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!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Western States 100

To run 100 miles is to push yourself to that place where you waver between delusion and sanity. Stripped down to nothing, bearing your soul. 

Exposed. Raw. Real. 

....And yet the will to continue, to persevere, endures. Quitting is not an option. And at the pinnacle of human suffering, where mind, body, and spirit are broken, you find ease. 

And it's beautiful....

Western States 2015, mile 60
Photo: Sean Dulany
To say my race was ideal is far from the truth, but, it was still everything I had hoped for. To me, running 100 miles is more about the journey. The suffering, perseverance, and feeling of accomplishment as you overcome all adversity to cross the finish line. It was #that exact feeling that I was seeking at Western States.

Devil's Thumb. The body language says it all.
Photo: Gary Wang

And my race this year didn't disappoint.

After a few days to reflect, I am more and more satisfied with my performance this year. In fact, I'm more proud of my finish this year compared to last year. From the outside it must seem like I didn't meet my goals, as many people have consoled my effort, rather than congratulated it. But, I am not disappointed, or discouraged. If anything I am more in awe than ever before.

Photo: Matt Trappe
My race wasn't all dark and dismal. Early on I was able to fully enjoy the beauty of the course. I started right where I wanted to be, taking it easy up to the Escarpment. I had some great girl talk with Kaci and Aliza, and was really looking forward to the view from the top.

Taking in the sunrise over the Escarpment
Photo: Kelly Cronin
At the summit I took a moment to wait for Kaci and Aliza so we could all take in the sunrise together. It was amazing.
Sharing this moment
For the first 30 miles I rolled through the high country with a smile on my face. I felt wonderful and the wildflowers were stunning.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer
Photo: Stephen Ingalls
Somewhere around 12 or 13 miles I caught up to Magda and we shared some miles together. We didn't talk much, but it was so comforting to just be running, knowing we were out there together.

Photo: Gary Wang
Coming into Robinson Flat, I was still right on track. I felt good and was moving along at a similar pace as the previous year. I saw my crew, refilled with supplies, and took off down the trail.

Robinson Flat
It was hot. And somewhere over the next 10 miles the wheels started coming off. Looking back, some of it was nutrition related. But my body also was just not cooperating. I rolled down into Deadwood canyon, but was feeling the effects of my effort.

Slowly, I walked up Devil's Thumb. By this point I was feeling nauseous and low energy. Not a good omen at 40-something miles in. At Eldorado creek I hit my low point. I was still nauseous, but now was also low energy and dizzy. I was not in a good place. But, I could still take one more step. So I did.

I came into Michigan Bluff in the lead, but my I was already a bit defeated. My crew could tell, too. And here I made yet another mistake. Hindsight, I was behind on calories and should have take the time to really replenish and catch up. Instead, I grabbed a small flask filled with sprite and headed on my way.
Photo: Matt Trappe
The stretch between Michigan Bluff and Foresthill was probably the slowest section I covered all day. I could hardly run. I was beyond exhausted. Yet I was still determined not to give up. Even as Magda passed me walking up Bath Road, I didn't let it discourage me. The thought of running another 40 miles was overwhelming, but I knew it was going to happen.

Photo: Matt Trappe
From Foresthill on it was about survival. Zach joined me for the remainder of the race and really pulled me through. Without his constant affirmations and positive attitude, I don't know if I would have made it. Despite my emotional state and defeated spirit, Zach continued to believe in me. That is a true partner. And that was what carried me on.

Photo: Stephen Ingalls
Photo: Matt Trappe

Photo: Matt Trappe
The rest of the night was somewhat of a blur. I shuffled along as best as possible and tried to stay positive. We didn't move very fast, but we kept moving forward. When we got to Highway 49, I was still holding on to third place. From there we made it a goal for me to finish in that position. It helped, having something to work towards.

Since the gap behind me wasn't huge, Zach really pushed me on. When we got to the open meadow before No Hands Bridge, he turned to me and said "Ok, now you have to run. And when you get to the downhill you have to run like you stole something."

Easy peasy. Except not at all. But, I gave my best effort and did move along pretty well. After we crossed No Hands Bridge, Zach gave me another goal "We are going to have to push hard up to Robbie Point. It's going to hurt and it's going to suck, but you can do it."

Ugh. That hill is hard enough when you are not tired, let along 97 miles into a race. But, once again I surprised myself as I dug deep and ran most all of the climb up to Robbie Point. Behind us we could see a couple headlamps moving closer. Fearful that it was the next female, we decided to run the last mile as hard as I could.

And we did. Zach didn't let me let up until I reached the track, finally confirming that I was indeed going to cross the finish line, and hold on to third.

Emotions overcame me. The day, my race, and having my husband see me through the darkest parts;  really became real. And once again, I floated around the track to the sound of Tropical John's voice. It was just as spectacular as the last time, and felt even more satisfying.

Photo: Matt Trappe
It's the tough days that really define us. And the last mile, no matter what happened over the previous 99 miles, is magical. It's a feeling that I will forever cherish, no matter if I finish first or last. It's in the suffering that we find greatness, and #that is always worth it.

Photo: Erin Strout