27 July 2009

Great Margaret Atwood Quote

A [breakup] is like an amputation. You survive, but there's less of you.

25 July 2009

have i been thinking wrong?

This past week has been a strange one. After running my first 100 miler, the Vermont 100, I had to deal with my scary feet -- covered with blisters, swollen. I took off work to visit my podiatrist ("I love having such interesting patients." Um, thanks.), and have been spending the rest of the time Not Running. Life has always been full of sparkles when I'm running, and when I'm Not Running, I'm plotting my next run. My doctor told me I had tendinitis -- I think it's minor, but there's been aching in my ankle on and off for a while -- and I'm not running for another week. It's torture, this Not Running. Walking on the beach yesterday, I yearned to be running. I went to the suburbs to visit my mom, I loved the green everywhere -- green trees, lawns, the space, the clean air. I guess that visit and all the time spent Not Running is what triggered this thought pattern below.

I saw my childhood next-door neighbor with her cute 9-month-old baby, my married sister and her husband (It's very weird - they refer to each other as "husband" and "wife" all the time -- they just got married last October so maybe it's still the new exciting thing?), I saw the garages and the lined-up tulips and the straight-up career trajectories and the bicycling kids and my past and thought, "Did I fuck up my future?" Have I been thinking wrong all along? I didn't take the path I was taught to.

I went from college to working for a bit at a nonprofit to my MFA in Writing to my MLS to traveling to working a job...I'm living in Brooklyn in a neighborhood I can no longer afford, and I'm watching my savings slowly dwindle while I work at a nonprofit for the greater good...I'm in an unstable relationship that will probably blow up any minute, especially since he is probably moving away -- and this is a relationship of way too long for me to not know where it is going. It scares me -- I never thought I'd be on this path of I don't know where I'm going. I'm all for Robert Frost and opting for the road less travelled, but I think I'm more or less bushwhacking right now. I don't see the path. I'm covered with cuts, scrapes and bruises. (For the ultrarunners out there, I feel like I'm attempting Barkley.) I'm thinking about the immediate -- drinking from this stream for my thirst, eating some blueberries for my hunger, running for my passion, a pause for rest -- but I don't know if this bushwhacked trail will ever end up on a real trail? Will I arrive at a destination? Is life not about the destination but the journey? But what if the journey is confusing and painful and seemingly pointless and hard?

I'm trying not to let my tears blur my view for the vision of the future; I'm picking out fabrics for dresses to sew, races to run, plane tickets to see family, logisitics for Burning Man, sewing wings for parties. It's painful, it's complicated, it's confusing, it's not easy, it's not what I pictured, but I think I'll roll with it. I'll try to smile, I'll dance in the subway, I'll laugh on a run, I'll call my mother back, I'll eat too many sweets, I'll douse my body with cold water when it's hot...I'll remember that life is good and try not to cry too much -- but also to remember it's great to cry when I'm happy.

20 July 2009

vermont 100 miler race report

I've been thinking about this race for SO long...I can't believe I finished it. I truly did it - I ran 100 miles!

I woke up Saturday morning at 2:30 a.m. I ate a peanut butter and jelly on a bagel, stretched a bit, and off to the start. The race started at 4 a.m., and I started with my old headlamp that is very uncomfortable. I didn't wear it on my head, but wrapped it around my wrist (good tip if your headlamp is bothering you) and ended up leaving it with the volunteers at the first aid station at mile 7.

I began running and chatting with Toby, who I'm also following on Twitter. We shortly joined up with a few other runners - Jon from AZ (who I'm also following in Twitter!), Paul from Arkansas, Shane, future Navy Seal (if things work out well for him, which I believe they will), and many others. We had a good group of us, chatting, swapping stories (including weird fishing techniques, eeek!), dishing out the ultrarunning gossip. I love meeting other ultrarunning nerds and talking about ultrarunning.

Mile 9 my stomach required a pitstop and I hoped my race wasn't over. My stomach was hurting me on and off throughout the race - an unfortunate theme throughout this race. When I packed, I had speculated I'd eat 20-24 gels; I ended up only eating 3. The idea of eating a gel was repulsive and as I dry heaved at one point, I decided not to push it. Throughout the race, I ate pretzels, animal crackers, watermelon, gummibears, mini snickers, and other assorted random foods.

