Tag Archives: trail running

Best (and Worst) of 2015

I haven’t felt like writing/blogging/stream of consciounessing for a while. I’ve been kind of bummed about how long recovery is taking me. My legs haven’t felt “good” in quite some time, and I’ve been battling just a twinge of post tib tendinitis (Thanks, Leah Sawyer for the help with that!) I have barely averaged 20 miles a week (until last week), and this really affected my mental/emotional state. I think I need at least 40 miles a week to feel good and like a normal person. So, to get me out of my funk, and since it’s the end of the year, I decided to compile a list of my running/racing/RD’ing bests from each ¬†month this year. And with the bests must come the worsts, right?

JANUARY

Best: RunWILD Tour of Trails begins (still time to sign up for NRC‘s 2016 training! #shamelessplug); running Bearwaller Gap for first time

beaman new

Worst: Having to DNS Mountain Mist 50K

FEBRUARY

Best: Black Warrior 50K (sub-5 hr); fun runs in the snow

Worst: The Ice Storm postponing Dry Creek

ice storm

MARCH

Best: Taking the RunWILD group down to River Gorge (come run it with us this year!)

river gorge

Worst: March was pretty good . . . so I guess it’d have to be the soreness from RunWILD’s St. Patty’s Day “Hill Repeats”? ūüėČ

APRIL

Best: Boston – experience (being there with my mom, the race environment, seeing Bree in Boston obvs) and marathon PR; meeting Sage Canaday

sage

Worst: April was pretty good month . . .

MAY

Best: Strolling Jim suffer fest; Running at Frozen Head for the first time

strolling jim 2

Pre-Strolling Jim ass kicking w/ Jobie

Worst: the day after Strolling Jim. I couldn’t leave my house because stairs must descended to do so.

JUNE

Best: Running in the big boy mountains of Idaho and solidifying my love of the West

IMG_0792

Worst: DNF-ing River of No Return 108K where the big boy mountains chewed me up and spit me out. Not even Little Red Riding Hood could get my ass in a good enough space to continue that race.

JULY 

Best: Pulling the trigger on signing up for a 100; Bowie Park race having record numbers

Worst: Pulling the trigger on signing up for a 100; losing my key on the Bowie course and spending hours “sunbathing” in the parking lot waiting for help

AUGUST

Best: RunWILD: Hot, Wet, & Wild started; knocked out my annual 5K @ Tomato

tomato

Worst: hardcore face-planting at Beaman during our first RunWILD run from which I still have the scarred up knees

SEPTEMBER

Best: Running in Chamonix (and London, Paris, Cinque Terre, and Rome); I’ve wanted to live and just run in the mountains ever since I went westward last year, but running here really made me fall in love.¬†#movemetoColoradoorBendASAP

IMG_1434

Worst: Leaving Chamonix

OCTOBER

Best: Defeated Creek — this was my baby race of the year. Thankful to NRC and others (Phil, Duane) who helped me bring this to fruition in just the way I/We envisioned when setting foot out there for the first time. Having such a big group at StumpJump; Mini Tour de Rouge (when we doing 10, Jeff and Jobie?)

stump jump bathroom

StumpJump bathroom pic

Worst: The nerves prepping for Pinhoti

NOVEMBER

Best: Pinhoti 100 — probably the highlight of the year for me; Riverside Screw, duh.

start line

Worst: Recovery from Pinhoti; post race “blues” –> always hard to deal with for me no matter the race but extra bad for this one #WhyGodMadeBeer

DECEMBER

Best: Wrapping up a decent first year as RD with Peeler park; focusing on running with my own pups; slowly getting mileage up

Worst: Loss of fitness and speed from taking a little too much recovery

So, that’s my pretty boring yet incredibly self-indulgent Best/Worst of Running for 2015.

Stay tuned for my Goals for 2016 which is sure to be riveting.

