Saturday, March 22, 2014

Buffalo 100 Race Report: how the War was won

This is the first time I am excited to do a race report. I've never felt so.... happily overwhelmed with love, care, support, and kindness from so many people! The short story: I struggled with early vomiting, negativity, and decided to DNF at mile 27. Then I was talked out of it, rallied, and gave that race (literally) everything I had.
the start
The long story: Friday morning on the drive out to the Buffalo 100, I discussed with Craig and Scott our race plans. I asked Scott if he wanted to hang with me for some miles, saying my only plan was to "have a fun run with friends" until it wasn't fun anymore, and I'd go from there. Given my mishaps in training and tapering, I wanted to go out easy and see what happened. This would be my first time tracking only time of day for fuel as well as not knowing distances between aid stations--which I did to help remove pressure from me.

We started out happy and chatty. Scott and I found ourselves wedged into a group of about 7 other men, who spent the first 10 miles of the race quietly listening to Scott and I loudly tell jokes, sing our own versions of "Guy on a Buffalo," and other such nonsense. I laughed more in that 10 miles than I ever have in any race.
so many laughs running with this guy

Around mile 12 Scott and I began leap frogging a bit. I hit a low around mile 14: my legs were cramping, my hips were stiff, and I was nauseated. Jeremy Suwinski and I chatted for a bit somewhere in there, and he said words that would resonate for me later in the race, "with these 100's, every now and then you get a bad case of the f* its. And then you just screw all your goals and times and just let it all go-- and just run."
Chris, Trent, Jeremy Suwinski.... I ran with each at some point
At mile 19 (catching Scott again) I took a Zofran for my sour stomach, stretched my hips, and took off. I spent the next 15 minutes, pleading with Scott about why I should DNF. I remember saying, "I've never wanted to quit a run or race before. Today, I've never wanted anything more than to just drop. I just can't do this."

At mile 21 Scott turned back and saw me on my elbows and knees puking into the bushes. I hated that he saw, I didn't want him to worry and I knew he hated leaving me like that. But he wasn't there to be my pacer, and he needed to continue on. I spent the next 6 miles frequenting the bushes until all I could vomit was awful bile, heaving so violently that I would occasionally pee in my running skirt (sorry if TMI).

I was trying to hold back a total break down. Demons of negative thoughts entered my head, and that was the lowest/most depressed I've ever felt. I hiked to Lower Frary repeating to myself "I can't do this. I'm no ultrarunner. I'm just some one hit wonder who randomly did 'ok' in a 100k once. I can't run 80 miles feeling like this. I can't be a 100 miler. I'm no good at this. Who feels like this at mile 20?...." and so forth. Fighting back tears I came into Lower Frary, ready to quit.
Caorl finished strong, so proud of her
Kelli Stephenson saw me. SHOOT. THE Kelli Stephenson (local speed legend). I tried to keep it together, not wanting to bawl in front of her. I wanted to quit. Kelli and Carol Manwaring's husband (who was F2 at the time) began tending to me. Another cute girl (whose name I didn't catch) told me I couldn't quit--I was such an inspiration to her! This brought the tears forward again. I couldn't do this.

I asked to borrow Kelli's phone and hid under a comforter for privacy. I called my Dad and my husband, looking for sympathy and reassurance that quitting was the right decision. No such luck. In so many words, my husband said 'You don't sound miserable enough to quit yet.' I responded with 'There's so many people at this aid station, I'm trying to hold some self-respect together!' He convinced me to commit to completing 10 miles. If I wanted to quit in 10 miles, I could have a ride home.

With renewed commitment to my new escape plan, I popped my head out from under the comforter. I would sit until I knew I could stand without barfing again, then I would walk 10 miserable miles, then I would pathetically go home, disappear from the ultra scene, and hide in shame.
spoiler alert: me at the finish line
40+ minutes later, I got up. I had held down some coke (refusing ginger ale since I'd puked that too many times), 3 salt pills, and 2 Tylenols. I put the headphones on and hiked out. A few minutes later, I decided I could quit sooner if I jogged a little bit. That sounded nice. I took another salt pill and picked up the pace. Then I picked it up some more. Then... I started feeling good. Like, REALLY good. I smiled.

