Friday, August 16, 2019

Desperation, Bigfoot 200 and Brown Floral Print RV Living

Photo: Howie Stern

“What am I doing with my life?”


I laughed when I said it because I was joking but it was true. It was really, really true. 

I laughed as I pushed through another day of no sleep, my mind so numb with race logistics and tasks I was slurring my words, staring blankly in space unsure of what I had planned to say, wanting to be anywhere but where I was: in a brown floral print RV organizing a 200 mile race in the Cascade Mountains. 

“I mean really?!” I punctuated and it WAS funny because I was supposed to be living the life everyone wants. A successful businesswoman who could juggle just about anything. Mom, homeowner, podcaster, writer, sponsored athlete. The truth of the matter is that it’s no where near as satisfying, glamorous or fun as it sounds to do what I do. Like any job it’s a lot of work and my quest for perfection and success has led me to push myself up to— or perhaps beyond my mental and physical limits. I return home after organizing a 200 mile race as though I too had run that far, without the same physical symptoms but with the sleep deprivation and burn out that comes with being constantly "on."

In the next few hours after joking about my life choices at the race site I caught myself trying to speak about something, I can’t remember exactly what it was now, and realizing I wasn’t forming real words but I was mixing my thoughts and pronunciations so poorly I was speaking illegibly. My daughter, the recipient of my words stared at me confused. 

“I’m sorry, I can’t think straight” I said. We were in the large musty building carpeted with bright green plastic carpet we termed the "Warehouse" and I remember I was bending down going through a box, surrounded by piles of organized race supplies, albeit seemingly chaotic. Soda by the dozen, cook stoves, tables, hundreds of labeled bins: vegan food, first aid, cups, extension cords, heaters, Christmas lights. 

We could host a disaster relief shelter for at least a thousand people with the supplies from sleep station gear, the 40 five gallon propane tanks, 50... 60... maybe 80 coolers. Hundreds of water jugs outside. Our headquarter crew, on a mission, walking through the Warehouse with one with a list and pen cocked, another with an arm full of supplies sweating, yet another with a hand cart stacked with four plastic totes. My other daughter hands out, eyes closed, facing the one little fan we had in the old building. A rumbling outside: the reefer truck filled with food outside thundering on as it powered up the cool air to keep 4 days worth of perishable food for 200 runners cold.  It was race check in day and I had just an hour until I would speak in front of hundreds of runners and their crews. I had to focus. The crew was in GO mode.

The process of focusing and delivering a speech when you’re exhausted and scattered into hundreds of places at once is like putting on blinders. No social media, no email, no talking, no socializing. Focus. Breath. I have to hide away by myself making a quiet sanctuary for my head. Excited runners moving around outside, I could feel the buzz of race check in and it blared through my head like an alarm: HERE WE GO READY OR NOT MUTHAFUCKA. Make notes and breathe. Sleep will come one day. Just 6 more days...

Between those speeches and now a whole world, what feels like a whole year happened, too much to write about now and by the last day of the race I'm in survival mode. Almost there. It’s terribly exhausting and draining to organize a 200 miler. Especially 3 in a row. After more than a week of little to no sleep, 2 weeks of non stop interacting with people and no time to just relax, no shower, pawing through clothes in a pile on the floor next to my bed, jumping up out of a cot at the sound of bells to greet the next runner. My eyes hurt. I can't open them properly. The football field lights make the track, our finish line, almost as bright as day except for the small patch of dark under the merchandise tent where I have set my cot so I can jump up between runners finishing. Although I'd love to say "fuck it" and just go climb into bed after 4 nights awake I cannot bare the thought of a runner finishing without a greeting party.

I'm not the only one up at this hour. Just an hour ago one of our employees collapsed with a seizure and we desperately tried to revive him, me rubbing his leg, our medic yelling at him when his eyes rolled over in his head: stay with us! Eyes jerking back, but still halfway (mostly?) gone. The ambulance arriving after an eternity lights flashing. Runners in a circle around a heater staring silently. The irony of the need for medical care for an employee, not a runner was not lost on me. And just like that we were down one key person but that was okay because our motto is always: make it work. There's no other choice. I was just relieved he was going to be ok. 

Bells ringing again, and try as I might to hide under my sleeping bag on my cot amidst the Bigfoot hoodies, t-shirts and hats, the ringing was electric. I would be dreaming about it for days, weeks after the event. Our photographer is up too now, camera ready. Our chef claps in the background ready to take this exhausted runner's order at 3am and he too looks like it's been 200 miles. Despite the fatigue, the stress, the non stop challenges that we face as organizers, volunteers and staff I smile. 

What a feeling this must be to finally reach this finish line. Bigfoot is a monster, I know it because I created it. It's insanely hard terrain and the route travels through many eco systems from volcano eruption zone, sand and lava fields, raging river crossings, trails leading into the most remote terrain in the state, ridge lines with grinding non stop climbs, tree hopping and death defying exposure and this year -- lightening and torrential rain storms, I most certainly do know: what a feeling that must be. 

We even had a black hawk helicopter extraction this year. That's what happens when you have a major medical emergency between two checkpoints, 8 miles from any road, unable to move. And he was okay, the runner was okay when all was said and done but thank goodness for a quick extraction or he may not have been. Thanks to one of our runners who alerted us to the issue, our on site medic who hiked in to care for him until the rescue was complete, our medical director who calmly managed communications between the on site medic, SAR and other emergency services. 

After weeks of not being able to think of anything not related to the Bigfoot 200 I’m barely able to function. My words need to be simple or I lose my train of thought or stumble like a runner in the last 50 miles of a multi day race. I feel like a bundle of nerves, sitting at the finish line, my finish line as a director too, it's the last day of the race and I feel like maybe I will be free again one day.

