Wednesday, September 28, 2011

15 things I learned about running from food


  1. Salt makes all the difference.
  2. Just because the recipe worked today doesn't mean it will work tomorrow. 
  3. And just because the recipe worked for someone else, doesn't mean it will work the same for you.
  4. There are 100s of ways to troubleshoot a problem and salvage a dish. Sometimes that means scraping it and starting over.
  5. You can't say you don't like it if you've never tried it. Don't be afraid to try something new- it may be your new favorite thing. 
  6. Practice makes perfect. Whether its knife skills or cooking the perfect steak- the more you do it, the easier and more efficient it will become.
  7. You have to adapt for altitude.
  8. Be patient. Good things can't be rushed. Cooking things low and slow often create the best flavors.
  9. You get out what you put into it.
  10. Every recipe is not a winner and every food isn't your favorite. Sometimes being edible is good enough.
  11. Don't be afraid of failure and never stop learning. Just when you think you have it figured out, your souffle will drop, you'll burn the bacon or you'll over whip your whip cream.
  12. There is more than one way to cook a goose.
  13. There is not ultimate defining meal of your life.
  14. Good food is best when shared.
  15. It doesn't have to be pretty to taste good.


Monday, September 26, 2011

UROC 100k race report





I went to the well. And the well was dry. So I found a shovel and dug deeper.

I have never been so perfectly happy with an imperfect race.

Two weeks ago, I was primed, I was ready. I was fit, tapered, fueled, rested. My workouts had been fantastic, I was focused, I was sharp. I was ready to rock at the WC100k which I had set my sights on winning and had focused all my energy on. And yet, it wasn't my day.

I came off that experience wanting to utilize my fitness and do a confidence rebuilding race. I needed to get back on the horse. Luckily for me, I was all set to run the inaugural UROC 100k in the Blue Mountains of Virgina on Saturday September 24th. 

Unfortunately for me, the WC100k and subsequent food poisoning had me in a tough spot. Instead of feeling like I was primed and ready and, more importantly, recovered from those fast 70k in the Netherlands, I was feeling physically destroyed. I was unable to eat much for a few after the food poisoning and probably dropped between 2-3 lbs from the food poisoning. That is saying something considering I am running at my lightest race weight this year. Not eating immediately after a hard race also wrecks your muscles. Once I was able to fuel again, my runs felt awful. I was exhausted, dead legged and super sore. My muscles felt like they had been through a cheese grater. A week ago, I did a 10 mile trail run on Saturday and was throughly convinced that there was no way I would muster the energy or stamina to take on a tough 100k in one weeks time.

As I considered whether or not I would get on the plane and go to Virginia, I searched myself for what my motivation for running UROC 100k was. I didn't feel like I wanted or needed redemption from the WC100k. I didn't feel motivated by the money or trying to beat a good field of competitors, nor was I intimidated by it. Instead, I felt like I just wanted to get back on the horse. I wanted to run a race that good or bad, I got through. I finished. As I set my sights on my next event that I want to be sharp and hungry for, I knew that I didn't want to go into that race (JFK 50) doubting my own abilities to (literally) go the distance. I needed a confidence boost. 

So I got on the plane. Despite being at about 75% (healthy, rested, of my abilities, etc), I got on the plane. Thankfully, the flight didn't break me this time as it is known to do. The travel did however destroy me a bit more than when I started out. I flew a red-eye and then endured a grueling marathon of waiting, cancelled flights, and hanging around at the airport. I made it finally to Wintergreen resort after a fit of tears while sitting on the airport floor, slightly before 5pm and was pretty delirious. I participated in the elite athlete panel and stated that my goal was to "just not quit". Afterwards, I headed back to the condo I was sharing with Geoff, Dave, Matt, Eric (on a side note, it was fantastic to get to spend some time with these super stars & get to know them better. They are good people.) as well as iRunFar's BP and the TrailRunner folks. It was a great place and I got a room to myself!

