3 pairs of socks, 3 bandanas, 2 pairs of shoes and a bajillion popsicles, that is what a nine hour endurance race is made of. When I signed up for the Schuetzen Nein I thought it would be a new, exciting race adventure, plus the price was right! I knew it was a looped course but in my excitement, I don’t guess I read the course description, accurately. It was an adventure alright!

The weeks before the race I revisited the course description and boy oh boy, it sounded more challenging than just running for nine hours. I have never done a timed race before but I did take 9:30 hours on my first 50k so I was a little familiar with spending 9 hours on my feet in the woods. This race was HARD! But it went way better than that 50k. Timed races are often looped courses, and this was no exception, however, this loop was shorter than I expected it to be. The course is less than a mile, .85 miles to be exact and the course description is hilly. The description also mentions a few stairs, which is the understatement of the year. A few stairs, A FEW! No, this course has all the stairs! But I digress. Reading race reviews tells me I am in for quite a challenge with this course. I am starting to get a little nervous, not about the time but about the elevation gain. Am I trained enough, can I handle this race? It didn’t help that the RD kept posting memes about how hot is was going to be and comparing the way the Schuetzen holds in heat to “a hellish inferno”.

 

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Photo credit from Shuetzen Nein Facebook page

Race day dawns with a lot of nerves a few minutes before my alarm goes off. The sun was blazing in from our east facing windows. My bestie Beth and I have rented an apartment for the weekend, so we have all the amenities we need. I try to choke down my gluten free waffles and bacon but I forgot syrup and can’t seem to choke the waffles down without it. I have packed everything I might want in my race bag and cooler. We follow our GPS to the start finish line and glance around at everyone else setting up their “camps”. It is like a dozen mini aid stations right here at the start/finish.  This was very different from anything I have done before.

Beth was awesome and helped me set up our tent, chairs and she even brought rugs, so we were fancy! I got my bib and had a quick chat with the RD, who has a wicked sense of humor and seemed very nice. It was clear a lot of the runners were local and that made me more nervous for some reason. Very quickly it was time for the prerace meeting. As I am typing this I have no idea what he talked about at the meeting, probably stay cool, when we would switch directions…I don’t remember. A quick pre race selfie and it was time to go!!! Coleen had helped me map out a plan for the day so I knew I was going to take the first loop slowly, also it was like a million degrees.

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I don’t remember a lot about the first loop except being surprised by how many stairs the race actually had. I was supposed to try to avoid stopping a lot in the first two hours, so Beth was going for a run of her own so as not to tempt me. I know I got warm and quickly decided I didn’t want to wear my shirt or carry a handheld. My tent was right at the check in point for each loop, so I checked in and then dropped my shirt and handheld and headed back out. Loop two I was still hot and decided it was time for a cold, wet bandanna so I grabbed that and quickly headed back out again. After that loop it was fresh ice in the bandanna every loop or two. It was HUMID as hell and oh so hot but in the trees at least it was shady. The trails were lined with fields of beautiful nettles on every side (can you read my sarcasm?).

A con of having such short loops is that you are never really alone for long in the woods, which isn’t a huge problem unless you need to pee and you are surrounded by nettles and can’t hike out off of the trail much. Timing bathroom breaks was a challenge and sometimes involved hiding behind a bench and getting caught. Oops.

My goal was to power hike the uphill’s and run the downs and the flats and it was going fairly well. I also had to manage the heat and I don’t do heat when running. I’m #teamwinter all the way! The iced bandanna is the best idea ever and I ate a lot of melty Popsicles, had a little Gatorade but mostly just drank coke, la croix and water to stay hydrated.

The race director was awesome, calling out names at every turn around to let you know he marked your lap and just generally being encouraging. The informational email said that the aid station wouldn’t be a full smorgasboard like most trail races but I thought it was very well stocked! I brought a ton of food for myself but still partook of their popsicles and pickles. They served lunch and beer at noon and there were pastries, soda, most of the things you want in an aid station. They also had three coolers, two with ice to fill hats or put cooling rags in and one with clean ice to ingest. This was the best thing ever and I was so happy to have clean ice! Of course Beth and her parents kept my cooler stocked for me.

Around the half way mark Beth came back from lunch and brought me the best damn green apple slush I have ever had, hands down! This slush was a life changer and so delicious on a hot day. I hadn’t packed my own Popsicles because I normally don’t care for them but they hit the spot during the race. I stopped just about every loop for a little something at my aid station. I ate consistently, chips, more chips, pickles, Popsicles, avocado, strawberries, oranges and potatoes.

The first two hours were the worst of the day for me. At 1.5 I really just wanted to quit. I was frustrated with the hills, tired, hungry and just over it mentally. I texted Coleen and she told me this was where I had to push through the mental part and just make it happen. She also suggested an avocado because I was pretty sure I hadn’t had enough calories but nerves that morning had made it hard for me to get them down. It was time for to walk an entire loop according to our plan so I took my avocado and went for a walk. It made me chuckle a little bit that I was taking my snack on a walk through the woods. It was interesting too that as tired as I was and as much as I thought I hated it when I was supposed to walk the whole loop I kept thinking, I should just run this stretch, this part is runnable.

