I’m not going to lie. I was a little bit skeptical getting my first blood draw from this company called Inside Tracker about 2 years ago. I had found them through a fellow trail and ultra-runner who had success with them. I agreed to a blood draw, but initially was only interested in them to track my Iron levels over time. I was a 23-year old seemingly healthy, ultra-marathon runner, who found increasing success and some notoriety in races ranging from 50 miles to 100km on technical mountain trails with challenging altitudes. All the while remaining relatively injury free. Having been a vegetarian for 4 years, I felt sure that I was eating well and staying well hydrated. My only “vice” was a moderate addiction to coffee and overall I thought I was consuming the right things to optimize my lifestyle.
My delusion of a healthy body was about to be debunked. A simple blood biomarker analysis from a company called InsideTracker would punctuate what I felt was a lifestyle equilibrium and lead me on a journey culminating in an unfreezing of my former perceptions of nutrition, exercise, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
Fast forward a year and a half and I am the fittest, healthiest, and happiest I have ever been. Sound like an exaggeration? Let me explain.
Part 1: First things first; Inside-Who??
Founded by leading scientists, physicians, nutritionists and exercise physiologists from the likes of MIT, Harvard and Tufts University, InsideTracker is a blood-analytics company rooted in scientific research. They take your blood results and look at certain blood biomarkers and give recommendations on how to optimize them through supplementation, diet, and training modifications. Their goal is to help improve their client’s energy, metabolism, mood, sleep, performance, and recovery. On top of this, they are both passionate and knowledgeable about athletics and helping athletes understand their bodies. After reading more about them, I was excited to see what they had recommended for me.
Part 2: “It’s all in your head. You’re a fit, healthy, young girl.”
In general, as a fit endurance athlete, most general practitioners don’t take me too seriously when I say something feels off, and to their defense, I wouldn’t either. They’re are often over-worked, constantly surrounded by the sickest, most unhealthy individuals and have little time for guesswork. To them athletes are not life or death, chronically ill, or overweight individuals with high blood pressure. We need specialists in the field of athlete health, and for me finding specialists was the hardest part.
In 2012, before I was taking this running thing seriously, I had record low iron levels and needed a transfusion. I decided against having it (I was naïve and wanted to go to Spain for my semester abroad) and ever since have been anemic. My Ferritin levels are rarely in the “normal” range. Ferritin levels are important because we need iron to make blood and transport oxygen to muscles for energy. I have tried a lot of things to get my ferritin to budge; new pills, liquids, or food forms. Despite all this, the number stays the same, staring back up at me, mocking me.
My years of research experience in undergrad and beyond pushed me to continue to ask;
“Why is it continually low, why do I not absorb the iron I am consuming?”
No one I talked with ever investigated too deeply and eventually I assumed that every runner was as anemic as me and that was that.
Add anemia to some uncontrollable race bonks, blurry vision, migraines around lunch, and chronic stomach pain and I was convinced that this was the life of an ultrarunner.
Part 3: An initial look at the Inside, and it wasn’t pretty
To say I was shocked from my blood results is an understatement. I thought I was a healthy individual who was in complete control of her body. How wrong I was. Getting these results made me take a realistic look at how I was nourishing, challenging and treating my body. The charade of arrogance about my own health was over. Transparency was scary.
As I scanned the list of my results, I was stunned. My LDL was a bit too high. My Ferritin and Iron Group were too low. My Magnesium and Vitamin D were too low. My testosterone was too high and my cholesterol and glucose were on the high end of normal.
InsideTracker not only communicates the results, but had already begun scientifically analyzing them and my current lifestyle and recommended changes. I got to work and started implementing some of their recommendations. InsideTracker knew that I’d had issues with anemia for years, so they recommended a different iron pill (ferrous sulfate) and instructed me to take it at night with vitamin C, far away from any other food consumption or workout. They also recommended I start taking Vitamin B12 to make sure that the anemia wasn’t caused by my inability to utilize this vitamin. This was the first I had even heard about this idea, but it made sense.
This helped a bit, but something still felt off.
My follow-up test a couple of months later showed that my Vitamin D went up, Magnesium went slightly up, and my cholesterol went back to normal, however my glucose and ferritin stayed the same while my testosterone had tripled.
As for the extreme elevation in testosterone, because it was extremely abnormal they suggested I go to a doctor.
Part 4: “Google says you should have a beard, you don’t have one. I think you’re fine.”
I went to a general care physician. I wish I hadn’t and wish that title was not quoting something he said. I’ll leave it at this. He thought everything was fine and sent me and my lack of facial hair on my way.
Fast forward a week and I went where I should have in the first place. A doctor who specializes in women’s metabolic and hormonal disorders. She didn’t call me crazy and she didn’t laugh when I told her how I felt. She listened, chatted with me for an hour, and read through my InsideTracker results. She immediately ordered a follow-up blood test of markers not included on InsideTracker’s tests along with a scan of my ovaries. The next week after she had looked at my thyroid levels, FSH, LH, estrogen, and fasting insulin, she told me they were all way too low except the insulin, which was too high. She also told me my ovaries were covered in cysts.
Part 5: “So I am pretty certain you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.”
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrinpathy, where hyper-androgenism (high levels of androgen hormones like testosterone), chronic anovulation (missed periods), and polycystic ovaries are common.4 Say what??
In very basic level:
What is PCOS?
• It is a syndrome that is diagnosed by incorrect hormone levels in the body, missed periods, and cysts on the ovaries.3 It typically is a symptom of a larger disorder, Metabolic syndrome or Hypothyroidism, which have to do with incorrect regulation of endocrine hormones (5).
What does it effect?
• Blood Glucose: Insulin resistance is common and your body becomes less efficient at utilizing sugar due to an over production and desensitization to insulin. This disorder pre-disposes you to Type II Diabetes (2).
• Hormone regulation: Certain hormone ratios are incorrect and this has cascade effects on other hormones in your body. This can affect things like being able to get pregnant (4).
• Testosterone: Testosterone is high. This occurs because higher insulin levels can decrease the ability of proteins who clear these hormones out of your system (4).
• A beard or male-patterned hair growth: Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently my Google-searching doctor wasn’t too far off, except this is not prevalent in all cases, but women with this disorder can exhibit male-patterned hair growth (4).
• Thyroid: A decrease in the production of thyroid hormones that regulate appetite, metabolism, sleep, etc. This is 80% common in women with PCOS and it is either the leading cause of the other symptoms of PCOS, or it is a result of the hormonal imbalance (3).
• Anemia: This one surprised me, but made sense! Hypothyroidism can cause anemia due to many factors dealing with things from the size of red blood cells, metabolic rate, and less absorption of iron through the gut (1) !
As my doctor explained to me the disorder, I had two thoughts resonating through my mind.
“How am I going to manage this?”
“I’m not crazy.”
My doctor told me she thought I should tackle the low iron levels head on with an iron infusion. I declined politely. Then she said, it wouldn’t hurt to try and see if heme iron (animal-based iron) absorbs better in your body. I politely said no again, I had been vegetarian for 5 years, I was good. Then she prescribed me a low dose medication for diabetes/hypothyroidism, and some herbal based supplements to combat my stomach and hormone levels, I was sent on my way to report back in a month.
Part 6: A Slice of Humble Pie
I’d like to say that as soon as I started taking the supplements my doctor gave me, I felt like a new woman, but the adjustment wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It required more dedication on my end and at that time I only had 3 weeks of training left before the IAU Trail World Championships. I was not giving this disorder the respect it needed, but I thought I would be fine. The World Championships was a suffer fest. On top of spending the previous 10 days in Europe with minimal sleep, I missed a couple pills, ate mostly carbs in the small town of Bradia Prataglia and didn’t feel too great. I started the race carbo-loaded, which contrary to popular belief, was probably the worst thing I could have done, and suffered throughout the entire thing.
I got home and immediately re-evaluated my priorities. I needed to take this disorder seriously if I wanted to run and recover well. I would never go into a race that unprepared again; some aspects of ultra-running we can control, and I controlled absolutely nothing. I called both InsideTracker and Roxanne, our GU energy labs nutritionist, to talk about ways to optimize my diet so my body could absorb nutrients and recover well. I kept a food diary for 2 weeks and was proud of it.
Roxanne was not as proud, but she was extremely skilled at telling me that even though she could see I was trying, I was not eating the correct type or amount of calories necessary for someone with my condition and my intense training load. I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed, even though I was eating enough calories; my body was still in a starved, undernourished state. I needed to increase my protein intake to 90-110 grams per day, decrease any empty carbohydrates (things like rice cakes, fruits, and cereals) that throw my blood sugar out of whack. I also needed to increase my consumption of healthy fats. Increasing fat, protein, and fiber would help keep my blood sugar stable. She also did not think my doctor’s recommendation to try meat was that outlandish since my disorder already made the absorption of nutrients more difficult.
After some deep thinking on my diet, I finally threw in the metaphorical vegetarian hat.
Part 7: I had a burger, won a race, got a CR, and my ferritin doubled within a month.
I started eating meat and eliminating empty carbohydrate sources. 2 weeks later, I won and set a CR at the Mt. Hood 50 mile, and another 2 weeks later my ferritin was a whopping 28! That was more than double any number I had seen in over 5 years and I felt it!
I started eating 90-100 grams of protein per day, upped my avocado game, and started packing snacks for races further from home. I have a weekly burger and some other sources of meat during the week. I’ve paid better attention to my body’s response to certain foods, and I have never felt as good in my entire life. Unless I slip up and eat incorrectly, my lunch-time blurry vision and headaches are gone. I finally wake up hungry in the morning and find myself with less stomach issues. My training and running has definitely improved and by switching to GU Energy Labs Peanut Butter or Chocolate Coconut Gels for racing, I have less crazy bonks. (Disclaimer: Those gels have fat in them!)
