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!

Monday, July 4, 2016

*~*Third Time's A Charm*~*

A lifelong dream of mine was to win the Western States 100 Mile. I knew it would be a long shot, but no matter what I was going to keep chasing that dream. In knowing how talented the women’s field was this year, and that each year it keeps drawing more, I was unsure if that dream would ever become a reality. I knew that I had to prepare myself as best as I could if I even wanted to place in the Top 10. So that is what I did. Everything since February was focused on Western States.

Squaw Valley
Leading up to the race I had my fair share of misfortunes. Those could have set me back if I would have had a negative outlook on them. Instead I focused on what positives I could draw out of them. This in fact was a great help in getting my mind ready for tackling the 100-mile distance. I have found that if you keep positive and focus your energy on what is going right versus what isn’t, you don’t become overwhelmed. You then realize that you can get through the tough times and that they really aren’t as significant as they seem.
A broken A/C = heat training
Now to get into the race…what you’ve really been waiting for.
Walking up to the start line I felt a sense of calmness, which I haven’t felt before in the past. I had decided that I would focus on my goals and make sure that I ran my race. As we lined up to start I felt the chill in the air and talked with others around. I tipped my head down and said a prayer. Then the countdown began 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…*shot gun blast* and we’re off.

My plan was to ease into the race and start off conservative. I had my head down and just focused on my body and breathing keeping the effort relaxed. I found myself running with Andy Reed, whom I met at the Sliver State 50 Mile. He had waited 6 years to get into Western States. It was amazing talking with him and seeing how excited he was to experience this iconic day. Then we came to the top of Escarpment, and to my surprise I was leading the women. Magdalena Boulet was right behind me so as tradition has it, we turned and watched the sun rise! We gave each other a big hug and continued down the trail. Those are priceless moments.

Top of Escarpment. Photo Credit: Paul Nelson
The high-country is just breathtaking. I continued on the course with Andy Reed and Ricky Roane. It was great chatting with them. Soon, Devon Yanko caught up and we shared several miles together. It was fun chatting about Lion King, singing songs, and talking about life. Those miles flew by. We got into the Lyon Ridge Aid Station having AJW cheering us in. I grabbed some food and an extra gel and continued with Devon back on the trail.

It was between the Red Star Ridge Aid Station and Duncan Canyon Aid Station that Devon and I got separated. As I ran down into the Duncan Canyon AS, I was amped up by the amazing volunteers and the excitement of seeing my crew Chris and Kristina for the first time. They made me feel like a rock star coming on stage to perform. I grabbed my fresh handheld and carried on. This next section I will always remember as the area where I had my black bear encounter in 2014. I am always looking around to see if my little teddy bear friend is around. Luckily, he/she wasn’t. I settled into a groove and feeling good. My body and mind were both happy. The happiness of running on the trail kept a smile on my face. Soon I noticed the sun becoming warmer in this section so I was grateful that Chris had put ice in my water bottle. It can be a game changer.

I ran into Robinson Flat still feeling great. The volunteers and crowds once again amped me up and I saw Coach Koop and gave him the thumbs up that everything was going great so far. I then started to ascend the climb out of Robinson and decided the run/hike approach would be appropriate to keep my effort controlled. I remembered back to the training camp and how much snow had been in this section, which was now dry. I started to descend down from the top and this was the first time I got a little worried. I was thinking how I was only 30ish miles into the race and that I had a very long ways to go. I started asking myself, “Will I have enough energy to finish…”. I quickly answered that question with a gel and drink from my handheld. I told myself I was not going to “run” out of energy if I stayed on top of my nutrition. And that was that.
Thumbs up!! 
The next section I knew I could overdo, since it was very runnable and downhill. I dialed it back a bit, just to be cautious that I wouldn’t ‘blow’ out my quads or hip flexors. I had learned this lesson from the past. I caught up with Ben Bucklin and then Mark Austin. It was great to run with both of them, because I had at training camp. It brought back so many great memories. I got to Dusty Corners AS and grabbed my second handheld, because I didn’t want to run out of fluid during the canyons. I had the goal to not let the canyons destroy me.

