Tag: goals

Love Hurts: Headwaters Ultra 50K Race Review

My day started out as usual. Woke up at 6, ate my typical pre-long run breakfast of toast, almond butter, honey and banana and washed it down with some strong espresso. I was really pleased to look out the window and see that my prayers had been answered. The hazy smoke from nearby wildfires that was building up in the sky all week had miraculously blown out of Shasta. It was an exceptionally beautiful day for a trail race.

Before I left my house for the starting line at Lake Siskiyou, I gave myself a middle school-style temporary sharpie tattoo on my upper arm.

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Because I neglected to snap a photo of it before the race, credit goes to my friend Jason, one of many wonderful volunteers who made the race so much easier for us runners. This was taken at Aid Station 3/4, right after I shoveled some PB&J and watermelon into my sweaty, salt-encrusted face. Since I was certain not all of it got into my mouth, Jason was so kind as to keep my head out of the photo :)

Leif is the owner of the mountain shop that I work at, and has been in critical condition for the past few weeks. It’s been a really difficult and intensely emotional time for those of us who work at The Fifth Season as well as many members of this beautiful community. Leif is a very strong and driven man who many of us look up to as a father-figure rather than simply just a boss. Although it’s been a tough time for all of us, the love and support that this community has provided is thoroughly heart-warming and makes me feel so grateful to be here. I figured dedicating my first 50K to Leif was the very least I could do. In fact, it helped me to finish.

I started off strong. Maybe too strong. For all the long runs I’ve done, I honestly have never pushed my body so hard that I found its breaking point. I decided that Saturday was my opportunity to really see what I could do. I didn’t want to bring my GPS watch because I didn’t want to know how fast I was going, I just wanted to listen to my body and focus 100% of my energy on finishing the race as fast as I possibly could.

At the starting line, I ran into our Smartwool rep, who I had met at the shop the day before. We had joked that I was going to pack a sleeping bag so that I could nap comfortably at the finish line while I waited for him. So, of course, my nickname for the day became “sleeping bag.” Hated it/couldn’t do anything about it/learned to love it.

I pushed really hard for the first few miles just to establish a spot for myself. That spot happened to be among a pack of alpha males that included Smartwool. After running together for the first several miles, it became clear that they were all pretty well seasoned ultrarunners, one of whom was chatting casually about trying to win a silver in a very famous 100 mile race. That’s where I found myself. Little newbie blonde girl’s gonna try to keep up with the big boys.

When they slowed down to walk up a hill that I knew was nothin compared to the hills to come, I decided to push past and jog up it with the short stride, high cadence approach. Clearly, being expert ultrarunners, two of the big dudes immediately began critiquing my technique, referring to it as the “granny shuffle.”

“Hey,” I yelled back at them, “this feels so easy, I might as well be reclining in a La-Z Boy!”

Not only did that shut em up right quick, I also heard one say, “Shit, I can’t believe I got chick’d so early in a race.”

He got chick’d. I LOVE IT!

But they were right. I was pushing at an unsustainable pace. They flew ahead of me at the first aid station, and I didn’t hear their hoots and hollers again until I hobbled across the finish line, greeted by giant smiles and hugs.

Why was I hobbling instead of running? Somewhere around mile 22ish, I busted my right foot. I just had it x-rayed yesterday, and definitely have a stress fracture in my second metatarsal, which is evidently a common injury for ultrarunners. I blame myself and my shoes for this injury. I’d been training on the race course, and knew that my old, beat-up barefoot Merrells weren’t nearly enough to protect my footsies from all the rocks on the course. I tried to order myself a new pair of trail shoes with some cushioning and a rock plate, but the delivery failed, twice, and I had no choice but to use what I had. I suspected it might be a problem, and I only made that worse by bounding down a rocky slope at full-speed before I reached the halfway point of the race.

It was straight-up masochistic and egomaniacal, and I paid the price.

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I love my feet.

Every time I set my right foot down, I felt searing pain. After 9 or 10 miles of this, including a second trip down the rocky slope I had totally killed the first time, my pride hurt just as much as the foot. I worked so hard to stay ahead for the first 2/3 of the race, and now suddenly people were passing me.

As they ran past and saw that I was limping, other runners would try to cheer me up, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I was angry at myself and on the verge of tears, but I kept going. There was no effin way I was going to drop out of that race.

I kept fuming silently, and occasionally crying out loud, until about half a mile before the finish line. Somewhere around this point, I realized that I was about to finish my first ultra. The notion brought a smile to my face that stayed with me until I dragged my gimpy ass across the finish. My time was 7:05 and change, which I’m pretty pleased with, considering the circumstances.