Part 8: So, what exactly are you trying to say, Keely?
1. Trust your gut when something feels off. Athletes are a unique bunch and we know our bodies well. We are our biggest advocate because we don’t always have health care providers who know our bodies as well as we do. We don’t follow the “norm” of healthcare and neither should our expectations. We are all tough, but sometimes following up with something that feels off, no matter how big or small, is the smart thing to do.
2. Surround yourself by people who understand the athlete’s body. These people are great to have in your court. We all reach a point in our training where we plateau and are toeing that fine line of excellence. Having others around who understand your body and make recommendations can help take you to the next level.
3. Frequent blood testing is a good way to evaluate both your training and fitness loads, while realistically evaluating your health and eating habits. Get it done. It can help you with your performance, your life, and keep you more in tune with your body so that if something is out of whack, you can figure out what is behind it.
4. Eat what is right for you. Some diets resemble religion in the way they are preached. However, they are not a “one size fits all” and we need to eat what is best for our bodies, physiology, and mind. We need to be influenced by what is best for our own health and not influenced by outlandish diet crazes with claims you cannot rely on unrealistic or simply “trying” what seems to work for other athletes.
Our bodies are our temples, you cannot trade it in for a new one. Be empowered to find out essential information that will help you manage and optimize your health. Because as much as running seems like life, the real race is not up the next mountain, but to have a long, healthy and happy life.
Interested in seeing what’s on the inside? Check out InsideTracker’s website: www.insidetracker.com
1. Anemia in hypothyroidism. Antonijevic, et al. Medicinski Pregled. 01 Mar 1999. 52 (3-5): 136-140. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10518398
2. Insulin Resistance and the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Mechanism and Implications for Pathogenesis. Dunaif, Andrea. Endocrine Reviews, Volume 18, Issue 6, 1 December 1997, Pages 774–800. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/edrv.18.6.0318
3. PCOS and Thyroid Health. Tentrini, Dana. March 2014. http://hypothyroidmom.com/pcos-and-thyroid-health/
4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Arguably the Most Common Endocrinopathy Is Associated with Significant Morbidity in Women. Enrico Carmina Rogerio A. Lobo The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 84, Issue 6, 1 June 1999, Pages 1897–1899, https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.84.6.5803
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrom and Metabolic Syndrome. Gynekol, Ceska. 2015 Aug;80(4):279-89. < http://www.prolekare.cz/en/czech-gynaecology-article/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-and-metabolic-syndrome-52866>
Happy Running Ya'll!!
I have never experienced an atmosphere as contagious or energetic as that surrounding the trail races of UTMB. People have expressed their surprise at my consistent smile photographed at every check point. What they don’t realize is that they would have been hard pressed to not flash the same toothy grin in response to the constant cheers, “animal!” chants, and passion-filled volunteers and spectators. I now fully understand the difference between American and European racing and I can only hope that over the next decade or so, the racing here can become half of what it is in Europe. Not to belittle the trail/ultra scene in the States, it is still invigorating, passionate, and unique. That’s why we do it, right? It’s just not quite on the level of UTMB and European racing. Yet.
Coming off of an epic week at TransRockies with my badass partner Amanda Basham and all of the other amazing runners and people out there, I was excited to be off to another set of mountains for a week. Who needs work anyways, right?! ;)
“What the hell were you thinking, Keely?! 100km in the Alps? After your first 100km you swore you wouldn’t do another one.. yet here we are..”
Needless to say, I was a bit bipolar going in, both equally certain that I could run CCC and run it well, but also appalled at my own stupidity for signing up for something I was certain to not do well at. I suppose I was suffering from “giving too many shits about nothing,” to quote “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu**.”
But finally, after running the beautiful trails and previewing the first climb (5,000' in the first 10km!) with the ever-so-supportive Simon and his friends, I turned my mind off, stopped giving a fu**, and was ready to have fun in the Alps!
Once we got to Chamonix- I got to hang out with a bunch of awesome GU athletes day 1 and then the rest of the week was in the Nike House. Our house was so amazing with a window as large as a wall looking out at Mt. Blanc. If anyone wants to buy said house, I would totally live with you, just throwing that out there. I got to stay with my two BA teammates David Laney and Sally McRae (who I finally met in person and absolutely adore), and we kept the week pretty low-key and stress-free!
Race morning we left the house pretty early to avoid the possible backup at the tunnel.. my OCD would not let me even come close to getting stuck in that kind of scenario, so the boys and I were at the start a good…2 hours before it started. Lol. It weirdly went fast, and like always I found myself somewhat rushing to the finish, only to wait once I was in the front corral. I found Cassie, Clare, and some other ladies I knew running, chatted a bit, gave some hugs and the next thing I knew, we were off! And literally STAMPEDING THROUGH TOWN. HOLY HELL.
The weird “elite tracker” they gave me at the start line flew out of my pack and into the mob behind me about a half a mile in and I did not risk my life to dive under the lugs of trail shoes to try to rescue the only NON-required gear that was on my person. Sorry UTMB, not worth it!
My one main goal for the day, aside from be happy and positive as often as possible, was to run my own race. No getting caught up in others races, who should or shouldn’t be ahead of me, or if I was running too fast. I was going to run how I run, especially for the first 50-60km, then I would look into who was ahead and behind. The first climb is a bear. 6.2 miles and like 4,700’ of climbing, where the last mile boasts a whopping 1650’ of gain in its short distance alone. This was why I had brought the gypsy poles.
About 2.5 miles up the climb I hear
“Keely!” “Keeely!!!” in a slight accent. I turn around.
“Your gloves!!” exclaimed a dear male runner.
I grabbed them and thanked him profusely and stuffed them into the wonderful Nike Trail Booty Short that has pockets big enough to hold an entire army. I think half of my required gear ended up in those lovely shorts.
Fast forward another 2 miles and I am awkwardly slow-motion falling onto my poles mid-hike. I count this as a half-fall. The guy behind me laughed and said;
"You don't fall too gracefully, do you?"
Story of my life.
All in all, this climb flew by (not literally since it was about an 1:40 before the 10km was completed), and soon we were descending! After the first aid at about 9.5 miles and ~2:10 in I realized I had only drank about ¾ of my Roctane drink. So I quickly grabbed a cup of Coke from the aid and hurried out scolding myself.
“Just because you are holding your Gypsy poles doesn’t mean you get to not eat, Keely! Come on, don’t be stupid!”
I was taking my time on the slightly uphill section before the second climb when I passed a couple of women. I had no clue what position I was in. I could see Kelly and a Spanish woman (Spain was logo'd on her booty so I thought that was a good guess) ahead of me, but aside from them, I had no clue who was up front with Clare! I took the second climb super easy, working the magical poles, and trying to remember to at least drink my water. These two climbs were breathtaking!
Rolling into the mile 25ish aid station, I think I was in 4th place, as I had passed Kelly on the climb, and was running with the lady from Spain. She was in and out of the aid and off sprinting down the hill. Damn. My non-eating was catching up a bit, so I “backed off” a bit and was running 6’50-7’00 pace instead.. and she pulled ahead by quite a bit! Flying!
Running into the first crew aid (35 miles), I told Chris I wasn't eating enough. Grabbed 5 gels, drank a half a liter of Coke and was out.
The rest of the course was spent drinking a lot of Coke at the aids, pushing when I felt I could but staying steady, and letting out "whoops" when the views were breathtaking. I didn't want to bonk and I didn't want to slow down much, so I just kept a steady, slightly uncomfortable grind.
Running into the final aid station (52 miles) I didn't feel that great. I had been flirting with the bonk line all day not being able to stomach much real food, but I wasn't fully bonked. But as soon as I saw Simon and his puppies and Chris told me that the 3rd place girl was still only 6 minutes up, I felt a fire burn inside. The puppies and the competition got me fired up a bit. After more coke and a force fed gel, I picked it up out of that aid station, and 2.5 miles later, I saw Chris again. This time he said she was only 2.5 minutes up and looking rough on the uphills.
This is where a side of me unleashed that I never knew possible. The next thing I knew, me and the Spanish guy I was running with were off, and after I told him, in jumbled Spanish (my brain was NOT WORKING 10+ hours into a race) that I was close to third, he took off yelling “Vamos Chica” and the hunt was on.
We caught her coming up to the top of the first of 2 climbs until the finish, and she was definitely climbing slow. We summited probably 5-10 s behind her, I paused to take a GU (NO BONKING NOW) and then started flying down the most technical descent we saw all race. Their headlamps were bobbing just a little ways down, and I was pretty confident that if I just stayed steady I would gradually catch back up and pass at the next climb.
30 seconds later I was down, one ankle wedged between two large rocks and the other leg bent a bit on top of another rock slab.
“Shit. That wasn’t my normal, Keely stop being stupid fall. That was an actual fall. Ouch. Shoot.”
I slowly stood up on an ankle that wanted to flop over and a knee that was cut open and throbbing and stood there shaking for a bit. I carefully made (shimmied/hopped/flopped) down the rest of this technical descent and started to jog again on the unhappy appendages. I wanted to cry.
“Don’t cry, you don’t cry, who the heck does that. Keep going.”
"But, that fu***** sucked.. did I break anything?"
"Who the heck knows. Keep moving."
I stopped my pity party and tried to keep moving, slowly at first and eventually found half of my previous rhythm. If it was to be my day, then I would catch her again, if not, she won fair and square, she descended that like a floating gypsy. Damn.
