Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What company do you work for?

I get asked this question all the time. As many of you know, I am the race director of the first two non-repetitive 200s in the US, the Bigfoot 200 & the Tahoe 200. These races are such an extreme distance that many people are understandably shocked. Usually when people hear the distance, they want to know, What company do I work for? At first, I found this question amusing and enjoying the surprise I saw on their face when I told them, "My own," it did not bother me to be asked. As time has passed, however, the novelty of giving my answer has worn off. I wonder why people would be surprised that I would be the one to create these races? Is it that I am a girl? Or that I seem more like a trail running dirtbag than a CEO? Or is it that the distance of these races is so great that it must take an entire Board of Directors & company to create and execute them?

Truth is, I've always worked for myself. I just happen to be someone who makes my own work. Part of this comes from a desire to set my own schedule, the other part comes from an inability to do anything I am not passionate about. The latter of which has caused me some pain and suffering despite its idealistic sound. Shouldn't we all aspire to only doing what we are passionate about? When you cannot tolerate doing normal, everyday kind of shit, it's hard to feel settled. When passion must fuel your work, it's difficult to fit in, impossible to work for anyone else, and it is hard to even do the monotonous work you need to do on daily basis.

To illustrate how my passion fuels my work, let me explain how I created the Bigfoot 200 in less than a month. Last year (September 2014) I had never run or explored any of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest where the Bigfoot 200 is located. Less than a month after visiting Mt. St. Helens for the first time, I turned in a 15 page permit application for the 2015 Bigfoot 200, a point-to-point 200 mile footrace that would be the first of it's kind in the world. During that time I fast packed 200 miles of the course (part of which would change as the permit was finalized), mapped the route and created a 28 page Runner's Manual for the event. It was a whirlwind of excitement and things moved very quickly as they do when an idea is supposed to become reality.
Mt. Adams, one of the many volcanos on the Bigfoot 200 course
Less than a year later, my crew of organizers and I were organizing the first point to point 200 mile footrace in the USA. It was also the biggest one in 2015 with 79 runners at the start line. Amazingly, we had a 77% finish rate and 69 of those 79 runners finished. I can only thank my numerous volunteers, my volunteer & logistics Coordinator, my medical team, finish line coordinator and many more key people who together created quite the incredible, fun, and challenging event. See photos from the event.

The Tahoe 200, a single loop that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe was also created almost identically to the Bigfoot 200: a gust of inspiration made me believe I could map out this dream race course, get permits, and pull it off. The difference with Tahoe was that I was familiar with many of those trails ahead of time, it just took a couple years to realize I could actually pull the race off. In an almost identical timeframe to the Bigfoot 200's creation I mapped the route, made the Runner's Manual, and presented the event to the world. In January of 2014 when registration for the first Tahoe 200 opened, I had almost 200 applicants. The race hosted runners from 10 countries and 28 states. It was an exciting time!
Last minute words of encouragement for the runners before they embarked on the inaugural Tahoe 200.
When people ask me who I work for, I really should say I work for you. The person who dreams big, who wants an adventure of epic proportions, who wants to move into the extraordinary. I believe an event can do this if it's created right, if within its framework the artistry of nature and weather is highlighted, with all the support promised, more information that you'd care to ever read, and a desire by the race management to improve each year. This is what I promise to bring to the table.

I'd like to at this point to highlight some of the differences between my two 200 mile races. They are so different, it's hard to explain in a short summary, but I'll try! Oh and before I close, do stay tuned, I have many more adventures up my sleeve. Or maybe they are blowing in the wind on their way to me!
Photo: Howie Stern Photography
Description: Terrain varies considerably in this point to point adventure in the Cascade Mountains: volcano desolation zone, mountain ridges, thick canopied rainforests, exposed cliffs, cross country off trail travel, log hopping, all the while enjoying views of Washington's largest and most active volcanoes: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and even Oregon's Mt. Hood. This 200 has the most climbing of any 200 miler in the USA and runs through storied Bigfoot territory.

Distance: 203.8 miles

Map: http://caltopo.com/m/3H5R

Dates: August 12th-16th

Style: Point to point

Cut off: 105 hours, 4 days 9hrs

Closest City: Cougar, WA and Randle, WA

Number of Entrants: 150

2015 Finisher Rate: 77% of runners that started the race also finished!

Elevation: ~50,000 feet of ascent and 46,000 feet of descent

Terrain: Single track: 184.8 miles single track, 4x4 road/dirt
Roads: 6 miles, Paved 13 miles 


Description: The Tahoe 200 was the first non-repetitive 200 in the USA in 2014. The route circumnavigates iconic Lake Tahoe from the Tahoe Rim Trail exploring the alpine environment that makes Lake Tahoe such a world class destination. Participants will trek through rock gardens of giants, past countless sparkling alpine lakes, explore the dusty Rubicon, all the while circling the largest alpine lake in the US on trail.

Distance: 202.5 miles

Map: http://caltopo.com/m/4944

Dates: Sept. 9th - 13th, 2016 (100 hour cutoff)

Style: Single loop course

Closest City (start location): Homewood, California

Number of Entrants: 140

2015 Finisher Rate: 85% of runners finished. That's higher than most 100s!

Elevation: 39,800 ascent and 39,800 descent

Terrain: Single track: 170 miles/ 273.6km of 
single track (84%), Paved Road: 11 miles/17.7km 
(5%), 4×4 dirt roads: 21 miles/33.8km (10%)


  1. Great post! Out of interest, why do you reckon your finishing rate is so high? Stringent controls over who can compete? Or good course descriptors and support ? Thanks :-)

  2. Good question! Athletes who have commited to this distance commit more than any other distance. They put more into training, invest money into gear/entry fee/travel expenses/and even coaching at times. 200s are still at their inception. When someone signs up for one, it's so new and epic that there is extra reason to finish, to distinguish oneself, to not let down crew/family/friends who have also invested more time and funds into the event. You have more to lose the longer the race, and more to win. We also have impeccable course markings (except for a few cases of vandalism), excellent aid, amazing volunteers, and great organization. Details are important to us. We design the race to get as many finishers as we can by having a 28 page runner's manual, providing all the aid we promised and having good medical support. One more thing to add: when the course is all original, no multiple loops or major out-and -backs, runners (no matter how tired) still want to see the rest of the course, it's that cool!

    1. I hear you on the course! Loops are okay for a few times but I find out and backs demoralising even in a 10k! Thanks also for the follow up post on this, really interesting!

  3. Sweet, obviously once you set your mind to something there is no stopping you, LOL.

    Heard the podcast on Trail Runner Nation last night, and really appreciated your tips. Will be implementing in my plans for my first 100 miler next spring.

    Have an awesome day,

  4. You are a very cool lady! Although I never had the chance to run one of your races, thanks!


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