"Please leave your suggestions in the suggestion box." I want to say to a well meaning runner who comes up to offer some ideas. It's a joke because we don't actually have a suggestion box. Not today, not today. Today I need to survive. Tomorrow I will process and maybe my head will work again. I feel exhausted beyond any normal need for sleep. I am mentally as low as I can get before I can no longer truly function. Life feels flat and unsatisfying. 
Marking the last few miles of the course
I have more employees than ever and yet the work load and stress seems to remain constant. Permits don’t get easier, logistics don’t get easier, I don’t get any more sleep, we are more than ever bombarded by special requests despite our policies being more clear than ever before. With success comes the bottom feeders who thrive at spreading lies, gossip, and drama. I won’t play that game. I focus on my own path and let them take theirs, negativity will only hurt those who spew it. 

If there’s something I’ve learned from building a successful business and sacrificing my life to it, it’s that nothing is worth sacrificing your happiness and enjoyment over. Passions can burn you up and break you down. You can’t really do your life work for others because at the end of the day they don’t really care about you.

As all these thoughts flood over me, as I sit in my chair staring at my Rowing machine, my yoga mat curled on the floor, foam roller beside it I can’t help but think, “I am going to break." I can’t keep doing this. I want to cry but I’m too dehydrated and drained to go there. It took all my energy to get up off the couch earlier today, to gather the yoga mat and roller.

I'm home now but my mind and body feel broken. I sit briefly in my leather office chair, pouring my feelings into my phone, writing a Facebook post that I’ll never share because I hate that it all sounds like I feel sorry for myself. It sounds like defeat. Delete, delete, delete. We all build our own prisons. My love for the mountains becoming a job, a business with walls and structure. The structure allowing others to engage in their love for the mountains and adventure. As I write, pouring my feelings, experiences and emotions into words, it's as though I can feel the top of the wall, just enough of it to pull myself up to the top. From here at least I can see clearly. The air is free up here and now I can even see the mountains again.

Delete, delete. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New Women's FKT for the Enchantment Lakes Traverse!

Boulder fields around Colchuck Lake on a fun run of the Enchantments with friends. Photo by Riley Smith.
You can do it. Go legs. Go! The first 6 miles took over 2hrs. Much slower than I’d hoped, by about 20 mins, but that was ok. I was in it for the fight and scrambling up rocks, hands gripping corners, pulling my body up, swinging my foot up the boulders the size of small SUVs... toes gripping in cracks, pushing my entire 5’8” frame up into the air to grasp the next rock... slipping backward, leaning into the slope as Colchuck Lake slowly became a mirror of clouds and blue— so damn blue. 

20 miles, 5,600ft of ascent
Looking into the Enchantment Lake Traverse, the fastest women's time I could find was on Strava at 5 hours 50 minutes and 22 seconds by Colleen Brehm. I knew I wanted to try to set a good time for the route, being that it is in my backyard and that it is a special place for me. I also knew that I had a bit of an edge because I could scout out the best lines to take on the sections that are cross country (off trail). 


My wilderness permit for the FKT

This would be the shortest FKT I'd ever attempted, and normally shorter routes don't pique my interest because I love the story of running, the adventure. This route was different though. It was gnarly as fuck and had some serious mixed terrain of rock, snow, boulders, scrambling and so much more. It would be an adventure no doubt about it. This was surprisingly intimidating to me because I have grown comfortable in pushing in a longer term endurance kind of way - not really in a red lining kind of way. 

The route is somewhere between 18 and 20 miles, I can't quite tell the distance because it seems to be different depending on the GPS I am using and even the day. If you break down Strava's segments, it's about 20.1 miles long, which seems about right. I've noticed my Coros watch tends to read mileage on the low end, so the fact that it states the mileage as 17.45 is not surprising to me. The elevation gain is between 4,700ft-5,600ft for the point to point route I took starting at Stuart Lake Trailhead and ending at Snow Lakes Trailhead. If you do it the opposite direction it climbs 2,000 feet more (for a total of 7,600 ft of climbing for 20 miles) and is uphill for 12 miles, instead of 6. The other direction, having done both, is most certainly slower. 


There is still a small snow field on the climb up Aasgard and lots of snow on the middle 6 miles. Photo by Riley Smith.

I hoped to get under 5 hours, but the route is very technical and I needed to be a bit faster in the first 6 miles to do that. I finished in a total time of 5:18:23. Strava lists my segment time as 5:17:44. Still a lot of snow on the middle 6 miles, making those miles also a bit slower than I hoped. Stuart Lake Trailhead to the top of Aasgard Pass was also slower than I hoped but I made up for it in part by a much faster last 12 miles. The climb up to Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass is a beast! Key is to know the route because there is no "one" trail to the top but there are lines that will become far too steep to get up without a rope. 

Here are a few technical details from Strava, not sure how accurate they are but they are interesting:

See my entire strava record here.

Stuart Trailhead (start) to the top of Aasgard Pass: 2:25:44 for 5.75 miles with 4,406ft of ascent. This might sound slow and it is but not for the terrain. Keep in mind, this segment is super technical with significant "off trail" (aka no trail) navigating through boulder fields with the final 1.3 mile gaining a massive 1,600ft of ascent and no real discernible trail. Still, this segment is definitely my weak point - where I can improve the most next time! The women's Strava segment CR is 9 minutes faster on that segment than mine and I think I can knock off quite a bit if I don't hold back so much.

Mountain goats during my FKT run, they are all over the middle 6 miles!

Aasgard Pass to the Snow Lakes Trailhead: 2:48:46 in 14.35 miles, also very technical and some rock jumping, rock slab descents and sketchy steep downhills. Mostly downhill. This is the segment that I really picked up the pace. Knowing my first 6 miles was not as fast as I hoped I focused my energy and let my legs go as much as I could for the often dangerously technical terrain and often faint trail. Once you get to Snow Lakes the trail becomes clear and the last 6 miles becomes a full on charge to the finish with some rocky/technical and throngs of hikers to get by. All in all it's the fastest part and I pushed the hardest knowing I was almost done. 