Coming out to the climb up to the final aid station I picked the pace up a bit more. I wanted to catch her, but I also wanted to survive this, and another fall like that would not be pleasant. The final descent was not as technical as the first, but I was still a bit shaky and with the fog reflecting the headlamps beam back to my face, I was not moving as fast as I would have liked. We finally got out on a dirt road, where I could run a bit faster, but with her nowhere in site I knew I would have to settle with 4th. I was ripping the descent, but it was a bit late. Damn. But I wasn't that upset because also DAMN! What the heck- that was freaking awesome! I had never pushed that hard to catch someone in all of my life. It was exhilarating. And even though I didn't catch her, I knew this experience was only unleashing a new side of my racing I didn't know I had before.
Turning the final km to the finish, I was ambushed by all sorts of whistles, chants, and high five variations. This town was nuts. And I couldn’t help but high five them all back and smile like an idiot. That was hard-64 miles and >20,000' of climbing- but I freaking did it. And I did it way faster than I thought I could.
Rounding the final corner, I saw Chris, Simon, Ed, Kyle, and Clare standing there screaming me in. And then I heard it.
“Here comes the fourth winner, the beautiful American Princess!” exclaims the announcer.
Special thanks to my crew of 1- Chris, Simon & his pups, Alistair and his wife, Ed & Kyle, for being out there and supporting me. And to all of the outstanding volunteers and cheering fans out on the course. This race was incredible.
And thank you so much to GU Energy Labs, Inside Tracker and Nike Trail for believing in me and supporting me through all of my training and racing.
Congrats to Clare for crushing this race and Kelly for rounding out the top 5 and showing that the USA ladies can compete with the top runners! Wahoo! And to all of the other amazing people I shared miles with on the course, met at the pre-race festivities, or witnessed breaking their own barriers. This sport is incredible. WE are incredible. Don’t forget that all.
And as always, my stats.
-5 GU energy gels (I know that was bad on my part)
-2 sleeves of Gu chomps
-1.5 liters of Coca Cola
-2 bottles of Roctane
-2 puppies wearing rain jackets (thanks Simon!)
-2 frozen hands that couldn't open my pockets to get my waterproof gloves (how ironic!?)
-890 high fives, "animals," and other chants/cheers
-at least 1 smile given by me at every aid station (as verified by my co-workers who were watching the live stream)
-1 nickname that will stay with me forever
Before I get into the Mt. Hood 50 mile, I should address the elephant in the room. Most of you are probably like, what in tarnation is she talking about?
I'm talking about World Championships and my lack thereof of any sort of race report on the experience.
I really tried to write a race recap on my experience representing the USA at the world championships. But I couldn’t. It was both the worst race of my life and the best at the same time and I couldn’t write about either without the other, and couldn’t give it the justice it deserved. So instead, I didn’t write it but I will cherish my teammates and memories for all of eternity, the ladies and gents are some of the best I have ever met, and the scenery and camaraderie was indescribable (see photo of my bada$$ and beautiful lady teammates). However, I left Italy with 3 things ringing through my mind.
1. I missed my shot. Why do I dedicate so much time to something that can all go up in flames in one race? Why?!
Now you may be thinking that some of these contradict one another. Well, youre right. They do. It took me 2 weeks down from running and a trip to the wonderful Western States with my community for me to find my mojo again (see picture left of me re-finding my mojo). I left Western States with the infamous #Westernstateshangover and with a redefined list of 3.
Mt. Hood 50 mile
Finally, with my heart set and finding that my body was finally recovered, I signed up for Mt. Hood 50 mile. I wanted to run this. It may not have been my best idea, but I really wanted to run it. The running community that would be there would be awesome, it was close to home, the trails looked beautiful, the double out-n-back looked appealing, and the profile looked more like my jam. There I was, limiting those insane variables just a bit. But more, I was running it because I wanted to, I was stoked.
Race morning was great, waking up in a tent, stress-free, with a giant cup of coffee waiting for me from Chris. We walked over to the start a bit early, got my bib, and chit chatted with a bunch of the people we knew. The next thing I knew I was lining up on the start line, water bottle in hand, pockets filled w gels, Gu beanie on head, and we were off!
The first 28 miles flew by.
Yes. I said the first 28 miles flew by (But that's a lot of miles, Keely?!!). Let me tell you why.
We started out the gate running quick but conservatively and immediately I was joined by Justin James Long (JJ) as we chugged a little bit behind Laney and the lead pack of men. We chatted pretty much for the entirety of those 28 miles. Mainly fueled by JJ’s eagerness to learn, his passion for his life and this sport, and our occasional whoops at the site of Mt. Hood, because well, look at her! She's a beaut! JJ’s passion was contagious and the life he had re-created for himself through running was motivating. He is 1.5 years sober and counting. He found an out to his addictive lifestyle, and I was so proud to get to know him. 2 days prior I had lost my childhood best friend, Kim to addiction and I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy for JJ and for her. Our minds are crazy, complex things, they are powerful, but we can overcome a lot more than we think we can. I always wanted her to get infected by the trail community like I had, she was always running crazy amounts of miles too, so that day I pretended that she had, that she was there running along the PCT with me too.
After mile 28, we came back through the Start/Finish Area to go out the other way on the PCT. Everyone here was so ecstatic (including the race directors!) and my crew and pups were there cheering and handing me my new water bottle and gels. I was 8-10 minutes up on my projected pace (which was around the old CR time) through here, but felt good, so I kept it up. The second out-n-back starts with a gradual up hill to an aid 5.4 miles out, where my friend Gordo was, and then drops down and back up again to the final aid station (mile 39.8) where we turn around and head back to the finish. Since my GPS was about as helpful as I am without my glasses on, I just ran based on elapsed time for the entire run and between aid stations. By the time I was closing in on the final turn-around, I was 16-17 gels in ( yes, I know that is a crap ton of gels ), feeling good, and witnessing the men’s race unfold. Laney ran past me first (~15 min before the aid) with Patrick about 5 minutes back, both looking strong. Then Duncan was about 5-6 minutes ahead of me. They all looked solid, but maybe I could catch one?
Then I saw JJ coming through about 7 minutes behind me, and the second place female looking steady about 5 minutes behind him! I got to the final climb, which was a bit annoying and in the sun, and took me a couple of minutes to get over a mini pity party and run it without wanting to hike.
“Suck it up, Keely. Gosh” I said to myself.
Then immediately began to push, and laugh, because I thought of Napoleon Dynamite. Give me your tots, Gosh!
I am weird.
Coming into the final aid station around 6 hours I heard Gordo playing the fiddle and I knew I could break the course record (which came first the chicken or the egg?). That had been my goal the entire day, but I was never 100% confident until that moment. 5.3 miles all downhill to the finish. Wahoo! This descent was awesome and I was running around 7’30 pace pretty easily, until about 1.5 miles from the finish where I got super excited seeing some people coming out on their out-n-back, waved, and immediately superman dove head first into the trail.
Their faces were horrified. I grunted, grabbed my water bottle, looked myself all the way down, laughed, told them I was okay, and was off. This time I ran about 8’30-9 minute pace. The only way I wouldn’t get the CR is if I continued to fall my way down the hill. Knowing my track record, I knew that was not entirely impossible, so I slowed down and stopped being way too over the top when I saw others, and was just my normal cheery self.
I passed Duncan shortly thereafter, and tried to pull him with me, but he was having some cramping, so he cheered me on. I ran to the finish with a big grin across my face, knowing how ridiculous and covered in dirt I looked but also relishing in the fact that I completed my very top goal for the race.
6:46:12, 1st female, new CR, 3rd Overall.
I celebrated JJ finishing in fourth- sub 7 hours- and so incredibly grateful . I witnessed the second place female crush it, and come in sub 7 hours as well! Studette! And I shared countless finishes with racers crossing the line with the same, satisfied overly-goofy smile across their faces. It was incredible. I stayed until late that night cheering everyone in, chatting with the awesome people in our community, and 100% content. This is what it is all about. Results aside, we all endure this crazy stuff for the community. I don’t think I will ever be able to leave it.
The next day I got to see some friends race the 50k! Shout out to Danielle and Chris for coming out top 10 even though they both crewed for me all day on Saturday. And congrats to Susie and her TR teammate for crushing it as well. And a big shout out to EVERY ONE ELSE who was out there this weekend (there are too many!)!
A special thank you to GU energy labs and Inside Tracker for the support and for helping me figure out my health and allow me to train at the top of my potential. And a huge thank you to Nike Trail for sponsoring these great races, believing in me,and providing great support.
As always, here are my tallies:
2 potty breaks in good ole mother nature
16 x GU Peanut Butter or Chocolate Coconut gels in the first 35 miles
2 x cute pups spotted with my crew all day
32 x wahoos!
1 x being called a unicorn on the trail
50+x Great job! Keep it up!
1 x angel running with me
2.5 x falls (superman counts as 2)
1 x GU Beanie (until mile 9)
>12 new friends
Happy running everyone :) If you see me out on the trails, I wasn't mauled by a bear. It was just me being clumsy.
Way too Cool 50k - March 4th 2017
This was the first weekend in my life where I was finally way too cool for school. Oh, what the middle school boys who thought I was weird and too tall would think now. Actually, they would still probably think I am a weirdo. But now instead of going home and worrying about how I could redo my makeup and wardrobe or spice up my flirty vernacular, I am totally okay with it. Most people have a different definition of cool than me, and it typically doesn’t involve running 50 km through beautiful, windy, California trails, but I’ll cut my losses.
This is the only cool for me.
Way too cool 50k is a pretty early race to start the 2017 season. It is a test on how well you survived and trained through the winter months, among other things. I was excited to train for something a bit faster than usual and continue to build my speed this winter, and even more excited to race against some awesome, fast women. And since it is a race of over 800 people, and nearby one of the best trail communities in the world (SFRC), I figured it would be a blast!
