Category Archives: Cheaper Than Therapy

And THIS is how I RE-fuel as a vegan.

Running On Plants

So! I did my longest run yet this weekend, although the heat had me walking a lot of the last few miles as I was finishing it up around 1pm. I did 15 miles and – other than the heat – I felt good.

And it got me thinking…I’ve not talked about how I’m fueling now as a vegan.

It also got me thinking…Why do cold showers get a bad wrap? They’re FANTASTIC.

But back to the vegan thing…

My main source of non-food running fuel (I prefer real food if I can do that, but it’s not always ideal) for last ultra season was the Running Gummy. Ever brand has their own, I didn’t mind the “Fruit Smoothie” flavor from Honey Stinger or the “Watermelon” flavor from Gu. But – as many of you know – gelatin is animal derived so that’s out. I knew that from day 01. What I didn’t know, was that there are several other ingredients that can be animal derived. As a matter-of-fact, Gu seems to catch people off guard because initially it appears vegan, but if you look at the addendum/comments in this write-up and this one you’ll see that bigger writers than I are quick to get corrected on this.

The point? It’s hard to tell.

And while I hate the word “vegan” for that reason “YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT, IT’S NOT VEGAN!” (This comes from BOTH sides, by the way, from vegans and omnivores) – I do try to stay vegan if I can and if it doesn’t go against any other ethical consumer issues I have. (Example: I buy locally made honey because A) it supports my local economy and B) It supports my local honey bees)) BUT! With running fuel, I’m flexible and have no ethical issues SO! I’m trying to stay vegan if I can.

This is the one I decided on: Strawberry Cliff Gel. It’s 90% organic, the ingredients aren’t scary synthetic, and I found several sources confirming it is vegan friendly.

THAT SAID. If you find a good sale on bulk, you’re still looking at about $1 each. And if you buy it by walking in a brick-and-mortar store, like I usually do, you’re looking closer to $1.75 each.

SO! If I need that super-portability (so tiny!) or if I need that caffeine boost, that’s what I use. But for that general, “Energy after 3 miles” type of need I’ve been carrying baby food with me! I’ve bought those squeeze apple-sauce type packets (in the applesauce section at Target) 4 for $2 – which is cheaper than the gels – and I’ve been running with those. They’re portable enough to fit in my hydration pack, don’t require chewing (like real food often does), but they give me a 60 calorie boost. Not as much as a 100 calorie boost from gels, but it’s a good trade-off for the feeling of eating real food and also for the cost.

I actually haven’t used a gel in weeks, I did my run Saturday entirely on applesauce packets. My energy level stayed FINE the entire 15 miles. It was just the heat that nearly killed me. The brand I’ve found actually has several flavors with the applesauce: peach, pear, berry, mango…so I’ve got a variety. I’m not sure how appetizing they’ll seem if I’m cold, but for now I love them. I look forward to my baby food breaks on my run.

So! That’s how my fueling has changed since I’ve been trying the vegan thing. I know you’ve been losing sleep over this.

And THIS is how I RE-fuel as a vegan.
And THIS is how I RE-fuel as a vegan.

As always - thanks to Gregg Gelmis for taking this photo on a recent trail run.

Summertime Running Gear

As always - thanks to Gregg Gelmis for taking this photo on a recent trail run.
As always – thanks to Gregg Gelmis for taking this photo on a recent trail run.
I wrote an entry here that touched on some of the cold-weather gear I was using in an upcoming race, but my friend Lisa asked about running gear so I thought I’d do another one, maybe more aimed at hot weather.


It’s summer, staying hydrated is much more essential this time of year. Every new runner HATES all of the water options at first. The most common ones are hand-held, waist belt, and hydration pack (backpack). Trust me when I tell you – they will ALL take getting used to.

I like the hand-held water bottle the best. I wore a waist belt for awhile but it just irritated me. I’m so used to the hand-held bottle now that when I run without it I feel completely off-balance. I choose this one because it A) Holds my iPhone and B) Can fit all of the generic/free water bottles we often get at races. That’s the thing I hate about most hand-held systems, they ONLY use that ONE water bottle so you have to be diligent about washing it every time you use it. I like that we can use any of the small/standard generic bottles in our house.

However, that bottle only lasts me about 3 miles in the heat of the summer. So, I often use a hydration pack. My pack has survived 3 trail-running seasons when you need to carry more water on you because setting up aid is more difficult on the trails. I definitely recommend buying one with pockets on the front straps. These packs are all well-designed in that they’re adjustable in 100 different ways so you can set yours up to fit your perfectly. I love filling mine with ice in the summer before putting water in it so I get the added perk of a cool surface on my back in hot sun.


