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2018 Races…TBD!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Say It With Me Now: WHAT A YEAR!

At the top of the Salt Lake City Library...where the staircase ends

Helllloooooo?  Anyone still out there?  I hope so :)  I really must apologize.  I've been an absentee blogger the last few months, posting here and there, but it's just been a wonderful final few months of 2012.  Truthfully, I haven't felt completely inspired to post, and when I write it's almost always purely out of inspiration.  I find my posts have just simply come to me...out of the blue.  So let's see...

WHAT A YEAR!  I still can't believe all that's occurred, all the places and faces and fun we've been to, seen and met, and had.  I scroll through pictures from our No Reservations summer regularly.  "That really happened," "We really did that," "I ran that," "We live here!" are thoughts I have daily.  Basically, to sum the year up: We schemed, we saved, we arranged, we quit our jobs, packed up our apartment in Chicago into a Budget moving van, drove it across the country to Salt Lake City, UT, flew back to Chicago for a few more days, then zigged, zagged, and wound our way through, over, and around some amazing country, up and down incredible mountains, witnessed the marriage of several friends, helped Gretchen reach her Hardrock goal, watched one of my brothers graduate from Marine basic training, shivered our way up many a 14,000 ft. peak, melted in the heat of southern California, swatted mosquitos in the flatlands of the Midwest, relished the intimate peace of time spent with family, scrambled along high ridges, watched the sun set and moon rise each night from the comfort of our camp chairs or the back of our truck.  We listened to the crackle of a couple of campfires, enjoyed many a cold microbrew on many a warm night, ran until our legs and lungs felt as though they'd explode, then ran some more.  We arrived in our new hometown exhausted and elated, and almost instantly reintegrated back into society and 'normalcy'.  School began, I worked my butt off to get great grades, complete assignments well ahead of time, and sweat through a four hour exam I'd studied for for six months.  Geof began work and reacquainted himself with the suit and tie.  We ran more and more, we raced, and fantastically at that; Wasatch, The Bear.  We now rise most mornings at 4:00 to squeeze in our daily runs.  With many a trail mile under our belts, the snow began to fly and we soon opted to frolic in the powder on weekends rather than run long.  I never thought I'd fall in love with skiing.  Never.  Ever.  Ever.  But I have :)  

Imagine standing atop a high ridge in the Wasatch Mountains, the wind howling, the snow blowing and so thick you can hardly see more than a few feet in front of you, but you know the terrain well enough to make it down.  Your skis moving silently over the powdery fluff (imagine powdered sugar...) you begin to descend, crouching down to carve, quads firing, standing momentarily to turn, then crouching again, shiss shiss shiss, the flying snow stinging what little bit of your face is exposed, heart pounding because you're flying down on the very outskirts of control, hands gripping your poles as though they are a lifeline, yet you're relaxed.  Reaching the bottom, legs burning from the effort of basically air squatting for 20 minutes straight, skittering back over to the lift, "Again!"  It is thrilling, exciting, scary, tiring, and pure awesome.  Often times we'll rip off a quad busting 10 miler up Mt. Wire before heading up to ski for a few hours.  That's my favorite.  We're now multi-sport athletes :)  It feels good to finally have something else to do, in addition to running.  Really, lots of something elses to do.  You know I LOVE running, but sometimes I just want to have other active hobbies to explore.  That was a big factor in choosing where to move.  We wanted to have options.  With the mountains RIGHT THERE we can not only road run and road bike, but also trail run, mountain bike, downhill ski, backcountry ski, cross country ski, skate ski, snowshoe, hike, scramble big peaks, camp close to home, get lost, and get some serious nature.  It's awesome.  I am a runner at heart, but I also like to move my body in other ways.  Like screaming down a powdery slope.  It feels good to be more versatile, to have more than one thing to say when someone asks, "so what do you like to do?"  It's been a big year for such things: exploring, opening new doors, trying new things, being more than what I've always been, beginning to become well-rounded.

And what's a year-end post without the numbers?

We've managed to get in 15 downhill days, three XC ski days, and over 109,000 feet of vertical.  I skied myself silly yesterday, my first day of skiing solo, garnering over 19,000 vertical feet before 3:00.  Holy crap I was exhausted afterward!  But I reached, and then surpassed, my goal :)

This has been the highest running mileage year-to-date.  I've racked up 2,140.6 running miles with well over 100,000 feet of vertical gain, and 403 hours of running.  That's just shy of six miles per day.  Child's play.  I can do better than that :)  If you recall, I hit 2000.6 miles by December 31st of last year.  So, I'm pretty happy with this year's total, especially considering the intermittent nature of our running during April, May, and June, and our newfound love of skiing in these last couple of months.  January will be our usual Get After It month as we plan to have an even better year of running and racing.  I'm giddy as all get-out thinking about 2013.  Even with all the awesome we had in 2012, I see an even better year in store for us in 2013.  So much on the horizon :)

Which finally brings me around to the whole point of these year-end posts: reflecting on who I was, who I am now, where I've been, and my personal evolution through the span of a year.  I feel the same, but lighter, freer, more open, more enthusiastic, more hopeful, more ready, more whole.  Seeing new places, trying new things, working through challenges, doing the work, reaping the rewards.  Making.  Shit.  Happen.  That's what this year has been about.  Not waiting around and hoping something would happen, but actually rolling up the sleeves and making it happen.

Thank you to everyone who helped us get to where we are now.  I'm pretty sure the biggest thank you of all goes to Rob and Rina...all of this wouldn't be possible without them.  They jumped in and helped us make it happen.  These last seven months have been the most amazing months of our lives, and RnR have been there to support us in our dream of moving west, to lend a helping hand, a roof over our heads, lots of laughs and smiles, patience and understanding, staying up waaaaay past their bedtimes to make sure we made it across our finish lines, eaten every meal I've set before them without hesitation (which only encourages me to want to cook more!), entertained our need to have a fresh chopped Christmas tree, and just generally be awesome all the time.  Thank you RnR!  

Have I mentioned that it's snowing again?  It's like living in a snow globe.

This year was an ending and a beginning.  Where one thing ended, something new began.  With the end of a year comes the beginning of a new year.

