Wednesday, 01 January 2014 07:12

On the Trail – Q&A with Darcy Africa

On the Trail
Q & A with Darcy Africa

photo credit by Run Wild Retreats
  1. Can you share your experience winning the Desert RATS TrailRunning Festival? My best race at the Spring Desert Ultra 50 was actually in 2006 when I ran 8:04. It was one of those days where everything felt great and my legs were speedier than they have been in a very long time.
  2. Describe an embarrassing athletic moment. There are probably a lot of those…..That’s the beauty of running ultras, when you are out in the woods and you’re exhausted, and your ego is shed, you really don’t care what anyone thinks …..and all bodily functions can happen at any moment. Nuff said.
  3. What is the most challenging thing for you to do in Ultra Running? Not put pressure on myself to perform at a certain level.
  4. What do you hope to achieve in the future with your racing? I’m getting older and I feel my running “career” evolving. I’d like to seek more meaning to my running. After running the Wonderland Trail last year, my goals are now starting to shift to running FKT’s or long trails as opposed to racing. I’ve got some fun things planned this summer if all goes well.
  5. If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us? I’m good at “one dish wonders”. I like stir fry and making a bean and quinoa chili dish. Always vegetarian.
  6. What is your motivation? My daughter, being a good Mom, peace of mind, solace in nature….I could go on for hrs.:)
  7. Pre-race routines (night before or morning of)? Eat a healthy meal for dinner, go to bed early, and have oatmeal for breakfast (and coffee of course).
  8. Favorite post race nosh: A big burrito with chips and fresh guacamole
  9. What other sport would you like to compete in if you were not an ultra runner? Surfing
  10. Do you have any advice for others who want to get into the sport of ultra running?  Get lots of time on your feet. Don’t worry so much about miles and speed. & Run your OWN race! Run HAPPY!
  11. What is your favorite hobby? Why? Tele-Skiing. I love the mountains and snow!

Darcy Africa

Wednesday, 01 January 2014 07:11

Training – What gets measured gets managed!

What gets measured gets managed!

photo credit by

Now that we are closing the door to our 2013 racing and training season and as our 2014 season approaches, it is time to sit down and reflect what we did right in 2013 and what we what to add or include into our 2014 training. Here is my evaluation list of 7 training element.


#1: Weight:

Are you at your optimal race weight? If not and you are thinking of losing those last 5 extra pounds now is the time to take action.  It is difficult at best to lose weight when you are in the depths of hard training. Our bodies like homeostasis, this set point is hard to renegotiate when the workload is demanding. If you do experience weight loss during the racing season this often equates to a performance loss, as a depleted body is a sluggish body.  If you’re really hoping to peak in your 2014 season, losing the extra weight now is imperative to peaking for that “A” race in August.


#2: Recovery meal and hydration:

How well did you recover during the critical post 30 min workout recovery window? All too often, athletes forgo the refueling and rehydration post workout due to busy lives.  This is a big mistake and one that can lead to a slow recovery phase, burnout, and injury. Finding a recovery drink or meal with 15-20gr of Protein and  45-60gr of Carbohydrate that works well for you can get you on the fast track to a full recovery for your next day’s workout. Your workout isn’t over until you’re fully recovered.


#3: Rest and recovery weeks:

Its not the hard workouts and long training run that most runners have troubles with. It’s the balance of when to rest vs. when to build miles and intensity that most don’t get right. Too hard or too long of a training run early in the season can lead to performance doubt if not injury to an athlete. And never allowing your body a rest week or taper for a race will lead to burnout and sub-par training and racing season. When to build mileage, intensity and volume weeks and when to rest are important training practices and should be considered an integral part of any athlete’s training schedule.


