Thursday, May 21, 2015

To the Skeptics, Naysayers and Disbelievers

I am coming to realize now that I have gone ‘public’ about my goal to run a 100 mile race - and because this goal is ‘extreme’- I must get used to people expressing concern.   It's not something I am accustomed to as I am generally a moderately cautious type. I'd even say apprehensive when it comes to risk, especially physical risk.   Is participating in a 100 mile race crazy? Absolutely! Are there risks for the body? Yes.. it's possible (but not guaranteed). Why do I want to do it?  Well there's no short answer, other than to say it's about the journey, not the destination. Cliche. But true.

Recently on a Facebook post (bragging about how pleased I was that my photos are used in Running Times Magazine article titled "Is 100 the New Marathon?") a concerned aunt posted a very short and simple comment "I would ask you to stop at 50 miles just as your auntie the RN".  It even had a smiley face.  Innocuous.  Loving.  Concerned.  I responded with a fairly succinct comment explaining how I research and try to train smart, etc.  Her response - perhaps the one that pushed my button - was "Ok just talk to Bob about it too".  Bob is my younger brother.  It would be safe to say we are quite different.  It would even be safe to say that we are pretty much opposite. 

So, I believe the invitation for dialogue has been opened and I will take this opportunity to respond in a way that all who have doubts can read... Let me first address the comparison to my brother as an athlete (not everyone knows my brother but it seems that everyone has a comparison in mind);  This seems odd and funny or just plain misguided because it is essentially comparing a (nearly) 50 year old woman who has used a fair amount reserve and caution in life to a teen-to-early-20’s man that lived (dare I say it) a bit recklessly and on the edge.  He now lives with constant aches and pains.  I am lucky to be pain free, no injuries, and no deformities that limit my physical athletic abilities.   At the age of 43 I began exploring an endurance sport (that many believe the human form is meant for).  I have immersed myself  into researching, reading, asking and learning as much as possible. I have slowly advanced my distance over several years.  I have paid careful attention to my body.  I have been amazed as it surpassed running distances that I never thought possible for myself.  However,  I am a big believer in recovery (so I take time off).  I feel I am thoughtful and pragmatic about each step of my training (I have had many people comment about how 'smart' I train).  Training is a very methodical process, I don't just go out and "run more" (the people who do are setting themselves up for injury and it is my belief that many of the people I talk with who say they wish they could still run but have bad knees, did just that).  A strong, fit body keeps better form and better form leads to fewer running injuries. I do gym strength training routines to build up my supportive muscles (what every runner should know but many do not: weak hips equal bad knees). I do balance exercises.  I strengthen my core (glutes, hips, abs, back) to help my kinetic chain support my upper body while running (especially to keep good form in the later, fatigued miles).  I have long felt a missing element for me is Yoga and I plan to implement that into my routine too.... Etcetera….

As a young man, my brother played high impact sports (it seems like he did just about all of them.  He was very popular in high school.  After high school, he continued to be athletic (and popular).  Some of his jobs were also physically demanding).  He has a large male frame. I think it's fair to say that he liked pushing it in life.  And I can guarantee (well, maybe not guarantee but I'm pretty certain) he never gave a second thought to how any of that would affect him later in life or how he could best support his body in these physical challenges. There really is no comparison to these two people; Me, now as a 47 year old woman and him then, a 15-25 year old man. So with all due respect, in my mind, there is no comparison.

Let's talk diet and nutrition;  (I have not been a shining example and certainly should not be pushing or preaching but) I recently made a lifestyle change. We (my boyfriend and I) stopped eating meat and dairy and adopted a mainly plant based whole foods diet.  We are not vegan as we occasionally eat fish, feta and goat cheese.  Our bodies responded well. His bad cholesterol plummeted within weeks.  My 5'4" body shed over 25 pounds and yet I eat like a pig.  It has not been about deprivation and I never experienced hunger pangs, fatigue or low energy.   By mainly eating whole foods we automatically omit many packaged foods from our diet (bread is my nemesis).  This naturally eliminated a huge amount of sugar (I still use honey in my morning coffee but I believe that honey has many health benefits so I will not cut it out of my diet). In addition to shedding  body fat (which equals less weight for my frame to carry while running)  I found that my body recovered way faster from long runs and hard training weeks. I would actually say I was flabbergasted by how quickly I began to recover and how great I would feel after super long runs. The lengths of which had been covered in previous training periods and races so I definitely know the comparison of a swift recovery to being knocked out by a long run/race and feeling like I got hit by a truck.  During other training periods for some of my races I had some aches and pains flare up temporarily (creaky knees, plantar fasciitis, etc) and I expected that it would be worse this last time because of the more intense training but the opposite happened.