At on point during the first half I did tell Beth I wanted to sit down and stay and she kicked me back out on the course. She was the perfect crew. Every lap she had a fresh iced bandanna waiting for me, she fed me, she encouraged me and she kept texting Coleen to keep her in the loop. This race just kicked my ass, mentally. It was hot and hard and I was so tired. The second half did go better. I made the mistake once of trying to do two loops without stopping but that made me nauseous and I decided not to do that again.

I spent the entire day soaked from ice melting on me. After about 4.5 hours I decided to change socks so I could have dry feet for at least a little while. Beth helped me getting out my socks, toweling my feet off and prepping my snack for the next loop while I changed. Running counter clockwise felt hard until we switched directions to go clockwise. Clockwise was great for most of the trail but dammit if you didn’t have to climb a huge set of pea gravel stairs after a long downhill run. Towards hour 6 I knew we would be switching directions and I just didn’t want to come back up that damn hill again so I decided it was a good time for a shoe change and new socks again. My feet were so pruney!

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After seven hours you were allowed crew pace you. Coleen and I had agreed that I didn’t need crew but it was time for a walk again and so Beth went out with me to keep me company. She let me set the pace and we hiked a loop. The next loop her dad went out with me and let me set the pace again, we ran a pretty decent loop. They took turns keeping me company on the rest of my loops, running up until the last loop when Beth and I went for a victory loop walk. I was pretty sick to my stomach and we knew I could only get one more loop in, so we decided to hike and enjoy it. I finished with 30 laps and went up to the RD and said, “Thanks for putting on an awesome race. I fucking hated it but it was awesome!”

Recap of the course, a lot of stairs that you climb up and down. Nettles line the course, once when I was climbing over a log (there were 3 to get over) I slipped and discovered why it is nicknamed fire weed. As you descended onto the trail the humidity increased and slapped you in the face! The downhills were a lot of fun! The absolute worst part of the course is the hills in full sun to get back to your camp! I hated every step of that hill, every single lap!

This race was put on very well! I would definitely recommend it to anyone but encourage a lot of hill training! If you finish a 50k you get a spanker (a paddle)! Plus all the money goes to support this cool little park! Check them out! Schuetzen Nein!

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108 Reasons to Do Yoga

I recently had the opportunity to attend Wanderlust  in Kansas City and although the weather tried to discourage attendance, we had a great time! The perfect balance of a 5k, 75 minutes of yoga and wrapping it all up with meditation was just what my body needed on a Saturday morning. 20180519_102642

Reed and I sloshed through puddles and made our way to the start line in the rain to begin and we ended back to back on our mats with the sunshine on our face. I felt strong and ready to enjoy the rest of my weekend. Yoga does this for me. Moving my body, controlling my breath, engaging my mind and feeling the difference it makes in my well-being is enough for me to know my body needs it daily. It’s not about strength or flexibility- these are just bonuses to choosing to have yoga in your life. It’s not about the perfect balancing pose or that cute yoga butt, it’s about knowing yourself. It’s about knowing your body and how it feels in every pose. It’s about recognizing your tension, being aware of your self talk about your body. It’s about feeling the emotions that come up and giving yourself space to just observe all of the beautiful things that make up YOU! ❤ 20180511_183827 (1)

Everyone’s journey  in life is unique. Everyone’s reason for inviting movement like yoga into their body is unique. I am blessed to get to facilitate the opportunity for people to get to know themselves better. My yoga tribe has followed me through thick and thin, especially through all the changes that we’ve made lately with our Free & Fierce Yoga schedule. I am so blessed to have these people in my life and to get to share in their celebrations, their struggles, and their journey with them. I can’t wait to continue to create opportunities for self-discovery, conversations and growth for my people and enjoy my journey with them!20180526_103522

So, that being said… Here are a few reasons why I think you should do yoga. I am SURE I could come up with 108 reasons but I want to hear your reasons as well! Post them in the comments or on our IG or Facebook page and share the love!

  1. To get to know your body better
  2. To teach you to breathe deeper
  3. To take time for yourself
  4. To work out tension
  5. To slow down your life throughout the week
  6. To take time to remind yourself what is most important
  7. To build strength
  8. To help with certain health concerns
  9. To try something new
  10. To encourage flexibility for a sport you’re involved in
  11. To create bonding in relationships
  12. Reduce stress
  13. Improve balance
  14. Improve posture
  15. Reduce your risk for injury

Double Chubb race report

 

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I had a tough time falling asleep the night before my race, but I wasn’t super worried. I have been told that two nights before the race is when it is important to get a good night’s rest and I comforted myself with that. I am not sure if it was nerves or just nervous energy keeping me up, but I read, meditated and still I laid there awake. When sleep did finally come I slept well, except getting up to go to the bathroom once. When my alarm went off at 5:45 am it still felt really early. I pulled myself out of bed, dressed and went upstairs to eat. Thursday, I spent all day packing and cooking for race day so I had breakfast all ready to be reheated. Nerves finally set in that morning and I had to force myself to eat my gluten free pancake and scrambled eggs. Everything was going well until I filled my hydration pack with water and it just ran back out of the place where the hose connects. I just looked at it…I didn’t pack a spare, what the hell was I going to do!? I texted my coach, Coleen, and she said no worries she would try to track down a handheld water bottle for me from someone she knew at the race but worst case I could just carry a regular water bottle. I knew it would be fine but it didn’t help my nerves! I finished breakfast and left a little early, hoping to find an open Walmart so that I could buy a new water reservoir. As luck would have it there was a Walmart on my way to the race! They didn’t have a regular bladder, just a huge one with cooling gel. When you are wearing it all day you do not want the extra weight and it was twice the price. Finally I just bought a whole backpack setup. It was cheaper and I took the bladder out of it.  I grabbed what I needed and headed for the start line! The new bladder didn’t really fit in my pack well, but I didn’t care, anything had to be better than carrying a handheld for 30 miles! I get pissed off at my handheld after 6 miles, there was no way I would have a good day with it.