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Who are you wearing — ultrarunning style

If you read my race report on Pinhoti 100, then you know that nothing crazy bad happened — even with the cold and incessant rain. Aside from stellar crew and pacers, my gear and clothing choices were a big reason why I stayed as dry as possible, had no real feet issues including blisters or trench feet, and suffered from ZERO chafing (seriously, 25+ hours in the rain and not one spot). I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I wore so here are the highlights:

First and foremost is the love of my life, my shout it from the roof top, completely obsessed with, ¬†Altra Lone Peaks 2.5. Before I got these bad boys, after about 16-18 miles or so, my feet would hurt. There was no injury, no pinpointed cause of pain other than just time on feet and technical terrain. Knowing this couldn’t and wouldn’t fly for a 100 miler, I tried on a variety of shoes before slipping into the Lone Peaks. As soon as I put them on — Heaven (My feet are weird in that my heel is really narrow and toes splay out wide. The footshape toe box is a god-send for my toes.). The first time I took them for a spin – super technical trails in Chamonix. Then a 24 mile training run, then Stump Jump 50K — NO PAIN at all. I decided to buy a second pair to take to Pinhoti. In weeks leading up to the race, I even wore my first pair for any road runs I did. My newest pair was my go-to shoe on race day. I took them off once to change socks (thanks, rain and creek crossings) and was happy to put them right back on. They were great — no painful feet, and they held up great on the rocks and in the rain/mud. I saw multiple people fail to get traction on some of the steeper, muddier sections. I never had a problem at all. After Pinhoti, I’m a Lone Peak lifer.

Boring Stuff: 9.2 oz; moderate cushioning; footshape toe box with zero drop platform; 25 mm stack height (Apparently, Altra improved the durability of models past — not sure about other models, but I can definitely attest to the durability of the 2.5s)

lone peak

Speaking of wet feet, like I said, I had no real issues. Only a small blister that formed on my big toe around mile 82. Pain went away around mile 83. With all of the water, it could have been a recipe for foot disaster. Honestly, I was shocked. Why was I so lucky? Besides drinking a lot and making sure not to get dehydrated, I slathered my feet in Skin Strong Slather at the start of the race and again when I changed socks at mile 65 (well, Ryne slathered them for me). I also used it everywhere there was a potential to chafe. Stuff worked great. It stayed on so nicely that I think I would’ve been fine if I hadn’t reapplied at mile 65 (But better safe than sorry. Plus, Ryne gets to relive that nightmare for the rest of his life). Along with the Skin Strong, I wore Swiftwick wool socks (1″ to start, 12″ starting at mile 65). My feet were wet by about mile 3. The wool wicked the moisture great and left my feet in great condition.¬†I love these socks and have never raced in anything but — including the super wet Stump Jump, which also proved blister-free.

Boring Stuff:

Skin Slather: super long lasting; no gross smell — made with tea tree oil; made for triathletes who are the pickiest folks in the world so it’s gotta be good

slather-jar-white-276x300

Swiftwick Pursuit socks: Merino wool toe and heel — for padding and wicking; ¬†arch support; full-cushioned footbed; no toe seams; half density weave for no “bunch” movement

Finally, my Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket — I haven’t been this excited about a purchase since my horse cardigan in 2011. This jacket kept me about as dry as I could be in those race day conditions. If I had changed my base layer properly, I wouldn’t have had a problem at all. I wore this jacket from mile 30-90. The hood and bill were great for keeping the never-ending rain out of my eyes. It was light enough to carry in my pack before needing to put it on. The flip mitts on the sleeves were amazing — I have huge problems with freezing hands, and these served great with and without additional gloves. Plus, it’s just freaking pretty. Just a solid, solid jacket. (Before I wore it at Pinhoti, I got in the shower with it on to see if it’s really waterproof. Success).

Boring Stuff: waterproof with fully taped seams; exceeds waterproof/breathability standards required by UTMB (?!); internal chest pocket holds/protects iPhone and has headphone port (seriously?!); underarm vents; flip mitts — self storing, waterproof mitts

ud jacket

I fully, 100% believe that without my Altra Lone Peaks, Skin Strong, Swiftwicks, and UD jacket, race day could’ve gone horribly awry.¬†You can find all of these at Nashville Running Company. (Christmas is coming up, hint, hint!).

Pinhoti 100 — Race Report

Not going to lie, trying to figure out a way to put the Pinhoti 100 into words seems almost as daunting as the race itself. I know there are things I will get wrong, sections of the course and people I will forget, and I will never do this experience justice. However, here’s my attempt.

Pinhoti weekend started with me picking up Jeff in our rental car — a huge Suburban that could’ve carried the crews of 2-3 runners. We drove the 4 hours or so to Sylacauga, AL but not before stopping at the amazing Tennessean truck stop (where we contemplated buying an entire cured ham, opting instead for an Alabama car flag) and eating at Applebee’s in Gardendale, AL (where we were treated to the wall of Alabama “celebrities”).

car

My mom met us at packet pickup which was great. We talked to Scott and Cary before heading to the hotel with Steven and Kimber. The drive was only about 40 minutes but long enough to hear the “Whisper Song” 3-4 times. Ryne and Khette met us at the hotel, and we noshed on some Mellow Mushroom before turning in for the night. After some pretty decent sleep, I was awoken with the Alabama fight song from Khette’s phone (and in case you don’t know, Khette’s a HUGE UT fan). She even wore a Bama shirt and hat. #BestCrewEver We all grabbed some breakfast at the hotel and set out towards the start line. By then, it had started to rain some, but with the humidity as high as it was, the rain was almost welcome. After some last minute lubing up and a pee break in the woods, it was go time.

bama

Because of the rain, the race actually started at Aid Station (AS) 2 and did an out and back to AS 1. The first 13 miles were single track on pine straw which I kept thinking felt soft enough to be God’s mattress. I don’t remember ever running on pine needles before, but it was very nice. I saw my crew at AS 2 and grabbed my pack from them (I started the race out with just my handheld since I knew I’d see them fairly quickly). I settled back into a really nice, easy pace and was feeling great when I rolled into AS 3 at mile 18. I grabbed a clementine from Khette and some chips. Since I knew this would be the last time I saw my crew until mile 40 and that there were a couple of unmanned aid stations on this section, I grabbed a 3rd flask filled with Skratch to put in my pack along with some extra Little Debbie cakes.

Start Line

Start Line: Photo Cred – Greg Gelmis

I still felt good as I headed back into the woods and onto single track. Because of all the rain, we were presented with some really beautiful waterfalls. Even though it was a pretty section, this was the first time that my mind tried to get in the way. I started thinking “how the hell is this going to happen? How am I going to make it all of this way?” I pushed out these thoughts as best as I could and focused on making it to the next aid station. Phil made me a bracelet with the distances between each station and my expected arrival times at each. Aside from being incredibly helpful, it also gave me something to do every now and then — check the bracelet, check the time, recheck the bracelet because I couldn’t remember what the bracelet said the first time. As we made our way to the next manned station at mile 27, I had to scramble up some slippery boulders. That definitely got me out of my funk, as did spotting the aid station tent.¬†And then I heard someone yell my name. “Season?!” I had no idea Season and Hunter were going to be there, and it was such a great surprise! Season had my drop bag all out and ready for me. Hunter gave me the rundown of the race so far. It was hard to leave them, but I knew I’d see them again at mile 40.

I took off back down the boulders and onto more single track. There were a bunch of water crossings, and I’m not talking “ooh my feet got a little wet” crossings. Water was rushing in most of these. I had begun running with a guy from NC, and we had to actually help each other across some of them. I had been looking forward to climbing Cheaha, and finally, we started climbing. As we climbed, it became a lot more technical. The trail was littered with larger, moss-covered rocks. Fog started covering the trail giving the trail a fun, eerie vibe. We hit a long boardwalk that was super slick, but that meant we were close to the aid station and my crew. They had an awesome setup under a shelter at the end of the boardwalk. Ryne gave me some amazingly warm ginger tea. Khette gave me the run down of football scores, and Jeff filled up my pack. I got out of there as quickly as I could — it was getting darker by the minute, and I wanted down Blue Hell before it was too dark.

