Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 HURT Race Report

Finishing my last loop of the HURT 100. Photo by Rob Lahoe. All photos unless otherwise noted are by Rob Lahoe.
Listen to the interview I recorded with Ultra Runner Podcast the day after the race.

I was by all accounts completely unprepared for HURT 100 mile run this year yet I PR'd by almost 40 minutes and placed 2nd.  I did none of my usual intense training. In fact, quite the opposite. I decided that I'd do whatever the heck I wanted in training which meant very few long runs and lots of cross training.  I love moving my body, challenging it, and the intensity of exercise, but I hate monotony.  I'd trained hard the past few years and plateaued, some might even say I had backtracked through my intense training. My body rebelled and I became slower the more I forced running. So I stopped forcing it. I began biking indoors most days through the winter and I started a daily strength training workout (15-30 mins a day, every single day) and delved back into the physical and spiritual side of yoga.  I was practicing yoga 60-90 minutes everyday.  I began experimenting with and experiencing my inner self and learned to access a calmness that I'd rarely had in the past.
Running through the jungle. By Rob Lahoe
It's odd how a race can become a part of your identity.  How you would feel like you were missing an important part of yourself if you weren't running it.  I realized how intensely HURT 100 mile Endurance Run had infiltrated my being when my world turned upside down this fall.  As my personal life drastically changed and I was unable to train like I normally would, I still wanted to run HURT and I realized what an important role it had in my life. It wasn't about the competition or doing a race that I knew I could succeed at, it was about being a part of the ultra community and the personal challenge. I needed HURT this year like I've never needed a race.
Photo by Rob Lahoe
I went into HURT clear with myself that I was running the race only to finish. After that I'd go for goal #2, get under 30 hours and then goal #3, set a personal record (meaning I'd have to beat my 28:35 from 2013), and goal number #4 (of very little importance): to place in the top 3.  I didn't want to take all the joy out of the race to compete when this year it was about being in the moment, feeling the course: the pain, pleasure, the intense emotions and sharing the experience with all the runners, volunteers, and spectators.

The race began and I scooted back toward the middle of the pack. I thought I'd shoot for 5 hour loops, at least for the first 3. I'd pace myself so that I could comfortably finish. I kept finding myself flying despite my plans.  I was singing to my ipod songs, I was loving the root dance, the slippery corners, it was real joy!!  I'd catch myself falling, falling, falling and be back upright, bombing down toward Paradise Aid Station chasing my friend Danny.  We rolled into Nature Center Aid, completing the first of 5 loops in 4 hrs 22 minutes and I thought, how the fuck did that happen? I was running so easy. I feel so damn good.
Photo by Rob Lahoe
So I let it be. It was okay that it was fast, it was just part of this moment's journey.  Loop #2 slipped by almost as quickly. Danny and I were still going back and forth in the race.  He'd turned his ankle in the first loop, and on the second, I pulled him down into Paradise with a quick pace passing through crowds of tourists blocking the trail. Just before Nu'uanu Aid I veered off the trail and turned my ankle with a nice snap. Damn. It was taped pre-race and it still turned.  Why did I always need to challenge myself EVEN MORE than the race itself?