I filled the new bladder, dropped my bag at the turnaround aid station and ate another gluten free pancake with peanut butter on it. I felt as ready as I was going to get so I lined up at the start with a few other ladies waiting in line for the bathroom and made small talk. The start line had a digital countdown going and we could tell from the length of the line and the timer we weren’t going to make it to the bathroom before the gun went off. I wasn’t too concerned since I am pretty sure I only felt like I had to go from nerves. Anyone else like that? Nervous bladder? Anyone?

I was nervous for this race and the time goals Coleen and I set made me a little light headed, but I felt really trained and ready. Not being from the area I had never been on the trails before, so I was excited to see what it had in store for us. Friday night it had stormed its ass off so people were warning me that it might be really sloppy out there. I thought to myself, sloppy would suck but I survived two loops at Winter Wyco this year, I can handle it.

IMG_3307The starting horn blew, and we were off. It started on pavement and I took off running with everyone else. Immediately we began to climb and I had to remind myself, “don’t go out like an asshole!” and slow to a hike. The first part of the race is a decent climb uphill so I did a lot of hiking. Our plan for me was to power hike all the uphills in the first half and run  the downhills and the flats. The course is kind of like a bowl, you go up then drop down to a flatter section before climbing back out and once we topped that big hill I had hella fun running back down it. I love a technical downhill! I bombed down the rocky hill, crossed a little creek into an open field and found aid station number 1. I had snacked on a kind bar during the first few miles but Coleen wants me to eat at every aid station no matter how recently I snacked so I got potatoes and oranges and took off again. The next section reminded me so much of Shrek’s swamp, I kept shouting, “What are you doing in my swamp?” in my best Shrek voice. No one found me funny except me, but hey I am the one that matters right? We were running sandy river trails along the Meramec river. It was green, wet, muddy in some places and flat. I think I definitely ran too fast, but I just felt really good.

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I chuckled to myself as I watched people try to go around the puddles on the trail in this section. It was wet everywhere and there was no way to keep your feet dry. I just ran right down the middle in the mud and water. This proved to be the best line later when we got to our first water crossing. Some runners were stopping trying to figure out how to jump a 7-foot-wide creek. It isn’t happening people, you will be wet, just go through it! Thank God for wool socks! They were wet from mile 4 on but my feet were never cold. They just work so damn well. I hit the fire road feeling good!

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Photo credit Mile 90 Photography

It was at this point that I began to have some issues with my menstrual cup. If you don’t want to read about period issues, then I will give you a minute to skip ahead to the next paragraph…. Ok, for those of you that stayed with me, the damn thing started sliding out! I swear it felt like the damn thing was at my knees. I knew there was a port a john at the turn around aid station, so I just kept running. Coming into the aid station at mile 7ish there was a lot of two-way traffic on a single track, so it slowed me down. I got into the aid station, ate then hit the bathroom. I was hoping the issue was that it was full, which can make it slide out. The bathroom was so nasty there was no way I was going to sit down in there, so I had to take out the cup, which wasn’t full, empty it and put it back in standing back up. That isn’t the best method and I knew immediately upon leaving that it wasn’t right still. I’m going to get real honest here and tell you I think the reason it wasn’t fitting correctly is because I was incredibly constipated. My asthma had been super flared up over the last few months and I was on week 4 of prednisone. A happy tummy that does not make. Anyway, it wasn’t staying in place and I wasn’t happy about it. I stopped two more times in the woods and tried to put the damn thing back in, but it wasn’t going well. When I got to the mile 11 aid station I went into the bathroom, took it out and bagged it. Fuck it, I couldn’t deal with a chaffed vagina, I would rather chance it without it. Thankfully I wore my Thinx,  that day, so I wasn’t totally free bleeding.

This course is a double out and back so remember that big hill I ran down, now I get to climb back up it. It is huge! My calves were burning, and my hip flexors were getting sore. It seemed to take a lot longer to get back to the pavement coming back. This section is very rocky, so it is a little slippery which slowed me down a bit, but since I had been running a little fast it wasn’t a bad thing. You hit the pavement and run downhill, you can see the finish line and they send you back into the woods up another giant hill. The first lap it was cruel, the second lap it was torture! I spent a little time at the start finish aid station and changed into new wool socks. I knew they would be wet again in 4 miles, but it was worth it to have dry feet for a little while. By this time, it is raining pretty consistently but I enjoyed my midway treat, a grapefruit LaCroix and some potato chips, then feeling a little stiff I took off on loop two. I was getting sore and afraid that this loop was going to be a lot slower than the first. Hiking back up the same first hill shook things out a little bit and I was looking forward to the big downhill run again. I hit the aid station again and headed back into the swamp. The mud really got to me the second loop and I walked more than I wanted to, but I am super proud of myself because I refused to let myself get caught in the walking too much trap. I would walk a few steps and then say aloud, “Suck it up buttercup” or “it is supposed to be hard” and run again. I for sure got hit by the struggle bus in loop two but I kept on moving forward. When I got to the aid station to turn around and head back for the last time I lingered a little bit eating. I had ham, oranges, a lot of coke and chatted a bit. It was really raining now but the temps were warm enough that I was still in my tank top and didn’t want my rain shell. Back over the water crossings for the last time and through the swamp to the last aid station where I enjoyed the best avocado of my life! Then the push to the finish line!

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After hiking uphill on loop one I was supposed to run as much of loop two as I could. I knew even on my best day I couldn’t run up the big hill to get out of the bowl, so I knew there was a lot of hiking in my future. I was so sore that I was afraid I would be miserable and lose ton of time on the big hills, but I didn’t. I just kept muscling through and climbing up. I did have to stop and catch my breath a few times. It was about this time that my left knee really started to hurt, and my stomach decided it was time to poop. I told them both to fuck off, we had less than five miles left in this race and I would deal with them when I finished. As you hit the pavement at the end there is a port a john, it’s about mile 27. I really didn’t want to stop and lose any time, but my stomach wouldn’t wait any longer, so I made a quick pit stop and then ran down the hill to go back up the last climb. The climb although really challenging wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it would be on exhausted legs but coming down into the finish was a little slower than loop one, it was wet, slick and I was tired.

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Photo credit Mile 90 Photography

I finished this race in 7 hours and 22 minutes which is a little over a two-hour improvement in my personal record for a 50K. I have never been prouder of a race, I ran smart, I ate a ton and I kept pushing even when it was hard. Running for me is never a solo sport, I couldn’t do it without a lot of help. I have friends and family watching my kids, so I can practice, my coach guiding me, friends encouraging me and running with me, I can’t thank them enough!

 

That one time I tried to run..

This has been a hard year. Divorce, starting a new job, moving twice, gaining 20 pounds, trying to find and stay true to who I am. It’s been a bit of a marathon.. Lots of hills, tears, sweat and battling nearly every part of my being. Physically it’s tough, trying to find my path to loving myself and keeping my body healthy. Mentally, keeping my head in the game and having a progressive mindset to keep going. Emotionally, well that’s a gamble any given day. I consistently feel like I don’t belong in this world, like there just isn’t space for me and it’s a daily battle to try to figure out exactly where I fit. Because of all this, I decided that one thing would be in my control this year and I would choose to do something hard. I chose Triple Lakes 40k.

I started training really early for this race. It’s not that I’m new to running but along with a lot of other things, I had given it up. I knew I could do this and I knew it would be hard but I was ready and willing to put in the work. I had plenty of training runs that made me want to give up and several that were really good for my soul. One particular 10 mile run made me feel really strong and capable and I felt encouraged to keep going. And then… It was a Saturday, shortly after a round of bad storms in the Kansas City area and I found myself running along Blue River and dodging obstacles that had been washed over the pathway. About 9 miles into my 14 mile run, I started to get an annoying pain in the outside of my left knee. Like most stubborn runners, I decided to ignore it and keep pushing. Rainey joined me for the last 4 miles and it turned into more of a hike than a run as the knee pain worsened. I was sure it was just overworked and nothing serious so I took a few days off, made a couple of visits to True Health to see my chiropractor and kept trying to run. Unfortunately, the pain continued and stopped my runs at about 1-2 miles in. I again, stubbornly decided that I just needed to rest it and I took to biking instead of running while I started counting down the last few weeks until the race. After several more visits to the chiropractor, acupuncture, foam rolling, and alternate cardio, the Dr broke the news that he deemed it highly unlikely that I would be physically capable of finishing my race. I went through a roller coaster of emotions when he told me that but I’m persistent and I was determined that I was at least going to try.

The plane landed in North Carolina and there was obviously no turning back at that point. We spent the next day enjoying food and family and then made a trip out to the trail head to see where the race would begin the next day. I was so nervous that I was nauseous. The trail was beautiful, the encouragement from my friends and another runner we met at the trail head was great but in spite of my determination, that fear lingered. I knew this would be hard and I knew I needed to prove something to myself. I’ve never been a quitter and this was going to be my moment this year. I needed to prove that I wasn’t going to fail at everything. I needed to feel strong and capable. I needed every mile to run away the pain and confusion and guilt that has plagued my every decision this year. I needed this race. I had worked so hard and race day was finally happening.

We woke up early on race day, had some breakfast, geared up and headed for the start line. I was surprisingly much less nervous that morning than I had been all week and I took that as a good sign. Everything happened so fast once we arrived at the start. It seemed like a matter of minutes and the race had already begun. We started up hill and on pavement instead of trail so Rainey and I decided we would stick with a nice power hike until we found some dirt. It took us over a mile to find that dirt but when we did, we were ready and took off! The trail was gorgeous and we immediately fell into conversation and began to enjoy our time in the woods. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3, the pain in my knee started. The discouragement threatened to overwhelm me but I pushed it aside and decided it was going to be fine. If it didn’t get any worse, I could still finish. A couple of miles later the pain in my knee was still there and I was starting to feel like my shoes were rubbing on both heels. I had worn those exact socks and shoes for most of my runs and to this day have no idea why I had this issue. We met our crew at mile 8 and I changed shoes but the damage had already been done. I had huge blisters on the back of my heels and my knee was not letting up. We made it another 3 miles to the next aid station and that is where I believe I made my first mistake. I decided to try putting bandaids over the blisters and while adjusting the bandage on my left heal managed to rip the skin entirely off the blister. I wasn’t ready to let this stop me. I walked a few steps, adjusted my shoe and walked a few more. I tried Rainey’s shoe, still in pain. I finally settled on wearing my shoe like an elementary kid and smashed the heal down in the back and kept going.

