Wednesday, June 3, 2015

She Wanted to Fly...

The idea of first making a women’s trail running video first came to me in the fall of 2014. Sage had been wanting to make a more artistic video, and so I asked him what he thought of my idea. Of course, he immediately agreed.

One month passed by, then another, and then another. The video was in the back of my head, but I had decided not to do it. It’s quite a bit of work to make even a short video, and I doubted the possibility of a lot of women agreeing to be in the video. It didn’t help I still worry that I’ll say something stupid in front of large groups of people, especially when I don’t know everyone very well. In early spring, Sage brought up the idea again. Being a bit ridiculous as usual, I was somewhat upset as I had already put the idea off. Then, when I found out I needed surgery, I realized the video had to be made now or I could help film it until the fall. Within a week’s notice, 19 beautiful and wonderful women agreed to be part of the video.

The poem She Wanted to Fly... So She Flew by Rachel Nypaver was chosen because it was relatable, not only to individual women, but to women’s running altogether. It was not very long ago when women were told they could not run longer than 800 meters and I believe women are still playing catch up from those old beliefs. In some other countries there is still little respect for female runners. In fact, some countries still believe women should not be competing in the world mountain and trail championships and it is reflected in the system. As my sister reminded me, the original definition of compete is to seek together. While the definition has changed, I still believe running and competing allows women to seek together. This is part of the reason I knew I had to make the video. From the women who have been denied running opportunities to the women who have never been told the power of running in nature, I know the world would benefit from more women seeking together on the trails.

I realize this video isn’t going to change much, but I hope it’s part of the ripple effect that was started by women years ago. One day, I hope for every running video made about a man, that there is a video made about a women as well. While I really enjoy the films made about men as I see the common passion for exploring nature, I hope more filmmakers realize that women are worth watching as well. Just look at how strong and beautiful the women in the film are! Look where their feet have taken them! All the women in the video certainly have stories that are worth telling. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel passionate about making videos. While I truly enjoyed the process, I wouldn’t want to do it again. I believe that when I want something to change, I should act on it, and so that’s what I tried to do. It’s a bit selfish because I want to see more films like Finding Traction, Western Time, and 100 Miles High. Let the ripple effect continue.

By far the biggest reason Sage and I made this video, was in hopes that it would inspire one or two women to get on the trails and maybe those women could inspire their friends. Currently, results show that men are much more likely to participate in trail and ultra races. I know that any woman trail runner could tell you that trail running has had a profound effect on her life. If one women can be inspired to get on the trails and see what flying on the trails feels like, then the stress of trying to find decent music or or losing sleep from audio issues was totally worth it for me. All trail runners know that the trails and mountains can give us strength, show us how to heal, teach us lessons to make us better people, and help us form special bonds with others. I once forgot how to use my wings, and trail running helped me to fly again.

Sincerest thanks to Sage, my adventure partner who agreed to take this video on with me. Honestly, I would have been lost without him and the video would never have been made. Please don’t let this post fool you into thinking that I did most of the work as Sage and I both spent a lot of time on it. I can’t forget to thank Ryan Smith who helped film or Ryan Lassen who let us borrow his GoPro for a few weeks, as well as all the other men who gave us their full support. Ladies, you know a good man when he too realizes why it’s important to get more women on the trails and in ultras!

Run Wild, Run Free,


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Achilles Story: A Personal Account of My Own Treatment and Surgery

As it became apparent that I would need surgery on my achilles/ heel, I began to talk to other runners who already had the surgery. Together, everyone sounded like a broken record. Our stories were all very similar, so I’m writing this post in hopes that it could help another athlete in a similar situation and possibly prevent the mistakes I made.

