Friday, February 16, 2024

Gone Loco 55K: The Good Kind of Crazy

Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography

Recovery from Bandera 100k on January 13th went really well. I eased back into running pretty quickly, but paid attention to how I was feeling after anything longer than 30 minutes and took my easy days really, really easy. But I was itchy to race again, eager to get after it having played it somewhat safe at Bandera. Here in the south, winter is my favorite season to run a bunch of races while the heat and humidity are generally not a concern.

I gave myself about 2 weeks of running to see how I felt before cruising Ultrasignup. The window of running another race between Bandera and Antarctica narrowed my choices down to 2-3 weekends, with early February being optimal. And it needed to be within driving range so that I didn't have to spend another night away. After being away 8 days in January between racing and work and the impending Antarctica trip, I was running out of favors to ask for help with Adam and the dogs.

Which is the long story of how I ended up running the Gone Loco 55k!

I got up at 3:30am on race morning, took care of the dogs, grabbed my coffee, and was on the road by 4am. Obviously there was very little traffic at that hour, but it rained 75% of my drive in the dark so I was glad I gave myself a comfortable buffer of time. The race started at 8am and I pulled into the lot at 6:45am. Plenty of time to grab my bib, use the restroom, and play Wordle. Priorities.

By dumb luck, the rain essentially stopped the moment I got there and I was thankful to not have to start with wet clothes. The course description said it was a rail trail and I could glean from some videos on their Facebook page from prior years that road shoes might work. I brought trail shoes too, but ultimately decided on the Hoka Rocket X2 and had no traction issues.

I stuffed all my pockets with gels, including the pocket of my handheld. One of my main missions for this race was to really try to load on calories, especially while running a medium hard effort. My goal was 1,000 calories and spoiler alert, goal achieved! The course consisted of 3 out and backs with an aid station at each end of the 5.7ish miles and a water stop in the middle. I was filling up my handheld at each stop after the halfway point, but definitely was okay to run without a vest.

I walked the 100 feet from my car to the start at 7:50 and after a few race instructions and the national anthem, we were off! 

The rail trail was nice and wide and there was plenty of space for the small field of runners. I took the first couple of miles to just settle in. The early alarm was doing me no favors in feeling perky. I let the field sort itself out and then settled into what felt like medium effort pace-wise. As per usual with me, I avoided looking at my watch in the beginning and tried to run by feel.

Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography


With it being a small field, I knew it was in the cards to place pretty well assuming I had a good day. You never know who will show up or have a good day themselves, but that's part of the fun of racing. I struggled a bit in the beginning to decide how I was going to race. Nothing like being in the midst of a race while figuring out your race plan. Rehoboth was so rough and by comparison of feel (not distance) Bandera was relatively painless. So like Goldilocks, I wanted something in between. Have fun, race hard, touch the well a little bit, but stay calm when things feel hard. Because at some point over the 55k, it will feel hard!


Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography

The one thing I did have planned was my race nutrition and the goal was alternating a 180 calorie Spring Energy and a 100 calorie GU every 45 minutes. This went really well and I don't know if it was the placebo effect or the sugar doing its job, but I felt immediately better after each one.

Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography

At the first turn, I could see all the runners in the field ahead of me and I was maybe 20 people back with 5-6 women ahead of me. The first 2 women were hauling and already had a pretty large gap (they would later finish 2nd and 3rd overall in the entire field), but the others were within a reasonable range so I told myself to just keep running my race and see what happens.

There was only about 1,000’ of elevation gain for the whole 55k so it was a fast course. The gain/loss was gentle and while I definitely felt it more with each lap, it was actually pretty nice to mix it up.

On the way back to finishing my first of 3 laps, I actually had to pee which is highly unusual for me, especially in a shorter race (short being a relative term here!). I felt immediately better and things started clicking after that.

Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography

There was a long way to go though so I tried to just stay comfortable and happy. I passed maybe 1-2 more women and by the time I got to the halfway point, could see that only 3 were ahead of me. 3rd was about 2 minutes up on me so I just kept her in my sight and let her be the pacemaker for quite some time. At the start of the incline on the way back, I was approaching her really quickly and decided to see if she wanted company. We chatted for a few minutes, but I started to gap her a bit and decided to just keep going. I'll admit the thought of her on my heels gave me a much needed push through the rest of the race!

One of the greatest things about this race were all the other racers. The first place woman had her hand out for a high five every time we went by each other and everyone in the field was cheering each other on. I was smiling so much I think my face hurt as much as my legs at the end. I know lots of people dislike out and backs, but I love them for this reason!

I still felt like I had lots of fight left in me when I was heading out for my final lap. I was kind of in shock I felt so strong with nearly a marathon on my legs. My jams were good, my stomach was happy, the weather was good (maybe a tad too humid, but 50s and overcast), and after a wild week of life, I was just happy to be doing my thing.

At the last turn around, I thanked the volunteers one final time, shot a cup of Mountain Dew, and told myself to just hold on for less than 10k.


Photo cred: Nick Morgan Photography

I stayed behind a guy for a couple miles with a pretty big gap in between us. But near the top of the final incline, I inched my way to him. Once I passed him, I heard him stay with me. I started pushing myself more and he was right there behind me. Honestly, I was pretty happy about it because it forced me to stay on the gas and I probably would have just jogged in knowing I had 3rd.

We rounded the final corners and though we were probably running maybe high 7s, it felt like we were flying. It made me feel like a kid. As we came into the finish chute area, he launched past me with about 5 seconds left. Beat me fair and square!

We fist bumped and hugged and thanked each other for the push. I think it's no secret that I love running and how it makes me feel. But man, is it something special when you can share that with others.

As I collapsed down in the grass, I soaked it all in, beaming from ear to ear. There are few things I love more than that mix of exhaustion, joy, and relief right after a hard effort. Hurts so good!

As a bonus, for the first time in my life, I negative split an ultra with a 2:34:08 first half and 2:30:39 second half.

3rd F, 9th OA, and 5:04:47 finish time.













Friday, January 19, 2024

Bandera 100K RR - In My Happy Place

Photo cred: Let's Wander Photography

Bandera had been on my radar for years, but with the race being in early January, the timing always seemed tough after the holidays. This year wasn't really any different, but the thought of knocking out a Western States qualifier early in the year AND the fact that it doesn't require a lottery made this tempting. So many qualifiers now fill up so early that you have to determine your race schedule wildly in advance. 

Looking at my early spring with the Antarctica 50k in March and Boston in April, I realized Bandera would also give me enough time to recover for these two important races. So with 5 weeks to go, I signed up.

Now, I didn't have any business signing up for a trail 100k. It wasn't that I was necessarily worried about finishing (though it’s never a guarantee!), it was that I knew it wasn't going to feel great given my lack of training. My last 2 races were a track 24 hour in November and a road marathon in December. I had endurance and maybe a smidge of road speed, but very few long trail runs. 

But I was ready to go to the well a bit and was highly motivated to knock out a qualifier early so it was game on.

I flew into San Antonio on Friday morning and had plenty of time for a shakeout run around the cute little cowboy town of Bandera, bib pickup, and to relax before the race. I finished a book, worked on my cross-stitch, and got all my gear laid out for race day, all before 5pm!

I fell asleep easily after a long and early day and didn't wake up much in the night. I wasn't really sure about the parking situation at the race since there was only one dusty road going into the park and a field of a few hundred runners. I erred on the side of early and aimed to be there by 6:30 even though it was a 7:30 start. I dropped my bag, got my timing chip, peed, and then hung out in my car until the last possible moment. It was really chilly out, but I knew it would warm up quickly with both the sunrise and the running. 


At the start, I spotted a few friends that I knew were racing and we all said our good lucks as we shivered in the corrals. 

I started in the middle of the pack, knowing it was not a day I was going to be racing for time, but rather one I was racing for finishing. Which seemed a little weird, but I also was then free to enjoy it in a different way. And to no one's surprise but maybe my own, I ended up feeling great all day!