10 minutes later I couldn't stop smiling. Good music was playing, and I was running. I love running! I began shouting "I'M NO QUITTER!" at the top of my lungs. The 12-15 men that passed me while I sat at the aid station I began to pass back. Each one would see me and applaud, laugh, and shout hoorays. "Look at you!" "Wow!" "Way to rally!" "I can't believe how good you look!" "So inspiring to see you back from the depths of Hell!"
Kendall, I'm back from the dead!
I would giggle and laugh and high-five, catching names, telling them good job. My cheeks began to hurt a little from smiling so much. I finally saw Scott on the out and back. "Come catch me," he said. He had a 45 minute lead.

Slowly but surely I began to make up lost time. I got to the Ranch Aid Station. Bart and Josh Greenwell called out to me, "I thought you droppped!" I laughed and said I did, but here I am anyways. "How do you feel now?" asked Bart as I walked out of the aid station. "Fantastic!" I shouted, theatrically spreading my arms and bowing. With a giggle, I was out. After all, it'd take some fast miles to catch back up to Scott.

I got back to Lower Frary and found out the rumors of me DNF'ing were spreading like wildfire. I worried a bit that my pacers caught wind and wouldn't show. I smiled and those who saw me fall apart earlier took pictures, so happy to see me with a smile on my face. I was so happy to see them! "I'M NO QUITTER!" and I turned the music up, high-fived and thanked every person I saw, and kept on running.
so grateful she helped me commit to a finish
I caught Trent and Chris and ran with them for a while. Kendall came to say hello, and he heard me worry about my pacers so he gave them a call to make sure things were squared away (thanks Kendall!) "I'm back from the dead!" Conversation was fun and happy with Trent and Chris, and I left them in search of Scott, who I was told only had a 10 minute lead on me.

I ran up hills shouting "Scott!" at the top of my lungs.

I had never been in such a low, dark, awful place. To have left it... I knew no matter what went wrong, I couldn't feel that awful again during the race. It was freeing to know that the worst was over.

I continued to pass the men who had passed me earlier, each with a smile and applause and genuine shared gratitude. "You looked terrible," they'd tell me, "and now I can't keep up with you!" I'd thank them and look forward to seeing them again on the many out-and-backs of the course.

Still thriving on a coke-at-aid-stations-only diet, downing salt pills, and too scared to try anything else, I went on a hunt for Scott. I had a funny joke for him, after all. Each time I'd get the news he was closer and closer. The final aid station Erik Storheim smiles at me "Look at how good you look! I heard you had a terrible start. What do you need?" I found out Scott was only a minute ahead of me. "I need to tell Scott a funny joke!" and I sprinted out of there.

Scott and I ran the next 5 in together, talking, laughing, making bets, and shooting the breeze. He had confidence I would continue to rally and finish strong. I had confidence he'd make his goal time. We came into the 50 in high spirits.
Look who came to surprise me!
Cheers erupted when I entered the 50 mile aid station. My husband was there to surprise me! "I kept getting all these texts!" he laughed. "I had to come see for myself."

Many friends catered to my every whim. I think I had 7 people handing me things, smiling, everyone happy I was back. "I'M NO QUITTER!" 10 minutes later, Jim Skaggs (the RD) kicked me out. He was on the team "break the course record." Originally that was my hope as well, but Suwinski's words had resounded deeply. For me to come back, I had to let go. I let go of my time goals. I let go of wanting to win. I let go of the course record. I let go of wanting to inspire others or prove something. I was going to finish this race for me, at my own pace, in my own way, simply to remind myself that I could. I'd never had a "comeback" experience like this before. I needed to show myself that all those depressing thoughts about how I wasn't good enough to be a 100 miler were wrong. I could, and would, finish. Course record or no course record.

Marty caught me up to speed and she began her pacing duties as the kindest, most thoughtful pacer I've ever had. This was also her first ultra experience and her first run longer than a marathon. She was efficient, sweet, and babied my every need. Darting ahead to make sure coke was ready when I got there, keeping tabs on my salt, and generally keeping me happy and confident.

I saw Craig Lloyd at the Elephant Head aid station (mile 56?). He had just been dry heaving but looked happy and was hopeful that his stomach would settle. It was fun to finally see him (first time during the race) and give him a giant hug. Seeing him look solid... well, you can imagine my surprise when I rolled into the aid at mile 65 to see Craig in a chair. A little sympathy and encouragement and I convinced him to leave the aid station with me. I couldn't leave him there. His stomach problems had only escalated since I last saw him, and (little did we know) would continue to drag on.

It was fun to chat and hang with Craig, and when he stopped to puke a few miles later I knew he'd catch me. At the 69 aid station I headed out before him. "Puke and rally!" he laughed. "Get a head start, I'll catch you in a minute."
this guy is always smiling
I spent a while enjoying the calm, trying to focus on simple movement, letting Marty chat while I listened to music. I struggled getting up some of the smaller hills to mile 77, but pressed on because getting there meant sitting down.

I struggled in and Jen was there, swapping pacer duties with Marty. Gone were the sweet coddling ways of Marty. Jen began counting down my minutes at the aid station immediately. "Time to get out of here," she urged. Thus began my night....

We skedaddled over to the Ranch, Jen gently prodding me. I enjoyed stopping and seeing so many people, including the men's lead pack that would would soon finish. I saw Matt Van Horn far in the lead, looking fresh and fantastic, filling me with pride to call him a friend. When we turned around, the light we thought was Craig's behind us wasn't him. Nor was he the next one. And the next one. And the next one... I began to worry.

When we bumped into Craig he had been hiking since Mountain View. His stomach was still out of sorts. While I hated seeing him like that (and I hated being reassured from him he wouldn't be able to catch me, felt so wrong for me to push on ahead) I had never been prouder of him. For someone who had been having stomach issues for over 40 miles, to commit to a finish (even if it is, for him, a slow finish of a long night spent hiking alone) is utterly impressive. Sheer determination and a "Refuse to Quit" attitude made me feel a little guilty for diving to the "quitting" side so quickly earlier on. It also made me so proud to have this kid as a mentor. I couldn't be more impressed with his persistence.
Craig and I at the finish. Love that face. Ha.
I continued on and found Scott wasn't far behind. I encouraged him to catch Craig, hoping they'd rally together and at least have a fun night. If nothing else, it gave me hope that my friends would be ok.

Jen continued to prod. "I'm done!" I'd cry into the blasting, awful, headwind. Uphill. UGH. "You can run this," she'd say. UGH. I finally decided to try to hurry a bit to the next aid station, confident that with my efforts surely she'd allow me a 10 minute nap. Mike Place graciously allowed me his sleeping bag and gave me noodles, which I quickly scarfed hoping (as Jen counted down my 3 minutes) that if I fell asleep quickly enough she'd have sympathy.
c'mon, don't I look pathetic?
Then she ripped the sleeping bag off of me and moved it away. "Time's up!" For reals? I convulsed in the cold. "You'd better start running so you can get warm." Well, at any rate, she's the first person that's ever successfully made me run when I was determined to sleep.

My hips cramped so painfully even walking was impossible. I tried to stretch, and decided to take an Aleve (even though I was on Tylenol) to get things done. It was mile 88, anyways. I eased back into running. As my hips loosened my desire to be done increased. I could smell the barn door. Jen wanted me to get in under 20 hours, but I didn't really care. I just wanted the race, the pain, to all end. My pace began to drop and we ran (what seemed like) 9 minute miles from 88-95. We kept a strong pace going. "I'm done with this race!" I'd shout. Running a 9 didn't hurt any less than running an 11, and it would allow me to stop sooner.
mile 98, taking it slow

I took it slow around Buffalo Knoll, my Tylenol had worn off and I was fearful that if I fell down I would never get back up.

As we approached the finish line I teared up. I remembered all the doubts I'd fought earlier. I remembered rebounding and feeling amazing. I remembered all the cheering and love and support from strangers at aid stations, volunteers, and every person I encountered. I remembered seeing my friends, each in their own races and pain caves, pressing on, refusing to quit, quietly teaching me with their actions. And I saw the finish line.

I've never worked so hard for something in my life. It was harder and more painful than anything I've experienced.

