Saturday, July 24, 2010

One good day and 19 more

I am back at it. This has been quite the week and I am feeling good for the most part and excited to be back training. I honestly didn't think I would be. Last weekend, I had thought about going up to Tahoe to run TRT 50 miler. I decided at the last minute that it was a bad idea. I needed a good long run to get my mind back in the game, spend some time with my head out in the woods, but I really didn't need the context of a race. I decided not to race and instead go on a nice long solo outing in the Headlands and Tam. 


Photo by Cameron Baird


I was in a mental rut with running. I was not enjoying myself and I was not motivated after states. While immediately after I considered carrying over my enthusiasm and training into another race. I even considered doing TRT 100 just three weeks after my disaster at states. After a few days though, the reality set in that I wasn't well and needed a break. I ran when I felt like it and rested a bunch. Even when I did run, my head was not in it. I wasn't enjoying it. Since my primary motivation is enjoyment that made me feel confused, directionless and worried. What if the joy never came back? How do I go back to basics? How do I love it again? It turns out all I needed was a good long run. No training partners, no plan, no music, just my water, vespa, frs and a few gels. 

So off I went into the cold misty morning last week. Since I had considered doing TRT 50 mile that same day, my vague goal was to run about 40-50 miles depending on how I felt. I climbed up Coastal and headed towards Tam. I felt like crap. I didn't want to be running. I was worried and stressed, I was not having fun. And to boot, I felt crappy. At every junction, I considered how many miles I would have if I just turned around. 3 miles, 5 miles, 9 miles in. I listened to the thoughts passing through my mind. I witnessed so much resistance on my part. My body wasn't feeling great, wasn't warmed up yet so my mind was mirroring that. See, you aren't ready to be running. See you don't feel good. You're not ready. You aren't having fun. I had just come up onto Dias Ridge and I stopped in my tracks. One of mottos has so long been: no resistance, no stress. And yet here I was stressed because I wasn't into the run yet. Resisting the way things were that moment, instead of trusting that it would change. I realized at that moment that I had somewhere along the line started putting pressure on myself to feel good right away, to feel into it right away. But the fact of the matter is, I start slow. I usually take it easy through the beginning and then rock out at the end. I am patient that way and my running reflects that. I was overthinking it all, never allowing myself to get into the moment because I was too busy thinking about getting there. I was not in the moment, I was not reflecting that philosophy and the philosophy I believe so much I have it tattooed on my wrist. 



Ignore the blood, focus on the tattoo.

Amor Fati. Hic et Nunc. Amor fati is a Latin phrase coined by Nietzsche loosely translating to "love of fate" or "love of one's fate" (Wikipedia). Hic et Nunc means Here and Now. In my running, I had not been "loving my fate" or better explained, I had not been rolling with the punches, not been accepting the good and the bad as all part of the journey. And I had not been present. I can't remember where it derailed but it did. I just wasn't running with joy and love. I was running around worrying about mileage and races and paces and keeping up and feeling good all the time. I was trying to think myself into happiness instead of just being happy. I didn't realize it until that moment. 

I stood there on Dias Ridge for a minute, only 9 miles into my run. I took a deep breathe and started laughing. I mean good belly laugh. I mean I had overcomplicated my most simple and precious joy. I had confounded myself so completely that I was unable to allow for the highs and lows that accompany running of these distances. I am sure that feeling is very much informed by what happened at states. There is a fear of feeling bad and not simply having it be a bad patch, like what happened at states. But that is ridiculous. Part of the joy and experience is knowing that within any long ultra run anything can happen and so much will be experienced. I had to really laugh. Running, I realized again, is simple and basic. The joy it provides is simple to have. The only barrier to understanding and internalizing that is making running more than it is. It is not inherently meaningful, not in and of itself, nor inherently meaningful to who we are. I run because I enjoy it. I love it. And in that very moment. I realized it again. I actually felt that way again. 

I picked up and just ran. I had good patches and bad patches. Brilliance and bonks. I ran 40 miles and was flying down the last 3, hooting and howling with joy. I found my reconnect to the journey. I found my meaning again. I found that I was ready again for real. Deep down inside, not just telling myself that or forcing the issue. It was a good day. 

And from that run, I was able to begin training again. I have been training hard this week and really enjoying myself. Pushing myself. Monitoring my mind and staying on track. As of today, I have 19 more quality days of training left before Cascade Crest 100. The race is 35 days away, but with rest days and taper days. 19 is the magic number. I plan to enjoy the big push, enjoy the challenge I have placed in front of myself to get ready to face my fear. Fast or slow, win or lose, no matter what, running should be fun. If its not, why bother?

