What’s Your Gear?: Rachel Toor: Distance Running

“I love to run on gnarly trails in beautiful places,” says Rachel Toor, who started running 19 years ago, when she turned 30. “I like training to see how hard I can push my body. I like to run with other people and I like to run alone. Now I’m waiting for my dog, Helen, to get old enough so that she can join me on long runs.”

Rachel estimates that she has completed 50-60 marathons and ultra-marathons (50K and 50 mile races) altogether. She also completed the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race in 2004, which took place over five days; she won the marathon that took place on day three. Locally, she competes in the Spokane and Windermere marathons and the Uncle Joe 50K. And she used to lead marathon pace groups as part of Team Clif Bar.

As for what motivated Rachel to take up the sport, she says it took writing her book, Personal Record: A Love Affair With Running (published in 2008), to answer that question. “Writing the book made me realize what running means to me,” she says. “The short answer is that it’s all about love. The long answer is, well, the book.”

In addition to her non-fiction books, Rachel writes for Runner’s World, Running Times, Trail Runner, and Marathon and Beyond, as well as “other, non-sweaty publications,” she says. And she works as a creative writing professor at Eastern Washington University. “Because [EWU’s] classes are at night, I write in the mornings and run in the afternoons, usually at the warmest time of the day,” she says. “Much of the thinking I need to do for my work happens during my long slow runs.”

As for Rachel’s training routine, she’s now working with a coach for the first time in many years. “I still treasure my ‘junk miles’,” she says, “but now I’m doing more focused training. But instead of going to the track, which I hate, I do interval sessions of miles or half-miles—or whatever—on the trails or at the dog park using my Garmin [watch].”

One of her most memorable races was running the Bridger Ridge 20 miler—which takes place near Bozeman, Montana—a few summers ago with Bob Hayes, a legendary Montana runner. “The run is harder than a marathon, as much of it is above 9000 feet. The winning times are, in fact, slower than marathon times,” says Rachel. “And the real kicker? Bob Hayes was 82 at the time. He beat the time he ran when he was only 79. And we had a blast.”

When competing in ultras, Rachel typically uses hand-held water bottles. “Although for really long runs, like when I did the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, I had to take a CamelBak,” she says.

As for her preferred choice of energy snacks, she says, “Because I was sponsored by Clif, I still have a lot of Clif Bars, Clif Shots, Clif Shot Bloks and Clif energy drinks. They seem to last a long time. But during ultras I tend to chow down on Oreos and Chips Ahoy, peanut M&Ms and anything else [race volunteers are] offering that looks good. While pacing a friend for the last forty miles of the Western States 100 miler, I ate the most delicious melted cheese sandwich I’ve ever tasted. At races, you have to be able to go with what they have.

“After a long race or training run, I consider a Subway meatball sub an essential gear item,” she says. “I hydrate with Diet A&W Root Beer before and after races.”

Besides running, Rachel competes in what she describes as, an “insane sport called Ride and Tie, where two people take turns running and riding a horse for 20-40 miles of trail.”

“Other than that, I stay away from water, the bike hurts my butt, and winters are meant for staying inside and reading novels. Basically, I’m just a runner,” she says.

Here is Rachel’s gear list.

RUNNING SHOES: Montrail trail shoes and Asics 2070 (“or whatever the current number is”). “Yes, I believe in wearing shoes to run,” she says.

SOCKS: SmartWool; Wrightsocks for marathons.

WATCH: Polar S625X. “I love it more than anything. I have a chapter in my book about how much I love my watch,” Rachel says. She also uses a Garmin Forerunner 310XT.

CLOTHING: Skirtsports running skirt, Moving Comfort sports bra, Moeben arm warmers, Dirty Girl gaiters, and “whatever shorts, tights and other clothes I get for free from Running Times,” she says. “I’m particularly fond of a pair of Brooks shorts, and the shirt I got from the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco last year.”


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