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Hiking Mount Whitney

I don’t even know how to talk about my recent experience hiking to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet. It was amazing, challenging, surreal, and, in a word: epic. It ranks as one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever faced, and that’s saying a lot after running eight full marathons. As my husband Mike said, I wouldn’t call it “fun,” although it was euphoric when we reached the top. The problem is that when you reach the top, you still have 11 miles to hike back down to the bottom. I’m glad we did it. I’m glad we learned some things along the way.

This adventure all started when my oldest daughter Shannon declared her desire to climb Mount Whitney (and then graduate to climbing all of the seven summits — the highest peaks on all seven continents, which she set her sights on after reading the wonderful book No Summit Out of Sight (Amazon affiliate link, but I highly recommend this book for girls and boys ages 10 and up and all adults)).

Road to Whitney Portal

The road to Whitney Portal — mixed emotions as we faced hiking that mountain range!

I was intimidated by the thought of climbing Mt. Whitney, and rightly so. We had climbed Mt. Baldy twice (10,064 feet), including a night hike to see the Perseid meteor shower and watch the sunrise on the peak. We hiked Mt. San Jacinto (10,833 feet). And we would have hiked the other of the big three peaks in Southern California — Mt. San Gorgonio — if the entire wilderness area had not been closed due to fire damage (it’s since been reopened). We ran the Yosemite Half Marathon as part of our training. We attended an REI class (no affiliation) as part of our preparation. I read the book One Best Hike: Mount Whitney. We entered the lottery in February/March to get a permit to climb the mountain, but we didn’t win a permit (only 35% of applications are successful). Finally as the date neared and other people canceled their reservations, Mike secured three overnight permits to hike the Mt. Whitney Trail (and then we showed up at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to trade for a same-day permit to enter the area on Monday, August 27 and summit on my 47th birthday, Tuesday, August 28).

Mount Whitney view from parking lot

The intimidating view from the parking lot at the Mount Whitney trail head at Whitney Portal.

After securing our permit at 11:30, getting lunch and driving up to Whitney Portal, we hit the trail at 1 p.m.

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Mike, me and Shannon on the trail

We hiked the first 3.8 miles slowly to start, knowing that the elevation gain from 9,000 feet at the Whitney Portal to 10,400 feet at Outpost Camp could be hard on people coming from sea level. We reached Outpost Camp around 4 p.m. and felt great. In retrospect, we should have camped there for the night, but we figured we might as well continue on to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet another 2.3 miles up the trail. (In hindsight, if we had had more time, we should have acclimated at 10,000+ feet for 1-2 days before heading out on the trail — we didn’t realize how much we would be affected by altitude sickness). Unfortunately, the next two challenging, technical miles took 2.5 hours, and we ended up stopping just short of Trail Camp to camp at Consultation Lake, a gorgeous spot that’s not nearly as crowded and I highly recommend, as long as you have the right tent and sleeping bags to withstand any wind and cold at that location.

Consultation Lake hiker August 2018

Shannon at Consultation Lake on the Mt. Whitney Trail

We set up camp alongside the lake. It was cold at 6:30 p.m. and we were all feeling the effects of mild altitude sickness — headache and slow moving.

tent at Consultation Lake

Our solo campsite at Consultation Lake as the sun set on the mountain range.

In our altitude sickness haze, Shannon and I thought Consultation Lake was actually called “Consolation Lake,” as in the lake was the consolation prize if you did not actually make it to the peak of Mount Whitney! It was such a gorgeous spot to camp and I’m glad we stopped there before hiking another half a mile to Trail Camp.

We slept fitfully at altitude and waited until sunrise to get going.

Sunrise consultation lake

Sunrise at Consultation Lake, looking back toward Lone Pine.

Moon set over Mt. Whitney range

Moon setting over the mountain range at dawn.

In retrospect we should have awoken at 4 or 5 a.m. and gotten on the trail. We thought we’d have plenty of time to hike 5.4 miles to the summit by 1:30 p.m. (the recommended turn-around time if you haven’t made it to the summit).

We stopped at Trail Camp to filter some water for the ascent. A clever chipmunk outwitted us and snuck into one of the open back packs, which led to the best quote of the hike: “A chipmunk stole my birth control pills!”

Chipmunk at Trail Camp I guess the little critter had been conditioned to learn that food comes in plastic containers, and the white plastic pack looked as good as any other food. We managed to move some rocks and rescue the pills before the guy had a chance to gnaw his way through the pack! We also saw marmots and a pika on the trail!

