Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Motivations

Just two days ago I started writing this post and once the words stopped flowing I saved it and closed my computer to finish another day. The post started as follows:

The last few months since The Bear 100 my normal routine has seen a few changes. Instead of heading home from work and getting straight out on the trails I have taken naps, maybe enjoyed a few to many beers and definitely enjoyed to many Biscuits. Needless to say my off-season has been a little over embraced.

Over these few months, I've learned a few lessons the hard way but I have also made great memories with friends, jumped into one last 50K for the season, slept in on Saturdays instead of getting up at the ass crack of dawn to run all day and found a new hobby to get me through the winter. I'm getting into climbing and giving my brain a slight rest from the countless hours on the trails. I have not stopped running but my mileage has definitely dropped back. I was hopping to gain entry into Hardrock 100 knowing that would light the fire again but with only a 2.5% chance I knew it was a slim chance this year.

Now knowing that I didn't get into Hardrock I can start registering for my back up races. It looks like my early season will be filled with the first 50 I ever did, Land Between the Lakes 50 back in Kentucky with the old crew, and Bighorn 100 in June. I'm also throwing my name into the Wasatch 100 lottery to fill out my season. Fingers crossed I have better luck with this one!

Now having just got back from tonight's run where the sunset cast a strange orange glow across the mountains that is indescribable I feel the fire burning hotter again. I'm not saying I wont continue to enjoy a few beers, maybe occasionally to many, or other endeavors and I'm definitely not back 100% where I was in July and August but I have the desire to be out building my base and working on speed so I can have a strong 2015 season. The difference a couple of days can make is incredible, I am sure I will again struggle this winter with motivation but I am confident that the fire will stay lit, and that 2015 will see improvements 2014 did not!  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Year of the Mud - My 2014 Bear 100 Report

It's 5:50 a.m., the sky is still dark with the night and the air is warm. I've had my breakfast of waffle tacos and checked in at the start. Then, it finally hits me, I'm about to start The Bear 100. Months of training come down to the next 100 miles.

Even though there are roughly 300 people starting, once the RD yells go we are all off on our own personal journeys, something different driving every one of us towards that finish line. I have a plan to keep my heart rate relatively low for the first 50 miles so I settle into a power walk from the start with good friend Kari. After a short section of road through a neighborhood we are on single track heading up the mountain with only headlamps and flashlights lighting the way. The sun has not even risen and I am already sweating much more than I would like, especially with the easy effort.

The trail quickly becomes congested and Kari and I take a few opportunities to move up the field whenever there is an opening. Before I know it we have crested the first climb and we are beginning the descent into the first aid station. The early miles go by quickly with chatter of burro racing next season and taking in the sunrise and beautiful fall colors. I'm in and out of the first aid station right on time for the goal that I have set for myself, Kari comments we are going to fast, but despite the warmth of the day my heart rate is low and I feel well.

The next 20 or so miles go by uneventfully. I see my friends at mile 19 and they go into super crew  mode getting me what I need and getting me on my way. I'm still only minutes off of  my desired pace and Kari and I are still together but the heat soon begins taking its toll. I'm forced to back off of my pace and try to save something for when the sun goes down and the temperatures drop. Kari gets a second wind and pulls away and I settle into what feels alright, listening to some music and taking in my surroundings. Cows and all.

Before I know it I cruise into mile 36 where my first pacer awaits me. I clean up my feet change socks and restock my pack. I came into this aid station starving and while I am getting everything in line to go back out Cally is feeding me melon as fast as I can eat it. It tastes absolutely delicious and is insanely refreshing. After I am done gorging myself on melon Gibbs and I are off. Chris has told me this will be a hot section and to be sure I stay hydrated and keep it easy. As we are walking out of the aid station I give Gibbs and update on how I am feeling, how much I have been drinking and my urinating situation, and I made sure to let her know it was the color of a nice IPA, as long as its not the color of Stout all is well, right?

Within a couple of  miles I could tell that my melon feast, no matter how delicious, was not the best decision of the day! My stomach was not emptying and it felt like all the melon was sitting in my throat, I couldn't run due to how heavy my stomach felt. I needed to get rid of some of the melon. I found a log and stuck my fingers down my throat about the time a couple of guys came hiking by. We exchanged a few pleasantries and commented how barf fests were the best part of 100's and they continued on. Now normally, I hate throwing up. It hurts, the stomach acid burns my throat and it leaves a terrible taste in my mouth for far to long.  Not to mention all those delicious calories that get wasted! But this time was different! Yes, calories were lost, a moment of silence for their sacrifice would not be out of line,  but this was the tastiest puke of my life! Gibbs told me to make sure to drink water but I didn't want to get rid of the taste quite yet.

