Footfalls

The challenge of Wednesday’s run was each footfall. My path was steep, muddy, and dirty. Each footfall was different. Each footfall was a challenge. I had to change my running mechanics, if I wanted to remain upright. I had to slow down in places to pull my foot out of the mud. I had to hop in places from rock to rock. I had to walk in places so that I would not slip.

Isn’t this like life?. . . our paths can be steep, muddy, dirty. . .  We chose marriage, but we don’t chose cancer. We choose to have children, but we would never chose to bury them. We chose to love our family, but we do not chose to watch one of the members die. We choose the heights of love, but do not wish to navigate the heartache that comes with loving a person.. . . we have to slowdown, change, hop, walk,  when we’d rather run. . .

Most often in training (running), I choose the steep places, the dirty places, the out of breath places because they tend to be quiet places, listening places. . . hard. . . places. I always finish. I may be extra dirty. I may be extra tired. I finish carrying mud or scars. The dirt, mud, exhaustion and scars will go away. Scars, more slowly than the other three. Sometimes the scars remain indefinitely. 

The steep places do not get easier. I get more adapted. They do not become less dirty. I bring something to wipe away the dirt. The mud depends on the day. The scars?  I still get cut and bruised. I become better at taking care of my wounds.

My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.

-Steve Goodier

Back at 2016/Forward to 2017

January was a tough month for me. I ran. I ran long. I ran hills. I ran high mileage weeks,  but it was more struggle than success. I think part of my lack of motivation and my lukewarm attitude was NOT looking back and NOT having a named goal to look forward to.

Looking back, 2016 was one of my most exciting running years to date. Here are the highlights.

  1. Running alongside one of my closest friends,  as she crossed the finish of her first (and not last) 50 miler in Tillamook, OR.
  2. Running my first and NO WAY near last 100 miler (surrounded by not one but four of my closest friends). Proud to be one of the 82 finishers. Proud to be one of 22 female finishers!
  3. Running Lookout 50 on my 45th birthday. This year it was a crazy weather day: rain, fog, and drizzle. I placed first in my age group. Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation.

-Eudora Welty

Looking ahead to 2017

  1. (April) Leona Divide 50 in Green Valley, CA. The race start is 1 1/2 hours from LA, 30 minutes from Palmdale (where I was born). 46 MILES on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). Should be SWEET.
  2. (September) Mogollon Monster 100 in Pine, AZ. As of February 2017, only 5 women are signed up. Should be an adventure. Cannot wait.
  3. (December) Lookout 50? or Stillhouse 100K?
  4. (TBD) My coaching website!! This is a lot of work. I am excited.

It is important to look back.

Look back because you aren’t the same person you were one or three or five years ago and that alone is worth realizing. Look back because there might have been feelings that you once overlooked that now make perfect sense. Look back because maybe, just maybe, there is something worth revisiting. And look back because you deserve to be incredibly proud of how far you’ve come.

-Morgan Scoyne “How Looking Back Will Help You To Move Forward”

I’m ready to look forward.

My goals for 2017 are  part destiny, part legacy, and part discovery. 

Wilderness Living

Wilderness Living

Life is full of beauty and interruptions,
spontaneous and planned,
heart break and hiccups,
highs and lows,
quietness and noise,
exhaustion and vitality,
darkness and light,
struggle and surrender,

. . . few chose it.
The ones who do are wild and free.

-Liz McClain

What I have learned in the Wilderness (W) this year:

simplifies my extraordinarily sophisticated life.

Companionship along the way is a pleasant distraction and necessity.

It doesn’t have to be easy to be thoroughly satisfying.

W makes the rest of life seem dull at times.

The taste of the W continues to tug me back.

You’ll get dirty.

It’ll get dark, real dark.

The sun will rise.

The stars will shine.

There is a Creator of all things.

I was made for W Living.

I am a woman of emotion. I will cry as automatically as I breathe in the W.

The outcome is always more than familiar.

I am a finisher.

Broken

I brought a gift to a friend of mine. It was a small, turquoise, ceramic ring dish. It was charming. I would sit it in the most beautiful way next to my sink to hold my precious things. I was going to drop it in her mailbox, but she was outside, holding her little girl.

I was having a bad morning with my teenage daughter. I was mad. I was sad. I was frustrated. I had been crying.

My friend opened the box and thanked me for this little treasure. Then, in a moment, before she was able to use it for its purpose. . . i t  s l i p p e d. . . i t  f e l l . . . i t   s h a t t e r e d. She apologized. She felt bad.  I picked up the pieces. I wanted to keep them. It was worth something, to me, broken. The sound of it smashing onto the sidewalk, fractured my thoughts. It changed the course of my day. I still have the pieces.

