Friday, May 20, 2011

For the East Coast Runners- The biggest bad as$es with the biggest hearts.

“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." ~William James

This is my third time writing the first part of this blog. The 2 previous starts were both a couple paragraphs but both seemed a little too personal and depressing when most of my life has been soooo good lately.

Less than two weeks till I move to Colorado and in one month I will have been running ultra races for one year.

Within this one year I have been racing I have won 6 races and hold 3 course records. I’ve learned a lot to say the least, but to be honest I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing half the time.  I’ve learned that it’s a terrible idea for me to start off a race with a heavy sports drink because it leads to me feeling bloated and wanting to throw up early on in a race. (Did that one twice) I’ve learned that I should figure out where key turning points on a course are because I could otherwise be going the wrong way… on a mountain… and have to turn around and climb 15 minutes back up it. Speaking of mountains, if you’re doing a 100 mile race it’s an absolutely terrible idea to crash the down hills from the beginning. Doing so will make your quads hurt worse than you ever could have imagined and you’ll end up walking the last 30 miles of a race. Well maybe not the last mile or two of the race. You see if you fall and puncture your knee so you have blood oozing down then you will most likely get enough adrenaline in you to be able to run the last 2 miles and then the pain will set in again when you’re done and last the next few days. I have also learned to pay attention to course maps and see where I might need extra water and food. If I’m not careful I could very well get dehydrated, not be able to get rehydrated because I can’t think right, then pass out on the course. Ooo---that was a fun lesson learned! One of the other very important things I learned is that after a very hard 100 mile race it is very important to just let your body rest if you plan on racing a month later. If you try to do too much and put in a lot of miles when you body isn’t recovered it simply won’t recover for another race. Ohio has specifically taught me that you don’t train by miles in winter, you train by time. This is because the 10 mile trail run you do in summer will surely take you waaaaaaayyyyy longer when you’re running/slipping/sliding/ trudging in a tons of snow. I have also come to realize this is why I do good running up mountains, it’s no harder than running through unplowed snow all winter.
I love running in Va! Me with two ultra greats at Promise Land 50k++- Horton and Grossman
 One of my favorite lessons learned is that I don’t have to be super skinny to be fast. My friend Jennifer N. recently told me it makes her happy to know girls don’t have to be 90lbs to be fast. I couldn’t help but smile after reading her message. Seriously—it used to make me nervous standing next to some of the super skinny girls at races. I thought maybe my more muscular legs wouldn’t be able to keep up, but they did more than keep up. I can’t tell you how many guys I have “chicked” running up hills. Hahaha There is absolutely nothing wrong if you’re naturally really skinny but I feel people tend to think you HAVE to be 90lbs to be fast… and it’s not true. I’m proof- my last two races were just as good as some of the top women ultra runners.

My last couple of races taught me it’s okay to be hurting. I didn’t feel good once at Ice Age. This is partially my fault on food and drink consumption, but part of it was just because my body wasn’t feeling at its best that day. When I ran Promise Land 50k++, sure I hurt from running hard, but in ultra standards I knew I felt really good. (I have no idea how I pulled that race off btw—I had my hardest training week the week b4 PL- maybe I shouldn’t taper? Lol) Ice Age just plain hurt…. Yet for some reason it didn’t worry me. I knew I just had to keep pushing as hard as I could. Every time I crossed paths with someone I knew it was important I listened to their encouragement, take it in, and also give it back with a smile. This is the lesson I’ve learned this spring from running and from life….

I realize I’ve had a lot of things to celebrate these past few months in running and other parts of my life. Rachel and I were both lucky enough to receive the social science academic excellence award at LEC as well as an award way more important than winning any race (even though I feel like I don’t deserve it at all) the American Red Cross Heroes award for out volunteer services in Lake County and creating Students Making a Difference.  I swear if winning a race becomes more important than helping someone in need I’ll give up running. Unfortunately, during all of my moments of finally seeing my hard work pay off I was slipping off the edge and it wasn’t pretty.

I let way too much of my happiness depend on a couple of family members who have shown me for many years my beliefs, goals, what I had to say, weren’t very important leaving me wondering how anyone could care. I tried one last time to talk to them and say how I felt and it was a disaster that knocked a lot out of me. If one of the people who are supposed to love me the most doesn’t even care enough to want to build a relationship, it’s very easy to assume something is terribly wrong with me. Part of me cracked to say the least; I couldn’t talk to anyone for a couple of days which helped nothing. Thankfully, I’ve gained enough insight in the last year that even if I don’t have enough strength to pull me out of a hole, I have enough strength to at least ask for others to pull me out. And so that’s what happened- over and over again the last few weeks, teaching me that family has absolutely nothing to do about blood. (Not that I don't have some amazing blood related family)

I’ve moved to a new place for my last month in Ohio and I can feel my heart getting lighter. I’ve spent time with people who I love talking to and love talking to me in return. Personal anxieties are losing their strength and happiness is coming easier. I’m learning that it’s not ridiculous for people to like me enough to want to help me out.

This is the part of the story that once again leads into running. (You’ll see) Winning Ice Age with Shaun means we both get an entry into Western States 100, the mother of all ultras in the U.S. The down side to this is that it is not a free entry and a $370 entry makes this the most expensive 100 miler around. This of course does not include a plane ticket, a place to stay, or a way to get me to the race from the airport. (I’ll be in AZ for Teach for America training and I’m only allowed to have Friday off so driving wasn’t an option). With paying off school loans, moving across the country, a new apt, paying almost $2000 for some type of licensing/ training fee, and not actually getting paid till when school starts in fall left Western States out of the question. I didn’t expect to do amazing at WS, but I wanted the experience and to see where I’m at, so despite trying to be positive I was kinda bummed.

Yesterday I get a call from Shaun’s mom, who has taken me in like I’m her own kid, and she tells me what I need to here. If I’m making it my life’s mission to help others live out their dreams, I need to learn how to let people help me live out my dreams too. Thanks to some running angels who always seem to know when I need a boost, I will now be running Western States 100. I will leave Ohio with one relationship in pieces but I will also leave with a new family all around the east coast who love me and I couldn’t love more.

Western States is dedicated to the East Coast Runners, especially to the wonderful women who are making it possible and the others who have offered their help.

Runners in Ohio and the East are bad ass…. We run through rain, snow, loooots of snow, tons of mud, freezing  and humid temps… I’m proud to be from Ohio… but so long for now, I will be back.

(I realize I get somewhat personal during my blogs which may lead to talk… but I hope you can understand this allows me heal and my intentions are pure in that all I want is for people to know they are not alone and that they can find strength as I have)


  1. Good luck! I paced a friend of mine Brittany Zale at Grindstone and I saw you come thru around mile 60 and I thought you were just a jogger on the trails that day. Seriously, you made it look so absurdly easy. My wife is a twin and she is from Pittsburgh. I am from VA and upstate NY and support your East Coast scrappiness. So glad your support system helped you with WS100. If you let life unfold naturally and make decisions based on positive people you will continue to crush it. And BTW, kick some butt out there as I have put you on and several others as top 8 female. Go represent the east coast runners!

  2. I just found your blog (thanks to Olga Varlamova). I don't know which impresses me more, your wins or your attitude... hmmmm, attitude, I guess... and anyone involved with Teach for America is a hero in my book!

  3. Have a great run at ws, Sandi. Relax and enjoy the day.


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