Fat Dog 120 - Millimeters


Fat Dog 120 - Millimeters

Millimeters. If you move even a millimeter your life will be changed forever. The doctors words rang in our ears. Just moments earlier we were laying in the van cooking eggs in the cast iron. Now we were in the emergency room with an uncertain future. Let’s rewind and start from the beginning. This is in fact a race report about the Fat Dog 120 but it all plays a part in the story.

A few years ago the Fat Dog 120 race had sparked my interest. A point to point race in a beautiful part of Canada with an absurd amount of elevation gain and no repetition. I was sold! I texted Julia and asked her what she thought. Her response was that’s fucking ridiculous nobody can afford to pay that much for a race. It’s true for the amount of required gear and the lack of aid stations makes the steep cost of close to $400 not worth it… but I wanted to do it so I signed up anyways. The previous year the race had been canceled because of a forrest fire. But this year it was game on. Unfortunately about a month before the race they released that the race would be taking an alternate course to avoid the area that was burned. I pulled the race course up online and was immediately disappointed. A lollipop with a couple of out and backs…the worst.

Needless to say my motivation was dwindling. I’ve had a rough go at it the past year with all the young deaths in our community including my best friend Julia and my own misfortunes with a high speed interstate car accident that should have been life ending. I hadn’t raced in a long time. And I still don’t think I’m ready. Life just keeps throwing me curveballs and the dark places ultras take you become too dark. So dark that it overwhelms you and you can’t push through to the other side. Excuses excuses excuses I know…lets just say I didn’t train at all, I spent my time the months leading up to the race building a house, switching positions at my job, calling insurances about my car accident, and being fully wrapped up in some of my artistic hobbies. Occasionally Jenelle would drag me out for a 15 mile run but that was my max…. That was my max distance before a 120 mile race.

Race week was finally here and I had taken some time off of work so we could fully enjoy Canada and the drive up there. Unfortunately some rough travel to support my friend at the Ouray 100 left me super sick with a bad head and chest cold that laid me up for the two weeks prior. I went to the doctor looking for some answers the day before we left for Canada only to get a steroid to help my head drain. I took it once and felt great until the mucus drained into my lungs and I couldn’t breath and thought I was going to die. So as you can imagine the trip got delayed a few days until I felt I was ready to drive in a van for 18 hrs. Once on the road Corbin and I leisurely picked our way up through Oregon and Washington stopping at Smith Rocks, Leavenworth, and Index to climb along the way and lots of sleeping. I slept a lot.


We arrived in Canada about 2 days before the race to pick up my friend Jodie from the Vancouver airport. She would be living with us in the van and pacing me the big middle section of the race. We also met up with my best friend Nikki who lives in Washington and said she would pace me a few sections of the race as well. It was go time. We drove all the way out to the middle of BC and got a campsite for the two nights before the race. Pre-race was a big reunion with all my winter ultra Canada friends and my spirit and energy was high… even though the head cold was still kicking my butt. We had a plan.

The plan was… to take my steroids during the race so that I would feel better and my sinus pressure would drain. It seemed like a good idea in theory. But let’s remind ourselves that I’m severely under trained and pacing is going to be key for a successful race… and well steroids make you feel like a million bucks. The race starts at the ripe hour of 10am. It was my latest start to date… even winter ultras start earlier than that. It seemed like punishment to have us start so late. They required us to ride in a bus to the start and then at the start line they “checked” that we had our required gear. Which was a joke since we were all packed and ready to start.

The race started and I felt amazing. The first uphill went by quickly while I hung out with my friend Karen. It went by too quickly. I just felt so good and all I wanted to do was move and move faster! A couple people around me got stung by bees on the first uphill and had to drop. I’m allergic to bees and I didn’t bring an Epipen it made me insanely nervous knowing that it could happen to me at any moment. But I felt like a million bucks. I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran. I just kept running. I even did a dramatic shoulder roll when I tripped on a downhill scuffing up my hands and knees pretty bad. But nothing could stop me. I felt greater than great. The miles just flew by and so did the aid stations. Which had essentially no food. It was kind of a joke to call them an aid station. But I didn’t care cause I was riding cloud 9.

I flew down the next downhill and realized that the next aid station I was coming to was the first one I could see crew at. It was about mile 30. I kept getting excited thinking about seeing my friends and my dog. That I didn’t even bother to look at the time. As I rolled into the aid station I looked for my crew and they were no where to be found. Shit I thought. I hope they are okay and didn’t get in a car accident or something. I pulled out my sat phone and sent them a couple of text messages. I really needed them at the next aid station and it was only 3 miles away so I was nervous they might miss me. I mostly walked those 3 miles hoping it would give them some time to get there but the 3 miles flew by faster than I thought and as I arrived I saw the van!

My crew was hurrying to get shit together and surprised to see me. You know you are on a sub 36hr pace? Really I pondered. That’s not right…. I was planning to finish this race in 49hrs. O no. The steroid. I’m pretty sure I PRed my 50k. But I still felt great. I eat a bunch of a food and scurried out of there with Nikki as my pacer. The next uphill was ridiculous. It would be bold to call it a trail. It goes straight up the mountain with bad footing and cliff drop offs. Nikki and I silently trudged up the mountain still keeping a fast pace. I was not happy. I felt hot. I couldn’t eat. We crested over the top of the pass right at sunset. I couldn’t have been more relieved. Nikki and I sat for a bit on a rock and watched the sun fully disappear. I ate some food and we put on our jackets and head lamps. I looked at Nikki and said so nows the time when we get in our sleeping bags and get a full night sleep right? Fast packing sure is a sport to be romanticized when you’re about to spend a night out.

The first night is always the hardest for me. My spirits are always the lowest. I didn’t want to run anymore I just wanted to walk. It was dark. Nikki and I speed walked the rest of the way to the next aid station. We had company and chatted with a friendly guy from Arizona for most of the time. We finally arrived at the next aid station still well ahead of schedule. I sat down in a chair got myself cleaned up and Jodie and I headed out almost immediately. This is a little out and back section so naturally it sucked and I was not happy.

This section was the absolute pits. We got lost for a little bit. Had to forge two rivers which we took our shoes off and walked across barefoot. And I death zombie marched. I went from a great pace to no pace. Poor Jodie walked all night long with me and we barely went anywhere. The aid station would never come. This section is a 50 mile section with no crew access including two sections which I had already done yesterday. So you essentially are stuck and have to do it. It wore heavy on me. My head cold hurt. My legs felt like bricks. And I wanted to go to bed. We walked. We walked really slowly. We got to an aid station and I sat for a really long time.

A was not in a good mood. The sun had just risen and we were nearing the 24hr mark. A happy camper rolled into the aid station exclaiming how he just saw a grizzle mama bear and her cubs on the trail! I couldn’t take it. I shouted from across the aid station. Actually that would be a cinnamon brown black bear. Not a grizzle. Everyone eyed me suspiciously before the local Canadians backed me up. And the man said our black bears are black on the east coast… I don’t believe I’ve ever rolled my eyes louder in my life.

Jodie who is an infinite ball of positivity and energy bounced around the aid station making friends and eating food while I sat in the chair with an angry scowl on my face. I wasn’t even considering DNFing yet I was mostly just unhappy for no reason. Jodie gave me my steroid for my cold and life shot back in me. Alright let’s get out of here. Just 20 more miles till we see our crew. I stood up from the chair and my legs could barely move. They’ll warm up I thought... They did not warm up. There was no saving them at this point. They were done.

I spent the next section angry. I kept repeating, usually I can come around from a low but I’ve been stuck in this low since mile 50. I can’t come out. My legs aren’t coming around. I kept walking slowly. I couldn’t jog downhills. I couldn’t jog flats. I couldn’t even speed walk. Honestly I couldn’t even walk it was more of a shuffle limp. The mosquitos were bad and I wanted a nap. Jodie let me nap for a few minutes but the nap didn’t help nothing was going to save my legs. The sun never rose it was overcast. It was overcast the previous day too. I hadn’t seen the sun. My spirits were low. I wish a bee would sting me I relented to Jodie. Maybe I could get a helicopter out of here that might be nice. I kept walking.

The sky finally did what it was threatening to do all day. It rained. It poured. And the ponchos got pulled out of the pack. I was miserable. I couldn’t move fast to save my life. And we were out there. Like really out there. I felt vulnerable. For once in my life I was actually a bit nervous. I usually say you can always walk out so it’s not scary but we were miles from any road… and I could barely walk. When we got to the next remote aid station we sat down. The next aid station was 18 miles away. Mostly uphill on a section that I had done the previous day. I had seen it already. It was raining. Threatening lightning and I didn’t want to go up on that ridge line again. I sat there. I sat there. I knew the right decision was to take the 11 mile trail down to the road and get out of there. My legs would never come around. I ran. I ran way too much way too early for being way too undertrained. I stood up at the aid station and said 128 out as in DNF out. The friendly volunteers tried to get me to reconsider with things like don’t you want that belt buckle and it’s easier to walk uphill. I literally looked at them and said I don’t need another belt buckle and you know damn straight gravity is great and it is always easier to walk downhill. And with that I walked out of there with Jodie.