In the winter I swear by the full buff to keep my face warm but during the summer I swear by the headband buff. Not only does it keep my frizzies hidden but it helps catch the sweat from my hair so it’s not pouring down my face while I run. I would not go on a run without one. UNLESS…

It’s raining at which time I wear a visor. That’s really the only time you’ll see me in a visor, is in the rain. You really need a hat/visor to help keep the rain out of your face because that’s really the only bad thing about running in the rain. Especially in the summer when running in the rain feels AWESOME, you don’t want to be constantly cursing it and unable to enjoy it. If there’s even a threat of rain, I’ll throw on a visor. (If you can, choose a visor like HEADSWEATS that has the added plus of the sweat absorbing fabric.) I don’t wear a hat because A) I have too much hair and have yet to try one that fits and B) They smoosh the hair to my head making my head REALLY hot.


Obviously cotton is a HUGE No-No when you run, but especially in the summer. Cotton will hold your sweat against your body and you will get hotter as you sweat instead of cooler. My favorite clothing winter AND summer is the running skirt I bought last fall on sale at Fleet Feet. It’s the Brooks Mesh Skort. It’s super flattering AND it has long enough shorts to cover my chaffing spots on my thighs. Also, the shorts have that anti-move sticky stuff on the inside so they won’t ride up as you run. And finally – the best part? A hidden pocket on the shorts, under the skirt. It’s perfect for a pack of gummies or some chapstick or anything else, really. I don’t know why all skorts don’t have a pocket there because it’s GENIUS. I only have one of these skirts but it gets washed at least twice a week because it’s my favorite so I wear it the most often. I’ve probably gotten 100 wears out of it and it’s not even a year old (trying to justify spending $50 on it). I even wear it in the winter as long as it’s 40 or above. Below 40 and I’ll wear my running tights, but at 40 or above I’ll wear the skirt and some compression socks.


Speaking of compression…

I wear Zensa sleeves when I run in the winter just to help prevent shin splints. HOWEVER, everyone should have some compression socks to put on AT LEAST for recovery after a run. There’s debate about whether or not they’re helpful DURING a run, but almost everyone supports wearing them AFTER. I’ve worn compression socks all day following a long run. My favorite are these from Swiftwick and while the price makes you want to puke a little – I’ve been using the same pair for 2 years now and they still feel amazing. And I don’t even take special care of any of my gear. If I tell you something has lasted X amount of time, know that I’m throwing that shit in the dryer every time I wash it. I don’t bother with hanging stuff to dry. I’m too lazy and it irritates me to have to sort through stuff before throwing it in the dryer.

SO! That’s about it for my gear! Any other questions about stuff I use while I run?


Running without purpose…

This is a weird time of year for me. I kinda felt it last summer, but I was so stressed about my first triathlons that I at least had other things to focus on, even if I didn’t have any major running goals. This is the time of year I let Donnie lead the training schedule, I plan my runs around his workouts. And since he’s training for an Ironman in September, he’s working out twice a day many days, on Saturdays he could be gone for 5+ hours depending on where he’s going for his long bike ride. So, I squeeze in what I can, when I can.

My goal was to try to hang around 30 miles a week still this summer, which I’m getting close to. I’m usually hitting 24 or more, but never quite hitting 30 like I had hoped. It’s just tough because I’m doing my “long” runs on the weekends in the middle of the afternoon when it’s hot and I’m often alone which makes it very difficult to motivate myself to do more than 6 miles which is my standard running distance. If I’m getting out? I’d like to do at least 6 miles. And this time of year? It’s hard to motivate myself to do more.

Our Tuesday night Cross Country runs started last week, so that helps me get six miles in pretty easily at a time where Donnie never needs a workout. And our Fleet Feet has a Thursday night fun run that started last week too, I’ll be doing that. It’s scheduled to give me 5, but I can add one before just to give me the 6 I usually like. So, that’s two runs WITH people every week. But the weekends? OH MAN, THEY ARE KILLING ME.

On Saturday I really struggled to leave the house. It was hot and I was tired and I had no reason to run. That’s my problem, without a race to train for, I have a really hard time getting out the door. I know I need a good base so I do it, but man…I can not bring myself to do much. I tricked myself this weekend by do 3.5 miles out along a straight path from my house. I knew if I could make it the 3.5 miles, then I would have to come home and there’s not shorter route than straight back. To push myself to the 3.5 miles mark, I brought some money to buy a gatorade with at a gas station. That’s the other problem, in this heat? I drink 20 ounces EASY over 3-4 miles. So I have to either A) carry my hydration pack which I don’t want to do in the heat or B) plan for an aid stop or drop somewhere.

But this trick worked, I forced myself the 3.5 miles to the gas station. I relished my cold Gatorade, and made it home. That may become my standard Saturday route even though it’s flat and straight and BORING AS SHIT.