The mountain range became more and more intimidating and impressive.

Whitney range

Impressive mountain range with amazing deep blue skies.

Whitney over Trail Camp

View from Trail Camp

On the way up the infamous 99 switchbacks, we saw icicles on the rocks and pink snow pack on the mountainside.

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We could see back to Consultation Lake as we gained elevation.

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One of my favorite parts of the hike was just after the Trail Crest, when you enter Sequoia National Park and look over parts of the park that you can only see from the Mt. Whitney Trail or John Muir Trail.

Trail Crest Mt. Whitney

Shannon and me at Trail Crest, overlooking Sequoia National Park.

Finally at 1 p.m. we reached the summit, 14,505 feet.

Mt. Whitney summit plaque

Me, Shannon and Mike by the plaque at the summit.

I asked everyone at the summit (about 10 people) to sing Happy Birthday to me. Mike gave me a special birthday gift, a Mt. Whitney survey medallion to hang on the Christmas tree. Shannon took this photo of me with a sign that happened to be made by another Angela who was also turning 47 in another two weeks!

Mt. Whitney summit hiker

Mount Whitney, 14,505′, August 28, 2018

We were the 88-90th hikers of the day to sign the log book at the Mt. Whitney summit shelter.

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There are no photos of us hiking the 11 miles down the mountain. We reached Consultation Lake again around 5 p.m. and packed up camp. Unfortunately, I would have liked to have been done with the hike right about then. We still had another 5.6 miles to go, though. It went considerably slower than we anticipated, due to continuing altitude sickness and just plain tired legs. The problem was that we went slower due to altitude sickness (both to try to prevent it and to fight it off) and that meant more time on our legs. I think we trained adequately for the hike but would have been much happier had we acclimated for a day or two at 10,000+ feet before starting the hike (given that we live at sea level). But we only had two days to do it (thank you Grandma for watching our other two girls for two days while we hiked!) and we did the best we could with the time we had. I’m still sore a week later (calves mainly) but am back to working out and have my sights set on San Gorgonio and Half Dome next!

Have you hiked Mt. Whitney or is it on your bucket list? What other hikes are your highest and/or most recommended? Whitney was amazing and I’ve never seen the sky look so blue. I’d say go for it if you’ve always wanted to climb it, just make sure to do your homework and spend time acclimating first if you need it!

Did you ever sign up for a race months in advance, and then those months flew by and you wondered what you were thinking when you signed up for that race? That happened to me when I signed up for the Yosemite Half Marathon.

Yosemite Half Marathon 2018 logo

Had I known months ago that May was going to be so busy for me, I wouldn’t have signed up. And yet, I’m so glad I did, because I loved the race and I loved spending Mother’s Day weekend with my husband and three daughters in Yosemite National Park!

On Friday afternoon we drove seven hours up to the historic Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel) inside the park. We used our fourth grade “Every Kid in a Park” national park pass to get into the park for free, saving $30, hooray!

Wawona Hotel Big Trees Lodge porch view

After sitting out on the 2nd floor porch and admiring the night sky, we got to bed by 10:30 p.m. and got a whole 4.5 hours of sleep before our race day alarm went off at 2:50 a.m.! I was running the race with my husband Mike and oldest daughter, 16-year-old Shannon. We needed to leave by 3:20 a.m. to make the 35-minute drive to the shuttle bus parking lot at Sierra Star in Oakhurst by 4 a.m. There wasn’t a coffee maker in our hotel room but thankfully the Big Trees Lodge staff agreed to have the night manager make us some coffee at 3 a.m.! He insisted that we take a whole thermos and a cup of cream! I was so appreciative. We ate muffins and bananas in the car on the drive.

We arrived at Sierra Star by 4 a.m. but faced a line of cars waiting to park in the field. It took 15 minutes or so for us to get parked. I was happy to see a row of porta potties set up in the field, along with very nice buses equipped with toilets. We got on a bus by 4:20 a.m. for the ride to the starting line. Unfortunately, our bus driver got lost, we took a 25-minute detour out of our way, and the ride ended up taking 1 hour 20 minutes total. I didn’t mind waiting on a warm bus (and Mike and Shannon both slept), but we got to the starting area around 5:40 a.m. and still had to pick up our bibs and drop our gear before the 6 a.m. start! (Can you hear my famous last words on Friday night, “Oh, we don’t need to go to the expo at Bass Lake Recreation Area; we’ll have an hour at the starting line to pick up our bibs”?) I waited in line to pick up our bibs while Mike hit the porta potties, then he grabbed a gear bag for drop-off at the starting line and we rushed over there with literally 45 seconds to spare. The race was chip timed so it would have been absolutely fine to miss the 6 a.m. start for the first heat (unless you were competing to be a top finisher and wanted an overall award based on your gun time — that wasn’t us!), but we were eager to go.