I figured I would sleep well considering I had been up for two days, but unfortunately some of the non-racers who were staying in the house were up pretty late having a lively discussion. And let's just say I am a light sleeper and some people need to work on their "inside voices". I managed about 2 hours of sleep and despite that, felt fine when my alarm went off at 5am. A quick body check and I was happy that at the very least I didn't feel too tight, sore or tired.

We headed to the start around 6:30am for our 7am elite start (which in my opinion, is not absolutely essential, although it did spread the field out nicely by the time we reached the more congested out and back sections). I met up with the other ladies and took some pictures with some other runners. I stripped down to my new Salomon international team kit and tightened my Salomon SpeedCross 3s. Earlier in the week I had had a hard time deciding on shoes for a course that is half hilly road and half technical trail complete with slippery rugged rocks, but the SpeedCross were ultimately PERFECT for the combo course. I checked the pockets of my Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 SLAB pack and made sure I had all the GU's and Chomps, Saltstick and Hyper Vespas that I envisioned needing. I was set and I was feeling pretty calm.

Before I had much more time to think about it, we were off on our journey. We did a processional loop around the parking lot and immediately hit a trail into the woods and the men's pack of elites disappeared ahead of us (us being the 5 elite ladies including Ragan Petri, Anne Lundblad and Andi  Felton). We ran into some tree cover when I felt a sharp sting on my back. Damn, I got stung by a nasty bee or wasp or something. Turns out one of the first guys had to have stirred a hive because there were numerous reports of stings at mile 1. My lower back got a bit swollen but I just laughed it off and kept on running. I knew the first 5.5 miles had a big climb to the highest point on the course, so I just relaxed into the climb and ran where I could on some of the technical trail and ran the uphill on the road sections. We alternated between the two surfaces and I wondered if that would be par for the course (i.e. very short sections of each). 

I was hitting the road sections pretty good and left the other women pretty quickly behind and started running with Mike Oliva whom I had run Breaker's Marathon with a few years back. I knew there was a $200 bonus for the King/Queen of the Mountain at the mile 5.5 mark, so I made a few quick checks over my shoulder en route to the top.

Queen of the Mountain- where's my polka dots?
(Photo by the amazing David Clifford)

The small success of winning Queen of the Mountain was a nice boost. I figured that I might as well make as much money as I could now in case things went sideways later. I didn't push myself to get there, but it was cool. We started a big descent, ducking and weaving again between trail and road. On a technical section of rocks about a mile after the 5.5 mile aid station I slipped and smack the side of my ankle on a rock. For a second, I could barely hobble and dance around like an idiot, but the pain subsided as I continued and hit the road for a long quad busting descent. I knew that the end of the race finished on this road and I can't say I was excited for a 3.1 mile climb up a steep road. Mike and I hit the bottom on the hill and turned up another road which was steeper than the one we came down. I alternated walking and running between each course marker- which were between 50-100meters apart. I arrived at the mile 9.3 aid station in 1:34, 3 minutes ahead of Anne and Ragan. I asked what the next section was like as I filled my pack for the first time and someone said that I would hit road soon enough, so I popped back on the road and settled into a good clip. I could tell I didn't have my road speed of two weeks prior. A low 7 felt no where as easy as it had then, but I had expected that. I zipped along and kept my eyes out for confidence inducing orange flags. I didn't see any for a long stretch of road and started to get worried. I decided I must have missed a turn on to a trail because the flags had been close together up to this point. I stopped turned around and sprinted back up the hilly road. Then I saw Anne and Ragan, I yelled to ask if the road was the right way to go and Anne yelled back yes. I was a bit bummed that I had just blown any cushion I had. I decided to let it out a bit on the road and risk my legs a bit. They seemed to be able to handle it and I made it to the next aid station in good time. That entire 4.8 mile section was road but we were rewarded at mile 14.1 with a long section of trail, which was a great mix of super runnable and more technical terrain. Mike and I were still running together, happy for the company. After a while, we got to see the lead men coming back. I was feeling good, taking in my gels 1/hr and salt 45mins-1hr. It was humid, so I wanted to make sure I was managing my hydration better than I had at WC100k.