At first, I thought that I was going to take the pieces and use them to imagine a mosaic. Imagine this small dish as part of something new, different. An entirely altered purpose. I placed them on top of my dryer. I looked at them each time I walked out the door, for a week. I would be the one to fashion them in a new form. I would create.

But then. . . I learned about Kintsugi

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or kintsukuroi (“golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life.

It is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for finding beauty in the flawed or imperfect. Making it a part of the object’s history.

The beauty and importance of the one looking at the dish, not the dish itself. Handing the (pieces of the) dish to the craftsman means that you are going to give the dish a total new life. . . a beautiful art piece.

Muneaki Shimode, Kintsugi craftsman

We humans break easily. We don’t hurt the same way. We don’t break the same way.

Dear Lord, 

Bestow on the broken. . . beauty instead of ashes,

Use gold to adhere the pieces left after the shattering, 

We desire to hand you the broken pieces,

Fashion them into new life, on display for your splendor.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Race Recap: Lookout 50, December 2016

 

Stick to a task ’til it sticks to you. . . for beginners are many, but finishers few.

-Thomas S. Monson

YEP.

Tough day on Lookout Mountain 50 for many. I finished in 11:45, one hour, two minutes slower than last year. Here are a couple of comparison stats from last year to this year.

This year, I ran without a safety runner and without a crew. All the miles mentioned are approximate.

Lookout 50 2015

  • 174 finishers (145 men and 29 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:24
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 6:19
  • Finish time 10:43

Lookout 50 2016

  • 137 finishers (99 men & 38 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:21
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 7:29
  • Finish time 11:45
  • DNF: 13 men & 7 women
  • DNS: 29 men & 20 women (approximately)

The start & weather Lookout starts at Covenant College in GA at 7:30 am EST. It is a wide open, short road section through a portion of campus until you come to the trail head. At the trail head, there’s a brief slow down as everyone files onto the trail and patiently head single file onto the single track. 🙂

The weather forecast changed 5 times, leading up to race morning. As of race morning, showers would start around noon. The temperature started at 38 degrees and would climb to a high of 70 at 3:00 pm, with intermittent showers. As I mentally prepared for the race in the days leading up to the start, I planned to expect rain.

Miles 0-8 ran by feel. This first section to AS 1 (aid station 1) is mostly downhill and very runnable. This year, it seemed like runners were being a bit more cautious with the wet leaves and wet rocks. I hung with most of the crowd for about 4 miles, and then decided to move around runners and find my sweet spot. At about mile 5 1/2, you hit a steep climb, then, a switch back decent to a jeep road. LOVE, LOVE this section. I def pushed my pace here. I ran hard to AS2, felt good. I stopped to refill my bottles. I wanted to stay well hydrated, especially as temps would be rising as the day went on. (Last year, I did not stop here at all.)

Miles 8-15 another quick, runnable section. I definitely had my sweet spot. I did not feel like chatting or running with anyone. This is where I put one ear bud in and just ran. 🙂 It felt good. This section overall is slightly downhill with some rollers here and there. This group of miles to enjoy running on. The next section has a long climb back up to the start/finish. I stopped to fill my bottle here too and grab a few fig newtons. (Last year, I did not stop here.)

Miles 15-21/22 Easily one of my favorite sections. I LOVE to hike uphill. There’s a short, steep climb out of AS2, then, rolling hills to the 3 mile climb back up to the start/finish. It is a great feeling to pass people HIKING. The climbing felt easier than last year. Still going by feel and not looking at my watch. I arrived around noon, and I was hungry. I stopped to refill my bottles with water and Gnarly electrolyte drink. I really like the Gnarly drink, WAY better than HEED and better than GU Roctaine. I needed to eat. I grabbed a bagel with almond butter and honey out of my drop bag. I ate it all while walking out of this AS3.

Miles 21/22-30 This section of the course is also the last 8 miles of the race. I thought this section was marked better than last year. The section is mostly downhill with a few short climbs and rollers. This section has a creek crossing. You do not have to get your feet wet, if you cross on the rocks. At about mile 30, you arrive at AS4. This is one of my favorite AS’s. It is right by the waterfall. The group of volunteers here is a lively bunch! LOVE it!

Miles 30-34 The most memorable part of this section is the rope climb!! Here, I saw Jobie Williams (one of the course photographers & a friend of mine). It was really good to see him. He humored me and let me go back down the rope so that we could stage a shot climbing back up. 🙂 This section also provides a great view and nice, runnable bluff portion. Toward the end of this section, you are able to see and cheer on the leaders, as they are running to the finish. It is cool to see how hard they are working.

