Thursday, November 16, 2017

But I Can't Run As Far As You


"But I can't run as far as you" is a statement that is made to me a lot when I speak to non-runners about running. Sometimes it's made to find a way to relate to the conversation, sometimes it's made because they feel like I'm judging them for not doing what I do (I'm not) and sometimes it's made because the person feels that because there are these standards that they are deeming as impossible, that means that they could never even attempt to start running in the first place. It's this last reason that I am writing today.

You can. You can do what seems impossible if you really want it, work hard and believe in yourself. Most of all, you don't need to. You don't need to run long distances in order to be a runner. If you want to be able to run a 5k, that's an amazing goal to work toward. If you want to just be able to run a mile around your neighborhood, that's an amazing goal to work toward.  Your goals are not determined by what other people can do. Your goals are determined by you, what you want and what drives you. Do not let what other people accomplish keep you from even starting. There was a time 3 years ago where I couldn't even run 15 minutes, then I finished two marathons. There was a time just over a year ago where I couldn't even fathom running mountains, and now I'm racing ultras and adventuring mountains all the time. The point isn't to look at the impossible and give up. The point is to dream what you want to be possible, and work toward that every day. You don't have to want to end up running ultras or mountains, it is not for everyone. No one out there doing those things is doing them because they feel like that's what they have to do in order to prove themselves as a runner. They are doing it because that's what makes them happy, that's what drives them and that's what gets them out the door. Find what gets you out the door.

There are athletes out there that are doing things that seem pretty impossible for me to obtain. What I've learned in this sport though is that nothing is impossible. What makes things impossible is you thinking that they are and therefore never trying. It's pretty impossible to achieve something if you are not even trying. What that also seems to mean is that if you are not trying then you are not failing…false. If you are giving up on any dream because of fear of failure, you are already failing.

Don't put limitations on yourself and you'll find that the impossible is actually quite possible. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gatorade--Is it really the "aid" you think it is?

(Authors Note: Since publishing this blog, it has been brought to my attention that Gatorade has a completely separate product line from their "off the shelf" bottled products that is made specifically for endurance athletes and is a competing product to the others out there I mention below. I am going to research and test this product and follow up with my findings on that line specifically. However, everything I wrote about the bottled "off the shelf" product below I still stand behind. Gatorade still markets this item as an electrolyte drink, regardless of having another product line that may or may not be a more effective electrolyte replacement. My goal of writing this blog was to bring light to the misinformation surrounding this more widely known and marketed product.)

According to my dad, who worked as an EMT back in the day, he said they would use the "original" Gatorade as a quick substitute to an IV bag in the ambulance. He said it tasted about just as bad as an IV would too. It's for reasons like this, among various others (including fantastic marketing), that Gatorade is still known to this day as one of the top electrolyte replacing sports drink for athletes. But the ingredients have changed quite a bit from the original recipe that made it what it was.


The original concoction consisted of solely water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice. It was one of the founding drinks of replacing electrolytes when exercising in order to avoid heat stroke and dehydration. Because of this reputation, it has continued on throughout the years as being a highly trustworthy sports drink, even though our knowledge of electrolytes and science has evolved rapidly since then. Along with that, so has the ingredients that Gatorade now uses.

As Gatorade started to gain popularity and its aforementioned reputation, it gradually started to adjust the ingredients to start making the drink…well…taste better. The once simple and effective ingredient list that was created for the sole purpose of replacing electrolytes, evolved into a chemical concoction of things that would make it taste yummy and look pretty, and actual effectiveness seemed to go to the bottom of the priority list.  

Let's take a look at the common ingredients that Gatorade contains now. Water, sugar, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavours, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum Arabic, ester gum, and colour. Yeah…a just a tad more than what it started out with and also with a lot more confusing names that you actually have to look up to understand what they are there for. Even then it's not as straight forward as you would like.

While it's good that the first ingredient is still water, way to go Gatorade, the second ingredient has now moved up to sugar. Which is fine, we still need to replace our sugars while exercising so no harm there…maybe we don't need to replace that much sugar but let's move on down the list. Third item is dextrose, which also just happens to be another form of, you guessed it, sugar. It’s a form of glucose derived from starches, so it gets a fancier name than just plain old sugar. Ok so fourth ingredient, citric acid. This one is not too bad as it's one of the most natural ingredients on the list, outside of water. It mainly derives from citrus fruit and is what replaced the original "lemon juice" ingredient. Natural flavours seem to be the norm that we get in any drink these days and the most convoluted ingredient in that we never really know exactly what these "natural flavours" consist of.  Salt finally shows up…the sodium electrolyte, no need to explain that one. Following that is sodium citrate, which reduces the acidity of foods and balances out strongly acidic ingredients. Ok so first we add citric acid for flavor, and now this guy balances out the acidity of that, makes sense. Now it's time for the most troubling ingredient, monopotassium phosphate. This is a soluble salt of potassium, one of the 5 main electrolytes, so that's decent. However it can also be used as a fertilizer and a fungicide…yikes. Another problem with it is that phosphate can cause an imbalance of phosphorus to calcium in our body.  Too much phosphorus causes calcium to be drawn out of the blood which can then lead to it not getting to our bones. This was also one of the ingredients it was the hardest to find solid information on, which is why I found it to be the most worrying. The last two ingredients are basically binding ingredients with gum arabic, being the main glue and the ester gum being the oil-soluble additive. Why do we need these? I am still unsure, my only guess is that the natural flavours and colour need a little chemical help to keep them "flavorful" and "colorful". So basically out of the 5 electrolytes that we should be replacing while sweating and working out; sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium, it appears that Gatorade is only really replacing two of those. With one of the ingredients having the effect of pulling calcium out of our blood.

