Monday, June 25, 2018

Western States 2018 – Conquering Fear

**Warning – Long extended version. See below for the short brief race report**
What is fear and why are we so afraid of it? Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat to us. It is something that can either cripple us or challenge us. We are given that choice to make.
Why do I talk about fear? Well I had fear going into Western States this year. Fear that my injury might come back. Fear that I wasn’t fit enough. Fear that I might fail. Fear that I might not meet expectations. Fear of the distance of running 100 miles. Plainly fear of the unknown.
I decided I was not going to let fear cripple me. I was going to challenge it. I do not want to live life in fear. My passion for running and my passion for Western States is far stronger than the fear of the unknowns. I chose to rise up and face my fears head on.
The light at the end of the tunnel. PC: Howie Stern
Here’s my story.
The Start Line (0 miles) – Walking to the start felt so surreal. Yes, it was finally happening. I couldn’t believe I was able to piece enough training together to be healthy and ready to take on the Western States 100 this year. Tears started running down my face as I stood there waiting to count down the final seconds next to Stephanie Violett, Aliza Lapierre, and Meghan Laws. Stephanie and I gave each a big hug as we both worked hard to get here ready to make this year better than the last. Meghan grabbed me and gave me a big hug and words of encouragement. It was time to climb to the top of Escarpment to have our sunrise date we had planned.
Escarpment (~4.5 miles) – Reaching the summit of Escarpment, Stephanie and I hugged and turned to see the beautiful sunrise across Lake Tahoe. We grabbed Aliza to join us in this memorable moment. It’s been a tradition that we have had since we started running the race. It’s a moment to stop, breathe, and be grateful for life and the friends among us.
PC: Victor Rodrigues
PC: Melissa Ruse
The High Country – Running in the high country is always so breathtaking. The large evergreen trees, the massive granite boulders, and views of the surrounding mountains are picturesque. I found myself settled into a pace and effort that I felt my body could sustain. I shared several miles with Aliza, Corrine, and others. As I was running I was feeling more at ease, then it happened. I tripped on a rock that sent flying forward landing hard on my left leg to keep me from falling down. It was same side that I had my pelvic fracture on. My groin instantly started to ache. Fear shot into my mind. I had thoughts that the pain would only get worse and would cause me to fail, as I still had 90+ more miles to go. I took a deep breath and challenged those thoughts by telling myself to keep going and see how it goes. I knew during training I have had pain in this area before, and it would come and go randomly. I just had to let go and have faith.
I continued on and the pain stayed at only a dull ache. It was just a little reminder to stay patient and run smart.
Reaching Duncan Canyon (24.4 miles) I met up my crew, Chris and Kristina. It was a welcoming surprise to see Sally McRae and Zac Marion there too! As I was heading out of the aid station Chris took me by the shoulders and said something that made me laugh so hard. He said he had a very important message from Miguel…in a Snoop Dogg voice he said, “Just Chiiillll”. I left laughing so hard that I tripped just a ways down the trail dropping my package of cookies…yet still laughing! I picked up my cookies and soon had another runner right behind me. I asked him his name and he said he it was Nick. Well it was great to have company and Nick was running his first Western States! We ended up chatting and the miles and time flew by. My heart and my head were both in the right place. I was so happy to be here.
Robinson’s Flat (30.3 miles) – Here I met my coach, Jason Koop, along with Andy Jones-Wilkins and the other CTS group. They both said I was looking great and running a smart race. I got what I needed and left, having a big smile on my face. I continued on to see a welcoming surprise of Dakota Jones atop one of the hills. He shouted out some positive and encouraging words as I made my way down to the start of the canyons. Here the temperature was beginning to rise.
The Canyons (43-55 miles) – Time to manage the heat. I iced down and took two bottles at Duncan Canyon ready to take on the canyons. I enjoyed sharing the climb to Devil’s Thumb with Corrine, Bob, and Kate. I actually thought it was fun! Just as we were reaching the top to Devil’s Thumb the song “Walk” by Pantera came on. It was the perfect song! “BREATHE…SPIT…WALK.” And yes, I was singing these lyrics out loud because you have to have fun! I shared more miles along with Camelia, Kate, and Nick as we made our way to Michigan Bluff.
Cooling down. PC: Allen Lucas
Michigan Bluff (mile 55) - I managed the canyons well making it to Michigan Bluff still happy and in control. I was running at the right effort for my body. I did a quick change with gear and headed on down the road to Foresthill. I caught up and shared miles and stories with Brian Oestrike, who had run The Bear the same year as me in 2016. Reaching the top of the canyon leading to Bath Road I was running again with Nick. We ran into Foresthill together. I was having such a good and fun day. Still smiling!
Coming into Foresthill! PC: Alva Voo
Foresthill (62 miles) – Here Miguel was to pace me for the final miles. I was excited to see him and my crew. We took off down the road to Cal-street in good spirits. We started making our way down to the trail when suddenly the legendary Pam Smith came upon us. She was looking so good. She and I grabbed a quick picture before she made her way down the trail. Miguel and I were moving good through Cal-1.
