Thursday, May 14, 2015

Coconut Cardamom Overnight Oats

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love to sit down with a huge mug of coffee and leisurely eat my breakfast while catching up on emails. In my ideal world, breakfast takes anywhere from 1-2 hours. I love preparing a good, healthy, satisfying meal each morning. Some of my favorites include homemade waffles with nut butter, crepes with gruyere cheese and ham, smoothies, homemade macca muffins, poached eggs on homemade bread, etc. Although delicious, NONE of these are quick. On a weekend, no problem, but during the week I don't have time to sit an watch my muffins cook in the oven for 15 minutes. 

I need something quick most mornings. 

But, I hate to have a just eat a crappy breakfast because it sets the tone for the day. When my breakfast is rushed or not a healthy, satisfying meal I feel off. 

Enter the weekday solution: Overnight Oats. 

These are so simple to prepare the night before and are easy to take with you on a busy morning. Plus, the options are endless! There are so many ways to customize the overnight oats recipe that it's hard to tire of them. 

The recipe below for Coconut Cardamom Overnight Oats is one that I have been enjoying lately. Part of why I like this recipe is because of it's nutritional benefits:
  • Coconut milk. Coconut milk is a creamy, delicious alternative to dairy or nut milks. It tastes wonderful and is full of good, healthy fats (medium chain fatty acids) that provide energy and are processed different that other saturated fats. 
  • Chia Seeds. Chia seeds are packed with protein and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Organic Oats. A great source of carbohydrate, which is the most important fuel for endurance activities.
  • Greek yogurt. A good source of protein and calcium, which helps support bone health.
  • JEM Raw Organic Nut Butter. Full of good nutrients, including healthy fats and protein. Nut butter is not only delicious, but also helps keep you full for longer.
  • Hemp Hearts. These add a little texture and are also a good source of plant based protein and omega-3 fats. 

Coconut Cardamom Overnight Oats

by Stephanie Howe
Prep Time: 2-3 minutes
Keywords: raw breakfast vegan Pre-workout 
Ingredients (1 serving)
  • 1- 1 1/2 c. coconut milk ( I use regular, not unsweetened for a creamier taste)
  • 2-3 T chia seeds
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1 banana, cut into slices
  • 1/3- 1/2 c greek yogurt
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 T hemp hearts
  • 1 T pepitas
  • 1 T Jem cashew cardamum nut butter , drizzled on top
In a small bowl combine coconut milk, chia seeds, oats, banana, cardamom, and cinnamon. Stir together until well combined.
Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, mix in yogurt, and hemp hearts. Top with pepitas and drizzle with JEM cashew cardamum nut butter . Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon if desired.
Powered by Recipage

Mix together the night before

The next morning, add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and top with pepitas, nut butter, and cinnamon. So easy!

And delicious!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

3 2 1 Lake Sonoma!

Photo: Billy Yang
Lake Sonoma was my first 50 mile race ever. In 2012, I was a newbie runner, with three 50k races under my belt. I was [timidly] ready to make the jump to the 50 mile distance. I did my best to prepare, including some great tutelage from my good friend Meghan Arbogast. I was as ready as I'd ever be...except I got the stomach flu a few days beforehand. Not the best feeling going into your longest race ever. Anyway, I still raced and finished third. Far from an ideal race, but I was just happy to cross the finish line in one piece! Back then, only the top 2 places earned Western States spots, which I was a little bummed about. BUT, honestly that was the best thing that could have happened to me. After one 50 mile, I was no where near ready for 100 miles.

Photo: iRunFar
2012 Lake Sonoma Podium. Joelle, Tyler, and I.
Anyway. Back to Lake Sonoma.

So the first year I raced I finished third. In 2013, I was planning to race, but was forced to sit it out due to injury. 2013 was a big year for learning. I was injured almost more than I was running. I learned the hard way not to do too much too soon. Looking back now, I'm like what were you thinking?!