Here's a bit I wrote on the FKT:

Me, always glancing up to see the line I was taking as there was no real “trail” just some cairns and a mist of dirt over boulders, like each hiker had left a few breadcrumbs, dust particles, for me to follow and my trail mind, my goat brain? Knowing which way to go like a sleuth, a detective that can follow a trail, a very faint one. The 2000ft wall in of boulders and gravel holding the magnificent enchantments up in the air above Colchuck Lake with peak named “Little Annapurna”, “Dragontail”, “Witches Tower” and “Black Dwarfs” was imposing but I’d made friends with its cold, rough side, I understand dark sides. 

I knew that there was a top and that I’d get there but I had to remind myself more than a few times, even on this day. Once I was at the top I could let the magic of the surreal Enchantment Lakes Basin take hold fly through the next 12 miles. Or so I hoped. I have always told myself not to try to figure everything out, to let the magic happen. Pick your goal, then allow things to happen as they must to get there but don’t ever rule out your goal before you’ve reached your end point. 

This FKT was no different, if I allowed myself to become discouraged just 6 miles in to the route I’d never know what was really possible. And with that thought- a belief in magic and myself, I smiled threw my arms in the air, as though I could hug that very moment, thankful to be exactly where I was. 


View near the top of Aasgard Pass, looking down at Colchuck Lake, during my FKT
DONE!! The last few miles were so hot, I was red and sweaty when I finished from pushing the last downhill hard.

Back at the car, after the run. Watch states the time from when I started it at Stuart Lake (Colchuck) trailhead
until when I hit it at Snow Lakes Trailhead. I believe it reads the mileage low by *at least*
1 mile, possibly 2 due to GPS inaccuracy on that steep and remote terrain.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Today I Couldn’t Feel Anything


Staring ahead,
I see part of my nose:
more on the right side than the left.

My right eye must be stronger, I think.
Each part of my body might as well have been tacked on
nothing seems to be connected today.

The clouds grow and darken as the day gets later
and by the time I start my run the rain is falling lightly,
a bolt of lightening on the mountains a mile away.

I have a jacket in my pack I know all about storms, 
they can come any time, the sun can sometimes fool you.
I've been in plenty of storms

It feels dark and cold inside my head too.
I still see the tip of my nose as I head up the mountain
and that's how I know I'm still inside here since there is no feeling.

Behind my nose, behind my eyes I feel nothing but pressure.
My dog can find water anywhere close to a trail on a hot day,
I can tell you where a storm will hit and how big it will be.

We all learn the things we need to survive,
Usually a run helps me feel things
but today I still couldn't feel anything.

I just move forward until I am done.
Out of habit I respond to my surroundings 
like I think a human should:

Hello, excuse me, go ahead, you first.
Ha ha. Nice to meet you. It sure is stormy today.
Feed the dogs, make dinner, change my clothes.

But there is still nothing in this body
I wish I was on a mountain never touched by man,
Looking out of these eyes with no need to be human.

I think from the outside I look normal
but it takes everything I have to just move 
through the motions of the day.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

When your cross training gets dangerous - my bike accident

A car came around the hairpin turn and in a sickening moment I tapped my brakes but my bike didn’t respond by slowing. I was going nearly 40mph down the pass, you can’t see it in the second photo posted (map) but there are these fun  curves as you’re descending, I was leaning into the turns, pumping the bike on the straights, no braking needed, just pure speed. As I approached the sharpest turn, one I had to take really wide, I'd made this turn more than a dozen times in the past, always slowing enough to make it in time but I suddenly wondered if I was going too fast. I panicked.
Hitting the brakes didn’t bring about my desired result of slowing. Instead of slowing, the wheels shot left and I don’t remember much after that except I knew I was going down. The next thing I remember was a woman trying to talk to me and I didn’t know where I was or what had happened. I couldn’t talk. I was trying to figure out what was around my neck and head, it was headphones and sunglasses.

My helmet was snapped in two places, all the way through the hard foam and it looked like someone had hit the right side repeatedly with a hammer. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I keep thinking I needed to ride my bike. I had only been 4 miles into a 30 mile ride when I hit the pass. A woman was trying to talk to me and I can’t remember but I think she had pulled me to the side of the road. Ir maybe I crawled. I had flashing colorful lines in my vision, like a TV screen. As I sat there cradling my head it slowly felt like my brain was coming back.

I remembered riding down the pass and an overwhelming feeling in that moment that I had not completed my ride, not even close and I was not pleased. I don’t remember what I said to the woman for the next couple minutes, but she had called 911. A man was directing traffic and the next thing I knew the EMTs were there. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. For a moment I thought maybe I could ride home, but my bike was not in a condition to ride, although it didn’t appear to be totaled. None of this I realized at the time.
The EMTs convinced me to go to the hospital. Something about spinal cord injuries and xrays. Now, the next morning I feel worse, my head a bowling ball of throbbing and my right arm is injured, I can’t lift it. Something is wrong in my shoulder. I’m in my own bed but my scrapes feel raw, I need to cover them as every time I move slightly a I feel the rawness. I’m missing large patches of skin.
Despite the feeling that there’s a 20 pound weight on my head, exploding, I realize I’m very, very lucky. A 40 mph crash on a bike and I am walking away with no broken bones, time will hopefully heal my head and shoulder, but I have a head and its in one piece. This would not be the story had I been riding without a helmet or had I hit the car or fallen differently. I’m guessing I did a rolling movement after going over my handle bars. I had clip in shoes but when I came to
after the crash, my bike was far from my side. My right side took the majority of the impact, judging from my scrapes and pain and helmet damage.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

New Date for 800 mile Arizona Trail Record Attempt

This update has been a little late coming. I had planned to begin my attempt on April 15, however an calf injury that began on March 13 was still quite painful. I received an MRI that diagnosed a tear in my calf right before the attempt in April and decided to push the start to early May if the tear healed properly. Early May came and went and the pain was still bad. I could feel it even just walking. With much frustration I knew I would have to delay the attempt until after the summer. May is the month that the temps in Arizona begin to make a record attempt a bad idea with many days over 100F. 
The 800 Mile Arizona Trail


I was finally able to resume my training in mid-May. As I slowly rebuild after over 2 months of being injured and unable to run I rescheduled the AZT record attempt for November. Although Sept/Oct is a great time of year to do the AZT, I organize three 200 + mile races during that time and just don't have the time or energy to fit in a 2 week record attempt. I settled on beginning the FKT on November 4. I may change the days slightly as we get closer, but early November is the new start time! Mark your calendars.

