The Stubborn Tortoise

40 Episodes
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By: Donna Pazdera

People often ask me why I love trail running. It's all about the stories. You meet a different kind of person on the trails: connects with nature, doesn't mind slowing down if someone is in need, says, "Good job, runner." Trail runners are competitive, for sure. But it's also egalitarian. Seldom will you find the elites separated from the regular folk. Everyone gets lost at some point. Everyone falls. These are our badges of passage. This is my take on trail culture. Logo: Kevin Stich Music: "Our Sky," by Overland (via Free Music Archive) Contact Support this podcast: https://anchor...

All Roads Lead to the Valley...Well, Sort of
Last Sunday at 7:00 PM

Ben Garcia lost his ability to walk after a devastating motorcycle accident. But, through grit and determination, he regained that ability as well as the aptitude for running long distances. He is a veteran of the Iraq War and is now a 12-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department's downtown bike patrol. Running is Garcia's therapy and he uses it as a way to give back to the community. In the past few years, he ran a couple of 200-plus mile fundraisers for children's cancer as well as for law enforcement families. One of those was called from "210...


Finding Light in the Dark
01/09/2022

This past week was incredibly stressful: starting the semester earlier than usual, a zillion Zoom meetings, prepping my house for Hundo Jr. to move into my spare room fro the semester (this was the least of my concerns) and my debit card being compromised and not getting a reasonable solution in a short amount of time.

I have depression. I have talked about this before. Last week was the lowest low I've had in years.

But, like an ultra, you have to persevere through to see the end. And that is what I am doing.<...


Snowdrop aka Running in Circles for a Cause
01/03/2022

I rang in the new year as part of Team Wildebeest at the Snowdrop 55-Hour Race and Relay for children's cancer research and scholarships for children's cancer survivors.

A few of my friends: Hundo and Babe (Mrs. Hundo), along with Seresa, Tanya, Agatha, Don and others tackled the 100-mile challenge. The weather was like summer: mid-80s with wicked humidity. We were all struggling -- some with injuries, some with mental demons. But everyone did their best despite the challenges.

I was a Player to be Named Later for my team and ran as well...


Master's Edition: Judy Shipway -- with video!
12/27/2021

Judy Shipway is humble. She doesn't like to talk about herself, but I managed to coax some great stories from this 67-year-old San Antonio native. She now resides in Austin and is a retired Travis County prosecutor.

She has had an on-and-off relationship with running but has settled into the trail scene. She is a force to be reckoned with in terms of placing in her age division (and it's a growingly crowded field.)

She is a great listener, as I tend to talk too much -- ha ha. But she gracefully shared many stories...


Paz n Hundo Talk Holiday or Whenever Gift Ideas. First Video Episode!
12/19/2021

Paz n Hundo (aka Orlando Montalvo) discuss their best ideas for gifts for the runner in your life. This is our first video episode, so there are visual aids in addition to our expressions. Hope you enjoy this one. We loved recording this.

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Profiles in Courage
12/13/2021

It really is something to behold when you are a witness to a person's first trail race, much less their first 10K, marathon or 50K. But on Friday, I was fortunate to watch a number of folks tackle those benchmarks with grit and character. I was dispensing advice, cheer and sustenance as they passed through our aid station every 3.5 miles or so. It was uplifting to watch them finish.

On a separate note, I was very heartened to learn that this very podcast is so useful to people. I mean, it's not for the front-of-the-packers. There are...


A Marathon and an Ultra Wrapped in One
12/06/2021

I finished my first marathon on Saturday. According to my watch, it was 28.56 miles, so it was more of a 50K than a marathon, but who's counting?

It went well, despite my not-so-great training. Running at sea level is a wholly different experience and one that I prefer almost anytime.

It helped that we had an amazing support crew in Vivian and Rebecca. Vivian drove us, cooked for us, anticipated what we needed, while Rebecca flitted about, filling bottles, delivering food and drink and just being amazing. Maria finished her first (and possibly only) 50-miler...


A Recap and One of My Stupidest Tricks Yet
11/29/2021

I apologize about last week's episode. Well, not for the content, but for the horrendous crackling of my mic cable. It has been replaced and I can almost guarantee you, this will sound 100% better.

I recapped my race at Wild Hare since I doubt anyone could listen to the entire previous episode.

In addition, this weekend I will take on my first marathon and I am horribly undertrained. On the good side, I have company in that my friend, Maria, is going to be on the struggle bus, too. She's going to do fine, I...


Me vs. Me
11/22/2021

I've more or less given up on being super-competitive at races because I seem to get slower each year. BUT, I've taken to trying to beat myself, which is getting harder, too. I still love doing races and aim to do my best, but some days are better than others.

On Saturday, I set out to do the 25K at my favorite race of the year: Wild Hare. I like it because of the friendly, laid-back vibe and that the course, while challenging, isn't on the level of some of the more incredibly technical trails. Last year...


Paz n Hundo Talk About What's in Their Packs
11/15/2021

A lot of this depends on whether it's a training run, a self-supported race or a race with a bit of distance between aid stations. We share our favorite things and talk a little about packs. But the truth is: it's not the pack, but what you put in them.

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Volunteering Fun and New Blood
11/08/2021

I volunteered this past weekend at the Trivium race, hosted by Tejas Trails. It is their only road race, but it is challenging with lots of hills.

I introduced my friend, Jessica, to the volunteer life, and she was a big hit with the crew. She also said she wants to do more of this.

At times, we wore costumes, rang cowbells, cut up fruits and put out snacks. In short, we had a great time encouraging others to reach their goal.


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Sticks! Poles!
11/01/2021

Using hiking poles/sticks can be advantageous on technical, hilly trails. But, you have to weigh the pros and cons -- especially if your poles are like mine -- and don't collapse to fit into a pack.

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Pivoting to Plan B
10/25/2021

If you were a part of the Caactus Rose trail race, you had to quickly pivot from Plan A to Plan B. Runners had to adjust to a different course, cancel lodging and plans and make new ones. Behind the scenes, the setup had to be torn down at the original venue and set up again at the new one -- less than 48 hours before race time. I got a firsthand look at the course situation, as the race was canceled by the park manager on Wednesday morning. We grumbled but stoically set out to tear down and then...


Paz n Hundo Talk Injuries
10/18/2021

We're not doctors but we play them on a podcast -- not really. But, as average runners, we have sustained a variety of injuries over the years. I think we agree the worst one is plantar fasciitis. We offer up tips and advice -- based on our experiences.

We also veer offroad and off-topic a couple of times, but it's all fun -- until someone gets injured.


Photo: Me, with a loud green wrap holding my freshly stiched knee after a tumble down Lucky Peak at Cactus Rose in 2015.

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Master's Edition: Mary Kay Cooper
10/03/2021

Mary Kay Cooper is a triple-threat: swimmer, runner and cyclist. She didn't let a bout with thyroid cancer slow her down. She has a strong drive and enjoys trying new, unusual things, like a swim, run, swim, run, swim, run....where you have to wear your trail shoes for the swim!

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A Significant Date and the Beauty of a Good Interval Pace
09/26/2021

I discovered that Sept. 26 had a couple of significant memories in my running career: in 2015, I sprang back from a disappointing DNF and redeemed myself, even after the course closed. The following year marked my first time as an aid station captain at the inaugural J&J Trail Running Reunion. I brought a couple of young guys to Camp Eagle, from the Rio Grande Valley. Neither of them had ever participated in a trail race before. One of those guys, PJ, loved it so much that he has just become one of the race directors for Tejas Trails...


Paz n Hundo Talk Drop Bags
09/19/2021

When you're doing a self-supported race or a long training run, you need to pack bags for sustenance. We offer tips for what and how to pack, as well as reminiscing about self-supported races. Also, Paz has some Breaking News about Cactus Rose. (Don't get too excited, but she will be out there in the middle of the night on Saturday.) If you have other tips, send 'em my way.

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The Tire Guy...aka The Mentally Tough One aka Monté
09/12/2021

If you have done Brazos Bend or Habenero Hundred, you may have seen Steven Monté out there dragging a 22-pound tire with his name on it or wearing a weighted vest. Crazy? Yes. But that isn't the point. Monté has reinvented himself in the last few years and has landed upon a certain freedom that lets him live out his dreams. Very inspirational.

In other matters, I talk about regaining that ultra mindset and have the joy of making like-minded friends. It has changed things for me. Plus, mentions of the B-52s, Joe Jackson, the Monkees an...


Finding the Right Niche
09/06/2021

Since I moved from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio four years ago, I have had limited success in finding a running group where I truly felt comfortable. It's more to do with me and my insecurities about not being fast enough. When I lived in the Valley, my group was supportive of runners of all speeds and I started a rule where no runner was left behind.

I have made some friends within various groups and occasionally meet up with them. But, a lot of the time I hang back from joining because I feel...


Course-marking is harder than it seems
08/30/2021

Have you ever run a race and wondered how long it took for organizers to mark the course? For the Capt'n Karl's race last weekend at Reveille Peak Ranch, it took two solid days. I joined the crew last Wednesday and hung little flags from branches and other spots to guide runners. I'm hoping no one got lost. Other duties involved driving stakes into the ground and tying caution tape to them, to keep runners from going where they shouldn't. It was a lot of fun and gave me another bit of experience in my role as a volunteer.<...


COVID scare, plus the best and worst races for me.
08/16/2021

The title says it all.

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Training Plans: Yes, No, Maybe
08/09/2021

Even though I like to drift through a lot of things, adapting to whatever is thrown my way, having a training plan is a good idea. Sometimes, they're too rigid, sometimes too flexible and every now and then, they're just right. The big component is your willingness to stick to it to get the desired results. Sure, you could probably gut it out, but it might be nicer to work with a plan. My thoughts and experiences.

Here is my favorite 50K training plan. Probably going to dust it off for Rocky Raccoon 50K.

Also...


What Does Orville Peck Have to Do With Running? Let Me Tell You.
08/02/2021

OK, this episode is light on the running thing but more on the philosophy/mental game of running: you have to accept who you are and respect that. Just because other folx do 100-milers doesn't mean you should.

Nonetheless, thank you, OP, for helping me reach a moment of clarity about life and running. :)

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Paz n' Hundo Talk Hydration
07/25/2021

Two of the Biggest Sweaters in Texas offer advice about hydration, what to take, what implements to use and more!

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Changing Goals
07/19/2021

It's funny, but I recorded one version of this earlier but deleted it because my dang allergies made me sound sinusy.

In between, a friend who offered to coach me for the Brazos Bend 50-miler emailed me and admitted that it would be too complicated to successfully see me through. It was then that I realized I've been succumbing to pressure (my own) to keep pushing the limits when I really don't want to go any further. There are other things I'd like to do or accomplish in the future. I love trail running but I think...


Third Anniversary!
07/13/2021

This week marks the third anniversary of The Stubborn Tortoise. What started as me reading previous blog posts have evolved into something more: my experiences, hearing the experiences of master's runners, how the community coped with the pandemic to advice episodes with my buddy, Hundo. I share a handful of clips from previous episodes. Here's to evolution!

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Master's Edition: The Four Amigos
07/05/2021

Four Austin-area guys in their 60s-plus, gather each week to run or hike together. They are all formidable runners but at this age, injuries can hinder their efforts. Still, they take it in stride (pardon the pun) and say they have no interest in ever "retiring" from the sport they love. Younger folks may want to heed their message as runners of any age look to the future.



Photo: From left: Henry Hobbs, Joe Prusaitis, Gabe Ayson, John Kuss and chair. The chair is part of the scenery for residents to...


Paz and Hundo Talk Shoes and Socks
06/28/2021

In the latest installment of Paz and Hundo, we delve into the mysterious world of shoes and socks -- what works for us and what advice we give to you in your quest.

Also, I give a brief-ish recap of my race at Pedernales Falls over the weekend.


Photo: Me and Hundo wringing out our socks midway though a 20-miler in 2015.

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Grinding, Hot-Weather Tips....and (drumroll) Boobs and Sports Bras
06/21/2021

I have discovered that simply grinding out miles day after day is a good thing. I'm looking forward to it, even if it is insanely hot and humid. I may be acclimating. I am logging miles to virtually get across Tennessee (and I am behind, but determined). I also offer up some tips on surviving summer races. And (no boys allowed) I talk about the Holy Grail of sports bras for me. I found one a few years back and bought five or six of them. Then, the company went out of business and I have been swinging and...


The Survivor: Frank Arredondo
06/14/2021

Frank Arredondo is a friend of mine from the Rio Grande Valley. He is a pharmacist and became one of the first people to be hospitalized with COVID-19. He is doing great now, but he was on a ventilator for 10 days and given some experimental drugs. He was more or less of a guinea pig for doctors in the early days of the pandemic.

Frank recounts his gripping story, including the bravery and tenacity of his wife, Tyra Greene, who kept a journal that launched them into the national headlines.

His story is one to...


