INKnBURN Ambassador Kimberlee Hummel, seen above in INKnBURN’s Kimono Tech Shirt and Running Skirt, paused to share a beautiful and wise reminder. We invite you to take a moment to read and enjoy the
amazing photos taken by her husband, Aki Hummel.
Life comes in seasons, doesn’t it? This summer was most challenging for me. A difficult personal situation, MS symptoms I didn’t ever wish to experience, and my small business changing at an almost overwhelming pace honestly led to many moments when that fire I usually carry within me felt like just a flicker. It was hard.
Moving into fall is a blessing. I started mine with a beautiful trip to the Sequoias and Yosemite with my dear husband. Fall is my favorite time of year, as the trees gently forfeit their leaves and nature prepares to sleep beneath the cool blanket of winter. It’s also a season of gratitude and thanksgiving and a time for everyone to revisit the reason we’re all here on earth….To connect. To feel. To give and receive love fully and openly.
So why not start with yourself? Love and feel. Align with your truth. Lovingly accept all parts of who you are and the stories that brought you to where you are today. Be forgiving and patient and loving with the beautiful work in progress you are.
Utilize the most empowering gift you have – the gift to create your life simply through what you think every day. Your mind will believe anything you tell it. What you consistently believe daily and over time will manifest and become your reality. Every moment you spend in a negative thought process about yourself or another (a habit most of us have) is a wasted moment you can never get back, and contributes to your happiness or unhappiness which only you can control. It’s so powerful….
Instead, choose love, joy, and gratitude. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, there is always something good. When love, joy, and gratitude become your priorities, everything simply becomes easier. Your relationships become more loving. You free yourself from negative energy that drains you. You become more accountable for your happiness instead of seeking it outside of yourself or blaming others because you lack it. You connect with your higher being and let go of that pesky ego that can drag you down and hinder your relationships. You’ll be able to lean in to the love that literally surrounds you…. wonderful, juicy, crazy, sometimes scary love that you often push away because of false beliefs that don’t serve you. You’ll start to attract more abundance in every area of your life and in your relationships….and guess what the best part it? This beautiful shift starts to happen almost immediately and blossoms as you consistently choose love, joy, and gratitude over time.
Every moment of every day you receive an invitation to fully engage in this beautiful life. Even through challenge, you can choose to keep your fire burning, growing, and thriving.
I’ll end by sharing one of my favorite quotes – “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owner, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is a spiritual experience living every moment with love, grace, and gratitude.”
Go fill your heart to the brim every day. Allow little miracles to flow. Choose love. Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Be happy.
Katalin Nagy (see above in INKnBURN Women’s Motion Singlet and Bee Sports Skirt), the newest addition to the INKnBURN Elite Team, is a long-distance runner. Scratch that–she’s a long-distance champion. In 2014 she broke the 200-km American record (at the time) and in 2015, Katalin won the 24 Hour Run World Championship, running 151.9 miles to take home both the individual and team gold medal for the USA. Most recently, she placed first female and fourth overall at Spartathlon in Greece, with a time of 25 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. She covered 152 miles, averaging just under a 10-minute mile for the entire duration.
While Katalin represented the USA and now calls Sarasota, Florida home, her home country is Hungary, where her coach trains her from more than 5,000 miles away. After becoming a citizen in 2008, Katalin opened her own house cleaning business, which gives her the opportunity to put in consistent 80-100 mile weeks of running. Since her first ultra in 2012, Katalin, has quickly become an elite runner, often winning her races as first female and placing top 3 overall in most of her races.
Between training and racing, Katalin had the chance to answer some of our questions about the what, when and where she runs.
Hometown: Gyongyos, Hungary
Current town: Sarasota,Florida
When you were first introduced to ultra running
I ran my first ultra in 2012. It was a 50mile race at Key West. I fell in love right away! At that time I was training with a local running group without any plans or schedule 2-3 times a week. A few of my friends told me that I ran a pretty impressive time for the first time without real training and I should look into to find a coach and see how far I could take it. My coach and I have been working together for 4 years now. I have a very strict training schedule. Monday is my rest day and I run 6 days a week between 80 to a 100 miles.
How has your weekly schedule trained since beginning your running career?
I run Tuesday to Sunday and Mondays are my rest days. I do mix it up between flat and small hills run. Since having a coach, my training runs are targeted and very specific depending on the upcoming race. Oliver (my coach) and I try to discuss my race schedule 6 months to a year in advance so we can focus on each race with a different approach. It’s been a big change from running with a fun group to working with an elite coach.
What is the community of Sarasota, Florida like in terms of running?
I don’t know many local runners–most of the times I run by myself as the runners I know are running much shorter distances. My favorite places are Siesta Key Beach, Turtle Beach, Nathan Benderson Park, Celery Field and Whitlacoochee State Park.
What were your goals going into your most recent race, the Spartathlon?
I focused my attention on the finish line.
How did you prepare differently for this Spartathlon compared to last year’s event?
My primary goal was to finish; because I was limited in training I wasn’t mentally confident, but my body surprised me and I was able to finish strong. This year was also different because I was recovering from an injury. I was unable to run for nearly 3 months but mixed in some cycling to preserve conditioning.
Can you take me through some of the lows you experienced during the race?
The first 80km is rolling terrain but not difficult. During the first 40km we aren’t allowed any aid or support from our our crew. After 80km, every 8-15km the crews are able to provide support. I felt good through 160km all the way to the top of the mountain. By that time it was night and the normal stomach issues were setting in. I was unable to eat for the last 60km and even though I was very hungry, I was able to maintain reasonable energy levels despite my inability to eat. It was also cold throughout the night.
How are you recovering now?
I’m taking 2 weeks off from training but have been running casually…easy runs of 5-6 miles every other day.
How does it feel being an elite athlete, even after you’ve proved yourself so many times with high-placing race results?
It’s awesome! I never thought that I’d ever be competing at such a high level. I’ve always been active however it was a huge surprise for me to become a world champion.
How do you motivate yourself to train every day?