With that. I am off for another run.

Monday, July 19, 2010

And the winner is.....


And the winner of my FRS giveaway by random drawing is... Brian from Fairfield!



Brian said...

Low Cal Peach Mango sounds like an interesting flavor, although Lemon Lime is probably better for not upsetting my stomach.

Brian please email me your shipping information at fastfoodiecooks ( at gmail).

Thanks everyone for checking out FRS and all of your comments. I plan to have more giveaways in the future and just want to remind you that you can still get a free sample of FRS on their website!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Athlete's Plate: A book review

Recently VeloPress contacted me about checking out and doing a review of one of their new publications: The Athlete's Plate by Adam Kelinson



When they told me it was a "real food" cookbook for athletes by a chef/athlete, I was excited to check it out. Frankly, I was also jealous. The idea is very similar to what I want to do with my own cookbook. I feel like most "cookbooks" for athletes end up being way too nutrition heavy with a few recipes scattered in and ultimately very basic recipes. I was excited and hopeful that Kelinson's book would be different. I was hopeful that the librarian side of me would struggle with whether to put this book with our huge and beautiful collection of cookbooks or if it would go on the bottom backcorner shelf with the plethora of other athlete nutrition books. I value those books as refer and a one time read, but I do not consult them for recipe ideas (even the ones that have a good amount of recipes) or keep on hand. Cookbooks are a great prompt for ideas because, for the most part, they include delectable and interesting food photography that gets the ideas rolling. Even complicated cookbooks with recipes so insanely complicated you might attempt them once in a lifetime can give you great ideas about flavor and technique. But I digress.

After receiving the book in the mail, I paged through it and sighed. First glance, judging a book by its cover, this book would be delegated to that dark bottom backcorner with the other nutrition books. It was information heavy and monochromatic. The pictures that were included were much less impressive than I routinely see on even an average food blog of a nonprofessional. Not to mention the pictures were in very weird places, like halfway through the sports nutrition section. This is, as it says, full of "no-nonsense nutritional guidelines". I think it does a really great job of bringing in the real, whole food ideas like a Michael Pollan type book and combines it with some basic primers on sports nutrition. I really appreciate that this book does not get too specific or too over the top with the scientific minutia that a lot of sports nutrition books do. Most sports nutrition programs just make me more confused than when I started out and make me feel that nutrition and real food are not even related. That is not a nice feeling, nor is it helpful to athletes, most of whom are too busy to figure it out. Kelinson argues that the reason athletes can make poor food choices is because they are too busy with training, work and life, so it makes little sense to have a book that will complicate things further.

The Athlete's Plate does do that well. It does not over complicate things. He is very informative and concise without being too overly complicated in his nutrition information. As a nutritional guideline book for athlete's I liked it. I do not think it is ground breaking. It includes information for many of the lesser known whole food nutritional powerhouse foods and techniques (like seaweed and juicing, sprouting, etc). That said, these are things that are contained in books such as Thrive and are even more focused on therein. I do think Kelinson's approach is a good one. I do think the information was easy to read. I do think the information was useful and would be useful to many athletes.

The recipes, well, the recipes really left something to be desired to me. The level of cooking experience necessary was less than that needed to cook out of a publication such as Food Everyday or make something from 30 minutes with Rachel Ray. I understand that a great deal of people and athlete's possess this level of skill. However, I feel that all "athlete cookbooks" aim at this level. Athletes by nature seem to be people who like to challenge themselves. So it would be nice to include at least a few recipes that are more complicated.

I also feel like I know a lot more foodie athletes than I know foodie active people or foodie nonathletes. Kelinson argues that athletes know an endless amount about their gear but little about food and nutrition, but I think athletes, out of necessity due to their training load, are aware and consider nutrition and food much more than he gives credit for. Actually, I take that back. New athletes tend to flounder in this area, experienced athletes less so. I guess I was just hoping that this book would aim a bit more towards the middle. Better photography, a more interesting "cookbook" like layout (like the book Grub) and a handful of more challenging recipes and this cookbook would have more appeal to this Fast Foodie. I would recommend this book as a starting point for a new athlete looking for information about performance nutrition and food, as well as someone who is learning to cook. I actually have a client whom I am teaching to cook who also happens to be a triathlete. We have started at the most basic level, learning things like how to make beans and rice and guacamole, all of which are "recipes" in Kelinson's book. I am going to pass along Kelinson's book to my client so he can practice his skills until he graduates to more complicated techniques (which he is already doing, you should have seen the frittata he made!).

