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One of the Frozen Few

This was my second attempt at the Frozen Otter Ultra. MountaineeringOtter_200_0 For those of you not familiar with this race, it is 64 miles on the North Kettle trails. The only support along the way is water provided every 7-9 miles and a drop bag at mile 46.  Everything you might need you have to carry, along with required gear that you must carry for emergencies.

My first attempt at Frozen Otter ended at mile 46.  I couldn’t stop shivering, couldn’t eat or drink anything, and couldn’t feel my hands.  I’m pretty sure I had an early stage of hypothermia.  When I decided to sign up for Frozen Otter again, I knew I had to find a way to beat the cold.

One reason Frozen Otter is so difficult, despite the obvious, is that you never know what conditions will be on race day. There have been years with 3 feet of snow on the course, or other years with -30 degree wind chill.  This year, we were fortunate not to have snow, but we had temps as low as -6 degrees, and the ground was icy and frozen solid including many mud potholes from people’s footprints and deforestation.  We were fortunate to not have to carry the extreme weather gear, but we still had the severe cold to contend with along the way.

There are 2 types of runners at the Frozen Otter. 1) People who pack the bare minimum, go out fast, and hope that their water doesn’t freeze and nothing causes them to slow down.  2) People who want to be a little more prepared because things always go wrong at these temps, so they start at a slower pace and carry a lot more emergency gear.  I chose the #2 path.  I had experience with frozen hoses and bladders before, as well as my sweaty clothes causing hypothermia when I slowed down.  In my pack I had 2 Liters of Nuun water with an insulated hose, a change of clothes, extra down mittens, my food for 46 miles, hand warmers, vacuum sealed Yeti container, and the required gear (emergency bivy, emergency blanket, whistle, headlamp with extra batteries, cell phone, fire starter, medical kit). In all I would guess my pack weighed 10-15lbs.

26805515_10159799807410394_2446310567768996792_nThe race started at 10 am.  Because I packed extra clothes, I started out at a faster clip knowing I would change at the first turn around spot at mile 23, right when the sun was going down. Right away my nozzle on my hydration pack was freezing, even after blowing the liquid back into the bladder each time I used it.  I was forced to detach the nozzle every time I needed a drink. I eventually was able to keep the nozzle from freezing by keeping the nozzle stuffed between my layers of clothing and closer to my body.  I kept to a strict schedule with food and hydration.  Every mile I took a good drink, every 3 miles I ate 200-300 calories, and every 2 hours I took a salt tab.  I originally planned on eating more at the aid stations, but extended stops were causing my hands to freeze so I stuck to minimal stops along the race.  26733703_10159799807455394_8956338696081112329_nI wished I could have spent more time at the aid stations, since my friends and sis were there to cheer me on.

I was feeling awesome until around 25 when I tripped on one of the many frozen potholes in the mud.  At that point my right knee and ankle started to go downhill.  I was relying more and more on my trekking poles.  This took a toll on my hands and wrists since the ground was frozen.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect since my first pacer, David, was joining me at mile 30. He pushed me hard and helped me stay optimistic all the way to mile 38.  My buddy Jeff joined me from mile 38 to 46. He helped me focus on the beauty of the race.  The ice on the ground and trees sparkled like glitter from our headlamps.  And the stars were brighter than I’ve ever seen them before.  This was a great distraction from some tough miles. Mile 46 was the aid station for my only drop bag, and the place I stopped last year.  I knew that this would cause a major mental hurdle for me.  But Jeff and my friends helped me focus on changing out of my wet gear, grabbing more fuel, and setting out for the last 18 miles.

The last 18 miles were the most challenging physically and mentally.  I started mile 46 at around 1 am, 15 hours into the race.  Chris was joining me for this leg. He was great with keeping me distracted from the severe pain in my leg and the fatigue setting in.  The ground seemed to sparkle even more bright as the night went on. And it was uplifting seeing a dozen or more people heading back from the last check point, ready to become one of the frozen few. At the last check point, Faith was ready to help me chase the sunrise.  We left just before 5 am, giving me 5 hours to finish the last 9 miles. I knew I just had to keep moving, which was becoming more and more of a challenge. But Faith kept me focused and excited about the beauty of the trails and the finish line. I couldn’t have picked a better pacer to watch the sunrise with on the last leg of the Frozen Otter.  This leg was definitely the coldest, dipping down to -6 degrees. My hands were frozen and I had no interest in my food anymore. But once the sun started peaking over the hills, my spirits were lifted and my pace picked up  (probably not much, but it was all I had left).

