Posts Tagged With: ultra running

The Born to Run Ultra Marathon, Life, and Energy Bits

A couple of months ago I was listening to Caity McCardell of http://www.runbarefootgirl.com as she interviewed author Christopher McDougall of Born to Run.  McDougall (who happened to be interviewed right before yours truly) reminded me of Michah True aka Caballo Blanco’s famous oath:  “If I get hurt, lost or die, it’s my own damn fault.”  This oath was taken by all the voyagers in Born to Run before they descended into the Copper Canyons with Caballo as their leader.  Last weekend, as I stood with a bunch of clowns in cowboy hats (including Caity!! What a lovely lady) at the starting line of the Born to Run Ultra Marathon, we obediently raised our right hands and recited the same oath in tribute to the legend Caballo Blanco in the presence of his loved ones, whose hearts are eternally heavy in his absence.  That being said, the overall mood was joyous; both a celebration of his life and all of ours, as we were preparing to take a long journey together.  How can you not be happy, when your race director (Luis Escobar aka the photographer featured in Born to Run) is wearing a mariachi costume while telling us to have fun and not to be a bunch of dicks.

So WAIT a minute, hold up.  Where the hell have I been??  I know all of my readers are wondering.  Both of you!  🙂  I’m in CALIFORNIA!  I CAN’T STAY INSIDE TO WRITE ON A BLOG!  It’s too beautiful here!  Seriously, this place is off the hook.  I have a great new job, I’m house hunting, I’m running all the time, meeting new friends, and it’s sunny! So in my absence, I’ve been exploring this place and doing some sole searching, misspelling intended.  I decided to take a mini break from blogging, because I needed to seek out some answers.  I found myself questioning the minimalist running movement a bit, mostly because of the confusion set in motion by big running shoe companies.  Every major brand now has a minimalist model or two, in addition to the cushioned, stability, and motion control models.  Result: Everyone is confused to the max.  Example: Brand X offers these models: 5 are considered minimalist, 2 are considered “barefoot ride.”  Example Question: Which minimalist shoe do I pick for the way I run?   Or, I have X injury from running in X brand, which other brand would you recommend?

Choosing how to answer these questions in a short amount of time has been my struggle these past few months, like at races or when someone passes me in the hallway.  I’ve finally discovered that the answer is probably not what the person asking wants to hear:  It’s not about the shoe, it’s about the way that you run.  It’s all about the way that you run.  And perhaps the attitude with which you run, but that’s more of an opinion 🙂  Change the way you run and educate yourself.  The best way to change and provide feedback to your body is to run barefoot.  Running barefoot will give you the answers to what you’re doing wrong, teach you to listen and respond to your body’s cues.  If you’re not willing to run barefoot or TAKE THE TIME to change the way you run, you should not wear minimalist shoes.  Switching to minimalist while you’re training for a marathon and you’re 4 weeks out but you want to try because you’re injured in your regular shoes is NOT a good idea.  If you ARE willing to take the time to change, you will find the reward and freedom that so many of us have already found.  The validation I was seeking came in the form of this video from Dr. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard, who has made such a vital impact in the field of barefoot running and movement research:

So anyway, what am I talking about?  Right! The Born to Run Ultra Marathon festival.  What is this thing all about?  I was there, and I haven’t the faintest idea, but I know I’m better than I was before it.  Mike and I arrived just before sunset to set up camp on Friday night.  Our wonderful friends eventually arrived and we danced around the bonfire, played with hula hoops and listened to the band.  Lights out was a little after 9:00, but we were so excited that we stayed up for a little while before dozing off.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG.  4:15 AM, 4 blasts of the shotgun followed by LOUD mariachi music.  Now that’s a good wakeup call.  Mike and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in from the jet boil (I love that thing!) and made some matcha green tea for a little extra boost of energy.  It was cold, probably in the 40’s, but exciting to be camping before a race.  About 20 minutes before the race, I began eating my Energy Bits and Recovery Bits.  30 Energy Bits and 30 Recovery Bits, just like they have recommended in their marathon race plan.