I recently discovered I'm getting close to maxing out my photo memory on Blogger, so in lieu of posting a bunch here, I decided to create a fun little slideshow...but I can't figure out how to embed it here, grrrrr!  New Year's resolution: figure out how to embed video! :)

Happy New Year!

Paige, out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh, the Guilt! The Shaaaaame!

Dearest Dedicated Runner Readers,

This is Serious Case of the Runs writing to inform you that the Writer-in-Chief/Editor/Sole Contributor/Sole Writer/Paige-in-the-third-person is extremely embarrassed about her recent AWOL status in the blogosphere.  So embarrassed (not to mention guilt-ridden) in fact that she is having to write in the third-person in order to alleviate some of the pain she feels for her inexcusable absence of late.  She asked that I mention she is incredibly sorry.  Then she laughed at the thought, because, really, it's just a blog, right?  Does anyone notice?  Then she continued to spout off very philosophical-sounding stuff that I'm not even sure made any sense, but it sounded really cool.  Basically, SCOTR is very important to her, so she feels like maybe someone else out there might feel the same way, too :)  Hence this message.  (She laughed again because writing in the third-person is terribly fun!)

Then she watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy to try to take her mind off of not blogging instead.

Have no fear, Paige still has a raging Case of the Runs and is still racking up the miles in her new hometown.  She's even got a little product review and giveaway planned for the new year.  How 'bout them apples!  I snuck a peak at her running log the other day and noticed she has far surpassed her running mileage from last year.  I also noticed she is working on a year-end post.  Those are my favorites.  I love reading other people's year-end posts :)

So basically she's just been really busy keeping herself busied with school, work, running, skiing (dear God, the skiing!  So much skiing!!) that she kept putting off her dear old blog.  But, now that it's winter break (and she can put away the notes, the books, and forget her school log-in info. until next semester), she can return to posting...if I can convince her that she shouldn't feel guilty about living life.  Or tear her away from her new indulgent (i.e. non-school) book, Wild, long enough to do some writing of her own.

Paige is very happy to see so many (read: all!) of you have stuck around over the last month and a half of radio silence.  She appreciates it more than you know.  Oh, yea, her last post was about leaving for Zion...that fell through.  Turns out the storm of the season popped a squat over Utah that weekend, and the trip got canned due to unsafe driving conditions (and a 12-hour shift the night before).  Have no fear, Paige and Geof made lemonade out of lemons and cross country skied all weekend instead, enjoying the massive powder dump enormously.  (They also had some REALLY good barbecue in Park City, at a place called Bandits, after a massively fun ski at Mountain Dell where they were rerouted by two bull moose (moosen? mooses? moosies?) standing in their path.)

I digress.  Paige will be back soon.

Oh!  Did I tell you about the 5k race she ran??  Yea, you read that right, a 5 kilometer race.  Ohohohohoh, I can't wait for her to tell you about this!  It was so un-ultra of her, and totally awesome :)

SCOTR, out.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bound for Zion


It's here :)  Geof and I are heading down south for one more destination run before the snow really starts to fly (which is in the forecast this weekend!!).

F'real.  Sixteen to thirty inches in the Cottonwood Canyons this weekend.  Booya.

We are meeting up with Stacy of Wilderness Running Company and Justin for a day of running around Zion National Park.  Only one of the most beautiful parks in the world, according to a lot of someones.  Originally, we planned to do a Zion traverse (the whole park, end-to-end), but seeing as we aren't really hip to a 48 mile run at the moment, we decided to scale it back to a more leisurely 20-30 miles instead.  We could certainly bang out a full traverse, but then it would hurt and then we'd be tired.  And there is much beer and pizza to be had post-run!  And I'm working a 12-hour shift at the clinic on Friday which puts us in Zion close to midnight.  So, we amended the plan a bit.

I'm super pumped, and reallllly looking forward to a mini-vacation of running in a really amazingly beautiful place (from what I've seen in pictures, and what little we saw in the Kolob Canyons earlier this summer); it will be our first time really in Zion, so that's pretty awesome.

Oh, what have we been up to lately?  Oh, just some mountain running...

Bethany L. showed me around the gorgeous trails of Jeremy Ranch (near Park City) a couple weekends ago.  We rocked out one heck of an 18 mile run all over those hills, through deep powdery snow, slush, streams, tacky mud, dry desert-y washes, and up endless inclines (yes, all in the same run).  I also fell.  Hard.  It even tore a hole out of the knee of my only pair of thin running tights.  Stupid tights.  I didn't like them that much anyway...which is why I just finished up mending said hole so that I can wear them with some dignity down in Zion :)  Bethany is making a go of a FFKT (female fastest known time) Zion traverse this weekend (which she is totally going to nail, just like her FFKT of the Grand Canyon R2R2R), so she schooled me all over Jeremy Ranch.  I was worked by the end of the run!  And totally stoked.

The view of Park City Mountain Resort from Jeremy Ranch trails

Geof and I have been heading to the Cottonwood Canyons each weekend to get in "one last run before the snow flies".  I think last weekend was really the last one.  The trails over 9,000 ft. were already covered in snow, and once we broke 10,000 ft. it was deeper stuff and left us with some wet feet!  We decided to check out the White Pine Trail just below Snowbird.  After running up to the lake and back, Geof convinced me to run the Red Pine Lakes trail too, for a little extra mileage.  It was a fantastic trail!!  There was a section of fairly sketchy ice on a steep climb, but other than that it was just perfection.  Absolute perfection.  We closed out that run with just under 15 miles.  My legs forgot they ran even before we stopped.  I felt goooood.

Geof contemplating the magnitude of awesome that we are surrounded by here at home.  I love this place.  White Pine Trail.

I'm sweating bullets from the stress of having just run/fudged my way down through the ice-y steep section right before Geof took this shot.  My heartbeat was in my ears.  Then it was nice 'smooth' trail again, as in this picture :)  Red Pine Lakes Trail.

