Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York State of Mind- a quickie

I am in NYC, trying to recover from my race at Vermont 50 miler to get ready for Tussey 50 miler in a few days. Being in a city like NYC reminds me how much I do love the city. Having an experience like this past weekend where I can play in the mountains and then return to the city in the same day is something I absolutely love. It made me further contemplate my own "where abouts", as did winning a spot in WS. I have made a decision. I am not moving to Boulder right now. I was going to, I was on my way Oct 20 (though I hadn't told many people), but I knew all along that this was a rush decision. And I knew all along it wasn't addressing the underlying problems/issues. The winter put me off too. I want to run all winter. Not run on a treadmill. Not take up new winter sports because I simply can't run in the snow. Not move to a new place just to do it.  No, I am staying put. Maybe later on I will move on, but not now. There are tons of great reasons to stay in SF, especially in the situation I have and no really good reasons not to. I do love it there and I have left or runaway for entirely interpersonal reasons before. And now, I am going to stay for deeper, better reasons than that. There are sacrifices I make in the staying, extra work I have to undertake and things I need to do in order for my life there to be successful, but if this blog is any indication of my commitment to those things, than I think I am on track. I am not moving my stuff out of Seattle storage yet. But I am excited to at least, start filling my pantry, let my suitcases gather a little dust and just be for a while.

I think what is nice about this decision is that, even if SF ultimately turns out to be the entirely wrong place for me in the long run, the decision itself to stay changes my life and outlook entirely. I can stop feeling homeless, I can start feeling and making myself rooted. I can unpause a part of my life that has been paused for over a year. I can forge deeper bonds, I can open myself up to attachments, I can actively explore the City which I really haven't even begun to. And the trails, oh the trails, are mine to run all winter long.

Speaking of the unexplored city, my sister sent me a link to this article from 7x7 called "100 things to try before you die" (in SF). And after reviewing the list, it is game on when I get home. And I think it is a cool idea to follow my attempt at completing the list on my food blog.

It's all a new adventure. It's all part of the journey. There was a fork in the road and I took it. Now, it's time to see where it goes.

Vermont 50- A Tale of a Ninja Stealth Strike


9,000 of muddy elevation gain

I hadn't been planning on running Vermont 50. But then my buddy and Salomon teammate Glen Redpath suggested that I come out and run it and then run Tussey 50 miler 6 days later, a race I was already planning on running. Since Vermont 50 is a part of the Montrail Ultracup, 2 spots for Western States were up for grabs and since I am somewhat interested in running that race next year, I figured it would be a good opportunity to get a spot sans lottery. I hoped to do a secret ninja strike on the race to get the spot, as I did not sign up that early and also didn't want to sabotage my "A" race (Tussey) in the getting of it. I wanted it to be quick and dirty (but as painless as possible).  I thought it would also be an interesting chance to see how well my body could recover between 50 mile efforts.

I flew in to NYC on Friday, Sept 27 before the Sunday race, and was met with beautiful weather and a pleasant forecast for our next days drive up to Vermont. Of course, the weather report for Sunday was rain, rain, rain. We were watching the weather forecast on Saturday and the weather person described Sunday as what would be a great day to stay inside and cozy up on the couch with a bowl of warm soup. Or run 50 miles behind a pack of hundreds of bikers who tear up the trail before you get there. Glen and I went for a nice run on Saturday morning and finally took off for the 4 hr drive north about mid-day. The pleasant weather of Saturday at least let me enjoy the splendor of the New England fall. We drove through miles and miles of beautiful fall colors on the parkway and arrived in Vermont in no time. I always forget how small the states are around here. We went straight to the motel and then headed over to Ascutney Mountain Resort where check in and the pre-race dinner was. I met up with my friend Frank and we all tucked in to our meals. I had brought some "safe" food to eat which I gobbled up while Glen had the pre-race meal offerings. In hindsight, my meal was probably a bit too light. We had had a large lunch of gluten free pasta salad with tons of veggies and so I wasn't super hungry, but I think I should have eaten more at dinner. We headed back to the room, got our stuff together and watched Wanted on HBO. I had gotten a good nights sleep Friday night and as soon as we turned off the lights, I was wide awake and didn't fall asleep for a really long time, if ever. It's kinda funny since I wasn't stressed about the race at all. In fact, I was feeling overly calm, to the point of being worried that I was too calm or perhaps (I considered for moment) uncaring? I definitely cared though, I haven't raced that many times this year and this was my first solo trail race post TransRockies and I wanted to show off all the work I had done all summer getting strong on the hills. Vermont  (as I said about the 100 miler last summer) is no joke. There is a heck of a lot of climbing, nearly 9,000 feet. And in the Vermont 50, nearly all of the race is on dirt and singletrack.

I didn't sleep well but still woke up feeling ready to go. I had no nerves, I was just ready to get running. Even when we arrived at the start, which was packed with nearly a 1,000 bikers and runners I never felt any apprehension. That is not to say I felt cocky or confident. I guess I just had a "we'll see how this goes" attitude. I wanted to run well, I wanted to place in the top 2 but I hadn't felt fantastic in a while and my summer really packed in a lot of training, racing and traveling. 

Starting just after 6am, they started lining up the cyclists who would be going off in waves before the runners started at 6:40. This would prove very interesting all day long since the bikers tore up the trails ahead of us, but also because I would catch a good deal of the field over the course of the run.

I lined up near the front. I figured there is no use in pretending like I am going to go out super slow. It was rainy and drizzly and cool, but comfortable. It was Seattle kind of weather which is fine with me. I lined up with Meredith Terranova whom I had met at TransRockies and another fast local(ish) girl who I didn't know. Meredith and I both had a strategy of running only hard enough to come in top 2, but I also knew that I was going to run my race and ensure that I was comfortably in WS.  Before I knew it, they yelled "Go!" And we were off.

As much as I had said I was going to run only hard enough to place Top 2, deep down I knew that if I felt good I would not hold back. I wouldn't run outside myself but I wouldn't hold back. That said, within about 5 strides of the start line I was leading out the entire pack with Meredith and the other girl on my right shoulder and a few of the guys on my left. Someone goes, "is this a 10k or what?", to which I responded, "heck no, its a 5k". The race goes down the driveway of Ascutney, turns left and continues on one of the few longer road sections for about 4 miles. I was passed by Brian Rusiecki and Glen ran next to me and right behind us was (I think) Stephen Taylor. I was running a pace that was faster than the men's course record, but I was well aware of that and knew that when we hit trail, I would slow down especially with the mud. I was running comfortably and my heart rate was pretty steady, so I just cruised. Plus, I really knew that my strategy regarding the other women was break early and establish a huge lead and then settle in and make them catch me. Long before we hit dirt, the rest of the field was out of sight behind us. I kept working though, knowing there was quite a long ways to go before I could let up. If ever, that is. Problem with the strategy is unless you have crew taking your competitors splits, you never really know how close or far off your competition is.

And I just ran. And ran and ran. 5 boys took off pretty much as soon as we hit the trail and I swapped places with one of them a bunch over the day. He wasn't carrying anything, not a waterbottle, not a gu, so for the first half we swapped spots but after about 50k, I passed him at an aid station and never saw him again.

I can't give you a blow by blow of all of the terrain since it pretty much was just a bunch of slippy, slidy, muddy uphill running. We ran over ATV trails, single-track and farm trails in the backs of people's pastures. There is 21.6 miles of dirt roads and 28.4 miles of single and double track, which really leaves not alot of time on the pavement. It was great and forgiving terrain, other than the mud. I wasn't able to bomb the downhills as much as I like because the mud made for such precarious footing that I would have lost it and fallen over or into a tree. I was shocked that I actually stayed on my feet the whole race. I blew through the first two aid stations, the first because I didn't need anything and the second because it was so packed with bikers that I would have lost 5 minutes just trying to get water. That was my only real complaint out there. The aid stations operated purely first come first serve, yet that meant that the top runners had to wait for cyclists who were out for a fun ride and were in 500-600th place. It just makes it interesting.

I knew that that CR was 7:35 and for the first half I was on track to break it, but for about the second 1/4 of the race, I could tell that the mud would not be conducive to getting that record. I felt good and strong, but when you slid two steps backwards for every stride, you are slowed. I ate a gel about 2.5hrs in, filled up my bottles at every other aid station and just nipped along. As I said, I would love to give you a blow by blow of every root, mud puddle (that would be every step) and trail, but it all blends together in my mind. I think part of the reason is because I was really in the moment. I was really zoned in on my running. I wasn't overthinking, I wasn't distracted by music. I was just running, watching my footing and monitoring my fueling. The biggest hill comes pretty early on and you just feel like you run uphill for about an hour, up to Garvin Hill aid station (Mile 19.3) and then continuing uphill until about mile 24. Despite the massive climb, I just kept on running. And feeling good.