We made it to Sherando aid station at mile 17.5 with (apparently) a 2 minute lead.  The longest climb of the day lay ahead of us up to Bald Mountain. Mike and I climbed steadily, running a great deal but also not hammering the climb. I felt good. I paid good attention the trail because it was very technical and rocky and knew I would return this way later. We were nearly at the top when I looked back and saw Ragan within a few 100 feet of us. After the summit, we descended on a fire road to the mile 25.9 aid station. I blew through it and tried to get a little gap on Ragan on the road. I started to feel pretty average and didn't have the steam I wanted at that particular moment. I just kept repeating my "feel good mantra" of "baby goats, puppies and kittens". Mike and Ragan were about 2 minutes behind me on the 3.4 mile section of road to the next water only aid station. I stopped to fill up my pack which was cumbersome considering the size of the water jugs. Thankfully Mike and Ragan stopped too and we tag teamed the water. Mike dusted us for a bit and Ragan and I ran down the dirt road together. As soon as we started to ascend a bit, Ragan got a bit behind me. She said her strength wasn't the uphill, and I soon caught up to Mike. I was feeling good again, so I went with it. 

At mile 33.1, the next in race bonus occurred for "leader of the pack" (think green jersey) and I snagged it before we hit an out and back on the Dragon's Back which was beautiful runnable single track. Ragan was 30second-1 minute behind and I was feeling even better so I pushed the pace a bit on the section. We made it to the turn around sign at mile 37.2, retrieved the password and headed back. It was fun to see the lead men on this section. Mike and I alternated carrying the pacing back to mile 41. As we approached mile 41, I started to feel, well, a little off. I got in the aid station and the three of us all grabbed water, gels, bloks and I grabbed my first sip of delicious flat coke. I strapped my pack back on and tried to run out of the aid station for the 7.2 miles of road back to Bald Mtn aid station but suddenly I realized my legs had shut down. My hamstrings and glutes where I had seized at WC100k were locked up and I could barely do a death shuffle. Ragan ran by me and encouraged me to keep up. I know that I have the road speed to dominate these sections and there was absolutely nothing I could do. My legs wouldn't function. It wasn't calories or hydration or cramping. They just seemed done. My energy was good, I didn't feel tired. As I watched Ragan run up the road, I felt calm. I knew going in that the potential for having a bad or average day was possible. I said out loud, "and now we've reached the 'I'm just not going to quit' portion of the day". I walked, I shuffled. By the time I'd gone a 1/2 mile, Ragan had gone a mile. There were runners heading outbound to the Dragon's back (they told me how far she was) and each one I encouraged and cheered for. I put my headphone (just one since I was running on open road in the fog!) and listened to music.

I was calm. I was at peace with the face that I might have to walk the entirety of the last 21+ mile, of which only 5 mile were trail. I just wasn't going to quit. I was in good spirits and despite the fact that Ragan was gaining a good 8 minutes or so on me per mile (in theory of course, I couldn't see her), I didn't care. What someone is doing, has nothing to do with me.  Anne had been about 15 minutes back approximately on the out and back, so I figured at some point she'd likely catch me the way I was moving. I was walk/shuffling maybe 15 min miles at best. 1 mile, 2 miles, hike up the dirt road to the water only aid station at mile 45.1. At some point I started asking those outbound if they had any advil. I figured if I was going to walk, I might as well not walk it in like a cowgirl. I know the risks of advil, but figured 1 dose would be enough. I stopped asking after a while when no one had any. On the parkway, the fog was super thick and I felt like I was in a zombie movie watching the runners emerge from it. I said as much to a group of runners and we all did our best impressions of the undead (which is what I felt like). I laughed and at the last moment asked the guys for an advil. The guy said, no but I have one better, I have celebrex. He was a rep for the drug and unsheathed one for me. I popped it and thanked him. At that point, pain relief was my priority. 

