Hinson Lake Ultra

Wow!  I cannot believe we did it!  Yesterday my good friend Connie and I ran 51.1 miles!

Here’s a shot of us at the finish line.  It took us 13 hours and 29 minutes.  What an Adventure!


Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra is a 24 hour race but the beauty of it is you can stop any time you want.  There were 314 entrants and Connie and I finished in the 101 and 102 places.  The winner ran the whole 24 hours and completed 117.234 miles.

Click here to see the awesome finishing results

Connie’s amazing husband went down on Friday and set up a tent for us to change in.

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He was calling it our medical tent but I liked thinking of it as our phone booth of sorts that we could go in and emerge back out as Super Heros !  I changed socks 3 times and my shirt and sports bra once.  I used plenty of Chamois Butter and didn’t have one bit of chaffing or blisters.  And….did I mention it rained on and off the entire day!

Here’s some shots of the course and the mud.  The part right around near all the tents was the worst.  Most of the trail was actually pretty amazing given all the rain.


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The race was so well run.  The director and all the volunteers were amazing!  I loved every minute of it.When you finished the loop you came right through what they were calling Jerry’s Food Castle. (Jerry is the race director) They had a sign at about a 1/4 mile before you got to this area that said “Jerry’s Food Castle” and I won’t mention how many loops it took me to figure out what they were talking about.  LOL

Here they are getting the boiled potatoes ready.  Notice the paper plate of salt you could dip your potato in.


Here’s Connie coming through the food castle.


And here I am.  I’m holding a cup of water so it must have been on a odd numbered loop.  My race stradegy was to drink water and eat on odd numbered loops and only have about 3 oz of Gatorade on even numbered loops.  Since I have on a blue shirt and my Brooks running shoes, it must have been after loop 17.  We had to complete 34 loops of the 1.5 mile course to get in our 50 miles so at 17, that was our halfway mark.


Here I am in the red shirt and Hokas that I ran in for the first 17 loops.  I also have my fuel belt on.  That did not last very long at all.  I didn’t need to carry my water thanks to Jerry’s Food Castle.  Also, I had my iPhone in one of my pouches and I tried to listen to a book on Audible for a while.  That didn’t last either.  I couldn’t concentrate on the book and I missed listening to all the other runners.


Some of the things that I ate were of course GUs but I also had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Uncrustables), fig newtons, pretzels and York peppermint patty minis.  I brought all my own food and I had them in little baggies with the number of the loop written in permanent marker on it.  The only foods I got in the castle were a couple of small bites of potatoes and one small piece of cheese pizza.  I did however grab a few small cups of soda.  I think I got maybe 3 cups of Ginger Ale and maybe 3 cups of Coke.  I did get Mellow Yellow one time by mistake when I thought I was grabbing Gatorade.  That Food Castle was the bomb!  There was so much good food and the volunteers were so cheerful.  I wish I had been brave enough to try all the pumpkin breads and cupcakes and everything else.  I’ve had stomach issues in other races and I didn’t want to spend any time in the porta johns.

Thinking back on yesterday I cannot believe what an Epic time we had.  Running with Connie and some our other friends made it so much fun.  I really want to send a huge thank you out to the guys, Scott and Ron, our husbands.  Scott was in charge of the changing tent and that proved to be indispensable.  Scott and Ron even put up a tarp in the Food Castle to keep the rain from blowing in on the volunteers.  I think it was a cold dreary day for those that weren’t raising their body temps running.   While Connie and I were finishing up our last loops, Ron helped Scott take everything down.  Hinson Lake is about a 2 hour drive for us and Ron drove both ways for us.  We had to get up at 3:30 am and we didn’t make it back home until after midnight.

Today I feel awesome.  Sore yes but not that much different than a normal long run.  I am amazed in the human body.

Here’s one more closing shot.  This is of me and Connie and Connie’s good friend (and my new friend) Patricia.  She ran 42 miles yesterday and stayed to the end to be with us.


I am so thankful to God for giving me this hobby of running.

Isaiah 40 31


Happy Ultra Racing!

