Utahn at UTMB: Prologue

Delta flight 5724 from Salt Lake City to Burbank is completely full. This is not difficult given that it is a microscopic plane sporting 2×2 rows all the way back with the exception of first class which flaunts its four rows of ultra-wide 1×2 thrones for all of steerage to see.

Tomorrow, I hop on a United flight early enough to require a 6am airport drive for the impressive 5 hour flight across the continent before another 8 hour hop to Geneva, Switzerland. My body will land 15 actual but 24 clock hours after I begin. Upon deplaning I will immediately begin the breakfast routine of a country not my own. Coffee? Ya. Pastry? Not quite yet, merci. 

Back up… There’s more to this prologue chapter.

My Achilles Heel Is… My Achilles Heel

Two weeks prior to race day—8 days ago—I was jogging the streets of my neighborhood, breaking my usual routine to watch a local cycling race that looped around city streets for hours on a Friday evening. drawing a weak number of spectators plus me. I darted to catch almost dangerous views of tangent cutting and pace cars. But one of those sudden starts landed a dart right in my Achilles, near the heel. Like most runner addicts, I limped a bit, ran some more, and then ran some more. No biggie: the next morning it would be fine, and I could get in some of my last anticipated runs before a massive taper in the last week.

It wasn’t fine.

Waking up reminded me precisely of the darting pain from the night before. Immediately I knew this was A THING and I was none too happy. I walked, a little. My stubbornness gimped down to the coffee shop asking my body to answer just what the fuck was going on in there. The unhelpful answer was, “you hurt me, idiot”. (To be fair, I added the “idiot” part. My body’s not that cruel, normally.)

Back up, even further this time.

The Signs Pointed To: Rest

I’m tired.

Since September I have run three 100 mile races, all of them deliberately and with what counts as speed in my body. September’s gorgeous Stagecoach 100 took me over Babbitt Ranch land near the Grand Canyon in heat and sun to exactly the finish I wanted. I celebrated. Then I fell calamitously in love with an old friend and rode the vibes to a November personal best at 50K—a record I’d previously set at age 30, which was a long time ago. Winter brought a move to my new lovely hometown of Salt Lake City and a reboot of many personal motivations and values. Through heartbreak and upheaval and new romance I trained and trained and ran the race of my life in late March, my first win in a 100 mile event. It was a very good day. 

The week after my March race I ran over 30 miles and almost couldn’t believe it.

I felt…. fine. Of course I knew I ran a hard race, but the miles did not feel heavy or wooden, so I listened. Spring passed as I prepared for my third round at San Diego 100 in early June. Without complications, I had a  difficult yet satisfying race. But after San Diego, the recovery looked different. The miles were harder. The legs were heavier. With that new bodily information, UTMB was definitely looking like it would be a “get it finished” kind of goal. My body was ready to stop racing for the time being. 

So the mileage stayed reasonable through the doggy summer days of Utah. The weeks ticked down to the UTMB trip with all its planning and packing and mandatory gear and weight limits and hooboy. So much planning for this event, relative to most others where one can show up with some running clothes and a jacket and get through the day. Here my kit will weigh at least 5 pounds before water, not a burden but certainly more than the usual carry even for all-day runs.

But I can finish. This much I KNEW.

I might even want to finish well ahead of cutoffs, perhaps 39 hours instead of 46 is a reasonable goal…. that would be lovely. 

And then, the dart to the Achilles. 

(Next Up: Guinea pig in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc)

Two Types of People

It’s often said, “there are two kinds of people in the world…” before humanity is bifurcated right before your very eyes, sometimes to profound hilarity. 

  • Those who get up with their alarm and those who snooze 11 times. 
  • The never-complete and the set-and-satisfied. 
  • Those who keep their curtains wide open, and those who prefer drawn shut. 
  • Those who “eject USB device” and those who just YANK THAT THING OUT. 
  • The seekers and those already found. 
  • Those who love tacos and those who clearly must hate all of existence…
I’m in the green group, for now….

Humans categorize. We sort. We pigeonhole. It is what we do to make sense of the other people around us. We were doing it when our social circles maxed out at about a hundred people, let alone now when we can see and be seen by thousands and millions and billions. [This tendency can also be used to do the basest evil which always begins with sorting people into the “my side” and “others”. Bad, bad, bad.]

Sorting Works? Sort of!

And yet, maybe there is some validity to seeing not so much differences that divide but rather the DIRECTION those differences imply. What if in sorting those people who surround us into “all the laundry together!” and “whites/colors/darks, you morons” we are actually sorting into personal philosophies of unsatisfied curiosity versus comfortable familiarity? That is quite useful, especially if you would like to embrace and promote one side or the other for this stage of your life.

By using the “two kinds of people” assessments, we can decide to assist our own path by surrounding ourselves with those in alignment. Find the tribe that suits us, at least for now. Maybe that tribe is the mortgage-paying, or maybe it is the rent-paying. Maybe we are better served by jumping from the meat tribe to the veg tribe or back again. Or we make the simple habit switch from electric to manual toothbrush.

Is the world truly able to be divided into two groups when it comes to nearly anything?

YES. HELLS, yes.

AND you can use this power as a weapon for GOOD. We all will be just a little bit happier as a result. It turns out I have a lot more to say about this.

Miss Tenacity: The Podcast?

Miss Tenacity, as part of my own personality, was born out of a love of trails. And the idea of tenacity has grown, as we all have, into something more expansive and embracing. This kind of tenacity is about women who run trails and often run really dang long trails. This flavor of tenacity is about athletes who balance families and societal norms and self-expectations and come out stronger.

This kind of tenacity is the community of female ultra runners and trail bad-ass women, and the friendships, trust, and knowledge that can be shared between us all. We are like a pride of lions, independent yet still cohesive. We are supportive of the group and value the accrued wisdom therein. If we function as a pride, we even recognize when the group needs to branch out and grow for its own survival.

Tenacious Flowers

And, yeah, we are PROUD of being ultra women. We’ve battled our schedules, other people’s expectations, our own inner demons, and a dozen other “maybe not’s” before we found ourselves HERE. We are runners, drawn to the self-unraveling that towers over us during long days on trail. When our emotional defenses topple in the middle of the night; when our bodies are ready to collapse in the heat of the 2nd day, THAT is when we have the chance to gather our smoldering embers and use our inner fire to finish what we started.

We trail and ultra women are special. We are like the guys in some ways: we’re tough, we are resilient, we are drawn to this strange kind of discomfort….

A long, long time ago in an ultra-world far, far away . . . One dude postulated that men run ultras because they envy childbirth. They envy the struggle, the pain, the final emergence into success and exhausted rapture. Well . . . perhaps. Could that explain women like me who run ultras and never plan to have children? Again, perhaps.

And yet. We are very different from the rest of the ultrarunning crowd, too. We need different gear, different nutrition, different attitudes. And that’s how we are coming together to make Miss Tenacity, the podcast.

Yes, you read that right. Miss Tenacity is about endurance women. It’s a thing. It’s a podcast. It’s coming.

You are your own Miss Tenacity. And I want you to be part of my tribe.