So that's the latest.  Oh, and I bought downhill ski boots.  I'm turning into a f'real Utahan.  Now I just need to find skis to put said boots on :)

Paige, out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Inspiration Abounds

The guilt I currently feel for choosing to blog rather than tend to my Life Span Psych online discussion board is palpable, but I've decided that after sipping lazily on a cup of hot tea, petting Lucy's soft head for a spell, picking out my next pair of road shoes, cleaning two bunches of kale, planning this evening's dinner and glancing briefly at my school planner...I'd rather blog.

And what do I do whilst dreaming of dreamy things?  Why I look back on beautiful pictures of course!  

I think we probably live in one of the most beautiful places I've seen.  And I'm totally biased.  Our 'back yard' is a veritable feast of natural delight and wonder; a gross exploitation of awesome; a playground of august proportions.  Yes, I used the adjective 'august'.  And, yes, I just said 'adjective'.  In a blog post.

I digress.

On my crack of dawn drive to work or school most mornings, I drive alongside the mountain range, and it's all I can do to keep my eyes on the road.  I steal glances at each stoplight.  In fact, I look forward to stoplights and occupied crosswalks so that I can look over at the mountains...the sun only just beginning to illuminate behind the curtain of the Wasatch Range.  The tips of the mountains are glowing with the promise of daylight from as far as I can see north and south.  Every single time I see it, I giggle and smile.  I can't help it.  

We actually live here...

Heading up to Gobbler's Knob

Running up to the top of the mountains at Alta via Collins.  Winter was trying on her wardrobe!

Geof enjoying a top-of-Gobbler's Knob snack, with Big Cottonwood Canyon sunning herself in the background

Quaking aspens on the Great Western Trail

Family photo!  GnP with Rob, Rina and Lucy midway up Gobbler's Knob

Gobbler's Knob, with Rob and Rina

Little Cottonwood Canyon, heading to Alta.  Fall abounds...

The view from the rooftop of the downtown SLC library.  Cool.

And what's more inspiring than my gorgeous husband whipping a$$ at the 2012 Wasatch 100 in a blazing time of 27:57?  Nothing.  That's what.

I love this place.

Paige, out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bear Down...A 2012 Bear 100 Race Report

"Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.  Climb that goddamn mountain." ~Jack Kerouac

Kevin Z. showed me the above quote the evening before the race when a bunch of us met up in Logan, UT for a pre-race dinner of pizza and good conversation.  At the moment I read it, I liked it, but I had no idea it would carry me through most of my race.  I must have repeated that second line a hundred times throughout the race.  Until the final descent down into Fish Haven, ID, and the finish line, where I exclaimed aloud to Geof, "lets descend this goddamn mountain!"

I suffer from an extreme inability to write short 100 mile race reports.  I can't help it.  It's in my fabric.

So where do I begin?!  Bear 100 was a fantastic experience for me.  All sorts of cosmic and spiritual stuff aligned and conspired to give me the race of my life thus far.  That's sort of dramatic to put it that way, but seriously, it was my most well executed race to date.  Not my fastest but darn near close, and considering the race (my first ever real mountain 100!) and it's much higher degree of difficulty, I feel this effort has far eclipsed my PR race at Javelina Jundred last year.  With over 22,000 ft. of elevation gain and an equal amount of descent, as well as running between 4,800 ft. and a little over 9,000 ft. elevation, I feel pretty pumped about my performance.  This is the most elevation gain I've ever had in a race...I'm talking about more than double what I've done before.  So that's pretty cool.

Okay, so enough of that.  We made the insanely beautiful 1.5 hour drive north to Logan on Thursday afternoon for the pre-race meeting, almost stopping multiple times to take pictures of the leaves through the canyons.  Holy crap it was pretty!  Reds, oranges, yellows, oh my!  The meeting was brief and informative and I felt surprisingly calm and collected as we headed to Jack's Woodfired Pizza for dinner later that evening.  I commented numerous times on how relaxed I felt.  After dinner, I finished packing, set out my outfit for the next day and then watched the season premier of Grey's Anatomy.  What's more relaxing than that? :)  Rob, crew member and pacer extraordinaire, arrived after Grey's wrapped up and we had a brief "planning" session, which mostly consisted of PBR and joking around.  

I slept like a baby.

I woke up around 4:00 to ensure I'd have enough prep time before the 6:00 a.m. start.  I was ready to go by 4:45 and twiddled my thumbs until we left for the start line at 5:45, at Logan Dry Canyon, just up the road from our hotel (Best Western Weston Inn...which was great, by the way).  I have never, I repeat never been so relaxed before a 100 mile race.  Nor have I gotten ready that fast race morning.  I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself I was going to have a breakthrough race.  Then I smiled, because I was actually talking to myself, in a mirror, while Geof and Rob snored away in the background.  I had all sorts of good feelings about the day :)

Photo credit: Rob Corson

The start line was buzzing...230 bodies milling about in the cool morning air.  I checked in with the RD and then...waited.  I thought about very little; in fact I felt very clear-headed and just ready to get the show on the road.  I had no idea what the day really held for me, I just knew it was going to be a great day.  I didn't even hear the countdown, if there was one; people just started running suddenly, so I bid the guys farewell and was off!  

It's about a mile or so of uphill pavement to get to the canyon trailhead.  My legs felt great so I ran most all of it.  I slowed to a walk for maybe 10 steps out of guilt, but picked back up to a run knowing the next four miles would be uphill single track and I wanted a good spot :)  Hitting the trail felt so good.  And just as soon as we hit it, we were walking.  It was a 3,500 ft. climb in the first 5+ miles, and I was towards the front of a long train of people.  There was no point in trying to pass, the incline was just enough that it would surely punish anyone greedy enough to pass.  