Before the surgery, I had already been experiencing some pain for at least 5 year. The pain was barely there at first. Just a little sore when I started running, but perfectly fine once I started to warm up. I tried to get rid of the pain, but nothing worked so I just kept on running. For the first couple of years, it didn’t effect my running at all. Gradually things got worse. I started limping around when my achilles got stiff and starting a run got more and more painful, especially after a long run, mountain, or speed work. In the past two years it started to change how my foot landed and thus changed my form. For the most part this was okay, but caused some issues when trying to run fast on a hard surface. By the time I did my last ultra (Mountain Masochist in 2014) my form started to change too much and by the end of the race my entire left leg hurt. After the race I couldn’t even pick up my leg because my hip flexor was shot from running with bad form. The day after the race I tried to walk up a short little hill to get to a trail to do a short hike as Sage ran. My achilles was so bad that I literally had to crawl up the hill. Once I got on the trail I realized that I couldn’t hike as it was impossible to even walk uphill.

After the race, I took a month off running to see if it would help my achilles. The rest didn’t really help at all. I then went to doctor who gave me a cortisone shot. I wish that had never happened. I really thought the doctor was going to tell me I needed surgery and I didn’t do any research on a cortisone shot like I should have. I could run for a few weeks and then two days after winning a snowshoe race, I could no longer run as the pain was too much and wouldn’t go away. The cortisone shot weakened my tendon and did a lot more harm than good. My doctor should have known better, but I should have done my research as well. From there my doctor said to do physical therapy and dry needling for a month. The dry needling helped loosen up my calf (on top of the stretching and self massages), but I knew the physical therapy wasn’t going to help since I regularly strength train. I should have listened to my intuition as it would have speeded things up. After that I tried a couple prolotherapy sessions. At first I thought it helped, but the second time things did not get better. Still, I think it’s something worth trying if you’re experiencing achilles pain. Finally, I asked my doctor about surgery and an MRI was scheduled. It pretty much confirmed that I needed surgery.

Purple dots from prolotherapy
Over time, my left achilles formed a large "bump"

I already knew I needed surgery before I got the MRI, so I had already been looking for doctors to perform the surgery. I admit, I got lucky and knew a couple of great runner who had the surgery and was put me in contact with other runners who had the surgery as well. A couple were professional road/ track runners and had the resources to talk to doctors all around the US. Still, they had decided to go to Sweden to see Dr. Hakan Alfredson since he was the best. The runners told me they wouldn’t trust anyone else (especially the runner who had already had achilles surgery once before in the US and still experienced pain afterwords). After being upset with myself for letting 6 months of little running go by as my previous doctor tried whatever he could think of, I just wanted a doctor I felt really confident about. 9 months of no running (6 months prior surgery, and hopefully only 3 months post surgery) seems like a long time (especially as my favorite season approaches) and I wanted to make sure the healing wouldn’t take longer than necessary. Dr. Alfredson specializes in minimally invasive surgery*, which is truly wonderful. I’ll post links with more information at the end. I’ll admit, it was a huge bonus that going to Sweden for surgery was relatively inexpensive and I would have likely paid more in the US. I do know some runners who have had very successful surgeries in the US (so no need to rule that out!), but as I said, I just needed to trust my intuition at this point and wanted to minimize the healing time. Please do your research before selecting a doctor, as I have heard quite a few horror stories as well.

Right before the surgery Dr. Alfredson did an ultrasound and immediately told me more about my achilles than other doctors had in 6 months. As he was telling me what was wrong, I felt reassured I was in the right place as I stared at the signed posters of Olympians he had performed surgery on. Right after that I was given a local anesthetic to get ready for surgery. Injecting the local anesthetic was the only pain I was in the whole day, and it wasn’t much compared to all the pain my achilles had caused me beforehand. I was awake during surgery, which I actually preferred. It made me feel more confident about that the doctor was doing and he would let me know what he was going to do before he did it. It was strange as I could feel some pressure as things were being cut and hammered out but, again, nothing hurt. Honestly, the worst part was that I really, really had to pee! :) After the surgery was over I almost immediately went back to the hotel and just rested. The day after I went back to get my bandage changed and Dr. Alfredson did another ultrasound to make sure everything looked good. Here is everything that happened during surgery:

Surgery summary: Removal of subcutaneous and retrocalcaneal bursa, excision of upper calcaneus (heel bone), revision ventro-distal Achilles, scraping ventral Achilles, removal of part plantaris tendon left side.
Day after surgery

The main reason why all of this had started was because I was born with sharp heel bone and a haglund’s deformity that was digging into my achilles. Since I’m a runner the surgery was inevitable, however, I would have saved myself a lot of pain and extra damage if I would have went to a doctor sooner.