I've also never been so proud of myself for finishing. Yes, I appreciate the congratulations on my 100 PR, a CR, a win, and a decent time. But really, none of that matters.

I quit, and then I finished. I've never been more proud of myself, all for the simple act of perseverance.

people kept making me take pics with this kid. pretty sure I don't belong in this photo. MVH killed it out there!
Thank you to everyone who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, for all those who cheered for my minor victories, and for all those persevered in their own battles, their own victories, and inspired me during their races. Also thanks to the volunteers and all others who made this experience possible. Extra thanks to my pacers Marty and Jen, for coddling and pushing me, and helping me finish an impossible race.
these ladies are awesome. Marty, me, Jen
"A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding."- Steve Prefontaine
my kids think trophies are "the coolest"
Gear I used:
La Sportiva Helios (miles 0-50; 77-100)
La Sportiva Bushidos (miles 50-77)
   I could've/would've stayed in my Helios, but changing shoes made it so my pacers let me sit longer. ha! Being sneaky.
La Sportiva Andromeda skirt (best decision- so soft, stretchy, comfortable- and no chafe, a first!)
La Sportiva race jersey and visor
Terrmar Baselayers
Nathan Firecatcher
Injinjii trail socks

Time: 20:18, 1st female, 6th or 7th(?) person in

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gear Review: Terrmar 2.0 Climasense Baselayers

As a little Los Angeles girl, it took me a while to catch on to the magic of snow. Sure, I enjoyed bundling up when the winter weather came in (I have many pictures of me as a teenager at football games, in “freezing” 60F weather, bundled up for a blizzard.) But for the majority of my life, winter terrified me.
Dude Peak, Terrmar pink 2.0 base + Terramar black 2.0 half zip
I remember as little girl going sledding with friends. This wasn’t your typical I-live-near-snow sledding. It required 3+ hours of driving to find snowy mountains, a full Saturday, and often chains to get around the limited roads where there was enough snow to sled on. Snow was a bitter mystery: it was warm and playful in the sun, but burned cold against my wet jeans and wet cotton thermals. My experiences were limited. Why bother with snow when the beach was closer?
Winter can be fun! 11,000+ ft peak with friends, at midnight. 22 mile/5 hour run in powder.
Wearing Terrmar wool tights and Terrmar 2.0 Climasense baselayers
My second semester of college it snowed every day for 2 weeks—without stopping, without breaks of sunshine. In rural Idaho where I schooled, the city wouldn’t plow the roads until the storm passed. Like any college student, my new friends and I took this opportunity to sled down main streets, nail skis to couches and hurl one another down jumps on sofas. It was cold, but it was fun. My new friends explained to me I needed baselayers that weren’t cotton, the concept of layering, and why water-resistant layers were important. After 6 years in bitter Idaho, a few near Aspen, CO, and several years in N. Utah, I’ve discovered more about snow and cold temperatures.
Terramar wool pants and pink 2.0 baselayer
I ran in the winter (often in temperatures -20F), and figured out how to coordinate my schedule between kids, school, work, and bitter cold. I discovered spikes on ice, wonders of dry snowy powder, Vaseline to prevent windburn.

But I still could never master staying warm when I was soaked with sweat.
Lake Mtn summit in snowstorm. Pink 2.0 climasense base
I started to have issues during runs longer than 3 hours. I purchased Patagonia baselayes, Helly Hansen, REI. Smartwool, Royal Robbins, North Face.  Even still, runs longer than 3 hours in winter scared me, and I often planned a full-change-of-clothes stop halfway through to prevent the red, splotchy frost-nip I’d get from wearing wet baselayers for too long.

So when I decided to try the Terramar 2.0 Climasense baselayers, I honestly got them solely because they were pink and cute.
Pink Climasense 2.0 top and tights + Terrmar grid fleece. So psyched I had to tweet a selfie. :-)
I went for my first run in the top and tights: a double summit of calf-to-knee deep post-holing. “Hey, this is weird!” I called to my friend. “But my legs don’t feel wet at all!” I still thought, enh, it’s because it’s not too cold of a day. But my curiosity was sparked.

