Tahoe 200 - Wow That was Fun!

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Tahoe 200 - Wow That was Fun!

I wasn’t totally positive I could do it. But the Iditarod loomed on the horizon and I knew I needed to at the very least try the distance. I had gone through a range of emotions surrounding the race mostly thinking I should drop out before the race had even begun. Was it really going to help me for the Iditarod? I like winter racing and I haven’t raced any 100 mile+ distances that didn’t involve snow and sled dragging. Winter races have barely any elevation gain, are at sea level, and have maybe a check point every 20 to 100 miles. The races have roughly 10 runners, and I’m pretty positive the race director doesn’t even follow the runners progress because they very aptly refer to us as the “walkers”. For me the Tahoe 200 didn’t really fit into my goals very well. But I had registered and with no option for a refund I was committed and getting excited for the new and different challenge it would present.

In the months leading up to the Tahoe 200, I got the flu, had eye surgery, got a deep laceration with 12 stitches in my knee, and did one training run (The GR20) across Corisca. Needless to say I was very very well rested. About two weeks before the race I tried to formulate a plan for crew, drop bags, and pacing but winter races don’t allow crew or pacing or even drop bags so I felt very out of place. My last minute, roped together, still barely committed crew would be a group of 4 people that had never met before. I was finally getting excited.

The day before the race I packed some random, barely thought out drop bags in the parking lot of pre race and then the nerves started to set in. My best friend Julia was also doing the race and we vented about the craziness of such an endeavor. I had been feeling ill for a few days. I’ve never been the best at eating so it was no surprise that for the few days leading up to the race my stomach was an absolute mess. That night Stacey, Corbin, and I formulated a plan for crewing and we all said good night. In the morning I would head to the start line to run 205 miles. A feeling that is hard to describe toeing the line for such an absurd distance.

The gun went off and we all quickly made our way up the first climb. I was still feeling sick to my stomach and was assuming it was just the nervous and would wear off once I settled into the race. But the first hill came and went, then the first aid station, and then a long runnable section of the TRT that dumped us onto the Rubicon trail. I was slowing drastically on terrain I should have been able to run. I kept up for a bit with a nice lady named Kate from Texas. She had just gotten down with the Bigfoot and was shooting for the triple crown. I was super impressed and we chatted for a bit till I fell off the back of her pace. I kept reminding myself to run your own race but I do enjoy trail company. The next aid station came and went and I was still struggling bad with my stomach. I decided to cut my water bottle with ginger ale hoping to gain some relief. As I headed out of that aid station the skies opened up. I quickly threw on my jacket and poncho and put my head down as the rain poured over my body. The trail was barely a trail at this point. Densely over grown, steeping over logs, and getting my rain poncho stuck in bushes. It was a short 6 miles with barely any elevation gain that went by slower than molasses. I was convinced that trail was only ever used for this race.

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As I arrived at the next aid station a seat and some relief from the rain was welcomed. I ate a bunch of food, changed my socks, and got ready to go back into the rain. It was raining harder now and my poncho had seen better days after all the bushwhacking. The trail also had retained almost all the water leaving it a huge river of a mess. I was still moving slow but had settled into a group of people that I saw occasionally back and forth between pee breaks and eating. The rain had subsided enough to ditch the poncho. It was a long up hill followed by a downhill to the last aid station before I’d see Stacey and get some trail company. 20+ miles though would mean I’d have at least one very long cold lonely night out.

As the sun started to set it started to become real. I was sick to my stomach, alone, in a dark and densely forested woods. 30 miles from a road and who knows how far from help. My brain started to race. I am deathly afraid of the woods at night and I am not often faced with this fear. Snow is bright and reflective at night and the forests aren’t as dense as the barely traveled woods behind desolation. Everyone in the world knew exactly where I was in that moment. My backpack was publishing this information to the web. I started to panic. My breathing became shallow. Tears welled in my eyes. I contemplating ditching my spot tracker and just running for it. In that moment a runner came up from behind and asked how I was doing. In a belabored shallow breath I exclaimed something inaudible. The man behind me followed in silence as I tried to repeat. I’m afraid of the dark and I’m having a panic attack. He finally understood what was going on and said don’t worry about it. I’ll stay with you for a bit and get you through the dark. I felt an inexplainable sense of relief. I took a few deep breaths and got my breathing under control. It was going to be okay. I was going to be okay.

The mans name was Davy he was a local as well and we chatted through to the next aid station. I had picked up my pace enough to keep up but knew I was holding him back. I didn’t feel well. I had no appetite and I was clearly missing some key nutrition. Davy made me take some salt tablets and suck on some chips. We tried a bunch of things hoping my stomach would make a come back but half way to Sierra at Tahoe it was clear I wasn’t speeding up but actually slowing down. Davy got me out to the open road and took off. The last thing I said to him was see you at the finish. Even though in that moment I think we both knew I probably wouldn’t make it. I had been trying at every aid station to get a hold of Corbin to tell him I needed him at the Sierra at Tahoe aid station my Altra Lone peak shoes were soaked and having close to 900 miles on them were as good as being barefoot at this point. Plus I really wanted to sleep in my van and at that point maybe even just go home. The next 3 miles of downhill on pavement were the hardest. My feet were bruised on the bottom, my calves felt like giant knots, and I was so cold I kept dreaming of curling up on the warm black top and taking a nap. Unfortunately the black top wasn’t warm but cold and wet from hours of rain. I finally called Corbin and he said he would meet me at Sierra at Tahoe. I felt a sort of relief knowing I had a out if things never got better. However I had gotten into a zone finally. The night time didn’t scare me anymore. I was just moving forward at the pace I needed to move. I walked for a bit with Bobby and Gene the 68 and 69 year old men. In that moment heading to lovers leap we were the youngest and oldest racers on the course. It was fun to enjoy there company. As we approached the last horrible climb up and over Lovers Leap I caught back up to Kate. A badass horse vet from Arizona that I had leap frogged with most of the evening. She was zombie walking and we made a packed to get each other to the next aid station awake and alert. I was still in extreme abdominal pain and I felt bad for holding Kate back but we chatted here and there and just before sunrise stumbled into the Sierra at Tahoe aid station.

Stacey greeted me and I couldn’t have been more excited to see her. She got all of my stuff together and help me get prepared for the next section. I got caught up with Spike who gave me the best advice of the race. I was trying to eat every hour but Spike told me I needed to be eating a little something something every 15 to 20 minutes just to keep my stomach active otherwise it will send all of the blood to my legs and then my digestion shuts down and you feel nauseous… a feeling I was all too familiar with. Then Todd came over looked me dead in the face and said wow you look like shit. I chuckled a little at his brutal honesty and he later gave me a oral IV which may or may not have helped turn my race around. I still wasn’t eating but hoped a little nap would fix things up. I got in the back of the van with Lopi and curled into the fetal position. I was lights out for 2 hrs while Lopi slept squarely on my head. When I woke up I still felt sick but I threw on some compression socks to help with the knotted calves and got prepared to take a nice long walk with my good friend Stacey. My motto this race was I either have to time out or be pulled for medical. Otherwise I’m walking. I was super bummed on how hard it was to time out at this race.

The new shoes, the welcomed company, the compression socks, and a new way of thinking about eating made the miles pass quickly. Stacey entertained me with stories and I just spewed hate for no real good reason. We sat every once and awhile to get the pressure off of my feet but ultimately I felt like we were moving well. A quick little teaser storm made us dawn the ponchos again over Armstrong pass but the weather cleared quickly and set us up for a beautiful night. When we got into the next aid station my stomach was still upside down but improving slightly. I sat in the back of the van for a bit chatting with Creedance and his kick ass in-laws that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing several times out on the course. Creedance had come all the way from Santa Cruz to pace me so I at least need to walk with him. Plus I was hours off of the cut off. Corbin and Lopi had been eating fried chicken so I ate some of that before getting ready for another long cold night as we went up and over Freel peak and down to Heavenly.

Creedance and I had never met before so it only seemed fitting to get to know each other at night when I’m a bit tired, sick, and grumpy. We got off to a rough start as the sunset and we made our way up and over the highest point of the course, Freel peak. I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t feeling super talkative. I apologized a few times to Creedance letting him know I wasn’t always such a crabby patty. He didn’t seem to mind and entertained me with small talk here and there with my ya, cool, huh, sweet generic responses. Maybe about half way through to Heavenly I finally broke through. My spirits lifted and we chatted back and forth about this and that. We took a few sits the most notable being when we came to this beautiful over look of Lake Tahoe at night. I sat in the bushes the big moon and stars and lights below. We had a moment of aw as we shoveled some food in our mouths until Creedance said… actually you know that’s actually Carson City. We laughed about that afterwards the several minutes of complete disorientation. Creedance really cracked the wipe on the way to Heavenly it might have been the several heart attacks he gave me ever time he went pee and then charged down the trail after me at 6 min mile pace. Or maybe it was because we thought it was 20 miles and it only ended up being 15. Needless to say we got into Heavenly mile 100 at 1am which was 10 hours off the cut off.

Creedance headed home to Santa Cruz and Stacey said she would pace me again the next section to spooner summit. I was only planning to sleep 2hrs and then get back on the road. But 2hrs turned into 6hrs and I wasn’t at all upset with the goodnight sleep I got. I had gotten a strange sense of peace about the race. I was like I just ran 100 miles high five me that is badass! I don’t really need to go anymore but I either have to be pulled for medical or time out so I better keep sleeping till the cut off. Spike came up in my van and taped up my feet really well. A little extra cushion on the forefoot and some blister relief on my pinky toes. My appetite had come back now too and I ate some eggs and pancakes before Stacey and I hit the road 2 hrs off of the cutoff. I planned to just walk really slow in hopes of missing the cut off at spooner summit but I felt so incredibly good that I couldn’t slow down. Stacey and I blazed up and over Spooner summit giving ourselves way more cushion than I wanted. Steve wasn’t planning to meet me at Spooner but I wasn’t sure if I’d make it past Tunnel Creek so he hurried up to the summit to take me what I thought would be my final leg of the race.

Something changed for me on my way to Tunnel Creek my stomach and legs finally hit sync and I was feeling like a million bucks. Not to mention Steve has one of the coolest and most interesting lives to listen too. It was like an audio book on tape. Part 1 Part 2 Part 8… I was holding on by the edge of me seat the whole way to Tunnel Creek. Not to mention a most excellent sunset and we even got to see Marlette Lake in the day light! As we rolled into Tunnel Creek we got fed and dozed off for a hard hour and half nap. I insisted that they needed to be aggressive with me otherwise I’d sleep for another 6hrs. The alarm went off and I wanted to sleep for another hour. Stacey very politely said “You told me to be aggressive”. I came back with well Corbin and I talked and I get another half hour. As I tried to fall back asleep Stacey passively aggressively continued to talk till I caved and got up. I guess aggressive takes different forms but I’m glad I got up. Steve and I headed out for another section to Brockway summit. This starts with a bit of road walking to a straight up over grown scree slope called the power lines.

I actually rather enjoyed the power lines it was a new use of different muscles like stepping up stairs. And sometimes you could even use your hands. Steve and I made good time on this section and completely obliviously gleefully walked by a bear and apparently also a mountain lion. I seemed to making better time on the uphills than downhills since my badly bruised feet wanted nothing to do with pounding downhill. As we neared the top of Martis Peak I ran into my good friend Julia. She wasn’t doing well and could barely make it up the hill without horrible back spasms. I offered some helped but there wasn’t much I could do so we kept moving. Julia stayed with us for a bit and we laughed and chatted about this and that and she got to fully enjoy the farty mess I had been for 2 days now. I knew she was tough as nails and would get the help and rest she needed at Brockway. Steve and I rolled into Brockway right before sunrise. I took a quick 45 minute nap in the back of Stacey’s van, ate some food, and got to hangout with my running club before Steve and I headed for our last section together. I had done this section before so I wasn’t at all worried. I believed it would go fast.

Boy was I wrong. Something had shifted in my brain. I had gone from I wish I would time out, I really enjoyed this, no matter what happens this was an amazing experience to I WANT TO FINISH. I had made it 155 miles and only had 50 miles left to go. I was almost back on the west shore. I was going to the finish if it killed me. I started getting in my head mulling over and over again the thought of only two sections left. Only two sections left. Get to Tahoe City get to the finish. Steve and I barely talked at all. He was tired and had bad blisters I can only imagine suffering in his head wondering why he was doing this. All the pains of an ultra without any of the glory of a finish. Pacing is such a selfless beautiful thing and I owe Steve, Stacey, and Creedance so much pacing time it’s not even funny! But here Steve and I were. Silently suffering in our own heads. The miles going by slower and slower and slower. Steve would ask me every once and awhile if I wanted to sit down and a part of me thinks it’s because he wanted to sit down too. We ran a down hill out of frustration and I felt muscles in my legs come alive it was the first time since the beginning of the race that I ran. That I actually ran. Not an ultra shuffle but a run. It felt amazing! But my feet hurt so bad. Every running step would send a shock wave up through my leg and the pain was slowly eating at my brain. We were in the final downhill to Tahoe City. I had done this section before. All down hill not a single up hill and it just went on forever. In my head I kept feeling defeated. It was never going to come. That’s when Steve asked me how I was doing and I snapped. I yelled in pain and frustration and fatigue MY FEET FUCKING HURT OKAY! In that moment I realized what had happened. And I quickly in an effort to mask the monster I had become turned it into a song. Screaming at the top of my lungs WE’RE WALKING DOWN THE HILL TO TAHOE CITY. WALKING DOWN THE HILL TO TAHOE CITY. WALKING DOWN THE HILL TO TAHOE CITY. WALKING ALL DAY AND WALKING ALL NIGHT! My speed picked up and started to run to the beat of my awful singing. A little nervous for the fact I was loosing my marbles a bit. Steve chimed in with verse two. And by verse 6 we were running down the hill to Tahoe City passing people left and right sharing our joyful awful singing voices. I remember feeling the pain disappear in my feet as I got lost in song and before we knew it we were in Tahoe City.

I felt rejuvenated in Tahoe City with only 30 miles left to go and I could sit down forever and never have to ever get back up. Stacey was pacing me again up and over this last section and I was looking forward to some fresh company. My friend Jesse spotted me walking through downtown Tahoe City and got me all ready to go. Filling my water bottles and making me sandwiches. He was a real sub in crew life saver! It was also nice to see Howie again. But mostly Howie’s dogs. As we left Tahoe City I gave Joey (he’s my favorite) a big old pettings and a kiss. And maybe a little wanted to steal him for the next 20 mile section or for forever… I walked slow out of there trying to eat as much food as I could before we powered up the long last uphill. I felt pretty good in this section running as much as I could. I think Stacey was excited to finally get to run a bit of the trails. I just couldn’t believe how much better and better I kept feeling as the race progressed.

As we neared the top of the big climb the sky started to get dark. It was also getting sunset dark but this was a different dark. A big storm dark. I remembered back to Nolans 14 being up miles above tree line and having the pre shocks hit our hats and poles. This is when you have the decision point. Push hard and fast over the summit and run down below tree line or sit and wait it out before the summit. I felt confident from my time above treeline in storms that we could push it out and over this and make it to safety before things got too dangerous. So the adrenaline sit in and we motored up over the summit and started to run down the other side. WABAM my first fall of the race. I went face down the trail and got right back up and kept running. No time for stumbles when your above treeline in a lightning storm. Then the sky opened up lightening and thunder and sideways rain. We pulled over under a tree and frantically pulled our ponchos over. I knew this was bad. The sun was setting and we were soaked. Jackets and ponchos on with frozen hands we bolted down the trail. I wanted to run as fast and as much as I could before the light completely disappeared and our moving became slow again. I’m not sure how fast we ran that downhill but it felt fast. Tripping over rocks, rolling ankles, and lightly bouncing from foot to foot. My feet seemed to hurt less the faster we ran. Finally we got our headlamps out and I still felt confident enough to run. I knew we had about 3 miles of road which I very strongly opposed to running. It’s just a huge pain on your feet and legs with no real benefit. As we dumped out onto the road my time with Stacey on the trail was finally nearing an end. I felt sad. We had spent over 60 miles together in the past 3 days and it was soon going to be over. We sat down in the road for a bit. My feet were soaked, I could feel the tape on my feet just swimming around in my shoes. Then we got up and powered to the last aid station.