I climbed the canyons with Kyle Pietari who was constantly being called Devon. He and I laughed about it. He was such a good sport about it too. He soon dusted me on the second canyon and I kept trucking along in great spirits. I got a rock in the side of my shoe and pulled over to get it out before it ended up causing a big problem. I’ve learned you have to deal with the little issues right away before they become big issues. I got to the top of the last canyon and saw Byron Powell, with iRunFar, that always lifts me up. I was so happy to have survived the canyons and to be running strongly into Michigan Bluff AS. This is where one of Billy Yang’s videographers started filming footage of me. We were chatting along when suddenly I glanced to my right side and saw a SNAKE coming out towards me!! I shrieked loudly and jumped about 5 feet in the air, okay more like 5 inches but it really seemed far up! I laughed at myself as I got into he AS.
Finishing the final climb out of the canyons.
Photo Credit: Byron Powell iRunFar
I checked in with my crew and Jason. I told them I was feeling strong and happy. I was ready to get to Foresthill and pick up my ultra-pixie pacer, Miguel! They smiled and sent me on my way down the dusty trail.
Slamming a Dew and getting sound advice from Coach Koop.
I got into Foresthill and was overjoyed again to see all the volunteers and crowds. I found Miguel and we soon headed down to Cal Street. I had to ask right away how my mom was doing at the Black Hills 50 Mile. He said she was moving good and having a great time. This warmed my heart to hear. We got about a mile into the run when I finally said that I had to stop and pee for the first time. I stopped and squatted off the trail. Let me tell you, holding it for that long makes you pee like a racehorse. I never thought I was going to be done! Finally…I did and we continued on. I noticed that as we were cruising down Cal-1 I was starting to feel nauseated. I decided to ignore it and push on. It soon got to the point that I was forced to walk a bit. Miguel was so good about keeping positive and keeping me from getting anxious. Then I just got to feeling so bad that I stopped and bent over. I stood back up and had a couple burps and felt back to normal. Wow, that was a quick and easy fix. We continued the rest of the run to the river in good spirits, just as we do on our daily training runs.
Foresthill w/ Miguel. Photo Credit: Dominic Grossman
The river is always a bitter-sweet moment for me. The shock of the cold water always makes me a little uneasy, but I know how good it makes my body feel after and it is worth it. Hence the pictures of my “oh my gosh, it’s cold” face! We ran/hiked to Green Gate and grabbed our headlights. Miguel did some math and said we had a good chance to make it to Brown’s Bar (89.9 miles) before needing our headlights. That would be the first time we have ever made it that far in the light. We made a plan to push the pace a bit through the next couple sections to get every ounce of light we could.
Photo Credit: Byron Powell iRunFar
We let Brown’s Bar and then turned our headlights on. We were cruising down the trial and I noticed I hadn’t seen a yellow flag in awhile. Then we came down to a small water crossing and I looked ahead and saw, at that time a wall of weeds and what looked like a dead end. I turned to Miguel and yelled, “GO back, we must have missed a turn!”. So, we started running back on the trail and it took only about two-tenths and there was a ribbon. What a relief. We turned back and ran back down to the little water crossing. This time we crossed and sure enough there was another yellow ribbon. Sheesh…

We saw the lights of No Hands AS (96.8 miles) and that gave me a final charge. We came into the AS and I saw Chris and Jason. This was when I gave Jason a hug and realized that I was going to win. A huge wave of emotion hit me. I started crying and smiling in complete elation. I looked down at my watch and noticed that we had a possibility to break 18 hours. I asked Miguel to do the math and he gave me some mile splits that I would need to average. I was on a mission now. As we got across No Hands Bridge a photographer took some pictures. In retrospect that was when I had passed Jim Walmsley, who had just put down one of the most inspiring races in Western States history. I tried my best to run as hard as I could going up Robie’s Point. This was when Miguel and I separated. He had not gotten to stop long enough at the past AS to get food and was now feeling it. That’s the tough part for pacers…they are at their runners mercy.

Once I crested to the top, the Robie Point AS volunteers were shouting and giving me the final fire to take it home. I had two young women run up to me and ask if they could pace me to the track. I was overjoyed to have them come with me. I found out as we were running down the streets of Auburn that they were 17-year old triplets! Their other sister, Alexis was at home resting after being in a tournament that day. But, I had Hailey and Annabelle take me home to the track. It was a moment that I won’t forget. We parted ways as I entered the track. I couldn’t believe the day and moment I had dreamed about was coming true!! I rounded the track letting the moment sink in as I high-fived the crowd. I crossed the finish thanking God for being blessed by the amazing gift to run. I gave Craig Thornley (RD) a hug and the first thing he said is, “You won!”.

Elation of crossing the finish line. Photo Credit: Melissa Ruse of SweetM Images
Dreams do come true. If you have the passion for something and you give your whole heart to it, you can achieve what you never thought could be possible. I want to thank God for allowing me these opportunities to glorify him. Thank you to my family who go above and beyond. Miguel Ordorica who is my training partner, ultra-pixie pacer, and best friend. My Coach Jason Koop who has allowed me to achieve my dreams by fine tuning my training and working through countless data for me. My crew Chris and Kristina, who give their whole day dedicated to me and meeting my needs. I cannot thank you enough. Also, during their trip out to Western States became engaged!! Congrats you two!!  The support of my Nike Trail Running Team. Along with Carbo Pro and Honey Stinger to meet my nutritional needs. Thank you everyone who follows me and are my friends and fans! You ROCK! 

Ultra Crew Chris & Kristina

Team Pixie Ninja: Kristina, Chris, me, and Miguel

2016 Western States winners Andrew Miller & myself.
Photo Credit: Gary Wang 

Top 10 Women. Photo Credit: Gary Wang
Shoes: Nike Trail Kigers 3 (one pair)
Clothing: Nike green jersey, Nike split-shorts, Nike pink visor, Swift-Wick socks, arm sleeves, ice bandana, gloves.
Headlight: Petzl headlight
Nutrition: Nathan Handhelds, gels, honey stinger waffles, honey stinger chews, Carbo Pro
AS Nutrition: cookies, chips, potatoes, watermelon, PayDay candy bars, gels, Coke, Mountain Dew

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lemonade and Orange Crush Pop is a perfect combo!

Well it’s hot out and lemonade is best when made with fresh lemons. Just a little metaphor for what ended up being my and my friends Memorial Weekend trip. This isn’t my typical blog, which tends to be race reports; instead this one is about life and learning to embrace adversity.
The Memorial weekend trip to the Western States training camp went off without a hitch. Tim, Miguel, and myself had planned this weekend to be full of fun, running, and hanging out with incredible people whilst enjoying the Western States trail. Day one of training was just amazing. We ran from Robinson Flat where there was still snow covering the trail to the warm canyons to reach the final destination at Foresthill. We finished the day soaking up the sun and relaxing at our rented home in Michigan Bluff. Happily exhausted.

Then on to day two, which started the collection of lemons. Since, we had two rental cars we planned to drive one to Driver’s Flat and leave it. That way after the training run we didn’t have to take the shuttle bus back to Foresthill. We got to Driver’s Flat and decided to leave a change of clothes along with our money so that we could drive to Auburn straight after the run and get some lunch. We paid our fee to the parking area, which was supposed to be $10. However, since none of us had a $10 bill we gave them $20. We walked back to the pickup and Miguel was thinking about placing the keys behind the gas cap door. I remember telling him not to do that, and said that if anything I’d carry the bundle of keys. I just felt something inside me telling me that would have been a bad idea. So, he took the keys and locked the doors. We got into the other rental car and drove down to Foresthill (the start).