Somewhere around mile 12 the reality of how I was feeling began to really hit. I could lie and tell you that I was tough. I could tell you I was angry and pissed. I could tell you it wasn’t fair and blame everything under the sun. I could also tell you the truth. I cried. My heart broke as the waves of emotion and the reality that I wouldn’t be able to finish, hit me like a brick wall. I felt like a failure. I had worked so hard for that finish line moment and now I wasn’t going to get that moment. Why did this keep happening? I felt like I had experienced so much failure already this year, didn’t I deserve one moment of success? My marriage had failed. I had failed my fitness plan. I felt like I had failed my children and my parents and my friends because so often I had been a wreck over the past year. My heart was breaking and I was crashing through the stages of grief over and over again and yet, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Several times I encouraged Rainey to go on and finish without me but because she is the best human ever, she stuck with me. We had now made it 13 miles and we were still at least 2 miles from the next aid station where our crew was waiting.

Those last two miles were brutal. Dave and Reed (our crew) hiked in with ice and a wrap for my knee. Rainey and I said an emotional good-bye, we loaded her up with fuel from my pack and she took off to finish the race. It took me 49 minutes to go the last mile to the aid station. Multiple times, I had to stop half way down a hill and cry in pain. I couldn’t stop though, I wouldn’t. My knee hurt, my heels hurt and now I had a sharp pain in the outside of my right foot but somewhere deep down, I knew that I had to walk out of those woods on my own two feet.

I made it out and was ushered into the car. The tears continued to flow as we drove to the finish line to watch and wait for Rainey to finish the race. Every time someone came running in and was awarded that medal and the congrats of finishing the race, a fresh batch of tears would spill down my cheeks. This was hard. Life was hard. But.. I knew I had done my best, regardless of the outcome.

The rest of that day and the following day was an emotional and at times hilarious journey of me trying to walk, being ushered through the airport in a wheelchair and passing the time in flight by watching Star Wars with Dave. We made it home, I put my feet up and officially started my post-race healing journey. The insane amount of love and encouragement that I have gotten from my friends, family and co-workers has been so beautiful. This was only one race, one year of my life, one more challenge that I would face, even if it didn’t turn out like I had hoped. This is a single page, not the entire book and there’s no way I’m giving up now.

As I write this, I’m sitting at home with my ugly knee brace on, watching football and trying to listen to my body’s cry for rest. My LCL sprain will heal, just like my heart is healing and even if I never find that exact place in life where I “fit” or even if I never finish a 25 mile race (I will!!! :), I know this isn’t the end and these failures, such as they are will not define me. I’m letting go… I didn’t fail to run 25 miles, I ran 15. I didn’t fail my marriage, I spent over a decade of my life loving fiercely and learning so much. I’m not failing my children, I hope I’m inspiring them to love themselves and try hard things. I have people in my life who will love me no matter what and I know my journey is nowhere near the end. It’s just beginning and it will be a great adventure.

 

 

 

Shawnee Hills 50k

If you read my Bryce Canyon 50k blog you know that I DNF’d. It was so disappointing after all the training so I decided to try again to conquer the 50k. After searching I found one that fit in my timeline and wasn’t terribly far away. Best of all the accommodations were included in the race entry fee!!! I read the course description, followed them on Facebook and signed up. The Shawnee Hills 100 mile Endurance Race looked amazing. It had waterfalls, a national forest and treehouses!!

The last weekend in August I packed up my nathan hydration vest and headed to southern Illinois. The race started and ended at  Camp Ondessonk, the cutest little place. It has all these cabin clusters that are mostly three walled, open air tree houses. We ended up with four walls but had a fun deck and fire pit. We got settled in, attended the pre race meeting and made dinner before heading to bed.

Race Day dawned with perfect running weather. I was a lot more nervous this time. I don’t know if it was the fear of failing or just knowing the challenge I was heading into, on purpose. My coach, Coleen gave me a bracelet with her picture and a reminder not to go out like an asshole. This was my mantra for the first 3 miles. 20398261_1961105464104833_2836055162831765504_n

I tried to take it nice and slow for the first few miles, which wasn’t terribly hard since there were a few hills to get out of the campground. The forest was gorgeous, even though all the water fall’s were dry.

My asthma was really giving me trouble and I struggled to breathe. I wasn’t sure if the nerves were causing the asthma or the asthma was making the nerves worse but I felt both of them, terribly the first 10 miles or so. Feeling very frustrated I wondered if I was cut out to run long distances. The mind is such an important part of distance running so I tried coming up with a mantra to help me stay positive but I could not think of anything I believed. Finally I settled on the song from the Lego movie. “Everything is awesome!” I sang this over and over to myself, the entire day.