Post surgery: I’m so happy I wasn’t put in a boot for months! Though my left calf is obviously losing muscle, I have still been able to walk (with less body weight because of crutches) which I think is a great way to keep my muscles used to that movement. I’m now starting to walk short distances around my apartment without crutches. My walking is pretty wobbly, but I’ll get there.

If you’ve been experiencing achilles pain and you feel like you’ve tried everything, I hope this post has helped give you some of the information you were looking for. I know it sucks and it’s okay to be sad, but it’s a good time to focus on other things that makes you happy. If you just started having minor achilles pain, please try doing eccentric heel drops before you do anything else. More info here:

Eccentric Heel Drops & Podcast with Dr. Alfredson (along with other info):

Alfredson Tenon Clinic:

*Minimally invasive surgery for Achilles tendon pathologies:

Lots of love,


Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Different Kind of Ultra

Ultra- an adventure where I might have to face the worst part of my mind, but have the opportunity to present the best side of myself physically and mentally.

Okay, so that’s obviously not the real definition. I completely made that up to suit my own running metaphors that can relate to life outside of running.

I’ll just say it. If you see me running any ultras this summer, it will be a miracle. Sponsors and race directors have been notified, except for the RD of CCC in France. I haven’t yet had the heart to say I won’t be running a 100k around Mt. Blanc (and my spot doesn’t go to someone else through a wait list).

This summer will be a different kind of ultra, although I already realize that I’m on the home stretch, currently without too much worry of negative thoughts coming to get me.

A couple years ago my iron/ ferritin got quite low and my energy was gone as I struggled for a couple years to get it to normal. Then, while still dealing with that I developed asthma (or something to that effect) which took some time to figure out because I thought that maybe my low iron levels were making it harder to breathe. In reality, tests this past winter showed my breathing was quite terrible for a healthy person even while just sitting in a chair and then it took trying 4 medications to finally find one that worked. Breathing correctly is a beautiful thing! My easy runs and tempo runs immediately got 15-20 seconds per mile faster! Now, with enough oxygen in my lungs and near perfect iron levels, there’s only one thing that needs to be fixed. It’s be my achilles heel for at least 5 years. Literally.

This upcoming Monday I’m having surgery on my left achilles. In Sweden! It will be quite the adventure with Sage by my side.

Long story short, I’ve been trying for years to get rid of the pain in my achilles and in the last 6 months I’ve been constantly in and out of the doctors office and physical therapy appointments doing everything possible to get rid of the pain. Nothing worked. Actually, things got quite a bit worse. I’ve been barely been able to run in 6 months. I’ll say the following because I want other runners to be warned, I liked my doctor but I think it was terrible that he gave me two cortisone shots (spread out over the 6 months).  After doing some research I found studies saying that treating achilles injuries with cortisone shots can have big negative effects once the cortisone shot wears off. I now believe that that’s the reason why I went from kind of being able to run to not being able to run at all. What may be a big part of the problem and the reason the pain started is that I was born with a Haglund’s deformity, which can make traditional treatments far less effective. When researching Haglund’s deformity I was greeted with suggestions to not run on hard surfaces or run uphill.  We all know that there’s no way I’m spending my life avoiding hills! Anyway, an MRI confirmed it was time to have surgery.

Purple polka dots after trying prolotherapy.

Over time a large "bump" formed around my left achilles.