PS. Must haves for trail and ultra racing.  Gaiters!  I got a pair from Dirty Girl gaiters but I only had time to put the velcro on one of my pairs of shoes.  I saw some other brands of gaiters on other runners and some of them didn’t require velcro.  I didn’t get any rocks in my shoes when I had my gaiters on but when I switched to my Brooks without gaiters, I had to stop at least 3 different times to dump the grit out of my shoes.


One other thing to mention, after the race, all I wanted to do was brush my teeth.  I think all the Gus and soda was too much.  I didn’t have a toothbrush with me and I wanted one so bad.  Patricia told us to bring some mouthwash next time and that would help in a pinch.  Next time,  I don’t think so. Not ready for another ultra any time in my near future.  LOL


Last week and this week I have felt somewhat lost.  I feel like I have set a pretty good taper plan so I am happy with that. It’s just when you go from running 5 days a week and racking up some awesome miles and then you drop down to last week’s 3 run days, and this week’s 2, it feels very odd.  I ran 3 miles with my friends this morning and got to my desk by 7:26am.  Over a half an hour early!  That NEVER happens!

I did go to CrossFit 4 times last week and I also went last night and plan to go on Wednesday.  But even with that, it feels like I have sooooo much time on my hands.  That’s a good thing though because goodness knows I need to clean my house!


So this is my last post before my epic 50 mile run attempt.  I’ll be honest; I have been getting a little scared.  When I decided to try this way back in December I thought it would be such a cute idea.  I was turning 50 this year so why not run a 50k and a 50 miler!?  I knew it was a little crazy but others were doing it so why not me?!

Now when I tell people, they really look at me and tell me how crazy it is.

It is crazy but for some reason, I’ve just got to do it.  It wouldn’t feel the same if I ran 50 miles next year when I’m 51.

Sadly, the weather forecast isn’t looking too good at all.


I’m not giving up though.  I’ve got the training in and I’ll be ok.  I plan to take about 3 different outfits and change every 13 miles or so.  I’m not even going to try and get a jacket or anything.  I know I’ll be too hot with a jacket and since I sweat so much, the rain won’t really be that different than some of the really hot long runs I went on this summer.

I’ve got to run 34 loops of the 1.5 mile course.  That will get me in over 50 miles.  My plan is to drink about 3-4 ounces of water or Gatorade every time I pass Ron.  I’ve also got it all planned out about when I’m going to take a GU and when I’ll grab some pretzels, dates, candy, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (I got the little Uncrustables that you can find in your grocer’s freezer section.)

I know my Garmin won’t last the whole way so I plan to borrow Ron’s Garmin for the first 25 and then switch to mine for the last 25.  I’m going to try and set mine up so you guys can follow me on my Garmin Connect page.  I’ll let you know if I can get it to work.  If not, I’m going to get Ron to make some Facebook updates for me.

The race starts 8:00am so by 8:00pm Saturday night, I might be a drowned rat but I should be in the 50 mile club.

I promise, after my trail marathon that I have planned in October (Medoc) and my half marathon in November (OBX), I won’t sign up for another distance race until I can start doing better on speed.

I met a 63 year old on Facebook recently and she ran a sub 24:00 minute 5k.  She said her only secret was getting plenty of rest days and only running half marathons.  I like the sound of that!

Before I sign out, I want to thank all my running and CF friends.  Connie, you’ve run almost every mile that I have leading up to this 50 mile attempt.  We can do it!  Thanks so much.  Centennial ladies, Amelia, Gayle, Kim, Mindy, thank you too! And to all my fellow WannaBeasts at Galloway, ya’ll are amazing!  Lastly, to my CF buddies, you guys rock!  I just love it how we always encourage one another.  Christie I wouldn’t have made it through that round 7 last night without you!

Happy Running!

California Dreamin’

Here ya go.  After almost 6 weeks back home, I’m finally posting some shots from our trip to California.


I promise you though.  I have not been lazy.

I’ve been RUNNING!