In 2014 I returned to Lake Sonoma, healthy and ready to run. It was a cool day and I felt much better than my previous attempt. Emily Harrison took the win and course record that year in 7:26. I finished a several minutes back, in 7:33 for second place. I cut off nearly 45 minutes from my previous time, which I felt good about. Plus, Emily is a runner I really look up to and was psyched to not get totally annihilated :)
Emily and I, Lake Sonoma 2014
I decided to run Lake Sonoma again this year because I hadn't felt that I nailed the race yet. Sure in 2014 I ran well, but the last 11 miles ate me alive! There was still a lot of room for improvement. Maybe not so much in my time or finish, but in the way I ran the race. I wanted to still be pushing at the end, not merely trying to survive the last couple hours.

If you would have asked me my goals going into LS this year, I would have said that it was a bonus race for me. I wasn't targeting it nor did I feel that I had really nailed my training leading up to the race. I simply wanted to get another race start under my belt for the spring and to run the last 1/3 of the race better. My goal that I didn't really tell anyone was to run around 7:30. I thought that was attainable if I had a great day. I thought 7:33 that I ran the previous year was pretty darn fast under ideal conditions. I also wanted to finish on the podium. I knew there were quite a few women capable of that feat, and I wanted to be among them. irunfar Pre-Race wine tasting Interview

Photo: iRunFar
Turns out someone lit a fire under my ass.

I don't know what got into me. Somewhere around 5-6 miles into the race I decided it was my day. It was my f$%^& day to run this race. I wanted to lead wire to wire and if I couldn't, well at least I'd put up a good fight. That doesn't mean that I went balls out from the gun. I still paced myself early on and had some good chit chat with Cassie Scallon early on. Once we crossed the river, around 11 miles in, YiOu Wang, Topher Gaylord, and I grouped up and ran for the next 10 miles or so. It was pretty comfortable and I was enjoying their company.

I look cold. Gary should have shared his blanket!
There are basically three big climbs on the LS course, and they all occur around the halfway point. I look forward to those long hills because I can finally get into a groove. All those quick spicy hills don't suit me very well. It was on the first of the three long uphills that I kind of went for it. Again, nothing crazy, but I just got into a groove and let my legs do their thing. On the downhill side, instead of holding back, I pushed the pace. Why not give it a try?

Early on
Photo: Chris Jones
I was definitely having fun, pushing the pace on the uphills and letting my legs roll on the downs. After a brief moment of panic at the halfway point: someone stole Brian Tinder's weed!! JK- that is a joke....he made a funny at the aid station, I was excited to start the trek back to the finish. I really was looking forward to the turnaround for two reasons:

1. I'm halfway (duh!)


2. To see and cheer for other runners passing by running outbound. It boosts my mood to see other racers, especially some of my good friends!

Somewhere around 30 miles in, I sort of paid the price for all the "fun" pushing the downhills. My quads were trashed. Oh well. I knew I could run 20 miles on trashed quads, it was just a matter of keeping my energy levels up. I continued to fuel well (3 Clif shot gels per hour) and tried to run as smooth as possible.

Photo: iRunFar
I can't say that I really enjoyed the last 11 miles, but I was able to keep pushing forward. My legs hurt pretty bad, but I kept a good attitude and tried my best to not let the wheels come off.

When I race I normally don't look at my watch at all. I like to just go off feel. I do keep tabs on the miles though, and when my watch buzzed at mile 44 I looked down at the time. "Holy crap- if I can just average 10 min miles for the last 6 miles I'll have a course record!" That was actually the first time that thought crossed my mind. And as I neared the finish, the course record became a more tangible prospect.

The last mile of LS is killer. If anyone tells you different, they are lying. It's mostly uphill and there are some rocky sections. It's seems to take an exponentially long time. In the past years I've fallen in the last mile because I just couldn't pick up my feet enough. No falls this time, but plenty of fatigue.

Photo: Chris Jones
I made it to the finish line in 7:08!! Which surprised the crap out of me! I didn't think I could run that fast, especially on a course like Lake Sonoma. No one was more surprised than me. In a good way :) I did put myself under pretty good, but it was worth it because I really wanted that double magnum of wine that had eluded me the past few years!

irunfar Post-Race Wine Tasting Interview

Ultra Sports Live Interview

Thanks Wilson Wine!
Photo: Billy Yang
I've had lots of time to process my race at Lake Sonoma, and I'm still not entirely sure how I pulled it off. Comparing my race from 2014 to 2015 (I'm not a data geek, but this is interesting), I thought I'd see similar splits for the first 30-40 miles, then a much better pace for the last 10 miles. Not exactly. I actually just ran about 30 seconds per mile faster for the entire race. Interesting....does that mean there is still room for improvement over the last 10 miles? Haha. I don't know, but I'm pretty content with my race. In fact, it may have been one of my best races ever......

(2014 Lake Sonoma Strava)

Of course, I couldn't have raced so well without some great support. I am the luckiest girl alive to have THE BEST crew on the planet! Thanks Elisa Cheng and Brian Carroll for being awesome. And a special thanks to Zach, who not only crewed for me, but also put up with my pre-race shenanigans and drove me to the start at 5:30am.

And another big thanks to my sponsors: The North Face, Clif Bar, Flora, Nathan, and Julbo. Their support and products make it possible for me to race!

And finally, (is this the academy awards?!) thanks to my coach Ian Torrence for preparing me to kick ass and to Burke Selbst at Focus Physical Therapy for keeping me healthy.

It takes a village.

Post-race wine tasting with the Cheng's

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Something Different: The Grand Traverse

One of my goals for 2015 was to get out of my comfort zone. I can definitely say I've accomplished this goal last weekend at the Grand Traverse. There were so many moments of what did I get myself into? followed by moments of satisfaction as I approached my limits..... and then pushed past them!

One thing that I really thrive on is setting out to do something I'm intimidated by. I mean, I guess deep down I know I can complete the task, but the thought of how is quite overwhelming. This isn't a new feeling for me, but I have to continue to seek new experiences to still get those same feelings.

So that's how the Grand Traverse came about. It's a 40 mile backcountry ski race, from Crested Butte to Aspen. Additional challenges include a start time at midnight, elevation up to 12,500 ft (with most of the race above 11,00ft), and it's a partner race.

The partner part was easy :) Zach had raced the Grand Traverse a few years ago and wanted to go back with better preparation and gear. So we decided to team up this year, which made me a little nervous. We have tested ourselves quite a few times racing as a pair: Transrockies twice, local adventure races, pacing each other during 100-milers; and we tend to work well together. However, I was worried about the ability difference between the two of us. Zach is a pretty darn good skier! And me, well, we'll just say I got out on my backcountry skis about 5 or 6 times this year.

Enroute. Sporting #Free Range!

So it was a perfect recipe for fulling the new experience goal. Or something like that :)

We arrived in Crested Butte a few days early to acclimate. Ha. Really it was just an excuse to spend a couple days in a beautiful place together. I had planned to get in a few runs, but I forgot about the fact that CB itself is at 9,000ft. And everything is up from there. It was amazingly hard for me to do even easy runs. And I feel like I adapt to attitude well. Nonetheless, we had some fun visiting our favorite places, which include First Ascent coffee roasters, Secret Stash, and Dogwood Cocktail cabin.

Dogwood. In case you are wondering it's exactly the same in CB and Bend.

Plus, we also had a few good friends that we racing too. So it really was like a vacation....just with a really hard race in the middle.

Checking out the snow the day before
Race day was tough for me. A midnight start is probably the worst possible time for me to start a race. I'm not a stay up late person, and I'm not a good napper either. So I basically just twiddled my thumbs until 10:30pm or so and then was ready to go to sleep. Consequently that was also the time we decided to take the shuttle of to the start. This was going to be a long night for me.....

The buzz at the start was pretty cool. There were so many friends and fellow runners: Rob Krar, Jason Schlarb, Tina Lewis, Steve Kremer, Matt Hart, Jenn Shelton. It was nice to see familiar faces! There was also a pretty rad party underway at the start. I'll admit I was a bit envious of those not in spandex who could soon go to bed....

Start of the race
Photo credit: Elk Mountain Grand Traverse
The beginning of the race was kind. It was a gentle climb up Mt. Crested Butte and served as a good warm up. I was SO happy that the weather was warm this year. I've heard horror stories about sub-0 temps and frostbite. I tend to get cold really easy, so it was a relief to have temps in the upper 20's at the start. And in rare form, I would even admit I was a bit warm as as we made our way uphill. That never happens. I guess I did have on mittens and hand warmers though :)

The first few hours were a mix of downhills, skins on, and running. As we were told in the pre-race briefing there were lots of spicy sections. What does that even mean? Well, we sure found out! We'd be skiing along and suddenly come to a rocky downhill that required some creativity to maneuver through. There were many times I apologized to my skis for what I skiing over :/ Eeek!

Once we were a few hours in we started the long climb up to Star Pass. I enjoyed this part, at first, because we were finally able to get in a rhythm. Partway up the climb I started to feel kinda bad. I'm not really sure why, but probably a combo of the time of day, almost 4:00am, and the elevation, around 12,000ft. My stomach was just not happy.

Zach wins the award for the best partner ever. In an attempt to keep my hands from freezing, we decided that I shouldn't even think about taking off my big boxing mitts. So Zach essentially had to feed me because I couldn't open anything. He would put a Clif blok or two in his hand and I would literally eat it out of his hand. It was probably quite comical to watch!

Star pass is about the halfway point of the race time-wise. It's also the biggest downhill and sort of sketchy because it's dark and so high. I'm actually glad I couldn't see because we basically dropped in off of a cornice into a steep, icy descent. I didn't have the most fun going down because I was trying to just stay on my feet and not die. This was one of those places where I went way out of my comfort zone!
Star Pass in the daylight.
Photo: Cecily Runge's dad :)
After Star Pass, we side hilled for the next 5 hours. Well, it wasn't actually that long, but it felt like it! Side hilling, I decided is my LEAST favorite way to ski ever. It just doesn't feel good. My feet were hurting from my new boots that I decided to wear and I was just tired. But, there wasn't anything we could do besides just keep shuffling forward.

Sometime around sunrise we hit Taylor Pass, which was both the most beautiful section and also my lowest point of the race. Since my stomach felt so bad I wasn't fueling that well and was starting to bonk. I was really struggling to move forward. The alpenglow on the Marroon Bells did help to lift my spirits and it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen!

This fire saved me
Photo credit: 2015 Race Photos
I was really looking forward to Bernard hut, which was a mandatory 10-min rest with soup! I think that soup saved me. Upon departing, I felt like a new person!

.....Which lasted approximately 15 minutes until we hit death road. This is what I'm calling it. I'm sure it has its own name, but to me it's death road. This was an 8 mile is section of rolling snowmobile track. It was lumpy and narrow and icy and slushy. And it was SO slow. We tried skating at first, but it was just taking way too much energy. So, we took off our skis and walked. It was truly a slog. Walk uphill, put skis on, ski sketchy downhill (for those in Bend- it was similar to coming down from Todd lake on nordie skis on the snowmobile track). And repeat. I could not imagine anyway moving slower, but then we started catching people. So I guess everyone was just moving that slow. Death road.

It probably wasn't that bad, but it was 7 or 8 hours into the race and we were both tired. Again, Zach was the best partner ever and carried my skis when we had to walk. It was kind of an equalizer, but I know it was hard for him near the end. Thanks babe!

When we caught site of the top of Aspen mountain I could not have been move excited. I was really not enjoying the last several miles. Knowing that we just had to ski down to Aspen was such a great relief. The run down was one of the longest I've been on in awhile. It just kept going. We were both so ready to be done! After 3,000ft of descent we finally could see the finish line. I don't think I've ever been happier to be done with a race! We crossed together in just over 9 hours.

The euphoric post-race feeling lasted about 5 minutes and then we crashed. After going a whole night without sleep we were both feeling pretty messed up. I had booked a hotel, but unfortunately we weren't supposed to check in until 4:00pm, and it was 9:00am. Arg! So we milled around like zombies until we were able to get into our room.

The rest of the day was a blur, but there were some fun post-race events. The weather was beautiful for March and it did actually feel like spring break! We ended up third co-ed team and were both very satisfied with that. We had a couple mechanical issues (I wore new boots for the first time :/) and I slowed us down on some of the descents. Now that I know what to expect I think we can probably go quite a bit faster. But for now I am totally happy to finish on the podium :)

Coming back home it was a tough transition back to work and back to running. I'm trying to get my butt in shape for Lake Sonoma next weekend! We'll see how that goes.....

I'm really glad that I tried something new. It gave me a boost of confidence and it was really fun to suffer with Zach for 9 hours! Best partner ever!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Way Too Cool 50k: Race of the Fasties

Way Too Fast Cool.

I wanted to race WTC this year for an early season kick in the butt. However, I wasn't fully prepared for what I was getting myself into.

A few days before the race I looked up the start list and realized that I was WAY down on the Ultra Signup rankings (very scientific, I know). Who were all these women racing? I honestly only recognized a few names. None of the usual suspects. So I did some research.......

Fasties. They're a thing, not a word I made up. I found out that I'd be toeing the line with some major fasties. Women with some serious leg speed.

I was nervous. My early season training hadn't been that great and I didn't feel super fit yet (I mean, it's only March, right!?) But, what can you do besides try? I had experience and endurance on my side.

Pre-race Interview with Ultra Runner Podcast

Racing in California in March is heavenly. No tights! No hat or mittens! It was wonderful to sit out in the sunshine and not be cold. I was excited to race in the 'heat'.

Race morning was kind, an 8:00am start time allowed for sleeping in until a reasonable hour. I had my normal pre-race breakfast consisting of an ocean roll, coffee, white rice, and some peanut butter. Yum!

The race start was fast, as I knew it would be. I found myself running and chatting with Caroline Boller. We hit the first mile in 6:17 and both laughed. Ok, a little too fast! I don't think we slowed too much though.

The first part of the course is an 8 mile loop that comes back through the start/finish area. It was pretty flat with a couple little rollers. Easy to run too fast. I did my best to stay on the conservative side. I ran most of the first loop with YiOu Wang and we left the first aid station together.

The next section was a few miles of glorious downhill. My favorite! Around mile 11 or so, we came through the next aid station where I was surprised to see some good friends volunteering! I stopped to fill my bottle here and when I left the aid station YiOu was already out of sight. Oh well. The next stretch was a long flat section by the river and there was no way I was going to catch back up. Girl has some serious speed! So, I just settled into my own pace and focused on fueling well. And I really nailed it- I had great energy the whole race.

The last 1/3 of the race was more my style. A couple longer uphill climbs and some longer descents. I felt much more like myself. In fact, I was feeling even better than earlier in the race. Around mile 25, I spotted YiOu. Wow, this just turned into a race! I thought I'd been dropped and was ready to battle for third. I caught and passed YiOu going up Goat Hill. She was looking good, and I was thinking she'd probably challenge me as we neared the finish.

I was feeling great and think I made some good time over the last 4-5 miles. When I reached the last climb, up to Highway 49, I was totally reminiscing about the same climb during Western States. Somehow it didn't seem quite as daunting as I remembered :)

When I saw the sign with 1 mile to go I looked down at my watch. I knew the CR was 3:49 and I was pretty sure I was going to run under that time. I didn't throw myself under in the last mile- instead I enjoyed it. Sometimes it's nice to take it in and relish what you just accomplished. And I did just that.

I crossed the finish line in 3:47 and couldn't have been happier! That's a good time for me, especially for early in the season. I was proud of myself for running a smart race, fueling really well, and having a good second half of race. Success!

Post-race Interview with Ultra Sports Live

Strava Race Data

My favorite things at WTC:

  • Eric Schranz's crocheted shorts from Etsy. Did anyone get a photo?
  • Seeing Meghan, Craig, & Mark at Quarry Road Aid Station.
  • Catching up with good friends and teammates
  • My awesome friend Elisa, who came out to cheer and kept me company for the weekend
  • Frog Cupcake at the finish
  • Sunshine and, hopefully, tanlines
Women's Podium
How did I not have low energy you ask? Well, here was my nutrition plan:
  • 6 1/2 Clif Shot gels every 20-30 min, starting at 30 min into the race. I like to start with the non-caffeinated (vanilla, raspberry) and switch to the caffeinated gels (mocha, strawberry, double espresso) in the last 1/3 of the race.
  • 1-2 cups of Coke at the last 3 aid stations
  • S caps, 1 tab during the first hour, 1-2 every hour after. 
  • Lots of water. 1 Nathan handheld bottle, 18oz, refilled at 5 of the aid stations.

The trip back to Bend was pretty fun. Elisa and I had a great 80's music jam session in my car, ate at a fantastic Indian restaurant, watched a bad lifetime movie (deep impact) post-race, and checked out a trail near Mt. Shasta. It was a fun filled weekend :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on Running in 2015: Part II

Run #LikeAGirl

I know it's already well into 2015, but I like to take some time to disconnect after the season and not worry about training or racing. So I'm a little late to the game creating my goals for 2015, but nonetheless, here are my plans for 2015.

2015 Race Schedule

2/7 Vert Fest Skimo Race, Mt. Bachelor, 1st
This was my first actual skimo race. I had some technical issues, but it was a great all around experience.

3/7 Way Too Cool 50k
Should be fast and furious. A little intimidated to be running fast in early March.

3/28 Elk's Grand Traverse, Skimo race
High on the 'oh shit, what did I get myself into' list. This is a 40 mile backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen beginning at midnight. It is going to be freezing cold, dark, and a little terrifying. WAY out of my comfort zone. Which is why I'm doing it :)

4/11 Lake Sonoma
Classic. California wine country. Tropical John. Fantastic course and organization. Need I say more?

6/27 Western States
I am drawn to this race. It was my first 100 miler and I will never forget it. I'm going back to experience it all again..... I don't have expectations for myself, except for improving areas where I struggled last year.

8/28 UTMB
Uncharted territory for me. The course profile alone intimidates me. But I like a challenge. And I really like espresso and croissants. I am very excited to give UTMB a go this year. It's been on my bucket list for a few years now.

12/5 TNFEC
Great season ender. This race is tough- it's late in the year, running conditions in Bend are less than desirable, and holiday craziness has already set in. But the energy and atmosphere make it worth the effort. Plus, the celebration afterwards feels so justified!

Other races
I'm hoping to add 1-2 races if everything goes to plan. I hate to have too many commitments until I really see how things play out. So, if recovery allows, I'd like to add races in May, early August, and the Oct/Nov. I'm considering a road marathon for the fall race. GASP! I know! I've been wanting to run a marathon for awhile though and there's no time like the present.

Non-tangible goals for 2015

1. Be a positive ambassador for the sport
This is important to me. I want to be a positive role model and encourage others to uphold high standards in sportsmanship, environmentally, and

2. Run #LikeAGirl
That's right. Get after after it and take chances! I'm not one to be intimidated by male runners, and I want to help bring women's running to the same level as men's running.

3. Get out of my comfort zone
Try some new things! I want to continue to challenge myself and do things I'm slightly intimidated by. Point in case: Grand Traverse and UTMB. Both will be totally new experiences for me, especially the ski race!

4. Keep a healthy work/run/life balance
The more involved I get in running, the more blurred these lines become. It's important to me to keep a good balance though and remember that my life includes MANY different areas.

Someone's excited
And finally, I have some great sponsors helping me to reach my goals! Thanks a ton for your support this upcoming year!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thoughts on running in 2015: Part I

In 2015 I have two types of goals that are very different. Thus,  I decided to split it into two posts- more reading, right?! My first post (below) is about doing something bigger in life. My second goal, in the next post, is more focused on racing and running #LikeAGirl

I've had a slow start to 2015. It's been really good to reset and experience life when doesn't revolve around training. Zach and I just returned from 2 weeks in Bali, where we did everything but run. We spent our days surfing, paddle boarding, and getting fabulous massages for $10, and our nights eating great food and having cocktails on the beach.  It was a great chance to disconnect and relax. I didn't know I had it in me to be that lazy! I mean that in a good way. I was worried that 2 weeks of no activity would drive me bonkers, but as it turns out, it did quite the opposite. It gave me time to think about things other than running and enjoy some down time. I was quite sad to leave.

Daily offering in Bali
I'm glad we choose Bali for our honeymoon for two reasons:

1) It's a very hot and humid tropical island. While Zach was profusely sweating, I loved the heat and spending the whole day in my swimsuit. Quite a change from the normal January weather in Bend. 

2) Bali is still a developing country. While there is a great deal of Western influence and 5-star luxury resorts, there are also small rural villages that are quite primitive. Spending time in these areas and observing the differences in day-to-day life sparked some good thoughts. 