We continued down the trail chatting about whatever was on our minds at the time and Gibbs with an irrational fear of being pooped on by a cow made sure to keep her distance from them. As we were coming down the road to the next aid station we were welcomed by a short rain shower which caused myself a bit of stress because I would not be able to get to my rain gear for another 6.5 miles. Luckily the rain stopped. I again changed socks, restocked, talked to friends and we set back out.

The sun set on us on our way to Tony Grove, and for some reason my headlamp would not be my friend on this night. I was looking forward to the night section because I enjoy running in the dark, where your world is reduce to the 3 foot circle of light your lamp emits, climbs don't seem as bad and everything else ceases to exist. For some reason this night my lamp would make me dizzy. I didn't get tunnel vision which so many ultra runners get from running at night, instead I was simply a bit disoriented.  My light was casting strange shadows and everything seemed fuzzy. I had finally had enough of this and I asked Gibbs if she would trade me lamps. Hers was awesome and I know she really didn't want to since this was the first time she had tried it out but being a good friend a pacer we swapped. The difference this made was phenomenal. I instantly had energy that I hadn't had since the beginning miles, I was floating across beautiful single track and before I knew it I couldn't see the light being emitted from Gibbs behind me. I briefly looked over my shoulder and noticed she was no longer right behind me. I kept going, not because I was trying to drop her but because I knew this rush wouldn't last long and she would catch up before long. I was right, after about another half mile I slowed and Gibbs was again on my tail. I quickly apologized for leaving her and made sure to let her know I wasn't trying to drop her. My head lamp was making her dizzy as well. Sorry for making you trade Gibbs, but your headlamp is awesome!!!

My surge took a bit more energy than I would have liked it too and soon I was in one of many low spots to come. When we hit the 50 mile point shorty before Tony Grove I glanced at my watched and was still pleased to be going through the half way point 13 hours and 30 minutes in, not far off my goal pace of 26 hours. I was moving slower than I really wanted to when we were passed by a lady being paced by her dog. The glowing eyes and flashing green strobe on his color freaked me out a bit until I realized it was just a dog. Hot on her heals were two guys we had leap frogged with over the last section and the runner was feeling good, pushing the pace on the descent. I quickly stepped in line and asked if they minded me tagging along for the ride. We pushed it down the trail and we were on the road into the aid station before I knew it. It felt good to let loose a bit. Again I refueled and changed clothes as it was now getting cold. There is just something about putting on a new undershirt that makes you feel like a new person. Unfortunately this feeling only lasts until you start running again. I had been told that Tony Grove aid station was usually filled with carnage and as I was refueling I witnessed one disheveled runner uncontrollably sobbing and a few others on cots trying to get warm.

We headed back out into the night on our way to Franklin where my next pacer Cally would pick me up and do the last 38 miles to the finish with me. It was now getting late and I was off pace for my A & B goals but I was still optimistic that I could finish in under 30 hours. Within the  next few hours that goal would go out the window as well. Not much happened during these next ten miles except Gibbs getting a little concerned about me. I still had not peed since earlier in the day but I finally needed to find a spot off trail to take care of other business. I found a nice spot about 50 feet off the trail after telling Gibbs I needed to go to the bathroom and I would meet her around the corner, she graciously gave me some wipes and went down the trail to wait. Apparently, you are not supposed to take a relaxing poo when you are almost 60 miles in. It didn't feel like it had been that long but after being gone for what she said was at least 10 minutes she yelled into the darkness for me. Of course I was fine and I responded immediately saying I would be down in a minute. When I rejoined her on the trail she jokingly gave me a hard time for taking so long and we were again headed to Franklin.

Once we arrived at Franklin it was a bit cold and I ate some grilled cheese, changed socks again and prepared to head back into the night. Cally had driven my Jeep up and Gibbs would take it back as she planned to come out to some aid stations to crew through the night but I volunteered her for other things. I over heard a cute girl next to me saying she needed to find a ride back to the finish since she was done for the night. I graciously volunteered Gibbs for this duty after which I looked at Gibbs and said "You don't mind do you?" Cally and I sat off leaving the aid station and Gibbs with her new friend. You're welcome Gibbs!