I set out to challenge myself and find out what my body can do. It was the first time I ever finished a race feeling like I couldn’t go on any further, and that feeling is intensely satisfying. Mother nature beat my swollen ego back into place and taught me that I am NOT, in fact, a superhuman. My body is breakable, although my spirit sure as hell ain’t.

The best part of all, is that while I was relaxing with some beer and pasta after the race, apologizing to all the passing sweethearts that I had growled at in my painful, self-loathing misery during the last leg, the dude I made the La-Z Boy comment to called me a STUD. This, to me, made it all worth it. I will break a foot any day to have a gorgeous, tall, broad-shouldered, athletic male ultrarunner call ME a stud. Instant ego re-inflation, my friends.

I will be back on the trail in about 6 weeks, or whenever my bone is healed up.

To see farther, climb higher

 

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The view from Mt. Eddy summit, looking down on Black Butte (the little peak in front of Shasta)!

It’s been quite a while since I last updated this blog. That’s only because I’ve been directing all of my energy toward a major transition (yes, another one).

Shasta is just so utterly, undeniably wonderful- I decided that I wanted to move here indefinitely. Oddly enough, I meet people with similar stories almost every day. People who came to Shasta for a visit and have now been here for over 15 years.

They say Mt. Shasta is an energy vortex. She either sucks you in or spits you out. Well, I guess I got sucked right in, because within a couple weeks of falling in love with this place, I was able to find a sweet job at the coolest mountain shop in town, a great room to rent on a homestead, and an amazing group of new friends.

A double layer of icing on that cake- my room has green shag carpet and there’s an ultramarathon happening only a few miles from where I live!

But it hasn’t been all hunky dory over here. With all of these changes occurring in my life, I was starting to feel a little out of control. A little frazzled. A little bit like I needed to start training for a race!!!

Honestly, the moment I learned about the Headwaters Ultra, I was 100% convinced that I was meant to be in Shasta. I’ve found Home.

Training for my very first 50K has helped me restructure my life and stabilize myself in this amazing new place. It forces me to take very good care of my health, to wake up early every day, and to spend hours running through the mountains, breathing fresh air and drinking wild water from mountain springs. It teaches me to quiet my mind and focus my energy on moving forward. It provides me with the confidence that I can, in fact, commit to something that I love even though it hurts and sometimes keeps me from doing other fun things. It gives me perspective.

Every other week I do a long run exceeding twenty miles, which always proves to be a transformative experience. Spending several hours running through the wilderness makes me feel completely at peace and madly in love with the mountains, while simultaneously making me feel like a savage beast who can rip your face off with my teeth. Sometimes I get hungry enough to do so.

This past long run took me up Mt Eddy, one of the beautiful mountains I admire every day. I parked at Lake Siskiyou and ran a few miles down North Shore Rd before getting on the Sisson-Callahan Trail. By the time I got to the end of that trail, I was about a half mile from turning around. I had planned on only going 24 miles, but some tourists I spoke to told me that I was only about a half hour hike from Mt. Eddy summit. There was no way I was going to turn around that close to the top. No_effing_way, baby. That is NOT my style.

So, I added a couple miles to my route. I ran out of water on the way up the summit and had to beg for a bottle. I was almost late for dinner. But all of these things were worth it for the incredibly spectacular views from the top!

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I could have gone down to Deadfall Lakes and refilled my water bladder at a spring, but the summit was too tempting. Maybe next time, lakes.
You can see Lake Siskiyou, my starting point, in the distance. THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!!!
You can see Lake Siskiyou, my starting point, in the distance. THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!!!

 

Starting point: Lake Siskiyou, 3,185 feet

Turnaround point: Mt. Eddy Summit, 9,037 feet

When I say I “ran,” I mean I power-hiked up and actually ran down. That’s just how I do. Hell yes!

YES! I aM Crazy! It’s LiBerating, you should Try it!”

When I first started this blog, it was primarily about running. It’s my true love, the thing that saved my life and keeps me going. That’s kind of why I chose the name “irunintotrees.”* Trail running is way better than road running (obviously) and sometimes, when I’m not paying attention (often) or when I run without contact lenses, I might (often) smack into a branch or two. With my face.

