racing

Cultivating Badassery

Mile 25.8- Head up, Wings out. Photo by Andrea Duke

Mile 25.8- Head up, Wings out. Photo by Andrea Duke

Badassery: 1. (noun) the practice of knowing one’s own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one’s own accomplishments and gifts and celebrating one’s own accomplishments and gifts; 2. (noun) the practice of living life with swagger : SWAGGER (noun or verb) a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up “like this” and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.
— Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

On the way to Houston, I started listening to Shonda Rhimes' book "Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person" which is narrated by the author herself. Listening to Shonda's journey in rumbling and rising strong was incredibly inspiring and confirming. I would have yelled "YES!" outloud numerous times if not for the embarrassment and confusion that might have caused in a crowded airplane or airport. Her work was yet another in a long line of books that have been helping my clarify, hone and amplify my vision of what I want to accomplish this year and who I am working to become. When the above quote wafted up through my headphones, it was a stop the presses moment. I listened to it over and over and over again. "Yes" I thought, "Yes to this. This is it". I immediately hit pause and pulled out my journal to revisit my 2016 goals. In big bold letters I wrote at the top of the entry "Cultivate Badassery". Those words captured everything I had been trying to describe below them. Those words are my fight song.

But the words also mean more to me than just that. "Cultivating Badassery" is also about the challenges I pursue, the way I face adversity, how I rumble with my feelings, how I rise strong. It is about pushing myself to my limits and putting myself out there. It celebrating where I am as well as putting energy and movement into where I want to be.

On Sunday, I ran the Houston marathon and didn’t run the time I set as my goal, but I was smiling until the end. I went in to run the Olympic Trials standard of 2:45, even though I had already decided not to run the Trials and instead focus on trying to qualify for Western States 100 at Sean O'Brien 100km on February 6th. I had let go of the Olympic Trials as an "A" goal when I decided to run Javelina 100mile. I knew that running 100 miles was incongruous to running a fast marathon, but I am also cheeky and decided to make a try for it 10 weeks post-100 mile anyways, 10 weeks that included 3 weeks of major sickness and the holidays which are the most incredibly hard time of the year at the bakery. But I lined up anyways, open heart, open mind. Curious to see where I am right now as I kick off the year. 

Smiling, waving and a Michael Jordan tongue wag for happiness. Rolling with the 2:45 pace group. Photo by Andrea Duke.

Smiling, waving and a Michael Jordan tongue wag for happiness. Rolling with the 2:45 pace group. Photo by Andrea Duke.

I made it 20 miles on pace, then my hamstrings decided to stop working. I cannot really be suprised by this as there is no opportunity to run on that amount of flat in the Bay Area. I wouldn't expect myself to be able to run up and down big hills in a race if I didn't train on them, so I can't expect my body to sustain a repetitive use of a single muscle group either!  But I was happy. Just to absorb the day, be there. I saw where I was and instead of beating myself up for what I wasn’t, I celebrated what I was. In progress, imperfect. A little bit extra, a little bit not enough but always actually just right for now. It is liberating to say “today was just my day to be on the road, the journey”. There is no defeat, no failure- just information, just lessons. How fascinating to live a life through the lens of curiosity instead of grasping to outcomes! Letting the experience roll over me like waves and through my fingers like water. I lifted my face to the sun even as my body failed me and smiled. The sun, the wind, the capability of a body. That moment. Not a victory, not perfect but wholly enough. Filled with badassery. I chose my framing of an imperfect experience, I chose happiness- that is badassery.

Don't get me wrong I fought like hell to run faster, to hold pace. I said YES, MORE, GO when my legs resisted. I fought and fought, until I knew it was not my mind’s willingness, just my body’s lack of adaptation to flat. I accepted it. I embraced my experience and smiled on. I passed many women in those last 6 miles and as I did, I noticed the looks on their faces- sad, disappointed, angry. I encouraged them, invited them to run with me. Seeing their faces, their pain and disappointed just confirmed to me that on this day, I would choose joy. I've been in their shoes, I struggled with my running for 2.5 years while getting the bakery going, never satisfied with where I was, always wanting to be somewhere else. It is a terrible way to live and this year, I chose acceptance. Of myself, of where I am.

Smile! Photo by Jorge Maravilla

Smile! Photo by Jorge Maravilla

Accepting where I am doesn’t mean I am not excited to continue to move towards where I want to be. Better, fitter, faster, wholehearted, contented, full. But I can relish the steps I take in life and realize that I didn’t need to get somewhere to be myself. Feeling like a badass doesn’t mean I am perfected, it means I can lean into my flaws and say, yep, I have wrinkles and that’s ok. It means saying, I don’t know where to start or where to go. And that’s ok. It’s enough to be ok. OK is still whole, not broken, not incomplete.

A work in progress that is showing amazing potential. Lament not what is left to do, improve, become, embrace, face or walk, it is all steps on the journey. And the journey is imperfect and that is enough. We are enough, we are badasses just as we are, wherever we are in our own journey. 

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.

Mind over muscle

And when you are lost, it is ok to wander. A great 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.