Posted on May 6, 2013
My journey to the finish line of Zion 100 began well before the morning of April 19th. That’s not unlike anyone who has run 100 miles. There is usually elaborate preparation, from the training to the taper, that readies a person to optimally show up healthy, rested and ready to push the body to the brink of it’s own existence. In my own little world, however, my health was so compromised from chronic and severe insomnia since November, that I questioned if I could ever really race again the way I wanted to. Seeking answers, I sought out physicians, acupuncturists, herbalists, therapists, and beyond to gather information on why my body was not able to rest. Labs came back normal. I couldn’t get any quality sleep for 5 months.
I had to pull out of the Antelope Island 100 mile run in March as I found myself struggling to get by day to day. And then as I was on the brink and at the edge, JB sat me down and said, “you need to go spend a weekend alone, meditating and relaxing. That is what is missing.” I normally wouldn’t consider this and yet, I had no choice.
After some pushback, I finally picked my first solo weekend at Zion National park for a chance to do some healing. The red dirt and volcanic rock, slick rock mesas and steep climbs all spoke to me in a way I hadn’t felt for a really long time. I wanted to slow my pulse down and just be calm for a bit. I didn’t look at watches or phones, I ate tons of great food, I slept when I could, but didn’t stress about it. I knew my daughter was happy with her Daddy at home and I was on a mission to heal, repair and to find strength in something much bigger than myself. Zion was it. My heart was feeling alive and happy. Then something really amazing happened the very night I got home, I slept. Deep, dreaming, refreshing and healing sleep. My trip to Zion was magical. My body was recharging and my eyes looked clear. It felt really good to be on track again. The timing of it all was just serendipitous I guess, because I decided to run the Zion 100.
My pacers would be Roch Horton and Krissy Moehl, who have been my dear friends since my early days of ultrarunning back in 2003. JB was going to be by my side as my trusty crew and cameraman. (think …Women’s Ultrarunning Film with some pretty cool ladies. Should be out end of this year).
Once again, I arrived at the start line of Zion 100 with a bit of a cold that my daughter brought home a few days prior. What’s hilarious, is this is 3/3 on post-baby 100 milers that have left me sick in taper week. It’s part of being a mom for sure.
Zion 100 is not a flat course despite a glance at the topo map and the estimated 10,000 feet climb. My Garmin totaled just under 15,000 feet of climbing for the 100 miles. So in setting my goals, I noted the previous women’s course record held by Hannah Roberts (HURT 100 2013 champ) was 22:45 as well as the men’s CR holder, Jay Aldous, a super speedy Utah runner, in 18:25. Solid times set by amazing runners. I was likely underestimating the course but thought I’d run aggressively and see what would happen.
Race day at 6:00am on the button and Matt sent us forward. I found myself running comfortably and chatting with Mark Tanaka for about 18 miles. Rolling, fast terrain and a few aid stations and one gorgeous sunrise later I woke up. My position was moving between back an forth between the other top ladies in the 100 mile and 100k. One particularly strong runner Larisa Dannis, was looking strong and took the lead as we began a big climb to the mile 19.5 aid station. It was so early, didn’t really feel the need to do much about it. I reached the top just a minute after Larisa and found JB up there waiting with my supplies. He helped me get in and out of the aid station quickly, just ahead of Larisa as I hit the first slickrock mesa –Gooseberry. At this point, I felt the race was beginning.
Mesa running is tough. The thing about the mesas is that they are a hot mess. You are winding, short stepping, scrambling, climbing, and forever looking for the next course marking as they resemble a maze. (Course markings were impeccable). The slick rock is exactly that- hard, concrete like surface with lots of chances to stumble. The running rhythm is hard to find and you are working hard to maintain some pace. At this point, my hamstrings felt sore and I felt achy all over, which I’m sure was the cold virus working its way out. It was a little concerning that I had to take 2 advil that early in the race, but I just knew what was going on and I wanted to quell that flu-ish feeling. I finally felt good around mile 25 and got myself back to the Goosebump aid at mile 31.5 feeling solid again. I was still in the lead, but was told I only had a few mins on second place.
The air was definitely warming up and there was famous wind that Zion was notorious for having. I was just cruising along, starting to feel the distance and the pace, but still comfortable.
A big grind and first low point was around mile 42. It was an out and back grinding climb up to Eagle Cragg aid station. On the way back down I got a glimpse of the race unfolding around me. It was fun to see other ladies close behind me and the front running guys ahead. I decided to try a packet of almond butter for some added calories. I love that stuff and was sure it would be satiating and good during the race. After taking it down, I then felt pretty wicked for the next 8 miles.
Right about mile 47, I saw a couple of smiling faces at the aid station when I was nearing the need to puke. Krissy was right there ready to pace me and get my mind off the stomach. Roch was concerned and told me I was running too fast for the split, but I told him I was motivated and hoping to hold steady. He told me to stay patient. Krissy and I made our way up the climb to Grafton Mesa where she kept me entertained, laughing when I wasn’t wanting to puke and just chatting like two girls tend to do. I finally got out of the funk as we started back to the Goosebump one more time. About half way through that section, we heard a helicopter circling overhead, and I knew JB was up there filming. Krissy and I jumped and cheered and it was super fun to have him circle us a few times. I put my ipod on, bumped some tunes and put my head down to stay the pace.
