Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zion Double Crossing FKT: Report

Craig Lloyd on West Rim somewhere

"Now I spend the summer remembering the good intentions which vanished.
In part because of laziness, in part because of carelessness.
What's wrong with feeling nostalgic?
...August is coming to an end and September isn't arriving,
and I'm so ordinary!
But there's no need to worry.
It's alright.
It's okay."
 -The Great Beauty

I know race reports are supposed to be all flashy pictures with a story cleverly told in mile markers and splits.

Jen and I coming to Hopp. "This is our seflie spot, remember?"

But, this isn't a race report, I don't think in terms of splits and places, and I'm typically not very clever.

Here's the stats:
Goal: Don't puke (for the first time ever)
Goal: Have fun
Goal: Perfect day. Find 100 mile mojo. End season on a high note.
Start Time: 5:06pm
Finish Time: 5:56pm (24:50)
Course: West Zion (Lee's Pass in Kolob) to East Entrance, then back. Roughly 97 miles and 19,000 feet of vertical gain
The crew: Craig and I for the entire double, Matt Williams first 13 miles then he was crew chief extraordinaire, Jen and Josh last 48.5 miles (second crossing), Becky the last 13 miles
Goals met. Though, I didn't eat much (one 4 hr stretch only got in 80cals) and had to sit and wait out a few near-puking spells.
No blisters. No blow-ups or melt-downs, no major hiccups. (One spring we had counted on wasn't flowing, but we found snow to fill bladders with). Perfect weather, company, and day.
The Data: (because I'm a strava junkie)
Craig's Report: on Refuse2Quit

La Sportiva Helios
Injinji socks with lots of Trail Toes
La Sportiva Breeze Jacket
Terramar Cloudnine Top (love the thermoregulation)
Gnarly Feast for recovery

sunset in Kolob, the timing of the entire run was scheduled for this
And, here's my story:

During the traverse the only pictures worth taking were ones impossible to capture.
So I took them in my mind.

When I was about 6 years old I started taking pretend pictures. I knew I had a poor memory, but I was convinced that if I focused reeeeaaallly hard, and attached the significance with feeling and the visual, I could keep it in my memory forever.

I'd tuck my hair behind my ears, form my fingers into a camera, squint one eye haphazardly closed, "click!" I'd giggle, immediately closing my eyes, just to make sure it was still there.

My first pretend picture was on a car trip. I wasn't buckled, and was bouncing around as we drove on I-15 N through the gorge towards St. George. I was in a 12 passenger van, my Dad was speeding, my mom was squeezing his leg hollering for him to slow down, the air was hot with tension. The vents weren't pointed the right way, there had been fights amongst my many sisters about it and no one cared anymore. But the view! I had to crouch below the window just to see the tops of the limestone. How young was I to fall in love with rock! It made me feel so small, so fulfilled: powerful and yet powerless, overflowing with wonder.

second time in Hopp Valley, glad the sand is ending

There were other pictures. The truck parked amongst the granite boulders my first time to Joshua Tree and the smell of cigarette butts. The look on his face before my first real kiss. The whispers of footsteps on dirt winding around the canyon, rays of sunshine dancing around me, discovering trail running. My children right after birth.

This mental scrapbook I keep of moments that can't be captured had images added to it during the Zion double. That's the highest compliment an experience can receive from me.

almost to Kolob for sunset again. love all those kids in front of me.

Sitting below massive white walls, the moon reflecting and bounding with energy through the air, leaving me breathless in awe. How could I feel so complete? Whatever life meant, it was there. All of it. Joy, wonder, inspiration. I drank it in, sitting in the switchback alone. Hands in the sand. Feeling.

"You know, it's too bad a camera could never do this justice."
Craig was a ways back, leaning against a cliff.
I stared into the canyon, immersing myself into it, focusing reeeeaaallly hard to add it to the scrapbook.
"Yeah. But some things are better when they exist only in memory."

Later, the alpenglow. A deepening friendship with Jen. Laughter, pain cave redecorating, humor and pranks.... serious moments reflecting on pain, loss, and mishaps. Dancing in the moonlight, for no reason at all.
finding peace in motion

A camera can only capture so much.

Josh's first full Zion Traverse!

"We need to take a picture. Right. Here. It's my favorite view of Kolob. I don't want this memory with only pictures of the sign at the finish.
I want to remember this."

100 miles, starting here

one of several "60 seconds of peace"

Thanks again to my sponsors, who support me in whatever craziness I choose to endeavor in, and allow me to pursue my dreams away from races and in wild places. Thanks La Sportiva, Gnarly Nutrition, and Terramar!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Forrest Gump Runs 50 Miles: TNF ECS Park City 50 Race Report

"Please tell me that's a Bubba Gump hat."

The voice came to me as a man with curly hair strode up to run beside me. I turned to face him, my headlamp blinding him as I smiled.

Not that he could see my smile under my beard and mustache.

I had been keeping my head down and mouth shut.
I didn't want to be recognized so early in the race.

We chatted. The wonderful connector between trailrunners is ultras: we meet, we chat, we laugh with complete strangers, we tell funny stories. Some of these have strangers have become close friends, and their kids and my kids become the best of friends.... and others, like this man, I'll never remember his name or where he's from, but we still shared a moment.

Chatting with this curly-haired man was shortly after I had been passed by a pack of 3 women. Each face serious, focused. Strides relaxed but with purpose. Game face. Race face.

As much as I felt it was silly, literally running around in circles and racing each other, I was envious of these women. They had one thing I lacked- drive. Where could I go if I wanted it that bad? What would be possible if I could harness just a bit of that competitive drive?

But this was not the day to find out. This was a day to smile and be smiled at. To run with friends I'd never met and to run around at a group run pace. A day to enjoy, not a day to race.

Which was good, because at about mile 3 (the longest I'd run since WURL) my legs filled up with mysterious lead and didn't want to move. I felt like I was, oh, at mile 80.... not mile 3.5. I tried to back off even more (seriously legs, how slow do you want me to go?!) and tried to settle in to my WURL-almost-killed-me sort of pace. As any 100 miler knows, your legs hurt and then hurt more to a point where they can't hurt anymore. I progressed to the latter end by mile 14, and decided to settle into it and distract myself with the autumn colors and Forrest Gump quotes.

So I did. Forrest Gump comments and quotes abounded all day. Laughter followed wherever I ran. While a couple people spotted me and let the cat out of the bag, I ran nearly the entire of the race free from obligations. Free from expectations both socially and competitively.

But, like all good things, freedom comes with a price. Yeah, free ain't free. Isn't it ironic, don't ya think? A little too ironic...

The cost?
Face sweat.
Who knew cheeks could sweat?
I mean, butt cheeks do, DUHHH, but face cheeks?
I have come to the conclusion that ultrabeards DO NOT make you run faster. Baby face Dakota Jones and Killian Jornet are on to something. A smooth, buttery face is the way to go.
And not buttery as in all the anti-chaffe stuff I smeared all over my face to prevent beard chaffe.
But really, it was fun to wear terribly unflattering clothing all day long. In the I-am-an-idiot and the I-will-never-do-this-again and the why-didn't-my-friends-stop-me sort of way. Seriously "friends." You should be ashamed of yourselves! I know there were bets on how long I could keep the beard on. Well, for those of you who betted on my stubbornness, YOU'RE WELCOME. Because the dang beard stayed on all day.

After mile 21 I met Matthew Baird, a long-time virtual friend (my "lyrics buddy"), and we shared nearly 20 miles together with his pacer. She had just rocked an Ironman and since Matt seems to have great taste in music as a self-proclaimed music snob, their company made the miles just click away.... I even cancelled the pity party I had scheduled at mile 30 because I was having such a good time with them.

I also got to run with a girl named Carrie. During the last few miles she gave me a lesson on how to be 'trailrunning classy' and she showed me what kind of grown-up I want to be in 10 years, assuming I actually grow-up a little by then. She's off in Nepal right now, and I can say that writhing with jealousy because she will be backpacking there for the next month and can't read it. There were many more wonderful folks I met as well.

The true highlight of the day was seeing the smiles and laughter of others when they saw the ridiculous costume.

My two goals of not puking and having lots of fun were met! I followed a strict regime of 80-90cals of homemade fuel every 30-40 minutes, with lots of water, occasional salt, and absolutely no aid station food. I used my essential oil mixture hourly. It worked! I may have found a system :) Glad to actually take the responsibility to make a nutrition plan and glad that I may have a solution to the tummy trouble I have been plagued with.

As for the rest of the race....
Well, I guess I just felt like running. ;-)

10:04 hrs of fun in the fall colors :)

La Sportiva Helios
Jenny Vesta Ultraspire vest
Homemade Gel with Homemade Babyfood
Essential oils
Forrest Gump beard and costume,
with TrailToes protecting my face (and feet)

The North Face put on a great event. Different feel than the local races, a bit less personal, but it ran smoothly like a well-oiled machine. I was overall impressed by the race as a whole. Thanks to all the volunteers and others who made it wonderful! The Wasatch Mountain Wranglers (WMW) aid station and the Northern Exposure Running Club (NERCs) aid stations were my favorite, filled with passionate runners who are always helping others and inspiring me! What great mentors we have here in the Utah mountains. :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

my own azrael

I imagine her
with a granite cliff underfoot
wisps of hair, her thousands of wings
reaching to paint the sky

keep me away from the edge she'd say
or I might fly off
and a breeze would take to heaven
her soft, sweet laughter

and she'd tell me sometimes
the rain doesn't stop at noon
the weatherman, that liar,
he would never hold fate.

our mountains sing
music only she can hear
and she walks on their ridges
carelessly kicking her steps

so I claw at the mountainside
desperate to see her
screeching, trapped between city and sky
oh, come to me, azrael.

poetry copyright Jennilyn Eaton
photo courtesy Craig Lloyd

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Idaho Mountain Festival- this is how it goes

We arrive before noon. We swing by the Visitor Center, Juanita will give me a look of apprehension, and a beautiful smile. Wallace finalizes the logistics of where we stop cars, arrange parking permits, and so forth.

Then, the drive to Castle. I take the shortcut.

I'm never sure who will be there when we pull up. Some get delayed with kids and life, a handful always surprise me being there early. Box after box are unloaded.

"What can I do?"

Time will pass. I get compliments on dinner, an ever-morphing chili that's some sort of unregulated mixture thrown together by the stiffly scheduled kitchen staff.

Someone will complain that the schedule states we will have a fire at 8pm. It's 8:05pm and there's no fire. Soon, there's a fire. I don't know who started it. Someone quietly slipped in and took care of it. I'll wish I could thank them.

Things will happen. An athlete gets drunk and runs around with underwear on their head. Babies cry. Early sleepers complain. Yet, I won't know about any of this. The climbers regulate each other. People quiet down. Keep track of their friends. Make sure that the property, and festival, are respected, so that the event on NPS/IDPR land can continue to happen in the future.

Ben will jolt up at 4:05am. "Ohno!" I'll murmur and pat his face and say I love him. We'll hash out the who-does-what and he'll slip out of bed, with me following shortly after.

Before the sunrise, the Solid Rock Climber's for Christ have their synchronized coffee-makers going, a slew of gurgling cords and contraptions all across the kitchen counters, to provide the hot drink for 350+ people.

Ben is off. I stick around, answering questions. It doesn't matter whether or not I know the answer.
I answer.

Athletes teach their classes, then slip in for lunches and showers. They talk to me, stories of the countries they've traveled to this year. Their eyes glaze over a little and they smile. They'll show me their running shoes with pride and tell me they run for cross-training. They talk of their accomplishments and travels not with the pride of an athlete, but with the hushed respect of one passionate and grounded.

Time will pass.

There are music and movies. I like to sneak out of headquarters then. I can't get away for more than a few minutes at a time in the evening, but I like to see Ben with the microphone, conducting. Our friends in the shadows, making sure things flow smoothly. I like to see so many people gathered, happy, together. I love seeing the sponsors, who work so hard, and watching them relax.... They are here on business but I have the satisfaction of seeing that they get a bit of climbing in and get to watch the same evening entertainment.

There are other things.

Painting nails at 1am, chatting with women I scarcely get to see about husbands and birth and climbing and aspirations. Homes and chickens and life and meaning.

There is always someone there. Things come up. I need mats for the band. I need a shelter for a clinic. I need a medic for a bike fall.

And there is always someone there.

More time passes.

Sponsors approach me. They tell me it is their favorite event of the year. Athletes reiterate that this is their favorite, there is something so special about the Idaho Mountain Festival. I am flushed with pride, but know that the event isn't from me. It's from my staff that share the shadows with me, always there. It's from the silent stones and sage brush, the climbing community of dirtbags that flock there and wax philosophical about meaning and sending.

Everything gets packed away and it's hot. We sit on the porch, waiting for trucks to return.

The final Staff pizza party is like our private campfire. We sit as best friends and talk about everything. We're dirty and full of laughter and relief. These faces, each scarfing pizza, sharing children, getting in as much time as we can with each other, these are the reasons for the festival. These are the people we've climbed with at our shared "other home," The City of Rocks. They know the formations like we do, they bring their babies to the crags, they've been with us through thick and thin and love the family reunion of sorts the festival brings to us each year.

We remember how the festival began, our first years taking longer trips to the city together with friends, before kids or trials or moving away...