The sun began to lighten the side of the mountain we were climbing an hour or so in and I switched off my headlamp.  The canyon below us looked like it was on fire...the trees were beautiful!!  A girl in front of me started up a conversation, but arriving at Little Baldy Pass opened up the trail and gave us some relief and I passed her up.  The first aid station is just below the top of Logan Peak, at mile 10.5.  I sipped on come Coke, readjusted my shoe laces and then was out of there.  After 5,400 ft. of climbing in those first 12 miles, we finally were treated to a little downhilling.  The Leatham Hollow Trail may be my favorite part of the course, but I'm not sure.  There were so many awesome sections.  Leatham Hollow was stuffed with bright red maples.  It was 360 degrees of red leaves above, alongside and below me.  It was breathtaking, and the downhilling was top notch.  As I rounded a corner, the trees opened up and I glanced over to check out the view.  The trail is cut into the side of a mountain and overlooked an enormous expanse of absolute grandeur.  I was actually, literally breathless, it was so beautiful.  I got a little choked up.  I'm actually here; this place actually exists, I marveled.  Nature is so flipping cool.  I sailed into the first crew-accessible aid station at mile 19.6 in a time that surprised me.  I was on a 28 hour pace.  

Leatham Hollow - mile 19.6
Photo credit: Rob Corson

Leatham Hollow - mile 19.6 - wearing my good luck birthday shirt from my momma :)
Photo credit: Rob Corson

It was starting to heat up just a touch, and I knew it would reach into the 80s at some point, but I kept on my sleeves for sun protection and a bandana to protect my neck.  I ain't no redneck ;)  I felt so good. Grabbing some gels from the aid station and chugging a bit of Gatorade, I was out of there.  The next station was just three miles away, up a gravel road.  It was a gentle uphill grade so I ran most of it, iPod plugged in and motivating me up the warm road.  I grabbed another gel at the aid station and a Coke, then continued on.  This next section was a five mile, 2,000 ft. climb up to Richard's Summit and I power hiked the whole way up.  I got into a rhythm that felt awesome and never stopped.  I must have passed a dozen or so other runners doing this.  It was invigorating.  

Some of the views, as captured by The Amazing Dan Robinson, also running the race:

Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

I was moving so well and staying within myself, keeping on task.  When I pulled into Cowley Canyon at mile 29 I refilled my pack, grabbed some gels and a Coke, then walked down the hill to where the crews were stationed.  Geof and Rob had just pulled in when I walked up.  I was a bit ahead of schedule I guess :)  Now on a 27.5 hour pace, I just said hello and headed back out.  This next stretch was a bit of a grind in terms of terrain and sun exposure.  It was an uphill climb on a gravel road initially, but once I crested it, I broke free and ran the rest of the way.  It was a pretty flat section so running was easy, but it was hot and dusty.  I just adjusted my pace to keep from overheating and let my music distract me.  I saw a girl, Tonya, that I had been back-and-forth with much of the morning and decided to let her pull me along.  I caught up and stayed behind her, running just a touch faster than I would on my own.  Her pace was perfect.  On flats she was stronger, but I passed her on climbs and descents.  We were a good 'team' :)  It was hot, but it never got to a point where it was bothersome for me.  I heard a lot of complaints about the heat from others after the race, so I'm glad I was able to keep it in check.  

After a delicious 2,000 foot descent, I arrived into Right Hand Fork.  One of the many things I liked about this race were the placement of aid stations.  They always came after a long descent, and you always had a long climb out of an aid station.  As soon as you started downhilling, you knew you were close to an aid station.  I like that.  It's like a little carrot on a stick :)  At Right Hand Fork, I was stoked because it meant I would be picking up my first pacer, Rob, at the next aid station.  Runners can pick up pacers beginning at mile 36.9 (Right Hand Fork), but that's a little too early in my opinion.  I was doing awesome and was happy to continue the momentum.

Right Hand Fork - mile 36.9
Photo credit: Rob Corson

Right Hand Fork - mile 36.9
Photo credit: Rob Corson

Tonya left the aid station just ahead of me, as usual, so when I saw her up ahead after a little while, I decided to pick up the pace again and catch up to her.  There was some climbing to be had in this section, but it was all runnable.  I just listened to my music on low and took in everything around me.  There was a surprise water stop at the top of a dusty gravel road.  At first I thought it was a mirage; I sincerely questioned my sanity for a moment.  It was real!  I filled up my pack as I was drinking more now that we were in the hottest part of the day.  The water tasted like crap, but man was it refreshing.  I got fuzzy headed a couple of times during these hot stretches, but I figured out that an S!Cap did the trick each time.  I never tied fuzziness to low electrolytes before.  But now I know!  Tonya and I eventually ran side-by-side once the trail opened up to a wide gravel road, chatting it up.  The route put us back on a gorgeous bit of single track through a slot with a river alongside it.  It was beautiful and cooling.  Passing along cows out to pasture, we dropped down into Temple Fork aid station at mile 45.1.

Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

Tonya and I coming into Temple Fork - mile 45.1
Photo credit: Rob Corson

Yay, Geof and Rob!!  I put away my iPod, swapped out my Garmin, changed my socks for the first time, grabbed more gels from the aid station, and then chugged a cold vanilla Ensure.  What?  It sounded good at the time.  After coming up for air I said, "I hope I don't regret that!"  Then Rob and I were outta there!

Let's get this party started!  I was just informed I was now on a 27 hour pace.  Now I had a little fire in my belly.  And a little gas.

I only slightly regretted the Ensure. 

If I had paid attention to the fact that we now had a 3,000 ft. and five mile climb up out of Smithfield Canyon, I might have held off on the chalky nutrition drink.  I felt a touch blah.  But, it was all good because it was steep enough that I wouldn't have run that section anyhow.  I continued with my nutrition schedule despite the blah stomach though and knew it would pass.  Rob was up ahead of me a ways, and we passed Tonya a short ways up the climb.  She was having stomach issues, and that would be the last I'd see of her until she crossed the finish line the next day (congrats Tonya!!!).  I was belching like a freaking champ now.  Vanilla-flavored belches.  Which is better than puke-flavored belches I suppose.

I bargained with myself here.  And, yes, I was talking out loud to myself.  Rob was far enough ahead that he couldn't hear me :)  I told myself I could sit for a moment once we reached the top of the climb, as long as there was a clean log on which to sit.  Otherwise, I was to keep power hiking.  So I did.  And when I saw a gorgeous felled birch alongside the trail at the top of the climb, I knew I needed to sit on it.  At least it looked like a birch.  Not really sure about that.  Rob said, "not for long Dunmore."  I told him it was my reward.  He asked about my stomach and I noticed it was feeling better.  I was even happier to feel the gentle downhill grade as we ran the next mile or so through a cute campground and into the Tony Grove aid station.  I was now over halfway done and had the majority of the climbing (14,763 ft. to be exact.  Holy crap, that's a lot of climb in 51.8 miles!) out of the way.  And still on a 27 hour pace.  Booya!