Picking up Miguel! PC: Ian Torrence
Then Cal-2…my nemesis. Every year one of the Cal-street sections gets me. As we were going I started feeling terrible. I felt like I couldn’t breathe well, my right hip was really starting to hurt and I was getting overheated. I had to walk/run a lot of this section. Once we got to the Cal-2 aid station I was desperate for some pain relief and asked for a couple of Tylenol. They gave me two, iced me down, and sent me on my way.
As we were making our way down to Cal-3 I started to find that I was breathing better and my hip was beginning to feel less painful. I started running well again. Then as we were getting closer to Rucky Chucky Miguel started feeling awful. He said his stomach wasn’t good and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to pace me after the river.
Once crossed the river to Green Gate embracing the cold American River water, Miguel and I made the decision that he would stop at Green Gate and go with Chris and Kristina. He said he would get himself better and be out at Pointed Rocks to pace me to the finish. This meant I had about 13+ miles to go alone in the dark. Time to be brave…because, I get scared running alone in the dark. I have this ongoing fear that a mountain lion will attack me.
Green Gate to Pointed Rocks (79.8 – 94.3 miles) – This section always seems long to me. I decided to turn my iPod on and listen to some music. This was a perfect distraction so that I wasn’t thinking about mountain lions the whole time. I ran well in this section making decent time. I played leapfrog with a few runners, Nick being one of them!
Pointed Rocks to No Hands Bridge (94.3 – 96.8 miles) – By the time I reached Pointed Rocks my right hip was back to hurting very bad. The Tylenol had worn off. I could tell it was inflammation in the bursa of the right hip. Every downhill felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my hip. However, I had zero pelvic pain! That was a huge win. I picked Miguel back up and he was feeling much better. I struggled to run all the way to No Hands Bridge, but did a lot of fast walking. We made it to No Hands and Miguel told me I had a good shot at breaking 21 hours. That was the little motivation I needed to get me running again.
Robie Point to the Auburn Track (98.9 – 100.2 miles) – I did everything I could to ignore the pain and keep running. I was focused on the goal…sub 21 hours. We pushed up Robie’s Point and to the top of the road. Here we saw the final mile sign. We had made it!! We picked up the pace and entered the stadium to embrace the long journey it had been to get here. I was overcome with joy and happiness hearing Tropical John announce my name over the loud speakers. Finishing and getting a big hug from Craig Thornley, the Western States race director, was the moment of truth. I had conquered my fear and I had won!
At the track! PC: Allen Lucas
Elation! PC:Michelle Rice
20:48:56 12thplace female – 5thWestern States Finish – 10th100 mile race finished
No Fear. PC: Howie Stern
In summary I ran the perfect race I could have given my level of fitness and having to come back from injury. Not being able to train or run for months definitely made me lose a lot of strength and cardiovascular fitness. I had basically three months of training to get me prepared to run 100 miles. That is why I had to be honest, and not let myself compare or get down on myself for not being where I was in years past. And with that mindset I was able to run happy and enjoy the race!
Thank You - It is a huge appreciation to what goes into making a phenomenal race like Western States happen. Thank you Craig Thornley for your tireless enthusiasm, compassion, and commitment to the race. Thank you to all the volunteers who gave up their time to be there to support each and every runner out on the course. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you to all the race committee, who are behind the scenes doing so much work we don’t even know about.
Thank you God for giving me the gift to run and having my faith become stronger through these trials. To my coach, Jason Koop, for providing me the support, training, and knowledge to get me ready to run Western States. To my crew, Chris and Kristina Hall, who tirelessly provide me with everything I need to make my race successful. To my family who are supportive and provide me the love and strength I need. #GrandmaStrong And to all my friends and fans…your words of good luck, encouragement, and support mean the world to me. And to my wonderful Sponsors who allow me to do what I love. This includes Altra, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Drymax Socks, Honey Stinger, and Carmichael Training System.
Grandma Strong! PC: Lori Leonard
And a very special thank you to Miguel Ordorica. He is not only my pacer, training partner, and best friend…he is someone that is always there for me. He has given me unconditional support through the good times and the bad. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend and I truly couldn’t do this without you. Thank you!!
Race Specifics:
Shoes – Altra Timps (one pair the entire race)
Socks – Drymax Stephanie Howe edition
Kit – Altra race top/shorts/visor/ice hat/ice bandana
Hydration – 2 Nathan 20 oz handhelds
Nutrition – M&M’s, Keebler Cookies, small packages of mini Kit Kats and Reese’s, potatoes w/ salt, Honey Stinger Waffles, crackers, watermelon, chocolate covered espresso beans, animal crackers. (First race I ate only real food…no gels)
Fluid – Water, Lemon-Lime Gatorade, Coke and Mountain Dew.
Anti-chafe - Squirrel’s Nut Butter
Watches - Garmin 910XT then Garmin Fenix5

Monday, June 18, 2018

Western States…I can’t believe I’ve made it.