Krissy and I descended the steep mesa, which would only allow for side stepping or slow downhill hiking- a running pace means tripping and falling. After that descent, we found our legs again and got into a great groove.
We hit Highway 9 and made the turn to continue on the 100 mile course. A very alluring left hand turn meant you could tap out and finish a 100k course. I’m sure that was hellish for so many people to consider. 100 miles or bust was all I could think.
We found JB and Roch a mile later and Krissy hugged me and wished me well as she switched with Roch. Krissy had UTMF to run a week later and yet she still put in about 15 miles with me. (BTW, She won UTMF and it was a tough, tough course).
Running alongside Roch is like running next to your Dad. He wants to get you there safe, quickly and with such wisdom and selflessness, you think he must be the kindest person on the planet. I still think he might be.
Roch and I ran 37 miles together. He kept me steady, advising me along the path, keeping me moving as fast as I could and yet giving me a few moments when I needed to take them. We toasted our bottles at sunset and he told me to run like a champion. I believed it. I felt damn good and the day was flowing.
We handled the dreaded Guacamole mesa as well as I could have hoped. Though it was some of the toughest running I have ever done. How the other runners tackled that in the dark is beyond me. 180 degree turns, rolling rock, navigating some crazy trail. It was a long 9 mile section that at one point, I felt myself go dark and get anxious. But just as that feeling of dread crept in, we hit the aid station and I reset. The aid station said we had about 30 minutes on the next lady back. That’s not much in 100 mile racing. Certainly no time to waste.
I usually dread the last 20 miles of a 100 mile race. It’s where I slow down and the death march ensues. I realize that’s how it can be for many people, but I wanted something different on this race. I wanted to run fast and hard and stay steady.
And it hurt so much like it always does, but I was able to keep at it. I dialed in my pace and just kept trying to keep it steady on the dial.
Night unfolded and our headlamps were at full blast. Mile 83 and Whiskeytown Aid Station was the place to be. Roch and I rolled in, added some clothing layers and got to see our buddies waiting for us. Krissy, JB and most of the Ultraspire team were there to help us through. Karl (Meltzer) informed me I had moved up to 5th overall just as we left with the two other guys. I told Roch, I couldn’t even contemplate any of that yet. 17 miles was still a long way to go, and I didn’t know how close the second woman was.
We made our way along the deceivingly calm single track to the base of Flying Monkey. A 2000ft climb in one mile. It was hands on knees steep and myself and the other 2 male runners had to pause to catch our breath more than a few times. At one point, there is a rope that I couldn’t’ reach to pull me up. So I had to scramble and find foot placement to get up a rock wall. It was scary at times and pretty hard. A misstep would have resulted in a 1000 foot fall. After some deliberately careful steps, we crested the steep climb and then began the several mile uphill grind to mile 89/92 aid. That was a tough section for me. It got cold, the course wasn’t relenting and I wasn’t sure where my competitors were. But we were having a good time still and despite wanting to be done, I was trying to savor this amazing journey. There is something pretty awesome about being 92 miles into a race. Pacers, crew or anyone else aside, at the end of the day, it really is just you, with your own heart and body and mind surpassing all barriers when everything in you is yelling “Stop!”
I was still running hard and motivated as ever, not knowing how far ahead I was of the second woman. About 45 minutes later we saw the second place female, Larisa Dannis, was powering her way up the road. She gave us a great smile and hello. She ran a tough race all day, looked super strong and definitely made me work. She was within 5-10 minutes of me all day, until the later stages of the race. JB told me I would have to walk it in, for her catch us, but I just didn’t believe him, so I sped up. We descended about 2500feet in a few miles (on road) and my quads were screaming for mama. I was hurting but I was happy. I told Roch about a mile from the finish, that this was the race of my life. To execute your race plan doesn’t often happen and it’s pretty great when it does.
We wound down some more canyon singletrack and the finish was in sight. I let myself believe it and realize I was about to win this race. I thanked the mountains and the trail. I crossed the line in 19:01, 5th overall, a new course record by 3.5 hours..
Ten days later and I am thankful and humbled by what my body let me ask of it. I am so grateful to JB, Roch and Krissy for being my family that day. Ultrarunning is good. The people who crew, pace, volunteer, race direct are even better. Congrats Larisa and Pam Reed on a great run and all of the other ladies out there as well.
Thanks Matt Gunn for a great course, perfect course markings and excellent aid stations. I can’t wait to run another one of your races.
I have Transvulcania less than a week from now. WHAT! My wheels are wobbling, but who knows, maybe I can right the ship in time for a fun day in Spain. But who cares, I’ll be in Spain.
RACE KIT: The most simple and dialed kit yet:
Feet- Hoka One One Stinson EVO trail and the Drymax short trail crew sock- not one change of shoes or socks for 100 miles. The best combo for me.
One or two handrunners, no hyrdration pack this time and I felt light!
