The Art of Unlearning

Women Run Strong Panel w/ Kelly Roberts, Susie Chan and Sophie Walker. Photo by @annarachphotography. 

Women Run Strong Panel w/ Kelly Roberts, Susie Chan and Sophie Walker. Photo by @annarachphotography. 

What seems like forever ago now, on April 21st whilst in London for the marathon, I had the awesome opportunity to be a part of a Women Run Strong panel, hosted by Kelly Roberts and Susie Chan. Over 100 women and a handful of men, joined in for a shake out run and question and answer panel. It was so cool to be part of, so many interesting questions and great connections with people that I might not have had the opportunity to make. Personally, I don't love public speaking, but in the question and answer format, I felt like for the most part, answers came easily and I was able to share my thoughts and experience in a way that I am proud of and possibly was helpful to those at the panel.

There was one question that did hem me up. It was the self-introduction, the question of "who are you?". I awkwardly mumbled something about "I'm a runner, I own a bakery....yep that about sums it up." Thankfully, Susie had mercy on me and bragged a bit on my behalf. I found it to be an interesting moment for me. After such a hard few months with injury, setbacks and personal struggle, the question of self-definition is in fact a hard one. And I realize now, maybe it always has been. After that evening, I realized that I needed to unlearn somethings about identity, self-definition and how confined self-definition can be limiting. And over the last month, I've thought about this a lot.

Before I was in London, I was in Cape Town, South Africa. I had arrived there two weeks prior, hoping that perhaps some time away could help me reset after everything, especially after the month of March. I had hoped I might find some peace, some resolutions and mostly my mojo. I had hoped that I might start picking myself up off the floor of the arena and doing the real rumbling I needed to to get back to myself. Oh, and race one of the biggest and more competitive ultras in the world, Two Oceans. It was going to be that easy, I would just get on a plane and fly about as far as I could away from everything.

But of course, it wasn't. I got off the plane and was met with terrible jet lag, insomnia and face shredding and swiftly descending depression. The earthquake that was my month of March had passed, but I was not prepared for the tsunami of emotion that would come in its wake. It flattened me. One of the major problems I now faced in my mind was one of self-definition and identity as it pertains to racing. Though I don't self-identify as "Devon, the 2:38 marathoner and 14:52 100-miler, etc, etc", when I show up to a big race (like Two Oceans) I don't view myself as "participant", I view myself as a "competitor". And yet, I realized, I was not in a place to race or compete in Oceans. I was not in a place to run a fast marathon in London 8 days later. I was hoping to complete the races, I was hoping to simply not hate every step. I had got on the plane because I simply couldn't bear the month of March, heck all of the preceding 6 months, to cost me a visit back to a place that very much holds my heart. I hadn't thought about the implications of racing until I was nearly toeing the line to do it.

One run can change your mind. The moment it flipped.

One run can change your mind. The moment it flipped.

One of the errors I had made was skipping the middle part of recovering from injury. The process should go: get healthy, train, then race. I had gone from get healthy to racing. I had internalized some pressure to get back to racing and cause me to rush once I was back running. And now I was toeing the line with a foot that had broken a month earlier, fitness that was questionable at best and a mind that was trying to wrap itself around the very real possibilities of not just slow times, but struggling to even finish. I was limiting myself by my competitor self, I knew I had to mentally be at peace with every available outcome. And I didn't want to go into the race afraid of any outcomes because I knew I would miss the experience. It would be hard and I would hate it, I would leave myself and I would fail myself, and likely be miserable.

Good friends can help you see yourself better.

Good friends can help you see yourself better.

I didn't want to be miserable in my experience at Oceans or London. And so through a lot of reflection, and a lot more friend time, especially with my lovely friends Kim, Susie, and Nic I started to understand that accepting who I am right now is not a failure. Accepting where I am now and what I am capable of right now, doesn't mean that this is who or what I will be forever. If I run slow now, then I simply ran slow, nothing more. If I run slow now, it doesn't mean anything about what I am capable of in the future and certainly means nothing in the scope of my career. I finally found a way back to my core values that drive who I am as a person: passion, patience, hard work, perseverance, intelligent stubbornness and fight, so much fight. And I realized that those who matter don't mind, and those who mind (how fast I run), don't matter. I am enough, just as I am.With that, I found my mojo, my peace and my perspective.

The two performances that followed made me so proud. Yes, I ran my slowest Two Oceans, but I ran far faster and stronger than I had expected in my wildest dreams. And I recovered so quickly and well, I was shocked how good I felt. I followed up 8 days later with a 2:54 marathon in London. It was hard, I suffered, but I fought and far exceeded the "best case" scenario 3 hr finish that was expected. Most importantly, I discovered a part of myself that is scrappy, unafraid. A part that celebrates how hard I fight for the day I have instead of a time on the clock or a place in the results. Between these two races, I started to redefine myself as "Devon, the warrior" instead of "Devon, the competitor". Yes, I love to compete, but if I am going to race for a long time (I've been doing this for 12 years and hope I get another good 20-30+!), I have to connect with my own journey and my own battle for the finish line above all else. Yes, I can have audacious big goals, but I can also race just for myself and against myself. My wallpaper on my phone currently reads: "You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way" and I believe it.

Crushing a 3:10 marathon during a 115 mile week.

Crushing a 3:10 marathon during a 115 mile week.

I returned home to California invigorated. Mojo found! And started training in earnest for Comrades, which will be held in a weeks time, June 4th here in South Africa. I had a solid 4 weeks of training, averaging over 100 miles per week, but that is by far not the most special part about this training block. To me, the most important part of this training block has been waking up every day and simply doing the best that I can with what I have. Gone is the instinct to compare every run with a former fastest self. Instead, I was finally able to see myself getting stronger each day, feeling better each day. I stopped lambasting myself for not being fast enough, doing enough, being skinny enough, etc and started to see that each day I was doing the work, hitting the milestones I needed to and most of all, enjoying and being excited by the process. This is the first training block, perhaps ever, that I have done, where day in and day out, I've celebrated where I am and what I did do. I've done what I can in a short amount of time, I'm as fit as I could hope to be, and ready to journey and to fight. Whether that means I finish first or last, fast or slow, perfect day or shit hit the fan sideways day, I am ready. To me, who I am truly is the person that stands on the start line, knowing that all I need is within me, nothing to lose, nothing to prove.

Bend or Break, free

Embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit. To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important — toughness, doggedness, and perseverance.
— Brene Brown

Another day, another Brene Brown quote. While in the middle of being face down in the arena, reckoning, rumbling like I currently am, there is not a day that passes that I don't read and re-read passages from Brown's book Rising Strong. I can't say that March has gotten much better in the last few weeks, in fact, arguably it has just continued its slow descent towards my limits, like a boulder rolling down hill. There have been many moments in which I have faced yet another situation or thing and pondered, is this the thing that will finally break me? Is this the thing that will find my limits? Is thing the thing that I will not be able to bear? But time and time again, I've survived, found that I can bend and stretch and be elastic far beyond what I thought I could be. I've held on to the tiniest sliver of belief in my own resilience and whispered, "Just hold on. Don't lose yourself. Not to this thing, not to this person, not to this situation".

It may sound ugly, or dark, but I am not saying it to provoke, I am saying it to be real. When Brown talks about gold-plating grit, she says, "Rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I'm not sure if it's because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt, or if its because even when we muster the courage to share our still-incomplete healing, people reflexively look away". We like the survival tales after the battle is done, we show off our scars like badges of honor, our brains get giddy with the completion of the story. But the middle? The middle is messy and uncomfortable. Vulnerability- real vulnerability- and human failing and being a crappy version of ourself is scary and ugly.

This month has thrown so much at me and I have bent and bent and bent. Sometimes I feel like gumby, as I snap back and find grace and poise and badassery to handle something when the day before I could barely make it through the day. At a certain point, you just stop counting the minutes you've been barely keeping your head above water and resolve that there is no limit to how long you will continue to furiously paddle to stay afloat. There is a certain point when you stop trying to fix it; fix yourself, fix your feelings, fix your situation and just lean into uncertainty, the grief or the darkness. You bend, because there is absolutely no other choice.

But the reality is. Things break. And this month, I did. Literally. In the on going saga of my foot injury over the last 6 months, there has been a great deal of ambiguity, pain, set backs and disappointments. After Caumsett 50km, I felt exceptionally good physically. I felt like I was getting to a place of durability again and physical resilience. My initial two runs after Caumsett felt great, but I woke up the Thursday morning that I left for Bird Strike/ The Speed Project and while making my early morning coffee something popped in my foot. Snapped actually. It was unlike any pain I'd experienced in my months of injury, but hoped/begged the universe that it was just some "old" lady creaking and it was nothing. I went for my run with my friend Maddy anyways. And it was terrible. Everything hurt. I couldn't even figure out what hurt. But I got on my flight and headed to LA anyways. Hoping for a hail mary from some cosmic force that would render me perfectly capable for the 60+ miles I had in front of me. I even saw a very good PT in LA, who assured me, "well its not a muscle! Your muscles feel amazing". And off we went into the desert, taped up 110 different ways and doped up on ibuprofen. Naturally, that was not a long lasting strategy. 

10 days later, after I finally had regained my strength from epically bad food poisoning and not eating for 5 days, I finally was able to venture out on a little run. I had gone to the doctor the day before because even after all the rest, I was still not able to run or even walk normally. They ordered an MRI and mentioned that it also seemed like there might be some plantar fasciitis going on. So I started mobilizing my foot and viola, running!

Back in November, I had seen the same orthopedist and the team at Stanford had discovered that I have something called a tarsal coalition. Basically, my calcaneus and my navicular bone have a bridge between them. It could be genetic, could have developed over time, could be made of bone, cartilage or strong fibrous tissue. Either way, it was fine as long as my foot was compensating for it, but in the fall, when I overstressed my foot/ankle with too much vertical, the compensation pattern was blown. The ortho said I would continually suffer from issues until I had it surgically removed. So naturally, I got 150 more opinions and didn't get the surgery. Especially a surgery such as this that doesn't seem to have the greatest surgical outcomes, I was not keen to go that route. And through diligent and slow rehab, things got better and I was up and running and racing! Take that tarsal coalition!

I wanted the issue in my foot to be some straight forward plantar fasciitis. Seemed like it would be nice for a change to have a problem with a name instead of the vague and nebulous injury I had been recovering from. And my foot seemed be, mostly, responding to treatment for such. I got the MRI anyways to make sure my "new" foot didn't have a stress fracture or arthritis or some other terrible thing going on. Just in case.  

By the time I heard from my doctor on Friday, I had run a good 40 miles, mostly pain free, through the week, although it was "weird" feeling- aka sometimes weak feeling, sometimes just different feeling. I don't really know what I was expecting, ok maybe I was expecting the worst given my rough month wearing me down, but I wasn't expecting what she said. My tarsal coalition was gone. It had broken/dissolved. That morning, the day I left for Bird Strike, that intense pain was my tarsal coalition snapping. And apparently, this was good news. No more threat of surgery, no need to immobilize my foot (after all, we don't want it to heal). It meant the coalition was likely fibrous instead of bone and I was cleared to run. The only caveat is that I now possessed a new foot- two separate bones instead of one and thus, everything in my foot is different: proceed with caution, let pain be your guide. I broke and it set me free. But at the same time, the way forward is so unclear. One day I am busting out 21 miles without pain and a few days later, I am not even a quarter mile into a run when bone pain comes on so swift and intensely it makes me want to vomit in the bushes. There is also no real precedent for me to base expectations on, this is uncommon enough that I have not had a single doctor, practitioner or body worker who has seen it before. I'm sure it has happened, but perhaps not to someone who is about to go race a 56km and a marathon (albeit not at peak capacity) in 2 weeks. 

This month has broken me but only literally. But mostly just bent me, wounded me. Pushed me and stretched my elasticity. For my foot, my heart and for my head, there is no perfect and clear way forward. There will be days of extraordinary pain, there will be doubts, there will be joy, there will be tears. All of it. There will be all of it. In running, we celebrate the middle miles, the hard sloggy miles, we scream "get ugly". We celebrate the ugly in running. Why not the ugly in life? Where is our cheer squad for that? I'm not going to gold plate grit anymore, I'm not going to only wait for the story to be perfect. I'm going to scream and cheer my brains out for anyone and everyone who is knee deep in it. Bending, breaking, rising, and just MF-ing surviving, that to me is true strength.

The Physics of Vulnerability

Laughably what the actual fuck

Laughably what the actual fuck

If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. Fortune may favor the bold, but so does failure. Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back

Apparently, the blogs of the month of March are my Brene Brown inspired ones. Last year, after what I thought was a super terrible March, I pulled out my copy of Rising Strong and reminded myself that I was brave and strong enough to bounce back from the things that that went on during that month. Last night, I went back to the shelf and pulled out Rising Strong once more. After an intense weekend, that ended badly for me both physically and emotionally, followed by the continuation of an unrelenting stomach super villain, a heartbreaking email in which someone reflected to me that they actually thought the things that are my very worst fears that people think of me, and then my car getting towed, I knew it was time. In fact, it was laughable clear. As we stood outside the car tow place, waiting for my car, I joked, "I better not stand outside too long or a bird will probably fly along and poop on my head". Let's just say, if the message hadn't already been clear after months of struggling intensely with some things, it was definitely clear now: I'm face down in the arena.

But this year feels different. I am not struggling against it, resisting the space I am occupying currently. While I often feel despair,  I am not despairing. Because for once, I actually and genuinely believe in my own ability to survive, to return to thriving. There was a moment on Sunday where things had devolved for me to the point that I was sitting on the floor of a shitty casino trying to charge my phone so that I might be able to find a ride back to Vegas back from Parump, Nevada where I had spent the previous evening in the ER. I was wearing the previous days clothes which were covered in the stench of the results of my food poisoning, blind because I had to take my contacts out and had none of my belongings with me. I was sitting there, feeling physically terrible, emotionally wrecked that I had let my team down and then casino security walked up and yelled at me to move on and that there was no sitting on the floor of the casino. In that moment, feeling raw, hurt, and full of shame, I just started laughing. Laughing hard, thinking, "this is some shit isn't it". The situation made me feel sad and angry, but it did not make me feel defeated.

Photo by @enduroTwerd crew zen master and Parump savior.

Photo by @enduroTwerd crew zen master and Parump savior.

I didn't come into this past weekend's adventure with the Speed Project and Oiselle's Bird Strike team as my best self. I was already worn thin by the past few months of personal struggles. I worried that I would have the emotional bandwidth to stay strong for my team, I was unsure of what weight I would be able to bear. I knew that things would get hard and ugly at some point, I just hoped that, perhaps I would not be nominated as tribute. I also knew that teams are my jam and I love being a part of a team, I am motivated by it, I want to do everything I can to lift my team up. Unfortunately for me, my name was called in the reaping. First, my foot and ankle both decide in implode in a way I had not yet seen in my months of injury and then, I was struck down by food poisoning, severe dehydration, and eventually a trip to the ER. I was able to run through the first half of the race, knocking out 24 miles. I was 6th runner in our rotation, which meant, given our strategy, my miles were backloaded towards the end of the race. I had to tap out and burden my teammates with more miles. I felt terrible emotionally for that, gutted actually and I still do. Initially was going to go whole hog into crewing and motivating, but was reduced to not being able to even sit up. I was fully unable to be present in the experience in any way and that really makes me sad. Its not just about putting more miles on other people, for me it was about not being able to support them at all while they were doing something so incredible and so tough. 

Photo by @enduroTwerd

Photo by @enduroTwerd

Fast forward to yesterday, standing in the car town lot, face down in the arena. I could feel sorry for myself, have a pity party about life's suckage levels, wallow, resist, refuse to continue. But instead, my mind wandered back to the weekend and to my BirdStrike team. The second half of the race was a brutal crawl across Death Valley and into Vegas. It was hot, it was flat, the miles were adding up, everyone was tired and there were like a billion miles left no matter how many turns the runners took. It would have been easy to feel like it was all too much. But that is not what they did. Instead, each of them, Sarah B, Sarah O, Cathleen, Collier and Nora, with the crew by their side, got out there and did as much as they could when they could. Time after time, they got off the RV and did another mile, another two miles. They did, whatever they could, little by little, to continue to advance towards the finish line. It was inspiring to see, even if I couldn't even raise my head (without barfing) to tell them so or cheer them through it. And I return to that idea now, to help remind me, that even though I feel an impossible distance from where I want to be, I simply have to keep moving forward even if it is just a few steps. They were unrelenting and so can I be. They did not give up, nor will I. They were not alone, and neither am I. 

Brene Brown

Brene Brown

In my own life, I am out there like my team was in Death Valley. Out there, somewhere in the middle, where it is too far in to turn around and not yet close enough to the end to see the light. This is a messy space. An in progress space. A ripped raw and exposed space. A vulnerable, often times ugly space. It is also a space, despite not knowing how to fix some things, despite having no idea what things can be saved and what things will be lost, that I know I have the endurance to survive. I am grateful for my teammates for their display of grit, unrelenting perseverance and steadfast refusal to give in. I take that now with me as I rumble and as I hopefully rise.  

 

First Pancake- Caumsett 50km National Road Championship

"Beyond the mountains there are more mountains"- Haitian proverb

"Beyond the mountains there are more mountains"- Haitian proverb

I've written a lot of blog post beginnings over the last 3 months time since my last post. But they have never really resonated with me enough, or my feelings have changed the next moment, or my perspective has shifted. 5 months of my life has past with this still never diagnosed definitively, hard to understand, persistent foot/ankle injury. I spent 10 weeks not running and then the remaining trying to rebuild. But even in that rebuild, things were never straight forward, it was never easy. I had to wake up every day and figure out "what am I capable of today". For every three steps forward there were 17 steps back, left, right like some sort of sadistic samba that I was perpetually out of beat to. It was like a game of whack-a-mole that just would not end. The highs and lows and spaces in between meant, eventually, that I had to really focus on my perspective. I had to relinquish the "return to run" idea for the "return to health and able-bodied functioning". I had to let goal of races and goals and plans and be humbled. I had to face my own running mortality. That may sound to some very somber to some, but I see it instead as a very positive mental shift. I stopped seeing my injury as some plot point on a heroes journey that would inevitably bring me to some triumphant return and be wrapped up in a neat little perfect package. I started seeing my injury as simply the obstacle that I was currently tasked with working through. Sure it hurts and sucks, but life is indeed a series of obstacles, large and small. Obstacles are not only to be expected but embraced.

"The things that hurt-instruct"- Benjamin Franklin

"The things that hurt-instruct"- Benjamin Franklin

I had to change my perspective and my thinking. I had to turn around my injury and find some benefit, turn it into fuel. I had to stop giving lip service to honoring where you are, and really BE, in the moment, in whatever capacity I was capable of. I had to stop thinking about what I wasn't capable of and start finding out different ways of moving forward. Mostly, I had to stop beating myself up over what I wasn't capable of and start celebrating and executing the things I was capable of. Instead of being paralyzed by sadness every time I had a setback, I had to find a way to feel the grief all while "working the problem". I focused on my mental game and owning my own power and control over the situation. Over time, I felt like even though the samba didn't stop, I was starting to learn the steps and tricks to keep time. 

There was never a distinct moment in time when I went from injured to not injured. Even now, I classify myself as "returning from injury" and every day I wake up I have to make an assessment of how I feel. It wasn't until the last week in January that I even felt like I was on a very loose "return to run plan" and that plan included running flat mileage, with minimal climbing, no trails, no speed or workouts. Plus about 950 PT exercises every day, group fitness classes at Fuelhouse in Seattle and grinding hours on the stairclimber. Even as the mileage accumulated, I still felt like I was returning to health, not returning to running. I didn't see the obstacle as overcome and behind me, and so I carefully and methodically, just did what I could. And celebrated each step back.

First long run since October and an icy dip in Lake Washington to boot. With Cathleen.

First long run since October and an icy dip in Lake Washington to boot. With Cathleen.

In all of this, I had races and adventures looming, big goals that I hadn't wiped from my slate but that I was able to also hold lightly, knowing I was not in charge of this process. During the second week of February, I did my first real long run of substance since October. I ran 17 miles with my #birdstrike teammate Cathleen, as we tried to build our mileage for this week's Speed Project 3.0. I felt great, I had no pain. The next week we ran 20 miles pain free, even after having a few bad days in between with pain. Over the course of February, I had to change my perspective on what it meant to feel fit, to tell myself I was fit. I again stopped looking at what I wasn't doing and instead focused on what I was doing: miles, strength, yoga, mobility, PT, radical self-care, nutrition, sleep. I was on point, building myself back up without a whole lot of glamour or big sparkly wins. I was just grinding, working. And I found joy in that. I saw progress in that. 

After a fall and winter of having races on the calendars and then missing them, it was with some trepidation that I kept Caumsett 50km, the USATF road national championship, on my calendar. As it loomed closer, I made an important decision: I was going to run it. I felt that despite the fact that my training was not yet what I wanted, hell I didn't even do my first workout until the week of Caumsett and my longest long run was a week before the race (as well as 11 miles shorter than the race itself), that it was important for me to get back on a start line. I didn't want to make my transition back to racing a huge pressure situation or an A goal race, I wanted it to be something for me, a symbolic moment of transition, of liberation from this obstacle. A week before Caumsett, I said to a friend about her own race, "you have nothing to lose and nothing to prove" and as I journeyed to New York to race, I realized that this was not just true for her, but for me as well. Win, lose, fast, slow, it didn't matter- I had made it to a race and for that I was just grateful and filled with joy. I was free of expectations because I was able to be real about my fitness and speed (or lack there of). I suffered no nerves and instead just lined up curious to what the day would reveal.

First pancakes are still delicious.

First pancakes are still delicious.

Before the race, I started calling this my first pancake race. I feel like I want to refrain from explaining this because if you don't understand it, you just need to make more pancakes. The gist: you gotta start somewhere. And a lot can happen. So I showed up in New York and let it shake out.

Post-race glow plus a side of freezing my ass off.

Post-race glow plus a side of freezing my ass off.

Caumsett was indeed a tasty pancake. We were treated to an unexpected cold burst, with temperatures in the mid-teens BEFORE accounting for the wind, when it had been 60 degrees the week before. I nearly didn't pack any cold weather clothes at all since when I had looked at the weather report the week before the low was going to be about 40. Running in that kind of cold was actually a benefit to me since it further encouraged me not to run outside of myself since that kind of brutal cold affects performance by a good 3-5% (according to the internet). I bundled up, got on the line and bang, off we went. The course is a 5km loop, repeated 10 times. I was quickly left in the dust by last year's winner Caroline Boller and this year's eventual winner, as I got moving around 7 min pace. I just wanted to find a pace that felt good and maintainable. I wanted to see where the end of my endurance was at a quick but not suicidal pace.

It was very cold, but I settled in to a rhythm and cranked along in 3rd place, happy to be feeling good and pain free. And like I had been for the past few months, I just kept grinding. Loops passed, my body held. Around lap 4 or 5, my mind tried some games on me, but for the first time, instead of indulging the thoughts or getting emotional, I just said, no thanks, reframed and kept myself in control. I choose positive or neutral. I said, yep, these middle loops are boring but we are not going to occupy this space with problems that don't exist. Let's just stay present and keep chopping, keep working. I practiced some of the mindfulness techniques that I've been utilizing while using the Headspace app over the last many months, but instead of counting breathes, I counted laps and they dwindled and dwindled. I simply was able to fly free. With two laps to go, I was informed that unfortunately Caroline had to drop and I had moved into second place. While in other circumstances, I might have been enticed to try and chase down first (who I had no idea how far ahead she was), I took it as an opportunity to just keep grinding, or like Dori in Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming". My pace stayed strong, my energy held despite taking only 4 gels in the whole race and I allowed the experience of each step to fill me with pride. I split the marathon in 3:10 and didn't back down from there, despite the fact that the wind had intensified. I ran my 10th lap with joy, with gratitude. I ran that 10th lap for myself and everything that I overcame to get there. I crossed the line as the clock dared to touch 3:46 (3:45:56 or some such business). 2nd place in the national championship. My first pancake showed me that yes, I am going in the right direction. Yes, I am healing. Yes, I can run without pain. No, I will not return to where I was, I will in fact arrive somewhere else as someone else completely. 

This race was not a perfect ending to my injury story. It didn't neatly tie it all up and cue the music and credits. It was a step, it was progress. It was moving the line. It was a celebration. If there is any great take away that I have from this injury and this part of my life's journey, it is this: be deeply connected to the process, not the prize. As Ryan Holiday says in the "Obstacle is the Way:: "Process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results, or the whole picture."

Best laid plans

Racing is easy, the path and way forward are clear (well, generally at least!) Photo by Let's Wander Photography

Racing is easy, the path and way forward are clear (well, generally at least!) Photo by Let's Wander Photography

It's easy to trust the process when the process is easy, when the path and progress are clear, when the plan is set out in front of you. It's not so easy when you have to feel your way through the dark, back track and have courage to keep plowing forward without guarantee that you are going the right way. I have been injured now for almost 10 weeks, which is more than twice as long as I've ever been injured before. But it is not the injure that has frustrated me, in fact, for the most part I have felt extremely grateful to have had such a healthy career. The thing that has frustrated me is the lack of answers, the lack of a plan. I have seen countless doctors, therapists, practitioners of all sorts and none of them have agreed on a diagnosis and none have given me a prescription for how to navigate the injury. And that lack of plan has driven me insane, I want to scream, "just tell me what to do!". But that's the thing, do I? Do I really want to completely give up on my own ability to contribute, set aside all of my thoughts and feelings? Of course I don't. What I've realized is that plans are comforting, plans provide a sense of security and safety, the risk, the fear is low. And that is not where I live, I am not guided by playing it safe or living scared. I don't thrive taking the easy path. Then my frustration must come from somewhere else. But where? What I've realized the frustration, perhaps discomfort is a better descriptor, is from having to lean in to uncertainty, wade deep into the dark.