I have never felt as energized, healthy and good in my body as the time leading up to and around my 50 mile race.  Other than being muscle sore in my quads for two days after the race I had absolutely zero aches and pains. Zero.  To say I was amazed is an understatement.  I unequivocally credit this to smart training and the change in eating habits.  The more I asked of my body the more great nutrition I fueled it with!  Green juices (cucumber, celery, kale, bitter greens, spinach, pineapple, apple, carrot, beets, ginger, lime/lemon).   Green smoothies (with blueberries, hemp seeds, coconut oil, avocado, chia, flax, acai, goji berries, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, celery, cucumber, kale, spinach, banana, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, vegan protein powder)...  I take omega fish oil and b vitamins, vita-mineral green powder, vita-mineral earth powder, spirulina, wheat grass… (and am still discovering new supplements to add to my routine like tart cherries - any suggestions? I’m open!)… I'm conscious of getting anti-inflammatory foods into my diet (love me some ginger!)… drink lots of water.  I try to consciously think of how all that good green nutrition is going into my body and how happy all my cells are (go ahead, visualize it; cells doing the happy dance.  That's it!). …  I even chose to use the most natural food fuels I could during my 50 mile race rather than the sugary gels handed out at the race.

Because I am pursuing a goal that is not only out of the ordinary but extreme,  I suppose people will feel the need to caution me.   I've even been told that running (any distance) is bad for the body because it jiggles the insides and is especially not good for women (flashback to to pre title ix anyone?).   However, in the bigger picture, what is interesting to me is that we all expose ourselves to risk every day.  Risks no one talks about.  And the more I learn about nutrition, the more I was and am horrified by the Standard American Diet and Standard American Doctors!  But who feels comfortable telling people their concerns about the lifestyle diseases they are willingly choosing to subject their bodies to?  So many horrible things we eat and do are considered acceptable.  We are a pill-popping, mask-the-problem-don't-actually-fix-it society.  Smokers!  Are you in complete denial?!  I may be at risk of having an encounter with a mountain lion on some of my long, remote runs. I know that. However, I also know my risk of getting cancer from second-hand smoke is greater!  Not to mention the risk of getting into a car accident on my drive to the trail!  The point here is that risk exists in all kinds of activities and habits considered "normal" in our society.

This brings me back to my brother,  a few years ago in conversation he told me he was ‘morbidly obese’.  He didn't seem to have any plans to change that fact.  I'm sure he is limited in the exercises he can do (because of back issues and surgeries) but it is my belief that if he tweaked his diet to be more plant based and nutrient dense his mass would decrease and his body would have a much easier time.  Not to mention the internal lifestyle disease that I am certain he is doomed to experience.  But because he is considered in the normal realm, it is unlikely that anyone will openly express their concern.  Even I didn't know how to respond at the time, today I would have plenty to discuss.

All that said, I am grateful to my aunt for voicing her concern to me.  I know it was out of love.  I'm aware of other people who feel similarly but don't talk to me directly.  I respect and accept people's love and concern but I felt the need to write this blog post so that, maybe, others can understand my point of view.  Before you judge what I am doing, ask me questions.  Learn.  You may still not be on board with my goal, but understand that I am not being impetuous.

One of my favorite quotes; “Danger is real. Fear is in the mind”.

Are there risks in attempting to run 100 miles? Absolutely! Rhabdomyolosis, hyponatremia and some other pretty intimidating conditions.  But there are health risks related to being a couch potato as well!  I don’t pretend that I am exempt from incurring an injury but I refuse to live my life from a place of fear… I realize that my experience doing the 50 mile race will not necessarily be the same for a 100, but I am doing my best to be smart and lower my risks as much as possible.  I also don't plan on running more than one (or two).  I like the 50 mile distance and will likely do a few more of those.  But what I envision long term is maybe one race a year to keep me motivated.  Otherwise, I just love getting out on the trails (especially with my dog!).   Running on trails is more forgiving than running on roads and I am a trail runner through and through (we won't get into the therapeutic benefits of being out in nature several times a week, I'll save that for another post). Plus the longer the race, the slower the pace (hiking is acceptable in trail running).  

In my running world I am surrounded by so many inspiring endurance runners. They don’t hobble around.  This sport is full of ‘older’ runners.  In fact, the 50 miler that I did in April had 5 finishers over 70… yes, you read that correct: over 70 years old!!!   All of them finished ahead of me!…  38 finishers in their 60’s (only 7 were slower than me)…. 114 finishers in their 50’s... 248 finishers in their 40’s... 181 finishers in their 30’s...  And only 43 finisher’s in their 20’s. This race alone is a great example that this sport of ultra-endurance trail running is well suited to older runners.  Most of these people are not checking off a bucket list event, they are ultra-runners and participate in many races (and distances) a year (yet another post; the camaraderie in the trail running world).  I invite anyone to come to a 100 mile race and finish line (or even a 50, or 26.2 or 13.1).  You will see some bodies that have been ravaged carrying beaming smiles and spirits that are soaring.  It literally brings tears to my eyes when I witness it.

