Javelina 100 mile

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission

Over the past few years, I have lost my running mojo. It slipped away gradually or more, got slowly worn down over time when I wasn’t able to attend to it. Frankly, since 2012, I just haven’t been able to run or race with the focus and energy I need to maintain it. And for the most part, it has been worth it because Nathan and I have been devoting our energy into building a business and a community around that business. But that doesn’t mean it has been easy to watch the awesome development of the ultra running community and the exciting happenings of the running world. I wanted to be a part of it. I have talked about this a lot this year because I started this year thinking this would be the year that I would re-emerge in racing and start chasing down big goals again. I was hungry from the start of this year to passionate pursue races that made me excited. 


But the year didn’t unfold the way I hoped. I went back to the drawing board so many times on “where to?” in racing. My training has been great this year but my confidence in myself as a runner has been almost non-existent, my mind highly critical of myself. It wasn’t until my trip to Cape Town and running Ultra Trail Cape Town 100k four weeks ago that I even felt like half the runner I use to be (mentally). That trip renewed me and inspired me. It showed me that I could battle through the hardest race I’ve ever done and overcome. After that, I wanted more challenges like that and again went back to the drawing board for my race schedule and decided to run Javelina 100 on October 31. Just 4 weeks after running my first 100k in 4 years, I was going to run my first 100 miler in 5 years and 7 years since I last finished my only successful 100 miler. I felt excited and ready after UTCT 100km to take on the challenge.

I sit here now three days post race wondering, “did that really happen?”. I went to Javelina to get to that finish line. I went to see if I could go the distance. I went to the desert to find my mojo. I went to find my strength and courage. I went to battle my demons and face the darkness. I went to see if I could rise again like a phoenix from the ashes, if I could find a new runner me. I could have never imagined the day unfolding the way it did. 

Before the race, I wrote a letter to myself. In that letter I wrote: “Be led by passion, love and perseverance. I will rise to a new level and see what I am capable of. Yes, it is going to be hard as hell. But don’t back down. Walk across the fire and let it burn. You can handle this.”. I didn’t merely handle it, I instead put together the performance of a lifetime. I truly went to a new level and not only found that I was capable of running on the level that I use to, but that I was in fact capable of so much more. I have never run like I did on Saturday, I have never pursued my limits so hard, run with so much guts and found moment after moment that I had more to give. I not only finished, I crushed it. First woman, second overall, new course record in 14:52 in the 6th fastest time ever in the 100 miler for a North American resident and 3rd fastest trail 100 mile time ever. I ran the last 41 miles faster than anyone including faster than the male winner (besting him by 6 mins, he finished in 13:49). People have asked, “where did that come from” since and I truly believe that this kind of race has been a long time coming. I have had the physical tools for a long time, the combination of speed and endurance. But mentally, I have worked very hard to get to the place where when I ask myself “How bad do you want it?”, the answer is “MORE”.

I am truly grateful for Aravaipa Running and the amazing race they put on. Top notch event with incredible organization. I am beyond words with gratitude for my crew and pacer, Hollis and Yiou. I could not have put together this day without them. I am so thankful for my husband, although he couldn’t be at the race, has been extraordinarily supportive of me trying to find my runner self again. Thank you to my awesome sponsors and supporters: Oiselle, HOKA One One, Julbo, Psoas Massage and Bodywork, Stance Socks and San Francisco Running Company, as well as all my awesome friends and training partners especially my girls Yiou, Liz and Maddy K! And my incredible coach, Ian Torrence!

Photo by UltraSportsLive

Photo by UltraSportsLive

You can stop reading here if you like, I know race reports can get long and boring and all sound the same. But for myself, I am going to keep going. I want to remember this race. I want to remember how it felt, I want to revisit it over and over and over again to say to myself: this race, I saw who I really am as a runner. It was a game changer for me and I feel now, that it is just the beginning.

Javelina Hundred (Oct 31, 2015) 6am

I wanted to do this race because I wanted to “do things that scare me” and challenge myself in a new way. After signing up for the race 3 weeks ago, that feeling slid from scared to terrified to feeling on the inside like the cowardly lion being pushed toward the Wizard by his companions. I stood on the line more nervous than I ever have been before. I kept wondering “can I do this?” and then the gun went off and I shrugged my shoulders, started running and thought “guess I will find out!”.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Work the problem (Loops 1 & 2)

The day before the race I did a run through of all my crewing stuff with Hollis and Yiou. I told them that things would come up, challenges would arise and we would have to find a way to keep going. We would have to find a solution to problems, a work around for obstacles. Yiou pronounced, we needed to “work the problem”. I liked this, it gave me a mantra to hold up for myself when difficulties arose. When she said it, I naturally thought it would be helpful in the second half. But given my starting line apprehensions, I actually had to utilize it quite early. 

I headed out into the desert with 458 other runners and settled in to a nice comfortable pace. I planned to run on the easy side of comfortable and not press at all. The Javelina course is very runnable, but that is also dangerous early on because it is very tempting to run too fast. I wanted to be smart, but I also accepted that my first two laps would be on the faster side since I was fresh, it was the cool of the morning, etc. I clipped along hoping for the nervous energy and “can I do this?” monkey mind to slip away. I tried to NOT focus on the distance and instead just focus on that moment and that loop and getting into a groove. I excepted to face demons in the race, but I didn’t think they would attack from the start. But within 5 miles, my mind had already slipped into a very pessimistic place. Every bad thing I could think about myself, I did. I listened to the demons tell me every reason I would fail, every reason I wasn’t good enough, every reason I was not enough. And then I heard Yiou’s voice saying, “Work the problem”. What was the problem? I was being negative, I was indulging the demons, I was giving them a voice. And then, out in the desert as the sun rose and a pack of coyotes raised their voices and howled, I exclaimed, “shut up brain!”. I started pelting the demons with every positive phrase and mantra I could think of. I pushed them back, beat them away with a stick. They didn’t belong here. I had barely even started running for goodness sake!

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

And so I settled in and just focused on this lap, this moment. Being within myself and letting the miles pass. I had set my watch on “OK” setting so that I would have battery life for the whole race. This meant though that the GPS accuracy was pretty poor and before I knew it I was back at Javelina headquarters (the start/finish line/party). My watch had me at 14 miles, but the loop in actually closer to 15.5. I was under 2 hours for the loop and kind of sheepishly entered the headquarters knowing that was way way faster than even my fastest projected split that I had give my crew. I had given them (even) splits for 15 hrs, CR pace (15:40), 16:30 and 17:30. I was well under 15 hour pace, but I also knew I was running easy and comfortable. I knew I would back off more in the heat of the day but was fine with being a touch fast early on. Hollis shook his head and told me, “Dev you are running way too fast!”. I set out on loop 2 and just continued to run comfortable. I was joined by Brian Tinder for a few miles who had been ahead of me on the first loop, but fell behind when he did a wardrobe change just outside of HQ (if you don’t know what I am talking about, you must find out!). It was nice to have the distraction and we passed the uphill miles to Jackass Junction which is the “middle” of the loop. The course is uphill to the midway point and is done in machine washer style, so loop 2 was novel since it was seeing the trail and terrain from a different perspective. The first two loops had a novelty to them that I knew would wear off. I could tell I was going to get really tired of running giant loops in the desert. 

I didn’t really slow much on the second loop and was greeted coming into HQ by Karl Meltzer who has more 100 mile wins than anyone on earth ever (35 wins). He is a smart runner and knows his way around a 100miler. He was heading out on his 3rd loop and took the time to stop me and say, “Devon, you need to slow down!”. I said, I know I know. And I knew I would since now, exactly 4 hours and 50k into the race, it was starting to get hot. I got in to the HQ, grabbed my stuff from Hollis including doubling up on bottles and taking my headphones for distraction, and headed back into the desert ready to battle the heat and take my time.