Run after run, I found myself in my Terramar 2.0 Climasense tops. During a 90 mile week in February, I realized I had worn a Terramar 2.0 Climasense top for every single mile that week. Initially I thought I was sweating less, but each time I’d peel off the layers I’d realize that my top was soaked (I’m a heavy sweater) I just felt warm and dry.
2F morning, 4 hour run. Pink 2.0 Climasense base. I'm obviously having a good time
It kept me warm during 4 hour runs in -5F weather and during shorter runs in warmer weather. It was habit to pull a Terramar 2.0 out of my running closet every night and set it aside with my gear for the next day. I wore it on a 5 peak run that took all day, in everything from light snow to full sun, it was my baselayer. I wore it on the back half of my first 100. Then, at the Antelope Island Buffalo 100 Race, I slipped it under my La Sportiva race jersey at mile 27 and kept it on through the finish.
Finished my 5 peak winter run. Terrmar 2.0 base and gid fleece for the whole day
Terramar attempts to explain the Climasense moisture regulation on their website: “Climasense™ is a multi-level product line consisting of uniquely engineered garments …each garment is designed to provide comfort and optimal moisture and temperature management.”

I still don’t understand how this baselayer manages to keep me feeling warm and dry even when it’s wet. But I think I’ll be picking up another set: it’s hard to keep up with laundry when I run in it everyday!
Finishing the Buffalo 100, after wearing Terramar pink 2.0 climasense for 73 miles

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

if I am a Shameless Self-Promoter

It would be much easier, to resist this urge to write. I could hibernate and refuse to inspire, encourage, and grow a sport I love. To be safe from criticisms piled atop of my own criticisms. Why not quietly do what I love and leave social media alone?

But I feel to do so, for me, would be to abandon another gift- the ability to put feelings in words, to encourage others to see through another's eyes. To abandon writing would be to abandon another love of mine. If I couldn't feel the emotional reprieve of running, the chapped lips, salt crusting around my hairline, watching laughter dance on a bluebird sky... If I can't be in that moment, I want to feel it, know it, yearn for it. Write it. Share it. 

Writing is (always has been) my first love. It was in words I experienced my first summit, first kiss, first death. I felt the trauma of loss and the playfulness of elation in fictional friends who never judged me, only taught. Friends who gave me a chance to discover myself by wearing different shoes. Books and authors and characters I spent my youth collecting like the miles I collect now, treasuring the differences in the pain and pleasure of each. To write, to create, wow! What a gift! What a mission! What a possibility!

Why write? Well, why run?

I am constantly tormented; being shy, introverted, and forgetful. Fearful of the spotlight and romanced by the idea of hiding behind words. Such a painful paradox then, the desire to give a hidden piece of myself writing. I'd rather let it alone.

So much has been invested in me. My adventures, my passion, my joy are all the result of kindness, invested time, and graciousness of others. People who have removed my blinders and shown me possibilities, peace, and healing options for a troubled soul. If, in writing, I could give just a piece of that-- allow someone to, in a loose definition, "run" with me... if I can allow them to feel just a piece of that joy, peace, and reprieve available in our universe and spheres of lives; how can I be so selfish as to bottleneck this in? To inspire a single person to run a mile or appreciate a sunrise would be the greatest complement my writing could receive.

I am not the best runner. I'm hardly any good at all! My times, which are mediocre at best, are not worthy as an inspiration to others. As hard as I've worked to come from the back of the pack forward, I lack any natural athletic talent to take me beyond where simple hard work and a sadistic pleasure in punishment can take me. But it doesn't matter. I love it; I thrive in the peace and fulfillment of a summit sunrise; the fulfillment that is only trumped by watching my children experience joy. 

If my passion annoys you, I'm sorry. My words offensive, please don't read them. I'd prefer to keep my personal experiences private anyways. 

We often can't feel the depth of a moment until it's a memory.
These are my memories.
These are my moments.
This my attempt to give back, just a bit, for all the goodness life has given me.

If this makes me a shameless self-promoter I am deeply, truly, sorry for the grievances I've caused by troubling your still waters. It is not my intent, and in general, no one is more disappointed in my shortcomings in personality, abilities, and overall flaws than myself. 
Trust me on that one.

The pre-race anxiety has settled in, and I find myself losing myself in vices of poetry, mountain dreams, and google earth ridgelines. (Since, to be honest, this race was meant to be a training race to help me better understand my body's limitations for my mountain adventures this summer.)

Where my own words are often inept in expressing the solitude and inspiration I feel radiating from our Wasatch, I wanted to share words that I retreat to often, that better capture the passion and longing. 

Here are two short Chinese poetry favorites. These poets are from the Tang dynasty. It's notable that in Chinese, the word "poem" is actually a compound character, translated literally is "word temple."

Jia Dao; Looking for a Recluse Not at Home

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Wedge 2014

In February, I had the opportunity to run "The Wedge" aka the Goodwater Rim Trail in the Little Grand Canyon, south of Price, UT. My husband, Ben, and our two kids came down and camped the night before, along with our friends Matt and Craig.

Since I was recovering from the flu and coming down with a sinus infection, the run "didn't go as planned" for me. That said, I had a wonderful time running with friends and camping with my family.

I wrote a poem while I was down there. Nothing fancy, just a few lines about the people, the desert, and the tides of life. I write poetry often and share little, primarily because poetry has a way of making others feel uncomfortable, and let's face it--I need as few social barriers as possible! But writing is meant to be read, shared, felt. I'm trying to share a little more of the type of writing I love (poems) since most of the time people only get a glimpse of my typical snarky, saucy, and witty article voice.

The Line Between

There was a twang in the fire
while you sat there, smiling.
Even under the sunrise
with colors billowing,
and the flat landing of valleys withering;
in the midst of tumble weeds, grass, electric poles
each their own shade of brown,
you sat at our campfire, smiling.

Failed cliffs tumbled down into the sand,
low below the stiff-bottomed clouds.
We were between empty cattle guards,
laughter puffing in the waves of dust
billowing behind a jeep,
then floating into the sky,
only to rain sand.
In the desert it rains sand.

We camped there; we ran there.
Juniper trees upright—
the coy blush of green bent against
decades of wind, turmoil, time.
White boards of sand etched
with empty water runnels,
drawing a line between peace and hostility.

And you would rather be wrong
than pick a side.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Buffalo 100: Pre-Race Euology

Why does writing this pre-race ramp-up feel like writing a eulogy?
Buffalo 100 mile race
In a way, this is a eulogy, which I dedicate (with sincerest apologies) to the early death of my hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams for race day performance, I appreciate your novel coercion to get me out running when I should have been recovering from injuries. Your lofty ways convinced me to attempt long runs when I had the stomach flu, fevers, sinus infection, and various lower leg injuries. In the end, it was your perfectionist flaw that took you down.

In conclusion to this eulogy, I will reference a vague saying. “When someone dies a baby is born and thus is the circle of life.” While a terrible condolence and a poor attempt at a fallacy of logic, I will use this quote. So, with the death of hopes and dreams for race day, something new is born: sullen low expectations.
Earl: "You better be able to outrun me, woman."

Oh, I’ll try my darndest to reach my time goals and get to my mile markers on time. But I’m expecting utter failure. I went into the Bryce 100 all butterflies and cherry sundaes and rainbows, and you know what that got me? A Big Fat Ankle and a Big Fat DNF. A positive attitude isn’t everything, right? And for the Buffalo 100, it isn’t anything, since it doesn’t exist.

Truly, this race goes against my traditional style of ultra-running: it’s cold, has people that I know, and is flat. Why did I even sign up for this?! Mostly it was because Scott told me I could kick him where it hurts if I have a bad day. Something like that. I’m sure he’s banking on me not being able to lift my legs to kick after I finish. He’s probably right. Dang, outwitted again.

Here are a few highlights from my severe lack of training for Buffalo 100:
  • No ultra length distances pre-race. Awesome, right? No 50 milers, no 40 milers, oh wait…. no 30 milers either! Also of note, no time on feet runs. Yep. Fantastic. I anticipate frozen hamstrings and stiff hips by mile 20.
  • The Wedge: This was the great run down in Southern Utah where I got a fever (probably because I had the stomach flu 2 days before and had a head cold that was in the process of becoming a sinus infection…) I then got dizzy and took a nap on the trail. Sweet friends Matt and Scott gave me Tylenol and walked me through a shortcut to the finish. To make it more embarrassing, this group run was filled with a dozen or so locals, most of whom I met that day. I make an excellent first impression.
  • Personal worsts on all my favorite flat trails. Super cool, right?
  •  The race is two weeks out and my legs are too trashed to run at all… even though I’m a week into my taper. This taper must be going extraordinarily well. Can I just sit on the couch now? Will the race be called “off-the-couch” if I sit on the couch for 2 whole weeks? Please?

Well, if nothing else, I’ll wear my buffalo earrings for my date with Earl and go out for what I’m sure will be a “great learning experience” before my other adventures this summer. This is an ultra-runner’s way of saying “I am financially invested in this and therefore must make value in what will be a Very Painful Experience.”
Ready for my date with Earl.

All those well-wishers who may view this as some sort of self-condescending plea for good luck: it’s really not. Send your good luck vibes to my poor pacers who will have to deal with me all night. I pity them already. (By pity I mean appreciate. *cough)

Well, until the race report. Over and out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

a dance with pain

Ultra-runners often joke of the “pain cave.” I hear, “Well, I’ll hit mile 75 in XX hours and then burrow into the pain cave.” Or, “Of course you can do Bear after Wasatch. Just man up and go into the pain cave.”

…Like the pain cave is “time-out” for little men who haven’t become big men yet.

But lately I've been thinking about the ENJOYMENT of pain. Yes, enjoyment.
one of the most painful runs of my life. also the fastest and most rewarding.

The sweet way pain seduces, her coy way of wistful escapes. The consumption of thought that pain offers, and the following longing for relief. Her graces and enchantments, sought in dizzying twirls within a dance…

The sadistic nature of loving trashed legs. Wobbly miles and the knowledge that this is what the end of a 100 feels like. Of running, literally, through hellish circumstances as “training.” Of taking the words of the terrible hulu commercial (below) and instead of falling in love with the process of becoming great, falling in love with the process of pain.

I often hear “you can’t run for hours unless you love yourself.” And, in that sweet sadistic nature I think, “you can’t suffer for hours unless you like it a little.”

Dizzy (sick) and in a painful massage, I found myself enjoying the different levels of pain, the types, where it radiated from. The source. Objectifying the pain as something to be observed, analyzed, and then enjoyed.

…and then I thought, what is wrong with me? Who goes to the pain cave not leave but to linger?
Heartbreaker 5.10d, City of Rocks, ID

The bliss of rock climbing lies in the fear. Oh, sure, climbing “isn’t scary” and is “totally safe” for those with proper equipment and training. I’ve taken many risks climbing R rated routes (and soloing, shhh don’t tell my Mom), feeling safe and competent in my abilities. This is incredible since, on the most basic level, climbing is dangerous and a little bit scary. To the trained climber, the fear is optional. The focus necessary to project and climb at a difficult level is so thought consuming that nothing exists to the climber except the next move. Falling exists as only an objectified risk potential, not as a fear source. I would go out on a limb to say that this freedom from thought and severe focus in climbing comes from the subconscious processing of fear, which allows the conscious to focus on perfect physical performance that is required for safety.
Getting the FA on a trad route I helped put up! Crack-a-Lackin' 10a Midget Widget, ID

In the same way, I think that the beauty of running lies in the pain. No run is entirely pain-free. New runners often comment on how it hurts. Sweet newbies, it never really becomes painless. Ever. But it becomes enjoyable as we chase a state of mind where worries and thoughts melt away and all that exists is a beautiful, timeless moment of peace. I don’t think that “peace,” “flow,” or “runner’s high” exists without the subconscious acceptance of pain, which pulls our conscious away from thoughts. In essence, while our minds are busy storing and processing the painful discomfort of running, we are able to experience the universe

“Only the most saintly and delusional among us welcomes all pain as challenges, perceives all loss as harsh blessing.” –Scott Jurek, Eat & Run

You can't remove the fear from climbing, nor can you remove pain from running. But lately I'm ok with that.
Winter running, even when it's -5. Tibble Fork, UT

Monday, February 10, 2014

Trail Running with Your (non-runner) Spouse: things I've leaned over the years

Let's get this straight before I delve into this: My husband is "tough as nails" and a naturally gifted, gritty, stubborn rock climber. He views running as "exercise" ...because eww, running for recreation? He's done "couch to marathon" and "couch to ultramarathon fun run" on multiple occasions with success. He gets very upset when I say he didn't train for those events. I get upset that he considers an average of 8-15 miles a week "training." Ehm... Anyways.
Finished a summit run!

Here are a few things I've noticed over the years occasionally running with my non-runner spouse:

1. Don't lie about distances. I know, we ultramarathoners do this all the time. We stretch the truth to get our friends out on certain runs. We lie and say the next aid station is 2 miles away when we know it's 4. But if you lie to your spouse, it will only work once, they will never forget it, even if it was an unintentional miscalculation. (It genuinely was!) And they won't like it. Especially if you project the summit run will be 8-9 miles and it's really 18 and that's with you calling to get picked up before getting back to the car. Oops. Best to stick to places and trails that you've done before, and leave the "adventurous unknown" to times where your spouse isn't likely to run out of food and water.
On the summit of Mount Logan, realizing it will be a much longer trip than expected. He doesn't look thrilled.

2. Respect their bonk. Likely their bonk is your fault anyways (keeping them out longer than they're used to.) They don't want to hear about why they're bonking... Remember how getting irritable and angry is part of the bonk? Give them space. When my husband eats a protein bar to correct his bonk (and turns away from any of my gels or carbs) I don't argue. I just jog ahead and know he'll pull out of it in the next half hour and try to avoid him until then.

3. They take the word "run" literally. I hear this when we approach a steep peak "Ugh, we're not even running. You guys call this a run? This isn't running." And your spouse might relentlessly push your pace on parts of the trail you think are un-runnable. Silly spouse, don't you know "trail run" means "speed hiking with occasional running?!" But, if nothing else, you'll get some Fartlek efforts in.
Running the white rim in 60mph wind. What a hottie!

4. They might be too tired for sex after. It's actually a really nice change of pace, to have THEM be physically beat after an "easy" run instead of you. Tables. Have. Turned!
2 hours of post-holing and getting tired.

5. Running is NOT a date. Even if you want it to be. Simply put, an activity you do every day, often with friends (often others of the opposite sex) is not a date just because your spouse is running with you. Your spouse likely sees running as exercise, and exercising together is not dating. However, getting the giant burrito you're dying for after the run can be a date, right? (Or am I pushing this?)

6. Summit kisses actually suck. I know, it seems endlessly romantic to kiss your spouse at the top of a peak. Instead, your spouse says, "You have snot on your cheek." Or he turns away. Or, like on top of a peak the other day (in high wind and miserable snow) he leans over, a balaclava still covering his face, and tries to blow through the balaclava as a kiss before heading down from the exposed summit. Right. I'm giving up on that whole summit kiss thing. Here's some photos to demonstrate recent failed summit kisses:
"you have snot your face dear"

"Right. Just give me some sugar."

He leaned over and blew on my lips. That was NOT A KISS.

7. Going to the bathroom is easier. (You don't have to hike away as far.) They may find it acceptable to carry on a conversation or maintain eye contact. That's just weird.

8. Don't do a speedwork/tempo run. Don't "Train" My husband and I used to climb together A LOT. But we've both found solace in training with others. Sure, we still climb together sometimes and run together occasionally, but neither of us pushes the other as a training partner anymore. It's nice to go out simply to enjoy the experience together, chatting the miles away, and leaving the training/pushing/rough workouts to actual training times.

9. Be grateful. Your spouse wants to get out and see what it is you spend so much time doing. Be grateful they want to get out with you! Perhaps they will get an understanding of why you do what you do. Perhaps after some solid miles they just think you're crazier. Either way, be grateful that your spouse has taken a genuine enough interest in your hobbies to check it out with you, and return the favor!
my husband Ben, doing his thing a thousand feet up
that's Ben on his project in American Fork Canyon, UT!