It is not about the high of an accomplishment.  It is about a journey.  For me, the person who crosses these finish lines is not the same person who doubted her ability to stand at the start line of a half marathon five years ago.  This journey may appear to be physical to onlookers, but it is immensely mental. Psychological.  Emotional.  Spiritual.  Ask any trail runner.

As you can see, this would have been a tad too long for a facebook response so it turned into a cathartic blog post.  Everyone has their own perspective and the experience it is based on.  I welcome loving concern and feedback but please understand that I am steadfast.  Hopefully you will understand a little more after reading this post that the only thing that will change my mind is my own body.  I promise to listen carefully.

Thanks for caring and taking the time to read this post.

Happy Trails!


For the curious, here are some of my food inspirations and resources:
Food Matters TV - Watch Hungry for Change, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead... or any of the movies
Food Matters  web siteA wealth of information
Forks Over Knives - Visit the site, watch the movie
Rich Roll - Read his story, book and listen to his podcast interviews

And one for the running:

Friday, April 10, 2015

The 2015 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run - Clear Your Mind of Can't

How does one encapsulate a huge journey into paragraphs?.... How does one put into words the subtleties of a slow transformation, the kind that hardly feels like anything until one looks back? 

Last weekend I ran the American River 50 mile endurance run and I'm not sure what to write.  Here is an example of the only short version I can think of:
Once upon a time... I signed up for a 50 mile race.  I trained well.  I ran the race.  It was really hard but I finished within the cutoff time... The end.
But perhaps that's just a bit too short.  If you're a curious sort and plan on reading further, I suggest you get comfortable, I can be wordy.  You have been forewarned.

For me, this journey is less about 'running 50 miles' and more about transformation.  I can't help but think of when my endurance running began, back in 2010 at the age of 43 feeling overwhelmed by an invitation to participate in a Half Marathon!  The post that started this blog best explains how this is a journey of transformation and reaching one's potential.

You see, I honestly didn't think I could run 13.1 miles.  I did.  Then I did it six more times.  Then I did a full trail Marathon. Again.  Then a 50k....  Each and every time I wondered if this would be my limit.  Each distance was difficult and I was challenged, but after each one I wondered about the next distance. 

Going into AR50 I was inspired by this blog post and adopted the mantra "Clear Your Mind of Can't".  The redefining of the word "can't'" is the crux of change in my life.

Mantra bracelets I made to wear during my race; Find Your Strong, Clear Your Mind of Can't and Be Badass!

The race!  You want to know about the race!... 

I devoured information... articles, blog posts, race reports and videos... anything and everything I could find.  I soaked it all in.  I trained well, disciplined and consistent.  I tried not to think about the  race as a whole and broke it into segments.  I was confident that I could make it to the halfway point and I had faith that my pacers could get me to the finish.  The race has three segments to pick up pacers and I was blessed and fortunate that my running buddies and my boyfriend wanted to pace. Three segments, three pacers.  How perfect was that?!

To calm my pre-race nerves I reminded my self that all I had to do was make it to them and then we would do what we do; run.  It took an hour and a half to fall asleep the night before the race, but after three hours of solid sleep I felt ready.  We had to be in the parking lot by 5am.  The silver lining here was that there was a lunar eclipse happening!  So we sat in the warm car and watched it.

Time to line up and who crosses my path?  The Good News guy from my WTC50k race!  I took it as an omen that this would be a good day.

 ((video link - coming soon))

Off we go... Keep it slow.  The air was cool, the skies clear.  It was a beautiful sunrise.

I did a good job of breaking the task down in my mind to 'aid station to aid station'.   Keep it slow and steady.  My mind stayed focused and positive, my body felt strong.  I fueled and hydrated when prompted by my Garmin.

But then the morning warmed up.  And the trail turned into sidewalks.  My least favorite part of the course.  My legs began to feel 'tight'.  It was subtle, but it was there.  I felt low between miles 15 and 19.... A seasoned ultra-runner had given me the advise to "leave your ego at the start line".  Initially when I read this I thought 'oh, no worries, I know I'm slow, I don't have an ego'.  But somewhere around this time is when I realized that my ego had been hoping to make my ultrasignup target of 12 hours.  With the issues in my legs I was realizing that my true goal was to finish before the cutoff time.  The meaning of his words became clear.  Do what you can and adapt.

At the first crew accessible aid station, Negro Bar, I was met by my mom and aunt.  It was such a lift to see them, I got a bit emotional.  They told me I was about 20 minutes ahead of my target.  My mom gave me the avocado roll she brought for me (loved them on my long runs in training).

((video link - coming soon))

From Negro Bar to Beal's point it's pretty much uphill, it's not steep but it's steady.  And on concrete.  I caught up with the Good News Guy and he advised just keeping a brisk walk for the section.  I did.  Here I met a man that had finished the AR50 23 times, plus 12 consecutive Badwater finishes... and some other impressive stuff. 

I had to take a photo here because I've seen this shot in so many blog posts.

Beal's Point, mile 24.31! As promised, I made it to the halfway point (still 15 minutes ahead of target) and it was time to pick up my first pacer.

This stop proved to be more emotional than I had anticipated.  It had seemed that the first half, the easy half, had kinda kicked my butt more than I thought it would.  My legs were still tight.  As I entered I began to see so many people I knew and the group was so large I became overwhelmed by the fact that they were all there.  For me.  To support me on this crazy adventure!  Wow.  Plus my boyfriend was the absolute best crew captain!  Everything I had asked for was provided.  He filled my hydration pack with ice (a lifesaver!) and my pockets with fuel and sent me off... with Holly!  We did what we do... run... and chat!  

Off with Holly

Photo by Holly

This 5.14 mile section went by so fast with her company!  We chatted about running and life in general, just like normal.  It was mostly a lovely single track trail with gentle rolling terrain overlooking Lake Folsom, flowers and butterflies everywhere.

Next stop; Granite Bay, mile 29.45.  In hindsight, I took too long of a break at this aid station.  Again, it's just so crazy to have so many people there for support.  I got caught up in the moment, and the shoulder massage from my aunt!  Crew Captain Extraordinaire filled my pack with ice, the pockets with fuel and informed me it was time to go!

At this point eating solid food was proving difficult.  When I tried to eat my ABJ or my avocado roll it was like putting powdered cement in my mouth.  Adding water did not help.  I relied on my Stinger Waffles (a relatively new discovery, yum) and chews and gels (Stinger).  I have tried to keep my run fuel as natural as possible.  It has really helped with GI issues.

This pacer was happy to get into the race!

Now it's time to run with Torie... my Torinator!  Running... It's what we do. We had talked pacer strategy prior to the race, but it's hard to know what you'll need or what will work when it's the first time.  I had told her that I wanted to be pushed and that I was not to be believed if I said I wanted to drop. We started this section with her in front, I did my best to stay with her.

In many of the race reports I had read this section was where runners experienced their lowest point and that contrary to logic the miles in the 30's were harder (mentally and physically) than in the 40's.  Confirmed.  At this point the tightness in my legs was spreading, it was no longer subtle.  My glute, inner hip, hamstring, quads and calf (mostly on the left side) were all protesting and making a vague threat to cramp.  Downhill proved the worst and I became super slow.  My left knee lost flex (felt kind of like it froze) and the huge two foot drops in the trail became very difficult to navigate.  Rocks. Roots. Boulders. Drop offs.  It seemed like miles of it.  Hard to navigate, impossible to get a groove or momentum.  The cool breeze of the day was gone and the heat started to take over, it felt humid.  This section is called the "meat grinder" and I was understanding why!  It was becoming harder to focus.  My garmin lost signal and the fuel and hydration reminders were inconsistent.  I struggled to answer simple questions (like "do you need to eat?" do you want to stop to stretch your legs?") but I never doubted my ability to continue.  I had a few thoughts that maybe this pain would slow me down enough that I might have to walk, and that might cause me to miss a cutoff... but I never lost focus of forward movement.  This section of trail was also stunningly beautiful.  Butterflies and and flowers galore!
This view was stunning in person.  We joked about how it would not translate in a photo. One of the joys of being out on the trail.

Again, it doesn't translate... these two trees have apparently grown together, forming one branch.

At some point in this section Torie had me take the lead.  I managed to take a gel and within a few minutes I seemed to pick up some momentum.  When I would happily join those walking in front of me on the single track trail I would hear Torie quietly say "Pass these folks"... and I would.  We were moving again!  My legs were still tight, but I found a gait that allowed me to gain momentum.  We passed most of the runners that had passed me.  It felt unbelievable.

Then we started to hear the distant cheers of an aid station... Rattlesnake Bar, mile 40.94!

Holy smokes!... I made it to Marcelo!... we only had nine miles left.  I knew - knew - at this point that I would finish this thing!  I had lost quite a bit of time in the meat grinder and was now about 20 minutes behind my target time, but still ahead of the cutoff.  More ice, more fuel and it's off with my guy...

He's fresh and ready to go eat some hills!
Off we went!... The scenery of the trail changed again as we left Folsom Lake and went up the river... At this point I was pretty fatigued and we didn't talk much.  It's also narrow single track so talking was not easy.  I stayed in front and did what I could when I could... I told him "I know this is not a pretty gait, but it's all I've got and it's working!".   At some point the Badwater guy passed me and I realized that he has finished this race 23 times, he is not about to get timed out.  If I can stick with him I know I'll make the cutoff.  He stopped at an aid station and we continued.  We started passing people.  I don't think it was that I was gaining speed as much as they were losing speed.  The fact that I was holding up well here was crazy!  Each time we passed someone struggling it put my experience into perspective and I counted my blessings.  I was not laid flat out in a field next to the trail.  I was not dry heave puking into the bushes.  I was not stretching out a cramp.  I was not white as a ghost talking about sitting.  I did not feel great, my legs were still tight... but I was moving steady and strong, especially on the uphill.