Photo cred: Let's Wander Photography

The course features two 50k loops that wind around Hill Country State Natural Area. It is a fairly runnable course in that it has elevation gain spread over lots of short climbs. The loose, rocky terrain is what makes it tougher in some sections, but I found there were plenty of easy sections too that helped break up the day. 

It was cold to start and I wore a long sleeve and gloves for quite some time before shedding layers and popping on my sunglasses. Even when the sun started to poke out, it never got really hot. I didn’t have any of the aid stations memorized, but knew they were no more than 7 miles apart in the longest stretch with most being around 5 miles apart. This meant that I would be perfectly comfortable carrying two hydration flasks and maybe needing to chug a bit of liquid if it got warmer in that one longer section. I used gels and fruit snacks in the beginning, saving my croissants and more savory/salty snacks for later miles. I have a permanent “eat” reminder set on my watch to go off every 30 minutes and would try to at least nibble on something when I heard it buzz. 

The race was quite crowded in the beginning and there was lots of leap-frogging in the early miles. But it thinned out within an hour or so and there were always people around. The first couple of aid stations were a little crowded, but never chaotic and because I was unconcerned about my time, I didn’t feel rushed to get in and out. I made sure to thank the volunteers for being out there, petted all the dogs I could find, and even struck up a conversation with a crew member who was wearing a Cruel Jewel hat!

I chatted with numerous other runners throughout the day, exclaiming how lucky we were to have such good weather, yelling at the rocks, and wondering how far the next aid station was. A runner behind me that noticed my prayer flags on my pack asked about them. This conversation went down a rabbit hole of my racing resume which made me feel equal parts cringey and proud. 

Photo cred: Let's Wander Photography

The section in the middle part of the course was filled with evil sotol plants and I looked like I had been attacked by a honey badger when I noticed my legs had tiny cuts that were bleeding all over my thighs and shins. 

Sotol aftermath

Sotol aftermath

Luckily, they were all extremely superficial and didn’t really bother me at all. 

Photo cred: Let's Wander Photography

Once getting to what I dubbed the field section, a flat runnable loop, I started to feel the miles wear on me in the first 50k. But, I knew that once I was headed out for loop 2, I was committed to getting it done. I had plenty of time and was still in great spirits, I just could feel the lack of training catching up with me.

At the end of the first 50k, I sat down with my one and only drop bag and shoved a few squares of PBJ and a croissant in my mouth, taking gulps of Sprite to wash it all down. I knew I’d have to walk a bit to keep it all down when I left, but I figured the second half slog was imminent and I didn’t want to feel bonkish. I tossed my second half nutrition bag in my vest, grabbed a headlamp (after making sure it turned on!), and threw a clean long sleeve and gloves in for the night miles. 

Retracing my steps on the second loop felt like a familiar foe, but with everything magnified. The climbs felt steeper and longer, the rocks sharper and looser, and the length between aid stations seemed to be further apart. But, I was in a happy spot. My stomach was cooperating, my legs and feet felt good, and spending my Saturday doing the thing I love had me in good spirits. 

I kept expecting something to go really bad, but the only real troublesome thing for me all day was a headache that stayed with me most of the race. Weird. But if that was my white whale of the day, I’ll take it. I drank some Mountain Dew early on hoping that a smidge of caffeine was what I needed to make it go away, but it clung to me for nearly the entire race. 

I started craving real food as the day wore on and found that broth/ramen revived me. In between aid stations, I picked away at my snacks, trying to get something down in the later miles. I started to countdown to the last few aid stations, feeling a weird mix of sadness and relief that it was going to be over soon. 

As the sun began to set, I was on the hillier section of the course. The skies turned into cotton candy and the impending storm clouds made for a gorgeous sunset. I sat down on a bench at one of the intersections and just soaked it all in, feeling pretty lucky for that moment in time.