Soon after leaving the aid station the skies would open up and be completely unrelenting for the rest of my time on the course. I knew there was a chance of rain and storms but never imagined what would ensue for the next 14 hours. There were several awesome flashes of lightening and loud claps of thunder which sounded like they were right on top of us as they echoed through the mountains.

From this point on the race becomes a little foggy. Time and the fact that anything other than my 3 foot bubble of light, still being emitted from Gibbs' headlamp, ceased to exist. The rain was cold and the trails became rivers of water. If there wasn't water rushing down the trails the mud was so slick and thick that I can not even begin to describe it and do it justice. I still moved forward but at a snails pace. My sub 30 hour "C" goal was now out the window and all that simply mattered was finishing.

I became extremely tired throughout the night despite all the Coke and Mountain Dew I was drinking at the aid stations. Every step I took would mean sliding through the mud and engaging stabilizer muscles that I did not know existed. We arrived at Logan river soaked and a bit grumpy. I sat down only wanting to clean my feet, change socks and undershirts so I could feel like a new person for a short time but by now this wasn't doing the trick. Rob and Ellen arrived shortly after I did and Ellen's headlamp was dying, I offered her my AAA batteries since Gibbs' headlamp took AA and I no longer needed them. They left before I did and I would  not see them again. Ellen ran a strong race regardless of the conditions, congrats again Ellen!

We finally left and went back out into the elements. Little did I know the aid station workers would mark me as drop here and in a few hours I would be MIA to my friends. We continued on to Beaver Mountain Lodge where before following a road into the aid station you must go down a steep embankment. I was at the top looking down thinking there was no way to get down upright. I looked for an easier way and settled on what looked like a grassy section. I took one step off and was immediately on my side sliding down. Upon stopping, covered in mud all I could say was "Well that's one way to do it!"  Upon arriving at Beaver Mtn Lodge I took a much needed 10 minute nap, since I could barely keep my eyes open. After changing and being down for 3 minutes, Cally brought me food and asked one of the guys how long I had been down for. He told her roughly 10 minutes to which I simply exclaimed "Three!" Cally asked if I wanted some water melon and I told her "In seven minutes" those next seven minutes would be glorious! Cally woke me up I put my pack on ate a little food and we left.  I was able to run, slowly, for a short flat section before I was reduced to a hike again. My plans had fallen apart and I was a bit demoralized! I should know you can never plan how things will go in a 100 miler!

I don't remember much until the last aid station at mile 92. What I do remember is a few hours later I could again no longer keep my eyes open. I found a pine tree, sat down ate two gels and told Cally to wake me up in 5 minutes! I zipped my rain jacket up, pulled my hood over my face and laid down on the ground. I was asleep before my head touched the ground. This helped for a short time, and I again began my painstaking slow march down the trail

Upon leaving Ranger Dip aid station tensions between Cally and I were a bit high and I snapped at her. Sorry again! We had one climb left that was a steep 600 feet then a steep 3000 foot descent to the road before the finish line. I power hiked the slick climb as fast as I could pausing a few times to regain my breath. Once we reached the top the descent was slick but mellow and I was optimistic this is how it would be to the finish. Unfortunately, I was wrong! Soon the terrain would be steep and extremely slick.  My quads and stabilizer muscles where hurting me badly and the only way I could make it down was to take a few steps and ski through the mud. When I would start going to fast or begin to lose my balance I would grab the branches of the brush on the side of the trail to slow down. The brush would stay in place and yank my body to a stop where I would regain my balance, let go and start the process again. I  made it through this section in just under two hours to my surprise and after one last angry episode we were on the gravel road to the finish. A spectator said we were roughly 20 minutes from the finish and I looked at Cally and said "Lets do it in 13!"  By my watch this would put me just under 33 hours 30 minutes.

Once on runnable ground my legs still had the pep to be able to pick it up. At one point I looked at my watch and it said I was running just over a seven minute mile. As we approached the last turn I could see a group of people standing on the corner, they stepped into the road then back onto the side walk. I secretly hoped these were my friends. They again stepped out and back trying to decide if it was Cally and I running down the road. Once close enough to tell it was me Rob and Gibbs took off running with me, Rob carrying his milk shake. We ran past Eric's car where he was sleeping since they didn't expect me to be there that soon. Gibbs knocked on his window woke him up and I pointed at him like some cool kid from a 90's movie. We turned another corner and there was the finish! I sprinted through like I was beating the clock, told them my number and immediately dropped to the ground. After just over 33 hours and 29 minutes by my watch it was over! I had finished my second 100, and gained qualification for Hardrock 100!!!