What a journey this has been. My thoughts and emotions are raw as I sit here and type this. To be honest my eyes are welling up, my throat is tight, and my stomach feels like it has a ‘pit’ in it. I am beyond grateful at this moment to be healthy and ready to run the Western States 100. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is my most favorite race and it means so much to me to be a part of it.
If you are just catching up to what happened to me last October I will give you a quick rundown. On October 22, 2017 I was running a 50K trail race and sustained an injury during the final half mile of the race. An MRI showed that I had a complete facture in my lateral superior pelvic rami and a stress fracture in my inferior pelvic rami (basically I broke my pelvis). I was to be non-weight bearing for 4 weeks followed by several weeks of minimal activity. It took me up until February to actually start running again (on an anti-gravity treadmill). I didn’t start running outside full weight bearing until March. Since then I have gradually increased my training load under diligent guidance of my physical therapist, coach, and doctor.
A constant reminder I saved on my phone.
It was exactly one month after my injury I was given one of the coveted spots to run Western States by the Ultra-Trail World Tour. I knew right then that I had to become focused on recovery. I had this opportunity and I was not about to waste it. Thankfully this meant I did not have to rush my recovery in order to race for a Golden Ticket, which was a huge relief.
Reflecting back just 6-months ago when I was unable to run and barely able to walk, I was uncertain if I was even going to be healthy enough to run 1 mile let alone 100 miles. The future looked so bleak at times, but I kept the faith and continued to believe that if there is a will, there is a way…so they say. In time I was able to start running on the anti-gravity treadmill. I’ll never forget that first time at the 17:00 minute mark crying because the feeling of running again felt so powerful. It took over a month of physical therapy and running on the anti-gravity treadmill before I was able to run outside at full body weight.   
The anit-gravity treadmill
When I first started running outside again I had pain in my groin with every step. The pain would go from a dull ache to random sharp pains. If it became too sharp, I would end my run. Then I would typically have to take a day or two off before I could run again. The dull pain persisted, but I worked through it knowing that as long as it wasn’t sharp it would be ok since it had been over 13-weeks since the injury. And bone heals between 10-12 weeks and actually becomes stronger than it was previously.
I basically had to retrain myself to run again. After using the anti-gravity treadmill and using the Arc-Trainer (like an elliptical) my stride was short and choppy. It took me about 2-weeks before I finally felt like I could stride out normally. During my transitioning to full weight bearing I suddenly became extremely anemic. My hemoglobin in just two weeks went from a healthy 14.0 to an unhealthy 7.2. That drastic drop took all my energy away. My runs suffered and so did I. The sudden drop in my hemoglobin was caused by a couple of factors. One being hemolysis (foot strikes caused a destruction of my red blood cells). The second being my own fault of not taking my iron supplement or eating iron rich foods. It took a good 3-4 weeks of taking iron 2-3 times a day, adding in red meat and fortified foods such as Cream of Wheat into my diet, and cooking in a cast iron skillet to slowly rebuild my red blood cells. I am still on the low end of normal, but I will not let myself neglect my iron ever again.
Finally, in April I started to feel more like myself. I decided to test my fear and sign up for my first race since the injury. It was the Free State Marathon in Kansas. This scared me more than running my first 100-mile race had. I knew if something would cause my injury to return, that I would not be able to run Western States. I had to test my body and trust that whatever happens, happens. It ended up really testing me because the rain came down on my second half of the race causing the mud to stick to my shoes. The weight of my shoes was going to pull on my injury site and if it was going to fail…this would cause it. I had only a minor pain here and there, but nothing constant or to the point of stopping. I finished the race overcome with joy and gladness. I made one big step towards my goal.
Photo Credit: Mile90photography
Soon after I talked to my coach, Jason Koop, and we came up with a solid yet flexible training plan. I did a similar final build up like years in the past, but a little dialed back. I’ve also taken more days off than I typically ever have in all the years of running, but I was listening to my body and being patient. I wasn’t going to risk any setbacks.

Now with only having 5-days until I start my 5th consecutive Western States 100, I know I have done everything I can with the amount of time I’ve been given to be as ready and able to run 100 miles as best as I can. I am starting this race full of gratitude, thankfulness, and a new inner-strength that I have grown since recovering from my injury. I am taking this journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn to celebrate life, health, and the ability to run free. Here’s to a great day full of memories and adventure!! 
Thank you everyone who has been with me on this long road to recovery. You have no idea how much your words, messages, and thoughts have meant to me. Please know that I take each of those messages to heart and they have helped me heal. I am dedicating my 2018 Western States race to all of you!! 
Photo Credit: Gary Dougherty

With Love,
Kaci AKA Pixie Ninja

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Struggle After The Struggle.