The run went great! We all had a fun time and felt happy as we finished and started walking up to Driver’s Flat. Miguel unlocked the door and I opened the back door ready to reach for my bag. My eyes got wide and I had a pit sink into my stomach…my bag was not there. I then panicked and opened the passenger door thinking I must have kept it up there. And there again was nothing! I looked at both Miguel and Tim and said, “My bag is gone” Tim replied saying, “Mine is gone too.” We looked up at each other and I instantly started tearing up in disbelief. Miguel jumped up front and opened the consol where he had left his wallet, and sure enough it was gone too. We all went into a bit of shock and panic. How did someone do this? Can this be real? Did we bonk that bad in the run…and are now having hallucinations? Unfortunately no…it was reality. The thieves had gotten into the back of the pickup truck and slide open the back window and grabbed all of our things.

We at once hopped into the pickup and drove down to Foresthill to the other car. Miguel and I luckily had left our phones in the car down at Foresthill, but unfortunately Tim had not. All of our money, credit cards, licenses, and bags of clothing and other odds and ins were gone. We made it to Foresthill and got into our other vehicle. I hurried and grabbed my phone calling my grandma right away. I needed her as I have always reached out for her in times of need. She always knows what to say and how to calm me down. She answered the phone and I was in the biggest panic rushing to tell her what had happened and that I needed to get ahold of my bank ASAP. Since it was Sunday and Monday was Memorial Day this was going to be a problem. She told me she would call one of the bank tellers that she knew and would call me back. At that time I started searching on my phone for a number to call or anything that would help. I found a 1-800 number that was to be used for these kinds of emergencies. I called right away and there was a nice gentleman who walked me through each step and got my debit card cancelled. That was a huge sigh of relief. Miguel was having success getting his cancelled and Tim was starting his process using our phones. By the time Tim got to his last card the thieves had already purchased $55 worth at a Shell gas station.

Our next issue was that we only had a little less than $200 between us in cash. In addition, our licenses were gone and we had flights to get back home. While we were figuring out what to do next, Tim had the idea to see if he could track his phone with the find my iPhone app. Sure enough the thieves hadn’t turned his phone off and we tracked it to Sacramento. We hopped in the car and took off to where it was last pinged. As we were driving the tracking had stopped on an off ramp going from 1-80 to a neighborhood. We got out and searched high and low for the phone but came up empty handed. We drove back into town where Tim was lucky enough to have his parents wire him some money. It was now close to 5:00pm and we just realized we hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the run. We were all wearing thin with emotion, however we kept each other upbeat and positive (as best as we could in the situation given). We finally decided to give up and head back to our rental home and call it a day. We all grabbed a foot-long Subway and devoured them before even 5 miles out of Auburn. We got back and sat a long time in silence just reflecting on the day.

Tim had a flight scheduled for 4:00 pm the next day and decided it was best that he didn’t push it by trying to make it from the end of the training run. He decided to run from the house at Michigan Bluff before heading to the Sacramento airport. Miguel and I had flights early on Tuesday morning so we were able to run the last training run. We all decided that we weren’t going to let this ruin our weekend. We had a strong bond between us before the incident, and now it has even made it stronger. We were in this as a team. We went to bed although none of us slept as we kept thinking about the day’s events. And it didn’t help that the dogs were barking crazily all night.

The next morning we were all red-eyed, but in decent spirits. Miguel and I wished Tim off as he was heading out for a run before his long drive to the airport. We hoped that he would be able to get through TSA somehow to fly home. Miguel and I went to training camp and were overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and concern everyone had for us. That is truly what a community is about and why I love the ultrarunning community we have. Bless you all. XOXO Miguel and I made sure to leave the troubles behind and focus on the moment of that day. We were going to enjoy that run and embrace the healing powers that the Western States trail has. It is a magical trail that you cannot but smile when running on. We both finished happy, but soon after the looming stress started coming back. I rushed up to make sure the pickup hadn’t been broken into again. Thankfully it was fine. I then grabbed my phone and checked on Tim. He had made it through security at the airport, even without his license. He had to go through a long process of questioning, bag searching, and being patted down, but he was on his way home back to Omaha!  This made me feel relieved thinking Miguel and I would be able to get home too.