After my Portapotty 3 minute rest stop, I caught up to my friends after a few miles. We continued chatting and having fun. We couldn't think, "Only 82 miles to go" or whatever - you can't think like that in an ultra because it becomes too demoralizing. You have to think, "Only 2 more miles to the next aid station."
At Pretty House, mile 21.1, I met up with Mecca (my pacer for the last 30 miles!) and Bill (my handler). They were great throughout - handing me pre-filled (with ice and water) water bottles, handing me food from my bags or aid station tables, helping me get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible.

Leaving Pretty House, my stomach was bothering me but I kept running. Our group numbers changed throughout - we'd stop to pee, and some people would pass us, we'd catch up, we'd get new people, lose them - but it was mainly Jon, Shane, and I. We had a great time chatting and keeping our whining down a minimum. My stomach was bothering me, and there were times I wanted to walk, but if I did, I might be alone. So I kept on trucking.
At the first weigh-in at Camp 10 Bear, I was the same weight. Yay! Good news. I saw Bill again (who oh-so-awesomely got me a yummilicious coffee cake muffin), and he sprayed my scalp with sunscreen. Mecca was napping so she could run all night with me. I ate some watermelon and headed out to the trails with Jon and Shane.
Margaritaville was great fun. Rumour has it, if you drop out here, you get a margarita. My joke was, I don't like tequila (and thus, margaritas) so I couldn't drop out there! I saw Bill again as I devoured some absolutely delicious home-baked cookies (cinnamon chip cookies! chocolate chocolate chip cookies!). Shane had taken off ahead of us, so it was just me and Jon, chatting, running, struggling, but persevering.

It was sometime after Camp 10 Bear that I began drinking too much water. I drank almost an entire bottle in between each aid station, and since the aid stations are 2-5 miles apart, this wasn't the best thing. I was peeing nonstop, but luckily Jon was too b/c we kept stopping alongside the trail. By the end, we weren't even looking for bushes. Just, "I'm stopping here to pee." Jon would move up 5 feet and pee there. Ultrarunners like to talk about "food, running, and pooping," Mecca quipped in the car ride up. Add peeing to that list too.

We headed back into Camp 10 Bear just as it was starting to get dark. When I got weighed in again, I was four pounds heavier. I also attribute this to eating more solid foods. We thought a sub-24 hour finish would be impossible, but were informed that while it would be tough, it was possible. I changed in a dark corner, put on new socks and shoes, sipped a little cold broth, and prepared to leave...just as I did, I started feeling violently ill - freezing cold, nauseas, and dizzy. I sat for several moments in a chair and finally decided we needed to leave.

Mecca accompanied me as I hobbled back to the course. I almost started dry heaving immediately, but then we walked for a while. My feet were KILLING me - they felt like they were so swollen they could barely fit into my shoes. After a while, the nausea subsided and we began very slowly running and walking. Very important ultra lesson: you will often feel worse if you stop, but start walking; eventually you'll feel okay enough to start running again.

We ran into Jon again who was ahead of us with his pacer, and he said he wasn't feeling so well. We stuck together for a while, and I made everyone exchange first kiss stories. Of course the guys said they couldn't really remember, but Mecca and I had many details.

Jon and his pacer held back and Mecca and I continued. When we got to West Winds/Spirit of '76, I was in good spirits. I ate a bit, chatted with the super-duper friendly volunteers (btw, this race is SO well-organized and the volunteers are great and friendly, I recommend it to anyone!) and took off. My feet were hurting me more.

I had been worried a lot about night running. I only slept 6.5 hours the night before (My sleep was punctuated by waking up to look at the clock, or waking up due to Bill's snoring), and I was worried I'd fall asleep or get lost. I put 5 Hour Energy supplements in my bag, along with caffeinated sports jelly beans. My headlamp was really bright, and the course was very well-marked. There were glowsticks every so often, and Mecca and I ran towards the glowsticks hanging from the trees. I started to get sleepy at one point when my feet were hurting me and we were climbing a lot of uphills, and told Mecca to tell me some stories. She's a great storyteller, and really helped keep me awake.

