Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections and Resolutions

My attempt at being highly appropriate.

Wow. It certainly has been a crazy year. Looking back and trying to process it all is damn near impossible – but the good news is that I’m not even sure that’s entirely necessary. Because now when I remember, I smile. Hours of dissecting words turn to one poignant moment and I am inspired.

These are those moments. Formerly described by wordy, two-beer posts – now limited to 1-2 grammatically correct sentences.


I know that simply finishing is more important than winning could ever be, and I vow to never lose that focus.


Sometimes, no matter how prepared and strong you are, it is simply not your day and there don’t have to be any reasons. And on these days I enjoy the suffering.


Pushing up the Bright Angel switchbacks up to Indian Garden, I discovered a new gear and officially decided I would never say “I suck at climbing again.” Because I don’t.


Running alongside Gabi as she pushed through her darkest moments allowed me to view myself in one insanely beautiful out of body experience. Her strength was an inspiration.


The amount of love in my heart is terrifying. Also, I got next…


There are things in life I simply cannot control, nor do I want to. But I can always control my ability to pick up and go on insanely beautiful, awesome, challenging, amazing adventures, and for that I am eternally grateful.


It’s not about the races, the competition, the controlled environments. This day and these flashes of solitude, gratitude and utter peace is why I run.


When you are emotionally void and broken, you would be a fool not to expect that to carry over into other activities. Even running. And guess what? That’s life.


I pushed my body harder than I ever have and red-lined on the limits until it broke. For that, there is nothing to be ashamed.


This was the day and the moment that I finally let go. I’ll never forget it.

Yes, this year was riddled with setbacks, injury, heartache and struggle. But this is all overshined by experiences and moments that I will never forget. Finally crossing the finish line with every one of my friends at RR100 after a truly epic battle. Almost sliding to my death off Baldy and being rewarded for living with probably the best sunrise I can remember (and I’ve seen quite a few). Driving, singing, talking, laughing. Running the last mile of Badwater with Dom and being utterly consumed by emotion as he crossed the finish line. Running and sliding down a glacier. Rebuilding the fire ravaged Angeles Crest course. Living. Loving. Beers on the North Rim. Swimming under waterfalls. Dancing. Climbing higher than I’ve ever climbed. Running harder than I’ve ever run. Discovering a deep-rooted unshakable strength that in one moment threatens to destroy me, and in another makes possible a world of experiences with the purest of mind and heart. Watching Gordy complete his hard earned lap at Placer High with tears streaming down my face. Hugging my brother when he returned to American soil. Falling in love all over again. The field of wildflowers in Death Valley. Kissing Ann Trason’s 1994 cougar. My dad carrying me back to the 68 mile aid station with tears in his eyes. Blissful moments of weightlessness. Photos. Videos. Concerts. Hugs. Finally quitting my job. Friends. Each sunrise. Every sunset. New trails. Old trails. Life.

In short: the hard stuff was worth it. Another year has gone by and I’m stronger still. I know myself better. And I like myself more.

Oh, where you've carried me...

And now for the good stuff. Looking forward. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited heading into a year of racing ever. I believe that is largely due to my plans. Have I set lofty goals? Yes. Do I plan to run myself into the ground trying to achieve them? Absolutely. Is this smart? Who the hell knows. What I can say is this…

I finally am in a position where I can work a normal 8-5 job and that’s it. No extra gigs and the free time is mine. I can afford to eat well and race. While life isn’t perfect, I am very happy. So the time to “go there” is now…

My goal race for 2011 will be Angeles Crest 100 in July. Beginning January 1st, I have vowed to dedicate myself wholly and fully to training in pursuit of beginning to actualize my potential at mountain running. Weekdays will be filled with training before and after work. I will do core work at least 2 days a week and ballet/stretch at the very minimum one night for an hour and a half. Weekends will involve camping in the San Gabriels and running morning noon and night on every inch of the course. I will climb mountains every day.

Leading up to AC, I’m looking forward to running Coyote 2 Moons 100k on my birthday weekend, posting a decent time at the Boston Marathon and hopefully tackling this awesome 40 mile Wrightwood-Baldy run dreamed up at the SMM 50k with Sarah from PCTR. Other than that, I’ll be helping Dom at Miwok and that’s it. No more races – just consistent training. The only time I’ll semi-taper is for Boston, maybe 5 days. The goal is AC and I aim to find out what I’m really made of.

A Happy New Year it shall be…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Choose the Sun: Ridgecrest 50k


On Thursday I decided that I’d head out to the high desert for one more race this year. Mainly because it was much better than just sitting at home. You see, everyone else was up at the North Face Endurance Challenge, but for personal reasons I had elected to stay back. I felt like everyone else was at the biggest party of the year and I was freaking grounded. Only then I realized I wasn’t grounded and there was another more low key house party going on and that I should probably go. Besides, acoustic guitars and cans of PBR are way more my style than champagne and tuxes.