Race day weather could not have been better with clear sunny skies and temperatures in the low 40s at the start and warming up as the time progressed and the course descended in elevation to the finish at Bass Lake Recreation Area. I think the temperature must have been in the high 60s when we finished just after 8 a.m. I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and wish I would have worn some gloves but my husband and daughter were perfectly fine in shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt (go figure).

The course runs outside the national park itself but has its own spectacular scenery. I loved running through the woods on the dirt fire road for the first five miles of the course. It’s not an “easy” course by any means — the road was rutted and rocky in places but I thought that made it interesting and fun and the miles clicked by faster than any other race I’ve done. The mountain dogwoods were in full bloom and were so beautiful scattered among the pine trees. The only problem (and it wasn’t really a problem) was that my Garmin lost reception for about 0.4 miles among the trees so it wasn’t recording my mileage or split times accurately, saying we were running a slower pace than we actually were. Then we hit a downhill section from miles 6-10 on a paved road. My daughter and I both loved that section best. We cranked out mile splits in the low 8s and it felt easy. Then we hit the flat and rolling section from miles 10-13.1 and it got tough, as any half marathon gets tough at that point. The race director had warned us that we would hear the finish line across Bass Lake when we still had a ways to go, so we were prepared for that. I loved running in to the finish at the lake. Shannon and I crossed the finish line together at 2:04:50 and 2:04:51, earning her 2nd place in her 15-19 age group out of 9 runners! Unfortunately, in the rush at the starting line to get my bib, use the porta potties, and drop my gear bag, I had pinned on my husband’s bib instead of mine! So as I crossed the finish line, a very confused announcer read out, “And here are Shannon White and, um, Michael White, from La Habra!” Yeah. Oops. Thank goodness I had not run fast enough to qualify for an age group award and the correction of my time did not mess up the awards for the first five to finish in the 45-49 age group. Mike finished a few minutes later after a couple of porta potty stops along the course.

At the finish we received a huge, really nice medal with an image of Yosemite on it, along with a cold protein shake (choice of three flavors) and a box of post-run and hiking snacks.

Yosemite Half Marathon 2018 finishers medals

Me, Mike and Shannon in line for the shuttle bus back to the parking area. You can see Bass Lake behind us. Mike has on the technical shirt given out at the race. And yes, Shannon is wearing my Kappa Kappa Gamma sweatshirt from 1989!

If you wanted to make the weekend even more challenging you could participate in one or more of the official race “club hikes” and earn an extra medallion for taking those hikes and sending in photos. Instead, we rented bikes and road around the park with our younger children.

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Mike and my younger daughters even braved the 45-degree water in the river.

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We also drove up to Glacier Point, stopping at this lookout for my 13-year-old ballerina to pose in an arabesque.

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It was sunny and gorgeous in the valley but cold with even a few snow flurries at Glacier Point! The cool thing is that Mike and I cross-country skied to Glacier Point in 1998 before we had any children. It felt surreal to re-visit that spot 20 years later with our three daughters.

I usually do not do the same race twice, but I’d do the Yosemite Half again for sure. If you want to do it, sign up early enough to decide if you want to reserve a spot to camp at the finish line at Bass Lake, and then train on some trails and downhill runs to get ready for the course. Decide if you’re going to run it for fun or run it to race, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Have you visited Yosemite? Have you run this or any other Vacation Races half marathons?

San Diego Tourist Run

First things first — happy 46th birthday to me! My day started off right with coffee brought to me by my husband at 6:30 this morning — French press with a splash of almond milk, just how I like it! I’ve snuggled my dog Roxy and now I’ve got one of my three cats — Willow — helping me type this post. Mainly the day will involve school drop offs and pickups (with a bonus “hey Mama I forgot my math homework on the counter, can you please drop it off for me?” drive to the junior high school. I know there are people who refuse to drop off forgotten homework because they believe kids need to learn things the hard way, but I’m one of those people who is happy to drop off the homework if I have time to do so, with one little catch — it will cost my kid an equivalent amount of time in chores around the house. If it takes me 30 minutes to drop off your homework, you owe me 30 minutes of unloading the dishwasher and emptying all the trash cans in the house! Frankly I think I’m getting the better end of the deal!)

What I really wanted to tell you about though is my quick trip to San Diego this weekend to see my brother-in-law and his family. I got to meet my 7-month-old niece for the first time and play with my two-and-a-half year old nephew. And of course while I was there, I took advantage of my favorite way to explore a city — I went for an hour-long run around Point Loma out to Shelter Island and back.

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I happened upon a short section of trail on Point Loma with beautiful views of San Diego Bay.

I loved that I was out for a run at 10 a.m. and yet it was overcast and cool with a slight breeze! I wish I were there now, given that it’s going to be over 100 degrees for several days this week in Southern California.

I ran without a watch and just meandered around town, enjoying the sights like these gorgeous ruffly blossoms on a tree:

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Anyone know what kind of tree this is? I want to grow one!

And here’s a sight you don’t see every day — two women setting up for belly dancing lessons under this awesome concrete sculpture:

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While I enjoyed the overcast skies on my run, I was glad the sun came out so we could enjoy sailing on a boat on San Diego Bay.

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Hello, gorgeous! The view of downtown San Diego and the bay from the balcony of the house where we stayed on Point Loma.

We saw many sea lions and seals hanging out on the buoys in the bay, and got a front row seat to an impromptu air show as fighter jets took off one after the other from the naval air station.

It was a whirlwind trip, driving down Saturday night, running and sailing on Sunday during the day, and driving home late Sunday night, that makes the whole weekend seem surreal. Good thing I’ve got the pictures to prove it happened. I sure am lucky and feeling blessed on my birthday this year!

Do you run when you are on vacation or do you take a “vacation” from running when you travel? 

 

 

 

Besides running, one of the hobbies I am passionate about is gardening! The problem is that passion does not necessarily translate into talent. This is the first year that I managed to dial in the formula for a truly successful tomato crop (dig at least six inches into the top soil and mix in compost in a 1:1 ratio with the soil, then add a little EB Stone Organic Sure Start Fertilizer (affiliate link). About six weeks later or when the fruit first starts to set, sprinkle on a little more fertilizer.) And voila:

tomato row

Plants so tall and laden with fruit I had to tie the row up with twine!

I usually harvest the tomatoes before they’re fully ripe and let them ripen on the counter, just so the pill bugs and other critters in my garden don’t get at the tomatoes before I do. So you can see tomatoes in various stages of ripening in this food art arrangement my 9-year-old made the other day with the harvest:

Food art harvest

Yes those are mini pumpkins, harvested in July because they grew as renegades in my compost pile. The harvest also includes lemons, limes, apples, and red and green grapes.

I’ve been using up a lot of tomatoes with this super easy blender salsa recipe from Yummy Mummy Kitchen, but I also wanted to try to make fresh tomato sauce for the first time ever. I ended up adapting and combining several recipes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for what I consider a delicious fresh tomato sauce with garlic, onions, and fresh herbs.

Read on to see how to turn this:

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Into this:

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Fresh Tomato Sauce Recipe

Prep time: 20-30 minutes depending on how aggressive you are peeling the tomatoes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups ripe fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped)
1 large yellow onion (chopped)
4 T olive oil
10 cloves garlic (minced)
5 whole bay leaves (optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
2 T fresh rosemary (chopped) (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I used 1/2 t each)

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet (if you use a cast iron pan, bonus points and bonus iron for you — the acidity of the tomatoes will leach some iron out of the pan) on medium high heat.

2. Brown the onion for 2 minutes, then add the garlic for one more minute.

3. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and bay leaves if desired. Heat to bubbling, then turn down to low to simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add the basil, parsley and rosemary as desired and simmer just to warm. Remove bay leaves.

5. If you want a smooth sauce, let the sauce cool and then puree it in a blender, or transfer the hot sauce to a large pot and use a stick blender to puree.

Makes 8 servings. Recipe doubles easily.

My husband Mike and I have a long history of crazy outdoor sports adventures over our 29 years together (next year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our first date as high school sweethearts!) Riding mountain bikes 17.5 miles around the single track Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney Recreation Area in Michigan? No problem! Snowshoeing up Mount Kearsarge in the White Mountains in New Hampshire? We were back in time for a delicious dinner at the hotel. Flying in a glider over Oahu? Um, yes, but maybe not so many acrobatic tricks? Cross-country skiing all 21 miles roundtrip to Glacier Point and back in Yosemite National Park? I cross-country skied as a kid in the midwest, surely I could make it? (We did make it, but I have never been so sore in my life – worse than post-marathon soreness). Scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean off Kauai? No need for prior experience! Waterskiing behind our very own jet boat on Lake Mohave on the Colorado River? The cold water took my breath away but we loved it. Riding 34 miles on the Kal-Haven rail trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven in one day, staying overnight at a hotel and riding 34 miles back the next day? The hotel shuttle driver thought for sure we would be begging for a ride back and he could charge us an exorbitant fare, but the bike ride back the second day might have been easier than the first day’s ride!

So when Mike suggested that we hike Mt. Baldy (more formally known as Mount San Antonio) in the dark at 1 a.m. so we could view the Perseid meteor shower and then watch the sunrise from the peak, I readily agreed. We had hiked Mt. Baldy once before in the daytime in August 2015 and even dragged along our daughters who were 7, 10, and 13 at the time (pro tip (actually, crazy amateur tip): 7 is a little young to hike Mt. Baldy – not only is it a long day trip, but I had to keep a literal death grip on my 7-year-old’s hand to keep her from slipping off the Devil’s Backbone and other treacherous sections of the trail). Mt. Baldy stands out as the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains.

I set my alarm for 11:30 p.m. and tried unsuccessfully to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. We got out the door by midnight and arrived at 1 a.m. at Manker Campground and the trailhead (we chose to walk up the fire access road to the Ski Hut Trail, across Baldy Bowl to the summit, then loop back down across Devil’s Backbone to the Baldy Notch, where you can take a chairlift down to save yourself four miles of hiking). The hike up from the trailhead to the peak is four-and-a-half miles but we managed to add nearly half a mile when we lost the trail in the dark a couple of times. With snack stops and meteor-viewing breaks, it took us four hours to reach the summit at 10,064 feet. We had to hang out there for an hour before the sunrise, and unfortunately it was windy and cold at the peak. This was the view for the entire hour before the sun rose up over the horizon:

Pre-dawn on Mount Baldy summit

And here is the sunrise at about 6 a.m.:

Mt. Baldy sunrise

We were grateful to see the sun come up not so much for the colorful sunrise display as for the warmth the sun brought!

At 6:40 a.m. we started our descent along the Devil’s Backbone. There are some hazardous sections along the ridge, but they seemed easy compared to the hike up in the dark!

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My 15-year-old and me on the Devil’s Backbone trail

At certain points it felt like we were on another planet with the sparse, rocky terrain above the tree line.

Devil's Backbone trail

We reached the lodge at Baldy Notch three miles later in about 1 hour 50 minutes. We paid $15 each for a one-way ticket down the chairlift (not that they checked that we paid, but I was happy to be honest about it). Then we had a half-mile walk back to our car at the trailhead. We ended up hiking a total of about nine miles in six-and-a-half hours. We did several things right (took maps of the trail, appropriate hiking boots, packs, headlamps with extra batteries, and plenty of water, juice, Gatorade and snacks), and learned that we should prepare better for severe cold and winds on the summit.

If you want to do this hike, either in the daytime or at night, do your homework by reading all about the trails on hiking sites like Trail to Peak, and be sure to check the weather conditions not for the village of Mt. Baldy but for the summit itself! This hike is best done in summer when all the snow has melted, but serious mountaineers do attempt it in the winter. Sadly, there have been several deaths on Mount Baldy in the past few winters.

Stay tuned for more posts on mountaineering, because my 15-year-old and I are training to hike Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states) next summer! We are taking an informational class at REI (not an affiliate link) in September to learn how to apply for a hiking permit and what exactly we need to do to get ready. And as part of our training, we are hoping to run a marathon together in the spring (maybe the Eugene Marathon? Most marathons require the entrants to be at least 16 years of age so we are looking at races in late April or early May 2018).

Have you hiked Mt. Baldy or Mt. Whitney? Ever run the Eugene Marathon? Thoughts and opinions please!

 

My family has embarked on a mission to visit all 59 U.S. national parks. Most recently we visited Kings Canyon National Park over Memorial Day weekend.