If mile 41 had been the lights being shut off with one foul swoop, mile 45.5 the lights came back on. It took about 2 minutes from consumption to feeling all the way better again. I could run again. I could run hard again. The 45 previous miles, melted off my legs and I found the patented Devon finishing legs. I was now 20+ minutes back but I also knew that I had the speed and felt good enough that if Ragan faltered at all, I would catch her. My confidence and hope swelled and I beamed. I had gone to the well, the well was dry. So I found a shovel and I dug deeper. I pushed, I ran, I smiled at going forward when things weren't going right. I was happy to be blessed enough to do these crazy things. I didn't for once lament the day I was having, I just ran. I didn't run to chase, I ran to become, to be and to breathe.

I hit Bald Mtn aid station and popped onto the trail again. I navigated the rocks and sketchier parts with care but was bombing downhill. I felt better than I did at the end of Miwok and many other trail races I remember. I fueled myself, hydrated and stayed rocking out. I crossed the road and descended into a section with lots of crazy switchbacks. I got nearly tripped by an "aggressive plant" that left gashes on my leg like I had fought a cat. I laughed it off. Everything about this entire trip had been one big comedy of what can go wrong will. And then I got lost, again. I caught up to a guy that had passed me when I was walking and we both dead ended in the bottom of canyon. We quickly turned around found the error of our ways (the indicating marker for the turn had been impossible to see as it was 5 feet down the trail after a sharp turn). I'd lost a good 4+ minutes. I just laughed and kept running strong.

I hit mile 53. 4 aid station ready for the final 9.1 miles on the road (the course was 62.5- per the course description, so more like 63+ for me!). They were unable to get my pack open and I was in a hurry so I just grabbed a double fist of cokes and shot them down, content with how much water I had left. I rocked the road. I settled into a solid pace and jammed through the dense fog. I felt strong and made it to the final aid station in great time. After the mile 58.2 aid station, you have 1 mile of steep descent than the 3.1 road climb to the finish. I destroyed my quads on this descent, determined to take back as much time as I could and run as hard as I could for as long as I could. The Bryants, Gina, Ashley drove past me and were cheering for me. They turned around and drove up the hill as I started the steep ascent with a powerful hike. I was unsure, even feeling good, if I could run up the hill. I power hiked and was moving. They stopped the car and got out to cheer. The grade started to be about 1% less than the first 3/4ths I had hiked and I broke into a run. I ran the rest of the way to the top. Along the way I was joined by one of the race camera and I had to, at times, pull my hat down over my eyes to hide the emotional tears that were welling up. I was about to finish this damn thing. It was not perfect, it was not the best, it was not the prettiest but I was perhaps more proud of myself than I have ever been. I didn't know if I could do it and I proved to myself I could.

I crested the hill and was rewarded with a downhill to the finish in the thick fog. I sprinted, tears flying off my face, laughing. I crossed the line and exclaimed "I didn't quit!!". I was so proud of my effort and my day, I had a 94% great running day despite my body being less than 75% at the start. It was fantastic to realize what I am really capable of in that circumstance. I came to UROC 100k to get my mojo back, to find my trust in my own abilities and get my confidence back. I didn't need to win to accomplish that, I needed to persevere. And I did. I am damn proud of that. I did what I could with the body I had to work with on that day. 2nd place, 11th overall (which considering the stack men's field is saying something)
Finishing strong
(Photo by iRunFar)

UROC 100k is a great race. I really do hope that it becomes what it set out to do. It favors no runner, except the well rounded one. There are huge climbs and descents, there is gnarly terrain, slippery rocks and sweet single track. There is rolling and unrelenting road. 12,000 feet of ascent and the same of descent seems like the perfect challenge. I highly endorse this race. I would run it again, I think I could go sub 9:50 on a better day. It was a lot of fun. And not to mention this was a first year race and there was not much that showed that to be the case.