I spent the weekend with one of my favorites, Celia Santi, who is from GU energy labs and is an absolute badass (SPOILER ALERT: she crushed her first 50k)! We hung out with her awesome intern Gabi, Rebecca Murillo (another badass) and Sablle and Brent from Nathan (who were also running!). It was a rather obnoxious, lively crew, and it was awesome. It’s safe to say that going into the race, the stoke level was HIGH.
We got to the start pretty early to set up the rest of the GU tent (talk about VIP parking) and hand out some gels and dance around with some of the racers. My stomach and I were pretty jazzed that GU would be on course at this race- no TNF repeat!
After a little warmup jaunt, obnoxious frog-jumping boomerangs, and some last-minute coffee chugs, we were off!
05’55”/mile- Mile 1 marker!
Woof- we were off hot! I had expected nothing less, and due to the ever-prevalent buzz and excitement, it didn’t feel that fast. Starting off running with Cat and Amy was fun, chit-chatting up the road, where we saw David, I gave a squeal and an awkward happy jump and we ran on.
Since I had found out that the super speedy, undefeated Megan Roche was racing, I had decided to sit a little bit behind her until over half way. Keeping her close enough to try and catch later on, but running my own race and not going out too fast. The first 8 miles were awesome, pretty fast, flat, and crowded. They were great for mind-numbing chit-chat with some cool SFRC dudes, and it was easy to cruise. I circumnavigated a puddle/lake as well as I could when I saw Coach David before the 8 mile aid station and whooped loudly.
The next part flew by, running along Highway 49 for about 5 miles was awesome. It’s a beautiful non-technical road along the river. It was here where I saw the hilariously decked-out Gordie saying;
“The trail is, thiiiss waaayyy.”
I yelled,”You’re amazing!”
And after another “The trail is thiiiiss way.” I got a “You’re amazing toooooo!”
Day made. What a weird, perfect, man.
After this I ran into Billy Yang, who trotted alongside me casually running a 6’20 mile while carrying camera gear. He’s awesome, and a total badass, going to great lengths to get cool shots for his films. And like always, was super encouraging, leaving me with a smile on my face.
I played a lot of leap-frog with some dudes, and the next thing I knew ~8 miles had passed and we were already at the next aid station! I found out Megan was ~80s ahead of me, filled up my bottle with some Summit Tea, and took off.
Still on the hunt, I enjoyed the mental aspect of chasing someone rather than racing scared or intimidated or worse, passively from behind. However, I still resisted the urge to run faster, thinking it still too early, and wanting to save something for the end of the race and not blow up.
At mile 18- I saw David again, who eagerly told me to keep on going steady. As well as a whole lot of people yelling and giving out high-fives. IF only you guys knew how awesome you were for being out there. THANK YOU.
Nutritionally the GU was sitting well and the Summit Tea Drink was perfect. I was thankful that my nutrition was going well and that I found myself looking to eat before my 30-35 minute time table. I am starting to figure this eating while racing thing out. It’s about time.
Mile 26 was where all the hype was at. Goat Hill did not disappoint- it was steep as hell! But it was actually nice to have the break from the speedier running and yog/hike up it. Shoutout to the man with the cowbell near the top- you brought a smile to my face and a bounce to my step. You rock.
With ~4-5 miles to go I had no clue how far back I was from Megan or where the 3rd place girl was and started to feel a little bit shitty. After popping my ankle pretty badly in one of the many frequent water features on course and cursing myself out, I settled into a shuffle and finally into a run that was a bit slower than I would have liked. The leggies were revolting a little bit to running fast, but overall they felt okay. I ran into the final aid station- expecting it to be the finish, confused on my watch timer in relation to previous years times, and wondering why it was taking so much longer than I had planned. ( I later found out that they had added a bit more climbing/mileage this year) I left the final aid station with 1.25 miles to go running a little bit scared- having heard nothing about 3rd place female the entire race, and a little bit excited.
I rounded the bend and could see the finish and smiled. A smile that had been sparse for the last 3 miles, but that I had been present for the entirety of the race prior. Time to soak it all in, a sub-4 finish, and a lot of great trails shared with awesome people. Not too shabby of a day, eh?
Tip-toeing into the muddy, sink-holey, finish shoot trying not to fall or get my pretty pink shoes dirty- I was so happy to see Megan and David, Gabi, and a whole bunch of others cheering me in. I love this sport.
After a finish line hug from Megan, I waited around cheering in the guys who I had shared some of the run with throughout the morning. I love that feeling, I think I may get more excited for them than I do for myself. After Amy (THE CRUSHER?! AH! Aka badass) Leedham crossed the finish line we all gathered for the typical podium pic. Everyone complimenting and helping each other brought a corny smile to my face. These are my people.
2nd place female, 16th overall, 3:59:05, I’ll take it. For now. I can't wait to see how the rest of 2017 pans out.
-14.8 PB or PB/Chocolate GU energy gels
-2 lower legs full of POISON OAK… arghhh
-3 awkward jump/dances when I saw David/Ryan on course (When/why did I start jumping/trying to dance for photos? I think I am turning into a puppy.)
-4 bottles of Roctane (Summit Tea!)
- >20 “whoops!”
-8 river crossings (that I can remember)
-15 high fives to awesome people crossing the finish after me
-1 photograph fail (as told to me later by the photographer)
-3 speedy Billy Yang sightings
-2 hugs to 2 bad ass ladies at the finish
-1 Gordy Ainsleigh (wearing gypsy clothes) sighting @ Highway 49
-1 pair of beautiful HOT PINK Nike Kiger 4s
Big thanks to my sponsors Nike Trail Running, Gu Energy Labs, Bobo's Oat Bars and InsideTracker for supporting me in my journey. And a special shout-out to Celia Santi with Gu for making this weekend amazing and letting me tag along with her adventures. Coach David was awesome out there supporting his athletes and most importantly keeping me sane in my training. And thanks to everyone else out there volunteering/cheering/giving high-fives/and making the race one of a kind! I will be back! :)
The good thing about racing long distances is that they never go as planned.
The bad thing about racing long distances is that they never go as planned.
This contradiction is what makes the ultra/trail running community so special. During a race, you are running for yourself, away from your inhibitions, to finish as well as you can on any given day. It is a sport of no excuses or pity parties, because we all have to deal with the same annoying shit. We learn to fight and we learn our own limits, how to surpass them, and how they can sometimes be unsurpassable. During both good and bad races, we learn something new about ourselves, about others, and ultimately, no matter how painful or exhausting it may be, reaffirm why we are in this “crazy” sport to begin with. We persevere through it all, and along the way we learn how much we can handle and where we start to break.
This year’s TNF was all about pushing through discomfort, entering a state you once thought to be out of reach, and then digging even deeper. I entered a state that I didn’t know I had, and even though it didn’t amount to my best race or placing where I had initially wanted to, it still allowed me to test and surpass my limits on that day. However, I don’t think I have ever witnessed the conquering of such an intense internal battle as I did watching Zach Miller finish that race. Talk about feeling like a dweeb :P Way to kill it Zach! This sport is all about the internal battle, how much you are willing to push past your comfort zone, and how willing you are to accept a slice of humble pie. Because, good day or bad day, we all get at least one slice, 50 miles is still 50 god damn miles. We mustn’t forget that.
Alright, alright, time for the juicy stuff.
After a Friday filled with a lot of ants running around in the pants, a rather terrifying and death defying trolley ride with the rents, and some lame touristy-selfies, I was stripping down near the starting line, handing off my pants and coffee mug to the rents, and jostling my way to the front of the elite start.
**WARNING: This race-recap is going to contain a lot of my internal thinkings during the race, they will not be filtered.**
Of course, we start off pretty quickly. But it's nothing too crazy, and I tune it down a bit for the first climb.
"What the hell, why do the ants in my pants now feel like rocks weighing me down?"
Today was going to be a lonnnnggg day if my leggies already felt the climbing. Luckily, since Coach David had me practicing downhills like no other, 6-minute pace on the downs was very easy, so I hung slightly behind the lead pack going into mile 10. Coming into the TV aid station I heard my friends Ryan and Silke (Rocky Mountain Runners) cheering for me, gave a corny "Whoop!", realizing that we were averaging 7:30s for the first 10.. and pledged to slow it down a bit if need be.
Around mile 15 it was about 1:50 into the race as we crested a climb to witness a most beautiful sunrise.
“This kinda sucks, but at least this is beautiful!” I yelled to Chris, as my legs continued to hate any sort of incline.
We ran through 18 miles in a little over 2 hours, averaging about 8 min/mile, feeling okay up the long climb. We had a little pain train going, and were climbing steadily, but this was the time that I had ran out of GU's and picked up some Cliff Energy Shots.
My stomach didn't like those.
Starting to struggle a bit on the climb, I slowed a bit to try and figure out my stomach/cramping issues. Sandi whizzed by, looking strong, and I cheered her on, telling her to start tracking down the carnage!
Realizing it was either Cliff Shots or bust, I decided to try again.
“I have an iron stomach, I’ll be fine, think of tasty snacks.”
“Third time may not be a charm, it’s not worth it. Maybe third time will be a charm. No, today doesn’t seem to be working in my favor. But third time's a charm- It’s a saying."
"No, no, not trying again. Shit.”
Clearly I didn’t win that battle, and I waited until Stinson Beach (mile 29) to get my trustworthy GU’s from my parents. I didn't think it was my best idea, but at the time it was more appealling than a third fail.
Aside from my stomach hating me, this part of the course is awesome. It is an annoying steady douche grade climb up to Cardiac, and then a beautiful ~4/5 mile descent into Stinson Beach where you pass about a mile’s worth of fellow runners. It was here that I decided to channel all of my negative thoughts into positive support towards everyone else.
