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: Racedirector@destinationtrailrun.com

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