Thursday, August 25, 2022

Cock-a-doodle-doo, b words

It’s been pretty quiet around here, so I figured I would pop in and share a short but sweet and funny story about me and some of my favorite girlfriends. 

My girl Toni is a friend I have had since we were in 3rd grade. It’s funny, when someone has known me for that long I feel like they know me in a way even I might not know. She is an incredible person and I am just so happy to have her in my life.

One thing I can always count on is her creating time for all of us girls to get away and connect. It’s usually a weekend near water where we can all relax and have a great time. This past weekend was no different.

We drove to a cute little cabin within walking distance to the Meramec river. (side note, if you know me at all you know I do this thing where I think I know where I am going and then I get there and I’m like wait, this isn’t where I am supposed to be. This happened and I ended up going like an hour past my exit. Then GPS took me on some back gravel roads to where I was supposed to be, which were sketchy and scary but my Jeep loved it. I was just about to succumb to the fact that I might die on a gravel road in the middle of Missouri when I saw a UPS truck. I wasn’t far from the world after all!)

Anyway, I got there Friday evening and we went to the river and enjoyed a few hours before night fell in. Then we talked and talked and enjoyed our time together. Some girls went to bed early and I crashed around 10:30pm or so. 

Then at about 4:30am, I woke up and heard some of the girls talking downstairs. I rolled around a bit and they kept getting louder. I am like wtf are these girls doing?! It’s 4:30am! 

So I sort of stumbled downstairs. The bedroom was a loft upstairs so the sound really traveled. I see 3 of the 4 girls awake and chatting. The following conversation ensues:

Me: what the hell are you guys doing? It’s 4:45am. What the f.

Girls: Oh sorry we had such a hard time sleeping. We thought you went on a walk or something.

Me: A walk?! It’s crazy dark and this is a weird place I am not going for a walk in the dark! You guys are so loud. You guys sound like chickens. Peck, peck, peck. No. What are the ones that wake you up in the morning? Roosters. You guys sound like fucking roosters.

[I turn and walk toward the bathroom]

Me: "Cock-a-doodle-do bitches."

Girls: break out in hilarious laughter.

Me: Go into the bathroom and break into hilarious laughter.

It was so funny. I was so grumpy. I went back to bed and when I finally woke up for the day and was met with the girls announcing in unison "cock-a-doodle-doo bitches! Then Jen was like, “I saw you running up to 82 miles injured and before last night I have never seen you grumpy!”

Cock-a-doodle-do bitches was our catch phrase all weekend. 

If you’re into musicals you might know the scene I was referring to when I said peck, peck, peck and called them chickens. It’s from The Music Man. I’ll link it here.

So anyway, that’s the funny story. One day if we are good enough friends I’ll tell you the part about #effbabies too 😂

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Running 100 Miles: Take 3 Run LOViT (again)

"Enjoy training, fall in love with it, and become it. By doing so, you will look forward to running, not finishing, and that makes all the difference in the world." ~Michael D'Aulerio

Truth be told I think one can do both...look forward to the running and to the finishing. I told my buddy Matt, my crew captain and basically the reason I even try to do any of these big runs, leading up to the race that the thing I was struggling with the most was trying to let two things live in my body and mind simultaneously: the idea that not finishing isn't an option, and if I don't finish it's actually okay. He told me it wasn't simultaneous, it was parallel. I need to commit to finish. And if I don't, it would be okay.

Well, I didn't finish. And I also didn't quit. I pushed and pushed until the very end. When I could barely walk and was about a mile out, my husband offered to meet me at a road crossing to bring me the rest of the way to the final aid station, where I had missed the cutoff about 30 minutes prior. In true stubborn af Anna fashion I simply replied:

"Fuck no, I'll get there myself."


The week leading up to the race caused a ton of stress. Not so much for the race but for trying to get there! There was an ice storm looming and we weren't sure we would be able to make it out of town and down south safely. We ventured out though, and made it through about 2.5 hours of pure scary sketchy icy roads. Nate is an absolute rock star for driving us safely and getting me to the race start!

The race started out great. I ran the first 2 miles too fast and deliberately slowed down and settled into a good groove. I was knocking out miles and aid station stops like crazy. Feeling mentally and physically strong and truly having the most incredible time.

I love running at night, so when the sun went down and the headlamp turned on I settled into a nice groove and turned on my new favorite book, Brene Brown's Atlas of the Heart. I had already read the book and looked forward to hearing it read to me by the author. The next 8.5 hours were spent this way.

At about 30 miles my left knee and right hip started to hurt some. It didn't hurt at all when I walked, so I did the walk/run thing for a while, finally settling into a full power hike walk around 38 miles. It felt great, honestly. The pain was bad when I tried to run but as long as I just walked I was fine.

Matt told me I should try to do some running but I didn't listen. I was doing 16-17 minute miles, so I was holding a nice steady pace and was staying well ahead of cutoffs with at least a 2-hour cushion. 

Before I tell more of my story, I have to say that since this is an out and back course I knew I would see front runners coming at me sometime soon. It was about 55 miles when I saw the front runner, Karl Meltzer coming right at me. He was at about 75 miles at that point. The man was 20 miles ahead of me! It was pretty cool though to see an elite runner out there the same as me. Well, not quite the same 😀

My buddy Craig had called to give me some good running vibes and was on the phone with me when Karl came running past me. It was a pretty cool experience!

So I was tired of being by myself as my knee and hip was hurting a little more, so picking up my pacer Dennis at 58 was really nice. He kept me moving and as we came in to 65 I realized my hands were super swollen. That happens to me sometimes when I am dehydrated but I knew I wasn't because I was having tons of healthy pee breaks. I troubleshooted with Matt and figured I was probably low on salt. I drank some pickle juice and he gave me some salt tabs to take at the mile 68 station if it seemed to help. He also told me not to drink much between stations so I could assess the situation.

The salt was definitely the issue and the pickle juice and salt tabs brought me back. When I came into the mile 72 station it was like a car race pit crew. At one point I was standing there with my arms up while people were pulling trash out of my pack, stuffing it with food, changing my head lamp batteries and hand feeding me food. I was surrounded by the most important people in my whole life who wanted nothing more than to help me get back out to the trail and finish this race. I remained about 2 hours ahead of cutoff, and set to get to the mile 82.5 station at 7pm.

I told Dennis that I could no longer be in charge of knowing when to eat, and I needed him to help me by telling me when to eat. That's how I knew I was running low on problem-solving ability.

The section between 72-82.5 has a small station at mile 79ish that doesn't have crew access. Somewhere between 72 and 79 everything began to fall apart. My hip was on fire, and eventually my leg would no longer lift up to take a step. I remember saying to Dennis that I have no idea what to do. Why wouldn't my leg move? It hurt but it was more like my leg muscle wasn't attached and just wouldn't do what I needed it to do to move forward.

Dennis shared that the same thing happened to him at a race and asked how my glute was doing. He suggested I dig into the glute to try and take the pressure off my quad so I walked a while with my poles in one hand while using my right hand knuckles to dig into my right glute. Surprisingly this actually helped. 

The sun had set by now, and it was raining. My pace had slowed down considerably and I was finding it hard to stay warm. I had glove covers on that were frozen on the outside, keeping my hands pretty cold. I was beginning to hallucinate which was actually pretty cool. Seeing things in the woods never scares me, it's really just a cool thing to have happen. There was an icy bush that looked like a T-Rex, and the wet leaves on the ground looked like they had hearts or other patterns printed on them. 

They must have recently done a controlled burn because during the day you could see the blackness across the brush and could smell the smoldering fire. At night though, we passed a tree that had fallen over and there was a fire burning inside of the tree trunk. It looked like a fireplace and my eyes just couldn't make my mind believe that it wasn't a brick fireplace with the aid station right next to it. A day or 2 later, someone posted a video of the fire on the race page's Facebook group and I was so relieved that it was really there!

When we finally made it to the 79 mile station, I knew we had 3.5 miles left. This station does not have crew access, and the people there are only able to get there by ATV, so dropping wasn't an option. I had 90 minutes to get to 82.5 and I was determined to push as hard as I possibly could to make it there. Matt was there, my people were there and I could reset and go back out for the last 17. 

Those 3.5 were a struggle. I pushed and pushed but just couldn't make my body move faster. About 1.5 miles out we realized I missed the cutoff.

I was so disappointed. And Regretful. I knew I had made mistakes and I was devastated that I wasn't going to finish...again. I said to myself, maybe I'm just not cut out for this.

Then I see a headlamp coming toward us. It's Matt, and he had ran out to share the last mile with me and to see how I was doing. I told him I was upset, and that I didn't think I was cut out for this after 3 tries. He was so encouraging. I have no idea what he actually said but by the time we made it back to the station I was already feeling strong for my 82.5 mile finish.

About a half mile from the station, Nate called Matt and asked him if I wanted him to pick me up at this place where the road crossed so I wouldn't have to hobble that last bit. "Fuck no" was heard across the trail and through the phone as my response to my husband's very kind offer.

So there it is. The long story about how I didn't finish LOViT for the second year in a row. You know what was different though? I refused to quit. Last year, I gave up. At my 100 attempt #2, I gave up. This time, I refused to take any shortcut and pushed myself until they pulled me off the trail. If I had made it with 5 minutes to spare, I would have gone back out. There was nothing but the clock that could have stopped me and for that, I am so incredibly proud of this 82.5 miles.

My girlfriends rallied around me in the most lovingly way. Toni and Jen don't run, so they mostly stood back and let Matt take the lead on what I needed for the race but when it was done, they moved into full on take-care-of-me mode and helped me get my cold clothes off and get me into the car. They made me the most incredible sign ever, that comes with the BEST story ever that I might share with you one day if we are good enough friends. 

When we got back to the house my hip wouldn't move my right leg forward at all. I had to pick up my leg by behind my knee to move any steps forward. I was honestly afraid we would have to go to an urgent care or something if I woke up Sunday unable to walk. I took some ibuprophen and laid down to rest, after my girls helped me change my pants. These girls held me with so much love all day, and especially at night when all was done.

Luckily I woke up feeling sore, but not severely injured. I tested out the knee and hip on Wednesday and everything hurt again, so I plan to take a couple of weeks off completely and reassess the situation. The hardest part now, a week out and on a Saturday, is figuring out what to do with myself when I am used to being on trails on the weekends. My family is loving me being home though ❤️

One thing I can say is I don’t think I’ve ever felt as loved as I have in the last few weeks. So many calls and messages and congrats and just filling my cup with so much positivity! From my people who took a whole weekend out of their lives to support me to those who texted or commented on my posts, I appreciate you so much 🥰

I know the big question is, will I try to run 100 miles again? Honestly, I don't know. This last 1.5 years of training has been so hard on me, on my body and on my family. I wish I had the finish so I could move onto something else. If you know me at all, you probably already know that I might be down, but I am definitely not out ☮

A few memories I really don’t want to forget:
I knew the bench was there!
“Easy, just stop getting discouraged.”
Bo and the people of Ukraine. 
The way it felt when I returned to comfort. 
That girl totally got farted on in the face 🤣

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Running 100 Miles: Take Two

Well, I am going to give this a try. I described myself to a friend as emotionally fragile yesterday, and I think that captures my current situation pretty well. 

I tried to run 100 miles again this past weekend and as I did last time, I failed to finish the race. 

It’s an interesting concept – failure. There are all kinds of quotes out there designed to motivate a person to embrace failure as a path toward success. That you can’t have success without failure. Or even quotes about judging oneself based on how one handled the failure. Right now, in this place where I am in between regret and disappointment where I am dissecting each decision to see what I could have done differently to finish, they all seem like bullshit.

I told you guys, I am probably not in the best mindset to write this right now. Yet I also feel the need to capture this as I imagine it is something others feel when they put themselves out there, beyond what is comfortable and predictable and get punched in the gut. It isn’t pretty. But it is definitely real. And it hurts like hell.

I'll just just get to the race story.

My buddy Matt and my husband Nate and I headed down to Arkansas on Friday after Nate and I took the kids to school. The drive was uneventful and after 6 hours or so we settled into this super cute and tiny little cabin only a couple of miles from the start line. I was pretty nervous thinking about the race, so I went down to sit on the dock and enjoy the water for a while before I finished getting my race stuff together. It was quiet and peaceful and sort of set the stage for some quiet reflection that allowed me to settle down, sleep well and even center myself during the race a few times. 

Saturday morning Nate dropped Matt and me off and we got all checked in a ready to run. At 6am we hit the trail and were off. The first 16 miles were tough. My mind is so funny during a race like this. It’s like I am worried that if I am uncomfortable at all at mile 10, what in the world will mile 50 feel like? Or mile 85? The truth is though that twice now I haven’t felt great at the beginning of a hundred but fell into a good groove in no time.

I saw Nate at mile 16, as he was set up to be my crew the whole time. He had my box with all of my things and planned to maybe pace me for miles 85-100. My friend Rachel would pace 68-85 and planned to meet up with Nate later. I had been carrying my rain jacket but it appeared that the threat of rain had passed, so I left it with Nate.

About a mile after I left him, it began to downpour. Matt offered me his raincoat but I was soaked already with sweat from the humidity so I just figured it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

It down poured for about an hour at least. I was soaked to the bone, but not cold. Just uncomfortable. The trail was soaked with huge puddles that weren’t always avoidable. I started to think through some foot changes and knew I had socks in my box but not the other pair of shoes I wanted. Oh well, I figured a sock change would be fine.

I saw Nate again at mile 30 and was feeling physically strong but my stomach was giving me some trouble after grabbing a couple of potatoes from a station. It is hard to not eat food at the aid stations but with all of my food sensitivities even potatoes can’t be trusted. In hindsight I wonder if they had butter in them.

I did a sock change and grabbed my rain jacket again and off we went. Matt and I were still together at this point although he was struggling. We also picked up this guy named Eric, who was going to drop at 30 but Matt convinced him to come with us. Matt and I and our trail antics brought him back from the dead. He scurried ahead of us at one point and called us his angels. I think it distracted us for a while too, which was nice.

At mile 42 Matt and I were separating so I decided to pull ahead of him thinking I might see him later but maybe not. I was feeling strong and ready to see Nate at mile 47.

I could feel my feet getting a little angry so I thought I would probably do a sock change when I got there. There is a section between miles 47 and 68 where I would not see my crew. This section was worrying me a lot heading into the race, so I tried to really think through my drop bag at the midway point when I was race planning. I was sure I put a change of socks in my drop bag so my other thought coming into mile 47 was to grab the foot lube and change at 57. Either way, I knew I needed to tend to my feet.

I ran strong into the 47-mile station and everyone cheered! I think I said something along the lines of I feel like I should be finished with all of that cheering. The aid station captain hollered at my crew and Rachel and her husband came walking toward me, but no Nate.

I asked where he was and they said they didn’t know – that he wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe it. It was so crowded I wondered if maybe he just didn’t see Rachel, but she was right. He wasn’t there.

We later found out that he had picked up Matt’s pacer at the cabin and they had taken a wrong turn and went really far out of their way, totally missing me even though I was right on time for my predicted pace.

I thought about staying and waiting but at the time we had no idea what had happened. I thought through everything I needed and decided I would be okay to wait to change socks until I got to my drop bag at 57. The only thing I didn’t have was a headlamp, which was in my box of stuff with Nate. Rachel gave me hers and with a quick tutorial I was on my way with wet socks and shoes and an unfamiliar headlamp.

I tried to stay positive, but I knew going into this 20-mile stretch without some necessities might throw me off. The headphones I had were almost dead and I had a book I planned to listen to on this very runnable section, but that was fine. The headphones died and I just became that person who listened without headphones. Sorry, not sorry 😊

I felt great for about 8 miles, then my feet started to hurt with every step. It felt like blisters, but I really had no option other than to just kept going. Then about a mile from the aid station where my drop bag was it hit me, I realized that I was pretty sure I put the socks in the OTHER drop bag, and not this one. This was bad. Very bad. I knew I needed to tend to my feet and was pretty sure I significantly messed this up.

I got to the aid station and let me just say, the women there were absolutely incredible. They swarmed around me getting my bottles filled taking my socks and shoes off bringing me my drop bag and sharing in my deep disappointment when I realized I was right, I did not have a sock change after all.

Then, these precious women who wanted nothing more than to see me succeed FOUND ME A PAIR OF SOCKS! It was incredible. Coincidentally, I look up and see 2 fellow St. Louis trail runners! A friend was there pacing another friend who was dropping and he offered to give me his socks. Off of his own feet! It was an incredible gesture of solidarity and kindness and I was so touched and surprised that he would offer. I went with the women’s sized socks instead, but the offer just goes to show how much trail runners want to take care of each other.

So they fixed me up and off I went, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that the damage was done. Each step was excruciating pain on the pads of my feet. Running was better than walking so I was still running the downhills but the uphills were nearing impossible. I stopped and sat on a rock at about 65 miles to see if I could pop the blisters on my right foot, which I hoped would relieve some of the pain. I just couldn’t see them though.

I hobbled in to the 68 mile station and had by then convinced myself that if my crew and I couldn’t fix these blisters, there was no way I could keep going. I saw my crew who had no idea I was struggling because I was still making pretty good time and was within a 16 minute mile average. It was such a relief to see Nate after 38 long miles.

I took my socks off and they tried to see where the blisters were so I could pop them, but they couldn’t see them either. The bottoms of my feet were so swollen, they couldn’t make out where the blisters were. I could feel them, but couldn’t find them. I did pop one that was under one of my toenails and one that was between my toes, but the ones in my foot pads that were causing so much trouble were so deep in my foot that there was nothing we could to about them.

They convinced me to lube up and put on new socks and shoes and walk around to see how it felt. I did this, and the pain was excruciating. I said I was done.

It is this moment that I cannot seem to reconcile. Yes, it was painful, but could I have gone on? My friend and fellow ultrarunner Craig always describes ultras as constant problem solving. But in that moment, I couldn’t figure out how to solve it. Looking back I can. I should have doubled my socks, grabbed my poles and at least tried to walk toward the next aid station. I could have always turned around. I had plenty of time since I ran so strong up to this point. I had just walked/ran for 10 miles on sore feet, I could have gone further, if I had been able to problem solve my way out of it.

And this is why this sport is hard. I have to ask myself, did I quit because I was scared or did I quit because I was brave? Now that I can see the blisters they were really nasty. They were small under each hard foot bone and also all connected together. I have seen photos of blisters like that when they pop, and the damage is detrimental. 

But these blisters weren’t that bad, yet. They were bad enough that I am still limping today, 3 days later, so maybe it was the right decision.

Nevertheless, it is done. I made my decision and I need to make peace with it. I need to take these things I learned and move forward. Besides these blistered feet, my whole body felt strong enough to keep going. I was still running the down hills and hiking the up hills 65 miles in. I know I was trained. I know I did all of the prep needed for this race, and I still didn’t finish.

I think that might be the hardest part for me about this sport. We train for months and months for the one day that is race day and we never know what that day will bring. This race has a Facebook group and leading up to the race everyone was talking about the chance of rain that was in the forecast. One guy said that he has finished hundreds before but never in the rain and wondered how to prepare. I have only ran (most of) two hundreds and they were both in the rain. Does that mean I just keep doing this and hope for better weather? If I train exactly like someone and end up with shitty conditions and they don’t, is one experience more valid that the other?

I know it isn’t. The draw of this sport is the unknown. It is the idea that we will be pushed to the point of wanting to quit and in that moment will we quit or will we push through? If we quit, is that the brave decision or the fearful decision?

As my blisters heal and my muscles relax and the chafed areas of my skin become less sensitive, I know this feeling of disappointment and regret will also fade, and I will get up, dust myself off and get out there again. But right now, I have to feel this. I have to sit in this place of defeat and just be here for a minute. I am sad. I regret quitting. I am afraid that I quit because I was scared, not because I was brave. I do not know if I can do it again. I don’t know if I could handle the disappointment for a third time.

I know that I could shift my goals and focus on shorter races and find success. I have now ran 2 pretty strong 100Ks in the wake of 2 DNFs. I could likely find much success running 100Ks. But would it ever feel like enough, or would it feel like a low and safe aim? If you know me at all, I think you know that I already know the answer. I am just not ready to do anything about it yet.

Don’t fear failure – not failure, but low aim, is the crime.
In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.
~Bruce Lee

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Life is an ultramarathon.

Don’t miss any cutoffs sitting in the aid station.

Those of you who know me well or have been around this blog for a while know that I am an ultramarathon runner. I seek out trails and races well beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance. While this may seem out of reach, I am learning that seeking a finish of a long race isn’t much different than seeking satisfaction, growth and happiness in life. Therefore to me, living life, loving my people, learning and growing and reaching for personal goals is really just its own ultramarathon.

This came to a head for me recently when I was really struggling personally. I texted a friend who knows me well and knows ultramarathons well. The following exchange took place:

There is a documentary (one of many) that documents the journey of running a 100-mile race. There is a scene where the man running is sitting in the aid station tired and torn. Exhausted. Pushed beyond his current ability. His people are rallying around him giving him aid and working to build his spirits. He is unsure he can go on. Then he says:

“Just give me 60 seconds to feel sorry for myself.”

His friends surround him, encouraging him, keeping their eye on the clock and are ready for him to get back up and finish the race when he's ready.

The draw of an ultramarathon is the unknown. It’s the idea that we train for months for a distance that seems so incredibly out of reach that while we hope it is possible, we know there are so many factors that can derail any well prepared for race. We get to that start line anyway, because the excitement of finishing something big and bold is bigger than the risk of not finishing. The chance we might fail is the draw that keeps us curious about how far we can go.

The draw of life is similar. There is the unknown. There is the ever present fact that life is fleeting and no matter what we do, we and everyone we love are going to die. It is a fact that as much as we may try to escape it, is hard truth. Why would anyone even bother then, right? Maybe because the excitement of having a life that is beautiful and meaningful is worth the risk of pain that ultimately comes when you put your heart out into the world.

We know the world is a terrifying place, yet we explore it and try to understand it and make friends and go places and get into cars and fly on planes knowing that at any moment we could experience some kind of accident, be in the wrong place at the wrong time or be diagnosed with a horrible disease. All of this could be enough to make us want to stay locked up in our homes, missing out on life. But we don’t. We know the chance we might fail is the draw that keeps us going to see how far in life we can go.

Occasionally though, life throws us something truly painful. We are going along in our world living life and something happens that stops us in our tracks. A loved one gets sick. A friend dies. An innocent animal is targeted for an unknown reason. The world becomes too heavy.

Sometimes in a race, there is an injury. Nutrition is off and fatigue sets in. The weather doesn’t cooperate. The course is more difficult than you thought it would be. 

In either case, we seek aid. We sit on our friend’s couch or call our person or cry to our partner. We make it to the aid station and believe we cannot go on. We stop moving forward and are frozen in our grief. We have a choice. We can get up and keep going, or we can sit in that comfortable place and stop. 

Life is an ultramarathon.

A few months ago, someone in my neighborhood shot my cat with a .22 caliber weapon. That same week, a childhood friend died from ALS, leaving behind 4 children and a loving wife. Also in that same week, a key member of our team at work left to pursue a fabulous new opportunity for her and her little family. It was all just so heavy, and I was so incredibly sad. For my cat, for this world we live in, for my own capacity at work and ultimately for the understanding that this world we live in is heavy and hard and full of so much pain. It was more than I could take. I needed aid.

My friend sent that text to me in response to my desire to “just feel sorry for myself for a little while longer”. I knew I wouldn’t be there for long, but I wasn’t ready to get up yet. It is safe and comfortable there in that aid station. Sitting still and feeling all the things and wanting to hide from all of the pain in this broken world. But my friend knows me and knows I cannot stay there forever. He reminded me not to miss any cutoffs sitting in the aid station. Don’t avoid the aid stations, they are there for a reason, but don’t stay there too long either, if we do we will certainly miss out on something beautiful that life has in store for us.

I had a virtual happy hour with a group of amazing women about a month after that text exchange with my friend. I mentioned that I stopped listening to podcasts, I stopped going to my new therapist and just stopped moving forward. I wasn’t depressed, I was resting. One of these amazing friends mentioned gently that I seemed to be sort of stagnant. That I was retreating into my safe place and maybe that’s okay for a while but I probably shouldn’t stay there too long. It reminded me of the text my friend sent me. I shared the words with my girls and they were so taken back by the profound meaning in those words, they said it should be my mantra.

Life is an ultramarathon. Go out there and run it. Get dirty, get hurt, get out in the world and see what happens. Get aid when you need it, just don’t miss any cutoffs while sitting in the aid station.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Running 100 Miles: Take One

Spoiler alert, I didn’t finish 100 miles during my first attempt. I experienced some pretty severe knee pain that took me out at mile 65. Nevertheless, the 21 hours I spent on the beautiful Lake Ouachita Vista Trail are filled with big and tiny moments alike, all of which made this experience one of the most unforgettable of my life. 

So grab a glass of wine or a nice cup of hot tea, put your feet up and get ready to hear the stories that go along with when I almost ran 100 miles.

The trip really began the week leading up to the race when all of the scouting and timing and planning of the aid stations took place. If you imagine how much goes into planning weekend away or a weekend of camping, planning for 34 hours in the woods with everything I might need in a Rubbermaid box, it definitely takes some planning.

I created this pace chart to help with timing…

…and put all of the food for each aid station in zip lock bags like this.

A lot of this is setting up my crew to be able to help me get what I need at the aid stations and get out as quickly as possible.

I share this mostly to show the planning that goes into a race like this. It should be noted, I did not enjoy this part of the race experience. We got to Arkansas on Thursday evening since the race started at 5pm on Friday. Most of the day Friday I spent actively trying to relax. Everything was packed and ready, Nate knew the plan, my friends were ready with their plans and while I was definitely nervous about the day, I also knew that as soon as I got to the trail everything will be fine.

And of course that is exactly what happened. My friend and I who trained together planned to run most if not all of the race together. We took off for the race and were full of smiles and ready to embark on 100 miles.

The first 10 miles were kind of tough. My buddy and I didn’t say too much and finally when we did, we shared that we just couldn’t get into a rhythm. I wondered if I was eating too much. I rarely start a run at 5pm, so slamming 200-300 calories/hour after a full day of eating seemed to be causing some trouble. I backed off the eating and switched to water and it really helped.

We got to the first aid station way ahead of schedule, and it was great to see Nate and the boys. It was a quick turnaround and back out we went. It was nice to settle into a groove and the next 10 miles went by pretty well. But the nearly 2 days of straight rain, the insane amount of creek crossings, the ridiculous elevation and the constant mist made these overnight miles really challenging.

The next 20 miles were more of the same. If I learned anything from this experience of long slow miles it is that everything is temporary. If something hurt or when I struggled, it is so easy to quickly go to thoughts of wait I am only 25 miles in, how am I going to make it 90+ if I am already having this problem? But then before I know it, that thing has passed and I’m feeling strong. Everything is temporary, so you have to ride the roller coaster and enjoy when things are going well knowing it won’t last, and when things are hard, just keep going. Because that probably won’t last long either.

One thing I couldn’t seem to shake were my sore feet. I decided at mile 40 or so that I was going to change my socks and shoes at the next stop. I wanted my shoes with a little more cushion and the socks were constantly soaked from so many creek crossings. I love a good rainy run but man, without the opportunity to dry out my feet were really getting sore.

We got to a section that was 2 miles straight up, and 2 miles straight down. This was one of the toughest sections and was really challenging especially in the dark. This course was an out and back and while I tried to stay present and not go too far into the future, I have to admit it felt daunting to imagine doing that section again at mile 87.

At mile 42 I got fresh socks and shoes and felt a million times better. I was like a new woman! For three whole miles until we came to another creek. I stood there with my head down ready to cross and just really didn’t want to get my feet wet again. But I did. There really wasn’t another option.

As things were tough through the night, all I kept thinking was how amazing it was going to be when the sun came up, and I was right. There was a moment right around dawn when I stopped and looked around and took it all in. The mist, the rising sun, relishing in the absolute beauty that is in the forest. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I had been awake for almost 22 hours by this point and was maybe 45 miles into the race. 

Nate had the job of bringing me my hot tea at the morning aid station, which was at mile 47. I’m not sure I can put into words how wonderful that cup of tea was! I was surprised by how good I felt given the fact we had been running all night. My mental game was so strong. I had moments of doubt when my foot would twinge or when I let myself go too far into the future, but as long as I was able to stay present and deal with the bit of trail that was in front of me, I was golden.

Leaving that station would lead into the biggest stretch of miles between aid stations, and I knew I wouldn’t see Nate and the boys again until mile 58. I was still feeling strong and ready to take on this section that we expected to be the most runnable of the course.

I’m not exactly sure when it started to happen, but sometime shortly after a no-crew aid station at mile 50, my knee started to hurt. It was my left knee too, which unlike my right knee has never given me any problems. The pain came on fast and strong, and I tried all of my tricks that used to work on my right knee to no avail. 

This is pain I know well. It is pain that I know will not go away. My friend tried hard to stay positive and give me tips to turn it around but I knew there was no way I could run. We power hiked and were making pretty good time but these were the miles that we were supposed to be making up for lost time on, and that just wasn’t happening.

He suggested I listen to music so I did, then we stopped on this bench and laughed because the fog was so thick we couldn’t enjoy what we knew was a beautiful view hiding in the dense fog. Shortly after he and I agreed that he needed to take off ahead of me to ensure he wouldn’t fall too far behind and miss cutoffs. I succumbed to the truth that I was likely not going to finish this race.

I got to Nate and the boys at the mile 58 aid station limping from a painful knee and blistered heels. I had fully convinced myself I was going to stop after 100k (62 miles), but when I saw the boys and decided to pick up my pacer, they talked me into going back out there and seeing what happens. It was nice to have some hope that maybe things would turnaround. 

When I was sitting at the station I took off my socks and saw two nasty blisters on my heels. I taped one up and the other needed to be popped. My pacer said something about finding something to pop it with and I said no, I got it, and proceeded to tear a hole in the blister with my fingernail. I taped it up, put my socks and shoes back on, grabbed my trekking poles and hit the trail with an avocado sandwich in hand a my pacer by my side.

After the race, Nate told me that he and the boys got in the car and my 9yo said “soooo, did anyone actually see mommy pop the blister?” Apparently the grittiness of the ultrarunning world was a little more than my sons expected 😆

There was an aid station at mile 62, which would have been the 100k mark and my new goal, but there was no crew access. So if I dropped there, someone would have to drive me to my family at another aid station. I looked at my crew when I realized this and I said with gusto “I’m not getting a fu*king ride off of the trail. I will make it to mile 65.”

The 4 miles from 58-62 were really difficult. My knee had completely blow up and I couldn’t run at all. The downhills were excruciating and each step was more and more painful. Mentally though, I felt great. I was smiling, I was chatting with my pacer and while I had been awake for nearly 30 hours or so I was out of it but not delirious…yet.

At about 12pm Saturday at the mile 62 aid station I sat down for only the third time since 5pm the night before. My pacer had convinced me to let the station folks k-tape my knee to see if it would help. They gave me a peace sign necklace and pin and sent me on my way.

We made our way down the dirt road and came to a road crossing. We saw a vehicle coming and paused. That vehicle slowed to let us cross and I waved to say thanks. The person driving rolled her window down and waved. I look intently thinking I recognized her but I’m in a forest in Arkansas and have been awake forever, so I don’t think much of it. 

Then the car door opened and she got out. So did the passenger. Suddenly I realized that it was two of my very dear friends and it clicked that they drove all the way to Arkansas to see me race. I was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. 

I wrapped my arms around one of them and then the other and cried. I know people love me. My brain knows it but in that moment I felt a level of friendship love in my heart that I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to feel before. 

These two women drove hours to get to me, to support me and to show me they believed in me. They told me how proud they were and I cried and said I didn’t think I was going to finish. They didn’t blink. They said it didn’t matter. They were miraculously in the absolutely perfect place at the absolutely perfect time. 

So many things had to happen to place us in the same place at that moment. They were on their way to a restaurant that said it was closed but they wanted to see for sure. At the last minute I decided at the last aid station to have them tape my knee to see if that would help. I didn’t know I needed those hugs from these women in that moment, and thinking back it still brings me to tears. They had been texting me all day from Arkansas, and I had no idea they were right there with me. The whole time.

I spent the next 2 miles having periods of crying over the craziness of seeing my girls in the middle of the forest. My buddy had taken off ahead of me and it was an out and back and I knew I would run into him eventually. When I did he was grinding up the hill toward us and I was so happy to see him looking so strong. I hugged him and said I was proud of him and wished him the best for the rest of his race. He was working so hard and looking so strong, I just knew he was going to finish.

It started to thunder and I really wanted to get to the aid station before it down poured but I just couldn’t move that quickly. I had slowed down to a 25-minute pace and couldn’t run at all. I made it to the mile 65 aid station about 45 minutes before cut-off. I would have to manage the next 35 miles at a 20-minute mile at a minimum to finish on time, and I couldn’t run. There was really nothing to consider. Stopping was the only option.

It took me a while for my head to catch up with the idea of stopping. My adrenaline was in full effect and my whole body minus my knee wanted to keep moving. It took hours for me to settle down.

We went back to the cabin and I showered and tried to relax. Friends had been sending me positive and uplifting messages all day, which was so incredibly wonderful. Each time a message showed up on my watch I felt the love. It really helped push me through. I updated friends that I had dropped and tried to rest. But I just couldn’t do it. Not with my friend still out there trying to grind out 100 miles.

I told Nate I really wanted to meet him at the next aid station so Nate helped me figure out what time we thought he would be there. I know I surprised him when I got there and it was so great to see how strong he looked. Plus I got to see the second best part of a race like this, the view from the crew. I have crewed this friend and others at long races and honestly it is just as much fun as racing. 

Also, my girls were in Arkansas! I called them and told them where to meet us at my friend’s mile 87. We hung out on the side of a highway in the misting rain for a while when he came and went through the station. I was having some serious bouts of delirium. Each time a car drove by the light would reflect in such a way that I thought a car was parked on the side of the road, then it was gone. None of this was scary and it was actually kind of cool. It was hard to tell what was real and what was my eyes playing tricks on me. My girls also got me the best little care package. Goodness I just love them so much 💗

He had 13 miles left and we knew it would be about 4 hours or so, so we went back to the cabin and I got a couple of hours of sleep. This was about 9pm on Saturday and I had been up since 8am or so on Friday. 

Nate’s alarm went off at 12:30am and he checked the tracker and saw my friend would finish around 1am. We drove to the finish line and got there with about 10 minutes to spare before he finished. Seeing him finish was a really great end to a pretty great day.

Sunday was to be our last day in Arkansas so we tried to make the most of it and drove to Hot Springs to see the sights and grab lunch. I was sore, but it was manageable. The blisters and sore knee was the worst but otherwise I felt pretty great considering I just ran 65 miles.

We ate the most incredible pizza, played mini golf, explored the town and made the most of our little mini vacation. I was feeling pretty good about the whole weekend and enjoyed this time with my little family.

Then Monday hit and everything changed. The deep disappointment set in. I had a really good hard cry in the shower and just felt so incredibly sad that the race didn’t go the way I hoped it would go. My head was positive and realistic and knew I had to quit and not finish, but my heart was so sad.

Like everything else about this experience, that feeling didn’t last long either. Bottom line is, it’s just running. We trail runners see a distance we want to try and cover and we sign up for the race. We toe the line with no idea how the whole thing is going to end up. It’s uncertain and unpredictable and no matter how hard you train you cannot be sure how it will end up. To me, that’s part of the draw. If we knew the outcome was certain, it would lose its desire.

The nearly unattainable is that much sweeter when it is attained. Or so I have heard 😊

If I learned anything on this adventure it is that the 100 mile distance is well within my reach. I’ll face it again later this year filled with more experience and more training and hopefully a buckle in hand. And maybe even a new-to-the-sport crew! Nate and my girls now have a new interest in crewing and pacing an ultra. I should have warned them that it is definitely addicting and contagious!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Am I ready to run 100 miles?


Here I am, heading into race week deep in the throes of the taper crazies and I have to ask myself … am I ready to run 100 miles?

Back in August of 2020, after weeks of talking and considering, my friend finally talked me into signing up to run 100 miles. As I signed in to UltraSignup, found the race and clicked through all of the prompts to register, I was filled with invigorating excitement to be reaching for something well outside of my comfort zone. It didn’t take much time though before I was met with an enormous amount of self-doubt.

You see, as a runner there is nothing quite like signing up for the next distance. As an ultrarunner, that often means the next stretch goal is pretty lofty. New runners often follow the route of 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. An ultramarathon is anything beyond a full marathon or 26.2 miles.

By the time I was sitting there in my car with my phone in hand, with UltraSignup pulled up and ready to take the plunge I had completed a handful of 50k races and one 50 mile run. I suppose I could have signed up for a 100k race but I instead went right for the big one and signed up to run 100 miles in 34 hours.

When I first started trail running and would run with seasoned ultrarunners, I would hear them talk of their 100 mile race plans and adventures. I couldn’t even imagine what would make someone want to run 100 miles. It was so far away from anything I ever thought I would try to do. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I had ever believed I could do something so big and challenging. Sometimes it takes a friend to convince you that you are strong and that anything is possible if you commit and put in the work.

So that is what I have done. Miles upon miles of training. Hours and hours in the woods, grinding out intentional practice and training growing stronger and more confident at each mile.

It wasn’t all fun though. Deciding to try to do something I have never done before is a level of vulnerability that consistently made me question myself and my ability to really achieve this big stretch goal I was working toward. All these hours on the trail were hours away from my family. Hours squeezed in before a workday. When training ramped up there were plenty of times I cried on the trail, questioned my reasoning and made me wonder if all of this was worth it. Never once though did I think about stopping. 

Each time I questioned myself and my reasons behind running this distance, I was met with something that helped me center myself and appreciate what this journey means to me. I am learning that staying comfortable where success is certain and failure is unlikely is predictable but it sure isn’t very much fun. 

I listened to podcasts and audible books and sought out as much information as possible about dreaming big, preparing for the unexpected, living a life of intention and not only learning but really integrating the fact that everything we have ever wanted is on the other side of fear.

Between when I signed up for the race and today, I have ran over 1200 miles. Each mile was intentional with the long-term goal of 100 miles in mind. Some miles were easy and fun and lighthearted, and some were a full struggle ending with tears as I trudged back to my car. Running into friends on trails and keeping so many solo to avoid catching covid as I inched closer to race day. These 7ish months of training have been an adventure from the start. An intense journey to see what I am really capable of.

Some things I learned during the 1200 miles of training include:
  • Something always hurt. Yes, always. Thankfully it was never an injury so I just kept going.
  • My husband and my boys are always my biggest supporters and cheerleaders.
  • More than anything, I am so incredibly grateful for this body that continues to rise to what I expect of it.
  • I love trail running. I mean, I really love it. Running connects me to the world and the ground in a way that I never expected. You know how at the end of the movie Almost Famous when the bandaid tries to explain what it's like to love one tiny piece of music SO MUCH that it hurts? That is how much I love running in the woods. So much it hurts. Or maybe that's just because of that first point up there 😄
  • Fighting with a friend can actually strengthen a friendship, if it is built on trust and respect.
  • I love to eat lots and lots (and lots) of food. Especially Anna-safe pizza and Chipotle.
  • Gratitude is the antidote to pain. If something is painful, look for the gratitude, it's there. I promise. 
No matter how the race plays out, this journey to get to the starting line of my first 100 mile race has filled my heart with so much joy. Spending time working toward something I believe in, that builds me up and helps me grow as a person, a partner, a parent and as a friend will forever be one of the very best things I ever decided to do for myself. 

I’ve put in the work, now all I have to do is get in the arena and finish this damn thing.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Tenderness, Right Below the Surface

My friend J, who I have known for almost two years through my job, died from ALS about 2 weeks ago. I wrote most of what I am sharing shortly after he died, but I have been hesitant to share it here. For some reason I planned to sock it away and close this chapter quietly.

I am not sure why I am sharing it now. I love to write out my thoughts and I think it somehow creates closure for me to open up and share what I’m feeling. Perhaps sharing his story allows me to feel that others might know what an incredible person he was even though no one reading this knew him. Maybe sharing what’s on my heart will help carrying the weight of loss a little lighter. Maybe it’s all of these things for me. 

We can look at death as a relief or a tragedy, in depth or shallow, anticipated or a surprise and we can dive into what it means and how we should approach it and over complicate the whole conversation. Or we can say the simple and uncomplicated truth: my friend was here and now he is gone, and that makes me very sad. I honestly just miss my friend.

Right before his funeral, I read this article about end of life care. These two statements really stood out to me and spoke to why I feel so honored to be in the role I am in:

Providing end-of-life care is a privilege that is hard to choose. It is to choose to go down into the dark with another person, down into the deepest mysteries of the human experience. It is to share in the most difficult journey of a person’s life, a journey from which only one of you will return.

This is where all our work comes to its final fruition. This is where all the labels drop away, and we meet one another simply as humans, sharing the joy and grief, the gratitude and regret that is the common lot of mortals at their common end.

So here are some words about my friend, J.

Working with people who are dying is a privilege I hold very dear. When a person learns the news that they have a disease like ALS where there is no treatment and no cure, it is a traumatic experience. Relationships that begin in these types of situations can be very powerful. J and I connected immediately and had some of the deepest and most profound conversations about life, death, the meaning of it all and how end of life is for people. These are very deep and emotional conversations that made us close friends and confidants right from the beginning.

By the time I met J he had already lost enough use of his legs to need a power wheelchair, so I‘ve never actually seen him walk. He zipped around in that chair and still accessed all areas of his home thanks to his home-made ramps. During our first meeting we sat in his kitchen and looked out his back window at his large back yard, and as though we had known each other our whole lives, he began telling me the incredible loss he felt from no longer being able to do things like mow his lawn. He was so appreciative of his friends who showed up for him and completed tasks like this, but the loss he felt from no longer being able to do these things himself stung him to his core.

I remember having some preconceived notions about J. He was rough around the edges and seemed to take no bs from anyone. He was a construction worker type of man’s man with a hard outer core, so to see him so hurt by the loss of being able to care for things like his own lawn showed me a tenderness about him that I then saw every single time we visited. I feel so honored that he would share that part of himself with me.

It wasn’t long after that when I visited again that J was so excited to show me the adapted lawn mower he and his buddies designed. He said his friend took the racing seat right out of his car to make this lawn mower. I remember thinking how incredibly dangerous this contraption was. It didn’t matter though, once a person knows they are going to die, I mean we all know we are going to die eventually but once a person REALLY knows they are going to die, risk just has a different impact.

Another time I was at J’s house a buddy of his called collect from jail. He was on speaker phone so I heard most of their conversation, which wasn’t about anything in particular. When they hung up J said to me that he bets that was the first call I heard from jail. I laughed and said no and proceeded to tell him about two childhood friends who had also spent some time in the same city jail who used to call me collect regularly. I think he had some preconceived notions about me, too. And clearly I’ve always been drawn to those who, ahem, color outside the lines.

Earlier this year I visited with J when he was really sick. His significant other and I didn’t think he was going to make it through the weekend. He asked me what I thought happened to a person when they died. I told him that I wasn’t sure. I added that that every person I have ever been close to in my life who died, and there have been many, have visited me in a dream not long afterwards. Even my pets who I have lost visit me there. I told him I had no doubt that he would visit me too.

He pulled through that sickness and I was able to see him a few more times. One time, we were visiting at his kitchen table and his dad came to see him. I had never met his dad before so I was excited to hear some stories as we visited and J and his dad reminisced. J told a story about when he was a really little boy and he got angry with his brother about putting too much syrup on his waffles. Apparently J preferred lots of butter that fills all of the waffle squares and very little syrup. He was mad that his waffles had too much syrup and this somehow ended up with his brother convincing him to throw the waffle right at his mother’s face. He got in big trouble for that and sent to his room. His dad then came home and helped to ease the situation. It was a fun time hearing this story and I hope that his dad was able to enjoy the reminiscing, too.

I have worked with and met and counseled many people with ALS and they have impacted my life in many different ways. Knowing J has made an impact on me that I am having trouble putting into words. I think of him when I butter my waffles. I think of him when I talk with my other man’s man rough around the edges friends and wonder if their tenderness is right under the surface like J’s was. I think about the beautiful intimacy that developed between J and his significant other during quiet moments of caregiving that happened when no one else was around. I think about the joy and grief that go along with knowing I never would have met J if it weren’t for ALS, and knowing it was ALS that took him away from all of us who cared about him.

So for now I will be comforted by these memories and carry J’s spirit with me as I continue to fight to find a cure for this disease. I will wait patiently for him to visit me in that dream, where I will see him walking for the very first time, without the pain and loss that came along with ALS.


I know friends will wonder if I am okay and I really am. I have been anticipating J's death since the moment I met him. It's just part of the job. It is what I signed up for and while some losses are harder than others, I absolutely love what I do. I will never regret being invited into this time with J. I will look back and feel grateful for having him in my life, and will feel sad when I think about never seeing him again. And such is life, right? Feeling all the feelings, taking it all in. Laughing the laughs and crying the tears, all with equal zest.

"If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special." ~Jim Valvano