At 5:45 AM, we all stood around the bonfire and took our oath.  I’ve never felt anything like it, surrounded by runners venturing out for 10 miles, 31 miles, 62 miles, or 100 miles.  We seemed eternally connected in that moment, in that strange way that trail running brings people together.  BANG! 6:00 AM, we were off.

I ran the 50k, which consisted of two 10 mile loops, one of which we ran twice.  The actual course was beautiful:  A private ranch with rolling hills, non-technical dirt/gravel surfaces, and one beautiful ridge that’s totally worth the steeper climbs and descents.  The race advertises that the surface is “barefoot friendly” but I’m not in agreement with that.  I’m a huge wuss baby and do not enjoy running on small rocks for 31 miles.  I know, I have my diaper on as I’m writing this.  I wore my Vibram Five Finger Spyridons that have good tread on the bottom and was totally comfortable the whole time.  I was glad I was wearing them on the second loop, when I would have been sliding otherwise in the steeper sections.  After each loop, we had a chance to run back through the campground where my sweetie pie and friends were waiting and cheering me on as I came through.  They ran the 10 miler, so they were done WAY before I came back through after my first loop.  Those dudes are FAST.  Mike and his buddy, Joe tied for 3rd place and Grundle came in shortly after.  My new friends from Ventura County Trail Runners were running the 50k also, so I was happy to run with them at different points in the race.

My fuel situation was fantastic.  Like I mentioned, I ate 30 Energy Bits and 30 Recovery Bits 20 minutes prior to the start of the race.  Every hour into the race, I ate 40 more Energy Bits.  Why 40?  Because Energy Bits tells you 15-30, so I figured 40 had to be better, right?  I really don’t think I needed the 40, but I admit, I was a little paranoid.  I carried Mandarin Heed in my pack and drank water at all the aid stations.  I ate about half a tangerine and about half a gel at two different aid stations, but I’m not sure I needed that.  But I planned to stop at all the stations, so I felt like I should eat something they were offering!  My energy level was surprisingly high, and I never hit a wall.  Runner’s high was a gross understatement; I’m pretty sure I floated through this race.  Some might argue that I didn’t run the race to my full potential if I felt that good throughout the race, but I would argue that maybe I had the most fun out there 🙂  My time, while unimportant, turned out to be better than I expected at 5:16.

I really don’t know what to say except that this was the happiest race I have ever done.  Simply put, races like this perpetuate our need to be running, our need to be on the trails, and our need to be together.  Every race should be like this, as this is what running is all about.  Although, I’m really not sure if this race is about running at all.  Instead, maybe it’s about celebrating life.  I heard someone compare Born to Run to the Burning Man Festival, which sounds about right.  Afterall, I don’t think anyone knows what either one is about, but everyone comes away a little loonier and starry eyed, claiming that their life is forever changed.

On my last loop, I found myself full of emotion.  Unfortunately, this always seemed to happen on the hills, when I really needed even breathing to successfully get to the top.  I would have this overwhelming feeling of fullness and satisfaction, and I couldn’t seem to hold back the tears.  The Born to Run 50k seemed like the race that I had been waiting for: Almost like a coming of age, or a celebration of the arrival of the next phase of my life.  I always knew I was meant to run, but I never could until I lost the shoes and the orthotics.  Now here I am, two years later with two marathons, four half marathons, and one ultra marathon under my belt.  And here I am, four months after having surgery, running my first ultra marathon.  AND (as if that’s not enough 🙂 ) we just moved to one of the most beautiful, sunny places I’ve ever seen with endless hills and trails.  When I crossed the finish line, I had a great crew waiting for me.  I held back the tears until they dispersed, then boo hoo’d (yes I’m still wearing my diapers) when it was just Mike and I. Best day of my life.  A few minutes later, one of my buddies I’d met from the course preview, David, came across the finish, and both of us were overwhelmed with emotion again as we had just come a long way together.

