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:


  1. NICE ... I will try and channel your focus, outlook and perseverance at Laurel Highlands this weekend! and your intro reminds me of the song "this little light of mine .. I'm gonna let it shine!"

  2. Congrats on your win! Way to stay positive!

  3. Hey Sandi! I read your report yesterday, but I focused into the race itself and not in the introduction, sorry about that but I didn't feel the best Roby while doing it, but I committed myself to read it today and focus more in the intro rather than the running part... Thank you for sharing such a wonderful words of wisdom! For sharing your positive point of view and teaching us how to be happy and to open up for happiness instead of hunt it!

    Your words helped me to swim my way out of the "pool of mud" I was creating for myself... Thank you!

    May God bless you and bless everything you touch! Because with these kind words you are touching our hearts and minds.



  4. Hi Sandi,
    First time I find your video posted in youtube and it took me from there to your blog. I enjoy your writing and also the video about how to run. Actually I am from Indonesia, jakarta and i am an occasional runner. I was trying to recover my knee after last time i was over training and injured my knee (meniscus tear). Keep posting the good writing, and specifically i like the quote that was posted. :) and also the nice picture there.
    Thanks for the enlightenment ! :)

  5. what brand of energy gel do you use?

  6. Please go to and help needy people to grow, Thanks.

    Make a donation, so your charity could change a life. Thanks
    Have a great and wonderful life,
    Good Bye

  7. Fascinating trip, and inspiring reflections.

    I myself have also been reading Marriane Williamson, and that very same quote, I have repeated it to myself so many times. Unfortunately, I have been injured for the past couple of months. Somehow that gets me out of balance and I struggle to live in the moment as I used to be so good at doing. Reading your thoughts helps me remember, it gives me an optimism and, I hope, the strength to meet the world as the person I want to be. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Best regards,

  8. Hi Sandi, I found your blog through your YouTube videos and am so glad I did. My husband and I started running two months ago and are really enjoying it. It is not easy, nor do we run far (yet), but it is adding so much to our lives already. Thank you for sharing your story, quotes, and outlook with us!

  9. Been Thinking About You The Last Few Days….. Sending Positive Vibes…. Cheers


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.