“You look great!”
Passing my Rocky Mountain Runner friends, I screamed, "Miguell!! Addaaammmm!! Nice work guys!!! You look awesome! Whoop!"
I think I was being a bit obnoxious, but I'm not going to aplogize for my enthusiasm. Other people's smiles and encouragement kept me happy while my legs were not. I think I burned extra calories passing the other runners on the out-n-back. It was #worthit.
I was sling-shotting with some ladies, including Sandi and Clare, who are awesome and super supportive. Descending into the beach, I passed Clare, who was in a bad spot of her own, and yelled some encouragement as well as, "Eat a shit ton at Stinson and then take the climb nice and steady." As I continued to descend I felt a bit better heading into the beach.
“I got this, no fuel ain’t no thang.” Ha. Famous last words.
Seeing my parents there was awesome, I grabbed some GU’s and a waffle, and left highly optimistic.
One GU goes down.
“See, that went down just fine.”
"This waffle is too cold to eat, lets stick it in my bra.”
Clearly I'm very smart while racing.
5 minutes later.
“Ouch ouch ouch, chafing from the waffle stuffed in my bra. Get it out, get it out!”
2 miles of climbing later.
“Shit. I feel awful. I wonder why.”
“I have eaten enough, I’m not sure why I feel so shitty, maybe I just suck.” My runner amnesia already in full force with me forgetting my 10-mile hiatus of calories. I got a bit negative.
Mile 30 ish: “This is where I am supposed to start going faster and passing people.”
“I am not going any faster. Damnit. Come on legs, mooooove, moo moo moo, (in time with my cadence) **If anyone has any good explanation as to why our minds latch on to weird shit in the middle of the race, feel free to let me know.**
The climbing was over and my favorite descent through Muir woods was coming up. Clare badass Gallagher passed me around here. I tried so hard to stick with her, but she caught me at my lowest.
“Run faster, Keel. Ah, but my ribs are seizing."
"Fine, run slower. Gah, they're still seizing.”
“I want to cry. No, no I don’t. Yes, I do. No. Put on your tough face, tough face.”
“All these damn people on the trail. Screw them. No, that was mean, they're racing too.”
“On your right, Great Job! You're crushing it! Keep Rocking!”
“Okay, now that was overkill and too much work. Intercostal muscles are angry with that much yelling. Shit, I'm seizing up again.”
Albeit my inner struggle, I tried to talk with Chris to distract myself, and eventually we passed Sarah Price, who later informed me that I looked to be moving well, but angry. Damnit, I wasn't masking my struggle as well as I thought I was. I may not have been moving very fast, but on an effort scale it was freaking up there, and that alone was motivating to me.
Rolling into the 38 mile aid station I started feeling a little bit normal, and by mile 40 I was close to running strong again.
Perfect timing for the Muir Bitch Climb (Trademark: Miss Kelsie Clausen)
Chris caught me on the climb and we chugged up together. On the way up we saw the amazing Myke Hermsmyer who always puts a smile on my face and takes an amazing photo.
I finally felt somewhat back to normal up this climb, and even though I wasn't hammering it, we passed a good amount of people. This was the kick I wantd, just about 10 miles too late.. :P
By mile 44, I felt human again, although I pretty much hurt all over.
The 4,000' of additional elevation gain and descent had served some serious pounding to my body, and it freaking hurt. But my spritis and energy were high as I entered the TV aid station for the second and final time.
Running into TV I saw Rudy and Ezra, who were tweeting for iRunFar, and I tried to do a little jump-celebration-thing, while yelling. It was kind of a fail. (See photo below).
"Everything hurts!!"- I exclaimed.
Because, well, it did. A lot. But I continued to push on.
I think I took the final climb the hardest I ever have.
I say hardest and not fastest, because I doubt it was my fastest, but I pushed to 110% the entire time. And eventually passed two other badass ladies who were also beat up and struggling from the unrelenting course.
I ended up sprinting my way to the finish chasing my very enthusiastic friend Gordo who was running the marathon. Not super happy with my overall result, but very satisfied with the effort.
7:37, 8th place female, and a whole lot of hurt later, I finished TNF 50 mile championships. Grateful for the friends I raced with, encountered, and made on the trail. And most importantly, I was content with the effort I gave and level of discomfort I sustained for the entire race. As weird as it sounds, I have never truly pushed through an entire 50- mile race, typically taking half of it "easy" in some regard, so knowing that I am becoming better suffering is great news.
After the race, we all went and drank some at "The Deuce." If you haven't gotten an opportunity to witness some of the sports best mingling around a divey-bar, you must go and experience it first hand one of these years. It's quite incredible.
The rest of the weekend was spent with fellow GU athletes with the GU crew. We got to go on some private tastings and tours. GU HQ is awesome, such an awesome, stoked group of people. We watched Ghelfi and Laney show off in a stair climbing race (Laney lost), and then Laney took on Zach on a hobble fest up a hill (Laney lost again). We hobbled our way through an awesome photo shoot with Myke Hermsmyer and Matt Trappe. All while getting to hang out in an awesome house with a hot tub. How did I get so lucky?
TNF 50 mile is by far my favorite race. I think I will come back to it for many years to come. The community is un-beatable. None of this would be possible without my awesome sponsors, Nike, GU, and Bobo's Oat Bars. My parents were one hell of a crew, and I cannot express how awesome it was to have them fly all the way out from PA. Thank you to David Roche for being the most supportive coach out there and taking my training to another level, I can't wait to see how it pays off in the long run. Thanks to Celia, Magda, and Brian (GU) for hosting us and showing us such a great time, Chris Neilson for being an awesome training buddy/keeping me company during some of the race, Ed n Kyle for trecking down from Portland to cheer, Gordo for pulling me up that last little bump to the finish, Silke & Ryan for being the best supporters out there, and everyone else out there racing, cheering, and helping put on such an awesome race.
Happy off-season, ya'll (2 weeks). Time to sleep for days, drink some beer, and play in the Portland-snow-pocalypse.
If you haven't seen the Gu-Mannequin Challenge- Check it out. You won't regret it.
Day 1: Buena Vista --> Railroad Bridge
21.5 miles/2800’ climbing
Day 1 started with a mini climb up and out of Buena Vista. Being a little over-eager and following an altitude-accustomed Basham, we ran pretty fast. Scratch that. We ran way too fast. Pretty much doing the very thing you shouldn’t do early on in a 6-day stage race at altitude when your low-lander self is still trying to make sense of the lack of oxygen and increased heart rate.
Don’t worry, I’m not super woman, I paid for it.
About ~2 miles in I was riding the struggle bus, never mind that, I was driving the damn thing.
Amanda waited for me at the first Check Point ~7 miles in. After telling her that I was paying for my stupidly fast start, she stayed with me the whole time and let me suffer behind her. That was probably one of the worst runs I have ever had, but it was easier to keep going knowing that she was relying on me.
We finished 3rd female team that day by about 6 minutes. I wasn’t too worried, knowing that it could only get better, but part of me was a bit worried that the altitude was going to kick my ass all week.
Things learned from Day 1:
Day 2: Vicksburg—> Twin Lakes
13.3 miles/ 3,357’ climbing
Day 2 took us all the way up and down Hope Pass (12,600’!!!). We started out conservatively behind the winning team from the day before (it was easy to keep them in sight, they had to wear bright pink!). Amanda took the lead strong up the climb and I chugged up a little way behind her, passing the second teammate of first place on the way up. The climb was beautiful, it opens up near the top and you can see the switchbacks wind up the peak. Breathtaking.
I could barely breath up there, but damn was it pretty. After summiting and deferring the nap I secretly wanted to take, I was able to kick it in gear for a slightly technical, beautiful descent. About half way down the descent I rolled my ankle a bit, Ezra and Alex blew past us exclaiming that their quads were most definitely going to be destroyed, and Arden caught us (girl from the leading women’s team) without her partner. We chatted a bit and then at a turn off, she held back to wait for her partner.
'With 10k to go I neglected my internal buzzer for a gel and figured I would be fine. Oops. We slowly caught Ezra and Alex and bantered and ran with them. We were cruising along when suddenly I could feel a little bonkiness coming on, with only about ~2 miles to go, I ignored it, but soon enough found myself on the ground.
“Pick up your feet, Keel.” I whispered to myself in frustration.
2 minutes later. “Oof.” *Keely sprawled on the ground again*
My bonkiness was making me really lazy and more fall prone than usual.. not good combinations.
Ezra told me to get my shit together. So I suffered on, following Amanda and trying to maintain some sort of pace, kicking myself (literally and figuratively) for not popping a gel, and soon enough we were out of the woods and coming in on the finish.
“They’re right there, Keel.” Said Ezra.
I turned around to see Arden and Lisa sprinting in on our heels. How did they get there!?
I ran up to Amanda, “Amanda, they're here!”
She turned, and yelled “Run, Keely!” And took off sprinting at the high speed of her adrenaline rush. I stuck with them for a couple seconds longer, not knowing how much either I or they had left, and finally kicked into gear and sprinted into the finish, luckily leaving them in the dust.
Crossing the finish line, my heart rate was probably >190? I had to stand there for awhile. Woof. Altitude+ sprinting = freaking hard. But we won! Wahoo! First win in the books, even if it was only by a couple of seconds!
This race was going to be interesting, having such close competition was fun.
Learnings from Day 2:
Day 3: Leadville--> Nova Guides
24.3 miles/2800’ climbing
Day 3 started off running through the cute little town of Leadville and gave us a couple miles of flat/downhill before the first big climb. We took the climb relatively quickly, putting us well ahead of the first place ladies team (still in bright pink). The descent was really fast, and soon enough we were back to climbing. This was my favorite type of climbing grade, very runnable, “douche” grade as I like to call it, so I took the lead on this one.