I was sitting across from my friend and amazing human, Jenn Pattee, I could feel the tears trying to make an escape, my chest tightening. "Get up, switch seats with me", she commanded. I had been talking about the injury and my uncertainty with it, the feeling was crushing me and my resilience felt completely tapped. "Tell me about a time in your life when you did something you didn't know if you could do, when you felt truly powerful." I scanned my mind for memories and the first thing that came to mind was moving to London. In 2005, after finishing grad school in Pittsburgh, I moved to London. I had $200, my suitcase and a work permit for 6 months. I had no job, no where to live, no friends and knew no one. I threw myself into a daunting, terrifying situation with no plan and no guidance, and yet, I survived, I thrived. In fact, I look back on that time in my life as one of the best. I saw my own capacity to be resilient, to work the problem, to create my life however I desired. It was there that I began my true love affair with running and learned things about myself that guide me to this day. I can be scared and still press on, I can sit in the darkness and survive, my capacity for suffering is great, I can be pushed and bend, but I will not break. I finished telling Jenn my story and she said, "how do you feel now?". "Better. Like myself. Like a badass.".

And still I rise like the phoenix, again and again.

And still I rise like the phoenix, again and again.

I realized that in my injury that I was just giving away all of my power, that I was failing at every opportunity to give myself credit for my own incredible resilience. And then I realized that I do in fact have a very bad habit of doing just that. I do my best work when there is the most uncertainty, the most risk, when life is its most unscripted and yet, I have not been able to unlearn the self doubt I default to. How many times do I have to rise from the ashes, get out of the chair or come out of the darkness to finally start believing it?

A few weeks ago, Billy Yang premiered his film, Life in a Day, here in Marin. His film followed Magda, Kaci, Anna Mae and I during our WS 100 journey, and much like the conversation with Jenn, the film mirrored back to me my own resilience, my own capacity to endure. I watched myself up there struggle and doubt and cry when things fell apart. I could see the me of 6 months ago, filled with the same doubt I was at that very moment. I don't know what to do, I don't know how to work the problem. Billy also simultaneously told the story of my basketball days and the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my select basketball coach. What Billy could see in me, as I could not, is that I have been fighting my way back, clawing my way out of the deepest darkness places my whole life. He showed me in his story telling, Devon you know how to do this. And I do. Recovery from that abuse took many years of hard work, with no plan, with no guidance, by myself. It took weeks, months, years and even now I have lessons to continue to learn, maybe this chief among them. I know how to rise, I know how to come back. I just have to believe it for myself.

As I return to running and look towards a new year, I am reflecting on my 2016 goal of "cultivating badassery". I think despite all the highs and lows, the successes and failures, I realize that I have done that. I cultivated it, I have grown it, I have found a way back to myself this year and that is what I wanted. And so now, the goal becomes to own it, believe it. To let go of trying to make everything plan perfect, because that is safe, that is scared and that is not where I live. I want to take chances, test limits, exercise my resilience and BE the person I have worked so hard to become.

Lessons of the pink mohawk

I have a pink mohawk. It is pretty fun. Before I got it, I thought about it for a long time. Wasn't it too drastic, what if I didn't like it, what if it didn't turn out well, what would people think, blah blah blah. But then I shrugged my shoulders and went for it anyways. And lo and behold, the earth didn't shift beneath my feet, my husband didn't divorce me and my mom simply responded "I am surprised you hadn't done this sooner". In fact, I found that I really loved it.

I just returned home from a 3 week sojurn in Colorado. I was there preparing for the Leadville 100 on August 20th. But that is not going to happen. I knew 3 100 milers in 10 months was ambitious but I was questing for my limits. Limits sought, limits found. I am just thankful that I decided to pull the plug BEFORE I started the race and buried myself so deeply that I might never recover. 

Ultrarunning is a hungry beast. Photo by Galen Burrell

Ultrarunning is a hungry beast. Photo by Galen Burrell

I came off of Western States, tired and satisfied. The tired lingered but the ultra culture encourages a more is more/it is never enough mentality which leads up to driving onward in an unrelentless fashion that can be quite unsustainable. Before you are done catching your breathe at the finish line, someone is asking you "what is next?". Because there is no true pinnacle, no one race, no Olympics, there always is the next thing, the next goal waiting for you to chase. But running yourself into oblivion or injury serves no one, proves nothing. I want to run for a long time and sometimes that means remembering that I don't have to do it all now and I don't have to force it. Ultrarunning is a hungry beast, unsatiable, always asking for more.

It is the pink mohawk that has taught me a few things. It is the pink mohawk that has let me change directions, DNS Leadville and feel nothing but calm confidence in my decision. Here is what I have learned/been reminded of/given perspective on:

  1. Impermanence/ Mutability. When I finally decided to get the pink mohawk, the greatest diminisher of fear was realizing that if I didn't like it, I could change it. I could shave it off, I could color it differently. It is a bunch of dead cells hanging on my head, it is not going to last. And so should we see life. Everything will change. Right now, I feel like crap because I have asked my body for too much. So I have to change my goals. That's life. I don't like how I feel right now, so I am changing it by letting it go. 
  2. It is a lot less of a big deal than you think. I think we can all get worked up about thinking things matter way more than they actually do. We think people care. But that is just our ego getting all worked up, people are too worried about themselves to be thinking that much about what you do. I thought I was doing something wild and crazy by getting a pink mohawk and as I mentioned above, my mom simply said "I'm just surprised you didn't do this sooner." I could get all worked up thinking that the ultra world will think less of me if I don't run a race, think I should push through to prove something, but honestly, no one is really going to give it much thought at all. The people who really matter support me whether I have straight boring hair or wild and crazy pink hair, same for running.
  3. Who you are is not defined by your hair (or your goals). I didn't get pink hair and become a different person. I didn't opt out of Leadville and become a different one either. I didn't change my values or go back on my principles. Too often in ultrarunning or sport I see goal odyssey, in which people define themselves by their goals. I am not defined by my goals, just as I am not defined by my pink hair. I read an awesome book on my drive home called "The Antidote" by Oliver Burkeman. He suggest you act like a frog: "you should sun yourself on a lily-pad until you get bored; then, when the time is right, you should jump to a new lily-pad and hang out there for a while. Continue this over and over, moving in whatever direction feels right." I pursued my limits this year, sought to see how big I could go. I asked myself what was possible right now. Asked and answered. Time to jump to a different lily-pad, a different goal- whatever feels right. In goal odyssey, you can over pursue your goals. Since I do not believe my goal of running Leadville defines me, I can walk away, knowing at some point in the future I can come back to it.

  4. Effectuation. Effectuation is looking at what you have then seeing what you can do with it. I looked at my short head of hair and insatiable desire to shave my head (a lifelong itch a wanted to scratch) and thought, PINK MOHAWK!!!!! If I look at my current reservoir of resources after finishing Western States 100 and spending the summer traveling, not resting and moving rapidly on to the next goal, I will see that I am very low on physical, mental and emotional resources. Seeing what I have in those departments, I can see that running 100 miles is not something I can do with those reserves. I went to the well and the well was dry. So what I clearly need to do is refill my stores, build up my available resources to expand my potential for what I can do. 

Now, I eat, sleep, recover, run when I want, pick new goals when I want. The color of the pink mohawk will fade, will change and I will have a new opportunity for fun self expression. Right now I enjoy it for what it is and I will welcome it when it is time for something new.

Strengthening my weakest link

I only ever want to be laid out by giving it my all, not by getting ill.

I only ever want to be laid out by giving it my all, not by getting ill.

"Sickly D"- that was my college boyfriend's nickname for me. And pretty much sums up my entire life. For someone remarkable durable both muscularly and skeletally, my endocrine and immune systems are most definitely not. Throughout my life, I have struggled with illness. I can catch any cold or flu that comes within the same county as me, I have had more stomach/digestive issues than the entire graduating classes of most high schools and my endocrine system often seems to be living on another planet in a distant universe. It is remarkable that for how many times I have been sick and how much of my lifetime I have spent at the doctor, that I haven't in fact had any truly serious illnesses or been hospitalized. (Let's just say everything in this post just gets one big knock on wood). 

When I was in elementary school, I missed months of school at a time with a never ending flu. In high school, I got mono. I missed my first Boston marathon because I had pneumonia. That may not seem like a lot, but in between those notable episodes have been so many "minor" illnesses, so many trips to the doctor, so many tests. In my 13 year running career, I have had to cancel or change my racing plans because of illness/health problems almost EVERY single year.  Over the past 3 years whilst opening and running the bakery I have had some issues so serious/painful/awful that the doctors were very concerned that it was something terrible/dire. Or nothing. That was their other suggestion. This is either an ulcer or nothing. This is either cancer or nothing. Really? How can those really be the only two options. Maybe you just need to quit your job? Maybe you just need to stop running so much. Those are their answers.  Just scrolling back on my own blog for the past 6 months, there are countless examples of the huge impact endocrine and immune system problems have profoundly impacted my life. After the terrible month of March I had, I was over it. I KNEW there had to be a more complex and nuanced story to my health somewhere between "it is nothing" and "it is something terrible". I am not dying (which is awesome), but I am also not truly healthy, how do we address that space? How do I not run myself into amazing shape and then have to hope and pray that I don't get sick again the week of a race. Forget the idea of "not being sick", how do I become optimally healthy? I want the same level of durability that I enjoy muscularly and skeletally to also be true for my immune and endocrine systems. So I went to my doctor and got the same song and dance as I always do- no answer at all.

I decided to take a different approach. On the recommendation of badass friends Amelia Boone and Michael Wardian, I decided to get in touch with InsideTracker.  InsideTracker looks at biomarkers differently. They are not looking for illness, they are looking for optimization. They are looking for areas you are at risk and areas that are problems. Not problems by medical stand point necessarily, but problems when it comes to feeling your best and healthiest. They believe that #BloodDontLie and I wanted to know the truth about my health. I wanted to find a way to strengthen my weakest link. As they say, "Know Better, Do Better".

I have now had three tests through InsideTracker, each revealed something that has been instrumental in my health and wellness as well as my training and racing. 

Suns out, guns out and still Vitamin D deficient?!!

Suns out, guns out and still Vitamin D deficient?!!

The first test revealed something interesting, I am chronically low in Vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin D is absolutely instrumental in immune function. When I uploaded my previous year's worth of blood tests for comparison (which is a cool feature of the InsideTracker dashboard), it revealed this as a persistent issue. Same for the magnesium. Magnesium is instrumental in good sleep and I am an absolutely terrible sleeper. Stress can cause a magnesium deficiency and let's just say that opening a bakery (and then working on the night shift) did nothing for my stress levels. I immediately started taking a Enduropacks liquid multi vitamin as well as extra Vitamin D to help bring my levels up. Slowly but surely and even through peak training and racing, my levels are rising. 

My ferritin levels have been chronically low and I have known that for years. The doctors don't know why. I have had to have endoscopies to look for intestinal bleeding, I have been poked prodded and finally given up on, as the WHY of my woeful ferritin levels. They wager it is just the running. So it is something I have had to keep my eye on for a long time. When I got my InsideTracker results, I was stoked. My ferritin was 75! The first time it had been over 30 in years. Guess we finally found something that worked! But I knew, going into peak training, being at altitude for a month, that it was something I would need to stay vigilant about. So I ate my Inside Tracker recommended beef liver and supplemented a bit more iron in my diet. One thing I found interesting is that plenty of iron was getting into my body, but not all of it was being absorbed (Total Iron Binding Capacity) which leaves me susceptible to feeling tired and weak also. I had to find a balance between getting the iron in and not getting too much. I have had a similar issue with the thyroid and my hypothyroid meds, the meds are getting in there, but they are not being absorbed and getting where they need to go.

After gathering all the initial biomarkers, InsideTracker walked me through a series of steps to determine which items to address based on my goals, how I want to deal with those things (diet, exercise, supplements, lifestyle change) and distills the information down into 5 action items. My first test had me eating lots of seaweed, beef liver, eating fish 2x per week, taking a vitamin D supplement and watching my calorie deficit(not having too big a deficit as it was messing with my sex hormones). Between the end of March and my next test 10 days out from States, I meticulously followed my action items. We retested before States to get a glimpse of what my biomarkers look like during my peak. And all systems were go. Many of the biomarkers had not in fact improved, BUT that actually does show improvement because they didn't drop during the most extreme period of stress. In other words, I was ready to race. It felt good going into the race knowing that all systems were go.

We also tested 3 days after WS 100. It is fascinating to see what running 100 miles does to your biomarkers. I also talked with one of the Inside Tracker coaches to help me understand the results. To put it plainly, I left it all out there. I am sure the early dehydration in the race didn't help, but by the end of WS, I had used up my available resources. I did what I could with the day that unfolded in front of me. My biomarkers for inflammation were very high (AST/ALT) and the InsideTracker coach recommend that I take my recovery seriously. I found this very valuable because I didn't try to do too much too soon. I respected my bodies need for recovery, I didn't try to bully it into doing too much too early. I allowed myself to be tired and worn thin. I took my new set of InsideTracker recommendations and posted them where I could see them and I have seen my recovery happen. Today, I went out and crushed a workout that would have been a lot during peak training. It was possible because I used the knowledge I had from my InsideTracker results to let my body recover. I slowly, patiently was able to pull back the layers of inflammation and tired, I was to power my recovery in a methodical way. I didn't rush back, I didn't try to do too much. I waited, I listened to my body. I feel confident in the way forward towards my next race and my next goals.

Knock on wood, I haven't had a serious medical issue since March, I haven't gotten really sick (though I had a very close encounter right before States!) to me that is immense progress. I am a firm believer that InsideTracker's testing and approach have helped me begin to strengthen my weakest links. I will continue to utilize them as I train and race and try to live a more healthy optimized life. 

If you want to try InsideTracker out for yourself, use the code FASTFOODIE for a great discount. You will absolutely not regret it! And thank you InsideTracker for helping me on the road to optimal health! #blooddontlie  

 

WS 100- round up

Photo by Oiselle

Photo by Oiselle

Wow, WS 100 2016 is in the books. What a journey, what an adventure. I have already posted my race recap over on the Oiselle blog, so I just wanted to pull together a few resources in case you missed all the action.

Pre-race:

Post-race:

 

 

WS 100 prologue/retrospective

WS 100 warm-up, road/speed edition. Squaw Valley Half marathon.

WS 100 warm-up, road/speed edition. Squaw Valley Half marathon.

When I made my #womanup goal this year "cultivate unfuckwithable baddassery", I was not even sure what that meant. I just knew that I didn't feel right, I didn't feel like myself. I felt a little lost, a little unhappy, a little bit disconnected from myself. Off kilter, off center.

I knew it would take time, work and meandering around in the dark to find my way. Little did I know that the decision to run WS 100 would be a major catalyst for change. The journey to WS would be a journey to myself.

The decision to run WS again took a long time. It felt weighty, heavy, dangerous. But what I've realized over these past few months, is that it was a sleeping dragon to me and that in order to confront it, I needed to find my strength, my courage, calm and self-belief. That, perhaps for the first time in my life, I would need to find what it actually meant to believe in myself, to have confidence, to believe in my own worthiness. Not because of my running, but through my running.

And now, here I am, just a few days before WS and I am filled with gratitude, joy and with a sense of self-regained or perhaps a sense of self found. That extends beyond the race. This race has been a tool, a battle and when I line up on Saturday, it will simply be a test, a challenge in which I can celebrate the work I have done. The outcome simply doesn't matter because I arrived on the start line the best version of myself. 

It took this journey to realize that I had not broken through the barrier of self-belief. I still believed in a black and white dichotomy of thinking that you are either cocky (like I was in high school) or self-deprecating. I realize now, I have been afraid to be confident, to believe in myself because somehow I thought it meant overlooking my weakness, being vulnerable to being hurt or blindsided. I didn't see how the experiences of my high school basketball years still held captive my confidence. A month or so again, while doing some filming, Billy Yang asked me as simple question after I talked about my self-flagellation during Sean O'Brien this year: "Why? Why are you so hard on yourself?". That question gnawed at me for days, weeks. Because I didn't know why, I just knew it was what I did and I had always accepted it. But WHY? Because I was afraid if I let myself believe in myself, I would get hurt? Because if I had confidence in myself, I might be disappointed? Because if I let myself dream, I might be crushed? Maybe. But the thing is, I am not afraid of hurt, disappointment or failure. Been there, done that and sometime with a lot of style. I am excited by the opportunity to put myself into a situation where, even if i do everything right, things can still go wrong. Situations where, even I am amazingly prepared, things could go sideways. And I realized, there is no good reason why.

Slowly, gently and almost imperceptible over the month that I have been training in Tahoe, I challenged my habit of self-deprication, self-loathing, chronic self-doubt and hurt. Thoughts would come up and instead of indulging them, I would crush them with a sometime audible, WHY? There was never a good reason. And I found peace and maybe some love for myself, possible for the first time ever. 

Last weekend I was out spectating and cheering at the two days of the Broken Arrow Skyrace. I ran into many people I knew, friends and without prompting many of them said, "you seem different", "you seem so happy", "you are glowing", "you seem so calm, so ready". And I am. I have done everything in my power to stand on the start line at WS 100 and have a successful day. I have done the work, but mostly, I have come to a place where I neither undertake this journey too lightly or too seriously. I GET to go run in the mountains with friends. I had an amazing opportunity to get ready for this race and prepare like never before. It has been beautiful, it has been a gift and I am so grateful. Yes, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, but really, I know on the deepest level, that that isn't what really matters. So so so many things can happen in a 100 mile race that have nothing to do with fitness or preparation. For me, whatever the day holds, I am ready. I know it is going to be hard, sometimes it will feel impossible, sometimes I will want to quit, sometimes I will try to quit. But I know I came here for this. I have found myself in this process. I know that no matter how my race goes that it doesn't change who I am. I just want it to reflect who I am: strong, capable, willing to fight, willing to risk failure, happy and grateful. I am ready to face this dragon, I am ready to take on this fight. I know that no matter the outcome that I have found a way back to myself through this process.

The finish line is waiting for me and I will earn it with strength, grace, grit and resilience. With tears, laughter and joy. With confidence, compassion and gratitude.

Special thanks and love to Nathan, who has supported me so throughly. Much gratitude and appreciation for my coach Ian, who has really helped my best runner self. Thanks to all my peeps joining my crew at States, sister Kristin, sister Sarah, Amelia, Nathan, pacer Larisa, pacer Krissy, Sally B, Lauren F and Megan. Big ups to my sponsors Oiselle, Julbo, Ultimate Direction, Enduropacks, Nuun. Thanks to Strava and Inside Tracker! To all my friends, teammates, family, thank you for being in my corner and flying with me.

Let's do this thing!

Rising Strong-American River 50 mile

Beals Point. Mile 24.31. Smiles all day long. Photo by Leigh-Ann Wendling.

Beals Point. Mile 24.31. Smiles all day long. Photo by Leigh-Ann Wendling.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing, it is having the courage to be seen when we have no control over the outcome
— Brene Brown. Rising Strong.

The month of March started off terrible and got worse from there. I missed a total of 4 races, 3 that were originally planned, then one more that I last minute entered and was unable to start. The week after the car accident, I ran myself hard. I ran because there was nothing else that even came close to easing the trauma, frustration and all of the ills of March. I ran over 120 miles that week and I decided to sign up for American River 50 mile on April 2nd. I don't know why I was so insistent on racing, why I didn't just back off, regroup. I just felt called to race, so I entered American River 50 which has always been on my bucket list, even though the course is quite different from the fast, iconic course that got it onto my list in the first place. And then I immediately got severely ill again. A week before AR 50, I was in bed all day so ill I had to miss a combo party for one of my best friend's birthdays and for another two best friend's going away party. I felt like crap. I had pushed myself too hard after the accident with too little immunity and caught the next bug that crossed my path. As I lay in bed, I thought of AR becoming another casualty of the terrible month of March. Its only hope was that it was not in fact in March. I knew just getting on the start line would be a huge victory. The illness lifted after the weekend, I ran, I felt ok. I got 10 vials of blood in two separate draws on Wednesday to begin to dig deeper into my low immunity (which I will return to in a separate blog). On Thursday, I went through the motions of packing despite not feeling great, but knew I would not decide for sure if I would start until after Friday morning's very short trot around the neighborhood. At 10 am Friday, I decided; I am doing this. And I wrote myself the following pre-race letter as become my custom over the last 6 months.

This is not the start line I thought I would be on. I am not where I thought I would be. But I am here, now and that is the only place I can be. The only place I want to be.

March was terrible. It hurt so deeply, BUT I survived. This start line is the victory because I got on it. Everything else, cake. Doesn't matter. I am not here to win or prove anything or break any records. I am here to rise strong, to have whatever day I am going to have and welcome it. Cry, laugh, yell, stop, go, sing, smile. To be my own hero, to be my own inspiration. I persevered through the dark or March and this race is my first light.

It will be hard as hell. It will be messy. But my heart will be grateful for the opportunity to be real, to be messy, be "in progress". This race neither proves or disproves my worth. My worth is inherent. I don't have to be strong or perfect. I just have to keep putting myself on the line. Wake up, show up and have my day whatever it looks like. It will be enough.

I will tell myself I am strong. I will tell myself I am worthy. The start line, the journey, the fight. I am finally up for it. And that is enough.

And I was up for it. And the day was more than enough.

The reality is that that fact is not because I won or raced amazing or had a fantastically shiny perfect day. In fact, the run itself was good. Somewhere in the middle. Unlike Javelina, Sean O'Brien or all the month of March, the run was not filled with the highest highs and lowest lows. It was straight down the middle somewhere. I felt good, not great. I felt not so good, never bad. Physically and mentally. 

As I stood there in the last lingering moments of darkness before the gun went off, I didn't feel nerves. I didn't feel pressure. I didn't feel hungry and chomping at the bit. I felt satisfied. Phew, I made it to a start line. I was relieved. I may not be able to see the dawn's light, but I knew it was coming. I am no longer face down in the arena, I am in the process of rising strong. Phew. 

Photo by I am Endorphin Dude coming into mile 20.

Photo by I am Endorphin Dude coming into mile 20.

And I knew that my day would be good. I knew I would make it to the finish line. The gun had not gone off but I knew I would make it there and that I would run free. And I did. The gun went off and I never looked back.

I enjoyed the course. With the changes since '14, it is a much slower course than before that (about 25-30 mins slower). There is a great deal of nice single track in the first half instead of a straight shot of pavement for 26 miles. The course also have 2.5 more climbing than previous (closer to 5,000 than 2,000). I ran, taking the terrain as it came at me. Speeding up on pavement, slowing down as I hopped on single track or darted under a bridge. I ran alone and I was ok with that.

Nathan came with me to crew me and I just cruised along for the first 20 miles until I saw him. I had a nutrition plan (Tailwind the whole way!), I had a plan for distraction (music at mile 20!), I had a pacing plan- comfortable, don't go to the well, don't stress or press. After mile 20, I got to see Nathan around mile 30 and 40 and then he ran down to meet me with 3.5 miles to go. 

It was a fascinating experience to me. As I said, I was neither high nor low, good nor bad. I was just ok. And I was ok with that. I didn't need to be at the height of unfuckwithable badassery, but neither was I at the low of being face down in the arena. Being ok is exactly where I need to be right now. Being ok is exactly what I needed to be on Saturday. I didn't need to break any records, run a killer time or even win. I needed to run and just get into the "I can do this all day mode". I knew there would never be a moment where the switch got flipped, I knew that I would not dig down into the depths to see what I could do. I even knew that I would not have to face down my darkest demon, they had taken the day off or maybe they have gotten tired of chasing me. There might not be the devious smile when it is game on, but there were also no tears. Instead, I would just be ok. Ok with myself, my in progress self. I would be ok run/walking up the last three mile climb with Nathan, even though precious seconds were ticking away. I would be ok being passed by guys and not making chase. I would even be ok falling on my face and cutting up my arm on a rock. I would be ok just running MY race and doing MY thing. I would be more than ok making it to the finish line. And I did. I made it and *bonus* I won.

I wanted to race while I am in progress because I never want to be afraid to be myself. I wanted to have courage to show up and do something that I needed to do for myself, my process, my healing and not worry how it would look, not worry if it was ugly or messy. I don't want to just show my best face to the world. I want to be real because life is real. Life is filled with more than the highest highs and the lowest lows. Saturday was a small victory for me. Hitting that finish and raising my arms in triumph was saying "March, you may have been tough. You may have hurt me and worn me down. But you did not beat me. I survived, I've even survived tougher and now I will keep rising strong".

Boom 1st place in 7:10! Photo by NorCal Ultras

Boom 1st place in 7:10! Photo by NorCal Ultras