Blue Hell is aptly named. Straight down with lots and lots of rocks. Many times I had to crawl down the rocks using hands, feet, and butt. At one point, the guy in front of me completely wiped out while running down a fairly steep, muddy section. I tried to do the opposite of what he did but ended up sliding down on my side as opposed to my back. After my mud bath, the trail smoothed out just as it started getting dark. Between the AS at mile 45 and 52, there were more creek crossings. One of them was so deep and was rushing so hard that we had to go further down, through the water, and crawl back to the trail head. I was so glad not to be alone at this point — people were falling in the water left and right. Slowly, the single track took us up and down and around until we could finally see the lights of AS 9. They had everything you could ever want to eat and drink here, including whiskey. They also had a TV set up underneath a tent — fortunately, the Bama game hadn’t started yet or else I may never have left. After an amazing grilled cheese, I got on my way. It was only 3 miles to the next AS and my crew. Some wet and chilly miles later, I was rolling into AS 10 at mile 55. Hunter gave me the Bama score (3-0; we made a field goal!) as I sat down for the first time all day. I changed shirts from the NRC race kit to a Mizuno tech short sleeve (probably my only real mistake of the race). Khette rolled out my IT band and quads as Jeff got me a quesadilla and Ryne gave me more¬†ginger tea. It was straight up star treatment to the the tune of dub step being blasted by the AS.

Mile 55 Aid Station

Mile 55 Aid Station

Some 6-7 minutes later, I was walking out of the AS and up a jeep road. The soft, jeep road was such a physical and mental break from the technical trail of miles past. I should have run more on this section, but I was freezing, and for the first time all day, my legs just felt dead. I got passed by a lot of people on this section, and finally, I was able to talk myself into running/shuffling. This 5 mile section took a lot longer than I thought it should, but eventually the small aid station came into sight. Still cold, I drank ramen like it was my job as I listened to the game over the AS worker’s radio. I stayed here longer than needed, but they had a dog there, and earlier in the day, I was really missing Gyps. . . so I played and got puppy kisses. Season and her runner came up just as I was about to leave. Season said to run the next section with them — which I was so happy to do. We headed out on some more jeep road for a couple of miles. Scott Bell and his pacer, Brad, came blazing by us, looking and feeling great. The jeep road dumped us back on to single track, and we stuck with the Season in front, Rebecca in the middle, and me bringing up the rear formation for the rest of the way. Even though we were three tired people trying to make¬†conversation, just having them there was so nice. We kept thinking we saw the aid station until finally we were right. My crew was there again, gave me the score (according to Jeff, we won 1000-16. It was really 30-16, but I’ll take it). My feet were soaking wet, and I¬†made the decision to change into my tall, wool Swiftwicks. Ryne earned a huge badge of honor for reapplying Bodyglide to my feet before putting on new socks. Jeff gave me coffee that was a freaking God-send as Khette got the stick after my legs again. Steven packed me up some goodies for the “road”, and soon, Jeff and I were on our way. Picking up a pacer, along with the new socks and coffee, was the best thing that happened all day. I felt like we were running really well, and we soon started passing people. We also were talking a lot as Jeff got me caught up on the events of the day which made the miles pass by quickly. Soon, we were starting the climb up to the Pinnacle AS at mile 74. After climbing for a while, we saw and heard the AS before we snaked around the switchbacks that would lead us there. We could see headlamps below us which is always really cool. The Pinnacle climb was a pretty decent climb — harder than the Cheaha one, for sure. At the AS, we ate some delicious soup, and Jeff packed me down with potatoes, chips, and gummy bears. I was so happy here because 1. miles 65-74 were the best I felt the entire day and 2. I knew we had a marathon left, and given the time, we could basically walk the rest of it in.

We left the AS, and we quickly realized the weather was not on our side. It had been raining off and on the entire day, but the next 6 miles were brutally wet and cold. At one point, we were on a ridgeline, and the wind was just insane. Jeff gave me his buff and his arm warmers. I desperately wished I had put on the Craft base layer at the last aid station. Regardless, I was so thankful Jeff was there, especially when he lifted my cold, spirits by telling me how Steven got locked in the women’s bathroom. We ran through the AS at mile 79 but not before Jeff took a video of how crazy the wind was blowing their tent. We got on a jeep road for a while — it felt a little warmer which was “nice.” Eventually, we were dumped back on the trail. I don’t know if we were moving slowly or if it was a little longer than advertised, but this section seemed to take forever. We were still moving pretty well though and continued passing a few people. As we got closer, Jeff gave me advice for the last section including “if it hurts to run and it hurts to walk, run.” We saw a headlamp bobbing ahead and ran into Brad as Scott was taking a pit stop. Just a little while longer, and we were at the mile 85 AS. As usual, the crew had a sweet set up. I quickly changed into my Craft shirt (so much happiness), ate a ton of food, got another stick rubdown, said a million thank yous to Jeff, and then Ryne and I were headed out on the last 15. This AS looked awesome and looked like it had the best food imaginable, but I was ready to get started on this last section