Once the sun was behind the hills, I clicked on my headlamp for the remaining miles. It got pretty cold quickly and I put my gloves and long sleeve shirt on. It was harder to stop for longer periods of time now at the aid stations because the lack of movement was making me cold quickly. I started to dream about getting to my car and blasting the heat. And anyone who knows me how warm I usually am can attest that it must have been cold! 

I got soup and a few pieces of sausage at the second to last aid station and was looking forward to the very runnable field section. However, it was very exposed and I wasn’t moving particularly fast so when I came into the final aid station, I was very happy they had soup and hot chocolate! I did a little dancing to stay warm (as one does) while I sipped my soup and crossed my fingers that it would feel less cold once I got away from the field. I left my jacket in the car in the morning, not thinking I’d need it and I highly regret that decision. 

Luckily, it did indeed get warmer once tucked back into the hillier section to the finish. I didn’t even mind the rocks or descending because it was finally warmer and I was about to be done. All the runners and pacers that were around me in that section were happy too as we made our way to the finish line. Once I spotted the Hoka markers, I knew it was time to run it in. 

15:55:40. 

Since I’d never run the exact 100k distance before, this was an auto PR! 

I am happy that I’m in a place to just go out and finish a 100k because I want to and feel really great while doing it. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but there was no (self given) pressure for time or place and some days, it’s pretty fantastic to measure your success by how much joy you can squeeze out of a day. 





Saturday, January 6, 2024

January 2024

Yesterday, I was running down the forest service road, bathed in autumn light. The leaves were peaking at the highest altitude and the gusty morning brought piles of them to the forest floor. With gloves on my hands, sunshine and wind in my face, I wished I felt better in the moment.

The morning started off imperfect. I didn't sleep enough. The route I chose took me down a stereotypically country road where angry dogs and their gun-toting owners slept in the pre-dawn hours. But knowing they existed made me hyper aware of every leaf I crunched. A horse bolted across a field towards me at mile 2 and I could feel my heart nearly erupting from my chest. By the time I reached the gravel, I finally felt calm enough to change the battery in my blinking headlamp.

A rusty old truck drove by at mile 6, moving just a few miles per hour faster than me on the deeply rutted road. I kept my eyes and headlamp aimed at the ground, keeping the pace as steady as I could manage. The truck passed without incident and I watched it rumble ahead, the lights disappearing around the curve.

I saw the truck again at the intersection of the AT. Maybe the driver was doing some hiking. Maybe he was picking up hikers. I didn't stick around to find out and hopped onto the dark single-track, a place that I strangely felt far more safe on. Shortly thereafter, a young couple that appeared to be straight out of an REI catalog held their leashed dog to the side of the trail and allowed me to pass.

The sky began to lighten, but the windy passes of Nimblewill were no match for the impending sunshine. I pulled out my jacket and put my gloves on, smiling that at least I had my favorite weather.

I fully expected my morning to turn around after I crested Springer. Surely the light and single-track would give me the much-needed boost. But I veered off into the campsites by accident and had to backtrack. And I couldn't shake the notion that I just felt tired. My feet hurt. My left shin felt sore and my right hip never got loose.

I ate and drank well, but my stomach felt meh for quite some time. I topped off my water filtering in a flowing creek and ate a few pieces of bacon. I waited and waited to feel that little bit of flow and was rewarded with a brief stretch along the BMT heading into Three Forks. It was short-lived and while I never got super low, I found myself unable to shake the funk. The Long Creek waterfall was mostly deserted and I sat on a rock eating an Uncrustable, willing myself to enjoy it for what it was. That I could move myself 30 miles through the woods just because I wanted to.

At UTMB, I ran/hiked every step without music. I carried my headphones through the entire race, thinking I'd want them at some point to just power hike to some EDM. But I kind of forgot about them and then was having such a good experience, I never really needed to be pulled from the abyss. Sometimes I like music even when I'm having a good race though so it's not like I have a correlation to bad race = music.

