Virtual Fat Ass Run: The Trail Sisters Catch Up

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the Trail Sisters’s Gina LucreziPam Smith, and Liza Howard.]

We Trail Sisters–Pam, Gina, and Liza–live in Oregon, Colorado, and Texas respectively, so we never get together for a run. But if we did, here’s how we imagine it might go.

Liza Howard and her morning coffee

Liza Howard insufficiently caffeinated at the start of the Trail Sisters Virtual Fat Ass. Photo: Eliot Howard

Liza: Y’all are going to have to drag me along this morning. I was up past midnight working on training plans, and then Ruby woke up at 4 a.m.  I’ve had three cups of coffee and I’m a wreck. And then I got this disturbing email. I’ll tell you about it after a few miles. So what have you all been up to these past few months?

Pam Smith at Western States 100 training camp

Pam Smith. Photo courtesy of Pam.

Pam: Well, I hosted two kids’ sleepover birthdays, which is kind of like doing an ultra only A LOT more noise! One novel thing our family did in February was check out iFLY, an indoor skydiving place. That was a lot of fun!

Pam and Meghan Smith indoor skydiving

Pam and Megan celebrating Liam’s birthday at iFLY. Photo courtesy of Pam.

And I’ve been running in a lot of circles! First at the Riverbank One Day Classic in California and most recently our entire family tackled the Pacific Rim One Day in Washington. The goal at Pacific Rim was getting lots of miles while still having fun. My kids especially love having free rein to eat all the junk food they want! We ran (walked) all miles with the kids and then got a few extras in while they took breaks. And everyone got a full night of sleep! Megan met her lofty goal of 40 miles (41–because she said she needed a “victory lap!”), Mac equaled his age (43), Liam got his first ‘ultra’ finish with 28 miles, and I did 58, which is a good weekend of training as I keep my eye on IAU 24-Hour World Championships in July.

Smith family at the 2017 Pacific Rim One Day

The Smith family at Pacific Rim One Day in Washington State. Photo courtesy of Pam.

Gina: I’ve been doing lots… maybe too much. Juggling my remote team-manager gigs for Ultimate Direction and Vasque, and then keeping things rolling with the Trail Sisters website. On top of that I’ve made the decision to purchase a Ram ProMaster for a summer of adventure from the road. Since I have these remote jobs, I figure I should be out exploring and spreading the good word of the Trail Sisters. Building out the van has been tough since I don’t have a garage… or power tools… but that’s what friends are for, right?! It’s been the weekend project for the past month. I leave Boulder, Colorado at the beginning of May.

Gina Lucrezi training

Gina Lucrezi. Photo courtesy of Gina.

Liza: I should know what a Ram ProMaster is, but my world is small these days and the coffee hasn’t kicked in. What is it?

Gina: It’s a cargo van. I’m building it out to live in through the summer and fall. Bed, kitchenette, hangout and workspace, solar shower, storage for running shoes, bikes, and more. I’ll stay with friends and family throughout the trip, so I won’t be ‘living’ in the van the whole time. Building this sucker is hard work, but Justin is helping me, thank goodness.

Gina Lucrezi and her van

Gina and the van in progress. Photo courtesy of Gina.

Liza: Where are you going to go from Boulder?

Gina: I’ll be out East in May, and then I’ll be back in Colorado for June. I’ll spend the remainder of the summer and fall in the West. I’ll be adventuring in some places that are on my checklist… Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Enchantments. And I will be putting on presentations at specialty-shoe stores.

Liza: So south Texas isn’t on your checklist? I give a mean tour of the Alamo if you change your mind. And we’ve got a trampoline in the backyard now. So are you going to race anything along the way?

Liza Howard on her trampoline

Liza on the new backyard trampoline/visitor enticer. Photo courtesy of Liza.

Gina: The Leadville Marathon. I love that area, the town, and the history. I’ve only ever raced one other trail marathon (Jungfrau Marathon, like three or four years ago), so I thought I’d give it another go!

Liza: I want to do the burro race there someday. It’s a life goal. What about you, Pam? What’s next?

Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation logoPam: Georgia Death Race on April 1. I love the idea of a 74-mile race and I have heard good things about the race, plus it’s sponsored by La Sportiva, who I run for, and I know the race director. I’m hoping to do some good scouting for next year’s Golden Ticket effort. This year, I have my sights on the IAU 24-Hour World championships in Ireland on July 2, so the Golden Ticket isn’t a goal.

Liza: But what if you won? Would you turn the ticket down?

Pam: Yes. Assuming that I get named to the U.S. 24-hour team on April 5. You have two weeks to decide on the Golden Ticket. How about you? What are you doing next?

Liza: Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I was told I might be able to sleep at a winery. That’s been great training motivation. And I get to see so many of my favorite women! I’m thinking of it as a play date–because I can only think three-year-old thoughts these days. I’m going to bring something for everybody to sign for Ruby. I don’t know what yet. Maybe her Hello Kitty doll. It weighs five pounds and is more a weapon than a doll. She almost broke my toe with it yesterday. I like the idea of wandering up to people after the race with a Hello Kitty doll and a Sharpie.

Liza Howard and a Hello Kitty doll

Liza ready for autographs at Lake Sonoma. Photo courtesy of Liza.

But Sonoma’s going to be a test piece for my asthma too. I’ve been on a whole regimen of meds since the JFK 50 Mile last November–when asthma laid me low and I spent chunks of time on the ground covered by leaves, puffing albuterol. I really need one of those little-old-lady-seven-days-of-the-week pill cases now. I ran a 50k this past weekend, and I had to suck on my albuterol inhaler at mile 24. That doesn’t bode well for 50 miles. I’m going to see a pulmonologist next week. My asthma doc threw up his hands after the race. He basically said he had no idea why I wasn’t responding better to the meds and that maybe it was my heart and not my lungs.

I actually scowled at him. My heart is fine. I mean, sure, maybe some crazy thing is going on, but what with the wheezing combined with the ability to win gift certificates at 50k races, I’m going with lungs. I don’t know. Just keep your fingers crossed the pulmonologist doesn’t punt to a different organ too.

But listen, the other thing with Sonoma is that I’m gonna’ run it in a sports bra–without a shirt over the top.

Gina: What?

Liza: I was totally inspired by that #sportsbrasquad thing. Have y’all seen it? This woman, Kelly Roberts, started running in her sports bra despite being worried about what people might think about her body–and what she thought about her own body–because she was really hot and uncomfortable running in her shirt. And it’s become this great body-acceptance movement. I don’t know, it’s hot as sin here in the summertime, but I never run in just a sports bra. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day for decades. And it’s just vanity that keeps me from doing it. Loose 45-year-old-mom belly skin doesn’t photograph well, but it doesn’t slow me down. I just figure it’s a good time for me to stop comparing myself to other women–and worrying if people are judging my non- 20-year-old body. And it’ll be less laundry. What do y’all think?

Pam: My body-image issues aren’t what keep me from running in a sports bra, but I sunburn really easily, and I do have quite a bit of skin-cancer fear as my grandmother had several removed and Mac’s grandmother died of melanoma. Also, my armpits seem to be a lot more sensitive than most people’s–I chafe pretty easily so if I don’t have good lube access, I don’t like to run ultras in even a tank top. But I like the idea of women being comfortable in their own skin and feeling they can go run in whatever works for them. But I draw the line at ‘sexy’ sports-bra selfies–those kind of make me want to gag.

Gina: Kudos to the #sportsbrasquad! I’ve had thoughts like that run through my head a number of times. I love the empowerment!

Liza: But I can’t start doing it yet because I only have two sports bras. Don’t ask. I have to go shopping. Any recommendations?

Pam: I am a total cheapskate. Most of my bras are either from previous U.S. teams, La Sportiva, or Target!

Gina: I’m sponsored by SmartWool, so the ‘ladies’ are swaddled in wool, but their bras work really well for me, and the whole no-odor thing will be good for the road trip… when I can’t wash stuff every few days.

Liza: You just gave yourself away as a Coloradan. No material stands up to multiple runs without washing in the Texas humidity. And Pam, I’m totally going to send you daily ‘sexy’ sports-bra selfies. “Here I am laying on the hood of the minivan in my sports bra. Super sexy!” So what else? The coffee’s kicked in and I’m full of questions and happiness. How goes work?

