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Review: The Trail Runner’s Companion by Sarah Lavender Smith

Last month I received a copy of Sarah Lavender Smith’s new book: The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras. I’ve read dozens of books on running (every other book on my Goodreads account is about running) and recently wrote an article, “What’s the Best Ultrarunning Book for You?” from beginner to elite. There are plenty of books I’d recommend to someone looking to try their first ultramarathon–but I would never recommend the same book to everyone, regardless of their skill set or experience in the sport. Not so with The Trail Runner’s Companion. At nearly 300 pages, The Trail Runner’s Companion is on the long side, but necessarily so. Totaling 14 chapters, each broken down into several sub-chapters with titles like “6 Ways to Adopt a Trail Runner’s Mindset” and “The Taper Crazies and Pitfalls to Avoid,” Sarah covers the spectrum of questions that every beginner might have: from buying the right trail shoes to handling rough terrain to race etiquette 101. From the beginning, Sarah makes …

Orcas 100: Why Not?

Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama On the ferry ride over between Anacortes, Washington to our destination, Orcas Island, Nick replayed his whys over in his mind. I had a difficult time concealing my giddiness at a trip to Orcas–for one, I had never been but had heard of the island magic; for another, it was the Pacific Northwest and as a proud Pacific Northwesterner, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to smell coastal brine and the cleansing dampness of cedar forests. When Nick asked me my why, my reason for running Orcas 100, I almost laughed. Did I need a reason to run this race? Wasn’t the sheer beauty of the place enough?   “Because it was a chance to take this trip,” I said, my mind still full with images of our night in Seattle, stuffing our faces with seafood bisque and piroshkys and wandering so far and so long our feet were swollen before the race. Even on the drive to the ferry terminal earlier that morning, we had watched trumpeter swans, maybe even a …

Zion 100: My First Hundred or Close Enough

I never thought I’d be here. In fact, I promised my mom when I started dating Nick that I would never do these types of races. By “these types” of races, that meant anything over a half-marathon. I’m a trustworthy person, but I broke that promise. I ran a bunch of 50Ks, R2R2R, a gnarly 50-mile race in Santa Barbara and then this: Zion 100. I think the idea situated itself in my head after crewing Nick at San Diego 100, the first 100-mile race I had ever experienced. It was 2 a.m., I was tired of crewing since 6 a.m. the morning before, and I fell asleep on the floor of the Old Al Bahr shrine, sharing a pillow with an older man who I hoped wouldn’t wake up and tell me to move. Nick came in shortly after. I congratulated him, then fell back asleep on the floor, completely exhausted. Never mind the fact that the Nick was the one who had just run 100 miles. Still, as tired as he was, he drove us …

Old West 50K: On Cactus, Friends and Rib Pain

As I sit here post-race, my legs propped up on a stool and a cold kombucha doing little to aid in reducing lactic acid build-up in my body, I can’t help but be slightly terrified at the prospect of running Zion 100-mile in three weeks. It will my first hundred. Part of the reason for my terror is because of the way my body currently feels (i.e., fatigued, stiff) and part of it is because 31 miles is not even a third of the way to 100 miles. But, I have three weeks to think (or not think) on that. Today’s race was a blast! I originally signed up after realizing that I needed one last long run in preparation for Zion. Running with others, whether in a race or not, sounded more fun by this point in my training cycle than running solo, so I opted to try Old West 50K. Nick and I awoke at 3:55 a.m. to drive the two hours out to Anza Borrego from Coronado. The drive passed quickly. I dozed as …

Vermont College of Fine Arts: Residency 1

Last night I returned home from two weeks on the East Coast: 10 days in Montpelier, Vermont for my first Vermont College of Fine Arts residency, sandwiched between a few days spent in Connecticut visiting Nick’s dad. To explain how I ended up at VCFA is a long story, but suffice it to say that one’s gut instinct is usually the right one. When I applied two years ago, I originally decided to accept VCFA. A sudden phone call from OSU changed that decision, however, (you mean the residencies are in the mountains in Oregon and we get to eat local food!?), and I haphazardly decided that OSU would be a better choice. After one residency and two semesters at OSU, I left the program and applied once again to VCFA, this time based on reasons that related more to my academic and professionals goals than my politics. I gained knowledge and friendship and confidence at OSU, and I feel grateful for having had the experience, but I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to …