Some friends came over and congratulated me and new friends of theirs came over to tell me that was a hell of a finish. We made our way out of the rain to a picnic table where I exclaimed all I want is a beer when someone asked if I wanted some fish. One of the new friends quickly sat one down in front of me and I enjoyed my celebratory beer while everyone told me about being marked as a drop. After turning my phone on I had several messages asking what happened and if I was alright. Everyone was surprised to hear I had just finished and I was confused as to why everyone thought I dropped.

Shortly thereafter we headed back to the condo where I showered, ate two pieces of pizza got nauseous and went to bed for the next 12 hours. Every time I rolled over I would hit  my sore feet on the end of the bunk bed, wake myself up and moan some obscenity! It was a painful night but by the next morning I was feeling a bit better. We all sat around eating breakfast talking about the previous two days and what we all went through before packing up and heading home. It was a successful trip for our condo where all four runners staying there finished! Congrats everyone!

This journey would not have been successful without the help and faith of so many close friends. Cally and Gibbs thank you from the bottom of my heart for being out there with me and helping me through the good times and the bad. It really is appreciated and your selfless acts of helping me get to that finish line me more to me than you know! Thank you to Rob and Chris and Eric for helping crew me before setting out to complete their own pacing duties! Also thanks to my coach Cindy for designing my workouts for the summer and helping me to prepare! My name is already in the lottery for Hardrock and dependent upon that I will be back to The Bear to try and get the time that I desire!

Since the race many people have asked me why I do these. That's not an easy question to answer and I think it is different for every person, but the best answer I can come up with is because I want to be challenged. I want to be put into a spot where I must tap into a part of my soul that until that moment I though was non existent. To push myself to that point, to me, is to live anything else is just being. I want to live!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Washed Away

The evening is cool, wet and quiet. My legs are heavy and tired as I move over the soft wet single track. I tell myself to just run the first few switchbacks then I can be reduced to a walk. As I climb my legs loosen and liven up, my mind begins to let go and I climb into the low hanging clouds that have settled in across the front range. The usually busy trails are empty and I have a sense of solitude never before felt on one of my favorite trails. I reach the top of the first large climb having not stopped to walk once, a first, in a time never before seen. I am now fully immersed in the clouds, the view of town below is no more and my field of vision is reduce to the next bend in the trail. I take a moment to soak in the stillness of the evening and then continue my way down the trail. My legs are still tired from the previous weekends race and the well ran climb but I cruise across the rolling terrain in and out of the trees seeing not another soul. My only company tonight is a lonely deer watching curiously as I pass. We make eye contact and she holds her ground as I run by. The farther into the run I get the more my mind and body let go. I can feel my legs and lungs growing stronger by the day, finally adapting to the ever growing familiar demands the mountain trails present. As I come around the corner finishing the last long climb of my usual route I decide to turn down a fork I've never before explored. As I open up and cruise down the smooth single track into the valley I become more aware of the sounds of the night; the rain falling on the leaves, the stirring of the unseen wildlife, and my feet hitting the ground. I run through an overgrown section and am instantly covered in the cool water that was until disturbed, resting on the vegetation. I find myself needing to turn back to head down the mountain but I let my curiosity lead me further down the trail wanting only to see what is beyond the next bend. After a short time exploring I finally turn back making note to fully explore this trail again soon. I begin climbing out of the valley back up to the familiar intersection and I feel my mind completely let go of the stresses of work, life and the recent events of having my car broken into. Instead the worries and stresses of life are replaced by flooding memories of the previous weekends race to the times and company enjoyed last night. I continue along down the trail to the final descent and I feel a sense of peace not felt for some time wash over me. I let go and I let my mind, body and trail become one, dancing over rocks and through puddles with a lightness and grace never before felt. As the short reprieve from the rain ends and the sky again begins to open up, I feel the cool water hit my bare skin, I drop my chin and I too open up comfortably cruising down the trail letting the rolling contours and gravity do the majority of the work. As I come to the end of the trail and arrive back at my car I am not out of breath or tired from the previous 90 minutes of bliss, I am no longer stressed about past events but my mind is free and clear. I am calm and at peace, and everything has been washed away.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If There's a River Cross It, and If There's a Mountain Climb It - My Hardrock 100 Pacing Report

A new Patagonia hat, free stickers, and not one but two, yes TWO, trips to Baked in Telluride to start my day, how could it get it much better? By pacing a big section of Hardrock 100 is how! I took off out of town Thursday afternoon after work so I could get to Silverton to see the start of the 2014 Hardrock 100, spend my day watching the race and crewing a friend all before getting to spend some time on the course of my dream race! It was gonna be a good day!

