Thursday, December 12, 2019

Breathing into the Heart

4:45am wake up alarm, carefully pushing my body up, taking care to avoid any pressure on my back but I still wince as the pain of moving, the pain of my back and hamstrings reaches my sleepy brain. It’s been many hard weeks of training

My eyes are the last part of my body to wake up and I cover them as I enter the bathroom, switching on the light, draping my oversized blue bathrobe over my shirt with one hand, other hand still protecting my eyes. Outside, there’s a new blanket of snow on the ground and the cold seems to seep through the windows and walls. The moon sits above the mountains, a glow around it.

It’s 5:30am, I need at least 15 minutes to drive through the snow to yoga, defrost blasting, Khalid in the background:

“The days get brighter when you're here
So I gotta keep you near
Goin' crazy and I just can't get you outta my head”

Thinking about you and rereading your text. You were up at 4am this morning, “Sorry for not saying goodnight.” But I know how tired you must be from a stressful week.

It’s 6am and it’s time for an hour of hot vinyasa yoga flow class. My yoga mat curls up at the end, still frozen from being left in the car overnight. Underneath me it feels cold, like the ground beneath the snow. Above me the heat roars from vents. There are just four of us in class and at 6am class it’s just the most committed yogis. “Nice job you all have the bind” the teacher says approvingly while we are in extended side angle. Beginners don’t come at 6am

Just as it is in life, some poses are easy, and some are hard. Some come naturally, some take lots of work. I love yoga because I can make these comparisons to life all day. This pose is easy for me, even with a full arm bind, but breathing through the flow takes practice. Whenever it gets hard, I struggle and I find myself holding my breath. “Huuuuuuuh” as I let my breath go, remembering again to be here, now. Breathing in, again alive in the moment

I open my chest, my heart, with the arm bind in Utthita Parsvakonasana and my back becomes a stream of sweat as if flowing from my heart. The heat is roaring, and sweat becomes a river, drip drip drip on my yoga towel, my chest to the sky

Mile 90

I have run so many miles at one time,
Through the day and through the night,
That I’m not sure my legs will work
You haven’t ever run that far,
But I  think you know that feeling right now

90 miles in, on top of a mountain peak
My legs feel like glass that's barely held together:
Like a windshield after an accident
miraculously still in one piece by a mysterious glue 
It's veined and looks like puzzle pieces  
that a child put together but it is complete
You are too

You haven’t ever run this far
But you’re 90 miles in, in your own way.
I wish I could help you, to be the glue
I wrote this to tell you that you are close to 100 miles
close close close 

Sometimes, we make things hard so we will break,
It is a choice we make—
Sometimes, without breaking we can’t get stronger
I know this truth at Mile 90 
That's how I get to mile 100
Shatter shatter shatter

I know it’s hard to break into so many pieces
But you’re at mile 90, I promise
That's how you get to mile 100. 
I wish I could help you, to be the glue

So I write this
To let you know it’s ok to break
Sometimes, without breaking we can’t get stronger
that’s how you rebuild,
rebuild rebuild rebuild

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Silent Goodbye

The mountain is always here, 
the seasons coming and going, 
time passing, leaving its mark, 
a mark that slowly fades like a scar

Words are like fire and they can burn hot
So I say nothing at all anymore, 
not even goodbye.

You read a book that was written about me
about a time in my life years ago 
a time of even greater pain and suffering 
I could not defend myself
Your fears were acknowledged in these stories
Because you carry your pain too, 
like a book.

We all find the truth we seek—
It’s too late now, but I wish we could have created a new truth, together
One that made us both feel safe instead of the one we told 
that was born from suffering and pain

As the fog settles into the valleys 
I say goodbye silently because words still aren’t safe 

Fog obscures the roads and homes below 
and from it rises the cold mountains, 
a layer of new snow highlighted 
by the darker contours of the ridges and trees

I run along the mountain’s lines, 
formed years ago and telling stories 
of growth and destruction. 
Maybe the mountain feels pain too? 

