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. 


  1. You have created something pretty special, and your passion shows in your work, but it's bound to be a struggle making this kind of work sustainable. We all struggle to find balance. I'd say approach it like you do your running, but then I remember you ran 200 miles and won a race while hallucinating and never sleeping! :p :D

  2. I cannot even imagine. Continue to write, to share. Go easy on the "delete" button, sharing your real thoughts allows others to see you as human. Of course that raw and real emotion shared will also draw trolls who love to aim for for others weakness because of their own self hate. But more than that, it gives women hope. We dont need to see women at the top who have it all together and dont struggle. It gives the illusion that to be at the top you have to be perfect, and this is NOT what women need to see. Share your pain, suffering and triumph. That is what inspires and makes other women believe they too, with all their faults and errs might too be able to achieve greatness.

  3. Candice- the events you have built have changed lives. How you manage it all is truly amazing. You are raw and honest and don’t make excuses. Amazing. If you need another warm body volunteer to help - give me a shout. Stephanie at

  4. Wow, everyday, I admire you, more and more.... Delete, delete, yet I want to thank you, for all you do!

  5. You have become one of the first to tell it like it is. Maybe you do it bec it is cathartic for you but it seems it is your nature to give. Wow. What a gift you are. I often worry when I read about your difficulties (like the calf injury then the bike crash) but then youre writing about them and if Im listening on my own run, my own hurts and oains come into perspective clearer. Life it seems is often a balance sheet but only if you do stuff and you are a doer. Keep doing. It is only by doing that we can even see what was fun, shitty, a learning experience or a one and done. If we dont do then we never see what we can accomplish or care about. And make no mistake, you clearly ran that race. Pun intended.

  6. I think you ran that race too - with each & every one of your runners like a mother hen. You are truly inspirational Candice & I hope you are able to rest & recharge sooner than later. X

  7. Don't forget you are two months post concussion. You may not respond the same way to the race stress as in years past.


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