When we got to the final aid station I couldn’t believe I only had 10 miles left to go. I took off my shoes and put them under the heat vents in Stacey’s van and dried my badly trenched feet as well. Stacey got my backpack all ready to go and made sure Corbin was prepared enough for the final miles. I sat comfortably in Stacey’s passenger seat going in and out of consciousness. I asked a few times if I could take a nap to which they both strictly said no. As I prepared to leave the aid station I went over to check out and low and behold Davy was there! I was so happy to see him. He said he had had some knee complications early on and had to drop. And that he was so excited to see me on the tracker. I think we were both surprised to see me at mile 195 feeling so good about to get that finish after the mess I was at mile 50. Crazy how a race can turn around in 200 miles. Corbin and I left the aid station in a light drizzle which quickly turned to a rain and the poncho got pulled out one last time. We powered up the final climb together chatting a bit here and there and enjoying the beautiful silent lightning storm. It was unreal the power of lightening being out there in the elements for 3 days. I wasn’t even afraid but in aw of the beauty. I let Corbin know that if the lightning was too bad when we got up and over Ellis Peak that we might have to cuddle under a tree for a bit and wait it out. But when we got up above tree line the wind and rain were wiping hard and all you could hear is the sound of my poncho flapping beside me.

As we stood on the top of the final downhill. The long long final downhill to the finish. The emotions started to well inside me. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to do it. Up until that point I still wasn’t sure. But here I was with Corbin by my side. I could roll down that hill and still make it with in the time cut off. But I felt like a million bucks. So I ran. I ran that entire downhill as fast I could. Corbin even said his knees started to hurt but I didn’t feel it. I was bouncing off of rocks. Slightly rolling my ankles from side to side. But I was doing it. I was finishing the Tahoe 200. As I ran into the finish line holding Corbin’s hand Stacey has a video of me screaming. Why do I feel so fresh!? I honestly felt like I could keep going. If that was an aid station and someone said you still got another 200 miles left to go I would have taken a 6hr nap and got up and kept going. But that was the finish. And as I crossed the finish line in a haze. Julia embraced me in one of the biggest longest bear hugs I won’t ever forget. I was so confused. I couldn’t understand what she was doing there. I kept repeating what are you doing here? I think she respond with something like you fucking did it dude. I came to watch you finish. I can’t believe you fucking did it. I felt this overwhelming sadness that we didn’t do it together but also a sense of accomplishment. She ran 178 fucking miles. That is huge. Who cares if she didn’t do the last 30. We all have our journey and that was hers. And I would have been happy if my journey was only 50 miles.

We than sat outside and shot the shit for an hour or so. I got my belt buckle and a burrito that was a little too spicy for my sunburnt tongue. Then Corbin and I went home and I slept like a dead person. We said goodbye to Stacey in the morning as she traveled back to Salt Lake City and then we all went back to the award ceremony were I got my first place finishers award for the 20 to 29 age group. Which is surprisingly not a hard age group to win at these races. And that was it. We all returned back to our full time jobs, sleep schedules normalized again, and my stomach after a few days finally came back around to accepting food.

I have to wonder though if my success was just beginners dumb luck. Did I just get lucky that I slept for 6hrs at Heavenly which just happened to do a full body reset and get me at a cruising altitude to finish? Did I just get lucky that I didn’t run anything until Tahoe City and so my legs were never destroyed? Did I just get lucky that the GR20 was the absolute perfect training for this race? People keep saying I raced a really smart race but honestly I didn’t race anything. And to say I did anything intentionally would be a lie. I sat when my body told me it was time to sit. I slept when my body wanted to sleep. And I force fed myself for 4 days straight. All of that to be said. Would I have been as strong mentally without all of the support form Davy, Kate, Stacey, Creedence, Corbin, and Steve? I guess I don’t know. And I don’t want to find out because I find that these experiences are so much more rich because they were shared. So ya I’m scared shitless about the Iditarod and the potential to be completely alone out there for 7 days but I’m ready to embrace any situation that gets thrown my way and just hope another winter crazy wants to walk with me.

So in conclusion I ran 205.5 miles with 35,117 feet of ascent and 35,117 feet of descent. I finished in 89hrs 24minutes. I was 61st overall, the 10th female finisher, and 1st 20 to 29 year old. I slept 11hrs 6 of which were at the 100 mile mark. I wore 12 pairs of Swiftwick socks, ate 15 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, enough gummies and gummy bears to kill a horse, and drank 3 gallons of Skratch Labs. Did I have fun? Too much fun!

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GR20 France - Learning is hard

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GR20 France - Learning is hard

If you came to this post to read about the logistics of running the GR20 from gear to mileages to everything in between you should go read my blog post about the logistics instead. If you've arrived here to read my personal trip report then enjoy!

"It is not possible" a man repeated to us on the trail. "You cannot do it." Another man said. It was a common theme for Libby and I on our 5 day traverse on the GR20 but let's start from the beginning instead.

It was March I think fresh off a failure in Minnesota and preparing to battle the Alaska mountains once again when Libby cold called me. The conversation was something along the lines of you want to run the GR20? Sure! It was a week before our planned adventure when I finally sat down with the book and looked into what it would take to really run the GR20 in 5 days. What I found didn't make me scared but I knew we would be pushing. The book predicted 20 hr days every day. I assumed we would do half the time of their hiking predication if we had perfect days. I printed a couple of copies of a map and the plan and called it good for planning. I wasn't worried of 180km in 5 days with 44,000 feet of gain and 45,000 feet of loss. I'd run 100 miles in 1/5th of the time this to me seemed very doable. As long as I could recover daily and keep my eating right.

My schedule was tight. Libby was uncertain of her ability to get out of Libya on time so we only gave our selves 5 full days in Corisca with a travel day on the front and end. That means I flew from San Francisco to Paris to Nice to Corisca and then started running about 10hrs after landing. As a new world traveler I didn't realize the implications that a trans Atlantic flight would have on my stomach and sleep schedule. But we only had 5 days... so jetlagged or not we were moving. Libby and I met in the airport with our lovely couch surfing host Philipp. He was a huge part in our success. He gave us tons of useful information, took us to swim in the Mediterranean, helped us buy groceries, made us dinner, and even drove us to the trailhead at 6am the next morning.

The alarm chirped at 5am. I had barely slept that night from jet lag and the air conditioning being too cold. We rolled out of bed got our things together and ate a quick breakfast. I had some yogurt thinking it would be fine. Unfortunately it wasn't sugar yogurt but very raw sour yogurt. My stomach was already unhappy with this choice. We got to the trailhead by 6:30am and were optimistically charging up the long up hill to our first hut. We had barely stept onto the trail when two men came storming past us in little packs. Libby and I tried to pack light but we were definitely not running more fastpacking with the size of our packs. Those men were running.

We moved very quickly on the uphill passing lots of people and making good time to the first hut. We filled water here and kept on moving. The day seemed to fly by, the uphills seemed easy, and the terrain rocky and interesting to keep the mind occupied even with a very sour stomach. As we descended into our second hut of the day we picked up the pace. This is when I lost focus for just a second crossing a dry creek bed and twisted my ankle. Screaming in pain and crumpling to the ground I had felt everything in my ankle crunch. I thought it was over. After all the travel and planning to have everything be over in a split second. I was devastated. Libby quickly turned around and I regained some composure to assess the situation. The ankle was intact. The pain was extreme but I only had one option to get out of these mountains and that was to walk. I got up now heavily relying on my poles and hobbled to the next hut. We sat here and I removed my shoe to look at the damage. A bit of bruising a lot of swelling but it appeared to be a sprain so not a show stopper. Libby recommended I take some ibuprofen. I was hesitant. I had never taken any medicine during any runs I had ever done. This didn't seem like the place to start but she was a nurse and I needed to not roll it again because the next roll could be game ending.

My stomach was still very upset and now the heat of the day was setting in. We death marched up the final climbing sweating profusely. Head down trying to ignore the pain in my ankle and the nausea in my stomach we kept moving. As we started our descent into the final hut of the day Libby was out of water and the drugs had finally kicked in so I was moving fine. Time wise we looked good. 12.5 hrs for the first day was close enough to my 10hr perfect day predication. At the hut we paid to sleep outside and went to a nearby restaurant to get a big dinner. Eggs and fries were exactly what I wanted and a nice comfy sleeping pad in a tent was the best sleep I had in a while. I was limping badly now that we had stopped moving and even worse when we woke up in the morning.

We decided to buy breakfast at the hut the next morning which put us on a late 6:30am start. This day was a question mark for us since the information I had written down was for the recently closed cirque de la solitude. But we knew it was going to be one of the bigger days ending up closer to 30 miles. We always made good progress in the mornings and uphills were turning out to be our biggest strength. We passed parties that were gripped clinging to the side of the mountain as we mountain goated by hands free. We'd talk to a few english speakers as we passed by and they all seemed surprised as we told them our destination was "Manganu!!?? noooo" People seemed to be surprised but nobody seemed to express doubt in our abilities to do it just yet. This stage was beautiful and my stomach seem to be doing fine. It was the heat and the distance that seemed to wear on us and a few bone issues with Libby and her bad leg. Hikers liked to tell us of how flat sections of the trail were and how after the 4th stage the trail flattened out and was easy. As time would progress we would realize more and more that there was no such thing as flat on the GR20. And that the steep rocky bits continue on to the very end. Contrary to what people who are currently hiking it and who have previously hiked it may say.

Our late 6:30am start ended up really screwing us over on our way to Manganu. The hut seemed to never come and when we arrived at 8:30pm dinner was already done being served. We were screwed if we couldn't get a good dinner and a good night sleep. This turned out to be our free night. The host had already left so we had no one to pay for sleeping and a lovely Swedish couple saved us with some pasta, cheese, bread, and even a peach. We owe a lot to that couple and Libby and I made sure we would never have another late start again. Dinner was crucial to our success. We opened bivied that night and I in a thin bivy sack essentially slept in a warm sometimes chilly swamp of my own sweat. Needless to say it was a bad sleep.

We got up early the next morning and were hiking by 5:15 am. When we would start on a uphill we always seemed to make progress quickly. This was a nice technical traverse and we passed lots of parties. On the back side we boulder hopped quickly when Libby made a bad pole placement and went down face first into the boulders. The way she fell I was sure she had broken her leg. It was over. I slowly approached her growning. She hadn't yelled like a break so I was optimistic. A puddle of blood was pooling beside her face and I asked if she was okay. She responded yes but let me take stock first. She had punched herself in the face with her pole as she fell a few scraps on her knees and fat lip was all she sustained. I was hoping this would be our last accident.

We filled water at the next hut and decided to take the high route variation for the next section. A nice technical traverse of a ridge line to keep us occupied instead of traversing low in the trees. We moved faster on the technical terrain anyways. We passed a couple who we chatted with for a bit. The man very kindly wanted to remind us that we needed to stow our poles to get through the technical section. I ignored his comment and we kept moving. After a bit Libby and I talked about the encounter. It was the first time I had really started to notice how much unsolicited advice we had been getting on the trail. Was it because we were two females? Was it because we were Americans? Why did everyone want to tell us what we needed to do or that it was impossible to do the GR20 in 5 days? The pole comment stuck with me since we had never stowed the poles even once and honestly the entire route could be done without even using your hands. The real question was did they also say this to the two men who had flown past us at the beginning? Just as we were having this thought picking our way slowly down a step descent a man came flying past us in a tiny backpack effortlessly bounding down hill. His feet never touching the ground for more than a second. We must have passed those man in a hut at an early day I was convinced it was the same men.

Some storm clouds started to build and Libby set a grueling pace on the next uphill. Now it was just 5,000 feet of descending and we would be at the half way point of the GR20. This is when it hit me. I could eat like a 100 miler for 2 days worth of time but by the 3rd day my body was starting to lose hold of the sugar diet. Sugar might buy me 15 minutes instead of an hour now and the lack of calories and water sent my into a downward spiral. The downhills started to hurt more and my knees start to lock up. Next thing I know I'm bending over to stretch my legs standing up and falling face first into the boulders from a strong orthostatic hypotensive moment. I thought my sugar had dropped and I needed sugar. Libby was saying things to me but I couldn't hear her. Apparently I was moaning some inaudible sounds. I shoved a fruit leather in my mouth but couldn't chew it. Libby describes the moment as a partially unconscious person chocking on a fruit leather. She got me to move into the shade drink some water and eat some real food. She shared with me some of her extra food a cheese stick which I promptly spilled cheese liquids all over my shirt. It was my badge of dishonor to remember how I screwed up nutrition once again. This is when we realized that I had never done a multiday push. I've run 100 milers in a day before and I've climbed big walls in a day before. It turns out pushing is a lot different than pacing. I couldn't use my motivation of "the faster you run the faster you're done" no I had to keep sustaining for 5 days. You can't push into the pain cave and create a deficit. It was a new world of eating and moving that I was learning. And unfortunately this is what learning feels like as Libby liked to remind me. 

When we arrived at the half way point we got to see the the little town of Vizzavona. It wasn't much but it had showers, electricity, and the comfiest air mattress and best sleep I had on the entire trip. We ate downtown at a restaurant were no english was spoken. A few mystery dishes with one mild vomit and it was off to bed to start the second half. We chatted with an English speaker in the camp who was doing the route in 14days. When he discovered we were doing it in 5 he promptly responded with "You can not do it. It is impossible" We quickly ended the conversation and it left a bad taste in our mouths. On the way back to my tent I looked at Libby and said fuck that guy just because it's hard doesn't mean its impossible. 

The next morning we rose early and made our way to our last sleep on the course. The day started well and we made progress quickly. The terrain for this day was boring. Mostly wooded and good trail with little exciting to look at. I was running low on food and we were actually running on the trail. Libby close to falling asleep behind me we decided to slow down a bit and talk to make the time and distance pass quicker. When we finally reached Verde we decided to take a longer break drink some cokes and eat some food at the restaurant. We were on the final 10 mile stage of the day and making good time. The coke and the new drugs finally kicked in and we rocketed up what we thought was the final climb. But then things started to go south for me. I had eaten a bit of the cheese sandwich Libby had bought and the stinky cheese immediately did not sit well with me but riding the coke high at first it didn't seem to matter. Now about 3 miles out from our destination I was dry heaving on the side of the trail seconds from vomiting. I wanted to vomit. Vomit would make me feel better. Libby was talking about nasty things in an effort to make me vomit and I was retching on the side of the trail. An hour of slow walking and laying down and dry heaving and burping went by before I started to get angry. I felt like shit and I wanted to get to the next hut. At the pace I had slowed to we would miss dinner again. I started too shout and ride the anger wave now averaging a fast pace on the trail. I shouted angrily about french food and about animal cruelty and ran in anger. This wave of anger lasted until the hut was in sight and then I ran in desperation to be done. When we arrived I sat head between my legs with extreme pain in my abdomen. We had gotten the very last two dinners which I counted as a success. A nice comfy warm tent and I bought some more food to get me through the last day.

As we sat down to eat the food two very fit looking men in running shoes and clothing came up to us. You are the runner girls they proclaimed how many days are you doing it in. We responded with 5. They seemed impressed. They were the men that had passed us at the beginning and again on day 3! They were also doing the trail in 5 days. We had such a pleasant evening talking about the trail and running and getting to know each other. They both lived here on Corsica and the one man had run the trail in a just 2 days! We enjoyed their company and it was such a pleasant relief to have people who didn't use the word impossible. They gave us some good beta on some alternate routes that would make the final day more enjoyable. 

That night was rough. I tossed and turned all not from the pain in my stomach. I got up a few times to use the bathroom but nothing seemed to help the pain. Usually in the mornings I would feel great and we could make good progress for the fast half of the day. This morning was different. The abdominal pain had not left. We got on the trail by 5am and the boys passed us for one final time on the initial climb. Unlike the other days I wasn't able to muster the energy this morning. I was ill but moving. A cute little brown dog was following the boys out of the camp but when the boys moved to fast he latched unto Libby and I. He had a collar with no name and we assumed he belonged to someone at the hut. Libby kept shouting at him to go back but the fit little dog seemed determined to go with us. After a while we just accepted that he was with us now but the anxiety of having the dog around couldn't be ignored.