Are you still thinking “why the heck would you go to Sweden for surgery?”. I don’t blame you. It sounds kind of crazy.  I’m incredibly thankful to know the kind runners that I do. Through friends,  I was put in contact with quite a few runners who’ve had achilles surgery, a few being professional road runners who are well known enough that they had the resources to fly all over the country seeing specialists and asking for opinions. After all their searching, they decided Dr. Alfredson from Sweden was the guy too see. The runners I talked to had perfect results (a relief after reading way too many achilles surgery horror stories!) and said they wouldn’t trust anyone else. A big bonus is that he specializes in minimally invasive surgery. If all goes well, I’ll be able to start running again in half the time it normally takes. After doing hours and hours of research (trust me, I did my homework), my gut instinct was to fly to Sweden. It’s a huge bonus that surgery in Sweden is relatively inexpensive and I’d probably be paying more in the US even with insurance.

I’m actually not that upset that I have to have surgery. I’m just happy to start the healing process. Life has funny ways of teaching us lessons. I finally let one lesson sink in. Happiness should not depend on one thing. If I allowed myself to be unhappy because I couldn’t run, that wouldn’t be saying much for the rest of my life. Even now, I’m in awe and gratitude of this incredible life that I have created for myself and the amazing people that are in it. So if you read this and your initial response was to feel bad, don’t. While I’m deeply passionate about running and being on the trails, I have a lot of other things in life to enjoy.

Keep on running wild,


Huge thanks to Sage who is making the trip with me even though I told him that he shouldn’t come! :)

The following link provides a helpful article with videos for eccentric heel drops (the first thing I would suggest to anyone with achilles pain) and a link to the podcast that interviews the doctor who will be performing my surgery:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Find Your Free 2014!

Everyone wants to feel free. We want both our minds and our bodies to feel free. We want the freedom to fly where no vehicles can go. That’s why we love nature. Running and other outdoor activities have the magical power to free our minds so we can dream big and believe in our capabilities in every aspect of our lives. Running gives us the freedom to go to places that are only reachable by foot, places so beautiful they take our breath away (sometimes also caused by the lack of air in the mountains). This design represents that freedom we get from running, so wear your shirt proudly and inspire others to find their free.
Both women's and men's shirts available in black and white.

100% of proceeds will go to charity. 25% will go to Girls on the Run to help young girls find their free, and 75% will go to Not For Sale ( to help free people from the chains of human trafficking.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Breathing Deeper

 Laughter is always the best medicine so here’s a joke (for some reason kid’s jokes crack me up and I actually own a few joke books that the kids I worked with at the Boys and Girls Club really enjoyed): What did the pumpkin need for its boo-boo?
Answer is at the end of this post.

In June I got the blood tests I’ve been wanting for a few years. My iron, ferritin, and hemoglobin finally looked good!  I was thrilled. Just in time for spending summer high up in the mountains. I felt an improvement in my energy and I thought I was good to go.

However, after a few weeks, I noticed I still wasn’t breathing very well. For years doctors had been telling me my breathing didn’t sound as good as they thought it should, but that’s all they ever said so I didn’t think much of it. I knew low iron could cause shortness of breath and just figured that was my problem.  When my iron went up, but my breathing didn’t get better I was disappointed. In fact, this past year I noticed things getting worse and I constantly felt “pressure” inside my chest. When running or simply just sitting, my chest didn’t feel right. It became hard to truly run “easy” and there may have been a few times where I shed some tears because I was having trouble running uphill. I started to avoid doing some group runs with really great people because I worried I could no longer keep up.  I love going on adventures with Sage, but even that gave me anxiety because I felt like I was really slowing him down. This had been going on for months, but I kept telling myself it would go away or it was just in my head, which is silly because I could feel it (I just didn’t know if it was asthma because I don’t get typical asthma attacks or wheeze). Well, it didn’t go away and it wasn’t in my head.