Running is my passion and it’s very natural to me. I love to train! When I have a bad day I always try to think about the next race and it gives me power to pull through.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’ll keep running but I’m not sure if I’ll run on such a high level. I hope to have a family by then.
I found INKnBURN through the Internet around 2 years ago. I really liked their unique design. INKnBURN came across as a fun, fresh and colorful new brand on the ultra-running scene. From day one I had been wanting to try their apparel because the clothes are so outstanding from the usual look.
What are your favorite designs?
I love the new Bee design. It has a beautiful color choice with great art work and it’s sporty but feminine at the same time.
INKnBURN Elite Grant Maughan shows no signs of slowing down–in fact, he might actual be speeding up. His latest venture took him to Badwater; although he’s completed Badwater 135 4 times, most recently placing 6th in a highly competitive field in July, he wasn’t out there to race competitors: he was looking to set the Badwater 146 Solo (from Badwater to the top of Mt. Whitney), and in under 50 hours. His FKT was solid, made more incredible by the fact that he completed Leadville 100 in under 24 hours the week before, and had tied for first place (and the course record) at La Ultra High, a 333km race in the Indian Himalayas.
Between racing, recovering and traveling, I had the chance to ask Grant a few questions about his latest ventures.
You recently completed the Badwater to Mt. Whitney Solo FKT (Fastest Known Time), covering 146 miles in under 50 hours, which is a feat in itself–but you had also finished Leadville 100 and the 333km La Ultra High race several days before that. How are you currently feeling?
Surprisingly I felt really good after the Badwater 146–sore, of course, but not debilitated which I thought might be the case after so many hard miles in the preceding weeks. I was really sleepy, though. A couple days after I finished I drove pretty well non-stop across the country to South Florida, only napping in the drivers seat at truck stops or rest areas. I really wanted to lie down but I knew I would go into some sort of sleep coma and maybe wake up a week later. I spent the next week doing a lot of recovery sleep and just lazing about, which my body totally needed…
Did you plan out these races in advance or did the opportunities present themselves over the summer?
Bit of both really. I had the Badwater 135 pencilled in. Last year I won a slot in the lottery for the Leadville 100 but I couldn’t do it because I was doing UTMB, so they let me defer until this year. Then I had some friends that have been needling me to do the La Ultra High for a couple years. I was in contact with the RD and said I was on the fence with so many other things going on so he said to take my time and make a decision when I felt it was right.
I was headed off to try to climb Denali in Alaska so when I got off I had decided I would sign up and see if I could make it. I knew it was close after Badwater and was concerned I might be a bit drained afterward but in the end I felt great and spent 10 days in Ladakh before the race acclimating and hanging out. I managed to slip in a solo summit climb of the 20,182 ft. mountain, Stok Kangri before the start.
The race is 333km long and goes over three high altitude passes reaching 17,800 ft. and even the plains in between are over 10,000 ft. On the first and highest motor-able pass in the world, Kardung La (which separates Ladakh from Pakistan and China), I ascended too fast and suffered severe symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) and HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and was barely able to make the crossing. My larynx felt like it was being choked in a vice and when I tried to inhale I had a loud “bark”, which sounded just like a seal. I was stumbling badly and felt in quite a lot of distress. The course medic was a bit surprised I was still going and followed me as I descended about 1500 ft. before the symptoms started to dissipate. My Serbian buddy, Jovica Spajic, and I ended up finishing the race together and breaking the course record in 60 hours 37 minutes. It was a grueling event, not just the altitude but the extremes in temperature, mileage and sleep deprivation.
After the race I jumped on a plane and spent two days getting back to Denver, grabbed my car and drove to Leadville, checked in and was then at the start line at 4am the following morning to race. I was tired and told myself I would be taking it very easy and just trying to finish. I didn’t push myself at all but moved very consistently, which is a great way to do any ultra. I didn’t think I would make sub-25 hour but pushed the last 25 miles and managed to come in sub-24!
I didn’t really have intentions to try the Badwater 146 Solo but I had been carrying my cart around on the roof of my truck for months in case I got the chance. You have to do it between July 1st and August 31st so I was running out of time and decided in a moment to just go out there and have a go at it.
Soon after I drove two days to Lone Pine, put my cart together, got a ride to Badwater basin and headed off into the unknown to try and finish the BW146 Solo self-contained challenge carrying all my water and needed supplies to get from BW to the summit of Whitney un-aided..
Was there a specific race or FKT you prioritized this summer?
No.I just wanted to keep busy, do some great races, do some mountain climbing and enjoy my freedom. I always say I never go out looking for the podium but I do go out to try to put in a good performance that I will be proud of. That seems to have worked well for me this year…getting on the podium has been a great bonus. I had a 2nd place at the Tuscobia 160 winter race pulling a sled and a shared 1st place at the Iditarod 130 Trail Invitational in Alaska pulling a sled. I managed to summit the highest mountain in the Southern hemisphere in Argentina, Aconcagua (22,838 ft.) in February then tried to summit Denali in May but spent 9 days at nearly 15,000 ft. trapped in a storm and had to retreat. I also had a good run at the Badwater 135 this year for 6th place, so it’s been really satisfying for me in 2016.
You attempted the BW 146 Solo–what did you do differently this year?
In 2013 after my first Badwater 135 run, I placed 2nd then decided on a whim to try to do the “double” so summited Whitney, found a crewman on Facebook then started running back to Badwater basin. In 2014 I decided to try the Badwater 146 Solo self-contained, so had a cart built and went out there with Lisa Batchen when she started her Badwater Quad run. I had way too much water on the cart plus other gear–it was horrendously heavy and I basically wore myself out trying to just get to Furnace Creek. It was very hot and I suffered bad. At one point I thought I was about to faint just as some of Lisa’s crew came back to make sure I was all right. I got some ice off them and sat in their car for a bit, so I couldn’t claim to have done the solo self-contained. I went ahead and finished the course and climbed Whitney but I knew at some point I would need to go back and try again. This time I trimmed everything down and took a lot less water and gambled that i would have enough.
What supplies did you carry with for BW146 Solo?
When doing the Badwater 146 solo self-contained you must carry everything you need to get from the basin to the summit of Whitney without resupplying or getting assistance along the way. You also have to carry all your trash. This means you have to carry enough water for the entire trip. Plus calories, clothing and pack for the Whitney section; being a large mountain, you are advised to take warm layers plus wet weather gear, headlamps, satellite trackers and whatever else you think you may need I needed battery packs and a solar charger for the headlamps, and GPS satellite gear. I also took some trekking poles and a pair of sandals. I used pretty well everything and even though I thought my water supply was marginal it lasted me well and I even dumped some before the end to make the load lighter.
How do you prioritize recovery after big efforts like these, while still preparing and training for your next upcoming race?
No impact is about the most important thing for me when trying to recover. Even if I am walking I do so slowly and softly. If riding a bike, it’s in low gear so I can spin easily with hardly any effort. I try to sleep a lot if possible and eat and drink lots of protein. It’s not any more technical than that. It seems to work well for me and so far I have had no significant injuries or down time. I have had a major schedule of running, traveling and adventuring for the past three years. Most of my races are 100 miles or over and I tend to gravitate towards the harder challenges whether it’s temperatures of hot/cold or altitude or major elevation changes.
I think I know my body pretty well and know when i have to back off to let it catch up to my demands on it.
What races are next on the calendar?
I have some winter races I am planning for early in 2017, like the Iditarod 350 miler and will look at other challenges as well.
How do you deal with all of the travel?
I have 24 hours in the day like everyone else. I think it’s just time management and making the day full. I get bored easily and have way too many hobbies. But don’t get me wrong–I love to laze around, eat chocolate and sleep like the best of them.
What’s your current favorite INKnBURN item?
One of my favorite shirts right now is the Phoenix bird. I wore this at Badwater 135 and got so many comments I thought someone might steal it off my back if I stopped for a rest.
I wore the medieval shirt for Spartathlon 153 in Greece. It really fit the bill and was like Pheidippides running to Sparta to warn of the approaching Persians.
Any advice for people who want to start taking on FKT projects?
Research is a good thing. Anything about the area from weather trends to topographic data. Proper gear is essential if going to the mountains.
On September 23, 1,400 runners will take off from Fuji-kawaguchi-ko Town, Japan, the official start of Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, a 100-mile race that circumnavigates 12,388 foot Mount Fuji. The runners will fly in from France and Belgium and Latvia, South Africa, Nepal, and Iceland, just to name a few of the countries represented at this year’s race. A handful of runners will be from the United States, one of which is INKnBURN Elite Nickademus Hollon.
Before he takes off for Tokyo, Japan next week, I asked Nick some questions about his thoughts going into the race and how he plans on recovering from Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF) and transitioning to his next big race, World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) in November.
Here’s what he has to say:
From your resume–which includes endurance events in Italy, Germany, Canada and Nicaragua, among others–you seem inclined towards international races. Why UTMF specifically?
I’ve always been fascinated by foreign languages and cultures. It was one of the first interests my fiancé and I ever fully shared, traveling. I love the diversity, the different food, cultures, customs and environments that I get to run through. I feel very grateful to be in a position in my running career where I am afforded opportunities to travel the world like this.
How are you training for UTMF at the moment? You must be in the taper phase now, right?
I am nine days out from the race currently and shaking in my pants. But yes, aside from that, I’m tapering or as some call it “sharpening”. During this time I’ve cut volume down to about half of what it was during my peak training. I hit the track yesterday for a speed session and will likely still keep up the intensity of my workouts leading right into UTMF, just in much shorter duration. I’ll cut out strength training by the end of this week and really try to focus on low-stress, long sleeps and clean nutrition during the last few days going into the event. I feel being well rested is particularly paramount going into UTMF given the extensive travel required to get there.
In May you won (and nabbed the course record) at Cruel Jewel. Are you preparing for UTMF any differently?
Cruel Jewel was a great race and the result of a carefully planned peaking. I feel like I’ve finally got a grasp on the year long programming it takes to perform well at these events. I’m pretty happy with my training going into UTMF. Sure, there are those “lost days of training”, times I wished were faster and days I should or shouldn’t have run and yeah, I’m still addicted to the occasional pastry and didn’t have the massive “fat adaption” breakthrough I’d dreamed of post-Cruel Jewel. However, I’m stronger (in the gym) than I’ve ever been and have been more purposeful than ever with my training each and every day. Whether it’s foolish or not, I feel like I’ve got a pretty decent idea of the follies of my mindset. I know better than ever how to avoid psychological lows before, during and after the race. So I’m excited to see all these focused weeks come together.
Who do you foresee as competition? Are you going into the race with specific goals?
My ego. That’s my primary competition. Myself. There is quote in a book called the Tao Te Ching that say, “To conquer your enemy is strong. To conquer yourself is true power.” I think that’s at least what I am trying to convince myself of going into this race. UTMF is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour this year, so it’s even more notoriously competitive than most years: Dylan Bowman, Sebastien Chaigneau just to name a few international names, plus I’m sure dozens of Japanese and Chinese professionals who will lay it down strong out there on race day. I learned (the hard way) in 2014 that although my “endurance” may seem unlimited, I’ve got a limited amount of “expectation” or “competitive juice” as I like to call it. Just as an example, let’s say each year I am only allotted 30oz of “competitive juice” before I burn-out. And with that in mind, here is how 2016 has gone so far: I burned up 10oz (at least) at HURT 100 in January, then I strategically used up another 10oz at Cruel Jewel 100 in May chasing the course record. That leaves me with about 10oz of the precious fluid between UTMF and World’s Toughest Mudder (my other big fall event). I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about WTM since 2014, so I really want to see all 10 of those last ounces go fully towards WTM if that makes any sense. Sure I want to be competitive at UTMF, and yes, I’ll be nervous at the start and still give the race my all, but I don’t want to start layering on expectation or harsh goals, despite the fact that I feel I’ve got the training to back it all up.
What are you most looking forward to while in Japan?
It’s a short trip, only six days, two of which are travel and two of which are the race itself. So really only two days I’ll have pre and post race. That being said, I really want to go into it with no expectations and open arms, welcoming whatever strange foods or epic bath houses I come across. During the race itself, I am most excited about seeing the small remote villages and seeing how and where the Japanese live. I love witnessing subtle differences in global activities like washing clothes. Will they hang their laundry like the people in the Italian Alps? Will they have washer/ dryers like us? Will they use the rivers/ streams to wash clothes like the people in Nicaragua? And then honestly, I’m really excited for the bugs. I both want to see and don’t want to see the Japanese Giant Hornet. It looks pretty cool on google, but in person? I think it’ll be terrifying.
You have 50 days between UTMF and WTM. How are you planning to recover from one race and prepare for another?
50!? Ah, you calculated my remaining days…I don’t know if 50 days or six weeks sounds better. But either way, it’s not much. If you’ve picked up anything from my rants above, it’s that peaking takes months and competitive “juices” are finite (for me at least). So that being said, the first goal post-UTMF is health. Recover, eat well, sleep a lot and cross train when necessary. I’m pretty confident in my current aerobic capacity going into WTM as I’ve spent 8 months of the year building it. WTM has some weird components to it, though. It’s really unlike anything else out there. One factor is that the majority of the race is run in a wet suit. The six week period between the events will be spent mostly recovering, ensuring that I am 100% healthy, optimizing my gear and improving upper body endurance.
We wish Nick the best of luck as he takes on UTMF!
To see INKnBURN’s Men’s Collection, Nickademus’ gear of choice for training and racing, CLICK here!
Tasha Holland, a 42-year-old mother of two from Ceredo, West Virginia, has always been petite at 5’3 and barely hovering over 100 pounds for most of her early adult life. Over the years, however, she started to gain weight which she attributed to little activity, stress and poor food choices. “Looking back,” she says, “none of that was true. I was in denial.” As a shy person, Tasha began to stay in what she calls the shadows, hiding from cameras and people, embarrassed that her weight had crept up to 178 pounds. “I was terrified that I was an embarrassment to my kids.”
Tasha had been dying for years, she says, sleeping for 20 hours a day and constantly monitoring her heart. Her digestive system had shut down and her organs were in distress. “I couldn’t dress myself without being out of breath. I couldn’t feed myself cereal,” she says, explaining that her hand would shake from the effort of raising the spoon to her mouth that the cereal had fallen off before she could eat it. “I wasn’t living,” she says. “I was dying.”
It was on vacation with her kids in 2013 that Tasha decided she needed to face herself and her problems head on.“I was fed up feeling anxious, depressed, and not good enough.” Additionally, her youngest child, Keely, was having stomach problems, which amplified Tasha’s decision to take control of her–and her family’s–health.
To start, Tasha’s friend, Tammy–a celiac from Oklahoma–recommended that Tasha try removing gluten from their diet. “I researched going gluten free and decided we should all give it a try,” says Tasha. The family began the new protocol on Tammy’s recommendation–to begin slow. “We started out with gluten free pasta, cereal and desserts and then gradually did away with those items.”
Tasha and her family went gluten-free for months before deciding to slowly reintroduce it back into their diets. Her family was fine (and they soon discovered that Keely’s stomach pain was stress-related), but Tasha immediately became sick.
Tasha began to do research and learned of a disease called Hashimoto’s, a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, resulting in fatigue, weight gain, depression and other negative symptoms. She was shocked: she had all of the symptoms.
At roughly the same time Tasha and her family originally went gluten-free (and organic), Tasha started to run. “I chose to run because I didn’t have time to go to a gym,” she says. What started as a convenient way to exercise quickly turned into a full-on love affair with running.
Tasha started with a couch-to-5K program. The first day, she struggled to run half of a block. “I went home shocked and demoralized,” she says, but came back the next day and the day after that. Soon Keely began to join her, following Tasha on a bike. They would talk about their day, what they wanted for dinner and their plans for the week. Within three months, Tasha ran her first half-marathon; 7 months later, despite saying she would never run a marathon, she did. Soon after she completed a 50K and was suddenly immersed in the world of running. But, there was still the weight gain and fatigue to deal with.
Shortly after realizing that Hashimoto’s was the likely culprit in her health battle, she called the Cleveland Clinic to make an appointment. She went through a multitude of tests to determine if her suspicions were correct–they were. “I finally had an official diagnosis of celiacs and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,” she says. “It was such a relief. Now I could research and find the correct tools I needed to fight back.”
Tasha began following the Autoimmune Protocol, an extremely rigid food regiment to reduce inflammation and other issues. “The list of what I can’t eat is so long that it’s easier to follow a list of what I can eat,” Tasha says, noting that she is lactose intolerant and cannot consume soy, nuts, legumes, night shades (tomatoes, eggplants, etc.) and gluten, amongst other foods. What does she eat? “Sweet potatoes, dates, spinach, chicken, fruit homemade energy balls, olives and Honeystinger products.”
While Tasha has had to change her lifestyle in many ways, she refuses to let Hashimoto’s win. “I’ve reclaimed my life,” she says. “I hike, bike, swim, kayak, and run. I’m 120 pounds and back to my size 0 and extra smalls. I have 10 pounds left to go. It’s still a battle. It will always be a battle. I can gain 10 pounds in a week with one wrong decision, of if my body reject my meds. I have to stay alert at all times to stay on top of my disease. I have to always move forward, and yes, the easy weight gain and bouts of insane tiredness makes it easy to want to give up and give in. But I refused to go back to that dying woman.”
Since taking that first step out of her front door, Tasha has finished 16 ultra marathons of varying distances and is signed up for another five, including the Tunnel Hill 100 and the Pistol Ultra Run, both 100-mile races this fall. Additionally, she has recently joined INKnBURN as an ambassador. “I first discovered INKnBURN during a random search on the internet for running skirts. I loved the vivid colors and unique designs,” she says. Tasha no longer knows how many INKnBURN pieces she owns–“I can tell you it’s a lot. I love the way I feel when I’m wearing my InB. I feel feminine, fierce, strong. I feel like the brand was created just for me. I don’t want to hide in the shadows anymore, wearing baggy clothes and worried who I will embarrass. I want to stand out and be proud of who I am, who I have fought to become.”
Tasha’s favorite INKnBURN:
Lucky Charm skirt, the PI tech, the Denim Shorts (all of them), Sunflower Shorts, Lust Capris, Nerd Tights, the original Zombie Kit, the Mummy Tech.
Keely’s favorite INKnBURN (Tasha’s daughter):
Keely, my 12 year old ultra runner, loves Ink as much as I do. She loves the colors and designs. She’s got her own collection started. She likes Flutter, the Mummy Tech, the Bee Tech, the Robot Capris, the Denim Tights, the Mermaid Capris. She likes to mix designs as well. She’s come up with some fantastic combos! She asked me once during a trail 25k why more people don’t run. She said, you get to wear cool clothes, eat lots of food, and play in the woods all day. Who wouldn’t love that?
To see more limited edition INKnBURN gear, please visit www.INKnBURN.com. Make sure to sign up for our Newsletter so you are always among the first to know when a new design is released!
Heather Gannoe is no stranger to adventurous races, nor to writing detailed and often humorous recaps on the races she runs. From 5K color runs to the Disney Princess Half Marathon, the Spartan Race World Championships and 24-hour runs, Heather has run and reviewed all of these races and dozens more on her popular blog, “Relentless Forward Commotion” (formerly “Run Faster, Mommy.”) As a mom of two boys, an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist trainer and coach, and an INKnBURN Ambassador (as of 2015,) Heather is used to always being on the go. Her latest venture took her to the TransRockies Run, a 6-day point-to-point stage race that covers 120 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain and loss from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, Colorado.
On her blog, Heather documents the entire journey from day one to day six, recapping both the logistics of packing and preparing for a six-day run, to the highs of summiting mountains and the lows of dealing with cold, hunger and long climbs. Through it all, her (now) fiancé, Geoff, is by her side. On the blog post detailing Stage Six of the run, she has difficult explaining how best to summarize the trip. However, she seems the perfect sentiments on the following blog post, a few days later. Heather writes:
“Late Sunday afternoon after we had crossed the finish line of the 2016 TransRockies Run, Geoff and I had managed to haul our dirty, smelly selves and all of our gear into the Pines Lodge Resort at Beaver Creek. Under the proud and attentive eyes of our family, as well as a blatantly annoyed look from a resort guest who nearly had to share the elevator with us (and clearly had no idea what we had just finished, though he likely didn’t care) we made it to our hotel room. For the first time in over 6 days, I sat down on a bed, under a roof, in a warm, heated room, and immediately thought to myself : what the h— just happened?”
To find out what exactly happened at TRR, I asked Heather some questions on her experience training at sea level, running at attitude, and getting engaged!
Why TransRockies? Why was this race so important to you?
I came across the TransRockies Run a few years back and KNEW I had to run it one day. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Vermont, but my family didn’t leave the confines of New England often. The mountains out west looked absolutely awe inspiring. Plus I had never been to Colorado, so what better way to see the Rockies than to run through them?
What was the most harrowing part of your six-day run?
The altitude truly was the hardest part of the six day run. Even though we live at sea level, in a very flat area lacking any climbs, I’m familiar with the “suffering” that comes with long sustained climbs. However, what I wasn’t familiar with was the incessant feeling that I couldn’t catch my breath. Mentally it was so hard to push through, it felt almost as if I was completely out of shape and had never run a step in my life. I had to keep reminding myself that I had trained hard for this race, and it was simply my body adapting to the altitude.
What was the most worthwhile part?
That is almost like asking me which one of my kids I love the most–ALL of it was worthwhile. How did you train for TransRockies while living at sea level?
Though it is impossible to replicate altitude at sea level, I read a number of articles that pointed to a potential correlation between humidity training and altitude. Here in South Carolina during the summer, we have no shortage of ridiculously high humidity. It certainly makes running (and breathing) much more difficult. We forced ourselves outside for every single training run, and we didn’t change our schedule based on the temperature. If it was time to run, we ran, despite the heat. Night time in the tents was a bit uncomfortable, but running in the cooler temperatures was a wonderful change of pace from the South Carolina 100+ degree temperatures.
You were recently engaged–congratulations! Can you describe your proposal?
Stage Two summited over the top of Hope Pass, 12,536 ft above sea level. We were warned the previous night and that morning that inclement weather and possibly thunderstorms were headed our way, so we were encouraged to get up and over the pass as quickly as possible. Once we got to the summit, it was incredibly windy and pretty cold, so we took a few pictures and got ready to head back down the other side of the mountain. As I grabbed our friend, Jen, and Geoff to see if they were ready to go, Geoff asked me to hand my camera to another friend for her to take a picture. I thought this was a bit odd, as we just took pictures, but humored him all the same. I walked over to stand next to him, and he turned me to face him and said “Hey, do you want to get married?” I laughed, because it was seemingly so silly, and I also wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly. I replied with something along the lines of “Wait, are you serious?” To which he said yes and I noticed he was crying. Of course
Did the proposal influence the trip in any way after that point?
Geoff and I have a very strong and unique relationship and I was quite happy and content with it as it stood pre-proposal. The proposal certainly showed an awesome level of commitment and love, but it didn’t change who we are as people. That said, of course it was still exciting, and my fellow TransRockies runners helped contribute to the excitement. We were congratulated by tons of people over the course of the week, and actually planned the entire wedding while running!
You seem to be able to turn difficult moments into ones you can laugh at–were there any events in which you found it hard to find that humor?
Stage Four included a very steep climb, ascending about 2,000 feet over just under four miles. We started at just over 9,000 feet above sea level and finished at over 11,000 feet, and my body was refusing to cooperate. I couldn’t breathe, I was dizzy, and slightly delirious. Usually, I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing and making light of the difficult parts of a race, but I just could not do it that morning. I suffered. When we got near the summit, one of the TRR guys was dressed like Super Mario, and when he told me the climb was nearly done, I started crying! I never cry during races or training, so it goes to show you how that particular climb and day had truly broken me down.
I have to ask–in every one of your TRR pictures, you’re wearing a different INKnBURN item! How many kits did you bring with you?
I wore INKnBURN every single day we were in Colorado. I raced in it, then changed into other INB after each stage, and even traveled to and from Colorado in my INB. (My Octopus Hoodie came in VERY handy, as I was always cold at night and in the morning!) INKnBURN is so incredibly lightweight that it packs REALLY well, making travel much easier. Not to mention, its performance on trail cannot be beat. I was pleasantly surprised to see countless other people on the course and at the camps also wearing INB, from the newer designs to classics!
What’s your favorite design?
Geoff’s favorite is his “Tank Tank”. I couldn’t tell you why. But I do remember the second he saw it on the website, he declared “I WANT THAT ONE!” Run Or Die has always been my favorite. I was incredibly excited when the classic design was released earlier this summer on a “Throwback Thursday” tie-dye singlet! The design speaks to me, both aesthetically and spiritually. Running truly did save my life when I was going through a very rough and low point in my life. Now, running has become such a regular part of my life, it’s almost akin to water and air. I know that’s a stretch, but it truly is a part of my being. I write about running, as well as coach people to become runners, for a living. My “social hours” are always spent with friends on trails. And of course, I run for me. I truly have a single track mind!
To read more about Heather’s TransRockies experience, check out her blog here: http://relentlessforwardcommotion.com
Those in the INKnBURN community probably know Sarah Speer, an enthusiastic and passionate INKnBURN ambassador. Sarah shares her life openly on Facebook, sometimes lamenting her inability to go trail running due to a hectic schedule, while at other times sharing her successful runs. Almost all of her posts include Sarah, decked in one of her favorite INKnBURN outfits with a bright, wide smile on her face.
Over the past few months, however, Sarah, 47, and mother to daughters Jillian, 17, and Hannah, 15, has shared news of a different kind: most notably, about her husband of 24 years, James Speer. In a post dated February 21, Sarah shares that “James is definitely eating! His appetite is less than before but food is tasting normal again.” In another she describes that, against her personal recommendations, James walked a mile–elevation changes and all. In one of her most recent posts, she writes, “I am optimistic that [James] is finally out of the woods. I cannot tell you how relieved we are. We received his INKnBURN Phoenix shirt yesterday…I told him he was rising from the ashes. It was a sobering thought…” Coming from a man who has always been active in both physical labor and sports, this is a surprise. In fact, James’ initial illness and consequent diagnosis was a shock for both husband and wife. What was thought to be a mild flu quickly disintegrated into something far more life-threatening, placing both James and Sarah in a position that neither of them thought they would ever be.
Says Sarah, “He was vomiting, asking for Pepto Bismol.” As his condition worsened, Sarah insisted that he be taken to Urgent Care. Unfortunately, he never made it into the building. “He had a seizure in the parking lot and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.” After multiple tests, James, 52, was diagnosed with pancreatitis. “Jim’s pancreas was, in essence, digesting him from the inside out,” says Sarah. He was in a coma for 19 days in total. “I viewed every day as a number game. Protein numbers, red blood cells, white blood cells, ammonia levels…I looked for any number moving in the right direction to share with the girls and family daily.” Weeks later, when James regained consciousness, he went through the devastating shock of learning about his new condition. “There was plenty of poking and prodding and coming to grips,” he says. “However, Sarah never left my side for one second, comforting me and consoling me in order to keep my spirits up and giving me the will to want to recover.” Her presence, he says, served as a beacon of hope.
After weeks of hospital visits, James was finally able to return home. His appetite was still tempered and he was surviving off of meal replacement shakes. Over the course of several months, he had lost more than 100 pounds from his original 230 pound frame.
“I was waiting on him constantly,” says Sarah. “He couldn’t sit up, eat, monitor his insulin or change his bandages.” Sarah’s training became second to running a household and caring for her family–but it was running that kept Sarah sane. “It was time that altered my mood. I was able to temporarily put down the weight of trauma and leave it in the woods.” Oftentimes Sarah would find herself running miles into the forest only to lean against a tree, cry, then return home. “I was able to pick up responsibilities after a shower. We just juggled as best we could.”
While running is now Sarah’s time to unwind and take care of herself, it wasn’t always this way. Growing up, Sarah was, as she calls herself, “an artsy bookworm.” “I power walked and tried to stumble my way through exercising but I didn’t know what I was doing.” It wasn’t until Sarah met James that she was introduced to the world of weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding–which, Sarah is quick to point out, are all different from one another. James had been bodybuilding and quickly taught Sarah the ropes. Within a few years Sarah was benching more than 145 pounds for multiple reps. “I even power lifted until I was almost 8 months pregnant with each child,” she says. “At 4’11’’ and carrying 10 pound babies, I was just as wide as I was tall!”
Sarah continued to lift with James, but it was a runner–a mother at her children’s elementary school–who inspired her to give running a try. “Despite me telling her many times that I couldn’t run, she kept telling me that yes, I can. She never let me have the last word and she planted a seed: what if I could?” Sarah decided she would try running and told James. While he wasn’t thrilled with the idea, it didn’t take long before James was trying it himself. Soon, he was running with Sarah. Says James, “When I was down and not wanting to work out, she would lift me up and vice versa.”
Now that James has returned home and his appetite has improved, the husband-wife team are back in the gym three times a week. Sarah also runs three times a week, while James walks–however, he’s recently begun working running intervals into his routine. As James explains, doctors credit much of his strength to the physical activity in his life prior to his diagnosis. Still, their journey is not without daily challenges. “Prior to being sick, I would heal relatively quickly,” says James. “This was not the case in my recovery. It has been painstakingly slow.”