You Can Do Anything for 30 Seconds
06/07/2021

In this episode, I talk a little about a training concept known as "Jeffing." It is a term related to coach and marathoner, Jeff Galloway. The concept is regardless of your ability, by incorporating walk breaks into your runs will ultimately prevent injuries, help your mental outlook and allow you to accomplish faster finishing times than if you just ran the whole thing.

I know this will ruffle some feathers, but I've been trying it for a few weeks and really enjoy it for training runs. (I haven't tried it yet on trails or at a race.)<...


Gluttons for Punishment
05/31/2021

On Saturday. four hardy souls toed the line for the Third Annual Ice Cream Challenge. Contestants have to eat a variety of ice cream treats and then run 1.5 miles in between each serving. It starts with a Chipwich and ends with a pint of ice cream -- unless you choose to go the Junior Varsity route.

I spectated and shot video of the festivities. No one threw up but getting through the pint proved to be the chore that it sounds like.


Photo: Ulises Marrufo, Thomas Bowling, Chris Russell on the "podium."<...


Paz and Hundo: The Nitty Gritty
05/25/2021

Paz and Hundo are back with some strategies and tips for running in the wild. Bodily function stories ahead.

Plus, a bonus story about herding a baby goat back to its mama.

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Master's Edition: Matt Martinez aka "Mr. Selfie"
05/17/2021

Matt Martinez was one of my running buddies when I lived in the Rio Grande Valley. He is 55, more of a road runner and doesn't aspire to run beyond 25K - ever. And that's OK. I think too often we pressure ourselves into aspiring to crazy distances or paces.

Matt doesn't do that. He gets the run-life balance.

We used to call him "Mr. Selfie" because he would post , um, selfies on Facebook after his runs. He also nicknamed our friend, Tanya, as "Tanya One More Hill" because she always wanted to push the limit.<...


Master's Edition: Brian Sharp.a Paragon of Tenacity
05/09/2021

Brian Sharp is an inspirational runner, not only because he has overcome disabilities or obstacles, but because of his positivity. He is someone with an interesting back story and has some audacious goals for the next year.

In my outtro, I talk about my GVRAT experience, making mosaic-tiled pots, do you want swag and more.

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Whadaya Mean, 100 Miles? Master's Edition with Seresa Romero
05/02/2021

Seresa eats 100 miles for breakfast. She has the ideal mindset and training discipline one needs to tackle those goals.

She shares her story of her running journey as well as what's ahead in her future: spoiler alert: she plans to log 150 miles this year at Snowdrop!

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Paz and Hundo Talk Travel
04/26/2021

Half of the adventure of doing an out-of-town trail race is getting there. In the first of a monthly segment, Paz and Hundo, aka Orlando Montalvo, will share stories and advice or worthless information (ha ha). Our inaugural episode is about travel. We share some of our favorite stories of being on the road, ranging from a deflated air mattress to a toxic-smelling hotel room to sleeping on the only available surface left: the floor. Sit back and enjoy the stories.




Photo: Hundo and Paz (with Normita blurred...


Master's Edition: Coach Basilio Mendoza
04/18/2021

Mendoza, a South Texas native, has a compelling backstory about his upbringing, race and being first in his family to graduate from college. He coaches high school cross country and has seen his team win state championships. He raises money for his team to travel outside of the Valley by holding local road and trail races. In between, he coaches adults. He is a very accomplished runner in his own right. And no matter what your ability, Coach Mendoza always has supportive things to say.

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The Pandemic Experience: The Race Director's Perspective With Chris McWatters
04/15/2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Chris McWatters, the race director for Tejas Trails, was oblivious to what was transpiring. He was marking the course at Camp Eagle, site of the J&J Trail Running Reunion, which is notorious for having little to no cell phone access. His wife, Krissy, was trying to reach him to tell him that everything was shutting down and wondered how they were going to find toilet paper.

Fast-forward a year or so, and McWatters has learned a few things about race directing during a pandemic -- also thanks to Krissy for...


Returning to the Origins
04/12/2021

I returned to the Rio Grande Valley this past weekend to reconnect with friends and the place where my trail-running career began. The reason: the Mesquite Fire trail race. It was among the first "live" running events since Texas reopened after the pandemic closed the state.

I met up with a lot of friends and reacquainted myself with the sea-level, hard-packed trails. I got most of the "full experience" out there. You'll have to listen to find out.

The pollen made my eyes and nose run and the humidity ensured I was a sodden mess...