Take a look at these totals.  I cannot believe I’ve run this much.  170 miles in August.  I’d say I was all in for August all right.  I’m 45 miles so far for September and by the end of the weekend, I’ll be over 85.  That’s right.  I’ve got a 28 miler on Saturday and a 12 miler on Sunday on the ‘ole training log.  I’m not the least bit nervous.  I’m excited.  The first 23 on Saturday will be with all my best buds at Galloway and then I’m sure Ron will run some with me on Sunday.

Running totals

And then I’ll almost be there.  Only 2 weeks left until Hinson Lake, and the next 14 days are all about taper.

During these last 6 weeks, I’ve really focused.  I’ve tried to go to CrossFit as much as possible.  I’ve made it 2x week every week and sometimes 3x.  I’ve done my ITB exercises some. (I wish I could say I did more.)  Lastly, I have watched my diet.  I haven’t really stressed so much about what I’ve been eating but I have kept track of my weight. Two times this week someone noticed that I was loosing and I was so excited.  I looked it up and I’ve lost 8 pounds since vacation.  Yay!!

But enough about running and health.  I owe you these awesome shots.

Aww…The Ferry Building along the Embarcadero.  So pretty.

Clock tower

We toured in and around this building both on Saturday and on Sunday.   We walked up and down The Embarcadero and had so much fun.

SF skyline

Sailboat and clouds

Safeway was Ron’s grocery store growing up so I had to get a picture the first time I saw one.


We had an awesome lunch at  The Plant!

Ron at Plant

Plant burger

Pier 39

Pier 39

play fighting


just getting up

Holt Tower

Holt Tower


All the piers were cool and we both had a blast.  The sea lions were so interesting, I could have watched them forever.  The crowds were kinda big and that’s the only thing I didn’t care for so much.  The next morning when we ran by all these sites it was very quiet.  The smell of the sourdough bread baking was heaven on earth.  San Francisco rules!

On the Monday after the marathon, we headed out of San Francisco and traveled down the Pacific Coast Highway toward San Luis Obispo.

First up was the lighthouse at the top of this post, Pigeon Point.



cliff at lighthouse

sun on the rocks

Pigeon Point might have been my favorite spot of the whole day!  The have a hostel there and we met 2 bikers.  They were headed to Mexico from Canada.  I was impressed!

Our next stop was Pescadero State Beach.

PCH and Mel

Pescadero State Beach


Tai Chi Ron

The entire way was lovely.  Sometimes I was a little scared.  I didn’t get carsick but I was very glad Ron was driving.

We stopped at Carmel and had some breakfast at the cutest cafe.

Cafe Strvaganza


Greek omlettes


Hearst Castle was breathtaking!



pool 2


This view from Hearst’s bedroom was my favorite!

view from the castle

Limekiln State Park and the Redwood were gorgeous!  I wished we could have stayed there for a week!

among the Redwoods


Bixby!  Really really cool!


Bixby Bridge 1932

Ron at Bixby

Elephant Seals!

Elephant Seals

in the ocean 3

in the ocean



As we got closer to the place that we were getting off the PCH, I spotted this spooky rock.  Can you see it in the distance in the ocean?

spooky rock

These shrimping boats were cool too.

Shrimp boats

Before we knew it our day was done and we had made it to San Lusis Obispo.  I loved this city!



We walked around a little that night and then the next morning we had breakfast at Bliss Cafe and then toured the mission.




Ron at the fountain


misson 2



After we left SLO, we spent some great times with Ron’s family.



Joseph, Dad, and Ron

lunch at Aunt Linda's

the guys

So much LOVE all around.

One day we went to Sequoia National Park and had a really BIG day!

Ron and Dad at GS




top of GS

going up to Sequoia

And then on the next to the last day on our way to LA, we saw WINDMILLS!


Windmills 4



Now our plan for retirement is after we hike the entire AT, we’re going to be camp hosts in California!

Love you all!

Gotta run.  LOL

Bed is calling.

I’ll check back in one more time before my 50 miler and give you an update on my last 2 weeks of training.

