Monday, June 28, 2010

Best laid plans

I still feel a bit like the above picture would indicate. This is right before they put in the first IV at Michigan Bluff. Things didn't turn out like I hoped but that is a part of why we challenge ourselves to do these kind of races to see what we are capable of when there are so many factors. I will write more once I am feeling a bit better, but just wanted everyone to know I am ok and will be back in action in no time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Second chance at a first try

Two years ago I was holding my breathe. Waiting for word on whether or not WS100 was a go or not. I had heard the rumors, subconsciously accepted that it wouldn't happen and prepared myself to try and figure out what I should do, all trained up for my first 100 miler with no where to run. And the race was indeed canceled. I was all at once crushed and relieved. There is a good deal of hype around Western States and I was not certain as my first 100 mile experience I would know how to navigate the hype and the distance. I liken Western States to Boston or the Super Bowl: it may be the biggest deal but it doesn't mean its the best/hardest game/race.

Instead, I ran a marathon on WS100 Saturday, pretty poorly I might add. And changed plans and decided to run Vermont 100 instead. I did. I had a blast. I earned my very first belt buckle (which I never got a belt for, curiously).

My first buckle!

I was satisfied with my run. I did well, I ran pretty fast and I realized that 100 milers are not YET my thing. I had a blast with my crew and pacer (Linda and Jonathan), loved Vermont and had a great experience.
Bestest Everest before the race

Last year I opted out of my guaranteed rollover spot, the WC100k was a week before WS100 and I wanted to focus on that. It was my third Worlds with Team USA and I was trained and ready to go for that. It was awesome and we won team gold. I was happy to have nothing to think about after the race. I could simply come home, recover and a week later, pace at WS100.

Even better, I got to celebrate my birthday and enjoy it however I wanted knowing I was in total recovery mode. That was exactly a year ago today (happy birthday me). I celebrated that day by going on an early morning run with my new friends: Caitlin, Will, Brett, Larissa and Nathan. We have all become fast friends since then and that run through the Headlands really kicked off the start to a very awesome friendship. Happy Anniversary of knowing each other Brett, Larissa and Nathan!

I carried a watermelon. Best birthday present ever.

I couldn't keep up on that run as my legs were worked and my body tired, but they were patient and kind and humored me. Running birthday miles is the best way to celebrate in my opinion. I went on to pace the amazing Krissy as she battled WS100 and triumphed as second girl! It was an honor to be a part of her crew. It was also awesome to see WS up close and personal and not as a runner. I was intrigued though not sold.

Nearly to the track. WS 2009.

Later last year, I went east and was all set to run TusseyMtnback 50 miler, the national championship. My Salomon teammate and host, Glen Redpath, convinced me to run Vermont 50 on Sunday and then spend a week in NYC recovering before running Tussey. I figured I had good recovery skills and that if I took it easy at Vermont I could recover fast enough for Tussey. I had a great run at Vermont and enjoyed all 9,000 feet of slipping and sliding in the mud. I won and more importantly, had earned a spot into WS100 via the Montrail Ultracup. I wasn't convinced though of my desire to dive into another 100miler. But the spot was mine and the challenge of doing something new and different intrigued me enough to put the money down and commit. 

And commit I have. I have done new and different things. I have worked really hard to strengthen my weaknesses, learned from my fast new friends (eternally grateful for chasing Caitlin, Nathan and Brett uphill on the trails for a year now!) new skills and tested myself at races that have shown that I am a rounded racer, no need to "stick to the road". 

Moving at the speed of bliss. Learning from my own race at JFK.

Ready or not, here WS100 comes. Am I ready? I have prepared and perhaps my chance will come. I have spent a good amount of time trying to work my head around this big event. I have struggled with my race mentality and been anxious that I can get my head right. This is my second chance at a first try and ultimately I want only one thing from this race. It is something I have experienced before in many a race, especially last year at JFK50 miler. Strip away the hype, the competition, the stacked field, the 1,000 volunteers. What I want is the journey, I want to run, flow, geek out over this thing that we do that is running. It doesn't really matter what we think as we toe the line, strategies we devise, plans that we create, 100 miles is a gosh darn long way in which we relinquish nearly all of our ability to control things. You have to just go out and do what you have trained to do: run. And ENJOY. Bliss out, it is amazing what we are even daring to undertake.

All I want for my birthday is a journey that I can be proud of and that is one in which I wear a smile on my face and keep joy in my heart. Good luck to everyone out there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Routine as white rice and butter

Our first CSA box from Eatwell Farms

I haven't felt routine in a while. We moved, we had guests, more guests, races to prepare for, nesting to be done, shelving to be built and hung. While bucking routine is nice to change things up, I do enjoy routine. I think one of the reasons I thrive as a runner is because I get to plan, organize and execute a training schedule. There are curves in that I can depend on. I like that. I like spontaneity too, yeah but that is a bit different than just being caught up in a rapid fire of change. Thankfully one of the things that brings me a great deal of comfort and dependability (beyond running) is cooking. And I have been cooking.

Gluten Free Sugarplum Vegan Carrot Cupcakes- a reward for a 48.5 mile run

I may have not been journaling, tweeting, blogging, photographing or following along on the news, but I have been cooking. Routine things. Moderately interesting things. We've been getting a CSA the last few weeks, so there has been lots of greenery. I have been peaking in training, so there has been lots of steak. We've made sandwiches, stir-frys and boring white rice with butter (which suddenly has become one of my favorite things). I have been making coconut granola and crusty breads.

Gluten Free Crusty Boule

With family in town and family leaving town, we have eaten out a great deal. Green Chile Kitchen, Nopalito, Outerlands, Starbelly, Foreign Cinema, Fish (Sausalito) and noshed on fresh fruits and treats from the farmers market.