Around mile 5 we came out of the woods onto a fire road, heading into aid station number 1. I was pretty sure there were only 2 people behind me so I was surprised when people started passing me. At first I thought maybe I was mistaken about how many people were behind me, but as more and more runners came from behind and passed me I started to panic that I had taken a wrong turn and cut the course somehow. When a girl I had spoken to in the first mile passed me I asked her what was up. Turns out a large group of runners had taken a wrong turn and added a little distance to their race. This would be an ongoing theme for this race. I felt pretty good at the first aid station, so with Coleen’s words echoing in my ears I got in and got out very quickly.

The next big challenge was a very rocky section. I found it difficult to run this stretch and did a lot of power hiking. There were people everywhere setting up for a day of rock climbing. Coming out of this section I spotted a local photographer hired to document the race. He was set up for an amazing shot but I was nervous I would fall and make a fool of myself. I decided to run across the rocks anyway, injuries be damned, I wanted a cool race photo. Mile 90 photography did not disappoint!!!!

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Photo Credit Mile 90 Photography

Right after this image was taken I heard my name being shouted. My husband Dave and my friend Leia were at the top of the falls and cheering for me! I looked up and then around and said aloud, “How the hell do I get up there?” I soon found out! This was one of the coolest sections of the race. I got to run through a “cave” and up a steep rock climb! Then the trails led along the top of the falls. This section was hard but so amazing we went back and hiked it Sunday. Coming into the second aid station I knew I needed to lose the tall socks and ankle brace. I was hot and it was rubbing my foot wrong. Lucky for me Dave and Leia were waiting for me. They changed my shoes and fed me and had me back out of there like a professional pit crew.

The next aid station was about 5 miles away and by the time I was heading into it my hip flexors were really hurting. I wasn’t sure I could keep going.  I hiked with another runner for about a quarter of a mile and she encouraged me to keep moving. At the aid station I fueled up on soda and pickles. It was really starting to heat up so I had them give me ice to take out on the trail too. A guy I knew had passed me early on was hanging out at the aid station. I asked if he was ok and tried to encourage him to head back out on the trail. He turned me down but then decided to catch up to me a little way down the trail. His name was Jason and he became my race buddy. We stuck together for the rest of the race. When I threw up at mile 25 he waited for me to pull it together and we headed out together. If one of us could run we both tried, when one of us needed a walk we both  hiked. We stuck together the next 16 miles and it was just what I needed. I did finish this race, in 9 hours and 30 minutes. I couldn’t have done it alone, Dave, Leia and Jason all got me through. 21077286_10159227588800254_5525397206382680586_n.jpg

This race suffered from vandalism several times. People using the trails were taking down course markings. It caused a lot of runners to get lost, multiple times during the race. Most runners missed the third aid station which left them with 13 miles or more between places to refuel. I cannot stress how dangerous this was. Missing a water refill with that far to go in the heat of August is not something to mess around with. I was so lucky I never got lost but I may literally be the only one that didn’t. I wanted to feel stronger for the race. I didn’t want to struggle as early as I did but that was what happened. I promised myself the entire race and the rest of the week that I wouldn’t do another one. I checked it off my list now I can stick with half marathons or 25k’s. This week I am researching my next 50k. That is what trail runners do. We have a love hate relationship with the distance and the pain. My plan is to spend the winter getting stronger and focusing on my weaknesses.

I am proud of my accomplishment, I ran even after vomiting, through pain and mental fatigue. The aid stations were amazing and kind, my crew ROCKS and the forest was absolutely stunning. I call it a success!!!

Who am I?

IMG_1133Your parent’s influence you by the way they raise you. Your friends impact your world and your self-esteem by the way they treat you. Your teachers and bosses create a lasting mark on your work ethic and how you see yourself as a student and employee.  You pick up a book and you identify with the character or you go to church and you feel it stir your soul. You feel connection and awareness on a walk through the woods and you find security and love in a laughing fest with a friend. There are so many moments that shape us throughout our lives, right down to the day we take our last breath. So, through all of these feelings, connections, influences and moments when our soul feels free, how do we know who we really are?
Our friend Kelly at Elements Studio Photography recently did an art photo shoot where everyone picked a word that they identified with. It was incredibly moving to see the way that we humans categorize ourselves based on past experience, interaction or relationship with other humans and many other circumstances that were often beyond our control.  Some people claim their word and allow it to give them strength and give them wings. Others of us are more prone to being caged by this reality and allowing those defining walls to hold us back within the boundaries of our insecurities. With so many emotions and so many roller coaster rides through fear and love and indecision, how do we settle on the core of who we are? How do we set a foundation for being unapologetically, confidently, fearlessly our true authentic self?
In my experience, being able to tap into awareness is at the heart of finding a grounded sense of where our core being begins.  That moment while reading a book and your heart felt lighter, that first step into nature where your feet were on clouds, that conversation with your best friend with the most amazing cup of coffee that just felt right… Those are the moments where we find ourselves. The moments when you catch yourself in such a connected moment that even your physical body can’t help but respond, pay attention. Be Aware. If it makes you feel lighter or makes your heart feel full, then it’s feeding your soul which means that’s a glimpse of your true self. Grab on to these moments and let them soak in! We push ourselves through pain and stress and endless emotions on a daily basis and we lose sight of the fact that emotions are important. Those emotional, mental and spiritual connections to our bodies are a gift that we would benefit from paying attention to.
I think a lot of times we get caught up thinking that these self discovery moments need to be a big grandiose slap in the face that pushes us into a higher version of ourselves. I don’t know how many of you have actually experienced that flamboyant of a moment, but I bet the majority of you have at least had a tiny moment of feeling “right” in your body. We don’t have to discount the smaller things in life, not ever. In fact, I believe that the more we learn to be grateful for the little things like a new running PR or a delicious home cooked meal, the more we ground ourselves into this amazing being we were created to be. Pay attention to what makes you feel. What stops you in your tracks with a GOOD emotion? Be aware of what touches your soul and feels great all the way down to your toes! And then, do more of THAT! Don’t be afraid to embrace pleasure and joy along with the stress and frustration that can sometimes haunt our everyday lives. You deserve to feel alive! It is your right as a human to feel pleasure along with pain, to feel strong and confident in your skin and to know that no matter what is going on with you, you have stability and a deep-seated knowing that who you really are will never be rocked by outside circumstances. I know, I know.. These are just a bunch of fluffy words that aren’t super specific but why do we feel like we need three steps and a mantra to put us on the right path? Mantras are fantastic! Having a 10 step program to better our personal life? Awesome! But you don’t NEED that! You just need you, and an intention to be aware of and notice yourself. You are important. You are significant. You are beautiful just the way you are. You are enough. You are always, undeniably, courageously, passionately, beautifully enough.

Why the F*** do we run?

RAINEY:

Imagine, me, very pregnant with baby number 2 and staring down my 30th birthday. I am not sure why being a mommy to 2 and turning 30 felt like such a big deal but it did. I wanted to do something crazy and wild. What kind of crazy wild idea does a mommy to two small kiddos do though? I don’t know if I read a blog about running, or saw a documentary or what but I decided what could be more wild and crazy than running a marathon for a non runner? I have never liked to run. I only ran if we were required to for PE or occasionally in college to be supportive of friends. A mile would be hard for me, hell, a quarter of a mile! After much research into training on google I told everyone “as soon as this baby arrives I am going to train for a marathon” and I signed up for our local marathon. Baby girl #2 arrived mid February. As soon as my midwife cleared me to run I was ready and set out armed with the training plan I downloaded off the internet.

Let’s be clear here, I knew nothing about running. Some days I still feel like I don’t know much about it. I am not the person super into the technical side of things. I am still not sure what a fartlek is. I didn’t know you needed to be fitted for shoes (you don’t have to but man does it make a difference!) or need to eat before, during and after runs (this is called fueling!) and I certainly didn’t know what I needed to do to get across the finish line. I had six months to get myself there and a checklist of runs to do.

My first day I was supposed to run intervals of 2 and walk 2 for like 10 minutes or something really easy sounding. I think I ran 30 seconds, walked a few minutes and went home. I walked in flushed, sweaty and almost sick. What in the hell did I get myself in to? I find it hard to give myself grace and not be a total perfectionist and at that time I really didn’t let myself off the hook. Eventually I started to get the hang of it and started building up mileage. I pushed through so many runs and built my mileage too fast, which is an honest mistake but a mistake nonetheless. I will never forget my 15 mile run. I walked a good portion of the second half and I had to call my husband for a ride 1 mile from my house. I just couldn’t go any more. That week I decided to drop down and do the half marathon instead. My back was killing me and I just didn’t believe I could ever go the distance for a full.

I did finish my first half marathon one month before I turned 30 and the day after my baby turned 9 months. I was incredibly proud of myself and can only compare finishing a big race to the feeling of accomplishment after giving birth. I felt like such a bad ass!

That is all it took for me to be hooked. The next few years I would train all summer and run a fall race. Honestly I still had very little idea what I was doing but I kept getting out there and running. Eventually I signed up for a Spring race and started winter running. Then in 2014 I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for another full marathon.

Today I have run 3 full marathons, more half marathon’s than I can remember off the top of my head and I am attempting my first 50k this year!

BETH:

Why the eff do I run? To eat all the food? Possibly. To have strong legs? I mean that’s always a bonus. To clear my head? Often. Because I like the idea of setting goals, kicking ass and taking names? Probably. Because I can do the impossible? To push myself every step of every mile to be the best I can be and never give up? I think we might be on to something. This my friends, Is my year to do the things I thought I’d never do.

If you read our earlier blogs you know that I’m going through a divorce this year. That is obviously something I never set out to accomplish In life but nonetheless it is happening. So why the hell shouldn’t I run a marathon this year too? Good question. I’m sure I could give you a lot of reasons why not to run but you really only need one to get started. I’ve been a runner for many years now but I recently took a year and a half off to heal a foot injury. If you ever taken time off of anything, you know it can be difficult to get started again and this time was no exception. I started off slow and I’m working my way up to running a marathon in October.

In the past, the longest distance I’ve run is a half marathon so this is a big step for me. Running can be difficult physically, mentally and emotionally but I know I have the strength in all of those areas to endure and cross that finish line. So why run a marathon or in this case a 40k? Well, you get awesome swag that usually involves a t-shirt and a medal but that’s just stuff. I’ve chosen a destination marathon so I get to travel. I’ve also chosen a trail run so I’ll be surrounded by the beauty and healing energy of nature. I also have the amazing opportunity of getting to run beside my best friend and business partner. ❤ All of those things are great reasons to push toward that finish line but the only reason I really need is that I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it for the discipline of pounding out training runs in the ungodly early morning hours. I’m doing it to find strength in my body in ways I never have before. I’m doing it to prove to myself that impossible is possible and I quite literally only have to put one foot in front of the other to make it happen.

