Archives for trail running

Are you ready for ultra running? :: Guest post by MichRun4

Hi! I am Michelle Sager from the blog Michrun4. So excited to be a part of the wonderful Zucchini Runner blog by Corine. We originally “met” on Instagram, but soon after met in person at the inaugural #RunEatTweetAZ meet up. We hit it off right away. She is so knowledgable about so many things! I was picking her brain about all sorts of nutrition aspects and how I could apply it to running. So excited to do a blog swap with her! She is posting some great advice about fueling with whole foods on my blog for me!

I am a wife, a mother, a group fitness instructor, and a lover of all things fitness! I have been running multiple marathons a year since 2005, but recently fell in love with trail running. When my husband first started running ultramarathons I thought it was just nuts. But the more I have been around it, I have fallen in love with the change of pace and the unique sport of ultra racing.

If you love running long distances, unique terrain, and a challenge… then what are you waiting for? An ultramarathon is for you! Ultramarathon distances vary from 50Ks to 100 milers and beyond.  A 50K is just beyond the 26.2, so maybe just jumping ahead to a 50 miler would be a good challenge.  The training is much more doable than you think. You don’t have to spend every waking minute running! When my husband first told me he wanted to sign up for a 100 miler I about flipped! We already find it tough to get the training time in as it is because we are both runners, we have young kids, and we live in AZ where summer heat means we have to be done with our training before 8am!  I soon discovered that training for an ultra is much like marathon training and very doable even for a busy family! This post is going to focus on some key areas that I believe can help you gain confidence to make the jump from 26.2 to ultras.

1. “Piggy-Backing” or “Sandwiching” long runs. You don’t need (nor should you) train the full, or close to the full distance in one run for an ultra. During marathon training, most runners will run 18-22 miles as their longest run. That is only a few miles short of a marathon. Training for a 100 miler does NOT mean you should do a 90 mile training run. Same goes for a 50 mile race. To train 42 miles in one day is not recommend in preparation for 50.  Your body would suffer too much break down, and most likely wouldn’t be prepared for the actual race day. This is where “Piggy-Backed” runs come in. Your training plan should include back-to-back long runs. So train a long run Saturday and Sunday. The second day you are training your legs to run on tired legs which mimics the second half of a race.

2. Training plans. Nowadays we have access to free training plans online, or you can purchase a book that has a prescribed plan. You can take those plans and tweak them to fit your needs. I did this for many years. I started really stressing out about plans because there are so many that contradict each other and they all make different claims. I was fortunate enough to get to work with a coach last year which put an end to the second guessing. We communicated how I felt after each week, made adjustments as needed, but mostly I just had to put the work in without all the guess work of when to do speed, or how many miles I should run each week. Whichever route you take, what’s most important is that you show up to race day prepared, and trusting that you put in the work. My coach has told me that with all of the distances runners he works with, the ones that seem to perform the best on race day are the ones that are able to maintain high weekly mileage mixed in with recovery weeks. For example, if a runner is training lots of speed training and tempo runs, but only hitting about 20 miles a week for their total mileage, then he/she would be better off training 40-60 mile weeks, even if it meant slowing down the pace. Running more weekly miles will boost up your efficiency and running economy!


3. Train the terrain. If your race is taking place in some technical trails with a lot of elevation gain, then it would be smart to train in similar areas!  My first trail race I went in very prepared with mileage, but underestimated the difficulty of the course and biffed a few times! If you are racing on pavement, be sure to include pavement runs in your training program. Train smart=race can be more successful!


4. Get in tune with your body! I learn a lot from other runners and love to pick people’s brains. I also really enjoy reading books about running. But the most important thing is to test things out on yourself and figure out what will work for you! Before you jump into an Ultra, you need to understand your bodies fueling needs. Every single runner is different. Figure out how many calories you need an hour, and what your stomach does well with. I have surprised myself. Some races I seem to really like watermelon at aid stations, whereas others, all I want are boiled potatoes dipped in salt. When it comes to long endurance races, listen to your body, start fueling and hydrating early! It is hard to play catch up.

5. Remember, it is going to be unpredictable! When racing a 10k or even a half marathon, you can pretty much predict what your body will need/go through. Ultras are VERY unpredictable. You will experience some highs, and some lows. The mountain weather is often unpredictable. You increase your chance of getting hurt or lost in an ultra. You might see some creatures along the trail. So be ready for anything and roll with the punches! You can’t go into race day stressed about specific expectations. Relax, have fun, trust your training, have a good mental race plan, and race smart! Start the race slow and get a feel for it! Never be too hard on yourself!


6. Suck it up buttercup! Mental toughness is KEY! Know that you will have some bad training runs. Don’t get too worked up over it, those runs are building that mental strength that you will most definitely need come race day!