The Born to Run Ultra Marathon.  Still don’t know what the hell it was all about.  Was it the hula hoops, the authentic Tarahumara ball races, the beer run, the music, the people, the running, the tattoos, the surfboard prizes, the handmade pendant medals, the cows or the race director?  Who knows?  All I know is that this one will be an annual event for us, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year.  Here’s a cute video to leave you with by one of the Born to Runners:

As always, I’m offering 30% off Energy Bits at http://www.energybits.com with the discount code BAREFOOT at checkout.  🙂

Have you ever experienced a race this fantastic? I’d love to hear about it!

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Dancing into the 3rd loop

Dancing into the 3rd loop

Finished!

Finished!

Friends

Friends

Ventura County Trail Runners

Ventura County Trail Runners

Categories: Racing, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Remembering Where I Came From: The Last Running of the Wildwood Trail.

Today, I went for what will be my last long run on Wildwood Trail, in Portland, OR.  I was having a very nostalgic day, as I ran the path I’ve been frolicking on for the last 2.5 years.  My old friend Wildwood decided to give me one hell of a ride today, which I obviously expected.  I should’ve known that the last one would have to be a doozy.  That damn trail has chewed me up, spit me out, tripped me, whipped me with branches, left me bloody and bruised, and given me the worst conditions I have ever experienced in my life.  Ever.  And yet, I am so enamored by the mere thought of running on it, you’d think there’s something really wrong with me.  And maybe there is!  But getting laid out over and over again has taught me a very important lesson in life:  Always get back on your feet.  As many times as you fall, get back up.

The forecast today said that it might be in the 50’s and sunny.  HAHA!! It’s springtime in Portland, I don’t think so!  I left my house wearing tights, two long sleeves, and a vest just in case it was cold, gloves and my backpack.  It’s a good thing I wore all that, just in case.  It started out cloudy, but things quickly took a turn for the worst.  It started pouring rain, then that turned to sleet which came down with such ferocity that I started looking for an overturned tree just in case I needed to take cover.  That turned to snow, which came down in huge, soft flakes.  One landed on my eye, which I’m sure would’ve been entertaining for a passerby.  Looked like a giant cotton ball was affixed to my eyelid.  Then, as if someone hit a switch, it became blissfully  sunny.  The sun sparkled off every surface due to the sleet and snow on the ground, and I felt a burst of energy.  It stayed sunny for about an hour and a half, then started sleeting and then pouring rain again.  What a ride!  18 miles of crazy weather, one near face plant with an end result of a really cool half-cartwheel, and one epic 10 foot slide down an especially muddy hill.  Ok, maybe it was only 5 feet, but 10 sounds better.

I arrived back to my car sopping wet, muddy, and smiling.  The thing is, that trail has lit a fire within me.  Wildwood was the first trail I ever ran consistently, and it’s made me who I am.  It has created in me a love of running and experiencing the outdoors.  It has showed me that hills are not impassable, but rather a change to be embraced and overcome.  It is because of Wildwood that I now realize my potential to be an ultra runner, and I am stronger of mind and body.  In fact, it was two months ago exactly that I had surgery, and I know that trail running has helped me with recovery.  I was strong before surgery because of the trail, and I know it mentally prepared me for the demons that I faced.  I will always remember the lessons that Wildwood has provided me.

While I was running today, I also thought back to my recent trip to California with Mike and my side of the family.  I had a rare chance to run with my mom and dad, who are my original inspirations.  They are why I run, this I know for sure.  We ran together in Santa Barbara, 4 miles of sunshine.  My mom is still faster than me.  She is crazy!  Off she went, trotting ahead as my dad and I laughed at how we couldn’t keep up.  She recently won Grand Masters in a half marathon, and I really hope I’ll be able to keep up with her one day. Maybe when she’s 80?  My dad never ceases to amaze me either, as he never has any running injuries with as long as he’s been running.  He sure is noisy though, burping and blowing snot rockets every few minutes.  He even blew snot on me twice!  As I rounded a corner today, blasting up a hill, I blew a misguided snot rocket that landed right on top of my foot.  Ah yes, I can see myself in both of them.  A strong, snotty woman.  I won’t forget where I came from: I’m forever a runner because of two strong parents and I’m forever a trail runner because of Wildwood.