Then, on Friday I decided I wasn’t mentally capable of racing and tried to back out. But Gabi fed me beers and talked me back into it. Sneaky Gabi. So when I finally woke up on Saturday, I realized I needed to pack a bag and get the hell out of town. Unfortunately my morning was spent fielding phone calls and texts from racers, crews, spectators and mothers (everyone always seems to think I have answers), monitoring the action at NF via tracking, twitter, facebook (I had like 50 windows open) and watching the Western States lottery feed, praying that I wouldn’t get in and I would get $370 back on my debit card to use on Angeles Crest instead. I was like information central. It was all quite ridiculous.

FINALLY, I closed down shop, showered, threw my Saucony stuff in a bag and headed down to meet Gabi and drive out to Ridgecrest. I guess I was really going at this point. I’d done this drive many times this year heading out to Death Valley, and I’ve got to say – it felt nice heading out there to run myself. I was immediately glad I decided to go.

The day and night were totally relaxed and I woke up on Sunday totally excited. Not to race… but just to run. I could not wait to get out there and run 31 miles. I couldn’t think of anything that sounded more fun. That was a good sign.

A record number of entrants gathered in a big parking lot, the RD shouted instructions into a little plastic megaphone and finally shouted “Go!” And so we went. I felt no nerves. I felt no need to race. Today, I was just going running.

I felt as if I was floating along at about 8:30-9min pace, which seemed right, so I just locked in and allowed myself to pass and be passed without any regard for who they were or where I was. I quickly reached the 5.5 mile mark, key word being quickly, as I realized I was actually running under 8 minute miles. This seemed like a remarkably bad idea, seeing as though I wanted to enjoy this day and my knee was laden with tendonitis, so I tried to slow down a bit. Apparently that didn’t happen because at the 11 mile mark I was still running sub-8s. And I felt awesome. But I freaked out. I didn’t think I was capable of maintaining this pace, especially now that my legs were beginning to feel the climbs a bit. So I did finally slow down a little.

Now here comes the crazy part.

When I run 100 miles, or even sometimes a long, hard 50 – I expect to go through quite the range of emotions. Highs and lows, ebbs and flows. I look forward to this greatly. However, for the past six months I have been remarkably numb and felt nothing. During a 50k, I expect just to focus on the race… it will start to hurt a little… and then before I know it, it will be over. There are no tears in 50ks.

What happened next was entirely unexpected. The flame went out. I felt dead inside. I didn't care about anything at all. Nothing mattered. Whoa.

Accordingly, I was momentarily left with a feeling of complete and utter sadness and I feared that my day would end here on account of the burden. But surprisingly, something completely different occurred. Instead, I felt weightless. I felt the extreme happiness that I hadn’t touched for so long and I took flight down the trail.

The sun was shining through the clouds illuminating the desert floor and bouncing off of the large boulders scattered throughout my view. I felt the warmth on my face. I felt the wind in my hair. I felt alive. It was, as I like to say, the jam.

Running along, at mile something.

At about the halfway point, I began to feel the climbs a bit and backed off the pace, resolved to finish strong. I drank, I ate, I salted, I ran. That’s all there was. As I reached the marathon point, I laughed a bit at the realization that just a very few years ago I dreamed of the day I would break 4 hours and maybe even qualify for the Boston Marathon. Now here I was handily running under 4 for a split in a longer race, and I felt like I had been totally dogging it for the past 10 or so miles. Wow. You know, I spend so much time hating myself for what I haven’t yet accomplished that sometimes I fail to see progress. Today, that was not the case.

I saw.

Next, I did the only logical thing I could think of – run the last five miles as hard as I could until I felt like I would throw up. This proved to be great fun. And very confusing for the 10 or so runners that I passed. I crossed the line at 4:41:21, setting a PR by well over an hour. This is the second December in a row that I’ve gone to a race I wasn’t really stoked about running, with tendonitis in my right knee and not that great of an attitude – yet totally killed it.* My theory is that end of the year races are the one place that I really, truly have no expectations – so I’m finally free from the burden of my arguably destructive mind. Man, I need to work on that.

*I say this in terms relative to me. Not by industry standard. Yet.

My awesome desert art bobcat trophy/free apartment decoration.

And work on it I shall. 2011 is bringing me the Boston Marathon (what?! Yes.) and Angeles Crest 100 as goal races. Hopefully the lottery gods will allow me back into Miwok 100k to redeem myself as well. Until then, I have day after day of double workouts and long weekends climbing big mountains ahead of me.


Winners! At life!

"Mama you can choose the rain, but I choose the sun." ~Nikka Costa