Two Women Beat All Teams at TransRockies Run

Magda

We need more female role models in sports, and it looks like Magdalena Boulet and Caitlin Smith have stepped up to the plate. Together, they won the Women’s Open Division at the PepsiCo TransRockies Run yesterday.

They won each of the six stages of the TransRockies, and took first in the overall teams and the women’s division with a cumulative time of 18:47:32 for 120 miles and more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain. They beat every single team, every single day!

The race course included a mix of single-track and forest road through the heart of the White River and San Isabel National Forests, reaching altitudes of over 12,500 feet.

Magdalena Boulet is a 2008 Olympic marathon competitor, ultra marathoner and GU Energy VP of Innovation, Research & Development.

Caitlin Smith is a 2012 Olympic marathon trial qualifier and holds 42 first-place ultra marathon finishes and 26 course records.

Congrats, ladies!

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Whitney Weekend Run Report: High on Life

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Summit: Sunday, July 27, 2014

Elevation: 14,505 feet (highest point in the lower 48)

Distance: 22 miles

Time: 12 hours

Summit Buddy: Robert Shackelford

Prep and Training

A few months ago our friends the Hassetts secured a few Mount Whitney permits and invited us to summit with them along with 20 other friends. We immediately accepted and began doing training climbs. We spent a week at Mount Baldy doing repeat summits, one Mount Gorgonio summit, and another week or so going up and down Noble Canyon. My first few peaks felt sluggish and I wasn’t sure I would be ready by the end of July. As time progressed, I grew more confident and our last summit of Mount Gorgonio the week before Whitney left me feeling strong and excited.

In retrospect, although those other summits were fun, they did very little to actually prepare for Whitney. Life above 12,000 feet is a completely different experience and until you climb that high, you really don’t know how your body will react. All those other summits were like running a bunch of 5Ks to train for a marathon. Of course, that’s the best training most of us have in the SoCal area.

I attribute some valuable conditioning to switching to a standing desk. I do a lot of writing and I work from a laptop. For the past several months I have done all my work with my laptop sitting on a box on our tiny RV cupboard. Between writing and running, I was on my feet sometimes for 12 hours a day. I felt a huge physical change. It was challenging the first week (my legs felt wiped out, as if I had raced a marathon), and then I got used to it. Now I only sit while driving or eating. I truly believe this helped immensely on Mt. Whitney where I was on my feet for 12 hours.

Before Whitney, I had only been above 12,000 feet once: at Hope’s Pass in Colorado as part of Transrockies 2012. I didn’t have any elevation issues and other than a slow climb, I felt wonderful. I was able to bomb the downhill although I was gasping for breath at the exertion.

For Whitney, I planned to take it a little easier, but I still wanted to test my limits and do my best.

Friday

On Friday morning we dropped Ginger off at the doggie kennel, a sad event we must endure if Shacky and I ever want to run together. (She had surgery a few months ago to repair a torn CCL ligament and she can’t run until October.) Ginger was distraught and so was I, but I knew it would be worth this epic weekend. Shacky later told me that sometimes people got in trouble for tying their dogs up at the top of the 99 Whitney switchbacks (at the National Park border) and continuing to summit Whitney without them (dogs are not allowed in the final 2 miles). WTF?? That’s a terrible place for a dog with very volatile weather that can change fast. Disgusting.

Mama Kitty stayed in the RV as a bear-guard (or was it bear-bait??). In any case, she made the trip with us. Mama Cat sat by the window and enjoyed the views all the way up to Horseshoe Meadows where we camped on Friday night. It was a long and hot road, and we had to stop a few times to let the RV cool. Much like Shacky, our little Rialta doesn’t do well in extremely hot temps like, say… around Death Valley in July. We had to drive most of the climb without any AC to keep the RV as cool as possible and we were all glad to finally see Paul Hassett waving us down at the Horseshoe Meadows campground.

We hung out with our friends for a bit while they set up camp. We went for a short walk, played some cribbage, then shared a dinner of hot dogs and salad and cherries. After that we played some Cards Against Humanity and went to bed.

We were camping and sleeping at about 10,000 feet to help us acclimate and I found that the elevation didn’t seem to really bother me. I attributed it to spending time on Gorgonio just a few days ago. I could jog normally on anything flat or downhill, though uphills still left me winded.

Poor kitty didn’t know what was going on. She continued her regularly scheduled exercise regimen of running insanely fast laps around the RV and over our sleeping bodies at around 2am, but after one lap she would have to stop and gasp for breath for a few minutes. When she recovered, she’d start again. Run, gasp. Run, gasp. It was a good demonstration of what we would be doing on Sunday.

Saturday

The next morning, we drove to Whitney Portal bright and early to try and get a walk-in campground at the Family Camp. We ran into the camp host Lee at around 8am and he was extremely helpful and accommodating. We had about 15 people and one RV (ours), and we wanted to camp together if possible. Lee somehow worked his magic and we ended up sharing a site with Bill and Christine.

As soon as we got settled, Shacky and I emptied all our food into the bear locker, which was quite a feat since the RV is our home and we carry a lot more food than normal camping folk. We had dog food, cat food, cat litter, a million little scented things… We almost took up an entire enormous bear locker. On the bright side, it was a great inventory of what we had and we ended up giving away a lot of edibles we didn’t really need.

I was still really nervous about bears because I was sure there was still some sort of scent in the RV. Kitty bats her food around all over the place and there’s always some crumb. I cleaned up as best I could and crossed my fingers

As soon as the food was up, Shacky and I jogged / hiked to Lone Pine Lake. The views were so spectacular I got caught up in taking photos and running and aweing at everything. I was having a blast. The lake was breathtaking (literally). The hike did a great job of testing my lungs. I jogged some uphill, let myself get winded, and pushed my elevation potential to get an idea of what my limits were. I got back from the hike wanting more and I was confident I could do well on Sunday.

We went to bed right after an awesome group dinner of carne asada tacos. I filled my belly knowing I wouldn’t be hungry at our 2:30am wake-up and went to sleep with the sun.

Sunday (Summit Day!)

Many in our group had trouble sleeping at elevation but I had zero issues. I fell asleep quickly and on Whitney-eve I got a solid six hours. I shot up when the alarm went off at 2:30 am, excited to start the day.

After getting dressed, I emptied the kitty’s cat bowl while she slept. She would have to make do with no food until we were finished hiking (I couldn’t leave any cat food in the RV due to bear break-ins). It would be a long day and she’s not used to waiting for her meals, so I was a little worried about what she’d do when I failed to feed her in a timely manner.