Lights: Princeton Tech APEX PRO and the REMIX headlamp. Love the REMIX headlamp- 100 lumens and light, along with the AMP 3.5 handheld torch.
FUEL: VESPA energy junior every 4 hours or concentrate.
GU roctane, GU BREW, GU plain, GU chompies every 30 minutes.
Only solid food- bananas, peaches. Broth at mile 83, Coke beginning at mile 58 and on. Succeed salt tab once an hour every hour.
Lululemon skirt and HOKA One One Jersey (2XU).
Posted on Apr 18, 2013
Well it’s about that time. To embark on a 100 mile journey. Through the desert, slick rock, mesas and beyond, we shall run. But this time, I will dedicate my run to the Boston marathon victims and survivors. Specifically I will run for Martin. The 8 year old boy watching in earnest with his dad,mom and sister for finishers along Boylston street. Martin was taken of all the years ahead of him, of running through the park, playing soccer, attending school, his first dance at prom, his first love, his wedding, his children.
So when it gets tough out there tomorrow, I will think of Martin. He stood for peace and may that live on.
I also happen to have a crew that consists of dear friends and ultrarunners that define love, selflessness and whom we all look up to. Krissy Moehl and Roch Horton will guide me through the tough parts and make me laugh when I want to cry. My husband will crew me and film the race.
It’s so good to have those steel beams to lean on.
I am so blessed and though the world is hurting right now, I find solace in joining together as runners. We are strong and frankly, can’t ever be terrorized, try as they might. We will always conquer and find a way to continue on. We are runners, that’s what we do.
Posted on Mar 20, 2013
My bohemian trail runner
Well, its happened. My daughter is trail running. In part, its to mimic mommy, but I see pure joy as this little smile appears when she sets foot onto a trail near our house. A few weekends ago, I asked if she wanted to go for a walk by the creek. An immediate, “Yes!” and she was squealing. So we put on our running shoes and the next thing I know, she started running down the trail. She is pretty good. I mean, her foot strike was definitely mid-heel and her arms were pumping. Before long, I realized we had just gone a mile. She asked me if she could pee on the trail. ”You mean, go potty honey?” I asked while trying to contain my smile. Could this be the proudest moment ever? She pulled down her sweats and proceeded to get her business done without a single issue. It was amazing.
As I begged her to start heading home, knowing, figuring her legs couldn’t carry her much longer, she turned her head to me as I was running behind her and said, “Mommy, my legs are really busy.” I busted out laughing and thought, my god she’s right. Sometimes I think the same thing when I’m running- my legs are so freaking busy. Now, that for sure must rank up there with the funniest things she has ever said. She made it 2 miles for the day.
And so running became fun again, right when I needed the reminder. I laughed and we were silly and my daughter taught me to have fun again and not be so serious. I wonder who’s teaching who in this life? I think I’m the student. No, I know so.
This weekend I get to test out my, “have fun, laugh, and enjoy life” mantra as I head to Zion for a training run on the beautiful Zion 100 course, where in about a month I get to go have really busy legs.
Posted on Mar 7, 2013
Breakdown. Breakthrough. Life just happens and you have to deal with it the best you can. My life has hit a ceiling of sorts and I am pausing for a second to fix my broken down system. I have been struggling with some severe insomnia issues for well, about 2 years now. Its no secret my daughter has not been an easy sleeper, but even in the last 6 months when she is getting more routine sleep, I am unable to. I stay up for hours or even all night just to fret over anything and everything. My laundry, my work, races, songs in and out of my head, I think of a million things I need to do, and it just cycles over and over. December was the worst ever and I sought help from a doctor who prescribed me Lunesta. The problem is, this stuff is bad for you. A New England Journal of Medicine article published in 2011, sighted a study that showed that people who used more than a dozen pills in a year had an increased mortality rate of three times greater than those not on sleeping pills. Now, there were many subgroups, outliers, etc, but the bottom line is, sleeping pills are not good. Since January, there has only been about a half dozen times I have fallen asleep without one. Yeah, this is not good. I functioned okay in January, worse in February , where at Ray Miller 50k I witnessed a true performance decrease due to lack of sleep and since a near shooting incident about two weeks ago, I have experienced more stress than my body knows what to do with. I got the flu last week and my body couldn’t and wouldn’t move for about three days. Yes, body, I am listening and I’m sorry I have been pushing you so hard.
I have since seen a few doctors who have boiled down for me the following possibilities: Adrenal fatigue due to excessive cortisol stimulation- read too much dang stress, female hormonal deficiencies that are classic for extreme athletes- FAT, female athlete triad, and/or now post-traumatic stress from the shooting incident. Training has been very little in the past two weeks and my mental and physical health concerns have come to the forefront as they should.
In the next two weeks, I am going to be undergoing labs, testing, etc to figure out how to help my body and mind back to a healthy spot. I am confident that in part I must let go of some stressers in my life. I must prioritize to my family, sleep, nutrition, running and work and fun.
