Tuesday, April 1, 2014

P is for Progress

Race Photos. Inspirational Documentaries. Dirt.

The first three months of 2014 have come and gone, and I'm happy to say that I'm seeing improvement and progress from all the hard work I've done. I've listed below the big wins I've seen so far, but I don't know if it paints the entire picture. Wanting to improve is a common theme. Everyone wishes they were better at what they do. But really putting numbers on it, tracking your goals, and admitting what you want takes a bit more. You can't come out and say that you're going to do something to everyone you know if you're not willing to back it up. Or, willing to fail in front of everyone.

In my case, I'd rather fail trying than pretending I'm OK with things as they are. Well, we shall see how it all turns out...

January 2014
Total Mileage: 65.2
Total Time Exercising: 28 Hours, 45 Minuts
Races: None

Moab 33K Photo
February 2014
Total Mileage: 91.7
Total Time Exercising: 29 Hours, 37 Minutes
Races: Red Hot 33K - 4:32; PR by 42 minutes!
  • Increased mileage by 26.5
  • Increased time exercising by 52 minutes
  • Started using My Fitness Pal
  • Gave up Booze for 30 days straight beginning Feb 16th.

Buffalo Run 25K Photo (Thanks, Lori Burlison!)

March 2014
Total Mileage: 152.1
Total Time Exercising: 44 hours 16 min
Races: Buffalo Run 25K: 3:11, PR by 15 minutes!
  • Increased mileage by 60.4 since last month, 86.9 since Jan.
  • Still using My Fitness Pal
  • Lost 8 pounds since January!

Beast Mode
One more thing. Did you notice that picture of me at Moab 33K? The one where I'm flying like 40 feet above the ground? Well, after the race, I saw that photo online and I wasn't sure how I felt about it. My first reaction was, "Ugh, I look so fat." But, for some reason, I kept going back to it. Why?
I didn't know what it was at first. I mean, I do love that race. And, I had such a good time running it. But that wasn't it. It was an expensive photo to buy if I really wanted it. Was it worth it? Well, I think after a few weeks I figured it out. I liked that photo for a very specific reason. When I look at that picture, I know, really know, that I look truly happy in it. And, I wasn't sure how I felt about that at first. But now - I really like it. It's proof that I was really happy. And that makes me happy.

 Thank you for reading.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Brought to you by the letters O and K.

This weekend I ran the Buffalo Run 25K on Antelope Island. This is a magical island where the wild HUMR can be observed in its natura habitat. Burly Buffalo, large Bucks, and Antelope can be found here too.

Yes, that's Mountain View in the background.

My goals this year were simple: Beat my best time (3:26 in 2012), run the hills, and try. Additionally, I planned to volunteer at White Rock aid station and help out the crew taking everything down after the race.

I don't think that a 25K race needs a play by play recap, so I'll just say this: I ran more than I usually did, but I never felt "fast". I ran in with my coworker Steve for the last 3 miles or so, and that kept me going. It was windy and cold, but I still felt fine once I started running, but uncomfortable if I stopped.

I came in at 3:21, according to head kitchen chef, Karen Skaggs, who's in charge of feeding 650+ hungry buffalo runners. So, I beat my time, but I was hoping for more of a phenomenal improvement. Oh well. I'm still putting in solid 40 mile weeks which I feel pretty good about. The race was very well run, Jim is a pro. Renee beat my time, and I owe her a glass of wine. Nothing to complain about there, she has gotten super strong, plus I love wine.

No one was mauled to death by a buffalo, unfortunately. Much to the disappointment of the spectators.

Volunteering after the race was fun. I loved seeing everyone smiling on the course, and hanging out after. We had several HUMRs running in each distance and we hung around to cheer everyone in. There's nothing more inspiring than watching my friends as they throw down PRs and challenge new distances. It's also great to see everyone come together to help out. Taking down the start/finish area seemed to go pretty smoothly, though it is a lot of work. I don't know how the crew is able to stand on their feet by the end of the day.

But, wait. Don't Bot Friendly blog posts come with a little bit of transcendental advice? Ok, here we go:

At one point during the race I was having trouble remaining "present". My mind was all over the place. I tried to focus and think about the course. After all, I had thrown off my ankle wraps in the first half mile, and if I didn't pay attention, I might sprain my ankles. Well, I began talking to myself about the race. "OK, a few more switch backs, followed by a section of rolling flats (wait, isn't that an oxymoron?), No - focus! - big long down hill coming up..." I started arguing with myself (I do that) and said, internally, "Focus on the trail you're on now, not the one that's coming up. You can't do anything about it. All you can do is deal with the path you are on right now." It's stupid. A metaphor. I get it. But, it sort of blew my mind. I'm always dealing with the future: the miles I haven't gotten to yet. I'm more preoccupied with things that haven't happened yet, than the things that are happening Right Now.

It was a silly thought, but it gave me some perspective. Things quieted down in my head, and I was able to stop thinking so hard about the future. So, there it is folks: Focus on the trail you're on now, not the one you're heading to.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Brought to you by the letter R

There's this scene in Kill Bill 2, where two villains believe that they have avoided a deadly encounter with their arch enemy. One asks the other, "Which R are you feeling right now? Regret? Or, Relief?" Regret that there wasn't a chance to fight, versus relief at having the situation handled for them.

I was thinking about this the other day. I used to have this stupid concept of living a life with zero regrets. I no longer think that's possible. But, you can be damn sure that I'm aware of regret every day. I think you can try to live your life in such a way that you don't regret NOT TRYING.

I've never regretted trying. Even when I've failed. Especially when I have. "Failure Club" is a concept I keep to myself (mostly) about all the things I am afraid to do. Being afraid to try something that you might fail at can hold you back. Holding back leads to a life less lived. And here's the kicker: You only get one life.

I'm a skeptic. My favorite professor in college called me "The Cynic". It's true. I don't always have a good attitude. I'm a realist. Life is really unfair. Some people really are using you. Not every friend can be trusted. Cancer comes back.

What does all of this mean? I'm running the Buffalo Run 25K tomorrow. It would be really easy for me to show up and just go through the motions. 15.5 ish miles isn't very far. Or, hard. I could walk it in time. Or, I could try. I could try to run more of the hills. Try to run it fast. Try to run when I feel like walking. I could try to get a good time. I could. Or, I could just play it easy and face the regret that I didn't see what I was capable of. So, for this reason, I like to think of all the things I DON'T regret. I don't regret moving to Utah. Even though the general population and political atmosphere bug me. I don't regret telling certain people to F--- off. I don't regret going for that second run yesterday after work and being late for dinner. I don't regret trying to run faster. My friend Rene would say "Learn to love the hills." I don't think I can do that, as a cynic. But, I can learn to HATE walking them. I can learn to regret not trying to run them.

In truth, I am afraid of regret. I don't want to find myself facing a counted number of days left, wishing I had tried harder, taken a risk, failed, even. Failing at something is proof that you are trying. Life can be pretty comfortable. I could spend it flying under the radar. I could try really hard to make sure everyone gets along all the time. Or, I could wake up and realize that this is it. Not a dress rehearsal.

So, with that being said. Here's to trying tomorrow. And, the next day.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Find something you love and do it often...

Here's a funny lesson: If you've decided that I'm the one person you're going to beat at the race, you probably shouldn't tell me. More on this in a moment...

Alright. Here we go. This weekend, I ran the Red Hot 55k/33k. I did the 33K, just like last year. But this year didn't suck. In fact, it sucked 42 minutes less!  That's right, I shaved off 42 minutes off of last year's time.

Actual race footage.
So what the heck happened? What did I do differently this year that contributed to such a large improvement? I have a few theories:

First, I got strong. 
Joel calls these Bear Slams.
I've been working out at Bomber Athlete and it's paying off. I found myself hitting the aid stations well before I expected them and climbing the steep climbs without feeling like I was going to die. In fact, I felt really strong all day - especially towards the end of the race. The last 5 miles of the course are very runable. Yet, I'm always wasted by the time I get there. Not this year. I think I ran the last half much faster than the first.

Second: I fueled. And fueled.


I stayed ahead of my fueling and took in calories every 3-4 miles or so. I usually forget to eat and end up suffering the last 10 miles. Staying ahead of my nutrition was key. I also decided to add salt to the mix. I know, I know. Runners are supposed to know this by now. But, I never do it. I added Nuun tabs to my hydration pack. They tasted great and never bothered me. I also took salt tabs at the second aid station. It made a remarkable difference. I skipped the salt tabs at the last aid station and experienced some extremely painful cramps in my calves on the last mile.

Third, I tried. 

I mean, I tried hard. I ran hard. I pushed hard. I wouldn't let myself walk. I got angry. I had my music up loud. And, it felt amazing. I had the most fun I've ever had in my life.
Start Line Nerves.

This is my favorite race of the year. I can't explain why. Maybe it's because I get to run on dirt before anyone else in SLC? Maybe it's because Moab is a magical place where runners flock like salmon? I don't know. Ryan and I showed up to the staring line this year prepared for a hot day. It never got hot, but it was comfortable at the start. His race began at 8, and I took off at 8:30. I didn't feel great for the first mile. There's a lot of climbing, and I'm never warmed up. I fell to the back of the pack but decided after looking back once that I would try not to dwell on it. I forged ahead and didn't care where I was in the pack or how slow I might end up being. When we got to the first downhill, I ended up passing about 20 people. I LOVE downhills. Damn, it felt good to run on dirt.
The first climb.

I wore my new Lululemon capris that gave me the added benefit of a large side pocket on each leg. This worked out well so that I could carry my phone on me and get some pics.

The road we drove in on, 1,000 feet below me.
I don't want to do a play by play of my day. But I will say this: I was very certain at about mile 6 that I was legitimately having more fun than any human being on the planet at that very moment. It was like a moment of clarity. Whatever endorphin my body had released into my blood stream made me feel like I was flying, and I thought about this one simple rule:

Find something you love and do it often.

Do it because it makes you happy. Do it whether or not you are good at it. Do it because most people go through their lives without ever doing exactly what they want right then and there. I knew that there was nothing I would rather be doing at that very moment than running on the slick rock.

I noticed, this year, that I must be getting faster because I always had people around me. Also, I felt really good about my technical downhill ability. Lots of runners were walking (Walking!) on the rough stuff. I realized that my experience on the trails was a huge advantage on this course.
Look at those mountains! Look!

The 33K hits only three aid stations. When I got to the last one, a girl I had been running with said something fascinating. She said, "Just so you know, this (pointing at herself) is a no-passing zone." She was joking, I am sure. She said that she had been trying to catch me on the downhills all day. I mentioned she was killing me on the uphills and was very strong on the climbs. She then said that at every race, she picks one person to beat, and that I was the girl she had decided she must beat.

This was a mistake. She never should have told me. I wished her luck, then said, "See you on the downhill." And I did. In fact, about a mile later, the course runs on some nasty deep sand. I almost always walk on this section. But I saw my girl ahead and decided to crank it. I ran up to her and patted her on the shoulder, told her she was doing great and to hang in there. I'm not very competitive, but something happened that day. A fire was lit and I had something to prove. Last year, Ryan and Harrison passed me about 3 - 4 miles from the finish. I hadn't seen anyone yet, and I wondered if they were having a bad day or something. About two miles out from the finish I saw Lane and Pam driving in Lane's 4-wheeler. I waved but knew I couldn't stop or someone would catch me. It was still nice to see a friendly face at this point because everything in my body was hurting.

About a mile out, Harrison passed me (33 ish miles for him). He was flying! It was really fun to see him glide over the rocky terrain and make other runners look like they were standing still. I knew that Harrison was aiming for sub 5. Since he started 30 minutes before me, I realized there was a chance I might actually be on 4:30 pace. Last year, I came in at 5:14. Could this be possible? I set my iPod on repeat to a really catchy song and kept racing. I think I was singing aloud. At one point, I realized I was running past Britta taking photos on the course. I could barely register that I knew this person as all my mental facilities were aimed at running hard. I had a pain in my left foot (Roast Beef) but told myself that it was only a toe or toenail, and would probably grow back.

The very last mile is a fantastic downhill. I went for it and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't trip and fall. Then, my calves cramped. Holy Son of a Bitch, that hurt. I was pretty sure I was about to tumble and a fall at this point would look something like this:

As I neared the finish, the HUMRs were cheering me in, and greeting me with high fives. I crossed the line and looked at my phone: 1:02 pm. I did some finger math and realized I had just run the course in 4:32. Unbelievable.
Finish Line Love.

I wanted to cheer in the girl I had beaten, but my calves were too locked up. A few salt tabs and some chili provided by friends helped me recover. I felt so good. Everyone in the group had a great day. It was like some magical moment where everyone got to feel like a rock star for a day. I'm so proud of everyone that did it, especially my husband Ryan who clocked a PR at 5:10 minutes for the 34 mile course!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I spy something beautiful

Today I went for a run because I could. I have a cold, but I wanted to do it anyways. I ran pretty fast too. It felt amazing; pushing the air in and out of my lungs was good for the soul.

I ran on the treadmill in the gym. Some girls had the radio up pretty loud and Miley Cyrus came on. I wanted to blow my brains out. Instead, I put my earbuds in and thought about some of the beautiful things I've seen before while running outside. I remembered the first time I saw goats on a mountain while running. I've run into moose on more than one occasion. I ran in the snow a few weeks back and when the sun came up, a million sparkling ice crystals lit up in the air.

This week has a sad story. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer 8 months ago, her old best friend from years back had a similar diagnosis. My mom's cancer was treatable, Julie's was not. They were friends years ago when they were raising young children in Texas. Her kids were our best friends, two boys. We kept in touch after we moved. They did the same when they left the state. I wrote letters to one of the boys and fell in love the way 7 year olds do: ie. hopelessly.

That seems like a million years ago. Julie passed away yesterday from her cancer. My mom told me today. Had the cards been switched, I would be in a very different position. What if my mom's cancer hadn't been treatable?

I feel very lucky when I run. I get to see so many things that are incredibly beautiful. I get to experience such amazing highs and push through some terrible lows. I get to feel both. And, I know that, sadly, one day I won't get to experience this anymore. I feel very sad for Julie, that her time ended so abruptly here. I feel angry for anyone feeling sorry for themselves right now. Life is so stupidly short. Sometimes, I think consciousness seems like the ultimate cruel joke.

Short as it is, it's still pretty awesome. Sometimes, only for a moment or two on a long run, when I remember to breathe in and out and take in the scenery. I'm certainly going to miss it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Back to the Trails...

This post is sponsored by one of my favorite decades, The 80's:

"Look how important I am!"
We're about to kick off the 2014 racing season with one of my all-time favorite races, Moab's Red Hot 55K/33k. Next Friday, Ryan and I will begin the season by driving down to my favorite place on the planet - Moab, UT.

It may seem like amnesia, but we do this race every year. I love it. There's nothing better than getting out of SLC in the middle of February. I can hardly wait to escape.

Insider's tip: Moab is EMPTY in February. It's usually around 50 degrees, the hotels are cheap, and you have the National Parks to yourself. You can't beat it. I really can't wait. I had one of those weeks at work where someone really high up in the company made sure I knew I was expendable and not worth taking the time to treat with respect. Anyone ever have one of those weeks? Oh well. Nothing like being put in your place, right?

I sorta have this thing about respecting those with less power than you (here's a video with a few other important life lessons). I dunno, maybe I'm weird. I mean, I did love the 80's, but I'm really glad I wasn't old enough to work in corporate America back then. That kind of environment was filled with smug assholes who got off on flexing their rank and power over less senior positions. Maybe that's why certain people I know who rose to 'power' in that decade are struggling to relive their former glory days? Just a theory...

I will be competing in the 33K distance. I love this course. I love running 20 miles of it. 34 feels like too much. Besides - with a 20 mile course, I can push it. I can try to run it faster, I don't have to conserve...too much. And, when I get to the finish line, there will still be food and beers. I pretty much picture arriving to the finish will look something like this:

 There's this great thing that happens when I run this race. I don't believe in magic or spiritualism, per say. But, it is very transformative. Something happens.

I get to shut things off for about 4 hours and look at rocks. I get to immerse myself in the most stunning natural scenery on the planet. I get to climb over rocks and get dirty. I get to feel my lungs and my muscles suffer, and listen to the sound of the wind as it travels on what I assume is an endless and infinite journey.

I feel very small. But that's OK. I feel insignificant in a good way. In a way that says, "You're only going to be here for a very short time. You're a blip on a cosmic timeline that the planet will hardly even notice. Enjoy it!"

Board meetings, strategic planning, business jargon, and mindless newspeak mean nothing during this race. I might as well be thinking about unicorns.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Great Buffalo Spirit

A few weeks ago, I went for a run on Antelope Island. If you've never run on the island that sits in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, I highly suggest it. I'm training for the Buffalo Run 25K that my good friend Jim Skaggs puts on each Spring. You can run the 25K, 50K, 50M, or 100M option. The island boasts a healthy population of wild Antelope and coyotes. But, by far, the most impressive residents on the island are the Buffalo.

Buffalo are an iconic American symbol. The Wild West, Native Americans, the expansion of settlers: all of this comes to mind when you encounter what is essentially a 2,000 pound feral cow. When you do encounter one, you will be surprised. I know I was.

Even though I grew up knowing that Buffalo roamed the great plains of America, seeing one in person is different. They are gigantic. Their heads are the size of Spartan shields. They tower above you, and surprisingly, they can move! You probably wouldn't think buffalo can out run you, but they sure can.
When I ran on the island a few weeks ago, I came upon three buffalo standing on a hill just to my left, about 10 feet above me. They were menacing. They glared at me. They could see into my soul. I left the trail and gave them a wide berth. The posturing of an angry male buffalo is not to be ignored. Their legs, though small, were huge! Powerful muscles flexed before me, and I kept my fingers crossed that they would not decide to charge me. They never did. They are mysterious creatures, and I've been thinking about them since that day. 

Buffalo are strange creatures. We see them all the time when we run on the island. We share the same trails, the same love for open space, the need for isolation. We're practically neighbors out there. But, that's where the similarities end. We have so much in common, you'd think we'd be friends by now. But, alas, we are not. We are very different.

For one, I don't believe in the Great Buffalo Spirit. It's not in my programming. It's not something I understand, but it can be a barrier for the buffalo. Not speaking the same language, not sharing beliefs, these things can result in being something of a loner. I don't fault the buffalo. We just don't relate.

Furthermore, I'd probably eat their young, given the chance. It's true. I had my first buffalo burger the other day since my return to meat eating. It was amazing. I'm such a monster.

Also, I tend to be a cynic. I know that at the end of each season, the buffalo on the island are rounded up and sent to slaughter. The Great Buffalo Spirit doesn't help them. It may sound like a depressing outlook, but really, it gives me hope.Not getting into Buffalo heaven and going to buffalo parties in the after-life just means that I need to spend the time I have on earth wisely.

I still maintain that I am a good person. An average runner. A cynical orator that finds humor in dark places. I have true friends that are OK with my faults. No one is perfect. I can't outrun a buffalo. Yet, I still love running with them.