What doesn’t Steff Gardner do?
Steff Gardner enjoys a lot of adrenaline-inducing activities. Despite the intensity of her outdoor pursuits, she says she hates the adrenaline. Why? It makes her feel like she has to poop.
That’s an understandable urge as she’s jumped from planes, helicopters and other flying vehicles around a total of 300 times. She also climbs, drives a motorcycle and runs ultramarathons.
Running for love
“I met a really handsome guy… this dreamboat and I went on a date,” Steff said. Shawn, now her boyfriend and adventure partner, was an ultrarunner. At the time, Steff was running 3-5 miles a couple times a week. After the date, Steff ran 7 miles in a day just to see if she could do it.
“Even though it almost killed me, I was hooked! We started running together on the weekends,” Steff told us. Later, when he suggested the two run an unsupported marathon Steff said, “That sounds like a horrible idea. What time should I meet you?” It was the middle of winter in Ogden, Utah, where the duo live, and Steff was not yet a seasoned runner.
“I had no idea people were out there running 50 and 100 miles,” she shared.
Since then, Steff has become an avid runner, clocking multiple ultra marathons. Her favorite run is any single track in the springtime, but she’s partial to Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City.
While some people get into running as a way to lose weight, Steff loves cranking out some mileage because of the beauty.
“A sunrise after a rainstorm.
A sunset from a mountain top.
Clouds settling in nooks and crannies of craggie peaks.
Turquoise alpine lakes.
Ugh my heart might explode!” Steff wrote.
She also loves setting goals and besting them, along with the feeling of growing stronger and sweating less with each run. Steff is constantly building up her endurance by running every day, no matter the weather or how she’s feeling.
That is, except this past October when she broke her foot and had to spend several weeks in a boot. Steff had just been hired as a representative for Salomon Footwear and Suunto. She combined her love of running with a way to make money. Now, she’s thrilled to drive a “burly black SUV” emblazoned with their logos as she travels from Moab to Bozeman, Boise to Jackson Hole and in between to promote and discuss adventuring. She’s the only woman on a small team. In her words, “#girlpower.”
On the days she’s not feeling inspired to lace up her shoes, Steff turns to Instagram or friends to find someone to run with. “A little laughter and chit chat ALWAYS gets me back up and at it,” she said.
Cycling and climbing
Steff got into climbing, and eventually motorcycling, because she thought they looked cool.
“Once I started seeing people strapping their camping gear on the back of their motorcycles and hitting the road, I just wanted to be out there with them,” Steff shared.
Riding fast runs in the family – Steff’s dad was a “long-haired, Harley-riding hippie” when he was younger.
As for climbing, Steff asked, “Seriously, is there anything more BA than a girl on the sharp end?”
She claims her stages of fear go from excitement to nausea, shaking, a dry mouth and then the aforementioned feeling she has to poop. (We’ve all been there, right?!)
“I will admit that if I don’t do something a little risky or wild after a while, I start to get a little bummed and hyper-focused on the most insignificant things,” Steff admitted.
“But the moment I jump out of the airplane or find myself a couple pitches on some windy granite wall I have completely forgotten that I got ripped off at the airport when I bought an $8 juice. Or how I had to wait at the DMV for 2 hours.”
She says these intensely physical and mental experiences bring life back into perspective. Plus, she’s made some amazing friends in the outdoor community.
Steff doesn’t turn to adventures out of boredom, though. They’re often methods of escape.
“Almost everything wild I’ve gotten into I did after something tragic or heartbreaking happened in my life,” she admitted.
At times when she felt numb, like after the death of her childhood sweetheart and best friend, she would mourn and, eventually, turn to scary and exhilarating experiences as a way to feel again. She dove out of a plane for the first time a year after her friend’s death.
“At the time it was very uncharacteristic of me,” she noted. “I envisioned living so boldly and fearlessly, not taking a single second for granted, living life to the fullest!” This new perspective led her to Skydive Ogden, where the terrifying drop and intense thrill had her hooked with just one jump.
