If you are looking for my race report, that will be a separate post coming later. I feel like so much has happened between my last 100 in 2019 and now. This post discusses where my mind and body were going into HiLo 100 and what got them there, and things I have been doing between 2019 and 2022 with links to the different therapists and practitioners that helped me through a lot of body/hip pain. Why am I sharing this? Well I think there is a perception that in order to do something big, you need everything to go perfectly, everything must align. I wanted to show that is not the case, but you do need to consistently be doing things that will get you to your goal in the best way you can with where you are in life.
2020 was a wash in terms of racing, I ran a small local 20 miler and attempted a 100k but often felt like my heart just wasn’t in it. In 2021 I was looking for some inspiration. Something big to look forward to as I was in a bit of a funk and wasn’t feeling particularly excited to do much of anything, including but not limited to running. I recognized that it was more than just the blues and was introduced to athlete therapist Danielle Snyder of Inner Drive Wellness and started working with her. I also signed up for High Lonesome 100 for a change of pace. With Covid continuing it was really hard to mentally invest in anything; to put myself fully into any training, or nearly anything else. What if I spent all the requisite hours training, driving 8 hour days to get to some actual mountain running, put in hours of strength training to be able to carry the required gear, only to get Covid and have to bow out of the race the week before?! Realistically to recover from Covid in a healthy manner most individuals need a solid month to get back to their pre-covid state. I had seen it in several athletes I coach, as well as in most of the literature that the journal of sports medicine put out. I wasn’t sure I could handle another let down, and I sure as heck didn’t want a surprise lung issue up at 13,000 ft in the wilderness.
Ultimately I chose for HiLo for two main reasons. First I wanted a change of scenery and to spend an extended amount of time in CO-this would be my excuse, to get used to higher altitude. Second I had been searching for races that supported equity and encouraged a large field of women. The lottery has 150 spots and half are slotted for women/half for men, this year we actually had more female starters than men: 74 women started, 69 men started! Not that I have much of a voice, but the small voice I have I like to use to support races and RDs that I believe are truly trying to make a safe, enjoyable and more diverse race experience. I knew it was hard and it topped out over 13,000 ft but I didn’t really think about the implications of that for several months later; I pushed that down. If you’re looking for this in an east coast race, Hellbender 100 has a similar lottery system.
Winter training went ok, but I kept having frustrating hip pain that started in 2019. I dropped out of a marathon in March at mile 20; I pushed that disappointment and frustration down. I have had this weird pain for almost 3 years, sometimes its a run stopper, sometimes I don’t notice it at all. After going to a myriad of doctors, I finally found someone who was both an internal medicine doc and a sports med doc. She diagnosed me with very early arthritis in my hip, no ligament tears, no labrum impingement and sent me to a Pelvic floor PT and told me that if the hip continued to bother me she had several methods to help it that were within the rules that WADA allowed for. Wow, that was a huge relief, I didn’t realize how much chronic hip pain could weigh on me. Also I didn’tknow that the weird UTI like symptoms that I started back in 2012 were all related. (SIDE NOTE: pelvic floor health and issues are everywhere, but should not be normalized and not to be ignored. If you have any sort of pelvic floor things, not limited to pain with sex or bladder things you CAN and SHOULD get that sh*t fixed, its a game changer—-it also led me to take some additional classes to add to my coaching resume that were super interesting and that I have used to help some of my athletes already.) Not only had it affected my running, walking, sitting, but going to the bathroom and also my sex life were involved. It took about 5 months to get things feeling better, they aren’t perfect, I can’t undo the arthritis, but I could figure out my pelvic floor issues and relieve most of my hip pain, and I can feel the rest of my body unwinding too. I can see the light at the end of this PF tunnel, pun intended!
Meanwhile, as I was muddling my way through pelvic floor pt (not to mention peri-menopause which I haven’t even been able to address; theres a theme here of pushing things out of mind.) and trying to stay on top of the depression and anxiety it was causing, our dog was slipping away from us. This spring my best furry friend and running partner, Emmitt was diagnosed with cancer and we suddenly found ourself having to put him down at age 15 in a short 4-5 days from diagnosis. Prior to this he had really never had any injury or sickness; no arthritis, no surgeries, I think the worst he had was he once had a tooth pulled and 3 years ago he injured a tendon in his paw and had to take it easy for a few weeks. He was 15 but was still running 1-5 miles a day with me on the trails
It was such a shock, it felt like it came out of the blue. As I was digging myself out of physical pain and injury, here was our happy and healthy dog who still waited patiently every morning for his run, sliding very quickly towards his end without us knowing. I kept thinking we should have had at least a year of him getting older, stiffer, not wanting to run…instead it was 5 days and was so incredibly hard. Instead of ramping up my training at this point, I found myself numb and awash in grief, not sleeping not eating, trying to figure out who I was and how to function without the usual dog-goal posts of every day: wake up, feed Emmitt, run, run Emmitt, walk Emmitt at noon, feed him, walk him again, snuggle on the couch at the end of the day. Even just the day to day things where he would sit on his lazyboy chair and watch me while I work-was gone.
I have been a dog walker/trainer for more than 10 years now, and most of it was due to adopting Emmitt. It turns out he was a mix of breeds that are especially hard to rehabilitate if they haven’t been properly socialized as a puppy: namely border collie and german shephard. By throwing myself into learning how to train and re socialize a neglected older dog I found that I had both a knack for it and a passion, which became a career. Honestly, we had also adopted him shortly after my father in law passed away and so he was both a distraction, a way to give love to someone who had been neglected and abused a safe and loving home. So when he passed lots of those old emotions resurfaced, things that had been pushed down.
Now it was mid May, it was my 42nd birthday and I had put my dog down, and I hadn’t really thought about training for a very hard race. This isn’t to say I didn’t run a step, I certainly ran, but running where I live you have to work really hard to get about 1,000 ft of vert in 9 miles, so to train for miles-long-climbs that gain several thousands of feet of vert takes focus and effort and lots of driving to far away areas.
The week after we said goodby I started training because I finally had the mental capacity to do so,
May 16-22 I ran 70 miles with 6,600ft of elevation (these next few weeks the elevation was all hiking on a treadmill in my garage)
May 23-29: 70 miles with 4,000 ft of elevation—that’s like no elevation
May 30-June 5: 67 miles with 7,175 ft of elevation
June 6-12: 80 miles with 8,000 ft of elevation
June 13-19: 84 miles with 7,000 ft of elevation
June 20-26 was my big cram week of 90 miles which would be similar to like a Western States training camp. You can have a super compensation weekend in a training cycle provided you have adequate recovery after. I drove out to Asheville and did a big 3 day weekend of hiking on technical trails. The week looked something like this: monday off, tuesday 8 miles, wed 6 miles (drive to Asheville) Thursday 26 miles with 5,000 ft of climbing, Friday 21 miles with 4, 000 ft of climb, Sunday 25 miles with 4,500 ft of climb, and it was followed by a big recovery week of very little running while we took 3 days to drive to CO.
That was most of my training. I was a momentarily stressed that I was not fully prepared, who crams for the hardest 100 miler they have done? Apparently, I do. Then I remembered I do this because I love it, and my mindset switched to: What can I do on less than “perfect” training, and how the beauty of life is that its all less than perfect but often results are surprisingly wonderful despite our earlier perception of what “perfect” is.
I will add a caveat: this would be my 7th 100 miler, my 12th year of trail running, 20+ years of running/sports, I am a coach, I have a coach,I have figured how and practice eating before, getting 200-300 cal/hour during, and food after, I did do strength work between PT and getting strong enough to carry all the required gear—upper body and lots of back strength and I have a team of very knowledgeable friends who are in the PT and strength and conditioning world, plus they are amazing crew…so this was not a couch to 100 miler by any means. I do think in ultras experience, past miles, good nutrition and hydration strategies that you have practiced well, strength and knowledge of how to trouble shoot will get you far in completing ultras. Consistency in your sport can make up for a lot.
At some point I looked back at my Run Rabbit Run 2017 finish I estimated that I wanted to finish in 28-30 hours, then I paused and remembered that the last 6 or so months of my race prep were less than ideal for that type of external goal. I reassessed and decided that my goal would be to finish in one piece. My A, B and C goals would be to hold onto expectations lightly, to breathe and put aside any of my competitive nature and enjoy the views, gut out the thin air, DNF if there was any indication that my hip was feeling worse, eat, drink, be smart and trust my crew.
Also contributing to my mindset, we lost two very important women in our lives, not just our dog and that was an additional weight on both me and Drew. I had been thinking a lot about what it means to age, and decided this would be a good way to practice not being so focused on external competitive goals that usually motivate me and focus more on the journey and the friends that would be with me. I want to continue to run- long after I can be competitive and HiLo was a way to just be in the moment and not worry if people would look at me and wonder why I was satisfied with a nearly DFL. In my mind I would have to tell myself that yes, people would look at a 16th place finish at WSER a few years ago and then look at this almost last place finish and wonder what the heck happened and that I would just not have to care. I was doing the best I could with where I am in this moment of life and be happy.
If you have read to the finish, thank you for bearing with me and reading this far. Race report to come later.