Friday, August 27, 2010

LEADVILLE Trail 100...

(That's totally a bag of Cantaloupe in my hand!!)

Lot's of hoopla surrounded LT100 this year - overcrowding, altitude, too many "roads", an awesome field of men and women at the start - and I was a tad nervous to be part of it. I'm "low key." No need for lots of racers, just give me a trail, and I'll run it! So upon hearing that appx 800 people were going to start the 100 mile race, I was a little apprehensive. WTF did I sign up for? I've never ran a trail race with over 250 people, so this would be interesting.

I was set up in terms of aid on the course - My stellar boyfriend, John as lead and only crew member and rockstar runner Jamil Coury as my pacer. Despite my reservations about the race, I was stoked.

As the 4am start approached, I shed my clothes and got my game face on. 100 miles is a long day, no use getting too worked up, just ease into the day. When the gun went off, it was real - I was here part of this epic, historic race, and WOW, just wow. I tried to start up front, so I didn't get stuck in the line going around turquoise lake. Taking it all in, that's what the first couple of hours would be about - the dark, the experience, the scenery, the event. I've never been so prepared and confidant (in a good way) to run 100 miles, and in my head "this was my day."

Quite honestly, it's kind of a blur from the start to twin lakes. I remember these vague pieces, and maybe because that's when the battle began - after twin lakes. I ran smoothly and conservatively all the way through twin lakes. Here are some pieces of random thoughts I do remember before twin lakes.
  2. Umm...all these down hills are great, but wow, going up them...SHIT! Especially POWERLINE and coming back up from Twin Lakes.
  3. The roads really weren't that bad. It felt like the farm land in Illinois (minus the giant mountains in the background).
  4. Um...I crapped in the woods 3X...yeah, I said it!
  5. I ate lots of fruit and dates (I am so sure #4 and #5 are unrelated ;) )
  6. The Colorado is AMAZING!!!
  7. Even those 4WD roads are great. At one point I was feeling all trail snobby (like WhereTF is the single-track), and I looked over and had about the most amazing view of twin lakes. Yep, sometimes you aren't following the best, awesomest path, but really with views like this, how could you complain.
  8. I was feeling the altitude for a while, but then it went away...and then it came back (c.f. HOPE PASS).
  9. John really is awesome as crew chief. I know it's boring, but he really seemed excited everytime I saw him.
  10. At Twin Lakes, I was really excited for the rest of the race - the night, HOPE pass, picking up Jamil and chatting, etc.
Twin Lakes to the top of Hope
No one told me about all the water crossings. There were about 4-5 gianormous puddles and then the river. It was refreshing, but unexpected. I was kind of worried about my feet being wet, but they dried quickly.

The Climb of Hope Pass was relentless. It broke this lady down. The first section was real slow. Once my legs finally adjusted, I started passing people. Now it is beautiful, but taking in the beauty was tough through the suffering. I had my nose on the trail most of the way up. Still everytime I looked up it was magical. I did get the pleasure of watching amazing runner Anton Krupicka run down with his pacer Dakota Jones - the whole time singing The Killers (me not him), thinking about the song that goes "He doesn't look at thing like Jesus." Actually I listened to my IPOD the first time halfway up the Hope Climb, and it was The Killers, Hot Fuzz album.

Getting to the aide station at was awesome. The food choices weren't that great, though, and I was in need of something that they didn't have (what? I have no clue). The worst trick of the entire race was the climb up to the top of Hope from the aide station. OMFG! Best way to describe it. On top of this I was having a sinus reaction - my nose felt like it was onfire, and my head hurt like crazy! It was slow going to the top, but once I made it there, I headed right back down.

Backside of Hope
The backside of hope was great for about the first ..50 mile. The trail was skinny, and the leaders (besides Anton) were coming up, so it did get a little crowded (for a minute). After the first. 50, it was Zane Gray style, which was really frustrating, because I wanted to FLY down. I took my time, telling myself it was 100 miles, and there was no sense in tripping, and I safely made it down.

Follow the dusty Road to Winfield
This was probably the only bad part for me where I began to notice that 800 other people were on the trail. Crew vechiles were coming in and out creating a nasty dust storm. It sucked. It was hott and dusty. I hope next year, they don't allow crew here or find an alternative way to get crew here, because it was too much for the runners - and it was a little unsafe. I endured a really shitty section - pretty, but shitty because of the cars, and Getting into Winfield was awesome. John and Jamil were waiting. I loaded up with food, and Jamil and I rushed out to climb Hope again.