Ryne¬†filled me in on what had been going on throughout the day, and the conversation continued as the “sun” came up. There wasn’t much sun, but the light of day was a nice change from the past 13-14 hours of dark. We were at the mile 90 AS pretty quickly. I was finally warm and able to shed my UD jacket which Ryne put in his pack. We grabbed some water, coke, and a few snacks before getting back on the jeep road. It was pretty easy terrain with a few gentle rollers. Ryne was great and would tell me when/how far we were going to run and then when we would hike. We did this all the way until the next aid station, but not before I saw a leaf that I thought was a dead baby turtle. I had heard about the brownies at the final AS and probably talked to Ryne about them for a couple of miles. Our plan was to grab a brownie and get out of the AS as quickly as possible. The brownies did not disappoint. At the AS was a sign that read “2 miles of trail, 3 miles of road”. Ryne checked his watch as mine had crapped out just as I picked him up. The trail was more like jeep road and some grassy spots, but we hit the road a little more quickly than expected. 3 miles was all we had. We employed the walk-run method as we passed by a farm with some donkeys and then picked up an actual road. We kept thinking we should be getting close to the school, but not yet. My legs were dying, but having Ryne there, made me run sections that I probably would’ve just walked. I told him how tired I was getting and he told me to eat. I poured some gummy bears in my mouth just as we saw Chris walking towards us. We asked how much further — “1 mile. . . and there’s no reason you should be walking this, Beth.” Crap. He was right. So we started running again. FINALLY, we saw the turn off the road and towards the school. Soon, we saw the lights of the high school stadium, and then there was the track. As we entered the track, Ryne just said “you did it. You’re a 100 mile finisher.” I almost lost it when he said that. We made our way around the track before Ryne peeled off and I ran through the finish line.

finish pic

My mom and dad were there as were the crew. So much happiness and not enough thanks could be given to anyone. I was just completely overwhelmed by what all of these people had just endured and done for me. There is NO way that race would have happened without them.¬†Honestly, the race could not have gone better (to me). No stomach issues, no injuries, no super dark spots. Only thing I would change is putting on the Craft base layer. My crew was a well oiled machine, and my pacers were beyond amazing (I realize now what a poor job I did pacing for Jeff — I learned so much from them and I’ll be a better pacer/crew member next time!).¬†25:16:17. 100 Mile finisher.

What I wore/Gear

Pearl Izumi shorts (entire race)

NRC race kit shirt; Mizuno tech; Craft base layer

Swiftwick socks x 2

Altra Lone Peaks 2.5 (never once did I change shoes or want to)

Salomon pack

Boco hat; 2 buffs

Skin Slather lube at start and 65; Bodyglide for along the way

THANK YOU to everyone who called, texted, facebooked. Thank you to Nashville Running Company for all the gear and support and allowing me to be on the race team. HUGE, GIGANTIC THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to my crew. Forever indebted to you.

Things to Keep in Mind When Dating/Married to/Friend of/Parent to an Ultra & Trail Runner

  1. When we say we “need” to go for a run, we mean it. Whether it’s for sanity’s or training’s sake, we literally need to go run. After we get that run in, we’ll stop talking about it . . . until the next day. In that same vein, we may sometimes complain about HAVING to go for a run. Yes, we know we could technically “not go” . . . wait, actually no, we have to go. If we don’t, it’ll pick at us all day, everything will remind us of the fact we didn’t go, and we’ll be cranky and¬†miserable because of it.
  2. However long we say we’ll be gone on a run, it’s safe to add AT LEAST an hour or two. Sometimes, we fail to take into consideration travel time, bonk time, refueling time, or “we felt good so we just kept going” time.
  3. Grocery bills will increase along with our training. And yes, we are eating AGAIN.
  4. Friday nights are usually more tame than any other night of the week BECAUSE Saturday morning alarms for long runs are usually much earlier than week day alarms for work.
  5. Vacation time is still running time.
  6. We may accidentally leave wet shoes, dirty clothes, ¬†or sweaty hydration packs in our car from time to time which means it may smell like a dead body in there from time to time. We’ll also come home smelling like ass, covered in sweat, mud, and God knows what else. We promise we’ll take a shower and get back to our normal, sexy selves as soon as we peel ourselves up off the floor.
  7. We think about running . . . a lot. We follow obscure races and geek out over runners you’ve never heard of before. This only intensifies when we get around our ultra/trail running friends. Eventually, we will talk about other things; be patient with us.
  8. Ultrasignup can be a more dangerous website than Ashley Madison. If you see us on there, rein us in. We could easily sign up for 10 races in 10 different states at any given time if left to our own devices.
  9. We, at some point, will likely (literally) fall victim to our sport. We may twist an ankle, bruise/skin knees, pass out, need IVs, or piss blood. Yes, we know we brought this on ourselves. Still, listen to us talk about it again and again, tell us what bad asses we are, and try to spare us a lecture (until at least maybe the wounds and urethras are healed). We also realize you’re only concerned about us and appreciate and love you for it.
  10. We love our sport, and we love you. We also¬†understand that you, more than likely, are not obsessed with what we do¬†(or at least to the degree we are).¬†And that’s ok. However, nothing makes us happier than when you show an interest (even if feigned) or want to crew/support/spectate/talk running. That being said, it’s not always expected. We know we’re weirdos and are thankful you love us in spite of it.
Gratuitous Jenn and Tony pic

Gratuitous Jenn and Tony pic-photo cred: luis escobar

They Say You Never Forget Your First Time

View on drive from Salt Lake City

View on drive from Salt Lake City

Well, it finally happened. I knew it would — you race long enough (both in frequency and in distance), it’s bound to happen. The dreaded DNF. I went out to the River of No Return 108K knowing that I was undertrained for both the distance and the elevation, but I thought that heart and grit could make up for whatever training I lacked.

Obligatory pre race pic

Obligatory pre race pic

Friday morning, Steven and I met up with Jobie, Sherrie, and their awesome crew of Andi, Clint, and Cole, outside of Salt Lake City. As we drove towards Challis, it was clear we weren’t in 400 feet above sea level Nashville any more. This would also be abundantly clear about 2 miles into to the race the next day. Steven and I got to the start line around 4:30 am on Saturday. Kevin and Theresa were pulling up at the same time. It’s always nice to see familiar faces before a race, and as Jobie was sick back at the cabin, it was exceptionally nice to see Kevin. Steven got me all ready for the adventure ahead, and soon I gave him a quick and, admittedly, scared good-bye. I settled in beside Kevin, and we were off. The first two or three miles of the race are on a trail running parallel to the “main” road of Challis. We kept a nice, easy pace. Soon, we headed onto a trail that would snake us around to the top of the first mountain. Kevin and I found ourselves in a nice little pack. We hiked up the next four miles, turning around every so often to watch the sun rise over the mountains behind us. Eventually, we made it through the aid station at mile 9. After a quick fill up, we set off on some nice trails and quickly found ourselves at the mile 12 aid station. I grabbed a quesadilla as we trucked on through.

The next four miles¬†held about 2000 feet of descent to the Bayhorse aid station at mile 16. I came in here feeling awesome. Steven was waiting for me and had all of my stuff ready to go. He told me the average time in and out of the aid station was 2 minutes and to hurry up because I was 4th female. This was his first time crewing, and he was crushing it. I knew the next section was going to be a beast so I wanted as much fuel as I could carry. He loaded me up with Honey Stinger chews, gels, waffles, and Picky bars. I filled up a bottle with coke and one with water, and I was on my way out of there. I had been doing such a great job with my nutrition up to this point. Every 30 minutes, 100 calories in. We started a 2400′ climb, and I excitedly unwrapped half of my¬†Picky bar. However, my stomach had other emotions and revolted against the bar before I was able to even choke it down. Ok, let’s just stick to chews for this climb, I thought. We climbed and climbed and climbed. And my stomach continued its revolt. I puked every half mile or mile.

IMG_0793

Finally we reached 8500′ and got some downhill. It helped my tiring glutes and hammies but did nothing for my stomach. However, the downhill wouldn’t last long, and soon we were making our way towards the last couple of climbs that would take us up to 10,000 feet. Now, along with the puking came dizziness and shortness of breath. Every quarter of a mile or so, the guy I was running with and I had to stop and catch our breath and rest. Alexander ran RONR last year, knew how much tougher this year would be, and brought along his poles. Even poles weren’t helping him at this point.

We thought we had made it to the highest point, Ramshorn, when we came upon a dirt bike and water stop. This should mean there was about 4 miles left until the next aid station and that it was all downhill. However, the biker man informed us it was actually at least 6 miles . . . and the 500 ft shale climb that we’d all been warned about was coming up. We trudged a little down hill and started climbing again. We watched¬†those ahead of us climb up and over and up again. We finally reached the dreaded climb. It seemed like it was 500 ft straight up. After stopping to rest on some snow that hadn’t melted, we finally made it up to the top. Ramshorn at last. The beautiful views at the top definitely made up for the shortness of breath, burning legs, and the impossibly steep trail riddled with my vomit that had brought us there. 360 degrees of beauty and snow capped peaks.

It was hard to get going on the downhill. I hadn’t kept anything down for 8 miles, and the lack of oxygen and nutrients to my muscles left me weak and unstable. But at least I was going down! I shuffled along creating some semblance of a run, puking up some bile every now and then. Lots of rocks littered the trail, and after wooziness took over, I tripped over one of the larger rocks. The ankle that had been testing my patience and pain threshold for exactly a year roared in pain. 3-4¬†miles left to the aid station, all downhill, and all rocky. I hiked on hoping the pain would subside. The pain remained, and since¬†I was hiking/running funny because of it, the heel of my opposite foot flared up in pain as well. My watch had died around mile 26 (poor pre-race planning). If it had been on, I swear it would have been subtracting miles — the aid station seemed to get further and further away.

View from the cabin

View from the cabin

I usually relish testing my mental toughness, and here was a perfect opportunity to do so! I thought about all of the supportive texts and Facebook posts/messages from friends and family in the days leading up to the race. I thought about Bree’s amazing care package and sweet card. I thought about McNeal’s awesome video he made for me. I thought about all of those hours on the trail that had brought me here, and how it was abundantly clear I should’ve put in many more. I told myself “You wanted to run with the big dogs, and here you are getting bitten. Get it together, girl.” I thought about all of Hunter’s advice including his most recent, “Be the shit, don’t get the shits”. I thought of my ultra idols Jenn and Sally. I thought about Jenn’s badassery and reckless love for the trails and the thrill of the race. I thought about Sally’s heart and ability to dig deep into places many of us have never been. I replayed scenes from her “Western Time” movie over and over again. I thought “WWSD” (What Would Saban Do) and about the Bear. I thought about a billboard I had seen on the way to the race that featured John Wayne and how he didn’t care for quitters. I thought about the RunWILD group. I reminded myself that I was wearing the sweet new NRC race kit and how I was completely failing the team. I thought about Steven who had traveled all of this way with me just for this race. I thought of the best and most frequent advice I get from my dad — “Be brave.” I thought about how this was a big step for me towards that ultimate goal of qualifying for WSER . . . and how if I didn’t finish this race, it’d likely be next year before I could attempt to qualify again.

However, all of the grit and determination and inspiration and motivation that I could come up with on those long miles to the aid station couldn’t drown out the pain resonating in my ankle and beginning to creep up my shin. Along with the pain came with the worry that I was damaging my ankle even further. It was becoming abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to finish the race. Even if I stopped puking my guts out, my ankle and foot were shot. The question that remained was how far would I try to get. When I saw the aid station closing in but could only force a shuffle, I knew. I knew this was my final destination at RONR. I came into the aid station and slumped in a chair as a woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood covered my head with a wet towel. Looking around, there were 4 other racers who were dropping¬†as well. As bad as it sounds, seeing them made me feel better about myself and my decision. I turned in my chip and crossed my bib number off the list. Just like that, my day was over, and with it came my first DNF.

I had a sense of peace with my decision as soon as I sat in that chair. Since then, I’ve second guessed it every now and then, but I’m confident that it was the right one — both in the long and short term. As much as I hate that I “failed”, it was an amazing trip. By far, it was the most beautiful run I’ve ever been on. I got to experience a race out west, and I got to spend time in the mountains. Was I overly ambitious and bit off more than I could chew? Yep. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Will I ever forget my first DNF? Not a chance. It will haunt me, inspire me, motivate me, and push me for the rest of my running days.

Reminder in a small town outside of Challis that DNF isn't the worst thing in the world

Reminder in a small town outside of Challis that DNF isn’t the worst thing in the world

Staying On Path — Literally

While running out at Percy on Saturday, I had the privilege of running with a group that has run thousands of miles out on those trails over many years. As we ran, Phil, Jeff, and Theresa kept pointing out how different the trails look compared to when they were first built. Anyone who’s run on the white trail in the past 6 months knows what a mess certain areas are. On both the white and red trails, what used to be single track is now double track and, and in some areas, is¬†wide enough to drive a car through. From this discussion, we started really paying attention to the trail as we ran. Sure enough, you could see the¬†original barriers ¬†. . . and the expanded trail¬†which¬†had been made around them. When the trails were built, these barriers were strategically placed to prevent erosion, protect vegetation, keep soil on the trail but have been basically rendered useless. In countless areas, we saw paths that had been “constructed” around trees or roots or muddy areas.

Obviously, over the years and with increased foot traffic, there’s going to be a little widening of the trail, but this is extreme. So what’s caused this? Go out whenever it’s rained or is muddy, and you’ll find your answer. Hikers and runners who don’t want to run through puddles or mud will circumvent the actual trail to avoid getting their shoes dirty. Granted, with the widening of the trails, it’s a little hard to tell where the original trail actually is, BUT if you’re stepping on vegetation — that ain’t it. If you don’t want to get muddy or dirty, it’s cool; stick to the roads. If you want to run trails, however, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of them. Take care of the trails that take care of you. Pay attention, and stay on path, even if it means you may have to wash your shoes.

Embrace the Suck

Every now and then I get in a funk . . . and not the Uptown Funk that sexy ass Bruno Mars sings about. I’ll have a week or two of just feeling “blah”. I think (hope) that’s pretty normal for most people. I’ll also occasionally¬†go through a short period of what I call “going to Arizona” (named this because when I got overwhelmed as a college freshman — I know, it makes me sick to write that sentence. I’d kill to be “overwhelmed” like that again — I sincerely contemplated just packing up and driving to Arizona. Anyone who knows me, though, can appreciate the hilarity of this because I can’t read a map and would never have made it out of Alabama). Anyway, the week before Strolling Jim, I was having a going to Arizona moment, a¬†mini-almost-third life crisis if you will. On top of trying to figure out my life, everyone and everything was making my blood boil. So needless to say, it was a super fun week.

If you read my blog or talked to me since Strolling Jim, then you know that it was a complete suffer fest. Half of the race just flat out sucked. It took absolutely everything I had to finish that race. But,¬†miraculously, after the race was over, I was completely free of my terrible mood and existential crisis.¬†This wasn’t simply because of some exercise-induced endorphin release– I’m pretty sure my body was¬†devoid of any endorphins after¬†mile 18. I felt better because I had just suffered my ass off. The race took everything out of me; it forced me to dispose of every thing and every thought¬†that I didn’t need in order to make it across that finish line. I was in pure survival mode — if it didn’t have to do with food, water, and shelter from the sun, I didn’t have the time or energy to worry about it. I left all of my baggage and issues out on that course to rot in the hot Tennessee sun . . . just like the 12 dead animals we saw along the race course. This time, it wasn’t the joy of running or first place or even the camaraderie at the race (though that was amazing) that made me feel better. It was the suck, the suffering, the absolute misery that I felt during part of that race that stripped me down and built me anew. So¬†don’t shy away from suffering, and embrace the suck; not only can it help you grow as a runner, it can provide you with exactly what you need as a person.

Week Recap:

Monday: 2 easy miles — legs felt like garbage (Plus I had to get to a meeting about upcoming RunWILD training – STAY TUNED!!!)

Tuesday: Red trail with Phil; Red trail with RunWILD Tuesday Night Trails

Wednesday: East Nasty (5 miles)

Thursday: RunWEST am & pm

Friday: 5 easy miles

Saturday: RWB + RW with Yong, Lindsay, and Jobie. Welcome back, heat and humidity!

Sunday: 8.5 miles on Shelby trails