I felt great - finally!! The week was not going to be a complete suffer fest. Wahoo!
The cool thing about a team event is that you learn to feed off your partner. Without Amanda, the first two days would have been my demise. So it was only suiting that I felt like a rockstar day 3 when she felt a little off from her typical super-woman-ness. However, If she hadn’t told me she wasn’t feeling the best, I would not have noticed, she stuck right with me. She is a suffering champ.
I loved the long final descent/rolling single track and we were crushing it! We figured we had put some time in between us and the first place woman’s team, but since I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT want another sprint finish, I kept us cruising at a pretty fast pace.
We finished averaging under 9 minute pace overall for the ~24 miles and ended up beating the other girls by over 23 minutes! We were finally in first place overall, and would be the new bearers of the obnoxious pink shirts.
But first- to watch and film some crazies running a beer mile. Mind you, this was with craft beer, at 10,000'. Alex and Ezra both ran around 8 minute beer miles (DANG!) and then continued to drink beer after they finished. I was shocked. And Celia from GU represented the ladies (as she was only one of about 3 ladies who ran it) with a win and a cart wheel to finish!
After the awards ceremony with our new pink leader shirts in tow, we decided to cut them to match our personalities.
Learnings from Day 3:
Day 4: Nova Guide --> Red Cliff
14.2 miles/ 2950’ climbing
With all of the 3-dayers gone, the crowd was a little slimmer, and the coffee line wasn’t nearly as long. We started Day 4 being shuttled to a trail head 20 minutes away.
With our Flintstones themed-pink tanks on, we were ready for Day 4! It begun with another big climb up 2800’ and then a long descent the little town of Red Cliff. We took the climb pretty conservatively, and had some guys tag along on the “pain train” :P It was fun and made the time pass by rather quickly. Since it was a much more runnable climb than Hope Pass and not quite as high, we got it over with pretty quickly.
After the climb, it was literally all downhill to the finish, but with one river run thrown in the middle.
Literally- we were running through a stream. For about a mile. Down the mountain.
Maybe 3 steps into the water and I sat down, sort of avoiding a fall, sort of creating one. Ha. This was going to be interesting. Needless to say we took that part rather slowly.
We finished the day in about 2:30, smiling and feeling great.
When we got back to camp we got the opportunity to get interviewed by Emerging Sports TV! Super cool. Although smiling at the camera was rather painful. If you want to watch a good mix of humor, awkwardness, and chapped lips- tune in when they air their coverage of TRR in November!
Learnings from Day 4:
Day 5: Red Cliff --> Vail
24 miles/ 4100’ climbing
After sleeping for probably 2 hours the night before due to my sleeping bag not being up to par for 30 degrees (or colder?!) and staying up all night 100% certain I was freezing to death, I felt surprisingly awful to start day 5.
After huddling in the one and only local bar to stay warm, we were shuttled out into the cold to line up at the start.
This race started with a ~7 mile steady climb ascending 2,000'. Luckily for me running snapped me back from my sleepless night, and I soon felt fine. However, the majority of the climb was above 11,000' and continued to climb/roll around 11,000-11,5000' for the rest of the run until the descent. Needless to say, the run turned rather sluggish after the first 7 miles once our bodies realized that we weren't going to be absorbing Oxygen any easier any time soon.
Amanda and I were running with Kerrie Wlad for the climb and our train of 3 grew as we caught Magda and Brian and a couple other runners. Although we were all suffering a bit, it was fun to have a large pain train of some beastly runners to keep the motivation levels high.
On the final descent I rolled my ankle pretty hard and had to gimp for about a mile. The roll slowed us down a little bit, but eventually I was able to suck it up and roll some quick miles down the mountain to the finish.
We took away the win that day by about 20 minutes. Like always, once we were done, we stuck around for awhile to give high-fives. (My favorite part of the day) Then it was ice ice bath baby!
Learnings from Day 5:
Day 6: Vail --> Beaver Creek
23 miles/ 5000’ climbing
Ezra and Alex decided that the best costume for their final day would be to wear our extra pink “Leader” T-shirts. Since they were women’s size small, they fit two >6’0” men perfectly..
Amanda and I had cut ours special for the last day, they were fringe-tastic, and ready for our epic finish idea. After struggling to swallow some luke warm coffee, we were off on our final day!
“Did you just fall again?”
“Hmm. Not really, that was like a half fall.”
I was glad to keep Amanda entertained during our runs, she wasn’t used to running with someone as clumsy and in denial as myself.
“If you think about it, I’ve only fallen like 3.5 times in 6 days and over 90 miles, that’s a pretty low percentage!”
Who was I kidding- I will never be a leg model and I was just going to have accept my easily-distracted, clumsy fate.
The final day we ran with Ezra and Alex, took it a little easier than the other days, and enjoyed ourselves (even though our leggies were a bit shot). We snagged bottles of Fireball Whisky from the final aid station and planned to take them at the end. It was the perfect run to end a perfect week.
We had won TransRockies. Life was surreal.
Coming into the finish, we stripped off our Kiger Vests and began the count down.
Stats from the week:
I'd like to send a shout out to Amanda Basham for being the best running partner I could have asked for. I could not have done it without you, I am so grateful to have gained such a great friend. Shout out to Ezra and Alex Ho for being the most hilarious company I have ever had. Thanks to my coach David Roche for being 100% supportive of beer drinking and doing these crazy mountain adventures. Thank you to Kevin Houda for having Amanda and I out to #TRR and for putting together the best and most organized race I have ever been to. Thank you to my sponsors Nike for the gear & Bobo's Oat Bars for supplying me with plenty of bars to get me through the long days. And a final thanks to Celia and Brian at Gu for supporting us with energy, awesome swag and sharing in our excitement.
This was one of th best weeks of my life, I recommend TransRockiesRun to anyone looking for a challenge and/or to spend a week running & camping with amazing people in the mountains.
A mere week post Gorge Waterfalls 100k, I found myself typing; “Sign me up!” to Ethan, the athlete coordinator for the Broken Arrow Sky-race. Mind you, this was after a gut-wrenching, sleepless, 2 days of misery after the 100k where I thought I was dying and swore to start putting a reasonable limit to the craziness I put my body through.
I swear runner-amnesia is a thing.
53km, 12,000’ of elevation gain, with all of the race being about 6200’. Since I sleep at a whopping 200 feet, and am still learning how to hike, I figured this race would be a great idea and highlight all of my strengths. Clearly I not only neglect my own advice, but I am also delusional.
I traveled to the race with 2 of my best friends whom I convinced to endure the suffering with me, convincing them by saying that it would be “great training for our trip to France.” Which it was.
First thing to notice about the Reno Airport is their lack of space, due to an over-abundance of slot machines. Of course I played one. As I walked away a whole $6 richer, I figured that the weekend was starting out on the right foot, if you will.
The next day we scooted out of bed "early" to grab breakfast before watching Miss. Kelsie Clausen and others power through the Vertical Kilometer. That thing was steep, l walked away glad that it wasn’t in the 53k, or I would have to try the "crawl like a baby" tactic. It's a thing.
We got away from Squaw to check out the Flume trail around Lake Tahoe. 1500’ of climbing and 3.5 miles later we found it. I am not sure that 7 miles with a big climb was what David (my coach and teammate) had in mind when he told me to do 4 miles easy, but I counted it. No time to dwell. It was beautiful and that’s all that matters.
Afterwards we grabbed a beer. I was drunk from one. Oh, altitude, you do me dirty. Whoops. Then we hot-tubbed, it was a great day.
After downing a couple mugs of shitty coffee, Kelsie insisted on making some French press. So I ended my coffee splurge on a high note.
Big Goal of the Race: DO NOT FALL.
The race started up a gradual climb that aside from being a tad overgrown was pretty runnable. A little after a mile, we started hitting the snow patches. And a little after this my goal was already over as I skidded/fell down a snow bank burning off half of my calf and saving myself from the rocks below with my hands.
New Big Goal of the Race: Finish in one piece.
This was going to be a very long day.
Luckily, I was running with Larisa and Emily (two awesome ladies also coached by David) and we strategized the course navigation together.
“Is this right?”
“Uh… I think so”
“Oh shit, how do I get down this?”
And on and on.
Still early in the race we came to yet another snow crossing in a valley. All of a sudden there was a large "crack!" and rocks started rolling down the peak to our right. Since we were in fact running through that very peak's valley, we were in the firing zone. We all ran a bit quicker, and luckily the rocks didn't gain enough momentum to make it very far down the mountain. But I would be lying if I said that didn't get the ole ticker moving.
After my semi-heart attack, I found myself running with Meredith Edwards, a bad ass Ski Mountaineer and runner who was crushing the downhills like no other. We struggled up the highest climb of the race together, smiled for the wonderful Myke Hermsmeyer's camera, and after climbing the infamous ladder, relished in the fact that we only had 3 climbs left!
The downhills were fun, we took a lot of “Blue Squares” and "easier way downs" on the ski slope, which I found quite comical. Easier if I had a snowboard! Sheesh.
Meredith gave me some downhill running advice and at first I was chasing her with a whole lot “whooping” and occasional butt-sliding, until I landed on my ankle pretty bad and had to walk off the sprain. But that’s the beauty of this sport, nothing ever goes as planned. So you make due and move on.
Finally, we were back down on an old road, checking in with a lovely volunteer and climbing back up some steady single track. This single track was what normally is my favorite kind of climbing grade, but I was starting to bonk pretty badly on account of my stomach not being friends with altitude, and took it pretty slow.