Ferry Building Farmer Market

It's been a whirlwind, I tell ya. And I am not complaining. No, not at all. This post is more about remembering those dangling little participles before they are swept away than any firm resolute point. I have to share the pictures, the moments before they are pushed aside in the mind by another deep, rich moment.

Family brunch at Outerlands in the Sunset

I had been really good about journaling, but over the last two months have been crap. Really crap. And I don't really like that. That is a routine I need to get back into. Blogging too, because I have much to do and share. There is work to be done, along this funny road I am traveling on. For the next 10 days, I have a one track mind though: Western States 100 mile race. That's got my brain going and my body resting. Over the next week and change there will be a lot of steak/meat. It is my favorite pre-race fuel. And possibly lots of white rice and butter.

On Sunday, it was round one of the steak fest. The baker and I cooked for his mother who was visit from Ohio. We made peri peri rubbed rib eyes, seared in the cast iron. Cooked to a medium rare perfection. We wilted greens from the Eatwell Farms CSA box, cooking them down and down, simply. Olive oil, salt, a dash of water. The risotto was something special. Risotto has a special place in my heart because it is the first recipe I learned that required specific technique and care. I learned porcini mushroom risotto and have made much since that day. Ours was simple and fresh as the late spring day we enjoyed, herbed with basil and parsley, sugar snap peas and a nice sheep's milk pecorino. The Baker stirred and stirred and stirred it to perfection. The meal was simple but beautiful. While complicated, ornate, involved food can be fun, to me there is nothing better than simple good food that lets amazing ingredients stand up and speak for themselves.

Peri-peri rubbed rib-eye, sugar snap pea and herbed risotto, wilted greens

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Delighting in Moderation

Western States

Western States is less than 3 weeks away. You might expect me to say that I have trained harder than ever for this race and that I have single mindedly focused on this race. But I honestly can't say that.

The truth of the matter is, I have trained very hard for this race. I have incorporated new supplemental things to improve including seeing my trainer Josh, going to my naturopath Dr. Maderis, going to pilates, stretching, uphill hiking and heat training. I have run upwards of 100-130 miles a week, doing doubles, working on hills and lots of trail. I can't even remember what it is like to do a long run on the road. All that and I still don't believe I have trained the hardest I ever have. In fact, since becoming a runner, I haven't.

The hardest I ever worked and trained was in my basketball playing days. Routinely I would rise before 4am, go to work for a few hours, then class, then training would begin. There were hours of drills (shots of the move, ball handling, etc, etc), then conditioning including strength and stretching, then running, then practice. Then I worked hard. By my own standard set then, I am quite moderate in my running.

I have been thinking about it a lot lately. Wondering if should have sacrificed more for this race or if I should be sacrificing more for this sport. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with my massage therapist Scott. He summed it up perfectly saying, "who you are is not defined solely by you being a runner, you are a lot of other things beyond that". When I was a basketball player, I defined myself by being a basketball player. It was who I was and my success or failure dictated how I felt about myself. I sacrificed a lot for something ultimately meaningless. I don't ever want to define myself by being a runner. I want to stay connected to the love, passion and joy I have and derive from it.

I know at some point in my running career I would like to do more, but I am not sure I am there yet. I have only been running for 5 years and I don't think I have even begun to tap my potential really yet. In my training for States and incorporating new supplemental things to my training, I realize that its a long road and that my running is something I will develop over time. Also, it means finding a race that really really gets me motivated. I know that for some there is no race but Western States. Maybe after running it, I will discover why. I thought that about Boston and frankly feel it was simply something I am glad I checked off my life to-run list. I do have races that I want to passionately pursue and feel more confident about taking on now that I am developing myself as a runner through a multi-pronged attack mentioned above instead of just running. I also know the things that I must do to take myself to that next level. Those races will be next year and after and according to my coach, I am not allowed to be thinking or speaking of such things yet.

The ninjas out on the States course. Photo by Joel

As I sit down with my thoughts however, my mind wanders towards the long view. Even when I went up to the States course this weekend, I didn't rumble with excitement or nerves. Instead, I felt disturbingly calm. And maybe that is what has set off this whole thought process of wondering if I have done enough. But really, what it is that drives that calm is knowing that I have done what I have done and there is nothing more I can do but run the race, enjoy the journey and watch it unfold.

I feel pretty balanced now in life and I like that. I don't live a monk-like life, I instead delight in moderation. Sometimes I get worried that I am not being strict or devoted enough, ponder whether I should give up more in my diet, be more strict in everything (go to the gym more often, stretch longer, etc). And then I remember that at least dietarily that didn't work for me. I had a nice interview recently that reminded me of this. I was interviewed by an Ex-vegan blogger about being an ex-vegan athlete. The questions he asked made me think and ultimately reminded me that when I was rigid in my diet and defining myself by all the things I didn't eat (no meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts, coffee, alcohol, etc, etc), I became very neurotic about food and distinctively unhappy as a person. And on top of that my running suffered because my health suffered.  I have worked back towards being healthy and balanced in my diet, but occasionally those old neurotic feelings rear their ugly head and make me think that I am being uncommitted to my success as a runner because I am eating ice cream (coconut milk ice cream that is) on a weekday. When the reality of the situation is really that I eat such a healthy diet that the ice cream is essential just to get enough calories in. I delight in moderation and ultimately that makes me a happier person which is a healthier person and therefore a better runner.

Ultimately, at this precise moment in time, I am as ready as I can be for this race. I do however enjoy looking forward and thinking about my running career in the long run. It will change, it will develop, I will work hard and race strong, I will do more and sometimes less. I will continue to love it and enjoy my life. I hope I can always keep both running and my life, simple, beautiful and delightful, at least that is what I am working for.

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