devon crosby-helms

The SF Marathon- race report

photo credit Tony Medina

Heading into Sunday's Wipro San Francisco Marathon, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to win. I have run this race twice before and neither time was the my primary objective. The first time I ran it, I paced my sister the whole way through as it was her first marathon. Last year, Nathan and I ran it together and I used it as a training run leading up to WC100k.

Despite really wanting to win, I also was not sure I could. After Comrades, I took the month of June easy and once I started back training in July, I was doing more base building and moderate mileage than peak training. I did one track workout and one tempo workout before SF Marathon, with the later happening Tuesday before the race (you know, since it is such a great idea to run sub 5 min pace before you run a marathon). Needlesstosay, I had no real basis for judging what kind of shape I was in. I felt like I was running well, but had no training indicators to buoy my fitness.

So I did what anyone would do in my postion: go for broke and see what happens.

 photo credit SFM

Before the race, I familiarized myself with some of the competition and looked at marathon PR's across the board to carefully consider the capabilities and speed of the field. Knowing SF is a much harder course than most, I knew the times would be slower but wanted to be mentally prepared if I was going to have to go out on PR pace practically. When I got to the starting line, I knew I had the fastest PR in the group by nearly 11 minutes. While I didn't necessarily think I was in PR shape, I knew that I would likely be looked to dictate the pace and lead the field.

photo credit SFM

Anna Bretan (sister of my fellow ninja Jonathan Bretan) is a two time winner of the Oakland marathon. She is tough on a tough course. Before the race she told me that Jonathan told her to keep an eye on me and stay with me. Standing on the start line, I decided on my strategy. If the field was going to look to me to dictate pace, then I was going to take the race out hard and splinter the field early, after which I could settle into the pace (2:45) that I thought it would take to win.

The gun went off and I just went for it. As I started running, I considered if it was a smart strategy. My legs didn't feel warmed up and I knew that taking the race out on 2:37 pace was risky for me as well. I could blow up hard later. I didn't want to be scared though. Part of learning to race marathons for me has been learning how to get in the pain cave and relish it. To hurt and keep pushing. I figured that this race was a perfect opportunity to practice racing and hone my skill.
photo credit SFM

I clicked along at around 6 minute pace and charged towards the Golden Gate bridge with a little pack of ladies and guys tucked in behind me. The first 6 miles only have one real kicker of a hill, so it felt good to get the legs turning over. I wasn't sure how many ladies were with me as we headed up the steep climb to the bridge. I was pretty sure that at least a handful had backed off from my kamikaze of a start. I felt really good though and knew that I was going to have a solid day. I just felt strong. Not necessarily as fast as I've felt, but just felt able to maintain the pace all day long.

photo credit SFM

I run back and forth and back and forth across the bridge for training all the time. I know its curve, I know how hard to push when. By the time I was headed back to the SF side, I knew that my strategy had paid off. A quick glance over my shoulder registered that I was gapping the field and pulling away. I fell in with a group of guys and worked my way towards the park. I rolled with the hills, not throttling back too much on the few challenging up and hit the park feeling good. I was excited to feel so good heading into the park because I knew that the second half was faster and if I was feeling good I might be able to even or negative split. I passed through the halfway point just around 1:22. 

To the beach and back is one of my bread and butter runs (speaking of Bread and Butter, have you checked out our Kickstarter campaign yet?!?!), so I locked in and got my legs moving fast as the course slopped downhill. I was running with a guy named Gavin who was doing his first marathon. It was nice to have the company and we caught another duo shortly thereafter, whom I helped coach through a bad patch, reassuring them their race wasn't falling apart because they felt crap. That instead they just each needed to take a gel. I spent a few miles with them and then decided to push on ahead. I got onto the Stow Lake loop that is next to the 1st half finish and was excited to see Nathan, Georgia and Larissa (with the whole Strava crew).

 photo credit Tony Medina
I was on my own then. Just pushing along, managing my time and my energy. I apparently had not been running tangents well because my mileage vs. the markers was off, so I just resolved to stay locked in on my 6:11min/mile pace and focus on that. Loping down the Haight the cheers for me changed from "yeah 1st woman" (in the park) to suddenly "you are second woman!". Wait, what? I was confused and told the leader bicycle pacer that people were saying I was second. There are two places on the course where it is possible to get confused and cut off significant mileage. I figured that someone had turned left going into the park and skipped the bottom section of the park (which friends later confirmed). The bike pacer took off after the woman and I decided to turn her into a rabbit instead of being frustrated by the situation. I knew I was winning, but I also wanted my moment. If I am going to win, I want to come tearing into the finish line and break the tape. 

I pushed the pace on a few downhills into the mission and turning on to 16th spotted the lost lady. Her pace was significantly slower and I ate up ground and passed her quickly. With less than 5 miles to the finish line, I was starting to smell the barn. I wasn't sure what my gap was on the field, but I knew that if anyone was going to catch me, I was going to make them earn it. I just locked in and went. 

 photo credit Tony Medina

I never felt bad. I felt like a machine. I did work through the Dogpatch and crossed the bridge to ATT park flying. I looked at my watch and saw that even with the extra .25 miles I had run that I was going to be able to run sub 2:45. I pushed myself towards the finish line. Hitting the mile 26 sign I looked at my watch (marathon split 2:42:44) and pressed forward. The finish line announcer was saying that they had word that I was at ATT park a few minutes out, but I was flying down the finishing straight. The announcer caught sight of me and the crowd started going wild. I soaked it in. This is what I came for, this is what I had earned. I came to represent for my home and I protected my home turf.


photo credit Tony Medina

Victory. I have to say that this is one of the more satisfying wins I've had. It wasn't just about the fact that I won. It was that I ran the race I wanted to, I took risks, I pushed myself. I came to win: mission accomplished.
Photo from SF Gate

Thanks to The San Francisco Marathon for inviting me as an elite (and putting me in bib #2 for motivation!), North Face and all of my other sponsors!

Nothing


It's been just over three weeks since ING NYC Marathon and I am back to training, gearing up for the Olympic Trials in Houston in just 49 days. The first week after NYC my hamstrings were tight but I ran almost 60 miles. I didn't push the pace, I just had fun and I came out of the week feeling very rested and ready to go.

Last week marked the beginning of my training. I hit 97 miles with some great quality sessions, ran lots of doubles, saw my massage therapist, stretched every day, did core work, saw my trainer twice, rolled on the foam roller, ate a healthful training diet. Simply put, I am living and running like it is my job. I am focusing on the details and making sure I am doing absolutely everything to arrive at the start line of the Trials ready for a huge breakthrough.

This week I have continued to hammer out the runs, hit my marks in specific workouts and pay attention to all those small details. I feel like I have good momentum heading towards the harder weeks of training.

I realized today that I have one big huge problem with the "living and running like it is my job" lifestyle: nothing. Specifically, doing nothing. I have a really hard time with the passive part of training and adaptation, it is hard for me to kick back for hours and let the training sink in. I have to fight the feeling that I should be doing something more, else, otherwise.

I have structured my work to ensure that I have ample time to complete my workouts and training as well as make it possible to have days where I have no client commitments or demands other than running, planning meals for my clients, researching recipes and keeping up on the food trends.  By design, I have put in blocks of "nothing" time on my schedule so that during that time I can do whatever I want. I can read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, tick things off my to do list, whatever my heart desires. And yet, I find myself struggling occupy that space without my mind objecting.

Now, more than ever the ability to relax and do nothing is vital to my training. I have to continue to work on kicking back and relaxing after pushing my body hard in training. I have to bask in the ability to have leisure time in my day and not be torn between a 1,000 things. I just think it is so easy to get wrapped up in the go, go, go of daily life that when things slow down, I don't know what to do with myself.

Nothing is my friend. Nothing is the space where I will become something. Just like I will continue to dig deep in training, I will continually try to embrace the little details and accept the nothing into my life, remembering as I curl up on the couch with my feet up, sipping a mug of tea; "this is part of my training".

What are your strategies for slowing down and enjoying your leisure time?

Pack Animals

Salomon runners Kilian, Iker and Miguel and NF's Sebastian running together at UTMB 2011

When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives. 
- Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)

When you think of running, teamwork is not the first thing that comes to mind. It is very much an individual endeavor but what I have found over the few years of my running career is that teamwork elevates that individual pursuit and helps you reach new levels you didn't know you could. Whether that is having a team of handlers and pacers to guide you through a 100 miler or having a rockstar partner who can patiently push you up the final ascent out of the big ditch. Sometimes teamwork is just having someone along side you for a time to keep your mind right and your spirits high.


Salomon runner Ryan Sandes dominating Leadville. Winning in 3rd fastest time ever in his debut 100 with help from Salomon teammates.
Photo courtesy Anna Frost


In the past few weeks, I have been incredibly inspired by my Salomon international teammates. Not just because of their incredible performances but because they have demonstrated time after time these value of teamwork. I truly feel that I am a part of a cohesive team, with members who would help me reach my potential, not just someone who shares the same sponsorship. I am incredibly proud of my teammates and very thankful for the support crews that help support all of our efforts. In just the past three weeks, I  have watched:

  • Ryan Sandes kicked butt in Leadville with the support of Salomon team members.
  • Rickey Gates and Anna Frost work together and push each other at TransRockies, absolutely dominating.
  • Kilian, Iker and Miguel run side by side at UTMB. Even stopping at points to wait for each other.



Maybe it is because I hail from a teamsports background that this team aspect geeks me out. But I don't think so. I really believe that even individual pursuits are better through teamwork. I believe we can accomplish more when we work with others than we ever could alone. I fundamentally believe community is one of the most important aspects of personal development.

Salomon runners Anna Frost and Rickey Gates, dominating the Open Mixed division through teamwork at Gore-Tex TransRockies run (source)

Teamwork is currently one of the foremost things in my mind as I set out to run the WC100k in Netherlands next week. Why? Because it is an event in which I represent my team as much as I represent myself. When I run the WC events, I have a one track mind: how do I best serve my team? I best serve my team by running as best and as fast as I can and by helping and supporting my teammates however I can. One of my favorite moments in all of my running life is from two years ago at the WC100k in Belgium. Meghan, Carolyn and I knew we had a firm grip on the gold medal and we worked together through the wee hours of the morning to maintain our position and help each other through rough patches. I will never forget how cool it was to run together en route to a gold medal and 4 top 10 spots.

I proudly don the Team USA kit because it makes me a part of a team. Just like when I don my Salomon gear, I feel a part of something. Next week when I line up, I am excited to help lead my team and fight for a gold medal. Whatever happens, I know that I have some amazing teammates working their butts off and fighting hard for the same goal. I know that I have people pulling for me and their strength will buoy me and drive me through the rough patches. Together we will all succeed. To me, there is nothing better in life to share the journey, the fight, and the triumph.

The Pretender

Post 100k WC 2009 in Belgium. 4th place, team gold.

After Hardrock pacing, I switched gears and started focusing on my goal race for the early fall: the 2011 WC100k as a member of Team USA. My training started off well and I was feeling fast and strong, focused and like my training was progressing in a promising manner. One of my first big long runs on the road was a 5:07 effort for 42 very hilly miles from San Francisco to Fairfax to Stinson Beach. It was suppose to be a 4 hr effort but when I mapped out the route, I missed that google maps had sent me down a little known or possibly non-existent trail from Bolinas Fairfax road and I proceeded down the road that I was familiar with. After that run, I decided that it would be the only 5 hr effort I would do before the 100k. More than one might tax my body too much and I felt that I wanted to heed the lessons from Mad City 100k earlier in the year: that less is more.

I recovered well from that effort and a week later pounded out a solid effort at the SF Marathon with Nathan. I was very pleased with a 2:53 on that marathon course without any taper to speak of and the long run the week before. I took my normal day off on the following Monday and was back to training Tuesday with a good track workout in which I felt very strong. Wednesday I did a solid double workout day for a total of 20 miles. Thursday I hit a wall. I am not sure if it was a mental or physical one, probably a bit of both. I had moved my 4hr long run from Sunday to Thursday because I was heading out of town for the OR show on Friday and couldn't be sure I would have the time to do an effort like that while in Salt Lake. I doubted it. So in the wee hours of Thursday morning (I started running at 4:30am), I headed out with the intention of getting in my 4 hrs. It was raining, cold, windy and foggy. My body was feeling fatigued from the marathon on Sunday and my mind was saying, "I am just not that into this". I decided that physically and mentally, it was better to NOT push through so close to the marathon and did a modified route, covering 22 miles for the day. I finished up the week strong, including the hardest 15 minutes of my life at the Uphill Challenge, followed by a fantastic double day with friends on the trails in SLC. I ran 108 miles, despite no "long" runs and was satisfied.

Pre-100k training with Bestest Everest in 2009. 40 miles in 4:42.

Last week, I put in solid effort after solid effort (with plenty of recovery efforts in there too). I had a good track workout on Tuesday (400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800. All repeats 1:17-1:19, 2:40-2:43) and ran doubles everyday. By Thursday morning, I could tell that I was feeling off. Not physically, just mentally. I was feeling down in the dumps. I was feeling unmotivated. I was feeling grumpy. I think the weather was just weighing on me and couldn't talk myself out of the negative space I was occupying. So on Thursday afternoon, I did something drastic. I just drove and drove until I found the sun and then ran on trails until I was tired, a bit sunburned and uplifted by a few hours in the sun. It meant 25 miles for the day, but unlike what my training plan called for. I didn't care. I needed to be happier above all else. I needed to crawl out of the doldrums. Friday morning, Nathan and I chased the sun again, this time on Mt. Tam above the fog. I was feeling more uplifted, more like me. I had my long run planned for Saturday and Nathan and I made a plan for meeting up in Tennessee Valley after I did a 42 mile road loop (the Paradise loop+ more from the city). I set off in the wind, cold and fog but couldn't get my mind into the effort in from of me. By mile 7, I was texting Nathan that I just wasn't into the run. I decided to have him pick me up at mile 11.5 and I would run with him on Mt. Tam for a couple of hours. I managed 4 hours for the day with 2.5 hours of that in the glorious sun on Mt. Tam but the workout was not the confidence booster I wanted or needed. I still remember back to my last Worlds in 2009 where I had a fantastic 40 mile run which Jonathan joined me for the second half of. I had not yet had a fantastic indicator workout on this cycle. Instead, I was just worrying that I had overcooked myself somehow. I ran on the trails again Sunday and gave myself a break from the road. I just ran and enjoyed myself again instead of worrying about the miles, splits and what this meant for my race. I covered 110 miles for the week, again with no real "long run" and 4 days of pure trail.

WC100k 2009.

I went into this week determined to have quality workouts. I decided that it wasn't a matter of hoping for a good workout or week, I would simply decide it to be so and it would be. And in the two workouts thus far this week, it is abundantly clear that I am ready. Tuesday I headed to the track and focused on hammering out my relatively light workout of 5x400 repeats with 200 recovery. I smashed the workout, finishing my last three repeats in 74, 73 and 70. I pushed myself and found, much like I did during the Uphill Challenge, that I had yet another gear. I finished the last workout and received applause from a few onlookers. One came over to me and said that he has seen me working out at the track and that I really inspire him with my hardwork. It was a really nice compliment and I appreciated that someone took the time to say it. I warmed down with Nathan and was very stoked to have run a 70. I don't think I have run a 70 yet this year and I am encouraged by the thought of getting faster at the track.

This morning, I planned to do my long run as we have fun trail plans for the weekend. I didn't want to miss out on a good road effort, even though I was worried about my ability to motivate myself to hit another 4-ish hr road effort. I decided to run 50k and see what I could do comfortably hard. 

Before I headed out this morning, I read an interesting article entitled "You Become What Your Pretend to Be". It really resounded with me. It was exactly what I needed. Last Saturday, I did a lot of negative self talk and talked myself out of my workout. I was determined not to do that today. Instead, I would simply pretend and therefore make it so. So I pretended:
that I was strong
that I was fast
that I was motivated
that I was worthy of a gold medal
that I was ready
that I was inspired
that I could do anything

And from the start, the workout was completely different. I ran comfortably but felt a levity about the journey ahead. Instead of worrying how the workout would go, I simply told myself it would be a good one. By the time I reached the other side of the Golden Gate bridge, I was dripping with sweat and beaming with pride (mind you it is only mile 7 at this point). I knew I was going to have a breakthrough workout. I knew I would never have doubts. I knew that I would run strong and fast and push it harder with each passing mile. And it was so.

I ran out to the end of the bike path in Mill Valley and turned around, laughing at the headwind that seemed to blow in both directions. I was 13.5+ miles into the run in 1:29. I popped a gel and headed back towards the bridge. At this point, I decided that I would push the remaining miles despite knowing that all of the bigger hills lay before me. I wanted to get to mile 20 steadily and then do a fast finish. I hit the 20 mile mark in 2:14 and pressed across the Golden Gate bridge with a smile on my face. Making it back across the bridge is such a nice feeling. I feel almost home, even though when I got across I took a right turn and headed away from home. I was determined to hit a sub 3 for my marathon split despite miles 22-26 being very hilly and partially on trail through Land's End including a sand ladder. I made it through Land's End and sprinted down the hill towards the beach hitting the marathon in 2:55:44. I realized that I was what I had started out pretending to be. I cannot remember the moment when I crossed from "fake it til you make it" into this being the reality of things. I was LOVING the run. I felt strong and fast and inspired. I just felt good. My body felt alive even though I was running really hard.

The final 4.5 ish miles home were no easy task. It is uphill all the way from the beach but I was determined not to relent on the pace and zig zagged my way up the park, up each hill and sandy bit of trail. The miles ticked away and I approached the final giant hill up to my house. I pushed up it, grunting, sweat flying everywhere. I wouldn't go easy on myself even though I was nearly home. I pushed up and over the top and sprinted down my block and beyond my house. I simply couldn't finish my run .01 short of a perfect 50k. I didn't have to go far and I dramatically hit stop on my watch 3:29:13. 6:44 min/mile for a 50k. Wow. That felt good. 

As the article mentioned, "our attitudes influence our behavior" as well as "our behavior influences our attitudes". On this run, I definitely found this to be true. I started off the run with a positive, even if just pretending or slightly uncertain, attitude and it made my behavior positive as well. Because I felt positive, happy and hopeful about the run, my running was comfortable, strong and inspired. Then, because my run was going well, my attitude continually got more positive and inspired. By the end, I am sure I looked like a crazy person running 6:40s through the park with a wild grin on my face. I became what I pretended to be. It was the breakthrough I was hoping for and it shows me that come race day there will be no pretending. There will just be a goofy grin and joyful running as I count off loops in a small town in the Netherlands.





Two for the road- SF Marathon race report

Photo from the article about us in the SF Examiner
Copyright Cindy Chew/ SF Examiner

Last Sunday a great article about Nathan and I running SF Marathon came out in the SF Examiner. We had fun being interviewed and doing the photoshoot and were look forward to the first time actually running a race together. We have run the same race before, but we have never stuck together the whole time. We have run plenty of miles side by side, but I was curious to see how it would play out in a race circumstance.

I signed up for SF marathon quite some time ago as a training race for the upcoming WC100k. In years passed, I have run a marathon as training for other 100ks and like doing a hard "speed workout" by racing a marathon. I asked Nathan if he wanted to join me and he did so we got signed up as elites. I never was focusing on this race and neither was Nathan. For me, it was a part of training. The week before the race, I ran over 115 miles including a hard 42.5 mile run. The week of the race, I trained pretty well for the beginning of the week and did a mini (2 day) taper for the race. I wanted to go in tired, but not wrecked. Nathan has been in recovery for the past few weeks after Hardrock. He runs when he wants (still mostly every day) but without a specific race in mind, getting his legs back moving and feeling things out. Before the race, we discussed our goals. I wanted to run a low 2:50 (right about 6:40/mile pace), even though the course is very hilly and slow. Nathan had no specific time goal, didn't really know his legs would feel and thus, just wanted to hang with me. 

My mom was in town for the weekend, so I kept myself busy Friday and Saturday playing host to her and didn't get much into the race hype, except for a brief visit to the expo to get our packets. The SF Marathon is the 13th biggest marathon in the country (despite it being crazy hilly for a road race) and the energy from everyone involved was great. 

Marathon morning was way too damn early. Ultra early. We got up at 3am, ate and headed out in a taxi down to the Embarcadero. We headed into the VIP area and caught up with friend (and eventual winner of the marathon) Mike Wardian. We did a little shake out run down the embarcadero and were soon enough standing at the line ready to make our way into the darkness (5:30am start!). Even after the warmup, I was not really sure how my legs were feeling. They didn't feel great, but not horrible either, just kind of tired, without zip. I figured I would be able to tell soon enough how they were feeling. I looked around the starting corral at the other elite women and I didn't really feel like I was racing against them. Instead, I felt like I was focused on my goals to run my race.

