Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Trials of Miles, Miles of Trials (John L. Parker)

                                     (or Just Suck it Up and Finish)
I’ve trained specifically for one race in mind since December (maybe November).  I got an email asking if I wanted to run Ice Age 50 again, thought “heck yes”, and put it as the first race on my schedule for 2012. I of course did Destin 50k in February but that was because Rach and I won the trip and I wanted to see her and my dad. For winter I just keep a decent base till around March so Destin was just something fun.  I then followed that up with a DNF (sinus infection) at the Salida Marathon.  In other words, Ice Age has been on my mind for over 5 months.  In the past few months I’ve put in the best training I think I’ve ever done (it was a blast!) and got in what I thought was much better shape than I was last year for Ice Age. Unfortunately while hard work normally shows in running, ultras sometimes just depend on the day. The day was all wrong for me. I ran into the finish 15 minutes behind my time from last year. 
My mental weaknesses in running: I put way too much pressure on myself and as much as I fight it, thoughts of doubt always creep in that I’m not good/ fast enough. This year I wanted to prove I was good enough…  I wanted to prove it mainly to myself, but also to others, to my mom so maybe she would stop thinking I made a mistake by giving up a great job and financial stability, to sponsors, etc. I run 110% because I love it and I need it to keep my mind in check, but thinking I had something to prove has been constantly in the back of my mind for months. I also recently learned that I may have let the confidence I found the past few years rely on running a little too much. I was depending on this race to be my way to prove I was a good runner, I could run with the best, and that all my hard work and running in Colorado would result in a better time than last year. (No, I’m not mad about 3rd place, but I am upset I didn’t run as well as I know I can)
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m using this blog to sort out my own thoughts (sorry!), but here’s how the race went:
It was Denise, Melanie (They were awesome!), and I from the start. We were all always about 30 seconds to a minute away from each other for the first 20 miles. From the start, my legs never really felt like they had any “spring” in them but the pace still seemed good and like something I could maintain. Before the race even started, however, I got a bit worried about the humidity. The air in Salida, CO has been extremely dry and I’ve had a scratchy throat for weeks. The humidity in Wisconsin was a bit of a shock and I could feel the heaviness of the air in my lungs. A few miles in I knew I was sweating way more than I had since August (last time I was in Ohio). I tried drinking as much as I could but my stomach could only take so much and I think (okay…I know) I took S-caps too late. I drank water bottle after water bottle but still got severely dehydrated by mile 23 and started feeling dizzy. It probably was made worse by taking caffeine gels too early. I normally never take caffeine gels till the 2nd half of the race but it was all I had left when I was packing. Dumb, I know. I wanted to quit. I knew I screwed up that day and even before the race started by probably not tapering enough after long hard miles. I let myself walk 30 seconds to regroup and collect my thoughts. After pushing aside the thought to just lay down off the side of the trail I reminded myself why I’m in this sport. I never started running to win, but to help me become mentally and emotionally stronger. I felt like crap mentally and physically, but I knew I could get through the race even if it wasn’t pretty and I knew that’s what Rach would tell me to do. I just had to suck it up, and put one foot in front of the other. I proceeded to feel like crap till about mile 37 where I could finally pick it up a little, though I knew it would never been enough. “Suffer well” I thought to myself and that’s what I did. I suffered with my mind and body, but I move forward without any more thoughts of quitting.

Denise and I in the first few miles
I ran through the finish line looked at the clock. 7:45. 15 minutes slower than last year when I had a shitty stomach and when I know I’m in better shape now. 20 minutes faster than MMTR, a course that’s 53 miles and 3,000 more ft of climbing (to me meaning that If MMTR was only 50 miles I still would have ran it faster than I did Ice Age.) Mrs. Pope gave me a hug, I wanted to ask her about how she did in the half, but my heart had already sunk. Months of hard work and dreams down the drain (till another day). I tried to stop myself from crying, but I had too. I needed to let out my disappointment in myself so I could sooner pick up the pieces. (As I wrote in a previous blog I’m just an emotional person. Better for me to be true to myself then hold it in.)
There’s a chance you might be thinking “stop complaining- good runners have bad days all the time”. However you’re probably thinking of established runners like Geoff Roes or Krissly Moehl who have established themselves and have great sponsorships and support. They’ve ran so many GREAT races it’s perfectly fine for them to have a bad race. I definitely do not fall in that category yet. Plus when I (or most people) have one race in mind for months, I get emotionally invested.
Looking back a few days later, I’m still thoroughly disappointed in myself, but I realize I learned a lot of “what not to do’s” for future races. Most importantly, I really do believe that a person has to overcome struggles to get where he/ she needs to be. Everyone I admire has had to overcome plenty of struggles. Even the worst days of my life I am now grateful for because of the strength I received for overcoming them. In my heart, I know this will be the same.


Next up is a fun run at the Grand Canyon.  My dad and some relatives are taking a trip to the Grand Canyon and some other parts in AZ in June. Some of my uncles and cousins are hiking across so I figured I could do the R2R2R when they do that, and not feel bad about missing out on family time. I’m not going for the record (June is a bad time of the year to do it because of the heat… I’m starting in the evening or 1-2am) but I’m definitely going to see how fast I can do it starting at an odd time and in the heat of June. After that I’m still debating on Speedgoat 50k or Silver Rush 50. Speedgoat would be awesome and I LOOOVVEE climbing, but I think I really might need to save the money from the drive right now and do Silver Rush (in Leadville, so quite close to me). Plus Speedgoat is cutting it a little close to Pikes Peak Marathon in August. Even with an ultra before then, I’m really drawn to Pikes Peak and running up a mountain.  Thus that will be my focus and I am really excited about spending my weekends on 14ers.
For those of you who followed my summer adventures, here’s my progress:
I have about 300 hours left of volunteering through AmeriCorps at the Boys and Girls Club out of 1,700! Last week the Impossible2Possible club did a Fund Run to raise money for i2P. The kids were so motivated and had a blast doing it. I was bursting with pride! AmeriCorps has been a wonderful experience, but it will be time for something different when my term ends the beginning of August. I was hoping to have things figured out of what I want to do after but I really have no idea yet.  I’m a little worried but I won’t forget last summer’s lesson that I will end up where I need to be. I will say that if I can, I am really going to try and live in New Zealand over winter. I found a program that will help me get my work visa and aid in figuring out logistics. New Zealand has been number one on my list for places I wanted to travel to for a few years now and so if I can get the money, I’m going to go for it.
In other news I’m starting my attempt of getting one or two children’s book published. One is aimed to get kids outside and using their imaginations. The other I am still working out the kinks but it’s called Beautiful Girl. It’s a book aimed to help young girls (and aid parents to) see what really makes  girls beautiful in an era where 8 year olds are putting on mascara and female stars in rehab are getting more attention than female Nobel Peace Prize winners. If anyone can help me get my foot in the door please contact me! =)
Lastly: Living in Salida, CO
Just today I saw Salida was voted as one of the top 5 outdoor locals-only towns in the U.S.. Yes, Salida is that special. My first time there I actually didn’t like it. I saw desert looking mountains and a big brown ugly mountain right next to downtown Salida. I wanted GREEN! However, Salida has stolen my heart. The trails are everywhere and the farther back I go, the prettier the trails become. Within a 10 minute drive there are breathtaking runs through pine and aspen trees, water crossings, ridge lines and views of 14er peaks. Salida is also a very art focused town with a good percentage of stores being art galleries, which I of course adore. All this adds to the main reason why I love it: I can breath and I can think (I never felt like I could keep up with life in Ohio). I can feel my generalized anxiety (actually, this might be gone!) and social anxiety getting better and better. At Ice Age I actually went and talked to Timothy Olson and Cassie Scallon (I felt like a 13 yr old girl asking for an autograph- no I did not ask for an autograph) without much hesitation at all. Sometimes I still really have to push myself to talk, especially in big groups, but a good portion of the time I am barely hesitating. Unless you’ve had social anxiety, you have no idea how good that feels. Yes, I can feel the mountains and nature helping me put some of my demons to rest, so I have more room to believe that I can overcome my struggles.
Run hard, live happy,

"You have to put in many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile." — Brian Tracy
(Did you really think I'd post a blog without a quote?)


  1. Great read Sandi. I always enjoy the honesty of your blog entries. A few things came to mind as you sort out your own thoughts.

    Thoughts of doubt and fear of failure are always there. At some points in our lives they are a very loud voice in the back of our minds, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's that same voice that tells us not to scale a 14er in the middle of a lightening storm. That being said, the voice becomes more quiet and is just a voice of counsel as we grow older and build upon past successes. It just takes time.

    You said you wanted to use this race as a way to prove yourself, to prove that you are good. Two thoughts immediately flashed into my mind. The first was the scene from "8 Mile" when Rabbit was about to go on stage and he threw up and ran out. Later in the movie he returned to the same venue, with the same fears and overcame them to win the battle.

    The second thought was what I have seen with so many wrestlers and boxers who feel they are only as good as their last match/fight. It's very easy to get caught up with this way of thinking, but you have bigger plans than just the 2012 Ice Age 50 Miler. Like you said before, you will have many more opportunities to shine. Kam has told me elite marathon runners run their current marathon PRs on the past 4 years of training. I don't know how that translates to ultrarunners but my guess is that you have plenty of time to peak for your key event.

    Putting pressure on yourself is good. We all do it, but like most things in life, it's all about balance. It sounds like you are finding that balance.

    Lately, the humidity. It gets all mountain runners. Every year we see it at Burning River. I have always believed that running in the mountains makes you really good at running in the mountains. Running and training here in the midwest makes you good at running up and down hills in the valley through the heat and humidity of the summer. You just need to pick a race that is best set up for your strengths. Pike's Peak marathon and Run Rabbit Run should sound like the type of races you are "made" for.

    In the end, the adventure is in the learning and the discovery. Sounds like you have a few more pearls of wisdom from your latest adventure. Use them wisely :)

    Steve :)

  2. Like Steve said, your posts are always completely honest and open!

    I feel ya on the pressure. The names you mentioned (Roes, Moehl, Scallon, Olson) get their fair share of criticism and race result scrutiny too though!

    Get over onto Pikes pre-race for some training if you can. You can run up the trail and hitchhike down the road, do a round-trip training run, or drive to the and do up/down intervals from the summit.

    Think about doing some burro racing this summer too!


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