I ate 4 times with in the first hour of the morning. Hoping my stomach would turn around. The first hut took forever and the second took just as long and the sun was the hottest it had been the entire trip giving me heat rash on both my arms. When we arrived in Bavella we could finally eat some real food. We ordered 3 cokes, 2 chocolate crepes, and a large order of fries. Our puppy friend took a nap and the restaurant seem to recognize him and gave him a big plate of food. I was happy he was being fed but start to cry thinking about how independent he was and how much I missed Lopi. I poured a coke into my bottle and chugged the other. It was the final 12 miles to the finish and there was nothing that could stop us now.

Freshly drugged and full of food Libby and I took a more casual start to the final leg. We talked a lot and kept the miles and time passing. The end went quickly in my head. The mountains started to disappear and the ocean was the only thing on the horizon. My stomach and feet were hurting but a good conversation can distract anything. I had been in a strange habit of pooping about 3 times a day and the final day was no exception. This time however I realized something was different. I pooped the blackest poop of my life. A sign of bleeding. It was of no surprise having not taken ibuprofen for years of my life to now taking a healthy dosing for 5 days in a row that maybe the abdominal pain was something deeper than just upset stomach. But we were hours from the finish and it would heal in time anyways. 

The final day took us longer than expected and we arrived at the finish well past the bus schedule. It was entirely my fault but I had done the best I could. A lovely French family celebrating Bastille day invited us in for some delicious homemade pizza and wine and we talked all things Trump and GR20. In Conca even though the trail was done we were 3hrs from being back in Calvi and on a holiday in France the town was dead. Again for the last time of the trip we were told "It is IMPOSSIBLE to get to Calvi tonight" with early flights in the morning we reassured them that nothing is impossible it just may be expensive or hard. A few hours of attempted hitching and then a quick call to a taxi we were back in Calvi with our lovely couch surfing host Phillip at 2am. A glorious shower and blister relief allowed us to finally sleep well for me the first time 8 days. The next day would hold a 40hr travel block with a 18hr layover in Paris to a 5hr bus ride from SF to Truckee. Boy it felt good to be home and what a beautiful adventure. My ankle is healing well and I already feel like I can run again!

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GR20 Logistics - Corsica, France

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GR20 Logistics - Corsica, France

Route Plan

I had a double sided paper with this information printed on one side and then the map printed on the other side. I printed 3 copies one for each of us and a spare if we lost one.

Day destinations miles miles total hours hours total feet up feet up total feet down feet down total
1 Calenzana -> d’Ortu 7.5 7 5085 770
1 d’Ortu -> Carozzu 5 16.25 6.5 19 2460 9825 3445 6545
1 Carozzu -> Haut Asco 3.75 5.5 2280 2330
- - - - - - - - - -
2 Asco -> Tighjettu 5.5 6.5 3280 3280
2 Tighjettu -> Vergio 9.5 25.5 6 18.25 2790 8270 2855 7695
2 Vergio -> Manganu 10.5 5.75 2200 1560
- - - - - - - - - -
3 Manganu -> Petra 6 7 3220 2430
3 Petra -> l’Onda 6.75 19.5 5 19.5 1640 8110 2985 10335
3 l’Onda -> Vizzavona 6.75 7.5 3250 4920
- - - - - - - - - -
4 Vizzavona -> Capannelle 10 5.5 3280 1100
4 Capannelle -> Verdi 8.75 28.75 4.5 17.25 1050 8560 2035 5860
4 Verdi -> d'Usciolu 10 7.25 4230 2725
- - - - - - - - - -
5 d'Usciolu -> d'Asinau 10.5 7.25 3315 4020
5 d'Asinau -> Bavella 6.75 29.25 4.75 19 1250 6860 2280 11780
5 Bavella -> Conca 12 7 2295 5480
- - - - - - - - - -
119.25 93 41625 42215


Gear

Libby and I took similar but different gear. I am just going to write about the gear I brought including the pad which Libby carried since I didn't have room in pack.

Quantity Item Brand Notes
1 15L Running Backpack Osprey Super adjustable with no chaffing and extra storage space. Perfect for walking quickly or running. Also includes a 2.5L bladder for long hot efforts.
1 Bivy Sack Black Diamond Too warm for a bivy sack just makes you sweat and be uncomfortable at night. Instead bring the Patagonia ultra light sleeping bag. Would not bring this again.
1 Sleeping Pad I'm not sure I'd bring this again just because if you get in early enough and don't mind spending the money you can get a tent or a bed that already has a pad or mattress.
500 Euros You probably only need about 250 Euros unless you plan to Taxi from Conca to the start and then you'll need atleast 500 Euros
1 Wind breaker Black Diamond Only used this one day for about 10 minutes but would be nice if the weather wasn't so good.
1 Wind pants Patagonia The only pants I brought were definitily nice to have something to change into at the end of the day.
1 Underwear Patagonia I turned them inside out every other day and cleaned them at the half way point.
1 Puffy Jacket Patagonia It got chilly at camp at night it was nice to be able to put a warm jacket on also for sleeping
1 Fleece Patagonia I would take my sports bra and shirt off at the end of the day and it was nice to have a warm soft light layer to sleep in every night.
1 Bra adidas Outdoor Only need one. Cleaned it half way though and did not sleep in it.
1 Shirt Smartwool The thin wool shirt was clutch. It didn't even smell bad by the end of the trip.
1 Skirt Ryp wear The Ryp wear skirts have nice inner pockets to store food and also long enough to prevent lower back and thigh chaffing.
5 Socks Swiftwicks I brought a new pair of socks for everyday. This is important since your socks get really dirty every day and proper foot care is key to success.
1 Buff Buff I used the buff at night to cover my eyes and keep the ear plugs in.
1 Sunscreen Jtree Skin Products The Mediteranian sun is relentless. I wish we would have brought more sunscreen than we did.
1 Water bottle Hydrapak This was key for getting enough electrolyte drink. Every day I would drink several these with electrolyte, recovery, or even coke in it.
1 Chapstick Burtsbee The sun is unforgiving apply often.
1 Earplugs The only way to guarantee a good night sleep every night is to keep the sound out.
1 FirstAid and Drugs We kept an assortment of bandaids and pills. We never used any of the bandaids but the ibuprofen came in handy.
10 Babywipes We used baby wipes every day for just bathroom and foot cleaning. We should have brought about 10 more than we did.
1 Bugspray We encountered very little bug activity would not have brought this again.
1 Running Poles Black Diamond So key to being able to do the distances day in and day out. Save your legs.
1 External Battery Goal Zero This was perfect for charging the phone every day. Also important to bring a European charging converter. Most huts have electricity to charge from.
1 Cell Phone Iphone You want to be able to remember it if you're going to go this fast. :)
1 Child flip flops These are light wieght and key for foot relief at the end of the day. Defo bring a pair of these.
1 Sunglasses Peppers It is a bright!
1 Tiny Towel Nice for bathing in rivers and at the huts. Could go without but was nice to have when we showered.

Food

There are tons of places to buy food along the trail. You can probably go a lot lighter if you would like. Every hut has wide selection of food as well as all of the Bergeries along the trail. What I learned from what I brought is that in these kind of events you want to bring a wide variety of textures and flavors of food. And way more real food than packaged food.

Quantity Item Brand Notes
5 Electrolyte Powder Skratch Labs I brought one for each day and wish that I had brought at least two for each day. The weather was so hot that you sweat a ton and need a lot of sweat replacement.
5 Recovery Powder Skratch Labs I brought one for each night and end up drinking them every night. This was key to getting enough calories and being able to recover for the next day.
4 Cookies Skratch Labs I made 4 homemade blueberry almond butter cookies. This was a nice change to what I was eating out of packets and wish that I would have made and brought more things.
10 Gels Assortment I had given myself about 2 gels a day and ended up maybe eating about 6 of them. Gels are hard to stomach when you feel sick already and aren't as good for sustainable energy in a long multiday adventure
10 Gummys Assortment I eat all of my gummies by day 4. They are easy and tasty. Bring things that you like to eat it'll make it easy to eat them when you are forcing yourself to.
8 Nut butter Justins These I found hard to eat as well with how hot it was. But sucking back a nut butter packet always gave me some sort of sustainable energy for a good amount of time.
3 Bars Pro Bar These were perfect for a large mid day protein bust. I only wish I would have brought 5 so I could have had one every day instead of just the first 3.
10 Oatmeal Quakers We each had two packets of oatmeal every morning for breakfast. In the beginning this was enough but as the trip progressed I needed more and more food in the morning. A packet of peanut butter had to be added to get enough calories to start moving by day 4.
15 Fruit Leather Stretch Island These saved me in Alaska but weren't dense enough calories to get me through. I finished all 15 of these by day 3.
3 Apples Real fruit was an awesome way to mix things up
1 Dried Appricots I bought these at the half way point and really enjoyed mixing it up with some dried fruit with the usual food.
10 Apple sauce I bought 5 at the half way point and 5 at the last hut. These were nice and easy to go down but burned through quickly.


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White Mountain 100 - Cold Really Cold

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White Mountain 100 - Cold Really Cold

The White Mountain 100 is a race through the White Mountains of Alaska just north of Fairbanks. It's hosted at the end of March which allows for more daylight and less harsh conditions. I was excited for this race, really excited. But after my sole crushing DNF at the Arrowhead 135 just a few weeks earlier. I wasn't even sure if I'd make it to the start line. It wasn't till all the aches and pains had passed and I wrote about my Arrowhead experience that I realized my failure at the Arrowhead was actually exactly what I needed to get me to the start of the White Mountain.

The weeks leading up to the race were uneventful. I was relaxed and not even slightly nervous of what was in store. I paraglided a bunch and surfed and skied a bit too. The most important thing to me after the Arrowhead was that I was happy. I was happy when I trained. I was happy when I raced. And I was happy when I finished. I just wanted to be happy and if running didn't make me happy I would do something that did. The other two important take aways from the Arrowhead was consistent and appropriate fueling and staying positive even with a bored and ideal mind. The inevitable boredom and loneliness scared me the most. Still not totally sure how to train that other than extreme solitude... and with my dog Lopi I'm rarely alone alone.

The other elephant in the room was my rotated hips. I'm stuck in a forward rotation and have been my entire life. I had hip issues in high school track and field and pretty much my entire running career. However as an adult I barely notice the hip issues until I get 60+ miles into a run. It must be the constant bad form for hours on end that finally add up and explode. I've been in physical therapy now for 6 months and was finally seeing results after the Arrowhead. I however was scared of the idea that I needed to rebuild new running muscles in just 6 weeks so I stopped PT and decided to resume when I got back from Alaska. Better to run on my trained and tested muscles even though a body break down was inevitable. 

I flew up to Alaska the Friday before the race. It was cold when I got off the plane about 12F. Not unreasonable though and I was optimistic that the conditions would be actually warm. My friend Lourdes joined me that night and we got a hotel in Fairbanks. It's so cold there over night that you had to plug the car batteries in when ever you parked them. It's crazy to me that people live here all year round. I made sure to do a really good job this time of eating and drinking before the race. So much so that I kept make myself sick from forcing food down my throat. Though I knew I'd be in a caloric deficit after the race so I needed as much as I could now.

We breezed through the prerace checkin, got our bib numbers, said hi to some old friends, and started the long wait for the race to start. The night before the anxiety started to set in. I asked Lourdes how she survives the boredom. What she thinks about while she's out there. She said she thinks about nothing. Sometimes she counts or just repeats the same word over and over. I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do the same so I download a few more podcasts on my phone just in case.

We woke up early and made it to the start line thanks to the badass crusher Teri Buck who let us follow her. (She'd already be home in Anchorage by the time I finished) It's definitely a bikers race with less than 15 runners out of the entire 90 starters. You also get a feeling that they don't really like the runners that much since the very appropriately refer to us as walkers. I guess if it was just a biking race they could probably make the cutoffs shorter and the volunteers wouldn't have to spend as much time out there but I digress.

The race started quickly my plan was to run for as long as I could so that I could get as far on the course as possible before my legs started to break down. I had a strong start and was moving well. The air was so cold that I physically felt my nose holes freeze shut. A lot colder than I was expecting... this would be a theme. About 45 minutes in I ate some food and then reached for my bladder hose to take a drink. Nothing. I thought maybe the change in altitude from Fairbanks to the start had caused the hose to become pressurized so I waited for an uphill to check the situation. I took the pack off and got the bladder out. It was frozen. I was screwed I thought. I can't believe I didn't bring any other way to carry water. I'd surely not be able to continue if I couldn't drink in between aid stations. Then Lourdes came down the hill. I asked her if I could just have a little bit of her water to get me to the first aid station so I could fix the situation there. Instead she gave me one of her little bottles and we went on our way. Lourdes literally saved my race with that bottle.

The first aid station was just a table on the side of the trail. I drank a bunch of water and filled my bottle again. I needed to make it 21 more miles before I could sit down inside a warm cabin and really fix the situation. At this point Beat, Lourdes, Eric, Tony, Virginia and I were all very close. But I was starting to fall back from lack of hydration and fueling. This section also was when the trail turned from punchy runnable to soft sand snow. I could see Lourdes in front of me and I thought we might go back and forth between peeing and layering but it wasn't long till Lourdes started riding the downhills and gained miles on me. I was alone now and actually enjoying the scenery. It was beautiful and warm enough that I didn't need my face covered. My only wish was that my bladder wasn't frozen.

When I made it to the second aid station Lourdes was just leaving and we waved at each other. Inside the cabin Tony was trying to get some food down and warm up. I changed my socks and tried to dry out my shoes. I wanted to drink as much as I could before heading back out for a very long cold night. I ate a pound of bacon and my first PB and J of the race. I also drank a Skratch Labs Recovery shake and made another one in my bottle for the road. A skier who DNFed at the cabin gave me a second bottle for water and I was so thankful for his generosity. The sweep came to the cabin and said the next runners behind me were very far behind and I never saw them even once during the race. 

I headed back out on the trail about an hour before sunset. I was really hoping to make it as far over the pass as possible before it got really dark. I had put some music in my headphones at the last aid station and was hoping it would help distract my mind. Instead I just got to think about things with some background music. A few miles down the trail I came up on Tony. Tony had just changed into some serious winter over boots. They looked like they might have been rated for -40F. My shoes and socks were wet and as I passed him I started to think. Was it really going to get that cold tonight? Was I going to get frostbite? Should I put on all my layers before it gets really cold? The thoughts swirled through my head. I stopped waited for Tony to catch up and confessed. Tony I'm really scared. If something happens out here in this 23 mile section the people behind us are hours away and the people in front are hours away. I'd be screwed. You want to walk with me through the night over this pass for safety reasons? Tony was kind of enough to oblige and we chatted for a bit as the sunset. 

Tony shouted look up and the northern lights were dancing above us. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Vibrant greens and purples and pinks dancing across the sky. We stopped and tried to take a couple pictures. Then we kept moving to stay warm. I'd look up every once and awhile to watch them but Tony and I no longer talked. It was way to cold to pull the buff down from your face and the higher we rose the less tree coverage we had and the wind chilled us to the bone.

This is when things went really down hill. The temps read -28F and with the wind chill it could have easily been -30F. Even with 4 jackets on my arms started to go numb. The artificial hand warms were key and I kept moving my toes hoping they wouldn't get frost bite. But the worst of all was that everything was frozen and I couldn't pull my buff down long enough to put any food or water in. Tony's head lamp was comforting. Just knowing he was there made it feel less scary. But I started to think that if a snowmobile came by I might take the easy way out. But they never came and by 4am Tony and I had successfully made it to the 3rd aid station.

This was my favorite aid station. The volunteers were great, the warmth was amazing, and I ate literally 5 PB and Js. Lourdes and Eric were still there when we arrived but on their way out. Tony wanted to sleep so he passed out and Fred woke up and we chatted for a bit. Fred was fast really fast but was widely under dressed for the conditions. He had spent a good amount of time in the aid station warming up before going back out to brave the conditions. I left a few minutes before him and he quickly caught me. We chatted and walked together for a bit but my pace was too slow for him to stay warm so he took off. My headlamp was dead so I walked alone in the dark really appreciating the northern lights. I tried the counting thing but mostly found my self repeating over and over "The faster you run the faster you're done". This motivated me to the next medic tent and then finally to the last aid station. But my hip issues had caught up to me and around mile 70 I was unable to bend my left knee.

