MS Run The US
Steamboat Springs to Denver: 178+ miles.
Two mountain passes.
Elevations of nearly 12,000 feet.
14,000 feet of climbing.
Sun, rain, snow, and everything in between.
1 amazing runner: Meet Abbie Solberg.
Abbie is a Master Data Analyst here at Smartwool in Steamboat Springs, CO (which is a fancy way of saying that she manages our entire line from a system standpoint, as well as all cross-brand processes). Abbie recently tackled segment #7 of the 2017 MS Run the US Relay, in which she ran from Steamboat Springs to Denver - the equivalent of a marathon every day for 7 days. We are honored to have her as a coworker and thrilled to share her story.
What inspired you to take on this challenge?
After a friend was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, I saw her go from a healthy and active mom of four to sometimes not even able to get out of bed. At the time, I knew of MS, but not much about it. The more I learned, the more I realized how little it was talked about. The MS Run the US relay is a great way to raise awareness while also giving back.
How did you train leading up to the event?
I started building a base back up after being selected in November to running about 55-65 miles a week in the spring. The key to my training was taking my rest day before my long runs, so my body could get used to running on tired legs after doing 24 mile days followed by 16 the next day. About eight weeks out, I raised the white flag when it came to strength. I can run for days, but ask me to cross-train, and I’m at a loss. I splurged on a trainer and went to Pilates. Sometimes you must own up to your weaknesses to ensure you can properly recover. It made all the difference for me!
What was the best moment of the seven days?
It’s hard to say what the best moment was. The whole experience changed me – from the day I was selected to run to the day I finished in City Park. Truly connecting with people tied me to the cause more than it had when I started the journey. I had no idea what to expect, but I came out of the journey with lifelong friendships, a passion for the cause, and a renewed confidence in my own voice.
What was your most challenging moment?
I’ll be honest. On day four, it was time to tackle a full day of uphill – to the top of Loveland Pass – and my body was weak due to a reaction from food allergies. 16 miles in, I had to stop and have a good cry. I pulled out my list of people with MS who had become my inspiration, and I read the names while I walked. Before I knew it, my legs were turning over again, and I put the struggle behind me to power through. The next ten miles were not easy, by any means, but I had a new attitude. When I got to the top, I honestly wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.
With 178+ miles in seven days, how did you take care of your feet and muscles during the week and after it was over?
I came out fairly unscathed considering the mileage. What kept blisters at bay? Lots of lube, amazing socks, and shoes a full size bigger than normal. With seven straight days of high mileage, I was nervous my feet would need the extra room, and am glad I sized up more than usual! I brought two thicknesses of socks and switched to a thinner sock to allow for swelling as the week progressed. I threw on my PhD Compression socks the second I finished my run… and rolled and stretched like a mad woman. But, my secret to recovery? Hitting the pool! The day after I completed my run, you would have been hard pressed to tell I’d spent the week running. I felt like I could keep going… and kind of wished I were still logging miles!
Let’s talk gear: what are your must-haves?
I ran “free” the last couple of miles each day, but I like to carry my nutrition. I found a women’s specific vest was my best bet – landing on the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta from the Jenny Collection. If you can believe it, I brought four pair of shoes with me. On day six, it rained for almost 20 miles, and I went through three pair of shoes. There’s no guarantee on weather, so I had to come with options for clothing. I think I experienced three seasons on day five. Socks: Run Light Elite (for earlier in the week), PhD Run Ultra Light (for when my feet swelled) and PhD Compression (for recovery). Tops: Women’s Merino 150 Tank and Seamless Long Sleeve. Pants: PhD Run Tight. Accessories: PhD HyFi Training Gloves and my staple Running4ThoseWhoCan’t trucker hat.
What about nutrition? How did you stay fueled throughout the week?
It took a while to figure out what my body could tolerate, but I landed on Tailwind for hydration. I alternated it with straight water every five miles. I can sustain on just Tailwind for a marathon, but when you’re doing days on end, you have to kick things up a notch. I supplemented with Honey Stinger chews and Natural Delights Coconut Date Rolls. For meals, I ate very clean… but on day five, the smell of French fries stuck with me for 14 miles. I couldn’t resist indulging once we got to Idaho Springs.
What was the most unexpected or surprising thing that happened during the run?
You can train your body to push through, but until you’re in the moment, you don’t know what to expect emotionally. I didn’t process what my run would mean to others, and it was extremely overwhelming to hear how much it was touching people’s lives. The run wasn’t just mine… it belonged to so many.
Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat. Now that I’ve done it, the journey doesn’t seem quite as daunting.
What advice would you give to someone looking to tackle a similar physical and mental challenge?
Dive into your “why” because you’ll lean on that throughout your journey. Sometimes running sucks. You’re tired. It’s hot, or it’s raining. Lace up anyway, and remember your “why.” That will prepare you for anything.
If you’d like to learn more, you can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/msruntheusabbiesolberg/ or check out her MS Run the US donation page at https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/abbie-solberg/msruntheus2017relay.