Off we went and Nathan and I fell in to step quickly off the line and were joined by Scott Dunlap. He said his race strategy was to stay behind me. We chatted for a bit and I felt he and Nathan quickening their step a bit and I pulled back. Scott continued ahead and joined up with the lead female pack which was about 30 seconds ahead (5-6 women). I felt no desire to chase and figured that things would shake out with the first hills and the group would splinter. At which point, I would pick up the pieces.

Nathan and I just clicked along. I wasn't wearing my foot pod but checked the time on my Suunto T6c when we'd pass mile markers. I did the occasional lap to gauge a mile here and there. I felt like we were running pretty consistent and Nathan assured me we were running strong. With tired legs and "training through" a race, it is sometimes hard to gauge your own speed. What feels fast in a training run, might actually be quite slow comparatively. Luckily, we were right exactly where we wanted to be: clicking off the miles. I won't say it was easy, but it wasn't a struggle to maintain the pace. The hills, although quite challenging, actually felt fantastic to me and we would eat up ground on the lead pack and even started picking off women after the turn around on the bridge. 

Nathan was making it look easy and I wondered if he was having to work hard at all. Coming off the bridge we easily cruised up a decent grunt of a hill and found our way in to 3rd place (well I was, who knows what place Nathan was in). I was drinking water at all the aid stations and finally popped a GU at mile 11. I was looking forward to getting into the park and starting on the easier half of the course. We ran into friend Jimmy Dean, who was out to pace a friend to a BQ. He was a week out of rocking AC100 and it was great to have him cheering us on. Nathan and I had a lot of support out there. It is so much fun to run your hometown marathon!

 Cruising in the park. Photo by Paul Mosel.

Arriving in the park is a nice feeling because you get a good 2 mile gradual downhill before another extended (but very gradual) climb out of the park. It also marks halfway, with the "easier" half remaining, so that was good too. Nathan and I had discussed my race strategy before the race. I had decided that I would establish in the park whether or not I would actually start racing or if I would settle in wherever I was and just cruise. Hitting the bottom of the park, I was also hitting a lull in my energy. I was in the weeds and not feeling awesome. Nathan was feeling good, at least good enough to grab a beer at mile 16 from the Hash House Harriers, chug it and then catch up to me. I was not feeling good enough to be amused. I think he was actually a bit tipsy for at least a few miles. Running makes the alcohol get into your system quick! I started to feel better and though I could still see the lead two women, I was not feeling that I would give chase. I decided to stay consistent and let them come back to me in the waning miles if they faltered. I popped another gel to get me out of my funk and we worked our way around Stow Lake and out of the park. Reaching Haight St the crowds increased and I got to see my mom cheering for me. It is the first time she's seen me race, so it was as exciting for her as it was for me!

Nathan was still chugging along side me, steady and seemingly strong. He said that he was definitely feeling the lack of speed work and was tired, but I was confident he would hang with me. I was feeling less funky and we picked up the pace a bit as we rolled up Haight St. I was a good 3 minutes behind the lead women, but was unconcerned. We continued to cruise, rile up the cheering sections and thank all the volunteers who were out there.  Once we hit mile 20, the miles started to feel quicker and easier. I was coming in to my favorite part of the race: the furious finish! I could smell the barn and was certainly ready to be done, as was Nathan I think. We continued to pass guys, moving up past at least a dozen or so in the last 6 miles, if not more. We caught up to Scott again just before mile 24 as he was suffering from a foot issue. The last miles wind around Mission, Potrero, Dogpatch and then finally head towards the ball park and finally the Embarcadero and finish line. We zoomed through Dogpatch and were picking up speed passing mile 24. Then came the headwind. I wanted to push in the last few miles, but also was walking a fine line of not wanting to run too hard, especially since I couldn't see if there was any reason to chase. Near the ballpark, I could see one of the lead bike escorts and calculated she was a good 1:30 ahead of me. Not a distance I was going to make up in less than a mile (into a headwind). I was happy with the race we were running, it is exactly the race/pace/time I wanted to run. Nathan and I zoomed onto the Embarcadero together, enjoying the cheers of the crowd and passing a few more guys for good measure. With less than 100 meters to the finish line, I sped up to pass another guy (I am so nice) with Nathan on my heels. I made sure to get him next to me and we crossed the finishline holding hands in 2:53:55. Good enough for 3rd place.


This was a good race for me in my training and a good confidence boost. I have had some good long road runs, but there is nothing quite like a race to gauge fitness. 2:53:55 is a fast time and even faster considering how slow the long grinding hills make you. I am excited for the rest of my training in the next 6 weeks. I have some longer quality sessions remaining and some mileage to be done, I can't wait to see how things shape up on September 10th in the Netherlands! I finished the week at about 80 miles total with a few quality sessions and a good race. That is a very satisfying feeling. What's even more satisfying is running an entire race with someone you love. The first time I ran SF marathon it was with my sister and we crossed the line hand in hand. This time, I got to run my 4th fastest marathon time with Nathan and cross the line hand in hand with him. It was great to have his company, pacing and encouragement along the way. Even though I got a lot of attention for my third place finish, to me it is a shared victory because he was there with me every step of the way! 

How To Have a "Devon Day" ebook

Introducing....





What you see above are the cover, table of contents and a sampling of the introduction, including the definition of a "Devon Day". I developed this guide after the LA marathon when I realized that my successes were coming as a direct result of the framework I was using in my training. The framework was not just specific to LA, in fact, part of the excitement of writing this book was doing in depth research into all of my own training and realizing that I have had four "Devon Days" or breakthrough performances in the space of less than 2 years. Though my training and goals were different for each of these races, the framework was the same and ultimately so was the result: successfully reaching my ideal goal.

In this guide, I walk you through the framework and talk about the aspects of my formula for success. This includes how we define our goals and the specific training aspects that make the most difference in reaching our goals. For me, the goal was qualifying for the Olympic Trials but this framework can work for anyone and any goal!

How to Have a Devon Day: A Runner's Guide to a Breakthrough Performance.

(Click on Add to cart to purchase for just $9.99)

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Invincible


Sometimes I mistakenly think I am invincible. My muscles recover pretty quickly from hard runs, even runs I feel that I am completely under prepared for or extremely taxing and I usually feel ready to run within a few days. 

April's "triple crown" of achieving my Olympic Trials Qualifier, winning the 100k National Championship and setting a CR & PR, and then 9 days later setting the FKT with Krissy at the R2R2R show my capacity to recover quickly and be ready to roll. My crazy race month in April was not by design, in fact, the only thing I had planned (at the beginning of the year) to run in April was R2R2R. LA came about after I didn't make the standard at Houston in January and Mad City came about because of the discovery that my spot on the 100k National Team was tenuous at best (as one of my 'A' goals for the year was competing at worlds). I knew as these plans all manifested themselves that I would be extremely lucky to get through all of these events unscathed. I told myself that I would focus on recovery, recovery, recovery. After LA, I did a good job basking in my success but was also able to put in some good 70-80 mile weeks between it and Mad City. After Mad City, I barely had time to land on the ground and repack my bag before I was off to Utah/Arizona for R2R2R. I don't think I even celebrated that victory as much as I should. My "recovery" was non-existent for the most part as between Mad City and R2R2R I traveled, worked my busiest week yet as a chef, slept at an even higher altitude and ran about 30 miles for the week. I was very tired for R2R2R and even more tired after the 42 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. However, by the time I got back to SF, after a good massage and a few easy miles with friends, I was feeling much better. I even managed a fast 14 mile run on Saturday (the 4th day after R2R2R) with Nathan before heading up to Bodega Bay for some family time. I ran 70+ total miles for the week and tried to get back into recovery mentality. It was essential I do as I asked a great deal of my body in April and before I can even stop to take a breathe, I am on my way to my next race, leaving on Sunday for Australia and the North Face 100k which is on May 14th. 


I say I tried to get back into recovery mentality because for some reason last week, I had a hard time pushing out the "I should be training" mentality. Because of all the racing, I don't feel like I've been doing a whole lot of running or had a whole bunch of feel good time in my body and for some reason, I figured a good week of training would be the cure for that. Why I thought this is beyond me. I didn't go too crazy, but planned a good 90-95 miles for myself for the week. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty light, Thursday was our normal morning ninja run and Friday I did a double plus a gym workout= 19 miles and 1 hour of weights. So by the time I woke up on Saturday, I was worked. I was ready to go back to bed before I even got out of it. My body didn't hurt (except my hamstrings from the previous days squats) but I was all over tired.

Look a bobcat. 
Or in my case, oh look, an excuse to stop while going up a steep hill!

I planned to get out with Nathan and run with him for the first 7-10, then continue on my own for a total of 25 miles. I thought I'd get a good 45 mile weekend in and that would give me a little confidence booster for NF100k (i.e. trail time confidence). The majority of the first few miles went like this: we run, we get to a hill, I start walking, very slowly and wishing I were dead. 

Nathan and I started discussing just exactly what I was playing at with the my training schedule for this week (my coach has this time unstructured as I should be chilling out not training per se). I came to the obvious conclusion ultimately that I am way too hard on myself and just because my muscles/bones feel good doesn't mean that I can just jump back on the horse and keep going full throttle. This past month has been super taxing. This past month has been super amazing and rich and full of things to celebrate. And I should celebrate them and praise myself, not push myself until I do break. I have been very lucky to make it through the past month healthy and that is something I definitely need to be mindful of. 

Needlesstosay, I decided to cut my run short. And it sucked, most of the way. I was not my best runner ever, I was tired worn out Devon (hence the death becomes her photos). I just need to cut myself a break which I use to be good at doing but haven't done in a while. I cut my run short on Saturday and changed my run plan for Sunday. I ate a half of my favorite kind of gluten free carrot cupcake to celebrate all I've accomplished (I usually don't have them except after particularly hard long run efforts or races & hadn't had one since last summer!). I refocused my energy on recovering. I am in recovery. I should be. I need to be.

When it comes down to it, the only way I can make it through my next challenge (NF100k) is not by training more but by maximizing how recovered I can get. I need to fuel myself, repair my body and rest, rest, rest. I am such a big proponent of rest (I take off one day a week) that it is funny to me how hard I find it to really rest or chill out sometimes. Ultimately, the changes I made in the weekend's run plans made the week an ideal maintenance week for me- about 80 miles. My run on Sunday was fast and felt really good, so I know that I am not too far gone. But Saturday's run reminded me not to push myself too far.

I know I am not invincible. I never intended to have the month that I have had. I don't want to become one of those people that gets sucked into chasing that high or racing too much. Instead, I want to be the type of person who cuts myself a break, rewards my good work and doesn't engage in self-defeating behavior or thought processes. I cannot continue to be the runner I am if I blindly press forward in haste, instead I must be patient, I must take a step back and I must take time to celebrate my accomplishments/ give myself credit for all I do. I think I am on the right track.

One of the things I do while resting? Make Fast Foodie Tshirts of course! Get yours here!

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Fastest Known Time for Women

On January 21st, I sent a short email to my friend Krissy entitled "need for speed". It simply said: I think one of these days you and I should work together to do the FKT at R2R2R. She wrote back "heck yeah, let's make it happen". And so began an adventure. We found a date that worked for us, planned and prepped and got ready to make our attempt on April 19th, 2011. Our time goal: sub 9:25 (Emily Baer held the record at 9:25, set in 2003)


Girl's weekend R2R2R Oct 2009


It was not the first time Krissy and I ran the Canyon together. In October 2009, Krissy, Ellen, Monica and I met up to run the R2R2R together in a fun, take a lot of pictures and have a blast way. It was so much fun. We took our time, stopped lots, took pictures, laughed, ate snickers and lemonade at Phantom Ranch, finishing in 12 hours (returning via Bright Angel).


Krissy and I would be doing a different kind of run. Where our first canyon run was focused on fun and smiles, our Fastest Known Time attempt was about teamwork, efficiency and running fast. I have been very intrigued in doing long trail runs (like the John Muir Trail) and going after various fastest known times on trails. This would be my first foray into the arena. Fastest Known Times are records set on various established trails and usually have a standardized start/finish spot and route. In the case of Rim to Rim to Rim the route takes you from the South Kaibab Trail to North Kaibab to South Kaibab totaling 42 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent.




Between January and April, Krissy and I made our plans, went about our business and prepared to rendevous in St. George with amazing friends from UltrAspire. As the date approached, I was nervous, naturally. When we planned this adventure, my late winter/ early spring plans included qualifying for the OT at Houston (January 31), then running Lake Sonoma 50 mile, hopping over to France for Salomon Advanced Week, then running R2R2R with Krissy. Well, clearly it didn't work out that way. 


I ran Houston and didn't make the OT then I ran LA marathon (3/20/2011) and made the Olympic Trials. Less than 3 weeks later, I was toeing the line at Mad City 100k (4/9/2011) in order to earn a spot on this years 100k Team USA. I ran a PR by 13 minutes, won the national championship and punched my ticket to the WC100k in the Netherlands in September. Needlesstosay, each of those races left me feeling a bit underprepared in my training for such intense ascent and descent as we would encounter at the Grand Canyon and also made me feel hesitant that I would be recovered from a road 100k in less than 9 days. 9 days from Mad City to Rim to Rim to Rim. I haven't had time to even post a blog since Mad City, let alone rest or recover. In fact, in between I worked my busiest week yet as a personal chef. It is an exciting time in my life and even when it is exhausting it is still thrilling.


The hosts with the most: Bryce and Melanie.


On Saturday (4/16/2011), after giving an hour long presentation on food and trail running for the Presidio 10, I hopped on a plane to St.George, Utah to meet up with Krissy and Bryce and Melanie Thatcher (of UltrAspire). Bryce and Melanie were amazing hosts for Krissy and I. They provided us with use of their truck to get down to the Grand Canyon including a nice setup in the back of the truck for an amazing nights sleep before the run. They were absolutely key in making this experience a fantastic one. I am blessed to have met such wonderful folks and have them as part of our experience.


For the remainder of the weekend, we fueled up, relaxed, sorted our gear and finalized our details. My Salomon teammate Ted Russel had run the R2R2R on Friday and Krissy managed to debrief with him on Sunday when he gave us the lowdown on the snow levels (none!!!) and where the water was on.


Krissy with our special treats from Monica. Snickers and Lemonade!


On Monday, Krissy and I got in the truck and made the 5 hour + haul down to the South Rim where we had a serious of fortuitous events. First, Krissy realized she had forgotten her annual parks pass which would have gotten us in for free but when we arrived at the gate we were delighted to learn it was still Free National Parks week, so we didn't have to pay to enter the park. Next, we hadn't been able to get a room in the park and planned to camp in the back of the truck instead. When we arrived at the campsite, it said there were no spots available. We were asking the ranger a question about parking for the morning (where we could stash our truck) and secondarily asked if there were any spots available despite what the sign says. The ranger perked up and said "you are in luck" and we were able to get a spot to park our truck, Matt Hart's truck (he ran down with us to Phantom Ranch to video us) and even better we had neighboring campsites that let Jim of Elite Creators, who drove down to take video of us, park his truck in their site. If Monday's luck was any indication of how things were going to go, we were going to be in good shape.


Part of setting a FKT is making sure you are able to provide as much proof as possible of your run. We were excited to have Matt and Jim there and were delighted at the finish when Melanie and Bryce surprised us as well. Krissy and I made sure we set up our verification from the start including: 


From the Fastest Known Times website
How do you establish a speed record?
  • Announce your intentions in advance. Like a true gentleman (ahem, ladies), pay your respects to those who came before you, and tell them what you intend to attempt and when. (We posted of the FKT website and Krissy called Emily Baer)
  • Be an open book. Invite anyone to come and watch or, better yet, participate. This makes your effort more fun and any result more believable. (We had Matt, Jim, Bryce and Melanie- the more the merrier)
  • Record your event. Write down everything immediately upon completion. Memory doesn't count. (welcome to my blog, we also posted on FKT website)


Inspiration from Roch Horton on the drive to the start

Krissy and I woke up after a good nights sleep at 4:30am and got ready to hit Kaibab Trail at precisely 6am. We had our breakfast concoctions, double checked our gear and were at the trailhead with ample time to enjoy the first morning light. Matt and Jim had their cameras on us as we watched time tick towards 6am sharp. I also had my handheld Sanyon HD video camera with me and recording our time stamps to make sure that once we were out of Phantom Rance that we still were able to document and verify our time stamps with video and pictures. We wouldn't be stopping for fun photos or to admire the scenery this time though.


I came into this run with some (ok A LOT) trepidation. Despite the fact that Krissy and I run exceptionally well together and seem to naturally buoy one another, I was afraid that my fatigue from my other two events in close time would slow me down. I was afraid that my road training and minimal vertical in training with the exception of one weekend two weeks before was leaving me unprepared. Running with a partner after such a goal as this requires a special skill and a delicate balancing act. I didn't want to be made to feel like a weak partner or that I was letting her down (an experience I have had in the past- not with Krissy). I wanted to pull my weight and do my part. We had communicated well before the run about my feelings and she just kept saying, "I'm just going to try and keep up with those marathon legs of yours". I knew she'd be hauling me on the ups and I (hopefully) could take us down in one piece and hammer the very runnable grades. We are truly a dynamic duo. That said, I was also not at my best and didn't want to lean to heavily on her or slow her down. When running with a partner, you are not just thinking about how you feel and what you are doing, you are thinking about how your running effects your partner and what you can do to help the team and bolster the other person. I wanted to be at my best for her and for us. I wanted us to get that FKT, bad. I knew she did too. I just knew that I was going to have to work hard for it.

Start of the FKT

6am we stepped off the top of the rim and began our descent. It is steep, it is technical, it is freaking beautiful. My hat immediately blew off my head in a huge gust of wind and I felt like a total amateur trying to get my camera back in my pocket. But once I got over my technical difficulties, I settled into an easy lope behind Krissy. Each step down and down, through time, through history into the earth. The early morning light was perfect, the air cool and I tried to take in the immensity and beauty. Matt ran down with us, videoing us as we fly through corners and over gigantic cuts in the earth, switchbacks that zigged and zagged back and forth. You lost 4700 feet in the 6 miles to the river. We were to the river in 55 minutes and scooted quickly into Phantom ranch a mile later in 1:03. Phantom Ranch was our slowest transition of the day. Krissy filled our bottles and I used the bathroom which required filling and refilling a giant bucket to flush the toliet. 7 minutes later we were out of there and began gradual climb up to the north rim. 


Krissy and I took turns pulling up this section. We both felt like we were working hard but moving well and the little incline we definitely felt. It was plenty warm early and I had lingering self-doubt. As we ran along the canyon wall towards the North Rim, I said, "Ok, I have to say this out loud. I am really freaked out right now about the thought of having to go back up South Kaibab". It is steep and I couldn't deny as I descended that I wasn't worried about having enough in the tank to get myself safely out. Krissy soothed my mind and I focused on taking my calories, hydrating and taking in my salts. 

Arriving Phantom Ranch

Roaring Springs "Artist House"

Krissy and I were all business. We didn't chat, we didn't laugh or joke, though we carried lightness in our hearts- we just focused. We made it to our second water stop at the roaring springs "artist house" aka the basketball court in 2:23. It was mile 15 and not even 9 am, the heat was setting in. After the "house" the real climbing begins taking it toll and making you work. You get nearly 2/3rds of the climbing to the North Rim's almost 6,000 feet at this point. The North Rim climb is still much easier than the South, but that is relative. It is a grunt and my legs rebelled a bit. I started to cramp on some of the steeper steps and had to settle into a hard walk. Krissy let me set the pace despite the fact she was feeling good. I was frustrated with myself but Krissy kept encouraging me and being patient with me. She kept saying, "I know you girl, you bounce back". And in a short matter of time, I did. I took a hyper Vespa and a more calories and I finally felt good as we inched our way closer and closer. We passed through the familiar tunnel less than 2 miles from the top and got excited at the thought of being inbound! We passed a work crew then saw a solo R2R2R runner on her way back.

North Rim

Oh how sweet it was to be on the way back. Even though I was still meditating on the remaining climb, I knew I had 14 miles of steep downhill or slight downhill before then and I was looking forward to not having to work so hard for a while. We took a video with the sign, told some hikers about what we were doing and asked them to take our picture. 4:29 at the North Rim We hustled off and spent less than 3-4 minutes at the top. It felt good to change gears and I was happy that my legs weren't feeling worked from the first downhill. I was hoping that I would have legs to "do my job" and take us hard down back to Phantom. I figured we could take nearly an hour off our ascent time without breaking ourselves but I was going to put as much effort out there to ensure we didn't have to cut it close on the final ascent. I was tired, I was hurting, I was swirling in my own head. I decided to focus on my job and switched off my brain. The initial descent is quite steep and technical so I encouraged us to not rush and hurt ourselves. I kept the pace backed off to make sure that after the "house" when things became super runnable that we had our running legs. We passed a shirtless runner with only a single bottle (we ran into him in Flag the next day, his name was Cameron from Auburn). We passed the solo female runner and said hello. As we passed, she said, "hey are you Devon?" I said yes. Then she said (though I didn't hear it, Krissy did), "You are the Banshee!" Krissy relayed this along to me and I had to laugh. We introduced ourselves and her name was Tracy, she was running the R2R2R to celebrate her 40th birthday! Rock on fellow runners!

On the downhills, I didn't feel as good I would like and the intermittent hills made my legs cramp and go wild. And my mind went wild with it. I was feeling more and more intimidated by our final climb up South Kaibab. I spoke up and told Krissy that if I didn't start feeling better, I was going to make her leave me at the River. She immediately said no, that my safety was more important. I told her that I could make it out of the canyon, I just wanted to sacrifice myself for the goal. I felt like I was slowing her down.  I felt like I was holding Krissy up, I felt worried that I physically was beyond my limit and would have to crawl out of the canyon inch by inch. I told her I would insist and that I didn't want this to be about me. We ran in silence for a while and then she said, "it's not about me, it's about us. I am not leaving you". I put it out of my head as much as I could. We powered along, I pushed and pushed. Krissy told me she was in the pain cave and we fell silent working our way along the canyon wall and rive back towards Phantom Ranch. It was hot but there was an occasional cool strong gust of wind that kept us moving forward. I drank a great deal, ate more gels, took salts on the half hour interval.  I was hurting. Hurting in a way that made me wonder if I was just going to sit down and take a nap at Phantom Ranch. It is a dark, scary place when you are 5,000 feet below where you need to go. I was encouraged only by how hard I could run at that point but I could feel my energy leaving me. I was hoping, praying, and wishing just to make it to Phantom Ranch, then I would start hitting the FRS and caffeinated gels. There I hoped that I would be able to find my next gear.


Instead, the wheels suddenly went flying off. Less than 1/4 mile outside of Phantom, Krissy took the lead and told me to just tuck in but I hit the wall. I was so deep in the pain cave that I couldn't get myself under control. I wheezed and shuffled and we finally made it into Phantom Ranch in 6:50. We had just under 2:35 minutes to make it 7 miles to the finish from Phantom, 1 of which is relatively flat. I had a defining moment. I knew that we could still make it. Krissy knew we could still make it. I was on the ropes and the moment was upon me whether I was going to give up and let go of our goal or dig perhaps deeper than I ever have, cast off everything else and squeeze every last drop out. I could quit or I could fight. F that, I am a fighter. I focused on just continuing to move forward. I wouldn't stop. 

Krissy had told me earlier in the day that South Kaibab wasn't runnable for her either, so I knew that to be the best teammate I could be, I just needed to follow her feet and match her march up the hill. We ran to the bridge, crossed through the tunnel and began the hardest climb of my life. On our first trip to the canyon, we had gone up Bright Angel which is longer, but has more water and is a more forgiving grade. Krissy and I had been able to run a significant amount of it. South Kaibab is not so generous. We were going to have to work for it.


The first steps up the hill nearly stopped me in my tracks. Cramp, cramp, cramp. "This is a death march". I gasped aloud. My fight was fighting back. Krissy encouraged me, supported me and I relentless forward movement. Each step got better, I wouldn't stop moving. I put my hands on my knees and slumped forward, using my entire body to climb. I followed Krissy's feet up. We encouraged one another and were pulled towards the top like their was a magnet at the top (thanks Roch).


South Kaibab is an amazingly beautiful trail. The switchbacks are carved into the side of steep faces and you can look out into the entire canyon unfolding below you. Step, step, step. We released primal growls, grunts and deep heaving breathes. Upward. I fell into a rhythm and knew we would make it out. We started to see more and more people and I knew we were getting closer and closer. The more people, the closer to the top. We even found our running legs on small flatter sections and it felt really good to change to a running stride. I focused on draining my hydration pack to lighten my load instead of drinking from my bottles. I focused on taking in my Saltsticks and calories frequently as my body battled the effort, the depletion, the lack of recovery, the altitude. We caught up to a hiker dude who stepped off the trail for us as he ascended but then he pretty much immediately passed us back moving easily. He made a comment about working a full day and still moving that fast and that fired us up. Krissy said she really wanted to beat him up the hill after that comment. I wanted to as well but knew I wasn't ready to push any harder. I was red lining, I was at my max. 


"Are you Krissy?" One solo hiker asked. "Yes" Krissy responded. "Great work, keep going. Melanie told me to encourage you guys. Go girls". Both Krissy and I had had an idea that Bryce and Melanie would come down but we both nearly cried with joy moments later when we heard them cheering from high above. Their energy drew us up, pulled us to the top. 

Krissy and I are actually in this picture. Yeah for crazy nice cameras!
A few miles from the top.



We hit the 1.5 mile shelter (where there is no water) and the hiker dude was resting there. He said, "27 minutes to the top and you are rockstars". I looked at my watch, it read 8:43. I smiled and said, "if we make it to the top in 27 minutes we will be rockstars". We could still do it. It was the first time in the entire climb that I could actually believe that we could still make the record. 





Bryce and Melanie told the hikers on the trail to watch for us and what we were doing and the majority of the hikers we passed offered amazing encouragement. 
The trail was pretty crowded on this perfect early afternoon day and we were buoyed by each encouragement, each "wow good work", each "superwomen!!!". Krissy pulled me up the hill, pressing forward and I worked as hard as I could to keep up. Bryce and Melanie cheered and rallied us on, taking amazing photos and documenting our every step. We hit the steep switchbacks and glimpsed the top. We could see the promise land, we could hear Matt and Jim waiting at the top yelling. I found my final gear, pushing through cramping, fatigue, fear. Our steps matched one another and we zigged and zagged through the final switchbacks, up and out. 

Finish at the South Rim



9:12:29. We had done it. We had broken the record and established a new women's fastest known times on one of the crown jewels of FKTs.  More importantly, we had done it together. We had worked together, we took our opposite strengths, we took our intensely strong bond of friendship and we turned ourself into a machine. 



This run is not easy. Even if I hadn't just run LA and Mad City and had plenty of specific training, it is not easy. It is a beast. I swore to Krissy on the final ascent that I would never come back again (even though I already have my next trip planned with Nathan, Brett, Larissa and Sarah in October), I know I will. I know that the Canyon invokes that kind of response from me because I still have more to learn from it. I have more fight to give it. I learned a great deal of how deep I can dig, I think I can dig even deeper. I learned how much my body has to give even when I don't think I have anything left. I faced some demons and self-doubt and realized that there are things that I still need to mourn and forgive.

I know that I couldn't have accomplished this goal without Krissy. She was my rock. She went with me into some dark spaces and helped pulled me out. She was patient, kind and wonderful. Even though much of those 9 hours was spent in silence, I think our friendship deepened like the canyon we crossed (twice) and I know that I have a true friend who always has my back. 



I have no idea how long our record will stand. In a lot of ways, I hope we inspire a challenge to more women to get out and get after FKTs. Krissy and I pushed each other to elevate our game and hopefully our run will inspire others to elevate theirs. The record doesn't matter in the end, the journey does and we did it. We did it together. 

Krissy, Bryce, me, Melanie, Matt and Jim

I am so grateful for our wonderful supporters- Bryce, Melanie, Jim and Matt. It really made my experience to have you be a part of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Read Krissy's run report here.


Insanity by any other name... sounds like a good idea?


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Insanity by any other name would sound like a good idea?

One week from today I will celebrate my 4 year anniversary of running my first 100k road race and qualifying for the WC100k team. That picture above is from after that race. My friend Mackenzie is taking great joy in dumping ice into an ice bath after I ran around in single digits for more than 8 hours.

Last year, I didn't run on the US team because of a lot of reasons, but my enthusiasm for being a part of the team has never diminished. I love the 100k road event. I love the team, I love the excitement of running the world championships, I thrive at the distance. One of my big goals for the year was to run for the team again this year. The WC100k is back in the Netherlands where I ran my first worlds 4 years ago. I love that course and the race support is immense. Even though that was one of my "A" goals for the year, I hadn't planned on running Mad City to re-qualify for the team. In fact, I naively thought that my 50 mile time at Tussey would have easily secured my place on the team. Unfortunately, the way the team is selected, my spot based on that time is tenuous at best.

A few weeks after Houston, as I tried to decide what race to try and do another attempt at the OT qualifier standard, I received an email from my coach Howard, who was also a long time team member of the US 100k team. He told me that he thought I should run Mad City and explained the selection process for the team. I was faced with a decision. I could either run National Marathon like I had planned (March 26th) and hope my Tussey time got me in or I could push my qualifier earlier, run LA marathon and then run Mad City 100k three weeks later. Neither situation was ideal but on my coaches advice, I tentatively agreed with the second option. I was more keen to run LA marathon and ultimately that turned out brilliant. Until LA was over, I didn't think or consider Mad City in any way. I didn't want it to affect my race at LA. It was not a reality until I crossed the finish line at LA or much of one until the warm fuzzies started to wear off and I came down from my race high.

Feels like only yesterday, oh wait it almost was.

It is barely two weeks after LA and I am packing my bags and preparing to head to Madison to try and make the team. I am equally un-prepared for this race as I was when I ran it 4 years ago. Then I had never run a race over 50k and now, I haven't done a single specific training run for Madison and my longest runs have been two fast marathons. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I am doing the same thing over again and hoping for the same result, so I guess that makes it a good idea. Right? Right.

I am not sure what to expect from this race. I really don't have any expectations which I guess is a good thing. I haven't had time to consider a strategy or what will carry me through the day. I finally got around yesterday to even calculating out some splits for my goal pace. I think my bigger challenge is going to be running nearly a minute and a half slower per mile than my marathon. I am going to have to remember patience and moderation in a hurry. Even though most trail ultrarunners would never consider a road race an adventure, that is kind of how I see this race. It will be an adventure and an experiment of what hard marathon training means for a much longer ultra. I am very curious to see how it plays out.

Ubuntu


"People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are"
- meaning of the Bantu word, Ubuntu

In high school, I was a hardcore basketball player. I played on my high school team, I played on a year round "select" team, I worked out 8 hours a day. When I think back on that time of my life, I don't think about the endless hours of drills, practice or even games. I can't remember which important shots I made or missed. I can only vaguely recall any of the details I felt were so incredibly important then. I don't miss basketball at all and I am a completely different person now then I was then (though who I am is hugely informed by who I was). What I look back to, reflect on and miss about that period of time is my teammates.

My teammates from my select team and I were a community of like minded individuals, working for a common goal. We pushed each other to be better, we lifted each other up and supported one another. Even though we each were trying to develop our own careers, we were partners in each others success. We raised each other up, knowing that we could all succeed and helping one another did not change that. In my entire life it is those bonds that we shared that define for me what it means to be a part of a community. I was who I was because of who we all were.

Those girls and I unconditionally, and sometimes blindly, supported one another. To this day, I still consider some of them my closest friends. Britt, Natalie, EP, AB- all of those ladies and I have weathered more than just well played hoops and basketball dreams. We share a bond that goes far beyond time and distance. It goes beyond powerful individual friendship to a space of power group conscious. That community is something I long mourned. It was such a powerful thing to be a part of- people working together for the betterment of one another, depending on one another, supporting one another completely, unconditionally and selflessly. In my adult life, I searched for that kind of community but found it lacking. I started to wonder if being disconnected was the way of modern adulthood and that I would never experience a community such as I did then.


This year I feel the tides of change. I suddenly feel like the tipping point has been reached and I tumble, laughing head over heels, into the depths of an amazing, special community. I know that this community that I am wading deeper and deeper into is something that all of us have been cultivating for a long time. I feel connected and I feel inspired. Waking up at 4:30 am or psyching up for a 30 mile run is easier when you know that you will have 10 friends in the trenches with you. But it goes beyond having running buddies. I have been a part of the "ninjas" for almost two years and for a while it was a rag-tag bunch of runners who wanted to sneak in a trail run before work or have company on the trails on the weekends. In recent months, I feel like it has transcended that. We have grown in size but I think things have changed. Our lives, both off and on the trails, are becoming intertwined in a way that has all of us partnering in each others success.


I have long felt that the word "network" and "networking" were dirty words that described that act of trying to cultivate something strict for yourself. That someone how knowing the right person might be your ticket. I have long refrained from actively "networking" for my business or for my brand or for myself. As I see this community develop, I realize that I have a new definition of "networking". That is - "community building". Every day my community is expanding in the most brilliant and unexpected ways.

Our running community is built out of  a huge spiderweb of 1st and 2nd degree connections. I invite someone who invites someone who invites someone else and each one of those individual is folded in to the community and loses that tag "you are so and so's friend". The group expands exponentially in every direction and there is room enough for everyone. This community that we have built absolutely inspires me. Instead of being afraid to "network", I am learning to put myself out there and connect with others for no other reason than to meet inspiring rad individuals and in an incredibly short amount of time, I went from feeling lost and confused to daily inspired and motivated. And motivated not just for myself, but for the betterment of all of us. It is not even a conscious move for any of us. We are pushing each other to be better, in life not just running, we are partnering in each others success and supporting one another. We are sharing our skills with one another and infusing each other with passion. It has been an incredible thing to watch- someone says "I want to do this" and the group responds by saying, "here's how I can help", "I have someone who you should meet", "I have some experience with that", "I think that is a fantastic idea, I am fully supportive".

As I watch the community that I am a part of grow and change and build momentum and I am reminded of my time in South Africa. A community philosophy I learned  there is known as Ubuntu- "People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are". I always believed it was a beautiful idea and something that I wanted to have again (after basketball), but I honestly had not felt it. Until now. And I am deeply, truly grateful for that. Human connection and community is one of the foundations of all of life's joy and happiness. It costs nothing and only exponentially enhances our lives. Share, love, build, connect and be happy.