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. 
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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? 
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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. 
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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