Time passes.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

an unfinished WURL, and the goodness of others

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams, just know that all roads that lead to success have to pass through Hardwork Boulevard at some point.― Eric Thomas 

Knowing that failure is a part of big accomplishments doesn't make dusting yourself off, over and over again, any easier.

Below Catherine's Pass earlier this summer
Last weekend I had the privilege of attempting WURL once again.

...But first, a little preface.
Before WURL, I was fighting a bout of depression. As something I've struggled with off and on since childhood, I thought it best to just ignore it and wait it out, as I usually do. I don't know all the intricate workings of the body, but my low iron levels encouraged lethargy and it seemed to make it worse...and worse, to a new level of low. I felt as Sylvia Plath once referenced, part of a river, and whether that river flowed with sadness or with joy I had no control over it, but I seemed to be swept up in the current of whichever was flowing.

I didn't expect WURL to solve any problems, but I hoped that being high in the mountains, stripped down to bareness, would ground me and help move me forward.

I was wrong. It wasn't WURL that helped me move forward, but people.
In the long run, it isn't mountains that matter. It never is. It's people.

White Baldy covered in clouds, earlier this summer
At 10:45am my husband dropped me off at the Ferguson trailhead, snapped a picture, and drove back to work. Matt Van Horn said he wanted to see me off, so I sat down and waited. It was fun to chat with him (leaving at 11 on the nose!) and he gave me a silver dollar with his birth year to carry. After some chatting and a hug, we parted and I continued up past the climbing areas.

On AF Twins, enjoying what was simply the best morning of the entire summer with friends.

It was warm and pleasant, the leaves crunching underfoot. Much easier to stay on the trail in daylight, and I discovered a trail summitpost had never mentioned, one that wrapped around the mountain and gave me a few bonus miles. Fortunately I never had to bushwhack and simply back tracked to a faint turn off.

As I traveled up, light streamed between the trees. The canyon colors were on fire. I felt reassured. I knew I would be safe. That constant question... Is doing this as a young mother reckless? Had been tormenting me days prior, and today it was soothed. I was supposed to be here. I was supposed to do this. For whatever the reasons, this was where I belonged.
Monte Cristo, in July
Below storm mountain I was feeling warm so I stopped under what I knew would be the last tree, ate a bit, and enjoyed a moment to myself laying in the grass.

Then, up.

I was lonely going up to the Broads Fork Twins. I missed my husband, as I was flooded with memories of doing the ridge with him. The summit was inconsequential.

I continued on, atop Sunset I saw someone on Dromedary and got rather excited, thinking I would have company.... but the figure all in white disappeared before I could scurry over to see who it was.

Goats after Dromedary, 3 of the 10 I had the pleasure of seeing on WURL
I had been dreading the long, airy next two miles to the unnamed 11k peak before Monte Cristo. But this time I got in a rhythm. I saw a family of mountain goats, received silly texts from my kids, and smiled the whole route, singing to myself. I ran out of water not too long after Dromedary, something I'm told may have influenced my later stomach problems. On the long, airy ridge, I was able to move quickly this time, enjoying the motion as much as the ridge. I trundled one large rock (right out from under my hands!) but other than that the navigation was easy with familiarity and I reached Superior an hour earlier than last time. Aaron Williams had met me before the knife edge of Monte Cristo with water, and I quickly consumed a liter.

Off we went.

Baldy with the August wildflowers
It was fun to listen to Aaron's excitement on the ridge. He used a gps track on his watch to help our night-time navigation, and he quickly earned the nick-name of "ridge Nazi." "Hey, I think you should be 10ft over to your left...." "Nope, we went a little too high, the track looks like it's a couple feet to our right..." haha. Thanks Aaron! :)

We met Nate Younger and Ben Light near Twin Lakes Pass, a pleasant surprise! Nate had brought chicken noodle soup, which I inhaled. The bacon from Ben L didn't settle right, and I decided to take a couple hours off of calories. Didn't want the stomach to act up! I enjoyed listening to Ben L talk about the Tahoe 200 (which he had paced 100 miles of) and Nate Y mull over the upcoming Bear 100. It occupied my mind and gave me a pleasant distraction from my churning stomach.

Devil's Castle was.... memorable in the dark. :-) Funny how things that make sense in daylight are illogical and confusing in the dark late at night!

We met my husband Ben at Sugarloaf. The resting time at Devil's had settled my stomach, and I was excited to eat again. Half a burrito and half a red bull and we were off! We had to stop at the Hidden Peak warming hut (can't pass it up heated bathrooms~....) and continued on.

Red Baldy, earlier this year
American Fork Twins were exhausting. This portion of scrambling was the only time I felt muscle fatigue. Even still I enjoyed introducing Ben to new mountains, and we joked and talked and watched the sun rise together.

By Red Stack my stomach was churning, and the nausea was making me unstable. We backed off of the pace. By Red Baldy I was retching. I tried sips of coke, I tried water and salt pills, and I couldn't shake it. When Court and Spence passed us, I forced a smile and cheery attitude. They were moving so well, and I couldn't help but be jealous of their stomachs. They would go on to join the short list of WURL finishers.
my husband and I, taking a selfie because... Oh, I don't know. We're probably proud I stopped crying for a minute.

I was concerned with doing White Baldy, but my husband pushed me on. We received a text from Sam Jewkes, who was waiting at Pfiefferhorn: "We (he and Sarah M) are here til the bitter end!" Fighting back tears from the goodness of people, and feeling overwhelmed with the support of others, I started the White Baldy ridge.

Soon I wasn't fighting tears anymore, I was giving in to them. I was faint, light-headed, retching incessantly and slipping. A knife edge ridge is no place to retch without control, or to feel like passing out. I could only make a couple moves at a time before collapsing down to rest. I wanted to call SAR and give up, but fortunately I am too prideful and too stubborn even when beat to realistically consider it.
crying, retching, mountaineering. I am a true multi-tasker. Happy to be safe off of White Baldy.

I don't want to remember the following 6 hours. Let's just skip that part. I claim PTSD.

I had a lot of emotions to work out after that.
Gratitude for safety.
Joy from the experience.
Memories of dancing across ridges in the sky...
To be shut down my an arbitrary upset stomach.
Mountain goats, 24 summits, laughter...

I was over-stimulated.

The kindness of people didn't stop after the attempt.
Message after message came in.
"Are you ok?"
"Jared Campbell failed twice on WURL before he got it."
"You inspire me."
"I once tried (XX amount) of WURL. It was so hard! What you did was incredible!"
"You always inspire me."

The messages continued.
Day after day, little notes of encouragement.
As my body healed, so did my mind.

I'm at peace with it all.
It's not the mountains that matter, and sometimes it's not the mountains that inspire. It's people.
People, some that I know well, others I've never even met, nurtured me, coddled me.
They inspire me.
You inspire me.

Red Baldy, with the remainder of WURL in the  background.

Dreaming big you fail a lot. It's not easy to dust yourself off again, over and over.
This time I learned I don't have to dust myself off alone.
This time I didn't even do any of the dusting.

So, thank you.
I'll be back for WURL, next year. :)


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Race Report: the things I should say

“so pleased with my race”
4:30 in the morning?
You know it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, right?
Aw, hell, we got a 100 coming up. I’ll be there.
Think we have time for 15 miles?

“it all just came together”
Please God, heal my legs.
I know I have such a rich life
blessed with family and friends and
moments, oh! So many moments worth
lifetimes. I’m undeserving to ask this
but please, please, God. Please
heal these injured legs
so they can run,
so I can be free again.
Please God.

“what a great day on the trails with friends”
It’s ok, you can wait in my car
you don’t need to talk to anyone and
it’s not time to line up yet.
Just put the headphones on and listen to music,
it’s ok. Just hide in my car
a little longer.

“race organization went smoothly”
Take this Tylenol.
Oh ok, in 4 miles at the aid station.
But you have to promise to eat then too.
No, it’s not time for a walking break.
You’re strong. Look at you,
moving like you only ran 20 miles!
You’re ahead of schedule.
always, ahead.

“so appreciative that I could have this experience”
This is a gift body!
A gift! Be grateful that we’re doing this—
act like it!
Oh, I see…
Not a gift from me to my body
but a gift from my body to me.
You’re so smart body!
Oh, and you’re blurry.
Ha! Look! I’m running,
and I didn’t even know it.

“a lot of talent and speed out running today”
Text my family, let them know
I’m an hour out.
Don’t make it sound like I want
to see them.
I don’t want them to feel guilty
for not coming.
I just want them to know
I can do this.

But I can’t speak!
There are no words
for the salt crusted into my skin,
damp matted hair against my forehead,
lips chapped into silence.
Exhaustion weighing on eyelids, so heavy,
the swelling of my legs on this cot:
Coy potential winning! She always does,
leaving me with dull ache confused into
gratitude and congratulations.

There are no words to whisper
to reverberate
early alarms
pool running
yes, longing.
And fear.

There are no words for a 100 miles.