With all of this means I must re-arrange my racing schedule to allow me some time to recover and get back into the swing of things. Sadly, I must let go of Antelope Island 100 mile run in a few weeks. I am optimistic that I will be able to take an extra month to get my life back in shape and hopefully toe the line at Zion 100 on April 19th. I will wait a bit longer to make that decision to make sure my health starts to turn around.
Sleep really is the secret to good health, fast racing and a happy mental outlook. I am learning about optimum sleep habits, routines, relaxation techniques and meditation. To train and race and work and be a mom on only a few hours of sleep a night is straight up silly. I think this is just a bump in the road and I know I will recover. Life’s lesson- stay flexible and always prioritize your health.
I am open to any and all suggestions for curing this bout of insomnia. What has worked for you?
Posted on Feb 20, 2013
I am writing this to a new and unexpected audience. I understand you may or may not think I have a hidden agenda or maybe I made up my story (despite running with a companion), elaborated, over-emotionalized it, or in someway wronged you as target shooters. Let me put to rest that I never intended on doing any of those things. In fact, with the amount of discussion you all are having about it, perhaps this is a sensitive topic. But I really don’t want to mislead you.
1) I have no intention of messing with your areas of shooting that are legal
2) I want us to all share space in a fair and sensible way. If I run off trail, it certainly does not pose a potentially fatal threat to you. But if you shoot illegally or irresponsibly, it does pose a threat to me or others.
3) I am not entitled. I have been running for 10 years on hundreds of trails and had no issue with this before and I have seen many people doing appropriate target practice over the years with no issue (into banks, into set up targets, etc.) I believe this was an accident-but it was enough of an eye opener for me, to write a blog and to let others know it can happen.
4) Saying an incident is isolated, is not calling out or generalizing all target shooters. I’m sure many of you are runners, sports fans, hunters, moms and dads, and all good people.
5) Have you ever had a bullet go over your head? How about 10-12 rounds? Its sickening and scary- sorry for being dramatic here but I just want to run and not worry about this. Do you blame me?
6) I was raised around guns. I am not scared of them.
7) I take responsibility for not understanding what was going on. Acting the best way I knew how and giving people the benefit of the doubt. I am not experienced with this kind of thing, so I’m sure you can see I was just doing what instinct told me and my friend at that moment.
8 The area we encountered is known for target practice- not illegal target practice. Backstop with clear visibility to the target. I have no issues with that at all.
9) I am hypersensitive because I am still jittery and haven’t been able to sleep. But your onslaught of insensitive comments are not helping your image as a whole right now. You should want to help me, not blame me.
10) What agenda could I possibly have? That’s the most perplexing of all. I am runner, not a gun law advocate. That’s it.
Posted on Feb 18, 2013
I’m still a bit of a mess right now. But I can’t let time pass and risk not getting an important message out to my fellow lovers of the trail and outdoors. I’m still trying to comprehend what happened to me and a running companion yesterday. The bottom line is, we are lucky to be alive. This is not intended to be an over-emotional rant about something trivial. My friend and I were shot at yesterday about 9 miles into our trail run. Let me start at the beginning.
Each Sunday, I have the pleasure of guiding a wonderful group of ultrarunners in Reno. We have chosen routes around Reno conducive for as much snow-free running as possible. One of those routes at the moment happens to lie within the Silver State 50/50 course out at Peavine Mountain. Lots of jeep trail, intertwining singletrack, a grinding steady 10 mile climb, etc. The perfect spot or so we thought. As I have run out there before, some of the routes intersected with places that are quite obvious, favorite target range shooting spots. The litter of empty rifle shells, beer cans and the like has always made me cautious and sometimes unsure of who I was sharing the outdoor space with. But, I was raised by an ex-police, and current federal marshall dad( also known as my always delighted 100 mile crew captain). My dad showed me a reverence for gun handling and the proper protocol for shooting a weapon. I’m talking, I have never had reason to be scared of those with guns before. I have tried to share my space with them and stay away from areas I knew were active for weapons firing. I almost always chose to run on singletrack in or near wilderness, where I never see this. Except yesterday.