Here’s to being fully healed from my pelvic stress fracture and complete fracture! It took a full 4 months and now at 22-weeks I have no pain or discomfort in my injury site. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to wake up and not be worried about my injury pain. Now I am able to do all daily activity and exercise without pain in my left hip/groin. It’s such a grateful feeling. It felt like I was never going to get to that point. Patience and perseverance paid off.

I started back running on the anti-gravity treadmill at the beginning of February. I was slowly building up my time, days of running, and distance. Everything was going well. Near the middle and end of February I was able to add in outside running at 100% body weight. And then my first full week of running outside happened the week of March 5th. Runs felt great even though I was slow and out of shape. I felt happy to be doing what I had missed for so long.

Then recently I started to notice I wasn’t feeling quite right on some of my runs. I felt like my effort was more labored than it should be. I kept telling myself, “Oh it’s just because you are getting back into shape. This is normal.” Then it happened. I was running one of my standard routes that I have done a bazillion times. As I was running up the slight hill my legs felt like they were completely gassed and in a lactic acid state and my heart started feeling like it was beating out of my chest. I had to stop at the top and regroup. This feeling was a Red Flag to me. I knew from the past and having been anemic off and on that these were anemia signs and symptoms. I decided right then that I had to get my blood checked as soon as possible. And it occurred to me that I had stopped taking my iron supplement since my injury. In retrospect it was a very dumb move on my part.

Luckily, I work in a hospital so they were able to poke my finger the next day and take a quick test of what my Hemoglobin was. It came back reading 8.4 g/dL. Crud…that’s just what I suspected, however a lot lower than I would have expected. I had just had my Hemoglobin checked on Jan 22 and found it was at a healthy range at 14.3 g/dL. So, this sudden drop definitely worried me. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the following day.

I just received my results this past Friday and sure enough I am in a state of anemia. My blood values are terrible and this is why I am feeling so terrible. I’ve never experienced all the side effects of anemia before because I had gradually developed it. This time it was happened so drastically that I was not able to physically adjust. I now have episodes of faintness, weakness, constant heart palpations, deep fatigue, and my mind is not sharp. I am managing it as best as I can. Here are changes I have made.

1.     Eating red meat at least 2-3 times a week.
a.     A Challenge for me as I haven’t eaten red meat for years.
2.     Using a cast-iron skillet.
3.     Changing my diet to include more iron rich foods (Cream Of Wheat (45% daily value), spinach, black beans, fortified foods, etc).
4.     Taking an iron supplement twice a day (per doctor’s recommendation)
a.     Ferrous Sulfate (325 mg) + Vitamin C

I am willing to do what it takes to get myself 100% healthy once again. So if you are one to have problems with anemia and having low iron, I urge you to stay on track with your diet and supplements. Don’t be foolish like me. I am paying the price now and it is not fun by any means. When every run feels like the end of a 100-mile race that you blew up on and you are death marching it in…it is not something you want to have to experience on a normal basis. So take it from me and stay healthy and happy!! J

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Long Road to Recovery

Enjoying the time outside w/ my girls
I am currently on my seventeenth week since my initial injury. It has been one of the most challenging endeavors I have dealt with. Running has been part of my life for the past 15 years, and when it was suddenly taken away I had a huge void to fill. I was lost at first just dealing with what to do with the time I had spent running. So I problem solved by finding new activities to fill that time. This included going to the gym to lift and cross-train (when I was able), hanging out with friends and family, and doing more projects around the house. The new activities became the new norm for me, and I was okay with that.

Me and inspiration to keep fighting and staying positive.
During my recovery I focused on staying positive and not letting myself become overwhelmed. It was indefinite how long it was going to take for my body to heal. That loss of control scared me and I don't do well with that. However, I would say for the most part I was really good at finding what I could control and stayed focused on that. I won't be the first to admit it but, I am human and there were days that I would break down and become sad and depressed. It is to be expected when you have lost something you love. I would let myself be sad and cry at times. Once I would let myself feel the emotions, I was able to build myself back up and go on. I believe feeling emotions is important in recovery. It allows the mind and body to heal.

Just recently I started Physical Therapy with one of my best friends, Christy Nielsen, who is also a renown runner and expert in running rehab. She has been giving me exercises to improve my imbalances, stability, and strength that I have lost or never had. It's shown me how much work I have to do to be healthy again. I also have been able to start running again. First starting on the Alter-G (anti-gravity) treadmill. I had to start at 65% of my body weight and have just started running some outside which is 100% body weight. I haven't been this sore from running in years. It's shocking how much you loose in the time off. 

Christy & Me
Alter-G Treadmill
I am devoted to my recovery and will go through the long journey of regaining fitness. It's not easy, but neither is our sport. It's the journey we must start by taking it one step at a time leading to where we want to be. I have goals for this year in returning to Western States and UTMB. I may not be at my peak fitness, but I will give it everything I've got. Thank you everyone for being so supportive and uplifting to me during this time. It honestly helps more than you know. I'll be back...