I am very proud of the way I ran my race. Not winning, is not a source of disappointment to me because I had the day I did. I didn't have a Devon Day, but I had the day I needed to. One that has me excited for things to come. One that has made me feel "back on the horse" even though I am walking like a cowgirl with busted up quads. I learned things about myself. I learned I can dig deeper, I can be more flexible, I can have a peaceful quiet mind, even when things are going wrong, I can laugh it off- all of it. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you DNF a race, you are suppose to think of your favorite things, right?

Instead of telling you my all favorite warm fuzzy things (like The Baker, carrot muffins and sleeping for 12 hours) that have made me feel better over the past few days, I am going to tell you about my favorite running related things/products from this year.

In no particular order:



1. Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 SLAB pack
Bottles? We don't need no stinking bottles. Though I love and adore my gel-bots for ease of fueling and hydrating, my arms don't like carrying bottles. I use to have really good upper body form until I started running with a hand held. But for a long time it was necessity because I could never find a pack I loved. Thankfully, Salomon created one that I love, love, love. It is super light weight and breatheable. It has easy to access pockets and fits me like a glove. It doesn't bounce and it never feels heavy even when full. It is a smart customizable pack.

2. Floradix Iron & Herbs and Floradix Calcium & Magnesium
I have struggled with my iron levels for a very long time and am always concerned about my body health because I am a high mileage female runner. These two Floradix products are the only things that have shown substantial results by the numbers. My iron has stayed out of the anemic range since I started taking it and my bone health is excellent since adding the Cal/Mag as well. Though the taste of the Iron & Herbs is very metallic, the powerful results make it palatable to me. I have taken pretty much everything under the sun for my iron and Floradix simply works. All runners should take these two products.


3. Vespa Ultra-Concentrate
I have long been a fan of Vespa products and use them as part of my training and racing. I can run longer and harder on an optimized fat burning system. Until the Ultra-Concentrate came out, the only problem with taking Vespa's during races was the size. The larger pouches are harder to carry on your person, so you either had to rely on a crew or drop bags for getting them mid-race. The Ultra-Concentrate size is smaller than a gel and as powerful as the regular. Makes it perfect for racing and long adventures!

4. Gu Watermelon Chomps
I get mid-race gel burnout and these Chomps are where I turn. The watermelon taste is tasty and also does not have a gel flavor equivalent, so it stay fresh tasting. It is the closest I get to eating candy and I look forward to when I get to change things up in a race and have some of these.


5. Suunto T6D with mini foot pod
The Suunto T6D is one powerful little tool. It has an altimeter, with the calibrated foot pod, it can track distance, speed and a thousand other bits of information about your run and then syncs up to Movescount. For me the best feature is its size. It is normal watch size. Many GPS watches dwarf my tiny wrists or bruise my wrist after a long run, the Suunto doesn't do that and is comfortable for every day use.



6. Hypoxico Sleep System- altitude training system
The power to sleep high and train low. Having now slept in this tent for 7 months, I can clearly see the training benefit of this. It really works. We initially got it because Nathan needed to adapt to altitude for Hardrock but we have continued to use it since we have seen and felt the benefits to our overall fitness. My resting heart rate is lower, my oxygen capacity has increased, my body fat is lower and I am sure my V02 max has increased as well. Often times we will be running along quite fast and are able to hold a casual conversation and not feel winded at all. This purchase was a huge boon for our supplemental training.


7. Salomon Speedcross 3
I love the Speedcross. They are my favorite shoe. I love how gnarly the grip looks, yet how many surfaces it responds to is amazing (including a treadmill). It has a very smooth ride and can go distances up to 100k (as far as I have tested!). It is the lightest shoe Salomon makes (I believe) and comes in many snazzy colors, which is important of course in such an arbitrary list as this.