Wow, does a 4:00 am alarm suck! Miguel and I got to the airport over an hour early to be sure we gave ourselves plenty of time. We got up to the security checkpoint and had to wait as someone in front of us had a similar issue. When they got through I explained to the TSA woman our incident and that neither of us had our licenses or any forms of proof of identity. She sighed then said we needed to fill out a document and then she would have to call and ask us questions. She said that she had been on hold for over 20 minutes with the last person and hoped it wouldn’t take that long for us. So she called and we waited and waited and waited…sure enough another 20+ minutes passed before she started talking to someone on the other line. She asked if she could get both Miguel and I through during this one phone call. The person on the other line said absolutely not and she would need to call back. Finally, she asked me my questions and I passed. I had to have everything in my bag checked and I had to go through the complete pat down. I worried that Miguel wouldn’t get through in time. I boarded and fortunately he was the last person to get on the plane. We had made and were headed home!

What I learned through this whole experience:

1    1. Never leave anything of value in a vehicle.
2    2. People know how to break into a locked pickup by sliding the backseat window open and sneaking in.
     3.  Friends mean everything, as I couldn’t have gotten through this without Miguel and Tim.
4   4. The Lord watches out for those who love him.
5   5. It could have been much worse:
a.     That morning I decided to take out my house key and extra Garmin from the bag that was stolen.
b.     I also decided to put my phone charger in the glove compartment instead of my bag. (They didn’t get that!)
c.      Miguel and I took our phones in the other car. (We could have all been without phones)
d.     We could have came upon them while in the act and who knows what could have happened.
6   6. The outpouring of care from family and friends was beyond my imagination.
7   7. We were not in this alone…we had our whole community behind us!
     8. The thieves may have gotten away with a crime, but I know they will have their day of judgment whether it is in this world or another.
9   9. Material items can be replaced.
    10. Not letting something rotten ruin a weekend…PRICELESS!

Thanks for reading and happy trails to you all!!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Recovery Update – Patience is a Virtue

Life sometimes takes you down a path of bushwhacking and unrunnable terrain.  I followed that path throughout the month of February. Instead of fighting I let go and decided to stop and embrace the moment that I was in. Don’t get me wrong, fighting injury and anemia is not a fun time, but one that I reflect on and am now grateful for. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I would find that reason.

Throughout February I was plagued with an Achilles injury (Achilles tendonitis+bursitis) that caused me to be unable to run. I couldn’t push off without excruciating pain and aggravating it more. So what did I do?! How did I not go crazy without running? Well what I do know as a physical therapist, is that you do NOT run or do an activity if it causes the injury to become painful. What you do find are other ways to be active. What I found is that I had no Achilles pain with cycling, the Arc Trainer, and walking. So, my choices of activity were those and I did them 5-6 days a week for 1-2 hours at a time. I worked hard on the Arc Trainer, as I was able to get a ‘workout burn’ and a heart rate that equaled what I would have during a running workout. I also got back into the gym and started lifting. Things I had wanted to do, but neglected to do.  These activities helped me work on being balanced both physically and mentally.

I finally hit rock bottom. It had been over a month since I had gotten to run and my Achilles was barely making any progress. I reached out as a physical therapist to other physical therapists that I work with. Community Rehab, my employer, has been such a great company to work for and every one of my coworkers go above and beyond to help those in need…me included. I sent out an email asking for help with my Achilles, and I received several replies offering assistance. Luke Collins, one of my coworkers fortunately made time for me that day to come see him. He did an evaluation and found my gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in my left calf to be tight and knotted up like a braided rope. He ended up dry needling my calf muscles. With every needle inserted in my calf muscle I felt a ZING, some areas worse than others. Then he applied an iontophoresis patch and KT-tape. The instant I got up and stood I had relief and what felt like a release of my calf muscles. I was in complete shock. I went home that night and couldn’t help but go for a test run. That night I was able to run for the first time in over a month pain-free!! I cried in happiness. I continued the PT treatments for the next couple weeks and to this day have not had any Achilles issues. I am now a firm believer in dry needling.