So basically, it comes down to this it is a worthwhile read for a beginning athlete who has some confusion about incorporating whole foods and proper nutrition into their diet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FRS giveaway redux

Photoshoot for FRS by Cameron Baird

A while ago (April 5th to be exact), I posted up a contest to receive some goods from my sponsor FRS. I never picked a winner for various reasons but wanted to once and for all pick my very first contest winner! I was reminded that I should get on top of this the other day when I got my shipment in the mail which included a profile of me in it (including some of the awesome shots from the above photoshoot). It was pretty cool and I believe in the product, so I want you to have a chance to try it for free (though you can get a free sample by going to their website too). All those who entered last time are already entered (all twelve of you), so don't worry.

I love FRS. It is not a highly caffeine, "fake energy" drink. It is loaded with B vitamins and antioxidants which help me to recover from my workouts and keep going strong during my workouts. It doesn't actually have very much caffeine at all contrary to popular belief. Anyone who knows my "Fast Foodie" philosophy, knows I take very seriously the stuff I put into my body.

But make up your own mind, enter the contest and find out for yourself!



How to Enter:

1. Visit FRS website and check out their products, then post a comment with a flavor you'd like to try (and grab a free sample while you are there!)

OR:

2. Become a fan of FRS on Facebook, then comment back here with your facebook name and that you did it.

Basically, either way you need to leave a comment and have some interest in receiving a ton of great stuff from FRS. 

Winner will be announced next week! 

The goods, plus more concentrate!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ice cream for breakfast and other delights



I can't say I am clever enough to come up with a way of eating ice cream for breakfast without actually eating ice cream for breakfast. But thankfully, I read a blog of someone who is. Of the few food bloggers I read, Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter, consistently comes up with (really) healthy versions of less than healthy treats. In fact, I would argue she completely turns them on their head and reduces things from treat to staple. One of the things I had been hankering to try was her protein ice cream. As a fan of smoothies for breakfast, I liked the idea of making a smoothie a bit thicker, like ice cream and still being able to enjoy it for breakfast. Her version includes stevia (I used agave or whatever was on hand) and I also traded in the ice cubes for frozen banana because we don't usually have ice in the house and when we do, its usually for ice baths, not smoothies. I topped the wholesome deliciousness with fresh plums, strawberries as well as a scoop of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and Justin's Peanut Butter. Makes for a solid breakfast meal with a lovely nod to dessert. I find that I often would like something that is apropos of a sweet dessert or treat without actually having any diminishment of health value. This breakfast fits that bill perfectly.

Sometimes, however, you just really want to have a nice indulgence for breakfast. Last week after dropping out of WS after 55 miles, my body had cravings all over the map. It wanted food and lots of it. I resolved that I needed to rest and relax and eat up, even if it meant that I felt like I was just sitting around getting fat. Sometimes that is just what your body needs to feel like. I have a hard time grasping that sometimes, but then I make gluten free cinnamon rolls topped with julia child's confectioners cream and I completely forget about my hesitations.




The reality is, in our household, where 70 miles of running in a week is considered a light week, cinnamon rolls are never really undeserved. These particular cinnamon rolls come from The Gluten Free Girl's blog. I have been wanting to make them and we happened to have a jar of confectioner's cream that the baker made which I deduced would be perfect over the cinnamon rolls since a cream cheese frosting was not an option for me. These cinnamon rolls were outstanding. I wanted to eat them all, in one sitting. But I refrained. It was much more fun to savor them over the course of a few days with warm cups of coffee and delicious fresh fruit on the side.



I actually am usually too geeked out about amazing seasonal produce to even want to bother with making things that I could have any old time. The sweetness of a muffin will never compare to a perfectly ripe peach to me. So, even though the cinnamon rolls or protein ice cream made me swoon, I do get equally, if not more so, excited over seasonal produce and the things I can do with it.



One of my favorite things about summer other than the mind blowing fruits and vegetables is my birthday. And it's not because I am big into birthdays, but instead because, when I was growing up, it meant I got to pick a very special meal that my mom would make at my request. 9/10 it was either twice baked potatoes or a huge vat of my mom's marinara sauce. So in honor that tradition, I made a huge batch of her marinara sauce this week and oohhhh wheeee it is so good. Best part about it is, this recipe makes enough for about 6 months (kept frozen)! I served it up with some Southern Italian Ratatouille from the Tra Vigne Cookbook.