Making our way around the lake and into the Tony Grove aid station - mile 51.8...being chased by el bandito (Rob)

It was now officially cooling off, so here I decided to switch into a long sleeve shirt.  I also grabbed my headlamp as it would be dark before we reached the next crewed aid station.  

Oh, did I mention I have THE GREATEST HEADLAMP EVER MADE?  Yes, it's true. I used it for the first time at Bear 100, but after witnessing the amazingness of it when Gretchen used it for Hardrock 100, I simply had to have it.  It's the new Black Diamond Icon, and with its 200 lumen power nothing was left to the imagination in the dark on the trail.  I usually need two light sources to avoid getting tunnel vision, and because other headlamps are so dim, but not with my Icon!  That baby is bright!  So yea, that's my headlamp.

I was now officially over my Ensure stomach bubbles (but still belching like a champ somehow...how unlike me ;)) and ready to do some real running.  We headed out of Tony Grove and walked up a bit of the 800 ft. climb out, stuck behind two chatty Cathys.  Rob said to let him know when I wanted us to pass at one point, so as soon as I looked ahead and saw the trail turn down, I gave Rob the word, and that was that.  We were running!!  And running and running.  We ran the entire rest of the way together, chatting and laughing.  I was having an absolute ball!  The full moon was in view as we made our way across a large pasture in the twilight.  If the trail hadn't been so rocky I definitely would have turned off the headlamp, the moon was that bright.  Rob reminded me of my pace and asked if I thought I could break 27 hours.  I thought it was possible.  To which he said, "I think you can break 26, that would be awesome."  Whoa, that sounded like a stretch.  But not impossible.

We passed a number of people in this section, and when we arrived at Franklin Basin, mile 61.4, I was an hour ahead of schedule.  Geof was nowhere to be seen.  But Matt was waiting at the trailhead for us!  Matt Vukin was taking over pacing duties from Franklin Basin and I was super pumped to see him and glad that he was able to find the aid station.  He worked a full day then made the long drive up to pace me.  Rob trotted off to find Geof in the dark while Matt helped me gather some Coke and more gels for my pack.  The race was using Hammer gels, which I quite enjoy so I stocked up on those babies every chance I got (Tropical is positively delish).  Rob reappeared with Geof, complete with look of pure astonishment.  "You're an hour early, baby!"  "I know, I feel so good!"  I grabbed my favorite powerstretch fleece from my duffle as it was getting cooler still.  I also grabbed my Brooks wind jacket and tucked it in the cable ties on my pack, my thin liner gloves and a wool hat.  We were off!!  

This was Matt's first time pacing, and first experience at a 100 mile race.  He was fantastic!  With just 3,200 ft. of gain in the next 15 miles we got in lots of running and lots of laughing.  We managed to pass a number of people on the initial 2,000 ft. climb out of Franklin Basin, then cruised down the steeper descents.  My right shoe kept bothering me; I was tightening the laces too much so I had to adjust that a couple of times in this section.  I stepped off to the side of the trail to let a guy pass while I adjusted, and stood up to discover my hands were covered in burrs.  I started laughing at my clumsiness as Matt picked each burr out of my gloves for me.  What a guy :)  

I knew the Logan River aid station was close by as we began a descent, and I was suddenly...stricken.  I needed to use the potty.  Bad.  I tried to ignore it, but that wasn't happening.  We were in a wide open area with very low bushes.  I just couldn't do that.  "Matt I need to use the bathroom." (What was I expecting him to say/do?  What a weird thing to announce :))  "I think the aid station is coming up, you can use a porta potty there."  "No.  It can't wait.  It's...complicated."  "Oh!  Well, I see trees ahead, lets get you there."  A true ultrarunner in training :)  I found a nice little grove of trees and commenced with ground fertilization.  That needed to happen.  I'm sorry mother nature!  I felt brand new!  

We continued our cruise through the non-crewed aid stations, over and through some streams, and eventually I had to put my jacket on. It was downright cold!  But it made for great running.  And run we did all the way into Beaver Lodge at mile 75.8, and where I would be picking up my final pacer, Geof.  The guys huddled around my pace chart while I changed my shoes for the first time, from my Salomon XR Missions and into my La Sportiva Raptors.  That felt good.  The guys were quietly chatting and then I heard some giggling.  Dude giggles, people.  It felt like I was doing something right.  

After I finished my shoe swap, I ran up to the lodge to pee and grab some Coke and when I came out the guys were all waiting for me.  It felt like heaven washing my hands.  Pearly gates Heaven.  Then we were out of there.  It was now SUPER cold.  So we ran.  There were only two more crew accessible aid stations and I looked forward to both of them.  Meantime, Geof shared what they were giggling about, "You're on a 26.5 hour pace now."  I responded with something cool and collected-sounding I think, but I was thinking more along the lines of, 'holy mother eff, how in the sh** have I done that?!'  I was surprised.  

Now I really needed to run.  Well, mostly because it was frigidly cold, but also because there was no way I was going to let myself slow down now.  Most of what I remember of my race is running.  I ran so flipping much during this race.  I would estimate I walked a total of 15 miles tops.  Where did that come from?  Somewhere in this stretch we crossed the Utah/Idaho state line.  I saw that it was just barely 2:00 a.m. and I recall feeling incredibly stoked to see that I made it there in the dark.  Now I really knew I was doing well.

We arrived at Gibson Basin, mile 81.1, and I downed a cup of hot chicken noodle soup.  I was maintaining pace, and even sped up a little bit.  As I stood there in the cold, I got a little lightheaded feeling and said we needed to get going.  Rob swapped out my Garmin again and we got back on the trail.  Whew that was weird.  Stopping is hard in the cold.  Makes you feel wonky.  I shook out the wonkiness as we made our way up to the Beaver Creek summit.  An aid station was a couple more miles beyond the summit and had a roaring fire.  I skirted around it to grab some gels from the table, but had to walk beside it to check out.  There were two runners camped out at the fire, and I had no interest in getting sucked into that.  So we were out of there fast.  The next mile was on a long flat dirt road through a field.  It was frozen solid, but easy running, underneath the intensely bright full moon.  Just another 1,000 ft. climb before we began the descent down into Ranger Dip, mile 92.1, and the last crew stop.  We arrived early of course, and surprised Rob and Matt.  We were set, though, and just stopped to say hi before heading out.  I was on a roll.  

Up next, we climbed almost 1,000 ft. in less than a mile.  I thought this particular climb came closer to the finish, so it took me by surprise.  Of course I was quite pleased with how well we were climbing, and was overjoyed to reach the top, Gates of Paradise, mile 93, because that meant a seven mile cruise down to the finish line.  Just a couple miles later we passed a couple runners, including a woman with polls stepping gingerly through a really rocky section.  I kept the momentum going and we whizzed past her as she looked up, semi-horrified at what she was seeing.  She was the gal I was hiking behind at the very beginning of the race.  

I was going to finish this thing.  And in fine style.

I was still keeping on top of my nutrition and paying attention to my body.  My right ankle was the only thing bothersome, from tying my shoe too tight earlier in the evening.  Otherwise I could NOT believe how good I felt.  Knees, calves, shoulders, head, everything.  I pondered my training and how I was able to pull this off.  I felt that I trained adequately, but I never would have guessed that I would do so well at this race.  I glanced at my Garmin and saw that a sub-26 hour pace was within reach, but I would have to run pretty hard the entire rest of the way.  As I took in the mountain we were about to descend I surrendered any and all doubts.  It was a steep, rocky and dusty downhill but, screw it, I'm doing this.  

It hurt, a lot.  It was very steep and I was trying my best to not brake too much.  I could smell the finish line, I could feel it.  The sun was rising on the other side of Bear Lake and it was just light enough that I  turned off my headlamp.  The sun would be rising into a thick wall of clouds though.  "It's too bad everyone behind me is going to miss this sunrise."  It was really quite amazing.  Then it began to snow, and as we dropped further and further down, it became a very light drizzle.  I didn't care.  That finish line was so close.  

Bear Lake down below, and the finish line!
Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

The trail dropped us down to French Hollow Road, which looked like this.  I know, seriously.

French Hollow Road...so close!
Photo credit: Daniel Robinson

We dropped down, down, down, then climbed back up a bit after passing through a fence.  Holy crap, more climbing?!  Then the trail swooped back down and spilled out onto a paved road that wound through sleepy country farmland.  A turkey ran across the road.  An ATV passed by, waving.  I glanced back down at my Garmin.  Wow I'm really going to do this.  I could walk the rest of the way and still do this.  As the road hit a T intersection and we were to turn left, I barked out loud, "Bahhh!"  Pushing, pushing, pushing.  Don't stop until you finish.  "Ugghhh!"  

And then there it was.

About to turn onto the lawn and wrap it all up
Photo credit: Rob Corson

"Oh my god, I can't believe this," I said under my breath, almost about to break into tears of exhaustion and absolute joy.  Geof just chuckled quietly.  "Yea, PAIGE!!!!"  I glanced over and there were Ben and Bethany with Little Squid cheering me across the finish line!  And what an anti-climactic finish line.  I guess that's how it is when you finish faster than usual.  Not a lot of people hanging around, so I was even more stoked to see such familiar and wonderful faces.  Official time: 25:52:30.  Seventh woman, 37th overall (out of 230 starters).  Stout.

Bethany and Ben, cheer captains
Photo credit: Rob Corson

So that happened.

I'm a f'real mountain 100 runner now.  I feel so...grown up :)  Pondering just how on earth I pulled this race off, all I can come up with is that I didn't stop the momentum.  I ran parts I would have normally walked, and when I did walk, it was fast.  I didn't get lazy and drag my feet at any point.  Ultimately, I wanted to see what I was really capable of on my own.  Geof is a very strong runner and I feel like I rely on him to set the pace and pull me along most of the time.  I wasn't entirely sure I would be able to replicate that on my own.  I guess you could now say I can.  That feels good; to know that I have the ability to race.  And now I want to do it again and again and again!

Also helpful, a very happy stomach (overall) and very happy feet.  This is the first time I have ever been able to use gels the entire race.  Start to finish.  I took a gel every 40 minutes and never ever got away from it.  That's almost 39 gels folks.  Thirty-nine packets of pure Hammer and Gu joy.  I only took salt when I felt fuzzy, or if my stomach began to get sloshy (usually about every 3-4 hours), which is different than what I've done in the past (salt every hour).  Coke was handy to preemptively ward off the sleepies, which never did come.  An Ensure (which I won't do again) and a cup of chicken noodle soup.  That's it.  And it worked.

My feet were super happy.  Zero blisters, no black toenails, and just some bruising where my laces were too tight on my right foot.  

And my knees, SO HAPPY!  I usually have sore quads right above my knees after even just a short bit of hard downhilling, so to have no soreness there after this kind of race, I actually couldn't believe it.  Climbing up and down the stairs the next day further bewildered me.  I felt better than I did after Javelina last year.  How is that possible?  I don't know, but I'm not complaining.  

Oh, and P.S. the course was marked extremely well.  The only worry I had going into this race was about getting lost.  In previous years, the race has had trouble with course marking vandalism (and runners thus getting really lost), but there was none of that this year.  And the reflective markers they used in the night were awesome.  You could see those babies 200 yards away.  Not kidding.  So yea, I never did get lost.  Phew :)

Bam.  Happy camper.

I looked up and announced I couldn't wait to do it again next year as Rob snapped this pic
Photo credit: Rob Corson

The swag.  Love my new buckle :)

And that's a wrap.  Bear down Bear 100.  I'm coming back for more, and next time I won't hold back so much ;)

Paige, out.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Survived the Bear 100

I am completely swollen with pride (or is that just the post-race edema?) and still can't believe I pulled it off.