I hit halfway about 3:40-3:50, somewhere therein and was very pleased to see that despite the mud, I was still running really quite fast and strong. I downed somemore fuel along the way, hit a few more aid stations and merrily clipped off the miles. At the mile 31.9 mile aid station there was a huge cheering crowd which really buoyed my spirits. There were a lot of bikers and I needed waters, so I asked to bully my way to the front of the line so I could not lose any time. By that time, those cyclists and I had become friendly and so they happily obliged saying, "you better not let me catch you!!". I really appreciated their understanding. The miles passed in happily, the air was cool and moist, my head was shaded by the trees which were starting to change colors and I enjoyed the scenery of what is quintessential New England fall. I was just in love with the running of this race. Sure the mud sucked, the hills were brutal, but I was constantly reminded why I love the 50 mile trail distance so much. It is my favorite race, a mix of speed, strength and endurance. I never had a moment of doubt or negativity. I just ran. All smiles, joking and carrying on with the cyclists.

From about mile 40-46, I felt like the miles were ticking away very very slowly. I didn't feel bad, I was just a bit cold, wet and muddy and faintly smelling the barn. I finally arrived at the mile 47.2 aid station, pounded a coke and headed out. I knew the last 3 miles of the race were not pleasant. They are switch-backs up Ascutney Mountain, and then the last 1/2 mile drops you down fast into the ski lodge (basically down the ski mountain). I wanted to arrive at 47 feeling decent and strong enough to make it up the climb without slowing down too much. I also knew that the mud would be gnarly and slow me even further. And as advertised, the last few miles were not easy. They were not however profoundly harder than any of the other miles we had done. It was just that you basically have to climb UP to the finishline. This section was particularly slippery and since it was narrow switchbacks up the mountain, I didn't have the luxury of running on the edge of the trail like a good deal of the day. I pounded up hill, passing bike after bike. I started to see signs for "miles left" and got really excited. While I was no longer on CR pace, on another other day without the mud, I would have been which was good enough for me. I was almost done and that felt great. I finally crested the hill and saw the 1 mile to go sign. And then, I bonked. Hard. I had taken my last gel at 6:30 into the race and it was now 8. I had had some coke but no more calories. I bonked so hard, I literally stopped in my tracks and said "whoa". Thankfully, I had a packet of Sharkies in my pouch left and I tore into them, trying to power forward as I shoved half a pack in my mouth. I got some energy and bounded down the trail. I could hear the screaming of the fans below and I shot out into the field and through the orange chutes. They are a bit cruel at the end, you come screaming down the mountain to nearly the finish line and then they make you take a hard left run about 50 meters back up hill and then dump you straight down across the finish line. I pushed all the way across the line and triumphantly won the Vermont 50 mile race. I was 5th overall and first woman in 8:06. I felt great the whole way and despite my feet being brutalized from being soaked all day, I accomplished all of my goals including not killing myself for the WS spot.

I headed back to the parking lot, got my stuff, grabbed a shower, changed and headed back up to the finish line to hang out for a bit. Glen grabbed some food from the post-race BBQ and I tucked in to a great wrap that I had picked up in Brattleboro the day before at my favorite co-op there. We got our awards and said our congrats to our friends, new and old and jumped back in the car for the 4hr drive back to NYC. As we drove back, I had the sense of my experience that day fleeting from my memory more than a race usually does. Maybe it is because I had to immediately think in terms of recovery for this weekend's upcoming Tussey 50 miler, but it has taken active reminder to myself that I raced 50 miles three days ago. I am very proud of my effort, how strong I felt and how much fun I had.



My gear (head, shoulders, feet and mouth):
I am separating out this from the rest of the post, in lieu of shameless product dropping in my post, so that those who are interested can know my opinion on my footwear, clothing and fuel and those that aren't can skip it!

I rocked the Salomon Whispers, they are super light and even so they worked really well for 50 miles. My feet felt great the whole time, despite being soaked from the mud. I was just happy to keep my shoes on my feet since there were a few times the mud tried to wrangle them away from me. I wore my short sleeve Salomon Racing Jersey and my running skirt, but since it was rainy and chilly I rocked my Primal Wear Arm Warmers in the rad Samurai tattoo print. I love these sleeves, they are actually cycling sleeves but work perfectly for my arms. They are skinny to fit the width of my runner arms, but long enough to actually cover my super long arms. They kept me a perfect temperature and protected from the elements.

I carried my fuel in a Nathan Thermal Quickdraw and my Nathan waistpak. I only carried one bottle which was more than enough since there were 10 aid stations on course and carried all of my fuel in my waistpak. I kept my fuel needs low (800-900 cals) and utilized my fat burning by taking my Vespa and supplemented with Clif Shots, Chia Razz bars, Luna Moons, Sharkies and FRS.

Thanks to the cyclists!
I got to know a bunch of the bikers in some sections where we alternated passing each other on the ups and downs. Since I was the first girl and running in the top ten, most of the guys found it pretty awesome. It was nice to establish over the course of the race a mobile cheering squad. My particular favorite was Tom Eckert. He and I traded places for most of the day and I would usually catch him at an aid station when the bikers took much longer breaks than we did. I definitely did not envy the cyclists since they ended up having to hike their bikes ALOT more than they might have if there was no mud. Even on the flats and downs they had trouble. And it is a lot harder to hike in cycling shoes that is for sure. I really appreciated all their encouragement! And we all know that I absolutely love cyclist, so having them out there was definitely a good thing.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who, What, Where or Why.



 Giants Causeway, Ireland 2005

I am off again (at 6am, again, sigh) tomorrow. Traveling to the east coast for an insane back to back of Vermont 50 miler and 6 days later Tussey MtnBack 50 miler. As I try to convince myself to pack (fail), I am instead struck by how much I would just rather be in one place for a while. Ok, maybe struck is the wrong word since I have been feeling this way strongly since returning from Colorado. Or maybe I have been searching for a place to call home for my entire adult life. What I do know is, as much fun as traveling and flexibility are, I need a home base. I need somewhere I can come back to. I need something to ground me. I am ready.


Ben Nevis in Scotland 2005


But I had a realization last night. For a really long time, I believed that I was a person about place. That I needed to find my place, instead of finding myself in a place. I have long discredited my own ability to adapt and thrive no matter where I live. The reality is that wherever I am, there I am. I have love, love, loved so many places in this world. The truth is that I could write a list as long as my arm of places that I would be happy living. I have never lived anywhere that I didn't thrive, didn't learn, didn't grown. It is funny to admit to myself that even places I once swore I hated (Atlanta being key among that), I managed to live successfully for 4 months there. And I wasn't successful there because I knew I would get to leave at some specific time as I was there "temporarily indefinitely", I was successful there because I just committed to making the best of it.


Running up from Independence Pass, Colorado 2009

Since coming back from Colorado, I have longed to return. I even made plans to move to Boulder because I adored it so much. Then after the excitement settled down, I got back to reality, and the doubts crept into my head. As much as I adore Colorado, I didn't feel the sense of relief that I thought I would have after making a decision on where I wanted to move and settle in. In fact, I felt the same disquiet that has lead me to even start this blog and stop spinning my wheels. When I moved away from San Francisco, I knew that I was not being completely honest with myself when I said I wasn't motivated by reasons other than the ones I told people. Deep down, I was seeking out the next challenge of being in a new place, I was seeking out the work and stress (and not in a bad way) that come with digging in and building a new life in a city. You can hide from your own loneliness when you move to a new city by simply telling yourself you haven't had the chance to meet new friends yet. You can mask despair with the exhaustion that comes with uprooting your life. You can sweep the underlying self work that needs to be done under the rug you lay down on the floor of your new apartment.

Living in Cape Town, South Africa 2003

I am definitely prone to being overly introspective yes this I know. I can over-think myself into circles. But for some reason, I have never allowed myself to admit that I could be happy anywhere. But I never stick around long enough to find out. And instead of addressing the things I want to do in life, I simply move on, hoping a new location will finally be motivation to work on those goals. I realize now, no matter where I move if I continue to not do the work to accomplish those goals, then I will continue to feel the same way, period.



