Savoring a fried egg sandwich at my bakery post race.
I've been throughly enjoying my off season. I've been basking in the down time, the lack of structure and enjoyed running when I feel good and taking extra days off when I don't. After a few weeks, I started to have the itch to sign up for more races. But I wasn't sure what to put on my schedule after such an epic win. Winning Leadville felt like the final chapter on a very epic comeback story. Cue the music, roll the credits.
But alas, it was not the end of my comeback story. PLOT TWIST!!!!
As I mentioned in my Leadville race report, I throughly expected my foot to hurt during the race. But it didn't. But it has been hurting since about one week before Comrades. After I was diagnosed with having broken my tarsal coalition back in March the day I left for Birdstrike, I was told to expect some arthritis pain where the break was. And so, for the past 7 months, I have dealt with pain. Mostly dull during runs (except when I step on a root!) and very tight making me hobble after the runs. Before Leadville I decided I would check back in with my doctors and see what was up.
Two weeks ago, I went back to Stanford and saw a foot and ankle specialist. He had reviewed my MRI from March and we got a new xray done on my foot. The doctor came in and gave me the biggest plot twist I could imagine: I had been misdiagnosed back in March. I didn't break my tarsal coalition, it is still there and even more crazy, I have a huge fracture in the anterior process of my calcaneus. So I have been training and racing on a massively broken foot. And some people say I am too sensitive (ha!). I thought the pain in my foot was just pain, not injury and I proceeded according to my doctor's advice back in March. Ultimately, I am happy this happened because I wouldn't have had the year I have had they correctly diagnosed me back then.
Having fun with Kara Goucher and the Akron Marathon race team!
However, now I have to deal with the consequences and have to take steps to keep my foot healthy in the long run. Continuing to run on it indefinitely is not sustainable and would likely result in my running coming to a complete stop at some time in the future. And I don't want that. So instead, I know must have surgery to remove the coalition and fix the fracture. I am going to be having surgery in mid October and will likely be back on my feet by Christmas, although I know I will ultimately have to be as patient as I need to be in order to heal right. Until surgery, I will be running and binge racing as much as I can to get my kicks. I look forward to finally running pain free again soon and writing another great chapter in my comeback story.
Racing the Akron Half Marathon. Race all the things!!!
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 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.
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.
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.
The moment I opened the website for Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km, I knew I needed to race it this year. I have raced three times in South Africa and absolutely love the running community, I also love Cape Town and I was very very eager to get on the trails and explore a side of things that I had not been able to when I have previously raced.
Kim and Nic. Absolutely amazing new friends and running buddies.
I also knew that I wanted to actually get to spend some time in Cape Town. When racing Two Oceans, I have come for the race, barely staying on the ground for longer than I fly. I did not want to do this this time. Instead, I devised a plan to not only get to run the 100km, but enjoy the food, wine, culture and running community in Cape Town.
Recovery at it's finest. Stunning meal at Pot Luck Club.
I arrived in Cape Town three weeks ago and settled into a lovely flat with a great kitchen and plenty of room. I tried to recover from jetleg and get springy to take on my first challenge of the trip: Cape Town Marathon. I have been feeling good about my marathon training and with coach Ian Torrence, we decided Cape Town was a good spot to make a go for the Olympic Trials standard of sub 2:43. The course is IAAF Silver status and boasted a strong field and promised a fast course. Despite flying for 40 hours, not running much that week and adjusting to life down here, I felt good to go. Unfortunately, the day itself was not a fast one for anyone. 80% humidity and a ferocious headwind (both directions) slowed the field immensely. I struggled from mile 10 on and slogged into the finish in 2:51, despite a 1:22 half. Initially, I was very very disappointed. But in hindsight, once I learned about the high humidity level (i.e. saw how high it actually was) and looked at how this affects pace, I started to feel a bit better. Sucks to have the day be a slow one, but these are the factors that you have no control over. I will go after the standard again in December at CIM, but for now I am satisfied to focus on the immediate goals and adventures before me.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to some amazing individuals who have made my trip here absolutely wonderful. Christo & Lauren, Kim and Nic have been so lovely. They have been amazing resources, company, running companions, dinner companions, coffee runs and all around great people. They have introduced me to their friends and the running community and I am so absolutely grateful to all of them. It really has been incredibly special to have such great people to spend my time with.
Two of South Africa's best (and world's best too!) Kane Reilly and Ryan Sandes showing me the biggest climb of the race up Table Mountain.
I recovered pretty well from the marathon. My energy was slow to return but I was able to get out on the trails and explore some of the UTCT course. Enough exploring to know that I am really in for an adventure. There are so incredibly technical aspects to this race, there are some incredibly steep climbs, but there are so amazing views, blistering downhills and an ultra community behind this race that will be cheering me on with all their might. I have recovered, tapered and enjoyed myself throughly here. If you've been following along on my instagram (@fastfoodie), you know I've been soaking it all in!
Nic kicked my ass on more than just one run!
And now it is the eve of race day. I can genuinely say that I am excited. Sure, I am nervous but because running 100km is hard and one should be nervous. But I am excited and happy mostly. Last night, I went to the race briefing and elite panel and I felt like I do at US ultras- this is a community. Kim and Nic have introduced me to many different people and so instead of feeling like an outsider, I felt embraces and accepted. It felt like home to me. That is a truly special and one of the amazing things that UTCT has really worked hard to foster for their race. I left the briefing feeling charged up and ready as I can be to be off and running at 5am tomorrow.
Looking forward to this view tomorrow, mostly because it means I am done with the hardest climb.
No matter what happens tomorrow, I have been absolutely blessed to be able to be here in Cape Town for so long and be a part of the running community here. This trip has been an adventure and tomorrow will be no different. I look forward to whatever it holds. My goals are simple: Be brave. Be strong. Be happy. It is as simple as that.
It started pouring about halfway to Bellingham. Not just raining, raining so hard I could barely see out the front window of the car as we drove through the early morning pre-dawn darkness. I was not enthused. I was downright ready to turn around and drive back to my sister's house and not run Chuckanut. I felt like a cranky little baby. I didn't want to slog through the pouring rain and mud. I was lacking killer instinct for racing, in fact, I was lacking any inclination to race at all. My mind has just been so many other places recently, under so many other stresses, that it lacked the ability to focus on the idea of racing.
I did in fact make it to the start line. Nathan wouldn't give me the opt out or play into my vacillating. He simply got out of the car and laced up his shoes to race and I followed suit, grumbling the whole way.
I saw lots of familiar and friendly faces at the start and felt more at ease. Unlike road races, the energy at the start is much more casual and laid back. I didn't feel like I needed to be "on" from the word "go". I had time to get warmed up AFTER the gun went off. And off we did go...
I started out on the interurban slowly, pretty far back in the pack considering I know I have the speed to take the race out fast. I was probably 20th female through the first half mile, but gradually moved up in the first few miles, dropping my pace down into the 6:50s. It felt pretty easy and I worked my way up to run with Alicia Shay and Cassie Scallon. I assumed they were running 1-2, but was quickly corrected that last year's runner up Jodee Adams-Moore had taken it out hard. By the first aid station just after mile 6, we were already 3 minutes behind. I thought to myself, "well, guess she'll either set a huge CR or blow up- it's a race for 2nd now!".
Yeah, Glenn Photo!!! Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
I never felt truly in a race mindset. I struggled with my motivation as I went up the first slippery climb, my calves protesting. But after all the debacles, fails and craziness of this year already, I resolved no matter what, just to keep moving forward as quickly as my body would allow.
Once at the top of Cleator, I fell into a nice rhythm on the ridge and loped along, feeling neither good nor bad, just pretty steady. The ridge is particularly choppy and has lots of dicey footing, but I managed it better than I've managed anything technical in a long time, probably since I fell last September and hurt myself badly.
The stretch along the ridge from Aid Station #3 to the Aid Station at the bottom of Chinscraper is a long stretch and I just tried to stay focused on moving forward. I glanced over my shoulder a few times to see if Alicia or Cassie were still right behind me but I didn't see them. I ran with a few guys along the trail and tried to prepare myself for the slog up Chinscraper. By the time I actually arrived, I was perfectly fine with the idea of it sucking, taking forever and being a power hike. I figured I could just push the last 10 miles. I hiked as fast as I could up Chinscraper and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was shorter than I remembered. 5 years earlier, I ran a 4:41 and won but my memory of Chinscraper was that is was about 3 times longer. Glad my memory was incorrect.
Smiling because I know seeing Glenn means I am at the hardest part/near the top
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Near the top I glanced down and saw Cassie, she was a few switchbacks below and I knew that I had my work cut out for me in the next 10 miles. Cassie and Alicia are both very speedy runners and while I too am fast, I didn't know if I had the heart and will to really race to the end.
I hit the road and started descending. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Alicia speeding along behind me, Cassie not far behind. I mentioned to the guy I was running with that I was going to have to do battle. He told me just to bide my time and wait for the last tiny hill with 2 miles to go to make my move. I assured him I was not feeling peppy enough to put moves on people, but he laughed me off and told me I'd be just fine.
Alicia fell into step behind me as we descended down the trail. I really liked running down the trail instead of the road the way the course use to go. Much more beautiful and sets you up better for the flat less than scenic final miles.
We were nearing the bottom when I could sense someone wanted to pass me. I thought it was Alicia, so I said, "nice work Alicia" and moved out of the way. It wasn't Alicia it was Cassie and she was blowing by me like I was walking. It seemed the battle was on. I checked my waterbottle and there was enough water seemingly to get me through to the end of the race. I didn't want to spend time at the final aid station nor carry water I wasn't going to drink. I hate carrying hydration.
I blew through the aid station, as did Cassie and Alicia. I am quite adept at running with very little hydration or fuel, so I figured this worked most in my favor. I quickly took back the lead from Cassie and she fell off the pace. The transition from flying down hill to the extra flat is brutal and I took advantage having running very moderately down the hill. Alicia was hot on my heels. We had over 6 miles to race and I needed to figure out how to get my head into the game.
I hadn't felt like racing all day and there I was, in the throws of battle, trying to find a way to get my mind up for it. I have been reading a book called "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock. It is a fascinating book and talks about how the brain functions and how you can optimize your focus and "direct" our own brain through understanding the science of the brain. I was failing to talk myself logically into racing hard, so I decided to use some of the idea in order to release the right chemicals in my brain to put up a fight. And sure enough, I managed to get enough adrenaline and dopamine flowing in my brain to be hungry for a fight. I was focused and I was into it. I was ready to have fun.
At this point Alicia, had made a little move on me. Moving ahead of me quickly, but only gaining about a 20 foot advantage. I knew as soon as she didn't instantly pull away that she was mine. She had hoped to break me, but instead I could see that I was feeling a lot fresher and had more confidence in the remaining distance.
I pulled past Alicia with 4 miles to go but didn't drop the hammer. I was waiting for the little hill with 2 miles to go to do just what me earlier running partner had advised. I stayed comfortable, alert and ready. I checked back at Alicia occasionally around turns and got myself excited for a final 2 mile tempo.
I crossed the road and hit the little hill and made my move. I simply went, without regard for potentially blowing up. I knew I could do it. I knew my body would respond. I dropped the pace and pushed. It was fun. I hit a 6:50 mile, then for my final mile dropped a 6:38. I looked back a few times and soon could not even see Alicia anymore. I didn't relent. I just pushed to the end. It was incredibly satisfying.
I crossed the line in 2nd place in 4:22, nearly 20 minutes faster than when I won in '08. Jodee had obliterated the course record and ran an amazing race. Alicia finished 2 minutes behind me and Cassie 2 minutes behind her. Nathan came in a few minutes after that and we said quick goodbyes and hoped in the car back to Seattle. The reason we'd come to Seattle in the first place was not the race but to help my sister and her husband move to San Francisco! (So excited for them to be here!) Nothing says recovery like an incredibly long road trip.
All in all, the weekend was a blast. I did battle in my mind and found new ways to give myself the will to fight. I got up for the occasion when it mattered and I had fun doing it.
Thanks to Krissy for putting on a fantastic race! Chuckanut is a classic!
A few months ago, my friend Ian Sharman sent me a message suggesting I run Carlsbad Marathon on January 27th. There was great elite support and a good prize purse/incentive structure that could make a good training run worth my while. I was in! Since I hadn't raced since Kauai Marathon in early September, I wanted to jump back into racing and use a race as a good training run. I signed up and worked it into my training schedule with my coach.
Finally celebrating our honeymoon!
After a great first week of January, I was feeling confident in my training. I had rocked out a fun adventure run with Larissa and completed that week with 113 incredible miles feeling healthy, strong and fast. The week after that it was off to Mexico for our belated honeymoon.
Mexico was amazing. We surfed and did yoga with WildMex, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and still managed a daily run. My mileage wasn't great in Mexico as there were not a ton of great places for me to run, but I didn't mind since we were so busy doing all the other activities. I finished each day exhausted. It was awesome to get away after such a hectic 2012.
I felt pretty tired over the duration of our trip and on the last day had a really bad stomach ache. We returned on January 16th, back to work, life and the hecticness of trying to get MHBB off the ground. The fatigue and stomach ache persisted. I didn't have any other symptoms other than excruciating pain after eating, but consulted with my on call doctor brother in law for some answers. Thankfully, after 5 days the pain went away. Unfortunately, the fatigue did not. I ran over 80 miles that week, but just felt dead the whole time. I started to worry that Carlsbad was going to go extremely poorly. Race week came and flew by but I still felt weak and tired.
For some reason, I decided to fly to Carlsbad anyways. I hoped for a late miracle burst of energy or something. I hoped that I could simply train through the tired. I was wrong. I should have listened to my gut. From the moment the gun went off, I just felt dead. I was able to push myself into the low 6 min/mile range but was fighting myself the whole way on the very tough course. At mile 14, I simply stopped. I was digging myself into a hole and I wasn't enjoying myself. I was cooked. I had said that this race was suppose to be a workout, so what would I have done if it were a workout not a race? I would have stopped. It was a bummer, but it was clear to me that something was wrong.
After assessing the weeks leading up to the race, it was quite clear that there were two things going on. First, I likely had come down with something in Mexico and secondly, my iron was low again. I hadn't taken my iron supplement for nearly three weeks and whilst in Mexico didn't eat much iron rich food. When I returned back from Carlsbad, I immediately started back on my Floradix and scheduled an appointment with my doctor.
Coming on the DNF at Carlsbad, I wanted to go back to training but wanted to ensure that I wasn't simply going to pile on more fatigue and exhaustion. I decided to listen to my body and run when and for however long it wanted. By mid-week, it was actually turning into a good training week. On Wednesday, I was at San Francisco Running Company's soft opening to help Brett and Jorge out. The evening was capped off with a fun group run and a great turn out at the store. It was so much fun to see Brett get his doors open! Go check them out in Mill Valley. While there I was catching up with my friend Peter and frequent training partner when we still lived in the City. I knew Peter was going to run the KP half marathon on Sunday and was suddenly struck with an idea: running it with him. I inquired as to his pace/race plans and he said he wasn't sure since he was coming off a cold. I said, "I don't know sounds like a good plan to me, want to run together?" and promptly signed up. Although I was inching my way towards a 100 mile week, I decided that putting myself back into a race might help dissipate some of the bad feeling coming off Carlsbad. I didn't expect to PR or even be able to manage my marathon pace, but I wanted to run a race again before Napa, which is a race I want to do well at.
On Saturday, I went out for the grand opening of San Francisco Running Company and ran with a huge group of folks that showed up for a celebratory 10 mile jaunt with 1700+ feet of ascent in the Headlands. I was feeling better than I had been and hoped that Sunday's race would at least be a slight improvement over the previous week (aka not wanting to just lie down in the middle of the race).
Nathan dropped Peter and I off at 7:15 in the park. We collected our numbers, did a little warm-up, discussed our race "plan" and deposited ourselves near the start, greeting many friends along the way. Our race "plan" amounted to somewhere in the range of 6-6:20 min/mile pace. Or more like, just start running and see how we feel.
The gun went and off we went. As we made our way east out of the park, I felt surprisingly good. I felt like I was super comfortable and cruising. I was also afraid to look at my watch for fear that that feeling was because we were running more like 7:00 min/mile than the low 6's we'd talked about. Thankfully, when I finally plucked up the courage to look, our pace was actually 5:58 for the first mile. Sweet! I felt a smile creep across my face and I knew I was going to have a strong run. I still wanted the race to be a workout paced run, I didn't want to over-reach, so I settled into the slightly sub 6/6 min range.
I don't generally run shorter races such as this, but I have to say, it was a blast. I am hooked! I had an easier time pushing myself and playing with my paces because I knew that the race would be over before I even had a chance to think about it. I was having so much fun.
Going into the turn around just before mile 10, I could see that I was in 8th place. I was pretty close to a few other ladies and so I decided to push the last few miles and go one gear beyond the easy cruise I'd been in. I was just happy to feel like I had another gear, I was just happy to be flying. I powered back down the Great Highway into a strong headwind and caught three ladies in rapid succession. I flew back into the park and crossed the finish line in 1:18:57.
After the race, Nathan, Peter and I did a nice cool-down through the park and I finished out the day with 23 miles. I was tired, but happy. To me, the place/ time were not the important thing, the important thing was feeling like myself in a race situation. What was lost at Carlsbad was found in my own backyard. Needlesstosay, what a difference a week makes.
I was at the track on Tuesday to take on my first really hard workout since coming back from my injury. The last great (and just plain last) workout I had at the track was in August, so I was feeling pretty intimidated about the 5x1600m at 10k pace with 2 min recovery. I didn't think I could do it, frankly and tried to emotionally prepare myself for it to suck. Nevertheless, I laced up my flats, braved the horrible windy, rainy weather and started running.
The first lap I was thinking "wow, this is great! I love this! I can do this."
Second lap: "I can't imagine doing this 4.5 more times. How am I going to through this?!?!"
Third lap: "Ok, just make it through this one and I can modify the next one, if I have to. Just hold on."
Fourth lap: "Wheeeeeee, I'm almost done. I can do this, I can do this! Look at me fly."
And so went all 5 intervals. I rocked it. I hit my paces even in the face of a harsh headwind. But even still I had to talk myself through each and every lap. Struggle, fear failure, triumph. When it was over, pure satisfaction. I love these kind of workouts because they scare me, challenge me and push me to knew heights. There is always the possibility of failure in them, but success is always within reach if I really push myself.
This year has been one filled with change. Often times, it has felt like a perpetual track workout where everything involved felt challenging, scared me or ran the risk of complete failure. This year's changes, like these track workouts, is something I have chosen to undertake. I have faced these things knowing that it would be hard, I would fail, I would triumph, I would doubt and would rise.
My life, my path and who I am is being redefined through these changes. I got married, moved to a different town and together with my husband, started working on opening our own cafe. My life a year ago had such a different set of priorities, a much lesser sense of complication. Running and training was my highest priority. We lived a simpler life: where shall we go run this weekend, who can join us, what shall we eat after we run? These were the things that fundamentally mattered to us. And the fact of the matter is: they still do. Running, food and friendship remain the driving forces in our life. But now, our priorities are different.
For me the priority shift does mean redefining how I see myself. Going in to the new year, I have no idea how the opening of our cafe will affect my ability to run and race. Running is a huge part of who both Nathan and I are, but so is opening the cafe, we are passionate about the food we are bringing to our community and we are all in on making that be a huge success. Just like getting married, just like moving to a new place, it changes things and I am now working to discover what it all means to me, how I see the world and who I am. I don't have the answers yet as to how these challenges and changes affect my life, my priorities and my sense of self. I know that, no matter what, I am pursuing the things that I am passionate about and going after them with vigor. Who I am and who I become through process are exciting to discover.
Injuries are part of the reality of running. We put an extraordinary amount of hurt on ourselves through hard training and it is very hard over time to get it right all of the time and stay healthy. A lot of the runners I know have laundry lists of various injuries, niggles and problems that they have faced over the year. Back when I was a basketball player, I seemed to be constantly battling something- three stress fractures then a debilitating back injury that ultimately forced me to quit playing all together. As a runner, one might assume that I would face similar issues and struggles.
But injuries have not been a big part of my reality over the past 7 years since I ran my first marathon. In the past 5 years, since I started ultrarunning, I have only had one injury that was of real concern and I was back on my feet and running in less than 10 days. I am one of the lucky few.
I am in fact injured right now. I have been diagnosed with retrocalcaneal bursitis, possibly triggered by my epic trail crash two weeks ago that landed me in the ER with stitches in my arm. I may have thrown off my left side and gotten everything out of whack. For the past week, I have been unable to run, unable really even to walk without severe pain and a "hiccup in my giddyup" as someone so cleverly put it.
I have not sat back and done nothing to fix this. I have charged at it with a team of doctors, PT and massage therapists to rid myself of this as quickly and permanently possible. Medicine, ice, rest, taping, massage, ART, graston, stim, ultrasound. If I can't run, I will use that time to heal. Yes it is frustrating, yes I have cried and been a crazy person (sanity was not easy to come by while on the steroids my doctor prescribed). I have been killing myself in workouts in the pool (doing pool running) and dripping with sweat in the garage on my bike trainer. I feel like I am doing everything I can to get better.
I am a bit disappointed that I will likely not be able to run worry free on our wedding day in just 9 days. It is becoming decreasingly likely that I will toe the line in Chicago and go after the low 2:30 I was ready for. And still I feel lucky. This is not old hat for me, this is a new situation for me to be in. I have no idea how long this injury will take to clear up and I am still learning how best to handle it, but I am thankful that I have gone this long without anything quite so serious.
I look forward to when I can run pain free again and really understand how vital running healthy is to my entire life. For now, I will do my little pool running laps with my floaty and dream about the day I am free again to run for miles and miles and miles.
And to catch you up on everything else.... pictures from all of the madness from the past month!
Our new rental in San Anslemo!
Fun training run at Crystal Springs 20 miler.
Getting licensed to wed.
MHBB coffee purveyor tastings
Breakfast deliciousness in Hopland for Brett & LP's wedding!
The beautiful bride getting ready!
Awww we are so cute
My sister helping with the move by entertaining us.
Leaving the way it came in.
Our entire lives in a truck
Run ferry run commute
Golden gate in golden light.
Practicing fancy wedding makeup
Kauai for a marathon, 5 days after moving-ugh!
Kalua pork hash with sweet potatoes.
I could stay here forever
Round two of sweet potatoes!
2nd place x2. Jorge and I after the race (we both were 2nd)
Winner Brett Ely and I receiving our awards
All things consider. Moving, travel debacle, no energy, no taper-
I am really pleased with 2nd place & a 2:49 on a course with 2,000 feet of ascent!
It is a long way to go for a race. 22 hours flying over, 31 flying back. Fatigue, jet lag and being lost in time.
I wouldn't change the experience for anything.
Several months ago, I contacted the Nedbank Running Club about running Comrades with them. I knew that Kami, Mike Wardian, Ellie, Lizzie had all run with them in the previous iteration, so I was keen to sign up with them. Comrades was my big focus after the Trials. I figured it was a down year on the course and I had the speed that it would take to fight for a podium spot. I didn't even know about Two Oceans Marathon until the team managers Nick and Adriaan offered me a chance to come and run it. As luck would have it, my schedule allowed for it and I coordinated my details and set my sights on running a strong race in the 56k road event. I thought it would be an excellent introduction into racing in South Africa and give me a taste for what I had coming in June at Comrades. I trained hard for Two Oceans, researched the course as much as I could, and covered every little detail and before I could turn into a raving monster was on my way back to Cape Town, South Africa to race.
Flying for that long is an endurance event. Luckily, on the first leg between San Francisco and Amsterdam, I was able to upgrade to Business class using mileage and was able to get some sleep on the 10+ hour flight, which made the remaining 11+ hours a bit more bearable. I arrived in Cape Town, downed some food and went straight to bed on Wednesday night. Thursday and Friday I passed the time easily with short runs, hanging out with my Nedbank teammates, resting and checking out the expo. As much as I would have loved to revisit some of my old haunts from when I lived there, I was very focused on being boring and resting. I planned my days around eating and napping. The only excitement of the week came when I got to go to a press conference and answer lots of fun questions from the media.
I quickly realized that ultrarunning in South Africa is different. Not only does Two Oceans have 9,000 people running the 56k, it has live TV coverage, a course lined with people (even in the rain, I would find out) and is a huge deal. Ultrarunning in South Africa is not ultrarunning, it is just running. There is no dividing line between 42k and other distances. Running is just running. Coming from the states where ultras are so niche, it is down right shocking to have the "big city marathon" feel at a distance longer than a marathon. We could stand to learn a lot from the way they are doing things there.
I was up at 3am downing sweet potato puree, bananas and sunbutter, staring out the window to see if it was going to rain. I knew it would eventually but was hoping it would wait at least until we were underway (thankfully it didn't start raining until 12k into the race). We left the hotel promptly at 4:30 am to head to the start with about 40 total athletes for the Nedbank "Green Dream Team". It was quite the international group and included runners who were doing both the half marathon and the 56k. We managed to get quite close to the start line and park away from the major crowds down a quiet side street.
Homemade gel carrying device
My new race kit
Rocking the bun huggers.
Always travel with duct tape.
Eventually Mike Wardian and I roused from the car and went for a short warm-up jog down the street. I couldn't really tell how I was feeling. My legs felt fine, my mind felt fine. Not excited, just fine. It was like I couldn't decide where my head was at or how I could wrap my brain around the journey in front of me. I have never been in a race like this. It is an ultra distance race, but is going to take some serious speed to excel at. I really had no idea what to expect. I think my mind was torn between a marathon approach and an ultrarunning approach. Now in hindsight, I see that, much like the US running community, I just need a running approach. I need to run my races ferociously and be unafraid. I think when I toed the line at Two Oceans, I was a bit timid, my strategy conservative. I was not lining up going for broke. I was lining up playing it by ear. I don't regret my approach at all, but see now where I can work on for the next time.
I tossed my clothes in van and trotted over to the startline. Nick and Adriaan were suppose to be around to escort me to the front for media, pictures and a good position, but I was unable to find them, so I just tucked in to the front of the A corral a few seconds before they let the B corral move forward. It was packed, shoulder to shoulder with people. For 12 minutes, I just stood there hoping that when the gun went and the pack charged that I would stay on my feet.
The most beautiful thing to me right before the race was when they sang the national anthem "Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika". Everyone around me raised there voices and sang loudly and unabashedly. When the singing was over, we all braced ourselves and with a bang, we were off.
I am not use to being in such a big crowd and I also knew that I had no idea how fast the leaders, mainly Elena Nurgalieva (one of the Russian twins), would go out. Elena and her twin (who was not running due to injury) have won the race a bunch of times. I knew I wanted to stick with her if it was comfortable and at the very least, whatever I did, not go out in front of her.
Huge masses of people (ok men) took off like it was a sprint. I zigzagged around looking for some space and finally managed to spot Elena and the rest of the leading ladies. We fell into a pack of about 8, along with about 30 guys who were determined to pace off of us. Pretty soon we were joined by a small army of cyclists all clad in matching Garmin kits and they were trying to do a head count of the top ladies in the pack.
It took me a while to find my groove. I was hanging out at the back of the pack but found that I was having to significantly alter my stride to accommodate for the shorter runners in front of me. About 7km into the race, I hit the brakes for a minute and let myself get out of the back of the pack and have some room to stretch my legs.
There was ample water on the course, so I grabbed a pouch (like a water ballon) every other stop or so, whenever I was feeling in need of it. Soon it started pouring rain and I settled in for the long haul. At this point, I was still not sure how I felt. I knew there were some big hills ahead and I was uncertain how a big climb would feel immediately before and right after the marathon mark. I resolved to just play it smart and not run outside of myself. I made a conscious decision to run my own race and let the pack go if they pushed.
I was never at a loss for someone to run with. From the time the rain started at 12k until we began up Little Chapman, I was accompanied by a Swiss runner and a experience South African runner. We chatted, grabbed waters for one another and laughed at the ridiculous amount of rain that was falling. At one point we had to run out of the road onto the sidewalk to escape the completely flooded road. The Nedbank folks had handlers out on course at 27k and 36k and I grabbed another batch of Gu's from them each time.
We started to head up the long approach to Little Chapman (which is about 2-3km of 2% grade), it then pitches up much more steeply along a winding coastal road. My South African friend bid me farewall as he prepared to dig in for the climb. I felt good, so I kept motoring on and found a new group to run with. On some of the switchbacks I could see the lead women's pack a few minutes ahead and felt good about where I was. I was nearly 35k into the race and felt like I was just getting warmed up. I was relaxed and comfortable.
I fell into step with a fellow named Hans and we pushed our way to the top. Nearing the top, I caught up to a female runner who had been dropped from the pack. It gave me a nice boost of energy and I hit the top feeling very confident. The next 7k run you right back down the other side of the hill into Hout Bay where the marathon mark is. Running with Hans, I was very careful to heed all the warnings I'd been given and not trash my quads running too hard downhill. The kilometers clicked by quickly and I breezed through the marathon mark somewhere around 2:50. I had initially planned to possibly try and run as fast as 2:45 through the marathon mark, but the weather and the way the race unfolded lead me to be more restrained. I didn't feel like I was racing. I just felt like I was running along, enjoying the cheers from the spectators (to me there were a ton, but evidentially, when its not pouring, the course is lined) and clicking off kilometers. My brain wouldn't allow me to think about the race itself for some reason, it was only allowing me to focus on getting up and over Constantia Nek, the biggest climb of the day. It seemed my whole effort was moderated to get me to the top of the hill with minimal suffering.
After the marathon mark, I began the climb to the top. I didn't back off on my effort level and put my rain soaked head down to dig in. Pretty early on the ascent, I was passed by Adinda Kruger who was 3rd in 2010. She looked super strong and so I didn't make any attempt to go with her (and her husband who was pacing her the whole way). I had resolved to run my own race up to this point, why would I change that now. It was the first time in the entire race that I felt a slight twinge of competitiveness. I told myself, "I'll get her on the down".
Constantia surprised me or maybe I surprised Constantia because I cruised up the hill very well and arrived at the top feeling good. Really good. Right at the top is the Nedbank Green Mile and I was cheered through an army of supporters and over the top. I waved my arms wildly and incited the crowd into a frenzy.
The slight twinge of competitiveness became a flipped switch. I was at the top. It was game on. Just like that, I had a moment where I realized that I had been running way too easy and I had way too much left. I also knew that the majority of the last 8km were downhill. The slight uphills were short and sweet and since I had nothing but energy to burn, I began the chase.
I tossed aside my remaining gels and turned into a hunter. I knew that the leader(s) were about 5 minutes ahead as of 48km, so I could only be sure that Adinda was close enough to catch. I began flying. I was possessed. My legs didn't hurt, the previous kilometers melted away, feeling like a simple warm-up to get me to the point of this tempo workout.
I hammered down the hill and spotted Adinda just ahead, now joined by one of the Garmin clad cyclists. I knew I was in 7th place at that point and on a slight uphill just past the 50k mark (which I went through in 3:23, a 50k PR), I passed Adinda and left her behind. She seemed to be spent and didn't try to keep up with me. I kept pushing, harder, harder, harder. I wanted to squeeze every last saved ounce of energy out of my legs. I knew I was strong enough to sustain the steep downhill pounding so I urged myself on.
And then I spotted my next prey. I was able to identify the next woman up ahead because she had her own bike escort (I had one at this point as well). I pushed to catch up with her and flew past her without a sound. I was into 5th place and she could not move to keep up with me. I rounded the next bend and spotted 4th place up ahead. I cracked a joke to my bike pacer about going in for my next kill and I swept past her in a turn, moving in to 4th place. I was ecstatic. I had gone from being overly conservative to back in it. I knew I had more in me and I also knew that the last two kilometers were rolling uphill and I would need to be ready to run eyeballs out to the finish. I was nearing the turn on to the highway which marked the end of the downhill and the final push to the finish line when I saw her- 3rd place.
In that moment, I had to learn how to race. I knew nothing of how she was feeling, how much fight she had left and how my move on her would effect her. I knew I had to go by her with authority and not give her the chance to hang around. I used my ninja skills to silently approach from behind and then kicked passed her in a bold move. I pushed and pushed and pushed and didn't look back. I couldn't look back. I had to urge myself ever forward and not show fear. I had no fear, I felt too good to feel fear. I knew in my heart there was no way that she had enough to keep up with me feeling that way. I was flying.
I didn't relent. I just pushed until with 1/2 kilometer to go, I looked over my shoulder and she was long gone. I kicked up my pace and shot off the road onto the grass at University of Cape Town which was now a complete mud pit and tip toed my way to the finish line in 3:47:29. Good for third place and a huge late race comeback. Crossing the line, I felt a deep abiding sense of satisfaction in my accomplishment and in my race.
I was quickly ushered into the press room to answer questions at the press conference, then off to pee in a cup for drug testing. The rest of the day flew by in a flurry of socializing, awards ceremonies, and dodging the rain and mud puddles.
Looking back on this race now, I realize that I barely tapped my potential in this race. And that is ok. It is awesome to think that I am still in a place in my running where I can learn more, do more, race differently. I have room for growth. I played this race very conservatively because I had no idea how to wrap my head around everything: the course, the distance, the pace, the competition. In the end, I ran one hell of a gutsy race and a flawless finish. I am stoked, so stoked to have made it onto the podium in such a huge race. I don't think I have ever come in 3rd place in an international race or a race with 9,000 people. Two Oceans was just the beginning. Now I have my sights on Comrades and I am excited and nervous to see what I can do at it; the world's biggest ultra!
Nedbank teammate in the top 10!
Ladies Top 10
Some fun post race adventures before getting on my flight:
I went to the well. And the well was dry. So I found a shovel and dug deeper.
I have never been so perfectly happy with an imperfect race.
Two weeks ago, I was primed, I was ready. I was fit, tapered, fueled, rested. My workouts had been fantastic, I was focused, I was sharp. I was ready to rock at the WC100k which I had set my sights on winning and had focused all my energy on. And yet, it wasn't my day.
I came off that experience wanting to utilize my fitness and do a confidence rebuilding race. I needed to get back on the horse. Luckily for me, I was all set to run the inaugural UROC 100k in the Blue Mountains of Virgina on Saturday September 24th.
Unfortunately for me, the WC100k and subsequent food poisoning had me in a tough spot. Instead of feeling like I was primed and ready and, more importantly, recovered from those fast 70k in the Netherlands, I was feeling physically destroyed. I was unable to eat much for a few after the food poisoning and probably dropped between 2-3 lbs from the food poisoning. That is saying something considering I am running at my lightest race weight this year. Not eating immediately after a hard race also wrecks your muscles. Once I was able to fuel again, my runs felt awful. I was exhausted, dead legged and super sore. My muscles felt like they had been through a cheese grater. A week ago, I did a 10 mile trail run on Saturday and was throughly convinced that there was no way I would muster the energy or stamina to take on a tough 100k in one weeks time.
As I considered whether or not I would get on the plane and go to Virginia, I searched myself for what my motivation for running UROC 100k was. I didn't feel like I wanted or needed redemption from the WC100k. I didn't feel motivated by the money or trying to beat a good field of competitors, nor was I intimidated by it. Instead, I felt like I just wanted to get back on the horse. I wanted to run a race that good or bad, I got through. I finished. As I set my sights on my next event that I want to be sharp and hungry for, I knew that I didn't want to go into that race (JFK 50) doubting my own abilities to (literally) go the distance. I needed a confidence boost.
So I got on the plane. Despite being at about 75% (healthy, rested, of my abilities, etc), I got on the plane. Thankfully, the flight didn't break me this time as it is known to do. The travel did however destroy me a bit more than when I started out. I flew a red-eye and then endured a grueling marathon of waiting, cancelled flights, and hanging around at the airport. I made it finally to Wintergreen resort after a fit of tears while sitting on the airport floor, slightly before 5pm and was pretty delirious. I participated in the elite athlete panel and stated that my goal was to "just not quit". Afterwards, I headed back to the condo I was sharing with Geoff, Dave, Matt, Eric (on a side note, it was fantastic to get to spend some time with these super stars & get to know them better. They are good people.) as well as iRunFar's BP and the TrailRunner folks. It was a great place and I got a room to myself!
I figured I would sleep well considering I had been up for two days, but unfortunately some of the non-racers who were staying in the house were up pretty late having a lively discussion. And let's just say I am a light sleeper and some people need to work on their "inside voices". I managed about 2 hours of sleep and despite that, felt fine when my alarm went off at 5am. A quick body check and I was happy that at the very least I didn't feel too tight, sore or tired.
We headed to the start around 6:30am for our 7am elite start (which in my opinion, is not absolutely essential, although it did spread the field out nicely by the time we reached the more congested out and back sections). I met up with the other ladies and took some pictures with some other runners. I stripped down to my new Salomon international team kit and tightened my Salomon SpeedCross 3s. Earlier in the week I had had a hard time deciding on shoes for a course that is half hilly road and half technical trail complete with slippery rugged rocks, but the SpeedCross were ultimately PERFECT for the combo course. I checked the pockets of my Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 SLAB pack and made sure I had all the GU's and Chomps, Saltstick and Hyper Vespas that I envisioned needing. I was set and I was feeling pretty calm.
Before I had much more time to think about it, we were off on our journey. We did a processional loop around the parking lot and immediately hit a trail into the woods and the men's pack of elites disappeared ahead of us (us being the 5 elite ladies including Ragan Petri, Anne Lundblad and Andi Felton). We ran into some tree cover when I felt a sharp sting on my back. Damn, I got stung by a nasty bee or wasp or something. Turns out one of the first guys had to have stirred a hive because there were numerous reports of stings at mile 1. My lower back got a bit swollen but I just laughed it off and kept on running. I knew the first 5.5 miles had a big climb to the highest point on the course, so I just relaxed into the climb and ran where I could on some of the technical trail and ran the uphill on the road sections. We alternated between the two surfaces and I wondered if that would be par for the course (i.e. very short sections of each).
I was hitting the road sections pretty good and left the other women pretty quickly behind and started running with Mike Oliva whom I had run Breaker's Marathon with a few years back. I knew there was a $200 bonus for the King/Queen of the Mountain at the mile 5.5 mark, so I made a few quick checks over my shoulder en route to the top.
The small success of winning Queen of the Mountain was a nice boost. I figured that I might as well make as much money as I could now in case things went sideways later. I didn't push myself to get there, but it was cool. We started a big descent, ducking and weaving again between trail and road. On a technical section of rocks about a mile after the 5.5 mile aid station I slipped and smack the side of my ankle on a rock. For a second, I could barely hobble and dance around like an idiot, but the pain subsided as I continued and hit the road for a long quad busting descent. I knew that the end of the race finished on this road and I can't say I was excited for a 3.1 mile climb up a steep road. Mike and I hit the bottom on the hill and turned up another road which was steeper than the one we came down. I alternated walking and running between each course marker- which were between 50-100meters apart. I arrived at the mile 9.3 aid station in 1:34, 3 minutes ahead of Anne and Ragan. I asked what the next section was like as I filled my pack for the first time and someone said that I would hit road soon enough, so I popped back on the road and settled into a good clip. I could tell I didn't have my road speed of two weeks prior. A low 7 felt no where as easy as it had then, but I had expected that. I zipped along and kept my eyes out for confidence inducing orange flags. I didn't see any for a long stretch of road and started to get worried. I decided I must have missed a turn on to a trail because the flags had been close together up to this point. I stopped turned around and sprinted back up the hilly road. Then I saw Anne and Ragan, I yelled to ask if the road was the right way to go and Anne yelled back yes. I was a bit bummed that I had just blown any cushion I had. I decided to let it out a bit on the road and risk my legs a bit. They seemed to be able to handle it and I made it to the next aid station in good time. That entire 4.8 mile section was road but we were rewarded at mile 14.1 with a long section of trail, which was a great mix of super runnable and more technical terrain. Mike and I were still running together, happy for the company. After a while, we got to see the lead men coming back. I was feeling good, taking in my gels 1/hr and salt 45mins-1hr. It was humid, so I wanted to make sure I was managing my hydration better than I had at WC100k.
We made it to Sherando aid station at mile 17.5 with (apparently) a 2 minute lead. The longest climb of the day lay ahead of us up to Bald Mountain. Mike and I climbed steadily, running a great deal but also not hammering the climb. I felt good. I paid good attention the trail because it was very technical and rocky and knew I would return this way later. We were nearly at the top when I looked back and saw Ragan within a few 100 feet of us. After the summit, we descended on a fire road to the mile 25.9 aid station. I blew through it and tried to get a little gap on Ragan on the road. I started to feel pretty average and didn't have the steam I wanted at that particular moment. I just kept repeating my "feel good mantra" of "baby goats, puppies and kittens". Mike and Ragan were about 2 minutes behind me on the 3.4 mile section of road to the next water only aid station. I stopped to fill up my pack which was cumbersome considering the size of the water jugs. Thankfully Mike and Ragan stopped too and we tag teamed the water. Mike dusted us for a bit and Ragan and I ran down the dirt road together. As soon as we started to ascend a bit, Ragan got a bit behind me. She said her strength wasn't the uphill, and I soon caught up to Mike. I was feeling good again, so I went with it.
At mile 33.1, the next in race bonus occurred for "leader of the pack" (think green jersey) and I snagged it before we hit an out and back on the Dragon's Back which was beautiful runnable single track. Ragan was 30second-1 minute behind and I was feeling even better so I pushed the pace a bit on the section. We made it to the turn around sign at mile 37.2, retrieved the password and headed back. It was fun to see the lead men on this section. Mike and I alternated carrying the pacing back to mile 41. As we approached mile 41, I started to feel, well, a little off. I got in the aid station and the three of us all grabbed water, gels, bloks and I grabbed my first sip of delicious flat coke. I strapped my pack back on and tried to run out of the aid station for the 7.2 miles of road back to Bald Mtn aid station but suddenly I realized my legs had shut down. My hamstrings and glutes where I had seized at WC100k were locked up and I could barely do a death shuffle. Ragan ran by me and encouraged me to keep up. I know that I have the road speed to dominate these sections and there was absolutely nothing I could do. My legs wouldn't function. It wasn't calories or hydration or cramping. They just seemed done. My energy was good, I didn't feel tired. As I watched Ragan run up the road, I felt calm. I knew going in that the potential for having a bad or average day was possible. I said out loud, "and now we've reached the 'I'm just not going to quit' portion of the day". I walked, I shuffled. By the time I'd gone a 1/2 mile, Ragan had gone a mile. There were runners heading outbound to the Dragon's back (they told me how far she was) and each one I encouraged and cheered for. I put my headphone (just one since I was running on open road in the fog!) and listened to music.
I was calm. I was at peace with the face that I might have to walk the entirety of the last 21+ mile, of which only 5 mile were trail. I just wasn't going to quit. I was in good spirits and despite the fact that Ragan was gaining a good 8 minutes or so on me per mile (in theory of course, I couldn't see her), I didn't care. What someone is doing, has nothing to do with me. Anne had been about 15 minutes back approximately on the out and back, so I figured at some point she'd likely catch me the way I was moving. I was walk/shuffling maybe 15 min miles at best. 1 mile, 2 miles, hike up the dirt road to the water only aid station at mile 45.1. At some point I started asking those outbound if they had any advil. I figured if I was going to walk, I might as well not walk it in like a cowgirl. I know the risks of advil, but figured 1 dose would be enough. I stopped asking after a while when no one had any. On the parkway, the fog was super thick and I felt like I was in a zombie movie watching the runners emerge from it. I said as much to a group of runners and we all did our best impressions of the undead (which is what I felt like). I laughed and at the last moment asked the guys for an advil. The guy said, no but I have one better, I have celebrex. He was a rep for the drug and unsheathed one for me. I popped it and thanked him. At that point, pain relief was my priority.
If mile 41 had been the lights being shut off with one foul swoop, mile 45.5 the lights came back on. It took about 2 minutes from consumption to feeling all the way better again. I could run again. I could run hard again. The 45 previous miles, melted off my legs and I found the patented Devon finishing legs. I was now 20+ minutes back but I also knew that I had the speed and felt good enough that if Ragan faltered at all, I would catch her. My confidence and hope swelled and I beamed. I had gone to the well, the well was dry. So I found a shovel and I dug deeper. I pushed, I ran, I smiled at going forward when things weren't going right. I was happy to be blessed enough to do these crazy things. I didn't for once lament the day I was having, I just ran. I didn't run to chase, I ran to become, to be and to breathe.
I hit Bald Mtn aid station and popped onto the trail again. I navigated the rocks and sketchier parts with care but was bombing downhill. I felt better than I did at the end of Miwok and many other trail races I remember. I fueled myself, hydrated and stayed rocking out. I crossed the road and descended into a section with lots of crazy switchbacks. I got nearly tripped by an "aggressive plant" that left gashes on my leg like I had fought a cat. I laughed it off. Everything about this entire trip had been one big comedy of what can go wrong will. And then I got lost, again. I caught up to a guy that had passed me when I was walking and we both dead ended in the bottom of canyon. We quickly turned around found the error of our ways (the indicating marker for the turn had been impossible to see as it was 5 feet down the trail after a sharp turn). I'd lost a good 4+ minutes. I just laughed and kept running strong.
I hit mile 53. 4 aid station ready for the final 9.1 miles on the road (the course was 62.5- per the course description, so more like 63+ for me!). They were unable to get my pack open and I was in a hurry so I just grabbed a double fist of cokes and shot them down, content with how much water I had left. I rocked the road. I settled into a solid pace and jammed through the dense fog. I felt strong and made it to the final aid station in great time. After the mile 58.2 aid station, you have 1 mile of steep descent than the 3.1 road climb to the finish. I destroyed my quads on this descent, determined to take back as much time as I could and run as hard as I could for as long as I could. The Bryants, Gina, Ashley drove past me and were cheering for me. They turned around and drove up the hill as I started the steep ascent with a powerful hike. I was unsure, even feeling good, if I could run up the hill. I power hiked and was moving. They stopped the car and got out to cheer. The grade started to be about 1% less than the first 3/4ths I had hiked and I broke into a run. I ran the rest of the way to the top. Along the way I was joined by one of the race camera and I had to, at times, pull my hat down over my eyes to hide the emotional tears that were welling up. I was about to finish this damn thing. It was not perfect, it was not the best, it was not the prettiest but I was perhaps more proud of myself than I have ever been. I didn't know if I could do it and I proved to myself I could.
I crested the hill and was rewarded with a downhill to the finish in the thick fog. I sprinted, tears flying off my face, laughing. I crossed the line and exclaimed "I didn't quit!!". I was so proud of my effort and my day, I had a 94% great running day despite my body being less than 75% at the start. It was fantastic to realize what I am really capable of in that circumstance. I came to UROC 100k to get my mojo back, to find my trust in my own abilities and get my confidence back. I didn't need to win to accomplish that, I needed to persevere. And I did. I am damn proud of that. I did what I could with the body I had to work with on that day. 2nd place, 11th overall (which considering the stack men's field is saying something)
UROC 100k is a great race. I really do hope that it becomes what it set out to do. It favors no runner, except the well rounded one. There are huge climbs and descents, there is gnarly terrain, slippery rocks and sweet single track. There is rolling and unrelenting road. 12,000 feet of ascent and the same of descent seems like the perfect challenge. I highly endorse this race. I would run it again, I think I could go sub 9:50 on a better day. It was a lot of fun. And not to mention this was a first year race and there was not much that showed that to be the case.
I am very proud of the way I ran my race. Not winning, is not a source of disappointment to me because I had the day I did. I didn't have a Devon Day, but I had the day I needed to. One that has me excited for things to come. One that has made me feel "back on the horse" even though I am walking like a cowgirl with busted up quads. I learned things about myself. I learned I can dig deeper, I can be more flexible, I can have a peaceful quiet mind, even when things are going wrong, I can laugh it off- all of it.
Team USA before winning Team Silver (women) and Team Gold (men)
In some of my darker moments since the race, I had decided that I was going to name this blog "flunking out of ultrarunning school" because this is my second DNF this year and that makes me one for three on the year at even completing ultras. I feel like DNF's are highly judged in our sport even if the reasons for dropping on valid and intelligent. It is hard to not internalize that judgement and let it stack upon the feelings you already have about having to drop from a race. I don't want to be seen as a quitter, because I am certainly not one. Over the past few days, I have felt less of an ultrarunner or some how a fake because I have dropped from races. I know that is not true, but the emotions one feels after dropping out of their goal race are anything but rational.
Now, three days later, back home and recovering, I am able to forgive myself more and actually believe (at least mostly) that some days just aren't your day. I was fit and ready as I could be and the result of the race was not because of fitness, it was just what the day had for me. And I was faced with a problem that I could not fix.
I adjusted pretty well to the time change and for once, the few days before the race passed quickly and without a whole lot of nerves. My body didn't feel fantastic but I knew that the creaks and niggles would shake themselves out as the race unfolded and would likely help make me run my goal pace instead of starting out too fast.
The race started at 10am, so I got up before 7 and had my oats and peanut butter and coffee. I was feeling pretty good. Very calm, no nerves, just ready (I think running 4 sub 2:56 marathon/ marathon splits during longer training runs helps feel that way). I feel that way going into races that I know I have prepared myself as best I can for. It is not a cocky, I've got this feeling, it is a feeling of knowing that I have done all I can and that the race will be what it will be and I am prepared to do my best.
I hopped on the shuttle with the other Team USA ladies, Meghan, Amy, Pam, Annette and Carolyn and we made our way to Winschoten for the start. Meghan and I had similar time goals (around 7:30 finishing time), so we had planned to run together and keep pace as long as we could. In flat loop courses like this, there is nothing nicer than having company. And Meghan is one of my very favorite people, so that makes it a nice thing too. Meghan ended up running a 7:51, which is a World Best for 50+ age group.
photo from Amy
We lined up at the start line and were off before we knew it. We got caught in a major traffic jam and had to weave our way around until we finally found some space to run in and settled into our pace. Meghan, Amy, Jo (from Great Britain) and I ran together. We were clocking sub 7:10 min/mile but it felt very comfortable and easy to me. We chatted and clicked off the kms as comfortable as possible.
The day itself was incredibly warm, especially for someone like me that has been training in 50 degrees and cloudy. It was high 70s with 70% humidity. The days leading up to the race were very "San Francisco" cold, rainy and cloudy, so I had not anticipated that the race would be hot. I was very wrong. When I planned my race nutrition strategy, I had planned to get a salt tab every other lap (so every 20k) because I don't drink that much when it is cool out.
I felt really good for the first few laps. We went through the 10k splits ahead of 7:30 finishing time pace, but I was unconcerned. I felt that if I was comfortable at the half way mark, it would be possible for me to negative split. I just wanted to get through halfway feeling good. On lap 3, my stomach started flopping a bit and I could tell that I was going to have an issue. Luckily we were coming into the aid station and I called for Nathan to grab me some Immodium. I knew the Immodium would dehydrate me a bit, but not nearly as bad as having diarrhea would. I hit the port-o-potty once but then the Immodium kicked in. I upped my water and did my best to keep myself cool. I had fun trying to catch Meghan again because I wanted to still run with her and threw down some 6:40s in her pursuit.
It must be 45k. On my race plan that is the first time I get kisses.
High speed kisses can be dangerous.
We kept on cruising and my legs were still feeling fresh. I took a gel every lap from Nathan and felt like I was right where I wanted to be. We were running in the top 10 and on perfect 7:30 pace as we crossed the 50k mark in 3:45. I was stoked.
And then I was concerned. Just after the 1st crew aid station (at the .25km mark), I started to notice that I was having some cramping in my stomach (about where my kidneys are). It was a dull ache, annoying but not overly concerning. I was already passed the aid station so I couldn't get another salt which I quickly realized was what I needed. I made it to the next aid station but was cramping severely by the time I got there. I had Nathan get me a salt pill and requested that they inform the other side that I was going to need salt every time I came through. I was forced to back off the pace and figured that the salt would kick in and the muscles would release. But they didn't.
I made it through 60k and got to the aid station in severe pain. It felt like my ab muscles were getting a charlie horse. It is the worse cramping I have ever felt and I have never felt cramps like that in a race before. It wasn't my stomach cramping, I could eat and drink fine, it was the muscles. It was like a sword was being driven into my abs. I wanted to give it some time to resolve and so I kept going. The abs would release a bit and I would start moving again and then after a few more minutes they would tighten even worse and I would have to stop doubled over or run slightly stooped. I took another salt tab at 65k, but was not feeling any relief. I felt like I was barely moving and was not pushing myself anymore and I could feel nothing but worse. I practically walked the loop, running 11 minutes slower than I had been. I crossed the 70k mark and the cramps redoubled their strength and the pain shot down through my legs and up around my lungs. I hobbled into the aid station and asked Lion what to do. They fed me salt and gave me coke but I knew I could not go on. I couldn't even stand up, let alone run. I knew I was done.
I had spent the entirety of lap 7 considering if I could or would just walk it in. I decided that what was happening was happening and that I wouldn't drop just because my race wasn't going as I planned. But that changed when I came to the aid station and it felt like my abdominal muscles were pulling. Not being able to stand up is problematic when it comes to run/walking/continuing. I decided to sit down for a while and see if things would release. My whole body became one big cramp when I sat down. After sitting there for 30 or more minutes, I finally acknowledged I couldn't go on. I have never felt that bad of cramping in my life and I still didn't want to quit but I also didn't want to go on. I relinquished my chip and broke down. Nathan came running from the other aid station and helped try and console me. I cheered on my teammates and watched them finish.
The team did awesome. The men won team gold and the women team silver. I am very proud of them and appreciate the support that many of them showed me.
The day after the race, I was beating myself up pretty bad, second guessing, comparing, and judging myself. This was my goal race and it was hard to have put all of my eggs in one basket and then have it not work out. I was fit enough to stand on the podium and yet didn't even finish the race. I bashed myself plenty both internally and out loud to Nathan over lunch in Amsterdam. It is just the natural emotions of missing a goal. It is nothing more nothing less, I am allowed some disappointment, some sadness and anger.
But then I had a bit of a change of perspective. Sunday evening after we went to bed, I was awakened by severe food poisoning. I spent the entire night in the bathroom very ill and could barely take a sip of water. I finally stopped barfing and crapping after about 7 hours, but was left very weak and still nauseated. We were flying home that morning, so I only hoped that I wouldn't spent the entire flight barfing or in the toliet. I spent the flight in great discomfort, all 11 hours of it, but thankfully I didn't get sick on the plane. Nathan and the KLM staff took good care of me and I did my best to ride the waves of feeling good and bad. The reason that this offers a change in perspective to me is because despite the fact that I prepared all of my own food in order to ensure that I didn't eat any gluten before the race or other things I couldn't have, I still got sick. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do or how much you try and control the factors, it still doesn't work out. I am not sure whether or not the food poisoning happened before the race ( food poisoning can occur anywhere in a 48 hour period after eating the contaminated food) or if the cramps were a symptom of the food poisoning (as that is one of the symptoms, along with the diarrhea that I had), I don't think it matters really. While it would explain a lot, the perspective it offers is enough.
When my head was in the toilet, I was not lamenting my DNF. I was not judging myself based on my running accomplishments. All I wanted in the world was to feel good again. I knew even at the worst moments of the sickness that it would pass and I would feel better, maybe not right away but I would. The same goes for running. In the grand scheme of things, what happened happened. It doesn't make me a bad runner to have a bad day. There will be plenty more good and bad days in my life and the way we weather them is what matters. I won't chastise myself any long for my DNF. I will move on. It doesn't change anything about me as a person or me as a runner, it was just what the day had. It is sad, it is unfortunate, it is painful, but it will pass. Now, I just look forward to the next opportunity I have to try again at having the day I wanted. That is part of the adventure, that is part of the reason we do this. The challenge, the uncertainty, the huge potential for failure- that is what makes the successes that much sweeter.