I finally went to my doctor and after doing a quick test that made it obvious I wasn’t breathing very well, she wrote me a prescription for albuterol (the standard emergency inhaler which I was to use before running). I tried it for a few weeks, but it didn’t work. It was on to the pulmonologist. There I found out my oxygen levels were low when exercising (not a good thing at all since cells need oxygen to function properly but at least my doctor was great and she ran up and down the stairs with me), I wasn’t breathing in or out very well, and the albuterol really wasn’t helping me.  As a result, I’m now using a stronger inhaler I’m really not a fan of. I’m in the processes of trying to be excited that I might be able to breathe normal some time soon (it has yet to make a difference but it doesn’t always work right away), but am really struggling with the fact that I’m inhaling a lot of toxic chemicals that are really not good for me and can have some negative side affects.  I realize a lot of other runners suffer from asthma and are on medications, but the idea of needing to take meds my whole life to treat asthma is personally really unsettling to me (though I totally respect other people’s views on this).

I’ve tried a few natural medicines already and haven’t had much luck. I also did a little research on food and asthma and found out that I already don’t eat anything I shouldn’t be eating and am eating everything I should be eating. I’ve been eating and drinking a lot of inflammatory foods as well, but I’m going to give daily ginger shots a try since I read it worked well for other people with asthma. I juiced my first ginger shot (half an apple, big piece of ginger, and a little turmeric- should be great for any inflammation in the body) today and holy cow, it really is like a shot! Got a nice warming sensation in my throat and chest and then needed to chase it down with water. If anyone has tried any other natural remedies that work PLEASE, PLEASE let me know. Thank you!

To make this post a little more interesting and thought provoking, I was actually told over a year ago that there was something wrong with my chest and throat area. She wasn’t a doctor and the only words I spoke to this person before hand was “hi” and “it’s nice to meet you” before I sat down in a chair. I was at a free healing clinic as I was experimenting with healing depression naturally. I’m also just curios person and wanted to see what it was like. The healer never touched me, but moved her hands all around me. At the end she told me I had a lot going on in my chest and throat. Coincidence or not, it really doesn't matter. At that moment, she was right and I didn't listen.

Honestly, I feel like I’m mostly writing this post for myself. Sorry!!! I just want to be running healthy and strong and it’s a little frustrating when I feel like I couldn’t be leading a much healthier lifestyle. I’m ready to be healthy though- mentally and physically. I’m so incredibly grateful for all the places my body has taken me and that I even managed a few good races, but I know I’m not running as well as I should be. Part of me has started considering that being physically healthy on the outside isn’t just achieved by doing physically healthy things. My mind and my heart need to be healthy too. I’m getting close, but I know I still have some work to do. It’s a 100 miler and I’m over 75 miles in. It’s hard, but as long as I keep taking one step at a time I’ll get there.

Thankful my body and lungs still got me to Pear Lake yesterday!
It is important to me that this blog post serves someone else, so I want to share with you two questions that Dr. Lisa Ranking, author of Mind over Medicine, asks all of her patients:

If your body/ health condition had a message for you, what is it and what is it trying to teach you?

What does your body need in order to heal?

Dr. Lisa’s patients who can honestly answer these questions and then act upon them have seen some pretty incredible results. I think it’s at least worth trying. I’m at least going to give it a shot.

Much love,


Answer: A pumpkin patch!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Bit of Magic

            It’s interesting on how my personal views about my parents have changed as I have grown up. As a kid, I just saw them in their roles of playing my mom or dad. Rarely did I think about the many other roles they played- husband, wife, sibling, friend, employee, daughter, son, dancer, family mechanic, etc. Now, I can see them more clearly as a whole. I can appreciate their own struggles and their own personal lives that made them who they are today, for better or for worse.

            Growing up, my dad took Rachel and I to all of the really big action and adventure films- Star Wars, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter- you name it.  The movies were always filled with all kinds of heroes with super powers ranging from being able to climb up buildings to making fire with just a flick of a wand.