Yes, there are places I love more than others. I would prefer a mountain top cabin in Leadville over a suburban mansion in Atlanta, sure but on the most fundamental level of myself the things that are important to me where I live are only vaguely related to the place themself. When I strip it down and down and unabashedly look myself in the mirror, I know that the only things that carry the heaviest weight in my desire to live somewhere are incredibly interpersonal. I am either running towards or away from something when I move. This has been true of every move I have made in my adult life with only one exception: London. London I did not have a choice to leave, my visa expired and my work there failed to do the paperwork to keep me there. I think that is why I have struggled since then particularly in regards to place, as I truly saw myself living there for a long time. Ironically now, it lacks some of the fundamental requirements for me in a place (like trails, nature, mountains) but at the time it was home and I was forced out of it. But other than London, I have been running. Sure, running is what I do, but its not what I do. Again, I am good at the self-work but when self-work meets interpersonal confrontation and impasse (even if it is just in my own head, i.e. I play a role in a situation and lose my ability to tolerate it) I leave the situation instead of facing it head on and with strength. I guess learning these things about yourself are all part of the journey of life.


There are four places I am currently considering living and settling down currently: San Francisco, Boulder, Seattle and Portland. Each city has the following things I "require" of a place in various degrees:
  • Friends and Social Circle and a running community
  • Trails, Nature, Hills, Mountains and a body of water (ocean preferrable, though CO excepted)
  • Great food scene
  • Opportunities to do outdoor sports (even ones I haven't taken up regularly yet like skiing and mtb)
San Francisco and Seattle far and away take the advantage in the first category. Seattle has the largest percentage of my close friends, but I also feel like when I lived there, I was unable to synthesize that into feeling like I had a close friend/social circle. Now that I have left, I definitely feel closer to my friends there, but perhaps that is because the effort to keep in touch when people are far away is more than when people are close at hand. I could be happy in Seattle, but it is where I grew up and even though I have family, friends and it meets the basic requirements, I don't actually have a strong desire to be there. San Francisco, dear, dear San Francisco. I find myself having bad mouthed it plenty, but the love/hate relationship I have with it is much of the same relationship I had with London. And my stints in San Francisco have been influenced by other things besides how I live my life elsewhere.


I have made a list and checked it twice and San Francisco always comes out neck and neck with Seattle. Since coming down here in May, I have been able to culitivate a strong friend and social circle and know with even more effort, would be able to engage even more. I haven't really tried that hard when it comes down to it. And it meets all the requirements for place and is incredibly accessible to all the mountains and ocean I can handle. Sure it's expensive, but everywhere I have on my list is up there. If I had a different job in San Francisco, I would stay here in an instant (even if it were just a part-time job until I am able to move the goals towards something that could financially support me). I was very happy with my life in San Francisco when I first moved here, worked two jobs and lived on Russian Hill with my sister. I definitely would need to be in the City, despite the fact that that makes me further away from the trails. Still, I would never be more than 10 miles from a fantastic trailhead so what I am crying about....




 Angel Island from the house in Sausalito


Portland and Boulder are more of unknowns. I know people in both places, though no close friends. But I know how to readily plug myself into the scene there. They have great outdoor communities, they have respected food scenes. I love them, but I am not sure that is enough weight to carry such a big decision.

I was feeling a bit rushed to make a decision, but my gut tells me to slow my roll. Since Boulder had been my idea, I was thinking I should move before the winter sets in. But if that means I have to decide between now and mid-October (or last weekend according to the weather report of snow!) than I may just hold off. This is a big decision and rushing it is silly, even if the move is just me and what can fit into my car.

Much like a good recipe I find myself with all the ingredients in the pan and the marination and marrying of flavors underway, but the meal (the decision) is far from made. I am proud of myself at least for slamming on the brakes instead of doing the same thing again (running/moving away quickly) and expecting a different result. As Einstein said, that is afterall the definition of insanity.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 2- Self awareness and the shopping cart

I admit it: I spend a lot of money on food. And I had given myself free rein to shop without a budget for a long time. I figured, I can only eat so much and the majority of what I buy are fruits and vegetables. But the reality of the situation is, I need to give myself boundaries. About the only time I even think of the cost of a food related item or even ask the price is when I am staring down a nice piece of Toro at a sushi restaurant. Even I draw the line at getting the perfect $10-$15 bite every time I have the opportunity. I need to be better about looking at the price tag of gluten free items as well or better yet, stop justifying them to myself so regularly. I bought 6 bags of gluten free Skinny Crisps last week at $7.00/bag. Yikes. I don't buy a great deal of gluten free goods and am not really a big bready/carby eater, but I need to take a longer pause the next time I am hankering for a $7.00 bag of crackers. Partially because I could make my own and partially because when it comes down to it, there is probably a tasty alternative at half the price.

Today was the first time that I really thought about every food purchase I made. Maybe it is because I sorted through my months spending and found I have less than a quarter left of my budget to last me the last week, or maybe its because as I sipped my second cup of coffee for the day, I really considered how much money I really spend on things I could do without or I could do cheaper.

The two things I spend money on routinely are coffee and kombucha. Coffee I have become better at brewing at home but I also find myself in a position where I consider the following: if i go to a coffee shop to do my work (and therefore buy a cup of coffee), then I get out of the house, get to interact with the world and don't end up getting stir crazy from working at home. If I stay home, I save the money for the coffee (less the expense of buying coffee beans for the home machine) but miss out on the socializing and human contact. I think what it comes down to is balance and sense. In my new budgetary pursuits, I think it is fair to say that I can cut back on coffee's out, but not be neurotic about it. A cup or two out a week is quite the savings over a cup or two every day.

Kombucha is a tougher one. I love Kombucha. I drink it every day. When I had a home, I was brewing gallons and gallons of my own stuff for the cost of a single store bought bottle. I am not in a position to brew my own, so I either need to tailor back my Kombucha drinking or get a home with a kitchen/kombucha brewing accommodations. The later sounds easier ironically. I will do my best to cut back. After all, at an average price of over $3.00 a bottle, Kombucha alone is costing me over a $1,000 a year. That is ridiculous. Delicious ridiculousness.

I will say there was one bright spot today in that I went to the grocery store and I shopped with purpose and awareness. Usually, I go to the store with a vague list of things I want to get, buy a ton of fruits and vegetables and don't really go in with any plan or objective. I only shop with purpose when I am recipe writing. I pick things up as I need them and there rarely is a day that goes by that I don't go to the grocery store. Today, I reminded myself not only to consider price, but to also keep in mind how many and which meals I would be preparing for myself before I left for NYC on Friday morning. I carefully selected vegetables for today and tomorrows lunch salads, I picked out a few pieces of fruit for each morning's breakfast. I bought only enough for those meals, not more. Sounds simple, but usually I will just buy what I want and know that whatever I leave behind my sister will take care of for me. Great for her, silly for my budgeting.

One thing I rarely do because of my "homeless" status is buy things for my pantry. For instance, I tend to buy one almond milk at a time. I don't stockpile things (except Skinny Crisps apparently), even if they are items that will keep well. I guess I do this because I think they won't be there when I come back and also there is very very limited pantry/storage space in the place that has been base camp for the past 4-5 months. The kitchen drives me insane, it is not a cooks kitchen at all and has very limited tools for cooking, most of which are hand-me-downs of mine that I put there when I got new stuff. I really miss my kitchen. Today, I pushed myself out of that mindset for a minute as there was a killer deal on Almond Milk. I was out anyways, so I took advantage of the 3 for $5.00 and for some reason that felt like a bigger deal than it actually was. What about it felt that way, I don't know.

I was pretty proud of myself leaving the grocery store, having spent only $36. Which includes food for 2 lunchs, 2 dinners and some pantry items. Not bad. Much better than I usually do. Its small steps and its amazing how much self awareness and mindfullness can do. The small pauses and thinking that I did, saved me money and in a funny way just brought me back in to the moment. I know that it is going to take a lot of work to stay on this track when I go to NYC next week, but I am bound and determined to stay on budget!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day One- After the proclamation



The dust has settled, the trumpets have died down, the lights have come on and its time to get back to real life. Ok, so just in my head. But really it is just me that I am holding accountable to myself, so the real work comes now, after the declaration. It is the practice, the tasks. In my declaration, I gave myself some specific tasks, tangible moves to make the goals realities. This blog is about tracking that progress, it is about my personal journey. It is about where those tasks and goals take me, in life, that I am willing to share. And it is about the form itself, if I want to write, I must write. This is my practice arena, somethings will be brilliant and somethings will simply be necessary exercises.