7. Time on feet. A big difference in ultra training is long runs are planned by hours instead of miles. So instead of saying you are going to run 18 miles on Saturday, you would set out to run 3 hrs. and then just record what distance you end up with. This helps you relax and stay in tune with your body. I like to start my training with 2 hr long runs and increase by 30 min. intervals.

8. Be prepared with gear on race day. I have a post on my blog you can check out about what to pack on race day. My motto is, if you think you might need it, then bring it!


If you have the desire to do an ultra, then you have already overcome half the battle! That means you are ready to tackle the pain, time commitment, and all the suffering that goes with it. If you decide you are willing to do whatever it takes to get through and finish the race, then what are you waiting for?! “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how FAR one can go!”

Let’s connect! You can find me on:
Blogspot: MichRun4
Instagram: michrun4
Twitter: Michrun4
Pinterest: Michelle Sager
Facebook: MichRun4

Adrenaline Night Run Race Recap

You know that feeling you get after a race, where all the adrenaline is coursing through your veins, and despite having just pushed your body to its limits, you are WIDE awake the rest of the day? Yeah, that’s me. Only it’s the next day, and I STILL have it!! I finished this night race a little before 9 p.m. and didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 a.m. Then my body and/or mind thought it would be a good idea to wake up at 6:55 a.m.

Not at all what I had in mind for a busy Sunday. I hope I make it past 9 p.m.

Sunday’s are typically my day to sleep in; to catch up on all the sleep I didn’t get during the week. But no, no, not this Sunday.

It’s true, I have a TON to get done in the next 4 days before we head out of town, but come on… less than 4.5 hours of sleep?? Yet here I am, typing away on my race recap. Seems the best thing to do with my time since Mr. Zucchini Runner is blissfully asleep.


Looking away from the race staging area (port-o-potty line); beautiful view of the Four Peaks mountain.

After chatting a little with our friends Kristin and Evan, (Kristin is also known as Cook and Run with Kristin) we took an obligatory pre-race photo and then one final restroom stop before lining up for the race!


I positioned myself up front, foolishly thinking I could avoid some of the dust from the trails. HA WRONG! I’m still kinda new to this whole trail racing thing, ok? 🙂 This is race #4 on trails for me, so I guess I should know by now there is no avoiding the dust. Oh well, more on the dusty trails later…

All I could see in front of me was dudes, lots of tall dudes. It appeared I was the only female that far up in the starting chute.

Can you spot me? I didn't have a clear view in front of me!

Can you spot me? I didn’t have a clear view in front of me!

When they started the race, I immediately had to pass a couple guys to keep my comfy race starting pace going. I wasn’t in this race for a leisurely night stroll like my leg 2 of Ragnar Trail… I was in this race to finish in the top 10 women, maybe even top 5 if I was lucky. In my limited number of trail races, I have at least learned one thing — that positioning matters! Don’t start at the back, or you will expend a lot of energy trying to pass other runners. And you never know when it will become single track and therefore more difficult to pass a slower runner. On the road races, you have a wide open area to gradually pass, but on a trail, you better kick it up fast and pass with some speed – and then make sure you can keep that pace!

I trained for the past 4 weeks at the trails of South Mountain in anticipation of the below elevation gain. I actually did FAR more elevation gains than I needed, but I think it paid off for the most part last night.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 10.33.51 AMI kept clipping along for almost the whole climb, until my pace was so slow, I decided it would be more beneficial to hike a bit, catch my breath and take a few drinks of water! You can clearly see where that happened in the timing profile below. 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 10.34.19 AMI started back up again when I felt my heart rate recovering a bit. Unfortunately things got worse, before they got better. I got what I like to call “hot stomach”; something I commonly get during warm weather races, followed by cramps in my abdomen, and then I also felt my feet dragging. Sure signs I was pushing myself too much, and needed to reel it in. I kept it slower and eventually stopped to walk very briefly again and get a good mouth full of water, swish it around and swallow. I was completely hydrated heading into this race, but mouth breathing, on dusty trails, when it’s 93 degrees and 3% humidity – yeah. Dry cotton mouth.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 11.53.09 AM

It was during this point where I had a decision to make, give up on my top 10 female goal or stay strong and push through. I chose the latter. I’ve given up before, and I always regret it. I’ve never regretted pushing through. Plus, I was starting to catch back up to the guy who passed me when I was walking. Then I heard what sounded like a mountain biker sliding down the trail behind me on a downhill. Was I just having flashbacks to running National Trail on South Mountain, where I’m constantly battling with the mountain bikers? Or maybe a runner fell? Either way, the trail was getting technical so looking back would have required stopping and I hadn’t heard any cries for help, so I kept pushing. By the time I caught the runner in front of me, I realized it was another runner coming up behind me. The guy in front moved to the side to let us both pass. After running for a few hundred feet, I asked if the guy behind me needed to pass — his words were music to my ears; “No, I’ve been chasing you down for about a mile!” That was a great boost! All hope was not lost. We kept plugging along, and I was so relieved to have someone pushing me along and it felt good knowing I was helping him keep pace too.

