weather. And there’d still be a long way to go with more tight cutoffs.
I dropped again.
Fourteen years later, at the Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin, I arrived at the start 20 minutes late. They let me go and just as I caught sight of the last runner ahead of me, I fell and dislocated my finger, then put it back in place, stopped to pull the ring off that finger, got lost, and got back on course. In short, I lost a ton of time. I concentrated hard for a few sections on making it up but got to the next aid station without catching many runners. I asked one of the volunteers serving food what the cutoff was. “I don’t know but it’s soon! You’re not going to make it,” he pronounced with certainty. “Huh,” I smiled to myself, watching him go about his business as I munched a handful of potato chips. “We’ll see about that.” I not only finished, I finished two hours under cutoff.
Just like Leadville, I’d been at this race before and things looked grim, except now, I had a firm rule.
“Don’t quit until they pull you.”
The less-than-poetic caveat is, of course, “unless you’re suffering a grievous, running-career limiting injury.”
The point of these two stories is that until you tell yourself something’s impossible, it’s not. As Edgar Allan Poe’s Sherlock Holmes said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” “Improbable” and “unlikely” may look grim but they’re still in the realm of possible. You don’t know for sure that finishing your 100-mile race is impossible when you’re standing at the starting line. Or when you’ve been baking for hours of miles in the afternoon heat. Or at 2am when you’re sitting in a chair in front of the warm aid station fire feeling cold, tired and defeated. Just because you have doubts and worries about something, or someone told you it’s impossible, does NOT mean it’s impossible It may take hard work. It may not happen now or as fast as you want. It may happen differently than you expect. But as long as you decide not to quit, it’s possible.
So when you think about that thing you want in your life, choose the word you say to yourself carefully - it has power.
Choose "improbable" instead of "impossible."
And don’t quit until they pull you.
reading ultra books, listening to stories, and actually running in the races and fell in love with ultras. I live in the Chicagoland area, which is flat with fickle weather especially during the winter months. If one is not dedicated, focused, and determined, spring races can be difficult to train for.
My race is April 5-8 Potawatomi-McNaughton in Pekin, IL. It consists of a 10-mile loop with two creek crossings that can be calf deep depending on what the weather decides to deposit (did I mention I cannot swim??? TERRIFIED), and a touch of elevation. Sometimes information can be very daunting but I do not like surprises, I will look up everything, and will ask everybody hence making my nerves a bit rattled. I will say that the ultra community is very caring and supportive regardless of your level of running.
My current training consists of running four days a week with back-to-back runs on the weekend. When DST kicks in I will start doing double runs during the week, the key is for me to get time on my feet and run on tired legs. I am not a fast runner but I do have endurance and stamina. Running has not been easy for me but I love it none-the-less. I have to consistently monitor my nutrition due to my being Type 2 Diabetic but I have found what works for me. There are so many things that I will need for this race... trail shoes (just got them), trekking poles (need to get them), a few changes of clothes. I will be hours away from home, in the woods, and in a tent (did I mentioned I’ve NEVER CAMPED). I will definitely be out of my comfort zone.
I am 7 weeks out from my race with a lot of mileage to get under my feet. I look back at my previous races, try to evaluate what I did, and look at what needs to be changed/adjusted. So, now I am in the process of tackling hills, adding more core work, and of course more miles. From early on when I first started, I was told that running it is 90% mental, and it can derail everything regardless of how well you have trained. I will have plenty of time to finish but I cannot let the “mind” creep in and take over. I will stay focused, on task, and will report back with an update half way through.
the people on the list.” “But I’m not…I’m so much slower.” And suddenly you feel deflated, like you don’t belong and don’t matter. I know. I’ve spent plenty of time minimizing my accomplishments over the years because they didn’t meet standards like the ones in this issue.
If rankings like this do the same for you, know three things:
1. You’re in good company
In 2017, I finished my 100th 100-miler, ran a 200- and 240-mile race, and won two 100-mile races outright (at 54 years old, I might add). And I’m not on those lists. Neither are several others like Sandra Villines, the Badwater Champion who broke a 30-year old women's transcontinental run record.
2. You have more in common with the people on the list than you imagine. For starters, you probably both:
3. These lists capture the tiniest fraction of the story - the parts that happen to be easiest to measure and rank. They’re not everything. Race times, race size, the winner's age. Pretty basic stuff. As data gets easier to find and manipulate, rankings may get more creative but at the moment, Ultrarunning magazine may simply not have the info to list your well-deserved:
While I long ago stopped paying much attention to rankings, I’ll admit I enjoy seeing friends there and I’d be the first to let you know if I made it on a reputable one but it’s certainly not everything. The trick is to remember you’re so much more than a few categories on a few lists in one magazine. You have strengths, circumstances, and successes no one else does.
You’re special, list or no list.
I hope these three perspectives help because there will always be rankings. It’s human nature.
Your worth in this sport isn’t dependent on how you compare to other runners. A chart in the Ultrarunner of the Year issue even says so. You were a part of making this the first year North American ultrarunning finishes exceeded 100,000. So bottom line, this sport and all those top, best, and notable rankings wouldn’t be what they are without you.