I had dinner tonight with an old friend whom I absolutely adore. She is one of those people that shines a great deal of light and often clarity into the darkness of other people's lives. We were incredibly close friends in high school and then did not talk pretty much at all for about 6 years. When we reconnected last year, it was like no time had passed and we were still on the most fundamental, as well as functional levels, completely in sync. It was particularly appropo to have dinner with her tonight because our conversations tend to be of substance, tend to be insightful and I always walk away with a certain levity to my soul. Good friends do that. It sounds cliche, but I never have to explain myself to her. She knows my history and she knew me and knows me and she is incredibly insightful. When I told her about where I am in life, my declaration and the contemplation of the past few months since the last time I saw her, she was unbiased, supportive, caring and helpful. She didn't tell my anything I didn't already know, but she is an amazing mirror and she brought me along a few steps in pursuing a task or two. She helped rekindle some of my own confidence in decisions that I had already made in my mind. I am so appreciative to have friends like her. I am hopeful that I am also that kind of friend in return. There are few things in life (if anything) more valuable than community, friendship, love and human connection. The confidence and sense of security those things instill in a person is profound and enables me at least to feel like I can go boldly forward in this journey that is life.

The Project/Journey/Direction/Beginning/Middle and End

Like most things in my life currently, I find myself unable to make a decision of what this blog posting should even be called. It is all of those things, yet none of them alone or even in entirety. Instead, this is just an arbitrary marker in time in which I make a decision to do something different, change things, if even just ever so slightly. The reality of the situation is that today marks nothing in particular. I am not overhauling my life, really. I am instead setting up an arbitrary way to keep myself accountable. Not "on track", no particular destination per se, but I realize that I have spent enough time pondering on things and instead want to get the show on the road. I see life as a journey, not a destination but I have been sitting next to the proverbial road for some time now and its time to get back on my feet and go.

It has been a year now (more if we want to trace it back and back, but then we get to the beginning of my life and somehow I am not interested in spending that much time catching things up to speed) since I have really been contemplating the direction I want my life to go. Sure I have been somewhat "quarter-lifey" since I came back from London in the summer of 2005, but for the last year I have ever increasingly grown tired of my own indecision and waffling. I am ready to come into my own, settle (or unsettle if the journey so decrees) in and carve out my own little niche.

For a year now, for all intents and purposes, I have been without a formal home. I have also been focusing intently on where I want to go career wise (or figuring out if that at all matters to me), where I want to live, what form my life wants to take on. I am fully aware of letting things organically evolve and am fully on board, but I have also done an incredible amount of self work and know that I am overly prone to contemplation over action and thus can find myself thinking alot about life instead of just doing. This year has been an incredible, dense, amazing journey indeed. However, what I thought I would accomplish when I started has not come to fruition. In part I wanted to:
  • Save money and pay off my student loans/debts (not accomplished).
  • Find a physical location to call home and start plans to move there (not accomplished).
  • Beginning working towards a career in food writing/culinary (debatable, but not nearly as defined as I would have liked). I have kept up my Food Blog pretty well, but again, its not nearly as far developed as I would like.
  • Enjoy the freedom and flexibility of my current work to contemplate/work on the above (yes, but to no end....)
  • Travel and enjoyed the heck out of the freedom that comes with no rent (roger that!)
  • Race and run all over the world and blog all about it on my Running Blog (double check!)
  • Spent time and energy living, loving, thinking and contemplating and just plain being (duh!)
 I have had an extremely awesome summer which has lent itself to not get to wrapped up in contemplating what I might be doing, because I was far to busy just doing. But now, on this first day of fall, I realize that there are things I want to do in life, there are goals that I have set for myself and part of my endless flounder over the past year has been a product of simply having no idea how to even move in the direction of those goals. Deep down inside I knew it, I have goals, I have dreams, I have a path I desire to follow but I have thwarted myself out of fear, out of doubting myself, out of over-contemplation, out of not seeing a clear path to proceed forward on. But to hell with that! I am in a privileged position, such as my generation is defined, to find myself able to ponder these things. And I realized, if I have the space to ponder then I have space to change- everything.

And that is just what I plan (project, direct, begin....) to do. I have all these things I want to do, things I want to work towards (though who knows how that will change along the way), goals I want to pursue and I have simply not held myself accountable. I keep waiting and waiting and waiting for the opportunity to come to me, instead of just making myself accountable to make it happen. I recently got "Amor Fati" tattooed on my wrist, which means "love of one's fate" and is meant to describe a philosophy about life that embraces all things in life, even suffering and pain as a good, meaningful part of the journey. And while I love my fate, I also do not believe that I am simple a passenger in the backseat of the bus of my own life. I am driving bus and while I may not be able to control where the road goes, I can definitely point my wagon as I see fit. And thus, I want to keep myself accountable. I have all these really cool (to me) goals and I could waste my entire lifetime just sitting and hoping that they will come true. If I hold my breathe for that, I will die of asphyxiation.

I need to say it out loud. I need to state my goals, no INTENTIONS, because writing them down in my little notebook just isn't really cutting it. The goals get rolled over each year and not accomplished.

What I want (The GOALS):
  • Pay off my student loans/debt before I am 30 (Yes turned 27!).
  • Become/develop myself as a food writer including cookbooks, articles, books and blog to a degree that that is my job.
  • Develop my blog into the source for the collision of gourmet food & nutrition for athletes.
  • Save enough money to open a small scale cafe or bakery.
  • Find a place to call home.
 What I have to do am going to do to achieve those goals (The Tasks):
  • Budget, budget, budget.
    • I thought that moving out and giving up my $1,000/month rent would inherently mean I just saved gobs of money, not so. I have magically spent all of that money on food. Tasty, but not very good for paying down debts more rapidly (I have never missed a payment mind you).
    • I have written a budget for myself but important here is to note that I will maintain it (very generous I know, attempting to underspend as drastically as possible) and track(!!!):
      • $1,000 per month for groceries ($250/week)
      • $400 per month for dining out
    • Over time, I would like to decrease those amounts, but am starting out a bit forgiving to work out the kinks.
  • Blog on a schedule
  • Write the cookbook(Gourmet foods for athletes, no that is not the title, because that would be a lame title).
    • Edit, re-write, develop recipes and write recipes to include in the book
    • Find a publisher or at least look at my options
  • Get a nutrition certification.
    • Part of becoming a "source" for something is having the expertise. I want my blog to not only draw from my culinary education but from a nutritional one too (though arguably my culinary education from Bauman College was such a collision).
  • Take continuing education classes in both food and writing.
Accountability. I have put it out there. There it is. I can stop holding my breath. Will this change anything? That is entirely up to me. I can tear this blog down, mourn the lost hour of my life and pretend I never ever said it. Or, I can stand up to the tasks. Especially the first three, those are very very clear and defined tasks. It is like my running schedule, when I wake up in the morning I look at what I am planned to do for the day and by-golly I do it. I trust my coach's guidelines and I do it. Structure, I like it. I thrive when I have some of it. In most parts of my life I definitely can use more of it. This little proclamation/project/journey/beginning/thing is my structure now. It is like scaffolding for my life. And it is officially.....right now....on.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ragu alla Napoletana

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After spending nearly a month in the mountains, followed by another couple of busy weeks, not being able to cook anything super fancy or really exercise my culinary skills, I decided that I wanted to try and make something fun, delicious and slow cooked. I was craving a meaty red sauce, so I found a recipe for Ragu alla Napoletana from Italian Slow and Savory, A cookbook by Joyce Goldstein. It turned out freaking fantastic. It was hearty, delicious but also complex and not weighed down. It was also fun to have a aromatic pot of food cooking away on the stove all day, filling the house with a tasty aroma. Once the sauce had cooked way down, I boiled up some gluten free pasta, shredded some parm reg and quick sauteed some veggies with garlic to balance out the meal. While I ate this dinner pre-long run, it will do for any night you need a little warm up or coziness. It was delicious!