IMG_0109One of my best memories of the race was going around the last turn of the race and seeing Steve and Jeff waiting for Faith and I with big smiles on their faces.  I made my way to the finisher area, dropped my trekking poles, and announced my number for the

last time. A group was huddled together and they all welcomed me to the Frozen Few! The race director came over with the coveted Frozen Otter dog tags, and congratulated me on my finish.  It took me just over 22 hours, leaving about 2 hours to spare before the cut off.





Review of the BOCO Gear Run Hat

*Disclaimer: I received a BOCO Gear Run Hat to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

Headgear can be tricky.  I’ve been in the middle of a race or a long run when all of a sudden the hat I’ve been wearing the entire time starts to itch or feel uncomfortable. Whether it’s over heating, sweating, lack of coverage or not fitting properly, these are all things likely every runner has experienced with their headgear at some point.

img_38401.jpgI received the BOCO Gear Run Hat several weeks ago to review. The BOCO hat is different than my other running hats.  It is super flexible.  So flexible you can bend and fold it and don’t need to worry about any permanent damage to it. The bill can be snapped up or molded in the more traditional curve. This came in handy when I stuffed my hat into the bottom of my running pack.

I used the BOCO Gear Run Hat during my last two 50 milers.  I appreciated it’s wicking capabilities, especially during the 90 degree race, and that it stayed light weight. The hat kept my head nice and cool, and was breathable the entire race. My second 50 miler I used it over my Buff ®. The BOCO hat has an adjustable back snap feature which made the hat fit comfortably over the extra material.  It also kept the rain out of my eyes the entire race.

And probably my favorite feature of the BOCO Gear Run Hat is that it is machine washable! I’ve been using my BibRave orange BOCO hat a lot lately since it’s hunting season in Wisconsin.  It’s nice that I can throw it in the wash along with my running clothes and it will be ready without any hassle.

Now the next question is, what color BOCO Gear Run Hat should I buy next?

All I want for Christmas is a Garmin Forerunner 935

*Disclaimer: I received a Garmin Forerunner 935 to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

One way to get the BibRave Pro’s talking is to offer a lucky few of us the opportunity to test the new Garmin Forerunner 935 running watch. My watch needs have definitely changed over the years.  A few years ago, I was strictly focused on triathlons. Now I’ve made a significant switch to ultra running. I still “dabble” in triathlons each summer as more of a means to take a break from the long miles. This range in sports and extreme running is difficult when looking for a running watch that can cover it all.

I put the Garmin Forerunner 935 right away to the test. This was was easy to use. I’m one of those people that likes to plug it in and hope I won’t have to read the directions. I took the watch out right away for a run with zero issues.  It was easy to figure out, pressed Run and went!

I had two weeks before my 50 miler to test everything out and make any adjustments.  Funny enough I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the watch.  The default setting allowed my watch to last the entire 11 hour race in the rain with still plenty of battery life left over. In fact, I think the watch could have probably made it through an entire 100 mile race…but I’m not testing that any time soon. The settings were easy to scroll throughout the race, allowing me to see my pace, distance, elapsed time, current time, and heart rate. The watch also has a “trail run” setting so that when you are doing a good sized climb, it switches to feet of accent instead of current pace.IMG_3887 (1)

After the race the Garmin Forerunner 935 connected to my iPhone with ease.  I could immediately see my mile splits, total elevation gain, total elapsed time and my heart rate throughout the race.  The Garmin app also shows other new stats like anaerobic and aerobic performance, cadence, and zone heart rate.  I appreciated the accuracy of the stats.  With past watches, I would have to alter the accuracy of the data collection so the watch would last the entire race.  This is not the case for the Garmin Forerunner 935.

img_3981.pngSince getting the Garmin Forerunner 935, I’ve been paying closer attention to my heart rate especially when considering if a run should be easy, tempo, or hard.  There is more stats available if I were to wear the heart rate strap, however, I like the simplicity of relying on the watch heart rate monitor.

