Running, I’m working on speed…

Happy Monday! I trust y’all had a great weekend. We held our neighborhood garage sales on Friday and Saturday and by Sunday, Mom and I were completely exhausted but the weather here was so nice that I was determined to run as much as possible.

I did manage a few early miles on Friday, a little over six miles on Saturday and then on Sunday I got up prepared to run ten but after four I felt burnt. I was on my way home when I ran into my friend and neighbor, Lori. She was just heading out and I was sort of shocked myself when I heard myself say, ‘Want some company?’

So Lori and I ran another 3 miles and I finished with a total of 7 for the day. I had a great time and while it isn’t anywhere near the amount of miles I’d like to be running, I was grateful that Lori agreed to some company because otherwise I would have ended at 4 miles and beat myself up the rest of the day.

And that is something I’ve been working on because this year I’m more focused on being a better runner, getting faster, and remaining injury free rather than just running all the miles.

Genetically speaking, my muscle makeup is probably a bit different than Shalane Flanagan’s or Desi Linden’s and that’s okay. Some people are just speedier than others but that doesn’t mean I can’t get faster. I used to always say that I was a much better endurance athlete because what I lack in speed I make up for in distance and while that may be true it doesn’t mean I can’t boost my genetics a bit.

Your body includes 3 main muscle fibers, slow twitch, intermediate fast twitch, and fast twitch. Slow twitch muscles contract slower and it takes a long time to exhaust them. Adversely, fast twitch muscles contract quickly and fatigue much quicker. Generally speaking most people have an equal amount but there have been some reports that suggest some of the best sprinters have up to 85% of fast twitch muscles and some of the best marathoners have up to 85% of slow twitch. I used to think that I had a lot more slow twitch, but I’m not so sure that’s really the case.

While you may not be able to alter the balance some scientific studies have shown that with the proper training you may be able to convert slow twitch to fast twitch just by incorporating the following training.

Agility Dot Drills
I have to admit, I had no idea what these were but this video shows you exactly how to do them and now I love them.

Sprints are an awesome way to develop speed. I like 400 repeats or fartleks and that’s how I do sprints but if you’ve never run sprints before, here is a good tutorial on how to start.

Y’all know I love my squats. Not only do they help with speed but the benefits for your butt are worth it alone!  Seriously, they are.

Isometric Hamstring Bridge
This one is great for speed but also if you suffer from weak hips like I do, this exercise is invaluable. I do this at least 5 days a week. Here’s a great video that shows you the proper form.

Hill Sprints
Now these are my Achilles heel or hill, haha. I hate hills. I really do. I think it’s because I seriously hurt my Achilles tendon running up a hill a few years back and ever since then, I’ve hated them.

I do my best to avoid all the hills in my neighborhood and when I’m running someplace new I look at the elevation before I choose my route. Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid hills and if you want to get really fast hill sprints are one of the best exercises you can do. Hill sprints can also help you to avoid injury so you really need to incorporate them.

I read this article and it helped me to get over my fear and face those hills. I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with hill sprints but I’m working on it.

So, now I’d like to hear from you.
Do you think you’re better at speed or endurance?  (My jury is still out, I used to think endurance but I can run fast and I know it..)
Do you prefer running 5K’s or marathons?  (My heart has always leaned toward marathons but lately I’ve been looking forward to some 5K’s.)

The most grueling race in the World. And you can’t run it…most likely.

I may be a Florida girl but my home is in Tennessee where I grew up, and most of my family still resides. (Go Vols!)

I grew up in Knoxville which is located in East Tennessee and entirely in the Appalachian Mountains, one of the hilliest regions in the country. In fact, if you were to climb to the top of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, on a clear day you could see 7 states!

Lookout Mountain
Located in the Cumberland Plateau is Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee which contains some of the highest mountains in Tennessee west of the Blue Ridge.  It’s about 50 miles northwest of my hometown of Knoxville.

Frozen Head State Park

Beautiful mountains, aren’t they?

Wartburg has a history worthy of its own post but for the sake of this one, let’s just say it is home to Brushy Mountain State penitentiary. The prison closed in 2009 but at one time it housed one of the most notorious criminals of our time, James Earl Ray.

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

In 1977 Ray, along with several other inmates, escaped from the prison and fled to the mountains.  He was captured after 55 hours and only a few miles away. That’s what inspired Gary Cantrell who said to himself “I could do at least 100 miles” to create the Barkley Marathons.

Gary Cantrell    Source:  Metro Pulse

Gary Cantrell                   Source: Metro Pulse

Born in 1986 the Barkley Marathons is a 100 mile ultramarathon touted as the toughest ultra in the United States, if not the World. The race is 5 – 20 mile loops with an elevation gain that is roughly the equivalent of two times the height of Mt. Everest.

Cantrell obviously has a sadistic sense of humor and it’s evident in this race. The course isn’t marked and only a compass and a map are allowed. Runners must navigate steep hills with gradients nearing 40 percent and brush that is so thorny it can rip the skin right off of you.

barkley marathons

Little Hell Obstacle


Of course if you don’t want to run the Barkley Marathons you could always just participate in the ‘60 mile fun run‘.  I did mention that Cantrell had a sadistic sense of humor, right?