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Ragu alla Napoletana


Ingredients


⅓ cup olive oil
1 ½ lbs. beef brisket, in one piece
½ lb boneless veal shoulder, in one piece
½ lb. boneless pork shoulder, in one piece
salt
1 yellow onion, chopped
½ cup dry red wine
2 cans (28oz) plum tomatoes with juice, chopped or pulsed
pinch red pepper flakes
stock (chicken or vegetable)

Directions


In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over high heat. Add the meats and sprinkle with salt. When the meats have given up their juices, after about 15 minutes, add the onion and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meats are browned and the onion is golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until it is absorbed into the meats, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chili pepper flakes and stir well. Cover partially and simmer, stirring often, for 2 1/2 hours. Check from time to time to see if more liquid is needed. At 2 1/2 hours you can remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve for another dish, or chop it and return to the sauce. Or continue cooking over low heat until the meat falls apart with a fork, incorporating into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Based on Italian Slow and Savory, A cookbook by Joyce Goldstein.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

TransRockies video.

One of my favorite things every night at TransRockies were the amazing pictures from the day and the fun videos that were put together. While they haven't released the pictures and videos yet, they have put together this "music video" which really captures a lot of the crazy fun we were having out there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TransRockies in the news

Justin, Caitlin and Martin at Camp Hale.


A really cool article/blog was written about Caitlin and I on RunnersWorld.com. We were interviewed directly after the race by one of my favorite RW blogger/writers Lisa Jhung. Though Runners World definitely doesn't cover the ultra world very well, it is the largest running publication out there, so to be in it (even just online) is pretty freaking cool to me!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Summer's end farmer's market

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I love the fall. And I can tell it is upon us. I get very excited for the changing of the leaves, the rain, the cool temperatures, wrapping up all comfy and cozy. I also like all the great food that fall and winter bring. That is not to say that I am happy to see the bounty of summer leave, because I am most definitely not. But I am never sad when Brussels Sprouts season comes back.

I don't know exactly what it is about the fall that I love, but it lingers in my memory in a special way. I have memories of the starting of the school year and the anticipation it brings, Halloween nights and venturing out into the darkness, massive piles of leaves to jump and play in. I do think September is my favorite month. It was always full of possibilities, it was a beginning, a fresh new (school) year. No matter how old I get, I still think in school years.

One of the best parts of September is that, while diminished, you can still get fresh organic summer produce. Maybe its not as nice as first harvest, but walking around at my local farmer's market on Friday, I still had a bounty to choose from. I was in the mood for a spicy and complex Thai style salad. I stumbled upon Roti Rotisserie at the market, selling whole roast chickens which is EXACTLY what I wanted to use in my salad. I grabbed some other fresh ingredients and without venturing more than 5 minutes from my house, I was set for dinner. I was really pleased with how this salad turned out. Complex flavors, great flavor profile. Sweet tastes of summer on a perfect nearly fall evening.

Thai Mango and Chicken Salad


Ingredients


⅓ whole mango, chopped
2 cups arugula
½ green onion, chopped
¼ bell pepper, julienne
1 small carrot, julienne
2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
1 roast chicken breast, shredded
½ recipe Thai Salad Dressing
⅓ cup red cabbage, shredded

Directions


Toss together the arugula, cilantro, green onion, carrots, cabbage, and salad dressing (see recipe to follow) in a bowl. Top with mango and chicken.

Thai Salad Dressing


Ingredients


1 tbsp. roast chili sauce
1 tbsp. peanut butter
2 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp sucunata
1 serrano chili, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions


In a jar mix together all ingredients, whisk together until the sugar is dissolved and the peanut butter is throughly mixed throughout. Serve over top of salad, meat, or vegetables.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sweet Summer Eating. Perspective Cooking.

I am finally back in the land of kitchens and culinary, back from a transformative journey brimming with ideas, direction and passion. Passion which is directed not just towards my running, but my passion for cooking. I am more motivated than ever to share my recipes, nutritional know how and culinary skills. It makes me giddy to think about getting into the kitchen and into writing all the things that I have brewing in my head. All in good time though. As I settle back into life, I have the opportunity to get back into the kitchen and create, create, create. The recipes below just happened into my head when I was wondering around in the grocery store this morning. They turned out fantastic, simple and nutritional.

I am back on top of things and looking towards planning a future where my website is even more of a tool that runners and athletes can meet their nutritional needs, cook and eat amazing gourmet food and find out all sorts of culinary and nutritional information. Also, I am keen to continue to try and work on a cookbook and have that published in the next year or two. That is a task that comes with no small undertaking and I am so ready to take on the challenge. In the meantime if you want to grab all of my recipes from this year and last, head over to the Tastebook badge in the left hand column and buy a Fast Foodie Cookbook. I have one book for last and one for this. This years is currently being updated to be complete, but the cool thing about tastebook is that you can buy pages and add them to your book. Check it out.

As the summer comes to a close, drink and eat up all you can of all the bounty of summer, both literally and figuratively!

[caption id="attachment_622" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Beautiful summer meal for a beautiful summer day"]Beautiful summer meal for a beautiful summer day[/caption]

Sage and Garlic Green Beans


Ingredients:


2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup water
1 cup green beans, trimmed
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
In a saute pan, bring water to a boil and put green beans in the water to poach/parboil them for 2-3 mins. Drain the water, add olive oil, garlic and sage and saute until the green beans crisp up. Salt and pepper to taste.

[caption id="attachment_623" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Summer Melon and Goat Cheese Salad"]Summer Melon and Goat Cheese Salad[/caption]

Summer Melon and Goat Cheese Salad


Ingredients:


3 cups arugula
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup cantalope, cubed
2 tbsp. goat cheese
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions:


Soak sliced onions in ice cold water to remove sharpness. Meanwhile, arrange arugula, melon and goat cheese in a bowl. Add onions, drizzle with nice olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

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Sun-dried Tomato, Mushroom and Fresh Herb Chicken


Ingredients:


3 sun-dried tomato, packed in oil
¼ cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. mixed fresh herbs, minced
1 organic boneless skinless chicken breast, butterflied
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:


Preheat oven to 350.

In a oven proof skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Saute sliced mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet, leaving oil in pan.

Stuff the butterflied chicken with the sun dried tomatoes (3 slices approx), mushrooms and 1/2 of the fresh herbs. Close, sprinkle remaining herbs on top and salt and pepper. Add the remaining oil back to the skillet. Place chicken in the skillet and brown on both sides. Remove skillet from heat and bake in oven until chicken is cooked through about 35 minutes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TransRockies (Part II- My perspective)

Team "..." smiling in the tent city after Day 1 victory.

Running is an intensely personal activity. No matter what, on any given day, you only have the power to run as well as you can and you have no control over your competitors. You can only run your own race. You navigate your own set of strengths and weaknesses, strategies and paces to cobble together a race. GoreTex Transrockies throws down an epic challenge for any runner: 113 miles over 6 days with over 20,000 feet of elevation gain, all at above 8,500 feet. And then, to make it more interesting, they make it a partner race. If running is intensely personal, than pairing up as runners is a formula worthy of advanced Calculus. Strengths and weakness must be balanced, strategy was be in tune and communication must be flawless. And for the partnership that does it best: Victory. And for 2009 GoreTex Transrockies that duo was us: Caitlin Smith and myself. We battled it out with some heavy favorites, we battled it out with the elements and the course, we even battled it out with each other, but together as a partnership, as a dynamic duo, we pulled out a fantastic race.

Pre-race:
I had been up in Colorado for 9 days before the race start, mostly at 10,200+ feet and running to upwards of 12,000+. I was hoping it would acclimatize me to the altitude for at least the majority of the race. After doing many runs over that 9 days, I knew I had made the right choice for me since I felt like absolute garbage. Not only did I feel altitude sick, I just felt plain old sick. My energy was in the toilet and no matter what I ate, drank or hours of sleep I would get, I just didn't feel right. I was hoping day one of racing I would feel better, or at least improved.

The Wednesday before TR started, I headed down to Boulder to hang out with some Salomon teammates as well as catch up with some old friends, including my favorite, Bob Sweeney, who was a 100k teammate my first world championships. On Friday, I scooped up Caitlin in downtown Boulder and by Saturday morning we were on the road with some of my Salomon teammates, making our way up to see a bit of the Leadville race and then onward to "Day 0" activities and check in at Buena Vista. We drove up to Beaver Creek in two cars, mine to drop off and Gordon from Outside PR had a van. I drove with Adam Chase, my awesome team manager for Salomon and Caitlin rode up with Martin and Gordon, so Gordon could interview her.

About 2.5 seconds after we arrived in Buena Vista, Caitlin and I were asked a half dozen times if we were going to beat Kami and Nikki, aka The North Face girls. Not being gifted with the ability to see the future, I had no idea. I did respond that all we can do is run the best race we can and see where that shakes out to. We went to the pre-race dinner and meeting, enjoying meeting and reuniting with friends/runners from around the world and found out lots of what was in store for us. We had picked up our race bags which we had to stuff everything into for the week and they were brimming with schwag, it was fantastic.