Our friends were slow getting around, so we waited for them and got to the Whitney trailhead at around 3:30am. Our entire group except for three people had already left. I was with Shacky and our friend Jon. After they used the bathroom, we began a steady climb in the pitch dark.

I decided not to force myself to eat or poop in the morning, which is the opposite of what most people do. I knew I wouldn’t be at all hungry or needing to go that early and I really wanted to eat by feel. I had no idea how my body would react up there, but if I tried to stuff myself with food, I knew it for sure it wouldn’t do well.

Not pooping in the morning was a bit of a risk since Whitney has a pack-it-out rule. If I got the urge to poop on the trail, I would have to carry my poop with me the entire day in a special poop-bag. My hope was that I just wouldn’t feel like pooping at all.

About a mile into the trail, my handheld light started going dim. I had forgotten to swap out the batteries. I fell into pace in between Shacky and Jon who both had really strong headlamps and mooched off their light. Soon we passed Bill and Christine, then sometime later Rachel and the rest of the girls. Elizabeth was with them and she hopped on to our train. We hiked along with Elizabeth, Jon, Shacky and myself. Paul and Allen stayed ahead of us.

At Lone Pine Lake I started getting hungry and Shacky wanted to eat as well, so we stopped and I pulled out my sandwich. I was sad we were missing so many awesome views in the dark, but I knew we’d catch them on the way down. I ate my sandwich plus a Salted Caramel gel and felt much better. I was carrying a 3L Camelback bladder in my UltrAspire Omega pack as well as an extra handheld stuffed in my bag. I was drinking a lot of water, to thirst.

I didn’t hydrate well the night before. I meant to, but then I had a Lime-arita instead. When I peed in the morning, it wasn’t that clear. It was pretty warm in the morning as well, so I expected it would be a scorching day. I was drinking like crazy.

After our snack stop, we continued into uncharted territory. Everything after this, you needed a permit to hike. We all had our permits on our packs and we could vaguely start making out the outlines of the rocks and lakes as it got lighter and lighter. The sun never fully came out. It got light, but overcast. I was glad for the cloud cover.

The views, as we started to see them, were amazing. We weren’t stopping much to rest either, keeping a steady pace uphill, sometimes chatting and sometimes just walking. We passed several hiking groups and I was really pleased with our progress. Jon and Elizabeth were awesome company and all was fun and games until we got to the Trail Camp right at the foot of the 99 switchbacks.

I had never been to Whitney before, but I had heard of the 99 switchbacks. At first, I was confused about why people would count 99 switchbacks on one particular spot, when there were clearly switchbacks before and after as well. It was more obvious when I saw what they looked like: just one relentless straight-up climb.

Elizabeth started counting the switchbacks, which was helpful because I didn’t want to count them myself, but I wanted to know where we were. A few of the turns were tricky and it was hard to tell what counted as a switchback. Elizabeth kept us motivated to calling out the milestone crossings.

“30 switchbacks! … 50 switchbacks!”

We had to stop twice on the way up to catch our breath and drink water (it was hard to swallow and breathe at the same time). I was the only one with a GPS so I watched our elevation climb and called out our milestones.

“Twelve thousand feet! … Thirteen thousand feet!”

I later learned that the elevation was hitting Shacky hard and he was struggling not to doze off. He got really sleepy and said later it helped him that Jon was leading.

Jon did a great job. He was walking slowly which was about as fast as we could handle, stopped for two short breaks, and then pushed on ahead. Elizabeth called 95 switchbacks and I thought, “OK! We got this! Only four more!”

Except that 96th switchback felt about a mile long, and it started getting steeper. We stopped for the third time after only about five minutes of walking, recovered, then found the trail crest. We had made it!

We had miscounted the switchbacks: we were already at the end of them. What a pleasant surprise! I was hoping if we had miscounted it would end up this way instead of the other way around: counting to 99, then realizing you still had a few more to go.

At the trail crest we saw the sign for Sequoia National Park and it was mostly a scramble after that. We were near-bouldering up and down rocks until we got to the 1.9-mile sign. Less than two miles to go!

I knew those last two miles would take us about an hour, but I didn’t expect them to be the hardest two miles of the day. There was no real trail – it was mostly a bed of loose rocks strewn with larger boulders. We scrambled and climbed and scrambled and climbed. So near yet so far….

We stopped a lot to wait for Jon and Elizabeth to catch up. They both had their cameras and were taking some awesome shots. Our camera had broken in the first mile, but we were planning to steal their photos so we were glad to wait for them. We kept seeing people way off in the distance and it felt like we would never get there… until all of a sudden I spotted the cabin. We made it!!

We found Paul and Allen waiting at the top. They had been waiting for two hours and Paul would wait until Rachel and the girls made it to the top.

The summit was windy and cold, but when you lay on the rocks and the sun peeked out, it was glorious. Lots of photos were taken and we took our time to chat and eat. We saw Carlos and Leslie summit, then Bill and Christine.

Finally, we decided it was time to head back down. Jon and Elizabeth followed us on the gnarly descent. We ran into Rachel and the other ladies. They looked the way that we had felt going up, but we assured them they didn’t have far to go.

I was in great spirits on the descent. Finally some downhill! After we left the girls, it started to hail. At first it was just a little bit and it didn’t bother us at all. Then it got harder and harder until it was just pelting us. I put my hand up to my face to stop the hail from slapping my cheek and that’s when I spotted Deborah. She was the last in our group still heading for the summit, and she had been waiting for the storm to pass, trying to decide whether or not to push on. It was tough to chat with the hail-attack, so she hoped behind Shacky and I and started following us down.

The hail seemed to get worse. I wrapped my extra buff around my face and turned off the trial to try and find shelter. There was none. Shacky got in front of me and we both knew our only choice was to haul ass (safely) downhill. We got to the 99 switchbacks and the hail was still pelting. It stung my skin as it hit my wet jacket and it now covered the trail like fresh snowfall, only it was mostly ice-slush.

The wet rocks were extremely slick and soon the switchbacks had turned into a mini-river. Snow, water, and hail were gushing and flowing down the trail, racing us down. I was uncomfortable, but not particularly cold. As long as I kept moving, my core temps stayed high and the adrenaline kept me descending fast. We passed almost everyone we saw, even managing to run on some of the less-slippery spots.

We lost Jon and Elizabeth somewhere, but didn’t want to wait in the hailstorm. It turned out they had hung back with Deb and descended together.

Shacky and I forged on past the trail camp and over more rocks. We were doing the fastest hike/jog we dared on the slippery, soaking trail. Although we each slipped a few times, no falls were had and I was impressed with our descent considering the weather. Shacky had never run in hail before as it doesn’t rain much in San Diego, but he stuck right by me. I had experience with both and I actually preferred this to the boiling heat I had been expecting.