#4: Training specificity:

Did you train for your “A” race, by add training elements to our plan that addressed race specific terrain? For example: was your “A” race, a mountainous 100mile run or a flat hot and humid 50mile run? The training plan for each one of these races will look very differently. Some of the pit falls can be training with other runners who’s goals don’t match yours, or only training to a “miles diary” and forgetting about the quality and specificity of those miles. Did you choosing “C and B” races that supported your “A” race?  Lets say you got into Hard Rock 100miles last year, but you live in Alabama so your training consisted of road marathons every weekend. Needless to say your race did not go optimally. Before you sign up for that “A” race, break down the course and terrain profile then ask yourself can I get quality training in all the areas needed to have a great race between now and the race date. If the answer is no, then this maybe a 2 year race goal while you build the strengths needed to achieve your goal.


#5: Train to your weaknesses:

It’s really hard to not want to train only your strengths.  After all, when you go out for a training runthat plays to your strengths, you naturally feel better about yourself.  This is a tough habit to break since your body and your mind want to do what they do best. To make the most out of your training, make sure you are putting in enough time working on your weaknesses.  Some training pitfalls are narrowing your pace and heart rate zones that you’re training in. This is the quickest way to plateau your fitness and sub sequentially will lead to performance stalemate. Or if you know you need to become a better climber, make hill interval workouts a part of your weekly schedule.  The idea is to improve enough on your weaknesses that they become strengths or at least not detriments.


#6: Heart Rate and Pace target zones:

Did you have clear and defined training heart rate and pace zones? Did you use your zones to reach your goals or did you train in your comfort zone with LSD? Training is an ever-changing process.  As you get stronger and you become a more efficient runner your training zones will change. Neglecting to update your training zones or not use them at all will lead to over and under training.  Revising your zones with a Lactate Threshold test every three months will keep you training in the correct zones for your fitness and goals.


#7: Did you have fun?:

If you can’t answer unequivocally and resoundingly “YES” from the depths of your heart then it may be time to step back and take a break. Remember when you first started running.  What was it that hooked you? For most people, their answer will include the word “fun”.  I challenge that training and racing should always be fun. If we allow ourselves to embrace the full process of training, the hard effort,  the exhaustion, the beautiful  scenery and our fellow runners, this can be affirming and metaphoric for the other parts of your life. But if every workout leaves you drained and broken down emotionally and mentally this should not be ignored and a break from racing and training and or/a call to your Dr is in order. Try to mix elements of fun into your training whenever possible. This can take form in a variety of ways.  Whatever makes you smile during your training is well worth incorporating into your schedule. Staying true to the “fun” that hooked you to running is crucial to being a lifelong athlete.


Taking the time to reflect on your 2013 training and racing season will give you insight and set you on the right foot for your 2014 goals! What gets measured gets managed.


Happy Trails!

Cindy Stonesmith, Running Endurance Coach with

Saturday, 30 November 2013 07:09

On The Trail – The Kepler Track

On the Trail
The Kepler Track in New Zealand

An adventure above the clouds.

Photo credit by google images

The Kepler Track is a 60 km (37.3miles), 3-4 day loop track. The Great Walk (premier walking trails) traverses Fiordland National park in the southwest of the South Island. The remarkable scenery includes everything from remote lakes and peaceful beech forests, to rocky peaks and exposed alpine tussock lands. Your reward for the hill climb is a long section above bushline with marvellous panoramic views of the Kepler Mountains on one side, and lakes, rivers and hanging valleys on the other. The Kepler Track is an excellent track for you and your family and friends, especially if you love the outdoors, want an adventure with a bit of a physical challenge that is not too hard to get to and has excellent facilities. In the hiking world, the Kepler is one of New Zealand’s most luxurious wilderness adventures, involving modern huts, gas cookers, comfortable beds and a very high standard of track.

Epic – If you have the fitness level and experience you should participate in The Kepler Challenge. A local trail race and truly is breathtaking. Or choose to stay only one night and hike or run in a day.

Endurance – Most people choose to hike the whole track in either direction in 3-4 days, depending on your fitness, skills and weather conditions.

Bonus – The Kepler Track also offers great day hiking opportunities from the car park or Rainbow Reach, for families or those with limited time.