But in this case, I fired up a playlist thinking it could help turn my brain around. Perhaps I knew it was futile as I chose the country one, full of sadness and whiskey. As I ran down that forest service road bathed in autumn light, I sat with the funk. I thought about stopping briefly to physically bury something. It would be metaphorical, of course, but I thought maybe shoving a rock into a hole might somehow allow me to move on.

I tumbled down the road, letting gravity do the work that my legs didn't seem to want to do. My phone sat uncomfortably in my vest pocket. The jacket was no longer needed. I thought about the food I had left and was underwhelmed.

What should have been a fun descent down Winding Stair to my car was just another 7+ miles of gorgeous views and my poor attitude. It's a strange thing to know you're so deep in the well, but being unable to help yourself. And trust me, I was pulling out all my tricks.

I recognize I probably was not fresh enough to go into this feeling well. And if I were smart, I would have stopped and turned around earlier or hell, never even started. But I was feeling stubborn and expected that I'd eventually feel good.

I'm not generally a fan of doing something that feels terrible just to garner experience. This is a hobby. It should be enjoyable most of the time. But I've also been running long enough to know that they can't all be puppies and rainbow runs. That some days are just complete shit even if conditions are perfect. But it's these days that make the good ones even better. And that rings true in all the other pockets of life.

_______

Beautifully crisp November

Red and yellow leaves against electric blue skies

My hands shoved in my pockets

My face soaking the warmth from the sun

I wasn't sure if I'd get another November

Maybe I'd experienced all my greatest moments

Maybe I'd survived all of the worst ones

Maybe the wavelength began to flatten

But it spiked like never before

And tunneled into depths it had never seen

I felt like a ragdoll thrust into the air

And the ground fell out as gravity took over

_______

Here in the westernmost part of the time zone, we get daylight until close to 6pm this time of year. There's a sliver of time after work that people pour out of their houses, walking their dogs or themselves when the weather is pleasant. It's supposed to rain all day tomorrow so it's likely no one will be out then.

It didn't seem like such a long time ago when we had our house painted last. Time snuck up on me as it seems to have lately. In some ways, I felt exactly the same. Same house, same husband, same hobbies, same kind of dogs.

But there were tipping changes too. A career change. A pandemic. Loss. Loss of life. Loss of independence. Loss of what was. Gain. Gain of ability. Gain of knowledge. Gain of me.

We're lucky we did what we could, when we could. Some of it would be impossible now. I wonder about all the things you took granted, what you wish you had back the most. I'm glad you talked to your mom every day. I know it was hard when she started to need you more than you needed her.

I'm guilty of only reaching out when it's necessary. I'm scared sometimes that I'll lose you. And that I haven't been thankful enough for you giving me the security I need for a safe and comfortable existence.

_______

I was in such a hurry to grow up, to get out, to be in the next chapter. Maybe it would have looked a lot different if I'd gone the traditional route. By the time I arrived at Emory, I already had 2 years of trying to make decisions on my own. In many ways, I fell into the freshman trap of pushing my own limits because I had none. There was no curfew and no one seemed to care if you slept 0 nights in your dorm room or showed up to class. You just failed.

I always showed up to class. But just because my physical body was there didn't mean that I was actually learning anything. I got by well enough. There were a few classes that gave me trouble and I was embarrassed that I couldn't connect the dots in my head.

Or maybe it wasn't that I was trying hard enough. It felt like I was at the time, but looking back, my extracurricular life was a blurry disaster. Especially in my senior year. Living off campus meant driving in every day. I picked early classes on purpose so I'd have the rest of my day free. I'd still arrive early and sleep in my car for 10, 15 minutes until it was time to walk to class.

I'd fall asleep in the stacks or on a park bench in the quad. I'd read and read and read and realize that I hadn't actually soaked up any of the words. I'd just been lying my eyes over them, but my brain was somewhere else.

A burger from Burger King and an apple will remind me of this time. A regular lunch that feels highly remnant of my eating disorder days. I'd yo-yoed quite a lot after my recovery and struggled to find a comfortable rhythm with food and movement. This lunch felt like a pull from both sides and if I'm being honest with myself, is where I'd find myself frequently for the rest of my life. Cake and salad. Burger and fruit. Naughty and nice.

Anyway, I was so fixated on being grown that I pushed a lot of the college experience away by that point. I had one foot in the college world and one foot in a sad reality of young adulthood. My days were spent with the movers and shakers of the world, brilliant young minds preparing themselves to become surgeons, judges, and CEOs. My nights were spent either making a few bucks at a low-wage job or holed up in a shitty apartment with my boyfriend and our roommate, watching terrible movies and making bad decisions.

Looking back, it’s not hard to see why I was a failure to launch. Part of me wishes to blame all the things other than my own self, but there was plenty of sabotage of opportunity. I was given all the tools to reach my goals, but something in me just couldn’t hold tight to that ambition. It’s hard to know what my trajectory would have been and who’s to say I would be any more or less happier, fulfilled, etc. at this juncture in my life. Our society looks to wealth and power as success, but that success doesn’t always equal happiness.
________

I want to eat a pile of burrata oozing from atop a pile of freshly picked tomatoes. I want to feel scalding hot water pummel my skin until it turns red and pruny. I want to listen to that song one more time, the volume so loud you cannot hear me screaming the chorus.

________

I'm staring at the ceiling with my head against the glass. My friends are all chatting, jovial in the moment we've come together. The children are behaving, the other patrons talking happily amongst themselves, and the kitchen amid the dining room buzzing with activity. No one notices at first, which I'm happy about as there is no immediate danger. I just need a little extra time for the bleeding to stop. I pinch my nose with a handful of rough napkins hoping to not draw too much attention to myself.

Turmoil is thread through each relationship. Fighting different demons, but demons nonetheless. I think about the innocence of the hour and how we all shove those things aside because in this pocket of time, we do actually forget.

Partly because that's what we do in a civilized society. Putting our best faces forward to not mar our network. Even the longest and deepest friendships require periods of harmony, where no one is weighing on each other. But we shove them aside because we all strive to actually enjoy it for what it is. A calm amidst the chaos. A reaffirmation that there are indeed pockets of joy without any sacrifice or agenda. That where you are and what you're doing often matters very little when you're happy with who you're with.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

QC's 2023 Recap - Burn Bright!



For the past decade or so, I’ve done a yearly recap and thought how in the world will I ever have a better year than this? The why not snowballed with each new experience and the itch to adventure seemed to need to be scratched more frequently. And so when the opportunities to race and travel came up in 2023, I took some chances that it would all work out. And spoiler alert, it all did indeed work out.

January


New Year’s Day was spent with some of my favorites running an extended version of the Coosa loop, a pseudo tradition that is definitely type 2 fun. I found out in early January that I was accepted into UTMB and actually took a couple of days to decide if I was going to race it. I had already signed up for the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February in Huntsville, TX so I decided to jump into the Jekyll Island Marathon (which my coach helps put on) in mid-January as a supported long run. I camped out at a gorgeous island park the night before and the weather was perfect racing weather (re: chilly and very little wind). The race itself was a big loop of the island and quite beautiful! I placed on the overall podium for the first time in a marathon, coming in 3rd female. Though it was a super tiny field, it was fun to finally achieve this feat. Unfortunately, I had a physical the following week in which my doctor found a lump in one of my breasts and wanted a 3-D mammogram done. I assumed I’d be able to schedule this ASAP, but unfortunately, I had to wait nearly a month to get an appointment!






February


I tried to push all the scary outcomes of my mind in regards to the lump. I went into Rocky Raccoon 100 feeling like I was the fittest I’ve ever been and was ready to just cash in all my chips. 100s are never easy, but for the most part, I was calm and happy and strong all day. I’ve never felt better in a 100 before. The icing on the cake was a trail 100 PR and a 4th OAF finish. I didn’t know anyone racing and I didn’t have any crew or pacers so it felt pretty great to do all of this solo. When I got back home, I knew a big block of recovery was in order so I spent a lot of time going for walks and enjoying things like Blood Mountain in the snow. As for the 3-D mammogram (as well as a sonogram!), they found nothing. Zilch. Nada. I didn’t even realize how much I was worried about it until I drove away from the doctor’s office and burst into tears. Sweet relief.