If we are being honest here, I myself do drink Gatorade on occasion. But it's absolutely not for the intention of replenishing my electrolytes. It's because it's a satisfactory sugary drink that doesn't have carbonation. So essentially a replacement for drinking a soda. When it comes to actually having an effective electrolyte drink, there are a few other options that I use depending on the situation.

Tailwind Nutrition is what I use throughout my work out because it not only contains the 5 necessary electrolytes, it also replaces calories as I lose them for my long days out on the trails and mountains. (Ingredients (depending on flavor): Dextrose (Glucose), Sucrose, Sodium Citrate, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Organic Lemon Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Citrate--add it to water to taste)
Nuun is what I use for pre or post workout as it doesn't contain any calories (well very few), but it also has the necessary replacement electrolytes. It's not as tasty as Gatorade but it gets the actual job done. (Ingredients (depending on flavor): Citric acid, dextrose, natural flavors, calcium carbonate, monk fruit extract, stevia leaf extract, beet juice powder, avocado oil, riboflavin--add tablet to water to taste)
Coconut Water is what I use every once and awhile as a quick potassium replacement as I really hate bananas. It's not the best tasting in my opinion, I personally can only drink the chocolate flavor. Which is why I don't drink it often as I know that adding "chocolate" to a healthy drink comes with its own set of unhealthy additives.
Body Armour is usually what I will drink instead of Gatorade. It still has the same sugary and ingredient heavy downsides of Gatorade but unlike Gatorade actually contains more natural ingredients and more of the essential electrolytes (including potassium, which it gets from the added coconut water ingredient).

I am not claiming to be a saint when it comes to choosing healthy drinks to put in my body …can we say morning Red Bull drinker anyone? But I get pretty passionate about getting the knowledge out there about Gatorade because it touts itself as an electrolyte drink when that simply is just not what it is anymore. This can end up being potentially dangerous to those that still use it for replenishment during workouts as they are not getting all of the necessary electrolyte replacements that they may think they are. I am also no expert either. This is all information I have gathered over multiple sources and always try and make sure that I can find corroborating information before just accepting it as truth. It's important to be open to how science and information can change over time, as we are an ever evolving world learning new things every day. Marketing is there for a reason though, so stay safe and informed if you are wanting to use a product for the specific thing that it claims.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

How to Heal your Heel: Plantars Fasciitis Tips


I have had Plantars Fasciitis for upwards of 5 months; and I'm only counting the time that I was officially diagnosed with it, not the 2 or 3 months that I was in denial I had a real injury and didn’t get it looked at. After it got to the point where I couldn't even walk on my heel directly after a run, I decided it was time to go to the Physical Therapist and get tortured. Ever since diagnosis, it seemed to become this horribly stubborn thing that just wouldn’t go away no matter what I seemed to do. I was doing everything my PT asked and was making no progress, it was frustrating! It wasn't until the pain of my PF caused me to DNF my very first race this past September that I had to admit to myself that I was really only doing the bare minimum and I needed to kick this injury in its nurds!  I have attacked it with a vengeance in the past month and surprisingly, what I've been doing has actually started making a difference. For the past few weeks, I have had zero PF pain while running! I still get pain directly after that lasts a little bit but this is amazing progress for me! I'm finally starting to feel like maybe…someday…I'll eventually be able to run pain free again…which is something I was very dramatically thinking would never happen.
One thing I noticed when I was scouring the internet for fixes, is that there is a plethora of opinions and ideas of what can heal PF. I imagine it's one of those things where it's just different for everyone on what works and sometimes it just goes away on its own (I would like to meet that lucky bastard). However, I  wanted to share my tricks and tips for anyone else out there who may be suffering and may find anything that I did useful for them because in my case, it definitely needed the extra TLC to start feeling better. Unfortunately my original "plan" of ignoring it and hoping it would go away didn't work…as much as I wanted it too.