Grizzly Falls

Grizzly Falls flowing strong with all the water from the melting snow pack in May 2017

There isn’t enough time before my oldest daughter leaves for college in three years (what?!) but we’re going to do our best to make progress down the list (next up is camping in Channel Islands National Park). If you’re interested in doing the same thing, here is a handy resource I’ve created to help you mark your progress — a free downloadable spreadsheet listing all 59 national parks by state (choose the printable PDF or Excel spreadsheet):

U.S. National Parks by State PDF

U.S. National Parks by State Excel

Have you visited many U.S. national parks? What’s your favorite? I have visited 20 national parks but just seven with all three of my children so far (the older girls have visited more but my youngest has visited 7 parks in her almost 9 years of age). My favorite so far? Hard to pick! It doesn’t seem fair to compare. But I do love archaeology and I’m looking forward to taking my girls to Mesa Verde National Park someday soon.

 

First, some quick updates:

  1. Boston: An American Running Story. Lots of people have expressed disappointment that they missed the premiere screening of Boston: An American Running Story (read my review here) and have asked where they can see it. Screenings were just announced for May 15 and 21 in select theaters in Canada, and the producers are working on additional screenings and potential deals for streaming of the movie on sites like Netflix. The best way to hear news of viewing opportunities seems to be through the Facebook page for the movie.
  2. StrideBox. If my review of the StrideBox subscription service piqued your interest, you can use my discount code 5FFM417 through May 15, 2017, to get $5 off your first box when you sign up for a monthly StrideBox subscription.
  3. Podcasts. I recently recommended the Run to the Top Podcast on my list of favorite running podcasts, mainly because of the fabulous job Tina Muir did as the podcast host. She has since moved on to start her own podcast, and I highly recommend you check it out: The Running for Real Podcast. I enjoyed her recent episodes with Matt Fitzgerald (author of the books The Endurance Diet and How Bad Do You Want It? among many others) and James Dunne (check out his strength and stability tips and videos at Kinetic Revolution).

Okay, now for the topic I wanted to discuss: How can you tell if it’s running burnout or something else? After I qualified for Boston 2016 at the Phoenix Marathon in 2015, I decided to run Boston “just for fun” and not for time. It had taken me several hard training cycles to qualify for Boston with enough of a margin to meet the cutoff to actually register (I first qualified at the Santa Rosa Marathon but did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015). I was feeling a little run down (no pun intended) and decided to cut back my training by following an intermediate marathon training plan instead of an advanced marathon training plan.

Even though I ran Boston for fun and not for time, my finishing time at Boston was still a little disappointing to me. I blamed that on the heat that year. Then I focused on helping my daughter and husband train to run their first half marathons at the Fontana Days Run in June 2016. I enjoyed training for a half marathon instead of a full. But when I tried to pick my training back up over the summer, I found that my motivation was low and I just wasn’t getting that feeling of satisfaction that I usually got after a workout. I felt like I was hanging on to my fitness by my fingernails. I figured I was simply burned out after years of chasing that Boston Marathon qualifier, and maybe I had overtrained. I also blamed the stress of my going back to work for the first time in many years. As we all know, emotional stress can take a physical toll, so I tried to cut myself some slack if a workout didn’t go quite as planned.

Then I ran the Death Valley Marathon in a time that was 51 minutes off my PR. I hit the wall at mile 16 and struggled simply to finish the race. And it only went downhill from there. In the days after the marathon, even the easy runs were hard. I started to slow to a walk at some point during every run. Now, I am all for a run/walk plan if that’s what works for you. I wasn’t planning on walking though, and needing to walk during an easy run was very unusual for me. Then I started to feel short of breath. That was the final straw. I knew it wasn’t just a simple case of burnout or overtraining. Something was wrong. At my next appointment with the endocrinologist (I go at least annually to make sure my thyroid levels are normal), I agreed to have some blood work done. Lo and behold, my iron level and white blood cell counts were low. My doctor diagnosed me with iron-deficiency anemia and put me on daily iron and B-12 supplements. It’s been a month and my levels are back to normal again (low normal — I’ll still be taking a reduced dose of iron for another two months at least, and we’re still working on addressing why I was anemic in the first place). I’ve just now gotten back to running 4-6 miles without stopping, and I nearly cheered out loud when I hit 20 miles total for the week last week. I don’t have another marathon on my calendar yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, the moral of my story is: listen to your body. As runners, we are very in tune with our bodies, and our instincts will tell us when something is really wrong. If you’re feeling burned out, there’s no harm in getting a simple blood panel done to see if there’s a medical reason for it.

Have you ever felt run down and burned out on running? Have you experienced anemia as a runner? I’d love to hear how others overcame a health setback in running and got back on track, so to speak.