There is a full fledged race report in the works, but I wanted to go ahead and post a spoiler :) 

I somehow managed to have what I shall now consider the race of my life thus far.  Even though it wasn't my fastest hundred mile time, it completely eclipses everything else I've done with my running to this point.  I finished in 25h:52m:30s, 7th female, 37th overall (out of 230 starters), and have zero blisters to show for it.  I am one happy camper.  Fantasies of running it again next year began before I even finished.  

So yea, it was a really good day.

More to come, including some freaking amazing photos.  Bear 100 should be on every 100 mile runners' list.  It is painfully gorgeous and brutally tough.

Paige, out.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Reservations: Looking Back on the Awesome

With most of my siblings, and nieces and nephews, before we left Chicago
Photo credit: Sam Troelstrup

I just wrapped up another thrilling session of studying/paper writing/discussion board participation and I suddenly felt motivated to write this post :)  I've been waiting to write it until I felt the urge.  I didn't want it to be forced.  You'd think that writing a wrap-up of something so completely awesome would be a cinch.  Not so.  It wasn't a simple endeavor, and it's not a simple conclusion.  But I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet :)

Our No Reservations summer was a complete blast, four stars, two-thumbs-up, crowd-pleasing, adventure of epic proportions.  When I look back on it now, I can't believe we did it.  And, then I think, "I can't believe it took us so long to do it."  Honestly, everyone at some point in their lives should have the opportunity to have a No Reservations kind of break.  A chance to cut the ties, kick up the feet, and let the wind blow you every which way.  A chance to feel the grass between your toes, and smell the roses, so to speak.

I'm not going to pretend like it was easy.  Because it wasn't.

It requires an adventurous spirit, and careful planning.  Geof and I began talking about this almost two years ago.  We had toyed with the idea or a short while, then we got engaged, and suddenly wedding planning took the front seat, and other adventuring hung out in the back seat.  Getting married made us rational people.  We decided to save up for one more year and then reassess.  But no matter what, we were going to make it happen.  It's easy to get caught up in expectations, to do what everyone thinks you're supposed to do, and be comfortable with the familiar.  Well, we were both antsy and getting uncomfortable with the familiar.  It took time, and lots and lots of planning sessions to really wrap our heads around the whole idea of just up n' leaving.  Perhaps it seemed rash from the outside looking in, but there was a lot of forethought in it all.  We knew we wanted mountains in plain view, and we knew we wanted a more outdoor-centered lifestyle.  When push came to shove, we gave notice at our jobs in Chicago without a clue what awaited us in moving to Salt Lake City.  Memorial Day weekend, we drove all our worldly belongings 1,400 miles across the country, dropped them off, then flew back home to work the last three days of May.  June 1, the adventure really began.  We were technically homeless, and completely unemployed.

Holy.  Shit.

We hung out with family the first week or so, decompressing and wrapping our heads around it all.  It was perfect, and we fell into the habit of not working almost immediately.  It was as if we had always been vagabonds.  It was scarily natural for us both.

You can look back on previous posts to see what exactly we were up to, so I won't recount all of that awesome.  Perhaps more astonishing than all the places and faces we saw and experienced this summer, and even more mind-blowing than any of the 14,000+ ft. peaks we climbed atop were the lessons we took away from the whole experience.  These are things that I think you can hear over and over again, but you'll never fully grasp until you actually experience them.

Grass-is-Greener Syndrome
I made that up, but it fits :)  What is it about us as humans that has us convinced that everything on the other side of the proverbial fence is better, greener, way more awesome?  Why is it so hard to be happy with the side of the fence we are currently on?  We both suffered from grass-is-greener syndrome in Chicago.  As time wore on, very little on our side was all that green.  If only we were in the mountains, if only we had cooler jobs, if only we could run all the time, if only we made more money, blah blah blah.  This summer was our way of hopping the fence and seeing just what was really on the other side.  

Turns out it's exactly the same on either side of the fence.

Life is precisely what you make of it.  If you have a problem with something, freaking fix it.  If you want something, take the steps and do the things you need to do to get there.  Just like in racing, if you want to be a better runner, train.  You aren't just going to wake up one day and be a faster runner.  Do the work, reap the rewards.  We wanted to move west, take a couple months off, and I wanted to go back to school.  So we worked hard, saved up, moved west, took the summer off, and I registered for classes.  Done.  Next?

This brings me to my next lesson learned.

Things Just Work Out
No, you can't just sit around like a bump on a log, you actually have to put a plan in motion, put it out into the universe, make it known, and then follow through.  When something is right, really, truly, unbelievably right, it works.  Plain and simple.  I knew we were making the right decision to move to Salt Lake when suddenly everything fell into place.  It was like magic, except free of illusion.  I knew we were supposed to take the summer off when suddenly plans began to take shape, friends opened their doors to us, new experiences and adventures fell into our laps, and life was just...working out.  When we arrived in our new home city for good back in the middle of August, things immediately began working out.  School started, I found a wonderful job in a great PT clinic two weeks later, and one week after that, Geof found a great job.  Things just work out.  When you get out of your own way, things just work.  So, get out of the way!

Importance of Life Balance
This very lesson occurred to me as we frolicked in the heavenly confines of Silverton, Colorado during this year's Hardrock 100 week.  I can't recall the exact mountain we stood upon, but I remember it feeling akin to a lightening strike.  Balance.  Nothing in life can be appreciated to the fullest without also experiencing its antithesis.  True happiness is never fully enjoyed without the experience of sorrow.  Weekends are so incredibly valuable to the Monday thru Friday 9-5'er.  Love is deepest when you've felt true heartbreak or indifference.  Adventure is only truly adventure when you've also lived totally by the book, followed all the rules.  

This is going to sound crazy, but just go with it.  We got to the point where suddenly it was just another mountaintop, just another pretty view, just another campground, just another run along the ridge.  Adventure was starting to feel burdensome.  And it's because we had no contrast.  When everything is the same all the time, you start to lose interest.  Variety is the spice of life.  Balance in all things is the only way to really enjoy things to the fullest.  Boring days make you really appreciate the days that blow your mind.  Being away makes you really appreciate home.  Chaos makes you appreciate order and predictability.  Discomfort makes you appreciate comfort.  And vice versa.  Rest assured that that 14-hour day you put in behind a desk on a Monday is going to make your weekend feel like pure heaven.  Guaranteed.  So don't sit there thinking everyone else has it better, because in reality, more than likely, you have it pretty darn good; you just need to see it from a new perspective.  Change your attitude, change your life.  I'm pretty sure I saw that somewhere once; I dig it :)

There's No One Way to Live
After all the places we've been and people we've met, it is astonishing to note all the ways in which a person can live, and make a living.  There are a gazillion ways to make a life!  It is so cool!

Nature Always Wins
I love to say this.  And it's so true.  We can do what we want on this earth and think we're making all these amazing changes, but when push comes to shove, nature always reclaims its stake.  And FYI, earth is nature's stake.  So how about we make it a little easier for mother nature to reclaim it and be better stewards?  Spending some time living in nature will make you really appreciate it.  Everyone needs a little nature in their lives, and to experience the victory of nature over man.  It is awesome.  Sorry to get all tree-huggy and preachy on you, but seriously...

Getting High is Perfectly Acceptable
No, not that kind of high :)  I mean literally getting way up high in the atmosphere where the air is thin and so are the crowds.  Climbing up above treeline and the clouds is an awe-inspiring task, and brings about a great sense of accomplishment.  It's freaking hard when you're gasping for air, lungs burning, quads tingling they are so fried and your calves are screaming from hiking at a 15-20% pitch for the last 4 hours (a la Mt. Elbert).

Reservations = Bad!
The one time I made reservations for us, at the Boulder International Hostel, it turned out terribly wrong.  What a dump!  We were perfectly happy walking out and leaving them our $75 deposit.  That was the last time we made reservations this summer :)

And, how can one forget...

The Importance of Friends
Best for last.  With all the planning, all the saving, all the stuff we did to make this happen, we wouldn't be where we are (literally!) had it not been for the unbelievable generosity of two truly amazing people: Rob and Rina (RnR).  When they found out we were thinking about making the move to SLC, they were all over it.  They opened up their gorgeous house to us and all but forced us to move in ;)  Twist our arms!  They were set on making our SLC dreams a reality.  I don't know where we'd be, or how things would look for us if it hadn't been for them.  It's been seriously fun spending more time with RnR and getting to know them better.  Geof and Rob go way back.  So, a huge, HUGE thank you to RnR for everything they've done for us, and for being such righteously awesome friends.  Perhaps we can return the favor in some way at some time.  Friends; never undervalue their importance.  This summer has taught me this.  Really good friends are just like family.  Awesome.

So, yea, lots of lessons.  Lots of really good, solid experiences, and lots of time spent with my favorite person in the whole wide world in the tiny 3'x5' space of the cab of our truck, laughing the miles away; planning the next day's run; marveling at how smelly my Salomon's were getting; arguing over stupid crap because we were so sleep deprived; freaking out about being lost in the middle of nowhere Kansas in the dark, without cell service, and nowhere to park and sleep for the night; eating cheese and crackers while sitting on the tailgate, drinking awesome beer; scheming our next stop and what kind of ice cream we wanted to get; and laughing about all the weird/fun/annoying/beautiful things we'd experienced that day.  It was perfect.  I love that man!

We saw a LOT of towns and places.  If you're ever looking for somewhere awesome to visit, these are some of my favorites from the summer, in no particular order: Flagstaff, AZ; Steamboat Springs, CO; Glacier National Park; Crater Lake National Park; Eugene, OR; Seattle; Telluride, CO; Silverton, CO; Ouray, CO; St. George, UT; Wheeler Peak (NM); Pine, CO; Whitefish, MT; Leadville, CO.  For some reason, Wheeler Peak, our first high climb of the summer, holds a very special place in my memory.  It was a cool experience, and a beautiful place.  

And now for some fun...Summer by the numbers!

One might think that when a couple of runners have ALL SUMMER to do nothing, they would have all the time in the world to run.  Not so.  In fact, we spent the majority of our free time driving.  We covered 12,500 miles of pavement, dirt and 4x4 roads.  Yes, you saw that right.  In two and a half months we covered what the average driver covers in one year.  Sick.

So how much running did we do?  I calculated 407.6 miles.  Not horrible for me at just shy of 200 miles/month, but I do that even during my busiest times.  We expected to do probably twice that, if not more.  Not so.  But we did climb 83,200 vertical feet.  That's pretty cool, and something I didn't consider at the outset.  It's even more cool when you consider the fact that I've probably not covered that much vertical climbing in my entire life (being a flatlander and what not).

With allllll of that considered, the only thing we'd really change the next time we do this (and there will be a next time) is the number of places we visit.  Next time, we'll pick a handful of places we really, really want to go, and stick with that, rather than trying to see everything and everyone we possibly can.  We felt much more relaxed when we could spend a few days in one place.  It was the changing of location every day or two that really started to get to us.  While it was cool to be able to do that, it really started to fray our sanity towards the end.  Other than that, we wouldn't change much of anything else.  It's truly startling how well everything worked out.  I feel incredibly fortunate for having had the opportunity to do this, and the ability to jump on it without much fear.  

And you know what?  By the time we arrived home for the final time, we were ready.  We were ready to be responsible members of society again, to contribute in some meaningful way, to be running more.  We were craving the stability and structure of a schedule.  Dare I say...we missed it?  See, this is where that whole balance thing comes into play.  The yin and yang of life.  I'm spending most of my weekends running and studying now, and Geof's been job-hunting, and now preparing for his new job to begin next week.  I'm loving my work, my school, my running, my little bit of free time...and knowing that adventure is around every corner, and in everything.  And it doesn't hurt that we live in an AWESOME place.  I love this city!

This is the life :)

So, yea, I would do it again in a heartbeat, but first, there's a little bit of 'real' life I want to live before then.  

Live out loud, take chances, be mindful, be nice to others, play fair (but break the rules every now and then), follow your purpose, and be passionate.

I lied.  This was not at all short, but hopefully it was sweet :)

Paige, out.

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