The City by the Bay

The San Francisco marathon had been on my bucket list for a long time.  The romance of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City by the Bay was so appealing!  So, when Ron finally announced that this was the summer we were flying to Cali to see his family, I jumped at the chance that we might could squeeze in a few days to ourselves in Frisco.

We signed up for the half marathon and boy was it a doosey!

The marathon was top notch all the way.  The expo was at Fort Mason and was very well run.

Fort Mason

It was a big race but they had plenty of volunteers to keep things moving right along.


fitbit was a sponsor of the race and they had this neat photo booth.

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Another cool thing was I got to meet Joel from Allied Medal Hangers.


They made ours and we love them so much!

Melissa's medalsRon's medals

(I promise, Ron designed his own. LOL)

After we looked at everything at the expo, we went to the beer garden they had right outside and both enjoyed a Lagunitas.  This was our view from the garden.

Alcatraz with ferry


We were tired the day we arrived so we decided to stick to East Coast time and so for the early morning marathon on Sunday we were all smiles.


Here’s a nice shot of that bridge (The San Francisco – Oakland Bridge) in the daytime.

SF - Oakland Bridge

Hoka was another sponsor of the race and they let us download these race photos for FREE!  So cool!

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Ron and I did so well!  We were both thrilled with our race.

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Yes, they gave out space blankets in July!  It was pretty chilly once we stopped running.  Oh, and there was no beer at the end of the half.  You got Irish Coffees!  That was awesome especially since it was so chilly.  My beer lovin’ husband even warmed up to the idea and had and Irish Coffee too.

Here’s our results:

Mel SF resultsRon SF results

That was an 18 minute improvement for me over our June race and 27 minute improvement for Ron.  I know we both trained better but I think that it was the cooler weather and the pure joy of running.  We had a blast.  I was so happy for Ron!

The big question that everyone asks me about this race is about the hills.  To be honest, they really weren’t that bad.  We had 2 pretty good hills before and after the bridge and then near the end there was a lot of rolling hills.  The hardest for me was this one big downhill that we had.  It was huge!  I caught myself trying to hold back and I could really feel it in my quads.  I even saw one racer get a bad cramp and have to hop over to the side of the road.  When I saw that, I decided to just stop being scared and I decided to fly down that hill!  It was exhilarating.

Here’s a shot of the medal and the shirt.  I love the shirt but the medal was a little skimpy.  I saw the full medal and it was much prettier.

2015-08-08 13.55.47

We took the shuttle back to the full marathon finish line and enjoyed the post race celebrations.  Then before we went back to our hotel for showers, we rode a trolley!  Smile


Ron was singing this song and I had it stuck in my head the rest of the day.

I really did love SF and this race was a dream come true!

Happy Racing!





To Do List

Well I’ve made it back from vacation and I’m starting to get back in the swing of things.  I’ve got a lot of things on my to do list so I thought I’d share them here and ask for a little of accountability.

  • I need to get my San Francisco half marathon race recap up.  It was wonderful and I want to share while the memories are still fresh!

Mel on the GGB SF half marathon

  • I want to share all our Pacific Coast Highway adventures.  It was amazing.  I’ll get that post up soon as well.

PCH and Mel

    • It’s August and I want to be “All In for August” like my friend Amelia.  I want to focus on strength, running, eating right, and getting plenty of rest and H2O.
    • I want to be like my friend Ann and sign up for EDD  (every damn day) at CrossFit.  We sign up each week and usually I only do 3 CF classes but I’ve longed to write EDD like Ann and some of the other CFers.  They are amazing!
    • I also want to complete my long runs just like they appear on my 50 mile training plan.  Here are the distances for each Sunday from now until the race.

26  26  10  28  28  10  10  50

That’s right.  Only 7 more Sunday’s until Lake Hinson and 4 of those 7 Sunday’s call for a marathon or better long run.  My friends Connie and Kim say that I don’t need to worry and that to prepare for a 50 miler I don’t need to focus so much on huge miles.  That was confirmed today when I read this blog post.  (Check out #3 in particular)

I still want to do those long runs though.  I’ll be too nervous at Lake Hinson if I don’t get some miles in.