The Kepler Track is located in the south west of the South Island. The nearest townships of Te Anau and Manapouri have a full range of accommodations and shops catering to all your needs. The Kepler Track begins and ends at the Lake Te Anau control gates.

Over the summer months, shuttle buses operate to entry and exit points on the track and there is a scheduled boat service that provides access to Brod Bay. Most people walk this track in a counter-clockwise direction, allowing a more gradual climb through the beech forest to the snow line. During the winter months (May to October) the Kepler Track remains open, but with reduced facilities. Since it is a Great Walk of New Zealand, advanced booking for huts and campsites is required.

The Kepler is 60km or 37 miles in length.

Always check the weather before your planned hike or run. The best time of year is November to April in general.

Since this is a Great Walk it means the track is of a higher standard than most other tracks so are well formed and easy to follow. The tracks are usually quite wide depending on the terrain, some fit two people abreast. The surface is usually gravel, rock or dirt and like any track can get slippery in wet weather.

Side Notes:
Highlights on this journey include rambling through the rainforest, exploring Luxmore Cave, massive views from the top of Mount Luxmore 1471 meters (4826 feet), waterfalls, encounters with kea and walking down the Iris Burn glacial valley.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 07:08

Nutrition – Muffin Top

It’s mid December and you’re getting ready to head into work. Lately you have been really consistent with getting your morning workout in, but today you decided to skip it—you want to get to work early because you have a pile of papers to get through before you duck out early to head to a client’s holiday party on your way home. Skipping a workout here and there…its no big deal…it’s the holiday, right!

The drive in is cold and dark…you decide to stop at Starbucks. As you stand in line waiting to order your drink you think “Gingerbread Latte?” now you can’t get one of those in June, why not…it’s the holidays, right! Being the health conscious warrior that you are, you opt for no whipped cream and pat yourself on the back.

Once at work you keep yourself energetic and clear-headed by following your well-honed habits of food and water and, while you skip the peanut brittle at the secretary’s desk, twice you swing by and take a handful of roasted almonds. It’s not what you normally would do, but it’s the holidays, right!

As you head out of the office to go to your client’s party, you commit to yourself that you are not going to over-indulge. Just a quick stop in, a couple bites to eat and you’ll head home to dinner. Once at the party, you grab a glass of wine and a plate of cheese cubes and crackers. That’ll tide you over. You skip a second glass of wine and have a seltzer, engage in some small talk, and hit the road. You’re impressed with how well you stuck to your commitment.

Not bad, eh! You have done a pretty darn good job with amidst the minefield of holiday treats. Well done!

….so where did that “muffin top” (you know that part of your belly that creeps over your pants) come from?

The Muffin Top Facts

You have done well. And the “muffin top” is the perfect example of how small things can add up.

Here’s the scoop: one pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories. That means, if you eat 3500 calories more than you burn, you’re going to put on weight. Let’s look at your “c’mon it’s the holidays!” day:

• You skipped your morning workout, so you’re missing your 300-500 calorie buffer.
• 16oz Gingerbread Latte (2% milk, no whipped cream) = 250 calories
• Two handfuls of roasted almonds (1/4 cup each) = 430 calories
• One glass of red wine = 120 calories
• Four one-inch cubes of cheese and four club crackers = 346 calories

Grand total of muffin top expanding calories? 1026

Dang! Two more days like that you can add one more pound to the Holiday Muffin Top…and how many days are there between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?

I feel the sag in your spirit as you gently pinch your Holiday Muffin Top and wonder if the only answer is to become a holiday hermit. Naw- the holidays are for celebrating and part of the celebration is food and beverage! Life isn’t “all or nothing” and neither should your approach to Muffin Top Management. Here are some ideas on taking an approach that honors you and your goals as well as the season:

1. Keep Moving. If you don’t have time for a scheduled work out, get up from your desk and walk around the building. Park farther from the door. Take the stairs. Small things add up on this end of the equation too!
2. Be Aware. Know what the high calories tickets items are and decide if they are something you’re really going to enjoy or just eat. Check out for a great database of foods and their nutritional content.
3. Ask the Right Questions. “Do I really want that?,” “How will I feel if I eat/drink that?,” and “Could I have less and still feel satisfied?”
4. Be Kind. To you, that is. Self-battery is fuel for the “why should I try at all?” fire. Don’t fan those flames. Do your best, honor your health as the asset it is, and allow yourself the deference of your own self-kindness.

Samantha Watts
V3 Outdoor Fitness
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday, 01 November 2013 08:07

24 Hours of Boulder Race Recap

From the blog 50 Marathons in 50 States

Boulder 100 (Race Recap)
Boulder, CO
October 12-13
Ultra Marathon #9
Second 100 Mile Attempt
Weather – Partly cloudy, chilly overnight, sunny

I have been doing crazy things for a while. I wasn’t going to register for this event at all, then I got an email about the 100K being 50% off with one of those Active specials. Well, it worked out to only being like a dollar a mile, so that seemed like a great deal. But then… I got 100 mile fever. I was doing the math and figured if I felt I was in shape to complete 100K in the 15 hour time limit, I could SURELY do the extra 38 miles in 15 hours… So I emailed the race director who told me that it would be no problem to upgrade to the 100 mile. I set aside the money and waited… if the weather was going to be good and I had people willing to pace, I would upgrade to the Boulder 100. 10 days out and the weather looked good – no chance of rain or snow and low 60’s for high. PERFECT running weather. I locked in my pacers and the Boulder 100 was a go.

Race Day

Thanks to the late start of 9:00, I didn’t need to get up very early. I had gone to bed around 11 the night before and had my alarm set for 6:20. I had asked my dad to pick up the kids at 7. I already had my gear packed and ready to go but wanted to allow for time to stop and get breakfast. I had coffee and a piece of pizza at home. On the drive up to Boulder I stopped and got a German Chocolate donut. Delicious, although it was actually too much food (what), so I only ate half. The drive took a bit longer than expected because of (shocking) construction on the highway. I made it to the start over an hour before the race started, which gave me time to upgrade and pick up my bib. I sat in the car running the heater until 20 minutes before the start.

The race was supposed to be Halloween themed. The race director was dressed as Heisenberg (Breaking Bad, for the 1% of you that don’t watch), but other than that, I was the only one that got in the spirit.

Final race instructions
I used the bathroom, and then it was time to line up for the start:

What. Was. I. Thinking. This was crazy. There were not a lot of us, maybe 50 people total? I never looked at the numbers, but there were the 100 milers, 24 hour runners and 100K runners all starting at the same time. We took off a few minutes late.

And then began The Longest Day of My Life.

The plan all along was to start slow, maintain a fairly steady pace and run as much as I could to bank as much extra time to allow for finishing.

The short section (to make up distance) was the first out and back I would do. The turn around was close, only about 2/3 of a mile in. That quickly broke up the pack as the 100K’ers had to turn around at a different place and the 24 hour runners had to do full out and backs every time.

After getting back to base camp the first time, I saw Dan (my night pacer) was already there… he planned on hanging out all day I guess. I put in my headphone and settled in for The Longest Day Ever. I was running a decent, steady pace. Made easier by a fairly flat and non-technical course. I took all my pictures early on, before I would start hating seeing the same things a jillion times. Pretty with the leaves changing!!

I ran the first 13.1 on par with my normal half marathon pace, around 2:34 I think. Obviously, with an out and back course, I kept seeing the same people. Over and over and over and over and over and over, and hey, over again. But I didn’t mind. The turn around was 3.3 miles out, and I absolutely LOVED that aid station. They kept rotating out food. Between the staples of chips and pretzels and m&m’s, etc, they also had banana bread, brownies, coffee cake, pizza, ramen, TONS of food. I ate well on this course.

I kept running, jamming my music. A nice change, it has been months since I ran with music. It really kept me motivated. I don’t remember when (how many miles in or time), but I saw Laura (not my sister, a girl from run club) out on the course. She got a few pictures of me (at various times), and was awesome at grabbing food/beverages for me (and other runners). This was my favorite picture she got:

During the race, I set PR’s in the 50K (20 min), 60K (2ish hours) AND 50M (over 25 minutes) distances. That left me in GREAT spirits for the first part of the race. I set out for my last alone lap just after 6 (when the 6 hour fun run started).

I was able to have a pacer at 7, and I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up at base camp and saw L there with Hannah! YAY!! I used the bathroom and changed into my warmer clothes, taking the longest break of the night – probably 15 minutes between changing clothes and visiting and eating. I checked at the timing booth and thought I had already done all 50 miles and was PSYCHED that only 10.5 hours in and I only had 50 miles to go.

Dan and I set out, it already being pretty dark. I was already NOT in the mood to run much. I had turned off my music and we either talked (I can’t even remember about what) or just walked in silence most of the time. I know Dan was aching to run, but I was already tired and already had enough time banked that I really did not NEED to run, so I didn’t… I ran a minute here and there, but pretty much, I was done running for the race.

The aid stations were AMAZING. I had chicken broth with potatoes, ramen, even coffee!! Everyone was so friendly. I still was seeing the same people out on the course, and never felt alone. I didn’t really hallucinate overnight, but it was chilly and I was starting to get squirrely and ragey being in the dark for so long. The closer it got to “morning,” the angrier I got. WHY was it still dark? WHY was it so cold? WHY was the sun not going to come up until after 7??? I was starting to get MAD.

Hope was supposed to meet me at 6:30 and planned to do a few laps with me. Dan got me back to base camp right around 6:30, and that lap is when the race changed for me. All night, I had been confused about how many miles I had run and what was left. My watch had died about 78 miles in, so I was relying on the timekeepers to tell me what was left. By the time I headed out with Hope, I thought I only had two laps to go (about a half marathon). Turns out I had three 🙁

That loop was called the rage loop. I was nearly in hysterics. I yelled at the timekeeper and almost broke down in tears. I had for HOURS prepared myself for what I thought I had left. To add another 6.57 miles in was practically adding in another marathon. I LOST IT.

I spent the entire lap complaining about how this should be my second to last loop, why was I doing this, I wasn’t going to finish, etc. Hope was GREAT about keeping me in good spirits. SHE IS A GREAT FRIEND!!!

FINALLY, the sun came up, and it really changed my attitude. I was back to my normal ray-of-sunshine self.

Sun up, about 16.5 miles to go
I warned Hope that I had ZERO plans of running even one more step, and like the great friend she is, she said she was sticking with me to the finish. L was off work and planned on joining us for the last two laps.

They really helped get me through the race. The second to last lap, I was no longer allowed to complain about the “extra” lap I had to do. Hope got to re-listen to all the stories I had told her on the previous lap.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always found these signs along the reservoir HILARIOUS. Hope took this picture of me around mile 90:

At this point, I knew I was going to finish, it was just a matter of it being THE LONGEST WALK EVER, and how much longer we were going to be out there. Heading back into base camp for my last check in and I made SURE to verify with the timekeeper that I was going out for the last time.

We passed time during the last loop by talking. A lot. My favorite games were coming up with adjectives A-Z for how awesome I was, my mental condition and my physical condition. The 50K had started at 7 am and there were people blazing past me as I was plugging along at a 20-22 min pace. With about 2 miles to go, I passed the only other 100 miler on the course. Chatted for a minute with him and his crew, then just kept moving. I was feeling lucid and alert, and Hope and L kept telling me that if I hadn’t been telling them how bad I hurt, they would have had no idea.

The last mile of the race were occupied by a couple that walked with us almost to the finish, asking me about the race, what I planned on having for dinner to celebrate, etc.

The Best.

And then, coming around the corner, I saw my dad. And A. A ran towards me and grabbed my hand and walked up with me to the finisher chute.

