MDT Challenge: I like to learn the hard way

The MDT Challenge is a 7 mile trail race, hosted in November, which offers an out-and-back course along the Mason-Dixon Trail.

The challenge is free for participants, and despite the zero entry fee offers a lot in return. The course is beautiful, well maintained, and offers plenty of challenges for runners. Finishers are greeted with a bounty of foods and beverages on completion, which is more than most paid-entry races. And for being a free race, this is organized and ran better then you’d expect- in fact, it’s downright professional.

View from the start of the challenge

Some words of the wise

Running a 7 mile (or any distance) trail race requires the right amount of preparation and the proper tools to help you succeed. Hydration is a major key to successfully completing a long distance trail run, as you will be exposed to the elements, most importantly temperature. Staying hydrated throughout your run is essential for maintaining your energy levels, so make sure to fuel up with plenty of water before and during your run. Additionally, it is recommended that you purchase trail running shoes with sufficient tread and cushioning to protect your feet during the rough terrain. Lastly, make sure that you are wearing moisture-wicking clothing to avoid overheating or having a wet shirt against your skin which can lead to chafing over long distances. Taking these measures into consideration will help ensure an enjoyable and successful trail running experience.

I like to learn the hard way

I’ve run 6 to 7 miles on the trails with no issues in the past. Most of the time I’m able to run that distance with little to no hydration or fuel. So when I “prepared” for this challenge, hydration wasn’t on my mind. This was a big mistake on my part.

The weather was slightly warmer than usual for a November day. Thankfully I was smart enough to dress in layers, so I adjusted my outfit accordingly before the start of the race (decided to run in a shirt and shorts- no jacket).

As we set off on the trail there was a lot of single-track that slowed progress, but I was feeling energetic and ready to conquer the course. I felt good climbing the hills and keeping pace with other runners, hydration and fueling was the last thing on my mind.

As I closed in on the second mile, climbing a rather steep hill, I noticed my breathing was a little heavier than I would have liked. My heart rate was also in my “threshold” zone, so I eased up a little to give myself a moment to get things together.

This was the first sign that not bringing a hydration vest was a mistake. Right about now I was feeling early side effects from not hydrating properly (cramping, fatigue, and slight dizziness).

Mile 3, the struggle was very real. I was holding out on hopes of reaching the aid station at the turnaround, where I could get some water and hopefully some type of fuel in my system. As we approached the aid station I noticed small cups of water… emphasis on small.

Hastily, I grabbed and chugged 2 cups of water, they had to have been no more than 4 oz each. I then grabbed a brownie and inhaled it, followed by another 2 cups of water. I remember feeling panicked and staring lustfully at the 3 gallon jugs of water on the ground near the station.

I got the sinking feeling the lady at the aid station wasn’t equipped for an ill-equipped runner like me, so I pressed onward. I could have, and should have stayed in an effort to calm myself down, but I was in a state of panic. I needed to return.

The rest of the “race” back to the start was a blur. Literally, my vision got cloudy after mile 4 and progressively got worse with every passing trial blaze. I started to develop a nasty headache and noticed that I wasn’t sweating anymore. It was unseasonably warm and those 4 small cups of water I chugged had pretty much been cycled through my system. My eyes hurt, my head was throbbing, and my legs started to buckle. Out of panic and desperation I sucked on the brim of my hat, the salty sweat offered no relief.

Thankfully one of my friends that I went with, was kind enough to stick by my side and acted as a guide. I remember keeping him in my field of vision, as it slowly narrowed more and more.

I finished the race. Delirious, I crossed the finish line with tunnel vision for hydration and food. I also HAD tunnel vision and could only see directly in front of me (2 ft at best). I found a cooler, chugged 2 water bottles and starting grabbing cookies and treats from the nearby picnic table- thinking an immediate surge of fluids and food was what I needed. My vision was cloudy and the ringing in my ears prevented me from hearing anyones voice but my own, I was on a mission.

Back at my friend’s truck, he handed me a beer. I was so crazed about getting my vision back that I figured the calories and fluid couldn’t hurt. So I chugged that too. Here’s where I wished that I would have forced myself to slow down.

The wrong thing to do in this situation is to give into panic and consume fluids and fuel in mass quantities. It’s the hardest thing to do because your body is screaming at you to take in all nutrition you can get. Otherwise, you’ll learn the hard way what happens when you try to take your body from one extreme to the next.

As my panic and frantic state of mind began to cool down, my vision slowly started to return. The ringing in my head started to quiet down. I had a brief period where everything felt normal. Brief being the key word. As what followed was my body’s instant reaction to being flooded with food and fluids, i.e. this is when I started to puke everything up.

To end this long story, I had to have my friends pull over 3 times on the ride home so I could jump out and puke on the side of the road. I then had to drive myself home from my friend’s house, which also proved to be very difficult. My tunnel vision returned (due to expelling all fluids from my body) resulting in re-dehydrating myself all over again.

Needless to say, I came home, curled up on the floor and sipped Gatorade for 3.5 hours from a straw until I felt normal again. It was such an experience I can’t wait to do it again next year- this time maybe a little more prepared.

Frozen Snot, Part Duex

I promised myself that I’d never sign up for the Frozen Snot (referred to as “Snot” by seasoned registrants) after the last time I “ran” it. So, for almost 3 years I avoided it. Luckily for me, the race is capped at around 300 participants and typically sells out within an hour of the registration being opened. It’s a great excuse when people ask “why aren’t you signed up?”, I can just say, “oh sorry, dang, it was sold out!”

Photo: Ken Bray, looking back on Barb KMA

Never heard of Snot? Here’s the skinny: https://www.thefrozensnot.com/

This year was a little different. Two of my co-workers convinced me to signup for the Sinnemahone Trail 25K Race, and despite the challenge of the course, I actually had a lot of fun. So when these same co-workers found out about Frozen Snot, they convinced me it’d be a good time. I must have taken my crazy pills because even though I was the only one with first-hand experience, I let them convince me that “yeah, it’ll be a good time”. Famous last words.

On the night registration opened, I received an eager group text from a co-worker saying he was signing up. With minutes to spare, I made the irrational decision to sign up and got in. This year’s race (2023) sold out within 40 minutes of the registration being opened, peer pressure is mother f**ker.

The Good Stuff

Despite the course difficulty and my whining, the race is run like a well-oiled machine run by a top-notch crew. Major kudos to the team for pulling this event off year after year, at what appears (from a participant’s perspective) like a seamless operation. The race staff and volunteers make Snot an experience unlike any other.

At a majority of the course exchanges, typically at the summit of each climb, there are friendly volunteers to greet you. There’s usually a fire going and comradery if you choose to stop and shoot the breeze. This year I took every opportunity to stop, and thank the volunteers, before continuing onward.

Some friendly ladies greeted me with a smile at the summit of the first climb and took my picture.

Photo: Ken Bray, on the Summit

Did I mention there’s a bacon aid station? I kid you not, in the middle of what seems like nowhere, there is a rascally crew of volunteers cooking up bacon and offering shots of whiskey. This year, I stopped and had 5 or 6 pieces of bacon and soaked in the heat of the warm fire. I honestly could have just hung out for the rest of the day.

Photo: Ken Bray, Bacon Aid Station

I cannot stress the sense of community this race brings. I have very limited knowledge of the people involved, but they do a damn good job of making you feel welcome. I cannot thank them enough!

The race swag is also pretty awesome, this year was a Yeti Rambler (a custom mug with the Snot logo), custom embroidered beanie, and finishers coffee mug!

Photo: Ken Bray, Mean Muggin’

The Ugly Side of Snot (at least the stuff I “hate”)

Let’s not get too carried away, the course and the elevation are no joke. From this road runner’s perspective and occasional trail runner, the climbing up isn’t the ugly side – it’s what waits on the descent. The course, depending on the year, can either be unyielding or just downright nasty. Thankfully the course was dry (frozen) and fairly runnable (even though I hiked the whole thing), so it was slightly not as bad. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

There are a lot of downhill sections that are pretty gnarly, to say the least. There are ropes to help on the descent in these sections, but (due to my lack of experience with ropes) felt like more work than they were worth. At least that’s the story I told myself as I baby giraffed wobbled my way down the slopes with my trekking poles.

The last time I ran Snot, there was a few feet of snow on the course, so I remember sledding down the last hill on my butt. This time around, there was no easy way down and I witnessed several runners hit the ground while trying to navigate these sections. A stark reminder of how tough and unforgiven the course can be.

My inexperience with ropes was my downfall. The last descent on the short course is the worst by far. It’s the steepest drop on the course and on a good day (if my legs weren’t smoked) I’d probably avoid it. At this point in the race, my legs and my brain stopped communicating. I hated every step down that last hill. Each jarring step reinforced how thrashed my quads really were.

I had an “a-ha” moment and I figured out that I actually went faster downhill when I used the ropes! The ropes almost act like a handrail and your brain stops trying to navigate and just lets you move. Of course, I didn’t realize this until the last 15-20 ft, so yeah, go me.