Just as I was getting into the zone and feeling more in control, my mind started racing as two female runners passed us. Judging by my female head count, I was now the 4th. I was already giving it all I had and still had 2+ miles to go. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch them. I could tell they weren’t pushing as hard as I was, yet they were passing me with ease. Ah well I told myself, don’t unravel now, the race isn’t over yet!

The rest of the course was on a nice downhill — which I was very grateful for — what I was NOT grateful for was all the DUST! During this race I learned that downhills produce the most dust, because of the way our feet land; it definitely stirs it up more!  The closest runner was YARDS ahead of me, yet there was dust like they were 10 feet in front of me! I almost turned my headlamp off, because there was so much obstructing my vision, but the moon wasn’t quite up yet.

Suck it up and keep pushing.

As we were nearing the finish, David (as I found out later) took off ahead of me to finish his race strong. I was waiting for the last .7 miles to pick up the pace and maybe catch the gals who passed me… or at least one of them. 🙂 Then suddenly, the final turn to the finish was right THERE (disadvantage of night running, you can only see about 10 feet in front of you). I picked it up immediately and my dusty-filled, contact-lense-filled-eyes thought I saw a female runner within my range! I pushed harder, and harder trying to close the gap! As I got closer, I thought nope, that’s a guy… and then blurred through the finish line seconds behind that person.

Suddenly I was completely SPENT and acutely aware of how hard I had been pushing. I don’t remember much other than trying to catch my breath and get a drink of water. But I did know I finished WAY faster than what I had projected and therefore Mr. Zucchini Runner had missed my finish. 🙁 While I wasn’t aware of the people around me at the finish, I was listening for his tell tale yell, and didn’t hear it. I texted him “done” once I had my wits back, and realized he was nowhere nearby. On the drive up I told him I would probably finish in a little over an hour. Clearly, I overestimated the difficulty of this trail!



My final finishing time according to my Garmin – I ALMOST forgot to stop it. My official time was 53:25.IMG_4493

I ended up finishing 6th female – which is baffling to me. I must have had two gals pass me when I was in my rough patch and not realized it. And until 30 minutes ago I assumed there were women in front of me that I didn’t see at the starting line. But someone posted a video, and I saw that I was runner #19, first female. Ah well, if I would have known I was 6th the whole time, I probably wouldn’t have pushed so much towards the finish. I will never regret giving 100% at a race.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 1.44.08 PM

Looking at my splits, I was a both discouraged and encouraged! I really wasn’t watching my split pace AT ALL when I was out there; I was running purely by feel. Plus, it’s just safer that way. 😉 But stopping to walk REALLY added a chunk of time to my overall pace. The second place female finished in 51:13; that means the 3rd place position was within reach! This just gives me more motivation to keep training and pushing to get better on trails. I really enjoy trail running. It’s a new challenge for me to take it more seriously and run to race, versus just run to finish without a cactus in my eye or something.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 1.47.52 PM


And I MAY have found a solution for that pesky dust issue! A gaiter!! I’ve been wanting to get one for months since I saw fellow vegan runner/blogger Heidi (Banana Buzzbomb) posted a pic of hers on Instagram. I wanted to get the Columbia one she told me about, but Aravaipa Running had a merchandise table set up at the race and they had them on sale for a great price! Since I was already having another post trail run sneeze attack, I jumped on the opportunity.

Then this morning when I was half asleep I realized there was a multitude of ways to wear this thing!


So, half asleep and sleep deprived, I had some fun – hope you get some laughs too! 😉


What’s your favorite look? I know mine!

But no, seriously… you will probably see me like this at the next group run or race. hahaha I even did the Neti Pot last night, and I’m still stuffy and gross today. 🙁


If you are local, or just live within a few hours of Phoenix, you should definitely check out any of the upcoming Aravaipa Running races. They throw a SOLID event, with awesome gear and after race snacks.

The spread of food did not disappoint. I overindulged -- a lot.

The spread of food did not disappoint. I overindulged — a lot.

The course was clearly marked, and there ALWAYS seems to be a challenging climb thrown into the mix whether it’s an Aravaipa hosted Wednesday Group Run or one of their races. They help to push you past what you think you can do and yet with a low key, very accepting vibe to all paces and styles. 🙂 Plus, check out this sweet race tank!! My favorite yet 🙂


Love this back artwork, so clever. 🙂


Have you done any Aravaipa races or group runs? Do you enjoy trail running? Please share below, I’d love to hear from you!

Follow on Bloglovin