8.  Rudy Project Sport Mask Performance
Weighing in at just .88  ounces these sunglasses are an absolute dream while running. The adjustable nose piece keeps them in place while running and they provide superior eye protection from the sun. I put on these sunglasses and just feel fast.


I feel better, don't you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

WC100k- Partial race report (or a full report of a partial race)

Team USA before winning Team Silver (women) and Team Gold (men)

In some of my darker moments since the race, I had decided that I was going to name this blog "flunking out of ultrarunning school" because this is my second DNF this year and that makes me one for three on the year at even completing ultras. I feel like DNF's are highly judged in our sport even if the reasons for dropping on valid and intelligent. It is hard to not internalize that judgement and let it stack upon the feelings you already have about having to drop from a race. I don't want to be seen as a quitter, because I am certainly not one. Over the past few days, I have felt less of an ultrarunner or some how a fake because I have dropped from races.  I know that is not true, but the emotions one feels after dropping out of their goal race are anything but rational.

Now, three days later, back home and recovering, I am able to forgive myself more and actually believe (at least mostly) that some days just aren't your day. I was fit and ready as I could be and the result of the race was not because of fitness, it was just what the day had for me. And I was faced with a problem that I could not fix. 

The race


I adjusted pretty well to the time change and for once, the few days before the race passed quickly and without a whole lot of nerves. My body didn't feel fantastic but I knew that the creaks and niggles would shake themselves out as the race unfolded and would likely help make me run my goal pace instead of starting out too fast.

The race started at 10am, so I got up before 7 and had my oats and peanut butter and coffee. I was feeling pretty good. Very calm, no nerves, just ready (I think running 4 sub 2:56 marathon/ marathon splits during longer training runs helps feel that way). I feel that way going into races that I know I have prepared myself as best I can for. It is not a cocky, I've got this feeling, it is a feeling of knowing that I have done all I can and that the race will be what it will be and I am prepared to do my best.

I hopped on the shuttle with the other Team USA ladies, Meghan, Amy, Pam, Annette and Carolyn and we made our way to Winschoten for the start. Meghan and I had similar time goals (around 7:30 finishing time), so we had planned to run together and keep pace as long as we could. In flat loop courses like this, there is nothing nicer than having company. And Meghan is one of my very favorite people, so that makes it a nice thing too. Meghan ended up running a 7:51, which is a World Best for 50+ age group. 

photo from Amy

We lined up at the start line and were off before we knew it. We got caught in a major traffic jam and had to weave our way around until we finally found some space to run in and settled into our pace. Meghan, Amy, Jo (from Great Britain) and I ran together. We were clocking sub 7:10 min/mile but it felt very comfortable and easy to me. We chatted and clicked off the kms as comfortable as possible. 

The day itself was incredibly warm, especially for someone like me that has been training in 50 degrees and cloudy. It was high 70s with 70% humidity. The days leading up to the race were very "San Francisco" cold, rainy and cloudy, so I had not anticipated that the race would be hot. I was very wrong. When I planned my race nutrition strategy, I had planned to get a salt tab every other lap (so every 20k) because I don't drink that much when it is cool out. 

I felt really good for the first few laps. We went through the 10k splits ahead of 7:30 finishing time pace, but I was unconcerned. I felt that if I was comfortable at the half way mark, it would be possible for me to negative split. I just wanted to get through halfway feeling good. On lap 3, my stomach started flopping a bit and I could tell that I was going to have an issue. Luckily we were coming into the aid station and I called for Nathan to grab me some Immodium. I knew the Immodium would dehydrate me a bit, but not nearly as bad as having diarrhea would. I hit the port-o-potty once but then the Immodium kicked in. I upped my water and did my best to keep myself cool. I had fun trying to catch Meghan again because I wanted to still run with her and threw down some 6:40s in her pursuit.

 It must be 45k. On my race plan that is the first time I get kisses.
High speed kisses can be dangerous.

We kept on cruising and my legs were still feeling fresh. I took a gel every lap from Nathan and felt like I was right where I wanted to be. We were running in the top 10 and on perfect 7:30 pace as we crossed the 50k mark in 3:45. I was stoked.

And then I was concerned. Just after the 1st crew aid station (at the .25km mark), I started to notice that I was having some cramping in my stomach (about where my kidneys are). It was a dull ache, annoying but not overly concerning. I was already passed the aid station so I couldn't get another salt which I quickly realized was what I needed. I made it to the next aid station but was cramping severely by the time I got there. I had Nathan get me a salt pill and requested that they inform the other side that I was going to need salt every time I came through. I was forced to back off the pace and figured that the salt would kick in and the muscles would release. But they didn't.


I made it through 60k and got to the aid station in severe pain. It felt like my ab muscles were getting a charlie horse. It is the worse cramping I have ever felt and I have never felt cramps like that in a race before. It wasn't my stomach cramping, I could eat and drink fine, it was the muscles. It was like a sword was being driven into my abs. I wanted to give it some time to resolve and so I kept going. The abs would release a bit and I would start moving again and then after a few more minutes they would tighten even worse and I would have to stop doubled over or run slightly stooped. I took another salt tab at 65k, but was not feeling any relief. I felt like I was barely moving and was not pushing myself anymore and I could feel nothing but worse. I practically walked the loop, running 11 minutes slower than I had been. I crossed the 70k mark and the cramps redoubled their strength and the pain shot down through my legs and up around my lungs. I hobbled into the aid station and asked Lion what to do. They fed me salt and gave me coke but I knew I could not go on. I couldn't even stand up, let alone run. I knew I was done.

I had spent the entirety of lap 7 considering if I could or would just walk it in. I decided that what was happening was happening and that I wouldn't drop just because my race wasn't going as I planned. But that changed when I came to the aid station and it felt like my abdominal muscles were pulling. Not being able to stand up is problematic when it comes to run/walking/continuing. I decided to sit down for a while and see if things would release. My whole body became one big cramp when I sat down. After sitting there for 30 or more minutes, I finally acknowledged I couldn't go on. I have never felt that bad of cramping in my life and I still didn't want to quit but I also didn't want to go on. I relinquished my chip and broke down. Nathan came running from the other aid station and helped try and console me. I cheered on my teammates and watched them finish.

The team did awesome. The men won team gold and the women team silver. I am very proud of them and appreciate the support that many of them showed me. 

The day after the race, I was beating myself up pretty bad, second guessing, comparing, and judging myself. This was my goal race and it was hard to have put all of my eggs in one basket and then have it not work out. I was fit enough to stand on the podium and yet didn't even finish the race. I bashed myself plenty both internally and out loud to Nathan over lunch in Amsterdam. It is just the natural emotions of missing a goal. It is nothing more nothing less, I am allowed some disappointment, some sadness and anger. 

But then I had a bit of a change of perspective. Sunday evening after we went to bed, I was awakened by severe food poisoning. I spent the entire night in the bathroom very ill and could barely take a sip of water. I finally stopped barfing and crapping after about 7 hours, but was left very weak and still nauseated. We were flying home that morning, so I only hoped that I wouldn't spent the entire flight barfing or in the toliet. I spent the flight in great discomfort, all 11 hours of it, but thankfully I didn't get sick on the plane. Nathan and the KLM staff took good care of me and I did my best to ride the waves of feeling good and bad. The reason that this offers a change in perspective to me is because despite the fact that I prepared all of my own food in order to ensure that I didn't eat any gluten before the race or other things I couldn't have, I still got sick. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do or how much you try and control the factors, it still doesn't work out. I am not sure whether or not the food poisoning happened before the race ( food poisoning can occur anywhere in a 48 hour period after eating the contaminated food) or if the cramps were a symptom of the food poisoning (as that is one of the symptoms, along with the diarrhea that I had), I don't think it matters really. While it would explain a lot, the perspective it offers is enough.

When my head was in the toilet, I was not lamenting my DNF. I was not judging myself based on my running accomplishments. All I wanted in the world was to feel good again. I knew even at the worst moments of the sickness that it would pass and I would feel better, maybe not right away but I would. The same goes for running. In the grand scheme of things, what happened happened. It doesn't make me a bad runner to have a bad day. There will be plenty more good and bad days in my life and the way we weather them is what matters. I won't chastise myself any long for my DNF. I will move on. It doesn't change anything about me as a person or me as a runner, it was just what the day had. It is sad, it is unfortunate, it is painful, but it will pass. Now, I just look forward to the next opportunity I have to try again at having the day I wanted. That is part of the adventure, that is part of the reason we do this. The challenge, the uncertainty, the huge potential for failure- that is what makes the successes that much sweeter.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pack Animals

Salomon runners Kilian, Iker and Miguel and NF's Sebastian running together at UTMB 2011

When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives. 
- Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)

When you think of running, teamwork is not the first thing that comes to mind. It is very much an individual endeavor but what I have found over the few years of my running career is that teamwork elevates that individual pursuit and helps you reach new levels you didn't know you could. Whether that is having a team of handlers and pacers to guide you through a 100 miler or having a rockstar partner who can patiently push you up the final ascent out of the big ditch. Sometimes teamwork is just having someone along side you for a time to keep your mind right and your spirits high.


Salomon runner Ryan Sandes dominating Leadville. Winning in 3rd fastest time ever in his debut 100 with help from Salomon teammates.
Photo courtesy Anna Frost


In the past few weeks, I have been incredibly inspired by my Salomon international teammates. Not just because of their incredible performances but because they have demonstrated time after time these value of teamwork. I truly feel that I am a part of a cohesive team, with members who would help me reach my potential, not just someone who shares the same sponsorship. I am incredibly proud of my teammates and very thankful for the support crews that help support all of our efforts. In just the past three weeks, I  have watched:

  • Ryan Sandes kicked butt in Leadville with the support of Salomon team members.
  • Rickey Gates and Anna Frost work together and push each other at TransRockies, absolutely dominating.
  • Kilian, Iker and Miguel run side by side at UTMB. Even stopping at points to wait for each other.



Maybe it is because I hail from a teamsports background that this team aspect geeks me out. But I don't think so. I really believe that even individual pursuits are better through teamwork. I believe we can accomplish more when we work with others than we ever could alone. I fundamentally believe community is one of the most important aspects of personal development.

Salomon runners Anna Frost and Rickey Gates, dominating the Open Mixed division through teamwork at Gore-Tex TransRockies run (source)

Teamwork is currently one of the foremost things in my mind as I set out to run the WC100k in Netherlands next week. Why? Because it is an event in which I represent my team as much as I represent myself. When I run the WC events, I have a one track mind: how do I best serve my team? I best serve my team by running as best and as fast as I can and by helping and supporting my teammates however I can. One of my favorite moments in all of my running life is from two years ago at the WC100k in Belgium. Meghan, Carolyn and I knew we had a firm grip on the gold medal and we worked together through the wee hours of the morning to maintain our position and help each other through rough patches. I will never forget how cool it was to run together en route to a gold medal and 4 top 10 spots.

I proudly don the Team USA kit because it makes me a part of a team. Just like when I don my Salomon gear, I feel a part of something. Next week when I line up, I am excited to help lead my team and fight for a gold medal. Whatever happens, I know that I have some amazing teammates working their butts off and fighting hard for the same goal. I know that I have people pulling for me and their strength will buoy me and drive me through the rough patches. Together we will all succeed. To me, there is nothing better in life to share the journey, the fight, and the triumph.

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