There are many other aspects to this watch that I anticipate testing out in the near future, especially once I get back into swimming more consistently and biking. But for now, I’m loving all the great and easy to use features of the Garmin Forerunner 935.  It’s every ultra runner’s dream!

Review of the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon

*Disclaimer: I received free entry to Bellin Women’s Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

It’s been a long time since racing a half marathon.  My nerves were already going crazy the day before the race.  I got out of work at 4:30pm, just in time to hurry home, pack the car and the dog, and head up to Green Bay for packet pickup. I was hoping to get into Green Bay in time to partake in the pre-race dinner and festivities, but traffic was a bust going through Milwaukee.  I arrived with 15 minutes to spare before the expo was over.  There were a ton of vendors lining the KI Convention Center.

I quickly viewed some of them before retrieving my packet.   Inside my packet was a cute green long sleeve cotton shirt, a beautifully printed drawstring bag, and of course my bib.

The next morning was race day, with the half marathon starting at 8am. When we arrived, I thought parking might be difficult, but we parked only 1 block away from the start! There were also tons of port-o-potties and indoor bathrooms for people to use.  This is always a plus.  At the start of the race, approximately 1100 people were running the half.

The race ran along the Fox River.  The first half ran south down Broadway street.  We then crossed a bridge and followed the Fox River path north, back to the KI Convention Center.  I especially liked the Fox River Trail because you could see the river to your left and beautiful trees and flowers on the right.  The spectators were also amazing on the last half of the course.  Friends and families followed their runners along the entire course, which isn’t always easy to do.

The last mile was packed with spectators.  I put all the effort I could muster into one last push at the end.  There was no time to look pretty for the camera.  About 20 feet from the finish, I hear the announcer call out my name, calling me into the final stretch. Sprinting to the end was a great feeling, and finishing was an even better feeling! I was very pleased with my finishing time of 1:55:47!

Once I caught my breathe, the real fun began! Instead of a medal, finishers received a Finisher Necklace. Right after the finish, vendor tents were lined up along the river, each with a delicious food or beverage.  Some of the things they handed out were: yogurt parfait, iced tea, non-alcoholic champagne, strawberry shortcake, brownies, chocolate milk, dark chocolate bar, and a bunch more that I didn’t grab.  I eventually made my way to the after-party, where there was a DJ, free massages, and a free beer for every runner. I’ve never been this spoiled after a race, even with a VIP package deal! img_3651.jpg

I hope more people take advantage of this great and well run event in the future. I know I will!


Holding Tight with SKINS Compression A400 Shorts

*Disclaimer: I received a pair of SKINS Compression A400 Shorts to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

I have been looking at purchasing some compression shorts for months now, but haven’t pulled the trigger.  I’m not one to wear super tight running shorts, so this is why I was hesitant.  But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to test out the SKINS Compression A400 Shorts when BibRave offered. IMG_3415

I tested the SKINS shorts in many conditions.  Like all new items, I first took the shorts out on a quick 2 mile run.  This way if there was any weird rubbing or anything, it’s only 2 miles.  They felt great the entire run.  In fact, I didn’t feel them at all. IMG_3591

The next time testing out the shorts was in 40 degree weather along the lakefront in the morning.  I LOVED the 360-degree reflectivity of the fabric.  The ADAPTIVE technology worked perfectly in the cold temps, keeping my muscles nice and warm.

I didn’t originally plan on testing my SKINS shorts out during a strength training session, but I ended up skipping my run one day and had to do something.  I did mainly leg training – squats, lunges, burpees – all the “fun” stuff.  I usually wear regular running shorts during strength training, which doesn’t provide much coverage.  Luckily, I only do strength training at home and not in public. I really appreciated the full coverage of the shorts, the height on my waist and the length of the inseam. They stayed in place the entire session. IMG_3611

I finally put the SKINS compression shorts up to the ultimate test during a windy and rainy Bellin Women’s Half Marathon.  They stayed in place the entire race, even with the less than ideal conditions, there was no sagging or rubbing. The shorts were comfortable and moved well without any issues with chaffing. I utilized the back pocket for my inhaler, which stayed in place the entire race.


I was very pleased with the SKINS Compression A400 shorts.  They’re comfort, reflectivity, adaptive technology make these more than just a compression short.  They are a go-to piece of fitness apparel. IMG_3662


Rain or Shine, I’m ready to race at the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon

*Disclaimer: I received free entry to Bellin Women’s Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

I do not have luck with weather this year.  My last two big races were crazy hot, and now the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon this weekend we can expect rain. A lot of rain with the addition of 25 mph winds. The weather could still change, but I better start packing and preparing for the worst.

IMG_3612For a rainy run or race, I’ve learned to not fight the rain, but embrace it.  How might one do this? Instead of trying to protect your clothes and feet from getting wet, just deal with the fact that they will get wet. So far I have my typical BibRave tank and The North Face shorts packed for Saturday.  Some other things I always wear or do when I’m expecting rain is:

  1. Bodyglide – if bodyglide is typically worn during normal runs/races, during rainy runs it should be worn liberally.  I even bodyglide my feet.  This helps protect my feet from blisters in the wet conditions.
  2. Brimmed Hat or Baseball Cap – The brim from the hat helps keep the water out of my eyes so I don’t have to constantly wipe at them. I will definitely be packing my BOCO running hat!
  3. Forget the Rain Coat – at least if it’s expected to be fairly warm when it is raining.  If you try to wear a rain coat in 70 degree weather, you’ll be just as wet from all the sweat that gets trapped under the coat as you would be without the coat.  IMG_0418

Another thing to remember is HAVE FUN! Run through the puddles, feel the rain on your skin, watch for the rainbows.  Though I don’t want it to rain at the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon this weekend, I feel confident that I’ll still have fun!


Review of the Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Shoes

*Disclaimer: I received a pair of Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Running Shoes to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

When I began this year, I didn’t have much planned on my training schedule besides Frozen Otter Ultra in January.  But one thing is for sure, I knew that I would be doing a lot of trail running.  This has proven to be true.  Never in a million years did I think that I’d be signing up for my fourth 50+ miler in one year.

I can never have enough trail shoes, especially with all the trail miles I’m putting in lately. BibRave offered me the opportunity to test out the Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Running Shoes.  Though I’ve never worn a pair of Under Armour shoes, let alone their trail shoes, I’ve heard some positive reviews from my friends.

The first time I put on the Horizon RTT Trail shoes, I noticed the durable upper material. I was a little nervous that this durable upper would restrict the flexibility of my foot. However, once I started running, there wasn’t any stiffness.  Another positive aspect is the extra cushioning.  I don’t think I’ve ever owned a pair of trail shoes this full of cushion. IMG_3515

The first run with the shoes was only 2 miles long.  This is typical for testing out new shoes, since I don’t know how my feet are going to feel if I went out on a longer run. I first tested them on road and gravel.  They transition very well from road to trail, since the lugs aren’t too big, and the shoe has some decent flexibility in the sole.

The second run with the Horizon RTT trail shoes was on a cross country trail, which was a combination of grass and gravel.  I took this run a little faster than usual.  I appreciated the light weight of the shoes, which helped me keep a higher cadence.  On this course, there is typically muddy spots, even if it hasn’t rained in weeks.  My shoes didn’t have a spot on them when I finished the course. After several runs, these shoes barely look like I touched them.

After several other trials with the Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail shoe, I came to the following conclusion: Though these shoes may not have the traction I need for some of my rocky trail runs, they are a very stable, durable, and comfortable shoe for the more “speedy” trails with grass and gravel.  They also worked great as hiking shoes when I took my pup out on long walks! IMG_3453

Fearless, Inspiring, Amazing! Getting Ready for Bellin Women’s Half Marathon

*Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

IMG_3219Half marathons haven’t been a big focus of mine lately.  I set a PR two years ago and then turned my back on this distance.  Not because of opportunity to run them, but because the half marathon distance can be a bit scary to me.  I love the longer distances (50k, 50 miler…).  Signing up for a half marathon means I have to pick up the pace and push my body to the limit that doesn’t feel comfortable.  But I’m excited about the challenge ahead at the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon!IMG_3146

With this shorter distance, it has forced me to put extra focus on the shorter tempo runs and speed training.  My speed training typically comes in the form of hill repeats and strides.  I still can’t get myself to do track workouts (some sort of post-high school track mental block). These faster paces have been paying off, even with ultra training.  They have helped me get some speed back that I’ve lost with all the continuous long endurance runs.

One thing that drew me to this race was that it is a celebration of fearless women. All around me will be thousands of other women, running the same distance and breathing the same air.  Thousands of inspiring women coming together to test their limits, including a keynote speaker, Colleen Kelly Alexander, at the Women’s Inspiration Dinner. Colleen has come back from an almost fatal accident, over a month in a coma, and over 30 surgeries. Despite this, she still runs today! I’m looking forward to being amongst such inspiring women.  Who else will join me at the Bellin Women’s Race?


[2 photo credits to Bellin Health Systems]


Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo Collar Review

*Disclaimer: I received Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo Dry Collar to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

Mr. Cooper may be a bit on the spoiled side.  My boyfriend and I adopted him around a year and a half ago, and life hasn’t been the same since. Between the gourmet treats at the Harbor Market and new tennis balls every other week, I think this pup has it good. IMG_3379

BibRave likes to spoil the pups too and offered me a new Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo Dry Collar to test out on Cooper.  The collar has some great features which are perfect for my active Labrador Retriever.

  1. Waterproof – Great for when I take him to the beach.IMG_3173
  2. Stink proof – The material doesn’t hold on to his wet dog smell after our play time.
  3. Reflectivity – I always get nervous when the sun is going down and I take him for a walk.  With the reflective material, I don’t have to worry about cars not seeing Cooper.
  4. Double ring collar – I wasn’t sure if this feature was necessary, but it is nice to have 1 ring for his tags and another for his leash.  It’s the small touches that I love.

I’m pretty sure that Cooper has had the same collar his entire life, so he seemed a little confused when I put the bright orange collar around his neck for the first time.  But after some time, and some sniffing, Cooper loves his new collar.  And as a pup-mom, I definitely don’t miss his smelly old collar. And his collar matches perfectly with his Stunt Puppy Stunt Runner leash! IMG_3393

Review of the Orange Mud Phone.Flask.Vest.

*Disclaimer: I received an Orange Mud Phone.Flask.Vest. to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*

I am that running friend that looks like they took a bath in sweat after every run.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  But this causes a real problem especially in the summer heat and humidity.  At the same time, I do not like to run with a lot of “stuff”. During the winter I can go 10 miles without bringing water or nutrition, and I’d prefer to do the same in the summer but that hasn’t been in the cards lately.  IMG_2594

BibRave offered me the opportunity to test the Orange Mud Phone.Flask.Vest. I’ve been interested in Orange Mud hydration vests, especially seeing friends wearing them on the trails.  The Orange Mud Phone.Flask.Vest (or PFV) is meant to keep the bulk to a minimum while still offering compartments for all the necessary accessories. Some of the special features include:

  • 450mL soft flask
  • front pocket for your Phone
  • stow pocket and clasp for keys
  • shoulder pocket for nutrition
  • back pocket & draw string for any extra accessories

For such a small pack, it’s surprising how much you can fit in all the pockets.

When the pack arrived in the mail, the heat was setting in for the summer.  I was finding it more difficult to even go on shorter runs without any form of hydration.

The first time wearing the pack felt slightly uncomfortable.  For some reason it wasn’t fitting quite right, but I managed to get through a 3 mile run with it on.  When I got back from this run, I checked out a video provided by Orange Mud on how to properly wear the PFV pack.  This video was a game changer.  I realized that I was not tightening the straps evenly on both sides, which caused the pack to shift throughout my run.

The next several times wearing the pack was much more comfortable.  I tried it with just the water bottle as well as fully packed with nutrition, phone, and other gear.  It’s the most comfortable when most of the weight is kept in the back of the pack.  I put my nutrition in the back pocket instead of the shoulder pocket, which helped stabilize the pack.  I love that the key pocket has an extra clasp for the keys, which makes me certain my keys will stay in place throughout the entire run. It is also a nice feature having the phone in the front and easily accessible for all the photo opportunities while out on a run.

The longest run I used the pack on was a 9 mile trail run.  I was worried that the inconsistent movements might cause the pack to bounce too much or chafe, but I did not have problems with either of these issues.  Instead, it was nice to have a lighter pack for a quick 2 hour trail run when I didn’t need to carry a fully loaded pack.

If you’re looking for a super light weight minimal pack that can still hold nutrition, phone, water, and keys, the Orange Mud Phone.Flask.Vest. has a lot to offer. With this pack you don’t have any bulk around your waist like so many other options. The manufacturer definitely thought things through when they developed this pack.