Yesterday’s snow makes the mountains look brand new 
and I say goodbye to summer, 
goodbye to the warmth

The mountain is always here, 
the seasons coming and going, 
time passing, leaving its mark, 
a mark that slowly fades like a scar

12/4/19 Candice Burt

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Exploring the Psyche

It was our one day off from a week of 200 miles course marking & naturally we decided to do a 15mi run, sans bulky, heavy packs, course marking gear & chaffing/bruising that builds up over the course of a week of marking while carrying a loaded hiking pack & running/hiking hundreds of miles. Running up a trail w/ a light pack was rest enough for us. Our bodies had become accustomed to working hard day after day: a routine of rising early, marking all day, making dinner & repacking our bulky bags for the next days sections: Hammer? Stapler? Signs? Water, snacks, jacket? Check. Today would be different.

I chose Angry Mountain because it was close by our camp, I still had a full day of computer work to do & I’d never been on those trails. Everyone in the group joined and we started up the trail, it was defined and easy to follow for several miles, zig zagging mostly straight up the mountain. Until it wasn’t. Four miles in the trail became a maze of downed trees and we had to watch very carefully to tell where it switch backed up the mountain. There are signs to follow, but you have to pay careful attention. Snapped branches, a sliver of trail under the trunk of a tree ... after a few miles of this jungle I was ready to call it a day.

Looking at my Gaia app I could see the peak of the mountain so damn close. “Hey guys!” A group of 4 gathering around, “Let’s cut over here & summit Angry Mountain. It’s only about it 1/4 mile off trail.” Considering we weren’t really on a trail anyway, it seemed safe enough. There were no dissenting opinions. Everyone wanted to pop out of the trees and see the view, if any. Hopping, crunching, parting branches we moved straight up into a meadow with rocky outcroppings.

A view of endless mountains. The breeze massaged my bare arms, goosebumps forming not because it was cold, but from the expansiveness, it hit me and I felt indivisible, interconnected to the mountains all around me. I wasn’t a runner moving up the mountain, but rather I was a part of the mountain moving up itself. My steps, my running, exploring the world, but also my psyche. The distinction was electrifying and brought up a powerful reverence.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Facing Monsters and Finishing the 170 mile Tahoe Rim Trail

I knew I needed to lie down but this spot wouldn’t do, a wolf was intensely staring me down and I wasn’t willing to take a chance that it was real. Just up the trail I found an open spot with no wolves. I glanced around briefly to confirm, but not so long that I’d give myself time to see more monsters lurking. 

I hadn’t rested in 65 hours. I was so close but I might as well be 170 miles away still. It felt like I’d never be done. I only had 10 miles left and yet it didn’t matter, the trail had won, I was stumbling forward at barely 1mph seeing a world that was hidden to everyone else full of spirits, demons, angels and wild animals. 

Adventures aren’t about getting trophies, medals, accolades, FKTs, CRs, or recognition. Adventure has no real glory. It’s brutal and demanding. It tears you up until you are ready to admit defeat. It makes you whimper and pray because in the end control is an illusion. Adventure is about overcoming again and again until all that ego is washed clean and all that’s left is sunburned skin, shattered glass legs, parched throat, sore elbows, swollen hands, crunchy Achilles and an indomitable human spirit. 

On my third attempt to complete the entire Tahoe Rim Trail in one go, all 170 miles, I experienced a full break down of expectations and ego bringing about an intense appreciation for the trail, for Tahoe, a place I’ve lived and explored on and off for nearly 20 years. I explored the depths of my psyche through some crazy hallucinations from web covered trails formed onto textures I can’t even fully explain to ice encrusted trees and herds of wild cats to dead people hanging from trees I fully went there while hanging on. 

Adventure isn’t about awards, unless you count those hard earned scars and memories. It’s about persevering and completing what we set out to do, it’s about fulfilling our human commitment. After some prodding by Kevin Westlake to take a photo at the trail’s completion, I hadn’t even looked at my watch to see my final time, I posed: an ode to my love for this magical place.

Finished in 72:21:xx running unsupported (carried all my own gear and food the entire way without resupply) beginning Wednesday, Nov 6 and finishing Saturday, Nov 9. Began and finished in Tahoe City (64 acre park)

Monday, September 30, 2019

A Glimpse Beyond the Usual

Photo by Howie Stern 
I glance at my watch, 5 minutes to go. It briefly feels like the Earth moves but it’s just the power of this moment in time when anything is possible and therefore everything is possible. It’s nerves, I’m about to have runners pledge to me in real Luis Escobar and Caballo Blanco fashion a pledge of responsibility: 

“If I get lost” the runners repeat loudly, 

“hurt” ... many voices chiming in, 

“or die” ... 

“it’s my own damn fault.” 

And with a few nervous laughs from the runners and even louder laugh into a hum from the growing crowd, I glance again at my watch. 2 minutes. Again, the earth, my stomach moves. I’m about to start the 2019 Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run with the biggest field in the history of 200 milers in the USA. I created this beast and it’s amazing to see how it’s turned into something, from nothing. Nearly 250 runners from almost every state and so many countries that our start line chute is filled with colorful flags, flapping in the light breeze. But it won’t be light for long. 

This is the Sierra Nevada Mountains and these runners are about to embark on a 205 mile journey... of up to 100hrs/4 days. We don’t know it yet, but the course will be blanketed in inches of snow by the last 24 hours and yet, the runners persist, pushing through obstacles, most in their minds, but oh so real... many large, looming in front of them: steep climbs, torrential downpours, freezing nights, tired legs, pain and fatigue. 

Even overpowering hallucinations and reality slowly slipping away. And the snow covering the mountains like a cold blanket on the last day, making everything look brand new again, that’s what I’d hope for at the end of this quest: discovery of something brand new, a side of myself that perhaps I’d never seen before, a glimpse beyond the usual day to day grind, something extraordinary. 

The Bear's Message

As I climbed up a hillside so steep even the wisps of clouds settled in trees thinking they’d already reached the sky, a brown bear came rolling down the slope. For a moment he could’ve been a rock, but no... he paused, looked over at me just as surprised and moved gracefully to the East, disappearing so quickly I wondered if he was real. He was small enough I considered that his mother might come bounding down the slope too, half hoping she would and half worried she would but the only sound was The Weeknd singing “Try Me” in my ears. 
I pushed pause on my headphones listening intently, the soft sound of wind moving branches and snow dropping. Does the bear have a message for me? The thought passed through my mind as though each moment in the frozen forest was important. I wasn’t always sure what was a dream and what was this world, this lifetime. Would my dreaming self wake up in a start and wonder about her bear dream? Recall her cold feet and the feeling of deep sadness she carried up the mountain? 
I was still here though and I was in some remote forest, the closest human many miles away. I was making the first white tracks up the mountain. Lightly, lightly, the snow landed around me, on my waterproof hooded jacket, hitting my pants and melting into streams soaking my shoes. I was startled by my watch vibrating, one more mile it said. Lightly, lightly the snow fell until the wind swirled the snow flakes into angry clouds, biting my face and cheeks. I moved my buff over my nose. 
For a moment a light so bright someone could’ve turned on a cosmic flashlight above the mountains south of me, but it was the sun hiding behind a blustery snow filled cloud, the mist shifted and suddenly the mountains came into view: yellows, oranges, red, green and grey albeit for the top 1/3 which was frozen in white. The view stirring up feelings, like the breeze had moved the snow a moment before, and now I was moved to feel awe and fear. An appreciation for the power of the landscape and my small part in it: I was as insignificant as the snow that would melt one day, I was a part of the landscape a part of what made it wild and free.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Choosing DNS

Setting an FKT on the 20 mile Enchantment Lakes Traverse in July
Is a DNS better than a DNF? I pondered this thought as I cancelled my 4th 100 mile entry in a row this past week. Part of what was at play was an over zealous registration last year when training was going well and my business was feeling under control. But every year is different and this year has been... interesting.
HURT 100 in January
I had a great first two months of racing at the start of the year getting 4th at HURT 100 and 1st at Delirious WEST 200 mile. 4th is my "worst" finish at the HURT 100 but I was proud of how I rallied and was able to finish strong despite some challenges along the way. I didn't DNF, I toughed it out and got it done and I think it was respectable even if it wasn't my best running of the race (I've done it 6 times) and not even close to what I believe I'm capable of there. Gives me more fuel for this year's race. Delirious WEST was fun and a breakthrough for me as it was my first 200+ mile finish. As a 200 mile race director this meant a lot. I can't wait to do more 200+ mile races and keep pushing my body to see what it's capable of.
Quick photo at the last aid station while running 200 miles in Australia
Then injury happened 10 days after Delirious WEST 200. In hindsight there wasn't much I could've done but knowing what I know now I would take more time to recover after such a long effort. 10 days wasn't enough. I should have taken 3 weeks. But it was all training for my upcoming 800 mile Arizona Trail record attempt and I was supposed to be ok. The AZ Attempt was my ultimate goal this year. I was supposed to seamlessly work recovery into training and then knock out 800 miles for a new overall FKT if all went well. Weeks of injury led into months. Dates were rescheduled then rescheduled again.

I was biking 150 miles a week, lifting weights daily and still 100% focused on my FKT goal. You can't force your body to recover though. You can't force a race or a speed attempt to happen on your timeline either. It's a delicate balance of ideal life situation (lack of outside stress), on point training and recovery and when any of those things are off you can quickly become derailed.

I struggled mentally after my Delirious WEST 200 mile race. I was staying up to 2, 3 even 4am working on a high that seemed like no end was in sight. I'd sleep in and get back at it, working all day and biking 2-3 hours. My work load was heavy as I was shouldering the work of at least 2 people managing a busy company and trying to start a few other side businesses. Looking back, I can see how I failed to give myself the space I needed to keep growing athletically during that time. Less is more. It's so damn true.
Receiving my finish line medal after finishing 3rd overall and 1st female at Delirious WEST 200
By the time by calf injury had healed post-Delirious WEST 200 mile in mid-May (almost 3 months after DW200) it was too late in the season to attempt the AZ trail, at least for a speed attempt. Temperatures would be too high and my crew who were all lined up to start April 15 had other obligations. It was really hard to give up the attempt but I didn't have a choice if I wanted to succeed. It was as if I needed everything else in the world to tell me it wasn't the right time, I couldn't see it myself until it was the only option. I didn't want to see it.

The rest of my athletic season continued in similar fashion, the stress of work and being a mom was too much for me to seriously race over the summer and into the fall. I was working 12 hour days on the computer while making meals for my kids, getting them to school and caring for the household. I dreamed of a simple life where I'd spend the day just mowing the lawn. I mean, who has the time to mow the lawn?! The gift of my overwork and busyness was that I began to appreciate the small things like a puppy sleeping on my lap, sweeping the floor and doing dishes and taking my kids out to dinner. Each restful, non-working moment was precious.

I am hard on myself though, the hardest. Online trolls can and do chide me about my goals and each failure, they make fake social media for this purpose alone and yet they are no match fo me. I am much harder on myself. No one can match my drive or intensity. I will tear myself up, punish myself like no one else. It's a blessing and a curse.

If I lighten up a bit, I can see that I have had a good year. I was able to set an FKT in July on the Enchantment Lakes Traverse amidst a busy life/work schedule. When I consider my season and my business I can honestly say that I had three successful athletic achievements this year despite feeling like a bit of an athletic failure over the last 2 months.

Thus far my race directing season has also been going very well. I managed the largest 200 in the USA with nearly 250 runners over 205 miles around Lake Tahoe this month and it went seamlessly thanks to a strong team of employees/contractors and 6+ years of experience. If you'd asked me 3 years ago if 200s really are the new 100s I'd have laughed and said, no way, that's just a thing we say because Stephen Jones started it (thanks SJ) and because it's fun to annoy that slice of the population and the UR community that don't want to acknowledge the distance's popularity or just dislike me. I'd have said that 200s can't/won't gain that level of popularity anytime soon. If you ask me today though, I'd say yes and it's happening before my eyes. This is all very exciting and it has also meant giving the races more of my attention that I have needed to in previous years. I've been organizing 200s for 7 years! Can you believe it? That's a solid chunk of time.
Marking the Bigfoot 200
On a personal level this year my kids were changing school between my Bigfoot 200 and Tahoe 200 races and it took all my energy to manage this plus the logistics of my company with lots of moving parts. Instead of racing and training perfectly I focused on meeting my family's needs, being there for my kids as they navigated their new school, and making sure every "i" was dotted and "t" crossed with my company and races. Some side projects were put on hold: the podcast, home remodeling projects and some of my business ideas and new races I'm developing.

In the middle of all of this I found myself falling more and more in love. When it rains it pours. Love teaches you to prioritize. It teaches you what's important and it's not what you think is important like work or making money, it's time and family. I've written and podcasted about this romance over the past year, and it has been challenging at times. We broke up in late spring at the height of my injury and my AZ Trail planning. It taught us to communicate better, to be more aware when we were feeling stressed and how that affects the relationship. We tried, succeeded, suffered, flourished and adapted to the challenges that we each faced this year - no small task for a new relationship.