After dinner, when our group was settled into the hotel, Caitlin and I went for a walk to shake out our legs and talk about the race. We talked about communication being absolutely essential and how to work through problems, motivate one another and we made an agreement that no matter what was said or felt that we would continually work to be on the same page. This conversation was essential to our success as we both verbalized our determination to work together, not against, each other at any cost. As I mentioned, there are so many factors colliding when you team up runners that the only way to make that work is #1 communication, #2 patience and #3 dedication. As I said in previous blog posts, I have been working my ass off since WC100k in June to become a better hill runner. My motivation? Caitlin's kick ass ability to sprint up hills. I had little more than a month to improve my uphill running, but I feel like I made a drastic improvement over that time. I cannot even imagine how much TR would have sucked for me (and us) if I hadn't done that work. We probably would have been a victim of breakup like many a teams at TR. Plan set, we went to sleep and got rested for the days ahead.

Elevation Profile for TR

Day 1:
Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge. 20.83 miles, 2721 feet of climbing, 9329 Max elevation


Before the start of Stage one

The first stage was a later start at 10am. Thus, it was seriously hot and exposed. For what in theory would be an easy run, turned out to be brutal on the majority of teams. And it was, for at least half our team (that would be me). Caitlin and I had decided based on recommendation from previous participants, that we should go out from the gun and race the first day. Drop the hammer early and trust your body to recover. We both have an incredible ability to recover day to day, so we were both down with this strategy. Caitlin was seriously ready to run after 3 days off and I knew I would have to make sure to not hammer it out too hard at the start. While we wanted to race from the gun, I also didn't want to break myself day one. I was nervous since I still wasn't feeling very well. I hoped the race day adrenaline would kick in and I would be fine. I was also hoping that my body would turn the corner on acclimatization and I would no longer feel it, it was day 10 of being in CO, so I was hopeful (ok, I was desperately hoping).

10am hit and we were off in a tear. I could tell immediately that I was working too hard and that it was still the altitude affecting me. Both Caitlin and I felt that the elevations of 8-9,000 feet hit us the hardest and as we worked up the first easy climb, I definitely had a higher HR and disturbed breathing than I would have liked. We quickly settled in and ticked off the miles. The heat soon got to me and I could feel myself getting desperately dehydrated. The aid station was 7.36 miles into the race and one bottle just was not enough for me, the second was at 14.80 miles. By the time we hit the second aid station, I was feeling awful. I could tell I was slowing Caitlin down on the uphills because I simply couldn't find the energy (which I could later trace to not getting enough pre-race fuel the night before, something I would battle with all week) and just felt dead. I started to worry that I was getting heat stroke and did my best just to keep moving forward. I felt frustrated with myself because it was Day 1 and I was running like shit. Despite that, we had established a really good lead over the next women's teams. And once we hit the pavement for the last 3.69miles on the road, I realized that it was universally a tough day. We passed several of what would eventually be Top 10 men's teams, who were walking on the road. Caitlin made it look easy, as I staggered and shuffled behind her. The only thing that kept me going was not wanting to be dead weight. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that I was feeling shitty the first day because it helped conserve Caitlin's energy for days to come. In the end we put between 9-20 minutes on the next open women's teams and ran our way into the leader's pink jerseys. A quick soak in the creek with other competitors and we head back to camp to refuel and relax for day 2, up Hope Pass.
Day 1 Open Women's Podium. Team ... on top
(that would be us, having not decided on a name)


Day 2:
Vicksburg to Twin Lakes. 10.04 miles, 3098 Feet of Climbing, 12,538 Max elevation

Day 2 made me feel a mixture of anxiety and anticipation. I had run up and over Hope Pass, twice, with Bryon Powell when I arrived in CO and so I knew what I was in for. I eagerly anticipated it because I knew what I was getting in for and it was so much fun (especially the down), but I was anxious because of how I had felt Day 1 and because Caitlin is super strong on the ups. I knew our strength differences would show themselves on this stage.

We had a nice cool early start and I was feeling much more fueled and hydrated. When the gun went off and we hit the road from Missouri Gulch to Sheep Gulch, I could instantly tell that my acclimatization period was over. My heartrate was low, my breathing easier.

My goal for the stage, knowing that there were tons of strong female uphillers in the field, including Nikki (who could tow Kami) and Anita (who could tow Prudence), was to run hard enough to keep them in striking distance and within eye sight. I also knew that would be desperately hard for Caitlin since she is such a good uphiller. As I said, I have highly improved my uphilling ability. I have made myself into a good ultrarunning uphiller, Caitlin is a good mountain uphiller. The difference is that my speed is fast for ultras, hers is blazing fast from doing short events such as this stage was. She is a great ultrarunner, but her speed on the hills comes from her brilliant background in Mountain racing. In fact, she would be a great bet for the 2010 US Mountain running team. As we headed up, I had to break out a combination of fast hiking and running where I could. We were about 1/4 way up when Nikki/Kami and Anita/Prudence passed us, each team utilizing the ability to tow. Caitlin and I were not going to be able to tow at least uphills, because our size difference makes it too awkward and difficult.

While I could sense Caitlin getting frustrated, I kept calm and pushed up the hill, keeping the other ladies teams in sight and making sure I wasn't expending too much energy. While we wanted to maintain our hefty lead, we didn't need to break ourselves to do it. We could be mellow and spend the time conserving, conserving, conserving. We made it to the top 25-30 minutes faster than I had gone up that way the previous attempt and I was very pleased.
Nearing the top of Hope Pass, less than 2 minutes back. Pink leaders jerseys!

We swapped positions and I prepared to unleash my strength (downhilling) and lead Caitlin down the hill. We could see the other two teams ahead of us by less than 2 minutes and I smiled knowing that the strategy I had in mind was right on point. I am a lifelong team sports player and I have long watch the Tour De France and examined team dynamics in such a race. I knew that in order to be victorious after six days of this race we would have to do a lot more than just run fast. We would have to be smart, do gamesmanship and keep our wits and heads about us at all times. I also knew that, as my friend Gary Robbins said, there would be nothing worse than winning 5 days in a row and ending up second. To do that requires a delicate balance.

Caitlin expressed her feelings about technical and slippy downhills and so I lead her out pretty conservatively, but still moving at a nice clip. I feel most free and unleashed on downhills, flats and rolling terrain. My long legs are made to hop boulders at high speed. We made it to Little Willis Gulch aid station at mil 5.13 and barely stopped long enough to take a breathe. We were in hot pursuit of the other women's teams. I was feeling awesome and happy since we had made it out of the danger zone for losing significant time. We got to the bottom of the hill and headed out through the grass and creek to the finish line. As we crossed the creek we overtook Anita and Prudence and we were running right behind Kami who was trying to catch back up to Nikki (Kami had stopped for a pit stop). Caitlin was pushing the pace across the flats, but I encouraged her to stay moderate and comfortable and not to kick at the finishline. From my study of TDF and team sports, the worst possible thing we could have done would have been have a sprint off at the finish line on Day 2. Instead, I pulled back and we waltzed in about 30 seconds back. My strategy was to give Nikki and Kami the win and let them think that the hard mountain stages would be theirs to dominate. I didn't really let Caitlin in on this strategy per se, but I sandbagged a bit at the end. In my mind, it was lose the battle but win the war. We were second in 1:55:36.

We headed into Leadville to camp for the evening and I got to return to my favorite spot: Provin Grounds and hang out with some great people. Friendships were building and we were all settling in to the whole experience.

Day 3:
Leadville to Nova Guides. 24 miles, 2930 feet of elevation gain, 10,945 Max elevation
.

This stage was a pretty easy stage or should have been since there was minimal climbing and lots of very "me" terrain. Lots of rolling hills, lots of downhill and plenty of flat, including a longish road section at the beginning and very end. There were only two climbs that topped out at 10,927 @ mile 5.21 and 10,777 @ mile 11.83. I could tell Caitlin was still brimming with energy and go, but I felt that this stage was a good place to get some needed "recovery" miles in.