I still felt good and was running by feel. Last year, I started watching my pace here, anticipating the time with my safety runner, Kevin. I walked more of this part last year. This year, I did not have a safety runner. I was not sure how the next section would go. It entered my mind that I would be doing it alone. This might be the place when I asked myself, “what is your why today?” I needed to be reminded, because I was getting ready to run the rest on my own.

The last 1/2 mile of this section is on the road to the Long Branch AS4 & AS5. This is where you can stretch out your legs and RUN!

Miles 34-38 This is the spot last year when my stomach went downhill FAST. Last year, I suffered from this point to the finish. This year, it was different. My stomach did not bother me at all. This AS is called Long Branch, you visit it at miles 34 and 38. You can have a drop bag here. I stopped here, dropped my pack, grabbed a water bottle, some food and took off. This is a 4 mile loop. It was a nice break to drop my pack and run/hike with just a water bottle.

I do not remember much of this section from last year. I think I was kind of out of it and suffering with my stomach. I was lucky to have a safety runner, last year. This section was pretty. A lot of runners will tell you that this is their least favorite section because it is difficult to get a rhythm on the single track. I disagree. I would tell you to look forward to this. 🙂

Done with the loop and back to mile 38. (sigh) I did it. 🙂 KEVIN-you’d be proud of me here. I ran more than I walked. I put my jacket back on, put my pack back on, filled my bottles, put my headlamp in my pack, grabbed several pieces of frosted Christmas cookies, and smiled as I headed out. FINISH TIME!!

This is when the fog started to roll in thick, and there was a 5 minute downpour.

Miles 38-43 These are the same miles that I ran to get to Long Branch. I started hiking with a friend, here. I cannot remember his name. This is also where we got a bit lost, by about 1/4 mile. The fog was pretty thick, and it was raining. We missed the flag we needed to follow to get off the road and back on single track. GLAD that we noticed that sooner rather than later. (phew)

Back down the rope to one of my fav Lookout AS’s!! At this point, there were 3 of us together, me and two guys. We dropped down the rope to the last AS before the finish!! By this time, the atmosphere was a bit more lively. Last year, they had whiskey shots here. This year? Nope. I asked them if it was against the rules, this year. They quickly told me no that they make the rules out here! They just did not have whiskey. 🙂

All 3 of us were ready to finish!

Miles 43-50 “Are we there, yet?!” We power hiked almost the entirety of this section. It was getting dark here, and we put on our headlamps. The fog made it difficult to see with our headlamps on our heads. It was like driving in the fog, with the fine mist falling. To see better, we had to carry our headlamps. This section has lots of rocks and roots. It is okay to navigate in the light at mile 23, but it beats you up in the dark at mile 46!!

It was a grind. LOTS of hiking. Some running.

With a mile to go, I told the guys that we had to run across the finish line (Kevin). They weren’t convinced. With about 1/2 mile to go, I said, “I think we can run now.” We ran a bit. We slipped on a hill, going down in the mud. We started walking. I saw the finish. I started RUNNING. I crossed first in 11:45!

Happy 45th birthday to me!!!

83 out of 137 overall

16 out of 38 women

4 out of 7 in my age group

Hungry. Satisfied. Thankful. Finished.

 

 

 

 

My Mountain Life

Have you ever had one of those weeks? days? You know what mean. Life, circumstance, people take you by surprise and not in a good way. Things compound and they well up and drip out. The heartache, the brokenness the sadness drips out, like a leaky facet from my eyes.

I do go to the mountains that I have close. I go there and dream of the mountains that I want in my future. Dream of what it is going to take to get there. I remember where I have been. . . the mountains. . . I long, hunger to go back. The places that I know I am capable of going. The places that I know I get to work hard to go.

It is a longing that alludes to hope. A pure place. A wild place. An untouched place. A dark place. A quiet place. A lonely place. A drastic place. A high place. A heavenly place. . . to me. I got a taste of the depth, the struggle, the beauty and I want to go back.

It was in a (mountain) place where the beauty of friendship, fellowship, community played out. . . for me. It was a piece of heaven on earth. I am looking ahead to 2017. . . I am anxiously looking for struggle, courage, pain, depth and fire, commitment and community.

2017 targets:

  1. Cascade Crest or Kodiak 100
  2. “Running to the Roar” more, in fear and with faith
  3. Coaching women to achieve their dreams and goals, no matter how impossibly big or simply small.