Prior to DNF:
1.) Went to my sports Physical Therapist once a month- Dr. Heather K. North PT, DPT at Red Hammer Rehab
2.) Iced my heel after every run
3.) Changed to softer, more supportive daily shoes
4.) Did not walk around on my bare feet as much as possible
5.) Purchased trail running shoes with more cushion in the heel- Salomon Sense Pro Max
6.) Stretched and foam rolled (but not religiously)

Post DNF:
1.) Rolled my foot out daily while I was at work with Rubz Foot Massager

2.) Rolled my calves out daily, especially the one associated with my PF foot, with the Hybrid Stick
3.) After every run, I stretched my heel by pulling up on the foot and toes with my hands.
4.)  Stretched and foam rolled (this time religiously)

Items 1.) & 2.) are the things that I believe are making the biggest difference for me. Especially the rolling of my foot while I'm at work. My PT never told me I had to stop running or that stopping running would make it heal faster, so I never did. After I DNF'd, I wrestled briefly with taking a break from running to see if it would help but decided that running was my sanity and implemented the rolling techniques to see if those would work first. Luckily they did! I'm going to continue to use the foot roller and Hybrid Stick even after I'm fully healed from the PF in order to help prevent it from happening again and it's just good practice for avid runners.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Running Thin: A Metamorphosis

If you knew me 14 years ago, you would have a hard time believing that today I run because I love it; and not because of how many calories it burns. The amount I have in one bite of a meal now is all I would allow myself for an entire day. For 6 years I struggled with body dysmorphia. This meant that when I looked at my 89 pound 5'6" frame in the mirror, what I was seeing was obesity. I became obsessed with counting calories and making sure that I burned off twice what I ate, most of the time by going for a run. I would even go on anorexia websites and get "tips" on how I could eat less food and how to make it appear to others that I was eating more. If it wasn't for a girl in high school who saw me dressing in the locker room and reported to a counselor that she was worried for my health, I could be dead. At the time I was furious but now, I am forever grateful. It was a pretty long road out of that mind set and even after I stopped starving myself, it still took me a few more years before it really set in that I wasn't fat and I didn't need to watch every single calorie. Sometimes I wish I could go back and knock sense into myself. What I did wreaked havoc on my body, making it difficult to become the kind of runner that I want to be today. That is the beauty of life though, you never know where the road will take you and every turn brings a different lesson that you need in order to make the next choice.
I'm not going to lie and say that all of my body image issues have completely disappeared even after all these years. If I am not careful and I try to restrict myself, even for health reasons, it can put me back into a dangerous mentality. It's not something I deal with every day, but it will be something I deal with for the rest of my life.
Finding mountain ultra-trail running has made me understand how strong that I can be and the amazing things that I can use my body to do and that I wouldn't be able to do any of it if I didn't fuel. Maybe I'm not always making the best choices on what I'm using for fuel, but none of us do. All I can do, as a human, is work on bettering myself every day and readjust my goals and choices to match who I want to become. Looking back in regret and trying to see if I could be a better person now if I had just done something different then; it serves no purpose and it definitely doesn't help me actually become that person I would like to be.
Sharing my experience now, I hope to help anyone that may be going through something similar and know that they have someone that will understand and could help them, if they wanted and were ready for it. Trust me, it's just not worth it, especially if you're currently an athlete and want to continue doing your sport for as long as possible. 
I am so lucky that I had the help when I did. Instead of finding myself through  running and climbing mountains, I could be dead at the age of 18, never having experienced what true passion is. 
I used to run to make myself thin. Now I run to make myself happy. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

KNOYO: A Dirty 30 50K Adventure


Truest statement you will ever hear about running "you never know what will happen on race day". I've personally experienced many times the all too familiar sense of feeling completely prepared, only to have everything go wrong at the actual race.  This is, funnily enough, one of the reasons why I love racing so much. You get the chance to prove what you are made of but most importantly, you learn to expect the unexpected. This has made me not only a stronger runner, but a stronger person. 

I really didn't have a certain expectation for myself or for how the Dirty 30 50k was going to go. I knew that anything could happen, especially since I was just coming off of my first 50 miler a mere month prior. I was simply excited to be at what had been talked about by almost all of my local trail running friends, as the 50k to do in Colorado…and I honestly didn't want to wait another year to do it #ultrarunnerlogic

It's kind of easy here in Colorado to get caught up in what other people are doing. How much they are racing/adventuring, doing yet another crazy thing right after the last crazy thing…and think that if they can do it, so can I. I'm not referring to FOMO, I'm referring to KNOYO…as in Know Yo Own Limits. I'm fairly new to trail running and even more new to ultra-running (my first ultra-race was April 2016). So you could say I'm still learning the limits of what my body can do in this sport. I've never been a natural at running and that definitely didn't change when I transitioned into trail running. I just have a lot of passion and drive for it, trying new things and challenging myself in different ways. I've always been an advocate of rest from the beginning though (you know, the fact that you need it) but the culture here in Colorado is "Go, go, go…rest? What's rest?" Whereas that works for a lot of people, it doesn’t work for me, and that's the lesson I learned at Dirty 30. 

I'll admit, I got caught up in the excitement of the starting line and did the total newbie mistake of "going out too hard". I know that was a slight contributor into how my body ended up feeling for what ended up being the whole first 25 miles. I caught my mistake fairly quickly and eased up to a more comfortable pace after the first aid station. Which is why when I still kept feeling exhausted, heavy and burnt out, I was initially confused. I'm great at hydrating and fueling during all my runs, especially at races, so I knew I wasn't experiencing a bonk. There was a lot of climbing…I mean a lot…I'm pretty sure this race is 90% up. But how I was feeling was different than being the typical "this is a hard climb". It's difficult to describe, but it was like I was just completely depleted. Regardless, I was still able to push through pretty well until around mile 18. Then all of a sudden it just hit me like a wave "this is the hardest 18 miles I have ever done, I've never had to work this hard to get to this distance…my body is simply not ready to be racing again so soon". My pace was slowing down more and more every mile I went until finally I looked behind me, looked in front of me, saw no one, and decided to plop down on a rock and cry #ultrapityparty

I was realizing that if I kept this pace, I was most likely not going to make the next cut off. I was NOT expecting to have to chase cutoffs at this race. I couldn’t wrap my mind around being able to get my body to move faster though, I felt like I was just carrying around dead weight. A fellow racer caught me in my stupor and figured I was out of food or water and graciously offered his up to me. I told him, through embarrassing hyperventilating tears, that I would be OK and thanked him. He came and went and I picked myself up off the ground and kept moving forward. Forward is always better. I told myself that I would just keep moving forward until they told me that I couldn't anymore. Half of me was hoping that I would get to the aid station and they would say "sorry you missed it" so that I could just be done already. I knew that was only a fleeting thought though. When I arrived at the next aid station and they told me I only had 20 minutes to get to the next checkpoint (which was a couple of miles away), I shoved food in my mouth and whizzed off as fast as I could. I still had some fight left in me. This is where it all started to turn around. I really don’t know what it was, a mental epiphany that made me realize how badly I wanted to finish brought on by his warning of the next cutoff? Whatever it was, I was embracing it with open arms. My energy was renewed and I was somehow able to move faster.  I made the next cutoff, got to Windy Peak, and started climbing it with ease. This surprised me since I had been warned by many that this would be the toughest section. I started to catch up to people and eventually passed all of them, including the kind racer who saw me sniveling on the side of the trail and probably thought he would never see my cry baby face again. Once I reached the top, I started to feel even better and that meant there was only 3ish miles and a few small climbs left. What had felt like a hopeless task 10 miles prior, was being proven yet again to be possible. I let my legs fly down the hills, bounded up the ones I had saw (and dreaded) I would have to climb on my way out, and just kept on running until I heard the finish line party. Then I ran harder. 

I'm always asked by my non-running friends why in the hell I keep doing these races, and although there are many convoluted answers to that question, this is one of them. The feeling that you get when you have pushed your body to what you felt like was its limit and just kept going anyway. In that moment, when you start to realize that you are actually going to accomplish what you set out to do that day, it doesn't matter anymore what your pace was, or how much pain you were in just a few moments earlier. All that matters is that you are there, crossing yet another finish line with a smile on your face and happiness in your heart. 

Finishing what I started with a smile, always :)


Stats:

32 miles, 7,500 feet of elevation gain

Official Time: 9:23:45, 17:37 average pace

83rd women out of 110, 309 out of 352 overall #stillnotmyworst50k #beatDFL


Recovery:

I think it's important to talk about the recovery that I needed to do after putting two hard effort races essentially back to back. I had a hard time bouncing back from this one and needed 3 weeks of active recovery. What this meant was still going out and doing things when I had the energy for it but trying to never overdo it or force myself into doing something when I was really tired. It was really hard for me to do this because it's been awhile since I've had to take that many weeks recovering. I'm glad I did it though because now I feel like I can jump into my next 55k training refreshed and ready. The 3 weeks of active recovery was a lot of 14ers and not a lot of running, with very low mileage.

Week 1= 16.4 miles with 5,079 elevation gain
Week 2=12.7 miles with 2,136 elevation gain (this was the week I struggled the most)
Week 3=27.5 miles with 9,380 elevation gain (finally feeling stronger again)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dreams Are Made To Be Caught: My First 50 Mile Race

This blog took me a little longer than expected to get around to writing. I actually considered not writing anything at all because, to be honest, I just had too much going on in my head about it all and I didn't think I would be able to coherently put it into any kind of enjoyable reading. I finally decided that it would be doing an injustice to my adventure blog (and all 4 of my much appreciated readers) not to write about my first 50 mile experience, especially since it went so well! In fact, it went SO well that I really don't have any of my normal, "I got really lost" or "I started crying like a baby" type of antidotes to share with you guys. What I can share with you, in the best way that I can, is what an amazing experience this was all around. The course, the people and the absolute joy I felt at the finish line.

First off, it seemed like it took FOREVER for this day to finally get here. I signed up for this race 6 months before it occurred, and even knew that I was going to sign up for it about 4 months prior to that. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't planned this out quite so well because it sure did give me a lot of time to anticipate and get nervous. So much happened during all that waiting, including spraining my ankle pretty badly and thinking that I wouldn't even get to run the damn thing. Crazy to think that was just a mere 3 months ago and I was fully healed and back to regular fitness in ample time to feel completely prepared (even though I missed out on over 100 planned training miles…just further proof of how miles are not everything!)

In the week leading up to the race, I was confident in my ability to be able to finish but the nerves were running sky high. I told myself that on race day, I was just going to smile and be happy and if I were to get a low or end up having a bad running day, I would just smile some more. Thank you Kaci Lickteig for this amazing tactic, because it really does work.




Proof of a working #KLstyle

It couldn't have been a more perfect day for running. The weather was overcast and cool, which for a pig sweater like myself, this is BLISS (#oinkoink). I fully attribute the great day that I had out there to the fact that I never had to worry about being too hot or too cold. Never underestimate the advantage that the perfect temperature will have on your running abilities.

I got through the first 11.7 miles feeling absolutely amazing, which I know this is early on in the race and should be the case, but I've had times where it wasn't…so I was ecstatic! I got to see Chris, which I wasn't expecting, because I had told him he only needed to be there the other 2 times I'd be through that aid. It's always great to see a familiar face when you are racing, it made it easy to just grab the things I needed quickly and leave the aid with a smile on my face (#KLstyle).

I was actually expecting to be alone on the course for most of the race, because that's been my experience at the past 50k's that I had done. I'm just at that sweet spot for pace that I'm too fast for the slower runners but too slow for the faster runners. Being alone on the course for a long period of time is actually one of the things I struggle with the most as far as morale goes, so I was really happy to discover that for this new distance I was trying of 50 miles, I was evenly paced with quite a few people and rarely spent any time alone on the course. I spent time with a girl who only 16 miles into the race, seemed to be struggling with some pain in her hip. I asked her how she was doing and she barely addressed it and just started moving on to how happy she was to be out there on the gorgeous course. I also got to spend some time with a man who was from the area and he was simply the most joyful person to talk to ever! Every time he would see me on the course he would call me "Colorado". He really had his 50 mile pacing down pat because at moments that I felt I was going too slow, I would run ahead of him but he would always be the first to leave the next aid station (even though I spent very little time there myself) and I remember seeing him at the 38.3 mile aid, leaving less than a minute before me…but I never saw him again. He was a great example of how the "tortoise and the hare" tactic works perfectly for long distances like this.


Oh I chased those waterfalls TLC

I felt absolutely amazing for the first 50k section of the race. I kept a great pace and even ended up PR'ing my time for that distance and Never. Even. Experienced. One. Low. I was stunned. I was not expecting to have such a good day out there…positivity and smiling works wonders! I also knew that a low was probably going to come around at some point though, because there was no way my body was going to feel that decent for the whole 50 miles. It ironically happened shortly after the 50k mark at about mile 34. My legs were really starting to get tight and I couldn’t really get myself into a running rhythm, even though I was on a completely runnable mountain road. I wasn't really experiencing a mental low, which is what I'm used to, it was a physical low. My legs were the only thing that was really hurting but they felt like they had no juice left in them and I was working my way to the 38.3 aid station totally dreading that I would still have 11.7 more miles to go with my legs feeling the way that they did.

Once I had left that aid however, my spirits lifted a bit and I turned it around to "oh wow, only 11.7 more miles to go!" Then magically, the pain subsided in my legs not long after. Mental placebo? Endorphins? I'm not sure, but I was very happy that it was happening and was a little shocked that all those people that told me that this happens were not just lying to me (#ultrarunnersusuallylie). My heart was starting to fill with pride and accomplishment. I was thinking about how even if I walked this 6 mile gradual uphill, I would still be way ahead of the cutoff by the time I finished and that is something I never even imagined. I went into this race with the only goal being to finish by the 14 hour cutoff and I fully expected to take every last minute of that time out there. I had a lot of my friends telling me I would be able to finish faster, but I quashed those thoughts and told myself "No, no my only goal is to finish, I'm not going to think about the time it will take me to get there". I feel like this ended up being a good approach for me in the end because it kept my focus positive and centered and didn't set me up for failure.


I did not stick to the rivers and the lakes that I'm used too

I have to say, the 3.4 mile downhill to the finish hurt like HELL, but I also welcomed the push to run a little faster. When I looked down at my watch and realized I had less than a mile left to go, I couldn’t believe it! The time seemed to have flown by! I felt fantastic for most of these miles and I was at mile 49…so close to the finish of my FIRST 50 miler! I started to get a huge smile on my face and when I turned the corner that I knew was leading to the end zone and started hearing all the people, I sprinted. I saw my sisters and Chris and just the most dreamlike sensation washed over me. I raised my hands and crossed that finish line with 12:38 on the clock and a feeling that I had never felt before and is impossible to describe. I have finished every race I have started, but nothing was quite like the feeling I had at this one. Something that just a short while ago, seemed impossible and that I would never even consider doing, was now something that I had actually accomplished. I also had feelings of never wanting to do it again, even though it was the best race I had ever had ha-ha. Typical post ultra-emotions!