            All of the heroes had some type of power, but now, when I take a full look at my dad’s life (that I know about), I realize a hero doesn’t need any super powers. A hero can simply just be someone who’s kind, helps others when they need it, and just keeps on moving forward.

            Honestly, if I was given the obstacles my dad has been given; I don’t think I could handle it nearly as well. To give you an idea of what he has overcome, my dad has had a job since he was a little kid, often waking up early to deliver papers. He’s been an engineer at the same place since he graduated from college, waking up at 4:30am for 40 years, and should have been able to retire by now. Unfortunately, the original company went bankrupt, and when a new company took over he had to start building up those years to retirement all over again. My dad was younger than I am when his dad passed away, which left him to help raise some of his youngest siblings. His youngest brother, who was the beloved prankster and friend, died of leukemia in his early 30s. I remember my dad telling me at my uncle’s funeral that he felt like he lost part of his heart. My dad still managed to make my sisters and I laugh that day by telling us stories of my uncle’s jokes. When my parents’ were going through a really crappy divorce, he almost died (he was actually dead for a few seconds). He had to go through quadruple bypass surgery. He was in bed for months, being taken care of by my grandma. His health never came completely back, and he developed diabetes leaving my sisters and I always a little worried about him. It didn’t help when he gave us all a scare last summer when he almost had to have his chest torn open again. 

            I wouldn’t blame anyone being dealt those cards for feeling like life is a little unfair. My dad, however, is a super-hero, and super-heroes set good examples for others. My dad’s powers range from being the family’s car expert to magically getting the hard to find Christmas toys that every kid wants.  He’s helped a lot of people while using his powers, never asking for anything in return.

"We've all got light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are." -Sirius Black from HP

            One of my favorite things about my dad, however, is a lesson he’s been teaching me since I was a kid. Ironically, that lesson is on how to always be a kid at heart. (He’s also been teaching me about cars since I was a kid, but he wasn’t as successful as making those lessons stick.) It’s an art I haven’t quite mastered just yet, but I plan on practicing it until I get it down. It helps that my dad also has the power of magically spreading his enthusiasm onto others.

            A couple months ago I was talking to my dad on the phone and he said that he wanted to go to Harry Potter World for his birthday.  Having stayed up way too late reading the Harry Potter books plenty of times, I immediately said I’d join.  A few weeks later my dad, Rachel, and I were excitedly boarding the Hogwarts Express to start our day off by having breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.
One very big cauldron at the Three Broomsticks.

            We did EVERYTHING! My older sister had told Rachel and I that my dad would have a hard time walking, but a little bit of magic must have happened because for 3 days we’d leave our hotel room around 7am and wouldn’t get back until it was bedtime. We explored Hogsmead, flew through Hogwarts (my dad and I didn’t feel really great after that), got a REAL magic wand to cast spells all around the park, went through walls, saw some of the dark arts in Diagon Alley, witnessed a dragon breathing real fire, escaped Gringots Bank, drank some butter beer, and more. This only touches the surface of what we did since we also did everything we could throughout all of Universal Studios which included turning into minions, though we unfortunately turned back into people. My dad totally wore me out! I was going to run UROC in a couple of days, but I didn’t care. I was having a great adventure with my dad and Rachel.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good"- HP
This picture shows exactly how we all felt flying through Hogwarts. I think I'd prefer a Nimbus 2000.
            At one point, Rachel and I snuck away to get a few more birthday presents for my dad. We stood in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes debating if we should get him an extendable ear, a bomb, skiving snack boxes, and more for an unnecessarily long time. We finally ended up playing eenie, meenie, miney, mo.  The following day we realized that we had thought way too hard as my dad bought all the other toys we thought about and more. My cousin’s son fondly calls him the Toy Man for a reason. I smiled as my dad happily waited in line to buy his toys while I snuck out of the store to do a few more spells with my wand.
Weasley's Wizards Wheezes
Rachel made it rain with her wand. At least she provided an umbrella.
            My dad used his magic to give Rachel and I not only memories of an incredible adventure, but the gift of knowing that growing up doesn’t mean giving up our childish fun and enthusiasm. Growing up really means that we should be able to better spread our enthusiasm and joy, and that laughter and embracing our inner child can spread joy on good days as well as bad days.

My dad and I at Hogsmead.
As professor Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light”.

Much love,



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Run like a Dog (TNF Costa Rica Race Report)

Part 1:  A Pre-Race Lesson

For almost a year now, I’ve been changing my thinking.  I’ve poured over books learning about happiness from people I’ve never heard of before to books written by some of the best leaders of our time, such as the Dali Lama. Though said in many different ways, every single author believed that though life is meant for learning (and with that comes some growing pains), it’s meant to be happy. Furthermore, good things are meant to happen to us if we are open enough to let them come. This can seem like a crazy notion, but these writers and world leaders are leading happy lives and making a difference. It’s a thought I wanted to at least try believing in.

Of course this meant the Universe was going to give me an opportunity to learn this in the most beautiful of ways!

A few months ago Sage and I got an email from one of our awesome athletes saying he talked to the race directors of TNF Endurance Challenge Costa Rica and they wanted us to come to the race. Immediately my heart said yes and I was filled with excitement, but Sage had to make sure he could fit it in his busy schedule. Luckily he could fit in the 50k, and I excitedly but nervously signed up for the 80k. I knew my iron was super low when I signed up, and even though I decided to see a doctor who specialized in sports anemia, I knew it was unlikely I’d be feeling much better by the race. I couldn’t pass up a great adventure though!!!

Shortly after signing up for the race my ego got a hold of me and was clearly screaming “You don’t deserve to race in Costa Rica!!!”.  I guess my ego figured it got that initial message across and then proceeded to give me all the reasons on why I didn’t deserve to go.  With each reason (and there were plenty) I pretty much felt myself sink deeper into a pool of mud. Damn….My ego made some great points. I totally didn’t deserve to go!

Luckily, a few months earlier when I was having much higher thoughts, I wrote down an amazing quote by Marriane Williamson and hung it up in my room. It was a true life saver when I finally looked at it! Here it is:  

(Totally feel free to replace God with whatever word works with your beliefs!)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

“Well screw you ego! My happiness is meant to serve the world! “  With those thoughts, I felt a little lighter, a sure way to know that I was on my “right” path. Sure I still felt a little undeserving at times, but I could get out of it pretty quickly once I remembered the quote.

Part 2: Run like a Dog!

I’m an animal lover… especially a dog lover.  Every time I see a dog I can’t help but smile and get totally distracted. I also have a special place in my heart for Australian Cattle dogs and there, right in front of me, was an adorable blue healer! “Awwwww, she wants her tummy rubbed!” Around her were various running shoes (humans attached) and she was laying right on the starting line. “Oh yeah! The race is about to start!”  All nerves are gone though, and I keep my eye on the little dog to see if she’ll start the race.

The race starts and I watch the dog happily run with the crowd. She’s excited for the moment, doesn’t think about her pace, the rocks, or the steepness of the hills. She’s just happy to be running outside. “Dog’s know how to really run.” I thought. “Run like a dog” became my motto for the day.

Having no clue how I’d be feeling (knowing my iron levels probably weren’t up yet), my only race plan was to possibly take advantage of the cooler morning air (it was still already quite hot, humid, and sunny at 5:30 am) and stay smart about eating and hydrating.  I stayed behind two other women for the first 5k, letting my body warm up and enjoying the start. Right after 5k there was a slight downhill and I let gravity do the work as I ran past smoke coming from the hot pools of water. I moved into the lead and never knew how far back anyone was after that.

Photo Credit: Federación Costarricense de Deportes de Montaña
From there I began my climb to the highest point of the race. Holy Cow! I did not look at the elevation map or course profile very well!  I thought the whole course was pretty runable and there I was hands on knees hiking up a long, technical, and very steep grade.  It was a beautiful section of trail! “Run like a dog”- well hike like a dog. I went up and up through wet leaves, mossy rocks, and roots having a blast and having fond memories of Grindstone 100 (though I was super happy to be doing this in the light- Grindstone starts at 6pm so lots of night running!)) and rotated between a slow run and  a power hike.  There were also some steep down hills in and the mix and since everything was wet I spent every few steps saving myself from a slip or slight trip my clumsy feet caused me.  It probably didn’t help I was constantly distracted from the loud sound coming from the forest (howler monkeys, perhaps?), but it sure was entertaining!

After having popped out of the lush forest it was time to bring on the sun and heat!  For the next 20 or so miles (I’m really just throwing that number out there since I barely looked at my watch) I’d be in the desert or on dirt roads without any shade. It was fun to experience this side of Costa Rica I didn’t know about. I ran on beautiful white rocky ground and had some great views that allowed me to see for miles. I clicked off some miles at a decent “ultra” pace, and embraced the sun. Mentally, I could handle the high humidity and above 90 degree temps, but my stomach wasn’t a huge fan.  I tried to be really careful with my electrolyte intake, but it didn’t seem to be working. I was hot, my stomach was off, and my pace slowed considerably from miles 20-30. I did a lot of hiking up hills that I should have been running. I was sure I’d be passed at any moment.

I got to the 30 mile aid station feeling really crummy, yet I maintained my routine of stopping to put ice in my water bottle and my sports bra (I was thankful to be a woman and have a sports bra to put ice in that day!) and carried on. A couple minutes later my stomach hurt too much to run, but thankfully I started puking and after a couple of minutes my stomach was much happier. I could run again!!! Unfortunately I could barely eat and relied on two Hammer espresso gels and some ginger ale to give me the energy to make it the last 20 miles.

I may have puked right after this aid station.  
The main things that I can really remember the last 20 miles was running as much as I could and doing anything to keep myself cool.  I was hurting from the calorie deficit, but I kept on remembering my mantra of “run like a dog” and found as much joy from running as possible at that moment. The last few kilometers were all slightly uphill but I mentally felt good and was ready to run most of it. Less than a mile from the finish I stayed true to my clumsy ways and fell on the smoothest section of trail there was, covering most of my side in dirt and a few scratches. Honestly- I was kind of thankful for the bit of adrenaline that came with it!  So covered in dirt I made my way to the finishing chute and was greeted with the loudest cheer I have ever gotten during an ultra.  It was a blast and nice to come in first at such an awesome event.
Top 4 women. Photo Credit: Federación Costarricense de Deportes de Montaña

Part 3: Pura Vida!

Pura Vida simply translates to “Pure Life” in English, but it obvious through the people we met in Costa Rica that this country’s motto means much, much more. To me, it serves as a reminder to live in the present and make the most out of it. I think the world would be a better place if more cultures adopted this way of life.

I think one thing that made the trip and race so wonderful is that the race itself and the people who were part of it beautifully showed me what Pura Vida really meant.  The joy and enthusiasm for coming together to run on beautiful trails was contagious. 

From the rain forest to the desert to the beach, Costa Rica is a beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back!

Special thanks to the race directors Federico and Ligia. They’re great race directors and even better people. It was truly an honor to take part in their event. I also really appreciate that their business Ecogreen works to help the environment and reduce waste at their events- pretty cool!

Pura Vida!

                                           Thanks Sage for the following photos:
(Sage's beer of course!)

For the entire week I got to have every meal outside!

Zip Lining! (Conveniently done at the race hotel!)

Pool at Hotel Hacienda (race hotel)

Shake out run on the course.

Beach in Tamarindo

What I used for the race: