Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fantasizing & Reflecting

I'm really missing the mountains today.....

Reflecting where I'm at, right in this moment, has me fantasizing about what I had. And questioning how I got here.

Did I take too much in my pursuit for happiness? 

Did I neglect my body as I sought to fulfill the needs of my mind?

Was I too selfish with my expectations?

All these questions circle through my head as I try to be content with less. Having an injury is great for reflecting and understanding why we do the things we do. And with each set back, we learn more about ourselves and become stronger in the process.

For me, as I recover from a sore achilles, I've had a lot of time to think. And ponder.

It's not all been positive thoughts though; I've had days filled with tears and frustration as I navigate the roller coatser of recovery. But, it's given me the chance to divulge even further in to why I run. 

It's how I feel alive. 

My mind becomes present and and I can feel. 



As I struggle to find that state without running it's a reminder to not put too much weight on one element of happiness. You never know when it will be pulled out from beneath you. And being left with nothing that fulfills you is a terrible thing. 

As with anything that causes you to slow down, I am learning and appreciating what I DO have. Finding other ways to fill the void has been a rewarding experience.

Yet there are still days, like today, where I fantasize about running freely in the mountains.... And it bring me down to reality. What I wouldn't give for just one ounce of that freedom right now. 

I know with patience will come healing, and soon enough I'll be able to do what I love. But for now I'm trying to embrace the extra down time I have and use it to become a more well-rounded person. 

And keep pursuing the ever elusive state of balance....

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fall Baking, Sans Pumpkin

The pumpkin, my friends, has been overdone. Walk into any grocery store and you are bombarded by pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. And I really mean everything. Don't get me wrong, I do like pumpkin, but I think it's getting way too much attention. There are so many other fall flavors and foods that go unrecognized. Today I recognize one of them. Butternut Squash.

Similar to pumpkin, squash can be used in sweet or savory dishes; roasted, baked, pureed, etc.  Since I was feeling festive and wanted to make a fall themed treat, I decided to use butternut squash as I normally would use pumpkin. Just because I'm OVER pumpkin. And you know what? It tasted delicious!.....just like pumpkin. Eye roll.

Since I was getting creative with ingredients, I decided to get creative with my recipe as well. Normally I'd bake pumpkin bread with chocolate chips or pumpkin cookies. Tried and true, but not really fitting my theme today. So, I decided to make donuts! Well, not actual donuts, because they were baked. I need to tweak this recipe so the end product more "donut like" by frying somehow. Maybe in my cast iron skillet? Maybe using the new Flora Sacha Inchi oil that I'm obsessed with? Stay tuned....

Back to my recipe. So I had this great butternut squash puree from a squash I roasted, peeled, and smashed with a fork. To make the donut batter I started with flour, eggs, and baking soda. I didn't want to end up with flat, dense discs; so I sought ingredients that would result in a light, airy texture. I also wanted the donuts to taste like fall, so I got out cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, molasses, and maple syrup. I could smell it already.....

In this recipe I used coconut oil, but I think any oil would work. I would also like to try using browned butter in my next batch, because, YES. Anyhow, I threw a little of this a little of that in a bowl, mixed it all up, and was ready to bake.

This was the tricky part. Well, not really, but since I'm a perfectionist I wanted these to LOOK like donuts (since they were basically just muffins anyway). I don't have a donut baking pan, because #why? To make these look the part I used a well greased muffin tin and filled the tins up about 1/4 or 1/3 of the way full. Then put in them in the oven and awaited the wonderful smell to fill my kitchen.

About 10-15 min later it did! I took out the little "muffins" and set them on a cutting board to cool. In the meantime I got to work on the glaze. Normally I'd just use milk and powdered sugar to make a simple, sweet, not too heavy glaze. But today was all about experimenting, so I made two more unique options.

For the first glaze, I mixed together cream cheese and powdered sugar. One of my favorite types of frosting. I used slightly more cream cheese than sugar to keep the consistency thinner and from becoming overly sweet.

For the second option I mixed together peanut butter, maple syrup, and molasses. Oh yes, I did. I have a slight major obsession with peanut butter, so I had to do it! I worked out perfectly, because Zach is more of a cream cheese fan. So I effectively made his and her donuts :)

Once the muffins were cool, I took a sharp knife and carefully cut out the middles to make a donut shape. Riley got to taste-test the donut holes. He approved! Here's where I think frying the donuts would have been a good idea. If anyone does this step, let me know how it turns out.

To frost, I just used a butterknife to spread on the frosting, and then used my finger to smooth it over. I finished the cream cheese donuts off with a drizzle of molasses. I think it would be fun to add nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc, on top as well.

Final verdict- these were delicious and unique. The texture was very light and fluffy, not at all dense. But, they were a little soft for donuts, in fact they just tasted like muffins....BUT they were in the shape of donuts. That's what counts, right? Like I said, I'll keep tweaking the recipe....


Baked Donuts

by Stephanie Howe
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Keywords: bake bread breakfast Halloween fall
Ingredients (serves 12)
    For the Donuts
    • 3/4 c+ flour (all purpose or a mix)
    • 2/3 c butternut squash (or pumpkin) puree
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 c vegetable oil or coconut oil
    • 1/4 c orange juice
    • 1/4 c maple syrup
    • 1/8 c molasses
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    For the Glaze: Option 1
    • 2-3 T cream cheese
    • 2-3 T powdered sugar
    • molasses for drizzling
    For the Glaze: Option 2
    • 2-3 T Peanut butter
    • 1 T molases
    • 1-2 T maple syrup
    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and spices) in a large mixing bowl. Combine wet ingredients (pumpkin, egg, maple syrup, molasses, and oil) in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
    To Bake
    If you have a donut pan, viola, so simple. If you are like me and don't have room in your kitchen for such frivolous accessories, then simply bake in a muffin tin. Fill well greased muffin tins about a quarter or a third full. Bake for 10-15 min (depending on the thickness) and remove from oven to cool. Once cooled, take a knife and gently cut out the middles of the "donuts"
    To make the Glaze
    Choose your flavor and mix together. Haha, yeah that's all! Use a butterknife and spread onto cooled donuts. Drizzle with molasses to decorate with chocolate chips, nuts, etc.
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    Saturday, September 12, 2015

    Fall Bounty: Baked Eggplant with Bulgar

    Fall has arrived.

    Fall is my favorite season for a number of reasons. Crisp, cool mornings turning to warm sunny days, colors fading from green to gold, sweaters, apples, squash, and pumpkin.... 

    One great thing about returning home after much of my summer in France, was coming home to an overflowing garden. I'm not sure how it survived since it was more or less left to it's own device for several weeks. But, my garden is bursting with kale, beets, carrots, squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, chard, and snap peas. So exciting!

    To celebrate the early harvest I decided to make a dish incorporating several ingredients from my garden. I like eggplant, but it's a finicky relationship. On it's own, eggplant leaves much to be desired. It's gross, to be fully honest. But incorporated with a multitude of spices and flavors, eggplant can be downright delightful. Normally, I use eggplant in curries, where it soaks up the coconut and curry flavors and tastes divine. I wanted to try a different approach, one that enhanced the flavor of the eggplant, rather than masked it. I read through a couple cookbooks for inspiration, stopping on a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, for a North African style Chermoula Aubergine. This dish relied heavily on spices but still made the eggplant the start pupil. I liked it.

    I decided to change up the focus of the enhancement ingredients to fit what I had on hand. The original recipe includes sweet and savory notes from golden raisins, lemon, and green olives. Instead, I decided to make a heartier mixture of sautéed mushrooms, onions, and kale. I also decided to use fresh basil, rather than the mint and cilantro used by Ottolenghi.

    To begin, I used 6 small eggplants. Using larger eggplants would work better in this recipe, but I only had small ones. I began by slicing them in half, length wise, then scoring the flesh in a diagonal criss cross pattern. I put the halves in a glass baking dish and pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees. 
    As the oven was pre-heating, I made the marinade: olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, lemon, salt, and a little cayenne. I divided the mixture among the eggplants and then put them in the oven to bake.

    While waiting for the eggplants to cook, I made the filling. I was torn between using wheat berries or bulgar for the grain, but bulgar eventually won out because I only had a small amount of wheat berries on hand. Both would be delicious though. I began cooking the bulgar in a small saucepan and simultaneously started sautéing some crimini mushrooms and a small onion in olive oil. Be careful Steph....that's a lot going on at once. 

    As the mushrooms and onion began to soften, I added 4 large leaves of torn kale and turned the burner off. The goal was to have the kale slightly wilted, but still resembling kale. When the bulgar was finished cooking, I added it to the pan of mushrooms and kale. To add some flavor, I squeezed in some fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp salt, and chopped basil. 

    After about 30 minutes in the oven, the eggplants were soft and juicy. To put everything together, I added scoops of the bulgar mixture on top of the eggplants, letting it spill over the sides. Then I topped each eggplant with a healthy scoop of plain greek yogurt. Drizzle with olive oil and top with basil and cherry tomatoes. 

    This dish pairs will with a good NorthWest IPA. 

    Stuffed Eggplant

    by Stephanie Howe

    Prep Time: 15-20 min

    Cook Time: 40 min

    Keywords: bake entree fall

    Ingredients (Serves 4)

    • 2 Large or 4-6 Small Eggplants
    • 2-3 cloves Garlic
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp cayenne
    • 1/3 c olive oil
    • Salt
    • 1 c Bulgur or wheat berries
    • 1/2 onion
    • 2-3 crimini mushrooms
    • 3-4 Kale leaves
    • 2 T lemon juice
    • 2 T Fresh basil
    • plain greek yogurt
    • olive oil
    • cherry tomatos


    For the Eggplants

    Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Slice 2 large or 5-6 small eggplants lengthwise. Score the flesh in a diagonal criss cross pattern and arrange the halves, cut side up in a glass baking dish.

    Combine olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, lemon, salt, and cayenne in a small dish and spread evenly over the eggplants.

    Bake for 30 min or until soft.

    For the Bulgar

    Heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Once boiling, add bulgar and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 (ish) minutes.

    Add mushrooms and onion to a frying pan along with olive oil to coat. Cook over medium high heat until mushrooms and onion begin to soften. Remove from heat and add kale leaves, torn into small bite sized pieces. Stir and set aside.

    When bulgar is finished, add to the mushroom and kale mixture. Stir in lemon juice, basil, and salt and stir to combine.

    To assemble, add bulgar on top of each eggplant, letting it spill over the sides. Top with a large spoonful of plain greek yogurt, drizzle with olive oil and add chopped basil, and cherry tomatoes.

    Serve immediately, preferably with a good IPA :)

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    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    Courage: My Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc Experience

    Courage Stephanie!

    Photo: Flash-sport
    Through tear stained eyes I look up and nod a silent thank you. No more “allez” or “bon journey” as I heard earlier in the day. Instead those who saw me wished me courage. They understood and wished  me strength to continue.


    At the time, when completing the task at hand was overwhelming, it was a glimmer of hope I held on to. Courage to face my suffering head on. Courage to persevere and not give up. And once again, I found myself in that dark place, where all I could do was just continue moving forward.


    Photo: Kristen Kortebein/iRunFar
    I was ready to have a good race at UTMB. More importantly, I was ready to be normal, smiley Stephanie while racing. My struggles at Western States just a few weeks earlier were still somewhat fresh and had taken a lot out of me, physically and mentally. I wasn’t ready to push myself into that deep of a hole again. It took me weeks to come out of it, and I just wanted a positive experience at UTMB.

    I arrived in Chamonix early, and spent my time just playing in the mountains. It was complete bliss and fully recharged me my mind and body. By race week I was excited to run again. 

    Photo: Matt Trappe
    So what happened? In comparison, my dark struggles at Western States were a cake walk compared to what I experienced at UTMB. Yet again I learned something about myself as I struggled for so long.


    DAY 1

    The start of UTMB is something I will never forget. After waiting all day twiddling my thumbs, we walked down to the start line around 5:15pm for our 6:00pm start. Downtown was buzzing with people and excitement. There were literally thousands of people in the streets, racing and spectating. It was quite the scene!

    Lining up for the start
    Photo: Matt Trappe
    As the countdown began and we got ready to undertake our journey I felt an odd sense of calm. I was ready to go…..
    Photo: Michel Cottin
    And suddenly we were off, running down main street and trying not to be run over by men with full length poles sticking out like spears. It was kind of crazy, but I managed to stay on my feet.

    Sometime after the crowd thinned out, I found myself stride for stride with Zach. Who would have thought? We had each planned on running our own races, but found ourselves running the same speed. I’ll take it! It was awesome to spend some of the early miles together when we were both happy and enjoying the race. Running into the first big aid station at Saint Gervais we were both high fiving the little kids lining the streets. What a cool experience!

    Photo: Meghan Hicks
    Zach and I continued to run together through the next aid station, where we saw our crew for the first time. Chris and Elisa Cheng had made the trip over from Bend to crew for Zach and I. I think they were a little surprised to see us running together, but it made it easier to find us. We refueled quickly, and left Les Contamines together, running into the night.

    This was the beginning of the end for me.

    It’s well known that I’m a morning person. I hate staying up late and I start to fall apart if I get tired and it’s getting past my bedtime. It’s not awesome. During road trips I’d rather wake up at 4:00am then drive into the night. I just shut down. The same happens when I’m racing. I’ve only had a few experiences of running through the night, but they’ve all gone rather horribly. Run Rabbit Run last year, I DNFed at mile 80 around 4:00am. I dropped due to a knee injury, but was also not loving life for the previous 4 hours. My stomach was in complete shambles and I could hardly stay awake. Similarly, during the Grand Traverse skimo race, which begins at midnight, I could not fuel well until the sun came up, 6 hours into the race. I know this about myself, but I don’t know how to fix it. It’s like my body rejects being active, or doing anything but sleep during the middle of the night. It’s ok when this occurs late in a race, because I know it won’t be long. But when it happens early in a race it’s a problem, because early is when the good running and fueling happen. I have some ideas and am anxious to try them out. Elisa suggested that I becoming nocturnal for a month or so to prepare. Rave anyone? But seriously I do want to figure this out because I don’t want to do limit my racing because of it.

    Climbing out of Les Contamines (30k) was actually quite pleasant. It wasn’t too cold, and there was a full moon. And Zach and I were still together. It was a tough climb, but early on and still feeling good. The bonfires, music, and cheers from the spectators also didn’t hurt. We settled into the long climb up to the Croix du Bonhomme (44k).

    It started to get tough for me here. It was late and the terrain was steep and technical. After descending from Col de la Sienge, we and began a fairly technical section up Col des Pyramides Calcaires (62K). I couldn’t believe no one told me about this part since many had given me advice about the tough sections beforehand. I later found out this was a “bonus” section. Lucky us! I struggled to climb both up and down on the loose rock, trying to save my legs. It was windy, I was moving slowly, and my stomach was starting to feel off. I didn’t love it.

    The miles between Col des Pyramides Calcaires and Courmayeur (80k) are somewhat blurry to me right now. I was pretty sleepy and just responded to the terrain in front of me. I wasn’t moving very well nor was I feeling very well, but I kept moving forward. There was still time to turn it around.


    DAY 2

    Reaching Courmayeur marked the end of the first day for me. In my mind I had broken the course into three sections: 
    1) Start to Courmayeur
    2) Courmayeur to Champex-Lac
    3) Champex-Lac to Chamonix 

    This allowed me to focus on what I was doing rather than think about the overwhelming task of getting around the entire mountain.

    I entered Courmayeur in a slightly distressed state. I was very happy to see Elisa and Chris as I entered the aid station. Elisa offered me a buffet of all my favorite race foods I’d packed. I just shook my head. Just fill my bladder with coke. It was starting; I was fueling with just liquids already. Ugh. Normally I switch to soda during the last 10-20 miles of race, not at halfway. I also sat down for the first time ever (@Torsten- taking your advice!) and ate a plate of pasta. It was a nice break, and I could have just stayed there the rest of the night.

    I sloshed my way out of Courmayeur and realized that the bladder in my pack was getting full. Like really full. I laughed out loud…..the coke! Running with fizzy coke in my pack made it fill with CO2. I had to stop several times to let the air out. Noted.

    Sunrise on Saturday came much earlier than I had expected. Maybe I was a little slower than expected, but either way the alpenglow was a welcome sight. By the time I climbed out of Courmayeur and reached Bertone (85k), it was light. And I was so happy. My stomach was starting to settle and I was feeling much more awake.

    Somewhere in Italy
    Photo: Flash-sport
    The section of running from Bertone to Col Ferret is my absolute favorite. I’d done it twice before the race because it was just so beautiful. As a bonus, it happens to be a nice runnable section. I started to move a little better, but my lack of fueling was definitely catching up with me. I didn’t have much energy and I was starting to get emotional. Upon arrival at the next aid station, Bonatti (92k), I burst into tears. I could not help myself. I sobbed and sobbed. One of the volunteers sat and hugged me and fed me soup. This when I first heard the phrase “Courage Stephanie!”  I don’t know who those volunteers were, but they were the first in a series of people who helped me find the strength to continue.

    The next section is also a bit of a blur for me. It was starting to get really hot and the coke was not really cutting it. I literally stumbled up Col Ferret and down the other side into Switzerland. In a better state I would have loved this section. It was smooth, buttery trail that descended all the way to La Fouly. Next time.
    As I neared La Fouly I recognized the blue skirt of my TNF teammate Fernanda Macial just ahead of me. My heart went out for her. We arrived in La Fouly together and both took a seat and began sobbing. Again, I couldn’t control it. I was so emotional and distraught. After several minutes (or 30, but who’s counting) Fernanda asked if I was going to drop. I shook my head no. I had to at least make it to Champex-Lac to see Elisa. “Then let’s just walk together” So Fernanda and I left together, determined to make it 17k to the next aid station. We shared only a few words, but mostly just suffered together. I’m not happy Fernanda was having a tough race, but it was so comforting to be together. I would not have made it by myself! Fernanda waited for me while I sat in the shade a few times along the course. I was out of coke, water, and fuel. It was a very slow, tough, tear filled section. But we did it together.

    Fernanda and I walked into the Champex-Lac aid station holding hands, both sobbing. I’m sure it was a sight to see. I didn’t even care at that point. I was just done. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. Elisa grabbed my hand and led me over to a table. I took off my pack and just sobbed. Elisa hugged and comforted me. “I’m done” I told her. “Just take some time. Lay down, eat, rest. Then you can go back out there.” She was not going to take no for an answer.

    No words. Champex-Lac
    I spent the next 90 minutes coming back to life. I had given up at racing at this point, so I took as long as I needed to summon up the strength to go back out there. I took a nap, got my feet attended to, and ate bowl after bowl of pasta Bolognaise (thanks Chris!) Elisa really had to convince me to keep going. I didn’t think I could do it. But she told me “You are tougher than you think” Am I?

    Starting to feel alive
    After I started to feel human again, Elisa urged me to go on. At least make it to the next aid station, then we could reassess. I wasn’t sure, but I decided to try. The next section was 17k, but with a pretty big climb. I was looking at 3.5- 4 hours on the trail before the next checkpoint. “Courage Stephanie” I could at least try……


    DAY 3

    I left Champex-Lac in decent spirits. My plan was to walk. Just move forward. I was a little embarrassed about how long I’d spent at Champex-Lac, but it seemed necessary. I had no idea what place I was in, and I didn’t care. I wasn’t racing anymore, I was surviving.

    It’s a good thing I didn’t know what the next section was like or it would have been difficult to convince me to go on. I knew it was a big climb and descent, but I didn’t know how rocky it was. I found myself using all fours to get over some of the boulders. It was brutal and slow.

    About halfway through the section I started to feel a little emotional again. This became a theme: I’d refuel and leave the aid stations with a smile, then start to run out of energy and enter the next aid station in tears. I started to recognize this pattern and realized that when I started to whimper it meant I needed some fuel.

    Entering into Trient (144k), I was greeted by some familiar faces from the Bay area. These were the next bunch of people that helped me find strength to continue. I can’t even say how much their encouragement meant to me.

    I had it in my mind I was going to finish, so I tried to limit my time at the Trient aid station. I still sat down and ate, refilled my pack, and listen to Elisa urging me on. It was starting to get late in the day and I was going to need a headlamp soon. We decided if I rushed out asap I could get to Vallorcine still in the daylight. So without thinking too much, I was on my way, through a tunnel of my cheering Bay area friends (thanks guys!!)

    On the climb out of Trient I had my next surprise. I heard someone say my name up ahead, and I looked up to see a familiar face. “Is that you?!” And indeed it was: my good friend Wam, who I took classes with at Oregon State and lives in Chamonix. We had been trying to meet up earlier in the month without success. It absolutely made my day to see him out on the trail. And during a time that I really needed some encouragement. Wam bounded up the hill like it was nothing and kept cheering me on over the climb. It was so uplifting.

    I descended into Vallorcine, yet again in tears. But this was it…..the last section. I was going to make it around the f$%^%$ mountain. Again I saw the familiar faces and actually smiled through my tears. I sat down with Elisa and she made me some bread and cheese sandwiches, while Topher gave me the low down on the last 10 miles.

    As I left the aid station I was overwhelmed with a sense of humility. Here I was at rock bottom, transparent for all to see. I passed my Bay area friends and I caught of glimpse of Magda Boulet. Her eyes said it all. She understood my suffering.

    I started off down the trail where Kim Gaylord joined me for a few minutes. “So I just saw Zach……and he’s racing in his underwear” WHAT? I turned to Kim in disbelief and started laughing. Of course Zach is racing in his underwear. Apparently his shorts were chafing so he decided to ditch them and race in his tighty blackies. Ha.

    I also saw another friend, Sarah Willis, from way back to my Nordic ski days in Minnesota. She made me smile a few times and was just there to give me strength for a few minutes. All of these people are the reason WHY I found the courage to finish.

    The last 10 miles of UTMB were actually quite pleasant. Well, maybe that’s a stretch. But they were less arduous than what I’d anticipated. The moon was out (again) it was a beautiful night. Despite how wrecked I was feeling, I enjoyed covering that stretch of trail more than any other portion. It also helped that I could smell the barn. Actually, I could see the barn. In the distance there were some small glinting lights….really far down.

    The last descent was long. Early on I tripped and fell on a sharp rock. Not a good start. I decided to just take my time and make it in one piece. Not a competitive bone left in my body. Or so I thought.

    Sprinting for the finish line
    As the lights got bigger and bigger and I could start to hear Chamonix, I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t think much of it because men were passing me left and right the whole night. Suddenly, the footsteps appeared next to me and it was a female. “Oh hell no. I’m not getting passed in the last 2k.” Something in me flipped and it was on. I cranked down my pace and was ready to battle. We hit the pavement stride for stride. Where were these legs all day? We made our way through town and I found myself out ahead. I kept moving though because I really didn’t want to be passed in the final 100 meters. I flew through the finish, in a 5:43 mile, according to Strava. Lol.

    So satisfying.

    Reflecting on what we just did......
    Photo: Manu Vilaseca
    Crossing the finish line was amazing, despite being hours after I’d hopped. I was greeted by Zach, who wished me a happy anniversary. Yes, we raced UTMB on our first anniversary. Fitting.

    I walked out of the finish area, leaning on Elisa for support, and told her “I think you are my very bestest friend in the world” Who stays up for 30 hours to chase you around a mountain for 3 days?! I am constantly amazed by the selflessness of her support. I am one lucky girl!

    Post-race Zach and I spent our anniversary eating and not touching each other. Too painful! We did have a nice dinner in Paris a few days later to celebrate though.

    Happy Anniversary!

    In case you skipped the long-winded version, here are the cliff notes:

    •          I ran around Mont Blanc
    •          I suffered greatly and yet again "learned something" about myself
    •          Many people helped me find the courage to continue along the way
    •          I kicked it in the last mile (5:43) in a sprint out for 8th place
    •          Zach and I celebrated our first anniversary at the finish line of UTMB
    •          I am lucky to have so many great friends in my life!

    THANK YOU!!!

    First of all, thanks to Elisa Cheng: you are the best crew and friend a girl could ask for! You really are the reason why I finished. Thanks for being there for me and chasing me around the mountain for 30 hours!

    Next, thanks to Zach for running some early miles with me. What fun! And for greeting me at the finish line to celebrate our your underwear, no less :) 

    Thanks to my sponsors: The North Face, Clif Bar, Flora, Nathan Sports, Julbo, Drymax, Black Diamond, and Garmin.  You make it possible for me to have these experiences! Special thanks to Julbo for the opportunity to race and to Nathan Sports for playing a big role race day. Stevie you are the best! 

    And last but not least, thanks to my friends out there on course! Your words of encouragement meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

    Uf-dah. What a day. Here’s to a race with a shorter blog write up in the near future!

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Female Athletes: Let's Focus on the Positive

    I recently completed and interview composed of many questions related to running, training, nutrition, etc., etc. When I got to the last question however, I paused.

    "What are your views on the female athlete triad?"

    I thought for a few moment about how I wanted to answer this question. Sure, I know a lot about the female athlete triad. With my background in exercise physiology and nutrition, my dissertation study on appetite and female runners, and the fact that I'm a female athlete myself, yeah I know quite a bit about the female athlete triad.

    The textbook description of the female athlete triad is a syndrome that can occur when women, often endurance athletes, have low energy intake or disordered eating, leading to the loss of the menstrual cycle (amenorrhea), resulting in low bone mineral density and possibly osteoporosis. It's a snowball effect, as one symptom impacts the next, with impacts the next, etc. It's all too common in endurance sports, and it has very serious negative health consequences. And we know this.

    So why, then, do we put so much focus on it?

    The female athlete triad is not breaking news. Not at all. It was given a name many, many years ago and dozens of research studies (dating back to the 80's), articles, books, documentaries, movies, podcasts, magazine articles, probably cassette tapes, CD's (what else am I missing from the 90s?), etc., have been produced on the female athlete triad. The triad's prevalence among athletes in sports such as running, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, and figure skating (to name a few) is well known. There are so many stories of female athletes who have "suffered" this path.

    +++++++++ Role Models++++++++++

    As a kid I was obsessed with gymnastics and I idolized Nadia Comeneci. There was a movie, Nadia, documenting her gymnastics career that I watched more than once. Despite winning a gold medal at the Olympics, what I remember most from the movie was the extreme training regime and eating disorder. I'm sure that wasn't the goal of the movie, but it was glamorized in sorts. Looking back, I don't think that was a great way to portray a strong female athlete. I looked up to this gymnast, and it told me was that eating disorders were part of being an Olympic champion.

    Another memory I have is reading the book "Pretty Good for a Girl" when I was younger. I LOVED this book because it was about an female runner who could hold her own in a sport dominated by men. It was inspiring and I very much resonated with the story. BUT, it did place a lot of focus on the dark side of endurance sports:

    "You are a girl. You are a girl and you want to show the world what you're made of, blood and steel and backbone, guts. So you start running. Running so all those eyes who see just a girl will know what you can do. Your legs take the hills, eat up the road, the sky, the birds, parts of your heart, strong through your chest and then your throat, stride by hungry stride. And you do it really well, too, you run and run and run. Better better best. Breathe and deeper breathe. Until the exhaustion creeps into your bones, steals the fire from your face." 

    The book was about addiction, self-esteem, and the female athlete triad. But not in a good way. Kind of like the way the police officer in DARE told us that taking Ecstasy felt like a full body orgasm. But we should never take it because it's bad.


    That really makes kids not want to take drugs. The same is true about celebrating eating disorders in female athletes. Is that really how we want to tell the story?

    It seems that every book, movie, or article about a successful female athlete also focuses on the disordered eating. What message does that send? Yes, I think it's important to be open about struggles, but does every single story about a female athlete have to involve a struggle with food?

    And if it does, let's actually be real about what it's like.....

    Eating disorders are not attractive. They will not make sure you faster, more successful, or help with self esteem.  They are not sexy. And worst of all, there are some very serious health consequences. Like death. Sound good? I didn't think so.

    +++++++++++Moving Forward+++++++++++

    So, instead of always telling the same story, let's talk about some strong, successful, badass women who are kicking ass right now. Let's glamorize the hard work, dedication, and lifestyle they have chosen to lead. Isn't that a better way to inspire young athletes?

    And, maybe, just maybe, if we don't always focus on the female athlete triad (at least in the media) someday there will be more books, articles, movies about strong, healthy women to look up to.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2015

    Strawberries, RKUC, Eagle Cap, and the People I Love

    I really needed to hit the reset button.....

    After returning home from Western States I took a couple days to lick my wounds. I was in a little bit of a funk, still trying to process everything. My grey mood, combined with my overflowing inbox and pile of work waiting for me, pushed me even further into the dark hole. It was time to change my attitude. 

    Strawberry Mountains

    A few days later Zach and I got out the maps began scheming. Neither of us had spent time in the Strawberry Mountains, so we decided to give it a try.

    Heading East. Dog is my co-pilot.
    Best buds
    What we didn't know was that a fire raged through the wilderness a few years ago, leaving the trails pretty much nonexistent after a couple miles in. That made for a long hike, especially on not fully recovered legs! 

    Along the way we noticed that the hillside was covered with blueberries! I have some pretty strong gatherer instincts, so we spent a good hour picking blueberries. 

    Blueberry Mountains?
    After hiking about 7 miles, we came across Bum Kamp. Perfect. What a great find! 

    The following day we did a little hiking, but the trails were so tough it took us almost 3 hours to walk 5 miles. Phew! The scenery sure made up for it though. The hillsides were covered in wildflowers.

    Happy Birthday "Merica!
    Enjoying the wildflowers
    View from the top. Of course we had to summit something.
     Our goal was to hike to some lakes about 8-10 miles away from our camp to fish. Due to the slow going, it wasn't going to happen. Plus, a thick layer of smoke was starting to move in from a massive fire nearby. So, we decided to cut our losses and head back home. Since it was only a three hours drive we could still make the fireworks!

    4th of July. Just the three of us hanging out in our backyard.
    And since we came back a day early, why not fit in a Broken Top summit? It was such a beautiful day!
    View from the Top ring to rule them all
    Running down the scree. Whee!


    Almost 24 hours later I boarded a plane for Flagstaff. I was headed to the Rob Krar Ultra Camp for the week to help out and give a nutrition talk. I spent some time in Flagstaff a few months earlier, but was anxious to get back and see even more. Flagstaff is such a beautiful place, and this time I could fully enjoy it instead of focusing on training. 

    Humphrey's Peak
    Photo: Jon Ornate
    RKUC really was a once in a lifetime experience. Rob had every detail planned and spared no expense to make sure the campers had an absolute wonderful experience. Each day was filled with a glorious trail run (often a point-to-point) on some of Flagstaff's best trails, followed by a picnic lunch (think Trans-Rockies type organization), with an even better spread of food (thanks Christina & Kyle)! 