I'd like to thank my sponsors who have been very understanding and supportive during this time: AltraUltimate DirectionSpring EnergyLEKI, Kogalla and rabbit.

I am still raising money for girls on the Run! We have raised 13% of our goal $15,000! 
My Fundraising Page for Girls on the Run

Here's info on the FKT from my Girls on the Run Fundraiser:
Donate here

November 4, 2019 Candice Burt will begin her run to set a new Fastest Known Time Record on the 800 mile long Arizona Trail, a trail that spans the entire length of Arizona. Candice is hoping to beat the overall record set by Jeff Garmire of 15 days 13 hours and 10 minutes. She will be running from North to South supported style and aims for 12 days. Candice is a professional ultrarunner for Altra Running, rabbit, LEKI, Ultimate Direction, Kogalla and Spring Energy. Candice has won the Zion 100 mile, Ultrafiord 100 mile in Patagonia Chile, the Delirious WEST 200 mile/350km in Australia and holds the unsupported Fastest Known Time for the 95-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in Washington State. She earned the 3rd best FKT of the Year Award (FKTOY) from Fastestknowntime.com in 2018. Candice's Arizona Trail FKT run will raise money and awareness for Girls on the Run, an organization that supports and helps girls get into running. Donations support girls who need financial help to be a part of the program, snacks for kids during practice, lesson guides for families and supports the team for an entire season. Thank you for supporting GOTR Arizona. All donations go directly to Girls on the Run!

Friday, May 24, 2019

To the Editor of Outside Magazine, From a Lazy Parasitic Deadbeat

Pre- Trail work on the Klickitat Trail

To Mike, Outside Editor:

I've been a runner for over 20 years. I got into trail running in 2010 and instantly loved it for the community and the peace and challenge of the trails and being immersed in nature. That first year I began trail running I also began doing trail work. A local Race Director organized regular trail work. Every year I've run trails I've worked on the trails. 

I quickly became a big part of the trail running community organizing races myself and founding a number of trail running clubs. Over the years we have received grant funding for trail work and signage. Trail work has always been an important part of the trail running culture. 

I run professionally for a number of companies including Altra Elite, rabbit trail elite, and LEKI. I also organize 10 events throughout the year (it's my main work) including the Triple Crown of 200 mile races: Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run, a 200 mile point to point run through the Cascade Mountains; Tahoe 200 Endurance Run a 200 mile single loop run through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that fully circunaivates Lake Tahoe; and lastly the Moab 240 mile Endurance Run a single loop trail race through Moab, Utah, two mountain ranges and past Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. In addition to those events I have a number of other events. 

Trail running and stewardship are my life. I organize an annual work party in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest working on trails that aren't maintained by any land management - they would cease to exist without volunteer work. We have revitalized over 30 miles of trail. It's particularly exciting because these trails were historically Native American trails. 

Additionally, I require 8 hours of trail work per participant for my 200 mile races, contributing over 5,000 hours of work each year. My company has donated over $20,000 to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for building and maintaining trails. I have a scholarship for students studying Land Management at Utah State University. I'm always interested and engaged in coming up with ways to give back and contribute to my community.

You can imagine that when I read the offensive article by Marc Perruzi a few days ago I was shocked. I have no issue with asking user groups to do more to give back. That's an excellent message in and of itself. However, this article was not so much a call to action as it was a full on insulting diatribe aimed at my community. Name calling, stereotyping, divisive rhetoric... all adding up to a lot of hating on the trail running community. 

Some might say why not ignore this increasingly irrelevant publication? I'll tell you why Mike. Because this article was written with such vile rhetoric and negativity that I felt it needed a response. I felt the urge to stand up for the people who inspired me to do trail work and for my peers. Beyond what I do for the community, there are many, many more individuals that do a lot more than I do. You, your team and Marc have insulted these good people and their hard work. You are irresponsible and plain wrong in publishing this kind of barely researched anecdotal evidence (no evidence) based article. 

I know what you will say, "Well Candice this is meant to be humor." I know you will say that because I have seen what you have written to others in this community. It is not humor. And if it was it failed to hit the mark. You wouldn't have an entire community of runners angry at you, Marc and Outside if it was funny. I can appreciate humor. Set the bar higher if you're aiming for humor and make it funny. 

Here's what I would like to see: an article encouraging all trail users to give back more with trail work and monetary donations to trail maintenance organizations. Give people real information. Do real research. If you're not going to give facts in your articles then make the accusations and name calling less severe - or better yet don't be divisive at all. 

I'd like to end with a plea to you and Outside: be responsible with your voice and responsible with your power with words. Use it for good. Use it to bring the community up, not break it down. I'd like to see an official apology from Outside and the original article pulled from the online site. Replace it with a real call to action, one that asks all users to contribute with tangible ideas and contacts for people so they can get involved in trail work. Be the vehicle for change. Be bigger than insults and stereotypes. That's easy writing. Dig in.