And my feet continued to ache with each and every step. I didn't know what was going on. I typically don't have a problem with blisters, so I wasn't sure what was going on. "My feet hurt so bad, Mecca," I whined, too many times I'm sure. We ended up walking a lot more than I wanted to.

At Mile 88, Bill's Barn, I ended up stripping my socks to change my socks - and saw the scariest feet ever. My feet should've been in a horror movie. They were covered with red splotches, bumps, and yeah, lots of blisters. Later, the podiatrist at the finish line determined that my rainbow-patterned Injinji socks (which I LOVE and feel great and I've worn in a 100k and 50 miler - though this was a new pair) gave me an allergic reaction. My feet broke out in a rash and swelled up, and because my feet were swelling, I got blisters in between and underneath every foot - and in some other spots as well. The woman that was fixing my feet at mile 88, was like, "Oh my god. You're not going to continue, are you?"

Yes, I am!

We rested there for a while - they put me under a blanket because I was shivering and I tried to convince them I'd be okay to run again. I drank some hot tea, rested, let my feet dry. I eventually stuffed my feet into my sneakers (a shoehorn probably would've been helpful as my feet were SO swollen) and Mecca and I hobbled off onto the trails.

The last 12 miles took forever, or it felt like that. I was conscious of the pain with each and every step, and we walked a lot more than I wanted to. I wanted to cry - the pain was that bad. The glowsticks stopped being our guide as the sun came up, and we kept moving. I was so disappointed looking at my watch, seeing a sub-24 hour race impossible, and seeing the time I was out on the course much more than I had thought.
But I finished. I kept going. When I was the "1 Mile to Go" sign, Mecca said, "I hate that sign. I'm going to kick it for you!" She kicked it for me, and we ran as strongly as I could to the finish.

29 hours! Far from the sub-24 hours I had secretly hoped for, but I did it! I finished a 100 miler! I had so many adventures along the way, met a lot of really fantastic people, saw some astonishingly beautiful Vermont calendar perfect scenergy...and really put my limits to the test.

i feel very strong today (and somewhat dead)

that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

--frederick nietzche

16 July 2009

trying not to fall apart

I am so scared -- I'm running my first 100 miler and I wonder, "Have I trained enough?" I haven't done enough back-to-backs. Did I taper too early -- my longest run was a 100k back in late May. I didn't do a night run. My stomach is full of butterflies, and this week I've tried to rest, not run around too much, eat lots of carbs, hydrate.

When I asked Brad back during the San Francisco North Face Challenge last December why he ran ultras and did adventure races, he barely paused to think. "You reach the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. The intensity of emotion."

He's right. The highs are so amazing -- nothing will match them. I remember during that race, running so fast (well, it felt fast -- it probably was only 7:3o or 8:00 minute miles!) through these beautiful Redwoods, feeling so free, so amazing. I love that free, amazing, absolutely high feeling. If that's what drugs are like, well, addicts, yes, I understand you because I'm addicted to RUNNING!

The lows can break you. It's the worst if you are in pain, but it's also horrendous if you're not in pain -- because then you don't even have an excuse. I can't tell you how many times I've cried during a long run in the woods. The worst was when I was completely lost in poison ivy; I cried and called T, my mom. Instead of doing a long 50 mile straight run, I did an out-and-back run which was quite tough, but at least I wasn't lost. I have to remember when I get to those black holes that it won't last. I have to think about the next aid station. I have to think about the rewards at the end, the sweet victory, that sense of accomplishment.

Right now, I'm overwhelmed with worries about the Vermont 100 Miler -- what if I get lost? What if I get hurt? What if I don't make weigh-ins? What if I get sick? What if --

I have to shut those out of my mind, and think, "What if I have fun?"

Yes, I will have fun. A blast. The greatest day of my life!