And She’s Dope Too
If you’ve ever looked about Instagram for adventurous ladies, you’ve likely come across And She’s Dope Too. This amazing company and movement started as a way to provide community for ladies looking to get involved in new outdoor activities. They hold meetups for like-minded women to don running shoes and climbing gear, grab SUP paddles and more. Some attendees are experts at the fun workout at hand and others have never worn athletic wear in their lives.
The name behind ASDT means that ladies are much more than a pretty face. They’re living purposefully and doing amazing things – they’re dope too!
Steff is an ambassador for ASDT. It’s no wonder, the two fit like a glove. Steff’s many interests and talents lend themselves beautifully to the running meetups she holds and attends when not on the road for her job.
“I fully supported their mission statement, their cause and just hoped they’d notice me,” Steff said of making a connection with ASDT. She started posting shots of her adventures on Instagram and tagging them @andshesdopetoo. Eventually, she learned the company is based out of Ogden, a mere mile away from where she lives.
When Steff met the company founders, “It was all sparks and fireworks,” she swore. “We’re stoked about all the same things that give us tingles down our spines!”
How does she get away with it?
Steff’s job in the outdoor industry allows her to do what she loves nearly around the clock. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just that she is “spoiled rotten.”
“There’s days I feel guilty that I’m enjoying my life and my job SO much,” she gushes.
Steff is the only woman on a 10-person team, and she usually loves it. She highly recommends other ladies in the field check out the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition. The group advocates turning your passion into your profession, which Steff is clearly mastering. She attends meetings and classes with the OIWC, which also provides mentoring, clinics, conferences and even casual wine nights for visiting and networking.
Getting out of the city
If you’re like us at Whoa, you’re doing a day job that’s not so fulfilling and instead living out your dreams after hours or on the weekends. Yet, sometimes you’re too tired to hop on a bike or take a swim – we are too. Steff recommends creating an adventure plan and sticking to it.
This means knowing a few days ahead that you’re going to go somewhere new, like a nearby crag, river or park. Then, invite friends. Not only will this give you more to look forward to, you’ll also be accountable for showing up. Steff turns to this option often.
“Being an idealist and a little unreasonable, I tend to plan grandiose events with every single second of daylight accounted for. Don’t do that.”
“Keep it simple, she adds. “Leave yourself some wiggle room but COMMIT to a happier you and go. Being outside makes us all so much happier,” Steff noted.
She also relies on a well-known slogan, “Just do it.” Sometimes it really is that simple. Stop worrying about cleaning your home, making extra money or buying the next cool gadget. Get outside in the fresh air.
Steff turns to a Salomon S-LAB Sense Hydration Pack that she stuffs full of cookies, pb & j and fruit roll-ups for any run or adventure over 15 miles. Water, high-calorie snacks and chapstick also makes the journey. Steff carries her phone for tunes and to take photographs of the gorgeous places she runs through. She’ll also toss in some salt and electrolyte tabs if the temperature is particularly hot.
While much of ultrarunning is about training and endurance, you also need to know how to eat and drink to stay fueled.
To keep her body in top shape and reduce lactic acid buildup, Steff uses contrast treatments when she runs varying terrain.
“Oh me, oh my. Contrast treatments are the bomb!” She told Whoa.
If she spends one day running a track and the next takes on a mountain she’ll reduce calf cramping with a heat pack for 3 minutes and then 30 seconds or a minute of ice, repeated.
She’ll also spend 5 minutes in a hot tub, and then head to a non-heated pool for 2-3 minutes if she’s clocking a lot of miles. This can seriously improve your performance if you frequently cramp up or have plantar fasciitis.
As for the boy who inspired Steff to run further? He’s still around. “We suddenly became more wild, motivated versions of ourselves… and we lived happily ever after.” Steff shared in the aftermath of their unsupported marathon.
You can find Steff on Instagram as @crashBOOMbang
and on her blog steffgardner.blogspot.com.
If you like adventure, check out the And She’s Dope Too blog to see a calendar of upcoming events. You just might run into Steff on a trail somewhere.