Regards,

--
Candice Burt

You can send a letter to the Editor of Outside at mroberts@outsideim.com or to general letters@outsideim.com

I refuse to post a link to the original clickbait article here. 

Please stay tuned for an article from me with real insights on how to get your own trail work party started and permitted or join a local group. 

Lastly, I'd like to add that we can all do better. We can all do more. I do not have any issue with asking user groups to do more. I support all calls to action to contribute to our trails. We can all be kinder to each other and the environment. I will also stand up against name calling and lies.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Injury is Part of the Journey

“Sometimes in life, we have to see it to believe it, and I think that was us officially seeing it.” My coach David Roche said in an email to me this morning. I have been planning this massive 800 mile Fastest Known Attempt on the Arizona Trail for more than a year now and over the past 2 months I've been struggling to get better from a tear in my calf that started out as a feeling of persistent soreness a couple weeks after winning the Delirious WEST 200 miler (350km) endurance run in Australia.

I had started the email to my coach yesterday with, “I’m having trouble writing this” before I went into a full essay of what went down when I did my 18 mile test “long” run yesterday to see if I would be able to start the Arizona Trail next week. Yes, next week. Coming up so damn fast. This run was supposed to tell us if I could hold up to a long run since I'd have to do 51+ miles a day on the Arizona trail to beat the current overall record, my goal being 100k a day. 

I wrote 8 paragraphs of information in that email to my coach that could have been summarized in saying, “I’m not better. My heart and my head want this so bad but my body is not ready.” I didn’t want to say that though because I thought maybe somewhere in those 8 paragraphs was hope. I briefly considered lying. Lying to myself. Maybe it was ok. If I didn't write the email, if I didn't say anything maybe I wouldn't have to feel these emotions. It felt like not doing this 800 mile route would crush me and I wanted to avoid facing the truth: my body wasn't ready.


I needed the Arizona Trail more than ever. I wanted to leave the daily grind, my life challenges and I wanted to do something big that only required my attention to the present moment and moving forward. Life was hard for me. This winter and spring I struggled with heavy work load from my race organization business after an employee suddenly quit and on top of that a new relationship that had blossomed suddenly ended leaving me with deeper questions about what commitment is, whether I can trust others, and how it was possible someone could go from telling you they love you to texting you that they want to breakup in just a day. 


I had known there were issues and challenges in the relationship, yet I couldn't understand how he could be so "in love" with me as he told me over and over and then just leave my life like "love" meant nothing to him. All because he had "shit to figure out in his life." If I could just run, nothing else mattered. Running was the only love I could rely on and here it was, letting me down too. My body, telling me to stop. My life, telling me to stop. 


Two weeks ago I'd finally gotten an MRI. Turns out the pain in my calf was there for a reason. I'd taken days off, then a week, and before I knew it I still had pain and it had been over a month. The start day for the Arizona Trail FKT was quickly approaching and I had no clue what to do because what I needed to do was not something I was ready to do: completely reschedule the FKT for November or the next year. Before long, I had to announce delaying the FKT by a few weeks and in my heart I knew I might not be ready.


The MRI showed a tear in the fascia of my calf. I knew that I should admit defeat for the time being and reschedule the FKT but I couldn't. I wasn't ready to give up. I believed my body was capable of doing this. All this rescheduling was putting a lot of stress on my crew - 6 people who were meeting me in AZ to help me get from Mexico to Utah, across the entire state and of course, my sponsors who had so generously donated product. More than anything I didn't want to let those people and companies down. 

I'm back on the trail, doing my important test run for the AZT and I'm thinking the pain isn’t really that bad. On the first climb of the long run I could feel it, the first time since I'd taken weeks off of doing nothing. If I could feel it in the first 2 miles of a long run how would I conquer 60 miles a day for almost 2 weeks? 


As I ran I cried, tears turning into sobs of KNOWING the truth but being unable to accept it and my sweet little dog, my faithful running partner and friend, Hank came bounding over to me a concerned look in his eyes. He knew something was wrong. I couldn’t breath, my throat felt like it was closing as I swallowed my sadness, anger and frustration, wheezing through the climb saying to myself no, it will go away. Maybe it’s nothing. 
Hank giving some love
As I ran, I spun scenarios in my mind. I considered lying to my coach, to my crew and to the world. I’m ok, I can do this. My body can do incredible things. I just won a 220 mile race, I ran through 3 nights with virtually no sleep! I can run for days without rest. Maybe it will be fine. I decided I might as well do the entire run and see what happens so I finished the 18 miles, the pain sitting in my calf like a patient and bad memory, barking at me on all the climbs. But it wasn’t a memory, it was here, now. It was real.

Even through the last of the 18 miles I told myself maybe it was ok? Maybe it wasn't the calf tear. Maybe I was imagining things. Right after returning home I had to drive 15 mins to town. In town I hopped out of my truck and immediately buckled from putting weight on the right leg. The pain forced me to limp and hobble. It had become worse after sitting. Only at that moment did I know I was done, I would have to wait. There was no fake it until you make it. It hit me so hard I wasn't sure how to deal with it. 


I had learned from years of running that my body wasn’t always something to listen to. I learned that I could push it when it said no. That there’s was always something more to give. But in some cases if I didn’t listen to my body I would be sacrificing my love and my passion for further injury. I've been running for over 20 years. I know when I need to rest, even if it's hard to admit. Serious, debilitating injury is nothing to mess with. Injury that could cripple me for a year or longer. I couldn’t lie to myself or anyone else any longer. I am not a superhuman. I am not special. I have worked hard for many years and I am a human who can only handle so much. I am fallible. 


It's ok to admit defeat. This setback means that I will need to move the FKT to November. May is already risky in terms of the extreme heat on the Arizona Trail. May was my last chance to do the FKT this spring and now it's out. I work from August - October organizing my 200 mile Triple Crown so November would be the soonest I can do it. My crew team has already begun emailing me their support for November. I'm humbled and touched by their support and love. I can't wait to crush this record, not by hours but by days. This gives me more time to fundraise for Girls on the Run my chosen charity, get stronger and plan logistics. 