The Barkley chews a runner up and then spits him out. Since its inception only 14 runners have ever finished the course and every time they do, the course is tweaked just a bit. This year every runner who participated was a DNF. That’s right, no one finished.

running through briars

There is no website, there is no official entry process, and there is not a chance in hell that most of you will ever get the chance to run this race unless you know someone, and if you do, you probably won’t finish anyway. The entry process is surrounded in a cloud of secrecy but what is known is that the entry fee is somewhere around 2 bucks, a license plate from your home state if you’re a first timer, and an essay on why you should be allowed to run the Barkley. I’ve heard some participants have been required to bring socks or cigarettes for entry but only those who have run it know for sure.

barkley marathons license platesSource

The race takes place the weekend around April fools and 40 runners participate. First time runners are called ‘virgins’ and one runner who race organizers don’t think will do particularly well, is deemed the ‘human sacrifice’.  Cantrell doesn’t believe that women are made for the course and he will quickly tell you that. In fact, no woman has ever completed more than 60 miles of the course.

rat jaw of the Barkley Marathons

This is the Rat Jaw obstacle, Photo by John Price

The course route is taped to a picnic table and the runners must buy their own maps and copy the course onto it. Directions are provided, but they are vague.

course map

The race starts sometime between midnight and noon.  Only Cantrell knows when the start time will be. Cantrell blows a conch shell to signal that runners have an hour until start time and then he lights a cigarette, which is the signal that the grueling race has begun.


The race has a 60 hour time limit and the runners navigate with only a compass and a map. Each runner must complete 5 loops and there are many obstacles along the way with names such as Testicle Spectacle, Rat Jaw, and Son of a Bitch Ditch. Runners even trek through a drainage tunnel that was previously used by Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. Each of the 5 loops must be completed in under 12 hours.  If a runner doesn’t finish a loop in under 12 hours, he is disqualified.

There are no course markings.

There are no manned checkpoints.

There are no aid stations, just jugs of water dropped along the course. Runners must carry any supplies that they may need.

Along the course runners must locate books with ominous titles such as, ‘No Exit’ and then remove the assigned pages proving they’ve run the correct course. If a runner finishes without all of the assigned pages, they are disqualified.

book pages from the Barkley Marathons

Ripping the pages from the located books.        Source:  Metro Pulse

As runners fail, and inevitably most of them do, you’ll hear the sound of Taps played by the bugler at the yellow gate. Everyone can hear it.  Everyone knows you’ve failed.

This year everyone knows that everyone failed. Cantrell wins again.  The record stands, there are still only 14 men who have completed the Barkley Marathons.

Check out the Barkley Marathons Documentary!

Have you heard of the Barkley Marathons?
Have you ever run a 100 mile race and finished?
If you had the chance, would you attempt the Barkley? (I would because I’m crazy like that and I’m from East Tennessee so maybe I have something to prove?!?)

Owls, Hippee’s, and a training update.

So we are still in appliance hell. We got a call from the in-laws last week and they informed us that the new(ish) washer is no longer working correctly. Apparently it plays the steel drum and dances across the floor. It sounds really cool, except, it’s not really supposed to do that. I’m not buying another one though because I have more important things to spend money on….like races.

Speaking of races, I was thinking about how much it cost to race in other areas and how I never really do that because I fail to plan. And then I found these:

race banksWhat a great idea, right?

Over the weekend, MacGyver went to the cabin in Holopaw so the kid and I went to dinner together on Friday night. After dinner we made a quick stop at the dollar tree and then as we were leaving the store, I dropped my change on the pavement.

Within a second, a horned owl swooped down from a nearby tree, took the quarter and flew back up to the tree. I swear. An owl!

The kid and I looked at each other in disbelief and without saying a word we both dug through our pockets and threw out more change….but he didn’t come back. Gah!

On Saturday I got my long run in and then I cleaned house for the entire day. MacGyver got home that evening and so we got up on Sunday and headed down to Venice. I was reading in the car on the way down and I saw this article and it really caught my attention. As someone who has suffered with hip problems, it spoke to me! I am definitely a hippee, you know, a runner who suffers from hip issues.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Ultrarunner Adam St. Pierre thought he had training down to a science. An exercise physiologist and running coach in Boulder, Colorado, he ran 40 to 70 miles a week, stretched 15 minutes twice a day, and saw a massage therapist twice a month. But at the peak of the 2014 racing season, the 33-year-old athlete was nearly sidelined by tight hip flexors. “The muscles run from your femur up to the pelvis. When they’re tight, you lose range of motion and considerable speed, and you feel like you have to pee all the time,” he says. That’s untenable for an average day, let alone a 100-mile race.

Go here to read the article in its entirety. It even has links to articles on how to sit correctly and other helpful things.

I’m still hammering away at my training for the Sarasota Half Marathon. I had a few successes and a few fails last week but as promised, here’s the recap.

marathon owl
Ran 6 easy miles on the Legacy Trail
Marching Bridges – 3 sets – 12 reps ea.
Lying Side Clams – 3 Sets each side – 10 reps ea.
Ran 6.5 miles in the neighborhood – Tempo Run – Avg. Page 9:30
Marching Bridges – 3 sets – 12 reps ea.
Lying Side Clams – 3 Sets each side – 10 reps ea.
50 Shades of Glutes Workout – This killed me!
Ran 8 slow miles in the neighborhood
Marching Bridges – 3 sets – 12 reps ea.
Lying Side Clams – 3 Sets each side – 10 reps ea.
Ran 12 miles in the neighborhood – I combined my long run with a hill run.
Marching Bridges – 3 sets – 12 reps ea.
Lying Side Clams – 3 Sets each side – 10 reps ea.
Ran 7 miles – Tempo Run – Avg. Pace 9:19
Marching Bridges – 3 sets – 12 reps ea.
Lying Side Clams – 3 Sets each side – 10 reps ea.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad training week. Unfortunately, after the 50 shades of glutes workout on Wednesday my butt was so sore, I couldn’t even fathom doing another session like that during the week. I’m switching up the strength training this week and hopefully it will go a bit better.

So, now it’s your turn. Tell me about your weekend and if you’re training for a race, tell me about it!