It was awesome to take in the views we had missed in the dark and my spirits were high. I stopped to eat, but the hail forced me to keep moving. Thankfully, I found my ability to chew and breathe at the same time had greatly improved. I ate an avocado and turkey sandwich as well as a pack of shot blocks while ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the views. I was so thankful for the downhill. It felt like gravity was doing all the work while we just cruised.

The hail turned into rain and then just a drizzle. While a lot of hikers were still trying to keep their feet dry, we charged through the creek crossings and soaked ourselves to the bone. As long as we were pushing the pace, I stayed warm. I was having a blast.

Before we knew it, we were at Lone Pine Lake again. My legs were starting to get tired, but it was only 2.5 miles to the finish. We started talking about what we would eat at the Whitney Portal Store (they serve awesome burgers and a kickass breakfast). Shacky decided he’d have a burger and I wanted an ice cream bar. We chatted and jog / hiked all the way down. I was high from this awesome experience, absolutely in the zone. I was so proud of us.

A few yards from the finish we saw a couple walking two dogs and I stopped to pet them. They had questions about the summit, so we chatted with them for a bit. We started seeing people with zero supplies just going for a stroll, so we knew we were super close. And then we were done!

Big high five! We weighed our packs at the finish. I had started with 13lbs and I was down to six. I didn’t finish all the water I had brought, though I did eat most of my food.

(Thanks to Jon and Elizabeth for all the following photos!)

Everything was wet back at camp. Shacky and I had been trying to outrun the rainy spots, assuming it was due to elevation, but it had apparently rained everywhere.

Shacky got a burger and a beer at the camp store, and I got ice cream with an iced tea. After enjoying our food, we made the half-mile trail trek back to the campground and Shacky went right to sleep.

The first thing I did was feed kitty. She was indignant, but didn’t appear to have visibly lost any weight.

I peeled off my wet clothes, gave myself my regular hobo bath (full body cleaning with no running water), and then ate some watermelon. I felt refreshed and energized. I couldn’t settle down. If someone had offered to take me for another run, I would have gone in a heartbeat. I was buzzed from our summit and I couldn’t wait for the others to finish. What an epic day. I was completely in my element. I always knew I preferred mountains and elevation, but this really sealed the deal for me.

Other than feeling breathless when I tried to run / speed hike uphill (which happens even in non-elevation), I had zero issues. No headaches, no nausea, no sickness of any kind. At one point I felt a slight throbbing my temples, like feeling your heartbeat in your head, but it didn’t hurt or bother me.

I can’t take credit for any of this—I didn’t do anything special as far as training or acclimation. I feel like I’m built to be in the mountains. My body wants to play there, forever scrambling summits at altitude. I’m learning that it’s a big part of who I am and where I belong, not just what I can do.

Monday

Recovery was flawless. I slept well, ate well, and my hydration levels are back to where they should be. I am so, so thankful for this body, not forgetting for one second how blessed I am to enjoy these physical freedoms and what feels like limitless potential.

I weighed myself today and I only lost one pound. That makes me confident that my decision to eat by feel was a good one. I ate much less on this summit than I normally do in a 12-hour stretch, but it felt right, and I’m glad I went with my “gut” (haha). I didn’t end up pooping on the trail, but all is back to normal on that front as well.

We left camp early to have breakfast and pick up Ginger as soon as possible. She was thrilled to see us, but she had a cut on her nose from constantly nudging her food away. Ugh. We both get separation anxiety…

I had to scold the cat today who had come to believe that Ginger’s bed now belonged to her, so therefore it was okay to attack Ginger upon her return. She’s sitting in her box right now, sulking at this unforeseen turn of events.

Next Up

We’re driving to Huntington Beach today to pick up our friend Pat Sweeney and his beer. Then we’re taking all of us to Colorado where I plan to get my butt on more mountains. The plan is… no real plan at all, except to thru-hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier in Washington at the end of this August.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll just wake up one morning and my whole body will have gone to shit and I won’t be able to do any of this awesome stuff anymore. But it appears that today is not that day… so I might as well go climb something.

Happy trails!

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Caballo Blanco Documentary Run Free: A Call for Support

A documentary about Caballo Blanco, his race, and his legend is in the works. We now have a chance to be a part of it.

This is a story about the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon race through the eyes of its founder Micah True (Caballo Blanco). Because Micah has since passed, this is the only footage of Micah telling his own story in his own words. The footage has been filmed over the course of five years, but we need help finishing it.

From Kickstarter:

WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP

So far we’ve made three trips overland into the canyons and four flights across the USA which resulted in more than 60 hours of interviews and race footage. All of the footage has been logged and digitized. We’ve created a rough cut and our movie is now in the final editing stage. We’ve done everything on our own up until this point but we can’t continue without your help. We are looking for funds that will enable us to pay our crew, equipment rental, graphics, titles, music licensing, audio post production, color correction and distributing the movie through a website and film festivals.

Please consider supporting our fundraising campaign through Kickstarter and remember – if we don’t hit our goal we will receive NOTHING!

LUIS ESCOBAR PHOTO GALLERY

HOW THE FUNDS WILL BE USED

  • FIELD PRODUCTION 15% – Crew, equipment and travel
  • POSTPRODUCTION 60% – Personnel, Edit Suite Rental, Graphics, Color Correction, Music Licensing, Sound Mix.
  • MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION 15% – Photography, Film Festivals, Website, Online Distribution
  • Kickstarter Fees 10%

FROM CABALLO BLANCO’S PAST

Sometimes great stories are missed or overlooked because there isn’t a budget for them. We only have one month left to raise the necessary funds on Kickstarter. Help us tell Caballo Blanco’s story.

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

Thanks in advance for your support.

RUN FREE MOVIE TRAILER

Run Free Movie Trailer from Noren Films on Vimeo.

VIDEO FOOTAGE OF 2009 RACE START

Direct YouTube Link HERE

BEHIND THE SCENES MOVIE PRODUCTION

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

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Man vs Horse Race Entry Giveaway

man vs horse
Think you could you outrun a horse? Here’s your chance to find out!

Throw your name in for a free entry to the Man vs Horse race in Inyokern, CA on October 11, 2014.

Choose from a 10 mile, marathon, or 50K distance (no horses in the 50K).

Participants will be rewarded with an ice cold beverage of their choice; made on-site and served in a Man vs Horse souvenir pint glass. Choose from an Indian Wells Brewing Co micro-brewed beer, locally crafted Rocket Fizz soda, or delicious spring water from local artesian wells.