“We have always lived by the motto of no pain, no gain,” he explains, “but we never expected to put that motto to such a severe test.” While James’ diagnosis has brought challenges that the couple faces on a daily basis, Sarah and James have chosen to see the silver lining amidst the struggle. “The severity of my illness caused us to be more honest and open with each other,” says James, “and we are now closer than we have ever been.” Sarah shares similar thoughts: “We fought, defended and survived. We depended on each other and we share the same wounds.” Although Sarah originally hesitated to think that undergoing illness or trauma could bring a family closer together, she now thinks otherwise. “As long as your heart is beating and you’re breathing, you just keep hoping and fighting.”
As James’ appetite returns, so too does his weight and muscle mass. Sarah continues to train for her first ultra marathon and a triathlon while James hopes to not only regain his health, but to be in the best shape he’s ever been. Every day, Sarah still checks and records James’ weight, his balance, and his ability to walk, drive and perform activities that were once second nature to him. “We cheer every advancement,” she says, as long term they’re hoping to be running and traveling, together.
Recently, James got on a bike for the first time in months. Sarah was by his side, of course, together the two of them rising from the ashes.
Michelle Barton is no stranger to going long distances. As an ultra runner of 14 years, Michelle has grown up on the trails. At the age of 3 years old, her father brought her on overnight trips to Southern California’s San Gorgonio Mountain. At the age of 6, he took her on week long backpacking trips through Yosemite. Says Michelle, “We did a lot of trails together and those are by far my best childhood memories.” It wasn’t until Michelle ran her first 50K, placed second, then went home to hop on her mountain bike and then go for a swim, that she realized ultras were for her. “The camaraderie of ultra runners is amazing. I immediately noticed how friendly and helpful people are, like a second family that willingly suffers together.”
Michelle later introduced her father to running ultras. “My dad got me into running and I, in turn, got him into running ultras.” In 2004, at the age of 65, Michelle’s father ran his first 50K. Now, more than 12 years later, he’ll be running The Shadow of the Giants on June 11, at the age of 77.
If you’ve run or raced in Southern California, you’ve likely seen Michelle–most noted by her long red hair and penance for wearing colorful INKnBURN gear. I had the chance to catch up with her and ask her a few questions about her favorite distance, why she still loves running and how she manages to fit it all in.
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, California
Career: Professional Athlete/ UltraRunner
What’s your favorite distance?
The distance I most enjoy is 100k and shorter. I like 100 milers because they break me into pieces usually after mile 80. I also like stage races like TransRockies. I’ve raced TransRockies eight times and my dad has raced it seven times.
How do you choose which races you wish to run?
I decide on the races I run based on the scenery and how adventurous they will be. I gravitate lately towards new races in new places since I’ve done the SoCal scene for over a decade. I;m now interested in running in new places.
What compels you towards ultras?
I like to do races because I’m drawn to the wilderness, the isolation, the challenge of getting back to primitive living in the moment.
What races are on your 2016 schedule?
In 2016, I am running BlackSpur 100k in Canada and possibly TransRockies in Colorado, and Shadow of the Giants 50k in Yosemite.
Do you have any bucket list races?
My bucket list race would be racing in Europe, Alaska, and running the John Muir Trail.
What’s your favorite pre-race meal?
Starbucks caffè misto & a bite of a protein bar.
What’s your favorite post-race meal?
Watermelon, coffee and Vitargo post.
How has your training changed since you began running 14 years ago?
My training and racing has changed a lot since I began because now I race less. I used to race almost every weekend and ran the So Cal races. My favorite type of training week is run, swim, and mountain bike (Moday to Friday) and run mountains and swim if possible on Saturday and Sunday. I can’t stand taking days off, so I rarely do.
What’s your favorite INKnBURN gear?
All of the nature design! Lust is classic and I won Badwater Salton Sea in Lust. I like the classic ‘Leaf Em in the Dust’– I won Javelina 100k in that outfit. I also like the Gordy shirt, since he has been a great friend to my dad and I for 13 years.
Two years ago, Kristin Hopkins, a single mother of four from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, was driving through a remote section of Fairplay, Colorado, when her vehicle skidded off the highway and plunged more than 100 feet down an embankment. Kristin was trapped inside her vehicle, her legs pinned, for six days before motorists noticed the wrecked vehicle, hiked down the embankment and found Kristin, barely conscious. She had not had anything to eat or drink for more than six days and was only hours away from death. “I remember nothing of my accident,” says Kristin. “I woke up and was curled up on the inside of the roof of the car. I had a red and white umbrella and a Sharpie so I wrote ‘some pleas’ on the white parts and shoved it out the window. I figured someone would see it…” Kristin had no recollection of where she was, nor could she hear the traffic from the highway. During this time, she was also in and out of consciousness. “My first thought when I finally came to was I had to go pick up my kids,” she says. “I never had a death thought in my head. It was always someone was going to come find me.”
After being taken to the hospital, Kristin’s feet were amputated. “I was told the doctor told me that to save my life my feet would have to be amputated,” she says. “I was told I shook my head that yes, I understood.” Kristin doesn’t actually recall this conversation but says, “I’m fine with what happened.” Following surgery, Kristin was thrust into recovery and physical therapy in order to get her body moving again. After all, the day she was found barely alive in her vehicle was the same day she had been signed up for a Spartan race. Rather than attend the race, proudly wearing her Spartan headband and crawling under barbed wires amongst other obstacles, Kristin was in surgery to save her life.
Two years and eleven days after her rescue, Kristin completed the Spartan Sprint at the Fort Carson Army Base. “I had a personal trainer at the gym help me get my core and arms in shape and trying to figure out how to work my legs, but I still wasn’t ready,” Kristin explains. “I then found Crossfit and boot camp workouts–oh my God, I fell in love.” While Kristin is not able to perform every exercise, she’s surprised. “No, I can’t do everything, but I’ve found that my body is capable of more than I thought.”
Since her Spartan Sprint, Kristin has fallen further in love with fitness, and is now studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. After returning to the gym and hearing her trainer describe how able-bodied clients were reluctant or unwilling to do exercises that Kristin was happy to try, she wanted to learn what it takes to be on the other side of fitness–as in, how to be a trainer. “I’ve talked with a Crossfit trainer and gym owner who is paralyzed and he said I just need to be more creative with how I describe exercises [to clients] since I can’t always demonstrate the movements. That really made me think that I can do this.”
When asked how her life has changed since her accident, she says, “My life has actually improved if that makes any sense! I chose to be positive about what happened since there was nothing I could do to change it.” Additionally, Kristin has lost 50 lbs and dropped 4 sizes; more importantly, she’s found her passion.
Kristin is currently at the gym 5 or 6 days a week, and hopes to do the Manitou Incline in Colorado this summer in addition to riding her bike. However, in order to perform certain exercises and activities, Kristin needs prosthetic feet that allow her to flex her ankles and squat. She is currently fundraising as the Footless Goddess on GoFundMe.com and hopes to raise enough money to purchase the Versa Foot prosthetics that her insurance will not cover. “The Versa Foot has hydraulics that will allow me to do a squat!” Says Kristin. “You don’t realize how much you need an ankle to do things in the gym. To do air squats in the gym now, I have to hang onto a pole and squat–or just do a wall sit. I can’t do heavy weights because I need to use momentum to help me back up to standing.”
While the fundraiser has only just begun, already people have found Kristin’s story inspiring. FIT Gym, where Kristin is a member, will be organizing an event set for this Saturday, June 18th. Nathan Lemon, the owner, will have attendees signing up in teams of four at $25 per person to complete a Workout of the Day. 100% of all entree fees will go towards Kristin’s fundraising goal.
One FIT Gym member and INKnBURN Ambassador, Kelly Shockley, was inspired when she first heard Kristin’s story. “She’s redefining and learning just how tough mentally and physically she really is,” explains Kelly. “She has inspired me to push myself harder because, at the end of the day, only you are your toughest competition–only you determine how far you can go.”
Kristin’s GoFundMe account has currently raised just over $6,000, but she still has nearly $2,000 to go to reach her necessary goal. “Posts are being shared on Facebook and Instagram to help spread the word, and the posts are receiving a lot of likes and comments showing support from people, too. People are amazed by her.”
Jen Edwards isn’t slowing down–and that’s a good thing! With races like Cascade Crest 100, Cruel Jewel 100, Fat Dog 120 and HURT 100, she’s no stranger to digging deep and getting the distance done, no matter how strenuous the climbs or humid the weather. Jen, 41 years old and an attorney in Olympia, Washington, has been an INKnBURN Elite for several years, and today I had the chance to ask her about her most successful races, her favorite pre-race meal and what she’s up to next.
You ran 4 successful 100-milers, 1 120-miler and a 100K in 2015–what’s your secret for recovery and training?
I ran a lot of long races in 2015 to see if I could do it, as an experiment. Although I completed all the races, the frequency of them didn’t allow me to enjoy them as much as I like. And my body has since rebelled a bit so I know I made mistakes. In life and in running, I think it’s important to push boundaries and test your limits – you can learn a lot even if you don’t reach your goal. When I was racing frequently there wasn’t a lot of time for typical training cycles and ample recovery. I really learned to listen to my body. It wasn’t easy all the time and I’m still learning!
How do you decide upon which races you want to do each year?
My training and racing have been a bit derailed this year. I suffered a back injury in February that took almost 9 weeks to heal. Shortly after that I suffered a knee injury. My training volume has been greatly reduced this year so far and I’ve had to pass a few races by. I’m practicing the art of listening to my body (as much as I can!) and being patient.
I am always looking at races, new and old, and adventure runs. Everything always looks fantastic but it comes down to scheduling and being reasonable about what I think I can do in a year. Last year was too much so I purposefully scaled back this year. I am hoping to do three 100-miles this year, although it will be the fall before I’m really ready to race one. I’m already putting together a wish list for next year–it’s really fun to plan to me!
What’s been your most successful race to date?
Races rarely go according to plan. For that reason I don’t usually make a detailed plan. At the Umstead 100 in 2015* I made a detailed plan and I stuck to it. It’s a loop course and somewhat easy to predict times and set intermediate goals and that’s what I did. I stuck to the plan and I had a lot of fun doing it. To me, that was a huge success.
*Jen was very humble and did not mention that she won 1st place overall for women at the Umstead 100 in 2015!
What do you think has been your least successful?
Fat Dog 120 in 2015. Although I proved to myself I can suffer through just about anything and gut it out–I made a lot of mistakes in this race and I developed a bad attitude that lasted the last third of the race. There are things you can’t control in races but your mental attitude is completely within your control. I failed at Fat Dog!
You’ve been running ultras for a few years–how has your training philosophy changed over that time?
I think time has mellowed me out a bit…I write my own training schedules and I do my best to stick to them–but over time I’ve come to realize that I have to listen to my body more than I have to stick to a rigid plan. Looking further ahead than just the next race is also important so I prioritize my goals and plan accordingly.
Do you have a bucket list of ultras you wish to run over your lifetime?
My bucket list has changed over the years and I’m always looking for the challenging, remote, old-school races. I also like races that are not mainstream. I like to support race directors and races that embody the true spirit of our sport. I have to balance this with raising my two boys and working full-time, so I don’t get “out there” as much as I’d like. I do a fair amount of adventure running with friends and I really enjoy seeing remote areas in a more relaxed setting.
What’s your favorite post-race meal?
I love guacamole and chips and I’m also a huge fan of sushi.
What’s your go-to pre-race meal?
I eat pretty bland the day before races. I eat a lot of PB&J and energy bars. I don’t eat anything the day before that I wouldn’t eat during the race so I try to avoid stomach upset the next day.
What’s your favorite INKnBURN gear at the moment?
From day one, I’ve been a huge fan of the INKnBURN skirts. I helped with the redesign and they are even better than before. (I didn’t think that was possible!) I always race in skirts. My current favorite is the Ryu skirt (a good bet for the race!) Click here to check out the details on the Ryu Skirt!