We ran lots of the road from Winfield to Hope. Very quickly I learned that I was running with a celebrity! Lots of shouts "Hey Jamil!" Most people thought he was running!! LoL!

Once we got back to hope, it was game time. The climb up last time really drained me, and we had to do it again. This time it was slow going. Nose closer to the trail, one step in front of the other. At some point, I gave Jamil my pack to "mule" for me!! Awesome. Although, I did feel bad about it. Still beautiful, still difficult, although, this time, once we were at the top, it was really downhill from there. When Jamil and I finally got to the top, I started yelling!! YEAH!! I conquered Hope Pass...funny, I was pretty messed up.

We stopped back at the aid station, and I sat with a cup of noodles, but the sinus pressure began to build up again. We had to get off that mountain!! I ate as quickly as I could, and we began the descent.

As we descended, I started to fully recover from the double Hope!! Thank Gwad! Hope pass really makes you doubt your abilities to finish. Going down the other side was much better. I went as fast as I was comfortable with. We got back down, crossed all the puddles and the river, and safely make it to Twin Lakes.

At Twin Lakes, I changed shoes and refueled (they were the same shoes, I just didn't want to do another 40 miles with wet, muddy shoes & socks). I also asked someone about the sinus stuff - no one seemed to think anything of it.

Twin Lakes and Beyond
After some time regrouping, Jamil and I were back on the trail - the best section of the CO trail, which would consequently be uphill for a while. Right after, I felt a twinge in my right foot. A really freaking bad twinge. I stopped to check for swelling, and I got nothing. This twinge would not go away. This twinge would stay with me for the next 9 miles. This twinge would cost me my race.

I tried to keep the pain to myself. I kept thinking it would just go away. Pain is temporal, right? I logically assessed it with Jamil, but came to the conclusion that it would iron itself out. Um, yeah, was I wrong. 9 miles, 1/2 uphill, 1/2 downhill. I approached the uphill with the pain, thinking, I had to walk it anyway, and that when it came time for downhill, I would run. The pain grew worse with every step. I was limping pretty significantly. I became really dejected. Luckily, though I had Jamil, I listened and talked about lots of fun running stuff, and it kept my mind occupied. Still thoughts would creep into my head about how I would go 30 more miles on this. I kept a positive demeanor. This is probably one of my strengths - to laugh and joke when I feel like shit.

I had fun with Jamil, but the three hours and nine miles between twin lakes had left me with one aching foot (I assessed it as an 8) and one pronounced limp. When we got to the aid station, I had to determine whether to continue. Fuck! What a decision. So many factors. The Dr. Assessed it, tried to scare me with stress fracture stuff, a guy came in saying I couldn't drop, and I had Jamil with me and John waiting for me (both people I didn't want to let down). After lots of wavering, I decided to let the Dr. tape it, and at least make it to John down the road 4 miles.

After taping it, I went to put my shoe on, barely put pressure on my foot, and I was almost brought to the ground. I'd like to think I can handle pain - I've been through child birth when the drugs all wore off! I tried to stand and walk a couple of steps, and it became clear that I would not be able to finish the race.

Dropping from the race sucked. Dropping from any race sucks. I was FINE except for the foot...hell I was GREAT! While waiting for John, Jamil and I laughed and joked. I was the most wide awake person at the aide station. When John showed up he even had to carry me to the bathroom. Fuck!!

I awoke the next day in some random parking lot kind of sore...(after 70 miles kind of sore is pretty freaking amazing)...with an really nasty feeling foot. I limped pretty significantly through the day, through the airport, through my next 12 hour teaching day at ASU, and I went to see a sports Dr. on Tuesday. Peroneal Tendonitis - two weeks of no running.

By Tuesday - I was no longer sore except my foot...and still today, I have an unsatisified feeling, having not hit a finish line. I was ready to run strong unto the night. When I dropped I had more than 8 hour to run 30 miles and hit a sub-25 hour finish. I am unsettled about this race.

Leadville was by far the coolest race ever. I had an absolute blast. I want to go back NOW!! I want to go back next year. I want to finish the race that I was ready to kill. Right now, I'm going to nurse the foot, and ramp up for Javelina - then maybe put some plans to return to leadville together - or AC or Wasatch or who knows!!