Watch out world 😉 💪 🏃‍♀️ 



Healing from laser eye surgery tonight as I write this. Another important step in my process of getting ready to run this 800 mile route 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

How the HURT 100 Race Turned into a Love Story

HURT 100 Race Report
How a 100 mile Race Turned into a Love Story
Jan 19, 2019
Honolulu, Hawaii
He was standing near me and just his presence made me feel alive. His fingers clasped in his running vest,
board shorts hanging down to his knees looking more like a surfer than a runner. Because, well he IS a
surfer. I still wasn’t sure why he was at the race. He wasn’t a runner, I’d just met him days earlier but now
he was standing right next to me ready to pace me the final 8 miles to the finish of this 100 mile race in
the jungle and I knew I wanted him there but I was worried. I glanced at my legs, covered in mud and
sweat and sticky with dreams that slowly seeped from my head where they had been born 6 years earlier
settling slowly somewhere in the mud with my ego. I’d be getting my finish but not in the time or place
I hoped for.


“Wipes?” I asked my crew chief Catra Corbett. I may be covered in mud but I was going to at least try
to clean my armpits before I had my first run date with the Surfer. Ok it wasn’t a date, but a girl can
dream right? Pretty sure the baby wipes didn’t do anything for 100 miles of sweat, mud, and stench but
it was worth a try. I wasn’t worried about the race so much as I was that he’d think I was GROSS and
smelly. 92 miles into a 100 miler, this was sort of a nice thing to be worried about and I smiled just
thinking about how ridiculous it was that I even cared at this point. I still had one massive climb through
the jungle and descent to be finished.


Looking at my phone while driving a compact rental car up a winding road leading toward the
mountains, I glanced at the house numbers as I passed through a neighborhood. I was looking for
my AirBnB rental. I looked more closely at the map, noticing that I had another right turn then the
home would be on my left. There it was! I slowly turned into the driveway, parking in front of the
large 2 story home’s garage door as indicated by the AirBnB House Rules I’d read carefully. As I
was parking, I noticed a silver truck was right behind me. Damn, I thought, I’m in no shape to interact
with anyone, exhausted from flying for 6 hours.


It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy talking to others, I love chatting with people, however I was feeling dirty
and tired from the long, stuffy flight from Seattle. As always happens when leaving cold and wet Seattle,
I’d arrived in humid and warm Hawaii all layered with winter clothing and sweating. I had quickly
changed into shorts in the front seat of my rental car in a Whole Foods Parking Garage in Downtown
Honolulu, but left on my ¾ zip long sleeved top, flashing a few customers or at least leaving them
wondering what I was wrestling with in the front seat of my small car. But I digress.


It was too late to avoid human contact now, the driver of the truck must be my AirBnB host and as he
drove up beside me I waved. The skies had recently dimmed, the sun setting and sinking into the horizon
just 30 minutes earlier, and I couldn’t see him very well, but as he hopped out of his truck I noticed that
he was—damn hot! Whoa, ok. He looked young and fit and his blonde hair was perfectly messy as
though he had just come back from surfing at the beach. At that moment I really regretted not cleaning
up a bit more. He greeted me cheerfully introducing himself, and I said, "Nice to meet you Surfer." I
asked if this was the right parking spot even though I knew it was. Before I could say any more he
offered to show me the apartment and walked toward the door without hesitation. We walked around
the house to the downstairs apartment.


I went into this year’s HURT 100 race in excellent shape, but not quite as fine-tuned as I would have
liked. Which is to say, I was working my ass off managing three businesses: My race organization
company Destination Trail, my new Humans of Ultrarunning Podcast, and a couple of new rental
properties. I closed on a house on Jan 11, just a week before HURT 100 race and was recording podcasts
and interviewing athletes right up until I left for Hawaii so that I could release episodes each week—and
I have released an episode each week since beginning the podcast in November. On top of that, my
two kids had been home for Winter break and it was difficult to work without feeling like I was being
a bad parent during that time, yet I had to work. All I wanted to do was take the kids skiing and ice
skating. For me, work never ends and as I mark one thing off a list, another 2-3 get added so fine tuning
for an event is often impossible.


Surfer was ahead of  me along a path to the apartment, asking me about my running because (I assumed)
I’d mentioned that I was running the HURT 100 in my intro when booking the apartment. Then he said
he’d looked me up after I booked his place. I felt a twinge of excitement at this, did he like me? Of course
not, I reminded myself that he was probably just checking out what crazy is and what crazy does. Like a
freak show. To some, I am a freak, but what I do seems no more weird to me than going to bed at
night or any other task we all do throughout the day. Running is one of the few things I have found that
brings me pure joy. And yet… I couldn’t help but wonder if our connection was deepening or if he was
just a very friendly host? 5 stars so far. My mind was swirling a bit, a mist around a mountain top, as I
talked about running and he showed me the place. It was perfect. Two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom. Catra
Corbett was coming to crew and pace me in two days and I’d rented this bigger place so that she could
have her own room.


Last year, Catra had come out much like she was doing for me this year, but last year I had dropped just
after mile 40 and I promised her that wouldn’t happen this year. At the very, very least I needed to get a
finish in order to have a proper long “run” before the Delirious WEST 200 miler in Australia on Feb 20
(just a month away) and the 800 mile Arizona Trail FKT (three months away) I had planned for April.
Everything was a piece of the training puzzle this year and had to fit together in order to make the next
race or route successful. It was as though each race was training for the next. I could not quit. It just
wasn’t an option, but I still worried that something out of my control would happen like a broken bone
or even worse, that I would break somehow mentally and not want ‘it’ anymore. To break mentally was
the ultimate failure and could kick start a deeper depression or downward spiral for me. But as my body
had hardened and become strong over the past year of focused training and healthy living, so had my
mind and my emotions.