My Wednesday runs are getting longer on the ole’ training plan too.  Here are the next 6 Wednesday’s:

10  10  8  12  12  8           I have no idea how I’m going to manage that!

So there you go.  Are you a list maker?  I have always been one.  I’ll probably print out this post, hang it on the fridge, and check things off as I get ‘em done.

Here’s another good list I found on Pinterest.

list from Pinterestsource

Happy Checking your list off ya’ll!

Weight Loss Roller Coaster


Oh the journey of weight loss!  What a roller coaster it is for me.

Disclaimer:  Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor.  All information on my blog is my own ideas and experiences and is not intended to be a substitute for consultation with a doctor or healthcare provider.  I cannot accept any responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from this post or any post on A Handful of Spinach.

First of all, what I have come to finally realize is that there are many different paths to follow and many ways to achieve your healthy weight.  The Paleo’s can get you there and I really believe they have an awesome program.  For me the “nothing processed” is the way to go.  Dr. Fuhrman can get you there.  Dr. McDougall can get you there.  Whole 30 can get you there.  Weight Watchers can get you there.  Just cutting out sodas and desserts can get the lucky ones there.

You get the idea.  I’m finding that you have to find the plan that works for you and stick with it.  None of them will get you there if you give up and resort back to your old habits.  Most often just choosing “this not that” and doing what you can when you can “wycwyc” are the little healthy steps that can lead up to a whole new life over a long period of time.

I’ve tried nearly every single plan you can name.  I was an Atkins girl in the 90’s, a WW girl early in this century, and for the past 5.5 years I’ve been an on again off again vegetarian and vegan.  I keep coming back to vegetarian and vegan diets for ethical reasons.  I love cheese but I hate the dairy industry.  I cannot look at a pig and for one second think about eating them.  Factory farming gives me nightmares!

However, I can totally take the approach shown in the movie Avatar, and if you give honor to the animal and kill humanely, I’m ok with that.  Salmon Fish Farms, NO but my brother in law’s fresh catch of the day from a beautiful Missouri lake, YES.  Eggs from the normal factories where the hens never touch their feet to grass, NO, but eggs from my neighbor’s backyard chicken coop, YES.

That’s my view on the subject of weight loss.  However, I want the weight loss to come off fast and be easy to maintain.

28 days ago I embarked on yet another weight loss experiment.  I’m going to go ahead and put the numbers out there for your reference but please note this scale disclaimer.



I started off at 153.  I brought it down 5 pounds to 148 by just being mindful and cutting out the desserts and too many breads.  At 148 I started Chef AJ’s weight loss program.  I do need to say that I did not purchase her complete program and only took bits and pieces of her advice from what I could get for free on the internet.  So, this may not be a true experiment.

Anyway, what she preaches for weight loss is no sugar, no salt, no oil, and no nuts.  She explains about caloric density and how to try and get the healthiest volume of food to fill your stomach for the lowest calories.  A pound of most veggies is only 100 calories vs. a pound of oil at 4000 calories.   On her program, I could have all the fruits, veggies, and whole grains that I wanted but I needed to consume 2 pounds of cooked greens before the other choices.

In one week I had lost 8 pounds and made it down to 140 pounds.  I was on cloud 9!

Things that I learned that I could do that I never thought I could change:

  • I had steamed broccoli and cauliflower for breakfast and didn’t have my normal smoothies or oatmeal. Yes, steamed greens for breakfast.  Believe it or not it is possible and they are so filling!
  • I learned that I really didn’t have to sauté onions and garlic in oil. You can put just a little bit of veggie broth or plain water and sauté’ just fine.
  • I learned that I COULD live without the salt shaker. I am now a recovered salt-a-holic .  I found some delicious salt free spicy seasoning, some salt free mustard, and a very low salt salsa that flavor things deliciously.

After that 1st week, I gained back 2 pounds and I think it had to be the fact that I stopped concentrating on the 2 pounds of greens daily. For weeks 2-3, I let myself by with only 12 ounces and sometimes as little as 8 ounces.  At the end of week 3, I splurged and went out to brunch at a restaurant.  I had a Thai peanut bowl and even though I didn’t eat the peanuts, the creamy sauce did me in.  I also had a good amount of noodles later that night.  At the beginning of week 4 I was at 146!  I was heartbroken.  After all that work I was close to where I started.