Final Thoughts

Before the last descent, I caught myself saying “I’ll run this again next year, it’s not so bad”. The last hill slapped me upside the head and knocked some sense into me, who am I kidding! I’m f**king done running this race!

That is… until next year’s registration and I get that group text starts up again. F**k, lemme think about it.

Finding my Why!

Holy cats, I almost forgot about my blog! It’s been a crazy 2 months off from the platform, and hopefully I’m back and posting regularly again.

Anyway, over the last 2 months I’ve been recording videos like crazy and trying to find where I fit in, when it comes to the YouTube world.

I enrolled in Casey Neistat’s “film school” via Monthly.com and I’m looking forward to sharing my review soon. But- before that review, here is a short video I made about finding my “why”.

Running has become such a part of my life, and I think I tap into the deeper meaning of why I’m drawn to this community. Enjoy!

Science in Sport Immune Tabs: Unboxing

Disclaimer: I received the Science in Sport Immune Tabs 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!

Having a prepared immune system is super crucial to helping fend off illness, or at least give you a fighting chance to stay ahead of whatever is going around!

Sipping down some Immune Tabs!

Check out my Science in Sport Immune Tabs unboxing on my YouTube channel, or here on the blog

When you are ready to checkout more of Science in Sport’s products, save 15% off your order using discount code: SIS-BIBRAVE-21 at checkout!

Ready Set Move: April Unboxing!

Disclaimer: I received the Ready.Set.Move. Box 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!

Ready to unbox!

This quarter’s box did not disappoint! I dive into all the goodies in my latest YouTube video!

As I mentioned before, if you’re curious enough to try out Ready Set Move, be sure to use BIBRAVE10 at checkout to save $10 off your subscription!

*This offer is good for first-timers only.

April’s Haul!

But, don’t just take my word for it, here’s what the other BibRave Pro’s have been saying!

Mai | Meridith | Lisa | Patrick | Phil | Erica | Vanessa | Mark | Lissa

Choose Your Tech Tools: Action Camera Considerations!

Note: This segment was taken from the 2021 BibRave BRProud Summit, and is just a sampling of materials covered.

Do you think it’s time to take your social photos up a notch? Here’s a quick 5 min segment outlining some considerations.

Here’s the condensed notes:

1. Consider its use! GoPro’s, 360° cameras, drones and the like are powerfully awesome tools. But are an investment of time and money. Consider how often you’ll use this technology and decide if it’s worth the investment.

2. Save money – once you’ve decided to pull the trigger, look for sales (especially on older models), used equipment, and even factory refurbished are a great way to save money.

3. Consider the application – most name brand cameras have an associated application. These make it easy to review, capture, and share your action shots right from your phone. If the action camera you are considering doesn’t have an app, think about how you’ll retrieve the footage? Is it easy or a hassle?

4. Be cautious of knockoffs – these can be enticing especially when they are priced in the $30-60 range. Check the reviews and do your research! Find out how they work and if they are a match for you.

Ready Set Move!

Disclaimer: I received the Ready.Set.Move. Box 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!

Ready Set Move!

Ready.Set.MOVE. is a quarterly subscription box created for those passionate about running and those moving toward their fitness goals.

Each box is filled with industry-leading products, valued at $100+, that can be put to use right away for your next workout, training session, or run.

Check out my unboxing where I dive right into the goods!

Every box costs $49.99 if you want to purchase them on your own but you can save $20 right away by signing up for the whole year ($179.99 total).

Boxes are shipped every January, April, July, and October. They make a great gift for the active someone in your life- or you can treat yourself to this awesome subscription!

Use code BibRave10 at checkout for $10 off your first box for all first-time subscribers!

But don’t take my word for it, check out what the other Pro’s are saying:

Mai | Meridith | Lisa | Patrick | Phil | Erica | Vanessa | Mark | Lissa

Shokzstar Welcome Kit Unboxing!

AfterShokz was incredibly generous with the 2021 Shokzstar Welcome Kit! Once I received it, I immediately dove in, watch me unbox all the awesome!

Inside the 2021 Welcome Kit was:

  • Waterproof Bag
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottle
  • Double-wall Stainless Mug
  • AfterShokz Cooling Towel
  • AfterShokz Limited Edition Socks!
  • Solar Red Aeropex Headset
  • White Open Move Headset
  • Active wear Belt (to hold your phone and a small amount of consumables)
  • Shokzstar Sticker
  • Handwritten Welcome Note

I’m so happy to be on the team for 2021 and ready to share all the Shokzlove I can! In fact, if you’re looking to save 15% off various headsets, be sure to visit my affiliate link:

AFTERSHOKZ LINK TO SAVE 15% OFF