Ahh... the uphill... That daunting ascent at the end of the AR50 elevation chart...

I can't believe I'm saying this but it wasn't as bad as I had feared.  Yes, it was UP.  It was LONG.  But I was able to keep moving strong.  Marching it out.  I continued to pass people - lots of people - on this section.  The issues in my legs were affecting my dowhills so the uphill actually felt decent.   I made the boyfriend proud each time I 'picked someone off' (his words ;).  At some point I said out loud "maybe 50 is enough".  I just can't imagine attempting a 100 mile race...
One Mile to go!  But it would take too much energy to stop, turn around and go again...

Less than a quarter mile to go and I let the jets cool.  I got passed by a few people, but I didn't care and let them go.  A runner and pacer that I had been leap-frogging with for the whole second half passed me and as they gained distance they kept looking back.  I had the feeling they really wanted me to keep up.  It was a cool feeling, the bond that forms out there even without words.  Marcelo told me how proud he was of me but I was so focused that my response was "I'm not done yet"...

Then we start to hear the crowd.  The announcer.  See spectators.  Cones.  This is it!  The finish...!!!

I friggin did it!  Wow.  Crazy WOW!!!!  

And there they are again.. all those people that came to support me!  All so happy and proud.   Huge smiles!  They went through this journey with me.  They fueled my spirit all day.  At all the aid stations I would hear "you look great, you don't even look tired"... but I was tired and I did struggle.  I think my pacers witnessed that.  Having this group lifted me.  I honestly think that the monkey mind would have taken hold if I hadn't been surrounded by so much love and support all day.  I was so grateful, it was amazing!  WE did it...!!!

Pacers!  They make the world go 'round!

I got my 'free' jacket; All I had to do was pay the race fee and RUN 50 MILES!

It was an awesome and great experience.  I am very proud of myself.  I do feel that I have reached outside of the realm of normal and achieved something that few people ever even try.  I worked hard for it and it was worth it!  Looking back, I see how far I have come.  I had imagined that the person coming out of this experience would be a changed person and I believe that to be true.  Minor and major lifestyle changes have lead to transformations both obvious and hidden.  The word "can't" has been cleared from my mind. 

Later that same night at our celebration dinner, someone suggested that Torie and I should do our first 100 mile race together and without hesitation... We both said "YES!"...

* * * * * * * *

Special Shout Outs:

My crew: Marcelo, Linda, Lois, Holly, Cali, Morena, Torie, Forest, River and Ken - I could not have done it without all the love and support!  Thank you!  Thank you!  You guys rock!

My cyber supporters!  I was feeling the love... so many of you cheered my on through facebook, it was awesome!

Good Gear:
RYP Wear Skirts - Reach Your Potential!  These skirts are super cute and work great!
Salomon Hydration pack - Clearly smart design!... for runners, by runners
Hoka Shoes - I'm a believer... Silly looking or not, these shoes work well for long distance.

NorCal Ultras!  I guess I'm a NorCal girl because all of my long-er distances have been NCU races!  Well organized, good schwag, well marked trails, awesome volunteers!  Go find a race and sign up!

After thoughts:

Recovery has been super fast!  As expected, I had a bit of a duck-like walk for a couple days.  Stairs were very difficult.  But by Tuesday all pain and discomfort was gone.  Energy remains low but improves daily.  I'm taking it easy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Crazy Is As Crazy Does...

A few weeks ago I went to the Golden Hills Marathon as a spectator hoping to get some inspiration.  Oh boy did I get it and then some!... A casual conversation with a woman that had run the GHM and was next going for the AR50 turned into a transformative moment.  I mentioned that it was one of the races I was considering but that it was too soon.  She said "you can do it"... to which Marcelo confirmed "it's six months away, you could totally do it!"... and in that moment the switch flipped.

A week later I signed up!  Yes, signed up.  To leave no doubt that I must get to work.  I researched training plans and combined two, then modified them (by taking mileage off, lol) and now have it posted on my wall.

Official training begins the week of November 16th.  Twenty weeks.

Here we go!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time for Transformation

Sometimes too much time goes by between posts because I don't feel I have anything positive to write.  No glorious journeys to describe.  Sometimes life isn't so inspiring.  But life is a journey.  For certain.  I've decided to write about a variety of experiences on this blog.  For one, I don't think anyone really reads it, so why not write about whatever the heck I am inspired to write about!?...

After running the Way Too Cool 50k (my first Ultra) I went on a couple small runs.  But then I didn't run for months (I think it ended up being 3.5 months, but felt like years in my head).  Along with not running came bad, lazy eating habits and drinking a bit too much too regularly.  I knew in my mind that eventually the desire to run would return.  I began to feel pretty crappy.  Life felt complicated.

