Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 5 Accomplishments of 2013

Some people might say it's silly. Tomorrow is just one more day. I may sometimes think that's the case. If you want to do something, why not start now. I often hear (in November): "My New Year's Resolution is going to be to work out more". Well, that's cool. Why don't you start today? It's not like you wake up on January 1st a completely different person!

I'm no Grinch, I swear. I'm just more of a "today" person, rather than "tomorrow". I do like though, that in this western world that we live in, we get a day when we get to push the reset button and every one we know will acknowledge it. It's a fresh start. In addition, we get a day when we get to go back and reflect on the past 365 days (who came up with this number anyway, why not 350 or 400?). I personally had an amazing year although after I did the math, I'm disappointed about one thing (keep reading). 

Here are my Top 5 Accomplishments of 2013 (no specific order): 

1. Marathon PR in February: New Orleans Marathon: 4h 15m 06s
2. Half Marathon PR in April: Platte River Half: 1h 57m 23s (my first ever sub-2hr half)
3. 5K PR in April: 24m 37s. This was also the day when my ex-boyfriend (now husband) proposed. 
4. Ran my first ultra Relay. It's insanely hard to run on no sleep. Regardless, we won 1st place for the ultra division. 
5. Ran my first 50 mile race. While I said I'd never do it again. I have my eyes on some more now. 

With all these races, there was a lot of training and with help of certain gadgets, I was able to track down how many miles total I ran this year. The big number was 917 miles. THAT'S WHAT I'M DISAPPOINTED IN! How did I not get to 1000? Refer to my last post here and check #1. That's why I didn't get to 1000. Maybe 2014 will be my year.  

What was your #1 accomplishment of 2013? 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 5 (items to improve on) of 2013

Tomorrow is the very last day of 2013, so I figured I should end the year on a happy note. But before I do that, I feel it's important to reflect on my biggest challenges of 2013.

I don't talk about my failures often but it's sometimes important to go back and see what I can do differently to succeed next time I try. There's a few things I just didn't feel like I did right and writing about them, makes me feel like I should improve on.

Some things are out of control, for example, I got sick over and over again in 2013. I'm sure a couple of the items listed below have to do with it, but seriously... hard to control pneumonia! And well, planning a wedding. Yeah, that took way too much time. Regardless here's the Top 5 things I think I could improve on:

1. I skipped way too many training sessions. It's easy to skip them on any given day. "I'm too busy; I feel tired; It's too cold out; Happy hour with friends sounds SO MUCH better". I often felt guilty the day after and tried to make up for it. I've learned that just like sleep, you can never really make up for it. If you make up for the miles, you can't make up for the recovery and eventually burn out.

2. I didn't take care of my diet. Like I mentioned in my previous post, my daily diet is far from great. I'm silly, but sometimes I'll take the "queezy tummy" if I satisfy my craving. I've had some nasty GI issues during runs due to this. Ask Lindsay. She's experienced it first hand.

3. Sleep. I sleep lots. But sometimes I decide to watch Netflix for hours on end instead of turning off the damn thing and sleep. Consequently, I sleep 3-4hrs/night. It's not always, but I do it more often that I'd like to.

4. I signed up for too many races. 21 races in 2013 to be exact. I can't stop. But sometimes I'm too tired and should probably just sleep in and run after a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast. Does anyone know about a support group.  I need to stop.

5. I ran on the treadmill way too much. When I'm lazy, I just let the day go by and run at night. On the treadmill. I get a "free" treadmill at the Community Center of the condo's we live at. We move to a single family house in 3 weeks. I'm so spoiled knowing I can run whenever I want, I will struggle. But heck! I live in Colorado, running outside during the day shouldn't be too hard, right. Like I said, I'm just lazy.

What were your biggest challenges/failures this past year?

I don't always go on diets, but when I do...

I do it all wrong!!

That's right! I'm a HORRIBLE eater. I mean, I'm that girl who would eat a whole bag of Sea Salt and Vinegar chips dipped in fake Lays French Onion Dip. And I hide them from my husband... that's right. And I'm proud of it.

I've tried multiple healthy-eating diets, only to try them out for a day or two and then eating crappy snacks in between my very healthy meals. And there's always an excuse for me to eat those snacks, like for example: "I just ran 10 miles, I EARNED my chips". You would ask yourself why don't I have healthier snacks at home. Well, let's get real. Dehydrated kale chips are no Jalapeno greasy potato chips. An apple? Yeah, that's no delicious peanut brittle. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat the apple, too. On top of the chips. And the peanut brittle. Yum.

The one thing I can do is change ONE thing on my diet. For now anyway. My breakfast is always somewhat lame. My everyday breakfast consists of scrambled eggs or cereal with a glass of orange juice so I thought: "What if I make my lame breakfast, a lame way to get some healthy stuff in?"  So I did. I'm on day 4 of drinking a delicious smoothie for breakfast. A green one. And it actually tastes good, which makes my breakfast somewhat less lame but a million times better, I think. I drink kale and spinach that tastes like mango and strawberries. So I get a full serving of veggies and a full serving of fruit to kick start my day. And GUESS WHAT? My stomach is feeling better and my energy level is much better as well.  It's no diet... but it's a small change that will at least get some of the good stuff in my body. For me to give up all the other stuff will be hard, but for now, that keeps me satisfied until lunch time without me browsing the pantry every 5 minutes.

Anyway, figured I'd share I now drink green smoothies. So Boulder of me... but don't get me wrong. I still love me some green chips and candy and crappy goodness. :)

Happy running.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 is right around the corner...

Whoa! Without realizing, it's the end of December and I sorta forgot about writing on my blog, talk about my 2013 accomplishments and discuss my 2014 goals.  Lucky for me, I still have a couple days to talk about them both.

2013 will go down in my history book as one of the best ones yet. Let me give you a quick recap: 

In January, I got pneumonia. I will never forget it. Regardless of my pneumonia in December/January, I managed to pick up my training after getting better and run my fastest marathon yet in NoLa in February. In April, I ran my fastest half marathon yet in under 2 hours (FINALLY!). Also in April, I ran my fastest 5k. At the finish line of this 5k, I got engaged. In May, I went to Hawaii for the first time and in July I went to Oregon to run my first 50-miler. In August I decided I no longer wanted the "office" lifestyle. I quit my job and started pursuing a career in sports events production. In August I worked for my first race which happened to be the Leadville 100 (talk about getting inspired). In September I attempted to crush my 50k time at the Bear Chase race, but due to a cold, couldn't quite beat it; I did finish. In October I got married to the man of my dreams. In November we traveled to Idaho, Georgia and New Mexico. In December we went under contract to buy a house, which we should get the keys to in only 20 days. I got my green card and turned 30. And finally, we traveled as a family to spend Christmas with the rest of my family in Mexico. 