I thought I had no room for love or romance or another person in my life and yet when you find real love you make the space. We lived nearly 3,000 miles apart and time has just brought us closer. I've heard it said that love doesn't know time, space, or limitation and I do believe it is true. It can't always survive these challenges but sometimes it does. Love that is special doesn't happen every day or year or decade but somehow in the funniest and most unlikely way we met last January and it probably would have just remained a chance meeting and a fun conversation but we had such a strong connection from the moment we met that it didn't end there. Makes me wonder how the world really works and whether we are connected with certain people in other realms or realities or lives. I don't know, but I appreciate that it's special.
Dating me pretty much means pacing a minimum of 100k even for a non-runner. Delirious WEST 200.
We all go through transitionary times in our lives that require us to spend more time building our foundations and being there for our loved ones. I think this year adds up to me learning to better prioritize what's important and plan races and training for seasons where my work isn't as intensive. This is part of why I always love racing HURT 100. It's in January, my "off" season and I have more energy to put into it. Because ultramarathons take a lot of energy and when we have jobs and families we must respect that.

Here's to almost being done with my Triple Crown of 200s, one more to go (Moab 240)! Then I get to really focus on training for the HURT 100, Delirious WEST 200 and a new attempt at the AZ Trail next April with much more wisdom than I had earlier this year! the silver lining is more time to earn money for my charity, Girls on the Run. So far we are at $2,500+!

The Future of Destination Trail - We are Hiring!

Photo Scott Rokis at the finish line of the Tahoe 200
Over the past couple years I've had time to think a lot about the direction I want my business to go in. I've held back for a couple years on adding new events or complicating ones I already have developed even though I have many ideas and plans. This time has helped give me perspective and better understanding of what is needed in the communities we organize events and what we need to improve on. It is a very important part of my work to work with the local communities, land agencies and trail organizations. It has been really wonderful being a part of these communities and to give back to them. Although in some ways some of our contributions were after thoughts. The routes and trails, the adventure and sharing that was my first inspiration. Many of my business' "after thoughts" from trail work to scholarships are now some of the most important parts of my work. As I ponder on where my energy is best spent, I have come to the decision that it's time to hire a few key folks in addition to the amazing folks that make up my current team of employees and contractors.

With the scope of my businesses' work and the number of events we have it has become clear that for me to do my best work I need to hand off some tasks that I currently do as well as some tasks that some of my current employees do in order to continue to offer the events that we have and to add some exciting new ones next year.

I am looking to hire a few individuals. We are planning to hire the following:
1. Volunteer Coordinator in the Lake Tahoe/Reno area: we are hiring a coordinator to work with our team who lives in the Tahoe area. This individual will work year around at coordinating aid stations and volunteers for the Tahoe 200.
2. Volunteer Coordinator for the Moab/Salt Lake City area: we are hiring a coordinator to work with our team who lives in the SLC/Moab area. This individual will work year around at coordinating aid stations and volunteers for the Moab 240.
3. We are hiring a Full Time Race Director: I am looking for someone who has experience in this field (this is very important) and is looking for long term work with my company. Ideally this individual will already have experience Race Directing or working with company that organizes events. The work is especially heavy from June-November so the person needs to be willing to work more during those months. This means December-May are a bit more chill. In many ways it's a wonderful job that affords a person part time work part of the year and the ability to make their own schedule outside of events on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Although there is a lot of freedom within the job, the work is extremely important and many events rest on the timeliness of permitting, communication and logistics so it's not a job for someone wanting easy work.

Feel free to let me know or email me if you know someone who may be interested. A few traits I believe are very important to all these jobs: extremely organized (note taking, spreadsheet making, calendar scheduling individuals!), compassionate & kind personality, hard worker who is okay doing anything that needs to get done, management skills, community outreach, natural leader who can work with a variety of individuals & volunteers, time management skills, ability to multi task, customer service skills, social media and /or marketing experience, and an open communicator. Ultimately in a job that can pile on the stresses in a short period of time and where lack of sleep during events can be an issue, it's very important that the individual we hire is organized, calm and able to make things work (solution based with a "yes" attitude) even under high stress.

Email me if you know someone/are interested. Hiring will be done after October of this year and we are in no rush to find the right people. Please note that for the RD position we are looking for someone with experience in this field. Email:

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.