Wednesday, May 29, 2013

10 Commandments of Sincerely Unapologetic Runners

I've had enough of the wimpy-poo trail etiquette rules.  So, yeah I have my own religion of running.  Here are the 10 Commandments of Sincerely Unapologetic Runners:

1. WEAR YOUR DIRT & SWEAT WITH PRIDE.  So your legs and trail shoes are covered in mud from that 12 miler you just did?  That's no reason not to pick up your Nutella and tortillas at the co-op on the way home.  You were having so much fun running on the ridge you realize you only have 20 minutes until your hot date?  No worries, a  few wipies and a quick change of clothes and you're ready.  Heck, if s/he doesn't like your trail style it's better to know sooner than later!
The ideal date
2. SNOT IS NORMAL. Just tell me when it's dried on my nose and we're all good. Capiche?  It's that simple. Snot happens. Friends tell friends.

3. IF I'M HOBBLING BE SURE TO CONGRATULATE ME.  Of course I'm okay!  I just ran 100 fricking miles. Penguin walk is done with pride.  Not to worry, I'll loosen up after 10 minutes.  Or a couple of days...

4. BEER IS A POST RACE DRINK. Forget the Gatorade. Forget the water. Okay, water is good too. Take it from Karl Meltzer. He has thirty five 100 mile wins to his legendary name and what's his crosstraining tip? Beer. Bottoms up folks!
the Speedgoat knows the benefits of beer
5. THOU SHALT HIGH-FIVE: That's right, forget that nod thingy you always do. Raise a hand to your fellow runners! Take it from James Varner, race director at Rainshadow Running:
Orcas Island 50k, race director James Varner
 6. RUN SHIRTLESS WITH PRIDE: I don't care if you're 400 pounds.  If taking off your shirt makes you feel more free then by all means shed that layer!  If it offends someone that's their problemo.  Enjoy the freedom of running!

7. THOU SHALL LINE UP IN ORDER OF SPEED. As a race director it sort of ticks me off when someone time after time lines up in the front of the pack just to be in the race photo. You know who you are.  Do you really want to be passed by 300 runners?  Ladies, if you are fast, get up in the front, don't be shy!

8. RUN FOR PLEASURE: If you don't like running, pick another sport.  Life is too short to spend it doing stuff you don't enjoy. I hear far too often of people running because they feel they have to.  There are many sports to choose from. Explore.

9. THERE IS NO PERFECT ANYTHING: What's the best trail shoe? The best pack? The best gel? The best electrolyte? Training plan?  Forget perfect, and explore what is best for you personally.  For shoes, visit your locally run shoe store and try on lots of different shoes.

10. MUSCLES ARE SEXY: Ladies stop being afraid of your muscles. They are hot.  Runner muscles are attractive on men and women.  Embrace your strength! 
Emelie Forsberg, need I say more?!
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Why Pain is Good

Why do we suffer through ultra marathons? Crewing for the Pigtails Challenge 200mi/150mi/100mi and watching the runners come through the checkpoint time and time again, hobbling, walking, and for the most part looking pretty beaten up (this was later into the race for many of the runners) I thought, Why are they putting themselves through this pain?  This doesn't look healthy.  Admittedly, this was an odd thought to come to me being that I put myself through these kinds of challenges and love them the best. I not only love the adventures that are long enough to expose your body, mind, and spirit to that raw edge where everything is intense, I crave them.  I need them.  I have finished 100 milers hobbling and miserable only to finish blind to my suffering and body injury.

A real smile at my finish at TRT100
While running HURT 100 this year, I sprained my ankle at mile 3.  Yet I was able to finish the race.  I am not against DNFing. I think a good DNF makes you a real ultra runner. It means you took chances.  It means that you were smart enough to admit that it wasn't your day.  It means you had a big dream, but knew when to listen to your body.  That is a hard call to make. At HURT, I wasn't willing to call it a day at mile 3.

To understand this, you must understand that I'd traveled a long way, both physically and mentally to run this race. I trained through the fall and winter.  I arrived almost 2 weeks early in Hawaii to train in the humidity and heat.  Through the support of many people and sponsors, I was in Hawaii to run and be competitive in this race. I could not fathom the idea of a DNF so early.  I hadn't even begun to suffer the pain of a 100 miler.