*high five*

I haven’t been writing a whole lot about running recently. Not because I haven’t been running, but more because my running routine has gotten much more… routine. I only began running a little over five years ago, so at first everything was new, exciting, and I was pretty darn impressed with my constant improvement. After a while, it started getting more and more difficult to out-do myself. I still remember the first time I ever ran the entire 15 mile stretch of the Columbia Trail in New Jersey. It took at least half a day before I could even believe I had done it. My feet haven’t amazed me like that in a really long time.

One of my favorite aspects of the long runs that used to totally dominate my weekends was the thrill of knowing that, at some point in the ever-increasing distances, I would hit a point where every step I took was the farthest I had ever ran. Today, I would have to run over 31 miles to hit that same point. That ish takes time, yo! Not to mention that I don’t think I could go much farther than 15 miles right now without hurting myself (body and ego). So, needless to say, I miss that feeling.

I haven’t pushed miles in a couple of years, and during the bizzy farming season my body was way too exhausted to handle more than 20 miles per week. In January, when I registered for my first official (timed and paid for and all that jazz) race in over two years, I figured I would probably just be embarrassing myself.. but hey, I LOVE EMBARRASSING MYSELF! It makes people look at me like I’m very special. But I’m really glad I went for it, because the 2014 Trinidad to Clam Beach 8 3/4 mile run started to bring back that warm, fuzzy love buzz I used to get from running.

However! I actually rather impressed myself with my performance. Before the race started, I told this lovely lady pictured with me below that I’d be happy if I ran a 9 min mile for the 8 3/4 race. After saying it out loud, I thought to myself how I might not even make that pace. I’ve hardly bothered to keep track of my times and miles in the past year or so. I used to log that data religiously. My nerdery has decreased substantially with the whole dropping off the face of the Earth, living off the grid, out of my car, in a tent, and on what should have been called, “The REAL World: White Hippie Farmers” kind of thing I’ve been getting into recently.

This is me and the new friend I met at my pre-race breakfast, talking about how slow we're about to "run"
This is me and the new friend I met at my pre-race breakfast, talking about how slow we’re about to “run.” Forgetting my shades was a major mistake.

Anyway, I clearly had no idea what kind of shape I was in, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life is that if you set your expectations way low, you’re much less likely to feel the sting of disappointment! Yay positive thinking!

The race was amazing. It started out in the lovely little coastal town of Trinidad, CA. The night before, I couch surfed with an older (but by no means OLD) woman who is locally famous for her  involvement in environmental activism and food politics. It was honestly the best possible couch surfing experience I could have imagined. Carol was also hosting three dudes who were cycling from Seattle to San Diego that night, but she let me stay in “The Princess Room.” The cyclists were all friendly and I stayed up chatting with them for a bit after Carol went to bed, but I mostly hit it off with this one guy who, of course, turned out to be a runner himself. Even better, a trail runner. Better yet, an ultra trail runner.  I should have known upon first sight; he just had the look to him. The long hair, scruffy beard, and well-conditioned body combined with a general “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. The crass jokes that didn’t really hide the sweetheart underneath. Oh yeah, he was one of us and I knew it.

Obviously, we started talking about running. The conversation, and not just the subject of running, but the opportunity to share this somewhat unusual obsession with another individual, one who felt as passionately about it as I do, roused some pleasant butterflies in my tummy that haven’t made their presence known in quite a while. It felt so good! I missed those butterflies.

“You gotta run like 100 miles per week,” he told me, completely seriously as his travel companions scoffed and rolled their eyes.

“Umm, I would.. buttt I don’t think I have enough time to do that while I’m farming. I don’t even think I’d even have the time to eat enough calories to fuel that much running while working a physically demanding job,” I tried to explain.

“You could do it. Just run everywhere. Stop driving. Run instead.” Something about the way he said it and the look upon his face made me instantly zip my lip. I knew that voice. It was almost like the one I use whenever someone expresses doubt about their own ability to run a marathon, 10K, or even a mile.

It was also exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Not that I’m planning to train for an ultra this summer or anything, but I’m not going to tell myself I can’t either. If I determine that that’s the kind of hell I should put myself through, then I’ll do it. It’s just that most people tell me I’m crazy or some similar adjective whenever I express my burning love for running, especially when the milage gets beyond their own comfort zone. This guy was refreshing because he was ALSO CRAZY and he knew the secret: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMFORT ZONE, FOOLS!

He gets it, and I appreciate that. You know who else gets it? Dogs. But they don’t talk, soooo..

