Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Doing the Most

I know I haven't posted for a MINUTE in the blog that actually helped me gain the lil bit of notoriety I enjoy today. But hear me out--

These days, most of my writing appears in Women's Running Magazine under the moniker Fatgirlrunning, so head over there to read what you've been missing! Anyways, I'm grateful to all of you in my community as your support and love has helped me achieved some big ass goals this year. 

This summer, including a few DNF's...was incredible.

Black Mountain Monster 12 Hr
I did the Black Mountain Monster 12-Hour and achieved exactly what I wanted--my first (and maybe my last) 50k of the SEASON. This makes my ninth ultra. It was pretty tough, as there was mud, rain, sleet, and trolls and all. 
Also, the BMM was the start of filming for a #forceofnature REI short documentary film with the talented Sarah Menzies of Let Media http://www.letmedia.org/and Jenny Nichols of Pongo Media.

I then took a break from racing for a month to amp up my training, increase my mileage, strength train, and write, write, write, mostly for Women's Running Magazine.

Skirt Sports 13er
In June, I traveled to Colorado to participate in the Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat and then do the Skirts Sports 13er, which contrary to what you might believe is a half-marathon, and not a trek up a 13er... It was incredible in every aspect. Every woman who enjoys running or walking should have such an opportunity to be part of such a wonderful community.

Also in June, I drove up to Massachusetts to attempt the TNF Endurance Challenge at Wachussett Mountain with fellow blogger and friend Latoya Snell of Running Fat Chef fame.
Pre-TNFECS still happy

Right after deciding to call it a day at 15 miles during TNFECS
I knew it would be tough to try to make the 8 hour cutoff but if we don't try shit that seems impossible (and sometimes is) we don't learn shit. I DNFed, had some really low points, enjoyed some amazing views, talked for a while with Dean Karnazes (one of my IDOLS!), hung out with Toya, and collected a bunch of really cool memories and images--mostly about what the human body can really do. 

The following week, I headed to one of my favorite spots for SKIING and NOT RUNNING, Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ for the infamous Running with the Devil 12 Hour. The course is a 5K loop that contains a 1100 foot elevation gain in 1.6 miles and an equal, steep loss over the second half. My goal for this was to see how much elevation I could do in those 12 hours. I was shooting for anything over 3500, as that was what I had done the previous weekend at TNFECS in not even finishing. I took my time, knowing that whatever I did over two loops would be a PR on this course for me. I was going to stop after I had achieved 4 loops (12 miles, 4400 ft of gain), but was then joyously heckled by RDs Rick and Jen McNulty and friends to get off my ass and do another loop. So I obliged. Total gain 5500 feet and 15 miles in about 10 hours. (I took very long luxurious breaks between loops to take care of nutrition, rest the legs, and shoot the shit with various folks.) It was amazing. And hard. And good to be back on a course where I had only ever done 6.2 miles. And another step toward my big goal.
12 miles/4400 feet in and still smiling at RWD 

The next week, I headed up to Stowe, Vermont to do the Catamount 50K. I eventually dropped to the 25K, like I did last year. I wasn't ready for the quick sand mud which permeated much of the course. And plus, my mom was with me, so instead of hanging out for more torture in the mountains, I hung out with her, exploring beautiful Stowe, eating some amazing food, and drinking some even more amazing Chardonnay. Also, the RD was like, "you out", after 25K and I was like, THANK YOU.

I wiped out many times on my bum

The following week--I know, can you believe this?--I headed up to the Finger Lakes for a third try at the Finger Lakes 50s 50K. I had completed it twice before, so I felt EXTRA ready and EXTRA excited for my third. 

About 7 or 8 miles into FL50s 50K

Only, the mud and rain and thunderstorms and mud and rivers and streams of mud and more thunder had a different idea in mind. DNFed at 25k. BUT, made a ton of new friends from all over! Also, I proved to myself that I could still run and be functional during a five hour long thunderstorm. If you know me, you know what this means. There's an ENTIRE chapter in my upcoming book about my astraphobia. Like, a FULL chapter.

One of the less muddy areas. I'm serious.

And then I finally took a short break of about a week to catch up on things...like writing my bimonthly pieces for WRM, and doing a photo shoot for same magazine, and then flying to Grand Rapids, MI to record the audio for my book! Yeah baby, I got that gig! This also meant spending two nights on airport floors and chairs, spending a night in a hotel room with a stranger (yep...I'll tell that story one day...), and finally getting back to NYC--all the while missing out on TWO Tough Mudders that I was supposed to be doing with friends. 

I know I'm leaving something out--but oh well, maybe that will be another post.