Walking became a chore and the only way I could even move fast enough was to shuffle at other peoples walking pace. I looked more like I was cross country skiing than running since I would swing my left leg out around by the hip instead of bending it. At the last aid station I sat down for a bit and eat one last PB & J. I was in the final 19 miles to the finish and it was now going to be a death march. It sucked that I felt so good and did everything right just to have my body go out first. But I knew it was going to happen so I pushed through the pain. Screaming in pain every time I had to run. Repeating over and over The faster you run the faster your done. I needed to make it to the finish before sunset. I didn't have a headlamp and I wasn't about to freeze out there another night.

I was in the final 7 miles to the finish when Tony finally caught me. I was so happy to see him. We were climbing up the wall right before the final horrible 6 miles of uphill to the finish. We chatted for a bit but he was walking and I couldn't keep up even at my shuffle. He kindly gave me his headlamp just incase and took off for the finish. I kept him in my sights for awhile but I started to hallucinate as the light started to get dimmer. I kept seeing Tony hiding in the woods. So vividly that I would shout Tony what are you doing. I kept trying to talk to him before he disappear into a tree. Then the pain in my knee became unbearable I would just start shouting like a crazy person every time I had to run. The faster you run the faster you're done! It felt like the finish took forever. Probably because it did but it was still daylight so I met my goal. 

I grabbed a bunch of food to eat and then jumped in the car and Lourdes and I headed back for the hotel. Now it was time to take stock. Only one blister on my big toe which I counted as a success. Lower back and shoulder chaffing from the backpack. Butt crack and inner thigh chaffing from well you know... Feet swollen from 37hrs of being on them and well hmmm that left knee ya that didn't bend for a solid 3 days.

I was actually in super great shape for running almost the entire race granted a shuffle run but still a run. Made me wish I didn't have messed up hips or might have been able to finish hours faster. But in conclusion I've canceled all my upcoming races to focus on my hips. I don't want to feel like mile 60 is the guaranteed death of my knee at every race because of my hips. And I'd also like to not have to use my high pain tolerance all the time. Stay tuned for full body reset. I know it'll take months and lots of work but it will be worth it in the end. 

 

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Sketch Event - Atelier - Truckee

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Sketch Event - Atelier - Truckee

I completed 21 days of sketching with Atelier in Truckee. Everyday they had a different prompt for what we were to sketch. It was fun to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Enjoy all of mine below. 

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Arrowhead 135 - So much to learn

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Arrowhead 135 - So much to learn

After finishing the Susitna 100 in Alaska last February I swore I'd never drag a sled again. But weeks turn to months and you quickly forget the pain and misery. I was itching to do another winter ultra as the summer season came to a close. So I found this amazing looking race in Finland. A little less than 100 miles at 160K in Finland! I was excited. It seemed unique and inspiring. But as the winter drew near my friends from the Susitna all got the itch as well. And we planned collectively to have a reunion at the Arrowhead 135. I knew it was too close to the Finland race to be able to do both and I knew I would never go to the Arrowhead by myself so I felt like this was my only chance to go out and do it. I put my Finland plans on hold for another year and entered the lottery for the Arrowhead 135.

When we all got picked for the Arrowhead I felt a little bit of disappointment. I couldn't find anything super inspiring about the race. 135 miles in Northern Minnesota!? But all my friends were doing it and I knew it would be a challenge so I began training and started to get excited. An adventure in any form is an adventure!

As race day got closer the anxiety started to set in. Winter ultras are logistical nightmares. From the gear, to the food, to the training, to the weather... You can never feel prepared no matter how many times you've done it. My first day was a complete travel day. We started flying at 6am and didn't arrive at International Falls till 6pm. Lourdes, Lester, and I were reunited and I was so excited to see them face to face again. My friend Scott (who took all these amazing photos) had also come along to enjoy the experience and take some photos.

After packing, unpacking, repacking, obsessing over gear it was finally race day. The race started on a Monday and was a balmy 15 degrees and snowing. This would be the theme for the entire race. Only dropping down well below 0 on the last day. There was lots of chatter about strategy. Lots of people don't run a single step of the entire race. People were warning about going fast. Others were pressing to get to the first aid station in 10hrs. Honestly I didn't have a strategy. I usually run fast out the gate and slow down later on. Lots of people pass me. But I like to get as far on the course as fast as I can before I start to break down.

Instead of running my own race I ran with Lester and Lourdes out the start. We walked mostly. Jogging a bit here and there. This race doesn't really work well for running with other people. We are required to stay single file on the right side of the trail at all times and there is only one track that is beaten enough to give okay footing. It was snowing a lot but warm enough that the snow was punchy. Every step felt like you were running in sand.

Lourdes, Lester, and I stayed together for about the first 24 miles. But my body was deteriorating fast and it didn't help that my brain was heavy with negative thoughts. My feet started to hurt at about mile 9 and I was convinced it was because they were already starting to trench. Unfortunately I think it was more because they were bruised from my rock solid already frozen shoes. The race was not off to a good start. Lester was already out of water and I had barely drank half a liter. I've never been the best at fueling and hydrating and this is not the race to test those limits. When extreme distances mixed with extreme cold. The body shuts down faster than you would expect.

I spent the next 13 miles alone walking slower than normal and playing the scenarios of my stressed relationship back home through my head over and over and over. The snow was falling faster and harder and my feet were throbbing with pain. But all I could think about was my failing relationships and how I was standing still in time. It was torture. It was mental torture. 

When I finally got to the first aid station which was a gas station off the interstate Lourdes and Lester were about 15 minutes ahead of me. Lourdes left quickly and I filled water, ate some food, popped some blisters and followed suit behind Lester. I assumed I wouldn't see them again till I reached Mel Georges the second aid station in about 36 more miles. I left feeling strong and rejuvenated. I was making good time out the aid station head down and marching quickly. I wished I had gotten my head phones out so I had some music to distract my wandering mind but instead I pushed to catch up to the blinking light ahead of me. 

It was Lisa a friend I had walked with earlier in the day. I welcomed the company and we chatted and walked for about 3 or 4 hours. She slowed me down at times and I was lacking in my fueling from a bit of an upset stomach. She pulled ahead for a bit and I couldn't keep up. I then realized how badly I was limping and how slow I was moving. The reality started to set in as I was now alone. In complete darkness, under caloried and dehydrated. I kept kicking myself for my ignorance. I sat on the trail. Legs crumpled in pain and ate some food. I was destroyed. I was completely destroyed. I had been running everyone else's race all day not listening to my body and being tortured by my own brain. The food didn't stay down for long. That and everything I had eaten at the last aid station came up all over the side of the trail.

I picked up the phone to track my own tracker. How close was I to the next aid station. To my surprise I had great cell service and I loaded my tracker. That was a mistake. Looking at the dots I realized I had been averaging 1 mile per hour for the past few miles. It felt like 1 mile per hour and I still had about 24 more to go to the next aid station. Next I called Corbin. I sobbed about not being able to bend my knees and the horrible loneliness that is eating away at my brain. His only response was you're tougher than this get up and keep moving. I put the phone away. Stood up and kept walking. It felt more like cross country skiing because I could barely lift my legs by this point. I just shuffled them over the top layer of soft snow. The 40lb sled pulling on my tender stomach didn't help the incessant need to vomit every few feet.

When I finally made it to a road crossing I was hoping I'd see Scott and he'd put me in the van and I would just go home. But he wasn't there when I got there and I sat on my sled with my head between my legs and screamed. I called Scott and asked for a pep talk. He didn't have much to say. I stood up and kept walking. I passed a few people here and there bivied on the side of the trail and the thought of a few minutes of sleep was inviting. I had about 20hrs to go till the next aid station if I kept walking at this pace. Then Julia called me. I bitched to her for an hour while I walked one mile and then I sat down. I needed to rest. My feet were fucked. My knee was so swollen on the back side that I couldn't bend it. I hadn't kept any food down for about 6 hrs. I was destroyed. I got the jet boil out and the sleeping bag and I got inside. Immediately I feel asleep.

When I woke up about an hour later I boiled some water and made some oatmeal which I was able to keep down. I drank some water and was determined to keep going. To my mistake I had left my shoes outside the sleeping bag and the sweat from the inside had frozen solid. Not to mention my feet had now swollen 8 sizes larger as well. I could barely squeeze my feet into the frozen shoes. Once I got the shoes on I stood up and packed the sled. Clicked the sled back around my waste and took my first step. Nothing. My legs were solid bricks. There was no bend in my left knee and my stomach was so sensitive I couldn't stand straight with the weight around my waste.

I had to make the decision of missing a cut off or quitting early. There was no way at mile 55 in the state I was in that I would be able to turn my nutrition and hydration around as well as turning my brick legs back into limber. If I quit now I'll recover faster and be back training and doing the things I love sooner. If the finish is not an option. The decision isn't hard. There was no physical way I could have finished. I am sure of that. That being said I know I can finish the race but I need to race smarter.

I walked the mile back to the road crossing and Scott picked me up and took me back to the hotel. The sun was almost rising and I spent the next three days limping around cheering my friends on. Lourdes and Scotty took a finish and Lester came 30 miles before his body said no. My left knee wasn't able to bend for 2 days and I took that as a good sign that I made the right decision. Asking the veterans that have done the race 4, 6, 10 times why they keep coming back every year to do it. They all say the same thing. The race is a different race every year. You can finish it 10 times and DNF on your 11th because you never know what the conditions are going to be like.

I think failing at this race was the best thing that could have happened. I learned more from this failure than from anything else. Here are my main take aways. First and foremost run your own race. Tim pulled me through the Susitna and it was the best thing I could have ever hoped for but it is not guaranteed. Everyone is different from the length of there walking stride, to when they need to pee, to how much they need to fuel and hydrate and stop. I shouldn't be looking for my next Tim every time I catch someone on the trail. I should be listening to my body and go the pace that my body needs to go and not worrying about the rest. Similarly I need to have a more ridged fueling system. When I ran the Grand Canyon with Libby I had a watch and every 45 minutes we ate a GU. I felt great that entire objective until I ran out of water and missed my hourly GU. I remember bonking so hard it was a labor to just walk. I need to be strict like this again. It's important to have a constant stream of calories and I know what works well for me so I should stick to it. Also more walking. Walking is hard to do in training because it takes lots of time and is super boring. But if you don't train your brain to be okay with walking it makes it even harder. For this race in particular utilize the cell service. Don't wait till your brain is tortured to break out the headphones. And even though this race doesn't allow pacers. It's pretty much like having a pacer if you call up your friend and chat for a few hours. But the most important thing of all is you have to want it! You have to really really want it. Because when it gets tough if you don't want it bad. It's easier to go home.

Though I started this objective by saying there was nothing inspiring about this race. It's more than just a race. It's an experience, a hard ass challenge, and I can't wait to go back wiser and stronger and give it hell!

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Tuolumne, Ravens, and Everything Else

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Tuolumne, Ravens, and Everything Else

It's been awhile since I've updated my blog with my recent art pieces. So here is what the past 6 months have looked like in my right brain.

Donner Lake, Truckee CA. This was the first place I felt like I could live forever. The people, the community, the mountains... home.

Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne CA. One of my first climbs in Tuolumne. I've climbed it a hand full of times since and it will never get old. A true classic.

Eichorn Pinnacle, Tuolumne CA. Connected and easily linkable with cathedral peak. This formation has got to be one of the most photogenic climbs!

Half dome, Yosemite, CA. This rock is probably one of my favorite things to draw. I always try to capture it in a new medium every time I do. 

Taft point, Yosemite CA. Ravens and Yosemite. My first venture out to this point was with Corbin at sunset. The valley was filled with smoke from a nearby fire and the last light had already disappeared from the horizon. As we peered into the void I could feel the draw to fly. It must be the most free feeling to be able to sore from these cliffs. It consumes my thoughts often. But with passion comes pain and Corbin was silent. Torn between the worlds of the walkers and the flyers. I'll never forget that day.

Candy Skull. Sometimes you just gotta let your weird out.

Susitna 100, Big Lake AK. To be truly alone in the words is something I dream of often. Where you go from civilized to wild and you learn how to live, to sustain, to do with and without. My spirit animal, the wolf, is with me in these spaces, vicious and powerful.

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How to Build a Running Sled 2.0

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How to Build a Running Sled 2.0

As you may remember I wrote a blog about a year ago about how to build a running sled on a budget. I then ran 100 miles in Alaska with that sled, and am here to say that maybe the budget sled isn't the best option for serious endurance events. It probably is killer for dicking around town or whatever but I probably wouldn't take it out on my longest runs. So here I am coming back for round two because I just can't seem to get enough of those winter ultras!

I spent a lot of time this year researching gear and trying to go as light as possible. I really want to minimize weight and force on my hips. This is what I came up with.

Gear List:

Now that you have the meat lets get started!

Step 1: Cut the handles off the adidas bad. They're just going to get in the way anyways.

Step 2: Take bag outside and apply the first layer of water proofing. Let dry for 30 minutes while you do the rest of the steps. (pretty much just follow the instructions on the box) 

Step 3: Apply wax to the bottom of the sled and buff until shiny!

Step 4: Cut the rope from the sled in half and burn the ends.

Step 5: Tie a over hand knot on a bite and then mark the PVC pipe where you are going to cut.

Step 6: Cut the PVC pipe and then measure against the other pipe so they are the same length. Feed the rope through and tie the knot again.

Step 7: Add the next layer of water proofing.

Step 8: Attach the PVC pipes opposite each other to the connection points on the back of the harness. OPTIONAL: you can then connect the harness to a running backpack to take more weight of your hips (pretty cool right!?)

Step 9: Add bungee cords to hold bag and other gear in the sled while running. Maybe even a mesh bungee might work well!

That's it! Now to test the ultra light sled in some harsher conditions. Stay tuned....

DECEMBER 29TH UPDATE

I've put about 150+ miles on my sled now and I've decided to make a few modifications.

First I bought a new 120L duffle bag from REI

This duffle bag fits perfectly in the sled and doesn't slide around from front to back. I also was able to connect it into the sled using carabiners and maybe in the future for a more snug fit quick ties.

I was having problems with the poles smacking my butt while I ran so I opted for a more snug clove hitch to a carabiner to prevent rope stretch. I also decided to connect the poles farther apart in the back of the harness so that the sled does not tip over as easily.

 

 

 

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Wasatch 100 Pacing

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Wasatch 100 Pacing

Someone once said to me “Your family are the only people crazy enough to spend days on end with no sleep supporting you on some crazy run.” I told him he needed better friends. I’d support a stranger like I would support my family. when it comes to ultra running. We are all just vulnerable humans chasing the limits of our physical body.

It was a random May day in Yosemite Valley. My friend Blake and I had climbed a few things here in there. One day on a hike into the rocks she lamented, you should meet my friend Stacey she’s a badass ultra runner training for her first 100. I think you guys would be friends. Blake put us in contact and we phone tagged here and there as I travel in and out of Utah. It wasn’t till I failed miserably on my Nolan’s attempt till I inquired if she needed any help for the Wasatch 100. That’s how it all began.

Stacey asked how many miles I wanted to do. With my recent hip injury and oral surgeries I knew I was only good for a hand full of miles. So she gave me the shortest distance. Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon roughly 14 miles. I booked my plane ticket the next day. I started to feel nervous as the day got closer. I wasn’t in very good shape and all the physical therapy I was doing for my hip was just making me super fatigued. All I knew was Stacey was fasted and my worst nightmare was getting dropped. I can red line for 14 miles right??

Stacey picked me up from the airport on Thursday and I hoped in her little car with her and her friend Sal. I love supporting big races the energy and people in this sport make me unbelievably happy. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the pre race meeting. We got there a little early so we walked around Salt Lake for a little bit and drank some boba tea. It has been since I moved from San Francisco since I drank that and it did not sit right in my stomach. We went back and they explained the race course and sent everyone on there way.

That night we strategized or maybe just hung out. We got Stacey all packed up and ready to go. She went to bed early so that she could make it to the bus leaving at 4am and the race starting at 5am! The alarm rang and I sprung from bed. Stacey was up eating breakfast and getting ready to go. She asked again if she need a jacket and I assured her that she would warm up quickly. Sal drove her to the bus and I tried to catch another wink of sleep before I was to start running with her at mile 30.