It was such a great relief to know that we wouldn’t be up on the ridge line in a potentially dangerous storm. It was such a relief to know that I wouldn’t have to spend another night out there and make my already bad head cold worse. It was such a great relief to know that I could sleep soon. However we were still over 11 miles from the car and my legs were trashed and just cause I decided to DNF didn’t mean they got any less trashed. Jodie didn’t influence my decision at all she supported me in whatever I wanted to do but as we walked out the aid station she said I’m proud of you for not letting your ego make you make a bad decision. I didn’t even think about it like that but it was true if I was just out on my own not racing I would not have continued so if you take the race out of the decision it’s an easy one. That downhill went for days. I limp, hobble, sat, repeat… over and over. 11 miles of downhill has never taken me longer before in my life. The rain was still coming down and Jodie and I were on a mission. A very slow mission.

As we neared the trail head the sun peaked out a little bit and for the first time in 2 days I felt the sun. It was so rejuvenating. We sat there. We laid there. We napped. The sun is the greatest thing. And then it disappeared and we kept moving again. Within ear shot of the trailhead I could hear Lopi playing in the river. My journey of 90 miles was finally over. I’m positive if it was a 100 mile race I could have limp hobbled my way to the finish. But I can confidently say I did not have another 30 miles in me. But I can also say I raced a really stupid race and paid heavily in the end. With pacing would I have finished? I don’t know maybe. Or the head cold and under training would have caught up to me earlier and I wouldn’t have made it as far. Who knows. It was a fun time and I would not recommend the race with the modified course to anyone. Save your clams for a different race or two.

After the race I ate a lot of food. Slept a lot. And got to hangout with my friends. Nothing is more special than the ultra community… especially the crazy ones who also like winter ultras. We said our goodbyes and made our way back to Vancouver. Jodie missed her plane flight so her Corbin and I got to spend one very cramped night in the back of my van in downtown Vancouver. Little did I know it wouldn’t be my last night in downtown. In the morning we dropped Jodie off at the airport and Corbin and I decided to continue our vacation north.

It’s beautiful north of Vancouver. Our first stop was Squamish. At Squamish we unloaded the van and deep cleaned the nastiness of ultra running and housing lots of different people in a small space. Then we took a short hike but I could barely walk and I ended up just going back to the van and sleeping while Corbin solo adventured around the Chief. That night we ended up traveling up to Whistler which was both of our first times there. We checked out the village and realized it was crankworks weekend so everything was super crazy busy. Corbin rented a really nice downhill mountain bike for the next few days and then we bivied up high in the mountains. We had gotten into a really nice rhythm almost 2 weeks on the road of cooking and sleeping.

The next morning we got up and headed down to the village. I decided to go back to work since I was basically out of commission with my current leg and foot situation. I said goodbye to Corbin in the morning and headed to the coffee shop to work. Corbin and I met up around 1pm that day to make food in the van and Corbin took a quick nap before heading out again. I walked back to the coffee shop and worked a bit more before the tiredness, hunger, and rain hurried me back to the van. I made a quick stop at the convenience store on my walk back to pick up snacks that Corbin would be mad at me for eating. I hid them in the van so he wouldn’t find them.

About an hour of sitting in the van went by before I got the call. It was approximately 4:30pm when Corbin called me and left me a message that said “I’m in the hospital I guess can you come here”. I called back immediately his voice was calm. I’m at the clinic in Whistler will you come here. I looked it up quickly and frantically tried to make my way to the clinic. It took longer than expected when I wasn’t able to get parking and ended up having to walk anyways. Scenarios played through my head. His voice is calm. He must have broken something. Maybe a collar bone? That’s a thing bikers break.

When I showed up at the front desk I asked for him. The lady behind the counter was over joyed to see me. She whispered in a hush tone he can’t remember anything so hopefully you can help answer some questions. My stomach sank. It wasn’t a broken arm. When I first saw him he looked great. He just sat there. I was so happy to see him sitting there tears welled in my eyes. He looked at me not turning his head and said why am I here. In the hospital I asked? Why am I in the hospital he repeated. I don’t know I said. I just got here. Who told you I was here he asked. You called me. The seriousness of the situation started to set in. Why are we in Canada he quipped. Well we came here so I could run a race. O right he said thinking hard you haven’t run it yet. No I did it was a few days ago. O really he said confused. The Tuscobia right? The Tuscobia is a winter ultra that happens in December…. No the Fatdog 120 I said. O right okay. Silence for a few seconds followed. Who told you I was here? You called me I repeated. Okay he said quietly looking to be deep in thought. Why am I here he repeated. The questions looped over and over. Intermixed with revelations that he was fine see look I’m fine I’ve got my arms and legs I’m fine but my neck hurts. I knew he wasn’t fine. He wouldn’t turn his head and look at me. He kept moving his arms and legs and then telling me his neck hurts and then asking me why he was there and how long he had been there. A nurse would come around asking him to sign papers again. He would refuse. He would ask if he could just walk out of there explaining to the nurse that he was fine.

I think I knew at that point that his neck was broken. He obviously knew or at least his body knew. I went to the nurse and got the papers. I looked Corbin dead in the face and said you will be a quad if you don’t sign these papers. He looked at me scared and signed the papers. At the time we knew nothing. I don’t know what compelled me to say that but I did. Once the papers were signed the doctor finally came around to see him. He sat Corbin up. Made Corbin take his shirt off and did an examination. He seemed cavalier about the situation. Maybe because Corbin was cavalier about the situation. I’m just going to order you a CT scan of your head to see if there is any swelling. It’ll be several hours before we can get you into the scanner so just relax and you should leave and get food he said looking at me. The doctors visit was brief and unsatisfying. He probably sees a million concussions a day and he treated us like that. I turned to Corbin who was regaining a small amount of memory and told him I would be back. I was just going to move the van and return his rental bike. I knew at this point he would not be riding the bike again tomorrow.

I walked out the front door and grabbed his rental bike, helmet, and knee pads. I biked back to the shop he had rented them from. His helmet was substantially damaged but the nice bike shop gave him a full refund for the unused day anyways. Saying well at least the helmet did it’s job! It sure did. I felt tired my body was weak. I could barely walk and struggled immensely to ride the bike to the shop. Life wasn’t going to let me live like I just ran an ultra I needed to be strong. I drove the van back to the clinic since more parking had opened up and walked in to find Corbin being wheeled back from his CT scan. I had maybe been gone for 45 minutes so I was surprised they were able to get him so fast. He was back boarded strapped to the board and in a neck brace. As he got wheeled into the room a nurse followed and started unstrapping him from the board. She reached to take off his neck brace when the doctor rushed shouting stop. He needs to stay in that. Nurse looked up surprised. O did you see something she said… yes a lot of things.

They left for a few moments before returning to tell us what they had seen. He had broken almost every bone in his cervical spine including a burst fracture C7 with 60% loss of vertebrae and a spinous process which was dangerously close to his spine. The breaks started at C1 and went the entire way to T3. Nobody could believe he was still alive. Nobody could believe he still had his arms and legs. That’s when it began. Don’t move. If any of those bones in your neck move even a millimeter your life will be very different. The gravity of the statement laid on us like a blanket. I’m going to call you a helicopter you will need surgery. I think an ambulance is too much risk with the seriousness of your injury. Corbin moved uncomfortably on the board. Can I just ride in the back of Naomi’s van to the hospital. There is a bed. I’m fine. I can’t afford a helicopter. I looked at Corbin he looked at me and we both knew he was getting in that helicopter. No money in the world is worth your arms and legs.


A few moments later the helicopter arrived. They wheeled Corbin on to it and I returned to the van. They had given me instructions on how to get to the hospital they would be taking him too. Now I just had to do the drive alone at night without him. I got in the van. I kept repeating get there safe. I had written my phone number on the back of Corbins hand just in case I never showed up to the hospital. I had been in a car accident before. I know how these things go. We can never be certain how safe we really are doing anything. It was a full moon. It was beautiful. I did not enjoy it.

I arrived at the Vancouver General late that night and went looking for him in the emergency room. It was full. Sick people lining the walls. And then me with swollen toes unable to fit them into close toed shoes. And Corbin visibly healthy stuck in C-spine with an uncertain future. The nurses mostly ignored him. He was stable. We stayed there in that ER room for 2 days. I sat and people watched. Listened to his neighbors scream ask for more morphin and then vomit all over the floor. Then I’d hear house keeping get called and the sloshing of a mop bucket moments later. It was entertaining. But I was inpatient they were starving him because they couldn’t figure out when his surgery day would be and he needed to be fasted. On the second day they finally got him into an MRI and then into a hospital room on the spinal floor. It was a game changer finally being out of the ER.

Meanwhile Lopi spent his days in the van parked on some side street in downtown. I’d move it occasionally but at that point I couldn’t be bothered to care about parking tickets. My van didn’t fit in the parking garages. And so I parked my van in 2hr parking for 3 days straight. I’d get Lopi out to walk in the mornings and the evenings and he even came in the hospital to visit Corbin twice.

While Corbin was in C-spine I would spoon feed him food and get him water. Once they set a date for the surgery it was just ice chips. I’d slip him ice chips as he laid flat. The surgeons would come in daily to talk to us and give us updates. They always started the conversation reminding Corbin how lucky he was. And then detail what they would be doing during surgery.

On the 3rd morning they wheeled him down for surgery. They would be removing his C7 and replacing it with a titanium cage and putting a bolt through his odontoid peg. It was no small surgery and they told me it would take about 5 hours. And it would be just a tiny little cut on the front of his neck. They had to keep him awake for his breathing tube since his injuries were so severe in his neck. And then lights out. I waited. And waited. I paced. I asked the nurses. I waited some more. 7 hours went by before I demanded an update. He was out of surgery but they had failed to contact me. It had only been a few minutes but I was relieved and yet also livid. HOW DOES SOMEONE JUST FAIL TO CONTACT ME. I was in the waiting room. I lost it. I cried. I sobbed. It was the first time I fully released since the accident. I walked into the out patient. He laid there so perfect. He looked at me and said “My dick hurts”.

It wasn’t long before they released him back to his hospital room. I stayed for a long time with him that night. He wasn’t hungry but I was able to get the nurse to remove his catheter so his dick wouldn’t hurt anymore and he ate some ice cream. The next day he was doing worlds better. I stayed with him all day. And he checked all his boxes for release. I ran around the hospital signing papers, calling insurances, and dealing with money. Corbin spent the day walking around for the first time in 4 days. They showed me how to take care of his wound and his neck brace. We got the ins and outs on what he can and cannot do. And ultimately for financial reasons we got released that night. It was amazing to have him free from the confines of the depressing nature of the hospital but also terrifying to know that I had a very fragile human in my care.

We said goodbye to our hospital roommates who were a lovely Canadian couple who had suffered a similar mountain biking accident a few months earlier. She however was less lucky. We knew how lucky we were. And I don’t ever want to forget it. All of our money will go to SCI research. I know there is a cure. It is heart breaking to see so many young, healthy people suffering from such a debilitating yet I truly believe curable thing.

That night we stayed at a friends house in Vancouver. It was Corbins first real good night sleep and my first shower in almost a week. We felt rejuvenated and ready to go home. I kept asking if he wanted to fly. I honestly had wished he choose to fly so that I didn’t drive so in fear for so many hours knowing that any mistake could be life threatening. And not just my mistake but any mistake from any other human. I gripped the steering wheel hard. We broke the drive up over several days to make it safer and easier on Corbin. It was mandatory he got up and walked around every few hours to make sure he didn’t get any blood clots. By the time we entered Nevada in the final home stretch I could barely feel my hands. I had been gripping the steering wheel so hard.

After over two weeks we were finally back home. Corbin went into full on recovery mode. He had his community and his friends who came out and helped lift his spirits. I at-home nursed him until he was good on his own. And as for my ultra recovery… I’m honestly not sure when in this all I recovered but I did. I’m so thankful to have Corbin. To have his arms and legs. And to be able to live an almost normal life again. As for me… well the cards are still down but I’m optimistic things will turn around for me. I don’t plan on running another race for awhile maybe at most a 50k…. Or I’ll just do the fast packing thing I like more anyways. On to the next adventure hopefully with less hospital time. Honestly I’d be happy if I never stepped foot in a hospital again!


JMT - Listening to the Universe


JMT - Listening to the Universe

I don’t want to tell my JMT story like I’ve told all my other adventures. This one was different. It feels as if I’ve reached a beautiful alpine meadow after years of climbing the mountain of life, and I have more to say than a stripped down bare recounting of the adventure. If I go back and read through my previous few trip reports a constant theme emerges. A sense of searching and yearning. The universe has been screaming at me, and I’ve been blissfully unaware. I’m failing to hear it through the constant clouding of my life and ego. My near death experience in early May was a rude awakening. It jerked me from my sleep to leave me wondering how long I had been sleeping. But I didn’t slow down and listen to what it was telling me. Only two weeks later the universe grabbed me and stabbed me in the heart… Julias dead. My life came crashing to a halt. I watched around me as everyone’s lives continued living but mine. Mine seemed to have ended with Julia.

Let me take a few steps back and paint a clearer picture. In the fall of 2017 my on and off again boyfriend and I ended it for good. I became unintentionally homeless on Thanksgiving when a squirrel destroyed my living quarters. Julia repeatedly took me in during this difficult time in my life. She was family and that’s what family does. Ultimately I escaped my personal hell to Montana for the winter. I started reading Buddhist books and meditating at the local Buddhist temple. I thought I had finally found myself. But by finding who I thought I was I lost my old identity. The thrill and power of winter ultras had escaped my allure. And with this lacking motivation and desire I DNFed both of my races. Next came the Badwater Salton Sea which I gifted my race entry to Julia. My head was no longer in this world. I was loosing my life long identity as a runner. Still homeless when I returned to California in the spring, I took off in my van to pursue a different world of paragliding. The paragliding world took me in and embraced me. I spent close to two months on the road chasing the wind. I fell in with a community of pilots that I traveled around with, and I felt as if I had found another family. Then everything changed. I went to a paragliding clinic where they tow you thousands of feet above a lake and you simulate the possible things that could happen to your wing when you are flying. Conditions were less than ideal, and I only got a few tows. On the last day of the clinic he told me I was going to throw my reserve parachute. He told me to give bad input on a negative spin and the next thing I knew I was spiraling with my risers twisting at violent speeds. I threw reserve without hesitation. Some say it was skill, but I think it was luck that my reserve narrowly missed my violently twisting wing and opened seamlessly. What happened next was also luck… bad luck. The reserve opening tossed me from my comfy seated position in my harness. I was so unprepared that it whiplashed my head so far forward that my head got forced between my twisting risers. The risers twisted a few times above my neck before it stoped twisting. Instead of hanging from my harness I was now hanging from my neck. I couldn’t breath. This was it. I gasped for one more breath forcing my fingers between the risers to try and release pressure on my neck. I yarded and yarded on the risers trying as hard as I could to get my head out. Seconds before impacting the water I was able to pull me head out of the risers. I landed hard into the water, but I was alive. 

I had never had the pre death thoughts before. The tunnel vision in your eyes as the life is slowly forced out. Your constant fight to keep living. Your not thinking about your loved ones or what you could have done with your life but on what you can do right now to stop death from overcoming you. My last thoughts would have been me thinking about what I could do to keep breathing. I participate in dangerous sports and have felt the pains of losses all around me, but never this close. It happened so quickly and unexpectedly just as I imagine death did. It comes not when you are prepared or ready but when you least expect it. This rude awakening happened on mothers day. I imagined the calls to my mother. The sorrow that would have rippled through my family. It hurts to imagine. Julia came to Tahoe to console me in this weird time in my life. I had just driven straight from the clinic to Tahoe to settle back into apartment living. And she came up the next day. Life was so fragile. Our clocks are ticking and we don’t know when that time is up. The universe I feel knows and it keeps giving us warning signs. I was having a serious problem with mortality. Julia told me that I couldn’t live my life with the fear of death. That you wouldn’t be living. She sat on the couch and watched me untangle my wet wing and then she slept in my bed that night. In the morning we hugged goodbye. She drove back to Winters where she lived for one more week and then passed unexpectedly like death always does.

I got to experience my biggest fears. I watched her family experience grieving as I imagined my family would have. And what it did to me is unexplainable. Everyone grieves differently my therapist likes to say. And there isn’t a right way or a wrong way, and you can’t predict why or when it’s going to hit you and to what level of intensity. I guess I have to believe this. But sometimes I think she is just trying to give me excuses for my erratic and painful behaviors. My first night alone in my apartment after she passed a black faceless object visited me. I screamed bloody murder from my bed as it crept closer and closer and I pushed farther and farther back into the corner. It was the second time in my life I had experienced a fully conscious night terror. I flipped the lights on trembling in fear. No one had heard my screams from my cabin alone in the woods. And I had this overwhelming sense that it wanted me. Whatever it was wanted me next. I haven't slept with the lights off since. My friend Jenelle rescued my from my trembling state in my bed that night and my long time on and off again boyfriend came back to take care of me. Everyones lives were continuing on and I wanted so badly to keep living as well, but I couldn’t. 

Work was asking me to pick up more tasks. So I did. I picked back up my house project to fill any other waking moment of my time. I had to cram every moment of every day with something so that I never had long enough to feel. I wasn’t meditating or reading. Those tasks were too simple. I would surely break down and cry. Running became even more painful for me. It was her sport. It was our connection. Our community. Our people. My identity as a runner was being lost even further. But I also had lost my identity as a paraglider and my identity all together. Months went by of just existing. I’d cry occasionally, but I existed mostly in a brainless state of busyness. That was until I got mono. My case of mono was strange. It manifested it self in sores on only one half of my throat. I had no cold like symptoms, no cough, or mucus, or fever. I had throat pain and fatigue. It was treated for several things. First bacterial then viral till ultimately it was diagnosed as mono. It wiped me out for close to 4 weeks. I missed two races and finally had to feel. I cried like I’ve never cried before. Not the shock cries and pain cries that I did in the beginning. But the cry as if there was no hope for tomorrow. That I was trapped in a place of darkness for eternity. I finally felt a summers worth of pain in 4 weeks. Julia is dead. There is no amount of tasks in the world that will make that statement untrue. No amount of busyness that will make that less painful to say or think.

I look around me. At all the other people in this community who have suffered just as close of losses as I. Why can they find joy and celebrate their friends and loved ones lives and yet all I can do is grieve. I don’t feel happiness or joy when I think about Julia. I feel pain and sadness. Julia was a dark tortured soul. It’s what I liked about her. She’d tell me she felt as if she had died a million times and that she was just tired now. She didn’t shy away from death but embraced it. She feared nothing. She was perplexing and complex. Everything she said was a puzzle and if you didn’t know her well you wouldn’t get the key. In her wake we discovered a piece of literature she wrote. I’ll repeat it here:

I feel so done. Apathetic. Apathy doesn’t always mean abandon, though; It makes me want more —  to fill some newfound emptiness. Maybe it was always here, and I just noticed it, or just noticed what it means. Or theres the proactive approach that  this my fault, I am to answer for this; because I care I have created a vacancy that I now feel the need to fill.

Either way, I still feel like I’m in something I need to snap out of.

Either way, this entire train of thought is probably arbitrary.

And the latter insight brings me back to the former and back and forth in the back of my mind:
    ‘Hey, you — everything is meaningless’
    ‘Shut up you worthless existential piece of shit’
    ‘What would be the point?’
    ‘You’re really not accomplishing anything, you know’
    ‘I’m not trying to’
    ‘Creation drives humanity’
    ‘Why does humanity need to be driven?’
    ‘Because otherwise human life would have no purpose’
    ‘It doesn’t’
    ‘Says you’

I think I prefer elevator music as a canvas for my consciousness.

This is probably also why my success in life is becoming progressively non existent. My mind is like one of the expensive cars with the stereo systems that adjust the volume to how fast you’re driving. The more I attempt to think the faster my synapses fire, the louder everything gets — and instead of it feeling good, or at least proportional, I can’t even see for all of the static that has no where to go. Getting anything quantifiable accomplished is an after thought that actually accounts for a good portion of the useless drivel I come up with, take in, analyze, and  finally forget.

This is a problem for everyone who associates with me.

And my detached removal from the aforementioned community always ends in someone getting hurt. And me feeling like I should feel shitty because of a million rock ballards about `I’m sorry; baby’. And me feeling fine. And me actually then feeling shitty because I feel fine. And me losing the energy with this war of social contentiousness — 

And me feeling empty.

Maybe the problem is that I don’t associate with myself. The way people without some sense of self respect cannot command the respect of others. Unless they die, which somehow adds credibility through a connotation of elegy and nostalgia and seriousness. Which means that people who are really excited about themselves or people who are dead are really cool, relevant contributors to society. Which means that I’m so gone, there’s no one to tell anyone else where to find me, because I don’t even know.
— Julia Millon

I feel as if the universe was trying to tell me this was going to happen. That it was queuing me in over and over and I was ignoring it. I’ve been stagnant these past few months really listening to the universe. It’s speaking to us. We just have to listen. It’s not coincidence that dogs can alert people to things before they happen or that goats can predict natural disasters. They are in tune with the universe. Their senses are not suppressed by ego and social noice. Our lives our loud, busy, and shrouded in social constructs that limit or connection back to earth. People are creating festivals to help people live more authentic lives and get outside but are missing the points. Strip out the social media. Strip out the ego. Touch the earth and listen to it. You don’t need to pay someone to tell you to listen to it. The universe will speak louder and teach you more than any person in a classroom ever can. They say everything happens for a reason. Or as others say we will find reason in everything that happens. I recently tend to think towards the former. The reason is set before it happens. And the universe will change it’s outcome if we listen.

So what does this have to do with the JMT? Nothing really other than every experience in our lives substantial or inconsequential is shaping our experiences and how we interact with the world. Julias death is substantial and I feel as if it plays an important part in this story.

I won permits for the JMT back in March of this year. It was an objective I had been dreaming about doing for years. I teamed up with Stacey and we loosely planned the mission. Julias death and a myriad of other things left us planning the adventure just a few weeks before. For many reasons we decided to not use my permits. It’s difficult to get permits going South to North (mine were North to South) which is the preferred direction with close to 10k less elevation gain. And the bear canister requirement is super heavy almost making it a backpackers trail not a runners trail. We decided we would be “day hikers” just doing 5 long days back to back to back. We secured Whitney permits and set on our plan. I struggled mentally with if this was the right time for this mission. I had been very emotional and sick for most of the month of August leading up to the adventure but was excited and knew I could pull through.

As to not bore you with the details everything went to plan. My friends Jenelle and Gretchen came and met us at Kearsarge where we resupplied. I can't thank them enough for their support.

Mt. Whitney - 14,505'

Forester Pass 13,200'

The next day, after a cold sleepless few hours of tossing, did not go as smooth. It was brutally hot during the day and my mental state was dwindling rapidly. Poor Stacey sat with me on the side of the trail while I cried the cry of helplessness. Not because of the mission but depression will follow you even into the deepest mountains. We got up and kept moving but the thought of bailing at Bishop Pass was discussed. I caught a second wind and we started to run. Bailing at Bishop Pass was a distant memory as I was riding another wave.

Glen Pass - 11,926'

Pinchot Pass - 12,090'

Mather Pass - 12,067'

A much warmer 2 hours of sleep were welcomed and I woke even more rejuvenated than the day before. Excitement welled inside of me of the prospect of continuing on this journey. As we arrived at Bishop Pass early in the morning we met with Coralie for our second resupply. Then the perfect storm happened. To keep the story short we didn’t have a permit nor a bear canister and though we told the rangers we were day hikers they, for many reasons, knew we were lying. We weren’t given any tickets but were asked to leave the trail in more or less terms. We mulled over the ideas of continuing on and what that would mean but ultimately didn’t feel good about it so left at Bishop Pass with Coralie. 

Bishop Pass - 11,972

Maybe I make things up in my head or maybe I’m trying to be more in tune with what the universe is speaking to us, but it felt in that moment that leaving Bishop Pass with Coralie was the right decision. My ego and everything else in my body wanted to continue. It wanted to finish the JMT. We were capable. But I have to feel that the perfect storm was so perfect for a reason and to ignore that would be crossing the universes wishes. I say this because Coralie’s service dog started to have crazy neck tremors and the thought of leaving her to hike out alone and something worse happening wasn’t even an option. I say this because Corbin had expressed disinterest in crewing us at the VVR and I later found out his truck which had lost a wheel unexpectedly in Mexico a short few weeks earlier was showing signs of the other side going to go out. I can only imagine the consequences of loosing a wheel on the narrow cliff roads out to the VVR and what that might mean. I say this because we planned to hitch hike all the way from Yosemite Valley back to Lone Pine and as safe as that sometimes feels it often times is not. I say this because we hiked out with Coralie, had a delicious dinner of donuts, all rode back to lone pine together, got breakfast in the morning, and everything was okay. I don’t know if everything would have been okay if we continued. And so this journey was beautiful. And it was successful. And I would change nothing about it.

So where does this leave me? I don’t know. I feel more lost and alone now than ever before in my life. I am not a runner, or a paraglider, nor am I a climber… I’ve accomplished nothing this year but a long list of failures. But I’m searching harder and listening as intently as I can. I’m getting older. I’m growing up. I’m learning. I’m alive. I want to be everything and nothing all at the same time. As I go back to meditating and letting the emotions of Julia run through me. I will hopefully come out the other side someone that has felt something.


An Ode to the Matterhorn

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An Ode to the Matterhorn

Oh the Matterhorn
I don’t want to see your summit
No I just want my best friend back
And all you can give me is distant memories
But something we will always have

Oh the Matterhorn
Only you and I will ever share
That day up up in thin air
Where Julia and I did sit
Not just sit but post hole too
With sunburn skin
And snow-blind eyes
And the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen
Oh we laughed and we cried
And you heard our secrets I can't lie

Oh the Matterhorn
We drove away that day
And I can’t think of a better place to play
You know we were stupid to even try
Because you know how much Julia hated the cold
And yet you let us get so close

Oh the Matterhorn
From season to season nothing has changed
Do you even feel her missing now?
As the leaves on your trees turn from yellow to brown
And then fall to the ground
So also do my tears

Oh the Matterhorn
We all shall pass
But you will always remain
Thanks for letting me feel her once again

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Ruby Crest Double - Slow and steady hurts the most


Ruby Crest Double - Slow and steady hurts the most

Two athletes I could never be are a backpacker and a triathlete. It really blows my mind that people can spend weeks and months away from home carrying pounds on their backs for miles and miles. It also really blows my mind that people can be super fit at swimming, biking, and running all at the same time! Maybe it’s because I’ll never be great at either of these sports that I have a lot of respect for people that do them. All that being said I’ve romanticized the fusion of running and backpacking. A term that many in the community coin “fast packing”. Libby and I did something along those lines on the GR20 last summer and honestly the Tahoe 200 and Moab 240 are a ultra light super supported fastpack in my opinion. So this winter when I won permits for the JMT I felt like I was prepared for the task. I teamed up with Stacey and started getting excited for our big audacious goal!

My general approach to adventures are little preparation with lots of stoke. But the JMT is different it has lots of rules and is remote for many miles. The gear and food required to fastpacking the JMT unsupported over 7 days would be so heavy that it might as well be called backpacking. Since Stacey and I had never done something like this before we thought it would be important to do a 2 day adventure to simulate what a bit of the JMT might be like. We had both been talking about running the Ruby Crest Trail for a few years but instead decided we’d try fast packing the double with JMT heavy packs over two days. We roped in Libby since she’d also been toying with the idea of running it as well. It was a last minute plan! A Monday and Tuesday in the beginning of July Libby, Stacey, and I would be questing off on a Ruby Crest Trail Double!

I did little to no research leading up to it but was able to download a last minute GPX file, thanks to my friend Jenelle, to my Gaia app and printed my signature map and elevation chart that I like to bring on all my adventures. We met in the town of Elko the day before the adventure. Sorted and split some shared gear, eat some delicious Mexican food, and then headed into town for a good night sleep. Corbin and Lopi had joined for the first portion since we were just returning from celebrating Mason and Allys wedding in Salt Lake City. So we got a hotel for convenience. Stacey and Libby stayed in their vans outside. An early morning wake up call had us at the North trailhead at 6:30am. The plan was to jam down to the South Trailhead, bivy, and then return to the North Trailhead the next day. The sun rose at 5:15am so the trail was already in full sun as we started out. We moved quickly up to the first pass in no time and were greated with a beautiful vista and alpine lake. 

Chatting and jogging for a bit the miles passed quickly and we were already on the Ruby Crest early in the day. The next section is all above 10k feet for about 10 miles. You stay right on the crest and the stark contrast of tall mountains falling straight down into arid desert is beautiful. It reminded me a bit of the White Mountains outside of Bishop. We would push up over the pass take a little break and then repeat. It was beautiful and we were really enjoying the landscape. It turned out that a three person team offered an odd dynamic. The person in the middle was the only one that could hear everyone talk while the front and back missed out on half of the conversation. So it often turned into two people talking or the middle person repeating for the person in the front or the back. 

We didn’t end up filling water till we got through the crest and took a little break. The next section is a traverse it gains very little elevation over a 9 mile section and weaves in and out of the canyons with many little stream crossings and a beautiful water fall. This offered a nice change of pace from the up and down and the constant creek crossings where nice for cooling off in the baking sun. This traverse dumps you out at the last beautiful alpine lake called overland lake. This huge alpine lake has a nice little wood shack for sitting out a storm. We took a quick stop here before powering out the last thousand feet of climbing to King Mt.

From here the trail becomes much less traveled. You drop close to 3k feet down into the valleys bellow and the trail is so over grown that at times we thought we might have gotten off trail. This section seemed to go forever. The views were no longer breath taking and the sting of branches and flowers slapping across your legs got old fast. It was the hottest part of the day and thinking of having to go through this again the next day really drug on my moral. We silently trudged our way through the flowers barely stopping to observe the aspen tree markings from the Peruvian who first traveled the trail. The history down there is very interesting but the heat dampened my interests. You make two river crossings and then the final climb up to Green Mountain before dropping down to the south trailhead.

The climb out to Green Mountain went on forever. The heat was suffocating and we had been under the sun for almost a full day. I was noticing more and more the weight of the backpack and was really looking forward to getting to sleep for the night. We took a little break at the top and tried to guess some numbers on how close we were to the South Trailhead. It’s not super clear since the trailhead isn’t generally where most people park since it’s a pretty burly 4x4 road to get up there. But we had a GPS track and a general idea of the elevation at the trailhead.

We started down the hill towards the trailhead. My spirits were low as I kept trying to ditch my backpack since I knew we’d be coming back this way. It felt contrived to have to hike with all this weight to the trailhead just to turn around and hike it back up this hill. Libby and Stacey kept theirs and I was out numbered so I silently and unhappily stomped behind them. I joke that I’m not good at out and backs or loops because I lack the motivation to do things I’ve already done again. This was confirmation of this. As we inched closer to the trailhead hours off my predicted time I kept running the possibilities of bailing. Is there a way we can get a ride out of here. If only Corbin had stayed in Elko I would for sure call him and get him to pick us up. 

As the sun started to set we decided we should probably boil some water and start cooking our dinners so they would be ready to eat by the time we reached the trailhead. We stopped at the very very last possible spot to get water on the trail and found ourselves pumping water out of a trickle. Stacey and I were sharing a meal while Libby had her own. I used my handy dandy MSR water pump and Libby made the hole deeper so I could get more water faster. We filled up the jetboil, boiled the water, and filled our dehydrated meals with the water. Now we just had to wait for them to hydrate so we continued on our way down to the trailhead.


The sun was setting now and we weren’t totally sure what the south trailhead even looked like. Most people do a one way trip and go all the way to the parking area which is several more miles. I slowly walked in the back wishing I had ditched my pack hours ago and stepping carefully as to not squash any of the giant crickets that had appeared on the trail. The last 5 miles or so of the trail are on a dirt road so at times we questioned if we truly were on the trail. As the sky really started to exploded we saw the trailhead! It was a joyous site as I finally mustered the motivation to move but it only signified the half way point.

Since Stacey and I had to work the day after we finished we decided it would be nice to get to the North trailhead before it got too late the next day so we planned to knock out the first big climb at night before we went to bivy. We sat and eat our dinners first and then pushed on back to a nice bivy spot right below Green Mountain. We moved quickly because the night time brought cooler air, a full belly of food, and the promise of sleep soon really motivates. I actually really enjoy night running. Maybe more than I do during the day. Being inside your headlamp makes the miles move faster. You don’t have any references of the top or the next point on the trail all you have is a circle of light and progression forward. Also it’s really nice to be cool. Especially after the intense sweating I had done all day long. Unfortunately down on the south side it’s so over grown and humid that the bugs are really bad and the second you put a orb of light right beside your face… the bugs become REALLY bad. We hiked in silence coughing occasionally as we swallowed a bug or cursing and swatting as they flew into your ears and eyes.

We made it to our bivy spot around 11pm. Laid out the tarp, blew up our pads, changed our clothing and passed out. Or I guess I should say I passed out. I awoke once to the sound of Libby vomiting her dinner but fell back asleep quickly. Mainly I was just happy to be off my painful feet. The alarm chirped early at 4am. The sun hadn’t risen but it was light enough not to need a headlamp. I went down to the stream and filtered water before boiling some water for breakfast. We were all packed up, fed, dressed and on the trail by 5am. I felt a pressure to get through the low meandering trails before the sun got too hot again but the weight on my back was becoming more and more noticeable. Heads down we hammered it out to King Mountain catching most of the trails in the early morning shade.

At the top of King Mt Stacey had to wait about 15 minutes for me and then another 30 minutes for Libby. Our team was in a lot of pain, sleep deprivation, and desire to be finished. It was beautiful but we had already seen it all and at this point we just wanted to be done. Unfortunately or fortunately there aren’t any bail outs at all on this trail. You don’t even have the option to DNF even if you wanted to. You’ve got to get yourself out the way you came. Stacey suggested splitting up so that people could sleep at the parking lot while we waited so that everyone was a little safer getting home that night. Especially since Stacey and I had to work the next day. We all decided that was an okay option and split up for the last 20 miles of the trail.

This was really hard for me. Usually in an ultra this is when you get a pacer. The last several miles when your body and mind have broken down is when you need that distraction and company to pull you through. This is also when my neuromas start to rear there ugly heads. I’d been struggling with neuromas for a while now. Maybe it’s just a smell of ultras but it wasn’t till after the Tahoe 200 that it feels like every long distance run I do is riddled with debilitating pain. I get to a point where I can no longer walk but I have no option but to walk and the nerve pain in my feet continues to send a shockwave up through my brain and I step again and repeat. Ultra running is no longer fun for me. I don’t want to have to depend on my high pain tolerance to get me through these adventures. I don’t want to feel nerve pain. But here I was 20 miles left to go right over the crest of the Rubys in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I had no option but to smash my nerves under the weight of my body and backpack all the way to the trailhead.


I went heads down through the traverse and up to the crest. An impending storm off in the distance motivated me to make quick work of the crest and once I was below tree line again I felt a sense of calm. I was only 8 miles from the finish line. Alone, suffering, and out of water. I kept thinking I’d find some good mountain water somewhere along the trail but it never came. I was hobbling pretty bad walking bow legged trying to get as much pressure off my forefoot as possible. Soon I had been out of water for awhile and I still had one big climb till I was on the final descent. It was hot out by now and I knew water wasn’t negotiable. I wouldn’t be able to gut it out to the finish with out something to wet my mouth. There is one stream crossing right before the final climb. Unfortunately it comes out of a lake… a popular lake and since we had split up I didn’t have any water filtering or even tablets on me. I sat for 30 minutes hoping Libby would catch me and we could share water. Also secretly enjoying being off my feet. But I knew I needed to get out so I filled my bladder with some of the water and drank it up the final climbing knowing that dehydration was worse than the nasty gut issues I may or may not get.

As I stood at the top of Liberty Pass I could see the trailhead and the parking lot just a couple thousand feet below me and a short 3 miles. I knew it would take forever but I was so over joyed at the thought of never having to stand on my feet ever again. I hobbled painfully down the trail repeating the faster you run the faster your done. A motto I know all to well. Thinking in my head when will this ever be fun. I can’t even imagine being in this much pain and still having almost 200 miles to go on the JMT. Yet I distinctly remember this foot pain on the Tahoe 200 creeping up well before the 50 mile mark. I don’t know when I’ll learn my lesson or what it will take to cure this pain.

When I arrived at the trailhead Stacey had been there for about an hour. I quickly shed my clothing and bathed myself in the nearby river. Laying on the floor of Staceys van I put my feet up trying to get as much swelling off of the damaged nerves. Wow I can’t believe how hard that was! The pain in my feet, the blisteringly hot sun, the 67 miles drug out over two days, the lack of food, the heavy backpack… Stacey and I had a lot to think about as we started to prepare for our JMT effort were we capable of getting up and doing that again for 5 more days? I sure didn’t feel like I could. The Tahoe 200 was easy compared to that. Libby arrived about an hour later and we all drove into town. We said goodbye to Stacey as she headed home and Libby and I made the 5hr drive back to Tahoe... not without a stop at a local taco truck first.

After some rest and recovery and some much needed thought Stacey and I decided that we aren’t backpackers but runners and if we did things as fast and light as possible like runners then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Or maybe it would hurt just a little bit less. Stay tuned we'll need some help from our friends the first week of September. If you want to come out and party with us on the JMT and bring us food that isn't freeze dried or bar shaped. :)


Iditasport- Ididntsport


Iditasport- Ididntsport

I’m trying to act like this is no big deal. Because in the grand scheme of things it really is. I’ve got my fingers, my toes, my life what happened is really no big deal. But I want to scream and cry at the same time. And let me tell you I did that on the trail a lot... All of the money, time, and preparation to have goals and aspirations ripped away in the hours before the race.

I spent a few years preparing for this. Hanging out in Alaska dreaming about getting to toe the line. When the flu wrecked my body the night before the race it didn’t matter. I was going to start the race. Even if I was putting myself in a needlessly dangerous situation.

So let’s start from the beginning.

People change, things change, goals change. And it appears that people in their 20s change more often then people more established in life. For me this past year has been riddled with a lot of change. Not external to me but very internal. I’m not the wide eyed 22 year old who suffered her way through the Susitna 100. Things are different. I’m different.

Every year I came to Alaska, the Iditarod seemed more and more attainable. My gear was better. My racing was more dialed. And I felt more comfortable in the cold. But I seemed to be loosing my fire, passion, and desire. The Tahoe 200 was a giant wave of emotions. The highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows. I fell deep into the post race depression. I went searching and grasping for that next high to unsuccessfully land myself alone and homeless.

These past 6 months rid everything clouding my life. I’ve had the peace and clarity to take a deep introspection on my life. Something that I know the universe had been trying hard to make me do for years, but that I continued to fill full of adventures and work. 


So the Iditasport. I could tell you all the things that went wrong in the months leading up to the race from frostnipped toes to sprained backs. But really non of those mattered. I was here, I was stoked, and I was prepared. In my book the recipe to success isn’t the most prepared but the most unapologetically stoked on the objective.


Prerace, survival training, ice climbing with a friend, and then a day at my friends Tony and Shawn’s house preparing. Things were going great. Other than my abnormal need to sleep and relentless headache. The night before race day never goes as planned. It’s usually a bit restless but this was a different restless. Night sweats to chills then jolting up and vomit. The cycle repeated and I ended up sleeping mostly on the floor around the toilet. The pain in my abdomen was severe and everything I had eaten the day before was coming out at forced speeds. It was the stomach flu I’m sure. Maybe the salad or chicken or eggs. It would pass. This was the last vomit then I’d feel better I kept telling myself.


I forced myself to get prepared. I forced myself to eat. I came all this way and I knew things could change. Take it slow keep moving and things would turn around I was certain. They always do. I was proud of all the food I had kept down that morning. In the laying and seated position I’d barely notice I was sick. That feeling of needing to vomit lingered and I knew it wouldn’t be long till it struck again. But optimistically I went outside and got ready to start the hopefully 9 day journey over the Alaska range.


I walked with my good friend Shaun out of the start. He and I had come here together and I’d hoped we would stay fairly close and be able to spend some trail miles together. Realistically that was very possible. I don’t walk slow. But the elephant in the room was making that hard. Shaun and I talked and walked together for the first few miles the talk helped distract me from the sharp abdominal pain but soon it became overwhelming and I needed to lay down. Shaun reminded me to take care of myself and walked off. I agreed taking care was most important. So I did.


Now the entire field was far ahead of me. I couldn’t even see their figures on the relentlessly flat and straight rivers. I’d walk till the pain became severe. Then I’d walk till I couldn’t stand straight. Then I’d push a little further till I’d collapse on my sled and close my eyes trying to hold back the vomit. The effort was exhausting. I’d roll over retching off the side of my sled tears rolling down my face as the contents of my stomach ended up on the trail again. Maybe 10 miles into the race now. I wanted to bivy in my sleeping bag. My body was screaming sleep. But my head was screaming get to scary tree tent camp before dark. I’d sit up force food into my mouth and then stand up. I could feel the food slowly moving down into my tender and swollen belly and the beast reminded me that we would tango again soon.


The cycle repeated over and over walk, lay down, walk, lay down, vomit, cry, eat, repeat. It wasn’t cold. Maybe in the teens but every time I’d lay down my body would loose heat fast. Severely dehydrated and alone. I knew going into the night was putting myself in a dangerous situation. I had cell service so I texted my friends Lourdes and Nikki. I was scared. Hypothermia was as real as it had ever felt. I was depleted and I could barely move. 


I kept moving thinking I could make it to scary tree on pure determination. I kept repeating get there and sleep it off it’ll get better. It always does. But never have the easiest miles of the race felt so hard. The sun had set and I frantically pulled on all of my layers -40 degree overboots, down pants, down jacket. It wasn’t cold enough to need them but I feared laying down for a few minutes, falling asleep, and then loosing toes. 


Dressed in all my layers I continued to march. Tears streaming down my face. Screaming in pain and determination. Acid running from my mouth. These were the hardest fought miles of my life. I honestly thought I might die. That’s when I pulled my sat phone out. Texted my friend Nikki and asked her to get someone to just check on me. I just wanted the comfort of someone checking on me. An hour or so passed. The cycle repeated. Laying in the fetal position on my sled acid running from my mouth I stood up and vomited and vomited and vomited again. That’s when Andy showed up on his snowmobile. Too weak to even stand at this point. There was no questions to be asked. I was putting myself in a needlessly dangerous situation. I needed to get out.


We were certain it was the flu and going into the tent camps to continue the vomit cycle would just put other racers in a tricky situation. I loaded onto the snowmobile. And we traveled the 15 miles back to the start. Not without a couple of stops to let me vomit stomach bile all over the trail.

It was the flu and I spent the next few days horizontal vomiting and feverish till I caught a plane back to Bozeman. Is this how I imagined my Iditarod race going? No. This is the worst case scenario unfolding before my eyes. It can’t be real. I want to cry. 


But maybe this was exactly what I needed to happen. To remind me that we can’t control nature. And that there is no such thing as accomplishing something but instead doing something in this moment. I had read on the plane ride here “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. I was hoping I might be able to do some meditation on the trails and maybe find some enlightenment about my ever changing goals and motivations. But I think I found something even better than that. A new path forward trying to rid my life of ego.

I don’t want to be sponsored, I don’t want to be accomplished, I don’t want to be a badass. I want to be nothing. I want to feel fullness in life without arbitrary goals. I don’t want my happiness dependent on achievements. I want to have pure intentions and be my truest self. This trip to Alaska was different. I didn’t feel the same giddy excitement and enchantment that I once felt. A dark cloud of pain and suffering surrounded me. The flu on the trail only darkened the cloud. 


My next trip to Alaska will be different. Paraglider in tow I want to experience these mountains that I fell in love with years ago differently. Because even though I don’t love them right now it doesn’t mean I can’t come back with a different perspective and love them again. I’m learning more and more that space and perspective are healthy and important. And that things change and people change and it’s okay. It’s okay to change. It’s okay to change what you want.

So hell I’ll say it again. I don’t want to slog alone. I want to paraglide. I want to rock climb. I want to surf. I want to fastpack with friends. I want to explore Alaska. I want to explore France. I want to master Spanish. I want to build my house. I want to meditate. I want to give. I want to just be.


Tuscobia 80 - Hard for the sake of being hard

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Tuscobia 80 - Hard for the sake of being hard

It’s taken me awhile to write about this because I wasn’t totally sure what to say. I know what I would say if I saw you in person but writing this down is harder. Tuscobia was riddled with a string of misfortunate events but I don’t believe any of those things led to my DNF. I honestly truly believe I never wanted to do it in the first place.

So Tuscobia race report. It started back in August when the 80 mile race sold out in less than a week. I figured it was no big deal since I didn’t even want to do it to begin with. But I love the winter crazies and I wanted to go back and see them. So I put my name on the waitlist. It wasn’t till November that I actually got in. This is when I had to ask myself. Do you actually want to do this race and are doing this for the right reason? In my head I said sure. I am capable of doing this and it would be good training for Alaska. Plus I wanted to see my friends again. Though in all honesty non of those are good enough reasons.

Life added some rollercoasters in the fall and my desire to go to the Tuscobia kept getting smaller and smaller. I remember messaging my friend Kummer and saying I wanted to stay in Bozeman for New Years because it would give me a greater chance to be social and possibly meet some new men. But after saying that out loud I knew how stupid that was. Tuscobia with the winter crazies was exactly where I wanted to be on New Years and I new that. So the race was a go.

I flew into Ohio a few days before hand to see my pregnant sister. Then my friend Lester who was driving up from South Carolina picked me up on the way. We would have a 10hr drive together to get to the race. I drive a lot and mostly alone so a 10hr drive didn’t sound like much to me. My sister dropped me off with Lester in the morning and we were headed towards Rice Lake, WI. That was until the truck slowed to 40 mph. It was throwing some warning codes on the dash so I quickly read through the manual. It looks like the diesel fuel might be jelling I read. He had last filled up in Kentucky which wouldn’t treat there fuel for -10F so it was a possible idea. We pulled over and added some mixture to the fuel. Back on the interstate for another few miles and it was back down to 30 mph. This game of pull over drive slow pull over drive slow went on all the way to Indianapolis were after 4hrs and only traveling 100 miles we pulled into a Ford dealership. 3 more hours later and we had a fixed truck. Apparently the fuel filters Lester got changed in SC were cranked too tight and broke the fuel pump. This was allowing air to get sucked into the pump and thus loose engine power. Whatever the issue was didn’t matter at this point. The truck was fixed and we still had over 8hrs to drive to get to the race.

Lester finally able to breath after a stressful morning stopped at a local Wendys to get a burger for the road. The lady at the counter took his 5 dollar bill held it up to the light a few times and then gave him his change. I chuckled a bit at the idea of someone questioning the realness of a 5 dollar bill. But we were finally moving so spirits were high. That was till we hit Chicago. The set back with the broken truck sent us straight through Chicago during rush hour. We sat in bumper to bumper traffic for hours, with incredibly icy and slick roads, that led us straight to toll road central. The drive through Chicago added at least another hour if not more to our already close to 18hr day now. Needless to say Lester and I were both silent and unhappy. We stopped around 10pm to grab some dinner and I would take over the final 4hr push into Rice Lake. The windshield wipers didn’t work and the windshield immediately upon driving became covered in salt and road gunk. I spent the next 4hrs into the early morning head forward trying to look through a tiny bit of windshield that was barely visible through.

The next morning we woke up and were just happy to actually be at the race. Against a lot of odds we actually made it. We headed into the nice town of Rice Lake and grabbed a quick breakfast with our good friend Scott Kummer. The usual pre race grocery store runs and then it was gear check time. Lester and I loaded up to the race head quarters with our required gear. I breezed through gear check while Lester got caught up with a sleeping bag issue. A few hours later and we were both cleared to race. We headed back to the hotel to get situated. The sleeping bag issue had put Lester in a bad mood and I was feeling anxious about the race. This is when I sliced open my knuckle. I felt so stupid the dull knife went forcibly right over my joint. I ran to the front desk and get some first aid on it quickly. After a quick call to my sister it wasn’t deep enough to warrant an emergency run. It did however feel like the final straw.

We returned to the race start for a prerace debriefing. I got to see a couple more friends from over the years of racing and the sinking feeling continued to set in. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this so bad that I didn’t even want to start it. I’d rather work the aid station all day and get to help my friends succeed then even set one foot on the course. Lester went into the hotel room after the prerace and I stayed in the car to make a few phone calls. I talked on the phone with a few friends repeating that I wasn’t planning to start the race. I was talked down a bit and decided I would at the very least start the race. Though I knew I wasn’t making it to the finish. The first opportunity I had to bail I was taking it.

Lester and I drove to the race start with our friend Scott. By the time the race started I was already unable to feel my toes. I was layered very lightly even though it was currently -12F. I had to run at the beginning because I was afraid I was going to loose my toes. I kept running and running checking in periodically to see if I had regained blood flow. It maybe took me 5 miles before I was able to breath comfortably again. The toes had finally regained feeling. All the running however had caused me to sweat and I could feel a layer of ice had built on the inside of my jacket. I had made a plan to keep moving until an hour before sunset. Then to find a sunny place to layer up and put hand warmers in my gloves. I made it to the first town 20 miles in faster than expected. I must have been in 3rd or 4th place at that point since I had run so much in the beginning.

A few other men were doing things in there sled so I decided it was fine for me to as well. I took off my jacket and watched the ice fall on to the ground. I hadn’t realized how bad that had become. I then tried to add my fleece layer. It must have only been about 30 seconds with my warm mittens off that my fingers started to loose dexterity. I reached in a panic for my hand warmers as the pain started to become extreme. Unable to open the hand warms with the current functionality of my fingers. I shoved my hands in my mittens anyways. Next came the extreme audible moaning the pain was so intense I was going to loose my fingers I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t just stand there freezing jacket less in -20F in the setting sun. I yelled at a person in a car is the bar open is THE BAR OPEN!!??? It was only about 2:30pm but the bar had opened when a few bikers came barging in looking for warmth. I was the first runner they had seen and I ran as fast as I could sled open because I couldn’t zip it shut with my brick hands. I blasted into the bar crying in pain. A few bikers were sitting at the bar and I went straight to the bathroom to run some room temperature water over my fingers. My fingers were already discolored and I was still unable to feel them. The water didn’t help and I frantically came back into the bar repeating I can’t feel my hands I can’t feel my hands. I sat over a heat vent for a few minutes massaging them but the feeling refused to come back. I sat down at the bar and a biker bought me a drink. My fingers had entered a tingling phase so I was thankful they would still have some sort of feeling.

The bikers at the bar were DNFing and though the plan was to DNF at the half way point I didn’t see any reason why DNFing now versus then made any difference. I hung out for a while with them at the bar before Lester came in. Lester proclaimed girl I’ve been trying to catch you for hours! I laughed and said well here I am. He wanted me to walk with him to the half way point but I was done. I didn’t want to do hard things for the sake of them being hard. I didn’t want to suffer for the sake of suffering. I gave it a 20 mile go but I was over it. I loaded up with the bikers as Lester headed on. They took me to the aid station were I got to help other runners continue on or DNF. I had so much fun talk to people, hanging out, and drying clothing. Not for a second did I wish I had continued to march in the ridiculous cold. Plus how often do you get to take a ride in Randys mini van!?

Next came the call from Lester. He was at a bar in Winter about 10 miles from where I had last seen him at the other bar. He wanted me to come and get him he was done. I hoped in the truck and drove over to the bar. It was packed full of snowmobilers who thought we were the craziest specimens alive. Thus they bought me a few shots and then Lester and I insisted we had to go. So we drove back to the aid station to find our friend Scott arriving. Scott had contracted some sort of cold but was in great shape. He made a deal with us that he would DNF only if we all went to a bar together. Thus the three of us loaded up and I hit my 3rd bar the night. I couldn’t think of a more fun way to spend my time at the Tuscobia than bar hoping my way across Northern Wisconsin.

Lester and I said our goodbyes to Scott in the morning and we started our long 10hr drive back to Ohio. It went faster this time with no car troubles and taking an alternate route to avoid Chicago. My pregnant sister was super sick but she was happy to get to see me for a few extra days. We took a short ice skating trip in downtown and then I returned back to Bozeman.

So what have I concluded from another midwestern DNF? Success rate in the midwest is 0 for 2. I guess in math terms I'd put it this way. X is a very hard thing. Y is just hard. X appeals to me so I go and do it. By doing X this means I can do Y because X is harder than Y. Y does not appeal to me but via this algorithm I am capable of doing it so I go and do it. I fail at Y. By failing at Y does this mean I cannot do X because X is harder than Y but I couldn’t do Y? That can't be true because I already did X. So it must mean that Y is harder for me personally because I didn't have the desire to do it though people may perceive X as harder.

So to bring this back to Tuscobia. I am very physically capable of running the Tuscobia. I am however not at all mentally capable of doing it. It is brutally cold and boring. And most of all I don’t want to do it. I think running in -20F in the flat boring nothingness of Northern Wisconsin is the most miserable thing in the world, and when I was out there I had the ability to change that misery so I did. And I’ve come to realize that being miserable is the worst thing ever and we should try and limit the misery as much as possible so that when we have misery that we can’t control, like unexpected health complications, we can handle them and say THANK GOD I DIDN’T SUFFER MORE THAN I NEEDED TO WHEN I WAS HEALTHY!

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Maraton Habana - Family and Fun

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Maraton Habana - Family and Fun

I want to write about this so I don't forget. Cuba was as beautiful as I could have ever imagined. But honestly the photos speak louder than words so here is a quick synopsis of the trip and race.

It was a long stint of travel for me to get to Cuba. It all started a few days before as I drove from Idaho back to Truckee, spent a total of 4 hours packing and napping, and then caught my first flight to Denver. A day in the Denver airport, followed by a night in the Atlanta airport, and we were finally touching down in Cuba.

We stayed in a super lovely airbnb in Downtown Havana. A short walk to the Capitolia and the ever lovely old Havana. My sister and I didn’t waste anytime getting to know the city we spent the first day exploring Havana and old Havana. Talking with the locals, eating good food, and just seeing all of the little artist shops and old cars along the way.

The next day we took a bus to Vinales. I wanted to see where the climbing was and what else Cuba had to offer. We took a tour of a rum factor, explored a cave via boat, and took a tour of a tobacco farm. It was nice to see a different part of Cuba for a day.

The next day we spent searching for good art. We went to the San Jose Market and as many little shops as we could along the way. That evening we walked out to the ocean and watched the sunset.

Our final day was the Marathon. This turned out to be a real cluster. They didn’t have same day registration like we had assumed so for a few hours in the morning we spent chasing people around trying to get our bibs. A few minutes before the race we got checked in and started the two loop marathon. It was a strange experience because it was mostly Cuban teenagers. Many if not all dressed in converses, flip flops, and jeans. Even though this was my first Marathon it felt strange. The announcer announced that the race had about 5000 runners and 400 doing the marathon. It felt like they tried to up the marathon numbers by just loading it full of children in the 10k race. But I digress.

Ruthie and I had decided to stay together so we started out at a mellow pace. We ran along the water watching the sunrise. This is when we hit the first water drop. Water is not good in Cuba so they only use bottled water. I couldn’t believe the insanity that ensued. Water bottles thrown into the ocean, tossed all over the streets, thrown at buildings, and passing cars. I internalized this feeling of this will be my first and last marathon. Ruthie and I barley talked and soon I found myself a bit ahead of her but always checking behind to make sure I didn’t get too far.

A nice Cuban man in university to become a lawyer latched onto her and they ran most of the race together as I jogged just a bit ahead. The race didn’t run through the pretty part of old Havana but it was nice to see the other parts as well. In the last 1K I waited for Ruthie and we ran it in to the finish of the half in about 2hrs. We decided it wasn’t worth doing a second lap and called it there. It was crazy at the finish as tourists protested for a finishers medal and all the Cuban high schoolers paraded around with 3 or 4 around there necks. Ruthie and I didn’t even want a finishers medal so we quickly snuck out and back to our room to shower and catch our flight back home.

My travel stint back to Truckee was one of my roughest yet. Almost missing the flight out of Cuba, to a long delayed flight in Atlanta, to a super cold shivering night in the Denver airport. All to come to a head when I returned home to find I no longer had a home. It was time though to leave Truckee for awhile. This winter is a Bozeman winter.

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Moab 240 Pacing - A long walk in the desert


Moab 240 Pacing - A long walk in the desert

It’s taken me forever to write about this because Moab and everything that came with it was super hard for me. It fell conveniently a few days before my 24th birthday. For me birthdays are the only holiday I celebrate. I hate Christmas the most and the rest are just another day off work. But I digress. My favorite holiday was fast and approaching and I wanted to start my 24th year out right. And most of all I wanted to spend it with the people that I cared the most about! I made a fabulous plan to get a few days with my running family, a few days with my climbing friends, and a few days flying my paraglider. All I needed was my partner to icing the cake. But that was the heart breaking part. He didn’t want to go. He thought the drive was too long. He didn't understand why it even mattered to me. Ironically just weeks later he drove all the way to Moab for another woman. This is why I can finally write about this because I am no longer sad. So lets begin, I was on the road alone to enjoy my birthday the best I could. 

My first night on the road in the van didn’t go as planned. I got woken in the middle of the night by the cops and ended up just driving all 12 hrs pretty much straight to Moab. When I arrived in the morning the race had already started and I missed Karen by a few hours. That was okay though because I planned to pace her for half of the race which would turn out to be 120 miles worth of pacing. Her husband Phil was excited to adopt Lopi as his new buddy and I settled in the truck for the next 5 days of pacing. I was looking forward to being out of cell service.


Phil and I spent most of the day hanging out at Hamburger Rock in Indian Creek waiting for Karen to show up. She showed up a little after sunset looking great and we made a plan, ate some food at the aid station, and kept on moving. The plan was that Phil would be able to make it to the next aid station and she would be able to sleep and get her stuff together there. As things would go… nothing ever went as planned at the Moab 240. We spent the next 12 miles catching up after a year or so of not seeing each other. I think the last time we ran together was when I paced her at the Western States. Spirits were still high as we came into the next aid station. But that is when everything changed. “Where’s Phil!?” I remember Karen asking. I ran up and down the campground looking and looking but I couldn’t seem to find him. I was certain the truck would be able to make the drive but I also had never driven a enormous camper. He’s not here I repeated. He must be at the road.


That’s when her friend Derek showed up and informed us that the truck wasn’t able to make the drive. A few swear words from Karen but there was nothing we could do. The truck was at least a 5mile detour off of the course. I reassured Karen that everything would be okay and we would just eat the aid station food and sleep in the sleeping tent and it would be fine. She sent Derek back to the truck to get a change of clothes and few other things and then she headed off for the sleeping tent. I stayed by the campfire tired, but not destroyed, I tried to catch a few moments of sleep sitting up right in a chair by the fire wrapped in a barely warm wool blanket. Needless to say it was a rough night for all of us. We had about 40 more miles till we would see the truck again which would mean another full day of walking. Karen said the sleeping tent was cold and was lacking blankets not to mention loud. She didn’t sleep. The icing on the cake for that aid station was they had minimal volunteers and seemed to be out of all of there food already. Derek saved the day with a few things to make the next 40 miles a little more comfy and Karen and I hit the trail just before sunrise.


The next section went on forever. We were both in a bad mood from the night before, and I wasn’t feeling talkative from a heavy heart and the overwhelming loneliness that a cold night in a chair shivering will do. We turned on a few podcasts for this section just to pass the time without feeling obligated to talk. And finally the aid station showed up. This aid station lifted our spirits like none other. The volunteers were loud and hilarious. I fed off of there energy and they even gave Karen a shoulder massage and made me a heart shaped pancake with peanut butter. I didn’t want to leave! As we jogged out of the aid station we knew this next section was going to be a death march. We finally had a bit of uphill but it was over 20 miles long. I knew we would see the sunset before we got to the next check point. But spirits were finally high and I was able to chat a bit here and there. Spirits didn’t stay high for long though. The course crossed the river maybe 10 times. It would go over it and then back over it two steps later. It wasn’t fun. And finally about half way we had to call it. Karen laid down on a rock in the shade and I laid down in the middle of the warm trail. Thinking I’d just lay down while she napped I lost consciousness immediately. 15 minutes later I woke in a panic. Woah how long was I out what’s going on I felt confused. Karen was still on the rock so I felt a sense of relief as I took some drugs, ate some food, and sat up off the trail. A few seconds later a runner came up the trail. Karen got up and we chatted. Then it seemed everyone showed up. My friend Scott was there with the camera and maybe another group of 4 runners passed us. It was the first time we had seen people all day. That motivated Karen to get moving and we started off again.

The nap revitalized us. We were finally moving good again. Karen powered up the uphill with the sun quickly vanishing. It was maybe another 3 miles to the aid station and I was hopeful we wouldn’t be in the dark for super long. As we walked up the last little climb to the aid station the sun finally fully disappeared and we pulled our headlamps out. Mine was quickly loosing strength so I was prepared to march it out in the dark if need be. But next thing we knew the aid station appeared. The plan was that Karen would do the next two sections alone and then I would pick her up for the next night time. Karen fell asleep in the camper and I curled up with Lopi in the back of the truck cab. It was one of the coldest nights of my life. Dipping down to 12 degrees. Training for winter ultras I kept telling myself.

I was relieved to have the next few sections off. I was exhausted and just needed some time to get feeling good again. At this point we had been out of cell service for a few days and I felt the much needed time away was helping me heal. Karen styled through the next sections but her feet were already absolutely destroyed. Finally through the 100 mile mark she was nearly half way done. I picked her up in the middle of the night as we started the last big climb up and over the La Sal mountains. It was cold but not nearly as cold as the night before and I was finally feeling normal again. I told story after story after story. The miles went by quickly as we laughed and talked about everything and anything. I got cell service here and there and we chatted with her friends back in Calgary as we marched on. This was the best section of the entire course. Beautiful single track twisting through the mountains overlooking the desert far below. As the sunset once again we rolled into the last aid station to another epic. The truck wasn’t there. Phil wasn’t there. Karen sat beside the heating lamp repeating. No you don’t understand this isn’t like Phil. Phil should be here. My friends Willy and Kate were cooking food and I got one of my best meals of the race. I went back to Karen to make a plan. It’s okay I repeated I’ll just do the next section with you. Don’t worry it’ll be okay. Then came a big black lab tackling me to the ground. Lopi I screamed. Phil was there but had parked a bit away. Not realizing we would come in so soon. Karen got the sleep she needed and her friend Derek decided to take her the next section. 

When she finally arrived at the 200 mile mark she was looking and feeling great… other than her feet of course. She only had two sections left and all the time in the world to do them. She didn’t mind walking alone during the day time so she headed off on the next section alone with the plan for me to take her the final section into the finish. I was excited. It was finally coming together. All the time on the trail everything was finally happening. She arrived at the last aid station in good spirits. Our friends from the Bridgerjacks aid station were there and we had a big party of good food and massage trains. My heart was so full and happy I couldn’t wait to get moving. Karen and I started the final section and I may have had a few tears in my eyes. The last section flew by. We went from beautiful single track trails up and over to wild jeep trails to finally a road that never ended to the finish. But just after sunset we blasted through the finish. Karen having traversed 240 miles of sandy roads in the past 4 and a half days. It was a strange feeling for me. 120 miles on my legs. I was dirty and tired. Karen went back to the camper to get clean and ready for bed while I chatted a bit with friends at the finish. My friend Amanda showed up that night and we made plans to climb the next day. Karen headed back to Canada and I said my good byes to my Canadian family. 

The next portion of my trip was good times with good friends. Climbing and flying my paraglider avoiding at all the cost the inevitable feelings of having to go back to California and face the overwhelming loneliness and sadness that had clouded my life. And that is why this report has come 2 months late. It’s because I have been feverishly running away from Truckee trying at all costs to avoid the inevitable feelings that needed to be felt. But I think I've felt them now and I know I will continue to feel them. But hopefully now with a layer of positivity for the future.


Tahoe 200 - Wow That was Fun!


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.


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!


GR20 France - Learning is hard


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!


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


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.


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


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. 



Sketch Event - Atelier - Truckee


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.