My husband had similar results.  He lost a lot in the beginning and then he stopped eating so many greens and the weight loss stalled.  He stopped the program after 21 days and is now back to Paleo.

I’ve stuck it out and this week has been better.  I’m back down to 142.  My good friend sent me this article and I’ve discovered that I’m actually large boned.  According to this, my idea racing weight may be somewhere around 130-135 pounds.  (65 inches tall x 2 = 130 + 5 more for being big boned)  I don’t think I’ve seen a number on the scale below 140 in probably over 24 years and I have no idea how I’m ever going to get there.

I do know that on vacation next week that I will have some sugar.  I can’t go to Millennium and not try a dessert.  I’ll probably have some salt.  I’ll probably have a glass of wine and a craft beer and maybe even a mixed drink or two.   I might even have some meat.  (We’ll be with Ron’s family for some of the trip and I never want to be “that vegan person.”)  I am all about modeling a healthy lifestyle and not being so preachy preachy.

After vacation I plan on focusing on getting more protein after all my morning runs but still staying away from the sugar and oil.  I plan to stay away from drinking my calories (i.e. smoothies) and to try and stay away from too many grains.

My biggest commitment for after vacation is to go back to the track.  Ron at 50+ Runner does a track workout very often and he has inspired me to work my way back to 8×400’s.  I’ll still be in the middle of my 50 mile training after vacation and that plan calls for merely getting as many miles as possible under my feet.  But I can’t wait until after September 26th and my 50 miler.  I’m itching now to focus on speed.

Happy Running everyone.  I’ll post my San Francisco race recap as soon as possible after my return to NC in August.  I’m California bound in T-15 hours.

Race 13.1

Here’s a quick recap of this past Saturday’s Race 13.1.

This is a local race that has all the feel and perks of a big race.  The number one thing that was so awesome was it began at North Hills Mall so there was plenty of free parking.

Ron and I were ready to race!


We weren’t running together but we were both planning on running intervals.  I decided to give the 60:30 a try.

I hated it!  It wasn’t a big race but most of it was on the greenway and it was an out an back.  By mile 4ish, the leaders were heading back at you so you had to keep to the right.  There were lots of people doing intervals and we kept stopping and starting at different times and playing leapfrog.  Intervals themselves are ok but in races I find them very annoying.

By 6 miles, I was done with them.

My pace to that point was 12:06.  By mile 7 I had dropped my average down to 11:57.  By mile 8, I was averaging 11:55.  I stayed at 11:55 until around mile 11.  The course was pretty flat except for the Lassiter Mill Hill on the last half mile.  Even with the flat, I was slowing down quite a bit.  I ended up with a pace of 12:12 overall.  Makes me wonder what would have happened if I had stuck with the 60:30s.  Would I have stayed at the 12:06 or possibly gotten quicker?

Melissa's results Race 13.1 June 2015

Ron didn’t do a good as he usually does but he had a good run and a lot of fun.



He finished up at 3:11.

Ron's results Race 13.1 June 2015

I’ve made him promise to actually train for the next 7 weeks and make sure he clears the 3 hour cutoff at our next race, the San Francisco Half!

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC was at the race and they took this neat photo.  I pledge to Eat Better.

Pledge to eat right

I chose the background of the mountains because my hero is currently running the AT.  Go Scott Go!  And who can eat better than The Jerker?!  Goodness knows that’s where I need to focus.  I’ve done pretty good this week.  Breads are my total weakness.  I tend to do better the better I prepare.

meal prep

And I did do better after the race thanks to the awesome restaurant that provided the race food!  Three cheers for Sassool!


Rice and lentils, pita chips, and hummus!  Yummo! (They served chicken too for the omnivores.)

I loved the race and the shirt and medal are very nice.


Happy Racing!  Happy Running!  Happy Eating!