We took it out as we did every stage, running down the road ahead of the other women's team. Caitlin is more of a "gun-runner" than I am. I go out at a steady clip and then smash the second half, she goes out blazing from the start. Being in the pink leaders jersey again felt good, but it also puts pressure on to race strong every day. I went into this stage with the strategy of running only hard enough to maintain the lead and perhaps get a little bit more of an advantage over the second place North Face girls whom we were leading by about 10 minutes. As with the WC100k when I helped pace two of my teammates to top 10 finishes and a team gold medal, I thought in terms of protecting our team position instead of merely the stage win. During this stage, we even took the time to stop for one of the fantastic photographers and take a funny picture of us pretending to beat each other up (there was a nightly slide show with photos from the day).

The stage was "easy" but I still immensely frustrated Caitlin. I was going "slow" up the hills, though we were out of eye sight of any of the other teams and I knew she wanted to speed up. We had our first big blow up of the race on this stage. She wanted to go faster and said it was hard for her to slow down, I told her that we should settle in and not tax ourselves. There were many miles of subsequent silence as we both worked to get back on the same page. I could sympathize with her position, she just wanted to run fast. But I also knew that, from my 100 mile experience, that we had to met out that brimming energy carefully. If you go out to hard in a 100 mile (113 miles in this case) run, you can run great until about 75-80 and then just have nothing left. I was approaching this race as an ultra and she was approaching it like a series of mtn races. Neither is wrong, just like our differences in strengths, there is room for difference in perspective. We allowed ourselves the space to just run and we clipped along the rolling hills. I was feeling good, not great (and was still wondering why I felt quasi-flu/low iron) as we passed a photographer and Gordon, running behind Caitlin downhill. We turned a corner and started along the edge of a field, still running downhill and I caught a foot and my knee went smashing into a rock, sending me head and shoulders into the dirt. For a moment, I thought it was over, I thought I had broken my knee. I burst into a fit of sobs and rolled on to my back. Caitlin screamed at me to get up. I couldn't even focus on the fact on how insensitive I felt she was being because I was too concerned that I wouldn't be able to get up. I got up and hobbled, barely able to put weight on my foot, down the trail, crying the whole way.

We were quickly passed by 4 teams including Team Timex,Will/Toby, the North Face girls, and two co-ed teams including eventual winners NSA, which included my buddy Gary Robbins. No one asked me if I was ok. Except Gary. As we crested up to a road crossing, en masse, he said, "I know what you need" and gave me a big hug. "In 5 minutes you won't even feel it". He was not only right but within 5 minutes I was pissed at everyone who had passed me and I took off in hot pursuit. Caitlin hitched her wagon onto (the crazy) train and held on for a ride. She now encouraged my moderation and we quickly got back 3 of 4 teams before leaving the single track. We only had Nikki and Kami left ahead of us about 20 seconds as we popped out on the road into Nova Guides. I smiled a sinister grin and told Caitlin that we were not going to hammer it yet, but just run patiently and reel them in if we could. Caitlin was starting to feel dehyrdated and bonky, so I told her (as I did in the 100k) to tuck in and I would lead her out. Kami was towing Nikki on the road and we passed them within a 1/2 mile of hitting the road. Having the lead in hand, I pushed the pace a bit more, feeling my second half power flood through me, knowing I could drop mid-6s if I pleased. Caitlin told me not to break her, that she was borderline going to throw up, so I lead her in, taking her by the hand along the final stretch. We hammered it in at 3:37:30 for first place. The North Face gals came in about 90 seconds later.
A run down on the road into Nova Guides. The North Face Girls and Team ...
Photo by irunfar.com

I finally pulled up the leg of my torn tights and revealed a knee cap with major damage, which would continue to bleed for several hours. After a shower, the medics examined it and told me how lucky I was since I was mm from needing stitches. They bandaged it, iced it and gave me drugs. I was just hoping it wouldn't get too stiff overnight as day 4 was another fast climb.

My favorite thing about this day was that Caitlin and I proved that we could seemingly be at our wits ends with one another and yet still always come back to the same page and find patience, caring and strength together. This stage also showed how much each of our strengths mattered in our overall success.

Camp Hale, Day 3 and 4 camp
Day 4:
Nova Guides to Red Cliff. 14.3 miles, 3009 feet of elevation gain, 11,668 Max elevation
.

Another day, another mountain to climb. By Day 4, the atmosphere of TR was infectious. Everyone was bonding, enjoying and racing their asses off. At the end of each day, no matter how things shook out, we were building a community with runners from around the world and hanging with runners we might not otherwise have a chance too. Day 4 was similar to Day 2 in that there was a big climb up to the top at mile 6.36, a run along the most breathtaking ridge and then a sweet downhill for the remainder, including running through a creek bed. Before the race, we talked to Nikki and Kami and Anita. Anita's partner had to drop out due to injury and Anita needed a team to officially sign up with and the North Face girls wanted us to be in on the decision on whether it was fair to have her with them. Anita's plan was to run her own race, but safety rules mean you have to start with another team. It was fine by us.

It was a chilly morning, but my knee was not super stiff and we went out from the gun in our usual fashion. We hit the hill and Caitlin danced up the dirt road (not nearly as pretty as Hope Pass) and I combination run/speed hiked up behind her. I was passed by Nikki and Kami a few miles in and I encourage Caitlin to run side by side with them. Part of me simply didn't want to hear her yelling at me "COME ON DEVON" in what was only partially masked frustration. I had enough frustration with myself to not need to compounded by someone else. I wish I could have willed myself sudden impeccable uphill speed, but I was mildly (ok, totally) satisfied that I was able to keep the three of them within eye sight by merely hiking. Caitlin would look back and I would throw hang signals telling her to stay with them. I only needed to be within 2 minutes of her at all times (at least at the aid stations) and so strategically I wanted her to stay right there with them.

I made it to the top, pretty proud of myself for once again being right there with the good mountain runners. Sure Anita was long gone and Caitlin could have been too, but for this race and for the long term strategy we were spot on. As we cruised along the ridge at the top, I exclaimed to Caitlin, as I surveyed the endless mountains and beauty, "I am so blissed out right now". She laughed and we beat feet to make up the remaining 10-15 seconds that Nikki and Kami had on us. We had barely started downhill when all of us were together, chatting away and enjoying the heck out of ourselves. We had been running together for a few miles when I decided to speak up, "I am just going to say it, I have no intention of sprinting it out at the end and would be happy to cross the line all together". There was a collective sigh of relief, the mood got even lighter (if that was possible) and we enjoyed what basically was a bunch of bad ass women runners out for a fun run. We hit the last stretch into Red Cliff which was a dirt road (after splashing for a 1/2 mile through a creek) and made plans for a hilarious finish. Caitlin went in front of us and I held on to her ponytail and Nikki and Kami each held on to her hydration pack and we pretended that Caitlin was towing us all (we even grimaced and moaned and groaned). We were credited the co-win even though chip timing had us behind by a half second, as I was behind Caitlin and crossed last out of the 4 of us. Nikki and Kami even insisted that we all share the win, which I found classy. Our finish time was 2:19:29 and more importantly, the most fun we had all race. I was pleasantly surprised how much I was able to manage the pain in my knee and hoped that would continue.

That night we were joined by Caitlin's boyfriend, Ed and so I ended up having a whole tent to myself and had a decent night sleep which was incredibly rare for my entire time in CO.

Day 5:
Red Cliff to Vail. 23.4 miles, 4407 elevation gain, 11,787 max elevation

Day 5 was game on, the buddy buddy antics of the day before were out the window. We heard rumors around camp that the North Face girls strategy was to haul on Day 5 and 6. I hoped that my knee would feel as good as Day 4, but as soon as I awoke in the morning, I knew that my knee had other plans. It was so stiff from the top of the knee cap to mid-shin that I could barely bend my leg. There was a super runnable section for the first 8 miles back up the dirt road on which we finished (part of it anyways) but as soon as the gun went off, I knew it was not a road I would be moving up quickly. Within a quarter mile, I was in tears and my knee hurt so badly. I considered opting out of the race. I was so frustrated with myself that I can't even begin to think how annoying it was for Caitlin. All she could do was helplessly watch as Nikki and Kami ran off ahead of us and I plodded along behind her, pushing with everything I could, which didn't seem like very much.