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about my goals for 2015. Obviously I have goals and want to race, but I also have been thinking about how I use running in a different way. Reflecting on the differences in my life vs life in a developing country made me realize how privileged I am. I felt selfish about my chosen lifestyle. Much of what I do on a daily basis is to benefit myself (running) or help the upper 10% of the population (coaching/nutrition). Not that I don't help people, but there is such a disparity between the people I help and the people out there who need help. 

Cutest baby monkey ever!
 Most days my biggest concerns are getting my training in, eating well, writing training plans, connecting with my athletes, and working for OSU. I never worry about where my next meal will come from or how I will make enough money to take care of my family. It's crazy when you start to put it in that perspective.  My first world problems seem silly and unimportant. 

While I'm very supportive of a lifestyle that includes running and training to reach goals, I also want to make a bigger difference for others. I'm inspired to do something bigger. And I want to use my running to help make this difference. I don't really know what that will look like yet, but I've been thinking on it for the last couple weeks. 
The market, filled with people desperate to make a sale
While reflecting on the 2015 goals of myself and other runners, I think it's important to take a step back and realize how privileged we are to have the life we do. It's easy to get caught up in the small details and becoming very self centered. Most blogs I've read lately seem to have an "entitled" tone to them. This is not everyone, I know some will probably take that personally, but I'm not singling out any one blog. It's hard to seem humble when the purpose of a blog is to talk about yourself and results! I know my blog reads like this. What I want to do in 2015 is take a step back and look more at the big picture. It's not just about how fast I can run, but how I can use running to help others and make me a better person. Again, I'm not really sure how I will do this, but it's one of my top goals for 2015.

And it seems that thinking this way is promising as there seem to be others coming from the same school of thought. Take for example, the piece AJW wrote on running and being a good human being:

This article really resonated with me. While I DO have sponsorships and am motivated to race and perform at a hight level, I never want that to become more important than being humble and appreciative for what I have. One of my goals for 2015 is to smile when I am racing, thank the volunteers, and be considerate of those around me. I think if we all did this ultra running would maintain it's reputation as the friendliest sport in the world. I fear with more sponsorships and money on the line the sport is slowly becoming tainted and greedy. Let's not let that happen. I challenge everyone in 2015 to run for the reasons in their heart. For me this is the feeling of pure joy as I push my physical limits and cherish the feeling as I cross the finish line, proving to myself that I am capable of more than I thought.  

Why do you run? 

Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Friday, December 12, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge


My response to a friend's text "give me one word describing your race. I haven't looked at results yet"

And decent it was. 

Photo credit: Myke Hermsmeyer Photography/Ultra Race Photos
I had mixed feelings about the day, but overall I am very positive about the end of my 2014 season. Was this my best race? Nope. Was it a bad race? Far from it. In case you don't want to read the rest of this post, here are the cliff notes: I am thrilled with my 2014 season. It was a great year of running with many goals accomplished. I'm happy to have finished it off by standing on the podium. 

Some great interviews from pre- and post-race:


Post Race

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
The week leading up to TNF 50 was a little rough for me. Actually to be honest, 2-3 weeks leading up to TNF were a little rough for me. It started with a trip to Arizona, where I had the opportunity to run some beautiful trails in Tucson. Zach and I were enjoying a 2-3 mile long rocky uphill, and I said out loud "I can't wait to turn around and run down this. I'm so good at downhills. I never roll my ankle." Why I said those words I have no idea. I kid you not, within 10 steps of turning around to run downhill, I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle. Bad. It was a long commute, running with tear stained eyes, back out to the car. 

Them be ankle bitin' rocks

I saw my PT immediately when I got home, and he recommended just a few days off to let it heal. No real harm done, just an ankle sprain. Great. I took about 5 days off from running, then felt good enough to test the waters. Unfortunately my timing overlapped with a huge snow/ice storm in Bend, which left most of the running surfaces too treacherous to run. 

Coming home from AZ in flip flops to this...
That's saying a lot because I think of myself, having lived in Minnesota, the UP of Michigan, and Montana, a pretty darn good snow/ice runner. Honestly I don't usually have a problem running in the winter. But, this storm completely messed up even the roads!