A little shocked by the pain, I pushed myself up, limped, looked around. No one had seen me fall. I knew I'd be seeing the 2nd and 3rd place ladies soon on the out and back and I'd been chasing them all day.  I didn't want them to know I'd hurt myself. I sucked it up and hobbled for 100 meters before striking a nice ultra shuffle. Ok, I'm ok.  I decided to get my ankle taped right away. Last year, I'd waited almost 40 excruciating miles before getting it taped.  Despite the ankle issues,  I completed loop 2 in about 4 hours 45 minutes. Still sub 5. That was very good. And I still felt amazing, if not a bit swollen and pained in the ankle.
Getting my ankle taped at Nu'uanu Aid. Photo Courtesy
Loop 3 would be the loop that would welcome nightfall. I was looking forward to the dark. It had been incredibly hot and humid all day with no rain or breeze. Racers were dropping left and right from heat related problems and I was thankful to have practiced hot yoga throughout the past few weeks in Kailua, Hawaii.  I was lucky enough to be able to arrive in Hawaii on Jan. 6th for the race on the 19/20th. It gave me time to acclimate and relax.  Relax is a strong word for me. I didn't relax, exactly, I opened my 200 mile race registration lottery, and all that entailed, but still I was feeling the island time aloha spirit.
Photo by Rob Lahoe
It finally became too dark to run without a light about 10 minutes before Nu'uanu Aid, mile 52-ish.  I turned on my light and proceeded. Darkness would reign for another 13 hours.   It would be a long, stressful time despite the slightly cooler temps. What I'd forgotten from last year is how incredibly slippery the course would get. Somehow the night pulled out the moisture and the rocks and roots became slippery snakes and slip and slide trails. With my body aching and my legs becoming increasingly sore, the slipperiness was intense and overwhelming. I picked through rocks like they were covered in poison.  I tried, I really did try to push the pace, but my body rebelled and told me I was going faster than I was. It said I was going as fast as loop 2 at least. You liar, I told it, knowing full well the truth.  It might feel fast, I said to my feet, like a crazy woman, but then why does it feel like this loop is taking FREAKING-FOREVER!!

I knew it! What a liar my legs were. They said I was CRUISING, but loop 4 was slower than the past 3 loops despite my pacer and crew person extraordinaire, Dave Melanson, inspiring me through all 20 miles with his Northwest plaid style Belly Shirt.  Yes, he wore a belly shirt. If you don't know what that is look up Scott Jurek at White River circa forever ago, white belly shirt. Maybe the belly shirt made me think I was going faster....
Dave and his belly shirt. Photo by Rob Lahoe
By the end of loop 4 I was so glad that I was going to have Dave keeping me company through the last loop as well since I knew it was all mental now.  My body and brain said I couldn't do one more loop, but my spirit knew I could. I had to finish, there was not "to finish or not to finish."  It was get this shit done and get to the beeeach!!  Plus, now I was in 2nd place and I felt the energy of friends and fans at home and abroad cheering me on.  I'm not sure how I knew it, but I felt the energy of a community propelling me to the finish.  Amidst my brain's "get the shit done" speak, I knew enough to enjoy the moment, each and every one. Before I knew it I would be done and being in each moment would make them infinite.
Photo by Rob Lahoe. I look like I've seen a ghost.
Dave would say these seemingly simple yet significant statements throughout pacing that made me feel like I was still in the game. In my body and my brain I was done and I had to resist many times apologizing to him about my pace. Then he'd suddenly say, "You're moving so good."   Huh?  And, "Just keep this up, you're catching first place, but no need to do anything else"  Really?!  It was so great to hear these low pressure, positive statements.  One step at a time.  And just like that we found ourselves meters from the finish and I sprinted in with the pure joy of finishing and kissed the finish sign like a sailor who has spotted land after being lost at sea.  Only my sea was the jungle and the depths of my mind.  The land was finding my peace and capturing the dream of completion.  All runners who want a finish must kiss the sign that marks the finish line. From that moment my lips touched the medal sign, I knew I wanted to come back and kiss that sign many more times.

The sprained left ankle and some horrid chaffing/cratering of pain from the taping.
Lots of chaffing on my stomach and back, I'll spare you from a back photo. Why so much? Shirtless, no body glide and lots of sweating. I figured I'd put on a shirt if it started to chafe, but before I knew it the chaffing was there.
I got matching blisters under each 2nd toe that popped the nail out of its bed.
On that note, thank you:
In finishing, I'd like to thank a few amazing people in my life who made my 2014 HURT possible, couldn't have done it without all of you:
  • The race directors and volunteers: PJ and John Salmonson, Jeff Huff, and seriously the aid stations were amazing!! Thank you so very much.
  • Dave Melanson: kept me company before, during and after the race! Crewed and paced ALL DAY and night with no rest.
  • Pearl Izumi Ultra Team: the best shoes and clothing plus the support of the team kept me motivated.
  • Ultimate Direction: the amazing folks at UD sent me an Ultra Vesta last minute so I could be properly hydrated during the race and run in style! I'm really excited to be an ambassador this year!
  • James Varner: made my trip possible and kept all the folks at home updated during the race!
  • My friends, family, and ultra fans. I am humbled by the positive feedback! Thank you to the Bellingham Trail Running Club for kicking me into shape :)
  • Luc, Marina, and Stella: Love you three!!! I wore Stella's bracelet and put M's on my pack. Always good luck to have that kind of love.