I need to give MAJOR props to Jamil for driving all the way from Silverton to pace me. Without him, I would have dropped no doubt at 70, without even reconsidering the foot taping. In fact, he really turned my mental status around. He was really awesome about ever so slyly trying to convince me to try to continue - even through the pain - without telling me what to do. It was a BLAST running with him, even if I was having a bad go of it.

Thanks to all my WMRC & BT training partners - Lizzie, Honey, Laura, Mark, Boone, The Courys, Kirk, ROBIN, Joe etc. your support really helped get my butt up the hill for all those fun runs!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Healthy Veganism - the new wave.

There are LOTS of unhealthy vegans out there. Going vegan does not mean that you will automatically loose weight or get skinny. I thought this was the case. I still weight the same as I did three years ago, when I finally started being a conscious eater (a vegan), but because I've changed my eating habits from the early Vegan days, I feel. So what changed??

In my early vegan days, I thought I had to recreate my old meat and cheese dishes. I'd make my own Setain, eat tofu scrambles for breakfast with bagels, eat veggie burgers like crazy, and make tons of vegan pizza. While I still enjoy some of these things occasionally, I've moved past this style of eating. I'd call it a sort of evolution. Both for the effort of simplicity and health, I really try to maintain a high fruit and veggie diet - low on processed foods (YES! I consider grains, tofu, setain, tempeh, vegan cheese PROCESSED - certainly better than their animal unfriendly counterpart, these items are still processed. Once I realized that, I put a big "proceed with caution label on them).

What follow is my daily guidelines for eating. I really do go through these each and every day in my head when trying to choose "what's for dinner." I am by no means perfect, but I try my best to maintain some semblance of this. Sure I fall off the train occasionally and end up eating the processed vegan foods, and my body pays the price.

Here are my commandments for HEALTHY vegan eating:
  1. Try to get most of your meals from a plant based diet (i.e. eat a MAXIMUM percentage of fruits and veggies - preferably in their raw state).
  2. Limit grain intake. (I've been accused of being a grainitarian in the past. Looking over my daily eating caused me to agree; try it, you'll be surprised).
  3. All sweet treats should be a whole food, FRUIT source. (Sometimes we think we want a chocolate or candy, but really it's a carb thing. A piece of fruit will serve two purposes - 1) get rid of your carb craving. 2) leaving you feeling refreshed and energized. Other sources of sugar can only do one).
  4. Get over counting grams of protein - it's a myth. Relax, as long as you are following #1, your body will take care of itself. Protein is only ONE of many nutrients that our body need on a daily basis. Tofu only has very few of these (yet it's high in protein), but fruits and veggies have so much more.
  5. Don't listen to FAD FOOD hypes. Udo's oil, VEGA, vitamin pill, "magic"/superfoods all of these are so expensive and really cannot replace continual MAXIMUM fruit and veggie intake. I take no vitamins, and I am still a healthy, energetic person. I am not pale, scary, green, deathly skinny, or malnourished.
  6. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods. When I eat fruits and veggies, I feel amazing and energized. After a yummy meal at a delicious vegan restaurant, I feel like sitting on the couch. Why? Fake chicken, fried foods, too many grains, possible over eating was it worth the bad feeling? I believe in "treating" myself, but the more and more I listen to my body, the more I wonder really if eating like this is treating myself in any way. I like to run long distances. It is a treat to find a new trail, get lost, and/or go on an adventure. Eating crappy foods limits my ability to "treat" myself in this other way. If I had to choose between a delicious bowl of vegan ice cream and an awesome scenic run, the run would ALWAYS win.

So I'll leave you with my preferred way to treat myself:

No way I could do this stuff eating CRAP!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Being Vegan is EASY for me!

A long, long time ago in a land far far way (i.e. the midwest), I ate meat and cheese. Fast forward to today, roughly 20 years later, and meat and cheese are my foes, veggies and fruits are my friends, and running gives me great pleasure. So how does one go from being carnivorous to being herbalicious?

Here, as the first posts of many on eating, running, ethics, etc, I shall outline how I've come to favor and enjoy a vegan lifestyle. Like any good writer of history, I have a purpose, and my purpose is to highlight changes and thought and lifestyle that have been the catalyst for adopting and standing by a vegan diet for both moral, ethical, and health reasons.

First I must pause to outline my motivations for this blog. If anyone remembers the blog I kept long ago that was full of rambling, personal, and self-indulgent thoughts on running, writing, life, and love, you will soon find that this blog has more of a focus and an intent - dare I say a something near a thesis (or maybe the plural of thesis). In fact, my blog comes as a little bit of a reaction to Rhys Southan. This is where people who label themselves as "ex-vegans" are interviewed on the pressures and perils of being vegan, how they switched back to eating meat, and their "love" of their new meat diet. Certainly these are stories to be told, but quite often they are told in a slightly malicious tone towards veganism with a little disrespect towards freedom of choice when it come to diet. I've heard rumors that the vegan community can act more like the Catholic Church (being very dogmatic and unbending of the rules), but I've never really felt judged or put down by vegans. Perhaps this has to do with my proximity from large vegan hubs - Portland, LA, NYC. I envy the plethora of vegan restaurants in LA am always drooling over places that QuarryGirl goes. So maybe myself and these ex-vegans have a little different perspective when it comes to the vegan community, and I can totally relate with feeling ousted or outcast from a community for not adhering to laws or rules that feel totalitarian (recall some of my experiences with triathlon). Still, why the malice, why feel the need to label yourself an ex-vegan? This is what I am reacting to.

Now, here comes the uncomfortable more specific jab (and perhaps jab is not the right word - this is no fight, afterall). So what really finally drove me over the edge and down the blogging hole again was the interview with rockstar ultra runner Devon Crosby-Helms. Her interview kind of floored me. Here is her answer to the question "Does being athletic make it easier or more difficult to stay vegan?":

Much harder. Just getting in the number of calories alone on a whole food vegan diet is hard. I think it is important to note that my diet (whether or not meat is included) is predominately comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils and alternative (gluten-free) grains and beans. I am gluten-intolerant and don’t eat soy. So when I was vegan, it was harder to get in the calories I needed.

Okay, so, let me diffuse this a little bit, because I need to put in in terms of veganism in general, then its prevalence in ultrarunners. So, only 1% of the US population is said to be (or label themselves) vegan. Now lets compound that with the number of people who run ultramarathons. In the eyes of the general public, vegan-ultramarathoners look doubly crazy. Lets put this in perspective by quoting from a triathlete I know (Ironman finisher), "Vegan = difficult, Ultramarathons = super difficult ,Vegan Ultramarathoner = super duper difficult." Now this is what I don't like about the way a Vegan diet is presented in Devon Crosby-Helms' interview. She perpetuates this idea because a vegan diet didn't work for her. I know people who tried the Vegan thing (live-in-boyfriend-baby's daddy included), and it wasn't right for them. I supported them with information and food tips, and once they gave up the lifestyle I didn't shun them. Sure I made a couple of jokes. Sure I was disappointed that the people closest to me "gave up," but I learned to accept that each person must decide for themselves how/what they want to eat. I've also spent much time, myself, trying to be a positive image of a vegan ultra runner. I'm no Scott Jurek, but I'd like to believe that people can look at myself as an ultrarunner and a vegan and think that a vegan diet isn't impossible.

This is by no means a dig a Devon Crosby-Helms personally. I've never met her, and I really respect her talent and hard work as an ultrarunner. I even find her story about being an ex-vegan rather interesting. Really, though, like I've said, I think she speaks with a little disapproval or negativity towards a vegan diet. It just seems unnecessary to tell a conversion story and frame veganism negatively for EVERYONE. Am I making myself clear? In the small vegan world where athletes like Scott Jurek, Michael Arnstein,and Scott Spitz (to name a few) provide a good example to disprove the naysayers or even offer different ways of living/eating that other can learn from.

So, my plea to vegans, ex-vegans, carnivores, omnivores, fruitarians, etc, is that instead of bashing each other's dietary choices, learn from each other.

And to these ends, thus begins my blog. So here is my manifesto, journal, narrative, of my vegan running adventures with tiny bits thrown in about also being a parent, partner, teacher, and closeted-about-to-come-out-of-retirement poet. I hope only to add to the different ways of BEING vegan and an ultrarunner, to expand on limited definitions and antiquated notions in order to expand the categories of identity, leaving only a multiciplity of what it means to be a vegan ultrarunner.

Now I will leave you with a picture of what I ate for breakfast: