Birkie 2015, here we come!

a few months ago i met a new friend. we initially met and bonded over a mutual love for the Ironman Wisconsin finish line. (well, that’s how i remember it…and what’s not to love about the Ironman Wisconsin finish line?) flash forward to November -a few months later along with a few messages and ultimately a handful of pottery classes later, with winter upon us – we were both deeply immersed in wedging some clay at the start of class and my new friend turned to me and said, “shayla, what are you doing this weekend – saturday and sunday? do you have plans?”

i replied that i was busy friday, but my inquiring mind also asked, “why? what’s up?”

and then she quickly responded, “do you want to take a trip up north to kick off our Birkie training?”


you see, she and i had briefly talked about doing the Birkie a while back and then another friend of mine mentioned that she was new to skiing, but also signed up – so i bit the bullet and committed to skiing the Birkie in 2015.

my brief history with cross country skiing is as follows: in 2010 i decided to spend a decent amount of money on a pretty good skate ski setup. i skied a fair amount that winter, a little bit in 2011-2012, and very few times over the past two winters. some of it was cold (read: me being wimpy) and some of it was life (read: excuses), but i actually realized over the past two winters that i really enjoy being outside and being active in all of Wisconsin’s seasons – winter included. and what better way to get out and enjoy it than to ski an ultramarathon event? (yep, 51km!)

so, after a day or maybe two i let my friend know that yes, i was indeed in for a mini ski adventure weekend!

we hit the road early(ish) saturday morning towards Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP). admittedly, i knew we were headed to a place called Ironwood but i didn’t realize until we were there that it was in another state. oh, details…

when we arrived, driving down back country roads to the trails we were greeted with this:

IMG_4603a snow-covered winter wonderland! i think at one point we both turned to face one another and somewhat giddy, said, “WOW!”

after pulling into the packed place and some fun banter with the guy working the gate, we quickly (ok, me pokily) changed and headed out for some solid ski time. my first 20 minutes were close to awful. i hadn’t waxed my skis since February and i felt like a fish out of water or some other appropriate analogy. after watching me struggle, my awesome friend swapped skis with me (so i could glide a bit and attempt to keep up). we toured around a bunch of trails and i only wiped out once. it was a perfectly balmy 35-degree day and we ended up logging at least 10 miles.

IMG_4612here we are early into day 1 – fresh faced and obviously excited for the adventure ahead.

we soon called it a day, but not before snapping some photos of the amazing scenery:

IMG_4605we spent the remainder of our saturday relaxing, eating dinner with the locals in nearby Hurley, Wisconsin, and each enjoying glasses of the best $3.50 wine i’ve ever had.

sunday morning we were up again relatively early – well, early enough to grab some breakfast before arriving promptly at 9am when the trails were slated to open. sunday morning the weather was 20 degrees colder. we were sitting pretty at about 15 degrees (with a bit of a windchill), so we both bundled up a bit more ready to tackle a few more hours before heading back to Madison. my friend skated with me a bit and also got the opportunity to laugh at me as i attempted to climb and descend some of the biggest hills on the trails. let’s just say that my descents especially need some work. when i lost my balance i simply tried to kind of sit down or bail softly to the side. after we finished that first 5k or so i said i would be done with hills for the day. we skied a bit more – parting ways once or twice and i snapped this (not fantastic) selfie at some point. at least you can see how much more frosty i was on sunday than when we were out saturday.

IMG_4609then, a bit later, after a break in the warming house, my friend switched to her classic skis, we went out, and voila, i could finally keep up! i snapped another picture as i logged my final miles for the day!



all in all, i think i logged a bit over 20 miles in the two days we were out there. i’ve definitely got a bit of work to do, but i feel a lot better knowing that i successfully started building a skiing base.

thank you Ironwood and Hurley for the loads of snow. thank you body for holding up for me to log some awesome first miles of the season. and thank you friend for asking me to take this adventure with you into the north woods to kickoff our 2015 Birkie training! really, here goes…


my favorite treadmill workout.

between my run streak and the weather lately, i’ve recently become reacquainted with the treadmill at work. i love that my office has a workout room – even though i don’t utilize it 90% of the year. in fact, in 2012 i tried to absolutely not use it at all. and i think i probably kept my use of it to less than 10 times that year. wow.

nonetheless, while trying to squeeze in at least one mile as the weather turned truly into winter during the month of December, i hopped back on. and while the first run there was just a mile, i think the next time on was two and then i decided that i had a half hour (our TM’s at work have a 30 minute limit) so i’d better use my time wisely.

it brought me back to a workout we had done in college when i was rowing. well, we would frequently do something like 3 X 10′ – 4/3/2/1 (minutes). each time that interval was up, you would change speed/effort.

on the treadmill, so far, my workout has gone something like this: 1/2/3/4/5/4/3/2/1 minutes. i start out usually, at about 6.5 mph and bump it up one each time the interval changes. i realized that gets me just about a minute short of exactly three miles. not too shabby.

yesterday, the weather was like this:


and ok, that’s not even “the weather,” just a photo of how cold it was outside (before the windchill) on my way to work. oof!

so midday today, i hit up the ‘mill again – my boss was in the workout room getting his sweat on, too. i still can’t decide if that’s awkward or not. i am so used to talking to people when we’re working out in the same space (ex: running together) that i think i found it awkward. anyway, our department wins today for working out.

yup, i made that up.

nonetheless, i digress. i love this workout and i was thinking today that i should start trying to bump up the intensity a little – either by starting a bump or two higher or by having back-to-back 5 minute intervals in the middle (rounding it out to exactly 30 minutes of work). what do you think?

do you have any favorite treadmill workouts you do to save your sanity? oh, and up next, lifting…stay tuned!


cat’s outta the bag.

well friends, you heard it here first…

actually, you’re hearing it right now for the first time.

just before my head hit the pillow (the pillow it barely left all weekend as I was laid up with some awful virus) on sunday night, I did it. I registered for the Madison Marathon.

ok, no gasps, really. I love this city. I love it in the fall. and truth be told, I needed a little kick in the ass ahem, motivation to help me find my running groove again.

the past, let’s say 6 months or so….have left me straying ever so slightly from my original love. and honestly, I want her back. I am not too proud to say I missed you, running. I’m not too big to admit that I left you hanging. I knew it all along and while I’ve given you just enough attention to keep this flame we have flickering going, I realize now that I’m not the same without you. Nope, I guess distance really does make the heart grow finder. Oh, and relationships like ours, why yes, they take work. and running, please remember this: you are worth it.

it was funny that I was lying in bed all weekend ill. ok, funny in a “this is a sign, shay, to get your @$$ in gear and to treat your body better and to start prioritizing the most important things.”

all funnies aside, on sunday night, I recommitted – to running and to really being the best me there is.

oh, and some gorgeous new Mizunos showed up at my door friday afternoon and I haven’t even gotten them out for their maiden voyage yet. embarrassing.

I really do know how to rub salt in a wound….


on the rebound.

i have struggled with my running for, oh…the past…maybe 6 months.

my achilles ached. the area around it was angry. i felt lost. none of it was working – neither my emotional self or my physical self could get it together and just run. i began questioning myself. and feeling bad about myself. i didn’t like running and i didn’t like who i was last fall.

so i took some time off. i disengaged. from running and a lot from social media. i attended to other areas of my life, too.

but the thing is, today i got up at 5:45am and i ran. my foray into morning running this morning didn’t seem so foreign. i got some inserts for my shoes yesterday and for the very first time in ages, my on-going pain wasn’t.

i felt renewed.

and the thing i realized during that run this morning and then today while i was starving in the afternoon at work is that i love running for what it is. and i don’t need to ask for more or feel bad for neglecting it.

today’s return reminded me why i run. it showed me who i am and what’s important in my life.

i run in the morning when the streets are still relatively quiet – and waking up. i enjoy the calm and the birds chirping. i love to hear my feet hitting the ground. the smiles and silent glances between strangers –  even thought we’re alike in that we’re out there doing our thing.

that’s what running means to me. i’m on the rebound here. i don’t care so much where i’ve been. the point is that i’m back – on track – to where i’m going.

july: a recap.

did i say a month ago that one of my goals was to run everyday? 

i can’t remember.

i ran 20 of 31 days. not too shabby. but i can do better!

another thing i know is that i set out to run at least 100 miles and i did it. 125 miles in july. finally – back on track!

i’m a little behind where i was a year ago – in terms of monthly mileage, but i’m also a way different athlete, so that doesn’t make me too anxious.

i guess it is time to set some goals for august, huh?

how about this:

run 25 of 31 days

go to yoga at least 5 times

do 10′ of core work 15 times this month

i’d be lying to you if i didn’t mention that i’ve been pretty inspired by the olympics. as i watched my friend Kristin row in her repechage a few days ago, after waking myself up at 3:15 and then 4:15 am to see her live, i got teary-eyed. i’m feel pretty lucky to know someone as awesome as Kristin and i’m also inspired to keep charging forward as best i can toward my own goals.

some days i wonder if i should or could start rowing again?

that might just be the olympic-high talking though.

but all that said, i’m fired up.

from my own focus on running to frisbee to committing to getting up to cheer on my friend from afar – hoping she can feel the Wisco love from across the big pond…i’m so ready to go.

let’s do this.

doing life.

i am so sorry that i’ve been a little absent from the interwebs this week. the last time i wrote to you from beautiful door county, I was about to start a fun-filled few days with family and friends.

my weekend was excellent, but since getting back to madison at 9pm Sunday night i haven’t really had a chance to sit down and reboot and i actually came home with some sort of stomach issues (a bug, perhaps?) that kept me from running for most of the past week. nonetheless, i’m glad to say that i’m back. and i am here. and while the next few weeks will be busy, busy i’m going to try to be better about posting because it is a good time for me to sit down and get myself grounded a little.

i ran today and i’ve determined that at least a little of what’s been ailing my stomach is coffee. i don’t know if it is bad beans or if i just need to cut back, but i’m going to take a bit of a break from it and see what happens.

and even though i didn’t spend tons of time online last week, i did manage to stumble upon a few athletic-related pieces of awesomeness that i wanted to share with you all.

first, the olympics started (!!!!!) friday. i’m pumped because i actually KNOW a few people competing and it’s all really inspiring and somewhere i found this video (probably on twitter) and it is just too good not to share.

am i right?

the other thing i found, actually, while i was at work perusing news clips like i do many days of the week was the story of a woman who set out weeks ago to circumnavigate lake michigan on her own. her cause was to raise money for breast cancer – specifically for the program she started in chicago to help women recover from breast cancer.

i had heard about this program in the past and a similar one was started here in madison recently. i felt a kinship with Jenn who was a collegiate rower – having the same varsity coach as me at different times and different schools. and also, one of my rowing teammates’ mom is a cox’n for the crew in chicago. so, when i saw the headline and the story, i couldn’t believe my eyes. a week ago today, Jenn was attacked and sexually assaulted on her boat. she got to safety and she has decided to continue on her journey. i don’t have words for the awesomeness that is Jenn and her spirit and resolve and i don’t know her in person, but what i do know is that she need just under $48,000 to reach her fundraising goal.

so, i encourage you to checkout her page, Row 4 Row, to read the story, and to donate if you can (every $10 helps!).

and last, i’m hoping to get back into my real training plan again tomorrow. i had high hopes for today. i went to a local running store to get myself setup with some new shoes. and you see, i did end up purchasing a pair but i had to place a special order (for a better color…and YES, i do care about stuff like that). anyway, the delayed gratification is nearly killing me. the order will go through tomorrow and in the meantime, i’ll just post a picture of them so i can come back to it easily and drool over it until they arrive.

dances with dirt devil’s lake.

it’s an @$$-kicking good time!

oh, and i went home saturday night and woke up sunday morning feeling much like i did after my 50 miler last fall.


but before i get ahead of myself, i’m going to go ahead and start from the beginning.

DWD Devil’s Lake, 2011

i signed up for the marathon distance of dances with dirt at devil’s lake after finding out that the relay event had been cancelled. you see, last year just two weeks (and a few days) after i lost my apartment to a fire, i joined a couple of women who i hardly knew and a couple more who i didn’t know at all for a 100k relay. it was my first trail running experience. it was hot and sweaty and hard. and i found a sense of belonging there that day. i loved every second.

so this year, we were pretty excited to get a relay team together again…and then the organizers cancelled that portion. boo!

so in the meantime, my friend Angie and I decided to go for the marathon distance. to tell you the truth, i can’t remember how we decided to run 26.2, but we did. i hadn’t run over 14ish miles since before having surgery and taking many weeks off of running in late april, so my expectations for this race were minimal:

  1. i wanted to finish
  2. i wanted to run strong
  3. i wanted to NOT majorly injure myself

and if those were my only performance measures, i was most definitely successful.

but naturally, i decided early on (sometime last week) that i wanted to go out there and kick my own butt. there was no taper to be found. i ran over 20 miles leading up to race day.

in the grand scheme of things it was just another race. an excellent opportunity to get a solid training run in. it was a day to test my limits.

when i was out there on saturday there were two things that kept going through my mind. they were “constant forward motion” and “be kind and gracious with every step you take.”

i wore a bracelet on saturday that was given to me by someone whom i look up to. she is incredibly kind and generous and she lives her life in a way that makes the people around her want to be the best they can be. so i wore the bracelet as a reminder to keep going-to keep my goals in mind-and to do what i was doing (running MY race) with the utmost integrity.

i met Angie just before 6am near the start line. we chatted and used the bathroom and tried to stretch out the nerves and anxiousness. at the call for “five minutes to go!” we headed to the starting line. and before i knew it, we were off. i found myself wishing i had given Angie a hug or a high-five, but i was sending her lots of good energy, hoping that she’d feel it.

the start of a trail race is slow (which i need), which can be irritating, but i thought it a good thing on saturday because i have a tendency to let myself get too excited and take off otherwise. once i got into the groove and people around me started jockeying for positions and passing one another, i got the nerve to do it, too.

i remembered last year’s race and how i was such a newbie and wasn’t sure how to call out that i wanted to pass. another thing about trail running, especially in longer distances, is that nobody cares. we’ve all got trek ahead of us and so as long as you’re not being a huge jerk it’s all good.

i love the atmosphere.

the first hour was great. i took some gel a little after the hour mark and marched on. somewhere after mile 9 (steinke basin) as i began my ascent to the south bluff (at devil’s lake state park) i found myself power-walking up this giant incline. midway up the hill i picked up a guy. a man. maybe he picked me up. we might never know who picked up whom. but that’s just a side-story.

but lo-and-behold, we would end up running almost all of the next 16 (or maybe a bit fewer) miles together, alternating leaders and telling jokes and trying not to gross one another out too much.

i stubbed the toes on each of my feet at least three times each VERY HARD. i was sure i would have bloodied them when i finally got to the finish line. i also managed to stay upright until one unfortunate fall in the last two or three miles. i didn’t fall over the bluff (a real concern of my new running buddy – that guy i picked up somewhere in the 10th mile) and i finished under my goal time of 5 hours!

but once again, let me remind you, (ok, mostly i’m reminding myself) that i felt much like i did after that 50 miler just hours later and on sunday morning.

but most importantly, i had FUN!

man, oh man is trail running fun. i’ve been toying with the idea for the past few months of running another 50 miler, this time on the trails, this Fall and saturday sealed the deal.

click here to register!

on saturday, september 15th, i will be running my 2nd 50 miler at The North Face Endurance Challenge – Madison. (pssst…YOU SHOULD TOO!)

i went to the finish line of the Madison event last year and it was amazing. i finished my own 50 miler a little over a month later.

i remember being totally overcome with exhaustion and elation at the end and it was on the roads, so i am looking forward to a new challenge.

over the next few months, i’m going to use this blog to write about my training, in general, as well as my preparations for The North Face Endurance Challenge.

i’ve heard that the Madison course is great and i am dying to check it out for myself. in the meantime though, i hope i can tell you a little about what i’m doing to prepare. i also want to take some time talking about the things i did last time and the things i am doing now and throughout the course of it all-i hope that i can share with you a little bit of my philosophy about running.

but for now, i’ll leave you with this:

my second time at Dances With Dirt Devil’s Lake was awesome and i would recommend it to anyone.