About 8 miles into our run, Eric and I split off from the other runners (who wanted to run a bit less than us), we proceeded to head north up the canyon towards the summit of Peavine. It was a lovely, sunny February day and we were chatting a bit about everything. As we rounded a corner, we could hear the sound of a gun shot. It seemed close, but we couldn’t see anything. I had never encountered any target shooters directly near my running trails while I was running. Never. So we kept running up the hill and heard nothing else for a bit. Then again as the jeep road wound around another turn, we could see 4 men each carrying a rifle. We stopped. The men were walking around with their riflles and appeared as they had set up some target away from us into a safe zone. Just to make sure, we jumped up and down and yelled that we were down the road. Thinking we were successful, they did nothing and just kept walking around. Okay, let’s be cautious, and see. They were only 200 yards or less from us and we thought they heard our request and had seen us. Nothing happened for a what seemed like 30 more seconds and then just like that, a shooter lowered his rifle in our general direction and began firing. A loud thunderous crack exploded the air. We crouched down and began screaming at them at the top of our lungs. ”STOP! HOLD YOUR FIRE!” over and over and over. Right in the nick of time we found a raised dirt hill and jumped behind it. We crawled on our hands and knees to lowest undulation that we could find. Then the bullets began piercing the air above our heads. I could feel the electricity of the bullet, one by one as they buzzed overhead. My dog Luna, Eric and I stayed still, screaming for them to stop. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Eric got quiet and then I did too. Time became warped and I began to think of my daughter. I kept thinking of her. Eric told me he too, thought of his little girls. I pictured Eva at about 10 years old and then I began to cry and then Eric and I started talking about what we should do. We were 8-9 miles from our cars and felt we had no way out. Remembering, I brought my phone with me, I pulled it out and tried 911. The shots seemed to change direction and then silence. Nothing would connect on my phone. I kept screaming and was feeling desperate. The shots began again, after what must have been a re-loading pause, and I didn’t know what to do. So we decided in that moment to make a run for it down the hill when it quieted again and try to get away from these men. We justified that we didn’t know what their intentions were or if they were after some moving animal above us. We also had no concept of how thick the hill was that was sheltering us. Could the bullet penetrate and come through? In either case, it felt wrong to stay there indefinitely and let the shots continue. I trusted nothing. We waited for a moment of calm, agreed to run as fast as our legs could go, and then counted to three and took off. We knew that a road curvature would give us protection in about 2-300 yards down the road. We made it about 100 yards down and more gunshot. I kept looking back to make sure Eric was right behind me, all the while, expecting a bullet to hit my back. I sobbed the whole way down the hill. By some unknown grace and intervention, we sped down that jeep road at a speed my legs have never felt and the men were out of sight. We slowed down but kept going a bit more, until we didn’t hear any more shots. We stopped, shaking, sobbing and in utter disbelief. How did we not get hit? How did those men not see or hear us? How lucky are we to be okay?
I pulled out my phone and dialed 911 again and connected with the dispatch. They sent police to go look for the shooters and agreed while it was legal to shoot their weapons if homes were more than one kilometer away, it was illegal to fire blindly down a canyon, across widely used roads,on public use land. The shooters were either drunk, disobedient, hearing impaired (with the use of protective sound gear) or just plain and complete assholes.
Eric and I had to get back to our cars and the only way to do that was to run. We ran in silence for a minute or two, and then one of us would talk about what happened. Eric said he will always and forever wonder if they heard us scream at them. It was a very long descent down to our cars- some of it spent on the phone with police or my husband or my dad. I am pretty sad and pretty pissed off at the same time. Nightmares plaqued me last night and I am trying to just deal with it a little at a time. Eric confirmed he is feeling the same way and didn’t sleep at all last night. It is consuming me and that is more irritating than anything.
In either case, it occurred to me, that in 10 years of running trails, this has never happened. An isolated incident, yes, but how many close calls have others had? Why is the law so ignorant for the shared use of people running trails, mountain biking and hiking all the while others are shooting weapons. PLEASE, PLEASE I beg of all of you- watch your surroundings, listen intently and don’t take for granted the areas in which you run.
I am going to be okay. Shook to the core, but also totally alive and grateful for today. I hope no one else has to go through something like this. I am seeking out ways to implement change. But for now, I want others to be made aware. Research the law near you and seek out singletrack versus car accessible roads if not near a protected national park or other protected area. Congested areas are highly contested issues for the gun laws. I would rather deal with my snowy, icy, bear ridden wilderness trails that cars can’t access ,than deal with this again. But, I’m not going to take this lying down either. I am angry this happened. If this has happened to you, please let me know. From what I can tell, law enforcement is pretty cauloused to this. But I am certain, the line between life and death is quite thin and no one should have to run from gun fire when out for a Sunday long run.
Posted on Jan 31, 2013
Respect gives a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity(such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. (Wikipedia def).
Conduct representative of that esteem. Hmmm. So making judgement, perhaps? Specifically, the judgement of others and of your own self. Let’s start with the first- judging others. Have you ever been in line at the grocery store only to catch a glimpse of the toddler in the aisle next to you screaming, “I want this mommyyyyy.” The flustered mother then gives the aforementioned child the prize. You immediately and without reservations think, “Weak.”
About 2 years, and 4 months ago, me and my large belly and even more sizeable notions of parenthood would absolutely have fallen into the trap. What did I know about discipline, wild toddler emotions, exhaustion? Absolutely nada. I was so naive and in love with the ideal situation. I would sing to my child, decorate her nursery and dream of how lovely life would be. Falling down the slippery slope…not dreaming, but idealizing. The greatest thing happened when my world got rocked by a 30 hour labor, pre-pregnancy jeans that didn’t fit for weeks, a 10 mile run 6 weeks after giving birth that hurt more than my first hundred miler, and boobs that inflated and deflated like Lance Armstrong’s ego. Then, I got it. I fully respected and appreciated the life of a parent. All eye rolls came to a halt. At least eye rolls of others. Then, my judgement took a personal direction. I began to doubt myself.
