sign of infection we will treat with a Rocephin series. He feels like the blood in my urine is due to inflammation from the RA flare. 

My activity has been limited from this flare. I am exhausted, but I can usually push myself thru it. In a major flare it is a little tougher. I am dealing with more pain. And both my ankles/Achille's Tendons, knees, and hips are making it difficult to even walk. I'm doing what I can, but it's not been much.

Typically when I have a flare we increase steroids to get me thru it. But I am working so hard to lower my dosage. So I am just trying to tough it out. I am wondering if this is the right decision. My rheumatologist talked to me about us having to consider altering our treatment plan, and I am thinking this is where we are going to have to head next.  

Running and triathlon are not bringing me pain. Exercise is not causing my broken bones or leading to my vision loss. Instead running and triathlon keep me focused on moving my body when I can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Running and triathlon are helping keep my head clear from worry and stress and my heart free from the burden of my disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the cause. I can choose to lay down and let it take over or I can continue to live and do what I love. It's not even a choice I have to consider. 
I have gotten many texts and messages of concern and I know these concerns come from a good place and I really appreciate it. I am resting when I need to and I am listening to my body. And I promise I am putting my health first. 

Getting thru this flare is my priority. Then I will get back to my training. Swimming has been good, so hopefully I can do more of that.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with my boys is my favorite past time. It is a time where we can disconnect and be free of distractions. We can explore and investigate. They find working together benefits the individual as well as the group. And most importantly to me it's where they tend to open up and communicate with each other and with me the most. 
A lot of parents ask me for advice about family hiking. Many have said their children whine or complain along the way. They're hot, they're tired, they're hungry or thirsty, etc. I have learned some tips that help make the most of our outings and keep hiking fun for all.
1. Know their limits. You may need to keep it short initially especially if they are young. You can increase the distance each time you get out there or as they get older.
2. Dress properly and comfortably. Be sure to dress for the weather. Don't wear nice clothes - let them get dirty! I choose bright, matching colors so they are easier to spot! And make sure they are wearing good comfy shoes.
3. Give them a responsibility. And this could vary for age. You can give them a job such as guide or lookout, Let them be the leader. If they are older let them carry a hiking tool such as a compass or multi tool. You can let them bring a camera to be the photographer or reporter.
4. Let them choose the path. Give them a little freedom in choosing whether to turn left, or right, or go straight. This may take some planning ahead of time if it's a trail you are unfamiliar with, but it is worth it! For an added bonus let them carry a trail map.
5. Have them carry their own water. Our boys have their own hydration pack, They each have an Orange Mud Hydraquiver Single Barrel pack. It's great because they can carry their own hydration and it has pockets as well. They carry bandaids, tissues, their own hiking tools, a whistle, etc. 
6. Take breaks. Take time to stop and smell the roses. Take it all in. Listen to their cues. If they are tired find a great place for a break or even cut it short if you need to. You want to nurture a love for hiking and being outdoors.
7. Have a picnic. We almost always bring food and stop halfway thru to eat. It provides them the opportunity to rest and refuel. And we always let them pick the spot which gives them freedom and helps them feel like they are contributing. Plus it makes them work together to agree on a spot.
8. Go on a leaf hunt. See how many different color leaves you can find. Collect leaves for leaf rubbing. Match which leaf goes with which tree. Identify types of leaves/trees.  
9. Geo Caching - At or using the geocaching app you can learn everything you need to know about geocaching. It 's a fun treasure hunt and you'll find hidden treasures all over the place. You use coordinates to navigate to its location. You can find the treasure and leave it or take it and replace it with one of your own treasures for the next person to find. This can be a lot of fun! 
10. Keep it simple! Teach a love and respect for nature. 

A great app I've found that we use is All Trails. You can explore trails near you or enter a city, park, or trail name for maps. Users also post pics and reviews which I find helpful. 

You can find National Parks at Your state also has a website for state parks. Chances are your county does as well. 

Here is a list of local trails we enjoy:

Spring Creek Greenway 

Dennis Johnston Park

Pundt Park

Mercer Arboretum 

Jesse Jones Park

WG Jones State Forest

Burroughs Park

George Mitchell Preserve

Meyer Park 

Huntsville State Park

Sam Houston National Forest

My Ironman Tattoo

I wanted to get my tattoo right away so it could heal while I was recovering from the race. And it was so cool that Lululemon was hosting an after party and invited Superchango Tattoo Studio to come give out tattoos!
Hubby pointed out the grown men wincing before me, but I thought they were being dramatic. Lol! But it sure did hurt! And it bled a lot! But I just did a freaking Ironman!!
I love it! And I wear it with pride! It represents all the trials and tribulations I went thru to earn the title of Ironman!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Family - My Biggest Fans

This was a journey and a finish that is credited to my family! I certainly couldn't have done it without their support and encouragement! And I sincerely believe my family is as happy for me as if they crossed that finish line themselves! To hear how they announce to perfect strangers that I am an Ironman with such pride in their voices makes me tear up every time! Thru this journey they made many sacrifices, stepped up their responsibilities, were my cheerleaders, my entertainers on long trainer rides, my partners on runs, my support crew, they even helped nurse me thru my injuries! They were such a big part of my journey and huge contributors in getting me to that finish line!! This medal is as much theirs as it is mine!! 
My mom and dad helped so much with my training! And as always they move heaven and earth to make my dreams come true! My poor mom, I think she was almost more nervous than me!!
It's hard when you are held back from doing what you love. Rheumatoid Arthritis and injury kept me from performing like I know I am capable of, but it wasn't going to stand in the way of my dream! I wouldn't let it rob me of my victory or steal my joy! #noexcuses
It's moments like these on the run that kept me moving forward and got me to that finish line!
I can never thank my boys enough for helping make my dreams come true!
This guy right here couldn't have been more proud of me! I know he doesn't get my passion or as he calls it my crazy, but that doesn't stop him from supporting me no matter what! The time commitment, the financial investment, the illness and injury, thru it all he is by my side and I love him even more for it! I credit my medal to him, my boys, and my parents because I got it done for them and because of them!