I did this course as my first 50k last year and fell in love with it. The waterfalls, the terrain, the views and the overall great organization of the event. I am so happy that I decided to come back the following year to do it as my first 50 miler. This race will always have a very special place in my heart.

I are the champion, my friend!!


GEAR AND STAT NERDS

STATS:
 50 miles, 9,000 feet of elevation gain

Official Time: 12:38:28, 15:10 average pace

23rd women out of 31, 105th overall out of 125 (#backofthemiddlepacker, #illtakeit, #averagerunner, #totallyokwiththat)

GEAR I WORE:

  • My go to RAD hat (a lot of people on the course loved this hat and kept saying "hey RAD girl!")
  • Outdoor Research waterproof rain jacket (I love this jacket, it's amazing, I love it on my body, I love it in my pack, I love looking at it, I just love it #notsponsed)
  • My lucky retro Nike crew socks that everyone thinks are the only pair of socks I own
  • Shoes: Salomon Sense Pro 2-these were absolutely PERFECT for this race. The only complaint I ever have about any of the Salomon shoes I wear is that I have to loosen the laces a lot throughout a long run because they don't expand when my feet swell and can cut off circulation. Totally worth dealing with since all other aspects of these shoes are great! I normally run in the Salomon Speedcross 4's but those have a more aggressive tread and were totally not necessary for the PNW terrain.
  • Pack: Nathan Hydration Vaporshadow 2L (for the most part I enjoy this pack for longer days, but was really hating all the zippers 40 miles into the race…just give me my food damnit!)
  • Watch: Suunto Ambit Sport 3
  • WHAT I HAD IN MY PACK/DROP BAG:

    PACK:
     

    • Food: Crispy Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, pretzels, Honey Stinger waffles, Honey Stinger chews, Sun Rype fruit sticks, GU Gels (I thought I would ignore these but ended up eating them due to laziness), Snickers (all this food took up 3/4 of my pack…SMH)
    • Gloves
    • Waterproof phone cover (never used this because it didn't end up raining, but I was glad I had it just in case…need that music!)
    • Phone and Watch charging cords (I did end up having to charge my watch a little for it to last the whole time)
    • 2 portable chargers
    • Goodr Sunglasses (like I said the weather was perfect, didn't even need these)
    • Tylenol
    • Travel sunscreen/Chapstick
    • Baby wipes
    • Compass
    • Duct Tape
    • Band-Aids
    • Phone with a Mophie charging case (I had my phone on airplane mode the whole time since my Spotify playlist was downloaded and my phone never died.)
    • SPOT Tracker- this was used in conjunction with a personal tracking page that I used (www.fastertracks.com) so that Chris and my family could have an idea of where I was at on the course. The course ended up changing last minute and the map didn't get updated in time so it was off for most of the race, but it worked when it mattered, which was at the finish line.
                                          •  
    DROPBAG: The ONLY thing I ended up using out of my entire drop bag was the Tailwind…but hey it's a drop bag, better prepared than sorry!

  • Extra socks
  • Extra shoes
  • Change of clothes/flip flops (for post-race)
  • Red Bull 
  • Toenail clippers/Tweezers
  • Extra baby wipes
  • Tylenol/Ibuprofen
  • Tailwind (LOTS of it!!)
  • WHAT I LEARNED I DIDN’T NEED IN MY PACK: This may come as a surprise to you, but when you are at a race, there are adequate aid stations. You don't need to carry your whole entire refrigerator on your back in order to survive…but hey, I learned my lesson and will know better for the next one (I was mostly afraid of running out of food or not having food or dying because of lack of food #nowiknowhowmycatsfeel). Other than way too much food in my pack, I used everything else (minus one portable charger). I definitely was happy that I had a 2L bladder because I drink A LOT OF WATER and I ain't got time to wait until I get to an aid station to drink it!

    LINK TO SPOFITY PLAYLIST (aka: The best racing playlist I have ever made):
     
    https://open.spotify.com/user/michelekdillon/playlist/3cbBukQ9X0IymLwl3q7OWX

    LINK TO RACE WEBSITE (aka: run this race!!): 
    http://www.runtheburn.com/

    Let me know if you have any other questions about the race, I'd be happy to answer them for you!

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    I Paid $150 and All I Got Was This Stupid Winter 14er

     
    2am wake up call after a 5 hour drive and car camping. Putting on winter clothes and gear in the dark and setting toward what will likely be at least 12 hours on your feet in the mountains. Most people would think this is crazy and no way in hell would they want to do it. But me and my friends are made of a different cloth. This is life for us. Thoughts of work and school can get thrown to the wayside when we embark on a journey to the mountains. We know it will be hard but that's also part of the fun. Maybe we are the crazy ones, but it sure doesn't feel like it when we get to see the sunrise over a mountain range. 

    Chris, Ellie, Kim and I start out on our trek to Culebra. The only privately owned 14er in Colorado that we each had to shovel over $150 to allow us the opportunity to climb it. It started out easy since it was all just road at this point and it was actually pretty light outside for being only 2:30am. We got to chat cheerfully together for about 2 miles, which is where we started to need our snowshoes. 

    After I put my snowshoes on (this was my first time using the pair I had brought with me which in hindsight was not the smartest decision) they were so clunky and awkward and completely different feeling than the ones I have snowshoed in before. They felt like 10 pound bricks on each foot. I tried to sustain the group's pace with these new found brick feet but I could feel that I would burn out pretty quickly if I did and I had a long day ahead of me still. So I accepted that after a short 2 miles, I would be spending the rest of the time alone and settled into a more comfortable pace. 

    My energy was great and the miles were going by quickly. The sun was rising against the mountains and I was soaking in the view.
    Remnants of the fantastic sunrise
    It was just about then that one of the laces on my snowshoes broke off. Luckily the part of the road I was on was still pretty hard packed snow, so I convinced myself that the rest of the way would be doable without snowshoes and didn't lose any of my excitement. However, Chris had texted me asking how I was doing and I told him my laces broke and he told me I most likely wouldn't make it up the ridge without snowshoes or traction (which I did not bring because I figured I wouldn't need them if I had snowshoes...totally not thinking about the times I wouldn't be able to wear snowshoes but would still need traction...another newbie mistake!). Chris, being the sweetheart that he is, dropped 1/2 mile back down the ridge he was climbing to leave his snowshoes for me and he switched to his micro-spikes. Right after he let me know where they were at, the snow started getting softer and not so solid and I started post holing every few steps I took. I was less than a mile away from where he left the snowshoes but it felt like an eternity. I finally spotted them probably 100 feet ahead of me while the people behind me were probably looking at me like an idiot as I was wallowing through the snow with snowshoes strapped on my back. "They're broken!" I say to everyone that passes me even though they didn't ask. I was feeling pretty bad ass by the time I got to Chris's snowshoes, like I had trekked through the lower regions of Everest with no gear and survived (laugh out loud). Awesome, now I can get moving again, I thought to myself as I looked up at the ridge I needed to climb. It was monstrous and after having gone up it, which sucked, and having gone down it, which equally sucked, I have dubbed it with the name Ridge of Despair, or ROD if you will. 

    Things were going pretty well the first little bit of ROD, minus all the gear malfunctions (I also had an ice ax that kept falling off my pack and I had to keep stopping, taking off my pack and strapping it back on, with absolutely no idea what I was doing and an exercise brain inducing stupidity effecting my judgement). Probably less than a mile up is where I started having issues seeing where I needed to go. Silly inexperienced me figured I would just follow the tracks made by others but the tracks started disappearing because the snow was too hard packed to leave any. I was having a hard time figuring out how the people I saw ahead of me got to where they were. Snow makes all the difference in completely confusing my already pretty directionally challenged brain. So I trekked up the ridge looking really confused and stopping a lot to realign myself when another guy offered his directional assistance. He was probably thinking I had no business being on the mountain with how confused I was looking but I had already gotten over what anyone else was thinking of me at this point since I was super happy with myself for what I had already accomplished so far on my first winter 14er journey (that ended up being a solo journey very shortly in). I finally was finding my way up ROD with confidence and saw people on the part of the ridge I needed to continue up. They disappeared from eye sight before I was completely lined up with them and I started veering toward the wrong part, well I didn't realize it was wrong until it was too late of course. Very quickly as I was going up a very steep and seemingly not the right direction of the ridge, I realized I was slightly lost. I get really hard on myself and super anxious any time I start to feel lost and the enormity of being lost on a winter 14er started to make me hyperventilate a little bit. 
    I looked a little like this...
    How did I get myself so off track? Am I really this bad about just following a simple ridge just cause there's snow on the ground? I took out my directions and they were zero help because it was all summer trail and none of the pictures looked the same as what I saw in front of me. So after allowing myself to freak out for approximately 1 minute and texting Chris to let him know I might be lost, I decided to just work my way up and just keep going toward the top of the ridge, hoping that was the right way. Chris texted back and said to follow the ridge toward the sun, yay! Confirmation I was going the right way! Although I still wasn't seeing that damn cairn! Then way off to the right, I saw people traversing toward what looked like the summit and I realized I was really off from where I was supposed to be. I started walking toward that direction and finally saw the cairn! But then I also saw the saddle I had to climb up and it looked EXTREMELY intimidating. Remember, this is only my second 14er and my first winter 14er, so to me, everything looks intimidating, even more so with the snow. It was here that I just plopped right down in the snow, stared up at the saddle, thought about how much I had already done and looked at how much I still had to do...and started feeling sorry for myself again. I know, I know, what a big baby I am when I'm doing things outside of my comfort zone! I had pretty much convinced myself I wasn't going to make it up the rest of the way when the guy from earlier just started coming around the corner and he was the first person I had seen in what felt like ages! I immediately felt better and decided  that I would just follow him up the saddle because dying with someone else is always better than dying alone. We made conversation and I was extremely grateful for how helpful he had been to me along the way. He doesn't know it, but I possibly might not have kept going if he hadn't turned the corner when he did. 