And I haven't just been craving comforting, heavy, sweet things. In fact, I have been craving really light fresh things too. And this Kale Carrot Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing that I invented a while back has been my lunch for a few days straight. It is so flavorful and healthy and complex. In other words, perfection. 


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Patience and Experience

Photo by Cameron Baird

"Be patient with everyone, but above all, with yourself... Do not be disheartened by your imperfections. How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor's fault if we are impatient in dealing with our own?" -Saint Francis de Sales
 
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley


In an email the other day my mom reminded me to re-read the quotes that I have in my email signature and remember what they say. She was reminded me to be patient with myself which I have most definitely not been. After dropping from States at mile 55, I wanted to feel immediately better, I wanted the two IVs I had at Michigan Bluff to instantly wipe away any effects of the 50 miles of running. I wanted to take that 55 miles of running and turn it into (in my head) a training run for something else. I spent a good deal of time last week trying to figure out what race I should hasten to do next. 


But when the dust started to settle and I relaxed back into normal life, I realized and accepted that I have nothing to prove and that what happened should not be overlooked or ignored for its severity. Hastening to do another 100 miler immediately (like a week and a half from now) would ultimately set me up for extreme struggle and quite possibly failure. Instead of making that kind of rash decision, I resolved that I would take the time to truly feel better, try and get to the root of the problem and maybe, just maybe, take some time off for good measure. I even went to the doctor last week, got bloodtests and made sure that all systems were go before deciding on what to do next. I figured, like most bloodtests I have received in the past 5 years that my iron would be low and some other levels of something would need addressing.


I got my results back and everything was "normal". Even my ferritin (iron) levels were twice as high as they have been in 5 years. And while that still means they are below normal, it means I am moving in the right direction. Looks like the Floradix I've been taking has actually had a good effect (despite realizing the other day that I have been taking a NOT gluten free version for 2 months-no wonder I have been having breathing issues). With the results in hand I decided that that meant I should feel better right? I should feel normal right? That's how my brain works sometimes. I wanted to be better now, I wanted to be back on track now.


That is when my mother reminded me of my own quote. And I have to agree and remember to be patient with myself. I still feel like my immune system is battling something, some low grade virus as it has been for nearly a month now. It's annoying, it makes me tired beyond belief, but it is there and can't be ignored.


Learning from my own and others experiences really helps though. I know that if I just pickup training again without taking a step back that I will likely burn out before I even make it to my next race day. I know plenty of people in our sport are unwilling to take days off, unwilling to rest and that is not a model I aspire to follow, at all. I think rest and recovery is a part of training. A part of training that ultimately is harder than the training itself! We all love to be out there running, working hard, testing ourselves and it is hard to say, eh I am going to take a week off, a month off, whatever it takes to feel better, rested and really ready to go. 


Nathan heading out on the Iron Horse Trail for 48 miles.



On Saturday, I crewed for Nathan as he did a 48 mile, very hot road run in preparation for his upcoming race at Burning River. It is a true test of patience and resolve to rest to be around people who are in peak training and not want to be out there. But my experience has taught me to listen to my body over my mind. When I wake up in the morning and my body is telling me to grab a spoon for breakfast instead of my running shoes and socks, I have to listen. When the alarm goes off and I feel like I haven't slept at all despite being asleep for more than 8 hours, I have to pay attention. I am running yes, but with no pressure, no guidelines. Some days I run, some days I don't. 


In my first year of ultrarunning, I took a full 3 1/2 weeks off from running. A true off season. The next year, I took off maybe a week and a half. This past year, I took a few days off after JFK in November then really never took any time off, I just kept going. I felt fine, I was racing well, I was loving training, not feeling burnt out at all. Experience has taught me that rest should come before you need it, that an off season should be something you do before you are so tired and dead on your feet that you can barely stand it. I want to run for a long time and therefore I know that I need to value rest as much as I value training. It is as simple as that for me. But it is also something that can easily get lost in the excitement of all the races there are to do, the fun I have training, the adventures that we go on.


I love to run and I want to (more often than not) be excited when I head out the door to engage in it. I look forward to the work, the training, the racing I will do in the future. But right now, I have to be patient and wait for my body to be ready to do it. Experience tells me that if I am patient and rest and recover that I will be ready to go fresh and new in no time. Until then, I am going to go put me feet up, kick back and enjoy the current hard work I have to do: relaxing and resting.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WS100 an abbreviated experience

It's taken me a couple days to feel good enough to write this blog post. And by good enough, I don't mean mentally. I mean physically. While I may have put up a good front, chirped about what race I will hasten to do next, explained over and over again what happened, the fact of the matter is, I don't physically feel much better than I did before I got two IVs at Michigan Bluff after 55 miles of tough running.

Yes, I am disappointed. Yes I am sad. Yes I feel that I was fit and ready and that I didn't make errors that would have caused what happened. No, I did not drop out lightly. In fact, I wasn't offered an option. Before they put the IV in the nurse told me I could walk it out, 45 more miles, but then the Dr. took my BP standing and said that I wasn't going anywhere period. IV, done.

But I digress, the whole story is worth telling.

Preparing aid station plans for my crew. Timing, fueling, etc.

Pre-race

I arrived in Squaw Valley with my sister, crew captain and ultrarunning newbie, Sarah and settled into our cabin which was kindly provided by my crew member Hollis. Hollis is a great mentor to me and always provides me with amazing help and support. I napped and relaxed, ate a good lunch and headed out to meet some Salomon folks for some videoing and photoshoots. I was feeling good and rested for the most part. One thing that had been kind of nagging was a cold. It is one of those kind of sicknesses that you can't really tell if its there or not. No runny nose, no cough, just a rundown feeling and tightness in my lungs.  When I had felt it coming on a week and a half earlier, I had gotten a huge dose of IV nutrients from my naturopath at Marin Natural Medicine. I had felt so much better right after that, but backslide over the subsequent days.The weekend before WS, I had been feeling dizzy, anxious and sick to my stomach on my runs, but had not felt too bad over the last taper week. It's the kind of feeling you attribute to tapering or altitude or anything. But it was there and it made me uneasy. When I arrived in Squaw, I was feeling good though and was not particularly worried about it. I don't know if it mattered or not. 

Love my sister and crew captain.
Can't count the times people said we look just alike. Um yeah, not so much.

Thursday passed, Krissy arrived, we ate a nice quiet dinner at home and I got a good sleep. Friday I got up went for a little 30 minute jaunt to shake out the legs and nerves and came back to the house for a green drink. I didn't want to weigh in too heavy, so I just had the green drink and water before I left. If I had been really strict, I probably would have not even had water before the weigh in but f-that. Sarah and I headed over to check in where it was the biggest friend reunion ever. I had been wanting to get in and out quick, but it was hard not to stop every five feet and say hi, give hugs, etc. I checked in, got my schwag and headed into medical. Medical was funny because they zeroed the scales at 5lbs, you could see it when you were standing there and they told us too. What better way to freak out a bunch of neurotic runners than tell them they had gained 5lbs right before a race! I for one actually managed to feel good about myself, since while my weight was obviously 5lbs up, it meant my actual weight was back below 140lbs. I like to race below 140 and was pleased to see that. At least I didn't have to think about that trigger during the race!

Top women being introduced at pre-race

I bolted out of there as I was feeling pretty lightheaded and hungry at that point. We went home and at lunch, then headed to the natural grocery to get lunch about an hour later before the pre-race meeting. Jonathan and Nathan had arrived and I was super excited to see them. My crew was complete. Everyone feels like they have the best crew in the world and I think everyone does. The best crew in the world is one that meets your needs, is there for you and takes damn good care of you. My crew did just that and I really appreciate them.

One of my best pals and pacers, Krissy

Slightly embarrassed at my introduction, as I took 3 Ultracup spots
(and because I am way taller than 95% of the other gals)

Jonathan, me, Krissy and Nathan. My favorites!

The pre-race meeting was fun. It was great to reconnect with friends, meet new people and laugh at the fact that it was raining. I got to go up to the front with a bunch of other top ladies to be introduced since I had won my way into WS. In fact, I had 3 spots since I won Vermont 50, JFK 50 and was second at Miwok. I'm greedy apparently. The meeting was nice, but I was ready to go chill out. I was feeling just ready to roll and wanted to get home and sort out the remaining of my crew plans. After the meeting, Nathan, Sarah, Jonathan and Krissy went for a run and I worked on my plan. We had a nice meeting afterwards in which I explained my plan, got everyone up to speed and ready. I felt like I had a good plan which would keep me fueled, hydrated and on pace. I was shooting for a 18:30ish pace but was comfortable starting out the race closer to 19hrs knowing that if I arrived in good shape to Foresthill, I would fly. Even with the faster section of the snow course, I planned to run conservatively and comfortably.

Team Fast Foodie

I ate my usual dinner of white rice with butter and Udo's oil, a nice steak and some salad. Over the course of the day, I had stopped feeling nervous and was just ready to go. I went to bed, slept fine and was up at 2:30 making Four Barrel coffee and eating Udi's Gluten Free bagel with Justin's Peanut butter on top and a banana. The crew packed up the cars while I lay on my bed visualizing, resting and waiting. I was calm, ready.


We rolled over to the start, I grabbed my number, used the bathroom one more time and milled about near the starting line. The moment came, the countdown, the gun. I was deadly calm, ready to just be underway. I wasn't excited or anxious anymore, those are bad emotions at the gun, 100 miles is a long way. There is plenty of time for that when you spot the track. I was ready to do work.

The race

My feet were awesome all day thanks to Salomon and Drymax.
Photo by Bob @ Drymax!
We headed up the hill to escarpment. I was prepared to hike a bit. I settled in and watched Tracy, Joelle and Nikki ahead of me. I was content where I was. I didn't think it necessary to burn up my energy on the first climb. I looked around me and figured I was in a good position and took my running and hiking cues from the legends and experienced runners around me. I smiled that I felt so comfortable. I could see Tracy and Joelle working and pulling away but I was maintaining my distance to Nikki Kimball which I thought was smart. On that climb, it was all about maintenance to me. I am a better climber than I use to be, but in a 100 miler that first 4 miles serves nothing but to trash you a bit. I stayed calm and arrived at the top pleased. It was so freaking beautiful.

Up we go.
Photo by Bob MacGillivray with Drymax

You go up and over and no sooner were we over the top, we were diving down the hill for 5 miles before taking the turn onto the new course section. I realized something quite quickly: I hate running on snow. I have a high center of gravity, I don't run a lot on the snow and I arrived to the snowy patches when they were just slightly trod on and warmed over. So I felt hard about 36,000 times. I fell hard on a patch of snow and went butt first into a creek. I fell hard and went skidding into a tree well. I tried to find it amusing but couldn't really, it wasn't. I was being brutalized. But I survived without too much bloodying and soaking. Well, I was soaked and cold but I didn't get frustrated, I just got through it.

Wheeeeeeee. Over the top and heading down.
Photo by Olga Varlamova

Photo by Olga Varlamova

When we turned at the gate onto the double wide jeep track I was ready to fly and got quite giddy. I put on my headphones and rocked out to some Michael Jackson as I cruised at 6:30 pace. I had talked to Peter Defty of Vespa, who marked the course and he had said to let it out on this section and run hard but comfortably. Running sub 7's felt easy and good. I was prepared to transition back to ultrarunner pace when the fast section was over but took full advantage. I was drinking pretty well and filled my bottle at the second aid station. I was taking in about 100 calories per hour early on and new I should kick it up if I was going to survive. I gobbled up some Gu Chomps and continued to take non caffeinated gels.

I hit one last aid station, then we were off the road and back on to some rolling, semi-gnarly single track for 4 miles up to Duncan. Some of the trail was literally just a line that had been cut into the trees and bushes. I was running with Craig Thornley and Karl Hoagland and feeling good heading into Duncan. I grabbed my new bottle from Hollis there, cooled off and got my other bottle filled by aid station crews. 

After Duncan, my stomach wasn't feeling awesome so I backed off a bit and watched Craig and Karl disappear. It would have been great to stay with them but I wasn't feeling it. I felt the way a person should feel after running about 25 miles, tired. But I also knew I would get my wind back. It was just a bad patch. I hiked and run up and up and up, finally hitting snow again (Curses!) and drew close to Robinson. I was excited to see my crew. I was still running in 4th place and knew that Tracey, Joelle and Nikki were probably a good bit ahead of me. It didn't worry me, I knew I needed to get to Foresthill healthy and then I could start running. I run stronger in the second half in most races and close like a fiend. 



I finally slide through the snow and started seeing volunteers. I slip and slid into Robinson and enjoyed the cheers. My crew was there and my sister handed me a smoothie and a Vespa. My stomach was not that happy, perhaps from my waistpack or just the heat of the day. I was feeling "50k-ish" as a I call it. But ready to move on to Michigan Bluff. I dropped my bottle and waist pack and picked up a new bottle and hydration pack from Jonathan and Krissy. Nathan was waiting for me at the end of the aid station and walked me out.

Heading out of Robinson Flat, mile 30

I didn't sprint out of Robinson Flat, no, I walked. There was snow and I was over the freaking snow. And I felt pretty barfy. It was just a bad patch that I was going to have to go through, I was not worried. Meghan Arbogast, my 100k teammate and buddy caught up to me just outside of RF. We ran together for a bit, got lost with a huge group of people and eventually found our way on to some sweet singletrack. It was getting hot up there and we were exposed. I fell in behind Meghan and waited for my stomach to settle. With us was Rob Evans and Chikara Omine. It felt good to just run for a while and somewhere along the line my stomach said, "ok I'm fine" and I was off. I dropped Meghan and was cruising comfortably for quite sometime. Rob Evans joined me and we talked a bunch and I really enjoyed the company. He said that we were actually up on Anita's pace from last year for a 18:20 coming into Robinson and even though it was a faster course, we were in a good position if we could just stay steady. If I was in 4th place and on Anita's pace, then the gals up from were blazing away at course record pace. I was definitely content where I was. I kept eating and drinking as we cruised, trying to stay ahead of the game. I was taking in probably less calories than most people do but my energy was good. I felt like I was drinking well. We came into Dusty Corners and Hollis again had a bottle for me and a nice cool rag to wipe me down with. It felt so good. I took another Vespa and drank a bit.

Outside Dusty Corners, I stopped for the bathroom and it would be the last time I would go pee for the remainder of my day. Rob passed me when I stopped for the bathroom and I wouldn't see him again. He ran a phenomenal 18:11 and executed his plan to perfection. In the future, I will be picking his brain for training and racing tips. Good job Rob!


Leaving Dusty Corners
Photo by Olga Varlamova

It was warm but not as hot as last year and I was just drinking and cruising and listening to my tunes. I was not looking forward to the descent into darkness aka the canyons but I also knew that I just need to survive them. I knew I wouldn't crush them, but survival was good enough for me. So there I was, cruising along and I spot Nikki up ahead. I cruised up on her and we spent the next few miles chatting away. She was going through a rough patch and I knew that it really didn't make any difference if I got up on her a minute or so since she was going to rule the canyons. Plus, it was good to catch up with her. It was probably my favorite conversation all day. I kicked a rock really hard at one point when we were running and will be losing 3 toenails because of it, but we came into Last Chance together for the most part in one piece.



At Last Chance my weight was up 3 lbs but I felt fine, so I didn't make any adjustments. I took a bite of watermelon at the aid station and was taken aback by how off it tasted. It repulsed me and upset my stomach instantly. I started running again but something was not right. I figured I was descending into a bad patch and just thought I would roll with it. Nikki had said that everyone hikes the canyons, so I was hoping things would settle as I hiked up the mountain to Devil's Thumb. 

But something wasn't right. I was descending and everything felt wrong. Nikki caught me and passed me, told me I should dunk in the river at the bottom to cool off. But I couldn't, I could tell something was wrong. I went from 100% to dead in less than a mile. My head was spinningly dizzy, headachy, my stomach nauseated and I felt like I was going to pass out. I tried calories, but couldn't stomach them. I tried water but again, couldn't tolerate them. I forced myself to drink but it just made me feel worse. I started walking up towards Devil's Thumb. I just felt dead. I couldn't hike strong. Nikki, who had got into the river to cool off, came up on me and said, "shake it off, its just a bad patch". But I didn't think so, it was weird. I was worried. My buddy Zach passed me and tried to get me to come with him, but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything. I had to stop frequently as my head was spinning so badly I was nearly stumbling. I again tried to drink, tried to eat, to no avail. I started being passed and passed and passed. I think all in all 4 more women passed me going up to Devil's Thumb and there was nothing I could do. I couldn't even breathe. The dust of the canyons or whatever was going on in my body had my lungs constricted and I battled just to breathe. A huge bunch of guys passed me and each one told me to keep going. This wasn't right, this wasn't normal. I was getting afraid. What was happening to me?

I death marched up to Devil's Thumb. My weight had dropped 6lbs in 4.5 miles and I hadn't peed. They sat me and said my BP was fine. They checked my lungs, they made me eat and drink and cooled me off. I was done. But they wouldn't let me be. They kicked me out and I knew that I had to make it to Michigan Bluff anyways since they wouldn't bring me back from Devil's Thumb. I walked out of Devil's Thumb hoping and praying that the huge influx of calories and liquid would revive me. I hobbled on, my muscles painfully sore from sitting and the dehydration. I ran slowly down to the bottom of the second canyon, it was ugly and painful. I had 2.8 miles up the top from there and I kept wishing and praying that the lights would come back on. But nothing had changed in 2 hours. Nothing helped. At the aid station at El Dorado, Annette Bednosky caught up to me. She put her hand on my back and said, "good vibes". I appreciated that. I also appreciated that several of the women that passed me on the climb acknowledge that they never expected to see me and seemed genuinely shocked and dismayed that I was so messed up. 

I knew going up to Michigan Bluff was going to suck. I walked and stopped and walked some more. I was really dizzy and had to sit down at moments to stop it. I death marched up to the top. I was passed by a few more people and finally was accompanied by Andy, who had busted his ankle and was calling it a day at Michigan Bluff too. We walked together. About a 1/2 mile from the top there were some medical staff that had come down to help him out. Ultimately, they would walk me in, practically supporting me and I felt just awful. I cried, I despaired, I felt stupid. How did this happen? What had I done wrong? I was disappointing myself, my crew, my pacers, everyone. We reached the top and I handed off my pack to my Salomon folks, KJ and Aubrey who ran it down to my crew. I could see Jonathan, Sarah and Krissy waiting at the end of the road, horrified, sad, scared. They knew, this was not me, something had to be really wrong. Something was, but what? 

In the med tent.

They weighed me, still down and sat me down and took my blood to test. The Istat wasn't working as it had overheated. They gave me gingerale as my sister stood watching, scared and horrified. She's seen me in the emergency room, she's seen me at my worst and I can only imagine how scared she was for me then. Nathan wasn't there, he had gone to Foresthill to wait for me and so I asked Sarah and Jonathan to go get him while Krissy waited with me. They took my BP, it was normal seated. One of the nurses, a  WS vet himself told me I could sit there for hours and I had plenty of time to walk it in. The doctor however, coming over at this point, didn't agree. He had me stand up, which instantly made me dizzy and he tested my blood pressure, it plummeted off the charts and he ordered me to start an IV.

Krissy held my hand as I cried. They hooked me up to an IV and said I wasn't leaving until I peed. It had been 4 hours since I peed. It would take another 2 before I did. They made me drink and eat. They cut my bracelet and took my tag off my bib. I had made it only 55 miles. I had succumb. I had failed.

It took 2 hours in the med tent to get me to pee. And then I was free to go. But where do you go from there? It was an amazing race for a great deal of people and I am so happy for all of those who finished. I am proud of everyone who tried. Congrats all around.

In retrospect

Not accomplishing my goal of finishing this race has had a strange effect on me. For the first few days, I could do nothing but feel like a failure. Utter disappointment. Sheer sadness. Shattered confidence. We had barely left the Auburn city limits before we started discussing possible races I could do immediately to use my fitness and regain my confidence in my running. I felt lost, depressed, a failure. I had wanted to run it and move on for now. I wanted to focus myself on getting my OT qualifier and making a go of the Olympics for 2012. But not finishing changes things.

I do not in any way question the decision of the medical staff to pull me out. I know many runners believe that it is shameful to drop or that they never would (I caution anyone who says the word never!). Maybe that is true or maybe they have just been lucky enough never to be in such dire straights as to ever actually have to consider it. Lucky them. I definitely do not believe that dropping under these circumstances diminishes me as a runner or my accomplishments. I was running a great race and the wheels came off. I have thought and thought and thought about it and can find no evidence of doing anything wrong. Who really knows. I was trained and prepared and hit with a bad day.

As I said, initially all I could think about was the next race I would do and how I would prove this to be a fluke. I planned and pondered 100s I could hasten to do, tried to throw together a new race schedule and then, I pulled myself up short. I am not okay. This was not unserious. It is 5 days later and I still don't feel much better. I went to the doctor today to make sure I am alright. 

I don't need to rush into the next race because I have nothing to prove. I can choose to change the remainder of my summer schedule or I can leave it open. Maybe I don't need to do another race just to use my fitness, maybe I should just take the break I had planned and get ready for an August race. Not only can I choose where I go from here, I can choose how I feel. I can forgive myself for what happened, I can accept that things didn't go my way on that day, I can use the failure as fuel to power my next attempt at states, because believe me, there will be another. 


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