Then life got complicated!  My boyfriend's father passed away (while I was volunteering at the Duncan Canyon Aid Station of the Western States Endurance Run).  His mother moved into our tiny house.  Rooms had to be switched, and our house became pathways between boxes.   Somehow, this took months.

Something about Death makes us think about Life.  Things suddenly became clear for me.  I wanted to choose health.  I want to feel vibrant.  Energetic.  Alive.   "I choose health" rolled around in my head and became like a new mantra.  I started getting back out on the trail regularly, getting back into the routine.  I started eating better.  I cut down on drinking.  I felt catapulted back onto the path of choosing health and fitness.  My quiet goal of wanting to complete a 100 mile race by the age of 50 (three years away) started being said out loud.  Yes, that's right.  I want to do this.  I feel I need to do this. 

Somehow it all feels tied together.  Transformation is in the air.  Not just change.  This feels deep.  In a way the 100 mile goal feels like something that I will come out differently on the other end.  Like a purge of sorts.  I am ready to let go of my past that I have been dragging around for years.  I am ready to let go of thinking that I am 'not good enough', capable or 'part of the club'.  I want to release so that there is room for the future, for the new me, the transformed me.  I need to surround myself with people that say "Yes, it is possible!".

It is possible.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Inspiration to go for that 50 miler! - Video

The American River 50 miler race is touted to be a great "first 50" but I had reservations because it's so flat and has so much bike path... however, this video draws me to it because it looks like such a well organized and supported event.  There's definitely something to say for crowd support.  And not to mention that there are so many first timers, there must be support in the air...

So it's got me thinking about next year!.... LET'S GO!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Reminder...

A well written post that touches on thoughts I grapple with in regards to these recent events... I've spent many hours running on these very trails.  And was recently longing to head over for more exploration... because there is a peace I find on trails... but there are also dangers.  Dangers, to a certain extent, are always present... where do we find that balance ....

"Fear is also a thief. It steals the present moment from us, snatches away our ability to feel that comfort and joy. And it was threatening to steal my most sacred place."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inspiration - Video

Darkness: how ultrarunning can strip away our emotional barriers

Inspiration Video - Lake Sonoma 50 Mile

This race is described as "relentless" and probably NOT a good first 50 miler... but it sure does call to me....

I must also mention what an awesome job JourneyFilm does.  Always.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Destination Races

I've always loved the idea of going somewhere far away for a race.  Lately I've been finding the urge to run/race up in the Pacific Northwest getting stronger.  It's just so darn beautiful!

Check out the video and tell me you don't want to go too!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Can't help but be inspired by Ellie Greenwood's return.  But mostly I really enjoyed her writing:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This blog post is very timely ..... something to think about.

The ‘Uncomfortably Hard’ Zone – How Much Can We Push?

Monday, March 10, 2014

My First 50k, The Way Too Cool

I don't suffer well.

This was declared somewhere between mile 17 and 24 after several hours of running... in the hills... through many, many water crossings... and lots of mud.  I was in the middle of my first 50k (yes, 31 miles).  I say "first" 50k now but at that moment I was coming to the conclusion that it would be my "only" 50k and that there was really no need to pursue that silly notion of doing a "100 mile race by the age of 50".  If I did make the cutoff time I could just take a marker and check that box off my list.  Ultra Runner.  Check.  Why do more?  It hurts.  I spent a lot of time in those miles trying to figure out how to explain to people why I chose to do this.  Why was this important to me?  I was also trying to figure out how I was even going to finish.  I was in pain and feeling pretty miserable.  If I was suffering this much just to make the cutoff in a 50k, why on earth would I want to do a 50 mile race?! Or a 100 mile race!  It's just inconceivable.  I don't suffer well was my conclusion. 

Despite LOTS of rain in the weeks prior, race day weather was just about as perfect as it gets.  Sunshine and blue skies with a comfortable low in the mid 40's and a predicted high of 70.

The route of this race is like a squiggly figure eight.

After the start we go out for an eight mile loop and then pass through the start/finish area to go out on the larger loop.  I purposefully took the first loop nice and easy, conscious of the common mistake of 'going out too fast'.  You pay for that later.  In the first two miles of pavement before hitting the single track trail everyone was passing me,  I must be doing it right. The landscape of the first loop is breathtakingly beautiful and I thought "I could run in this all day".  Wait...  I will be!  

Our first water crossing came early, before mile two.  Sinking those feet in for the first time was a bit shocking (and a first for me in a race) but once the feet were in the icy cold water it actually felt pretty good... the next 100 feet of water filled shoes, not so fun.  And since there had already been about 900 runners pass through before me there was a lot of slippery mud to contend with.  Better get used to it, because you're going to see a lot of water crossings.... and LOT of mud.

After the eight mile loop the route has a nice little descent down to the river and levels out to a pretty runnable stretch.