I decided today that either the universe was angry with me for leaving Portland or it was showing me a big flashing sign that it’s time to move on.  Again, thinking back to our California trip with my family, I have warm, sunshiny memories of running next to the ocean with my parents, running on the Arroyo Verde trail with Mike, and a feeling of home in Ventura.  I do feel that it’s time to move on, but it sure will be tough to leave my old friend, The Wildwood Trail.  But alas, I know it will always be right here in Portland, OR whenever I need a good ass beating.

Here are a few pics of my family from our California trip:

cute parents!

cute parents!

Mom, dad, Mike and I, Jill and Corey

Mom, dad, Mike and I, Jill and Corey

The ladies

The ladies

Dad and I

Dad and I

Here are some pictures from the Wildwood Trail today:  And yes, this is the same day!

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

The blue diamond, mark of the Wildwood.

The blue diamond, mark of the Wildwood.

SNOW

SNOW

18 miles on the trail with Energy Bits! Don't forget to get 30% off with the code BAREFOOT and www.energybits.com

18 miles on the trail with Energy Bits! Don’t forget to get 30% off with the code BAREFOOT and http://www.energybits.com

Categories: Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Meeting Hal Koerner and Rogue Valley Runners

Today, Mike and I began our road trip down to California to do some exploring.  I will be updating once we have covered more on our journey, but for now, a quick post about Ashland!  We left Portland this morning, and it was monsooning.  Sheets of rain were coming down as we were packing up the car.  A sign that we were heading in the right direction?  I think so!  To top things off, we met our neighbor for the first time today, even though he’s lived above us for 2 years.  After talking for a minute, we discovered that he is from… where?  Oh yes, Ventura, CA, the exact location we are headed to.  He said he loved it, and he would move back any day! He even gave us tips about where to go, where to avoid, etc.  As if we haven’t had enough signs from the universe already, there it was today in big, flashing, blinking lights.  I have never felt so right on our path.

Our first stop was in Ashland today, where we had a mandatory stop at Caldera Brewing.  I had an incredibly delicious, beautifully colored Ginger Hibiscus Ale.  Oh my… In combination with my Stinky Hippie sandwich (zucchini, hummus, grilled onions, garlic spread all on sourdough) I was in Ashland Heaven.  I have never been to Ashland before, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go back!  It’s Stinky Hippie heaven!  There was even a drum circle in the quaint downtown.  On a Wednesday.  I’d live there, but alas, there is no surf for Mike.  In addition to beer, sandwich and drum circle heaven, this little town is a runner’s dream.  And if you know of one Hal Koerner, an ultrarunner’s dream.

As I was slowly chewing my Stinky Hippie, Mike and I were discussing the fact that Hal Koerner lives in Ashland.  In fact, we knew that Hal actually owns Rogue Valley Runners, a running store in town.  Yes, we are on a first name basis now.  So we strolled along Main Street, a delightful throwback to everything that has ever been delightful.  Sweet smells of incense and sunshine filled the air, and there was a relaxed feeling of anything goes.  And of course, Ashland is known for the Shakespeare Festival, so there are hints of that claim to fame everywhere.

We finally stumbled upon Rogue Valley Runners, the store we were hoping to find.  We went in, not really expecting to see Hal, but who can resist a running store, really?  They have group runs at the store, and there was a trail map on the wall.  Elevation gain is an understatement.  I found a cute shirt, and asked the sweet girl at the register if they had my size.  As she was looking for it, I continued to look around.  I turned around, and hey, there was Hal.  For real? I hesitated for about 3 seconds, and then walked up and said, “Are you Hal?”