In September 2017 I had suffered a traumatic assault and also quit drinking (for good). As part of that
process of recovery from the trauma and from alcoholism, I had vowed to stop sabotaging myself in a
myriad of ways, which included dropping from races just because I wasn’t going to podium or because
I would break mentally and lose my drive or let some excuse reign over me. As my body became
stronger from my sobriety and training, so did my mind and by August of 2018 I had a significant shift
in my mentality and my “why” I race ultramarathons. I wanted to start building a series of positive
experiences, not a series of stories of struggles and failures. As I gained control over the darker parts of
my life, I developed a deep and meaningful, even spiritual, relationship with the world, other humans and
nature. I could feel my emotions, my body and my compassion for others more deeply and fully. It was
an incredible awakening over the course of a year that I could not have anticipated and it opened me up
creatively, to a place I’d been as a child. A place where I was able to access a creative and energetic flow
and deeper knowledge in life and the ability to turn that creativity into a running performance or creative
writing and share it with the world. I wasn’t going to quit myself ever again.
Nutrition of choice for the HURT 100: Spring Energy
10% off code: Candice
Surfer was listening intently in the living room of the apartment as I talked about the races I organized—
200 milers and the HURT 100 Endurance Run I was about to race in 4 days. It struck me that he was
much more interested in ultras than most people. Generally, the reaction is, “Wow amazing! You’re
crazy,” But Surfer was like, “Do you think I could do this?” He seemed genuinely interested in ultras and I concluded that his interest in me was probably just an interest in ultras. I was trying to be real
with myself and this thought was disappointing.


“Absolutely, you could do an ultra. You’re in good physical condition and you just need to begin a
running routine and then you will be able to even do a 200 miler,” I responded to his inquiries about
running. To be fair, he wasn’t really asking an unbiased individual, but hey, I’ve seen some damn
miracles happen during 200 milers and he certainly wouldn’t need a miracle to finish one. Who am
I to tell someone NOT to do something when they are so enthusiastic? It’s incredible what the human
body can do when the mind wants to finish...and what it’s capable of with training. If he started training
soon, he’d still have 6+ months to prepare for a 200 miler. See what I did there?


After a period of time that I felt to me like I was red lining a level of “Oh shit I might be talking
his ear off about ultrarunning,” he left. Side note: pretty much how I mess up all dates with
non-runners. We’d briefly discussed internet speeds while he was showing me around as I have
beenstruggling as of late at my remote mountain home with super slow speed internet, so I texted
him to let him know his internet speed after checking my speedtest app (3x the speed of mine at home).
It was pretty much just an excuse to keep the conversation going. He texted me a little
while later asking about the three 200 milers I organize, which one did I recommend?
Happily surprised, I sent him to the website and my business Instagram page. He responded a
short while later saying he’d checked out the website for the 200s and he wanted to do Moab 240.
I was impressed. Apparently Surfer didn’t do anything halfway. I felt like he was a kindred spirit.
A really cute one at that. I was intrigued.

I often imagine what it would be like to be just a professional runner, rather than trying to juggle
running on elite teams while managing a family and my three businesses. Despite daydreaming
about a simpler life with training at the focal point, I chose my path and this workaholic lifestyle
for a reason, mindfully even. I enjoy overachieving because I have many goals and without
pursuing a handful at any given time, I will not get a chance to do many of the things I want to do in
this life. With all this in mind, I went into this year’s HURT 100 race not just as a competitor, but
also as a mom, a business owner, and as a runner whose big goal for the year is to break the overall
FKT in April on the 800 mile Arizona Trail. When the race conditions became tough during this
year’s HURT 100, I came back to my Arizona FKT goal. In April I’d be undertaking my biggest
and most complicated run ever: 800 miles on the Arizona Trail to break the overall FKT of 15 days
22 hours and 39 minutes.
Sometimes in life you have to remind yourself of the big picture. The big picture for me was a healthy
finish at the HURT 100 this year. Finishing the HURT 100, regardless of podium or winning, was
imperative for my upcoming 200 mile race and FKT. Finishing this race was a big piece of a puzzle
that I needed. I reminded myself of this when after chasing the first place girl and running in second
for much of the first 30 miles I suddenly got shaky and weak feeling. My legs felt like jelly. I was
close to the top of the climb and I willed myself to keep moving. I told myself when I hit the descent
I’d feel better. I’d never felt this shakiness in a race but occasionally in training I’d get it. I tried to eat,
downing a few Spring Energy Gels and focusing my mind back on positive thoughts. These natural food
gels were helping. It was raining again and the trails were becoming rivers.


I like adversity so when it began raining I counted my blessings. It was cooling off and my body liked
that. The descent gave me a bit more power in my legs and the shakiness began to dissipate but I was
left feeling worried and unsure why it had happened. I am pretty sure my blood sugar had dipped too
low, but why? I’d been eating really well as far as I could tell. I made a note to be sure to eat some solid
food at the next aid station. It was during these miles from 30-40 when the shakiness hit me and I faltered
and began to get passed. I settled into 3rd place. I began a slow process of giving up time and place, but
continuing to do what I needed to do to finish. Sure I could squeak out an honorable finish, but where was
the FIGHT in me? Had it washed away with the jungle storm?