Running outside!!
I also want to give a shout out to my new sponsors and returning sponsors for supporting me during a time when many would have let their athletes go. Even when they knew I was injured Altra and Drymax socks wanted me to be a part of their team. That's to me is very admirable and shows their character. Also, I want to thank my returning sponsors who are sticking with me through this injury too. Squirrel's Nut Butter, Honey Stinger, Kahtoola, and CTS. Thank you for being awesome!! Here's to a healthy 2018!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Test of Willpower

Today marks 38 days since my pelvic stress fracture occurred. This has been one of the most painful and debilitating injuries I have ever sustained in my 15 years of running. I have just started to walk without limping, been able to stand on one leg, and sleep without having to wake up to turn. It's made me appreciate the little things we take for granted in life. My patience has been and will continue to be tested in this recovery process. So far I am winning this competition.

Sunday crutching w/ Laurie.

I had my follow-up appointment with my doctor yesterday. He said that I will have 4 more weeks of non-impact or non weight-bearing activities, since I am still having pain even with walking. He has cleared me to be able to ride the recumbent bike and swim with a buoy between my legs for a method of cardio. I can continue lifting upper-body weights too. Until I can walk without pain I will have limitations because it indicates that my stress fracture is still healing and remodeling. He expects 10-12 weeks until I get to return to weight-bearing activities. Maybe that will be my Christmas present to myself this year?!

Crutching away w/ Laurie. 
I won't lie and say I am happy 100% of the time, because that's not true. I have many days when I feel depressed and sad...but, then I think about the positive things going on in my life. And I focus on what I can do, not what I can't do. So what can I do? I can lift upper-body weights. I can use crutches and get outside and crutch for distance. I can now ride the recumbent bike. And I can swim with a buoy between my legs. Also, I can spend time with friends, family, and find other interests to occupy my time.
Enjoying time w/ my grandparents.

This forced time off has healed up all other niggles that had been plaguing for months. It's also allowed me to rekindle that passion and fire I have for running. I cannot wait for that first run and to begin training again. I dream of it daily. And now that I have a spot in Western States, I can be as patient as I need to in returning to running. I will continue to listen to my doctor, coach, and physical therapist in order to heal properly and come back when my body is fully ready. Until then I will keep the fire building inside me to train hard and enjoy the process of regaining my fitness once I get a green light. Stay tuned for further updates on the recovery process.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Learning to Overcome

Overcoming – is best achieved when you become a partner with the reality of the situation and work in cooperation with it rather than fighting or trying to overpower it.

Where has time gone…it’s been over a year that I’ve blogged anything.  I apologize for being such a slacker. So I decided to start it back up now. As many of you know my year has been full of several trials and tribulations. I won’t go into all the details, but it seems like I just can’t get a break. Despite all that I’ve been through, I wanted to make sure that I learned from these experiences and found ways to grow as a person. Just as in ultras, if life, we are tested with situations that we never thought we’d make it through…however, with determination, strength, and perseverance we can find ways to do so. This has been what my year has taught me.

You ask, where is the Pixie Ninja now? What is she training for? She has been awfully quiet lately. Well to tell you the truth I have just finished my last race of the year two-weeks ago. The G.O.A.T.z. 50K here in Omaha. It was a great end to the season. I got to run and be with so many friends that day and see my mom run a PR. What didn’t go so well was that I wasn’t really planning to end my year at this race. Whoa…what?! Yes, that’s right…I had big audacious plans to kick-start my training in order to race Bandera 100K for a chance at a Golden Ticket to go back to Western States.
G.O.A.T.z. 50K race
What happened, you ask? Well it all happened in less than half a mile to the finish of the G.O.A.T.z. race that I felt a pop in the front of my left hip. It had been getting sore on downhills throughout the final loop, but I just blew it off as fatigue. After it popped it made me stumble a bit and then this horrible pain shot through my hip/groin. I considered walking it in, but with less than a half-mile left I pushed myself to finish. I crossed the line and stopped instantly. I stood there and was scared to take a step. When I did I felt the most excruciating pain in my hip that I have ever experienced. I thankfully had a couple friends to help me hobble over to a picnic table to sit. I’d never finished a race like this before and not been able to walk. I was scared, but figured I just pulled a muscle and would be back fine after a little rest or in a few days.

I got home and literally couldn’t walk. Every step with my left leg felt like knives being driven into my hip/groin. I didn’t know what to do. I put ice on my hip and rested the rest of the day. I figured by morning I’d be fine. Oh was I wrong! I couldn’t get out of bed or even stand on that leg. Tears welled up in my eyes as I was trying to figure out what I had injured. I thought to myself how am I going to work? Well I did what I don’t recommend to anyone and popped 4 ibuprofen. It numbed the pain enough for me to limp around. I literally hobbled all week thinking my leg should be healing by now. The days past and I was feeling no relief whatsoever. I felt desperate. I called one of my closest friends, Christy Nielsen, who is a Physical Therapist and long-time renowned distance runner. She told me to come see her that day.
When you don't have crutches improvise with trekking poles!
I went and saw Christy and she did several tests on me to see what she could find. Her initial thought was a pelvic stress fracture. She referred me to Dr. Arnold who had me see him the following day. He ordered x-rays and an MRI. The x-rays confirmed nothing. So, I had an MRI this past Wednesday. I was sitting on pins and needles waiting for the results. Sometimes 24 hours can feel like forever. The next day I got the call I had been waiting for…the call from Dr. Arnold with my MRI results.