HIURT 100 Awards, top 3 women and men, plus Race Directors John Salmonson and Jeff Huff.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ultra Runner Podcast Interview

Just recorded a fun podcast with Ultra Runner Podcast (URP) this morning while sipping a Kona Castaway IPA on Lanikai Beach in Hawaii fresh off my 2nd place HURT 100 finish. Learn about:
  • HURT 100 mile Endurance Run Recap and why it HURTs so bad (or good?)
  • What my favorite swear word is
  • How many times I cursed on the trail this weekend (not for the faint at heart)
  • My favorite sports bra and why bikinis should be on the list
  • How yoga changed my life
  • What my mantra is (Say: Poke & plantain chips 10 times...)
  • Pearl Izumi shoes and why I love them so
  • The new Ultimate Direction pack (the women's Ultra Vesta)
  • Race directing & the Tahoe 200 mile Endurance Run
  • Oh yeah---BEER!  
  • Learn why Budweiser sucks and should not be called beer or be at a race finish
  • Find out why Scotty & Eric of URP will be the new employees for the Tahoe 200 mile Endurance Run
  • My challenge to listeners of the podcast

Stay tuned for a race report!!

Photo by Rob Lahoe

Photo by Rob Lahoe

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Olomana Narrated by the Selfie

Very excited to be at the top/turn around!
I want to share my favorite hike on Oahu with you: it's called Olomana 3 Peaks. It's a little crazy and a little dangerous, just like me :-) It is only about 2.5 miles to the 3rd peak, but it takes a while with 2,500 feet of climbing, most of which is bouldering and by use of hanging ropes (which I try to avoid). If it's your first time, figure it will take 4 hours. If you've done it before like me, it will only take 2 hours leisurely hike/running/climbing. There is a fair amount of climbing, easy rock climbing and rappelling, after peak #1 but it's not for the faint of heart of people afraid of heights.  You often feel like you're on a wide rock tight rope.  Here are my pictures from my solo jaunt. I have some Olomana Ugly Selfies© documenting each peak. Enjoy vicariously!
PEAK #1, piece of freaking cake selfie©
PEAK #2: Feeling a little Woozy Selfie©
PEAK #3: Feeling a little badass selfie©
See the trail heading back up peak #2? FUN FUN FUN!!!
The tree canopy reminds me of a Dr. Suess book. It is so beautiful and magical! And cartoonish!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Resistance to Life

Thank you to the Israeli men who took my pic and thought I was crazy  ;-)
"You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state." ~Sharon Gannon

Hot yoga in Kailua has been such a gift to me this past week. I love practicing in the heat, but 105+ is a new level of intensity. At first I hated the feeling of sweat flowing from every pore for 75 minutes, it was claustrophobic. I felt self conscious & uncomfortable. I felt ugly.  And no girl likes to feel ugly.  After 2 classes, (I know only 2 right?!) I craved that feeling of the flow.  The flow of sweat. Shared suffering for enlightenment. But it wasn't suffering. It was presence being handed to me on a wet slippery platter.

The movement it created within my body was incredible. Not on a physical level. On a physical level I am unusually flexible, but not in a crazy way, I'm a runner after all.  The feeling after class of mental & physical release was incredible. Don't all good enlightenment practices include that pain of letting go of ego?  Sometimes it's physical, sometimes mental, but you can create the experience through  extreme physicality.  Once that ego is surpassed, the flow is an amazing release. Which is why I love ultra running, ultra swimming, and well, can we call it ultra yoga?!
Climbing toward Peak #3, Olomana
 Release is what I need. In a very honest and raw way, I put my heart and soul into my life these past 3 years. I built what I thought was my ideal love, my ideal life, my ideal everything. Sure, there was room for improvement.  I grew up with parents who stayed together for 30 some years---through thick and thin. Until the thin became too much for them.  But they still had 30 years together!  They worked on it for 30 years!!  As a young adult I thought this was how most people worked. I thought that lovers who were committed to each other would work through things through thick and thin.  But I was very, very wrong. I could make myself the "perfect" girlfriend. I could work on myself through counseling, through other personal practices, learn to love through all sorts of pain, but it was not enough.
In the end, it wasn't about me.  Sometimes we need an extreme environment to illicit personal change.  I am adaptable and when I love someone that's it: I love them regardless of their faults.  You could even say, I chose to love someone FOR their faults, since it is truly a sign of love to appreciate all that one has to offer.  I cannot half way do anything I care about.  I love being solo and having solo adventures, but at the end of the day or week, I want someone to share the day's or week's adventures with.  I will never put my work or anything superficial ahead of true love or family.  I value my work more than most probably do, as I am doing what I am passionate about, but I still value relationships & community first.
Peak #3, dangerous enough to make your dreams a reality!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Using Discomfort for Change: how the worst yoga class changed my life

To change our limited personal perspectives, we must make ourselves uncomfortable.  Taking away what is comfortable forces us to think and experience outside of our current reality.  When we can see our patterns through the clarity of discomfort, we experience a less distorted view of the world

Yoga class was hot. Really hot or at least it would appear that way if you were to see the streams of sweat rolling off of my arms, face, and legs in downward dog. Despite the 105 F temperature I kept thinking this is too easy. I'm not being challenged physically. I can barely hold the postures I'm slipping around on my own sweat so bad.  In the past few months as I've renewed my passion for yoga, I've come to realize that Ashtanga, or Power Yoga, best suits my yoga needs and challenges me most of the time and I'd found a few classes in Bellingham that fit this need to be challenged.
The class I happened to be in was a Power Fusion class I was dropping into during my visit to Oahu to run the HURT 100.  At just 1 hour long, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't working hard enough.  I'd driven from almost the North Shore to Kailua (a slow, tedious 1+ hour drive) and this sweaty class was all I was getting?  The class is a waste of time I thought again before remembering to continue to breathe in and out. In and out.  I was so uncomfortable with feelings of not doing enough.  Despite my growing frustration with the class, another thought popped in my head it's about being present not about how hard the class is. With the thought, the ridiculousness of my mindset hit me.  A picture of my personality became clear to myself as I became aware of the way I usually interact in the world and how short sighted my judgements were on the class, myself, and even the world.

I saw myself in that moment as a very driven person who only considered something worthwhile if it was hard, challenging, and difficult to attain.  I avoided those things that I felt were too easy and instead always struggled to find the next big challenge, whether it be in my athletic career, my work, and even emotionally.  As this realization came to me, I was enlightened by the truth that my desire to make life more difficult than it needs to be was not necessary.  It would not bring me any more happiness than other possible paths. It was a way that I had chosen to interact with the world, but it was not the only choice I could make nor was it the best choice all the time.

Where some people would write off that second run of the day as making their schedule too hectic, I'd fit it in or guilt myself the rest of the day for not fitting it in. Where one person could feel accomplished by practicing yoga 1-2x a week, I couldn't feel accomplished unless I practiced everyday for at least an hour.  If whatever I was doing broke me down physically, I'd consider it a slamming success.  If a race I was directing was going smoothly a month before race day I might add in another distance or organize an expo.  I was always seeking improvement and in the process I had lost a precious thing: presence. I'd sacrificed a quiet mind for chaos and achievement mistakenly believing it was these things that determined my self worth.  These thoughts allowed me to give into my practice that night and receive the benefits of mindfulness.

As I lay in Shavasana (Corpse Pose), the final and most important pose in any yoga class because it is the restful meditation at the end, I was struck by how insightful and life changing this one sweaty, easy, in one word crappy class was and with that thought I relaxed my entire body into the floor returning to that elusive moment where I was completely present with my breath, my body, and all the other people in the room.

It is simply presence that brings joy into our lives: really listening to our child when they tell us about their day instead of multitasking while the words go in one ear and out the other. It's kissing our lover without thoughts of a work meeting we still need to schedule.  Happiness is breathing into our body as we run instead of telling ourselves we're not training correctly or that we should be working not running.  Having complete presence in each moment is the most precious gift any person can give someone else or give to them self.
Running the Kealia Trail on North Shore of Oahu