Not only was this a great year full of athletic accomplishments, it was a year of personal accomplishments. I am not quite sure if 2014 can be greater, but I will certainly try to make it great. If all goes well, we will start the year moving into our new home. I will get a chance to go back to Moab and prove to myself I've really become a better athlete by running the Red Hot 55k again (which about killed me 4 years ago). Chuck will test his endurance abilities by running his first ultra (the Red Hot 55k, too) and will then race a 40 mile mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen. And as you've probably heard before, I will be running TransRockies with my all-time running partner Theresa in August. I'd like to give The Leadville Trail Series a shot starting off by running the Leadville Heavy Half a month or so before TransRockies, but we shall see... 

After August, I may take a hiatus from running long distance as we may (or may not *wink, wink*) decide to grow our family. 

Dream big, I guess... 

PS-  A HUGE thanks to my husband who's always been supportive of my crazy goals. Also, thanks to my coach Eric who keeps me healthy and makes me faster. And of course, I couldn't do it with all my running buddies; those who run a mile or two with me, and those who spend multiple hours with me on the trails. You make my training so much easier and that much more fun! And finally, thanks to all the race directors and volunteers who put on amazing events, you are the reason I won't quit running. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I got married!!

It's been a while since I've posted ANYTHING on my blog and I still owe a race report for Bear Chase. I'm ashamed. But I'll get to it.

20 days before my wedding day, things got CRAZY. I was so busy planning airport shuttles, changing music, discussing pictures with photographer, picking flowers, figuring out ceremony stuff and many other random things, that writing on my blog got pushed to very bottom of my priority list.

I traveled to Mexico on a Sunday, a week before the wedding. I visited family, visited the caterer, the DJ, the photographer, the florist and met, for the first time, my wedding planner. On Wednesday, my now husband, arrived in Mexico City. We had dinner with my cousins and I basically drove him all around the City.

On Thursday we drove to beautiful Cuernavaca, where we'd be having our wedding. All our friends from the US slowly arrived throughout the day. It was great to finally let things flow. We ALL had dinner at a popular restaurant and went to bed early.

Friday was pampering day with my ladies. Lindsay, Theresa and I went to the spa/nail place to get our nails done. In addition they gave me a massage and an exfoliating/hydrating treatment in my face. Life was good.

Nails done!
Later that night, we had the Welcome Dinner at the hotel. The venue was gorgeous (by the hotel pool) and we had double the people we had expected (roughly 80!). It's like we had 2 wedding receptions. Pictures to come... My brother, who I gave my camera to, didn't take a single one. I have to wait for the professional photos now.

Saturday is now a blur. Woke up early and headed to the venue with the ladies. We all got ready together and the ceremony started a few minutes after 2:00pm. While I don't remember all the little details (and I only drank water), I do remember smiling THE WHOLE TIME. I was so happy. I danced all night long and enjoyed everyone's company. I do sorta wish we could've spent more quality time with the friends that traveled and family, but seems like that's an impossible task when 250 people are there to see you. They all want to say hi.

On Sunday, I was sore. Too much dancing. That only means one thing- this bride, had a hell of a time! Thanks to all my friends and family who were there on such an important day to us.

Happy bride and groom
From now on, you can call me Mrs. McCash. WE DID IT!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

18- I've been busy

I've forgotten about my blog for five days straight. That's good, I guess.  Means I've been busy! 

This past week I've been slowly getting better and trying to log some miles. I haven't really gotten too far with that, but I have some miles under my belt this month. I'll try to log some more... I've also been working some. While my new "real" job isn't crazy amazing, it's quite flexible and it pays the bills, so I may hang on to that. My side job though... yeah, that one's awesome!

I worked the Oktoberfest tri last Saturday and it was cold. I was actually in awe that people jumped in the 58 degree water while it was 34 degrees outside. While it must've felt warmer to be in the water, that's still SUPER COLD WATER and I don't even want to imagine how cold it must've felt to come out to the warmth of 34 degrees after swimming... brrrr.  

It was a lot of work, as usual. But fun, as usual. And this time, I got to see a bunch of friend race and close out an amazing triathlon season. 

This weekend, we're headed to Durango. We're timing the Duango Double. It's a 25k and 50k trail race on Saturday and a road half marathon and marathon on Sunday. I'm somewhat bummed I have to work this event since running 50k to redeem myself sounds a million times better, but my soon-to-be-hubby will be giving the 25k a shot and maybe I'll come back next year to tackle that. Besides, I've never been to Durango and what better way to go than going for free and to get paid. 

In the meantime today, I'll bore you with wedding stuff as I head out to my last dress fitting and to drop off my engagement ring and Chuck's cuff links to get polished so they look nice and shiny during our wedding day... in 18 days. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

24- Looking for inspiration?

The Bear Chase pictures are up! I will be posting a race report before the end of the week, I'm working on it.

But in the meantime, as I count the days down to my wedding, I got to sit back and "enjoy" going back to my race in images. I love Bear Chase photographers cause they get a million pics. I found 40 pictures of me... some with smiles, some without them. And it was "fun" to see how my race went from the comfort of my living room. From high spirits and smiles, to tough times that challenged my brain, to a disappointing finish that made me feel incredibly accomplished. And yes, the pictures show all emotions.

I'll talk about it in detail in my race report,  but while I ran this race with a cold and tried to push through it as much as I could, my body called it quits at mile 17ish. Mentally it was tough, since I knew I had basically half way to go... and I guess you question yourself what I think of when I say I dig deep.

I've had to dig deep in races in the past, and most times, I toe the start line with a list of "happy thoughts" that are just there... ready for me to use when things get tough. This time, with a cold and with 14 miles to go, my "happy thoughts" were not enough. Not only did I need happy thoughts, but I needed inspiration.

Most the times I talk myself into walking even if my heart tells me I should give it my all and run. My brain overrides my heart and says it's okay to walk. This way, I can think clearer. I pushed through to mile 21 where I ran into Woody. While he may not know it, I think I was trying to find it in my heart to find some words of encouragement, but it's hard to talk yourself up when you feel defeated. This is when my crew usually comes in handy, but I didn't have anyone... so having someone randomly say: "Hey Gaby, how can I help you? Do you need anything?"  Poor guy, I think all I did was point at a huge pile of bags and said: "I want my bag". All I heard was: "Uhh, yeah... which one is it?"  Oops. Delirious state of mind. My apologies.

As I was seating there trying to find my inspiration, he came back with my water bottle and a piece of watermelon and stretched out his hand to say: "Hey, I'm Woody!" I'm gonna say, that was pretty awesome. I am ALMOST positive he got a smile out of me. It was impressive he recognized me from nothing but what I've posted in this blog. That was enough to clear my mind and realize I only had 10 miles to go.

I can push through 10 miles. My coach pushed through the last few miles of his Ironman with a busted ankle. I remember "following" him when he was racing and just as he hit one of the splits, I saw his pace had significantly slowed down and while it kept slowing down more and more, he kept going and finished. It truly blows my mind when people just call it quits and decide that a DNF is better than pushing through pain and digging deep when things get hard. So off I go.

Two and a half hours later, I finished my race. So thanks Woody for being my support crew and for giving me clarity, and thanks to coach Eric for the inspiration... because inspiration is one of those few things I look for in a coach. Who do you look up to? Who inspires you when things get tough out there?

And now, for giggles... this is how hitting the wall looks like (Lindsay will LOVE this):

You can tell I was trying to focus on what my Plan B should be

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

25- Road to improvement...

I do have a cold still, but it is getting better. I am sore still, but that's also getting better. Did I mention I have swollen ankles and those are not quite getting better?  Maybe I should ice and elevate them, but I don't seem to find an activity that allows me to lay on the floor for extended periods of time with my legs up on the couch. 

I would like to talk about running, but I haven't been running much... mostly because of what I just mentioned above.  I will be running a couple miles tomorrow to see how the legs feel and start up the "winter conditioning". I'm also researching races to do this fall, but haven't found any just yet... at least not any that would only require a short drive. I am working at the Durango Double on Oct 12 and 13 and I'm somewhat bummed cause I'd never heard of the races, and they seem AWESOME. But sometimes it's ok to just make some money. Chuck is taking the opportunity to run the trail 25k so if you find yourself bored, make sure you stalk him on RaceRite.com  I will redeem myself after that "sick" 50k and worst comes to worst, I can always go back to Bear Creek State Park and run the loop... 3 times. And time myself.  Am I being a nut-job?  Most likely. I do not care, I needed that race to be a good one. 

I am still waiting to see the pictures for Bear Chase to share with you all. Unfortunately, I'm sure they're gonna show my true pain and my sick self, but I'll be able to entertain you for a bit. In the meantime, I'll leave another embarrassing running pic. 

Totally and completely unaware

Monday, September 30, 2013

26- I'm sick

I am sick. As much as I tried to fight it, I now realize two things: 
1. I am not under the weather, I'm sick. 
2. I was not under the weather before, I was sick. And running yesterday probably made it worse. 

So I've spent all day today struggling to move around because I'm as sore as one can get, drinking tea and doing what sick people do: rest. 

I'd like to talk about running, but I'm sort of waiting to get the official race pictures to write my race report. So, since I'm still beating myself up for not doing as well as I wanted (by a whole hour), I decided to plan my 2014 race schedule and hoping I can find a good 50k in the fall to redeem myself. 

While I haven't found a good race to run in the next couple of months, I did come up with a rough draft of what my race schedule would look like in 2014. If any of you readers out there have any suggestions, please do share. 

Jan - March: Potentially run some easy fun runs. Nothing too hard, just fun stuff to stay entertained. 
April - Desert R.A.T.S. Marathon on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday
May - Still debating between Collegiate Peaks 25 miler or Greenland 50K
June - Dirty 30 maybe? Definitely Leadville Marathon (I intend to work my way up to running long distance at elevation). 
July - Haven't found anything that I'm dying to do. And July is extremely hot. 
August - Transrockies
September - Run Rabbit Run, 50-miler (Courtney wants me to do this... I think I can)
Oct - Dec: Sort of the same as the first 3 months of the year, although running the North Face Endurance Challenge in SF would be fun. I'd run 31 miles on the same weekend I turn 31, so that'd be fun. 

Note that the general idea is to run races in Colorado. I sometimes forget all the places there are around here to run and all the amazing events we have that I tend to look into running bigger events out-of-state, but I'd like to stay home as much as possible (except for SF in December, but that'd be my bday gift from me, to me). 

Anyway, I'm out of tea so I should probably go make some more. Race report to come soon! 

27- Race day

(I wrote this yesterday, but posting today)

Today was race day and against everything I had hoped for I woke up still with that damn cold. Colds are weird, they don't really get you THAT sick that you have to stay in bed, but they get you sick enough that any movement makes you tired.

So here's some highlights of the day but wait for a full race report to come (maybe later today, maybe tomorrow):
- Running with a cold sucks
- Running 31 miles while battling a cold is STUPID (with capital letters)
- Bear Chase is an amazing race with amazing volunteers
- I have the best partners in crime when it comes to running ridiculous amounts of miles.

- My partners in crime kick some serious ass
- I did my nails two nights before and I managed  to race and keep them "unchipped" (unrelated, but somehow I always chip my nails when I run?!?).

Post-race nails. Perfect!
- I FINALLY got to meet Mr. CO-Runner whose blog I stalk on a daily basis.I get some good trail run ideas from there.
- I tested my mind to new limits and realized that it's important to have some people (runners) to look up to and inspire you every step of the way.
- I came home to realize my puppy-dog can hold it for 14hrs. Good boy, that was torture for sure, but with an early morning start and my hubby-to-be out of town, he just had to make some sacrifices of his own  to show his support. (I gave him some real love after though).

Puppy love
- I don't look good after running 31 miles in the sun, with a cold.

Red eyes, sun burnt and sick. Good times. 
Now, expect to see a race report soon! and FYI- officially under 4 weeks til our wedding day. Yeeepeee

Saturday, September 28, 2013

28- What sounds better? Kilometers or Miles?

I woke up today still slightly under the weather. I hate it. I'm supposed to feel PERFECT right around now.

Regardless, I jumped in the shower, had breakfast and drove to Runner's Roost Lakewood to pick up my race packet. Changing distances was easy and free, so I went ahead and switched to the 50-miler. Wait, what? Yes, you heard right.

Listen, it's not that big a deal. With the course changes, the loop is 10.3 miles long with 650ft of gain. The 50k race requires athletes to complete 3 loops. That means, 50-milers complete 5 for a total of 51.5 miles and 3250ft of gain. Can I do this? Honestly, I don't know. But I want to make sure I'm eligible for awards. You'll say: "Yeah, keep dreaming". But last year, there was only one girl in my age group. This year,  there's Courtney also. But I'll settle for third. Overall, there was 28 women... so I'll settle for top 30.