Pam: Oh my gosh, I am so excited! I quit my job to be a professional runner! Okay, not really, but doesn’t that sound way cooler than saying I quit my job to be some combination of a retired/unemployed/stay-at-home-mom? I think this is my manifestation of ‘mid-life crisis’–it just kind of hit me that being in peak physical shape is acutely limited, especially after seeing my dad’s limitations after back surgery, and the time I have left with my kids at home is also relatively short. But my job is very sedentary and something I can do well into my sixties or even seventies, so I decided to take a break from work to have more time with my family and to have more time enjoying the great outdoors. Anyway, after giving my notice, I realized maybe I wasn’t entirely ready to be job-free (or income free!), so I negotiated to stay on two days a week starting in June with no on-call duties! Is it bad that I am already counting down the days??

Gina: Work for me is good. Busy. Being a team manager for two squads is intense. I look after over 100 people. On top of that I’m always coming up with new ideas for my website. The brain never stops!

Liza: Have you all worked with a coach before?

Pam: Not since college cross country and track. I really like to learn how to do things for myself and I enjoy the process of figuring out what works best for me. I could maybe see myself using one for short periods, kind of like a tutor, to learn new things and get new ideas, but ultimately, I want to be responsible for my own training.

Gina: I just started working with John Fitzgerald from Carmichael Training Systems. He has been awesome thus far! I’ve got some big goals this year and felt I needed more structured training, along with some accountability. Do you have any tips for the Leadville Trail 100 Mile since you’ve raced and won it? That is what I’m shooting for this year.

Liza: The key to winning Leadville is training in the Texas heat. You should drive that van down here in July. There’s a nice small hill we can do repeats on together. Also, run those first 50 miles conservatively. If you look at the winning splits, that’s where the race and PRs are made or lost.

Okay, I have to ask you about this email now. It was actually for all of us–to the Trail Sisters. This woman asked if we’d ever done anything on the slippery slopes between male and female running friends. That’s what she called them: “slippery slopes.” She wanted to know how running relationships could lean toward affairs and how that impacted the running community. I got the sense she is asking as a married person.

Pam: Sarah Lavender Smith wrote great piece about that issue a while back for Trail Runner magazine.

Liza: Oh, I remember that. I’ll have to go back and reread it.

Pam: Yeah, I’d send her that. Maybe it’s a topic we could also talk about with the Trail Sisters readers, but Sarah’s piece is really well done.

Liza: It talked about emotional affairs, right? And warning signs that a running relationship is headed that way. Wasn’t there something about how to set your marriage up for success too? I’ll send it to her. I have a hard time giving advice with this one. I mean, I’m sure she knows that her relationship with a dear running buddy is always going to be easier than her relationship with her husband. There are no monetary stressors. No stress from kids. Really, a running-buddy relationship is free of any responsibility outside of the relationship itself. And there’s no compromise necessary beyond pace and distance.

Comparing a relationship with a running buddy to a relationship with the person you’ve committed to love, is like comparing a turkey trot to a multi-day, self-supported stage race like Marathon des Sables… if MdS kept going after the seventh day. Right?

But the problem is that when times are hardest in a committed relationship, it’s easy to lose sight of how foolhardy it is to compare that relationship to a good running relationship. And when you lose sight of the fundamental difference, it’s easy to believe your running buddy is more fun, thoughtful, and understanding than he or she actually is–or would be if the two of you shared heavy responsibilities.

So I guess my advice is to be mindful that it’s easy to slip into false comparisons. But I’ll stop before I get too strident and start quoting C.S. Lewis. I’m glad this is just a fatass run, or I’d never have enough breath to get all that out.

Gina Lucrezi and Justin Patrick Keller

Gina and her boyfriend, Justin, modeling the running-buddy-significant-other combo relationship. Photo courtesy of Gina.

Hey y’all, my left glute is acting up a bit. I think this had better be my last loop of this virtual fat-ass course. Thanks for running with me. It was good to talk to adult women. I have coffee-themed prizes for us all.

Call for Comments:

  • Would you all like to talk more about running relationships? Friendships, when friendships are challenging, and/or how to navigate life with a non-running partner?
  • Got more questions for any of the Trail Sisters? We’ll try to answer them in the comments section or address them in future articles.

There are 6 comments

  1. Cathy B

    Great to be a fly on the wall of your virtual group run. Great pics, looking forward to a follow up on sports bras and van conversions.

  2. Eliot

    I loved this installment as always. Liza, you should show Gina a picture of how we’ve converted our minivan into a category 4 shitstorm.

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