I said goodnight to the cyclists and washed up for bed. But before I retired to the “Princess Room” for the night, ultra-runner dude pointed a finger at me from his spot on the floor in the living room, and shouted, “REMEMBER! The only good pace is suicide pace, and tomorrow’s a GREAT day to die!!” Steve Prefontaine might have said this? Either way, it was perfect.

Back to the race: my couch surfing hostess let me keep my car at her place and gave me some “backroads” directions to get to a sweet little cafe where the bus would pick the runners up to shuttle us off to the starting line. It was a gorgeous walk across this beach

Dang
Dang

Two mugs of java and two delicious pastries later- I was warming up by the starting line. The race went pretty smoothly. It was mostly on the road, with some rolling hills in the beginning. I’m not so great at going up hills, but I can bomb the downhill like a champ. Usually, I can gain distance on people on downhills, or at least keep pace with runners who pass me on the uphills. I just let gravity do its thing and hope I don’t fall.

The last part of the race was a steep downhill, then a small river crossing, and then a good couple of miles on Clam Beach at low tide to the finish line. As soon as I got to this last part, every cell in my body knew it was go time. From the steep downhill onward, I was only passed by two people, who I caught up with about a quarter mile before the finish line. All of the road miles up until that point just felt like a big group run, but when I crossed the river I found my race. I ran in my Five Fingers, so didn’t have to worry about taking off my running shoes when I got to the river crossing like a lot of the other runners did. And when I got to the beach, my feet instantly remembered running barefoot on the sand in Costa Rica, where I officially decided to ditch running shoes altogether. “I totally got this.” Was all I could think as I passed one runner after the other. Either I was getting faster, or they were all getting slower, but probably both.

I passed at least four more people on my final sprint through the finish line and was greeted by Humboldt State University’s pep band, dressed in clown costumes and playing Queen on the beach. Gotta love it!

As far as results go, I was thrilled with my 8:22 pace. I was even more thrilled to find out that I had placed in the top 10 of my age/sex group! I know that this is only because I turned 30 last year and am now among the youngest in my age group, but still.. I finished in the top 25% of females overall. Considering the fact that only five years ago, I couldn’t even picture myself finishing this race, I’m going to be pleased with myself. Plus, I have plenty of room for improvement :)

Last week, I took a nice, slow long run around the base of Mt Shasta for about 10 miles. It made me feel so warm and fuzzy to do that again, I have no doubt I’ll get back into it.

*I have another wordpress blog that’s currently for my eyes only because I felt like I was so totally over my “asneuralslime” phase. Maybe I’ll poke through it and maybe bring some (or all) of it back to life.*

POW POW

There she goes again

This is not an end of the year review. In fact, I wouldn’t have remembered that today is New Years Eve without all the whining that appeared on my facebook news feed recently <3 This is NEWS!

I’ve drawn a rough outline of the next chapter in my life, and it’s going to happen on an organic farm in central Washington. After finally breaking the news to my family, I figured it’s safe to share with the internet. Acccctually… after delivering a compelling presentation on WHY I decided to do this, I ran from the room, frantically waving my arms over my head and squealing, “OMGZZ I HAVE TO BLOG ABOUT THIS!”

And I pronounce OMGZZ exactly how it’s written.

So.. why? Let me tell you.

0. I’ve been trying to get an internship on a small organic farm for the past few years. Until now, something has always prevented me from doing so: school, job, relationship, waiting too long to apply, travel plans, etc. I moved back into my parents’ house a little over a month ago right as a giant hurricane ate my home state. This made it impossible for me to get to my job in Brooklyn for a while, which I ended up leaving anyway. I knew I was ready to leave the east coast. With no work to do or electricity to numb my brain, I focused on obsessed over what my next adventure would be.

1. I had just finished reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed and was seriously contemplating whether this was a good time in my life to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled. I’ve never touched the northwest United States, but I keep hearing amazing things and have been feeling pulled in that direction recently.

2. In fact, when I returned from Perú in 2011 I almost took a farm internship in Oregon. I didn’t go because of my boyfriend. Don’t ever let a relationship interfere with your dreams, it causes many things to break.

3. When said relationship collapsed in a fiery Armageddon last year, I moved back into my parents’ house (I guess you can say this is a regular thing for me) and started going back to school to study nutrition. After one semester of memorizing information solely to regurgitate onto tests and pass VERY EXPENSIVE prerequisite classes that I could have taught myself, I concluded that the money I had saved up for Fall tuition would be better spent on renting an apartment in Brooklyn. I still believe this was a wise choice.

d. Living in NYC was an east coast overdose. I started using the term “ASAP.” wtf? I wanted to smack myself.

5. The idea of having another office job has gone from “unappealing” to “revolting” to “twitch-inducing.” During one interview, I was asked if the helper monkey-type job responsibilities sounded like something I would be interested in. In response, I very coolly stated, “Interesting is definitely not the word I would use, but I could do that.” Furthermore, I need fresh air and physical activity.

6. Believing that sticking my hands in the dirt was just as significant in studying nutrition as having my face in the books, I volunteered on an organic CSA farm in Stillwater, NJ over the summer.

For those who don’t know, community supported agriculture (CSA) is an even better way of supporting local farms than shopping at farmer’s markets. It involves purchasing a share of a farm for a particular season. The members pay up front, providing small farmers with some financial security, and then receive a portion of the farm’s harvest on a regular basis (usually weekly) throughout the season. This is wonderful because it encourages members to eat more fresh, seasonal produce that came from a local source and is probably organic. You’ll know because you can ask the farmer, face to face. In addition to supporting sustainable agriculture, CSAs reduce the need to shop at those awful, awful supermarkets where you will be tempted to buy processed junk and cheaper bio-messedwith produce that has been sprayed with who knows what and shipped in from countries where the farmers can’t afford to eat their own crops.

Volunteering on this farm was hard work, but it felt good and gave me a peace of mind I haven’t otherwise experienced since returning from my travels. It was the farm’s first season, so every day was.. a lesson. Without an irrigation system, we would fill huge jugs of water in the Paulinskill River that ran along the edge of the farm property and then water the plants by hand using empty beer cans and yogurt containers. All the other volunteers were magically fascinating and bright. It was absolutely more intellectually stimulating than most jobs I’ve had (with the exception of neuroscience research). My strength and ability was never doubted even though I was a skinny girl with no farming experience, which is always empowering and rare to encounter. The farmer, James, is a wonderful person and I would highly recommend paying him a visit at Goodness Grows!

When I explained my plans to my parents, my mother very politely implied that she thought I might be making a big mistake ::cough::totallyfreakedout::cough:: My parents, like most members of their generation, measure success by their salaries. My mom doubted that farming could be a sustainable career choice. However, I think that it’s one of the only sustainable career choices. Everyone needs food. The economy is fake and prone to collapse at the push of a button. Current industrial farming practices are destroying the earth and poor nutrition is making Americans sick with fatness. Things really need to change, and they’re already shifting in my direction. Just think of all the people who won’t know how to feed themselves when the terrorists take down the power grid? Think of all the people who don’t know what food is, or where it comes from? We must correct this!!!!!!!

Sustainable agriculture is clearly something that I care deeply about, as is nutrition. The two go hand in hand, and as of right now, I think that I can make a more significant impact in this field (ha! pun!) by studying on a farm. Will farming be my career? I can’t answer that right now. Maybe not? Maybe I’ll integrate what I learn into a more holistic nutritional healing practice? Maybe I will travel all over the world, working on farms with my cloth-diapered baby and dirty hippie life partner? Maybe I will write a book about it and move back to Brooklyn. Maybe I’ll start an urban farm/music venue/book club/yoga studio in Bushwick and keep bees on my roof? Ohhh yeah, I left a little piece of my heart in Bushwick. <3

Ooo! Ooo! That reminds me of the best part! The farm I will be interning on has BEES! Remember when I said I wanted to be a beekeeper?!?! Hey! I’m gonna do it!

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Right on!

I will miss Jersey a whole big lot, I’m sure. It’s funny- at no point while I was living in Brooklyn did I feel like I wasn’t still in New Jersey. I guess this is what happens when you grow up so close to NYC. I consider Manhatten, Brooklyn and Long Island to be extensions of NJ rather than NY. I KNOW MY NEW YORKER FRIENDS ARE GONNA HATE THAT!

I’m spending my last month doing the things I love the most as much as I possibly can (i.e. going to shows, hiking/trail running, and spending time with my fwiends). Just in this past year (alright, here’s your review!) I’ve met so many beautiful, interesting, and talented people. I’m so grateful to have had the pleasure of connecting with and learning from these brilliant new friends. I’m going to leave in about one month and drive to WA with one of my most favorite new friends. I’m über excited about this road trip! I’m sure it will be an excellent adventure on its own and satisfy my itch to roam before planting myself in central WA for the growing season. Let’s hang out! Even better, let’s hike and go to a show! Rawk!

EEEEEEEEEEEEE new things!