The internal judgement has always been somewhat of a personal trait. The A-type kid in school, never knowing thy own limits, a people pleaser at the expense of myself. Then, came the bout of “you are not good enough.” Where did all my self respect go? I watched other mothers around me stay at home, make homemade Halloween costumes and attend school fundraisers. I participated in all of those things with my child, but was no stranger to buying tinkerbell wings at Target or having Eva make cupcakes that came out of a box. I had guilt for working, for running and again for running. My extended family judged me for trying to run, be a wife, mother and professional. They would tell me to give it up. My husband did not. He supported me, and Eva loved me despite the gluten free boxed treats and actually our little, crazy adventurous life was working pretty well. So why the guilt? Because our life does not reflect most. We don’t fit into a box that comes with a pretty little label. I recognized that would be the case from early on. But it still bothered me. I found myself making justifications. Why? Who cares? Then one day, just this year actually, I had the revelation. Your child doesn’t need the perfect parent. Just a parent that is good enough.
My Christmas gift from my colleagues... Believe woman!!
Eva is loved, supported and is flourishing. She’s knows what GU chompies are, and has mud filled shoes from our hikes and adventures and aid station based time-outs, but that is what will make her independent and unique. So wait, I’m not a bad parent after all? I guess I can say, no. I am working on letting my idealist ways go by the way side and chilling out. This is a daily battle for me. But I am getting there. To learn to tune out your own negative thoughts and the judgement of others is so freeing.
What about the runner in me? Why I have doubted her for so long? In the same vein as a parent with self doubt, comes the self doubt as a runner. I have taken my time as an ultrarunner. I ran for 5-6 years with absolutely no agenda, no schedule, sometimes no training and just had fun bathing myself in a supportive, lively community. Ultimately, in ultrarunning, the lack of judgement and feeling of respect is what drew me in right from the go. So what happened? FEAR. I realized there was more in me than I had ever given myself credit for. I was scared. I didn’t think I belonged in the front of the race- I doubted me and I let it put me where I thought I should be. I respected other runners but didn’t respect myself. I also didn’t respect that I deserved to do well. PRESSURE. I let the pressure of needing to prove something,mostly to myself, ruin more than one race. Its a huge transition to go from casual runner to competitive runner. It took time and I respect that process. I’ve also said that in prior posts, I must stay flexible with my expectations. As one continuum of a linked existence, I must realize many nights are sleepless, training can come and go, and the A type girl in me must let go. OVER IT. Now, that little devil sitting on my left shoulder gets flipped the bird quite often. I tell it to shut the hell up and let the flow of the day, of my legs, of my breath take over. You can do well, but only if you allow yourself to. You can quite literally derail all of your training if you don’t believe in yourself and respect your ability. I am my own worse critic. Always have been, always will be. But becoming a mom, has allowed me to step back and learn that you only need to be good enough. And to laugh at what life throws at me. And that deserves some respect.
There are some other amazing blogs to go check out:
Jimmy Dean Freeman
Posted on Jan 21, 2013
After a quick evaluation of my year’s plans and a frank conversation or two with a friend and the hubby, the decision to drop down to the 50k was an easy one. That was, until we got to the race check in at Bandera and I found myself deep in thought. Should I just buck up and run the 100k cause I need the miles? What is the definition of need? New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to last if you can’t even make it past January. And with that, I shuffled bibs and packets and chip timing anklets and it was done. I got to catch up with my relatively unknown Hoka teammate Karl Meltzer. I know, you probably haven’t heard of him, but I hear he’s gonna be a big star. Keep your eyes out for him. After a Go Team Hoka cheer and secret handshake, we departed the registration area.
It's just a 50K
Eventually JB and I found our hotel at a Dude Ranch just near Bandera, called the Flying L Ranch. We opted out of the “dude’ amenities- i.e, horseback riding, the 10lb breakfast plate buffet and cowboy karaoke, and just took the room. With bunk beds that would have made Eva very happy and a copper sink to boot, it was a nice little place to stay. With a very civil race start time of 7:30, we set the alarm for 6am and slept away under rainy Texas skies.
Tip#1 lay out your race kit night before. Works like a charm
Morning proved a gloomy, foggy and drizzly start to the day. One thought came to mind: mud. An otherwise, rocky, slippery course without rain, was now going to have a little extra challenge added in. Most remarkably however, was that, over a 1000 people filed into the start area- many were running the 25K, about 300 were in the 50K, and maybe 200 were running the 100k. JB and I were running late, as usual, and mostly by design. I hate getting to races too early, standing around, looking at my garmin over and over and over. So we threw the keys down near our rental car, and ran to the start, where Timothy Olson and I got a chance to jog a warmup. I then got to say hello to fellow runner Denise Bourassa and proceeded to give my hubby a happy anniversary kiss and good luck hug. I might have smacked his butt for a little extra go. Apologies for all the PDA.
Then we were off. Denise burned out of the start and I wasn’t too far behind. I have tons of respect for her as a great ultrarunner and also a really nice person. I knew she and I would race a bit and it could be anybody’s day. After about a mile into the race and some pretty steep climbs, I found myself right on her heels and in that moment, I just felt good and decided I would go ahead. It was an aggressive pace on the climb, and I thought I would calm it down and just stay within myself and it would be however it was supposed to be.