Participants will also receive lunch after the race and a custom t-shirt. All finishers will be adorned with a custom crafted finishers medal to commemorate their experience.

The trail consists primarily of fire roads and Jeep trails.

For the marathon distance, 1st through 3rd in each age/gender division will receive a buckle and all finishers will receive finishers medals.

Dogs are welcome in the 10 miler and will be provided with aid.

Runners: Your time stops when you cross the finish line.
Riders: Your time stops when your horses pulse rate is 60 bpm at the finish line.

Learn more:

UltraSignUp: http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=26098

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manvshorse

Race Website: http://www.desertdonkeys.com/

TO ENTER

For a free entry, leave a comment below answering the following question:

What was one of your lowest or most difficult points in a race that you are proud to have overcome?

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on July 1st and contacted directly.

Good luck!

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San Diego 100 Race Report: Will Run for Ramen

newbannerphoto1398380360sd100Out of all the 100s I’ve run, I was the least confident going into the San Diego 100, and rightly so—I was vastly undertrained. Probably not as undertrained as my first 100 miler, but close to it.

We entered the SD100 lottery on a whim while we were wintering in Pennsylvania, and got in. I was excited to start training, but was soon disheartened by the Pennsylvania winter that prevented us from moving any faster than a 20+-minute mile pace through deep snow.

I regrouped and took up some long hiking instead. We’d go out for seven or eight hour days on the mountain, bundled up like eskimos, and trudged slowly through the snow and ice. It was a beautiful, challenging, and sometimes frustrating experience. The extreme weather tested my willpower and mental limits, but I chalked it all up to good SD100 training.

When spring hit, the plan was to beeline to San Diego and get in some course training before the race, but RV repairs delayed us significantly and by race day we had only done two short hikes on the course.

What’s worse, we discovered that our winter hiking translated poorly into San Diego training. The heat and elevation were frying our brains and our bodies. It was hard to keep a running gait after so much hiking. And to my horror, we discovered that we had both gained 15 lbs of winter weight.

Although I had been active, I had compromised my nutrition on the east coast to include much more junk food than I normally eat, and under the winter layers I hadn’t noticed the extra pounds. By the time we got to warm weather, my running clothes weren’t fitting right and my body wasn’t moving the way I was used to. We did manage to lose some weight before the race (nine lbs down for me), but still not quite my ideal race weight.

I was negative about my ability to finish until a couple of days before the race. I kept telling people I would start but probably not finish, and I even told my pacer not to come, convinced that I wouldn’t make it to mile 50. I felt like I was running in a body that wasn’t even mine.

Paul Hassett, Shacky’s pacer, called us out on our negativity and a few days before the race and I realized I need to snap myself into the right frame of mind: I WAS going to finish! I could do this. I had done it before. Sure, it would hurt a little more… but I could finish. I WOULD finish.

I adopted Robert Frost’s Canis Major as my personal mantra:

The great Overdog
That heavenly beast
With a star in one eye
Gives a leap in the east.
He dances upright
All the way to the west
And never once drops
On his forefeet to rest.
I’m a poor underdog,
But to-night I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

At the start line, I was excited to spend an entire day on the trails. I was poorly prepared—no crew, no pacers, only a tiny drop bag with a change of clothes and a headlamp at mile 56—but I was sure it would be a good day.

The vibe of the race was infectious. So many of our friends that we had missed were there, either as runners or volunteers. This was my element! I was right where I belonged.

At the start line, I chatted with Colleen Zato and warned her that I would be trying to tag along at her pace for the first 30 miles, but that she shouldn’t wait for me. I was a little worried about getting lost since I didn’t know the course very well, but I had also packed the turn-by-turn directions. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to consult them for the first 30 miles and could instead get away with mostly following Colleen. I knew she would keep a slow and steady pace.

Then we were off! For the first few miles, the trails were clogged and in some sections we were conga-line walking. The runners ahead of me would kick up dust (as I was doing for those behind me) and it was hard to breathe. When the crowd spread out, I let a lot of people pass me as I settled into a comfortable slog. I had already lost Colleen.

I ran for a while with Rob Distante and leapfrogged with Antonio Rios, and before I knew it we were at the first aid station. I grabbed some more water, a couple of orange slices, and left in under a minute. After that, we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing.

Me with Antonio. he went on to finish his first 100-mile race!

Me with Antonio. He went on to finish his first 100-mile race!

 

I was loving the climb! I’m a stronger hiker than I am a runner, and I managed to catch up to Colleen again. I was feeling great. We stuck together and took pictures and chatted until we ran into the next aid station (all the photos on here are hers). I saw Shacky coming out of the aid station as I was going in, and he looked like he was doing just fine. At the aid station I grabbed some watermelon, more electrolyte drink, and was off again. Colleen was seconds ahead, so I jogged to catch up.

Pirate's Cove

Pirate’s Cove aid station! Aaaarg!

 

 

The next stretch was lovely and effortless. We ran into Sunrise 1 together and I was surprised to find Shacky sitting in a chair looking rather miserable. He was holding a bottle with a powder mix, and a wet powder blob was stuck in his beard. “I don’t think I can do this,” he told me.

“SURE YOU CAN!” I practically yelled. “Just grab your stuff and we’ll walk the next section.” It was seven miles to the 50K mark and we had plenty of time to make the cutoff, even if it was a slog.

Me trying to talk Shacky into leaving the aid station

Me trying to talk Shacky into leaving the aid station

 

It was getting warm, but I figured it was just my lack of heat training (I later learned it had actually hit 120F+ in some sections). David Lopez helped me soak my head in ice water, we posed for (another) picture with Colleen, and then we were off.

I tried to keep up with Colleen, but she was way faster than Shacky so I decided to lag behind a bit. I walked a lot and kept looking behind me to see if Shacky was following. At first he was… until he wasn’t. I walked slower… but no Shacky. I stopped for a few minutes and let a few people pass me. Two gentlemen I had been leapfrogging slipped by, Corina Smith, and Jeff Coon. Still no Shacky. Hm.

I knew I still had time to make the cutoff… should I go back for him? I started taking a few steps back, and immediately stopped. WTF WAS I DOING?? I’M GOING BACKWARDS! Never go backwards. I lingered for another minute or so, and still no sign of Shacky. Crap.

Leaving Sunrise

Leaving Sunrise aid station with a reluctant Shacky

 

“What should I do??” I wondered.

I’m sure this sounds like a stupid dilemma, but for me it was a big deal. Everything in my girlfriend-nature wanted to go back for my dude. But every part of the runner in me thought that was absolutely ridiculous. I had already lost time… whose race was I running, anyway? MY race. I wasn’t a pacer. I knew that Shacky would hate for me to wait for him, but that didn’t matter. I felt—somehow—that it was my job to go back.

My internal dilemma only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My mind wandered to the last song I learned to play on the ukulele: Jesse Ruben’s We Can.

Do not hesitate when people bring you down

Do not settle, Do not wait

DO NOT EVER TURN AROUND

You’re almost there…

I swear, I swear it’s yours

Fuck it. I started running and didn’t stop until I got to Pioneer Mail 1, the 50K mark. It was now 94F.

At Pioneer Mail, I soaked my head and stuck a bandage on a hot spot on my foot. I was feeling strong and got out of there in under two minutes. It was four miles to Penny Pines 1, and I ran it in. I was well ahead of cut-offs.

I caught up to Jeff in the next stretch and we jogged into Todd’s Cabin together. Jeff was having a hard time with cramping, something he had never experienced before. We chatted and passed the time until we got to aid. At Todd’s cabin I soaked my head again and grabbed some food. I was still feeling great, even though the heat was starting to annoy me. I got out of there as fast as possible and walk/jogged alone for a while. I was slowing down.

Corina caught up to me and we jogged into mile 44 together. Corina went to get foot aid while Regina Peters greeted me like crew. She said Elizabeth would be picking me up at Meadows, and Paul Hassett would bring me home. Insta-pacers!

“Um.. ok,” I said. But Paul was Shacky’s pacer!

“Did Shacky drop?” I asked her.

“Shacky dropped,” she informed me. “But he’s totally fine with it—he’s eating a huge burger right now.”

“THAT RAT BASTARD!” I exclaimed, “I’ll kick his ass when I see him!”

Regina laughed and I took off with some watermelon down the trail.

Starting to feel the miles

Starting to feel the miles

 

At this point I was starting to feel more hot spots in both feet. I had never had blisters before, and they weren’t hurting… just mildly annoying. I figured I’d ignore them until I got to Elizabeth at Meadows and let her help me deal with my feet.

I left Meadows feeling great, but somewhere in those next few miles every negative feeling hit me all at once, out of nowhere. It was suddenly too hot. I was starving. The rocks were too sharp. And OMG, my hot spots hurt. They must be blisters?

I considered stopping to take a look, but I was afraid to. What if they were terrible? I wouldn’t know how to fix them alone. I figured my best bet was to get to Meadows and have my feet looked at. I would also sit down and eat something hot. The sun was already starting to set.

Thankfully, I had packed an extra handheld light and carried it for the entire 44 miles… just in case I got hopelessly lost and had to spend a cold and scary night on the trail. I only had one drop bag at mile 56 with my headlamp and somehow thought I would make it there before dark. I was about 10 miles off.

All of a sudden I felt a POP in my right foot. My hotspot, which was apparently a huge blister, had popped. Then it started stinging in the most terrible way. Believe it or not, this had never happened to me in all my previous races. Another little known fact: I’m a huge blister wuss.

Every step after that felt like knives in my heel. I was able to walk quickly mostly on my tiptoes (to stay off my heel), but I knew I was compensating my stride with other muscles and I would soon wear out.

“I can’t be far…” I told myself. “Just get to Meadows! Then you can fix your feet and eat soup.”

All of a sudden it was extremely important to me that I have some soup.

“What if they don’t have soup there??” I tortured myself with this possibility. “I MUST HAVE SOUP!!”

The pain grew so bad that I started counting my steps just to keep my mind off my sucky situation. It was now pitch black and I was basically limping. I dug into my pack and grabbed my handheld light. I heard someone coming up behind me… it was Corina. She wasn’t looking too well, but she was still moving faster than I was.

“I’m dropping at the next aid station,” Corina told me. “I’m done.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll get out of there before the cutoff…” I sighed. It would take me a few minutes to eat and fix my blisters, and I was already going SO. SLOW.

I told Corina to go ahead. “I’m limping this one in.”

In retrospect, I probably should have sucked it up and jogged my way in. It’s not like the pain was getting any worse. But I was way too busy feeling sorry for myself and quickly losing my motivation to give a crap.

By the time I got to Meadows, my stomach was growling, I was feeling weepy, and I hated life. Paul Hassett, Jon Sanregret, and Elizabeth Kocek ran up to me.

“She’s here! She’s here!” one of them yelled.

“You have four minutes to get out of here!!” They barked. “Just check in and check out!!”

“But…. IS THERE ANY SOUP??” was my brilliant reply.

Corina was puking in the corner.

It took about one second for the three of them to decide that they would get me a quesadilla, hot soup (TO GO!) but I had to check out immediately. They would stop further up the trail to fix my feet, but they couldn’t stay in the aid station.

I was too tired to argue. Those bastards! I had planned to drop here!

They grabbed all my stuff, found me a log, and tore off my shoes. OUCH!! My blisters were pretty big. I tried not to look at them. I just stuck my foot up and munched on my quesadilla while Elizabeth cleaned my feet.

I insisted on popping them myself because, if you’ll recall, I’m a big wuss. And I took my sweet time popping them. Some fluid came out and then it started stinging some more. I pulled out my tape, but my insta-crew agreed that my tape sucked.

Jon ran back to his car to get some crazy bandages I had never seen before. They patched me up while I finished my quesadilla. I chewed slowly and wondered if I stalled enough, they might let me drop. No such luck.

By this time the aid station captain had found us and walked over to see if we were leaving anytime soon. He made sure I had a pacer. My insta-crew assured him I was fine and I would make it. I just looked at him with a blank stare on my face.

Finally, I got up and it was time to go.

“Oh…. your soup spilled,” said Elizabeth. She handed me an empty styrofoam cup with a lone, limp noodle dangling from it. It was still hot.

OMG NOOOOOO!!!! MY SOUP!!!!!!

There was no time to cry. The aid station was closed and we were off.

I limped a few steps, then walked, then started jogging. YES! I could run without pain again! I was gonna make it! My mood had already improved.

I had run for several yards, starting to feel pretty awesome, when I had the sinking feeling that something was wrong.

“What’s wrong… what’s wrong…” I wondered. Then it hit me. HOLY SHIT! WHERE’S MY LIGHT??

Elizabeth was ahead of me with her headlamp and I was following her… no light in my hand.

“My light! My light!” I yelled to Elizabeth.

“What?”

“I had a handheld light!”

“Oh yeah… you did.”

We both knew we couldn’t go back.

“I’ll text them and see if they have it….” Elizabeth suggested as she pulled out her phone. Turns out nobody knew where it was.

“It must be by the log,” I moaned. I must have dropped it in all the commotion, god-knows-where.

It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was also my favorite light! I felt myself slipping back into my grumpy state. All of a sudden, I was scared of falling. I couldn’t run anymore. Where’s the trail??

I asked Elizabeth to run behind me so I could use the light off her headlamp, but all that did was cast an enormous shadow of my own fat head in my path. I still couldn’t see anything.

“Do you think if I used your light and you ran right behind me, you could see too??” I was sure I had just come up with a brilliant solution, not realizing that we had just been doing that (with me behind Elizabeth) and it hadn’t worked.

Still, Elizabeth graciously gave up her light and I started jogging.

“Can you see?” I asked her.

“Um…. I think I have a light on my phone!”

Of course she couldn’t see. STUPID!

But I was jogging and that seemed to make Elizabeth happy.

A few minutes later Elizabeth had to pee. I went on ahead of her, but then I wanted to pee too. Then there was a hill I had to walk. And then… it seemed hopeless.

“We’re not gonna make it…” I moaned.

Elizabeth was a beacon of positivity. She was certain we would make the next cutoff.

A few yards away, we saw two more lights. What?? People behind us??

Elizabeth warned me not to let them catch up, but I was quickly losing my ability to care. I did try to stay ahead… but they caught up. They were moving so fast!!

“Hi!” They greeted us. “We’re the sweepers!”

OMG NO! GET AWAY!

They assured us that we were doing great, and we’d probably make it. They said it would be mostly downhill in the final stretch. I continued pushing… and I starting thinking I had a good chance. There was another runner up ahead of me, and I passed him. That got the sweepers off our tail, and I kept jogging/walking.

I had no idea how far it was or how fast we were going, but I did try to push. Every once in a while, I’d feel a wave of defeat and Elizabeth would have to reassure me. I was also hungry again.

We started talking about what I needed at the aid station. More water and hot soup. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HOT SOUP.

I also had a drop bag there with a change of clothes, but Elizabeth said there was not time for that. She’d just grab my jacket and an extra layer since it was getting colder, as well as my headlamp.

We saw someone standing on the side of the trail and he said we only had 0.2 miles to go. Elizabeth ran ahead to fill my bottles and told me to not slow down. I didn’t.

When I got there, I found Elizabeth arguing with the aid station captain. They were pulling us from the course.

“That’s ok… that’s ok….” I waved at them. “I’m ready to stop.”

I asked the aid station caption by how much we had missed the cutoff. She told me I was 15 minutes late. That was a lot… maybe I never had a chance. The drop bags were already packed up and with them, my headlamp. What’s worse, the aid station had shut down completely. No hot soup for me.

My day had come to the end at 56 miles, but I felt satisfied. I had spend the whole day running and suddenly the prospect of a warm bed and shower sounded too good to pass up.

I thanked Elizabeth profusely for pacing me, and enjoyed a bumpy ride back to the Start.

I found Shacky fast asleep in the RV, bloated from a bacon burger. Kitty stirred from her slumber and sneezed in my face. And all was right in the world.

kittehYou May Also Enjoy:

Rocky Road 100 Race Report

Zion 100 Race Report

Chimera 100 Race Report

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

 

Welcome to Your Tribe: Born to Run Ultramarathons

SONY DSC
When I first started running ultras, I was lucky enough to meet the Mas Locos crew. For a while, I thought that all ultra runners were like this. After traveling around the country, I learned that no… nobody else is like this, and there are no other races like Born to Run.

Born to Run is more than just a race–it’s a running festival, mesmerizing for both runner and spectator alike. Here you’ll find hippies, cowboys, Mariachi heavy metal bands, guitars, archery, costumes, beer mile races, campfires, hula hoops, homemade burritos, and more.

Distances include 10 miles, 30 miles, 60 miles, and 100 miles, but be warned that if you run anything longer than 30 miles, you may miss some of the shenaniganza (Pat Sweeney’s made-up word for this event). Every time you pass through the start/finish, you’ll be cheered by a tribe of dancing runners.

Appropriately, the race course map is shaped like boobies.

If you get lost, it's your own damn fault.

If you get lost, it’s your own damn fault.

 
A few days ago race director Luis Escobar wrote the following about this event:

The Born To Run Ultra Marathon Extravaganza cannot be described on the static pages of a magazine. There is no adequate podcast, YouTube video or Facebook post. Until you have made the trek to the ranch in Los Olivos and spent the night under the stars and until you have literally danced in the California dirt and sang the songs and drank water from the well and until you have run through the oak groves and across the dusky ridges you will not fully appreciate the experience.

Born To Run is trail running at its finest and much, much more. We created this event as an experiment. What would happen if we invited running friends from across the country and beyond? What would happen if more than seven hundred happy people showed up and spent three days and two nights behind the closed gate of a private cattle ranch, with no amenities? As corny as it may sound, the answer is, love.

At first glance, the Born To Run Ultra Marathon is a 10 mile, 50km, 100km and 100 mile trail run. But after a few minutes on the ranch you quickly realize that something deeper and very special is happening here. The words Woodstock, Grateful Dead Show and Burning Man immediately come to mind.

Personally, I would describe it as Summer Camp for Running Hippies. Three days of camping, running games, bola races, beer miles, live music, dancing, archery, arts, tattoos, guitars, cowboy hats, rattlesnakes, shotguns, piñatas, food, drink, socializing, Tarahumara Indians and running – lots and lots of running.

In addition to all of that, there is more because Born To Run has become the icon of running harmony and the celebration of good things between all running cultures. As our Tarahumara friends have taught us, “When you run on the earth, and with the earth, you can run forever.”

Some photo highlights:

REGISTRATION FOR 2015 OPENED TODAY!

It will sell out this year.

Next event of equal awesomeness: New Mexico Running Retreat

Don’t miss out!

You May Also Enjoy:

How to Train Your Human to Run an Ultra

Has Ultrarunning Evolved Past Western States?

Why I Run 100 Milers

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Is Commercialization a Threat to the Purity of Trail Running?

mcafeeknobwintersnowPhoto: roanokeoutside.wordpress.com

Last month I set foot on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia for the first time since I took up running in 2007. For six years I had been purchasing books about the AT and accumulating hiking, fast-packing, and running gear. I completed my miles that day with Nathan handhelds, INKnBURN clothing, an UltrAspire pack, and Montrail shoes.

I can’t say how much money I have spent over the years on the sport of trail running, but I do know that as I ran along that famous trail, the last thing on my mind was what to buy next. And yet trail business is booming.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s annual report from 2010, the outdoor recreation industry boasts $289 billion in retail sales and services as well as 6.5 million jobs in America.

To argue that this bad-wolf commercialization is a perversion of the purity of our sport is in some ways ironic. Think about how you first heard or this sport. How many of us would be running trails if we hadn’t read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, Dean Kanazes’ Ultramarathon Man or watched JB Benna’s Unbreakable?

According to a study by Gary C. David and Nick Lehecka, the book Born to Run not only increased the visibility of trail and ultra running, but completely revolutionized the shoe industry. Their study quotes The Economist in 2011: “Ever since Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run hit the bestseller lists in 2009, Zappos, an online shoe retailer, has struggled to keep up with demand for minimalist footwear.” Similarly, Vibram saw sales jump from $470,000 in 2006 to $50m in 2010.

If you have:

  • read Born to Run
  • recommended running books to others
  • read or written shoe reviews
  • accepted free gear or nutrition in exchange for a review
  • listened to a sponsored running podcast
  • paid for a race entry
  • accepted a goodie bag from a race
  • accepted a cash prize from a trail event
  • clicked on a targeted Facebook or Google ad related to the outdoors
  • bought running gear on sale
  • supported race directors making a living from well-run, well-respected events
  • worn a promotional buff
  • supported or cheered for a company-sponsored team
  • become an ambassador for a company you believe in
  • recommended a product to a friend
  • bought or read a running magazine
  • become a sponsored athlete
  • entered a running-related giveaway
  • attended a book signing
  • added a promotional badge to your blog

… then you have already participated in the commercialization of this sport. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Does commercialization prevent us from enjoying the Olympics? The Superbowl? Perhaps it does. Or perhaps we wait for the commercials with anticipation, record them, analyze them, and share them on social media.

According to ultra168.com, commercialization may have more benefits than drawbacks. “Take one look at how well the North Face 100 is doing and what it has done for Australian trail and ultra running. It has attracted the likes of Kilian and Ryan Sandes to our shores and put us on the map as a destination to come and visit. Sure the companies behind this have deep-rooted motivations to sell more gear, but should we begrudge them that if we benefit too?”

It’s trendy to speak out against commercialization but the truth is that most of us are not mountain hermits. We live in a society of mass consumerism and eagerly participate in that system. We love swag. We’ll take free stuff even if we don’t need it. Can we really compartmentalize our sport so it never touches our morning Starbucks, Mac laptops, or Amazon accounts?

As avid trail runners, our job is not to keep the money out, but to keep this sport honest. So far we’re doing a good job.

When Leadville 100 crossed the line from a respected race to a greedy money-grab, we strongly objected. Hardrock 100 removed Leadville as a qualifier for its event, accusing the race of failures in “environmental responsibility, support of the hosting community, and having a positive impact on the health of our sport”.

The popular site run100s.com removed any and all mention of Leadville 100, stating that “They’re no longer a part of the sport of ultrarunning, but simply a business venture.”

Instead of hunting down prize money, our top athletes care about and defend our sport. In a Runner’s World article, Karl Meltzer said about the new Leadville: “Life Time is in it for the money. This company is road runner, gym-based folks that do it purely to make a profit.” The gatekeepers of our trails are loyal and effective.

Another point to make is one of perspective. Although our sport has grown by leaps and bounds, it is still comparatively low-key compared to the commercialization around activities like Cross-fit or obstacle racing in the recent years. With the exception of a small handful of races, we don’t see anywhere near the bonanza of sponsors that invest in other booming events.

Still, it is not a low budget that makes our sport pure. It is the care we put into our trails. It is our willingness to move across nature with old friends and new friends, suffering when we don’t have to. Our sport’s purity lies in the value we place on resilience, determination, and giving back. We are trail runners whether we pay hundreds of dollars for gear or just head out with homemade car-tire sandals.

When I motivate people to get on trails, I know full well that my encouragement is directly contributing to a commercialization of the sport. But the payoff is worth it when I see someone finish their first ultra, win their first trail race, or grow monstrous quads.

When the crowds do get overwhelming, I can simply retreat to my backyard mountains and enjoy miles of commercial-free solitude. In a few more years, when my Montrails are completely disintegrated with gaping holes and paper-thin soles, I’ll finally descend from the mountain and buy a new pair of shoes.

 Appalachian-Trail-SignPhoto: appalachianwoman.com

 

This article is part of the April 2014 Trail Runner Blog Symposium. This month’s topic was: Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

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You May Also Enjoy:

Should Children Run Endurance Events?

Vulnerability and Catcalling in Bear Country

Unfair Advantages in Trail Racing and Don’t be a Douche

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Should Children Run Endurance Events?

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Every time I post a photo of the Redden kids on Facebook, I see the same type of comments: lots of admiration, some shock, some concern, and some downright anger.

Seth and Sabrina Redden are the proud parents of two unusual kids. Tajh (male, 11) and Teagan (female, 9) are both avid trail and ultra runners. Last year, Teagan ran her first 100K and 100-mile distance. She was nominated for the Arizona 2013 Rookie of the Year Award at mcdowellmountainman.com. Needless to say, her competitors were older than her by a large margin…as they usually are.

Team Redden is so mind-blowingly young and accomplished that Outside Magazine covered them in an article, The Art of Raising Young Ultrarunners.

View Teagan Redden’s race results.

Like the Redden kids’ Facebook page.

The debate as to whether children should be running endurance events rages on. However, it is not an entirely new concept. Children have been running marathons for a while now.

Data from the Twin Cities Marathon shows that between 1982 and 2005, 277 children have crossed the finish line ranging from ages 7 to 17 with finish times from 2:53 to 6:10.

Unfortunately, there is little scientific data on the effects of long distance running on children.

This topic intrigued us enough to chat with Seth and Sabrina Redden as well as a pediatrician on the Natural Running Network Podcast a couple of weeks ago. On the show, we discuss veganism for kids, thermoregulation in children, and a child’s eagerness to please his/her parents.

nevertooyoungtorun

Direct Podcast Link HERE

Here are some things that didn’t make it into the podcast:

Colby Weltland and Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen

I had hoped to have child prodigy Colby Weltland on the show. Unfortunately, his family was traveling for a race and they were unavailable.

Colby is a 13 year old kid who has already finished several 100-mile races and aspires to be youngest Badwater finisher. I also spoke to his close family friend and pacer, Ed “The Jester”. An accomplished ultra runner, Ed has thousands of miles of experience and has mentored/paced Colby to most of his finishes.

When I asked for his insight, he wrote the following:

Just for more fodder on the subject, I know one of the concerns people have is that running at a young age will do physical and emotional harm to kids. My four kids have never run an ultra, but have run many marathons, running their first one at the ages of 8, 9, 11, and 14 (and that was because she’s a type 1 diabetic, otherwise she would have run her first one at an earlier age).

They’re all young adults now and are just fine, physically and emotionally. My 21-year-old daughter who was 8 at her first marathon just did the Disney World Half Marathon and works for Raw Threads a clothing company that specializes in running attire. She is a vendor at many of the big marathons and she still loves the running world.

I was told by many people that running a marathon at such an early age would damage her growth plates. I feel really bad now, because apparently it did stunt her growth–she’s only 5’11″!

And for me personally, although I didn’t run marathons as a kid, I did run my first two at the age of 17, and three more at the age of 18. Thirty-four years later I set three American age records: 200k, 24-hour, and 6-day, so I don’t think running long distances as a teen hurt me too much. Anyway, just thought I’d share that with you.

Oh, and one more family of young ultra runners. Brandon and Cameron Plate are from Oklahoma. They’re 12 and 13 and have both completed two 100+ mile races. Colby & I and the two of them ran together at Silverton 1,000 and ATY last year. You can find their stats on Ultrasignup as well.

Jester on . . .

Follow Colby’s blog.

Join the Run Jester Run Friends Facebook page.

Remember: There are many great programs out there like Girls on the Run and the 100 Mile Club that help introduce kids to the joy of running. They don’t have to run extreme distances to stay healthy and find a love for the outdoors.

You can check out our other running podcasts at the Natural Running Network HERE.

What are your thoughts? Should children be allowed to race ultras?
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You May Also Enjoy:

History of the Popularity of Ultrarunning From 1585 to 2010

How to Train Your Human to Run an Ultra

How to Train for Your First Ultramarathon

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Stronger Now

logs
I am sprinting downhill through shin-deep, unbroken, soft powder snow. Every step is an effort–like trudging through quicksand. I am on my fifth mile, running home.

I am holding a plank inside an igloo I helped build. My toes are digging into the cold ground and my clothes are covered in hay. My abs are burning.

I am hauling logs down from off the mountain for firewood. I used to carry one big log at a time, but now I can hold two. My steps are sturdier and a little faster.

I am getting stronger.

I have never considered myself to be very strong. On the contrary, I was raised with the cultural belief that men were the protectors, the pickle-jar openers, the only ones capable of lifting. Women belonged in the kitchen.

Interestingly, this didn’t bother me all that much. I could wave off the things I didn’t want to do because they were “too hard”. I didn’t have to carry heavy things or stand for very long. I was comfortable.

When I took up running in my 20s, I grew physically strong enough to challenge those gender stereotypes, but it created friction in my relationship.

Suddenly I could lift more, pull harder, stay on my feet longer than my now-ex boyfriend. This didn’t make me feel proud or happy or liberated. Instead, I felt betrayed. I had invested in this worldview and it had let me down.

Underlying that betrayal was fear. I had always counted on men to protect me–and now it was obvious they couldn’t. They were weaker than me.

It took me some time to shift my gender mindset from one of submission to one of equals. When I figured out how to do that, I no longer needed to be angry when I saw weakness. The expectation that all men were stronger was no longer there.

Men were now free to be themselves without judgement from me, and I was free to raise my personal standards. No one should have the burden of being stronger than me all the times, nor should there be a limit for how strong I can become.

Perhaps you are stronger than me. But if you’re not, that’s ok–I’m still going to be strong just on my own.

You May Also Enjoy:

How to Love a Runner

Life, Death, and a Goat Having a Seizure

Winter Life on a Homestead (Photo Essay)

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

How Taking a GPS is Like Taking a Lover

mount baldy

In my mind, I am running fast and free in my short-shorts, thunder thighs and glorious glutes. My dreads are flowing behind me in the crisp mountain air and my mind is free of mileage estimations.

I am rocking California’s Mount Baldy summit, a favorite of Southern California’s elite trail runners and the grandest summit of the San Gabriel Mountains. Old Baldy (10,064 ft) stands as the third highest massif in SoCal, behind San Gorgonio Mountain (11,499 ft) and Mount San Jacinto (10,804 ft).

Dr. B.H. Fairchild and Fred Dell built this particular trail in 1889. The men had visions of a great observatory at the summit—a dream that never materialized. The Devil’s Backbone Trail came along later in 1935 and took its well-earned place as the main route to the summit.

In my mind, this is child’s play—a jungle gym of sweeping vistas and stunning rock formations. The smells of oak, bay, fir, cedar, and pine are intoxicatingly inspiring.

In reality, I am slogging, hands-on-knees, and yelling up ahead for my boyfriend to tell me how much further we have to go. He’s the one wearing the GPS and I desperately need him to feed me some data. And how is he walking so damn fast??

baldy summit

Technology is complicated. So is love. I don’t claim to fully understand either, but after thousands of trail running miles all across North America, I’ve collected some general guidelines about each. They are surprisingly similar.

Taking a tech device out on the trial is similar to taking a lover: The idea seems great in theory but there’s a chance you’ll end up miserable.

A good GPS is like a good romance: reliable but not promoting obsession, motivating but not overly demanding, and consistent while still allowing for spontaneity.

A bad tech device is a bad lover: screaming at random times for no particular reason, making you feel terrible about yourself and your abilities, and confusing you with incomprehensible buttons and triggers.

As enamored as we are with the ideal image of that powerful and gadget-less trail runner bounding nearly-nude over mountains with his beard flowing three feet behind him, chances are we have more in common with the huffing mid-packer trying to decide which hills to walk and glancing nervously at his beeping GPS while he scarfs down yet another gel.

A tech device can only take away from our transcendent trail experiences if we allow it to. Our tools should propel us forward, not hold us back.

Running technology should worry about the details so we don’t have to, clearing our minds to drink in the scenery and stay in the moment. It should help us share a particularly beautiful route with friends and help us plot our next adventure together. It should teach us to be more aware of our bodies and motivate us to do our best.

If your tech device does none of these things, it’s time to consider a new relationship. Kick it to the curb and run away without ever looking back.

If you are lucky enough to have a healthy relationship…. err, GPS…. then you already understand that these things are not surgically attached to you. Every once in a while, let out your hair and go alone. Take a day where adventure trumps athleticism and speed bows to solitude.

I don’t care what your projected pace is—there’s always a day to watch the sunrise, turn over a rock, and forget what time it is.

mt baldy

This article was selected as Editor’s Choice for the February 2014 Trail Runner Blog Symposium. You can view it HERE at trailrunnermag.com.

This month’s topic was: Are tech gadgets more help or hindrance on the trail?

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You May Also Enjoy:

Mount Baldy Run Report

Seeking Dispensers: A Call to Embrace a Wild Life

Why We Need Nomads

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

 

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