Friday was pretty great. Aside from the things listed above I got to see the leaders come through Telluride at mile 28 looking like they had just been out for a leisurely stroll. I was set to start pacing my friend Bob at Grouse Aid Station (mile 58) starting somewhere around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning. At about 9 o'clock Friday night my friend Gibbs and I set out to get what would be my last hot meal for who knew how many hours. This resulted in us being rejected by more restaurants than women I've been rejected by in my 25 years! Finally after let down after let down we found one last restaurant that still had their kitchen over and we were able to get a hot meal. Unfortunately since dinner took so long to get we missed friends Chris and Bob come through Ouray by about half an hour and before I knew it, it was time to start getting ready and make the drive up to Grouse to pick up Bob.

Gibbs generously offered to drive me the 10  miles up so I wouldn't have to leave my car overnight, (thanks again!!), and on the way we drove through a pretty nice hail storm and could see lightning in the distance. This had potential to be an interesting night! But even though the threat of bad weather was high I still couldn't wait to get out on the trails and share some miles with Bob!

1:30 came and went and there still was no sign of Bob. An electrical storm at Engineer Pass had knocked out the radios so I wasn't able to get an update on when he had went through or when I could expect him. By the time 3 a.m. arrived I was starting to get a little worried so I checked with the aid station again in hopes the radios had been restored. Luckily I was able to find out he had left Engineer shortly before 3 a.m. but with 8 miles between him and me that meant I had at least two and a half hours before he would arrive so I climbed in the back of Andy's truck and grabbed one of the first and last naps I would have until I was done with my section.

Around 6 a.m. Bob and Pacer Kim arrived at the aid station. Within 30 minutes we were off and I was simultaneously excited and nervous to be on the Hardrock course. My preconceived thoughts of what the course was going to be like did not fail to disappoint as we were immediately met with a 2,000' climb up and over a 13,000' pass before descending roughly 1000' then back up and over Handies Peak, my second 14er since moving here. For some reason in my head I kept referring to it as Hades Peak. Bob and I got lucky and had great weather going over the highest point of the course while others that summited the night before weren't so lucky!

The course was absolutely stunning. I would stop to take a few pictures then run to catch up with Bob. Since this was only my second time pacing an 100 miler I checked with him to make sure it didn't bother him that I was doing that and I received his blessing. Bob was extremely easy to pace, he is tough as nails, knows the course and knows how to take care of himself in the mountains. We talked when he felt like it and we were silent when I felt like he wasn't in the mood for talking. When we arrived at aid stations I would do my best to make sure he got the things he needed then would tend to myself. I was pretty pleased with the way things had been going and so far the only complaint I had received from Bob was that I screwed the lid of his bottle back on too tight. I'll take it!!!

Once we left the Burrows aid station we had only 4 miles of gravel jeep road to go until we got to Sherman aid station. This section has a net downhill and we were looking forward to getting to Sherman. For some reason though on our way in I got extremely tired and was struggling to stay awake while we made our way down the road. There were moments when I would be walking and nodding off at the same time. Luckily I was able to keep this from Bob and get the aid station where I took in copious amounts of caffeine to give me the boost that my body needed. From what I hear Sherman is usually the favorite aid station, and it did not disappoint. They had a wide variety of food, including delicious mac n' cheese, and they had even spruced the back country bathroom up with candles, baby powder, wet wipes, motivational posters and to many more things to list. I could see why people loved getting to Sherman so much.

Bob had one main request on our way into Sherman, and that was that we apply bug spray before leaving. No problem! There was bug spray on the table next to us. I went to the bathroom one last time and had reminded myself when I got done that we would apply bug spray and then head out. Unfortunately at this moment I had the memory of a gold fish and the fancy bathroom atmosphere made me forget all about Bob wanting bug spray. Mistake number two of the day!