About half way up this climb (~mile 23) I saw Larisa and Emily running down the trail towards me, lost. The flags on the course were a little tough to see, and I automatically knew where they had missed the turn down, because I too had initially missed it and had to bush whack/hop around in order to get back on to the trail. I wished them luck and moved on up the climb. Near the final push I ran into a couple of dudes acting a bit flustered, I guess someone had moved some of the flags and he had spent a good portion of the race telling people where to go. What a guy.
As if almost on cue, to add to the confusion, a gal (whom I later discovered was HIlaree O'Neil, crazy bad-ass lady who has summited Everest countless times!!) and two guys popped out of the woods on a different trail, and started to follow us up the climb.
At this point, none of us really knew what the other had ran, but we were all suffering together and that’s all that mattered. This race was a bit of a shit show, but it was one hell of an adventure.
Once we finally had made it to the top, I was struggling with the altitude and had to keep my effort really low. The next aid station I finally ate something, stuffing my face with 2 corners of PB&J and 2 cups of Coke, and hoped that it would kick in soon.
The final descent was not one for shaky, altitude-sleepy, bonking legs. But somehow I only fell once.
Running through the final section of the race through the little Squaw resort town, I was so ecstatic to be done and actually running. Rounding the corner to the Salomon Finish Shoot, I grinned as I saw my best friends (monkeys) waiting for me at the finish.
"Don't fall, don't fall, don't you dare fall in front of everyone on this non-technical road." Raced through my mind as it always does at the end of a race.
I was so stoked to ring that dang giant bell. But as I got closer, I realized that the rope was gone!
Time to show of my basketball skills from my previous life. As I leaped and rang the bell, I had never felt more alive. To endure something that absolutely knocks you off your rocker is so satisfying. I can whole-heartedly say that The Broken Arrow Skyrace was the hardest race I have ever completed.
As for place- I think the paper results had me at 8th or 9th woman. I know a couple ladies who were ahead of me who never actually passed me, but at that point, no one cared or knew what exactly everyone ran. We all were in an adventure of a lifetime, and we survived. That was enough for me. Although, I definitely won the nastiest wound, having burned the skin on the side of my calf completely off. So I’ll take that.
All in all- the race definitely won.
Broken Arrow Skyrace: 1 (deserves at least 4 points, but that’s not how these things work)
Keely: 0 (sun-fried, skin-less calf, sprained cankle, bonky mess)
Thank you so much to Nike Trail Running for supporting me in all of my crazy adventures. Ethan and Brendan, thanks for having me at the first year of an absolutely epic sky-race. A special thanks to Dave Roche for keeping me a little sane in my training. And one final shout-out to Kelsie, Ed, and Kyle for making this weekend a great one filled with a lot of silliness and laughter.
Let me start this off by saying; San Francisco has an outrageous amount of stairs. Like a lot.
I found myself frustrated as I huffed and puffed up part of the Dipsea trail to catch Rudy the weekend before The North Face Championships (TNF) in San Francisco. How the heck Alex Varner ran the whole thing 4 times sub 8 minute/mile pace, I have not a clue. Beast.
“At least I know I won’t be running this part of the race!” I thought.
I couldn’t mentally get over the difficulty of running these stairs and I had been in SF for 4 days! Where was the top floor? It was like a never ending staircase, except you wouldn’t end upstairs and be able to crawl into a comfy bed or hot shower, you would have to continue running for over 20 miles. I don’t care how ludicrous this logic sounds, it made me laugh, and honestly that is how I managed the stairs on race day with a smile on my face.
Anyways, the race weekend came so quickly and soon I found myself loopy at 3:30a.m. happily drinking a large coffee and jamming to some obnoxious rap songs en route to the race. I was excited. Sure, I was ready to race; but I was more excited for all of my friends who were also running and how many familiar faces I would see throughout the course. Finally, I said goodbye to my rock star crew of 1, Mr. Rudy Rutemiller, and I scurried over to the elite wave, turned on my headlamp, and we were off!
Running through the dark, early-morning is a surreal experience. It almost made me feel ninja-like. Sneaking through the dark made the time fly by. I took the first section of the race rather easy, absolutely forcing myself to eat, with a goal of making sure I felt good going into the second half. About 13 miles in, and nearing the top of a coastal ridge, I suddenly found myself looking back at the most incredible sunrise I have ever witnessed.
“Guys, we have to stop and turn back around and run up the other way to see the sunrise better!”
I exclaimed to a couple of runners nearby. I got a polite giggle, and 2 annoyed stares as I laughed and ran away, with the occasional “Woop!!” up the climb. Some joined in on my madness, others did not. Sometimes I wonder if I am too weird for this sport. Or maybe I'm just not very funny.
The next thing I hear is, “Yeah, Big Girl!!”
I looked up to see Kelsie laughing at me as I trotted up the hill. I gave her an evil eye, she knew I hated that nickname, but I couldn’t help but laugh and be grateful to see her. She was awesome throughout the whole race.
With the sun up and calories in my stomach I was feeling great and keeping a steady, but not overwhelmingly fast pace when I caught up to Larisa Dannis. I awkwardly said I knew of her through Rudy and some SFRC people and she surprisingly was not creeped out and responded well and we got to run some of the next miles together and chat away. I love chatting and running.
Finally, we were at the mile 22 turn-around to go down to Stinson Beach and I knew I would see Rudy there!
I went into the Stinson Beach aid station at mile 28 with intentions of changing out of my shoes. I had underestimated the miles on my old Helios SR going into the race and ended up repping a brand spanking new pair for the race. My feet were a little unhappy to say the least. But running into the aid station with Amanda Basham, an ex-Portlandian and runner friend, I was feeling good.
I decided that my feet would probably hurt regardless of what shoes I put on at this point, and told Rudy that I was going to keep them on. It was probably a good decision, but who knows. After grabbing some gels, and a lot of words of encouragement, I left smiling, knowing that the Dipsea climb was next.
I slowly found myself catching a lot of people and rounding out the women’s top 10. As the later miles came I continued to feel good and rolled into mile 44 with the 7th place female. Rudy was stoked and told me to "Go get her." I snagged a last minute kiss (aww), and we started the final big climb of the day. After the first bit, she turned on a second gear and scooted ahead.
We passed the 6th place female, which then put me into 7th and I was stoked. "Maybe I can catch 6th on the down hill," I thought. The final 5k I held ~6:40min/mile, but still didn’t catch her! She earned that spot, woof. I crossed the finish line to crazy cheers from Rudy, Alex Varner,and Kelsie Clausen, among other crazy cool people, and couldn’t keep the giant smile from sprawling across my face.
My immediate thoughts upon crossing the finish line:
1. That was amazing.
2. I did not fall once.
I had finished 7th female in 7:42, a little faster than I thought I could, with a smile on my face and so much gratitude for the experience. It was one of the best weekends of my life, every aid station was stocked with someone I knew, the scenery was amazing, and even my monkeys Ed and Kyle met me at the finish to congratulate me. It is race weekends like this that solidify the fact that I will never not see myself immersed in the ultra and trail running world. The sense of community is amazing, and I cannot wait to see what the future may hold!
Thank you to La Sportiva and Bobo’s Oat bars for your support. And thank you to everyone on the course who brought a laugh or smile to my face, Rudy, my Trail Monkeyz- Ed and Kyle for making my training for this much more enjoyable, and all of you who believe in me. Happy running everyone!
So you all are probably wondering,
“What has Keely been doing since White River back in July?!”
Or maybe that thought has never actually crossed your mind.. Nonetheless, I am here to give you all a little update!
White River was my Welcome to the PNW, Keel! – House-warming gift to myself. I figured that I wouldn’t be doing many races over the following weeks/months since they would be filled with my new job, apartment searching, and various trips I had planned.
I was wrong.
First of all, my new job is awesome. And it allows for optimal training by providing me with a multitude of running buddies, top-notch training facilities, and many opportunities to get a work out in. Just my second week in, I was told that I would be racing the Bowerman 5k. Yes, you read that correctly, a 5k. Ha. So, I added in some speed work sessions to attempt to prep for this “race.”
I laced up my shoes and took off at a little under a 6:00/mile pace, holding back so I didn’t “blow up” before it was over. However, with a mile left, I found myself feeling good, and trailing a boy who looked to be about 10 years old.
“There is no way I am losing to a child!” I yelled in my mind. And at that very second, he pulled off to the side, hands on knees, defeated. After pausing to see if he was okay, I zoomed on with a secret fist pump of success in my mind, and finished fast in 18:29. I was pumped; everything is a PR when it is your first race at that distance, and it was over so fast! Running fast hurts, but it’s still fun and a totally different beast than an ultra.
The following weekend, I went back to what I knew, and made a trip to Ashland, OR to preview the Pine 2 Palm 100 course with Rudy. 47 miles and >13,000’ of climbing over two days in the middle of nowhere was exactly what I needed. And I returned to work on Monday grinning as I told people about my crazy weekend.
That grin soon turned to panic, when I was asked last minute to cover for a girl on the Bowerman Track Club’s Co-ed Hood 2 Coast Relay (The Tarahumara) team that weekend.
Not knowing how to say no to the BTC, I found myself typing back
Sure, count me in!!!
I just need to run ~ 6:00/mile for 17 miles, split over 3 legs, how hard could that be??
I would soon find out. After hardly running during the week trying to recover from my huge weekend, I felt somewhat fresh come Friday evening.
Hood 2 Coast was amazing. I love relay events, it takes me back to my team sports days, where your pain is irrelevant in sake of the team. My first leg started around 8 pm Friday night and I hit about 6:07 pace for 5.5 miles. Success!!
Then, after massages (yes, we had a masseuse) and food, it was 3 am, a complete downpour, and time for leg 2! I couldn’t see anything except a couple feet ahead of my stride, so I took it easy for the 1.5 mile hill, and then just bombed the following 6 miles downhill at a 6:00 mile, until I met my fellow drenched teammate and handed off the baton. 2 legs down 1 to go! Wahoo!
Little did we know that the storm was just getting started.
We pulled up to the final exchange slightly delusional, on caffeine withdrawal, and a little cranky. After 3 of our runners gained some of lead back, I got the baton at 8 am, with a 5-minute deficit to our competition, a 45-mile per hour head wind and a 3.5-mile “easy” leg. I have never worked so hard for a 7-minute mile in my entire life. I handed off the baton to my overly eager teammate and wished him luck. He ended up killing it, making up all of the time, and adding 5 minutes to our lead with only one runner left. We ended up winning the relay for the Co-ed division, averaging about 6:07 minutes per mile over ~200 miles. My teammates were beasts!!
And then I slept for about 14 hours.
Following these two crazy weekends, I finally got to “take it easy” around the Grand Tetons, and backpack for a couple of days. It was absolutely incredible. You are surrounded by menacing mountains and loads of wildlife. I will definitely go back for some cool run-venturing in the future. The Tetons made me miss Boulder and its amazing mountains a lot.
A couple of weekends later, I was running through Ashland again, during the day with a killer group of guys, and in the middle of the night with Rudy as he finished out the final miles of his race. He kicked butt and pushed through a crazy hot Pine to Palm and finished another 100 miles. I am always in awe of the perseverance of these finishes.
Since then, I have been exploring the Gorge and the amazing trails around Portland and the PNW. I found myself signing up for TNF championships in December and have been training with that race in mind. But most importantly I have just been running happy and with great friends to keep it entertaining and challenging.
I have been having good training weekends lately and recently ran end-to-end of the Wildwood trail in Forest Park in Portland with a bunch of amazing people. Then ran a funny Halloween half marathon road race on Sunday and ended up pulling out the Win! It felt great to get some turn over on the leggies after such a big day on Saturday. This past weekend I went on a road trip with Rudy to visit my friend Denise and explore Bend, OR for the first time and was absolutely blown away!
Running is back to being one of the more important things in my life. I can honestly say that I have been absolutely loving my life over the past months, and can’t wait to have more adventures and race more this winter and spring! I have TNF 50 coming up and am excited to be traveling to another race! I love the people you get to meet in the ultra running community.
Happy running, ya’ll.
On July 9th I found myself staring at my computer screen thinking,
“What on Earth did I just do.”
Ultrasignup had just informed me that I was officially registered for the White River 50 on July 25th.
After my unlucky and mentally taxing races this spring into early summer, I had told myself I wouldn’t race until I was ready. That didn’t last very long..
But I had such an amazing running week and weekend, so obviously my next free minute was consumed by looking for races near my future-home. What better way to welcome myself to the Pacific Northwest than to run a beautiful race and meet other crazy trail runners?
I pushed the nervousness behind me as I road-tripped for the next week and had the most eye-opening running stretch I have ever had. I started off running around Colorado’s Indian Peak Wilderness and Continental Divide with some of my best friends and then set out towards San Francisco, where I explored the beachy trails for a couple of days.
The weekend before the race, I was running on top of a volcano in Lassen National Park. My life was unreal. Running was such an adventure, and I loved it.
I had no expectations going into the race. That was a big change of mentality from the previous races I had recently run. Instead of thinking of the race as something I had to compete at, I was gabbing with all of the other runners, thinking only of the adventure I was to set out on over the course of the next morning.
It was in the 50s and raining, and would continue throughout the day. For some reason this made me more happy than not, it had been a scorcher back in Portland, and the coolness was refreshing. After my mandatory cup o’ joe, lacing up my rather new Helios SR, (my favorite shoe, ever) and hurriedly throwing my jacket to Dave Horton, the race started, and I found myself grinning ear to ear and trotting along at a very enjoyable pace.
For those of you who don’t know the White River 50 course; it consists of two reallllyyy long climbs, and two reallllly long descents. And it also consists of some angry bees.
After maybe 2 miles, us middle pack folk running in a group, got stung by a string of disturbed bees.
I exclaimed, “Ooouuuch! If that doesn’t put hair on your chest!” (At this point no one was awake enough to laugh at my joke). So silently on we went.
My goal for the first climb was to make myself eat and run rather conservatively so I could actually run the second climb. I ran the first climb with a super cool woman I had met the night before named Trisha Steidle and we settled into a very good chug up the climb.
Towards the top I scooted around her with another guy who was part of our pain train, and kept on running at a nice consistent pace.
We got towards the top and I saw Ulie (Trisha’s husband, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting the night before) and he informed me that I was only 4 minutes behind the leader and about 2 minutes behind the 2nd and 3rd place girls. Although I was a little shocked, I hadn’t thought I was running too hard, I still didn’t make it my goal to catch them.
I got to the aid station at the top and was informed that they were all within a couple of minutes. I felt great, grabbed some gels, and bounded outta there.
As the trail leveled out and was more runnable with rolling hills I found my stride and caught the 3rd place lady, Alicia, and ran with her for a little until we caught the 2nd place girl. We ran in a little pack for a good 4-5 miles, which was awesome. I never ran with fellow ladies in a race before, the conversation was awesome and the reaction from the runners we were passing on the out-n-back was equally as cool.
“You go girls, go catch her!”
The next 7 miles were all a curvy, low-grade downhill, so it was time to fly. We took it rather easy, and finally I broke ahead a little bit and ran into the first place girl, who was also named Alicia, and who also resembled the other Alicia a little bit. Weird.. we'll blame the the sugar depleted mind.
We all ran into the aid station before the next climb together. I ran in and was informed that I had blood all the way down my leg, I looked down and was shocked. “I barely fell!”
But “barely falling” in my book is in fact still falling. I told them to ignore it, it would be fine, and then I told Eric (one of the RDs) that I actually wanted another climb. I felt great.
I popped half of my Bobo's oat bar (these things rule) into my mouth, and ran out of that aid station pretty fast along a flat windy single track to the base of the next climb, and when I looked back, I was shocked to see no one at all. I decided to not let myself hike the first 2 miles of the climb, so I set out at a slow jog and made it to the next aid station pretty quickly. I picked up a fellow 23- year old at the aid station and we ran together for the next 5 miles to the top of the mountain! We pushed each other along at a respectable, but definitely not blazing fast pace, and soon we saw a sign for a half-mile to the top.
I got to the top, was told I was in first, grabbed a couple gels, and set out on the road at about a 6:40/mile pace. This road reminded me of my first 50 at the Tussey MountainBack because you could just let loose and run fast. About half way down, the infamous Dave Horton passed me in his car.
“You look strong, girl!”
He is an awesome guy, and always managed to put a dorky smile on my face whenever I saw him during the race. He caught back up with me on his way down, and told me I had a substantial lead. He then continued to try and take my photo and chat the next couple of minutes. The one thing he said that stood out the most was,
“Are you having fun on this downhill, girl?”
I nodded and laughed. I was. A lot of fun. It was incredible.
I kept running at a pretty quick clip until the end of the descent, where I caught an 18-year-old guy running his first ultra! He was killing it!
We ran together for a little until the aid station, where he zoomed through and I stopped to grab some water and gels. With around 6 miles left, I thought it would be pretty runnable and I could sneak in close to sub 8 hours (I had 41 minutes). However, the first mile of the final stretch made me realize that I had no chance to reach sub 8 hours, so I should just enjoy it.
That section was beautiful. Everything was covered in lichens and moss, resulting in a beautiful, vibrantly green, rain-forest-like section. We all know looks can be deceiving, as this was also the hardest part of the race. It consists of a super windy single track with tiny climbs and descents that don’t let your rather trashed legs get into any sort of rhythm. Aesthetically pleasing, sure, but man that hurt like hell.
But everything comes to an end, and after another somersault-fall in the dirt, I soon found myself running down the final tiny stretch of road towards the finish line.
With a grin on my face, and “Don’t you dare fall in front of all of these people,” running through my mind, I crossed the finish line in 8:20. I immediately received hugs from the RD’s and Dave Horton, and never felt more at home.
My bunkmate had rallied and finished second about 6 minutes after me! And my fellow La Sportiva Teammate, Nicola Gildersleeve finished in third!
After some goofy photos, I decided to tend to my rock, dirt, and tree filled knee wound.
As I stumbled towards the health tent, Kurt, the Scott rep, said, “You were so fun to watch, you were such a ball of joy entering the aid stations, with a smile across your entire face.” I immediately stopped and looked at him with a stupid grin across my face and thanked him immensely.
That is exactly who I want to be.
It was then that I realized that I was happy the ENTIRE race. I loved all of the people I met and the runners that joined me for part of the journey. It was such an adventure, and by keeping my mind free and clear, I had ran my way to a victory. Losing your mind to the trail and just moving through the wilderness is almost primitive, yet exhilarating.
Although a lot of runners say you learn the most from races that go horribly. I think you can also learn from those that go well. You not only get to see your potential and strengths, but how far you have come from your last race. I want to continue to improve my ability to run happy, and be that girl with the obnoxious grin on her face while running into an aid station oblivious to the gnarly battle wound on her knee.
I cannot thank John Wallace, Scott McCubrey, Eric Sach, Dave Horton, and all of the other wonderful people that helped put on the White River 50. It was an amazing course with extremely well staffed and organized aid stations. The White River 50 was the best welcome to the North West that I could have asked for. Needless to say, I look forward to racing up in Washington again.
And I can never thank La Sportiva enough for the amazing product and continued support!
Food/calories consumed: (this is always fun)