But to get back to the point- 

I am penning most of this post from a not-so-swanky airport hotel in Denver, as I wait for the shuttle to shuttle me back to the airport so I can catch another shuttle to shuttle me and a bunch of other folks to...

Lemme back up:

So just in case you don't know why I'm in Colorado and just in case you haven't been reading my FB and IG and TW posts over the summer.... I'll be attempting the Trans Rockies Six Day 120 Mile Run across, um, the Rockies! This is what I've been training for since late February. 

There will be six days of running and hiking through the mountains at altitude, starting at 8200 feet. Yep, I already have issues breathing so we'll see how that goes...

Although my training fell off a bit in the last few weeks due to extreme exhaustion (training, photo shoots, writing, prepping for school, travel, preparing to launch my book, etc....) I finally feel ready, mentally, physically and even emotionally. And gosh am I excited. 

I am also grateful.

This type of adventure would not have been possible without the extraordinary support I've had from the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School, who generously allowed me to take a leave of absence to do this, my mother, who stood by my side all summer, the Trans Rockies organization itself (Kevin Houda MacDonald in particular, who invited me to join the crazy), and all the amazing companies I get to rep--Merrell, Swiftwick, NY Custom PT, and Skirt Sports... who have all supported me through travel, shoes, apparel, fixing my legs/back, and the unending belief that I, this Fatgirlrunning, should have the audacity to think that someone in my kind of body could even fathom starting this thing.  And here I am.

See y'all on the other side!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Podcast Pandemonium

When there's pandemonium in your life, go to the woods and play like a child fence-climbing in Brooklyn...or listen to a podcast! Photo by my brother Allen Taylor Jr. Runkit: Capris, shoes, and top by Merrell. Socks by Swiftwick. Pack by Camelback, Shades by Walmart. 

In the last almost two years, I've had many incredible opportunities to share my running and fitness story with really cool people on a variety of podcasts. In this post, I've put them all on one page so if you ever want to have some company on a run, while you're cooking, or while you're driving that interminable drive home (or to a race), here's a start!

The latest podcast was the Runner's World Show with David Willey, who I got to meet IRL at the Runner's World 50th Anniversary Party in NYC. It's episode #42 and is called Breaking the Mold. 
What a heady experience it was to talk to the Editor in Chief of Runner's World Magazine! I also got to meet Bart Yasso that night too...whew!

My friend and chill as hell RD AKA Run Bum, Sean Blanton, and Ryan Ploeckelman interviewed me for the East Coast Trail and Ultra podcast. It was a hilarious interview with some F-bombs just in case you're concerned about that.

CEO of Skirt Sports, and former pro-athlete, Nicole DeBoom and I had a great conversation about the Health at Every Size Movement on her Run This World Podcast a few months ago in December. Listening to her podcast, I always appreciate her incredible insight and incisive commentary about well, everything. Even though the folks on her show are typically all athletes of some sort, the show really hones in on different aspects of being great and owning your greatness, spreading nuggets of wisdom on living life in a big way, giving back to our respective communities and paying it forward, and generally being good humans with the best mental, emotional and physical health we can have. I've been obsessed lately with Nicole's eclectic and highly interesting mix of folks from all walks of life. Once you start listening, you won't want to stop.

I also had the chance to chat with Martinus Evans of the 300 Pounds and Running Podcast. His podcast is interesting in that he asks about weight loss but doesn't focus the entire narrative on it. His guests talk about running, training, issues related specifically to being heavier runners, and the the lessons learned from being on the running journey. Definitely worth a listen!
Lana Simmons of the Size Human Podcast that is focused on body positivity and Health at Every Size, interviewed me, and we talked about a range of things! Here's that show.

This podcast with Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell of Another Mother Runner was the second podcast I did after the Runner's World piece on me and my running life was published in the summer of 2015. That July, both RW and Women's Running Magazine featured larger runners and the world responded!

The very first podcast I did was with the guys over at Connect Run Club Podcast. I was so nervous (my mother told me as much, as she listened to the Skype interview from her bedroom because she's nosy...) but it ended up being really fun, and I got my first glimpse of what a busy year of interviews it would be!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Let's Talk About My Epic Weekend, Tough Mudders and All!

The body is really an incredible machine, but we already knew that right?
Well, this weekend, mine proved that it is several times over.

Let's backtrack to last weekend, when I did back to back long runs --18 trail miles with almost 2700 feet of elevation on Saturday (on a trail that was mistakenly labeled as having 350 feet of elevation)--yeah, I'm still mad) and Sunday with 10 road miles. Tuesday I did trail hill repeats with friends, Thursday I ran three "easy" miles, and the next day was Friday.


I drove down to the Tough Mudder Atlanta venue at Bouckaert Farms in Fairburn, Georgia. The I85 highway collapse didn't pose much of a problem getting there, surprisingly. I know, right?

Met up with Sue Harvey Brown, director of Sports Marketing at Merrell, who is amazing not only at her job, but at doing Tough Mudders. (This weekend she ran two fulls, one right after the other, worked all day, and then crewed for someone during Toughest Mudder from 12am until who knows when. Then she worked a full day the next day. ) We convened with Coach T. Mud and a phenomenal film crew to shoot an episode of Coachified! Remember the one from last year? Here it is, in case you forgot! That was hard enough, especially since we had just done an almost two hour workout beforehand!

Let's revisit this craziness from Friday. 

It was all about trail running, and boy did we trail run, and meadow-run and--wait for it...LET's DO SOME HILL REPEATS! Yeah! Hill repeats!

Hill repeats? Ya'll know I just did hill repeats on Tuesday? Like a million of them the other day, right? That was all in my head of course, because I was going to do what they asked me to do, ponder the sanity of it all silently, and wonder when my legs were finally going to fail.

It was also blazing hot--like a furnace with an occasional breeze. And one of the crew members found a dried up antler. Hmmm...how did it get there? Don't want to know.

We ran up and down a beautiful meadow, with a billion dollar drone following us. I tried not to gasp as if I were dying, attempting my very best air of nonchalance while running with Coach T. Mud--yeah, I'm cool---but I can't breathe, but I'm gonna keep acting like I can until I pass out...

We bantered and chatted and went back and forth, and after a thousand takes, Weston, head creative film genius of the Coachified series was finally satisfied. Action! Take 20. Action! Cut! Take 40!

So back to the hill repeats. Although I was terrified I wouldn't be able to actually do multiple runs up that very long hill to the Balls to the Wall Obstacle, I was pleasantly surprised that I was. My legs and lungs were burning to holy hell, but they performed as asked again and again. The body is incredible.
It took a few hours of shooting to get it done (for a TWO MINUTE VIDEO--how do people do this for a living???). I find myself in awe of people who do this day after day. I was exhausted after five hours! So cool to be involved in such a neat project.

So that was Friday. Saturday was the big day!


My friends drove down from North Georgia to join me for the Tough Mudder Full, along with some filming and photos for Merrell. We had a blast in the blasting heat. We got dirty. I failed at Everest and Balls to the Wall AGAIN, and was disappointed but such is life. My friends blasted their way through some pretty difficult obstacles and were truly tough women. It was awesome to witness the sheer strength of body and will that allows people to get through challenges both mental and physical. I'm so proud of my friends! It took us a long time, but all of us finished and received our coveted headbands. I even did (King of the Swingers for a fifth time, even though each time I see the obstacle coming up, I get really nauseous and lightheaded, and my life flashes before me.)

Sue, Merrell marvel and Tough Mudder addict somehow convinced me that I needed to do a SECOND Tough Mudder on Sunday so I could get my back to back training in. In my head, I was like-"Um, is she crazy? Does she know that my legs probably won't work? Or my entire body after Saturday?" I had planned to push through Saturday anyway, what with the adrenaline of the whole shebang, but Sunday was an entirely different question. To her, I said, "Maybe I will" and "We'll see" and "Probably just the half" and "Yeah, ok if you think so..."
I went to bed like dis

But like a dutiful runner training for a BIG, HUGE, GIGANTIC, SCARY race in August (TransRockies 6 Day), I knew that I had to get the training in, provided I wasn't injured or on the verge of injury. So when I woke up on Sunday morning, I was only sore in my upper body. The legs felt "great" (relatively speaking) and they were ret to go!


So, long story short, I did another Tough Mudder on Sunday,  leaving out the obstacles that might have caused my arms to be pulled out of their sockets. It was incredible. I spent the first few miles easing into a nice pace, helping out here and there, chatting people up, carrying a guy on my back, and carrying a heavy-ass log around a circle by myself. There were a few folks that recognized me from the CW Tough Mudder Special on TV and that was really cool! See the short CW SEED piece here!

The last few miles I spent enjoying Augustus Gloop (my new favorite obstacle, that everyone should do because it's just so damned AWESOME) and joyfully skipping King of the Swingers, Balls, and Funky Monkey because once a week is enough for those.