The rain continued, storms blowing in from the ocean. As I crested each seemingly endless climb, the
bamboo clanking, spears in a battle about to be won, I knew I was close to Manoa Flats. Manoa Flats is
the root strewn the race is so well known for, a super technical section that we pass through so many times
on our “loops” and out and backs through the jungle. The trails were rivers, running into mud pits that
would suck and grab at your feet or pull them out from under you as suddenly as though hit by a bolt of
lightning. Slip, slide, step, step, step, dash, dash, slip, slide, squish, suck. I took the opportunity to throw
my arms up as though I could hug the sky for giving me this playground, albeit a dangerous, dirty one.
Surfer holds my running pack while I try to eat some real food at Manoa Aid
As I came into mile 40, I saw Surfer. I’d given him the race tracking link but only half expected him to
show up. He was standing to the side of the runner chute. And just like that I could’ve been walking
down the street, casual and cool like the mist that hugged the mountain tops. I was transported into the
moment and out of the race in an instant. “Hi, how are you? You made it,” I said casually, mud caked to
my legs, clothing soaked by the storms as though I’d taken a dip in a muddy lake. Braids matted to my
pack, trucker hat backwards, a wild look in my eyes...looking anything like I was just walking down the
street. Smiling at him and still multi-tasking as I fished around in my breast pocket for used gel wrappers
like a homeless woman taking the day’s throw aways out of a garbage can. Casual as the mountain mist.
He looked clean. Really clean. He said something, I can’t remember what it was, but I awkwardly
thanked him for showing up. Why? I don’t know. Attraction does weird things to my speech patterns and
this was no exception. Spying my crew, the colorful and tattooed Catra Corbett, looking all business, I
moved her way unsure of what else to say but happy to see him there. I imagined saying, “C’mon over
and watch me get wiped down, fueled up, soup dripping from my chin, mud from a hand smeared across
my brow.” I was back in the race and it was business time. I had runners to chase down and 60 more
miles to knock out.


Miles ticked away, the sun tucked into the ocean in a fiery yellow and orange display. At the next aid
Catra let me know Surfer had left for home for the night and I was both relieved and disappointed.
Relieved, because no junkie wants the man they are crushing on to see them shooting dirt up their
veins and sad because I looked forward to seeing him at each aid for the last 20 mile loop. The night was
slow and tedious as the rain had made the entire course a big muddy, wet, slippery and treacherous
mess and I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was painfully slow. I just wanted to
open up and let my legs go, but every turn had a rocky outcropping to lower myself down from, a clay
shelf to slip n’ slide down and then it was time to climb back to the sky again.


I picked up Catra as a pacer on the 4th loop, 60 miles into the race, and it was a nice break from the solo,
tedious running but I had withdrawn like the sun and at dusk and my energy was flat. I worried that I was
bad company as I quietly made my way through the tangle of roots and mud. We slipped and fell through
that loop, Catra falling on her butt leaving a brown muddy imprint up her whole backside contrasting
with her colorful pink, purple and yellow clothing. I hoped she was ok, she had landed hard. Not even a
few minutes later I found myself on my back, head on the ground, arm cranked behind me. It had
happened so suddenly I was confused at first, but then I realized that I, too, had gone down completely in
the clay-slick mud. I picked up my body, laughed it off and rubbed my head. Ouch.


“Ready to go?” I said looking at Surfer, his blond hair perfectly messy and clean. I was at mile 92,
Surfer had showed up at the race this morning, after what I imagined was a comfortable night in a
comfortable bed in a comfortable house, with a comfortable few meals. My arm pits still smelled, after
baby wipes and all, applied as discreetly as possible. This wasn’t the kind of thing I typically liked to do
in front of potential dates buuut, there’s some room for exceptions. It was time to go and I had the cutest
pacer on the island. As we exited the aid station I tried to warn him that I’d just run 92 miles and there
might be parts of the last 8 miles that I’d struggle with. I don’t think he really understood or needed my
warning but I didn’t want to seem weak in front of him, possibility an inevitability considering my past
29 hours running in the jungle.


The climb out of Nu'uanu, the last aid station, is steep but relatively short. The most challenging parts
are the rock cliffs you have to climb up, hands on the top, pulling your body up and over. It’s 4x4ing
extreme for runners. On 92 mile legs it can seem downright impossible. I was surprised that I felt less
tired as I climbed, but having Surfer’s company was a good distraction and I forgot I was racing,
enjoying the sun as it lit up the big green leaves in the jungle and I enjoyed the magic of morning.
It was heating up!


As the miles flowed, so did our conversation and we settled into talking about relationships after
some good discussion about running. I was surprised at how easy it was to talk with Surfer, run,
hands on knees, breath in and out, flowing, moving. I was actually enjoying myself and we were cruising!
Normally I’d be painstakingly counting down the miles until the finish, envisioning each turn, each hill...
no matter how small. Instead I was immersed in the conversation, enjoying showing Surfer the trail I’d
traversed SO MANY TIMES, six years now of doing this god forsaken race. You might even say I wasn’t
all too eager to finish anymore. And yet, I knew there was chair… restful wonderful chair at the finish.
As Surfer and I rounded the last turn, finish line in sight, I felt a wave of excitement. I was almost done.
But not finished. Not even close. I was just getting started. I was hop, jump, skipping, flying and
floating through that grass to kiss the HURT 100 sign and my heart was alive.


My flight was just a couple short days later, and in that time Surfer made me a smoothie and two
beautiful silver bracelets welded with shells within their bands. And still I wondered why he was
so nice, blind to what was happening right in front of me. A melancholy feeling, heavy and sad hit me
like a tsunami as I walked through the airport, leaving the island just 2 days after finishing the race.
On a whim, almost out of my control I thought, I’ll send Surfer a message, maybe just to see if
he feels the same way.
“Maybe sounds weird but I feel like somehow I’ve known you for a long time! Thanks for everything,
and restoring my belief that there’s at least one cool guy out there,” I texted, wondering if I was being
too obvious and doubting my intuition.


“I don’t think you could’ve said it any better. Doesn’t sound weird at all, and honestly I’m tripping
because I feel the same!” He responded.


So I invited him to come to Australia and crew and pace me a month later in a 200 mile race, an
obvious first date for a crazy woman and a just as crazy man. He said yes.