A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moving on, and new partners.

Last weekend, on Saturday night, I had volunteered at one of the Capt'n Karl's night trail races, managed by Tejas Trails. It was a great wrap-up for my 2 weeks of well-deserved rest, which, of course, is rest in our, athletes, twisted mind: I was leading and doing fully Bootcamp workouts twice a week (even on Monday after I arrived), shuffled on neighborhood streets m 2 daily miles for the streak, walked 6M home at 4 pm in the heat from work once a week, and squeezed 2 Bikram classes each week. But running I was not:)

At that night race, Larry ran the 30k version and did an awesome job, despite doing it after 6 hrs of back-breaking work of putting the floors down in my office (the one he hung the doors for the week prior), and I was Master wearing All Hats.

The evening started with me giving a little pep-talk to each of the (separate) starts of 60km, 30km and 10km races. Basically, I wanted them to follow some set of rules, and warned the new runners that I'll be the one with loud voice yelling directions, which I expect to be followed. Yeah, don't mess with Olga!

Then I was sent out to the first (officially unmanned) AS at mile 5 and, well, manned it with one other girl, Lynette, also yielding traffic (different race distances went different ways). I also have to mention that Pedernales Falls race went cup-less for unmanned AS's and limited cups for those 2 that were manned - an admirable act, and all survived (there was a number of 10k runners who didn't carry a bottle, so they either got down under the cooler's spigot, or I gave them ice in hands to suck on).

After an hour and half there, I returned to the Main AS (start/finish) and helped Peter there until midnight.
Around that time, as the shorter distance runners were done, and the 60k ones were almost all on their way to the second loop, I was called by Joe Prusaitis to replace their medical team (which left at that time), and right away was called to a fazed-out guy (air force!) who was pale, cold and not sweating, hardly coherent. The park ranger kept insisting on calling the ambulance, and I kept pushing that idea far away...bringing his memory back to last year's similar case, and our same fight, and my revival of the kid. So, eventually, he backed off, and I got to business, and 30 minutes later dude wasn't throwing up, was warm, talking and walking.

Just as I was about to get back to AS stuff, I was sent out to sweep the course marking of the first section. It was about 1:20 am as I left, and the first mile was very manageable, with streamers clipped on the trees...and then the stakes with signs (arrows and wrong way's) of a square foot began, the glowsticks, more streamers, more signs, PVC poles with tape closing wrong trails...nothing fitting in the pack, carrying those sings in my forearms, ever expanding in numbers, falling out, still jumping to get clipped streamers, can't see my watch, can't drink my water hidden burred under all that...taking 3 wrong turns for some odd reason (I always manage to get lost!)...6 miles took me almost 3 hrs! When I finally hit the road, the AS was wrapped down, and nobody there...so, a responsible gal I am, I began walking on the road still carrying some 30 lbs of al that crap, until a car stopped and gave me a ride. I wish I had a picture, but alas, you have to trust me, my forearms were dead and I had scratch marks.
This is not even a 1/3 of the stakes with signs, but you got the idea what they looked like!

The Moon was beautiful though! I walked with headlamp turned off most of the time!

I drove home and collapsed on a couch at 5:30 am, no shower, for 3 hrs...and the Sunday began with my "other" jobs:)

A gal Amanda was taking interview with me and posted a great recap, word to word, in a newsletter, the part of why I volunteer. Take a look! I think it even sounds Russian:)

Once I caught up on sleep by Monday morning, I was ready and motivated to begin training! And on Tuesday morning the opportunity struck luck to fit in a trail run in the morning - and that was DELICIOUS! Yum! Slow but steady, I was back!

Just in time for the GREAT NEWS! You know how I never talk about any product unless I believe in it. That was one of a few reasons for the last couple of years I raced completely un-attached: no team, no sponsors besides Drymax socks. Even as much as I used to like Sportiva shoes, after my foot injury and their getting away with Fireblades I couldn't vouch for the shoes either.

BUT that did not mean I didn't come across products that I loved using! When I began my no grain/no dairy/no sugar/no legumes journey past October, I questioned what shall I consume while racing now. And while there are many advocates of real food, or baby food, etc., I can't neither carry such large items, no digest them, when racing. And then I read that Kami Semick, having being on a similar eating plan, uses VFuel gels - so I found them, got them, and liked them! This gotten even better when Timmy Olson confirmed while visiting for Bandera run in January, that he does same eating plan - and uses same gels! I was sold, they worked, and I never looked back. The difference is - they don't use fructose, a common additional sugar in other gels, which causes stomach distress. So, armed with my awesome performance at San Diego 100 - and in general a great racing year - I contacted a rep, and was offered to be an Ambassador! Yes on great product and great people!

That was not all. My old-time friend Bob Gentile had disappeared from my horizon for a while, only to show up, suddenly, 2 months ago, and, according to his Facebook posting, he was repping for some endurance stuff BRL Sports. I asked, and he stepped forward with an offer of some free product - Epo-Boost pills (similar to Optigen from First Endurance I had taken before) for pre-race and Endura-Fuel as a recovery drink (many athletes use it as in-race fuel as well). I tried it, got on 3.5 weeks of those pills, used powder for my long runs and hard workouts, as well as 3 packages during SD100 - and become a believer. Hey, placebo or not, when you're aging and not extremely talented, every help helps! :) That said, they, too, offered me similar program as VFuel, ambassadorship, and since those products do not cross-over, there is no conflict of interest - and I am thrilled to represent both of them!

See, good things come when you believe in them (see my post a while back on these products before I even considered in my wildest dreams to contact them!), and when you work hard to be considered.

The good thing is, as not a Sponsored Athlete, I don't have to WIN USA Championships and Big Races...just use it and run strong and happy!

Now, if only Pearl Izumi shoes would step in with their N2's so I can TRULLY get ready for Grindstone 100...hello, anybody?

All in all, life is moving on. Check out my Partner's Page if you get a chance, and see if there is something that spikes you interest.

With that - best of luck to ALL Western States 100 runners this week, and all the other racers as well! Enjoy the fact that you're blessed and able to have such a pass-time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What is fair?

I wasn't going to participate in this month' The-trail-runner-blog-symposium with it's current topic:
(Current Topic: "What constitutes an “unfair advantage” in a trail race, and what—if anything—should be done to even the playing field?"), but as I read absolutely awesome interviews of Western States 100 front runners conducted by iRunfar.com, and commented, one comment spurred up a lot of thought. It was an interview with Dave Mackey, Nick Clark and Ian Sharman, all three return top-10 placing dudes, and I mentioned how I'd love Calrkie and Mackey to go for broke and make it happen (more Nick with a realistic chance, no offense, but Dave just put a 100k at San Diego 100). Why? Because they are guys with real jobs and families (spouses and kids). I was counter-commented with "Running coaching is a real job too, just not with a steady paycheck". Yes, it is. I should know, I have that one...as well as a the real job, one that makes you be at the office (NOT a home office, but elsewhere, what at the minimum involves getting there) at certain hours, which in this country means at least 40 hrs a week (if you're lucky), plus that commute, makes it 10 hrs a day out of your "personal" life. There are different jobs out there, some more back-breaking, some more computer-starring, some easy physically and mentally...but when you have a boss and have to be in the office, even if you do close to nothing at all, those ar 10 hrs you can NOT commit to running! And with regular jobs taking place in time of somewhere between 8 to 5, those are day-light hours no matter where you live.

What is the advantage of either not working (and having a significant other or parent to support you financially) or working from home? You can get however many hours of sleep you need and get out the door for a run whenever you feel fit - and for however many hours/miles your training calls for. For the rest of the world - it is either 4-5 am wake up calls and stumbling in the dark, late night runs after dinner settles in, or a quickie at lunch hour. Is it an unfair advantage? Absolutely NOT. It is each of our individual choice what to do in life, work full time regular hours, have a business (that may have flexible few hours, but may have INSANE many more than 10 a day, like Devon and Nathan Yanko's new bakery!), or live off spousal salary (aren't those nice?:)) or scraps that may be a sponsor provides while you're in peak (a fewer lucky) and a loan you hope to re-pay in the future.

That thinking (and that aforementioned comment) also involved families, and in particular families with kids - not that spouses alone are not families, but you know, those snot- and tears munchkins demand by far more presence! I should know that too, as I began my running journey when my kids were 5 and 10. These are quite old ages as far as I am concerned - I had no sleepless nights by then, and was bound to their school activities and sport practices, but was able to get runs around baseball and soccer fields or other things while watching and being "present". But even then, quality was often missed, as well as trails, and long runs were done, yet again, beginning at 4 am on Saturdays and Sundays, to ensure coming home by at least 11 am - if you want to be a participating parent, of course.

Unfair to be single or married without kids (for whatever reason, early, don't want to, can't)? Absolutely NOT. Again, these are choices we make, and then make the best of it...but surely those who can romp around at any time and in any place have somewhat of an advantage in training...

Someone mentioned living at altitude versus low-landers. Someone talks about flat Florida and mountains of Pacific North West. Then we have perfect weather of Coastal California year-round, and deep winter for 8 months somewhere in Montana, or 100F for 7 months in Texas...all that  makes and breaks those training runs. And we haven't even come close to the advantages in racing itself...

Enter Karl Meltzer. The King of 100 M races - who prefers to run alone and advocates for it. Are pacers in the later stages an advantage? For a moment, don't think about safety in terms of breaking a leg and having someone carry you...and I am not only talking about front runners fighting for placing. A runner with a pacer has an extra pair of eyes to navigate the course, some set the pace (literally), some remind to drink/eat, some even spare their flashlights (happened at SD100 to a runner...would that runner finish same time/place?) and food. Sometimes, though, a pacer can be disadvantage, at least to some. It is an extra worry "Am I doing well, is the pacer having fun?". What if a pacer went off course and you trusted him? What if the pacer is not fit for that amount of miles/time/terrain and you feel guilty to leave them behind? Whatever it is, advantage or not, if it's allowed - it is fair. Lets live with it.

Same goes for crew. While I prefer to run by myself, and had become extremely efficient utilizing aid stations and my drop bags, a crew is totally beneficial and I love to have someone when life lets me. It is an advantage, as something legally allowed by race organizers, it is a fair one, indeed.

What else? GPS that allow you to make correct turns. Iron stomach is an awesome thing. High VO2max as well. Feet that don't respond with blisters every time you hit the rock. Kidneys that don't fail. And, of course, a clear mind to make right choices while you run - and a lot of experience:)

Funny remarks aside, what is unfair after all? Anything that is forbidden by race management! Drugs, first and foremost. I don't care where you stand in "normal" life on use of some of them, but if a race follows USATF or RRCA rules, get a list, and I believe, regardless of what recent article in one of the magazines vaguely tried to say, marijuana is still illegal in sport performance. All those blood doping drugs are as well. When your pacer carries stuff FOR you and gives it to you (and without which you would have slowed down/stopped), including but not limited to fuel, water, salt, clothes, lights...Cutting the course!!! - Big No-No! Using personal crew away from aid stations - or using something stashed ahead of time at certain points. I am also aware of certain twin brothers who switch over during a long race - that is pure cheating.

Frankly I am not sure if much can be done besides what is being done. Nor do I want to think about it. I pride myself to be "old school", and just wish quietly we stay old school forever:)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Post-awesome depression.

I used to call it "Post-race depression", kind of like postpartum PPD (by the way, a phenomenon well documented and proven to exist, due to endorphin overuse and such other hormonal changes). But on Sunday at the club's group run I finally joined (since, you know, I don't need to train and do something very specific, I can wonder around with others and socialize now, a rare event for me), someone said it in a way that made sense right this moment: "How are you doing with post-awesome depression?". It was totally clicking - may be some other times not so much, but now, after such a long and successful journey to a fulfilling finish at San Diego 100, it is exactly that" post-awesomeness. One that makes you feel sad, curling in a ball and crying, and the lack of focus is annoying to say the least.

Apparently (ha! what a surprise) I love training. May be because there are so many variables in my life (had been and still are, as long as I remember myself) that I don't have any control over, and I always feel things and events slipping through between my fingers and away, training is what brings structure, goal is what brings focus, and all together keeps me aware of the "when you put your mind and body into something, good things happen" type of mode. Without that, I'd be likely not be much of a believer in a goodness in this world.

But fear not. Throw some ideas at me, and lets see where they take me!

For now, I am plodding my few miles daily to keep a streak alive, and today even managed an impromptu speed workout due to sudden heavy rain developing with thunders and lightening. Not my idea of a slow jog conditions, so I found a few still alive fast-twitches and hauled my behind!

Did a couple Bikram classes, couple Bootcamp sessions, and even went to the gym. A slight general fatigue, which feels good as it tells me I gave an honest effort to the race. I pulled my back somewhere there and haven't noticed it until after the finish, so now my favorite chiropractor is, well, my favorite doctor, with his A.R.T technique. In a meantime, while not immediately training for anything, we (he and I) are tending to the scar tissues formed at the insertion of my right hamstring I tore almost 2 years ago. Good thing I am finally finding time to be paying attention to this one as well.

On a home/business front, Larry installed the doors into the office, so I now take clients at my home besides traveling to their location.

We ordered hardwood floors and will be putting it in very soon (like, by next week, may be), as well as some re-arrangement to make it more comfortable for the purpose (and more professional).

This coming weekend I'll owning an AS at the Tejas Trails night series event - manning start/finish/loop AS from 6 pm till midnight, then going sweeping 18M loop. I hope to have enough mojo to walk that much in the humid night of Texas carrying course markers. Below is another volunteer gig I did a weekend prior SD100. Gotta give back to the sport...

This is a link to the article that will appear in Ultrarunning magazine. I got a mentioning, along with triple-digits temps:) Someone brought up that may be SD100 wasn't as hot as WS100 in 2006 - and after giving it thought (and memory digging), probably would have to agree in general - at Western States that year rumor for the canyon temps was 113F, while we had canyon at 108F, but the difference was that Western started at 5 am, went up high at altitude for quite a bit, and had a lot of shady running and stream crossing. San Diego had none of those perks, so it felt worse. So here you go. The finishing rate was similar though:)

p.s. from Jeff Browning's race report: NOTE: temperature reports were varying, but Noble Canyon reports were anywhere from 101 to 107 at the aid station. I would wager hotter pockets existed on the 4.5 mile section we loop, especially on the south facing side of the butte the course loops around

I am looking forward seeing what the rest of the year brings. On the 100's front, Grindstone will not be as much of a focus to race as simply to make it to the finish in one solid piece - I need a finish for Hardrock lottery, and I hate training through Texas summer.

In 10 days Larry and I are going for an adventure of a vacation, and I am so looking forward to getting off the grid and into the wilderness, as well as seeing so many great friends.

At the end of the day, we keep ourselves in shape to do just that: visit backcountry and whacky friends:)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My journey to the best 100 miler.

"Tell you what....I value your friendship and history with the sport over so many years.....as such, how can I not find you a slot for SD 100 come June. "

How do you describe the feelings you have, when every moment, beginning with this simple email that I read while sipping coffee at Starbucks in some small town of Alabama in the middle of the afternoon a day before Cheaha 50k, was filled with something I can't put to words, even now, even as the SD100 is in the history books? I was humbled and speechless, as my most wonderful journey began. I am struggling beyond any possible explanations still, and that says a lot, as I am usually a wordy one...

My history with San Diego 100 goes back to 2005, when, having not completed Grand Slam due to Leadville's pulmonary edema and picking this race as a consolation prize I won and even set a CR when Paul Schmidt was the original RD of the race. In 2007 I returned there, on a new course, to pace a friend to a crazy finish - and to witness huge fires sweeping the area. In 2010, when they new course was designed (the more difficult of the three), and my long time friend Scotty Mills, an AMAZING ultrarunner (at 62 years young, he's got 20 finishers at WS100 in sub-24! and he is originally from VHCTR) took reins as a new RD as Pauly was consumed with taking care of his beautiful wife Kathleen fighting cancer (while they both still helped with course design and management), I returned to run it again, as part of my long summer and 4 weeks after MMT100, but the day wasn't stellar (they don't often are), and I wanted to make a come back. I wanted to give this course what it deserved. I wanted a great run out there.

My history with the sport...That would be a book, not a post:) In that very 2005, while training for Grand Slam under guidance of Scott Jurek, I was in best shape of my life. I ran a total of 22 ultra races that year, most of those very well, and some just as part of solid training. Years passed, I had stellar races, good finishes, I had dips as well, but I always enjoyed being out there and testing - testing myself, figuring out what am I made of, seeing new places, visiting "old" ones, and sharing it with friends. Years went by, we got older, life got more overwhelming, things changed, some for the better, some not so much. But we kept plugging along.

Some time last summer I made a decision to give up 100 milers. It's a long story I won't go into, but I was pretty set on it. And then there was this weird sudden urge, a moment, really, a simple email: "Is there any chance?", and a simple respond, almost immediate...and my life for the first 5 months of the year was changed.

I had  butterflies. I can't explain why, couldn't then, still can't, but it gave me a purpose, a focus I was lacking, an excitement, a destination, a goal. I was going to get int a best possible shape of my life and I was going to rock that race in sub-24 hrs. And I was going to have a great time in a process.

I know it's already a long intro, but it deserves it. In Larry's words: " I had the pleasure to watch her train her ass off for this race and reach her goal. Considering her full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, coaching clients, running a boot camp, dealing with other "stuff", and still finding time to be an awesome Wife and partner, it's even more sweet. I get exhausted just watching it all." I got on a wagon and did Whole30 and then stuck with Paleo - it worked for me, I dropped a few pounds, most importantly, I lost 5% body fat. It made my running easier. I hate running in Texas, it's hot and the trails are just not the same, but I designed the plan, the "schedule" - and I stuck to it to a "t". No matter what I never deviated. I also went on a running streak, what wasn't necessary, but added on a benefit of a couple more miles even on days off. I did my speed intervals religiously, my hill repeats first on the road and trail hills I could find, then, as they "grew" in length, on a dreaded Treadmill - and I never even blinked my eyes on it. Yes, I stayed on a TM for 2-3 repeats of 30-40 minutes of 5-8% hills, and no, I was not bored. I had a goal. I was giving it my best shot.

I have to say, this past spring in Austin has been blissful by all means. I was blessed with weather mild enough to get me through the training outside all the way into beginning of May. I had smartly put races into my plan as well, and those went great, every one of them, from a 5k to a 100k, with fantastic times and finishes. Things were rolling, giving me hope, and giving me apprehension at the same time. It was getting real. It was getting scary. I was "running myself in shape" and I had big goals and hopes. Now, I just had to not slip into what Lisa Smith-Batchen used to call me "sabotaging myself through a fear of success". 

The time drew near. There were a lot of personal challenges I choose not to discuss on my blog anymore, and a lot of times/days/weeks when the race was pretty much what made me not to loose my mind, not to go into depression, not to fall apart. That race combined so much beyond a simple 100M finish. Beyond a (hopeful) finish #20 for a 100M race, being "old school", having history and friends and run on an absolutely beautiful terrain with breathtaking views. The previous RD Paul Schmidt graciously opened doors for me, I studied last year's splits and made my chart - I was shooting for 23:45. The course is extremely rugged despite not being expected as such, and totally open to the sun 90% of the time, and I knew what I was getting myself into. Squeezing sub-24 was a high goal on a good day under great conditions. I had no pacer, no crew, and no fear. I was excited and ready to go. And then the weather forecast began dropping bombs of the heat index...and indeed, it was a hottest day of the year, hottest day in history of the race, hottest I ever ran in (taking that away from WS100 circa 2006 with 106F) - yet I made myself calm and steady-nerved. There was nothing I could do - I can not control the elements, only how I manage myself in those...

Pre-race hang out
And then there was time. Time to go. Time to have a great time and put your best foot forward. Time to enjoy the trails, the people, the fitness we have. Just like that, nothing else mattered. Only this minute, and this step...And it's time to write something about the race itself:)
Trying to contain excitement, photo by Liza Howard
178 runners lined up at the start, when it was already 78F at 7 am, and went through the campground filing into a single track.
Photo courtesy of Joel Livesey (FB)
The trail took us gently rolling for a while, and I tried to settle in. It always takes me a good 30 minutes to find the right breathing, and the right cadence. Not even 3 miles in, and I almost missed the turn, going after a few others, when a guy behind yelled at us. Jody Chase caught up with me here, and we chatted all the way into the first AS, into which I got exactly at 1:20, on the spot and 5 minutes faster than in 2010. I made one great decision I will be thankful for the rest of the day and that saved my day and made it all happen - instead of starting with 1 bottle as originally planned and picking up the second at 14M in, I started with 2 - and I drained both of them by the time I rolled into Meadows. 

Photo by Lynne Cao
 That made me aware of the day that much more, and I made sure to refill both of my bottles at the first AS, while "loosing" Jodi as a running companion. I tuned into my music, and what do you know, mid-way to the second AS, I plowed right through the turn onto the hill for 5 minutes, until remembered Scotty said there should be ribbons every 2 minutes! I still took another couple of minutes, already realizing what happened, came to a paved road - which was totally not marked and with nobody ahead or behind - and busted downhill to find my way back on the course. Well, yea, I am destined to get lost in pretty much all of my races, and despite some 10 minutes lost, I didn't allow myself any pity - deep breath "At least we got it out of the way early!". That also allowed me to catch up with my other friend, Jess Mulen, who was trying to do my MMT100/SD100 stunt (unfortunately, it wasn't her day), and we chatted for a few minutes, until I pulled away. Jess asked me how I felt, and, well, my answer was "achy". I wasn't lying. My hamstrings and my butt were pretty hurting, and I almost laughed that I had over-worked it at my own Bootcamp on Thursday! What a stupid idea! But, I was here, and I knew it would loosen up eventually...
               
Photo courtesy Joel Livesey, FB
Second AS, Red Tail Boost at mile 13.8, came 2:40 in, what was only - and that's the important part - 5 minutes behind, despite wandering off for 10 minutes. I was running well, and feeling smooth by now. I was calm and ready to have a great day.
"I went off course" - photo by Liza Howard

The heat was coming in, and by Todd's cabin I was already finding stragglers on the trail and passing them. I think it was hitting 90F by then, and I told some guy "5 more minutes, and we take a turn to the left and dive to Todd's" - as the turn came, we dropped, and I almost threw my water bottles to a volunteer (thank you!) as I stopped prior the table and dozed into the ice water bucket with sponges. Heaven on Earth! I would do it on and on at each and every station from there until sunset, and that was another decision that had saved my race. Those 15 seconds of cooling myself off were priceless. I picked up more time, and now was 2 minutes ahead of my pace chart.

Now, it may sound funny, but those who had followed my blog and read my race reports, know I am pretty good on my time predictions. How I do it is beyond my own understanding, but that said, I always have an estimate, and if all goes well, I hit those arrivals to aid stations like a clock. Thus, my mood often depends on where I fall between the numbers, and that is important point before I go on to the next sections write ups.
I ran in to a Penny Pine 1, mile 23.6, in great spirits, fully aware of my body, and picked up my gels for the next section (having consumed each of the ones I had at the start, what meant I am on track with calories) - and one EXTRA bottle. AND - this was my one and only mistake I had done all day - I did NOT fill that extra bottle! Why? I don't know. I was draining fully to the last drop both bottles between aid stations in 1 hr 10 minutes, and the next stretch was predicted to be 1:30 - why did I not get an extra water bottle filled? Alas, I didn't. It was almost 8M, and even though on a elevation profile it looks downhill, don't let it full you: it has hills, AND it is one of the most technical downhills you had seen. The only nice part was in the middle, for may be a mile and half, in the tree shade, on dirt (and even there I saw guys sitting with head down), the rest - exposed, rocks and more rock. The heat was on. It was past 12 pm, and not only it felt scorching hot from the sky, the dusty trails radiated the heat from beneath your feet and right back at you. And oh, the dust! It was eating into your nose, your mouth, your eyes...by then I already developed some kind of eye infection, and my left eye was producing pus non-stop, and wiping it with my dirty fingers did not do any good to it. And to add an insult to the injury, my right knee, that very knee that was hurting so bad between mid-April and mid-May and then miraculously got "treated" via running McDonald Forest 50k with 7300 feet of elevation gain - it was screaming! So, between getting dehydrated and trying to hobble sideways gently down the rocks, I knew I am about to a) get a heel blister, b) get behind in liquids, c) fall off the pace. My both bottles were dry exactly at 1:10, and there was no end of that stretch in sight. Then there were mountain bikers...now, don't get me wrong. This is a trail, and we all share it. I had never in my life had problems with mountain bikers on a single track, we all managed to be nice and courteous. And here there were, 5 of them, constantly passing, stopping to wait for each other and hang out (?) so we'd pass by, then passing again, on those exposed rocks on the side of the mountain. Annoying! Sometimes they'd bunch up to the point it was difficult to get around on a narrow technical terrain. And then on one stretch 2 of them passing, and the first says: "Those ultra chicks are surely all so gorgeous", and as I am about to smile ear to ear, another responds: "Yeah, but they are all brain-dead". WTF??!! The laughed in agreement, and luckily for them finally pulled away for good, as I was about to push them off the cliff. I wasn't brain-dead YET, and surely not deaf!
Photo by Lynne Cao
Anyway, a full 40 minutes passed with not a drop of water, and we finally arrived to a MASH unit called Pine Creek AS, mile 31 (Jimmy's AS report), where we'd go on a 5M loop before returning to the same spot. People were HURTING, and it was a crazy mess. Angela Shartel, a great runner in her own right, was running a show sharp - I gave my bottles to someone, and dipped my head straight into that ice bucket. One volunteer grabbed sponges and dozed my shoulders off while my head was in, and Angela touched me with "How are you doing, under control?". Yep, all under control, you got more job with others than you bargained for. That loop recorded 108F. It was as if steam was coming off your skin pores. And because I was later than planned, I also figured I am low on my gels. BUT I finally got back in a game by filling that 3rd bottle (and 2 normal) with ice and water, drinking a full cup, and walking out. I dissolved a serving of EnduroFuel in one of the bottles as an extra calories and salt (so far I had been doing 1 Succeed! cap or 2 MetaSalt caps per hour alternating), and I drunk it in a matter of 5 minutes. The loop had a climb and a descend to it, but it wasn't that simple, and it was open, and I was out of water, again, for the last 10 minutes. But I felt I was catching up, and my loop split was only 5 minutes slower than predicted - and the most important part of making my race what it was - I STAYED CALM! I was OK, completely, truly OK with where I was despite by now, coming back to Pine Creek at mile 36 at 2:50 pm, full 25 minutes behind. I couldn't even believe it myself. It wasn't that I was trying to talk myself into "calm" - it was from within. I told myself - only once - that whatever finishing time happens doesn't matter, as long as I take care of each step the right way, and utilize all that I learned in my previous 19 finishes of 100M races - and that was it. No more dwelling or coming back to it. 

I dove again into ice bucket, filled my 3 bottles with ice and water, picked 3 extra gels (since that time delay my supply was not where it had to be until next drop bag), and was ready to power 8M climb.
      
I remembered that climb. The first 2M are on black-top paved road, and ridiculously, very steep. I had made it 3 years ago in 2 hrs, and that's what I had given myself this year as well. I just put my head down and worked. I also knew that this year they are having an impromptu mini-AS at the top of the paved section and will have ice, water and Popsicle's. That allowed me to drain my first bottle without hesitation - I reached the ladies, refilled, picked up that Popsicle (I am not a big fan, but hey, it was cold, and it was awesome!), and ran away with it on a little down section, before the Big Climb came up on the side of the ridge.

And I was drinking. Non-stop, all 3 of my bottles. And hiking. No thoughts in a process, just get this last most difficult stretch over with, and stay strong and positive. I could feel energy filling up my muscles as the water was refilling the cells. I knew I was ok, and as the trail leveled off before throwing us onto a road with cheering people, I was running - I was running flats and even inclines - and feeling wonderful.
Photo by Lynne Cao, coming into 44M


My drop bag had my gels and another V8 juice can, I was 30 minutes behind, and I was delighted. I saw Jodi sitting down, more folks in a shade, dozed myself with those ice sponges and walked out strong, and before I knew it, I was running again. It was 5 pm, and the life was about to begin...

Mile 51 at Sunrise was simply wonderful. This is where my biggest drop bag was, with headlamps, a windbreaker, sleeves, bandana, and more gels and V8, as well as socks. I came in 6:25 pm, at 11:25 race time...oh, my God. This was late, the latest I told Larry I can be there and still give a shot to sub-24. But - still only 30 minutes behind, so I didn't loose any more time. And feeling awesome! And that's exactly what I said to a volunteer who asked how I felt - and he was "Hmm, this is a first". But that was true! I knew I had a heel blister, so I sat down and took my dirty socks off, popped that baby, wiped it off with those dirty socks, pulled on a fresh pair (ah!). A cute couple waiting for their runner was at my service as my personal crew - I was so grateful! They unpacked my drop bag, got me ice in a cup for my V8 juice ("Bloody Mary Russian style" - AS captain said), helped me shove the jacket into my UltrAspire Spry (a pretty tiny pack, come to think about), filled all my bottles, shoved my gels into all pockets, pulled my sleeves onto arms (no space in a pack), bandana on a head (same reason), headlamp on (early, but again, pack is small!), and discarded all my garbage, including those dirty socks (I think they were so into it, had I said I want those socks washed and back, they'd do it - thank you!).
Photo by Milan Kovacevic

And I RAN out! Literally! I spent exactly 5 minutes in there, and I feel great about every second of those! My race was made during those last 3 aid stations and stretches, with staying calm and positive and taking good - no, awesome! - care of myself. I put my Garmin on, clicked "Start" for the first time, and the first mile got clocked at 8:10 min/mile...Whoa, baby, hold it! I was flying! I can not explain how I felt, and having finished those 19 100M prior, I knew it is a LONG way from "here" to "there" and things happen. But somewhere deep inside, very deep, I had that sixth, or seventh, sense - I am going to make it happen. Today, on this hot freakin' day, with 11:30 for the first half of the race, I am going to run amazing splits, stay totally strong and prove to myself that when you put the work in, when you believe in yourself, when you stay smart and positive - good things happen.

And I ran. I remembered that section well from 3 years ago, how I tried to choke on some airport nuts package for my fuel (I was being cheap back then) while walking, and now easily consuming my second bottle of EnduroFuel and gels. No, I didn't clock anymore 8 min/mile, although I ran almost all section what felt like a great run, and was a bit discouraged (for the first and only time in a day) that it still took me exactly 1:30 as planned (it seemed I should have been faster/sooner, and I needed to pick up a few minutes on each section if I wanted to break 24). But I exhaled, filled up (dropped my 3rd bottle, finally) and went on to a next section.

I was so fast transitioning at the AS's, I never saw how many people were still sitting, and at times I was hurrying the volunteers to get faster at bottle filling, dismissing (and trying to be as polite as my damaged brain allowed) their questions and suggestions, while pointing at my bib number and saying: "My 20th 100, I am good, self-sufficient, no worries". I know they were trying to help and were just amused of me not doing anything besides filling those after bottles and flying out. I ran out of Stonewall at 59M and passed 3 couples of runner/pacer combo, and one guy slapped me on a back/shoulder "Good job" - but he slapped with such excitement I almost flew down! It was ok, though, I think I threw off all of them with my screaming by.

After a bit (just a tad over a mile) of flattish field running, there was a sharp left turn, and I knew a HUGE climb was coming. This is also where the dusk fell, and I turned my headlamp on. And few steps later, as I run, I suddenly (actually!) pay attention to the trail and see a Rattler coming slowly across the single track! Yowser! I stopped dead, and so did she. Great! Half a body of a foot and half was laying blocking my way. I picked up a couple of branches and threw them snake's way, but I missed, and it didn't move. It was testing me? I have a race to run, you mofo! I looked to the right (in the direction away from where the rattler was going) and tried to get into the grassy area to go around. In a couple of steps I get into thick bushes, then face a big rock formation. Great. I go left to the trail, not remembering exact location of that snake I left behind, but I made it - my FIRST encounter with a rattle snake, and in such an important race!

The climb starts sharp, and my Garmin slows the count. What I did (and I made that decision on the fly, and that was yet another very smart and helpful one) was I would start the Garmin at Zero at every AS, then, knowing how many miles to the next and how much time I need to make it in (adjusting to the fact I need to find 30 minutes in the next 50 miles), I would try and push myself every mile, and if one would "fall off", that simply meant I had to do more power/running next mile. It was a great. I had focus, extreme focus, not a blink of sleep or discouragement (besides pus clogging my left eye). I was working to make my dream happen. For myself. For Larry. For my dumb kids. For my coaching clients and all the friends - who believed in me, but also that they would also believe in themselves. Nothing was going to stay on my way...

Well, besides another rattler, as I lifted my leg and realizes what was underneath and was airborne jumping high over. For the rest of the climb every stick seemed to be a snake...thanks, I lived in TX for 4 years and haven't had a privilege, and here, in one stretch of 2 miles, I got 2!

But eventually the climb was over, and 2M descend ensured, and I hobbled here in 2010 with blistered feet, but ran (may be not great, but ran) this time. And without paying attention before, now I looked down on my watch, and wow - I was back on pace! Just like that! Somehow, somewhere, I picked up all the time I needed, and it was mile 64.2, Paso Picacho, and it was 9:25 pm, and I was right where I needed to be! I got my last drop bag, turned my waist lamp on, and got out quickly. Gels were becoming daunting, and I was looking forward some soup at the next AS. The night was warm, not only I never got a chance to pull my jacket out (and carried it the whole way!), I didn't even have to pull my sleeves up much (and only for comfort of not having them bunched up). I also didn't pee every 2 minutes by a liter - something my body does when night gets cold during a 100. Only every 10 minutes by a cup (pardon details, but it did save time!).

Of course, my wild life meetings weren't over, as the first skunk runs across and sprays the air - not directly at me (thank God), but I do run through a tail of its cloud, and then smell it on myself for the rest of the night. Another 20 minutes later, as a runner and his pacer approaching me from behind, another skunk crossing the trail, and I stop and yell "Skunk!", and we all kind of trying to smile. But all is good, and I ran, and power-walk, and do what I can, even though my gel consumption is down to 2/hr.

I get to Sweetwater (and FYI, that section was a full 0.25M longer! Just saying:)) - and "order" soup, quickly pour it in, grab my 2 bottles (still asking for ice in them!) - and I am out before all those who came well before me. Right on time, baby, right on time.

At some point I got emotional and talked to my body. You know, one of those: "You and I are a team, a great team. Sorry for coming down on you often, for calling you fat and being unhappy with how you look - it doesn't matter how you look, because how you work is absolutely incredible!".

And that how the night continued. 1 gel, 1 AS soup, power-through, looking for trail markers, hoping not to get lost, remembering some familiar signs and finding solace in it, clicking miles away, staying on task, getting a few more blisters from all the rock on the trail beating my feet (Sportiva Helio's are not a 100M shoe, not for technical trails anyway).

And funny thing is, not only was I never bored, the miles clicked very quickly, and I never thought to myself "Why the heck am I doing it?"

There was nothing exciting to describe, until, after Penny Pine AS at mile 91.5, which I left at 4:20 (and left behind the 2nd bottle, to empty hands a bit), I run some and begin a stupefying climb, turn off my headlamp as the dawn approaches...look to the left into the bushes on the side of the trail - and see 2 green eyes and a black line right above them. "Egyptian eyes" Larry called them.Yep, that's exactly what they were - 2 green eyes with lateral sides slightly higher, starring right at me. I blink - what kind of animal is as tall as 5 feet bushes, not a rabbit...I don't know why I thought rabbit first. I slowly take a look to the right - a wall of a mountain - back left - the eyes moved 2 feet up, all of it happening less than 10 feet ahead of me. It dawns on me - it is not a joke or hallucination. It is a mountain lion. Great. Rattle snakes, skunks - and now a cougar??? Jesus, really? I am trying to remember what I read in Joe Grant's and Candice's reports about their "meets" while going around Mt. Rainier. For the weirdest reason (I guess those bikers were right after all about our brain damage) the fear doesn't penetrate me. I mean, I am kind of scared, but mostly I am pissed off. I got a 3M freaking climb on rocky trail to make, I am at mile 92-93 of a 100M run, I got sub-24 on a line when nothing is for sure, and I have a mountain lion blocking my way! No fucking way! I spread my arms wide and growl. Don't laugh. In the 5 years I lived in Oregon and ran Columbia River Gorge more often alone than not, I thought about meeting one of those, and I always thought I'd probably either drop dead from a heart attack or scream like a girl. But here I am, growling what I think resembling a bear (what do I know, I never met a bear either!)! I make s step forward looking intently and trying to remember - should I look or not? Why did I not memorize what to do with various animals? Some of them don't like starring and attack, some don't like and run away. Which one is this?? The eyes moved one more time up. I step forward again, looking - and then not looking, because it's kind of IS scary, you know, and also trying to predict next moves: if it comes, I'll smack the shit out of it with my water bottles! I'll punch it in the face and poke its freaking eyes out! I got no time here, I am late!

I walk forward, and look forward - nothing. Turn my head back - but I can't really focus well while moving up. I look back over the shoulder, squinting my pus0filled eye, 4-5 more times, while continuing growling and waving my arms wide, and then decide, screw it, this is too tiring. Nothing happens, and, believe it or not, it is soon forgotten, and only this stupid joke of a climb, technical, 3 miles vertical, at mile 94, is all that matters. How long is THAT going to be for? (p.s. the winner, Jeff Browning, saw a cougar at mile 98, what for him was about 6 hrs earlier).

Finally, it's over the hump, and I actually manage to run down hill to the last AS. It is ALMOST a relief, it is 5:44 am, and I have a full hour for the last 4 miles, what a volunteer tells me: "You got it!". I freak out just a bit, with my mouth stuffed with banana (forget gels by now, I am running on empty): "NOTHING is a given in a 100 miler! Nothing!". I mean, folks, I can still get lost, break my leg, fall in convulsions...it's 4 miles! A guy and his pacer pass me here (I think same as with the skunk), and I let them go - I can see that the runner is getting almost dragged by a pacer (a pacer is running far ahead, and the dude was not moving happily, who is at mile 96?). I was counting steps, truly. I was going by memories. Those are not downhill miles as chart says, they roll, they flat, the cross the field - they pop at the edge of a campground - and then, this year, they ruthlessly take you for another 3/4 mile around on a pavement! Oh, sweet baby, that was not nice. I kept looking over the shoulder, because suddenly, while the whole day I had no clue of my position (what I get for having no crew) - I could have been 2nd or 12th and no difference - it became important to not get passed by a girl. So I actually kind of run, and finally turn the corner...
Photo by Lynne Cao


I finished the race, my SD100, in 23:35:55. On a day that will go down the history books as the scorcher, without a crew or a pacer, while training in flat Texas not exceeding 60 miles per week (which in my good years back in OR had been considered a base level off-season running), I had reached out far, grabbed my dream and held on to it tight.
Photo by Lynne Cao, Scotty Mills holds me from falling while I am crying.

Photo by Lynne Cao. Paul Schmidt shares my moment.

Angela and Scotty gave me a hug, and I cried a little. Joe Prusaitis and Paul Schmidt told me I managed to be 18th overall and 4th female and pretty close to 3rd (darn, this is where crew would have been nice with the information, I would have found another gear! - yes, I am competitive after all) - on a day when only about 44% of the field finished. I know a lot of folks bring their friends to pace, and nothing deters it from the fact a runner still has to run a race - they do. And those very folks, not only do they get help, encouragement, and so on, they also say they love sharing their trail time and accomplishments (and prevent from boredom of a late night time in a 100). I had a handful of 100 with pacers, they were awesome. But doing it solo, it is just different. It is so deep to the core yours, what you're made of. I come to a race because I want to know what's inside me. If I got what it takes. I share trails with others via the fact that we ALL do the same thing - I don't have to be next to you doing it. I love digging in. It makes me stronger. Not physically. It makes me stronger to be able to get through that very "stuff" in life I seem to not being able to shake off, like it's glued to me, like it's forever. So, I need it, that believe that I can. That I can - on my own. That, while I have amazing support of my husband and life partner, and my friends, many of whom were extremely instrumental in helping me hold it together last few months - if I need to, I can do it myself. Just in case...

3 years at SD100
I am still in awe, and it's funny how many people said "We didn't expect any less of you". It kind of makes me a little mad, almost. I appreciate a sentiment, but really it feels like my achievement gets less because of that. And it's not. This is to date the best executed race - 100 or not 100 - I had done. Even with WS100 in 2005 and a great day and similar splits, this one is mine, and on a day like it was it is THAT much sweeter.

I am going to add photos as Lynn will put them up and I buy them (yes, I plan to buy every photo I find of this race), and I am going to take a full month off running (well, besides the 2 miles a day streak, which yesterday was fulfilled wearing flip-flops at a pace of 22min/mile).
The Swag - if you're into it - the biggest ever. Photo by Catra Corbett.

I had a shower and half-slept right at the finish line for a couple of hours. Then I tried to make my way to the airport, but was falling asleep, and pulled off to Paul's home and took another 30 min nap. I finally made it, and slept on the floor between flights (almost missing one of them). Sometime towards that evening, I remembered I still haven't eaten, and tried to consume a salad - but chewing was exhausting, and I gave up half-way in. I didn't get in my home bed until 2 am Monday (poor Larry had to stay up picking me up from the airport), and with my back pain (somewhere I managed to throw it off big time) and my feet swollen, I actually, for the very first time, took a day off from work - sick day, which I felt exactly a right description. But it wasn't because I was sick - it was because I wasn't ready to face the world yet. I took Harrison to the cold waters of Barton Spring creek, and treated my "canckles". I have not a single muscle ache (go figure!) besides the feet and my back. May be I didn't run hard enough. Come to think about, because my right knee was always mad at me at every steep downhill, I didn't take on those hard at all. May be there is a sub-23 in me for the course...but I am not about to find it out.



This is the best race, truly is. I will (and was) recommend it to anyone any minute, and if you pay my way, I'll come and help you out. Scotty, Paul, Angela, Steevie, Jimmy, all the volunteers (top-notch ultrarunners themselves, hand-picked by Scotty) - you will never be disappointed. The beauty of the cliffs, the rugged terrain will make it worth your work every step. The simplicity of a 100M run  is emphasized here - and it IS simple: you just put one foot in front of another...and you take good care of yourself...and you stay positive.

This is how it is in life. The lesson we keep forgetting. May be that's why we keep returning...no matter how many times we swear to give it up:)

p.s. a conversation forwarded to me fro the Ultralist - thank you for kind words!!!:

Susan Rice - ...One woman, I think it was Olga Varmalos, was particularly impressive to me. She just got stronger as the race progressed. Every time she came into a station she focused on going forward - no crew, no pacer...(I think). She finished in under 24 hours. I don't know her, but she was astonishing to watch.

Lisa Bliss - Yeah, that's Sweet Olga (Varlamova) King, for ya'! We miss her here in the PNW. She now hails from TX where she says there is no better heat training. :)
She's run more than a few and won more than a few ultras. She's had her ups and downs in training over the years, but she always comes back strong. She's tough as nails but is the kind of person that exudes enthusiasm for life. She is a wife, mother, great friend to me and many others, a fantastic athlete and an inspiration.
Just a shout out to Olga!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Ultra week on Tribesports

We all know in this day and age Social Media is booming beyond my old-school third-world-upbringing comprehension. I am often having hard time catching up and keeping up, but the many of new websites providing means for news, collaborations, support and exchange of ideas are pretty awesome. Occasionally, I stumble onto something, other times, that "something" stumbles upon me.

Enter TribeSports. It's a site that offers to put together folks depending on their sport of choice. They have everything you can think about, general and more precise split. From paddling to yoga to beach volleyball...

That said, a week of June 7th to June 13th is their Ultra Week. Every day of that week they will post content that relates to Ultrarunning. Their communication person, Adrian Kastelic, emailed me and asked a couple questions for their poll, and whom am I to not respond when it's about my passion?

I am including below my answers (which are short), but please be sure to check into their Blog Site and see what else they got talked about from day to day, and may be join a Tribe for your sport(s) of choice! 


Which Ultra Marathon would you recommend to first time ultrarunners?
If road and 50k - Caumsett 50k in NYC, often served as USATF championship, a loop course for a good intro and great community.
If trail 50k - McKenzie River 50k in OR, a flatter but extremely scenic course with history over 20 years!

50M - American River in CA (an easier intro to road-to-trail), White River in WA (totally scenic and "only" 2 climbs)
Which Ultra Marathon has been your all-time favorite?

You got me lost here:)
50M - Zane Grey takes number 1 for gnarly-ness and terrain (love tough stuff).

ZG50 - 2006
ZG50 - 2007
ZG50 - 2009
Pocatello comes close 2nd.
Pocatello50 - 2009 
Pocatello 50 - 2012
100M - a toss-up between San Diego and Hardrock (they are just two different beasts). Bighorn's flowers  (and jumbo shrimps at the AS) are magnificent.

SD100 - 2005 (win and CR) 
SD100 - 2007 (crewing and pacing) 
SD100 - 2010 (racing) 

Hardrock 100 - 2008 (crewing and pacing) 
Hardrock 100 - 2009 (running) 
Hardrock100 - 2011 (sweeping) 

Bighorn 100 - 2007 
Bighorn 100 - 2008 

p.s. I don't repeat courses unless I love them. These 5 races are truly my favorite. I am on my way back to San Diego 100 as you're reading this post!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Someone awesome I've met on trails.

The Trail Runner magazine (online version) is awesome. Not only they publish great dirty news (and lately they really lean heavily towards ultrarunning in their paper version, which could be a good and not so good thing, depending how you look at it), they also have a blog going on, where not only they have writers present their opinions on various topics, they allow us, normal folks who love playing on trails, to participate via their Trail Runner Blog Symposium. The idea is kind of like a Synchro-Blog: a bunch of normal bloggers get a notification what is the next topic for the Symposium is, agree to add our voice, write a blog post on our own blog - and submit the link to the Major Page.

June topic? Tell about someone awesome you've met through trail running.
And we all know how much I LOVE writing about THIS one! There are many, many people who are very, very awesome and special that life allowed me to meet because I joined trails, and, especially, trail ultrarunning. The people who find their passion in this what used to be an odd niche are incredible, and when you meet them, open your heart to them, share your pains (and not just physical) - the bond lasts forever.I can list all the "famous" folks who had become wonderful friends over the last 12 years, I can list my crazy and committed running partners, but the most awesome person I had met was the one who chose to spend his life with me, through thick and thin, sickness and health, rich or poor...yes, Mr. Larry King. And we met not simply "through" trail running - we met, quite literally, on trails. Lets the story begin...

There is this little race, Zane Grey 50, that I consider my favorite of all 50's I've done. I had run it in 2006 and had an amazing time, proving myself I am good at exactly this kind of things, crazy tough, with terrain and elements that put many folks down. I decided to come back in 2007. There was an injury involved, and some struggles, but as I said - this was MY kind of race, so I persevered - and made a small connection that I had no idea would go anywhere. There was this guy, who read my blog, and introduced himself before the race - we shook hands, and then...he passed me at mile 3, I passed him at mile 25, and that was it, the history, a normal thing, a thing that happens to each of us every time we go on a trail.

We were both married at the time, and from time to time would check into each others blog. Something he wrote once touched me, it felt that he was seeking support in a darkness of time - I felt it, I was in my own dark days...and I reached out, told him to hold on. Turns out, there was a reason we felt connection, all of a sudden - those dark times were of the same proportion for both of us: we happened to be ending our perspective 18 years old marriages. That was weird, but that was all there was.

Another few months pass by, and I come to check out this new great race in NM, Jemez 50. The terrain and difficulty seems to be right up my alley, I arrive - and who comes to shake my hand again at a pre-race meeting but Larry. And so I joked: "Don't let the history repeat itself!".

The race began as always, with me holding my reins, and slowly making my way through the field. Somewhere at mile 30 I come up on, yes, Larry! He is having struggles with his energy and with his hip, and I smile, and all I can say is: "You better hang on to mys skirt, don't let me drop you again!".
And so we go, together, and in a matter of minutes, we talk just about everything in life. Our running, training, trails. Our families, former spouses, kids. How it all affected us - and how we have no clue what to do next. We laugh, we gasp, we get lost. We take a hundred of photos, and we enjoy the views, even as we push, and push forward relentlessly...
I won't repeat myself of that race recap, it was done already. But life's story was only beginning to get written...

He emailed me with "thanks for saving my behind", I responded with "Anytime you want to see Oregon, come over and I'll play your tour guide". 2 weeks later he, a guy who thinks months before making any kind of decisions, was on a flight to Portland - and what a weekend it was!.






There was many more trail meetings, all 14 months of it - because from that moment on, we knew, just like that, our lives are meant to be together, and so all we did was fly to races we ran together, supported one another, or just explored new trails. I remember Hardrock 2008, where I spent 2 weeks playing and pacing my running partner Mike Bushwhacker and Larry visited for a weekend - I bought a map for the mountains the course traverses, and had dozens of folks sign up on it for Larry. Most signs read something in tune of "Are you sure you know what you're getting yourself into?". That was fun...this map is cherished in our home, and so is Hardrock 100, which served as my running highlight in 2009 - and Larry's pacing (low-light, which we still have a lot of smiling about) .
Handy's peak, 2008
Hardrock 2009.
And that would be the story, but the trails did not stop being part of our lives. I said recently to a guy who interviewed me for iRunfar.com, it's not that we've met on trails is what brings us so close. It's the fact that both of us love them, and what surrounds them - the solitude, the challenges, the beauty, the views, the camaraderie, the unknown, the simplicity, the nakedness of existence and sharpness of thoughts...

And so it was no surprise that I was driving my car across the country in the heat of the summer of 2009 from Portland, OR to Austin, TX, and no surprise that the venue for our commitment to each other was, you guessed it, local trails.
There is nothing easy in life, but nothing that's easy is what remembered or cherished. We have our challenges, and we work through them - together, my awesome husband and a wonderful man, one who believed in me, who chose to love me as I am, who thinks I am pretty awesome as well - and I.