The MRI had confirmed a stress fracture in my left inferior pubic ramus of my pelvis and also a slight moderate stress related bone marrow edema in the lateral superior pubic ramus. Additionally, I have a hemotoma and synovitis in the muscles around the fracture, and a lot of tendonosis/tendonitis going on in my hip muscles. In other words…my left hip is a hot mess. The prognosis for recovery is to have 4-weeks of being non-weight bearing (crutches) with no cross training besides upper body lifting. Then I will have a follow-up in 4 weeks to see how the healing has progressed. That will determine the next step. He expects me to be out from running for 2-3 months.
My MRI reading
Am I bummed? Oh yeah! However, I have come to terms with it and decided that I will not let myself get down. There are far too many things in life much worse than a broken bone. I just went through my grandma’s life and death situation…so this is nothing!! I witnessed my grandma rise up and prove that she wouldn’t let cancer or her almost fatal ulcer stop her from getting back to living her life. She is my inspiration. Plus, we’ve already made a goal to walk our first mile together!
My beautiful and strong grandma 
Remember our bodies are resilient and strong. The key is to be patient and let them heal. We put them through a lot of constant stress, and sometimes our minds are too strong for our own good. We’ve been preached to by so many about ‘listening to our bodies’. I didn’t and now I will pay the price. I’ve been very fortunate to have never gone through a lengthy time-off injury. It can happen to anyone at anytime. Until I return to running I will find ways to stay happy by spending more time with family and friends, going to the gym to lift for fun, volunteering at races, and living life in a positive manner. There will not be any pity-parties here! I pity-partied myself out at Western States aid station, Rucky-Chucky, this year. That’s a one and done for me!
The only pity-party I will allow myself this year. Besides they are LAME!
Since I have time I will keep my injury progress updated in my blog. Thank you for following and being my friends and fans. All of you mean a lot to me. I promise I will be back strong for 2018!! I am SO ready for the new year. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Bear 100 - Run Happy, Run Smart

The Bear 100. Photo Credit: Bethany Talbot Draper
The decision to run The Bear happened early in January, after not getting into the Leadville 100. After some thought and talking with my coach, Jason Koop, we decided this was the year to go out of my comfort zone and choose a race that would get me in the mountains and higher elevation. My next thought was that I wanted to pick a race that would qualify me for Hardrock. I reviewed the list of races that would be Hardrock qualifiers, and The Bear stuck out to me. And with the click of a mouse I was signed up for my next adventure!

Preparing for The Bear was mostly the same as what I did for Western States, except I tried to get out to Hitchcock Nature Center in Iowa every weekend. That is the only place around Omaha that I can get some ‘serious’ hills in. That means 230 ft climbs versus 120 ft climbs. It is a beautiful place packed full of relentless steep climbs that pack a punch.

The next thing I know it is race week and I am packing like I am going to go into hibernation. The weather kept changing and deteriorating every time I looked at it. It now was saying it could be anything from torrential rain all day to a full blown blizzard. Let’s just say I packed an arsenal of clothing/gear to be as prepared as I could be.

I woke up Thursday morning in the hotel and checked my phone to see that there was an update on The Bear. The course had been changed again, since after the fire they had to reroute the course. This time it was because of the expected snow up at the higher elevations. They rerouted the course to be an out and back from the park at Logan to Tony’s Grove with an extension of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail at the start. I had to quick rethink and repack my drop bags and tell my crew/pacers about the sudden change. I told myself to stay calm, relax, and that it all would work out. Besides I LOVE out and backs. Seeing people on the return is a delight.

The Bear 2016 Course
Thursday evening I met with Roch Horton who would serve as my trusted crew. I felt like I was in the best of care and it gave me peace of mind knowing I had him and Cat taking care of me. They are experienced and very knowledgeable on how to crew and run in the mountains. If you have not looked at Roch's running resume, you are in a bit of a surprise!! Mr. Hardrock himself and also the most genuine and humble person you would ever meet. After our meeting Roch sent me off with something to ponder. He gave me a symbolic image of a triangle where one corner had happiness, one had smart, and one had strength. He told me to pick two of those to focus on for the race. That was going to be one tough decision. I decided to sleep on it.