    Running the Arizona Trail
    Photo: Taylor Maltz
    Following the run, campers had the option of a massage followed by some evening activities, including a short night run with headlamps, a brewery tour, a visit to the observatory, guest speakers (myself, AJW, and Ian Torrence), and much much more. It was an incredible week and I feel fortunate to have been a part of the camp!

    Hanging out after the run.
    Photo: Stephane Bailliez
    Aspen Corner
    Photo: Stephane Bailliez

    Eagle Cap Wilderness

    I left Flagstaff Friday morning and arrived in Bend around 8:00pm. Zach picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to the Wallowa's for Zach's birthday adventure.

    The past three years we've done a backpacking trip in the Eagle Cap Wilderness for Zach's birthday weekend. And each time I am reminded of what a beautiful place Eagle Cap is. It's totally worth the 7 hour drive....
    Camping out with friends the first night

    The best part about the Eagle Cap wilderness, besides the stunning scenery, is how quiet it is. We saw about 6 people the entire weekend. Hundreds of elk, some deer, fish, and maybe a bear, but barely any people. I love it.

    Caught on a Tenkara rod. Riley sure wanted to help!
    Family photo at the summit
    We ended up hiking 49 miles over three days (NOT 50....right Zach?) He likes to give me a hard time for being so exact with everything :) What can I say, I'm type AAA. Part of the goal was to scout for Elk, for the upcoming fall. I think it's safe to say we found a good area.

    The People I Love

    Coming back home I've realized what a great group of family, friends, and sponsors I have. It's really incredible to think about how many awesome people I have in my life. I don't think I take the time to thank everyone nearly enough. So here goes.....

    My family

    Zach. What would I do without you? I have no idea. Over the past 4 weeks we have been through some very fun, happy times (adventures!) and also some low, dark the last 10 hours of WS. But, good or bad, Zach was there the whole time. Thanks babe!

    My mom and dad came out to watch Western States this year. It was the first race they have seen me run. It was incredible to have them there to see me work through and ultimately finish. My dad even ran the last mile with me. I am so thankful they could be there!

    Zach's parents and brother also came out to watch. They were out at every crew aid station cheering me on. Phil even rode his bike, ironically 100 miles, to watch me race.

    My fantastic cousins, Ryan and Jillian, made the trek out from Minneapolis to be a part of Western States this year. Jillian and I have gotten really close over the past couple years and it meant so much to me to have them there! They also made really awesome signs for me :)

    Torsten. Not family, but might as well be. Thanks for all your help this year and for being such a great friend and role model over the past few years. Zach and I are so lucky to have you and Beth as friends!!

    My friends

    You guys are my rock. Thanks for keeping some balance in my life and including me in some fun, non-running adventures. I feel like a lucky girl to have so many awesome people in my life:

    Elisa, Chris, Natalie, Ryan, Matt, Nate, Rob, Christina, Erin, Mandy, Scott, Chassen, Robbie, Meg, Rick, Rebecca, Renee, Kami, Meghan, Monkey Boy, the Bouclairs, and so many more.....

    My Sponsors

    I am able to pursue my dreams because you believe in me! I am so thankful for all the support you've given to help me get here.

    The North Face My Family. I love my teammates to pieces! Thanks to the North Face for supporting such a great, close knit group of athletes. I couldn't imagine a better team dynamic. Thanks for all the great support and product. I am very fortunate to be a part of the team!

    Clif Bar I am fueled by Clif Bar products every single day. Thanks for taking athlete input and including me in the development of Clif Organic Energy Food. This product, along with the rest of the Clif Bar family, has fueled me through miles and miles.

    Flora  Keeping me healthy during training and racing. I never leave home without my 7 Sources and Green Blend!

    Nathan Hydration and a whole lot more. Support both on and off the trails. Thanks for helping me dial in a hydration pack that's perfect for me!

    Julbo Shades for running, relaxing, and looking cool. I love our group of athletes!

    Drymax Happy feet! No blisters for me!

    Roch Horton at Black Diamond Lights lights lights! And, good advice from a ultra running legend!

    Burke Selbst at Focus Physical Therapy My therapist, both physical and mental. Not only do you help keep my body healthy, but you listen to me vent. You have helped me overcome so much!

    Ian Torrence My coach and mentor. Thanks for helping me run to my potential and not letting me take myself too seriously :)

    Recharge Sport Where I work and hang out. I'm thankful to have access to a wonderful recovery lab and shoot the shit with the best athletes around.

    Footzone Always providing me support and opportunities to interact with our wonderful community.

    Matt Trappe For grinding out two killer photo shoots within 24 hours of Western States, and not wearing me out! You Rock!