The trails were sticky clay, with lots of slippery rock unfolding to thicker mud that was accumulating fast. It would only get worse as the humidity was saturating the air and the drizzly effect just made everything wet. The sotol cactus would sting my quads and leave streams of blood running down my legs. It looked awesome and so dramatic. Actual race photos show me appearing to be a drowned rat with a muss of tangled, wet hair. Solutions for long tangled hair, ladies? Anyway, a shower that night would reveal some pretty good quad carnage from the cactus alone.
Aid station after aid station and the miles kept coming quickly. About mile 20, I hit my first bad patch. I was putting in so much effort to run a speedy pace, but the mud added several pounds to each leg. Good, I thought- I was glad I skipped my weight lifting routine that morning. The sliding, slipping and slogging were tiring the legs out pretty good. I remember forcing in about 3 GU vanilla gels in about 30 minutes to give myself as many calories as I could. I raced the whole 50K on about 10-11 GU’s and nothing else but maybe a swig of Red Bull at mile 25. I kept glancing at my garmin and not understanding how I could be running so slow. My initial thought was about a 4:30 for the course but it wasn’t adding up that day and so I covered my watch up and stopped trying to make sense of the slogging.
I kept getting reports along the way that JB was racing well and was in 3rd place. So to my surprise, I was shocked to see him at mile 23 walking down the trail. It was our 11th wedding anniversary that very day. And probably near that very moment we exchanged our vows in a lovely little chapel that was once part of the high school we attended, with sun glowing behind the stained glass. I guess you don’t forget those things. For better, for worse, and here we were, so many years and so many miles later, suffering to some degree to make it to the finish. Oh the irony. The I loves you were exchanged and tears started flowing when I passed him. I had to shut it out of my mind to keep from hyperventilating. I had more motivation than ever to try to pull out this win.
Armadillos are actually very fast
And so I did. The last 3 miles hurt real good. 4:58 and 7th place overall. I got a real nice roadrunner that now sits in Eva’s room-she calls it Mommy’s rooster. JB came in about 15 minutes later and then Denise a few minutes after that. I hugged everybody with sweaty, muddy hands and arms and called it a day. Joe Prusaitis puts on a fine, fine race. JB, Timothy (men’s winner in 4:18) and I sat around drinking wine and watching the 100k runners come in. A very impressive run by Sage Canaday with an 8:13 and new CR. Hoka teammate Dave Mackey took 2nd and Karl took 4th with a beer in hand- he’s a freak as he will tell you. Super proud of the team’s efforts that day. Tough conditions play to our strengths no doubt.
More than anything, I was so happy to have a moment with my hubby and a day that I won’t soon forget.
Race Kit: Hoka one one Sinson Evo’s- never fell once, Drymax 1/4 crew trail sock- my feet looked so nice you could kiss em, GU energy lab- Roctane, Vanilla and PB GU’s and 1 bottle of GU brew, Vespa, Succeed salt tabs and a big swig of Red Bull.
Headed out on the town to celebrate
Posted on Jan 10, 2013
2012 was major. It was filled to the brim with running (a total of 9 race starts and 8 finishes, see Western States DNF), working hard at a corporate job (that I really do love) and being mommy. I was also honored to begin running for Hoka One One, an amazing company that is as close to the sport of ultraunning as it gets. I feel so blessed, every single day.
I sit here with my third cup of coffee, cause lets face it, sleep is a sore subject. Ever heard of those horror stories- “my kid didn’t sleep through the night until he was like 10.” I kinda think we are on that projectile. I can count on my hands the nights of sleep that were 7-8 hours the past 6 months. Most of this last year I logged 4-6 hours a night interrupted continually by an adorable blonde headed girl poking my side at 2am. But despite never feeling recovered and the new forehead wrinkles, I couldn’t be happier with our out of control, loving life till you puke or just pass out approach. I was overjoyed at watching my daughter turn into a full fledged little girl, complete with phrases, like “No Mommy, I will get dressed myself.” or ” Mommy, are you happy?” or “Mommy let’s have Gigi over for some wine. ” (Whoops- I must learn to conceal my beverage or at least tell her its grape juice). Eva is an old soul, and understands so much more than I think she does. We’ve fallen head over heels for her sense of humor, her witty responses and her toleration of our hectic schedules.
2013 plans are in the works. I must say I have a hard time not “wanting it all.” But here’s where I get a glimmer of myself maturing, ever so slightly. Picking races that 1) take me to unique places 2) satisfy my quest for competition 3) make sense for our family and 4) are spaced appropriately for optimal recovery and training if at all possible. Some of these requirements I missed by a long shot last year- especially the ‘ol Speedgoat, Waldo, Pine to Palm 100 combo in about 7 weeks time total. But thank god I surround myself with people much wiser than I, who can tell me I am nuts and to pull the reigns back a bit. Still, this is my struggle.
I couldn’t be more proud to run for Hoka One One, GU Energy Labs, Drymax Socks and Vespa Fuel. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. These companies are solid, run by real people who understand what we do when we put it on the line. I believe whole-heartedly in each of them and without them this sport would be severely lacking. They are a huge help to me and to so many others.