I needed a hug. Thanks Laura for providing one. Photo by UltraSportsLive

I needed a hug. Thanks Laura for providing one. Photo by UltraSportsLive

What do you mean?

I was not looking forward to the heat of the day. The high was projected for mid 80s. But in the desert that feels much hotter. There is no shade, the heat reflects off the ground and bakes you from the ground up. I have been running in the heat of the day this summer here in San Anselmo, days reaching up into the high 90s, so I felt at least moderately prepared. I knew I would have to keep myself cool and calm. 

Through the first two laps, I had only taken in liquid calories in the form of Tailwind. I was doing 200 calories of Tailwind per hour and my energy, hydration and electrolytes felt solid. Hollis had encouraged me to try and gel on loop 3 and about half way I tried to take one and immediately threw it back up. Uh oh. My biggest trepidation coming into this race was the heat effect since my last 100 mile start in 2010 ended with me in the med tent with 3 IVs. I knew things could go south fast and if I couldn’t stomach calories or liquid I would be done. I was able to continue to get in small sips of tailwind, but my head was not in a good place now. I was focused on not feeling good and by the end of the loop, after a few more rejections of sips of water, my mind amassed a good list of all the reasons I wanted to drop right then and there at 45. I came into HQ in a negative place, ready to be done. I dramatically described my issues straight in front of the Ultrasports Live live feed camera and friend Laura Bello who was part of their team, just said, “you look like you could use a hug”. She gave me a hug and I walked over to Hollis and sat down in the chair. I told him, “my stomach isn’t good. my foot hurts. my colds not gone. I am not having fun”. To me, it all seemed so clear that I was done. I had run the whole loop still and Hollis pointed out that even after running 2:30 for that lap that I was still well under even my fastest projected split. My response? A very snappy “I don’t care”. He cooled me off. Listened to my complaints and indulged me for a minute. After 5 or so minutes in the chair, I got up, resolved that I would do one more loop and then quit. After all, my legs really were fine and I was still running quite well. 

I headed out on loop feeling cooler with a nice ice bandana around my next and started running again. Since I had resolved to stop at the 100km in my head, every time I felt bad from there on, I just told myself, well at least I’ll be done at the end of this loop. It wasn’t a fun loop. Nothing really changed. In that 30 miles of running, I hated all but about 2 miles. I just listened to my music and kept going. I was running in 5th place overall and was first woman, but I just wanted to be done. It didn’t matter to me anymore. I just wanted to stop.

My pacer Yiou had arrived and I complained to her all my various problems that made me want to quit. She pointed out that my running form looked great and that I looked comfortable. I responded that yes, I was able to run but ick, I was just done. It was like the Justin Bieber song that I had listened to at least 5 times on that loop, “what do you mean?”. I was saying one thing and doing another. I was nodding yes and running, but I wanted to say no and stop.

I again took the chair and Hollis and Yiou went to work trying to get me to get going again. My foot was still hurting and I was worried that 41 more miles might injury it since I had some issues since UTCT 100k because of all the rocks. My stomach was same as it had been, fine but not great. Yiou gave me my iced coffee and I asked for asprin. Maybe, just maybe I could caffeinated my way into another loop. I had been careful to avoid caffeine up until that point so I wouldn’t have a terrible caffeine crash late in the race. Meanwhile, Yiou got ready to start running with me. I had planned to have her from 75-finish, but she knew that I might quit right then if she didn’t tease me out of the chair. It worked. I got up. I finished my coffee and ate a handful of gummies.

#runlikeagirl

I had yet to walk in the race at all and still 10 mins ahead of even my fastest projected split. I told Yiou I would have to walk to the road crossing of loop 5 which is about 1/3 mile from HQ. I didn’t want to throw up my coffee and gummies. We made it about 1/3 of that distance before I started running, walking was boring. I still had legs and screw it, I was going to use them. Both the coffee and the aspirin kicked in and I had Yiou to pick up the pace and distract me. Slowly, the overwhelming desire to drop diminished, then disappeared. For the first time all day, I heard a whisper in my mind “you can do this”. And I believed it.

Yiou and I settled into a fast pace and she reminded me to take gels (which I finally was able to stomach) and told me how strong I looked. We run together FAST a lot. And part of why I was excited to have her as my pacer was because she is so fast and that our natural pace together tends to be very quick. At this point, I was astonished how good my legs felt. They didn't feel like legs that had more than 60 miles on them. They felt like legs that could run. The heat of the day had been survived and I had legs. I began to push. Not too much, but I inched the pace up and my mind opened up to the idea of not just surviving the race, but crushing the race. Just like that I was ready to see what I could do. We pushed and pushed. I knew I opened myself up to a massive meltdown at some point, but I just felt so good, I didn’t want to be afraid of what might happen or some potential later crash, I just wanted to break down barriers and push my limits. At the end of loop 4, I had been behind Karl, Michael Carson and Jon Olson (who has run a stagger 11:59 100 miler!) by more than 30 mins. By the end of loop 5, I was behind them by less than 10 mins. I had just completed a loop in 2:16 and flew threw headquarters, eager to get out onto my final full loop. The sun was going to be setting soon and I grabbed my headlamp, and we set off to chase down the boys.

Photo by Aravaipa running.

Photo by Aravaipa running.

I was running so well at this point. Smooth and comfortable. I had Yiou give me 15-20 min reminders to take gels and focused on making sure that we didn’t make any nutrition or hydrate mistakes. My legs felt amazing. Within 3 miles back out on the loop, we started to catch the guys. Now, if you don’t know them, they are all incredibly fantastic runners. All very strong and accomplished. To be catching them was an insane boost to my confidence. I first caught Jon Olsen, he smiled at me and said, “So happy to see you bounce back Devon!”. I thanked him and encouraged him on and hoped he too would come back to life. I set my sights on Karl, whom I could see up ahead. We caught and passed him easily minutes later. As I passed, he exclaimed, surprised, “Devon, WHAT are you DOING?!” “Running!” I responded, to which he said, “well, I will see you later” indicating he would catch me when I cracked and slowed down. But in that moment, I said to myself, no you won’t. And I doubled my resolved to run the remaining 21 miles of the race as hard as I freaking could. 

Yiou and I moved like a bullet train in the night. We gathered more and more momentum as darkness descended over the desert. I ran silent, pushing myself, not backing off, but trying to give a little bit more, a little bit more each mile. I told Yiou that I didn’t want to have anything left at the line. I wanted to see what I was made of. We made it to the top of the loop and gathered more speed, Yiou yelling out “on your left, on your left” as we sped past all the runners that were out on course, some of them multiple loops behind me. All the other runners, whooped and cheered when they saw me coming. “Yeah girl!” “Woman you are amazing”. I fed off it. I chased down the next headlamp after next headlamp. I exclaimed at one point, “Sorry Karl, you ain’t catching me today.” And Yiou and I started yelling, “Run like a girl! Run like a girl!” It was thrilling to be there in that moment flying along, feeling so strong with such a good friend at my side. 

We were nearly to the aid station that is 2.1 miles from HQ when I said to Yiou, “I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you jumping in a loop early. I could not have gotten here without you. It changed the game. That said, I know that this was more distance than you had planned and am not going to ask you to run 41 miles with me instead of 24 as planned. You don’t need to go out on Loop 7(a smaller loop) with me.” She said, “ok! Because you would drop me anyways”. It was a proud moment, she had done her job beautifully and would let me fly on my own. We crushed it back to Headquarters, smiling and laughing. I sprinted through the start/finish area and headed back out as quickly as possible.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Next level

I was alone then. My legs churning up with gradual hill, my path illuminated only by a small light, just the sound of my breathing and the stillness of the desert. I pushed. Yiou had told me before the loop that I could run the next loop in 2 hours and still break the course record. I thought the loop was just under 9 miles, so I set my sights on running closer to 1:20. I arrived back at the 2.1 mile aid station, grabbed a coke and thanked all the volunteers for being out there. I pushed onward and made my way towards the Loop 7 cutoff, a teasing sign I had seen all day that said Mile 97.3 —->. About a mile later, I crossed paths with Karl again. He saw me and said, “simply awesome Devon”. I was on fire. I felt so good and I wanted to see how much I could push. I finally made the turn towards home and came into the water stop at the turn. The volunteer said, “your on your final loop?!?!”. I responded yes I was and he said, “wow you are in second place!”. I had no idea I had passed Michael at any point and I got a boost. Then he continued, “4 miles to the finish line.” My water bottle filled, I took off. Wait, 4 miles? I thought there was only 2.7 miles to go! Doh. I am such an idiot, I just assumed the race was perfectly 100 miles for some reason, I hadn’t even bothered to loop at how far it actually was since trail races are rarely exactly on. Turns out the course was 101 miles. Having digested this information, I realized that I was really going to have to hustle to get in under 15 hours. I was on target for a low 14:40, but with the extra 1.3 miles, I knew I would have to go as hard as I could to get under 15. The trail was runnable, I felt fresh. I yelled into the night the Oiselle mantras, “head up, wings out” and "go fast, take chances". And I flew. I pushed and with each pushed discovered I had a little more to give. I tried to find my limit and with each step discovered that I had more to give, more to push. I have never run that hard. Hollis once told me that I needed to run “eyeballs out” in a marathon and in that moment I finally understood how that felt. To go to the next level, you have to push in a way that risks everything, holds nothing back. And for the first time, I was going to leave nothing out on course.

Coming into HQs, I was flying. Yiou and Hollis were with me and running me in (or trying to keep up). I dropped my headlamp, bottle and waist pack where my crew station had been and turned the final two corners to the finish line. 14:52:06. Holy Shit, what did I just do. First woman, 2nd overall, CR by 50 mins, sub 15. That is 8:46 per mile pace, even with sitting in my chair for 10+ mins. 

I had just put together the best run of my career. I had come back from the dead. I had pushed myself harder than I have ever in a race. I asked myself for more and continually found another gear, another level.

I came to Javelina to do something that scared me. To do something that challenged me and pushed me. I did that but I realize now that I also came away having discovered the runner that I can be, the runner that I am. This is me and this was my day.

Photo by UltraSportsLive.

Photo by UltraSportsLive.

Full results here: http://aravaiparunning.com/results/2015JJResults100Mile.htm

Where to?

Photo by Peter Kirk Media. Used with permission

Photo by Peter Kirk Media. Used with permission

I came back from South Africa inspired and excited. I started plotting ways to return to Cape Town because I miss my friends, the trails and life down there. I started signing up for races for next year that I am excited and passionate about. I haven't felt this invigorated by my racing in a long time.

I came back from South Africa with a drastically different outlook on the way forward too. After being thwarted by high humidity (80%!!) in my OTQ attempt at Cape Town marathon, I was as frustrated as ever with the pursuit of the qualifier time. I have been frustrated for a while but mainly because my life for the last few years has been in no way conducive to running my fastest. Yes, my training this year has been much better but I was constantly working against that with terribly long hours on the night shift, taxing my body and mind in ways that no amount of good training can overcome. I didn't have the luxury of a desk job or a part time job or no job; I am down an dirty doing physical labor on the hardest shift imaginable that messes up even a non-runner. But I didn't accept this. I simply thought I could will my way past it. I can only now begin to understand the toll, as I have "retired" from the night shift and my body is starting to slowly recover, demanding 10-11 hours of sleep a night. I know it will take a long time to undo the damage, especially since I continue to tax my body with hard training.

The reality is, I have not really truly raced an A race since 2012 marathon or ultra or otherwise. It simply has not been possible. And so my numerous marathons over the past two and a half years have instead of filling me with joy and pride for the accomplishments, have compounded over time to just frustrate me. The arbitrary time goal frustrates me. I have run faster than 2:43 numerous times and so the goal of simply running sub 2:43 is not a deep and passionate one. And I failed to see it. 

I was only able to remember what it is like to feel passionate about a goal race after running Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km. While UTCT was not an A race for me simply on the fact of my training not being specific for it, it unlocked an excitement and reinvigoration for my ultra goals. I never intended to pursue the OTQ and put aside my ultra dreams, but life/work and circumstances (like injuries and coaching changes) has made my year shape up differently than I had planned. But after finishing UTCT 100km, I have an undeniable thirst for adventure. I went so deep into the darkness during that race and found my way out that I am inspired and eager to continue to explore my limits. I need a break from the clock and again need to just stand on the start line and say, "can I even make it to the finish line?". That is what is making me excited right now. I want to take on things that people say I can't do, I want to take on things that people say aren't my style. I want to seek and explore my running in the way I use to; without bounds or limits. I want to continue to be as multidimensional and non-event specific as I ever have been. I want to run cross country, do obstacle course and tackle 100 milers. I want to run fast on the road and learn how to blast up hill over technical terrain. I came home excited and thirsty for new adventures and I knew that my race schedule for the fall would change. Yes, I still want to be at the next Olympic Marathon Trials, but not at the cost of putting off what is truly making me passionate now. I have been to the Trials, it was awesome, that is why I want to go back, not because I have a snowballs chance in hell of making the team. It is an honor to be there and it pushed me to my best. But I've been there and I represented as the first ultra/trail/mtn runner. If I don't make it I will be sad, but I will in fact have more opportunities. And I don't want to deny the rest of my runner self for that race any more.

I buzzed for days after UTCT. For being so hard, I found it to be an interesting side effect that I wanted to seek out challenges that could be as difficult or even more difficult. So I scrapped my fall plans and cleared the deck. On one of my very first wobbly legged runs after returning home, I was struck with an idea. I "raced" home and emailed my coach, Ian Torrence, with my idea. He was enthusiastically on board and I started to make plans. Things just clicked in my head and I knew what I wanted. I wanted to run 100 miles and I wanted to do it now. And with that, I signed up for Javelina Jundred on Oct 31st. It is my first 100 miler start since 2010 and hopefully will be first 100 mile finish since 2008. Am I ready? Yes. Am I scared? F-yeah! 100 miles is a long way. Doesn't matter how "hard" or "easy" a course is. It is a long long way. But I am ready because I am ready to embrace whatever the day has for me. I am ready because I am passionate about exploring my limits and seeing what I can do. I am excited to be out there. I have no goals other than getting to the finish line. I am just looking forward to being the runner that I want to be.

Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km

This would have been the view from the courses highest point. Unfortunately, the weather was freezing, pouring rain and foggy!

This would have been the view from the courses highest point. Unfortunately, the weather was freezing, pouring rain and foggy!

There are races when everything goes perfect, our fitness shines through and we are able to run the incredible races we are capable of. There are races that go to shit and we are left to examine where we failed in fitness or in execution. There are races that go off the rails for reasons we will never understand. There are races that go fine and we run satisfactory. There are so many race experiences we can have and the perfect so elusive, I believe that is one reason we keep coming back for more.

Going into Saturday’s, Ultra Trail Cape Town, I knew I would face the toughest, most technical race I have ever done. I knew that the challenge was immense. After seeing a few of the sections of the course, I knew I would have a novel race experience. I would see once and for all how I could handle a course with intense climbs and super technical trails. I was prepared to be humbled, I was prepared to dig deep and accept the day. On top of that, I have not run a 100km race (or anything over 89km) since June 2012, with my last trail 100km being UROC in 2011, where I ran 10:25. I optimistically thought I could run right about 13 hours on this course. I feel my fitness is really good right now but I didn’t know how the ascents, technical trails and distance would affect me. That is why, from the start I saw this as an adventure. I didn’t come to this race to “race”, I came because I am in love with Cape Town and I wanted to experience the trails. My experience over the last 3 weeks has deepened and widened that love as the ultra community here has embraced me and the trails have inspired and challenged me. Standing on the start line, instead of feeling like I had flown half way to take on a challenge alone, I huddled together with all my new friends and felt that amazing feeling that made me an ultra runner in the first place: these are my people. We are all here to take on an adventure and the struggle before us is a beautiful one. One we will support and cheer each other through. I stood there appreciating the insane hard work that Nic, Stuart and Kim and all the race organizers and volunteers put into making this day possible. I stood there without nerves, feeling surrounded by people who believed in me and knew there were as many at home, huddled by the computers, standing behind me as well.

Of all of the race days I imagined, what I faced was beyond anything I had imagined. I sit here unable to quantify my race as “good” or “bad” or even “mediocre” it is so profoundly more complicated than that. But what I can say is that, I am deeply profoundly proud of myself for making it through that race. It might be the most proud of a race I have been in an incredibly long time. I haven’t once post race had anything but intensely positive feelings of pride for the day I put together in the end. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, it was not perfect, hell, it wasn’t even fun for the most part. But I went to depths I have never before been to and preserved to earn that finish line. I wanted to quit so many times, I wanted to quit with such assurity I am not even certain how I managed to carry on. But there was a moment where I simply said to myself “I will not quit” and that was that.

Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media. 

Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media. 

It is spring time in Cape Town and the weather is a fickle beast. I race Cape Town marathon in 80% humidity and 70 degrees. There have been days of wind so strong you can hardly stand. There were hot days, the next freezing. There has been pouring rain and beautiful blue bird days. I knew it was likely going to be cold on the top of Table Mountain, but unfortunately for me, we lost the weather lottery on Saturday and it had a profound affect on my race. From the start it was raining and very cold, and if there are two things that I have not been in a long time it is wet and cold. I am more prepared for a 100 degree day than I am for a 30. And rain, what is that? I thought my Oiselle bolt sleeves and a pair of gloves, plus my Oiselle Flyer jacket would be sufficient in any weather since there would be lots of hard uphill efforts to keep me warm. I could not even have imagined.

I fared really well in the early miles. We had a lovely “neutral zone” going as we ran through the empty city streets behind the lead vehicle. The field tried to stay together until the first climb out of the city so that everyone would be safe in the city streets. I really enjoyed the warm up and felt good cruising along. We hit the first climb up Signal Mountain and Lion’s Head and I fell in behind Landie Greyling who was running the 65km. I felt really really good climbing. My effort was minimal and I felt like I was running intelligently not pushing hard or breathing hard, knowing that going to hard on the super hard first few climbs would mean destruction later in the day. This course is front loaded with climbs and I knew I would have to start slow and then pull myself back from there to navigate them well. As we traversed the mountain in the fog, I had to smile and think “ha, and everyone think I am not a good climber” and it feeling effortless. We made our way through the rain and fog in the dark and arrived at the first aid station at 11km as the sky began to “lighten” and I tossed my headlamp in my pack. I was a few feet ahead of the other front ladies, Kerry Ann and Chantal, and we headed up the second climb which is a straight up 900 m climb up the technical Platteklip Gorge. I knew I just had to put my head down and power. And I did. We formed a conga line and went up up up. Near the top, I let Landie, Kerry Ann, Chantal and some guys go in front of me as I was feeling self conscious about having 8 people right on my butt. We hit the top and were blasted with intensely cold, wet wind. I tried to put my wet gloves on and took my pack off to get out my jacket. The other runners danced off across the mountain and I quickly made chase but knew immediately that I was too cold. Scary cold. I started shivering and I picked my way across the slick rocks and through the ankle deep standing water. I had to move so cautiously as I could no longer feel my feet and the terrain is the most technical and dangerous at this point. Immense frustration and fear set in. I saw my day unraveling in front of me. What if I couldn’t get warm? Then I started falling and slipping. I twisted and mangled my feet several times and slowed down even more. More than once barely crawling at a slow walk to ensure I didn’t fall on the steep rocky descent. I was terrified and frustrated. But the weather is something we cannot control. There would have been no way for me to better prepare myself. No way, I could have kept my feet wetter or drier. It was just the card we were dealt and because I am coming from dry and hot, its affect on me was great. I cried a lot during this section. I told myself, I should just make the turn at Constantia Nek and opt into the 65km. I could easily justify it in my mind. I cried and yelled my way slowly down into the aid station. And then, there in front of the <-65km/ 100 -> sign, I didn’t hesitate and went to continue. Somewhere in me, there was hope that I could rally. Maybe it would warm up? Maybe my twisted mangled broken feeling feet would be ok. Maybe going so slow through this section would just mean I would be able to really race the second half. 

I cried a lot at the aid station, stuffing my face with gummy candies and walking out of the aid station. I hadn’t been eating or drinking because I was too cold and knew that I couldn’t ignore this. And then I started running down a fire road and thought, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ok. I had rec’d this part of the course with Nic the previous Saturday and so I knew it was littered with runnable sections and I got myself going again. I finally started warming up a little bit and with that first bit of warmth, came the pain. My feet started to thaw and I felt the damage that all the falling between rocks has caused. They throbbed from the trauma. Every time I worked through another technical rocky patch I would slip and fall and my frustration was intense. I felt so limited. I felt like I couldn’t stop being angry and get my head back into the game. I cried my way into the next aid station at Llandundo and blubbered embarrassingly. I was told that I was only 2-5 mins behind the other women which shocked me. It was enough to get me out of the aid station again with the hope, maybe I could turn this around? Nic had given me a good preview of this section leading up to the next big climb to Suther Peak. I pushed across the beaches and sandy trails along the water, getting cold again as the previous sections warmth faded into memory. The weather was not going to relent it was clear. I reached the turn up from the beach and remember that Nic had said “1 hour” to the top of the 600 m climb. With that in mind, I just resolved to put my head down and aim to do just that. I didn’t have to think about it, I just did it. Fitness wise, every time I was actually able to run or climb hard, I felt really good. I again just had that glimmer of hope “just get past 50km” then you have a good runnable (27kms) at least in theory. I powered up to the fire road where Nic and I had turned away from the mountain in our rec run and he was standing there in the cold waiting to cheer me on. It was nice to see him and I was happy to see he had made it through his portion of the 65km relay. He’s returning from injury and had passed me on the top of Table Mountain. I was glad he was able to crush the rest of the first half and arrive freshly showered and all bundled up. It gave me a boost to see him and I continued up to the peak. It was steep, it was gnarly and it was freezing. I could feel myself getting hypothermic again and started to feel frustrated again. I cried. I yelled as I slipped and fell numerous times. And then I hit a second that required some insane and dangerous rock hopping. I scaled the walls and continued to the top. It was slow going and as cautious as I could be, I still couldn’t feel my hands or feet. At one point I hoisted myself between two large rocks and lost my grip and fell backwards into another boulder smashing my elbow hard into it. I thought I had shattered my elbow it hurt so bad. And now, I was more terrified than I had been before. I didn’t want to seriously hurt myself. If I did, I would be in serious danger as the peak was completely socked in and no rescue helicopter would be able to find its way to the top. I made it to the top, having been caught by the Brazilian and a Spanish (?) guy. They tried me to hurry up but I was terrified. I let them pass me and immediately we were faced with a 10 foot drop off a rock and I couldn’t get down on my own. Thankfully, as I cowered on the rock, crying and telling them “I can’t do it”, they said, “we are two guys, we will lower you down.” They put their hands together and gave me somewhere to put my feet down and lowered me to the dirt below. I am so grateful for them. I couldn’t have gotten off that rock on my own. I was too scared. They flew off down the trail and I slowly and cautiously made my way down to the 50km aid station at Hout Bay. My elbow hurt, my feet hurt, I was so cold. I was barely running on Jeep track downhill. I was 1000% I was going to stop. This was terrible. I was not having fun. I didn’t want to be doing this. It was all just too much. I sobbed and sobbed and resolved just to quit, too frustrated, too upset, too cold. I threw every mental and positive strategy I could at myself, but I could not draw myself out of the depths.

Finally able to run after 50km. Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media.

Finally able to run after 50km. Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media.

After what felt like forever, I made it to Hout Bay. 7+ hours had passed and wasn’t even sure if I was able to make the cut offs at this point since the race has a very stout cut off of 15 hours. Everyone was cheering and supportive at the aid station. I laughed and cried as I told them that my goal earlier had resolved to be “don’t cry in the aid stations” and how thus far I had not succeeded in doing so. The woman of the aid station told me that I was looking awesome and that I wasn’t that far behind Chantal. Maybe 10 minutes they said. The Brazilian and Spaniard were in the aid station and when I mentioned wanting to drop, the Brazilian simply said, “no, you are going with me”. I shoved french fries in my mouth and took my full water bottles from the ladies and simply started walking out of the aid station. No one humored me, no one indulged my desire to drop. I didn’t know anyone at the aid station, so no one was there to dry my tears. They had one job, keep me going and somehow they did. No convincing necessary, it just suddenly felt like the wrong choice. That glimmer of hope came back, what if this slow first half just means I can have a stellar second half. I gave myself until the next aid station just 6km away to see if I was done or if I could turn it around. I knew the section was the most runnable. I had hoped to be able to turn it on between 50-77km and so as the Brazilian and I made our way out of the Marina, we began to run. I felt like it was the first time all day that I was actually able to get into a rhythm and we ran, actually ran, our way through Hout Bay back toward Constantia. And suddenly, the fear was gone, suddenly,  the hope grew strong, my resolve strengthened. Each step, I grew stronger. I can do this, I can do this. I realized I was not tired, I was warm (enough) and I had gone so slowly in the first half that I really had the legs and fitness to start moving. I quickly dropped the Brazilian and started crushing it over the combination of roads, dirt track and jeep track. I resolved to just run as hard as I could for as long as I could. I knew 77-finish were again technical and with significant climbs, so I knew this was my only chance to open it up. And for the first time all day, I smiled. I had been brave, I had been strong and I hadn’t quit. I had made it through the hardest part, neither gracefully nor happily but for the first time all day, I didn’t want to quit. 

I ripped through the section from 50km-56km and arrived in the aid station finally able to reach my goal of not crying in an aid station. I made quick work, grabbed more gummy candies and filled my bottles. My nutrition plan had pretty much been out the window all day, I had taken maybe 800 calories in by this point and knew that I needed to focus more on nutrition so that I didn’t tank later. I continued to crush it as I made my way into the vineyards of Constantia. I had rec’d some of this section with Kim the previous Sunday, so I knew 60-77km was a bunch of running up and down muddy vineyard trails and through some parks. I had hoped it would be a good section for me to keep making up time, unfortunately as I came into Constantia Glen, I realized that it would be significantly slower as the trails were muddy and chewed to pieces. All of the 65km runners had already passed through and the other 100km runners which means the footing was terrible and I slipped and slid my way towards 64km. I was still feeling good and positive as I came into the aid station. I ate a few potatoes, drank a coke and headed out. The aid station captain gave me a hard time. He said having heard of me crying in earlier aid stations, I heard you need to toughen up. And pushed me out of the aid station. I didn’t really appreciate the sentiment. I was trying to keep the positive rolling and it just seemed so negative to me. I don’t like when people try to motivate me with negatives. It just doesn’t work. As I wrestled with what he said, I hit a low patch and started to become frustrated with the mud in the fields. And my foot started to hurt incredibly on the top, apparently from compensating for the earlier traumas. I started to worry, was I going to be forced to quit? I didn’t want to terribly injure myself. I ran when I could, slid around in the mud and tried to mentally dig myself out of the whole. I felt low. I felt the urge to quit rise up. I felt done. And in that moment, instead of leaving that door open, I just said, “Devon you will not stop. If you have to walk it in, you will. But you are not stopping. Period.”. And that was that. And from there, I pushed when I could, walked when I couldn’t, rolled the highs and lows, but pushed ever forward. The section felt incredible long and I finally arrived at 77km. Nic was there to support me and he filled my water bottle with coconut water since I hadn’t been taking electrolytes all day and was retaining water. I realized I really had to be smart and careful about my nutrition. I had planned to run using Tailwind (as they were a race sponsor) all day as my calories and hydration, but it wasn’t actually available at the aid stations until 90km. Nic told me I was still only 10 minutes back and I simply said, “I am just going to run as hard as I can. I am just getting to that finish line.” It was tremendously helpful to have him walk me out of the aid station and give me encouragement. I headed up into Newlands Forest. I knew there was about 400m of ascent and it would be technical. My legs still felt good and my foot pain was lessening now that I wasn’t simply trying to stay upright in muddy fields. I had energy, I could tell I had fitness, it was simply a matter of how well I could make it through the final 23kms on terrain that had so frustrated me earlier.


And the next 13km to the final aid station did frustrate me. But I simply kept putting one foot in front of the other. Crazy fast moving stream crossings, rock field after rock field, slippery wooden pathways and slippery downhill mud. Sigh. Fuck this shit. I thought so many times, but I kept going. I took in gels finally to make sure the last 400m climb up Devil’s Peak after 90km wasn’t a bonking slog. That section took freaking forever. I came into 90km filled my bottle with Tailwind and exited the aid station with a smile. I was going to make it. I knew that the final 10km might suck worse than the previous 13km, but with 3 more hours until the finish cut off of 15 hours, I knew I would make it. 

The final climb was straight up the side of the mountain. But I freaking rocked it. I felt strong and still energetic, I still had legs, despite the pain in my feet, could run and hike quickly. At this point, I was pretty much certain that I was going to be peeling off the entirety of the soles of my feet they had been so wet all day. I focused on my legs power and simply disregarded the pain in my feet. I decided the pain didn’t matter. As I topped out of the climb, my heart sang, I was so proud of myself. I was on the top of the mountain and I was going to finish this thing. I started running hard across the contour path despite it being rocky, I pushed and pushed around the mountain.

My Oiselle #flystyle is on point even if I am soaked to the bone. Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media.

My Oiselle #flystyle is on point even if I am soaked to the bone. Photo by Jeff Ayliffe Media.

I made it over the last little uphill and for the first time all day, the clouds broke and far, far below, I caught sight of the finish line. I pushed. I passed numerous 65km runners and several 100km runners as well. Feeling stronger with every step. I danced down the big stone stairway down to the road and made the turn past dead man’s tree onto the fireroad. I smiled and high fived the race marshall. I turned the corner and got chocked up. For the first time all day, I cried tears of joy. I was going to finish. I ran hard down the fire trail. I knew that I had not been able to compete the way I wanted, I knew I had not been able to truly show my capabilities on that course, I knew I had the fitness and skill to have run faster, but I also knew it didn’t matter. The day didn’t deal me cards that made that possible. Instead, I had a day where I dug deeper than I ever have before. 

I made the final turn back into the streets of Cape Town and up into the rugby field. The finish line was a beautiful sight. Never before has a finish line felt so deeply well earned. I ran hard to the line and was welcomed back home by an amazing community that embraced me like their own. I was simply so happy to be there. So many hugs, high fives and a warm blanket later, I was sitting amongst friends sharing war stories of the day. I had done it. I was there triumphant. 3rd women, 11th overall in a time of 13:13. Despite having such a hard day, I still ran the time I thought possible for myself before I started. And I know I could have run faster (we all could have and had quite a battle) if the conditions were so terrible. But that was the day and I have zero regrets. 

Done and dusted. Photo from UTCT.

Done and dusted. Photo from UTCT.

I didn’t want that moment to end. That moment on the finish line. That deep intense sense of satisfaction for completing one hell of a tough 100km. That joy of being surrounded by so many great new friends, celebrating our day of battling the mountain. I cannot say enough good things about this race. You must experience it. They pulled off a spectacular race and really got it right. In just its second year, this race has really really got it on point and I see it becoming an international destination race for elites and gluttons for punishment alike. Do it. Trust me.

That moment, I want to hold it. I want to savor it. I don’t want it to slip through my fingers. I am so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it.

Story telling at the finish line. Photo by UTCT.

Story telling at the finish line. Photo by UTCT.

I am heading home now, 24 hours into a 30+ hour journey. I am missing my new friends. I am missing the community that brought me in and made me its own. I am missing the mountain and the trails that chewed me up, spit me out and have me begging for more. Cape Town is a special place. And this race is truly special. How lucky I have been to experience this!

I want to say a particular thank you to Kim Stephens, Nic De Beer and Christo Selman. You guys are truly special to me and have a friend for life. I am so grateful for everything. Special thanks to Oiselle and Hoka for making this day and trip possible. And not to be left out, a very special thank you to my husband Nathan who stayed behind at home and worked his ass off double time at the bakery to allow me this opportunity. You are the best.


Journey to Cape Town

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.&nbsp;

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.

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.

IMG_0003.jpg

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.

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!

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.

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. 

Birds of a feather, fly together.

I have had nightmares (some real, some imagined) my whole life about spending extending amounts of time with large groups of women. It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I set out for Oiselle's annual bird camp this past Friday-Tuesday to be held in Leavenworth, WA. I was excited to meet and spend time with many of the Nest, Haute Volee and Volee, the majority of whom I have either never met or have only known through social media. But let's be real, I was nervous. Would they like me? Would they accept me? Will I fit in?

Colchuck Lake. Photo credit Oiselle!.

Colchuck Lake. Photo credit Oiselle!.

I kind of chuckle to myself now that I was even nervous because I wouldn't be on this team or a part of this "run family", as Sally calls it, if it wasn't made up of accepting, sweet, strong, beautiful, interesting, badass women who many of the same fundamental principals (all beautifully summed up in the Oiselle Team Manifesto). In fact, the experience didn't just exceed my expectations, it was problem the most satisfying four days in a row I've spent doing anything for a long time. 

It's all fun and trail games until you bust a hole in the side wall of your tire. Lauren Fleshman is one tough chick!

It's all fun and trail games until you bust a hole in the side wall of your tire. Lauren Fleshman is one tough chick!

And these days were not magical because of some over the top production or bought experience. It was the people, the experiences we shared together and the community we got to build and deepen. We got to run with different ladies from all over in extraordinarily beautiful setting, we ate amazing food at our retreat location Sleeping Lady, we enjoyed smart, funny and insightful talks, we got to sit down together as a Haute Volee TEAM and discuss how we continue to grow and support each other across disciplines. I loved being able to spend time with women who inspire me deeply and are my "sister-heros" and connect with women of all abilities, backgrounds and experience. 

Colchuck Lake.

Colchuck Lake.

I walked away from these few days absolutely inspired and happy, having learned a great deal from each and every person I had the pleasure of spending time with. 

This is what I believe. Oiselle makes the most amazing clothing for female runners. Watching nearly 100 women walking around in every stitch the brand makes all weekend really brought this home. We looked fierce, all of us different shapes and sizes, and put together and ready to run, hike, bike, chill or take on the world. We witnessed some design ideas that were so excited I think our minds were all blown. Oiselle's product game is on point. But as a brand, they are much much much more than that. They are trailblazing towards a new paradigm in women's running. They are changemakers, who want to see the sport evolve, grown, deepen and include. They want to build a community that accepts us all, from short to tall, from 100m to 100 miles (or less or more!) to throwing heavy objects or jumping over things, that supports us, that drives this sport in the right direction with passion and love. 

My twin from another mother and soul sister, Dr Dre. Photo Andrea Duke.

My twin from another mother and soul sister, Dr Dre. Photo Andrea Duke.

I don't just believe this, I witnessed this in action this weekend. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of #birdcamp15 and to be a part of the Oiselle run family. I cannot wait to see the heights to which we can soar together.

Mind over muscle

And when you are lost, it is ok to wander. A great&nbsp;wendy macnaughton piece on the walls of basecamp hotel, Tahoe.

And when you are lost, it is ok to wander. A great wendy macnaughton piece on the walls of basecamp hotel, Tahoe.

I wrote this awesome blog about working on the mental side of my running, digging deep into my running philosophy and finding the peace I need to start running my best. And then the internet ate it. Squarespace scratched their heads, threw their hands up and said, "we can't figure out why numerous "saves" didn't do even one". I wanted to be pissed, I wanted to be frustrated, but instead, I put into practice all the things I've been trying to work on and deliberately, mindfully, let it go. Yeah, it was an awesome post, but just because it was gone didn't mean that what I wanted to say was. I have still come to the same conclusions, I have still rediscovered my own power, I have still realized what is important to me and how I want to get there.

I wrestled by the sea   A loneliness in me   I asked myself for peace   And found it at my feet   Staring at the sea...    Future Islands

I wrestled by the sea
A loneliness in me
I asked myself for peace
And found it at my feet
Staring at the sea...

Future Islands

Over the past two years, my ability to races has been restricted, as I have said over and over again. I had found a quasi-balance between bakery life and running. I still got to race marathons but that was in part because I was able to maintain a relatively high level of fitness, so focusing on the Olympic Trials qualifier seemed like a good goal to chip away at. Unfortunately, that goal stopped being about the process to get there at some point and started becoming the destination. And yet, I couldn't stop heaving my body towards it, even if my mind was not in the right place. I have tried over and over again to figure out how to fit my mind into the parameters of the goal and be motivated, be present, be less stressed but time and time again, I have failed to do so. And therefore, I have failed to achieve that goal, burned out on that goal. Over the last few months, as I have been able to train more, have other big goals and spend more time on running, my mind has faltered. I have lost confidence, lost drive, lost the love. And that is not ok with me, that is not why I run, not why I race, not what motivates me.

Serenity is climbing the mountain and turning around.

Serenity is climbing the mountain and turning around.

When I played basketball, I was focused on one goal: to get a basketball scholarship. I worked so hard, I sacrificed so much, I drove myself intensely towards that goal and I achieved it. But then something happened I didn't anticipate, I was done. I hated basketball, I didn't want to do it anymore, I was exhausted and walked away from the game. I had used all of my energy and will and everything I was to get that goal and there was nothing left on the other side. That is not what I want for my running, it is not who I am as a runner. When I started to really examine my own unhappiness, I realized it was because I was focusing my efforts on achieving my goals instead of process of achieving my goals. There is a very very big difference. I am a process person. I like picking big huge goals not because I am a competitive Type A person (I am not), but because I like having a challenge that I can work towards. I love developing the skill necessary to rise to the challenge a race presents. Yes, I am hugely self motivated, driven and hardworking but for the sake of the process itself, not the end result. When that happens, races come together and I celebrate the work I've done. I am motivated differently than the majority of elite athletes and so I need to embrace my own motivators. I am a wild horse amongst the thoroughbreds.

Photo by Alison Naney

Photo by Alison Naney

I got away from my guiding principles for running and I lost myself. It has been a hard few months trying to figure out the way forward. One of the things that has been important in figuring it out has been to really define and own what my guiding principles are for running. My guiding principles are 1) Love running 2) Run for my whole life 3) Stay connected to the process. Using these as my way points, I am now better able to develop my goals, pick races, be motivated and by far the most important: enjoy running again. I've started to get more excited about training, racing and the possibilities. I feel free again.

The mountains are calling.

The mountains are calling.

As I begin to get my head on straight, reprioritize goals or put goals aside for a time, I am absolutely filled with excitement and enthusiasm as I start planning my next year of running and adventures. I have followed my heart and enlisted the mantra "be who you want to be" in picking races. Instead of worrying about what (I perceive) others want me to do or others think I am good at (please stop telling me "this isn't your kind of race"- I love it ALL, even the races that requires facing my weaknesses which is actually even more fun!! Why would I just want to run races I am already skilled at??) or what I think I should do, I am just doing what I want to. Ultimately, it only matters to me! The biggest thing I have realized/remembered over the past few weeks is that my running is MINE, no one else's. And if I am not true to myself, I do not run or race well. Thus, as I picked my fall schedule, I was guided by things that got my heart pumping and got me excited with challenges!

Here are my upcoming races:

  1. July 26th- San Francisco Marathon
  2. August 8th- Angel's Staircase 60km
  3. August 23rd- Santa Rosa Marathon
  4. September 20th- Cape Town Marathon
  5. October 3rd- Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km (woot! soooooo excited for this challenge!)
  6. October 24th- Fall 50- USATF 50 mile road championship
  7. November 21- JFK 50 mile
  8. Ongoing fall: PAUSATF XC!

When it comes right down to it, I am an emotional, introspective runner, just like I am an emotional, introspective person. There is nothing wrong with that. I am coming to embrace it and embrace that my journey is much more of a samurai's journey than an army ranger. I am trying to walk a certain spiritual path with my running, not just reach a desired outcome. I will win, I will lose, I will struggle, I will succeed and it will be all part of my journey, but now I see that as long as I embrace it all, I will love the run and mindfully be happy.

All smiles. In life and running.

All smiles. In life and running.

Best laid plans

Killer workouts make me happy!

Killer workouts make me happy!

I have been dreaming about Comrades for a year. It has been a big goal of mine to return and strive to better my race from 2012. This past year has had its share of continued ups and downs, false starts and disappointments. I have made many plans and been humbled deeply when I have been forced to change them. When I began this year, I was fun of hope, optimism and an incredibly insane bucket list schedule of goals including qualifying for the Olympic Trials, Comrades and Leadville. And now, as the summer begins, I am having to re-evaluate the way forward.

The disappointing reality is that I haven't qualified for the Trials yet and I didn't even make it to the start line at Comrades. Not making it to Comrades broke my heart, but despite having great fitness and training leading up to the race, I couldn't get on the plane when the days leading up to my flight saw me unable to even put my heel on the ground without extraordinary pain. Unfortunately what had been a manageable niggle, blew up just at the wrong time. And with it, blew up a lot my plans. Suddenly, I was not only forced to deal with the disappointment of missing Comrades, but also with figuring out the way forward with my racing. 

The mountains provide a great deal of perspective and peace. View from Snow Valley Peak over Marlette Lake and Tahoe beyond.

The mountains provide a great deal of perspective and peace. View from Snow Valley Peak over Marlette Lake and Tahoe beyond.

The first step in moving forward was getting my injury under control. I have been working hard at this and know that not going to Comrades prevented a much more serious and long term injury. I have been diligently trying to get healed. I also took so time away, went away to the mountains, to think, reflect, be sad about the way things have gone this year. I had to allow myself to feel disappointed and try and let go of the fact that this year hasn't shaped up the way I want it to. 

But that is also life. We make plans, we do our best to ensure they happen and sometimes despite our best efforts we fall short of our goals. One thing I have realized over the past week is that my goals are not gone, I have not failed, they have just been deferred for a time. I know I will do everything in my power to be on that Comrades start line next year. Just as I know now that I will do everything I can to be on the startline of the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon. That is my goal now and I will put everything in to it. Does it change other plans, sure! Does it mean sacrificing other things I want, of course! But I have realized that when it comes to having great big dreams, sometimes the biggest test in reaching them is patience.

I look forward to the next year and the continued pursuit of all of my dreams.

Learning to Race again: Tale of Two Oceans 56km

I never really thought it was possible to forget how to race. Once I started ultrarunning in 2006, I raced so frequently that it was a skill sharpened and refined often. Between 2011 and 2012, I frequently nailed A, B, and C races. It felt good to know how to push, how to plan a good race for myself and how to get the most of out my body on race day.

My last big A race I completed was Comrades Marathon in 2012. That is nearly 3 years ago and it didn't go as well as I would have liked but it was an amazing experience. Since then, I have completed a lot of marathons. Some even could be considered "C" races, like Napa Marathon last month which felt perfectly executed. I thought after that race that I still knew how to "race", but really, as I learned over the weekend, it is a skill and sometimes being out of practice in its subtleties will stop you in your tracks from having the race your fitness might warrant.

Doing airport laps in Heathrow on my 5 hour layover. 1.5 hours walked in my fresh Oiselle styles and HOKA Cliftons!

Doing airport laps in Heathrow on my 5 hour layover. 1.5 hours walked in my fresh Oiselle styles and HOKA Cliftons!

Last week, I flew half way around the world to take on my first ultra for the first time in two years. I was excited to return to Cape Town, South Africa for my second attempt at the Two Oceans Marathon 56km event. It is the second largest ultra in the world with 11,000 entries in the 56km distance. That is insane compared to any US ultra. I love the event, the energy and the insane competition. I had goals for the race which thankfully didn't need modification when the course was rerouted due to wildfires in the cape. The reroute meant doubling the size of the first climb and the outlook for weather was extremely windy. I wanted to "race" this but didn't feel any pressure internally or externally to perform. I've fallen off most people's maps in the last two years and it puts me in a nice comfortable dark horse position. My racing this year has all been training so the efforts don't really reflect the kind of shape I am in. Going in to Two Oceans, I felt fit enough to win if I ran a good race. I feel strong and good on the hills. My goal however was to be smart and use this race to prepare for my big goals at Comrades. Comrades is THE race I am focusing on and I would give up everything else for that goal. I wanted to use Two Oceans as a solid lead up for Comrades, remember how to get my legs under me while traveling so far and make sure I still know how to race.

Live streaming of the televised coverage of the race

Live streaming of the televised coverage of the race

I flew to Cape Town on Tuesday, arriving on Thursday morning after 30+ hours of travel. My body was ok, I had slept enough (more than I usually do, ha!) on the plane, I was tight but thought I would be fine. Thursday turned out to be quite hectic and I was unable to get anything to eat until almost 2pm after eating nothing since the evening before. It was a product of being in a group of people and having to go with the group (picking up everyone, picking up the van at the airport, going to the expo) I believe this underfueling was the root cause of some of my energy issues on Saturday. Thursday to me is the most crucial day of fueling for a Saturday race and I barely ate that day, let alone ate enough carbs. This will be one of the main things I focus on for Comrades.

Ultimately, a few things leading up to the race including tightness and bad fueling lead me to not have the race that I wanted. A few mistakes on race day further held me back. I don't think that my fitness was accessed at all due to these mistakes. I could be disappointed about it, but I am not, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn them now so that I can better prepare for them next time.

Photo by  4OMTOM .  &nbsp;Used with Permission.&nbsp; Finishing kick. I came from very behind this lady to beat her by 1 second at the line.

Photo by 4OMTOM.  Used with Permission. Finishing kick. I came from very behind this lady to beat her by 1 second at the line.

I flew halfway around the world and lined up with some incredible talent. The gun went off and I had the day that I did. I fought the 30 mph headwinds, the hills and myself. I battled to the finish line and was incredibly proud to finish strong passing two women in the last 1000 meters, including one woman at the line. I finished 7th place in a stacked field on a really off day. I am pleased with my progression even if at times it seems to be incredibly slow. 

Photo&nbsp;by&nbsp;  4OMTOM  . Used with Permission. Happy to be done; with Nedbank Team Manager Nick Bester

Photo by 4OMTOM. Used with Permission. Happy to be done; with Nedbank Team Manager Nick Bester

I am working on coming back. I am working on regaining and surpassing my former fitness and taking on big goals. That is not easy, it is not glamorous and it doesn't always go to plan. If the journey were easy, it wouldn't be as worth it to undertake. I absolutely love Two Oceans Marathon and I will go back again, and as often as I can. I really appreciate being a part of the Nedbank Green Dream team. I am so happy I had the opportunity to put myself out there on this big stage and begin to learn to race again. It makes me even more excited and dedicated to what is to come.

 

The comeback kid

Akron Marathon. September 2014

Akron Marathon. September 2014

It's been almost exactly 2 years since I really raced. This time two years ago I was getting back into phenomenal shape after a brief injury at the end of an amazing 2012. I raced a competitive field of ladies at Chuckanut 50k coming in 2nd, then followed it up a week later with a CR & victory at the Oakland Marathon. I was excited and inspired to see what I could do as a racer. 2012 had given me a glimpse of my potential, but I feel like I had not had enough time yet to truly reach my potential. And then the bakery happened a lot sooner and in a lot grander scale than we had imagined. I knew that my racing would be sacrificed and that I was willing to do what it took to get the bakery rolling. And I haven't raced since. 

You might say, but wait, you ran 9 marathons since then! And yes, I have started 9 marathons in that time but I haven't raced them. I have run them most with just general fitness (I can run a 2:48 like a boss!) or the ones I was in slightly better shape for have had complications due to work stress or health issues. I couldn't really do consistent work over the past two years. Workouts after a 10 hour shift on your feet in the heat of the day are not quality. Stress, anxiety and lack of sleep further deteriorate any chance at quality. For the remainder of the 2013 year after Oakland, I was relatively satisfied just running. I actually signed up for races just to get the weekends off! 

But as 2014 rolled in and the ultra that is opening a "big" small business such as ours revealed itself, my discontent grew. I was not ready to give up my goals. I was not ready to let go of the potential I have. I made a few attempts in 2014 to get things rolling, but the business was not ready. I knew I would not be able to race well until I could get my own schedule under control. Through many frustrations and growing pains, I realized with great clarity that I wanted more than anything to see what my potential as a runner could be. I couldn't let it go. And so, I bided my time, went underground in to my cave and began to plot my re-emergence.

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

I began to plot, I began to plan. I began to be able to do the work and workouts that would be required to gain back all the edge I had lost. I knew I needed to be all in. I had to commit. I couldn't do this half way. I had been trying to do that for 2 years and it just doesn't work. I had to put it all on the line. And so, with the support of Nathan, I went all in. I started signing up for races, committing to big hairy scary audacious goals and putting the pieces in play to make this year an amazing comeback for me. I took a really non-restful, back breaking quasi-retirement from racing and now I am on the hunt.

The first two things I did to begin to work towards my goal was signing with Oiselle and starting to work with Coach Jason Koop and CTS. Being a sponsored athlete is a commitment which I take very seriously. I want to be someone for my sponsors and for my coach. Oiselle has been amazingly supportive and made my have a sense of fashion at the same time. Working with Koop for the past 6 weeks has been an incredible endeavor. I have given myself over to the process and enjoyed simply doing the intense work. I don't think I have ever done this kind of work before. I never had the accountability. Now, I am focused, informed and ready to do the work as Coach intends me to do. I am sure Nathan is tired of me chirping "Koop said... Koop thinks...." but the reality is I have a coach now, not just a plan and someone to walk me through every step of the process.

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Now, I wake up on Monday mornings tired from an amazing weekend of hard work and buzzing with excitement for my big races to come. I am hungry for the work and the challenges. It is invigorating to be beginning this process and slowly emerging from my cave after months of toiling in the dark (literally and figuratively as I have been working 7 days a week on the night baking shift for 5 months which will so end). I am excited.

At the beginning of February, after a great month of training in January including some killer workouts while on our "annual days off" from the bakery, I raced Surf City Marathon. I had a rough day due to an over adjustment of my thyroid meds which left me supremely dizzy and lightheaded, but I was stoked to win the race, soloing the whole thing in 2:48. It was not an A race, so I was happy to jump right back in to training and start my coaching by Koop. After a few weeks with Koop, I was slated for another race, this time the Napa Valley Marathon. My big goal races for the year are Comrades and Leadville, my secondardy races are Two Oceans and Pittsburgh Marathon (at least until September after Leadville I am undecided), so anything else is in support of those goals. Napa, as it has traditionally been for me, is a fantastic training race. Beautiful weather, great course, lovely people, I was very excited to get back out there feeling fit. Last year was probably the most suffering I've done in a race in a long time as I was severely anemic and barely could walk it in at the end. I was determined to execute a controlled, even effort. Koop told me that he wanted me to run 6:20s and not let the race atmosphere push me into going faster. The point was to be able to jump back into workouts pretty quickly. I needed to stay smooth, comfortable and reined in. And I did just that.

Rolling with my homies.

Rolling with my homies.

When I woke up race morning, I felt great. I felt no nerves. I just felt bad-ass. I text Nathan "I am going to win. I hope you like wine" (since the prize is 5 cases of wine). From the gun, I took control of the race. I felt in control of myself and it just felt easy. I stayed in easy gear, tucked in with a few guys and just started rolling. I was right around 6:15-6:20 pace and felt like I was jogging. I considered for a moment whether I should push for the 2:43 and OTQ, but decided to trust the plan, execute the plan that Koop and I had decided on. I never looked back. The whole race I felt invigorated. This is me, this is what I want, this is how I want to feel, was all I could think. I smiled and smiled and smiled as the miles rolled easily. Around mile 20, I decided to pick it up a notch and dropped the guys who had given me great company for so many miles. Pick it up a notch at that point of Napa means, run harder with diminishing returns since there is always a headwind, but I did increase my effort. For my final 1/2 mile, I decided to put a little zing in and dropped down to 5:40/mile pace. I broke the tape in a winning time of 2:45:48- perfectly executed on plan for my third Napa victory.

Total elation

Total elation

Two marathon victories in two months? Things are trending well. I bounced back off Napa really well and we are back to work towards Two Oceans on April 4th. Yes, winning is nice, but the reality is, I feel like I am getting back to me. Devon the runner is coming back. That is so intensely important to me whether or not I ever win another race. I just want to feel like I am exploring the limits of what I can do. I can't wait to see how things continue to unfold.

A very special thank you to all of my sponsors especially Oiselle, Julbo and CTS! Thank you for believing in me!