Sal and I got up ate some food and headed to the staging area for the race. We sat around for a few hours refreshing her tracker till we got the text from Stacey saying she was headed our way. In a flash we drove up the hill and were waiting at the aid station. Stacey was crushing and I was getting more nervous that I would get dropped. The aid station was full of energy. I was screaming and shouting and cheering the runners on and maybe ringing the cowbell a little too much. Quicker than we had thought Stacey was charging down the hill and it was time for pacing to presume.

Sal and I checked how she was doing and how the tendinitis in her foot was. She was in good spirits... her foot not so much. The sun was just peaking and I know we were in for a scorcher of a run. Stacey unlike me enjoys running in the heat. I on the other hand I run 100s of miles in Alaska for a reason. We got everything together and got her to eat some food and we were off on our way to lambs canyon.

As we started on our way I asked again how she was doing. As I jogged along behind her, her limp was super noticeable. I knew she was in a lot of pain but I also knew she was tough as nails. A few men passed us and one guy stuck around for a while as we chatted about ultras and what not. He jetted off and we were alone for a bit. Stacey would curse every time she stepped wrong on a rock and I'd try to distract her with another Lopi story. 

She was low less than halfway through a 100 mile run and having to walk from the pain. I reassured her that this was normal. Everyone walks and that no matter what she was getting to the finish line before the cut off. We ran for a little and then walked for a little and another man passed us. She turned to me and said this sucks. I knew she'd pull it together as we chatted about Salt Lake. She was like you said your race in Alaska was a death march I don't want to death march for 60 miles.

The next aid station came faster than expected. Stacey got some much needed salt and we filled up some ice cold water to put on her neck. Only 6 more miles till I handed her off to Amy at lambs. This stretch was hard. It was 1 million degrees outside and I was definitely not hydrated or salted. Stacey needed to walk more to keep her bad foot from giving out to quickly. And then we passed a runner with an epic bloody nose. I gave him all my toilet paper and then ran to catch up with Stacey. He later charged pass us with the toilet paper jammed up his nose. Lambs was just a dot on the horizon as we could see it for almost the entire 6 miles. It never got closer.

But then there we were finally. We got Stacey all situated I gave her a hug and said see you at Brighton. I knew Amy was going to keep her on track even though she was in a really low spot. Sal and I hung out at the aid station with my Canadian friends for a bit before we went back so Sal could get some sleep before he started pacing.

After Sal realized sleep wasn't in his future we headed to the seedy part of Salt Lake to buy some fries and then up to Brighton to wait for Stacey and Amy to arrive. Around midnight she showed up still smiling. She looked amazing for having almost 70 miles and raging tendinitis in her foot. We let her sit down and she looked at us and dead serious said I want to quite. I'm giving up. We said okay thats fine as we forced her to eat more InandOut fries and a sandwich. It wasn't long after that she was wearing my jacket, holding my poles, and I was putting her backpack on her and saying see you at the finish. 

Then I epiced. I drove away from the aid station with no charge in my cell phone and a city I knew nothing about. O boy I thought I hope my memory doesn't fail me now. I got my way back to down town Salt Lake and at about 3 am I knew I was doomed unless I got some charge. I rooted through a bag Sal left in Stacey's car and found a charge. I sat there on the side of the road exhausted trying to get just 1% so that it would turn on. Once it turned on I realized I didn't know her address so I scrolled google maps till I found were I thought it was. I was close only about a mile away. By the time I tucked into bed it was lights out but I needed to get up at 8am sharp to drive the 1hr to the finish and also get everyone food. 

By the time I reached the finish it was only a few minutes before I spotted Stacey and Sal walking up the road! I was so excited she did it with all the pain and death march it was. She finished the Wasatch 100 and with about 150 people who dropped that's a damn good accomplishment. She took a shot of whiskey and we sat around for a bit before heading back to Salt Lake. After a nap, some indian food and a full night of sleep I was back on a flight to Reno happy as could be. Man I love this sport and all these amazing people!

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Nolan's 14 - Unfinished Business

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Nolan's 14 - Unfinished Business

Here I was again. Alone in the woods. Spooned tight against Lopi with the rain tinging loudly off the roof of the van. It was a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Days didn’t matter out here. What mattered most was the weather. Another flash of lighting blinded me for a few seconds and the thunder rumbled through the van. It fit my mood. I was feeling the apprehension of years of time spent here. Months of being alone running, hiking, and exploring these mountains. But the mountains don’t care about that. A fall could be deadly and the weather. The weather turns from blue bird to snow in seconds and when the hair stands up on your arms you fear you will die. But even if the weather held. Would I finish? Would I finally be able to bury this obsession? What if my body gave way before my heart and mind? What if an injury? What if a sickness? What if… 

This was my second summer in Colorado scouting the beautiful line called Nolan’s 14. It traverses 14 14ers gaining and losing 44,000 feet respectively. And it is the most beautiful line I’ve ever seen. It has consumed my time and thoughts for years. After a horrible failure last year this was my redemption. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes, and I would have the company and strength of my partner Julia Millon to pull me through.

Let’s start from the beginning. It was a average cold Monday in May. I had just driven back from a week in Yosemite and wanted to see some familiar running faces so I showed up for the Donner Party Mountain Runners Monday group run. It was a large group and I recognized a few faces. We started with a big up hill. I struggled to keep on the heels of Gretchen and was looking forward to the downhill. At the top we waited for the group to all finish and then it was the fun part. I took off in my typical brakeless descent. It is rare someone can keep up with me, but I kept hearing a person a few steps behind. When we reached the parking lot within seconds Julia and I became instant friends. The most mentally tough person I had ever met and balls out crazy on technical descents… It was only days before I reached out to see if she would want to be my partner for Nolan’s. Her response was something like “Fuck Yes!!” and that’s how it all began.

I left for a two month training and scouting mission in Colorado around the beginning of July. Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse once I arrived. A horrible gum infections and two surgeries put me out for 3 weeks on my training and scouting. When I was finally able to run again I came back fast and hard. Spending long days in the mountains and as much time as I could. Nolan’s was coming together and as the date came closer and closer I was becoming less and less excited. I started to feel burned out on the mission. Nothing was new and exciting anymore. I had seen almost every part of the course and I couldn’t pull on any stoke. I had spent most the summer alone and work had been very stressful. My energy levels were tanking, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be my normal stoked self.

But here we were getting ready for go day. I picked Corbin and Julia up from the airport on Thursday morning and we all made our way out to the mountains in the van. First stop was the Leadville beer mile. A tradition at most races were your crew and pacers get out and run a beer mile. Corbin participated and actually did really well. It was a fun way to start the trip and see some other ultra friends. 

Next was Friday. The plan, pack, and get super fucking nervous day. We spent the day in Buena Vista making sure everything was set and ready for our mission. Corbin was debriefed and our bags were packed. Now it was just time to sit and wait for 5am to come. It was crazy that last day. I had waited almost 360 days for this very moment. BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), as my friend Stacey calls them, have a tendency to pull you in and then spitting you out making you wanting more. I knew we could do it. The real question was would the weather allow us?

The alarm chirped at 5am and we all piled into the van to prepare and make breakfast. Corbin cooked me up some eggs and made Julia some coffee. This time I double checked to make sure tracking was turned on and at 6:08 sharp Julia and I were charging up the trail.

Most of the Shavano trail was in a thick cloud and when we finally got above treeline we got above cloud line too. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day and we made quick work of Mt. Shavano. Once we got to the saddle and started our final ascent a crazy wind picked up. It was blowing straight into our faces and my hands quickly lost feeling. We finally layered up, crested over the summit, and started our way to Tabeguache. The ridge between Shavano and Tab goes quickly and once on the summit of Tab we headed for what they call the Hamilton traverse. Continuing on the Tab ridge we got our first taste ofexposure and steep scree. It landed us in a beautiful saddle and we finally got to run a grassy roller descent.

Julia looked back at me as we opened up our stride and said this is some sound of music shit right here. To which I shouted “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” for the entirety of the descent. There was no trail and when we got to the bottom it placed us in a marshy bog with dense bushes. At first we tried to pick good footing and avoid getting are feet wet but after a few minutes we were just charging straight through feet and ankles in deep water and mud. The marsh dumped us out on a fire road which we would take almost to the top of Antero. 

This is when I started to tank. My stomach had been sour all morning and I was struggling to keep any calories down. The fire road was a gradual grade and we never stopped moving but I was starting to feel the fatigue and my energy levels were tanking. My sister Ruthie and her fiancé Stephen were planning on meeting us on the top of Antero so I kept pushing through to see them. Off in the distances I caught a glimpse of Stephens backpack. Julia was waiting for me at the top of the hill and when I got there I told her I think thats my family and even though I want to take a little break lets keep going. Julia was getting her self situated as I continued walking. Out of nowhere a helicopter started to land. I turned around to find Julia getting dirt blasted. She took off in a sprint and we laughed at the close call. She was like I kept telling myself that helicopter won’t land till I get out of the way… apparently not.

We kept going until we caught up to Ruthie and Stephen and we shared stories about the helicopter and found out that a jeweler had a rock stuck on top of him and was needing a rescue. The four of us continued the last little section to the summit of Antero. I made slow progress of the final section to the summit. It seemed that every time we’d get close to 14,000 feet my body would slow to a survival pace and I just slowly keep moving upward. We said goodbye to Ruthie and Stephen and started our run down the steep face of Antero. As we lost elevation and scree skied down the mountain I started to catch another wind. Julia and I talked the entire fire road out to the van running the entire time.

At the van I finally got some calories down. We were making great time and right on the schedule we had predicted. 10 hours from Blank Cabin to Alpine was the most ideal situation. Giving us a good amount of daylight to get up the back side of Princeton. We refilled, changed socks, and got on our way quickly. It was hard leaving the van but the next section up grouse creek flew by. Julia was setting the pace and I was just keeping on her heels. When the trail finally disappeared we started straight up the side of the mountain towards the Princeton summit. On a map it doesn’t look so far but the terrain isn’t quick moving. Up through the woods we moved. The hill was steep and we followed aimlessly through the trees. This is when we encountered fresh mountain lion tracks. I had been intently looking at the ground trying to see any other signs of humans and unfortunately found signs of one of my biggest fears. Being alone in the woods at night in mountain lion territory. Our goal was to get to treeline as fast as possible now. A small kick of adrenaline got me moving and we crested above treeline right at sunset. We scared a heard of about 15 mountain goats and we watched them scurry up the steep talus.

We could see our ascent gully now and Julia looked at me and said that looks way too steep. Headlamps on and a little pump up music playing we started our way up the gully. At this point it was our only option we needed to get up and over. The gully which I coined “Death Gully” was incredibly steep and very loose. Every step up was a few steps down and a rockslide of dirt and boulders. It was important we picked a clean line and the leader didn’t send rocks speeding down at the second. Julia took the lead at first but after a mild panic attack I took over. The moving was slow and the top of the gully never seemed to get closer. At one point in the pitch dark I tried to convince Julia for a nap. We moved even slower the higher we got. The late night and lack of oxygen was getting to me. When we finally reached the top of the gully we could see Princeton silhouetted by the moon in the distance. We were still so far from where we needed to be. A quick scan of the terrain with the headlamp showed jagged steep cliffs in almost every direction. Unfortunately for this time in the night our best option was to traverse the ridge even though this meant submitting a 13,971 foot peak as well as Princeton. 

The ridge to Princeton went slow. We had been above 13,000 feet for hours now and both of us were struggling with food and fatigue. When we finally made it to the summit hours later than we hoped we needed to make a crucial decision. Run down the shortest route and bushwhack below treeline in the dark or take the actual trail and potentially add several more miles but be on trails the entire time. I was nervous about the mountain lions below treeline and Julia was nervous about the terrain. So we made the decision to rough out the extra mileage in an effort to be on more runnable and safer terrain. 

We didn’t stay long on the summit because we both felt very ill and started to run down the trail. The trail was steep and loose and both of us took a few tumbles. It wasn’t going as fast as we had hoped and I was looking at my GPS for navigation. I didn’t want to loose the trail on accident. At one point an hour or so after leaving the summit we looked at the GPS only to discover we were still above 13,000 feet. At 2 in the morning we took breaks often and barely talked. The trail turned into a road and we shuffled our way as quickly as possible. By the time we reached the Colorado trail at 3am we were still 12 miles from the van. I looked at Julia and said we’re going to watch the sunrise before getting to the van. And then silently we pushed our way towards Yale. Julia led setting a good pace on the uphills. We filtered water once and Julia took a few second nap on the trail. The sun was rising slowly and the darkness became a bit less dark. Our hallucinations started to hit strong. Is that a house I’d ask and Julia would respond I thought that was a bus and as we got closer it would just be trees.

By the time the sun finally rose we were on the road headed towards Yale. I was a little nervous that Corbin would head into town to check our tracker or something and miss us since we were now about 3 hours off of schedule. But being able to turn my headlamp off made me catch a second wind and we laughed our way the final two miles to the van. Our plan was to take a quick 30 minute nap and then be on our way up Yale.

When we got to the van at 7am we found my friend Brandon, Ruthie, and Stephen all surprised to see us. Our best case scenario arrival would have been 3am so showing up at 7am was a surprise to everyone. Julia and I passed out immediately in the van having been on the move for 25 hrs. Our half an hour nap turned into an hour and a friendly stranger named Sue offered to do some body work for us. She was a extreme sports massage therapist from Aspen out riding horses for the day. She gave Julia a leg massage and then came for me. I was struggling already with the nagging pain my hip gives. I was unable to sleep in certain positions in the bed because of it and Corbin commented that it felt like my femur was protruding from my hip. Sure enough it actually was.

Sue laid me down and rotated and popped my femur back into the socket. For a few seconds I felt better and then as I sat down I heard it pop back out. At this point there was nothing I could do about it. My muscles wanted to femur there and it was going to need to be dealt with later. Around 10 am after mentally and physically struggling to get started again Brandon, Julia, and I started to make our way up Yale. At this point time didn’t matter 60hrs was looking far out of the picture and I was now nervous we would be getting stuck in the dark on some unideal peaks. The steep climb up the Colorado trail to the Yale turn off went forever. Corbin and Lopi caught up with us for the summit and I really enjoyed all of the company. I had felt like shit for almost the entirety of the run and I was doubting my ability to continue. The middle 7 peaks are a serious commitment and after our night on Princeton I was questioning it.

As we reached the turn off for Yale I confessed to the group my lack of stoke. I was having the ultra downs and joked with Julia. “You didn’t come all the way to Colorado not to get stuck in a lightning storm above 14,000 feet.” I had been watching clouds build on Harvard as we hiked up the hill but wasn’t worried. A lot of the storms that happen don’t amount to much and the forecast was calling for a near perfect day. Julia and Brandon went ahead and Corbin stuck with me as I struggled to eat and keep moving. Yale was a death march but I was determined to summit. 

We summited the false summit and then met back up with Brandon and Julia for the final push to the summit. The clouds were starting to look ominous and at this point it was safer for us to summit and descend quickly the trail on the other side than it would be to traverse back the way we came via the entirety of the ridge. Right as we approach 14,000 feet it started to snow graupel on us. Brandon in good spirits stated that this was his favorite type of precipitation because they were like little snowballs! Now above 14,000 feet and on the final 70 feet to the summit it hit us. Corbin threw Lopis leash to the ground shouting did you feel that!? As the carabiners on his leash started to sizzle. Immediately next my poles in my hands started to buzz and the hair close to my face stuck straight out. I threw my poles to the ground and Brandon said ow! My poles just shocked me. Someone in the group asked if we should turn around and before an answer could be made I was full speed down the hill. We needed to make it treeline asap. 

We tried to keep 100 feet between us and stay off the ridge as much as possible. I made it down to the meadow at 13,000 feet and could still feel my poles buzzing. Next was the metal button on the top of my hat. The adrenaline was pumping hard and I was moving faster than I ever had with 50+ miles on my legs. The thoughts flashed through my heads what if something happened? This was my fault all these people were out here on this mountain because of me. Not only that I was the one moving slow if only I had moved faster we would have summited before the storm hit and hopefully had been in safer terrain. But it just came so quickly with no warning. CRACK! Lightning shot across the ground and struck in the valley close by. Don’t stop I kept repeating. 

We all made it to treeline in record time and as we sat eating and dumping the scree out of our shoes it was over. Nolan’s was over. I wasn’t sad actually but happy. All the people I cared about were safe and alive. No serious injuries and nobody got zapped by lightning. Some things you can’t control. With Nolan’s the weather and the mountains determine your success. And there will always be another year.

We made it back to the van ate some food, took a nap, and started the return back to normal life. I keep telling myself I won’t be back. That I’ve seen all of the course and that I’m ready to spend my summer doing something else. But deep down inside I know I will be back. Me and those mountains have some unfinished business.

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Hardrock 100 Pacing

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Hardrock 100 Pacing

It all started when I moved full time to Tahoe and got involved with the Donner Party Mountain Runners. I was meeting a lot of rad people and would hear the mention of people I should meet. Betsy Nye was one of them. My introduction to Betsy was based on a mutual love for the hard tall Colorado mountains. I was looking for a partner for Nolan’s 14 and she was a crusher 14 time Hardrock 100 finisher. We chatted about the prospects of teaming up together on Nolan’s, and I offered to pace her in exchange on her 15th Hardrock 100. As the summer approached and Betsy’s injuries lingered we both agreed Nolan’s wasn’t in the cards for her this year and she had already got all her pacing shifts covered. I drove out to Colorado at the end of June to start my training for the summer. I already found a new Nolan’s partner and promised Betsy I’d cheer her on at the Hardrock.

On Tuesday three days before the start of the Hardrock 100 I got a call from Betsy. One of her pacers was injured and she was looking for a sub in. Conveniently I was super available and excited to help out. I had been battling a pain in my gums for three days, but I didn’t think anything of it. That night after agreeing to pace Betsy it hit me. I was up all night moaning and crying in pain. I tossed and turned crying and screaming for help. As the sun rose restless and in excruciating pain I walked three miles to the dentist tears streaming down my face unable to control the internal moaning of pain. I begged the dentist to see me immediately. They quickly got me in and sent me immediately to an oral surgeon. I had let a gum infection spread to my jaw. The oral surgeon who was booked till September, fit me in as an emergency and pulled a tooth to release some pain. I was also put on an antibiotic to hopefully kill the raging infection. This was Wednesday and the Hardrock was on Friday… I couldn’t let Betsy down. I was pacing her those 17 miles infection or not. 

The narcotics actually helped me sleep at night but the infection didn’t seem to subside even after a few days. Laying in my van the day before the hard rock I felt nervous about pacing Betsy. It was about her and if I struggled that wasn’t okay. I kept telling myself that it was suffer training. That if I could run 17 miles with a fresh hole in my mouth and an infected gum I could run any distance. I had been on a liquid diet for about 4 days and was living off of baby food. I could feel the hollow in my stomach. I was finding it impossible to get enough calories.

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Betsy started that morning at 6am and at 7pm I was sitting in downtown Ouray watching her tracker and anticipating her arrival. She’d be about 43 miles into the 100 and I would be taking her to mile 60. When she arrived we tried to get her in and out of the aid station as fast as possible. With only a few hiccups Betsy and I were walking our way to Box Canyon. This was my first time ever in Ouray not in the winter and I couldn’t help but remember all of the fantastic ice climbing trips I had taken to this canyon. As we moved along she asked about my mouth and I responded that it was best if we didn’t talk about it. The taste of blood was already strong in my mouth and I was fearful about the night ahead. Betsy was moving at a really good pace and I kept up right behind her talking about this and that and everything in between.

As the sun set we became silent and tried to focus on the trail ahead of us. Though it was dark you could feel the great exposure opening up beside us. Betsy, behind me at this point, commented on the fact that if you trip and fall you die. I didn’t feel afraid. Heights and exposure don’t scare me… maybe it’s from my years of rock climbing. As we got higher, the night got darker, and the air got colder. We had run through several creeks at this point and I could feel the deep sinking feeling of coldness soaking in. Betsy didn’t want to stop till we got to the aid station so I rotated which hand was holding the flash light and which was in my pants. When we finally reached engineering pass I was ready for a few extra layers. We sat by the fire for a bit trying to dry out our feet and get moving.

The next section was very steep up hill. We kept moving because after cresting over the summit it would be all down hill to the aid station where Angela would take over pacing. Once we started to go downhill Betsy just took off. For over 50 miles on her legs she was moving quick and efficiently. I jogged along beside her feeling the swollen right side of my face jolt up and down with every step. I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t feeling any pain because my brain was trained to block out pain when I was running… unlike when I sleep and the pain can only be subsided with narcotics. We made fast work of the downhill and showed up at the aid station greeted by her friends and family at 2am. We got Betsy all fixed up and headed towards Handsies. I was feeling happy to be done and head to bed with my dog.

I caught a ride with Betsy’s dad and was asleep in my van by 3:30am. We woke early the next morning and I joined in on the crew for Betsy. We met her at the last aid station and got her ready for the finally push to the finish. As the sun just barely began to set Betsy came running into downtown Silverton and kissed the rock for her 15th Hardrock 100 finish! It was such an amazing experience to get to witness and be a part of! The next day we got to join in on congratulating all of the finishers and all of the people who didn’t finish in a family style ceremony. It made me really appreciate races that aren’t over run by sponsors and money. It reminded me of all the great people I met in Alaska and the way it felt like a family. As I finally said my goodbyes my heart felt warm and heavy and my face still very infected. 

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I spent the next week going into my second mouth surgery and planning my next snow 100 miler. So thankful for all the people I met and all the time spent in the mountains! 

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Western States 100 Pacing

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Western States 100 Pacing

It was February 2016 I stumbled out of our red Prius rental car and shuffled my legs across the icy ground. Everyone looked in much better shape than me. But less than 24 hours earlier I was deep in the woods of the Alaska wilderness running. The Susitna 100 was an epic 100 miler race across frozen Alaska. This year it only saw 28 runners actually finish. Of those finishers only 9 were females. Karen Johansen was one of those 9 females and so was I. At the award ceremony the next day she looked almost completely recovered while I stayed firmly in my seat trying to hide my obvious limp. I didn’t know much about Karen at the time other than that around mile 40 her and her friend Lourdes effortlessly floated by me at my lowest of lows. We all chatted about the race, our up coming races, and where we were from. This is how Karen and I connected on the Western States 100. Excitedly she asked if I would pace her and even more excited I obliged.

It is now June 2016 and the hype for the Western States 100 was growing in Tahoe. Karen had a super limited schedule so we barely got to sync up before race day. It was Friday afternoon when we finally saw each other 5 months since our last chat in person in Alaska. Karen was super sick. She could barely sit with us for more than a few minutes before getting nauseous. We made a plan to have me pace her the whole way from Forresthill to the finish and then she went to bed. I started to feel nervous about her health and the heat of the coming day but if I knew anything about Karen it was that she was one tough cookie. I decided to pass the time by going paragliding which proved to be a mildly bad idea. I stalled my paraglider close to the ground and fell right on my ankle. A sprained ankle the day before an ultra. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

By the time I woke the next morning Karen was already at mile 10. I continued to watch her tracker like a hawk. She was averaging a good pace and I started to estimate when I would need to be in Forresthill. By the time she reached mile 30 I had a good estimate of when she would be at mile 60. It started to dawn on me that I would be running for some very strange hours. Entirely all at night. I quick grabbed another nap and headed down the hill. I kept massaging my ankle just hoping it wouldn’t cause me any problems. I put on my running clothes, packed up my backpack, and put on my compression socks in an effort to combat the swelling in my ankle. The sun was setting already and I was feeling super mentally unprepared for what the night was about to hold. I kept reminding myself that Karen had 60 miles on her legs and I had 0. This isn’t about me. This is about her. 40 miles on fresh legs is nothing. 

By 9pm all of the spectators started to go to bed and clear the streets. It was dark now so I put on a jacket because I was cold. I said goodbye to some people and then it was just me standing waiting. Karen rolled through the aid station around 9:45pm and we were off running together at 10pm. I had already shed my jacket as we ran down the street together chatting. I couldn’t believe how fresh Karen looked! Distracted we missed the turn straight out the gate and some people behind us yelled for us to turn. Wow that could have been bad I thought as I cleared my head and focused. The course wasn’t as well marked as I thought it would be so I made extra sure to always be looking… I mean we all had heard what happened to the number one guy getting lost before HWY 49. 

Before even getting a mile into the run we both had to use the bathroom. We cleaned up and continued downhill. It was a lot of downhill. I thought we were making really good time. We were talking about running, our personal lives, and everything in between. The first aid station came and went and I was back on familiar trails. I had worked the Cal 2 aid station for the Canyons 100k so I felt a little less lost in the woods. I couldn’t believe how dusty and hot it was for how late at night. We made it to the Cal 2 aid station were everything was buzzing. We saw a few people who had dropped and ate a little food. By this point we had finally settled into together. We had tried Karen running in front and me following and vice versa but settled in with me leading and setting the pace. We reached the next aid station quickly and everyone couldn’t believe how great Karen looked. I really lucked out. She was so strong and good at running ultras. She knew exactly what she needed when she needed it.

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As we left that aid station we started to go uphill again. Karen is a really strong ascender even with 70 miles on her legs. We set a really solid pace on the uphill and passed several parties that looked like they were hurting. The next stop was the river crossing and I was getting nervous about the prospect of the fridge water at 3 in the morning. The river came faster than expected and Karen flew through the aid station before the water. A spectator grabbed me by the arm and said Jen!! what are you doing here?? Immediately confused she realized I was not Jen Shelton. This wasn’t my first time being mistaken for Jen. We both laughed as she continued to rant about how I could be her sister. Karen was already at the river as I sprinted down the stairs to catch up. They put a life jacket on both of us and it was time to go. We waded waste deep across the river making sure not to twist an ankle on the slippery big rocks below. This was a first for both of us. The water was cool, welcoming, and refreshing! I was feeling revitalized and ready to take on the rest of the course. Karen took her shoes off to realize what she thought was a rock was actually bad trench foot. She changed her socks, but the damage was already done. She knew she just needed to grit it out. 

We went up hill for the next mile or so and the heat had already dried most of me out. We were at mile 80 now and we had a small 20 miles left to go. The trail goes down hill for a bit and then turns into a very runnable angle. We capitalized on this and set a slow but steady pace. We passed a young man who was really hurting. His cough echoed through the canyon. I kept thinking how lucky I was that Karen was in such good shape! I turned around and asked her how she was doing again. She responded with the usual good! Though I knew she had terrible trench feet, 80 miles on her legs, and horrible chaffing. The strength of an ultra runner is insane. We ran with in close distance of this young man and his pacer for awhile and had to listen to the awfulness of his pacer. Sometimes its better to let the struggler struggle and encourage them instead of being so hard. Karen and I shot each other a glance and pulled away from hearing distance.

I refilled my water and fueled up at the next aid station. My hand flashlight battery was dead so I pulled my spare headlamp from my pack. The sun was just barely rising. But it was dark enough to need a light. We were roughly a half marathon from the finish. We wanted to cover as much distance as possible before the sun hit us and slowed us down. Then it hit me… the gut rot. It was only 3 miles to the next aid station I could make it. I trotted along the trail in fear of shitting my pants. All of my energy and thoughts were consumed by keeping it together. Out of no where my friend Chaz chipper as ever came flying by. When did we pass Chaz I thought? He had come through Forresthill in the day light!! I was super happy to see he was still going and hadn’t lost his sense of humor. The aid station came faster than expected and I disappeared into the portapotty. I made it quick and found Karen on her way out of the aid station. It was a quick section to HWY 49 and then we would be in the home stretch. The sun had risen and it was already smolderingly hot.

This was my lowest point. I was sick. My hips were hurting still from the Broken Arrow Skyrace the previous weekend. I was over 30 miles in. Karen was going to finish whether I was there or not. She was doing so good. I contemplated stopping at HWY 49 and getting Corbin to pick me up. It wasn’t like I was racing. Crippled over on the uphill Karen still looking strong she knew I was hurting. I joked doesn’t it feel good to see someone with less miles on there legs hurting worse than you? She laughed and said kind of. We both laughed and I started moving a little better. This is when I realized what made pacing hard. It’s the motivation. When you’re racing you get your motivation from the belt buckle, from the finish line, from the idea of crossing something off your list. I didn’t have these motivations. What was it that I could draw on to keep moving? It was Karen. It was getting to see her succeed. It was getting to share in her accomplishment. It was getting to make sure she finished. I told her I’d run with her to the finish. I was running to the finish. 

We could feel the energy of the finish line when we reached HWY 49. Everyone was screaming and cheering. We were a short 6 miles from being able to close our eyes and sleep forever. I knew all of these trails I had run them before. Karen wanted to run so we ran. Even on the uphill. By the time we reached the no hands bridge which was the second to the last aid station a sense of relief came over us. Karen was finishing this race. There were no cutoffs left to miss and just a short 3 miles and a big up hill between us and the finish line. I runner came up behind and me and said hey Jen it’s Blah Blah from race Blah Blah remember me? At this point I just said it’s so good see you again! And Karen and I left the aid station. Karen laughed and looked at me and said wow I bet everyone is wondering why a professional runner is pacing me. 

 

Karen started to become teary eyed as the prospect of finishing this race became more and more a reality. I quick grabbed the phone and turned it to full speaker on some jams. We were walking up this hill and we were going to do it in musical style. We passed a few people and got passed by a few people and after the final aid station we started to run again. Less than a mile from the finish I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was screaming and clapping and cheering and maybe dropping the F-bomb more than I should have. As we hit the pavement and ran through the neighborhoods of Auburn, Karen and I started to belt the lyrics to the song playing. Right now the name of the song escapes me but this moment was really special to me. Karen had been awake for 28 hours, had 100 miles on her legs, and was so happy and alive! The track came into view and I handed my phone off to my friend Lucas to take photos of us finishing. I looked at Karen and she said run the track with me. We ran the entirety of the track and as the finish line got closer and closer I didn’t want it to end. And just like that it was over. She had did it. And no one can ever take that away from her. She will always be a Western States 100 finisher!

We laid on the track drank some water and parted ways. To me pacing the Western States felt more rich and more meaningful than any race I’ve ever done. There’s no doping, no cutting course, no glory, no finish line, the selfishness that has made me hate running sometimes was stripped away. It truly made me appreciate what Tim had done for me in Alaska. He could have finished 5 hours faster but he stuck with me. He stuck with me and made sure I finished too. The selflessness in these serious endurance events makes me really love the people I choose to call friends.

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Broken Arrow Skyrace

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Broken Arrow Skyrace

I feel weird writing a blog post like this. Usually they are upbeat and stoked. But the Broken Arrow Skyrace left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and I can’t paint it to be something that it isn’t. I will say before I say anything else that the RD and all the volunteers were awesome, and I know everyone worked really hard to put on an awesome event. The course was beautiful and I appreciated the opportunity to come out and participate. Similarly, I strongly feel that this race will only get better in the years to come with hopefully a new and less confusing course. 

Skyracing. It’s a European thing. Essentially they try to jam pack as much vertical into as little distance as possible. I was intrigued by the challenging aspect of the race and the idea of traversing mountains. When they decided to start a skyrace in Tahoe I signed up without thinking twice. The Broken Arrow Skyrace in Squaw valley promised a 50k that wouldn’t disappoint. Unfortunately when the race course was released a month before the race I became less than excited. I never liked running track and field in high school because I despised the idea of being able to count the laps… being able to count the distance… doing the same thing over and over! This course was just that. A bunch of tiny little loops crossing and repeating all over the Squaw Resort ski hill. And no longer a 50k but now a 54k. The word around town was that the epic stellar loop they had planned fell through when the permits didn’t come in. Needless to say I didn’t care what there excuses where. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Still battling an injured hip from Alaska I had excuses to not do it. To take the DNS. Instead in silent protest I stopped training. I spent the next 20 days raging the cliffs of Yosemite and the 3 days leading up to the race being drug around by a paraglider. And still at 5am on June 19th I was in Squaw preparing to race.

I woke up that morning in the van and made a solid breakfast. I had been struggling with what would be appropriate to wear all morning but finally settled on an outfit that wouldn’t make me hot. Last minute I through a fleece and some gloves in my backpack. I do really hate being cold. I was using trekking poles which previously I hadn’t anticipated, but with my lack of training and hip injury it was a no brainer. At the start line I synced up with a few fellow Donner Party Mountain Runners. It was the first time I’ve ever raced and not felt nervous. I was planning on a DFL finish so what was to be nervous about?  When they asked everyone to file into the start I took the position which I thought I’d finish way at the back back. It was the first time I’d ever done this. My past racing strategy has always been to go out strong and hard and then you know exactly who is in front of you because they have to pass you. But this time I was giving a big zero fucks about strategy and finish position.

The horn sounded and we all filed out like a herd of cows. The fire road turns into single track really quick and I felt trapped behind some slow trotters. Initially I regretted my decision to start at the back. I felt like I was losing precious time behind these slow people but then I remembered that the the first 3 miles of a 32 mile race don’t mean that much. Crazy what a change in perspective will do to your attitude. I started moving faster once the road opened up again and then the first wrong turn happened. Everyone made it. This is how we ended up so high trying to make a decision to go down or up. Most of the pack went down so I went down. But then a man started shouting wrong way. So a lot of people turned around and went back up. I on the other hand stuck to my decision and kept going. Which turned out to be the right way. Everyone was pretty spread out now because of the wrong turn. This was only mile 2 and unfortunately was about to become a common theme. The first aid station came and went and I stashed my jacket in my pack.

In the next section we got our first tastes of snow. It was still very early in the day so the snow was frozen solid. Your feet wouldn’t punch through which made things very out of control going down and even more sketchy going up. The snow lasted on and off for the next 3 or so miles. Butt sliding was an awful and unwanted option because the ice would just cut the back of your legs and butt. The downhill went fast and I chatted here and there with a few people. I was feeling strong by mile 10 when we crossed back through downtown Squaw but the next uphill was just looming around the corner. I left downtown optimistic about the race but that quickly diminished. The trail becomes incredibly steep and loose and the uphill was relentless for hours. We went up for a long time and I was feeling low. Capitalize on your high points but keep moving during your low I kept thinking. I wanted an aid station by the time we reached Squaw Peaks summit and the helper just pointed off in the distance at a speck and said that’s your next one. The trail starts going down again and it felt good to open up my stride. This is where the next wrong turn happened we followed the flags across a snowfield which looked very well traveled only to realize we had seriously cut the trail. This resulted in the people who cut having to back track and go back up. As we came down I watched three more people cut the trail in the same spot. I told them they had cut but they didn’t seem to care. It was a substantial hill and mileage they missed.

So here is when I started to loose all hope in this race. The course was easy to cut and nobody was tracking. What are times? What are distances? What are places in a race? They mean nothing if people are cutting the course intentionally or unintentionally. We continued to run and the men who had cut passed me. At this point I didn’t care. I told myself they probably would have passed me anyways. We started to go down again and then back up. It was the final long uphill. Charting along I see my friend Julia coming down the trail. Confused I ask if she changed to the 27k. Even more confused she said no. She had taken a wrong turn which ended her up going down the wrong trail and actually adding more mileage and elevation gain. Things just weren’t adding up. How is this course so confusing? Even from looking at my map I couldn’t decipher. I got to the high point and started to go down again. A lady passed me and was asking a lot of strange questions about the course. I gladly answered but was very confused because she seemed to not remember coming up this entire section only a few hours earlier. But again I just brushed it off. Maybe she just didn’t remember. I was so happy to reach the final aid station. Then the final uphill happened it was all down hill from here. There was no-one behind for a long while. So I settled in the idea of finishing right where I was. We crested up the final climb and I watched the woman and man in front of me cut a big part of the course. I couldn’t believe it, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt it was a hard turn to see but we just went up this a few hours ago!!!??? How do people forget??? I took the correct trail and started to become paranoid. I knew the guys behind me were going to cut this and then probably catch me. I started to question my decision not to cut. It would be easy. No one but I would know… But I had morals and I also cared little about this race. What would cutting do? Solidify my current position? I was like dead last any ways why did I care? If I cheated I’d be a cheater. I’d always be a cheater. I couldn’t live with that. 

As the final stretch came into view I opened up my stride and finished right where I should have finished. Though my superstitions about the legitamentness of this race continued when a man I had passed and I very clearly remember did not pass me was already at the finish line chatting me up. I finished in about 8 and half hours which is what I expected to do based on all of the runs of half the distance and half the elevation I had done in Yosemite in about 4 hours. It’s a strange feeling to be given a rank on a piece of paper based off of something nobody can confirm all these people actually did. All that matters to me though is that I know I did it and I did all of it. So fuck yeah! But honestly a little piece of me wishes I would have just run 32 miles with 12,000 feet of vertical on my own and then none of this would even matter.

At the end of the day it’s a good reminder of why I hate racing. Racing is why people dope. Racing is why people cut course. Racing turns good people into people who will do anything to win or anything to place a few spots higher. Now it’s time to return to the purity of the mountains. Colorado is my next stop. 

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Skull Queen in a Day

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Skull Queen in a Day

It had been a long time coming. Tesia and I had been in contact about climbing a wall for a little over a year. Last season didn’t pan out for us as a pair because of her objectives and my full time job in San Francisco. But this year things were a lot different. I had been hanging around Yosemite thinking and talking about doing a wall but not making any moves. Erik Sloan caught wind of my desires and mentioned something to Tesia. This is where the Skull Queen in a day was born. I had headed back to Tahoe for a bit and Tesia and I communicated here and there. She had several things she wanted to do and I was just siked to do anything. Though I must say I was more attracted to the objectives that didn’t involve hauling. I looked over the things she wanted to do and quickly said lets do Lurking Fear in a day! It had been something I had been wanting to do for awhile and honestly I had never heard of the Skull Queen. She quickly came back with well lets first start with Skull Queen in a day and go from there. A quick glance at my Big Wall book, and I was siked! Skull Queen is situated just right of the South Face on the Washington Column and depending on what book you look at it, it goes at V 5.8 C2+ and is only 11 pitches. The perfect warm up for a much more committing climb like Lurking Fear and to get all the cob webs dusted off from the winter season of inactivity. 

We decided to blast on the day after memorial day weekend a Tuesday just to let all of the crowds leave before we got in. I drove down to Yosemite from Tahoe Monday afternoon. When I got there Tesia and I met in the meadow to sort gear and get ready for the big day the next day. We discussed strategy and gear and at about 9pm decided the best idea was to sleep at the base. Then it was go time. We quick packed gear and double checked everything. Food, water, gear, ropes, sunglasses… I drove to the stables only to find that they no longer allow overnight parking. This threw a wrench in our plans and I was feeling anxious about the coming day. We finally concluded that the best option was to park at curry and bike to the trailhead. My massive haul bag on my back and our day pack strapped to my front I felt unstable as we peddled away from the vehicles. It was 10pm and I knew the next 24hrs where going to be long. 

I followed Tesia through the woods and to the base where we stashed our bikes. I was feeling tired from the previous days of running and the long drive. We quickly transitioned into hiking and with a little route finding difficulty was on our way to the cliff. We barely spoke but hiked through the darkness. Head down and sweat pouring of my skin I watched all the insects scurry across the ground as my headlamp exposed them from the dark. Quickly we were at the base of cliff. Now it was just time to find an appropriate bivy spot to sleep for the night. We hiked along the base for a bit until we came to a nice overhung rock creating a flat place to sleep. Now close to midnight we setup camp. Tesia had a sleeping pad but I did not, so I flacked the rope out and laid my sleeping bag on top of it. We laid there looking at the stars and chatting for a bit before Tesia fell asleep. I tossed and turned almost all night. The rope didn’t make as nice of a crash pad as I had hoped or maybe it was just the excitement.

The alarmed chirped at 4:30am and I sprung from rope bed. I must have only slept about an hour. Tesia started to drink her coffee and I was wide awake. We tried to use the bathroom and started to head on our way. By the time we reached the base it was close to 6am. Another party showed up and we chatted as Tesia took the lead. She freed the first two pitches while I jugged. The plan was for me to free the third and then I would take the next block of 4 pitches. I made it up the third pitch much slower than expected and more french free than anything. I belayed Tesia up and was headed on my way for the 4th pitch. This was the crux for me. It was the heat of the day and I was rusty on aiding. I battled my way up over the roof and up the perfect low angle crack to another roof which proved to be the crux. My rope got stuck three times causing me to aid and then down aid three times to get the rope unstuck. By the time I got to the anchor I knew that it had taken me too long. I was sun burnt, dehydrated, and worked. I short fixed only to realize I had forgotten the tag line and would not be able to tag up any gear. It was a bolt ladder so I figured I could salvage what I could and continued climbing. 

Crisis mode was not over yet. I made it up the thin section and fifi-ed into the first bolt. I had to pee really bad. I made one more move and then realized it was an emergancy. Drapped in pounds of gear and hanging from my harness I peed my pants. Shit I thought I’m going to be all wet and gross all day now. The good news was that the wind had just started to pickup and my pants almost dried immediately I looked down at Tesia who had just arrived at the belay and said “Hey do my pants look wet”. She laughed and was like yep. To which I responded in light heartedness "yep totally just peed myself". After that mini epic the bolt ladder went fast and instead of taking the next two pitches I waited for Tesia and she took the next two. The 7th pitch required a few mandatory free moves even for the follower. I was not siked as I mantled on to the belay ledge with nothing but my grigri connected. The sun was still high and we only had 4 more pitches to go. I didn’t want to be descending in the dark and was feeling apprehensive about the whole situation. I was scared, tired, smelly, and we still had the three crux pitches left. I made a suggestion about bailing to which Tesia said she had thought about it but she wanted to go atleast the next two pitches and see how we feel. As she left the belay I knew we were going to the top.

Tesia made quick and easy progress of the next two C2 pitches. I jugged fast behind her and I felt like we had finally hit a stride. The first half of the route was just a warm up. Standing below the last crux pitch number 10. Tesia looked at me and I knew it was mine. She had just led a block of 4 pitches not to mention two of the hardest pitches. She asked if I wanted my headlamp and I firmly said no it’ll be motivation to climb faster. I missed the crucial beta to stay left at the belay and ended up making some very scary moves close off the deck and wasted valuable time. Once I finally got moving I was moving. My hands bleeding I made my way steady up the loose crumbly crack having pieces of granite explode in my face as I tested my pro. I clipped into the lower out tat for a second and in that split second I was falling. The old tat had exploded and I was wizing down to be caught by my daisy.  No time to stop I kept moving. Now was the scary part two hook moves, followed by two rivet moves, followed by two hook moves and the anchor. Hook, hook, rivet, rivet, cam, hook, hook, bam! The smell of hot metal rose from the rock and little chunks of granite sprayed into my eyes. I was run out on a traverse and clipped into two hooks. The hook I was fifi-ed into blew and just like that I was back on my daisy being caught by my other hook. I couldn’t believe that my hook caught a static full length daisy fall but I was thankful. I clipped the anchors and Tesia jugged up behind.

Miss informed again Tesia changed into her free shoes to free the final pitch. We switched on our headlamps and she blasted off the belay. It turned out to be much harder than 10b and she pulled through most of the pitch. I followed behind on the jugs and we were finally done. In a full on 15 hour day up on the rock. Now was the decision to rap the repel route or to walk down the north dome gully. We decided to repel for speed reasons. We got setup and made the first repel from the Skull Queen to the well traveled South Face repel route. As we started to pull the rope we realized this wasn’t going to be easy. The rope got stuck. We stood tired and exhausted facing the sad decision that we would need to re-lead this pitch to free the rope. The good news was that it was 5.2. Tesia, having done it before, led up and freed the rope. I promised that if it got stuck again I would go up and free it. A few more tugs on the rope and it was stuck again. Tesia decided it was easier for her to lead it again and went up and freed the rope. This time she was certain it wouldn’t get stuck but once again…. a few more pulls lodged the rope again. Tesia like a real trooper went up and freed the rope one final time. I can’t express how thankful I was that she did that over and over again. As we setup for the next repel we kept hoping it wouldn’t get stuck again. 10 repels later we were down at the base but far from being done. We hiked back to our bivy, packed all of our stuff up, and started the hike back to the bikes. This time we laughed and talked about how ridiculous the day was. When we reached the bikes we were on the home stretch back to vehicles. And by the time we got to the cars it was 3am. I couldn’t believe the day we had. As I threw a few things in the van I headed straight to the curry showers were I scrubbed the hard day off of my skin.

My sausage wall fingers lasted for about three days and my puffy swollen sunburnt lips lasted about the same time. But like all big pushes life moves on as quickly as it stopped. And I know Tesia and I will get back at it again even if its not till the cool months.

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Art Around Yosemite

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Art Around Yosemite

Yosemite, the promise land. This place consumes my thoughts and my every waking moment. I want to be here. In the mountains, on the rock faces, breathing heavy on the trails. This place is the closest I have ever felt to home. Yosemite is special to me. The rock features, the people, the trees… everything has meaning and purpose and place. I like to paint and draw the things that mean something to me. That is why Yosemite is the subject of many of my pieces.

Half Dome, I’ve seen this mountain from every direction and every angle. It’s crazy that just moving a couple feet away can give you a new perspective and a different shape. Half Dome is the second climb I ever did in Yosemite and one of my favorite runs. 

The Mother Tree, this ancient Juniper tree sits on top of El Capitan greeting all of the tired and traveled hikers and climbers. It appears to just grow straight out of the granite. But through years of wind and weather it sits beautiful and alone. The first time I saw this tree I was in love. It has so much meaning and symbolism. That against all odds something so beautiful can still remain unchanged and strong.

Tunnel View and the Raven, a view that never gets old. El Capitan and Bridal veil falls frame Half Dome in the background. This valley and the community of people who fly mean the world to me. Practicing the dark art of flying your body and being one like the raven. I won’t say more.

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Aloha! Pu'u Manamana Turnover Trail

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Aloha! Pu'u Manamana Turnover Trail

The beautiful island of Hawaii is just a short 5 hour flight from California. It is a shame we don't go more often. This trip was a birthday present to Corbin, and we booked super last minute. Corbin wanted to surf three times a day, and I was determined to find out what all these mountains were about. We surfed the first few days while I hiked around in the sand trying to get my knee back to full strength. I was researching hikes and runs in the area and found a short hike that promised lots of thrills. This hike was classified as "The most dangers hike on Oahu". I'm a mountain woman. How hard could it really be?

We drove down the coast from North shore where we were staying. You could see the epic ridge lines shooting straight out of the beach. For a few moments I thought non of these mountains look walkable. They are sheer cliff faces! We parked the car and took an unmarked but well traveled trail off the side of the road. The trail had lots of people on it and we continued to gain elevation at quick rate. At the first vista most everyone was turning around but we were determined to keep going. The hike we had planned was only 4 miles long and we had barely trailed .2 miles.

Up and up we went. The traveling became less walking and more scrambling. At times you needed to use your hands to get over things. But at this point I still wasn't convinced this was the "Most Dangerous Hike". We came to another vista and didn't even stop at this point there were no more people which I actually kind of preferred. It is hard to pass people on a knife blade edge. The going got a little more airy. 2,000 foot drops on either side as you traverse a ridge barely big enough for you feet. Corbin made a comment about being puckered. I was still feeling calm.

We kept going up and up and up. We caught more views of the surrounding mountains and the trail became less and less traveled. It wasn't hard to follow though because you are on a tiny ridge the only choice you have are to continue following it or to turn around.

The trail started to become muddy. Next it was over grown. You could barely see where you were stepping and everything turned into a slip and slide. We finally after 2 miles came to a trail junction. One route went left and down and the other continued to follow the ridge up and right. we chose the right ridge. At this junction we could see other small islands off in the distance and the surrounding ridges sheer cliff faces.

We were fully committed at this point. There was no turning back and we were feeling hungry now. We didn't bring any food because we thought it would be a quick short hike. I mean it really is only 4 miles... The ridge was so over grown we couldn't see were we were stepping and the mud so thick our feet would sink and our shoes get stuck. We slipped and slid all over the ridge until we came to the final ridge junction. We headed down this time. Our legs and arms were covered in scrapes and bruises from the bushes and our shoes were heavy from mud. Not to mention the trail wasn't getting any wider... or less steep.

The downhill was the hardest ridge. My legs were tired and my footing slick from the mud. Twice I stepped to close to the edge of the trail and my leg busted through the ferns and dangled freely over the cliff. Slipping and tripping on mud covered roots. It was the closest I've ever come to loosing it on a mountain. The downhill went forever and spit us out in an old grave yard down the hill. It is too date the longest 4 miles of my life taking us 4.5 hours. You can check the strava out here.

In conclusion I do not think this is the "most dangerous hike on Oahu" There is plenty of danger that has never been traveled but it was a full on jungle adventure!

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My Path to Living in a Van

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My Path to Living in a Van

I was 20 years old when I graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. In those 3 years Lopi and I had lived in 7 homes/apartments across Golden, Colorado. Needless to say we were really good at packing and moving. Post college I was ready to settle into a more permanent location for awhile. I applied a bunch of places and got a few job offers. At the end of the day the pay in San Francisco well out weighed my desire to live in Boulder, and I decided to make the leap. Every part of me wanted to stay in Colorado. That was where I felt comfortable, where the tall mountains were, and where all of my friends were. But a different side of me was intrigued by the adventure of a new city. About the thought of starting completely new. Not knowing a single person.

My company flew me out to find a place to live and then hired movers to move my stuff. I didn't have much but it was convenient to have everything already there once I got there. I knew nothing about San Francisco or the surrounding bay area, but I picked a one bedroom apartment in beautiful Marin county within walking distance to the ferry, which I would be commuting to work everyday on. Larkspur was perfect. Immediately I acquainted myself with the amazing trail running and beautiful coast. It was always the perfect temperature. I was ready to set roots and live here for awhile. I didn't want to move again.

But everything changed once I started working. My job had strict hours 9am to 6pm everyday. I lived so far outside of the city that with my commute I would leave my house at 7am and get back at 7pm. On top of this the ferry only ran till 9pm so I couldn't stay out late with my new coworkers. Needless to say, I hadn't made any friends yet and with my crazy work schedule it seemed like I never would. The work was demanding of my full attention and when I got home I would fall asleep within minutes.

Months went by and I became depressed. All I did was work and sleep. I was running but on the city streets of San Francisco. I was never a city person. Lopi was constantly being neglected. He wasn't happy either. I started to get out on the weekends but I didn't have any friends so my solo adventures felt dangerous. I climbed at every bouldering place on the Northern part of the state. Without a spotter, and being depressed I had some bad falls resulting in one gnarly head injury.
Then one day out of the blue a friend from high school in a pinch moved into my living room. Having Jo around made everything better. She listened to me bitch about how much I hated San Francisco and she loved Lopi like he was her own. But my problem still existed. I had one friend, an awesome job, and no time to run or climb. Soon after Jo moved in I met Yosemite. From that first day in that valley my life was changed.

I went to Yosemite every weekend. It was the only place I ever wanted to be. It would pull me through the weekdays and every Sunday my heart would break as I drove away. I could write a novel about the power of Yosemite about the people and the passion. But it wasn't until I met a man who lived in a van that my curiosity was sparked. He recommend the book that lit the fire under my butt to get out of San Francisco. The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer reminded me how silly it was to be spending all this money on a lavish apartment in Marin that I hated. But just as he came into my life he left, as van people do. And sitting in El Cap meadow contemplating my next steps in life I met a practicer of the dark art. A artist of the air.The friends of the ravens. His charm and danger drew me in like a cat.

In this moment I realized I had made all of these friends in Yosemite because these people were passionate. These people loved the outdoors and they lived every moment of there life deliberately. They had interesting stories and happiness poured from them. Many of them jobless, homeless, and poor but happier than any person I ever met in the bay. Why? Because they had nothing pointless consuming there thoughts. They were jumping off cliffs and free soloing rock climbs. They could care less who was winning on the Bachelor or when the Super Bowl starts. They drank from the springs, bathed in the rivers, and laid in the sun. I was home.
The next week I bought a van.

Next step was trying to make it work with my job. I loved my job but the lack of flexibility wasn't working. I tried every scenario to make the van life and my job work and at the end of the day it wasn't happening. Being jobless wasn't an option though. I had spent a month without work once in the van in Colorado and I thought I was going to go insane. I needed to use my brain. I needed to interact with other engineers. At this point it was just in my nature.
So the job hunt began. The nice thing about software engineering is with the right job you can do it remotely. Three months of interviews and I landed my dream job at the awesome company of Github! My suffering in San Francisco was finally over. 

In the same day that I signed my offer letter I broke my lease. I said goodbye to my roommate and friend Jo and headed for the mountains in the van. It wasn't hard to get rid of most of my belongings. After a few weeks in a van you realize how trivial it is to keep holding on to all of these things that other people could use. I've found that living in a van has made me more generous and more conscious. I'm more aware of how I am spending my time and how I am treating others around me. Time seems slower in the van. Rarely do I feel like time is flying by and I'm missing everything. I am also more aware of how much I use the things that I own. If something lays around the van for a few weeks unused I have to think about how to free up that space. Maybe I don't need that and someone else could benefit from it.

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Recovery - The Struggle is Real

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Recovery - The Struggle is Real

Recovery. It's the most important part of a race. For me recovering from a 20, 30, 50 mile run doesn't take very long. Maybe a day of rest and listening to my body and then I can jump back up and start running again. However the Susitna 100 was a different story for me. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, the snow , or the sled. Whatever it was I just couldn't seem to come back. A week went by and I was still limping around. I was struggling to sleep without my legs being restless. I was depleted and no matter what I did I couldn't seem to come back. Icing, stretching, slow walks with lopi. I must have slept in two hour increments for days on end. The worst part was I could never make it through an entire night of sleep.

Corbin was concerned and kept making suggestions that my diet wasn't right. His solution was that I should start eating meat. I didn't agree, but I had a feeling my less then stellar diet might have something to do with it.

So I turned to Skratch Labs again. I was determined to take control of my diet. I wanted to run and feel strong. Karen, Lourdes, Tim, Lester... Everyone was running again. I wanted to run too!

I searched the internet and found solace in a few articles like this one that made it seem like your first 100 was always the hardest and longest to recover from. A couple others suggested 6 weeks until you were completely recovered. That felt like an eternity.

So here I was resting in Boulder for work just a week after Alaska. I was still not sleeping and things seemed to be getting worse. My chest started to feel tight and my heart seems to beat faster then I remembered. The truth of the matter is my body lost a lot of blood after finishing the Susitna 100 (a detail I left out of my race report). I believe mostly from stress. I've always kind of teetered on the anemic side since being a vegetarian for 9 years but the extra blood loss I think pushed me over. I thought back to my friends Tom and Theresa and the story they told me about the weird things anemia made there bodies do. Tom is a long long time vegetarian and swore by some iron pills that allowed for easy absorption.

So step one was to turn my diet around with help from Skratch Labs and step two was to start taking those iron pills I'd been neglecting. Baskets full of veggies with extra beets for beet juice and a bottle of iron pills. I was going to get to the bottom of this.

I was in Boulder for the time so I decided to stop by the Skratch Labs office. I met with a few of the awesome people behind the business and talked training, nutrition, and recovery. The knowledge and experience they have with this kind of things is something I can only hope to skratch the surface of (pun intended). They tipped me off on a few things, first there Raspberry daily electrolyte mix actually has iron in it naturally from the raspberries so it will be an easy way for me to maintain the iron levels after I bring them back up with the pills. Second the sad reality is that unless you know your body really well and are a diligent vegetarian it's super hard to be a high performing endurance athlete without eating a little meat. It sucked to hear but after reading the introduction to the FeedZone cookbook when they talk about vegetarian cyclist David Zabriskie I kind of had a feeling that was the case. And as much as I think I’m good about my diet… I’m no Scott Jurek or anywhere close to that. I live in a van. Most my meals are centered around nut butters and eggs. Which is apparently not what my body needed after the Susitna 100. Last they warned me of the terrors of over training and how hard it is to recover from the constant fatigue. Right now though I was just concerned with getting running again not even training!

I left Boulder feeling like I had a plan of attack until a series of unfortunate events happened in the airport and I cried for a bit. Anyways back to recovery. The terrible airport experience made me want Yosemite because Yosemite is where you go for answers and where you go to heal. I picked up a prenatal vitamin because they have a huge amount of Iron in them and it’s also what the doctor suggested. This was my third week of recovery and I was spending it in Yosemite. I drank water from the springs, laid in the sun, climbed a lot, and finally slept. I slept every night like a baby. I was worked and after leaving Yosemite realized some of that fatigue was linked to an impending cold. So the next week I spent laid up in Tahoe sick as a dog. At this point I’m taking my prenatal vitamin along with an iron plus pill. Climbing a bit in the gym but mostly just working and sleeping. I had made up the tasty Scratch Labs beet juice recipe and had a glass everyday. I always noticed a big spike in my energy levels after a glass of beet juice.

About 28 days after I finished the Susitna 100 the weather in Tahoe finally cleared, my cold was gone, and I went for my first run. It was slow but I felt mentally and aerobically stronger than ever. However my legs felt like bricks. I didn’t seem to have the same turn over and my knees and hips got really tight giving me pain. I stretched and foam rolled right after I finished but still found myself limping around the next day. I’ve always been a really bendy person but for the first time ever I was sore from a 5 mile run. I couldn’t do all of the poses,  but I went to yoga anyways. The weather turned back to snow in Tahoe and I cursed the cold. You can’t blame me for not wanting to run in the cold and snow for awhile. But I was eating better with no meat yet, taking the iron supplements, and planning to spend the next few weeks with short distances at a regular interval. All in all no better feeling then being able to run again.

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First 100 After Math

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First 100 After Math

I'm trying to recount everything that happened that night I finished the Susitna. It feels like my recovery has taken an eternity and I want to capture all the details of what happened to my body.

So here is my trip report Link. In summary I was in motion for close to 37 hours straight with no rest. I was moving over undulating icy and snowy terrain with a 30 pound sled strapped around my waste. Every step was deliberate and forceful.

Here is what I remember from those days post race. When I finished at 9pm I was wide awake I was afraid to take my shoes off so I sat inside eating and drinking for about 30 minutes. When it was time to go Corbin pulled the car around but I couldn't stand. I had no control over my lower legs. I couldn't straighten my knees or bend them so they always stayed at a slight angle. Corbin lifted me from the chair and I put an arm around his neck. Though honestly he was supporting all of my body weight while my legs slid on the icy ground beside him.

Once in the car I finally removed my shoes and socks. Immediately my feet swelled to an abnormal size and the pain on the bottom of my feet was so extreme I started to moan. I couldn't tell if they were frost bitten, and I was convinced I would never walk again. I had over 20 blisters covering the bottom of my feet. I quickly placed them under the heat and fell asleep. When I would wake up I realized I was still hallucinating. I saw faces in every object that passed and the sound of snow machines still echoed in my brain.

By the time we got to the hotel I wasn't even able to use Corbin as a crutch. Unable to bend my knees my legs stuck straight out in front of me as he sat me in a wheel chair and wheeled me into the elevator. I was so swollen at this point I looked 30 pounds heavier. Once we reached the hotel room Corbin laid me on the floor where I was convinced I could crawl to the shower. My knees were so sensitive that I resorted to an army crawl but only an inch of dragging my legs uncovered the pain all over and instead I laid helpless on the floor. At this point still fully clothed in what I had run in I was going in and out of shock. My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my body and muscles would convulse. By now it was almost midnight.

My clothing smelled of piss and sweat an extremely foul smell, and I wanted to shower immediately. I had been moving for two days and had peed countless times without wiping with anything but snow. Not to mention a few times I may have peed on my shoes at wee hours of the morning. Needless to say I smelled bad and I couldn't move. Corbin returned from putting back the wheel chair and assisted me in my clothing removal. My body was in worse shape then I had imagined and I found that the sides of my thighs were extremely bruised from the poles of my sled rubbing. Not to mention the horrible chaffing around my waste from the sled belt.

Now came the hard part getting to the shower. Corbin lifted me on to the toilet while he sat a trashcan upside down in the tub so I could shower without standing. This is when I realized how severely dehydrated I was. My pee was the deepest color of blood orange. I was unable to support my own body weight and as hard as I tried I couldn't left my legs over the side of the tub without using my arms. Corbin sat me on the upside down trashcan and started the tub. I couldn't figure out how to clean my self while sitting so I got rid of the trashcan and laid horizontal in the tub. I splashed water over my body and soaped as much as I could while Corbin sat near by making sure I didn't drown.

Then came the shock again. My teeth started to chatter and I started to convulse. I felt helpless as I urgently asked Corbin to get me warm. I was unable to free myself from tub. He lifted my body out and held me over his legs while he used the hair dryer to blow heat on my skin and toweled me to get the water off. I slipped some clothing on and he placed me in the bed.

The pain and swelling was so extreme there was no position that didn't hurt. I wanted my legs elevated because I still couldn't feel any of my toes mostly from the swelling at this point. He stacked all 8 pillows from the bed under my legs and made me some dinner. He was forcing Skratch Labs Recovery powder down my throat and making me eat even though I didn't want to. My left knee was worse then my right and the swelling and pain was strangely behind the knee. I think from the heel first walking I did in sections. So Corbin filled a few bags of ice and I iced my left knee all night. At this point it was now 1am.

Corbin was tired and I was set for a sleepless night anyways so he passed out in the bed beside me while I shifted and moaned all night in and out of small pockets of sleep. At 6am I realized I need to urinate and it was an emergency. I woke Corbin up and he quickly carried me to the toilet and back to the bed. He then snuck down to the lobby and grabbed me a big breakfast. By the time the sun rose it was shaping up to be the first bluebird day in awhile. Corbin got my trekking poles close to the bed and I urged him to go skiing.

I was now alone tossing and turning in pain. I needed to unpack and repack the sled for the flight that night. I couldn't sleep so I called my family and talked on the phone most of the day laying in bed with my feet propped up the wall. But then it hit again. I needed to pee. I positioned myself sitting at the edge of the bed with the trekking poles in each hand and stood up. Still unable to straighten or bend my knees I shuffled with the trekking poles to the bathroom. I was mobile now so I used my hands to lift my legs into the tub and used the railings to hold on while I took a solid shower. I could stand without the trekking poles now but I couldn't walk without them. I dried myself and put fresh clean clothing on. I felt good and wanted to put my compression socks on in hopes of making my feet feel better. So I sat on the couch with a knife popping some of the bigger poorly positioned blisters. Puss oozed out all over my feet and I applied as much Neosporin as I could.

I got the sled packed and unpacked and then Corbin showed up. Now was the true test. Could I walk without the poles? It was slow painful and awkward, but I could hobble unassisted. We went to the award ceremony and I got the belt buckle before heading back to the hotel. It was 9pm at this point an entire day after finishing the race and I could finally sleep. While Corbin packed his ski gear I passed out into the best 3 hours of sleep I could have asked for. We then headed to the airport for our 2 am flight back to Reno. I hobbled through the airport and to the gate where I fell asleep on the floor. Corbin woke me and I got onto the plane where I immediately feel asleep in Corbin's lap. Off this flight and on to the next a similar story. I was so destroyed I couldn't interact with other human beings. I couldn't formulate thoughts or words.

Corbin drove us back to Truckee where I laid horizontal on a couch unable to operate my car or move quickly for 3 days. I couldn't sleep. I could barely work. I couldn't walk Lopi without becoming extremely fatigued. Everything was a chore I was drained. The most empty I've ever been.

But I picked myself up on the fourth day and drove back to Incline. I showered and did laundry. I unpacked the sled and packed myself for my next trip to Boulder. I took Lopi on a walk and I enjoyed the little improvements in mobility that I gained daily. I still couldn't feel two toes on my left foot and my feet needed to be lotioned daily. But life keeps moving on even if your not ready for it to.

I flew to Boulder 5 days after returning from Alaska for work still unable to walk without limping. But everyday seemed to get just a little bit better and I found myself walking 1 to 2 miles everyday limp free after day 8 of no running. But I still couldn't sleep. It wasn't till my final night in Boulder that I got a goodnight sleep. I account it to the late night and good conversation with friends. Or maybe it was the climbing I had done that morning. Non the less I finally slept for the first time in 10 days.

I feel like I went through hell with this recovery and I've finally come out on the other side. I've learned so much about my body and what I need. I know next time things will be different.

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