Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mountain Masochist: "I didn't do it for the pleasure. I did it for the pain." -L. Armstrong

~Make every obstacle and Opportunity~

Where I've been training (view from top of S mtn) and Twister (roommates dog)
For the past couple of months I have lived in the Arkansas Valley in Colorado. Whenever I step outside I have 360 degree mountain views and have enough 14ers around to keep any mountain climber happy. It’s gorgeous and breathe taking. Yet, I still can’t help but day dream about the mountains in Virginia. There is just something so special about them that I can’t even find the words to explain it. Even the people I meet in VA seem to meet this criterion, hardcore (for running) but enchanting. This is why I had to go back to Mountain Masochist for a second time. Well okay, to be honest that’s not the full reason…. It was the first ultra I lost; I had a score to settle. Also, I couldn’t end the year with WS100. Yes, I am proud of finishing WS with Rach at my side, but anyone who knows me wouldn’t have recognized me as a runner that day as I contemplated dnfing at aid station 2. Plus, what ultra runner doesn’t love running “Horton” miles?

I started the trip to VA with a 1am flight on Friday morning. I thought I might be able to get some decent sleep on the airport floor beforehand. So I started the trend of sleeping on the floor that night but being the freeze baby that I am, I was getting the chills even with a winter jacket and scarf on. I got a total of 3 hours of sleep that day… all sitting in an airplane with my head against the window. Great quality sleep before a race, eh? Really, my goal was to try to do everything as perfect as possible for this race (something I have yet to get good at).
Downtown Lynchburg

After an all too interesting ride to the hotel (convo with driver involved cocaine and a baby being delivered) and walking in circles to find a decent lunch Shaun came, making the 8 hour drive from Ohio to see me. I know… it’s cute. After not seeing anyone from lovely Ohio it was great see Shaun, Lee and Gabe. Virginia mountains, an ultra to be ran, friends from Ohio and Shaun… I was almost flying high as a bird (no cocaine needed, thanks).

On the bus ride to the start I noticed I forgot my watch. It’s the only watch I ever where for races. $5 from Wal-Mart and it only tells me the time. I have absolutely no desire to wear a watch that has more than that during a race. At first I kind of cared, but after a whole 30 seconds of thinking about it I smiled to myself… running without a watch is my kind of running. I think the first few ultras I did were without one anyway. When the race started 4 of the women, myself included stuck together for the first few miles at a decent but comfortable pace until we started getting close to the trail and the first decent climb. Right before the road section ends is a few down hills and 2 of the women took off. I didn’t want to fall behind, but I knew from past experiences in Virginia that not much good comes from crashing down hills at the start of a race. Plus, I knew a climb was coming up and I love climbing. Sure running up is hard, but my legs were built for going up (even if they aren’t long and super lean ;). Soon it was just me and Darcia Reed (track star turned ultra runner with a very promising future) and we kept swapping the lead. I’d run get ahead on the climbs and then forced myself to hold back on the down hills while she flew past me. Finally after the main river crossing there’s a long uphill and I knew it was my chance to take the lead for good. From there I just went as hard as I could.

The race hurt of course, but I felt strong except for an 8 mile stretch where I made a silly but costly mistake. A few miles before the aid station at mile 26 I knew I needed to eat more and I needed something with caffeine. Before I reached the aid station I wasn’t worried, I had the perfect remedy in my drop bag: perpetuem with caffeine and a cliff bar. Shaun was supposed to meet me there and have already have found my drop bag. Unfortunately Shaun got lost and wasn’t there. After looking for him and realizing he wasn’t there I wandered over to find my drop bag which was nowhere in sight. After wasting too many minutes looking for it I got frustrated and quickly just grabbed a small piece of a pb&j sandwich. A few minutes later as I was going up a big hill, not having much energy to run, I was cursing at myself for making such a careless mistake. Not only did I waste time looking for a drop bag, but I made the situation worse by not getting the calories in that would have provided me with the energy I badly needed. I don’t even want to think about how much time feeling exhausted cost me. However, I do love knowing that I’m young and am still making stupid mistakes that if I work on, is an easy way to get faster without physically getting faster (although I’m still working on that too).Thankfully, the aid station at the start of the loop at mile 33 had gels with caffeine along with my Virginia friends calling my name and yelling support….in addition to spanking a husbands butt if I pass him ( you know who you are lol thanks for giving me a laugh!!!). The last mile of that loop, about mile 37, I had most of my energy back and I had a feeling I felt too good for anyone to catch me. I finished in 8:05, running about a minute per mile faster than I did last year.  (I learned last year that running Grindstone 100 is not the best race to run before MMTR)
Eric Grossman and I. 2nd race we won together this year.

Alyssa Wildeboer, my TheAidStation teammate, followed in less than 30 minutes behind me to take 2nd. (Big congrats to beating last years’ time as well!) In 5th came in Lee Conner to represent my home state of Ohio! Lee and I have started an Ohio tradition to win the strongest woman award. I won last year and didn’t even attempt this year because I was quite aware she would kick my ass. She benched 65 lbs 43 times after running 50 (I think 50 Horton miles = around 52 or 53 actual miles??)! Way to represent Ohio Lee!!! Also I just wanted to give a shout out to the 10th place women Jennifer Nichols who is one of the many great people I have met in VA and is always encouraging and supportive.
Top 10 women

Too soon I headed back to Colorado. My trips to Virginia are always too short. I won’t run another ultra till spring and I’m already excited to see how much I will grow next year. My garmin watch will barely be used (not that I use it much anyway). Running will be based completely on how I feel for the next few months besides getting my butt kicked by my neighbor who I should mention since he was my secret training weapon. (Hopefully he doesn’t mind me writing about him) To give you an idea about him he is about twice my age, has a beard and a braid going down his back, moved to Colorado on a bike when he was in his 20s, ran a 4:20 mile with a burrow (at 10,000 ft), lived a year off the money he made from burrow racing, only ran 2 ultras and won them both, volunteers as the snowshoe director for the special Olympics, still tests out shoes for Nike, and knows tons of unofficial trails that I may never figure out on my own. We are an odd running pair on the surface, but I love running with him even though my lungs burn as he pushes me to run harder up hills. I must admit I dnfed in my trail run with him and another guy today. After running a hard 7 miles my legs were done so I said adios and slowly ran the trails back to my apartment. Good thing I ran an ultra last week or my confidence may have been deeply wounded.
Now I’m just rambling… big surprise there. =)

On a side note, please check out and follow the next youth expedition. Ray (founder) is the first person who told me he thought I could be an ultra runner and that he believed in me. I2P is an amazing organization and is really doing some wonderful things in the world. Also, ultra runner/ my sister, Rach is going to Africa to volunteer for a few weeks and it would be great if you could support her, even if it’s just sending well wishes her way: .

In the words of my home town’s running store:

Run hard, live easy.

Happy trails.


~Where you invest your love, you invest your life~ Mumford & Sons



  1. excellent race and post, Sandi! I'm so happy you had a great day, and so happy you won!~ You ran courageously and took risks, and made big moves. AWESOME!! thanks for the shout out. I had SO much fun at this year's MMTR and just loved every second of it! it was an honor to just get to stand up there with you fast and strong ladies! take care and see you again soon!! ((HUG))

  2. Congrats Sandi. I ran some of those early miles with you and probably should have heeded your advice and run the downhills a little easier early, as I'm a better climber and my legs got trashed earlier then expected. I still improved a bunch from 2010. When I got to the halfway point I mentioned to my 13 yr old son that I think there is only one woman ahead of me. He confirmed that, but then said but don't worry Dad, she is WAY ahead of you.


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