11 July 2009

emerson quote

what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within.

packing list for the vermont 100 miler

who knows if i'll need it all, but it's better to be safe than sorry:

clothing/running accessories
  • 3 sports bras
  • 3 tanks/tees
  • 2 long sleeved shirts
  • 2 visors
  • 3 underwear
  • 3 socks
  • 2 pairs snickers
  • 2 sunglasses
  • fuel belt
  • replacement water bottle
  • endurolytes
  • sports jelly beans
  • gel
  • body glide!
  • headlamp
  • flashlight
  • sweat wristbands
stuff to buy!
  • animal crackers
  • 5 hour energy shots
  • snickers - 1 bag for me, 1 bag for crew
  • pretzels - 3 bags
  • cheap flashlight
  • spray-on sunblock
  • watermelon
  • bagels
  • gummi bears
  • extra batteries
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • ribbons for hair

anything else i'm forgetting????

10 July 2009

counting down to the vermont 100 miler!

I am getting WAY too excited about the Vermont 100 miler. It's next Saturday and Sunday, 18-19 of July (yes, two days!). I really have no idea how I'll fare. I KNOW I'm strong enough to finish, but the amount of time it will take me...well, I think there's a chance I could finish sub-24 hours, but I also think it could take as long as 28 or 29 hours. As long as I finish in 29:59:59 (the cut-off is 30 hours!), I'll be happy.

I'm really getting excited. I'm lucky enough to have my amazing friend Mecca pace me the last 30 miles. When I first asked her, the longest she had run was a marathon, but she readily agreed. Don't worry, Mecca, I'll probably be crawling with the worms and snakes so I can talk to that antelope growing out of the dirt I'll be hallucinating, so keeping up with me won't be a problem at all. I also have the original Boston Bill as my crew -- he'll be refilling my water bottles, fetching me gatorade, and making sure I'm eating enough fun-sized snickers bars. I'm so excited.

The course is dirt roads, some single track, a little paved roads, and a lot of fun. The volunteers are supposed to be amazing (but aren't they almost always?), the food is like an all-you-can-eat-buffet (I think if I ever got married, I'd talk to a Race Director and see if they'd cater. I especially loved the food at the Vermont 50 miler, especially at the mile 25 aid station - I think I ate three pieces of homemade coffeecake!), and you get to run - my favourite thing!

I'm starting to organize stuff -- getting food together, clothes, figuring out shoes. I need to get a small flashlight for the start of the race, make sure I have it all arranged. I have lists.

I'm so nervous. I've never done this before. The longest I've run is at the 100k - which was slightly longer than a 100k. I know I can do it.

But sometimes, I hit rock bottom. Even the 45 miler I did a few weeks ago, it was awful. I was shuffling, felt like hell...but after some caffeine, I started perking up. I know I'll be crying, moaning, wondering why I'm doing this...and I only hope it doesn't take too long to remember.

But I know there will be the high points -- where I'll feel amazing, like I'm flying, feel totally free...and I can't wait for those!

01 July 2009

burning man 2009

so things fall apart; the center cannot hold. all my plans disintegrated a few weeks ago, but as my dad says, "things always get better." and they have. i am definitely going back to burning man.
so far, i bought my tent, my plane ticket out there...i still have lots of organizing to do, but it's exciting and fun, despite the chaos. i am either moving immediately before or immediately after, so that should add to the insanity as well. my boyfriend may or may not come (i hope he does), rachelle may or may not come, crista may or may not come, bill may or may not come...supposedly it's def gwendolyn and i.

but the preparation is half the fun. i have already putting stuff aside...little things like yummy-smelling hand sanitizer, and fun costumes and outfits. i need to get some fake fur so i can make a hot pink fake fur bikini to wear around the playa.

why do i go? i go because it is a place where i feel 100% myself, i feel completely free. there are few places i feel totally free: when i'm running is the main place, but burning man is the other. by free i mean i can be 100% me, run around, do whatever i want, not have to worry abt what will others thing or hold myself back from how i truly feel like acting. it's not something i think abt doing consciously, but i do. everyone does.

meanwhile, looking forward to august 31.

here's a video to inspire and excite you on the art of burning man: