2017 A Race for the Ages Race Report – My First 100 Miler

Pre-race:

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Kim, me, and Colleen – ready to do this thing!

The three musketeers! The three amigos! The three idiots (at least that’s what I started to consider us at some point during the race)! We all met up at Kim’s place to squish an obscene amount of gear into our tiny Honda Fits and head up to Tennessee. Team #ARFTA was ready to roll!

We got to the race site in Manchester TN in plenty of time to leisurely set up our camp, visit Starbucks for a light lunch, and have time to relax before starting. A short breakdown of the way this event works: it is a timed race taking place on a one mile loop going through Fred Deadman Park, in general, you get as many hours as you are old. So, if you are 64 years old, you get 64 hours. The minimum amount of time you get is 48 hours, however, so if you are younger than 40, you really get the best deal!! Somehow, I think I was still the only runner there under the age of 30 that wasn’t related to one of the race organizers (and I was reminded of that, constantly, from my fellow racers!!). To count our laps we wore bibs with chips and also an ankle bracelet (which I kept referring to as my house arrest bracelet), and every time we passed the start/finish area, our laps were displayed on a large television screen. I tried to avert my eyes from this screen as much as possible during the race!

Saturday:

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2017 09 02_ARFTA_0562Our start time was at 1200 — so a few minutes prior to that we headed over. There was a small handful of 48 hour racers, and I was starting to sense that I really was in the minority here, being 26.  As soon as the countdown clock reached 48:00:00, we were off! Kim and I settled in to our slow trot with 3 minute run, 3 minute walk intervals. This was the pace we had trained with throughout our very long runs in the summer, and it was perfect for conserving energy while also not getting you too off your running groove. It was not as hot as we anticipated. I mean, it was still Tennessee in late summer and insanely humid, but it wasn’t the 110 degree heat indexes that we had trained in and prepared to deal with. As we ran I told Kim that I had several “rewards” planned out for myself: checking my Facebook, calling someone on the phone, my favorite candy bar, music, etc. I originally planned to allow myself a break every 10 miles or so, but with the food schedule Kim and I worked out that it would make the most sense to break every 3 hours, with alternating short breaks and longer meal breaks.

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At our first break at 3 hours, I walked a whole lap while checking my Facebook messages and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Spirits were still high! As the evening drew near, I started to feel the beginning of some hot spots. When our 6 hour break rolled around it was time for our first meal! We decided to grab our plates and eat at our tent (it was really hot and crowded in the community center). While I chowed down on my meal of a giant baked potato with butter and one single piece of steamed broccoli (I love broccoli and wanted more but knew it would upset my tummy), Scott worked on taping up my feet.

Around 9pm, during our next short break 9 hours in, I started to feel extremely nauseous. My stomach had that sickly sweet sloshy feeling, and nothing sounded good. This was also around the time Scott had taken a break to sleep for a few hours (getting rest while he could because we knew I’d need him more on the second night), so I didn’t have my second brain to make good decisions for me. Luckily Kim gently urged me to eat one of the plain white bread rolls she brought. It sounded disgusting but I accepted the roll and crushed it in to a tiny compact ball in my fist. I plugged myself in to some power music and we walked a few laps while I took infinitesimally small nibbled of my squashed bread grenade and tuned out my bad thoughts to “FIRST WE GONNA ROCK, THEN WE GONNA ROLL, THEN WE LET IT POP, GO LET IT GO, X GONNA GIVE IT TO YA!”

During this speed walking period I was reminded several times by Kim and Colleen (who had been running with us off and on but generally moving at a faster pace) that my walking pace was Olympic Race Walking Gold Medalist level and that their fevered attempts to keep up with me were mildly exhausting them. As midnight and hour 12 closed in I got sleepier and sleepier… I am *not* a night person, not even on a regular “I haven’t already been running for 12 hours” day, so needless to say, the sleepies were IMG_6814coming for me. I had also gotten diarrhea pretty early in the race and was worried about my fueling, I was struggling to eat much at all and was mainly consuming liquids. I was deeply worried because mine and Kim’s initial race plan involved running through the night and taking a long nap during the heat of the next day. But I was fading, fast. When we went in to the community center for the midnight meal (soup, heavenly) I meekly suggested, “Um…….. soooo…. what if…. we took our nap now?” Turns out Kim was thinking the same thing. We decided to go sleep in the tent for 4 hours and then get back at it. I didn’t actually bring any camping gear, so Colleen lent me a sleeping pad, Kim let me use her daughter’s blanket (Thanks Nyoka!), and I used a crushed up grocery bag as a pillow. It had gotten surprisingly cold in the night and even with layers of additional clothing and the blanket, my damp, sweaty body was still shivering. It took a while to get comfortable, but I got some good sleep in.

Sunday:

When Kim woke me up around 4, I felt like a brand new human. Yay! We geared up and got back out on the track. As the sun came up Kim and I got giddily excited and knew the light would give us new energy. There’s something magic in daybreak. We ran for a while and then walked 5 or 6 miles waiting on breakfast to arrive. A hearty  meal of pancakes IMG_6817was served at 6am, and after eating that and having Scott doctor up my formed blisters, we were off with a purpose on our second day. We said our goal for the day was to reach 81 miles, the last 19 miles could worry about themselves.

This is where my memory begins to run together, so some of the details might be slightly off. It was also the beginning of my great struggle; if I thought my short dealing with nausea the night before was bad, I was in for a whole new world of suffering.

We were not allowed to have non-registered runners/walkers join us on the course, but mom and Scott kept meeting me at the half mile mark and the lap point. At times the only thing keeping my feet moving was telling myself just to make it back to them. As the day warmed up my mental health started to feel fried and raw. I was plodding along listening to my music and trying to keep it together. After noon I started breaking down into spontaneous tears — every time I tried to speak more than 5 or 6 words I would dissolve in to a blubbering mess. Logically I knew I was fine and that I was being ridiculous, but even knowing that I could. not. pull. it. TOGETHER. It was just so *hot* and I had so far to go!! I was also struggling with some pretty significant blisters and questioning if I was going to make it at all. We enlisted the help of a kind lady, Ava (I think) who was there crewing someone else. She had a lot more experience at these things than Scott and I did and so she helped him do some major blister surgery on my poor feet. I kept my head down and tried to hide my weeping, hoping that if anyone noticed I was at least giving off a “I’M FINE, REALLY, I CRY FOR FUN SOMETIMES, IT’S COOL…” type of vibe. After a few laps of this ridiculousness Scott met me at the lap area and made the mistake of mentioning home and our bunnies (he really was trying to be encouraging, but it was too much for me at that moment); I immediately started to cry

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This is what a mental breakdown looks like

and he recognized the exhaustion showing and forced me to stop, take a break, and regroup. He put me in our reclining camp chair, removed my shoes so my hot feet could cool off, laid a cooling towel over my legs, and helped me to chill TF out. There were a few things we needed – more water, ice, a blanket, and other stuff I can’t remember. So when we he sent me on my way back on the course, he headed to run errands. I struggled through a few more miles while he was gone and when he came back he had SONIC SLUSHIES!!! YAAAAAAAAA!!!!! He also bought me a Moana blanket which I failed to appreciate in my state but in hindsight, SWEETEST THING EVER. By this time I was fluctuating on begrudging acceptance and weeping. I had lost Kim and was staring to feel lonely. Her feet were brutally blistered and she could no longer keep pace with what she referred to as “the fastest ultra-shuffle ever.” I tried to keep steady as I drank my slushie.

The sun was starting to set and my mood was more fragile than ever, prompting strangers to ask if I was okay and then freaking them out when I was unable to answer with anything other than a sniffle or a sob. I was starting to feel significant pain in, well, basically every part of my body. Scott met me at the lap point and said, “Your mom is almost here” with a smile. Cue more crying (I was annoying MYSELF at this point with the crying, god dammit woman, PULL IT TOGETHER). We didn’t think my mom would be able to come to this race, but when she heard that I was struggling so badly I don’t think she could resist the call of the mama bear. When she finally arrived I was awash with relief. I was in such a bad place that I didn’t even mildly celebrate passing milestones like my farthest race ever (over 40 miles), 50 miles, and even 100k. But having my mom there was a bright spot in my darkness; if you know my mom you know this about her, she radiates pure good energy and strength more than any other person I know. She gave me the strength to carry on.

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The face of “WHY THE HELL DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS”

When the wheels really fell off the wagon and I completely lost my ability to think clearly or keep track of myself, Scott swooped in and was my calming force. He continued to encourage me to move when I needed to move and rest when I needed to rest. Even when I hysterically convinced myself I had no time and wouldn’t make it, he constantly and patiently reminded me that everything was going to be ok if I just kept on task. At dinner time mom and Scott corralled me in to the community center to eat some real food and get some air conditioning. As I cried in to my macaroni, Laz himself noticed my pathetic form and offered me some encouragement. I think he felt sorry for me because he continued to offer uplifting words (in his own way) every time he saw me from then on out.

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Wrapped in a blanket because I was chilled after a short break.

All throughout the race  my personal trainer / coach Christy had been running with ease. Every time we went by each other she had a smile on her face. Now, I know she is a 6 time 100 mile finisher and all around incredible athlete, but still, I was impressed and a little intimidated. After darkness fell on the second night Christy ran Colleen through to her 100 mile, and once she reached that Christy joined me. HALLELUJAH. I WAS SO PROFOUNDLY LONELY. I was the literal walking dead at that point, unable to eat, speak, or do anything other than move forward… slowly. I was terrible company but Christy’s calm, collected presence was a more than welcome relief.

Monday:

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Walking dead

I am not sure around what time or mile mark, likely around midnight or 1 am, but I eventually needed a nap in a bad way; everything hurt, I was miserable, and it was the middle of the freaking night.  I longed for the restorative power of a nap. I’m guessing it was somewhere around 80 miles, but it’s all very fuzzy now. I went down for a nap while Christy called her daughter. I wrapped up in my Moana blankie, drug Colleen’s cot in to Kim’s tent (they had both gone to a hotel for the night), collapsed face down, and was out like a light. An hour later Scotty gently woke me by tapping on the tent flap, and immediately upon opening my eyes I launched myself out of the tent on to my hands (knees still up on the cot) and exorcist style projectile vomited all over the ground and Scott’s shoes. Ugh. But, I did feel a lot better.

Christy met back up with me and I was in a much better mood. But, it was still the middle of the freaking NIGHT. As we slowly shuffled I was desperate for distraction, and I asked Christy to tell me stories and had short conversations with our fellow racers going around and around and around… It only took a few more miles until my will to live started to wane again. During a quiet moment I looked over to Christy and confided, “Even when everything in me wants to quit, even when I want to give up… I still want this, really, really bad.” She smiled at me and said, “That’s mental toughness.”

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Just waking up from a nap, ready for more

Around 3am I had about 14 miles to go. Now, I know in the scheme of things this seems like nothing, what’s 14 miles during 100? But believe me when I say that those 14 miles felt like 200 additional miles. I asked Christy for one more nap, and she agreed that I had time. I plopped down on the cot knowing that I’d be just a little closer to sunrise when I woke up. I slept, HARD. Dead to the world doesn’t even describe it. When Christy woke me up after 1 hour, I felt hungover. Not quite as restorative as my other naps… but at leas the dawn was in sight. Mom, who had been snoozing in her car met us along the course and asked if we wanted anything from Starbucks. My stomach was still sick and I’m pretty sure I just made a face. Thankfully her and Scott knew better and they got me a banana smoothie and a hot chocolate for Christy. By this time the sun had risen and a magical, mystical thing occurred… as I was shuffling along, the rays from the first light of the sun touched my skin and suddenly and without any explanation, I was transformed and RUNNING! I took off at a surprising speed and started to laugh hysterically while I ran. I WAS REALLY ABOUT TO DO THIS THING. As I rounded the corner to where our tent was and where Christy was waiting for me (she took a short break to drink her hot chocolate), she saw me coming and said, “Oh no, she’s going to make me go fast!” I was filled with manic joy and inexplicable energy, completely and totally delirious. We ran the next several miles and I was singing to myself, “I’M A SURVIVOR, I’M NOT GON’ GIVE UP, I’M NOT GON’ STOP, I’M GON’ WORK HARDER!” I had under 10 miles to go and the end was in sight. Freakin’ finally.

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Getting closer to the finish…

I started to feel quite wobbly and at Christy’s urging I slowed to drink the smoothie from Starbucks. The adrenaline of single digits remaining started to rise and at the same time the few remaining miles felt insurmountable. Christy held fast by my side, holding my water bottle, reminding me to drink, keep my form good, and even stopping to help me stretch on the bleachers (“because I don’t think you’ll be able to get up from the ground,” she laughed), holding my disgusting sweaty legs above my head without blinking an eye. She even let me wear her sandals when my feet swelled past the point of being able to fit inside my running shoes! Scott and mom continued to cheer me on from the sidelines, mom giving me a half hug every time I passed and Scott radiating with so much pure pride you could almost see it coming off him in waves, celebrating each step for me when I couldn’t be happy for myself. Kim and Colleen had both come back and although I was too exhausted to show it, I was thrilled to have my training partners back on the course. I weepily asked them if theywould do my final laps with me and Kim joked, “Yes! Because you are slow enough to keep up with now!”  My feet felt like two giant blisters, my back ached, my hips felt locked, but we were going to MAKE IT.

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On the final lap I had Colleen and Christy with me. I was about as run down as I could be – covered in a thick layer of sunscreen, body glide, diaper cream, sweat, and salt, shirtless and bearing my pale chubbiness to the world, wearing Christy’s flip flops, walking funny from the chafing between my thunder thighs and armpits, covered in random patches of sun burn and heat rash… as we climbed the little incline before the start/finish one last time (Mount Everest by then), every emotion over the past 100 miles, every pain, every frustration, every bad thought, every “I want to quit” moment, it all welled up inside me and came pouring out in incoherent sobs. I stumbled toward the finish toward cheers and heard over the loud speaker from Mike the timing guy (who had been up for days, timing the race and getting to know us runners as we passed), “Now making the final turn… a ROCK STAR in her own right… CHELSEA!!!” I crossed over the finish line and in to the arms of Scott, more relieved than I had ever been.

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Allow me to pontificate for just a little while longer, I know it’s been a long one, but this is the most important part:

I had a lot to conquer this year. 2017 has been the year of mental demons and self defeat. Going in to this race, I had much to prove; maybe even more than I was aware of on the surface. Being able to finish this event, and having had so many people help me along the way, it is deeply significant to me. Despite how hard this year has been for me, despite my physical and mental struggles, despite chronic illness and depression, despite all the secret bad feelings I kept inside and nights spent crying – I made the very terrifying decision to take on this challenge. Because I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to know if I had it in me. And yeah, it might have been the world’s slowest, most pathetic 100 miler, but it was a 100 MILER!!!!!

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Scott says this is his favorite photo from the whole race

Had I not been surrounded with such an amazing, deep, wide, ever lasting support system, I never would have been able to succeed. I feel indescribable amounts of gratitude for my community. Scotty, for being my rock, my quiet supporter, my foot surgeon. Who else could I find to accompany me on this 48 hours of madness? Kim and Colleen, my best friends, my training partners, the women who inspire me every day, the people who make me better and keep me moving even when I’m sure that I can’t. Kim, who continued to eagerly cheer me on and be there for me even when she was facing not meeting her goal; Colleen, who came back to be with me and join my final lap even when her race was done! My mom, my loudest cheerleader, the person who never once questions my abilities, the one whose face can motivate me like no other. Christy, who else has a coach who would LITERALLY give you their shoes when you are in need? Who would stay beside you for hours even when you’re the worst, most terrible, no good company ever? She is more than a trainer, she is a friend, I want to be just like her when I grow up, she displays tenacity like no one I’ve ever met. All my friends and family who ask about my races, send me funny and encouraging text messages, the incredibly large circle of people I have that love and support me. Doing this race has taught me many things, one of the biggest being that I am deeply loved.

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During the award ceremony at the conclusion of the race, Laz individually introduces each person, giving small anecdotes and stories about the long time ultra running legends. While receiving my buckle, he said something to the effect of, “I know this one, because she’s less than half the age of almost everyone here!” The unique privilege of being able to share the track with folks who have been running for longer than I have been alive was something I will not soon forget, and speaking with them and hearing their stories had a profound impact on me, an ultra running baby by comparison. I’m not sure 100 miles is something I’ll ever want to do again, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to stay away from ARFTA in the future…

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The Best Thing I Ever Saw

(So, fully owning just how dorky this is, I wrote a long blog post about the #greatamericaneclipse. It’s taken me a while to actually get it posted because our internet has been down. Being the sentimental sap I am I didn’t want to forget a single thing, so here is how it happened through my eyes, preserved on the internet for posterity FOREVERRR)

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Scott and I woke up bright and early around 4am Monday morning – we met his parents at their home and headed for Tennessee around 5:30am. We were both anxious about having a difficult and stressful travel day — the news told us to prepare for HORRIBLE traffic and some sources even said to prepare for national disaster level of preparedness and to have things like toilet paper, water bottles, snacks, and emergency supplies just in case. We knew that even if the worst possible case scenario played out, we would still regret not going.

John, Scott’s dad, had planned for us to drive to Rock Island State Park, located southeast of Nashville. Getting there was surprisingly easy, traffic was light on the back roads and we arrived sooner than we thought we would. We pulled into the park around 8am and set up our viewing spot on the sandy beach area. Scott’s sister, her husband, and their two girls met us there. It was a gorgeous location, but we did wonder what in the world we were going to do for ~4 hours while we waited for the eclipse to begin. It was a very hot and humid day, the kind of day where you break into a full body sweat just from lifting a finger, and sadly we hadn’t thought to bring swim suits to swim in the nearby river (we were SO JEALOUS of the people that did, SO HOT!!), and none of us had good cell phone service. We mostly stayed under the sunshade and passed the time by people watching and chatting, and watching the girls play.

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There was an awesome park ranger who was giving educational talks and facts about the eclipse — he was so enthusiastic and it was hard not to match his pure joy. There was a playlist of sun related songs going — Here Comes the Sun, Blister in the Sun, and of course, TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEAAAART!!! As the time drew nearer we all got ready for the fun. John built a pinhole projector with

2017 08 21_2017 Solar Eclipse_0280some cardboard, a tripod, and his binoculars which drew a lot attention from our fellow eclipse watchers. All around us people were set up with telescopes and fancy cameras on tripods. Around noon the park ranger made an announcement that it was starting, and we took our first glimpses through our eclipse glasses of the first contact. WOW!! I’m not sure what I was expecting, I mean, I *knew* it was going to happen, I understood the science of it all, but seeing the actual thing was amazing. I felt like a little kid getting excited to go to Disney Land or something, “IT’S HAPPENING!!!” I said loudly in a high pitched, overly excited voice, and Scott laughed. In the early stages I would look for a few seconds and then turn away; I was too scared to stare at the sun for long periods of time even with the glasses (I’m already nearly blind as it is), but as the moon eclipsed the sun more I
2017 08 21_2017 Solar Eclipse_0289couldn’t tear my eyes from the sight. I was in complete awe. I kept wondering what everyone back at home was seeing, knowing they were only going to get 97% totality. Past the halfway point I decided to risk my eyes (hey, NASA said these glasses are safe, didn’t they?) and laid in the grass to stare intently.

As it progressed the temperature got cooler and cooler. We went from sweating heavily and it being almost painful to look up at the bright sun, to being out in direct sunlight completely comfortably. Looking around, the atmosphere felt very eerie… it was not day and it was not night. It was dim, but not dark, like there was an Instagram filter over your vision (ha!). There were tons of birds flying overhead, possibly in confusion from the eclipse or maybe from the large crowds of people they aren’t used to seeing.

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John’s pinhole projector — see the crescent on the ground?

As it got darker the cicadas started to sing, crickets were chirping, and the black vultures and ospreys that were circling over head flew back to their nesting spots on the rock

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ledge and trees nearby. The sun became a small orange sliver, and then, it was gone. The park ERUPTED in cheers, hooping and hollering, and clapping. The park ranger announced that it was safe to look without eye protection. I removed my glasses and as I looked up I was suddenly completely overcome with emotion; I felt like I was going to laugh hysterically and cry uncontrollably at the same time. My chest felt like it was going to explode. Tears rolled down my face and I couldn’t stop laughing to myself as I stared up at the most magnificent thing I had ever seen in my life. Scott and I looked at each other and he had the biggest gaping smile on his face, mirroring my own joyful expression.

 

The planets started to peek out, bright holes of light in the sky. Just as the ranger described earlier it was like sunset on all horizons, a dusky pink and blue where the sky met the river. The sun’s corona was glittering around the moon and every hair on my body was standing. There is just no way for me to accurately describe the intensity of how I was feeling in that moment. I had done so much research ahead of time, but nothing I read or saw prepared me for the COMPLETE INCREDULITY! Seriously. It was the most wonderful, awe inspiring thing I have ever, ever experienced. I can’t even tell you what was happening around me, what people were saying or doing, because I was entirely tuned out of everything except the sight in the sky.

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In a couple of short minutes the bright light of the sun started to show back around the moon forming “Baily’s Beads” or the “diamond ring effect,” the flashing light from the sun was a stunning bright white and I quickly whipped my glasses back on. As the moon receded further I looked to the ground and watched the shadow bands undulating on the ground beneath my feet. I grabbed Scott and excitedly squealed, “LOOK, SHADOW BANDS!” We both giggled and watched, transfixed. I looked around and tried to soak up the last moments, taking in the crescent shaped shadows and trying to commit everything I had just experienced to memory.

I have told many of my Huntsville friends so far who decided against traveling to an area of totality that they really missed out, we were SO CLOSE by! Even though we had an easy time of travel (only about 30-40 minutes of traffic coming home), it still would have been worth it if I had gotten stuck in my car for hours and hours and had to eat granola for dinner and pee in the grass alongside the highway. In seven years another total solar eclipse will span the US, Mexico, and Canada, conveniently passing through northern Ohio, where most of Scott’s extended family lives 🙂  We won’t miss it for the world!

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As we asked a stranger to take this photo wearing our eclipse glasses I remember feeling totally embarrassed, and now, weeks later, all I can think is, “MAN I’M SO GLAD I HAVE THIS DORKY PHOTO OF ALL OF US WEARING OUR ECLIPSE GLASSES!”

 

ARFTA Training – Swamp Crotch Fun Run: Lessons Learned

My terrifying, big, hairy, audacious goal of a race (A Race For the Ages 48 hour run where I hope to *whisper* run 100 miles or DIE TRYING) is now ~6 weeks away and the utter terror and questioning of all my life decisions is starting to set it. What better way to distract myself than a dawn til dusk training run on the hottest day of the year with my training partners?!

Kim, Colleen and I had this run planned for a while as a good way to 1. spend time in the heat, 2. practice long, slow progress, and 3. because we’re dumb???? I DON’T KNOW. We were actually scheduled to do this the next weekend, but due to a couple conflicts we decided at the last minute to do it the upcoming weekend… and then we learned that the heat index would be well over 100 degrees and that there was a heat advisory out basically saying, stay inside, or else. Great day for an all day training run, no? As terrible as it sounded, I was weirdly excited (mark of a true ultra runner, I think); I tossed almost every running related item I own into my car, and at 6am (when it was already 80 degrees and humid enough that we were covered in sweat from simply tying our shoelaces), we set off.

We kept a good pace for a lot longer than I had expected us to, to be honest. We settled in a 3:3 rhythm which seemed to suit all of us well and had water/food/toilet/re-application of sunscreen stops every 2 miles or so. I cannot accurately describe how hot it was. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that hot in my life, at some points it felt like my brain was cooking inside of my skull, like my skin was going to just drip off of my body at any given moment…. but thanks to our slow pace and mindful fueling, we actually stayed feeling pretty decent considering the conditions.

Here’s what I learned on my time on the literal surface of the sun:

  1. Baby powder is the SECRET WEAPON (for sweaty running), or, as I said to Kim at one point with my heat addled brain, SECRET INGREDIENT (to what? I don’t know). I have been struggling with blister problems for the past few months. I got some new shoes, which helped, and inserts, which also helped, but I was still getting some hot spots. I had the idea that maybe making my feet MORE moist with copious amounts of body glide and aquaphor wasn’t the solution, especially not when my feet are already damp from sweating (heavily); so, instead of covering them in more lube, I dusted them with baby powder. EUREKA!! My feet stayed comfortable and dry (and baby fresh) for nearly the whole day. My hot spots and blisters were kept at bay almost completely. I did leave with a couple minor blisters (only two that were painful), and I think if I used a powder specifically made for, well, foot stuff, it would have worked even better. I also dusted the powder between my thighs which were covered in heat rash, and it helped. SECRET INGREDIENT, I TELL YOU.
  2. Ice bandanas are everything. Kim bought one of those fancy magic towels that are supposed to stay cold, but after reading her blog post it seems like my simple bandana filled with ice tied around my neck actually ended up a little better than her fancy towel. And actually, just ice everywhere. In the bra, under your hat, in your pants… basically wherever it will go. ICE. EVERYWHERE.
  3. Starting slow and staying slow is key to staying steady. In every other timed event I’ve ever participated in, I usually go faster in the early hours when I’m energetic and putter out throughout the day. For this training run, we didn’t wait until we got tired to start adding in the walk breaks or slowing down. So, instead of starting off strong on barely hanging on until the end, I felt like I was able to keep a continuous effort level for much longer and even go faster over all. The tortoise and the hare, and all.
  4. The little things can make all the difference. A dry pair of socks, a fresh change of clothes, listening to a song that really gets me going — doing these all day when I was feeling tired or in a bad mood instantly brought me back to Happy Chelsea when I needed a boost. We changed clothes twice during our run, and both times putting on those dry clothes (because I was COMPLETELY soaked through with sweat) made me feel like a new woman ready to conquer all the miles.
  5. Sometime the best sun protection is just staying out of the sun. I am very diligent about applying sunscreen, to my tattoos and face in particular. I am that weird sunscreen girl that wears it literally every day, even when I’m just going to work. Could be my brush with skin cancer, could be because I’m vain and don’t want to age, could be because I want to protect my significant investment in the art on my body… whatever it is, SUNSCREEN: I’m a fan. But it’s really damn hard to just keep applying layer after layer of sunscreen, especially when you’re dirty and sweaty and tired. Partway through the day I ripped one my of buffs in half to wear under my hat and cover my face, and I pinned another one around my arm to cover my tattoos. For the race I plan to buy one of those super cute wide brimmed foppy hats and also getting some UV protective sleeves for my arms.
  6. Getting up to run the next day was difficult, but not impossible. And as soon as I got up and got moving, the stiffness quickly dissipated. This was something I was very interested to test because I plan to take a nap during the race. I was worried it might be too hard to get up and get going again if I did, but I think if I take care with recovery, it shouldn’t be an issue for the race.

As we lovingly decided to name it on a particularly hot stretch of pavement… the Swamp Crotch run was a rousing success!

Race + Life Catch Up

Get a snack, grab some coffee, get comfortable — because I have a lot to say.

A little catch up on some of my recent races:

Delano 12 Hour Race

I RAN 40 MILES!!! I’m still a little amazed when I think about it. Delano continues to be one of my favorite events of all time, if you are a long distance runner you have to add this one to your bucket list. This was my first time going in to a timed event with a serious goal and not just running for fun. I started off strong, but began to struggle earlier in the day than I had hoped I would. Overall, I had fun (as always) and in retrospect I think I have identified where I went wrong and my errors. First: If you plan to run all day, don’t wait until you get tired to implement the walk breaks. Faster, better runners than me can probably run for 12 hours without walking. I can’t, ha. At Delano I did not have someone to run consistently in the early part of the day, so I put in my head phones and rocked out to the dulcet tones of Fuck the Police, DMX, the Moana soundtrack, and Ariana Grande. With poetic masterpieces like, “people tell me slow my roll, I’m screaming out FUCK THAT– imma do just what I want, looking ahead no turning back” I ran (probably a bit too fast) steadily for the first few hours. I think I would have be able to run consistently for longer if I would have taken short walk breaks earlier in the race. Thankfully near the middle of the day my pals LC and Kim were able to run with me (MY ANGELS) and they kept me company and kept me happy. My other big mistake was shoe choice. I have done all of my longest races on trails, thus, I was wearing my trail shoes (Montrail Fluidflex II), which I have never had any major foot problems in. For SOME REASON (I still don’t really know why, other than I just wasn’t using my brain) I decided to wear my Nike Pegasus at Delano. I never have had problems in these shoes, but I also haven’t run super long distances in them in quite a while. Needless to say I ended up with blisters. Bad ones. Around mile 32 the blisters were getting incredibly painful and I as I was shuffling I felt one under the ball of my foot burst — how can something so small cause such WHITE HOT SEARING PAIN??!!! That really slowed me down and kept me from being able to get as far as I would have liked (my feet were actually so messed up and swollen that I wore Scott’s more roomy vans to do my final lap). The best part of this race was probably during my final few laps where I had a big posse of friends coaching me through the last miles of my race. I was so mentally done at that point. Kim pulled out her phone and played a power song to get me through — with I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT (of Hamilton) blasting (on repeat, five times), my mood shifted immediately and I happily shuffled my way to the finish while singing along, badly. Not as far as I wanted to go, but still a distance PR and a great learning experience for my future goals.

McKay Hollow Madness 25k

OH, THE MADNESS. There really isn’t a better word for it. Even though I finished, I would still call this race a stone cold failure for me, ha. On the bright side, I got to run with my dear friend Colleen, on the dark side, the race felt like an endless trail of suffering. I guess you could say I was a little complacent going in — I have done this race many times, and it utilizes trails that I run on every weekend. That mountain is my happy place, my home, I know that trail system better than I know some of the roads in my neighborhood. I showed up with my hydration pack full of Skratch water but that was pretty much it, no snacks, no gels, no salt tabs, nothing I usually have while racing. It was unseasonably warm and while the first few miles went fine, my energy levels dropped quickly and I had nothing to replenish myself with. ROOKIE MISTAKE, CHELS!! I know better– this race packs a PUNCH, it takes no prisoners, and it ate my idiotic ass for breakfast. As we were climbing the first large ascent toward the first of only two aid stations, I briefly entertained the idea of dropping to the 12k… “eh, it’ll be ok,” I thought to myself. IT WAS NOT OK. As the race went on, I continued to feel worse and worse. I was woozy, crampy, and generally just out of it. Thankfully, Colleen and Laura (another racer I met that day — can you say bad first impression?) saw that I was doing poorly and refused to leave me. Colleen told me days later when I lamented that I basically ruined her race that I looked extremely pale and she was too worried about me to leave me behind — true friendship y’all. By some miracle I made it to the end of the race, but I still had to drag myself up the final ascent, and it isn’t an easy one. As I trudged up Death Trail the sweepers came up behind me, at this point probably ghost like in complexion and teetering over the edge of the sheer drop, and one told me I really should sit down and eat something, he handed me a Gu. I made some sort of joke about what a terrible runner I am, and continued to self deprecate on the way up. Eventually one of the guys said, “Well Chelsea, it sounds like you might be a *little bit* hard on yourself…” I couldn’t help but laugh– YES, I AM, AND HUMOR IS HOW I MASK MY DEEPLY SEEDED INSECURITY, HOW COULD YOU TELL?? Their friendly faces brightened my spirits and helped me get to the finish line, barely. My first DFL, ha! *shrug* I won a new Ultimate Direction hydration vest for being a volunteer.

Oak Barrel Half Marathon

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I was *really* looking forward to this race because I was doing it with my friend and coworker, Libby. It was her first half and she did GREAT!! I am so proud of how she persevered in the face of a lot of adversity. I won’t go in to everything she had to deal with in the months leading to the race (because while I don’t mind blabbing all my deepest secrets to the internet, I’m not sure how she would feel about it), but suffice it to say that she did not have an easy time getting to the starting line, but she stuck it, she refused to give up on her goal, and ultimately she succeeded. Way to go Libby, you ROCK! Oak Barrel was a nearly flawless event as per usual. I really enjoy this race because the scenic route through the hills (and there are MANY) of Tennessee makes it feel a little more like a trail run 🙂 We had such a fun time racing together, and I can’t wait to get her back out there for another crazy adventure.

Bridge Street Half

Not a lot to say about this one– I paced, 17862648_10103447802947277_6092392361609698036_nI had fun, we rocked it. Any time I get spend 3 hours gabbing with a friend is always good 🙂 After the race my coach had me scheduled to do 5 extra miles. I was happy because instead of a slog (which is what I feared) the miles actually felt pretty good and I felt strong all things considered. Then I mowed the lawn and bagged the grass and completely and utterly exhausted myself. Nearly 24 hours later, I’M STILL TIRED. I am not a nap person but I feel like I could take a nap at my desk right now. Instead I’m drinking all the coffee and switching my rest day from Wednesday to today. I’m going to bed at 7 tonight.

 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. The best news of all (despite the horror show that was McKay) is that through this I have felt quite strong during my workouts. I have been sticking with the plan my coach has given me nearly perfectly for the past several weeks and I can definitely see the results. My biggest challenge right now is that I would really like to drop a few pounds this summer so I can be in peak condition for my big goal race– ARFTA in September. I would like to be a bit leaner so when I’m running for 48 hours I don’t have to carry around so much weight, ha! So a focus for me over the summer (along with training for the race) will be eating well, losing some weight, and getting heat acclimated. I have reached out to some more experienced running friends of mine and they have all given me some good advice. In previous years I did almost everything I could to stay out of the heat; this year I will be consciously seeking it out. So that’ll be hard to get used to, but it’s something I need if I want to be successful in September.
Of course, nothing can ever be simple and easy. I joked with some friends that it’s been about 6 months since my last major medical misadventure so it’s about time for another one. Sigh. About a year ago I transitioned out of taking hormonal birth control pills because, well, shortly said, they accentuate my crazy and make it worse. I deal with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive tendencies. Birth control pills make it worse. So while I’m feeling a lot better mentally these days… I’ve been dealing with other issues physically instead. To keep from going too far into the realm of TMI (although, since when do I worry about TMI here?), my cycle has been very off since quitting the pill. I’ve been to the doctor a couple times about it. Last week I had an internal ultrasound and appointment with my gynecologist. She believes that I have endometriosis and my ultrasound and blood work showed probable PCOS– double whammy. I am scheduled for surgery to treat the endometriosis next month and I have another appointment with my GYN to discuss PCOS and future options next week. It’s been hard to wrap my head around because these aren’t really the kinds of health problems that you treat and then you’re better, they’re long term issues and treatment isn’t clear cut. I’m trying my best not to freak out (I do have my moments), and staying focused on training has helped with that. If you have any good juju to spare, I’d appreciate it if you sent it my way 🙂

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#WhyIMarch

(I wrote this on my Facebook page in the days following the Women’s March– it occurred to me recently that I might like to save it here so I have easier access to it in the future. Most of my friends have already read this, but if you haven’t I hope it helps you) 


I have very carefully considered what I wanted to say on this after seeing so much hate and backlash from people in my community. Please know that I am saying these things not because I want to fight, but because I want try to help you understand. I’m writing this in hopes that you can set aside your judgment, your gut reaction and at least try to see things from another person’s point of view. 

One of the most quintessential American ideals is the freedom to stand up for what we believe in, to fight against injustices, to let our voices be heard. Time after time we have looked back in history on those who have fought for their rights– and we see the great and important progress that has been made in our country because of people who were not afraid to Rise Up. But not everyone likes to see us exercising that right, not back then and certainly not now. Some of the very same people who bitterly told us that if we didn’t like how the election turned out, we should stop crying already and *do* something with our energy, are now telling us that we need to sit down, shut up, and accept things are the way they are. They want to know why we can’t just give things a chance, calm down and see how it turns out, it won’t be as bad as we think… I will tell you why we can’t do that, why *I* can’t do that. 


When I was a girl, I was taught that my worth was tied to my virginity, that women who did not keep themselves “pure” were used up and undesirable. When I was sexually assaulted, people defended my abuser. I believed I was less than, and dirty; I carried deep and unrelenting shame for years because of something that was taken from me by force. So I march for my younger self and for all the women like me (there are more than you know). I march because the same people who are saying women’s rights “aren’t an issue” were the people who were bewildered that Brock Turner got off with a slap on the wrist months ago, and write off abusive behavior by saying, “That’s just locker room talk… boys will be boys.” (I expect so much more from the men in my life.) 

If you claim to have never been made to feel less than for being female, please know you are *so* profoundly lucky. I march because sexual assault is real, because my body, my choice, because Black Lives Matter, because racism is ALIVE, because our government is not a CHURCH, because homophobia and bigotry are not just a difference of opinion, because science is not a liberal conspiracy, because fear based hatred of people who are different from you is the real thing that is wrong in this country today. I march because the person you are calling names, the person you flip the middle finger at when you drive by the protest, the person you make fun of for being a “brainwashed leftist,” the person you hate and look down on for being involved in this movement is Me, it is your friend, your cousin, your classmate, your coworker. We stand together to show our solidarity, to stand up for those who can’t, to be a voice for those who do not have one. I will not go quietly into a future where there are not equal rights for all.

Chelsea’s Cruelty Free Favorites

My one year vegetarian anniversary has officially passed, go me!! Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it this long when I started. The love of chicken nuggets is strong with this one. But not eating meat has been surprisingly easy for me, and while there have been times when I think, “DAMMIT, LIFE WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER IF I WOULD JUST EAT A CHEESEBURGER,” for the most part I don’t even miss it, I’ve gotten a lot more creative in the kitchen, I’ve expanded my palate (give me all the veggies), and I feel happier and healthier over all.

Along with going meatless around this time last year, I phased out all of my cosmetics for cruelty free alternatives. This was something that took a little bit more research and effort than simply cutting out meat. In the first few months, I had to take my list of companies that don’t test on animals almost everywhere I went; but over time I have found brands I love and products that work for me and now shopping cruelty free has become second nature. It is something I believe to be well worth working towards and feel that almost anyone can do, even if they don’t want to be vegetarian or otherwise alter their diet. Over the past year I’ve had lots of people ask me about going cruelty free, what does it mean, is it hard, what stuff do I like, etc. So in celebration of one whole year of being a tree hugging hippie, I am going to share my Bunny Approved favorites.

(None of the links in this post are affiliate links or sponsored content in any way, I *wish* I could get paid to talk about this stuff, but none of these companies have any idea who I am 😉 Links are provided just to help anyone who might be interested in finding these products!)

BATH:

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1. Giovanni 50:50 Hydrating – Clarifying shampoo and conditioner ($16.25)– It took me a while to find a shampoo/conditioner that I really loved. I tried Alba’s coconut one, the Yes to Carrots shampoo, and a few others, they weren’t terrible, but nothing really wow-ed me until the Giovanni shampoo. I LOVE THIS STUFF! I will say, I don’t really have high maintenance hair. It is naturally very straight, slippery soft, and there’s a ton of it. Since it is so fine, my biggest hair struggle is it looking kind of flat and lifeless; the Giovanni shampoo/conditioner does wonderful things to my hair, makes it shiny and just bouncy enough, keeps it feeling clean without being stripped, and also lathers really well (which is hard to find in more natural shampoos).
2. SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Hand & Body Scrub ($9)– Holy wow, this scrub is great. I wish it came in a larger container, because I find myself rationing it so I don’t use it up too quickly. I love to cover myself with this after a long run or bad day at work and just scrub all my troubles (and dead skin) away. Best of all it leaves my skin really soft and moisturized. Bonus: Scotty loves it too, he says it makes him feel like a beautiful princess. 🙂
3. Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Care for Men Shave Cream ($7)– So, I’ll admit it, like the freaky hippie I am, I’m not *super* in to shaving my legs, dude. I probably get the motivation to put the effort in about once every week or week and a half (or more, if it’s cold out and I’m not showing off my gams)… THINK WHAT YOU WILL! When I *do*  want to achieve that silky smooth feeling, I reach for this stuff (and my Dollar Shave Club razor). I have pretty sensitive skin (probably why I’m so adverse to shaving), but this shave cream is like butter for your legs and is the only thing I’ve ever used that keeps my legs from getting that Sahara Desert dried out, itchy feeling after I shave.
4. Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil ($14)– Side note on this one, if you are freaked out by cleansing oils, HEAR ME OUT ON THIS ONE. As someone with oily skin I was absolutely repulsed by the idea of adding more oil to my greasy face. I was struggling to find a face cleanser that would remove my make up thoroughly WITHOUT leaving my skin feeling tight and dry, *heavenly music* enter cleansing oils. They are great at breaking down all your make up and general “gunk” of the day, while retaining your skin’s moisture. I have tried a few other more expensive and luxury cleansing oils, but I keep coming back to my Burt’s– it easily cleans my face (including heavy eye make up on days I wear it) and leaves my skin feeling fresh and balanced.
5. ACURE Brightening Facial Scrub ($9.99)– (which I just ran out of, so I had to grab a stock photo of it)  Ever since transitioning myself off of hormonal birth control (a subject on which I could write a WHOLE OTHER novel-length blog post on, ugh), my skin has been giving me trouble. It’s oily, sensitive, and acne prone. This scrub helps get rid of all the flaky skin I tend to have on my nose and chin area, as well as helping to brighten the spots where I have some hyperpigmentation. It leaves my skin clean and smooth without feeling dry!

FACE/BODY:

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1. Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes ($4.19)– So I’m actually not all that in to make up wipes, I don’t think they’re a super effective method for every day cleansing and make up removing. BUT!! I really like these towelettes. I keep them in my gym bag and use them on the go for face and body- when I’m heading to the gym and want to wipe my make up off so I don’t look like a clown while I’m sweating it up, when I’m dashing to a track club meeting immediately after a quick jog, when I feel kinda sticky and gross and want to freshen up… I like these over other wipes because they have nice, light smell and seem to be more moist right out of the package than others, like the Burt’s Bees, which are dryer. They’re awesome, I don’t go anywhere without them.
2. LAVANILA Vanilla Grapefruit Fragrance ($58 full size, $19 rollerball)– Perfume that isn’t tested on animals was probably the hardest thing for me to find. I’m pretty picky about my fragrances, and I want them to be good quality that smells nice, isn’t too strong, and most importantly, LASTS. I really enjoy the LAVANILA deodorant so I asked for the matching fragrance for Christmas. It smells so nice, like a sexy, grown up version of the atrocious sugary sweet body sprays I loved when I was in high school. It has become a fast favorite and I keep the rollerball in my purse!
3. LAVANILA The Healthy Deodorant ($14)– Speaking of the LAVANILA deodorant… Natural deodorant is a tricky thing, and the same things aren’t going to work for everyone. I am heavy sweater almost any level of activity makes me start to sweat, no matter how small. I’m pretty sure I start to sweat when I walk up the stairs in my office every morning. Needless to say, this deodorant is awesome. My only negative is that it doesn’t last for more than ~8 hours or so, so if I am going somewhere after work, I need to reapply. But other than that, this stuff is wonderful, smells good, and it makes my arm pits happy.
4. SheaMoisture Argan Oil & Raw Shea Butter Body Oil ($10.39)– Lotions and creams just don’t do it for me, especially in the winter time. They often end up drying out my skin due to irritating ingredients, it’s almost like I rub them in and then minutes later my skin feels dry again. Also, I don’t necessarily want to use something scented that is going to compete with my perfume. I wanted something that would be very moisturizing but wouldn’t make my skin feel all sticky and gross. This body oil sinks in quickly, and keeps my skin nice and soft for HOURS without needing to reapply. Random tip: using an oil vs a traditional lotion to moisturize makes your tattoos (if you have any) look bright and fresh as the day you got them!
5. Andalou Naturals Tumeric Plus C Enlighten Serum ($16.99)– One of my main skin concerns is hyper pigmentation. I saw a recommendation for this serum from an esthetician on Youtube and had my eye on it for a long time before I pulled the trigger and bought it. It’s pretty pricy (between $15-20 depending on where you buy), but let me tell you, it is worth every dime. This is the only product that has made a significant difference in my acne scarring and skin texture overall. I am so much more confident with my bare face than I was 6 months ago!

MAKE UP:

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1. tarte Amazonian Clay 12‑Hour Full Coverage Foundation ($39)– I discovered this foundation when I was perusing Sephora one day trying to find a cruelty free replacement for my foundation. The sales woman suggested it to me, and I was leery at first. The name kind of turned me off. “Full Coverage 12 hour” – I don’t really want full coverage because I’m not going for the photoshopped in real life effect, I don’t mind some of my imperfections showing through. While this foundation can definitely be built up for a pretty full coverage, you don’t have to wear it that way, and when applied in a thin layer it gives a very natural effect that evens out my skin without being too obvious. I have been using it consistently for almost a full year now and I highly recommend it!

 
2. Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder ($30)– Words cannot accurately convey how much I love this product. It is everything I want in a setting powder. It sets my make up without giving that overly matte, pancake-y look to the face, it doesn’t give you a white cast, and it keeps my excessively oily skin under control. I loooooove this powder, I recommended it to my mom and she loves it too!
 
3. Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW Pomade ($18)– I get a lot of compliments on my eyebrows so this product must really be working for me. I have pretty big natural brows, but they can be unruly and look a little unkempt if left to their own devices. I like a bold, yet natural looking brow, and this pomade is like a gift from the gods. Not only does it keep my brows on fleek, but it has an insane level of lasting power- I’m pretty sure I could run a marathon and when I finished my brows would still be on point.
 
4. Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Iridescent ($38)– I actually kind of hate that I love this stuff so much because it is so damn expensive compared to similar products on the market. *sings* I haaaaate how much I love you, powder, I can’t STAND how much I neeeed ya… This highlighting powder is magical y’all, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was made of unicorns and rainbows. You can lightly apply on your whole face for an all over glow (a la early 2000s JLo), or you can apply it more concentrated on your cheekbones/high points to achieve that Instagram girl highlight. I love it, I need it, I’m addicted to that shimmer life. I’m pretty sure this highlighting powder can cure cancer, end world hunger, and send a man into Mars.
 
5. Kat Von D Shade + Light Eye Contour Palette ($48)– I have used this palette every day since I got it (well, except on weekends, because try to I go barefaced on the weekend, but you know what I mean), and I fall deeper in love with it every time. The shadows are all beautifully formulated, they blend wonderfully, and they stay put all day. I love that it’s got a good mix of warm, cool, and neutral tones, and they are the perfect thing to give you that minimal yet put together eye look.

There you have it! There is everything I find myself reaching for on a daily or near daily basis. I’m absolutely a girly-girl and love to try new things, but these products are my never-fail, ride or die favorites. If you are interested in going cruelty free or have any questions about it all, feel free to hit me up. Removing animal tested products from your routine can seem really intimidating, but I promise, it’s *so* worth it and easier than you think!

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2016 Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

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Wooo boy. Where do I even start with this one? First things first. I DO NOT ENDORSE RUNNING A MARATHON ON NO TRAINING. It was not a smart thing, in fact it was probably a very dumb thing. DO NOT GET ANY IDEAS FROM THIS, okay guys?

I’ve not been very healthy for the past several months. I struggled with my mental health through the summer, I had hand surgery in August, and in September I had surgery on my back which resulted numerous complications and left me unable to run or do any form of exercise for over 4 weeks. The longest run I’ve had in MONTHS was 8 miles, and even that was more than I was probably ready for. Suffice it to say, I’ve been a total couch potato (not without good reason, but… a couch potato nonetheless).

I had every intention of showing up at this race and not finishing it. Normally this is not something I would do– but this was a special case. The Flying Monkey operates on a l

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Bandit’ed up pre race– it was cold!!

ottery entry. I and three of my running girlfriends had entered together and ALL of us got in. In the weeks leading up to it I started to feel desperately sad about missing out on the fun, especially since I wasn’t sure if this was something that would happen again next year. So I decided to go, hang out, run a little, and just enjoy the atmosphere. There was a point in the race around mile ~13 that looped back by the start and would be an easy place for me to drop. After all, I had already paid my $90, might as well go and enjoy what I could, right?

On Saturday night I drove up to our hotel in Tennesee with Kim and Colleen and there we met Kara. So there was me, the untrained wonder, Kim and Colleen, who were doing what our group refers to as the #dizzymonkey (Dizzy 50k on Saturday, Flying Monkey 26.2 on Sunday) and were running on post 50k legs, and Kara, who was probably the healthiest of all of us but not without her share of struggles including a broken elbow. As the old saying goes, misery loves company. We spent the evening laughing about our collective ridiculousness, had some delicious local fare for dinner (aka Chipotle because we are basic like that), and went to bed early with images of monkeys and our imminent doom haunting our dreams…
The next morning we got ready quickly and headed over to the early start. It was the coldest I have felt all year, thanks to an incredibly mild Alabama fall, and I was grateful that Kim had allowed me to borrow her buff and given me some of her hand warmers. I had also completely forgotten to bring any sort of race food or electrolyte supplement. Have I mentioned yet how woefully unprepared I was??  I CANNOT MAKE THAT CLEAR ENOUGH. 7am came quickly and we were off with the other early starters– through a grassy field and into the hills of Percy Warner park.
It was a stunningly clear, gorgeous morning and the scenery was to die for. I have never done a more scenic or beautiful road race before. The constant hills gave way to never ending beautiful views, and the woods were bursting with glorious fall colors. It was like running through a Thomas Kinkade painting you guys. That combined with the company of my gal pals, and the miles were just flying by. There is little to no flat ground on this race course. It boasts an elevation change of ~7500 feet over the 26.2 miles, meaning hills upon hills upon hills upon HILLS. But we are trail runners, and we love hills; our race strategy was to walk the ups and run the downs. That provided an easy pace that kept me feeling surprisingly good for a while, despite my body’s complete unpreparedness. I started to toy with the idea that maybe, just maybe I could do this. It would be crazy and stupid, NO DOUBT, but when have I ever claimed to be sane?? THE BODY REMEMBERS, RIGHT???
Around mile 10 or so Kim asked how I was feeling and I said something along the lines of, “I think I’m just going to stick with it???” Even with that said, I wasn’t 100% sure and

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This sign was my favorite. My face says it all. 

planned on revaluating at the drop point in a few miles. On we went, up and down and up and down and up and down… There was just so much to enjoy about this race. The hills, the foliage, the hilarious signs calling us names and saying that this was the “last hill” (it
was never the last hill), the phenomenal aid station workers (I have NEVER been to a race with more enthusiastic volunteers), and of course, the company of my running buds and all the people around us. We came to the first aid station stocked with food and I greedily stuffed three or four Oreos in my mouth at once– I was REALLY excited about the Oreos. At one point we got passed by what appeared to be a child no older than 7, a man in a literal monkey suit, a person dressed as a banana…

After a while I looked at my watch (which had been buried beneath my glove and thick long sleeve for the entirety of the race up until this point. I realized we were around 16 or 17 dsc_7523miles in. “Um… guys… I think we totally missed bail out spot.” Somehow we had obliviously run past the drop point, even though there was a BIG sign in chalk that said “DNF” with an arrow… How even??? Oh well, decision made, I guess? It was then that the reality of what was to come set in. I was still feeling shockingly strong. I surmised to my friends that we were over the “hump,” for now, ticking down the miles didn’t seem so hard. At mile 22 or so? Different story, but for now, all was well.
At mile 19 I had a shot of whiskey at the best aid station ever. I was starting to feel blah and that perked me RIGHT up! Thanks to our slow pace my biggest complaint was really just my toes at this point– they weren’t at all conditioned for the pounding of running and especially not down all those hills. My back was a little achy, but nothing some Tylenol couldn’t handle (thanks Kim!).

I had been holding the urge to pee for several hours now, waiting to find a porta potty. At a certain point you stop caring about common decency and just pee where ever you can, which is how I ended apologizing to an old man who saw my butt. He wasn’t amused. I’M SORRY OLD MAN, I JUST REALLY HAD TO GO. At mile 22 or so I decided it was time to
break out the music. I don’t normally listen to music while running, but sometimes you just need the power of Celine Dion and co. to get you through.

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These are our awesome running poses. 

With lyrics like, “I KNOW I CAN, BE WHAT I WANNA BE” blasting in my ears, the last few miles rolled by quicker than seemed possible. I had to apologize to several people around me for singing to myself, but they all assured me that my tone deaf show tunes were providing plenty of entertainment. I power walked up the final hills like I have never power walked  before. I was about to finish 26.2 miles, dammit!! As we rounded the corner with the finish line still in sight, Colleen pointed out that her ipod was playing “these are the best of times.” Only with friends like these could running an unplanned marathon be the best of times.
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Overall, I will probably always maintain that this was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. But I sure did have a hell of a lot of fun.

Where I’ve been…

So, remember that last post where I said all was well? I think I jinxed myself.

A few weeks after my surgery on my 9th of September, I was cleared by my surgeon to resume light activity– I still had the sutures in my shoulder but was told cardio/running and not too strenuous lower body workouts were okay. I was SO HAPPY! He didn’t have to tell me twice, I hit the ground running (literally) and was finally starting to feel like my self again. About a week later, on the 27th, I had an appointment to finally get my stitches out, almost 20 days after surgery. That’s when things started to go back downhill.

I woke up the next morning in a lot of pain and there was blood on my sheets; the incision had reopened overnight. After an emergency appointment with the surgeon (who was dismissive, unhelpful, and has possibly the worst bedside manner of all time), I was given the news that there was basically nothing he was willing to do, it would have to heal on it’s own (which could take months, oh, and, by the way, you’re going to have a terrible looking scar afterwards), and due to the fact that I now have an open wound that is highly susceptible to infection, I am banned from basically any and all activity– I cannot run, lift weights, sweat, be in the sun, go in any body of water, move my arm too vigorously, etc, etc, etc.

That was especially great news considering we were supposed to leave for the beach with Scott’s family that week. Spoiler alert: we had to cancel the vacation. Oh, and THEN, someone hit my car on the way home from the doctor’s appointment. JESUS H!

Needless to say I was in a pretty bad place for a while. I’m not going to lie– I still go there sometimes. For a while the wound seemed to be getting worse and worse every day, and it has been absolutely maddening to be on the sidelines for this long. Because it’s not that I just can’t run, it’s that I can’t do anything, and I have a big nasty open wound that requires frequent dressing changes and oozes and bleeds and hurts almost constantly (and is going to absolutely hideous when it does heal, forgive me, I’m vain). When my well meaning family sent us photos from the beach, I just cried. Seeing all my friends post about their runs and races fills me up with a shameful amount of jealousy. My training schedule is so far in the trash can– hell, it’s in the dumpster, no, it’s in the LAND FILL– I know none of the goal races I had scheduled are going to happen. I’m particularly heartbroken over most likely missing the race I was most excited about– the Flying Monkey Marathon, which registers on a lottery and several of my running girlfriends are doing. Not only that, but I haven’t been able to run and help with the marathon group I’m supposed to be a coach for, and I feel TERRIBLE about not fulfilling that obligation.

So… it’s just a lot at once. And I’m struggling. And even though I know it’s probably the worst possible thing I can do, I’ve isolated myself. The world is going on without me. I’m insignificant. I don’t matter. It’s stupid, but that’s where my mind goes. Scott and my mom, bless them, they are so wonderful and have been doing everything in their power to cheer me up. I’m trying too, but some days it’s easier than others. AND ALSO IT’S ELECTION YEAR– NEED I SAY MORE???

I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While there’s still a long road ahead, the wound seems to have started healing instead of looking worse every day. I’ve forced myself out of my hole and am trying to make an effort to be around the people who make me happy (dinner plans with gal pals this week– I need it so much), do things that make me happy (did y’all know I do art? I forgot too), and I’ve contacted a few of the race directors of the events I’m registered for and asked for a volunteer position (a few of them have even been kind enough to defer my registration until next year!).

I’m going to make it through this hell of a year if it KILLS me, y’all. I may not be in one piece, I may be battered, bruised, and a little worse for wear, but I’ll make it.

(I’m already thinking about my glorious come back. Mountain Mist 2017 anyone?)

(Also, you’re welcome for not including any gory photos.)

GUEST POST: The long way round… (A Georgia Jewel 50 Miler Race Report by Liz Canty)

Today, I am honored and very pleased to be hosting a guest post from my friend and fellow ultra runner, Liz, a MA area runner living in AL temporarily who I know through my local trail running community (but sadly never actually get to run with because SHE’S SO FREAKING FAST). She doesn’t have a blog, but she’s totally should because she’s a hilarious, super chill, all around bad ass boss lady who constantly amazes me with her race performances. Sit back and enjoy her tale of running awesomeness at the Georgia Jewel 50 miler!


“I bought a ticket for the long way round, the one with the prettiest of views….
               It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to make you shiver but it sure would
                            be prettier with you” – Anna Kendrick, Cups

My feet still hurt a little bit – my two mile run yesterday morning kept my heart rate pounding – oh ultramarathon recovery you fickle b*tch. I did promise Chelsea gratuitous song lyrics and creative swearing, and I am definitely not one to disappoint.

Friday afternoon I left the office, speed packed my Focus and went to snag Lea and Kevin on our way to the Georgia Jewel in Dalton, Georgia. With a 35, 50 and 100 mile option on some of the most beautiful pieces of Pinhoti how could we possibly turn it down! Lea was taking on her first 35-mile ultra, Kevin was taking the 35 miles as a training option, and I had decided a solid 50-miler would be a good test mentally and physically for my upcoming 100k goal – TARC100 back in Massachusetts. [Since I can’t write in a Boston accent, just imagine while you read if you haven’t met me in person ☺ ].

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I think my 100k has 1/2 this elevation gain…

 

We arrived a little late to the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up, scrambled to drop off drop bags and collected some increasingly awesome swag. Jenny Baker’s prerace meeting was adorable, as she pleaded with us all to drink water and Tailwind and simply not to die out there; the expected Saturday high temperatures were going to be in the 90s. After some quick chats with all our ultra-buds we headed out for some Cracker Barrel, last minute candy purchases and panicking [me].

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Representing my buffalo tribe back in MA & always #runsteepgethigh

The 50-miler started at 7 AM, with the shuttle from the hotel leaving at 5:45 AM to the start location. The Hilton Garden in Dalton was gracious enough to provide some early morning breakfast options for us crazies, so I was able to scarf some oatmeal and banana at 4:00 AM hoping things would digest appropriately. I headed to shuttle pick-up, chatted with the infamous Dave Riddle (who would go on to demolish the course record and generally be amazing), checked in and hooked up with the rest of the Huntsville Crew taking on the 50 Miler – Rick Rawls, James Falcon and Jerry Abbott. Gratuitous selfies and nervous conversations later, we arrived – at a gas station – in the dark – in Georgia. Twenty minutes later we were off!

The first miles were powerline cuts, up and down, and up and down, oh and up again. I love me some powerline cuts, and enjoyed these immensely. I kept up with the first place female – my girl Jackie Merritt – till I got caught up in some metal wire (what the what?) and took a second to untangle, catch my breath and just slow down. This is my first 50, my experience level is lower, I’m still figuring out nutrition, I was training through the race, SLOW THE HELL DOWN ELIZABETH. Still enjoying my miles on the cool trail, I got to see the sunrise over the ridge – before things went FUBAR.

Side note: I had spent the last day slightly distracted by a certain someone taking on some truly awful conditions at the Bear 100 in Utah with zero cell service – worrying he was dead and frozen on a mountain had my mind marginally preoccupied.

Long story short, I missed a left drop off onto Pinhoti and instead continued onto a jeep road completely alone. Two and a half miles later, running out of water, and watching 11 miles tick by off my watch (where the aid station would have been) I realized I was lost. Grabbed my ViewRanger app with the loaded course and realized if I continued (about 3 miles) I would eventually meet the course back. I decided to continue on rather than turn back, either I would have run by the aid station or I would end up in front of the aid station with extra mileage. Either way I was running 50 miles today come hell or high water (or no water…).

Finally, meeting back up with the course I encountered a runner who told me she had about 9.5 miles on her watch, whilst I was creeping up on 15 – AWESOME. We had yet to encounter the aid station as well so I knew I would get to finish this thing after all. Running like James Earl Ray from Brushy State (hehehe BFC reference) I started passing as many runners as I could, throwing down 9:00 minute miles like this was 50k and doing everything I could to make up time. David Holliday filled my pack – told me gently I was screwed if I didn’t hustle – and sent me on my way.

I met every aid station with a plan to get out ASAP, ran every downhill and flat I encountered, power hiked like a mad woman, and sucked Tailwind like it was the nectar of the gods while we all raced in the devil’s sauna. Climbing John’s Mountain (peaking out around ~1800 ft) was near as miserable I got, but the elevation meant I finally got cell service and was able to talk sob to Luke. Finally saw a friend I knew, and after chatting for a moment, I realized I had finally made it back into the women’s podium. With Jackie and another girl in front of me – I knew I had a chance.

At the Snake Creek Aid Station – Mile 35 [Liz Canty Mile 41] I was able to overtake the second-place female, and started the final arduous section which included several more gorgeous climbs, barely runnable rock sections and a never ending ridge. At Mile 40 I had the scariest moment of my running career, I tripped on a rock, stumbled and my entire left leg seized. My hamstring, quad and calf muscles were rock hard and I couldn’t move except to flop wildly and hyperventilate. I knew I had been salt deprived, but Holy Moses this was unbearable. I had undertaken this last section with a great guy named Rob; I’ll credit him with saving my life and getting me off the ground while I hobbled for a few steps. I inhaled my last salt tab and began praying for pickles at the next aid station.

The last aid station – Mile 42 [Liz Canty Mile 48]. Ten Miles to the finish, no pickles, 2 Salt Caps and a filled bladder and we were off. I knew this last section would eat me alive. I started to leave Rob behind, blasted some tunes and decided to deal. Mantra – “Hike it out, b*tch”. I dreamed of beer, Mexican food, a shower and the downhill finish.

AND THEN I FOUND LEA. The love of my life, trail sister and surrogate mom was up ahead on trail hiking through a bum ankle and this miserable, rocky baloney.  I bawled, I whined, checked the course map and saw we were almost off this god forsaken ridge. Just the 2.5 miles of gravel road and highway between me and the finish line. My watch having died an hour ago, I spent this last bit of the day cursing the gravel, the highway, inconsiderate dadsadrivers, the sun, Donald Trump, the blister on my heel, mankind, etc. And then I saw the finish, 11 hours and 33 minutes after I left the start, over an hour behind my goal time and some extra miles just for fun. I pulled off Second Female (#secondplacequeen), *ahem* First Place in the Liz Canty Memorial 58 Mile Race, and didn’t have any water left in me for another tear. Just smiles 🙂

Lessons Learned:

  1. It doesn’t hurt any more after 40 Miles – but it doesn’t get better. I can deal with that.
  2. Pay attention.
  3. Turn up the Mary Poppins soundtrack, tuck your curls in a trucker cap and deal with it.
  4. TARC100k is gonna be AMAZE-BALLS

So, this is why we wear sunscreen, y’all:


Gross, I know. But here’s the good news– I had my follow up with the surgeon today and the pathology showed no further malignancy, yippee! Unfortunately I won’t be able to get my stitches out until the 27th (sad face), but THANKFULLY I have been cleared to perspire (which means RUNNING!!!), just nothing that would cause tension in the area, so no upper body gym work. Not ideal, but better than nothing. I also had a follow up with my hand surgeon this week, and while I was a little worried going in because the swelling is still persistent and I’m not 100% with my hand yet, he seemed pleased with my progress and reminded me that it will take longer than is typical to fully heal because I had not just one hand/wrist procedure but two.

I am feeling so full of motivation right now and am crazy eager to get back in to the swing of things. I haven’t felt this surge of excitement for running in a long time, so it’s refreshing to finally feel PUMPED and ready to go again. My next big race will be a trail half in October which I plan to run with one of my marathon training participants. I’m so excited to get back in the woods again, I can’t even deal. The MUD and the ROCKS and the WATER and my PEOPLE!!! I CAN’T WAIT!!!! I even made myself a little training log in my journal for the weeks leading up to my next marathon, the Flying Monkey:


The runner can run again and she is finally on the mend with no more medical procedures scheduled. ALL IS WELL IN THE WORLD!