Insight from a Kickass Mother Runner in the Women’s Running World
I, like many other women, have found bliss through running. I started running shortly after the birth of my youngest child. After coming out of a miserable postpartum experience and finding myself horribly out of shape, I decided to give women’s running as a cheap form of exercise a try. Since I first started getting involved in women’s running, I’ve run tons of races, 5ks, 10ks, ½ marathons, a 50k—and my favorite of all—the overnight relay. During these relays, I have met many incredible female runners and Dani Carbo is one.
Dani Carbo is a mother, wife and a hardcore endurance runner. I met Dani while running Cascade Lakes Relay. I knew from the first moment I met her that she was a next-level runner. She trains year-round and runs races that take her all over the country. If you are interested in taking your running to the next level, she is an important person to follow in the women’s running world.
I did a Q & A with Dani Carbo. She shared her journey with women’s running along with some fantastic advice for new and seasoned women runners.
How did you get into women’s running?
I started running when I was in 7th grade, so not that long ago (*wink *wink). We were doing the mile run in our physical education class and I realized I really enjoyed it, and I had a somewhat decent time for never truly running. The teacher gave my name to the cross-country coach at the high school and I was asked to run for the team. I ran both cross country and indoor track in high school all four years.
What is your biggest running accomplishment?
This one is difficult to answer because it’s not always the longest distance or the one that I ran the fastest that I view as my biggest accomplishment. I’ve run several half marathons, a few full marathons, a 50K, a 24-hour endurance race and an endless amount of other distances. I’d say my biggest accomplishment is when I am able to overcome my fear and anxiety about a race or a course and toe the starting line. I often have doubts about my ability when I sign up for a challenging race, so there are times when I have to squash the anxiety and stoke the positivity.
Tiger Mountain Trail Half was a race I feared running due to the race elevation profile. I still remember the race director asking that morning who ran it the year before (as this was the second annual), and there were only a few repeat runners. This, of course, did nothing for my anxiety about the course. But, once we start and we get moving, I get into my zone or groove and all is forgotten. I’m back in my element and I quickly remember that I’m once again doing what I love. Getting to the start line sometimes can be the hardest challenge.
How many races do you run a year, and which is your favorite?
I run approximately 10-12 a year. I try not to do more than one a month but sometimes I get asked to run a relay or friends ask if I want to run a race with them and It is really hard to say no! I used to run a lot of road races…then It was a mix of road and trail.
Now, for the most part, I only run trail races. My favorite is Grand Ridge Trail in Issaquah, WA. It was my very first Trail half marathon about 7 years ago and it was the one I chose to do my as my first 50K this past November.
The half marathon has about 2400 feet of gain and the 50K has about 6000 feet of gain and it is mostly beautiful secluded single track with lots of switchbacks. It will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my where I fell in love with the trail.
What are some of the coolest wilderness areas you’ve gone through while running?
I live in Washington so many of the places are in mountainous areas in WA. I ran all of the races that were offered by the Evergreen Trail Series in 2018 mainly to see some different trails. Here are some of my favorite areas:
- Crystal Mountain, WA
- Tiger Mountain, WA
- Capital Forest, WA
- Taylor Mountain, WA
- Grand Ridge, Issaquah WA
- Squak Mountain, WA
- Ft. Steilacoom, WA
- Loop Loop Ski Area, WA
- Moab, UT
- Colt State Park, Bristol RI
- 10-mile drive in Newport, RI
- Outer Banks, NC
Some of these areas are coastal and not necessarily “wilderness.” I grew up in New England and love the beach. If I can run along the water, even if the freezing cold, I absolutely will any chance I can get!
How does your dedication to women’s running affect other areas of your life like your diet, relationships and parenting?
Running is a major part of my life. My spouse knows this, accepts this and supports my love of running. My spouse is also a very active person so it’s not something that is abnormal to him, so it is not something that interferes with my relationship. Fitness is extremely important to both of us in one form or another. Both he and my son often come to my races which sometimes means 3 a.m. wakeups, traffic, and sitting in the rain and cold to complete the course.
As for diet…good question. Most people assume I must eat extremely healthy all of the time. False. I LOVE COOKIES! The truth is I try my best to eat well because I know that my body needs it to meet the demands of endurance running. I do not cut anything out of my diet. I love carbs and sugar, but I try to eat in moderation and eat balanced. Bottom line is if I want to eat the cookie, I eat the damn cookie.
Running has actually fostered a stronger bond with my son. He started running cross country and track with his high school. Running with him and seeing him meet personal goals has been extremely enjoyable for me. Our leisurely runs allow us time to chat without being disturbed…although they aren’t so leisurely for me anymore as his pace is so much faster now!
What is it that keeps you running?
There is a feeling of euphoria that I often get after a good run. I don’t get that feeling EVERY time but when it happens, it is absolutely amazing. Running also keeps me centered and balanced. I saw a saying the other day, “It’s ok I ran today,” and it made me laugh. Fortunately, I have found other ways to find this balance after having some injuries that kept me sidelined. I realized that there is more to me than simply running, and it is extremely important to find that same joy in other things in order to stay healthy mentally when you aren’t able to run.
Looking ahead, which races to you have planned for the future?
I have a fairly laid-back summer with some relays on the agenda. My next big race that I’m setting my sights on is the Crystal Sky Marathon in September. I’ve been wanting to do that one for several years, I just may give this one a go. I’m also planning on doing the 24-hour endurance run in October again, and I have a trail camp I’m doing at Mt. Hood, Oregon hosted by one of my idols, Sally McCrae.
How do you think getting into women’s running has affected your life?
Obviously, running has positively affected my life in many ways since it is my primary way to exercise. It’s how I cope with stress and anxiety. But I would be lying if I did not say that it did not have negative effects as well.
Last year I made it a goal to run every one of the trail races in my local series to see how I would place. This goal became stressful and I no longer associated running the trail with joy as it became more of an obligation. I realized that while it’s important for me to set goals, it is more important for me to run happy.
What advice do you have to give other women who either want to get into distance running or who want to up their game in women’s running?
I gradually started increasing my distances over a long period of time. As my interest peaked, I simply added mileage to my training, signed up for races, dabbled with nutrition, and researched. I also joined Facebook pages and followed several ultra-runners who share ideas and provide recommendations on training plans, race nutrition, upcoming races, race gear etc.
Which races would you suggest for someone getting started? Which ones would you suggest for an advanced runner?
For those who are just getting started with trail running in Washington State, Dash Point and Soaring Eagle are two that I would recommend. Squak Mountain, Tiger Mountain, Grand Ridge, and Capital Forest, are all great locations for intermediate/advanced runners as there are always a variety of distances offered which of course increases the gain in elevation!
Anything else you want to share about your personal journey with women’s running?
Running used to be about getting a PR…now it’s about achieving so much more than that. Who cares about time when you find balance, peace, and euphoria? An ultra-runner I follow once said that the slower you run, the more time you get to spend enjoying the trails. Running the trails is where I find my joy, so why would I want to rush that!?