Back to mile 3.  The sprain was bad enough that after writhing around on the ground in pain, I propped myself up on a rocky outcropping, trying to figure out how I'd get 3 more miles to the aid station.   My ankle began to swell instantly.  Five minutes on the side of the trail and the eventual winner passed me, asking if I was okay.  A few minutes later I decided to try to put weight on my foot. I needed to know if I could walk. As I hobbled down the trail, I slowly realized I could jog on it.

After 15 minutes, I was running again.  The ankle ligaments were so stretched out that my ankle turned 3 more times so severely I was again left sobbing on the ground, grasping my ankle, to the horror of onlookers. Are you okay? a hiker asked, panicked.  I couldn't answer.  Instead, I rolled around trying to get control of the pain. Fumbling in my waist pack I found ibuprofen. I popped one and staggered up, moaning something like, I'm okay, in a big hurry to the horrified onlookers.  I can only imagine what a hideous sight of masochism I appeared to be to the onlookers.  By mile 40 it was tape the ankle or DNF. Lucky for me, taping the ankle stabilized it enough to let me finish in 3rd place.
My ankle after the HURT 100
Another time I raced through so much pain that it took me more than 24 hours post event to realize I had injured my ankle.  Everything hurt so much that it took more than a day to realize my ankle was swollen and barely useable.  This masochism, this borderline crazy behavior, is all over the ultra running world.  Runners are told that they must be able to run through the pain.  That pain is no excuse for slowing down.  When you understand the subtle difference between injury and pain, you realize that some pain can be run "through" without major consequences. Knowing the difference between normal ultra running pain and injury pain is more intuitive than anything.  I have played that line many a times, and only a few times made the mistake of thinking the pain was normal, when it was an injury.

Trying to get control of the pain at R2R.  Blisters, dehydration, and more.
Running the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier last fall was both the most terrifying and incredible experience of my life. When I finished, I felt as though I had survived in a very real way.  I had deeply felt that I was teetering on a cliff edge. From the cliff I saw the indescribable beauty of the view and the very real danger that misstepping entailed.  This experience was intensely meaningful to me because it mirrored my life, a true struggle that I was having outside of running. It was like a dream you have that is so clearly metaphorical. If I could survive this solo, unsupported run complete with mountain lions, bears, and unthinkably long miles I could survive my personal journey.  After making it through the night and the mountain lions, the sunrise hit Mount Rainier and I crumbled to the ground, devastated by the number of miles I still had left to the eery, alien calls of elk.  The view of Mount Rainier that morning was at once the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen and the lowest low I'd felt, and I sobbed with the immense journey I still had to compete (only 20 miles, but I was exhausted mentally and physically).
This was the view I saw that morning on the Wonderland, taken with my camera.
Why do we chose to do events and adventures that result in this suffering? Adventures that often are suffering. To answer, I will tell you what I feel when I am running a 100 miler or a unsupported route.  In the beginning, there is endless possibility. As the adventure proceeds and my body begins to respond to the environment and the immense strains put on it by the heat, cold, exertion, lack of food and water combined with the mental stress of competing, a magical thing begins to happen. It's a shift.  These physical experiences and stresses begin to wear away a layer, then another layer.  I become raw in emotion and experience.  The world looks new and even the little things are experienced as great joys or devastating lows.  Life is simple and the goal is survival.  Your legs begin to grow out of the trail, your arms swinging in the clouds. Taking in food makes you stronger. You can feel the food fueling your body. The surge of energy.  The taste of water to a thirsty body is joyous.

That's the look of real joy.
Having such normal experiences transform into intense ups and downs is, well, incredible. It makes me feel alive in a deep way.  In a way that day to day life lacks. I feel extreme gratitude for the people in my life. I feel thankful to my body for allowing me to travel such long distances and experience so much.  I can appreciate how food and water truly fuel our bodies and how running in nature feeds my soul. On a more spiritual level, I learn of my own strength through testing my boundaries. I can best describe the experience of ultra running from my blog post about circumnavigating Mt Hood:

I experience in the external world my internal environment.  Fears turn into mountain lions, bears and nightfall.  And yet...Joy is the mountain with a sunset like a blush making my cheeks pink.  Peace is the first glimpse of Mt. Hood above an alpine meadow with glaciers carving its side.  I feel as though I am those mountains I am circumnavigating, covered in glaciers, cutting into my flesh.  But the glaciers turn into streams and feed the alpine meadows.  The meadows grow and feed the animals and insects.  The streams hydrate us as the glaciers slowly melt.   

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Style of The Elite Ultra Runner Girl

After a rather brief encounter with fame because of this and this, I realized I needed to do something to boost my visibility.  I was called an elite runner a number of times at the end of last year and into 2013, but honestly it feels like there's been a lull. After reading this inspiring blog post I realized all I needed to do was to adopt my own elite ultra style. The guys are all doing it... I'm sure we women can do it to!

I thought a bit and decided that I would go with what I already have: a short, sporty hairstyle and some sporty running clothes, taking on the sporty gal look.  Then I realized that my look was already taken!  Ellie Greenwood was copying ME!  Nothing I could do but come up with a new idea.
Ellie Greenwood, Gallo Images
Me, currently...
What I really need to get people talking is a new look, maybe something even sportier and more colorful. I'll grow out my hair and go blonde... blondes have more fun right?!  Before I could even act on my new, bright idea, I realized it was taken. This gal not only had that colorful, sporty look with fun blonde hair, she had a sweet accent. Damn. On to the next one...
Anna Frost, Droz Photo
If I couldn't have the blonde, colorful clothing look, maybe I could have the brunette, bright and bold colors look!  After a little research I realized a youthful Swede had already stolen my idea. And she had a cool accent too! And flowers in her hair all the while.  Double damn!
Emelie Forsberg, Droz Photo
If the colorful looks were already taken by some accent wielding chicks, then I'd better get a new idea.  Maybe clothing isn't the right answer. What I really need is less clothing!  Sports bra and shorts.  Maybe bikini and shorts.  Now that would be memorable. I tried this look out and was having fun with it...
me, in Hawaii
 Until I realized that Jenn Shelton had been sporting the bikini style for quite a while!

In fact, she had outdone me, see:
It was clear that there would be no beating this bikini wielding elite ultra girl.  Instead, I'd have to come up with an even better idea. Maybe instead of taking off clothes, I need to add them on. I mean, it's not a trail race without a puffy jacket, right?!  With that, I donned my very own puffy jacket and smiling to myself, thought now I have an original idea. Not long after, I was at a local 50k, I think Chucaknut 50k?  Lo and behold, Krissy Moehl had come up with the same idea!  What is a girl to do?!!
Krissy Moehl
Forget clothes and lack of clothes, maybe I just need a steely game face and iron will to COMPETE.  What I really need is an unquenchable desire to complete the most badass races and FKTs in the world. Or at least in my state. I'll do Mt. Rainier's Wonderland Trail. 93 miles of mountainous, cougar infested trail running. Solo and unsupported. Yeah, that will be unquenchably bad ass. 


After I had completed the route, I realized I'd been topped by none other that some English chick Lizzy Hawker.   She not only had the steely gaze of the elite ultra runner, she set the record time for running 199 miles between 5,361-meter Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu, Nepal, in a record of three days, two hours, and 36 minutes

Lizzy Hawker
 With little else to do but be inspired by my own experiences, I decided to just go with the wild cat look. After all, they let me survive the long, dark night on Rainier.  Until I find that I've been topped by a more sporty chick, I'll go with this look:

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Training Journal 5/13-5/19

Monday, May 13- Sunday, May 19, 2013: Busy week for work! James and I traveled to Winthrop on Tuesday to prepare for organizing the Sun Mountain Trail Races (on Sunday). This race is the most involved and difficult to put on of all of the Rainshadow Running races.  I think this is because it's Rainshadow's biggest race and there is a 50 miler, 50k & 25k. That means a lot of course marking, lots of aid stations, and a very long race (work) day.  I also did a big bike ride up the pass that was supposed to be 2x as long as it was and that kept me from putting in very many miles for a couple days. I shortened the ride due to a late start and I was very under dressed at the top of the pass so I was too cold!! 

Running the trails bhy Winthrop. By James Varner
Monday: day off because of Tuesday's workout...
Tuesday: 35.5 mile bike up the pass on hwy 20. 5,700 ft/climb 3hr 35min
Wednesday: 15 mile run (Course marking so it was really slow) 5hr, 2500 ft/climb. 16.5 mile bike ride (to and from the chickadee trailhead) 1,200ft/climb.
Thursday: 6 miles course marking on the 50 mile course/Sun Mt. 1000ft/1.5hr
Friday: 20 miles on Blue Buck Mt. 3,500 ft/climb in 4:35
Saturday: 6 miles 1hr/800ft on Sun Mountain
Sunday: Helping RD for Sun Mountain, meant a 16hr work day of lots of "running around" and lifting stuff, but no actual run. Exhausted!!!

Running Miles: 47 miles
Running Elevation Gain: 7,800ft
Biking Miles/Gain: 68,5 miles/ 8,100ft
Hours Running: 12hr
Hours Biking: 5hr
Total hours (run+bike): 17hr

Friday, May 17, 2013

Issy Alps "100k" Snow-a-thon

Ok, so it was just a 50k.  I think I was actually the first to say, that's it I've had enough. You see I was a bit apprehensive to do a 18+ hour 100k in the first place (a little looong for me, believe it or not I have a short attention span and so I like to go a bit faster). When it turned into a 24+ hour 100k I began dreaming of IPA's and the cold coke in my car... 24hrs plus?!?! you say.  Let me paint a verbal picture. Our first 5 miles was up Mailbox Peak. Who knew a trail could go up 4,500 feet in just 2.5 miles?  Add in some snow. Ok, a lot of snow and you see how slow the route can be.  I loved it.  Even the sharp as glass top layer on the snow was okay. I left a trail of blood down the mountain by my bare ankles.  I didn't mind, the sun was out and the group's energy was high.  I settled into the first group and we picked up the pace on the downhill and ran most of the hills to the first mobile aid station (thanks lovely volunteers!)
I was not exactly prepared for spending most the day in running shoes in the snow. But it was an incredible day: perfectly clear in all directions, pretty rare for Seattle.
I was just coming off a 4 week long health crisis of sorts and part of my enthusiasm was being able to actually run!  There's no better way to appreciate the present moment.  Truly there was nothing I'd rather be doing. That just happens to be how I live my life. I cannot see any good reason to spend my time doing something I don't enjoy.  Which is why I'm cutting my ankles making tracks through crisp snow on a Wednesday morning.

As it turned out, the epic snow trek was to continue throughout the day.  Our second big climb was also covered in snow.  Even more postholing, seemingly endlessly steps--- at times as slow as 1 mile an hour, a line of adventurous ultra "runners" excited to reach the summit.  Not to worry, one gal said, it's 7 miles downhill from here on a logging road. It will be fast.  By now, we were averaging less than 3 MILES AN HOUR!  We'd gained some ungodly amount of vert and the road that was supposed to be fast was a blanket of snow that we sunk up to our thighs.  By the time we hit bare ground at the base of Big Si, my feet had been numb for many hours and I worried that maybe I had frostbite. Slowly they unthawed on that painful descent.

Climbing up Si I told the group, trying to convince myself more than anyone, that I would be stopping at the 50k mark.  By 50k, the rest of the 100ks had decided to call it a day. 12.5 hours, 31 miles, and 13,500 ft/vert. looking back, it was a damn good day.
mailbox peak climb, see it was pretty steep!

A good group of Seattle Mountain Runners!

What incredible beauty. View from mailbox Peak.

Clearly, it's Mailbox Peak.

This was an interesting happening-- one runner sunk in to their hip, when he was pulled out, we discovered a large cavern just under the snow.  Close call!

There's the hole

Pigtails leads runners up the peak.
Chris Fagan and I follow the "trail". Photo by Tim Mathis

One of several aid stations that local runners were kind enough to set up for us. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!

Cute Jamie, steal the show :) If you can't tell, she is actually leaping in front of the camera.

Heading up the second climb, Tim enjoys the view. or he's cursing Rattlesnake ridge in the distance...
Photo by Jamie Keizer: Me, Tim, Chris
Rattlesnake Ridge

Looking down at Chris and the other runners coming up the trail.

Hmmm.... where's all that water coming from.

Mt. Rainier was in full glory

Alison Moore postholing up the second climb

Jamie waits for us at the top

Almost there...

It sure felt good to get to the top of the second climb.  We made our own tracks.

Last photo: a few of us 50k "finishers". The pizza was awesome says Ben (left). Glad to be done!

What an amazing aid station, thanks Chris and Maylon!