The thing about all that mud, I realized later, is that it makes you use your muscles in a different way, for balance.  This uses more energy and, of course, was not trained for (by me at least).  So that nice runnable stretch didn't feel so nice and runnable.  My legs felt tight and I realized that this was the point in my previous races that I had battled calf cramps.  I decided to go easy and let my legs relax.  It worked, no cramps.  However, I was feeling bloated and getting a bit dizzy, perhaps even slightly disoriented.  While hiking up a hill, I overheard a conversation about a woman in a 50 mile race that sat down at mile 47 not able to go on.  When her friend found out she had not she had not taken her salt tabs she made her take them and within a short time felt better and finished the race.  Then the storytellers were gone.  I decided the moral of this story was that I needed to take salt tabs at the next aid station!  I did and I began to feel better.  Just in time to feel worse....

This is where it all went downhill.  On the uphill.

Doesn't look so bad from here:

Here's a better view:

Three miles of up.  Up.  Up.  And then up.  I realized as I was beginning my hike of this ascent that the race had already been won.  Crazy!  But here we go, just keep it slow and steady.  Keep moving forward.

It seems that between each aid station I would end up behind a person at a similar pace and it helps keep me motivated to anchor on to them.  Run when they run, hike when they hike.  Since I was carrying all my own food supplies I only needed to make quick stops at the aid stations for water and then move on.  At some point near the end of the flat I kind of ended up joining two older gentlemen (who were joined by a younger friend that was clearly there for support,  I realized he was there to make sure they made the cutoff and if I could stick with them then I too would make the cutoff).   They seemed to be struggling at that point and one admitted to feeling horrible.  As the incline increased,  I actually pulled ahead of them.  I overheard many runners saying that the middle miles were a bigger struggle for them than they expected.  Mostly this was attributed to so much mud in the early miles.  A woman anchored on behind me.  She declined my offer to pass although I could tell she had more in her reserve tank than I did.  At some point she mentioned that she was on target for her goal and was well ahead of the cutoff.  Good.  Then that means me too.  Up we go.

She stopped to look at a map with some people that appeared to be the express aid station with minimal supplies.  Then she came up behind me quickly and passed.  I commented how she had turned on her turbos and as she disappeared up the trail I was informed that she learned she is way behind her goal of finishing at 3:45.  I couldn't tag along and as I calculated this new information, it meant that I would not make the cutoff.  So here's where the struggle turned from physical to a big ol' mental mess.

My internal voice got very negative:

How could you be this out of shape?  
What made you want to run this far anyway?  
You've come this far and worked this hard and you're not even going to make the cutoff!  
There's no way you can do a 50 mile race.  
Don't even bother with the notion of ever doing a 100 mile race.  
You shouldn't even bother with another 50k since everyone said this was a good "first time 50k" and it's too hard for you.
If you were a badass you could go faster.  
If you were tough you would not let this pain keep you walking.
You're getting slower!
Everyone is passing you.  
How are you going to explain this to all the people rooting for you?
Post this on facebook... 50k:FAILURE!
To do a 100 miler you need to be able to suffer well.  And for a long time.  Obviously, you can't.
You don't suffer well. 

Fun, right?!... This was the internal tape that played on repeat in my head for approximately 4-5 miles.  Very slow, uphill miles.  Eventually the terrain seemed to level out and become very scenic.  I was trying to take that in.  Remember to see the beauty of this trail.  But that damn negative tape was on replay in my head.  It was getting harder to ingest calories.  My legs were on fire.  There was a man who appeared to be in his late 60's or 70's ahead of me.  He was doing a very slow shuffle, something closer to a walk than even a jog.  I could not catch him.  We were going downhill!  *$%#!!!!.....

At this point someone comes from behind and I step aside to let him pass.  Standing still actually hurt the most.  It's like someone injects a bag of lactic acid into each of your legs.  They just radiate pain.   Keep moving.  Walking is better.  But honestly, it hurts more than the shuffle.  You can do this.  Shuffle.  The younger man that had just passed me asks to pass the shuffler man that I can not catch and he says "might as well take advantage of the downhill while I can!".  He's right.  I need to go with him!  So I did.  I passed the shuffler.  I anchored onto the younger man.  We ran miles together without a word between us.  Eventually he looked back and said "oh, good, you're still there.  I like to know I have company out here".  I inquire if he thinks we'll make the cutoff.  And he very positively and confidently says "Yes.  It's only 2:30, even if we walk the rest of it we'll make the cutoff!".

I can't describe the relief I felt.  My mental state had just been instantly transformed from why even bother to you can do this...  Just in time for the infamous "Goat Hill".  It's probably less than a quarter of a mile but it's super STEEP uphill.  Hard enough that there was a contest to see who would take it the fastest.  I ascended Goat Hill much faster and stronger than I had anticipated.  At the top my legs were very tight and for fear of cramps I decided to walk for a bit.  The man ahead of me said "I can't believe she caught me on that hill!"  "Who?"  "The woman with the broken nose! She slipped in the mud and faceplanted and has a broken nose and two black eyes!"  I had also just heard about a woman that slipped in the mud and ripped her ACL and was rushed off to the trauma center!  I told him that I was going to consider myself lucky to just be feeling achy and miserable!  And off we went.