As if I didn’t know.  “Yes,” he said nicely, looking around looking slightly embarrassed.  I quickly explained to him that I was a big fan and we wanted to stop by his store, but never expected to actually see him.  What a nice guy!  He told us a little bit about the running around Ashland, explaining that it was either up or down.  Judging by the mountains and hills that towered all around the little downtown, I could see what he was talking about.  No wonder he likes this place to live!  He said that the community group runs that meet at the store routinely turn into 8 miles or more with some pretty huge elevation.  I wouldn’t expect any less from this cute little town, that is seemingly home to a pretty hardcore group of runners.  You’d have to be strong to run around here!  He did admit that he was thinking of having other groups that did shorter distances, but in this town, I’m not sure that anyone would show up.  It kind of seemed like it was go big or go home around these parts.  I love it!  Hal certainly lived up to his reputation of being a hell of a nice guy.  He was very humble, and he has that rugged appearance that shows his experience and miles on the trail.  I hope to run into him at a race one day!  I was giddy for several minutes after our time at the RVR store.  And I got a new shirt! Mike and I are already thinking about taking a detour on the way home and going back to Ashland for some trail running.  But first, we’ll have to ask Rogue Valley Runners where to go….

Tomorrow, adventures in Redding, CA on the trails.  We are planning a nice trail run tomorrow with Mt. Shasta towering over our heads.  Not a bad place to be!

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Hal Koerner and I at Rogue Valley Runners!

The Magic of Ashland

The Magic of Ashland

Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer

Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer

Categories: Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Underside of the Tapestry

Sometimes when we think we’re at the top of our game, life gives us a good whack to bring us back down to earth.  I thought I was pretty invincible and ready to have the best start to 2013 with two big races and one epic fun run coming up.  The Mac Ass 25K with lots of elevation gain, followed running the entire Wildwood Trail (31 miles) in Forest Park, followed by the Hagg Lake Mud Run 50k.  I’ve been chomping at the bit, running up and down mountains, running at high altitude, running on snow, and cross training with skiing down double black diamonds in Jackson Hole, WY.  Invincible, right?

Wrong.  On Thursday evening and into Friday of last week, I experienced a medical emergency.  My illness was totally unrelated to running, but nevertheless, I ended up in the ER with my wonderful husband at my side.  Both of us pale faced and in disbelief, we finally accepted the fact that things would be different for a while.  We would need to recover emotionally and I would need to recover physically.  One at a time, doctors told me that I needed to rest including no work, no strenuous exercise, and definitely no running.

Crap.  Today, it is difficult for me to get up the stairs.  It is difficult for me to bend over and put on my socks and my shoes.  I was so tired after showering that I had to sit on the couch for half an hour before attempting my next move.  My point is, this is one of the most emotionally draining and humbling experiences of my life.  That being said, here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • My prior heath and fitness level to keep me strong during recovery
  • My beautiful partner in life, my husband Mike to hold my hand
  • My family who has been so supportive and knowledgeable in our time of need.  Thanks Jill, Mom, Dad, Claudia, Ken, and Lauren!
  • My friends who are my second family, they’re calling and texting and sending love.
  • My co-workers who are working overtime to see Mike and I’s patients when we cannot be there.  And my supervisors who are like family at this point and sending their love and compassion.
  • The future prospect of health, running and new life.

My friend, Emily, gave me a beautiful image to get through this difficult time.  She said that the underside of the tapestry is twisted in knots and tangles, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the endless web.  It takes some time, but eventually you will be able to see the top of the tapestry, which holds a beautiful, intricate design.  Without the knots and tangles holding it together, the design wouldn’t be as beautiful or well put together.  Thank you Emily, for that healing thought.

In the meantime, here are some pictures that we snapped before our setback:

IMG_0717IMG_0712 IMG_0700 IMG_0711 IMG_0710 IMG_0696 IMG_0705 IMG_0691

Categories: Racing, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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