The tentative race schedule for 2013 is
1/12/2013 Bandera 100k or 50k (TBD- yes only days away and not sure which distance I want to run. Although my “running advisors” aka hubby and life coach, Jimmy Dean Freeman, tell me the 50k is smarter choice, since I lucked out on a WS lottery ticket)
2/3/2013 Ray Miller 50K
3/22/2013 Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Miler ( so in love with the scenery I want to go back for two loops)
5/11/2013 Transvulcania 83K, Spain (Skyrunning Series is my main focus this year and Spain my most favorite country on the planet, so duh).
6/29/2013 Western States 100 Miler (I will quarantine myself and my daughter for 2 weeks prior)
7/29/2013 Speedgoat 50K ( I so want to be a better mountain goat)
9/28/2013 UROC (the 3rd Skyrunning Ultra and in Colorado, so yes, this is awesome)
Sounds like a lot and it is, but I am inspired thus far. The Skyrunning Ultra Series is so attractive to me and I hope to learn how to run really tough, tough courses. I also want to do well at Western States, but this year its all about peace and letting go of fear. Maybe we watch Lion King a bit much in this house, but if I can learn to “Hakuna Matata” then all will be okay.
Posted on Dec 6, 2012
” I feel awful. No, Joe, you don’t understand.” Even though I knew he did understand, having finished the Wasatch 100 the prior year. “This doesn’t seem right, I’m hurting too much. I will never, ever do this again.” I said in between coughing fits as my pacer Joe Lane and I trudged down the last few dusty miles of the 2008 Tahoe Rim Trail 100. Joe had hiked thousands of miles with JB on the PCT and was tough as nails. An ultrarunner, climber, mountain man. I was falling apart before his eyes. I was so raw, that I was almost embarassed at my state. It wasn’t pretty. But there he was along side me, not judging me. He graciously volunteered to pace me on the second 50 of my first 100. Despite me vocalizing my own pity party and self loathing state, Joe wasn’t having a word of it. I wanted to quit. He wanted me to watch the sun rise. I wanted to vomit, he insisted I try some ginger. I was hallucinating that trees were in fact, the legs of giant deer. I could go on and on. The point being, I went to places I never knew existed inside my head. But I also got out of them and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I told Joe he was like my trail angel that day. When I insisted I couldn’t do this again, he said, “No way, Jen! You are going to be back for this I promise.” “I can assure you Joe, I won’t.” was the last thing I remembered saying as we rounded the corner into Spooner Lake. But as time would tell, Joe being the wiser of the two, knew the magic of 100 mile runs gets in your blood.
And so it began. Of Loving so deeply the run and hating so briefly the pain. Of Training and racing and recovering and repeating . Sometimes even smiling through the suffering, if just to minimize a tough day out there. Let’s just say you have been warned. You might get addicted. You, too, are opening pandora’s box. No cure for this disease, so proceed cautiously.
I was always told I was not an ultrarunner until I ran 100 miles. Now, I am not sure I agree about that. Each distance is special in its own right. But nonetheless, a 100 mile run is indeed a journey. I don’t think there is anything particularly healthy about running 100 miles. But, something quite strange happens the absolute second my feet cross the finish line. I forget about any pain I was just in moments before. My heart, my breath, my mind all sync up and I can begin to revel in the mystique of the distance, the glow that seems to envelope my being, the pure animal instinct of running. A sense of competition, of chasing, hunting, of surviving. You, in essence, strip away life’s nonsense one mile at a time. You see mountains, water, food for what it is. For those hours on the trail, you are, you purified.
In a pragmatic sort of way, I have yet to nail a 100 mile race. I am a totally different runner at mile 90 than I am at mile 65. I don’t call myself an experienced 100 mile runner yet. I think in maybe a few more races I might understand how to smile more at the end of the race and to keep the fight alive in my head when all body systems are red lighting. So maybe that’s what keeps me coming back. I want to have that one race where I figure it out, keep the suffering to a minimum and say out loud, to those around me at mile 99, “I can’t wait to do this again.”
Though I, like, so many other ultrarunners are complex people with careers, children, and responsibilities, I find the community that surrounds the 100 mile distance as a big part of how I define myself, my life. So many occasions, friendships and life events are marked around a race. I think back and can remember how I marked the 7th month of pregnancy with Eva, by crewing at Western States in 2010. Or, how in 2009 I celebrated my 30th birthday by running Cascade Crest 100 in Washington, complete with birthday cake on the trail. Even months later, I still feel a strong sadness that comes from having to DNF Western States this year due to a myriad of illness, both my daughter’s and my own. 100 miles seems to symbolize a full cycle of life. One that we hope to live out in about a day or less.
In the end, and perhaps without so many words, running 100 miles is something you can’t really ever describe. But you can get out there and experience it for yourself.
The other synchro-blog links. Such great perspectives:
Jimmy Dean Freeman
2008 Tahoe Rim, Mile 75. A nosebleed for 15 miles.