I realized I had forgot to spray Bob down within a mile of leaving and decided not to say anything about it in hopes Bob wouldn't notice. Unfortunately 5 minutes later he remembered we forgot! Crap! I tried to play it off and quickly changed the subject in hopes he wasn't to mad about it. Before I knew it we were at the top of the climb and were emerging from the pine forest onto a mountain tundra area around 12000'. The rain was finally coming down hard and steady enough that we decided to put on all our rain gear in hopes of keeping dry.

The rain was making Bob move faster and with the rolling terrain we were making descent time. After about hour and a half of steady rain, Bob asked me if I was still dry to which I honestly answered no. Apparently he wasn't either. We were both soaked at this point despite our rain gear and I had completely stopped trying to avoid any water on the trails. The rain continued for another good hour but we kept moving strong toward the next aid station.

The rain stopped shortly before we crossed the Continental Divide Trail, and we had begun talking a little bit more during this time. Some how  my age was brought up in the conversation and when I told Bob I was only 25 he told me that I had a good head on my shoulders and seemed to have things figured out and was on the right track. He made sure to tell me that he didn't mean just with pacing but with life. To this I responded with a sincere thank you and said I hope you are happy with my pacing as well though. No sooner did I say that Bob stopped atop the pass, turned around, stuck his hand out to me and told me how pleased he was. I shook his hand and told him I greatly appreciated it and we chatted about how he was initially skeptical about having me pace him but he couldn't be happier or more pleased with how things had turned out. Coming from a man who was on his way to his 5th Hardrock finish and a total of 30+ 100 mile finishes under his belt made those simple words mean the world. Bob, again I sincerely thank you for your kind words!

We continued on to one of our last aid stations that Bob I would go through together before I passed him off to his son at Cunningham, mile 91. The rain had made pole creek extremely muddy and sloppy and again I didn't waste any energy in avoiding the puddles. We were met with several knee deep cold swift river crossings, which we would cross with our arms locked to try and avoid having our feet swept out from the flowing water. This was the section in which I got the title of this report from. I have to give credit to Bob who responded to me "If there's a river cross it, and if there's a mountain climb it" when i commented on the numerous amounts of river crossings. I feel like this short phrase perfectly describes the Hardrock 100 course. We refueled at pole creek and began the 4 miles to Maggie Gulch. The last 4 miles of this section where pretty quiet and we eventually made our way into the aid station.

On our way in Bob commented on the size of the mountain that we had to climb coming out of Maggie. To put it simply, at this point it looked huge! The aid station assured us that we had only 1700' feet to climb and 3100' to descend before arriving at Cunningham, but Bob and I both knew we had way more than 1700'. We tried to make the most of what daylight we had left and we pushed hard to make it over the pass before the sun set behind the beautiful and intimidating San Juans. Upon cresting the first 13000' pass we noticed we had yet another to go before finally beginning the final descent into Cunningham.  By this time the sun was setting quickly and my heart rate was high. The hard effort coming out of the aid station had caused what food I had ate to not settle and I was starting to get some sever stomach cramps, but with only 5 miles to go I trudged on did my best to not show Bob I was hurting.

The sun quickly set and we pulled out our lights. At this point  Bob told me to lead and he would follow where I went. It doesn't sound like much responsibility but it is! I was extremely nervous I would some how get us lost and be the sole reason Bob wouldn't get his 5th finish. Put the stress on top of the ever worsening cramps and this was set to be the worst section of the past 16 hours.

With only a couple of miles left to go I told Bob to continue on while I stepped behind a rock to try and better the situation. After no luck with that and making myself throw up, where only saliva came out, I continued down the trail to catch up and take back the responsibility of leading still in pain. I caught Bob within 10 minutes and we were soon at the top of the last steep technical descent. My stomach was getting worse by the minute and every step was agonizing.

I kept it to myself as long as possible but with just over a mile to go I turned to Bob and told him to continue on, I needed a minute to sort my stomach out before continuing. He told me, he needed a break as well and we both sat down on the side of the trail. Before I knew it was on my side in the fetal position. My breathing can only be described as that of a woman in labor and the pain was excruciating. I convinced Bob to continue on without me, and that I would be right behind him. After questioning if I was going to be alright alone on the side of the trail he continued on.