    I decided to exclaim to him how intimidating I thought this ridge looked but it wasn't that bad at all as we were climbing up it. He responded by saying "Oh this is nothing!", a sentiment that was shared by everyone else in my group as well when I told them the same thing after finishing. You would think I would be embarrassed by this but I'm not. My friends and the climber that befriended me has had years of experience and climbed A LOT more peaks than I have. So yes, things are going to look a lot harder than they actually are to my fresh newbie eyes. I'll eventually start gaining experience and feel as complacent about these kinds of climbs as everyone else. But for now, I am 100% OK with being intimidated. The beautiful mountains deserve my healthy fear. They are not to be taken lightly when I have little to no experience. 

    At this point, it was very easy to see exactly where I needed to go and I was having a lot of fun looking around at the mountains surrounding me in every direction and knowing that after all this work, I was actually going to make it to the summit! I had to eventually drop my new friend as he was going much too slow for my comfort but I made sure he knew how grateful I was for his help and company. 
     
    

    Beautiful mountains!

    

     

    More beautiful mountains!!

     
     

    After a few false summits (those always get me!), I was finally able to see my goal, Culebra. As I got closer and closer, people who were coming back off the summit were congratulating me and I was giving congrats back. It was such a feeling of elation! I was so excited to know that I was moments away from my first winter 14er and I did it basically solo the whole way! I reached the top and there was nobody there so I breathed in the fresh air and excitement. Then all of a sudden I heard Kim's voice and then Ellie's and they were screaming "Yay Michele! You did it! Woohoo!". I was taken aback, they were screaming from one of the mountains below me but I could not see them! It was incredible timing, I wasn't able to reach the summit with them, but they still celebrated with me from the mountains below. 
     
    
    Pictures or it didn't happen!


    Chris had texted me that he was going to hike down with me from the summit because the 13er they had just bagged made it so they had to re-summit Culebra. However I had crappy service and didn't get that text until I was already descending back down and was super bummed that I could have seen everyone at the summit if I had just waited a little longer! I slowed down so Chris could catch up to me and I was finally able to share all my excitement with someone! Before I knew it, we were back at ROD...I didn't quite know yet what I was going to be in for. I guess I should have since when I climbed it, it was straight up, so of course it would be straight down...but as it's been previously stated, I get exercise induced stupidity and don't think about these things. Poor little Chris had to deal with my pansy ass taking little tiny baby steps with fear in my eyes the whole entire way down. ROD, thank you for allowing me up the mountain and allowing me back down the mountain, but I never want to see your stupid face again. 

    My naivety was super happy that we were finally back on the road that leads down to the car again. That is until I remembered that it was still 6 miles away on a damn road that had by now, started to melt in the unseasonably hot sun all day and became a post holing mess. Again with Chris being the sweetheart that he is, he let me still keep his snowshoes on for the whole way back while he punched his way through almost every step WHILE carrying my broken snowshoes...seriously, man of the year. Just to fully describe how awful the road back was, even WITH snowshoes on I was punching through the snow. 

    At this point, my exhaustion started settling in. The exuberance from making the summit had settled and it was now just all about keeping my feet moving until we were back at the car. I slowed down significantly. Enough where even post hole Chris was ahead of me and Ellie and Kim, who had summitted another 13er on their way back off of Culebra, had caught up to me. It was, what Kim dubbed, the longest mile back to the cars. 

    It was such an amazing day, no other way to describe it. I am so happy that I believed in myself to be able to do this mountain. There were definitely times along my comedy of errors day that I didn't think that I could, but I kept moving, and I did. It's really easy to compare yourself to others and think that if they can do it, so can you. It's not about that though. You have to truly know and accept what your own abilities are and allow yourself to grow along with every mountain and every trail that you do. You definitely have to be willing to challenge yourself in order to get stronger, which is exactly what this day did for me. Could it have gone worse and could I have been stuck in a hairier situation? It's always a possibility, but I made smart decisions and didn't let up and just kept moving and because of that, I learned a lot of lessons that I can now add to my mountain knowledge. People don't just know things, they learn by doing and seeing. 

    I have a hard time saying I'm proud of myself for a lot of things, but I have no problem admitting how proud I am of myself for this. 

    I can't wait for 14er #3!

    Stats:

    18 miles, 5,300 feet of elevation gain
    Time: 14 hours (includes all breaks and hyperventilating time)
    1st Winter 14er
    2nd 14er overall