Here's what I learned this weekend:

The body, MY BODY, is able. I've been discovering that all I have to do is ask, and it will oblige. I just have to get out of my own mental way, and once I do that, my body will do as it was meant.
That, my friends, is the power of training, belief in self (even if it has to come partially from someone else first), and the nature of the human body. It wants to move, and for most of us, it can. We just have to believe it and prepare it to do so.

Friday, March 24, 2017

NAILED IT: Skirts Sports Savannah Photo Shoot 2017

So honored to have Nicole DeBoom in my life!
A few weeks ago I drove down to Savannah to meet up with Nicole DeBoom (CEO and Founder of Skirt Sports), Kim Cook (Photographer Extraordinaire), and Jen Allen (Creative Skirt and Phenomenal Boss of Everybody), to participate in an amazing photo shoot for the Spring 2017 line Skirt Sports line. Before this weekend, I only knew Nicole via our initial phone conversations and our podcast interview. Meeting her in person was really special.

And wow! 

First of all, what an honor to get to be part of the campaign to promote sports apparel on bodies of women like me that are typically not (but increasingly so) represented in mainstream media. Secondly, um, I think I could do this for a living! Running, photos, amazing people, good food, and clothes that I actually wear? SCORE.

Also, to be in the presence of such a visually talented genius--I mean, how much awesomeness can happen in one weekend?
An absolute master of her craft!
Day 1
We stayed at Nicole's parents' beautiful home, and were treated to yummy breakfasts, sumptuous treats throughout the day, and delicious dinners--can we say Three Sisters Chili? (VEGETARIAN! And it was excellent! Yeah...I know, right?)

We got up super early to eat, receive coffee intravenously, and put on our skirts and capris for the morning shoot at Delegal Marina, on the southeastern-most point of Skidaway Island. It was very cold and windy. The sun had risen and was just beginning to warm up random spots on the docks. But we "girls" were ready to brave it all. I mean, this was an incredible opportunity to share our joy and fullest expression of physicality in clothes that we loved, clothes that fit, and clothes that were functional. We jumped. We ran. We did yoga. We walked together, all bodies and all shapes.

The light was perfect. (Pocketopia Capri in Persevere Print)

We ran on the docks and balanced precariously on shaky piers to get cool shots. We shot in groups and individually. And just when we started to get a lil bit sweaty, it was time for snacks and a light lunch before doing a group workout on the soccer field near the community's clubhouse.

Jump squats! (Lotta Breeze Capri in Sidewinder print)

Then we headed to the Savannah Rails to Trails spot. It was still fairly windy but warmer as the sun had had a chance to heat up the air. There was tons of damage to the trail from the previous year's Hurricane Matthew, but even in it's not-perfect state, it was still a thing of beauty. We walked a mile down the trail following our intrepid photographer, to a spot that featured perfect lighting, tall palm trees whose fronds whipped in the strong breeze, and sparkling water on one side of the trail.

New friendship! (Happy Girl Skirt in Persevere Print)

We did some more solo and partnered runs up and down the trail, forming and solidifying brand new friendships. And then for the piece de resistance of the day, we headed to Tybee Island for some beach fun! We shot a bit at a local restaurant that was decorated with fabulous colors and props. Afterwards, when it was about 45 minutes until sunset, we headed down by the shoreline to run in the cold water, splashing out in our Gym Girl skirts. Getting the perfect shot isn't always easy. In fact, it never is. 

What a great group of ladies! (Gym Girl Skirt in Clarity print)

Again. Again. One more time. Now start there. Wait for the wave. Run in a straight line. Don't splash too much. Smile. Don't cover your face. Again. Again. Again. Again. One more time. Nailed it.

Finally, we hung out and shivered in the chilly ocean breeze watching as Nicole frolicked in the cold water with a level of energy that almost nobody could match, and Kim crouched with the wisdom and stability of a meditating Buddha. For hours.

When we were done, we headed to a local Japanese joint in Savannah for some sushi and teriyaki, chatting about this and that and stuffing our faces with vinegared rice, raw fish, miso soup, and steaming green tea.

Day 2

Another early morning filled with bowls of thick Noosa Yogurt, granola and fruit. Good thing Nicole's parents believe in coffee because there was plenty of that to go around too.

We all drove to River Street on Savannah's waterfront to catch the gorgeous sunrise. A couple of slow moving barges with stacks of containers bearing names like Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk reminded us that we were in the modern world even though the old brick walls offered a weathered and historical backdrop to our whimsical colors and prints. I delighted in hanging off the back of the metal stairs. Others ran the cobbled streets. All of us laughed, joked, and delighted in the chance to spend a warm morning by the river in beautiful clothing that told some of the story of who we are and what we each represented.