WORST CASE: If I'm not feeling it, I'll stop at 3 loops and get my medal for a 50k.

Strategy (WARNING- dorky data crunching): Well, that has to change too. I was aiming for a sub-6hr 50k and that means I need to run 11:20 min/mile average. I don't think I can run 50 miles at 11:20. So to hit my goal of a sub 6hr 50k yet have enough fuel to run 50 miles, this is what I engineered... 10.3 mile loops at 1h57m each, that means 11:21 min/mile average. I'd finish the first 31 miles in 5h50m42s which would mean PR for the 50k. At that point, continuing on to the 50-miler I can slow down to run an additional 2 loops in 2h15m each. That means 13:05 min/mile, so significant slow-down. Keeping that pace will have me finishing 51.5 miles in 10h20m-ISH. Again, PR for the 50-miler. SCORE! That gives me an additional 30min buffer to still finish my 50 miles in under 11 hours... so I can actually add an additional 1:27 min/mile in the last 20 miles. SCORE!

Anyway... Wish me luck!

Friday, September 27, 2013

29- Race postponed

I was catching a cold yesterday and I had a sore throat and body aches.  I drank as much Emergen-C as I could and worked my best to not get sick. I worked 8 hours today, mostly on the field. It was cold and rainy all day and got back home to nap. 

I am still feeling a little off, but figured I could sleep until 6pm and then go to REI to get GUs and to the store for some healthy dinner/breakfast items. It was hard to even think about doing that since I was feeling so under the weather, but my race was tomorrow. 

At 6:45pm I happened to check Facebook only to find that due to today's rain the race would be postponed to Sunday. Really? 


The good, the bad, the ugly of the rescheduling: 

1. The good: I have an extra day to recover from my cold and overall from being tired. I got obsessed with watching Transrockies videos last night and didn't go to bed til 1:30am and got up at 6:00am. That made me tired today because I'm used to sleeping 8 or more hours. I'll make sure I rest. 

2. The bad: I've been mentally prepping for a while. I'm ready for it to be over and I was sorta liking the fact that it was EXACTLY 4 weeks before my wedding. Now it's 3 weeks and 6 days before... not the same ring to it. And lastly, I won't get as muddy as I was hoping to get. I like getting muddy in trail runs. 

Yeah... no dirt. no gain
3. The ugly: I had committed to work with Without Limits on Sunday, and as I transition careers, it sorta sucks to lose the money since I don't have an established salary. And also, it ruined my Sunday afternoon of football with Kev and Court and with the jalapeno margaritas at Cantina Denver. This truly infuriates me. 

On a happy note:  I will have tomorrow to REALLY think about strategy. 

Also, did I mention my wedding is in 29 days? 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

30- Ramblings on Life

First of all let me apologize for being so absent lately... a lot has been going on. So let me get to it, but I promise I'll keep it brief.

Today is September 26 and our wedding is October 26 so T-minus 30 days (hence the number 30 on the title). Yeeepee!!! I will write every day as I count down so I don't get overly annoying on Facebook. I need to vent in public and this is my space, so I do as I please.

Last weekend was my bachelorette party and Lindsay got me EVERYTHING I wanted: some girl time, cupcakes, rice krispy treats, a bachelorette sash and a veil (ok, and a few other things I will not share with you, only with my man in the coming weeks, hehe). Thanks friend, you are the best!!

Pretty ladies before opening gifts and going out! 
The week before last, it rained the most ever in Boulder. And when I say ever, I mean EVER. In 5 days we had the same amount of rain we usually get in a year. That's a whole lot of rain... The Monday after the relay I was trashed, but returned the rental car and walked the 2 miles home. Little did I know, that'd be the last time I walked on the bike path...

On Tuesday I got up, went to Denver, had my wedding dress fitting and went  to buy my wedding band... it was gloomy and it was somewhat drizzling. Later that night it rained harder and on Wednesday it rained all day. Sometimes we had heavy rain, sometimes not so heavy. Thursday the same. Friday the same. On Saturday it was gloomy all day and it only rained in the afternoon, but Sunday we had some heavy rain again. I really don't know what to do with rain.

Unfortunately, once it was all done, we realized that most of Boulder County took a hard hit. All the roads up the canyons are destroyed and the bike paths are all under water. Lots of homes were flooded and a lot of people completely lost them.

What used to be a bike path with no creek is now a river
As Boulder recovers a lot of local races cancelled due to several reasons that have to do with the flood, but people are trying to move past this and would like to have most regular activities go back to normal. Lucky for me, my 50k coming up this weekend is still on with some changes to the course. The Bear Chase people put on some amazing races so while I'm disappointed I won't be able to compare last year's race with this year's race, I still think it will be awesome. It's just SLIGHTLY different.  But more about that tomorrow.

New course for the 100k, 50 mile, 50k, half marathon and 10k races
Today, I've fighting off a cold and messing with all home remedies available and I hope I get over it fast... I got a race to run on Saturday and lots of work on Friday and Sunday.

On a last note, if you'd like to make a donation to the CO floods, there are several places you could do so. But if you click here you can get a pretty cool t-shirt out of it. I'm getting the long sleeve one for pre-race warm ups. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Running Across Colorado

It was this time last year that me and 11 other clowns jumped into 2 different mini vans and ran from Breckenridge all the way to Snowmass.

This year, I did it again. The only difference is that this year there's not a lot of hard evidence since I forgot the one and only most important thing one is supposed to bring to a relay race: my camera.

The weekend started off with the Broncos-Ravens game. Let me tell you: IT WAS AWESOME. Yes, we CRUSHED the Ravens. That always feels good. We arrived at Randy's house in Frisco for the 4th qtr to some amazing dinner and to get to meet the whole team. I, the team captain, went over some rules and gave my team their tshirts and goodie bags.

Go Broncos! 
Friday morning started off at 10am for us with our first runner heading out. My brother Antonio, myself and Linds were runners 1, 2 and 3 and we all struggled with heat.  It was hot and we ran our longest runs. The other 3 runners had nicer weather with some cloud coverage. After that we handed the baton (slap bracelet) to the other half of our team and we stopped at Bob's in Avon for food. Service was... bad. But we were hungry, so we put up with it.

Start line in Copper Mountain
After dinner we went to Edwards to try and nap for a little while and at 11pm we started our second legs. Brother Antonio and I had our shortest runs then. It was mid 60s and it was slightly drizzling so we both had some great fast runs. I was pleased with my run. Our other runners had great runs at night as well, but we were pretty tired afterwards and just drove out to Glenwood to sleep once more.

Antonio getting ready to start his night run
At around 4:30ish in the morning we got a call from our other van saying they were almost done. The early wake up call is horrible, but Antonio got ready fast and was ready to go. Even though his last leg was mostly uphill he had a killer run and showed up 5ish minutes ahead of schedule and I wasn't even ready. As I finished putting on my reflective vest I sprinted off on my run.  I had done that exact same leg 6 years ago on my first relay ever and it was horrible. I was dreading it, but I was passing people left and right and ended up having a killer run. Even better than my night one EVEN THOUGH it had 800ft of elevation gain... I still managed to maintain an average pace under 10 minutes per mile. I felt great. And then I immediately had a beer.

Beer at 9am tastes better
Lindsay chose coke...

...lots of it. 
The people in our van finished their runs strong. And we handed the baton to the last 6 guys. We had breakfast in Basalt and then headed over to Snowmass for a nap and to meet up with the rest of the team around 1:30pm on Saturday. Once our last runner started his run, we headed to Snowmass Resort to wait for him, we enjoyed a couple drinks and had our champagne bottles ready.

Team, this is your captain speaking. 
Robb finished strong and we followed. And we celebrated. With champagne, with pictures. We then drove to Aspen and celebrated more. With beer, pizza and a pool party. We then went out and celebrated more with dinner, drinks and deep fried oreos. That's right: fried oreos.

Finisher's picture with fake medal
And since there's NOTHING better than fried oreos. I think this is where I stop writing and I let you daydream about the fried oreos.

Off-roading by foot and by car!

Friday August 30 was my last day at work... at a job that I was no longer fulfilled by as a professional, as a passionate outdoors person, as an athlete and overall as the person I've become.

Things change, people change. And things (the job/company) changed, and people (me) changed. It was time to move on.  So not only was I going on a holiday weekend on Friday, but I left the office without looking back. 

The drive down to Lake City was long. Lake City is a small town in southwestern Colorado so aside from the fact that it is indeed really far away, trying to leave the metro area at 4pm on a holiday weekend added a good 2 hours to our drive. For some reason though, I was relaxed and nothing seemed to worry me. We arrived at our campsite late, but we put up our tent, laid out our sleeping bags and I fell asleep almost immediately. 

We woke up on Saturday to have breakfast and hit the road. We arrived at the trailhead, changed and off we go. We wanted to trail-run in that beautiful country that is southern Colorado and try and summit two 14ers: Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks. The traverse to the northeast ridge of Redcloud was absolutely stunning with a few runnable miles. While it was definitely lacking oxygen and above treeline, it was what I call enjoyable. I was simply running at a comfortable pace, slowly gaining elevation but blasting some good tunes in my iPod.

Amazing trails
Once we gained the ridge it was harder to keep up the jog, but I was still feeling good to keep a decent pace while hiking up. We arrived at the summit before we knew it (after 4 miles), took a quick picture and continued on the ride heading south. The single track on the ridge was stunning. Amazing to run on again but we could see clouds building up. As we started climbing again we heard this very loud thunder... it was somewhat scary and while I tried telling my man we should just go down, we were 5 minutes away from the summit and the storms were still fairly far. I know it's stupid, but the storm WAS far and we just went for it fast, snapped a pic and got off the summit fast.

Quick Redcloud summit shot
Ridge between Redcloud and sunshine 
Sunshine summit shot. (family shot) 
The way down was supposed to be a fast single trail run, BUT it turned out to be all scree. It was steep and basically a big pile of rocks. It was taking a while to get off that mountain and our puppy seemed to be slowing down. After a while, we saw his paws were bleeding. We stopped to take a look and his pads were completely "broken". That broke our hearts and I pulled out my First Aid Kit, we fixed as possible and tried to continue on. He could barely walk so chuck had to carry him. We did get rained on and took longer than expected, but it was worth it. Once we hit tree line and the actual trail, we booked it down and Levi would walk on the trail much better than in the rocks.

My hero rescuing my hurt pup
After that crazy hike/run, we wanted to go over to Silverton for food and camping on the other side of the pass. Cinnamon Pass is a 4-wheeling mountain pass which Chuck was beyond excited to explore... in my car. I, of course, freaked out. But in the end it was worth it. We finally got to use my 4-wheeling car for what it was built.

The jeep doing its thing! 
We camped that night at this awesome ghost town called Animas Forks on the Silverton side of the pass only  to find out we had to drive over the pass back to our trailhead for our Sunday run. After a ride over the pass that really got my heart rate going, we arrived at the trailhead for Handies Peak. Levi had to stay in the car so chuck and I set the goal to summit in 1.5hrs and be back in the car in under 3hrs. Off we go.

Handies Peak playground
Again, it was amazing country and there was a very runnable trail. Handies was shorter than Redcloud and Sunshine therefore it was slightly steeper, but leaving the pup in the car kept me motivated and pushing hard. We summitted in 1hr and 28mins. We spent a couple minutes there and had a snack before heading down. The way down was AMAZING. I ran again with some loud music and a big smile in my face. We were back in the car 2hrs and 32mins after we started.

Handies Peak summit shot! 
Needless to say, the third time up the pass to go back to Silverton was somewhat less stressful (I think I was getting used to it), but I must say, I do like paved roads. Our hurt puppy does too, I'm sure. After an absolutely delicious meal at Handlebars in Silverton we drove over Red Mountain Pass (craziest paved road EVER) to get to Ouray. You basically drive on hwy 550 which stretches quite a ways, but the 12ish miles around the actual mountain pass is called the Million Dollar Highway. And it's pretty epic. 

After all the hiking, running and driving in crazy roads we were pretty spent. We visited the Ouray Brewery for some beers and food and camped one more night just outside Ouray. On Monday we started our trek back home. It was an amazing weekend.

The Durango-Silverton train made an appearance- I LOVE trains! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"I have a dream..."

It was 50 years ago today, that Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of more than a quarter million people (the largest gathering of protesters at that time) and delivered a 17-minute speech. As most of you know, the most famous passage of this speech was not in the original text, but someone prompted him to talk about "the dream". Currently known as the "I have a dream" speech, it has been regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. 

On a lighter note... I always think of this speech in a particular Friends episode where one of the characters says that they have an idea, but they don't want to talk about it, at which point Mr. Sarcasm-Chandler says something like: "What if MLK would've said: 'I have a dream... but I don't want to talk about it'". This always reminds me of my own hopes and dreams and I find it fitting to talk about those on a day like today. 

What are my dreams? It's hard sometimes to take a step back from our routine life and remind ourselves what are we working towards. What are our goals?  I had a dream once, and it was to live in Colorado, but once I moved here, did I have nothing else to work towards? Of course not! I kept achieving different things and shooting for bigger and better things.  Today, I have some goals in mind but sometimes I'm not sure those smaller goals qualify as dreams. But then again, I remind myself, that anything is possible if I try and that some of my "smaller" goals may be huge accomplishments to others. We (mostly me) shouldn't be hard on ourselves and understand that as little or big as certain accomplishments may feel, they change or inspire us or the people around us. 

Here are some of my goals and dreams for the future: 
- Marry the man of my dreams, he who will support all the items on this list. (This is almost taken care of; t-minus 2 months!). 
- Raise wonderful children who have the ability to dream big. 
- Travel the world and share experiences with my love
- Continue to try something new at least once in a while
- Cross the finish line of the Leadville 100 at least once in my life
- Successfully complete the TransRockies 6-day stage race
- Run a marathon (or longer distance race) in each state
- Finish at least one race above 14,000ft
... and a few others that may have to be revealed in the future. But most importantly... my biggest goal should be to never stop trying. 

Have you thought about your hopes and dreams? Goals and accomplishments? If you haven't, today's a good day to start thinking about it... 

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's next?

This year is quickly coming to an end. I know it's weird to say that since it's only August, but seriously. Seems like only yesterday it was snowing while I was running the Dash and Dine on April 30th. 

What I really mean is: the races I'm signed up to do this year are almost done and while I'm planning on doing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in San Francisco the day before my 30th birthday, I'm not signed up yet. What I am signed up for is the Bear Chase 50k and the Denver Marathon.  Both races should be a huge challenge, and here's why: 

- I've run both races in the past. I know the course so I should, in theory, come really well prepared as I'm well aware of what I'm up against. 
- I've become a better athlete/runner- I have a pretty awesome coach, and he makes me work hard. The day I hired him, I basically committed to getting better, and I've seen a HUGE improvement. 
- I have PR'ed most my long-distance races in the past year. I have had goals an met them. Knowing the courses, these are the races I should actually be a little harder on myself. 
- Denver marathon held my marathon PR for 4 years until I crushed it in San Francisco in October 2012, and crushed again in NoLa in February 2013. Will be nice to have Denver take the #1 spot again. 
- Most my PR's are held in my home-state: my 5k, 10k, half marathon, 50k and half Ironman PR's were all Colorado races. I hope I can bring back the marathon to that list. 
- Most my PR's were achieved in 2013: my 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon... I should keep the trend going. 

Training is ramping up again, so I feel I should at least be able to accomplish a PR at Bear Chase. It's always scary to publish a goal time because then I'll have someone (I know I have AT LEAST a couple readers) to hold me accountable. Last year I had told myself I wanted to finish in under 6 hours, I finished in 5h59m11s. Mission accomplished. What is my goal this year? I would like to finish in 5h51m20s. Why this random number?  Well, it's just a 15s improvement per mile. I think it's achievable, yet challenging. 

Bear Chase time in 2012
As for Denver Marathon, I don't know how to "time" it just yet.  My San Francisco and NoLa times are so far off what my fastest Denver times are, that I feel like I shouldn't even compare.  San Francisco was very hilly, but at sea level and I was very well trained. NoLa happened after I got pleurisy, so I was not very well trained but managed to beat San Francisco's time because (I think) it was also at sea level (and below) and it was very very flat. Maybe my legs weren't tired?  I don't know. Realistically, and don't take my word for it just yet, I should be able to run a 4h18m- not so hilly course, but at elevation, with not very fresh legs. This will put me right in between my San Fran time and my NoLa. It would still be a 30+ minute difference between my last Denver and this one. 

What's next, you ask? My wedding and my 30th birthday. Both events: kind of a big deal.  But then comes 2014.  A year of challenges. I have two big races in mind: the Silver Rush 50 and the one and only TransRockies Run. The Silver Rush is one of the Leadville Trail Series races and while I've run the distance in the past, it's still a distance you can't just run "off-the-couch" and much less in a race like Silver Rush: technical and at elevation. I have not signed up and registration opens January 1st. 

TransRockies deserves it's own post, but not just yet. I can tell you a little bit about it so you know what I'll be prepping for the next few months. It's a 6-day stage run, which means you run a marked course 6 days in a row (it is a race). Each day is different and your official finish time is the sum of all 6 days. You can run it solo or as a team of 2- I'm running it with Theresita. In the end, we will run 120 miles, with 20,000ft of elevation gain in 3 different counties in only 6 days. I understand this may not be appealing to many people, but think about it. Doesn't that sound like the ultimate challenge for a distance runner trying to get away with her all-time running partner and best friend?  The answer you're looking for is yes. It's the perfect fit for this girl. Further TransRockies talk to follow, like I said, this race deserves its own post. 
TransRockies - Here I come!
As for today, I'll be running my last Stroke and Stride, which is the same course as Dash and Dine. Will I PR? Probably not, but I still don't want to take the 5K PR away from my engagement night... Maybe I'll leave that as a 2014 goal. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm a distance runner

"I"m a distance runner. I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don't want to. I look past it. Relentless forward progress to the finish. Call it what you want; stubbornness, endurance, determination, guts. Deep down, I don't know how to give up. [And it's always worth it in the end]"

- Not sure who wrote this, but I can relate.

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE Leadville Trail 100 mile run

It's been a few years since I've been into long distance running but it's only been a couple years that ultra-marathons have become a huge part of my life.  I've only completed three ultras but plan on running a few more, and while as of now, the distance I'm the most comfortable with is the 50k (the shortest of ultra's), I know I'll work my way up.

It's been years since I read the "Ultramarathon Man" book and loved it.  It was at that time when I found out about all these epic 100 mile races and became "curious".  After my first 55k race, I couldn't imagine doing it again and declared myself a road runner and got into Ironman races. Shortly after finishing my 2nd Ironman, I remembered how "easy" it was to just run. I knew I was in good shape and attempted an "easy" 50k. I was incredibly satisfied with the result and went after a 50-miler.  

I'm not gonna lie, it hurt and thought it'd never cross my mind again, but here I am a month later writing about potential 50-milers that I'd like to put on my schedule. Life is too short to not attempt what seems to be impossible and so I'll publicly say that the Leadville Trail 100 mile run has been in the back of my head for years and I'd love to one day feel ready enough to toe the start line. Will it be my first and last? Will it even be my first? Will I attempt to give the distance a shot in a more forgiving environment? Who knows. All I know is that one day I will be showing up at the start line. 

The 2013 Leadville Trail 100 mile run took place this past weekend and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to help time the event. I was assigned at the Outward Bound Aid station which was at mile marker 24 on the way out and mile marker 76 on the way back. 

It was a surreal experience all around. As I gave my 2-week notice at work on Friday and decided to take on newer opportunities in a field that is truly my passion, I found myself driving up to Leadville to work in the one event that I'm truly scared of.  Not knowing what to expect, I was hoping it'd scare me off.  Running 100 miles can't look pretty, right?  But I believe, it did everything but. 

The 2:45am wake up call came a little sooner that I would've wanted to, but I wanted to make it to the start by 3:30 to see my friend Laurie start her race. I saw her, hugged her and positioned myself at the start line by the timing tent. At 4:00am sharp the runners were off... I got the chills. I wanted to be lined up badly. 

Off they go in the dark and all you see are little lights bouncing up and down. 

The start line of the Leadville 100
I then drove over to the Fish Hatchery outside of Leadville, which was Aid Station #2 and where I'd be spending the next 24 hours. Once the first runner showed up around 7:00am it was non-stop til 10:15. Runners were mostly in good spirits, but as the 10:00am cut of approached, you could see some of them struggling.  It was beyond heartbreaking to see Sandy "the cut-off lady" cutting wrist bands with chips of those runners who didn't quite make it and I've never seen so many tears and disappointment looks. I wanted to hug each and every one of them. 

Scott Jurek leaving the aid station at mile 24
I had a chance to lay my sleeping bag in the medical  tent and take a short nap before setting up again and get ready for the first runner to hit mile 76. Ian Sharman, 2x winner of the Mt. Hood 50 and course record holder (it got crushed by this year's winner though) was the first to get to my aid station with a lead of 20 minutes. Scott Jurek, who was the one expected to win all along, showed up in 4th but eventually lost some time and finished 8th. 

Ian Sharman looking fresh at mile 76
While it's impressive to see the "pro's" crush it. I was more impressed by the "normal" people.  Those with a full time job, those with their kids on the sidelines... Those who's bodies were giving up before their minds did. It was impressive to see their souls exposed and look like they couldn't take a single step more yet they'd fuel up and continue their journey.  Impressive to see pacers sprint into the aid station to have water bottles ready for when their runners showed up 30 seconds behind. 

Outward Bound Station at sunset
Heartbreaking to see the tears of those who against their will had to call it good and be smarter about the way they race. Heartbreaking to see those who wanted to continue but didn't make the cut off... Taking away chips was no easy task and I hugged every single one of them. 

Once all the runners came in, those who made the cut off and those who didn't, it was time to pack up. It was already 4:00am and I somehow got a second wind.  I drove back to the start line to see if I could meet some of the timing crew. Not many people there, but got to see the last few runners that earned the big gold buckle, meaning those finishing in under 25hrs. I'm not gonna lie, if you had paid close attention you would've seen a tear or two rolling down my cheek. I wanted to be them BADLY. 

LAST finisher to come in under 25hrs. 
I then drove to Avon to sleep at my parents' place there... I slept from 6:15am through 3:00pm and was a lazy bum the rest of the day. 

All in all, no. This experience did not scare me off, if anything it made want to try harder. I know deep in my heart that as much as I want to go online on January 1st and sign up, I shouldn't. I am not ready. I should conquer the 50 mile distance first. And by conquer, I mean be comfortable. I ran it once and it hurt. I'll run it twice and I'll understand it. I'll run it a third time and I will race it. After that anything is possible.  Dream big I guess... that's the only way you'll accomplish something. 

Special thanks to RaceRite for the amazing opportunity which was not only a job... it was an amazing experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

That's me... working. Yes. I worked. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A whole new meaning to the word EPIC

I'd like to start by asking myself the same question I ask myself every weekend: "Why do I do this to myself?". Yes, I do ask myself this question EVERY weekend since I continue to sign up for events that do nothing but KICK MY ASS.  What did I do this time, you ask?  Well, I grabbed 4 of my (now) closest friends and a weirdo (what's a running team to do without a weirdo?) and headed up to Logan, UT to run a relay race of 205 miles that finished in Jackson Hole, WY. Each one of us needed to run over 30 miles to complete this task, and while we could all run 30+ miles (and most of us have in the past), little did we know how hard it'd be if you did it in 90 million degree weather, no sleep and poor calorie intake. 

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere (read: northern Utah)
The EPIC adventure started on Thursday when we started driving northwest towards Logan, UT.  It seemed fitting, after an 8 hour drive, to feast on hot wings from Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Bronco game. We didn't really pay attention to the game and no, eating hot wings was not a great idea the night before a 30 mile run. We all seemed to have a good night sleep that night and we headed out to the start line bright and early on Friday.  Our start time was 7:00am and we were checking in at around 6:20. Took some goofy pictures, decorated our van and off we go. 

From left to right: Mr. Weirdo, Holly, Kevin, myself, Fernando, Mike
Let me explain how a relay race works in case you've never done one. Basically, you get a team of 12 people and you divide your peeps in 2 vans of 6 people each. There are 36 legs to be run by your 12 runners, so 3 legs each. For example, if you're runner #1, you will run leg 1, leg 13 and leg 25. If you're runner #12, you run leg 12, leg 24 and leg 36.  Runners usually get anywhere between 6 to 8 hours of rest between legs and also get 4-6 hours of "downtime" in their van when the runners in the other van are running.  This is usually when the van parks in a big parking lot and they get to take a nap before having to get ready to run again.  When you do it this way, people run anywhere between 12 to 20 miles total divided in 3 runs. Also, this way, you get to have beginner runners and advanced runners and they all get to have fun.  

Happy Endings Van. Runners resting, Runner ready, Runner taking pic (me), Runner running (Holly)
That said, there is a thing called ULTRA teams. Ultra teams are teams of 6 instead of 12. So you have half the people to run the exact same 36 legs. Gaby's thought: "How fun would it be to have an ULTRA team??" Gaby's thought at the time of signing up: "This is such a GREAT idea." Gaby's thought today: "Yeah, not so much fun. Lots of pain."  There's two ways the ultra teams can officially run this race to be eligible for awards. Each runner runs 6 separate "shorter" legs or each runner runs 2 legs in a row to make 3 long legs. So for example, your runner A can be runner #1 and #6 or he can be runner #1 and #2.  We went with the latter option, so we still ran 3 legs, but they were double. This way, we'd get 10-12 hours of rest in between legs.  

Slap that Sh!t. Mike finishing his first run, Kevin about to face the heat
Ok, back to the actual race. Our first 3 runners did amazing. They all had 12-13 mile legs and weather seemed to cooperate. Little did we know, the heat was just around the corner.  Kevin was our runner #4 and he was tackling legs 7 and 8 when the heat got slightly out of control.  His first leg was LONG, roughly 15 miles, and he managed to get through the first half just fine.  The second half of it was brutal, the heat was unbearable and he was struggling. I started to get nervous since I was up next and I was about to start running at roughly 2:00pm and was going for 10 miles. Slow but steady, Kevin completed his leg and I was bummed I couldn't stay behind to make sure he was ok, but the rest of my crew was amazing and I knew they'd take good care of him. I started running carrying my water bottle but I finished my water in 2.5 miles. My crew was waiting for me 3 miles in and re-filled my water bottle. I asked them to meet me at the exchange point again. The re-filled my bottle and I continued on to my second part of the run. The first half was ALL UP, and with the heat, it seemed like I had used up all my energy, but my second half was mostly downhill, at the beginning anyway so I was able to eat up a few miles fairly quickly but then it got flat so I struggled. I met my crew another 3 miles in, they re-filled again and I told them to just meet me at the finish. Surprisingly, I ran out of water AGAIN and a crew of Colorado runners helped me out. That was enough to get me to the finish (which was uphill for roughly a mile). 

Couldn't be happier to finish this first leg. IT WAS HOT
I've never been happier to finish. It was time for Mr. Weirdo to head out. He underestimated the heat and was bragging about how fast he could go. He slowed down 4-5 miles in but he was still a pretty fast runner. If the heat didn't slow him down, a wall would... that was enough for him to stop bragging.

Big A$$ climb
Once he finished, it was time for round two. Holly, our runner #1 was up again. It was just past 6pm and it was slowly starting to cool off. Fernando, our second runner, started around 7:30pm when the sun decided to make us smile by coloring the sky in all sorts of shades of purple, yellow, orange and red. Nice sunset in  the middle of Idaho. 

Kevin - happy night runner
By the time Fernando finished, it was dark and Mike was on his way. Kevin started his longest run at around 11:00pm and seemed really content with the 17 miles he had ahead of him. Clearly the heat got the best of him but with the sun shining in the other side of the world, he was a happy camper. After Kevin, it was my turn again. I started my longest run at 1:30am. The first section was again mostly uphill with another 600ft of gain and reaching 7000 ft of elevation. The last 5 miles were mostly downhill, but in the dark, it was hard for me to speed up significantly, so I just maintained a comfortable pace that felt "safe". I finished my 13 miles around 3:40am. The night runs seemed to go by fairly smoothly. We all tried to sleep while not getting ready to go run, but it was complicated. Between the car stopping to check in on runners, people getting ready, moving around, other teams cheering their runners on, we didn't get much sleep. We only got time to "rest our eyes". Literally. 

As I mentioned earlier, we started our race at 7:00am along with 5 other teams.  There were probably around 10 more teams out of 73 that started after us at 9:00am, 10:00am and 12:00pm respectively. Your start time is assigned based on your team's average pace. Most teams started at 5:00 or 5:30am and before sunset, we seemed to have passed a few getting to the checkpoints with 20 teams left behind us. But that somehow changed overnight. At 5:00am it was time for Holly to hit the road for the 3rd and last time, and while waiting for her to finish her last run we realized there were only 5 teams that had gone by that checkpoint. Wait, what??? Yep, we passed a ton of people overnight. On average, for the following legs we were between the 7th and 12th team to hit the checkpoints, not too shabby considering we had started towards the end of the pack. We got slightly pumped. I say slightly cause we were tired. 

Chilly sunrise in Wyoming
Faster than we thought, Holly, Fernando and Mike were DONE with their last leg. They'd all automatically get a huge smile on their faces. They were ready to party. Kevin started his last leg and I was anxious to get my part over with. My last leg consisted of a 3-miler, mostly flat and a 7-miler that went up, up, up and down, down, down and then up, and then down... finished flat. I somehow managed to push through the first 3 miles only to start the second section with what looked like a HUGE climb. If I go back today, I can guarantee I would run it just fine. But then and there it seemed like a huge wall. Reminded me of the Mt. Hood 50 "wall". Will this ever END? I walked and jogged and MOST LIKELY crawled backwards. It was hot AGAIN and I literally wanted to die. My crew looked after me stopping every 2 miles at first, but then they seemed to stop every half a mile. They broke my heart by telling me no Gatorade was left in the car, but rushed to get some for me... they gave me hope. At the "one mile to go" marker, my love showed up. I hugged him and I cried. It was the lowest of points. I put my sunglasses back on to cover the tears and jogged the rest of the way. I finished. I was pissed. That was hard. 

Finishing "strong" (Check out the face of pain)
It took a while for this girl to give away free smiles...
Finishing my last leg only meant one thing. 8 miles to go. Mr. Weirdo was the one bringing the team to the finish. We met him half way, got him some water and went over to Teton Village. HOLY COW?!? Is this true? Did we seriously just run from Logan, Utah, through rural Idaho and all the way up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming? While waiting for the rest of the team to show up I decided to go talk to the announcer and ask him if any other ultra teams had finished. He said no. We were the last ultra team to start, so this meant we passed them all and we were still finishing in front of them. Mr. Weirdo showed up. We stumbled across the finish line and they announced loud and clear we won the ultra division. We won. 

We are #1
The stomachache, the pain, the heat, the toughness of it all just went away. We won. Smiles were back and it was time to celebrate and sleep. 

Tired runners
We enjoyed some beer at the finish line area and headed back to our hotel. Unlike other relays, we just didn't have it in us to go "all out" and party, but we did have steak dinner all together. A big hearty meal with manhattans, bloody mary's beers. We attempted to dance some at the Cowboy Bar, but we were slowly fading. We decided to just go to sleep, in the end, we deserved it more than anyone else. 

Tired runners post gigantic meals
Today, all I have left is countless memories, stories and a new friend/running buddy (no, not Mr. Weirdo). It was quite the experience and I think it made all of us slightly tougher. I shared 32 hours in a car with some seriously bad ass runners. If you ever get to meet them, you'll see what I'm talking about. They're truly inspiring. Will I do it again?  Not sure, but probably yes. Will I change our strategy? Not sure, but probably yes. Funny enough, I chatted with a few other ultra teams and they all had different strategies, which they all sounded much better than ours, but in the end we won. Was it strategy? Maybe, but mostly, I think I had some amazing runners in my team and changing our strategy will only makes us faster and even harder to beat.  Until next time, EPIC Relays... I (we?) will be back. 

Email from EPIC Relays announcing the winner