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
 Jim Afremow,  The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive

“The very traits that step us toward certain life situations are the very same traits that those situations encourage, reinforce, and amplify”

-Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

“Being willing to be uncomfortable is essential for building toughness; it’s a characteristic that will pay dividends when honed to its fullest potential.”

-Jason Koop with Jim Rutberg, Training Essentials for Ultra Running: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultra Marathon Performance.

 

 

 

Race Recap: Monumental Marathon, BQ Quest

Boston Bound!

When Liz asked me to write this I was really excited to share my experience (I mean, what runner DOESN’T love to talk about running lol).   But sitting here now all I can think is crap – where do I start? So I guess I’ll give you a little background.  I’m a 40 year old, divorced, remarried, no human kids but one awesome dog child mom, equine surgeon, nonrunner until 5 years ago woman.  That about sums it up haha.  I come from a long line of “real “ runners, but I never ran more than a mile or 2 on the treadmill (begrudgingly) until I went through my divorce.  I started running then, & a bunch of ½ marathons & 5 marathons later here we are.

The plot is probably familiar-ish to many of you: “I’m just going to do one ½ then I’ll go back to 5/10ks” followed by “I’m going to do one more ½ because I think I can go a little faster”; “I’ll NEVER run a marathon, the ½ is plenty for me”; “I’m going to do one full, just as a bucket list thing, but ONLY one”; “that was terrible, I am never doing that again” (fast forward 3 more marathons…) “I think I want to TRY to qualify for Boston?”. Turns out running is fairly addictive haha.  But I love that it is also a sport that you can improve in and make gains if you put in the work.

As for qualifying for Boston, a few things to note: 1-I am not particularly fast.  I’m also not particularly slow, but I do not consider myself a naturally gifted runner.  In fact, I’m pretty darn average as far as my “speed” goes. So I knew IF I wanted to BQ I’d have to work pretty hard; 2-I absolutely needed the experience of my 1st 4 marathons to hit my standard of 3:45; 3-It takes a village, literally.  I cannot name everyone who helped me, but here are a few: Ryan, my husband, who put up with all of the early mornings, the Saturday nights I didn’t want to do something so I could run long on Sunday, & (probably the worst) the constant talking about the running; Liz, my AWESOME track coach & friend who gave me such solid running advice & inspiration on a weekly basis and while training for & finishing her own 100 mile (ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES!) race; Kara & Christine for being great cheerleaders/running buddies/therapists; Travis my brother for always pushing me to be a better version of myself in a mostly good natured way; Nashville on the Run for being such a welcoming & supportive running group; and last but definitely not least my co-coach & constant running companion Nike (my blue heeler), who made sure at least 1 of us was excited for EVERY training run.  See-an actual village!  That would be a cool village to live in. But I digress…

Training:

  • I used the Hal Higdon “Personal Best” plan & tweaked it a bit based on my last few marathons. I did an 18, 20, & 22 mile run for my last 3 “long” runs with a 12-13 mile run in the weeks between them.
  • I typically ran 4 days per week (track, medium run, short run, & long run). 5 days on a few of my peak weeks.
  • Yoga 1x per week (day after my long run)
  • Weight training 1x per week (usually the day before my long run)

The Race:

  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – I picked this race because it’s relatively flat, the weather is typically ideal, it was drivable for me, & historically it has a high number of people that BQ (yes, I’m a huge dork & research the crap out of everything. Because – science.)
  • What I wore:
    • Race start was 39 degrees, predicted to be 55 by race end. So I wore Nike spandex shorts, “Embrace the Suck” tank top (this was an important mantra for me-I said it repeatedly during the race) with a tech T shirt from a previous race over it, arm warmers made out of lucky 4 – leaf clover long socks (did I mention I’m superstitious?), a buff (from a past Ragnar trail team = more superstition) & compression socks.
    • I ditched the buff around mile 5, the tech T around 10, & the arm warmers around 15. I felt perfect (temperature wise) the entire time – I love running a little cold!
  • What I ate:
    • Week of: I tried to just add more carbs to my typically carb – low diet; so lots of sweet potatoes, white rice, & spaghetti a few nights out thanks to my cousin Marissa (2 time BQer) who was in town. I felt her making me a pre race dinners was a good omen (…superstitioius…)
    • I drank so much water the week before. So.   Water…
    • Night before: Ryan & I ate an early (6pm) dinner in our hotel. I had roasted chicken & mashed potatoes.  I’ve learned that for me, I need to eat early the night before & not too much.  I figure most of my “carb loading” has/should have occurred in the 5-6 days leading up to this, and a very big meal the night before just gives me GI issues on race day.
    • Moring of: ALWAYS = whole wheat bagel thin, almond butter, small redbull ~ 2 hours out.
    • During: Gu every 5 miles; by the 4th one I did NOT want it, but I know from past experience I NEED to eat them or it does not end well.
    • I drank a little water every mile; not sure how much total – 16oz through 13 miles, then used water from water stops after that.
  • The race!
    • My plan – my qualifying standard is 3:45 (~8:35 pace), but the last 2 years you’ve had to do at least 2 minutes faster than this to actually get into the race. So I was aiming for 3:42. No biggie right? WRONG! Turns out there’s a big (mental) difference in doing 8:35 for 26.2 vs. 8:25. That freaked me out, and honestly I was scared I couldn’t do it.
    • Decided to start w the 3:40 pacer & stay with him for as long as I could; if I could stay w him through 13 but not let the 3:45 pacer catch me after that I thought I’d be ok.
    • The 1st 5 miles were rough – I tend to start slow & get progressively faster, so this was REALLY fast for me to start. I started to get a little worried I couldn’t keep this pace up, but I quickly made myself stop thinking that.  NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!
    • From 5-10 the pacer was a bit erratic. Not his fault; we got behind a bit in the 1st 7 because it was crowded, turns, etc. & he slowed down at the water stops.  So he was trying to make up time (~8:00ish pace – eek!) but would continue to slow through the water stops.  I wasn’t digging this fast/slow/fast thing, so I went out a bit in front of him.  Girl who came with me: “we are going too fast”.  She was probably right, but I felt good!  So my new plan was to do my own thing/hold this pace for as long as I could.  “Just get to 10”…”Just get to 13”…”Just get to 15”…
    • Before I knew it I was 18 & still in front of him – REALLY??? Ok, this is good, but just keep this pace, you know you hit the wall between 18-22…
    • Mile 19: I felt so good (relative term for sure – every cell in my body hurt but not like a dying hurt haha? [yet] – not like the “hurt” that I knew was to come at some point) that I texted Ryan a pic of the 19 mile marker & time. Then I thought about the time – Holy crap I think I’m gonna do this!
    • Mile 20: Eminem’s “Phenomenal” came on. HOLY. CRAP. YES! It was like he was literally giving me a pep talk. & I was starting to need it.  It worked. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 21: This isn’t great. It isn’t terrible, but it really isn’t great.  Wait – 5 miles left – Liz ran 100 FREAKING MILES! I’ll bet when she was at 95 she was so stoked! 95-man – get it together Liberty you can do 5 freakin miles. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 22: Ah-there it is-the dying hurt. But still not as bad as I remembered?  “You ARE doing this! You CAN do this! Remember how disappointed you are in yourself when you stop…”
    • Mile 23: Ok yah this is actually pretty bad. But…you are on pace to kill this race! Think of all of the 4am days – you DID NOT do those to give up on this pace! You ARE NOT dialing this in!
    • Mile 24: Oh so there’s a hurt worst than the dying hurt? Awesome. Needed more motivation – put on “Beast” off of the Southpaw soundtrack –it’s my go-to when I’m struggling.  (I also have a playlist called “struggle bus” of songs that always get me pumped – I’d had it on since about 22).
    • Mile 25: This hurts SO BAD. BUT I AM DOING THIS! Just keep running.  Just keep running.  Keep. Running.
    • 2: You guys, I CANNOT even describe how I felt. I was stumbling towards the finish, legs weak, afraid I’d trip over the timing mat.  Couldn’t really see straight/a little blurry? I was looking for Ryan but couldn’t see much outside of what was directly in front of me.  I heard them call my name.  I managed to give a thumbs up going across the finish line, and then I literally collapsed in a heap against the fence separating the competitors from spectators.  It is honestly the weirdest combination of sheer exhaustion + complete happiness that I have ever felt (also probably a bit of the hypoxia – after I collapsed I immediately had an asthma attack – I have cold induced asthma but I’ve never had it be an issue at the end of a long run before, and this one was pretty bad but went away quickly).   The medics rushed over & tried to take me to the medic tent, but I waved them off & insisted Ryan was coming to get me & I was fine.  And then once I caught my breath I started crying….it was good crying though.  The poor people hovering over my head from the other side of the barricade must have though I was dying or insane.  Ryan found me & we hugged over the fence & we both started crying…an even better cry
    • I finished in 3:39:35. I never saw the 3:40 pacer again after mile 10 until after the race.  This is 6 minutes faster than my Boston qualifying standard, and an11 minute PR for me.