Had to get some Tough Mudder Training in somehow! (Wonder Girl Dress in Clarity Print)
While some of the other girls were shooting, I took the opportunity to head back to Nicole's parents' to do my 12 miler back on the flat roads and golf-cart paths of Skidaway Island. At around mile 6, I met at guy who asked me what I was training for and thus began a two mile long conversation about mountain climbing, training, and the extraordinary focus and vision of endurance athletes. What a gift it was to talk with this sage, this wonderful, wise human placed near me by the universe! 

Took at break at Mile 11.5 of my 12 mile run to hang out at a cute little park.
After getting back to the house, I showered and noshed on some carrots and hummus before meeting Nicole and Kim at another place on the island to greet the sunset. 

We shot more pics of me and Nicole running as the sun began its dip into the horizon. And then, right before it was done with its descent, Kim shot these stunning pics. No words.

We finished the evening back at the house with some Malbec for me and Kim, incredible veggie lasagna, and then some more Malbec. Nicole surprised us by wanting to record an "unorthodox" podcast, and so we obliged! You might even hear me sing a little Italian Opera....

Day 3

This final early morning before heading to the airport was for finishing up odds and ends, back on Skidaway. There were expansive views of the marshes and many gnats. Mostly, I observed and marveled at what a cool thing this whole operation was and how I was surrounded by and connected to all of these absolutely formidable women.  

A photoshoot. For a thriving, woman-owned-and-run sports apparel business. That caters to a diverse range of body types, athletic styles, and well,  humans.

Nailed it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Confronting My Fears of Running Alone in the Woods

Are you someone who is afraid to run alone in the woods? I am, sometimes. I always seem to get spooked by some made-for-TV scenario I’ve conjured up in my very creative brain. That said, I love trails and I relish every moment I spend on them—that is, in a race with other people or while trail running with friends.
I’m finding that as I train for what will likely be the longest, most difficult event I’ve ever done the (Trans Rockies Run), that I have to do most of my training on trails if I am to be successful. And much of that training will probably be on my own.
I’ve decided to do an experiment. Over the next few weeks, I will work on confronting the fear that I have of running and hiking alone in the woods. And I'll write about it both here and in Women's Running Magazine.
How do you confront your fears when it comes to running?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Calling BS on BMI

I run. I jog. I hop and skip along roads and trails, and sometimes—albeit reluctantly—the track. Sometimes I trip over real roots and hurdle over imaginary ones. I find complete joy in the act of moving my body through nature, and even against the weak, ineffective breeze from my treadmill fan. I sign up for big races, wonder where my sanity has momentarily gone, and then do the big races and discover profound things about myself. I chafe under my bra on long training runs. My hands swell in the middle of 50Ks and I finish those same events with salt caked around my face. I am a runner.
I am a big girl, a big runner. A fat runner. After all, the name of my blog is Fat Girl Running. In it I hope to spread the word that being a larger person and running aren’t two mutually exclusive things or ideas and I hope that you will indulge me for a minute in exploring the idea of being a larger person and being fit.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Love My Legs

In celebration of International Women's Day and all of the intersections it has with the concept of body positivity , I'm going to talk about my body, because my body is a phenomenal piece of machinery. It should be recognized and honored as such. I love it.

Part of being a woman in today's world is constantly confronting societal expectations and aesthetic preferences around what a woman should look like and how we should dress and whether or not we should be spending time away from our families doing stuff we love and/or need to do. 

I spend a lot of time running. I choose to honor and respect my body. I choose to honor the gift of being a woman who runs.
I love to run. And I love my legs, what they can do, what they represent.

Beautiful, powerful women, with legs. 
I run because I need to be outdoors. I need to feel the sun on the back of my neck, or the gentle rain lightly landing on my already sweaty face. I thrive on this almost daily habit of being awakened by the smell of coffee from the percolator in the dark hours of early morning.  I run because the sensation of carrying my body over great distances on my own, big, strong legs is powerful. 
Power. My legs translate the power and strength given to me by my mother and passed on to both of us by my grandmother into forward motion. Energy. Momentum.

My dimpled thighs are wide and brown, my calves thinner and chiseled. Together, they work to propel me forward. Most of the time, their muscles, even when hidden, prevent me from falling and hold me steady. If I do fall, they offer padding and flexibility. Finally, they offer the ability to stand up again. And they continue on their path, my path.
I went out on a run this morning with some friends. The sun was a brilliant yellow and the sky was a sharp blue. We celebrated being women, practicing self-care, and honoring our bodies
My legs carry me, and I carry the wisdom and love given to me by the women in my life onward.