For my anemia I looked into my diet and made changes along with starting a regime of taking two iron pills a day along with a multi-vitamin. Then I followed up with my doctor every other week to have blood tests. I started feeling better as my iron levels started to slowly improve. Recovering from iron deficiency can take many weeks since it takes your body time to build back its iron reserves. I will continue to stay on this regime so that I don’t allow my anemia to recur.
Now at the end of March, I have bushwhacked my way out of the wilderness to find the sweet buttery single-track trail. I will continue to be careful and watch the path set out in front of me to be sure to stay on the trial of good fortune. I have been back to training and even racing without any pain or injuries. My iron is still rebuilding, and I will continue to be careful. I am just so thankful and fortunate to be happy and healthy running once again. Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Finding answers and understanding the results.

I typically am a private person who doesn’t like to post about my personal problems, but this time I want to open up and share my story in hope that it helps others.

For the past month or so, I started noticing how easy paces were feeling like I was needing to put more effort in them. I also noticed my decease in ability to climb any hill, even the bunny slopes. I made excuses saying it was because of the snow on the paths, I was wearing more clothes, it was cold, etc. The trend continued to become worse. It was starting to wear on me mentally as to why I was struggling so much. I became stubborn and fought through it during training. Run after run was getting harder both physically and mentally. Finally, my body gave up and I strained a hamstring. I took time off right away and went to the gym to cross train.

Once I felt it was healed I started running again, only to notice my Achilles was feeling sore. It progressively got worse with each run. I put a heel cup in my shoe to help. I continued my stubbornness and ran through the pain. I was missing red flags left and right…being blinded by my own madness. Then the bottom fell out and I came down with a cold/flu. I was drained and couldn’t manage to function normally. When 9-10 hours of sleep wasn’t even making me feel rested I knew something was very wrong.

I continued to try and run, even though my body was fighting every step. I was so worried I would loose fitness going into Rocky Raccoon and that made me force runs when I should have been resting more. The weekend before Rocky I was allowing myself to do a couple test runs to see how my body was going to respond. Saturday I went out for an easy hour. The pain in the Achilles was there but, something I could ‘deal’ with. Then Sunday I went for my run, in hopes to have a solid 2 hours to really decide if I should race Rocky or not. I ran, but had excruciating pain at times that about dropped me to my knees. It felt like a knife was stabbing my Achilles. I continued to force the run.

That night the Achilles blew up and was painful to touch or even walk on. I was frustrated and still feeling under the weather with my cold/flu. I decided on Monday it was a make or break day. I planned to run and if it went well I was going to run Rocky if not I would have to sit out. From the first step to the last I had so much pain that I was in tears the whole way fighting. I don’t cry often, but when I do it means something. It was time to realize there was not going to be a race in my future and I needed to get into the doctor to see what’s wrong.

I saw the Orthopaedic doctor to find out that I had a severe case of Achilles tendonitis along with bursitis and a strained gastroc muscle. I had pitting edema in my ankle to the point it looked like a cankle. No contours. The doctor wanted me to be in a CAM-boot, but I said I wouldn’t run and would be very cautious. This definitely meant NO Rocky.

Then I went to see my Primary Doctor on Friday. I had developed sinus infection, so she put me on an antibiotic. Then she wanted to get blood tests done to see if there were any underlying issues. I just received my lab results today with confirmation of why I was feeling so terrible…I am anemic. My Hemoglobin is 9.4 (12-14), Hematocrit 30.9% (32-36%), and Ferritin is 7 (11-310). Normal values are in parenthesis and should all be at the higher end as an athlete for optimal performance.

So, this left me with answers as to why I felt like I was struggling during my runs, getting sick, and being injured with the inability to heal. It is a real problem for many endurance athletes. I just want to remind everyone to go in for blood tests regularly so that you don’t end up having my problems. They honestly can sneak up on you and then BAM…hit you in the face. My dream of running Rocky has been put to rest, but now I have fire to get healthy for the rest of the season. Don’t be stupid and stubborn like me. Learn from my mistakes.  

I will be getting healthy and keeping happy doing biking, lifting, any other activities that allow me to be active but not overtaxing and risking set backs. Please, don’t take your health for granted.  

Happy Trails!

Kaci xoxo