I was now alone, in the fetal position on the side of the trail in the dark. I laid there for a moment longer and the pain became so intense I broke out in a sob. All I wanted was for the pain to go away long enough to finish what I started. Several runners and pacers passed by me while I was sobbing, all but one looked at me and said good work. Good work!!??? Could they not tell I was crying on the side of the trail!!! One girl did stop, pat me on the shoulder and ask if I was going to be ok, to which I simply replied, I'll make it down. Thank you for asking!

I finally pulled myself up and made my way into the aid station. Bob had came and went with his son for the last 9 miles to the finish. He had plenty of time to get his 5th finish. After sitting in a chair for a while I finally made my way to Gibbs' car where I crawled in the back and passed out while she finished working the aid station. We made it to town just in time to see Chris get his 5th finish in a row! Congratulations buddy! What an incredible achievement! I was to exhausted to stay and see anyone else finish so we made our way back to camp where I quickly climbed in the back of my jeep and slept until the awards ceremony a few hours later.

100 people, including Bob finished Hardrock this year. Killian Jornet set a new course record of 22:41 breaking Kyle Skaggs' previous record of 23:23 by 42 minutes! The joy that I saw in every finishers eyes as I watched them individually be recognized and receive their finishers print was absolutely beautiful. Pacing Hardrock was guaranteed to do one of two things for me, make me never want to attempt the race, or give me even more want and desire to toe that start line and set off on my own journey across the beautiful course that demands respect from every runner who decides to attempt it. Anyone who knows me closely knows that its the latter of the two. I'll kiss that rock myself one year, and until I'm given the opportunity I will help anyone who will let me!

Thanks goes to Gibbs for driving me around and for putting up with my delusional "Driving Miss Daisy" moments, and Bob again I want to thank you for your kind words and allowing me to share the miles with you on course! It was an honor sir!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Soaking it in

I wrote this early Saturday morning while I watched the sun come up over the mountains. After a fantastic weekend in the San Juans and a couple of busy days at work I'm finally getting around to actually posting.

This morning as I sit at our campsite in the  brisk mountain air I am again reminded of why I moved to this beautiful state. I am the first to wake up after a long day yesterday, so I am able to sit in silence alone and start what will surely be a long day by listening to nature wake up around me. There is absolutely no other place I would rather be at this exact moment.

I could sit here for hours listening to the sounds of flowing water and the singing of the birds that have already risen to start their day. Our campsite is nestled in a small clearing by some old mining grounds that the San Juan mountain towns are famous for. Behind me the ridge rises just over a thousand feet and to the west are several peaks and saddles that I don't know the names of, but the names aren't important. What is important is the way the sun is casting its early dawn light over the peaks to the west. The colors are vibrant and beautiful. It is my first true mountain sunrise and I contemplate taking a picture to capture this moment, but decide against it. Pictures wouldn't be able to do the beauty any justice. Sometime some views aren't meant to be shared with others through a picture. Sometimes some moments are just meant for you. For you to sit still, soak in, and appreciate that you have been given that moment in time. 

The world is quickly becoming a world of technology and instant gratification. So many moments are missed because our faces are buried in the screen of our smart phones. Mornings like this one were never meant to be seen through the screen of a camera or a smart phone. Mornings like these were created to remind me that, even though I miss people from the mid west, I made the right decision in  moving here.

I challenge you wherever you are and whatever you are doing to occasionally take a step back and truly soak in the moment and your surroundings. Don't ruin it with technology, you can answer the text, or look at social media later but you will never again be given the same exact moment. It has always been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes no words are needed. Sometimes the silence can be beautiful. 

Live smart, but most importantly live happy!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Going Too Far

"Only those who risk going to far can possibly find out how far one can go" - T.S. Elliot

I'm making the trip to Sheridan, Wyoming later this week to pace a friend in her first 100 mile attempt, and the above T.S. Elliot quote comes to mind. Whether you are running your first 100 or your tenth I feel like every time you toe the start line you are testing your limits.But you don't have to run 100 mile races or even run at all to test your limits. Every time you take a chance with something and do something unfamiliar you are finding out what you are made of and what you can take, and to me that is what makes life interesting and worth waking up for every day.

Four short months ago I never imagined I would be where  I am today. I'm finally settled in and am calling Golden, CO home after my second move in the last few months. I am thoroughly enjoying everything the small town has to offer, from the phenomenal trail access to the Bluegrass fest I attended this past weekend. I am making memories that I will fondly look back on and friendships that I will cherish for years to come, all this is possible because I risked going to far and I couldn't be happier that I did.