The downhill was muddy and slippery.  More water crossings.  More unavoidable mud puddles.  Just when you think you stop hearing the sound of squishy wet shoes, there's another water crossing!   I want to finish.  I'm not going to push my pace.  Not even on the downhill (which I love to do).  No falling.  Slow and steady.  One of the older men that had been struggling around mile 16 catches me and looks totally refreshed!  With a smile on his face he passes me "you've got this, girl!".  Near the bottom, a group of runners catches up.  It's the other man (his group has grown by a couple).  Was I going that slow?  Slowing down even more?  Was he gaining speed?  Was he just steady?  What was his secret (besides breaking race regulations and having "pacers").  I decided that I could not lose him.  No matter what.  So I anchored on.  Walked when he walked.  Ran when he ran.  I listened to his group talk about Greek philosophers or something like that and laughed at the random conversations out on a thirty-one mile run.

We crossed the highway and into the last aid station.   He went to the table and I kept going, along with his stealth friends that would wait for him about a quarter mile past each aid station.  But I had decided not to hold any ill feelings about these renegades because I was benefiting from them too.  And I appreciated it.  Only one mile to go.  On this last little uphill I passed several people that were clearly struggling.  But my pains were diminishing.  I was feeling stronger the closer I got.  I was energized by each person that I passed.  But here he came again!  How was he doing it?!  No.  He was not going to pass me.

Yes.  He did. 

Is it wrong to decide that there is no way I am going to let this 70+ year old man beat me?  Does this make me a bad person?  I don't care.  A teeny little downhill and I let gravity take me.  I love downhill and decided to GO!  In the last half mile I passed a few more people!  How could this be?  Then the turn into one of the final stretches.  No pain.  My legs stretched out into long strides.  Splashing  in mud puddles.  Passing more people!  Impossible!!  The last turn towards the finish chute.  A crowd of cheering people.  I hear my name but I can't find the caller in all the faces.  Go!  Power!  There's one woman ahead of me.  We've been leap-frogging all day.  Is it wrong to pass her in the last twenty feet?  Is that bad race etiquette?  I don't care, my turbos are on and it feels amazing!  I pass her.  I cross the finish.  The woman handing out the medals tells me to stop running now.  I did it.  I finished my first 50k.

I did it.

I became overwhelmed with emotion.  So much in life feels out of control and is out of my control.   I set this crazy goal.  I got myself out there and trained.  It took many, many hours of training to even get to the start line of this race.  And now I've crossed the finish line.

My official time was 7h 58m 48s. 

  Thanks to Marcelo for this screenshot of my finish from the live coverage! 

Then I wonder how can I accomplish this feat and still not think I'm tough?! ... I don't think it's the negative voice (I left that back at the bottom of Goat Hill).  I think it's the part of me that knows I can do better.  I can train smarter.  I can get fitter....  and I will keep that crazy notion of doing a 100 miler by the time I'm 50.  Remember, there was a time I did not believe that I could even finish a half marathon!

Now it's time to take my shoes off and let my feet dry!  It's time to go celebrate.

I am tough.  And I suffered well enough.



  • More pix of me will be posted soon.
  • The winner of the race won in 3hours and 16 minutes!!!  This does not compute in my brain.
  • After the race, the "downhill shuffler" saw me and asked if I broke eight hours.  I said I didn't know yet as I hadn't checked my official time.  He said "I wanted you to break eight hours and I hope you did".  This was really touching.  It turns out I had, by 1 minute and 12 seconds.  He was only 7 minutes behind me.  We had not spoken any words on the trail but we had leap-frogged a few times early and late in the race.  It always amazes me how these silent bonds form on the trail.  And I love being part of this community!  It also amazes and inspires me how many people of various shapes, sizes and ages are out there!  He is 70 and said he's "just getting back into it".  Probably going to go for another 100 miler (which he did in his 50's and 60's)!!!  Now how's that for badass inspiration!?
  • The 70+ man, he's signed up for the Western States 100 mile race!  More badassery.
  • I looked for the good news guy and thanked him.  I wanted him to know how grateful I was, he had changed my whole mental state and that it was fun to run "with" him for those miles.
  • Eight hours is a long time to run with wet soggy feet!  But NO blisters!  Yay.
  • Hokas Rock!
  • A big Congratulations to my friend and running buddy Torie, who rocked it and finished about a half an hour ahead of me.  We did most of our training miles together and she's always an inspiration!
  • Big props also go out to Steve, Loren and Elisa!  You guys inspire me too!

Happy Trails ~ T