Sundays I might have more chances to find people to run with. Donnie’s workouts are shorter so he won’t mind sometimes giving me the morning, and I have friends who can’t run Sunday mornings so Sunday afternoons would work for them. Sundays I can work with. And if I keep tricking myself on Saturday’s then I might start getting the 30 miles per week I need until I start ramping up at the end of July.

It’s just hard. I know I’m a runner. I have no problem wearing that title. But MAN, I hate the summer and I hate not having something specific to train for. Even for me, a self-declared runner, it’s hard to get out that damn door.

Do you have any tricks?


My Runner Girl

I don’t know a lot about Cross Country Running as a sport that kids in school do. I know where it’s done locally because we have “Summer Runs” there every summer where Fleet Feet brings out their clock and people can run the 1-mile course at 6:15, the 3-mile course at 6:30, and then the 2-mile course at 7:15. I’m assuming the teams have meets at the same park? At least the local schools? Oh! And I also know it’s abbreviated XC because every summer they use that on the registration forms.

Last night was the first one of the season and I love these runs because there are tons of teenagers there as most local school make it a summer “requirement” of sorts for their Cross Country runners. Do I love the teenagers being there because of my affection for teenagers in general? No. I love beating them.

I have no idea how Cross Country running works as a sport, but I’m guessing the kids out there are not taking these Tuesday night runs very seriously because – without fail – every summer I get giant ego boosts from running past kids who should be kicking my ass. I guarantee you if we were racing they would be running faster, but they just seem to be out there for fun during these Tuesday night runs. This means I get to fly past 15-year old guys walking up the hill and I get to tell myself, Zoot is faster than athletes half her age! She is lightning! She is speed! Bow down to her as the running queen she is!


Anyway, it’s really good for an ego boost. I stayed with two young guys all the way until the end last night. There was a third guy in their group who I played leapfrog with for awhile, I’d pass him on the ups and he’d pass me on the downs, but eventually he faded and I took his place with his friends and hung with them to the finish. And I stuck all of that ego-building energy and stuck it in storage where I can use it on the days I get really down on myself as a runner.

But remember, Zoot, you are faster than some teenage Cross Country athletes!

(My ego knows how to ignore the part that they’re just goofing off while I’m running so hard I want to die.)

I took Nikki last night. She’s gone with me before but never as an “official” participant. She does the 1-mile course every time while I switch up the courses. She was getting tired at one point, kind stumbled in the woods, and said, “UG. I’m an awful runner!”

And let me tell you…I shut that shit DOWN, right there, on the spot.

I didn’t lecture her in the middle of the run, other than to say, “There are not many – if any – other 8-year olds out here doing this. You’re awesome, quit that negative talk!” But on the way home later? I lectured her the lecture to end all lectures.


Most people can walk, but not many can or will run. Anyone who is running, no matter what their speed or how often they fall, is a total badass. Do not get down on yourself. If you’re running? You’re a rockstar. Period. End of story. I am very proud of every run I do because I know many people who can’t and even more who won’t run. It doesn’t matter how fast I am, it doesn’t matter if I fall, it doesn’t matter who runs the most…all that matters is that I’m doing it and I’m going to be super-proud of every run I do. You need to be that way too. Every…single…run…be proud of it! There are a lot of things I get down on myself about in my life, and you have a lot of those things too, but let running be the thing you celebrate. Every time you make it out the door for a run, pat yourself on the back for being amazing and awesome. Because you are. And I will NOT let you spit out anymore negative talk about it. If you want to get better, we can get better. If you want to get faster, we can get faster. But we won’t do it by talking negative about our running because we are running when other people are sitting on their butt…and we will be proud of that.

She stopped listening after the first sentence, of course. But still! There was musical accompaniment and everything!

(There was not.)

I hated running as a kid. My Dad tried to get me to run with him when he would visit the local high school track several times a week for a run, but I declined 99% of the time. He never got to see me learn to love running. He saw me try to train for races, and complete them even if my training fell off the track (Hello 7:40 marathon time!) but he never saw me become a runner who simply has to run. And while I wish he could see that (he wouldn’t believe it, for the record) I really wish he could see Nikki’s natural desire to run. That was what he wanted me to have, he would look at her and see how much fun she would have been. Instead he was stuck with whiny, moaning, boring and lazy Zoot who would rather sit on the bleachers and read her Babysitter’s Club books than run even one lap around a track.

(For the record, I still hate speedwork on tracks.)

I’m proud of my girl. She’s up for the challenge of running and while she gets hot and miserable during the run, she always goes back for more.