March


Jekyll Island was my 48th marathon and the next thing I had was Boston for #49. It was the silliest reason to squeeze in another marathon, but I really wanted Boston to be #50! The Pistol Marathon in Alcoa, TN was within driving range and I didn’t have to take any time off work for travel. I drove up on a Saturday afternoon, went to the most delicious pizza joint for dinner, and raced the coldest marathon I’ve ever raced that Sunday. It was in the teens when we started and this was chillier than Everest Base Camp! The marathon is part of an entire racing weekend made up of every distance from a half marathon to 100 miles. Again, it was a small field, but this time I came in first OA. Overall overall. Beat the men overall. Pretty neat for a marathon I decided to just run on a whim!






At work, I accepted a new position within my division and switched gears to learn something entirely new to me. I'd been in my prior role for about 4 years so I decided to make a change when the opportunity arose to take on a new role. 


April


I was in between marathons when some of the RippedTents crew wanted to do a Georgia Loop. Though I was game to do it again, I prudently held back and decided to crew instead. It was a fun day/night riding around North Georgia with my roaming aid station and they got it done! In Boston, I ran the B.A.A. 5k as per tradition now as a little Saturday tune-up. On race morning, I was feeling fit and ready and decided to just full send it. I covered up my watch with my arm warmers at mile 2 and decided to just not look at my pace the whole race. As I made the left on Boylston, I saw the race clocks and was shocked that I was under PR pace by about 30 seconds. At age 41, I was beyond stoked that I had a marathon PR left in my legs. Pretty sure I didn’t stop smiling for a week.








May


After a monster first few months, I took some down time before I started to build again for UTMB in September. It felt good to put a little distance between training blocks and big events. But I was excited to get my mountain legs back when it was time and helped pace Aaron for a section of Cruel Jewel 100. Over Memorial Day weekend, Alfonso and I had the best day ever in which we ran a large loop from Fontana Dam in the Smokies and ended the day with a brewery, ice cream, and a double rainbow. 






June


Roger somehow coerced me to come back to Arizona to try running rim to rim to rim again in the Grand Canyon. My first experience was pretty awful so I was determined to learn from it and feel better the second time. Aside from the treacherous rope climbing on the north rim, it was a pretty banner night/day for me and I joked that it could become a new yearly tradition. The next day, we headed to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and put ~60 miles on our legs over the weekend. I had always wanted to visit Four Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, New México, and Utah meet and Roger begrudgingly indulged this side trip.









July


I ran the 6 hour/9pm start race at Merrill’s Mile and spent a lot of time redecorating the pain cave. But it was good night training and I managed 35 miles or so. On the 4th of July, I raced with Alfonso and Ainsley's Angels as part of a pushchair team for a local 5k. That evening, Adam and I hosted our 16th annual 4th of July party with friends and family. 






On July 13th, I was making pasta for the weekend's big training run in North Carolina with a few friends. The pasta sauce jar exploded when I added warm water to the cold glass and I unfortunately ended up needing 8 stitches in the top of my foot. UTMB was 7 weeks away. Not wanting to risk infection or popped stitches, I did nothing for 10 days. If you know me, you know this was a long 10 days. After the stitches were removed, I ran another Ainsley's Angels 5k and felt cautiously optimistic. 



Other fun events included a Darius Rucker concert with my sister, brother-in-law, and Casey, and a weekend visit from Brad where I got to show him my favorite section of the Appalachian Trail. My garden was the most prolific it had been in years and we enjoyed blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, huckleberries, and I finally got a peach!






August 


I wanted to put in a few more big training days and finally did the Brasstown triple, another route on my list for years. On my last longer run of the training block, I was halfway around the Coosa loop when we went through a yellow jacket nest. I got stung multiple times and experienced anaphylaxis. My friends got me back to the car and some Benadryl safely, but I felt stupid for not having my epipen with me. I was bummed to have yet another run of this cycle cut short, but all in all, I felt as prepared as I could be given where I can train. Cassy and I went to The National on a school night and it was fun to do a non-running thing together. 








September 


UTMB! I arrived in Geneva ready to go, but my luggage took another plane. Luckily, I retrieved it the following day and got to hang out with Megan and Roger for a few days in Chamonix. It was chaotic and crazy, but I loved feeling a part of something so monumental. The course was incredibly difficult, but also incredibly beautiful. I ran with Megan for 50k, made new friends, soaked in the views, ate croissants and stinky cheeses, and slept 15 minutes over 42 hours of running. I finished with tears in my eyes, unable to believe I did something so tough. Roger and Casey were amazing crew and I was so grateful to have them there.














Casey and I hopped on a plane to Lisbon, Portugal a few days later. We had the best time wandering the city streets, sailing, attending a dinner in which a drag queen read our tarot cards, touring Sintra and the Atlantic coast in a Jeep, and lying around our Airbnb drinking wine. 









Adam picked me up at the airport when I arrived home and he had a Boston Terrier puppy awaiting me. He picked up Max while I was traveling and surprised me with this very cute (and very naughty) dog.



October


Once I was finally feeling okay to run again, I got back into the swing of things. I volunteered at Bull Mountain Epic, did some solo runs in perfect fall weather along the AT, and squeezed in a few speed sessions. Adam and I celebrated our 15th anniversary with 15 tacos from Taco Bell and a bottle of champagne. Halloween is my favorite holiday and though I felt like absolute garbage that night because I'd been double vaccinated (Covid/flu) the day before, I handed out full-sized candy bars in a unicorn onesie on my porch. 







November 


I returned to The Stinger to race the 24 hour event in early November. I knew it was risky trying to run 100 miles so close to UTMB, but I gave myself the option to bail if I was feeling particularly awful. Race conditions were cold and rainy from the start. Jared did the 6 hour and it seemed a bit daunting when he wished me luck in the last 18 (gulp!) hours. Despite 3 naps and a lot of negative self-talk, I managed to run around the track 426 times, earning another buckle and a 2nd place finish. 





Adam had been working for months to get a new assistive device for his leg and finally received it mid-November. I think we were both expecting it to be immediately life-changing and while it's much better than what he was using before, his mobility is still fairly limited. We're hoping that in time, it will improve his quality of life if the muscles can get stronger. 


Roger came for Thanksgiving week and we had a relaxing few days of eating, drinking, short runs, and lots of BT snuggles for Roger. 




December 


I ran my 10th Rehoboth Beach Marathon the first weekend of December and while it was the worst I'd felt during a marathon in a long time, I did eke out a BQ. The weekend was as fun as usual and I was sad to drop my buddies off at the airport and switch into work mode. I drove from Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York to visit clients for a few days. One of my bucket list items was to ice skate at Rockefeller Center and my co-workers obliged me one evening to go make it happen! The following week, at our company holiday party, I was presented with the Employee of the Year award. Adam celebrated his 47th trip around the sun with dear friends and we went out for a fancy dinner that weekend.







And while it’s not all puppies and unicorns 365 days of the year, I do feel lucky for amazing friends, a supportive family, incredible experiences, and a fulfilling career. In a year where I set a marathon PR, won a marathon, set a 100 mile trail PR, won an ultra, finished UTMB, completed another R3, visited 14 states and 4 countries, and won Employee of the Year, it feels pretty impossible to top that! And while these are all things I'm proud of and have worked hard for, there have been less than perfect moments too. The breast cancer scare, 8 stitches in my foot, a scary anaphylactic reaction, the challenges of caretaking with MS, stressful days at work, and struggling with handling this big, messy life, it's not always wonderful. But you take the good with the bad and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a heck of a lot of good!