After a bad ankle roll a few weeks ago that I was most certain had ended my season (I may or may not have had a few melodramatic moments) I'm excited to pace this weekend and get things back on track with training. I'm registered for Bear 100 in September and I start working with a coach in the next couple of weeks which I hope will give me the edge I need to perform well this fall. I'm excited for things to come and new opportunities to present themselves to test my limits in life and in running.

To many people go through life not knowing what they are capable of because they are to afraid to try. Take a step back and ask yourself how you want to look back at your life when your time is up. Safe or a hell of a ride? Personally, I prefer the latter!

Live smart, but most importantly live happy!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Twenty Seconds!!!

It's been a few weeks since my last post, not for lack of adventures to write about, but honesty from lack of energy! My recent weekends have been filled with some big days in the mountains that I still have trouble believing I am able to do on a regular basis. A few weeks ago Chris, Kari and I went up to Fort Collins, and met up with a new friend Brian, to run a 25 mile loop of the Quad Rock course, the next weekend Chris and I ran to the top of Pikes Peak and back, my first 14er! This last weekend I worked the Quad Rock 50 and ran the last 18 miles of the course as a sweep with Chris and two new found friends. All three of which are multiple Hardrock 100 finishers and one has been to The Barkleys a few times. The wealth of knowledge I was surrounded by was unreal! Needless to say with some big weeks under my belt I have been pretty exhausted, and my body has been in need of a bit of a break. Thats why when my lower legs started screaming at me to turn around and go home a mile into tonights run I was unsurprised. Even though the past couple of days have caused me to need some time on the trails and the scenery was amazing I decided to listen to my body and come home.

So naturally since I couldn't run tonight I decided to read some blogs on nothing other than.... you guessed it, trail running! I stumbled upon one titled Seven Ways Trail & Ultrarunning Can Change Your Life and within the first couple of sentences a chord was struck.

"...but life is to short to hold on to your security blanket / comfort zone / whatever reason you give for why you're not out there and doing something"

This simple portion of a sentence immediately caused my mind to be flooded with thoughts of all the excuses people make for not getting out of their comfort zones and experiencing life. I've been guilty of it in the past and daily I make an effort to do something that makes me atleast a little uncomfortable.

It caused me to think of a dinner conversation that was had just last week between myself and another runner I've met. I'm blessed to live in a place where I am surrounded by beauty at all times and I couldn't be more greatful. I'm constantly emersing myself in the beauty of the mountains and the trails that are thankfully at my disposal. It's my way of getting away and unwinding. When I'm out on the trails everything in the world makes sense and the stresses of my daily life are stripped away for a short time. I can't imagine living in such a wonderful place and never getting out onto the trails to enjoy and experience the beauty God has given us. Yet there are so many people that live here that have never even hiked some of the trails I run. They make the excuse that they don't have the time, or they have to do this and that. Now I'm not saying that everyone has to get out and run the trails multiple times a week like I do, it's not for everyone and that's fine. My point is so many people don't because that's what they've always done and that's what they are comfortable continuing to do. People become so paralyzed by their daily routines that they forget to experience life for what it is, an amazing gift, a short amount of time to fill with experiences and memories with the people that matter to you, not something to work away or spend alone. In this same dinner conversation the comment was made that "It is a blessing to work to live, but I don't live to work." I've never heard it verbalized like that but it's so true.

 This post honestly has nothing to do with getting out into the mountains or working to much, it only has to do with doing things that make you uncomfortable and experiencing life. In my opinion life is not experienced until we have done things that are outside of what we know and make us a bit uncomfortable at times. You can do that however you chose. I understand being overwhelmed with stepping out of the comfort zone, it can be a frightening thing, but the rewards that can come from it are amazing! I am not perfect and this is something that I have to conciously work on as well, so please dont take these words as me pointing my finger because if I was, I would have to point it right back at myself as well. I know this post isn't quite the type of thing I normally write about and It's a bit scattered but it's something that has been on my mind the past week. If you are reading this, I challenge you to lay down the proverbial security blanket and step out of your comfort zone. No matter if it's quitting the job you hate, trying something new, or opening yourself to a new relationship. Take the step! Even if it doesn't work out according to plan or how you had hoped I promise something good will come of it!