So, my encouragement to you right now is that whatever you want this year, go for it. Let nothing hold you back, even if it seems impossible.

Bryce Canyon 50k

I decided this year that I wanted to attempt my first ultra marathon. My first plan was to run one in February in Texas but shoulder surgery cancelled that. A group of Mud Babes was planning to go to Utah for a destination race and I thought why not!? I will tell you why not. It is hot in Utah, this year unseasonably hot. It is much higher altitude than I am used to and there is a lot of ascent in this race. I knew all of this going in and none of it scared me off. I was less nervous than I normally am for long races. I felt a little unprepared mileage wise but ready and willing to tackle this crazy ass race. My hubs and I decided to make a road trip out of it and do some sight seeing after the race too so I was really looking forward to this trip/race. We left Wednesday before race day on Saturday and drove into Denver, Thursday we drove to Grand junction and Friday we arrived at Bryce. I thought this time would help me acclimate. The entire KC crew had dinner together pre-race at our hotel restaurant and then went to our rooms to prepare for race morning. Each distance had a different start time so the 100 milers were already out there when we arrived in town, the 50 milers started at 6 am, 50k was at 8 and the half marathoners were after that. There were four of us doing the 50k. We were all chatty and excited on the shuttle to the start line. Then it was time to run! The first five miles were our biggest ascent and I was winded and nauseous from the get go. I tried to run smart though and take it easy so I would have some gas left for the second half. It went well for the first 7 miles then my race went to shit. I puked my guts up four times out on that trail, four times!!! It was awful. After the first time I thought I may be able to rally but after the second time I was pretty sure my day was over. Except guess what! It wasn’t over because I was in the middle of the wilderness with no where to go except the next aid station. I first got sick at mile 9.5 and I could go back 2 miles to the previous aid station (where we were warned a ride out would take several hours to get to us) or continue to the next aid station at 14 where Dave was waiting, with my car. Forward motion it is then! Trail runners are an amazing group of people. I can’t tell you how many people asked if I was ok as I shuffled towards my DNF (did not finish) and several even offered to stay with me to make sure I made it. I declined not wanting to ruin any one else’s race. I knew I was rough but also knew I was going to be fine. As fate would have it to get into the aid station (which my watch said was at 14.6) you had to go down a very steep, loose ravine wall and back up the other side. Seriously! I stumbled down and powered my way up the other side to see Dave working the aid station and waiting for me. He waved enthusiastically and jumped up for a kiss and hug. I pushed right past him mumbling that I was dropping and went in to the tent and sat my ass down on a cot where I stayed until the next round of dry heaves sent me outside. Dave had offered a few other runners that were in rough shape a ride back to their car and so he gathered his group of dehydrate, smelly people and delivered us to the luxury of our air conditioned hotel. The last two miles of this experience I swore off running, altitude and all hot weather activities. After a nap and some serious sobbing over the loss of my race I felt a lot better. I would be fine one moment and crying uncontrollably the next moment. I cried over not finishing, no bragging rights, no finisher’s mug (instead of medals), I cried because I didn’t feel well. I have busted my butt to get back in to running shape post surgery this year and I was more than a little disappointed over not finishing. I have never dropped a race before. I put in the training and the hard work and it just didn’t work out this time. It happens to everyone and I know dropping was the smart thing to do but it still didn’t prepare me for the grief I felt.

I went to the finish line to watch my friends finish their races and spent the rest of the day/evening there cheering on those badasses that crossed both the start and finish line at Bryce Canyon.

Like childbirth after the passage of time you forget just how challenging and hard it was and are ready to do it again. I am ready!!19399035_10158855220505254_3877623454136802444_n

 

Triple Lakes 40K

Sometimes we get a crazy idea and just go with it. Actually, most times. Start a business together? Sure. Take up running as an adult? Of course. Run a new race distance through the woods? Why not!!! Beth and I are training for the Triple lakes 40k in the fall. We thought why not take all of you along with us, at least virtually. If you are a runner you know that running can be therapeutic. If you are not a runner then let me tell you running can lead you to a lot of places, physically and emotionally. There WILL be poop talk, feelings of empowerment, frustration, self doubt and finding new things out about ourselves. We are going to blog all along our training journey and share it with you! So follow us on Facebook and Instagram. FB_IMG_14975418253141

IPhone Video

During a run the other day I decided to video a section of trail I was running. It was a little technical and I wanted to share it. In my mind this video was amazing and I would go home and edit it and it would become mind blowing. It should be noted that I have never edited a video in my life, but I have an IPhone so it should be easy, peasy. Um, no. First of all my video was less than amazing to begin with so the finished product didn’t quite live up to the mind blowing status I hoped for. It is jerky, a little nauseating (think Blair Witch Project), the music doesn’t fit the video length and maybe not all that entertaining. But you know what, I don’t care. I had so much fun making it and I am proud of my first attempt! Yes, I said first because I will definitely be trying again. Videos may just become a new hobby for me. That is one of the defining traits here at Free and Fierce. Try new things, go for it, have fun!!! So if you want to get a little motion sick go check out my video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq20W3yTC-s&t=7s16865116_1906357996259882_7170517685655487564_n