 One afternoon I decided I was going to brave the elements. I convinced my good friend Natalie to try running outside with me. We ran on the flattest, most cleared roads and it was still pretty disastrous. It took us over and hour to run 5 miles. I'm surprised I didn't roll my ankle again.            

Not thrilled
With TNF 50 looming in the not so distant future, I turned to the treadmill. Mind you, I am NOT a treadmill runner. I run on a treadmill like once a year, and usually only for 20 minutes. In desperation to run, I did 3 DAYS of treadmill runs in a row.

Celebrating a day running on snowy roads!
Really it was only a few days of icky weather, but as my good timing continued, I started feeling sick just as the weather improved. And this cold lasted over 2 weeks.....right up until race day. However it did force me to do a nice taper :)

Race week I was planning to fly down a little early to visit Clif Bar and to meet with some other people. The airlines had other plans. My first flight on Monday was cancelled. No big deal. I was feeling pretty sick, so I was psyched to spend another night in my bed. I was rebooked for Tuesday afternoon. Cool. Tuesday came and my flight was cancelled again. In the process of trying to rebook I learned that the next available flight would be on Friday or Saturday. Ummm, not going to work. Instead of playing the standby game I decided to cut my losses and drive down to California. This actually worked in my favor because I convinced Zach to join me! He wasn't planning to come with, but who could resist a 10-hr road trip in the pouring/freezing rain?! I owe Zach for this one. Not only did he come with and keep me company, he also woke up at 3:00am to crew for me all day, then drove me home the next day :) 

Anyway, back to the race. TNF 50 is always a fun time to catch up with everyone. It's exciting to see my teammates and friends who are all down for one last hurrah before the end of the year. This year TNF rented a house in Mill Valley, which was a ton of fun! 

I was still feeling under the weather by race morning, but wasn't going to let it stop me. I had received some wise words from my coach, Ian Torrence, the day before. Don't think about being sick. Just shove some sugar in and keep running. And that became my race day motto. 

The start of TNF 50 is always exciting. It's dark and there is so much nervous energy in the air. When the gun went off, I found myself getting a little too caught up in the excitement of running. The first mile is paved and downhill, so it's easy to start too aggressively. I guess I probably started too fast, but I settled into my pace after the first mile. 

I wish I could say that I raced hard and battled all the way to the finish, but truth be told, I was out of contention early on. I just didn't have much fight in me. I lost Magda and Meghan after about 12 miles and then I was all by myself. I didn't have it in me to try to bridge the gap, so I just ran. Shoved some sugar in and kept going. 

Photo credit: BayTrailrunners 
And I smiled. That was one race goal I had promised Meghan Hicks in my pre-race interview. I would smile.

 There were some highs and lows and some nasty parts out on the trail. That's what I love most about ultra trail running- you never know what you are going to get. You have to be ready for anything. Probably the most treacherous part of the course was the 5 miles of single track from Cardiac to Stinson beach. The trail was a full on mud puddle and there was two way traffic the whole time.

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
I actually started to feel better in the last 10 miles or so. Don't get me wrong, I was tired, but I didn't feel quite as sick-y. Early on I was having a hard time finding a groove and just didn't feel like myself. But, as I crossed the finish line I smiled. I was proud of my effort and for not giving up. Plus, in the last 6 miles I played a little game with myself to see how many men I could pass. It was thoroughly satisfying :)

The aftermath
Sharing the podium with some fast ladies. And Dean :)
Photo credit: Nate Dunn
All in all I'm happy with my day. If I gave myself a report card it would look something like this:

Effort: A (I did the best I could under the conditions)
Attitude: A (I kept my head in the game and didn't give up)
Physical ability: C+ (My body wasn't cooperating, due to illness)

So that averages out to something like a "B" for my race, which is "decent".
My Strava race report

Thanks to all my sponsors and people out there crewing and cheering for me!

Gear Used
Shoes: The North Face Trail Equity
Shorts: The North Face Better than Naked Short
Top: The North Face Better than Naked Short-Sleeve
Arm Warmers: Flora 
Hydration: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Handheld
Fuel: Clif shot gels, bloks, mini Clif bars, and coke, about 200 kcal/hr
Headlamp: Black Diamond Icon