Where I did, in fact, run the last 10 or so feet to my first 100 mile finish. I didn’t cry then, but just typing those words, I’ll admit, I teared up.

100 miles. 29:04

Miles 1-13 – 11:36, 11:37, 12:31, 12:13, 12:23, 11:09, 10:52, 12:16, 11:08, 10:58, 11:31, 14:00, 11:06 (half marathonish – 2:33:20) My last half marathon was 2:45:21
Miles 14-26 – 12:15, 13:12, 11:04, 12:05, 13:09, 11:42, 11:53, 14:00, 12:25, 13:03, 12:54, 14:24, 12:33 (marathonish – 5:17:59) My last marathon was 5:17:31
Miles 27-31 – 12:05, 18:32, 12:32, 12:56, 14:05 (50Kish – 6:28:09) My 50K PR is 6:47:21
Miles 32-37 – 13:35, 12:53, 12:48, 17:51, 13:01, 13:39 (60Kish – 7:51:56) 60K PR is 9:58
Miles 38-50 – 15:25, 13:11, 13:41, 26:06, 14:33, 15:06, 16:03, 15:35, 15:12, 14:52, 20:53, 16:34, 16:51 (50Mish – 11:25:58) 50 Mile PR is 11:52:30.
Miles 51-62 – 18:41, 16:43, 16:40, 27:31, 17:29, 16:50, 17:31, 20:00, 17:23, 16:58, 20:40, 17:16 (100Kish 15:09:40)
Miles 63-78 – 17:13, 21:37, 17:37, 17:33, 18:43, 21:01, 18:13, 19:11, 24:31, 18:37, 17:46, 25:38, 18:46, 18:53, 20:15, 24:31

And then… the watch died. According to my watch, I maintained 15:46 pace for first 78 miles (which took 20.5 hours). So yes, the last 22 took 8.5 hours. NUTS.


FINALLY, there are official results up…. WOO HOO!!

I made sure to ask when I finished. 17 people started the 100 mile race. 7 people finished. I was the only female finisher, so of course, by fault, I got first female. WHO CARES!!???

I got to sit down, FINALLY, and tired the compression boot/sleeves that were amazing.

After only spending about 20 minutes at base camp after finishing, I had to drive home. FYI, driving a stick for a half hour after being on my feet for that long was ROUGH.

L had stopped on her way home and picked up Chili’s for dinner – guacamole sliders! I showered, and then headed upstairs to eat. After eating, all I wanted to do was lie down and get under the electric blanket with a movie. Next thing I know, it’s 11:00 at night (I somehow lost almost 6 hours?!). I went upstairs, and watched The Walking Dead.

100 mile recover in #magic pants and compression socks
One day later… I actually can walk. I can go up and down the stairs. I’m sore, but not any worse than I have been before.

You know what’s far? 100 miles.
You know what’s hard? 100 miles.
You know what I just ran? 100 FRICKIN’ MILES. OK, well “run” might be a bit overstating things, but I sure was on my feet for that long.
I have NO blisters, NO chafing and ALL my toenails.
I have not taken any pain medication.
I fueled well, taking probably 10-12 gels over the course of the run, eating ALL the things – yes, I had pizza, cake, brownies, bread, ramen, broth, electrolyte capsules, etc.
I could NOT have done this without my friends. ESPECIALLY Dan – who was with me for about 35 miles during the night. Especially around mile 80 (?) it would have been SO easy for me to just stop. Having someone there to remind me how crazy I was being helped.
Having friends/family with me at the finish to celebrate was AMAZING.
For the most part, I was in great spirits.
I probably will not do this again (runnesia already??)
INKnBURN was great to wear. I wore shirt and skirt and arms sleeves the first day, all of the clothes at night, and still kept on long sleeves during the next day.
I wore the New Balance Leadville (1210’s) the entire race, never changing my shoes or socks. My toes felt weird, but they were “mostly comfortable.”
I may or may not revise this post as I remember things, but I wanted to get something up while I still remembered things.

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