Going into the race I knew it was going to be tough and something I have never experienced. With the course being 18-19,000 ft of ascending, elevations between 5-8,000 ft, and long mountainous climbs I was to say the least…intimidated. Then you throw in the weather which ended up being all day of either rain or snow and mud, mud, and more mud!! I had no idea what to expect and threw out all pace/time goals. I made three goals: embrace the experience, a smile for every mile, and to just have fun playing in the mud! If I could nail those three things I would set myself up to have a great day.
The Beautiful Bear Photo Credit: Bethany Talbot Draper
Race morning approached and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. ready to take on the Bear. I had prepared myself for anything it was planning to throw at me. I felt confident in myself and even more so in my team that I had with me. I had the legendary Roch Horton and accomplice Catherine as my crew. I had the renowned Zach Miller pacing me from Right Hand Fork AS to Spawn Creek. And ultra-pacer extraordinaire, Miguel Ordorica, taking me from Spawn Creek to the Finish. We were going to attack the Bear and give it everything we had! I was going to make it to that finish one way or another.
My Team! Photo Credit: Tim McGargill
Lining up on the dark wet street looking forward at the streetlights, myself and about 300 other runners were gearing up and ready for battle. 3-2-1 and we’re off into the darkness. Some people chatting while others are silent thinking to themselves what’s to come of the day. We made our way onto the Bonneville Shoreline Trail which would be the first 12 miles. It was a rolling terrain with several large puddles scattered throughout the single-to-double track trail. I enjoyed running the first few miles with my friend, Justin Mollak, from Omaha who was taking on his first 100 mile race. The first 100 is always a life-changing experience & I was excited for him to be going on his journey.

Hitting Millville Aid Station (AS) 12.2 mi, I grabbed some Coke and Fig Newtons and headed up the long steep climb gaining approx 3,000 ft. I just settled into a hiking rhythm and enjoyed chatting with new friends along the way. It started snowing and I remember it bringing a huge smile to my face and made me feel like a little girl playing in the snow. Good memories flooded my mind from childhood. We reached the top and then got to fly down the sweet single-track trail. I really enjoyed this section as it reminded much of Western States Cal-1 & Cal-2 trail as Roch had described to me earlier. I reached Leatham Hollow AS (21 miles) and took care of all my needs. I remember Roch looking me in the eye and with a strong yet gentle voice saying, “Eat to win.” That spoke to me and I listened. I knew I was going to be working less efficiently than normal and I needed all the energy I could get. Karl Meltzer was standing beside Roch and they both assured me that the next 2.5 miles would be easy road running to the next AS. I was glad to hear that and left with a couple cookies and a smile.

Next up was the long climb past Richard's Hallow AS (24.5 mi) to Cowley Canyon AS (31.9 mi). That one was a grinder, just put your head down and climb through the mud. I trailed Guy Love for a while which was nice to have some company. The rain started coming down fairly hard now and thankfully I had kept my raincoat on and flipped the hood over to keep the water out. Cresting the top we got to a road where I could run down to the Cowley AS. I made quick in and out of that one to get on the road and trail that would lead me down to Right Hand Fork (38.9 mi) where I would see my crew and pick Zach up.

Picking up Zach. Photo Credit Tim McGargill
The trail leading down to Right Hand Fork was stunning. The bright Maples and Aspens lined the trail making it look like a rainbow. It was one of my favorite parts of the race. I reached Right Hand Fork and picked Zach up and we took off towards Temple Fork AS (47 mi). Here we got on some single track and then a gavel road. We came to a point where we had to go into a lot of brush and bushes. As we were trying to navigate our way through what seemed like a never-ending maze! Finding the ribbons was hard, but soon we got on the not-so-well beaten path and found our way across the creek. It was really quite fun and funny! Running along the creek the mud got thick and sticky. It was like 10 lbs had accumulated on each foot. We just laughed and carried on. Coming down the road we saw an AS on the opposite side of the creek. I panicked thinking we had to go to that one. Before I knew it Zach flew across the waist deep water and checked. It was the AS for the return so I didn't have to cross. He was a trooper for that one!

Zach & I. Photo Credit: Tim McGargill
We got into the Temple Fork AS (47) and checked in with Roch, Cat, and Miguel. Roch let us know that the next section is just a long steep uphill to Tony's Grove (53.8 mi). We grabbed food and went on our way. We had to scramble up a pretty steep hill then got onto the trail. It was that crazy sticky mud again. As we were making our way up I could feel my hamstring start to hurt. I knew it was from the extra weight of the mud causing it to be overused. I told Zach I had to hike more to make sure I didn't completely blow it up. We got up to the top and once again it started to snow. Large flakes along the beautiful conifers made it look like a snow globe. As we descended down to Tony's Grove along the single track trail it made me feel like I was at Robinson's Flat of WS. We had made the turnaround!

To Tony's Grove. Photo Credit: Bethany Talbot Draper
Off to return on the trails we had come on. Meeting so many people on the return was a joy to me. It gave me a burst of energy. I felt terrible though seeing everyone suffering up to Tony's Grove in the mud. It had gotten worse throughout the day making it a literal slip-n-slide. Highlights were seeing Justin and Tim McGargill (Justin's pacer and close friend of mine) moving well and strong. Then I saw Gavin McKenzie with a big smile and moving so well too!

Mud and Beauty. Photo Credit: Bethany Talbot Draper
Down to Spawn Creek AS (61.5 mi) we made it and I then had Miguel as my pacer to the Finish. It was time to get my headlights on. Roch hooked me up with some sweet retina burners from Black Diamond. He put one my head and one on my waist then made sure I was okay and gave me encouragement as I left. I ate well and took off down the trail with Miguel. Here we got to the mud again and boy had it ever gotten bad. It was harder to run in it than to walk. So we walked most of this section to save energy. We got up to the road and then were able to run again. We had to make the long climb back to Cowley Canyon AS. Holy crap that one was so LONG. I didn't think it was ever going to end. However, something cute happened during this section. A little Robin got in front of me on the trail as I was hiking. It proceeded to pace me up the mountain for at least half a mile. It's the little things that make me happy!
The course is stunning! Photo Credit: Chihping Fu
Now it was dark and the fog settled in. It was tough to navigate for a while, as you couldn't see very far in front of your feet. I ended up turning the headlight off and just using the waist-light. It seemed to work well. We dipped down into Cowley AS (75 mi) and headed out as fast as we could to keep warm and to keep moving. This is where we saw Sam Reed catching us. During this next section he caught us moving so fluidly and sans pacer. It was incredible seeing him whisk past us while his headlight became fainter as he ran into the night. Finally, we made it to Richard's Hollow AS (83 mi). We checked in and out and made our way down the gravel road towards Leatham Hollow AS (86 mi). This was the first time you could actually zone out instead of watching every step you took. Miguel and I made no conversation during this...we just moved forward. At last we made it to Leatham Hollow and to our crew.

Here is where I made my rookie mistake. I was ready to get the last climb over and took too little time in the AS. I rushed to get new gloves and food, but forgot that I should have put on more layers. I had only been wearing a light long-sleeve and a raincoat. I headed out onto the path and the rain started to pick up. I mentioned that I should have brought hand warmers, but didn't want to go back to get them. Roch offered, but I declined wanting to just keep moving. Miguel and I started making our way up from Leatham and it was a long and I mean LONG climb. Slip and sliding on the trail didn't help and then the rain seemed to start coming into my jacket. I was getting wet. As we started getting higher it was getting much colder. I was now shivering. I got scared that I could get hypothermia. I talked to myself to calm me down and knowing Miguel was there I felt at ease. I started moving my arms fast making friction on my sides to see if it would help warm me up. I am not sure if it really helped or not, but it was at least making me think it was. Then the snow started to come down and it was accumulating quickly. My feet became ice blocks. I was making my way up so slowly, but staying positive. I knew that once we got to the top we got to go down.

Alas, we crested the top. Now to go bombing down...NOT! It was incredibly rocky and steep. There was no path except what the water was running down. So it was harder than I expected it to be. Down, down, down we went until finally coming into the final AS, Millville (95 mi). Now I knew we were going to make it and I was ready to get out of the rain, mud, and snow. We made our way along the rolling Bonneville Shoreline Trail and popped back onto the road. We ran on the road to the Finish line elated and exhausted to be done. Leland gave me a congratulations and Roch was there for a great big bear hug! We had done it...we had conquered the Bear!

Finished!! Photo Credit: Zach Miller
This one will be one race that I will never forget. Besides the weather, the most memorable part will be the experience in itself. I have made new lifelong friends with Roch, Cat, and Zach. I left the race with my heart full. I am forever grateful for them and their generosity. They epitomize the true spirit of ultrarunning and community. I've learned so much from them and hope to spread that value throughout my ultrarunning career.

I want to give a huge thank you to the Race Directors for working so diligently in getting the Bear off and running. Having to change their course multiple times, re-organize aid stations, and working to keep the race a qualifier for Hardrock, UTMB, and WS had to have been beyond challenging. So thank you Leland, Ron, Errol, and the rest of the Bear crew. My hat tips to you.

And thank you countless volunteers for giving your time to take care of us runners in the terrible conditions. You are a heaven-send. We would not be able to do this without you and your help. You all deserve medals!

Thank you Roch Horton and Catherine for spending your weekend as my loyal and faithful crew. I have gained two new friends that will always be cherished in my heart. You put a lasting impression on me that will last a lifetime. Thank you for everything.

Thank you Zach and Miguel for being the best pacers a girl could ask for. I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the trail together. Those were definitely fun times I'll never forget!

Thank you God, my family, my friends and loyal supporters. Thank you Nike Trail for nailing your gear. One pair of Nike Kigers the whole way! Thank you Squirrel's Nut Butter for the lube and having no chafing. Thank you Honey Stinger for the chew, gels, and waffles that gave me energy throughout the race. And most of all thank you coach, Jason Koop. For taking me out of my comfort zone and making me believe in my ability and myself. I got my Hardrock Qualifier!!! YAY!!
The whole Team! Roch, Cat, myself, Miguel, and Zach!