We made it into Aid Station #1 and I begged for some advil or ibuprofen to dull the pain. I knew if I could take the ice pick out of my knee I might be able to run. I was demoralized. I felt like dead weight. I was filled with self doubt and felt bad for letting Caitlin down. She did her best to mediate her own frustrations. I wouldn't expect her to not be frustrated. We had wanted to stay with the North Face girls and keep them within striking distance and I simply couldn't for the first half. Thankfully, the advil helped and by mile 10.65 at the summit of Bowman's Shortcut Trail I was gassed up and ready to run. We hit a stretch of nice technical downhill after the long grunt uphill, we were about tapped out with frustration and Caitlin snapped at me before having me take the lead on my stronger discipline. Funny though I fell and obliterated myself, I am actually very gifted on technical downhills, it is the non-technical that got me! I focused all my frustrations and feelings toward hammering the downhill and took off. I figured Caitlin would follow and then I heard a yell from behind me, "don't leave me". I turned and looked to see Caitlin was no where to be seen. I slowed up, we had a silent moment in which we returned to the same page, cast each other a "let's do this" smile and took off in hot pursuit.

As I have said, I am a second half girl. I like to drop negative splits. We headed up Two Elk Pass which is a series of really long and exposed switchbacks. And then we spotted the North Face girls. They were in sight and that was all that mattered to me, it got me going knowing that even if the reality was that they were 7 minutes ahead of us, that we were still within striking distance. I ran in front of Caitlin (yes I ran all the way up!) up to the top and we scratched, clawed and hammered our way to the high point and second aid station at Benchmark Summit (mile 13.84). I was jazzed to be at the top because I knew there was 9.5 miles left of all downhill and runnable downhill consisting of 4x4 road and ski trail. Caitlin put the reins in my hand to lead us down the hill. She didn't feel great going down the hill, as she was finally feeling the altitude, but I pushed our pace as hard as we could. We made it down the hill, cruising along thinking, "man we are going fast!". We cut a line down the final slope through the brush and burst into the finish at Vail. Caitlin was on the verge of getting sick and so I took her by the hand and practically levitated her through the finishing stretch and across the line in a time of 3:47:06 and a solid 2nd place. We had nearly erased the time advantage Nikki and Kami had on us for the stage and were only 2.5 minutes back. We ran the final 9.5 miles in a blazing 1:06 and that, my friends, includes a stop at aid station 3. With one day left to race, we were excited and nervous for the final and most brutal day, but we were also encouraged by the fact that as a team we were rock solid. Different as we might be in so many ways, we were working together really well and we were becoming increasingly closer which seemed camp wide to be the exception.



Day 6:
Vail to Beaver Creek, 21.21 miles, 4623 Elevation Gain, 10,512 max elevation

You can look it two ways: 9 and a half is an eternity. 9 and a half minutes is absolutely nothing in an ultra. It was game on in every way. I knew we had definitely made a strong statement by holding them off on Day 5. I was particularly nervous about Day 6. After the confidence blasting going uphill on Day 5, I was worried that my tired legs would desert me. I was determined though to be smart and not crack myself too early. I made sure that I took some asprin before the race and my knee was feeling at the very least, runnable. I had made an error the day before however. We had gone out with Gi to sushi for a late lunch and despite eating a hefty portion, I did not follow it up with a good portion of dinner. Hunger hit me about 9pm as I was lying down to sleep. Getting behind in fueling on a race like this is bad. I woke up in the morning and had my gluten free crispy rice with pb and fruit, but I knew I would have to gel up early. Every day I had taken my pre-race Vespa and a mid-race hyper-vespa, but also took in more calories than I might have for such short stages (200-400 cals/20 miles) since it was more about pre-fueling for the next day.

The final gun went off and we knew that nothing else mattered but this stage. The race had a controlled start since we were heading through the town of Vail and surprisingly, the start went out really slow. This thwarted Caitlin and my usual early race cushion and as we headed up the hill about 2 miles in, Nikki and Kami made their move and were gone in a flash. I knew that I had to be more careful about how much time they put on us going up this hill since instead of having a long descent to the finish, we had a descent then climb up to nearly the finish and then only a mile downhill to the end. I moved uphill as hard as I could. I reminded myself that everyone was tired, everyone hurt and that I just had to freaking keep moving. Going up hill, I had the constant encouragement of my Salomon buddy and good friend Martin, such a good motivator, he renewed my confidence for sure. He and his partner Justin had decided to just have a fun final day and we would see them flinting about the majority of the day, making it look easy. I ran up and up the hill, still not fast enough for Caitlin's abilities but I was running damnit and that was pretty impressive enough for me. I didn't feel great and would only know after the race that neither did Caitlin.

Will from Team Timex, coming up to offer some encouragement. Yes, I am always motivated by a hot guy offering me encouragement. Photo by Justin Mock.

We made it up most of the way of the first part of the hill when I heard Will from Team Timex tell his partner Toby that he would be right back. He ran up behind me, offered me some encouraging words and then headed back to his partner. It gave me a big boost and I hit the 4x4 road and had to scream at Caitlin to come back since she missed a turned and had headed the wrong way.

We made it to Check Point #1 where the Med guy told us that we were "reportedly" getting help from a guys team. We were not getting help at all from Justin and Martin, but I understood that the fact that Justin wore one of our pink jerseys might be cause for speculation. We kept going up and up. Martin told me at one point, "I wish I could tell you that you are nearly there". I was getting dehydrated and definitely was feeling a lull in my energy. I popped a hyper vespa and took a caffinated gel. We hit the high point and then the Buck Creek Check Point and strapped in to hammer it down hill. The downhill to Avon I had been warned was really technical and had a ton of tall grass. I took the lead and we sped down and down towards Avon. I was running with every ounce I could muster and I kept going to the well and feeling it come up dry. I was feeling overwhelmed by thinking I had blown it, that I had given it away from getting dehydrate and messed up from the start of day 1. I had blown it by not getting enough fuel day to day or not getting good enough sleep. I never doubted my training, I could tell I had done enough there. Doubt, doubt, doubt even as I ran easily (though hammering) down the hill. We hit the pavement in Avon and I could feel myself nearly staggering. We made it to the aid station and I gulped down some coke and mentally prepared for the final 4.63 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. We were so close and yet, we had no idea how the North Face girls had done. Would their strategy prevail or had our brazen go for it from the gun strategy work? As we pushed up the final climb in the beating hot sun, Caitlin and I stopped caring. We pushed as hard as we could, she encouraged the hell out of me on the climbs, but we simply let go of the outcome. We had journeyed so far together, battled and battled and battled and come together to form a brilliant team. We had done everything we could as a team to lead from wire to wire of the race and the rest was out of our control.

The last hill was a battle, I was entering that place where you are pushing every last ounce. You are leaving everything out there on the course. I haven't really ever been forced to do that. And I was. I took a page from the Krissy book and let out some primal yells and grunts (and swear words) to get up the hill. Finally, dehydrated and punished, we made it to the top. Caitlin and I exchanged a few "let's do this" looks and took off with everything we had down the final mile+. Beaver Creek emerged below in our sights and I lead us down the hill, pushing with everything I had. We hit the bottom and sprinted across the bridge and into the finish area. We crossed the finish line in 3:27:24. We could feel the entire finish area collectively holding its breathe. Caitlin and I hugged and I whispered, "I am sorry". I just didn't know if I had had enough that day, I had given it everything.

The announcer said, we have to calculate it, hold on..... I held my breathe. Caitlin told me it didn't even matter. And then, the words that were the sweetest sound: We won!!! We had retained our lead by over 2 minutes. Nikki and Kami had thrown down and broken themselves to come back on that final day, but it was not enough. We won! We won! Our strategy, strengths teamwork and communication came together to be the triumphant combination. We went wire to wire, we took risks, we ran with our hearts and together triumphed.

The entire experience from start to finish was transformative. I came to Colorado and immediately felt like I had come home. This race took me across the most amazing terrain and through the most intense journey, which really mimics alot of my inner journey currently. Whats more than the victory, is the friendships, experiences and memories that were forged. The experience of sharing a journey such as this one and triumphing together makes it so much more sweet. I feel like Caitlin and I made a dynamic team and no matter which way you slice it (even if I try to slice it with the most self-defacing/deprecating knife), we had the winning combination. I am so grateful for my partner and my friend Caitlin. It was an honor to run with her.
GoreTex TransRockies 2009. Wow. What an experience. I almost find it difficult to write about because reflecting back upon it means accepting that it is indeed over. As my friend Adam Chase said, it's like summer camp is over and we are all back to our parents, brimming with memories and stories of our time away. When I left for Colorado more than 3 weeks ago, I had no idea how much it would change me. That is another story for another day..... But I return to the bay area with a renewed direction. For now, the race itself is enough. It was an amazing, challenging, transformative experience. Will I return? Without a doubt! I can't freaking wait!

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