Notes On Cotton Row 2014

The Cotton Row Run is my favorite in Huntsville for several reasons. First of all, it is held on Memorial Day, so they incorporate many elements that honor the men and women who lost their lives in service of our country. They play Taps before the race (I tear up every time), they have the Honor Guard, they speak a special invocation that I wish I had a copy of, and they do a rifle salute (I believe it’s called a 3-volley salute? But I may be wrong.) Today they added something new – a stretch before the finish line where family members and friends of soldiers killed in action were standing with large photos of their lost soldiers and holding flags above the home stretch. If that doesn’t inspire you to kick it in to the finish, nothing will.

Second of all, it’s a large race for our city, so it acts like a homecoming event of sorts. You get to see your running buddies you haven’t seen in a while. There’s also two races: a 10K and a 5K so you can see your friends from all levels of training. There are nervous hugs given before and sweaty hugs given after, I love it. I just look around and say, “HELLO!” to all of the faces I’ve come to love over the years of running in this town. Faces I just saw this week and faces I haven’t seen in years. As you stand around waiting to start, you find your group grows as people stop and say, “Hi!” to their friends. It’s the coolest thing to be at the start line and be – quite literally – surrounded by some of your favorite people. Right before they fired the start rifle I soaked in the awesomeness of my running peers and thought, “If it weren’t for running, I wouldn’t have been blessed with any of these people in my life.”

AND THEN! The friends you don’t see running the races, you see along the course. I had friends volunteering at aid stations and directing traffic at intersections. I had friends cheering along the course and I was so excited to see them I would call out THEIR names just to say, “Hi!” (It’s hard to find people you know running a race that big, so it helps spectating if they find you :)) It seemed like I couldn’t go a quarter of a mile without seeing someone I knew and I loved it. And then I saw even more friends after the race as we shared war stories and discussed whether or not we met our goals.

Basically – it is this race every year that reminds me that running has brought much more than health and fitness into my life, it has filled it with friends and fun. I’m full of social anxieties that keep me from making friends in any sort of traditional context, but running has helped force me into groups to meet people I would have never met otherwise. I moved to Huntsville in 2001 and until I started boot camp in 2010 and running in 2011, I could count the number of friends in this area on one hand. Today? I talked to no less than 30 people that I would not hesitate for a moment to call a friend. It just filled me with such joy and is exactly why I do this race every year.

Now! To The Race Report

I knew ever since I finished last year at 56:03 that my goal this year would be to beat 56 minutes. I came SO CLOSE last year! I had done a sub-25 5K recently so I knew physically I could run a 10K in under 56 minutes, but this course has it’s challenges. Mainly, the first 3 miles are uphill with one MEGA steep (and infamous) uphill at the 3-mile mark. You can’t pace it with a straight consistent pace like you normally would. I successfully ran sub-56 in training a few weeks ago, but I had the help of two training buddies doing the math and pace decisions for me. (I’m married to one of them, it was his “easy” run day and my “killmenow” run day.) I knew my main challenges to meet my goal today would be 1) HEAT/HUMIDITY and 2) PACING. I don’t pace myself well, my GPS isn’t the best and my body delivers mixed messages that aren’t consistent regarding pace so I make bad judgements.

THANK GOD I ran into my first running coach before the race and let her know my goal. She didn’t have her own racing plan and had been helping with 10K training periodically, so when she found me early in the race she decided to help pull me to my goal. There were a few times where I wanted to sneak off into the bushes when she wasn’t looking, just to fail quietly on my own, but I stayed strong and stayed with her the whole time. The sun was rough, I am NOT a hot weather runner. I opted to throw the water on my head/face to cool off at the aid stations and just drink the water I was carrying with me. Doing that probably saved me because that heat was zapping me of my will to live, much less my will to run.

You know I pushed it hard when I don’t sprint at the finish…I always save enough to sprint at the finish. But not today. It took everything I had just to hold my 9’ish pace to the finish-line, knowing if I slowed a tiny bit I’d miss my goal. My former coach and another running friend just ran with me and cheered me into the finish, reminding me to stay strong and to hang in there because if I did – I’d have it in the bag.

Official time: 55:28.

BOOM goes the dynamite.


One Funny Note…

Remember when I talked about how you use social media to engage, not just promote your business/events/causes? photo (2)And we met the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center “mascot” of sorts – Buzz Huntsville? Well, I suggested that he find a runner to tag along with for the Cotton Row since it’s a huge event in this city and then subtly hinted that I’d be willing to give him a ride. Well, they trusted me with the task! I even gave him a race bib and everything. It was hysterical. They probably didn’t realize how seriously I would take the job, BUT I TOOK IT VERY SERIOUSLY.

The first time I met Buzz, I PR’d a 5K. Today I PR’d Cotton Row 10K. I’d say this little guy is my good luck charm!