You help make the sport what it is, so keep running, list or no list.
with the 50k, I thought who runs that far??? Then I kept on reading and saw the distances of 50 miles, 100k, and so on, and I was shocked to read this. People actually running these miles, on their feet, and not driving really?! So I had to expand my library and fell in love with “Born to Run”, that a friend recommended, and that set the tone. I’m constantly buying books on ultra-running from “how-to”, magazines, YouTube videos and documentaries like the Western States, Leadville, and so on. I like/want to learn who these ultra-runners are and even found some who are like me.
Now a bit of running background information about me for I have no speed a.k.a. a true back-of-the-pack runner, and a curvy girl with a lot of “junk-in-the-trunk”. I’m currently 60 years old until August. I have endurance; found that out when I ran my first marathon. I introduced myself to ultra-running in October 2016 with my first race being the Chicago 50/50; I did the 50k. This is an out and back course on the Chicago Lakefront, one of the flattest 50k/50m in the US.
Ultra-running has opened up a whole different level of running for me, and then that changed with learning about trails, where most of them take place. I am a city girl, never camped, not the type of person who rushes to a picnic hence, an outdoor-a-phobic. I hate ANYTHING that resembles a bug of any shape or size and let’s not even bring snakes into the picture for I will not even step on a worm, I’ll cross the street <lol>.
All of that changed when I told a friend of mine that I wanted to run some trails (what was I smoking) and he let me tag along on a race (July 2017). This took place three hours outside of Chicago. WHO KNEW that these places existed, talk about forest preserves to the 100th power. I signed up for the race and ran my first trail HM that had 3400’ elevation and 93º. I saw so many different species of creepy crawlers, small animals, and those HILLS, OMG but I still kept climbing, it took me forever but I finished. I was so proud of myself.
Fast forward to present day, I am currently preparing for my first “trail” 50 miler at Potawatomi Trails in Pekin, IL taking place in April. After getting four ultras under my belt (one DNF), I decided to look at the next level so the 50 miler is it. I’m still a newbie at ultra-running and have a long way to go but what I do know is that this community is so welcoming. I’ve met so many people who have given me advice, answered questions, and assured me that the main goal is about the finish. When I came in DFL last year I thought I had won the race for so many were cheering me when I finished.
So, for those of you who are reading this and feel that you might not be ready for an ultra, you’re ready! One foot in front of the other and just take your time, if you have a gracious time limit. I tend to look at races that have long distances such as a 100-200 miler so I know that I have time and not pressure to finish. I LOVE TO RUN!! I’ll never podium or win first place, but I do win because I finish. Now I must grow my buckle collection!!
could go back at any time, so why did I need to do the race again? The answer became clear to me one day on a long training run. Why Not?? We all have an ego, we all have goals and dreams that need not be explained to others because they become personal for reasons others may not ever understand. My ego was not going to settle for 9 and it wanted to go for 10. The number 10 sits so much better with me!
We all have places we have traveled in our life that we yearn to go back to over and over again. Death Valley is a place that I feel as if in a past life I may have lived there! Crazy as that sounds, it is true. I have been fortunate to race and travel all over the world; why I chose to go back to Death Valley over and over again is so personal. Death Valley in July is hot and such a harsh environment but it brings me great joy.
Getting into the STYR Labs Badwater 135-mile race is no guarantee for anyone. I had not run the race in several years because I had retired my number 7 and had retired from the race because I truly thought I felt satisfied with what I had accomplished in Death Valley. Each summer I continued to go back to Death Valley to crew and pace a student because that is how much I love Death Valley. Being accepted to attempt my 10th finish was such an honor for me. The thought of standing at the starting line and sharing the road from Badwater, -282' below sea level, with 94 other athletes that I have great respect and admiration for felt like I was graduating from college! It was said in our local newspaper here in Jackson that I was the first woman to get 10 Badwater finishes and that I went for a record. Pam Reed, who lives in the same town I do, was the first woman to run 10 Badwaters and matter of fact, she has 11 finishes! (Pam was not at the race this year.) I was never going for a record of any kind; my only goal was to be granted one more crossing of Death Valley to the finish line.
I picked and asked my crew if they would join me long before I was accepted into the race. If I had not been accepted, I was planning on going back and crossing Death Valley again on my own. My crew of Sister Marybeth Lloyd, Sada Crawford, Ernie Rambo and Vincent Antunez were chosen for very specific reasons. These 4 people I consider lifetime friends and adventure seekers who know me so well and I know them. It takes an amazing crew of people that are full of selfless love to help someone across Death Valley in July. This crew was the best of the best and one that I will forever be grateful for. They held me accountable for WHY I was on the road across Death Valley once again, they loved and nurtured my personal dream with some gentle tough love.
Sitting in the prerace meeting was so wonderful. I was in a room full of athletes from all over the world who are simply amazing people. I was the only woman sitting in that room who was going for number 10 Badwater finishes. My friend Cheryl was going for number 9 and my friend Marshall was going for number 21 When I was asked if I would go for 11, my answer was and is crystal clear...NO! I am over the moon thrilled with 10! None of us sitting in the pre-race meeting needed to explain to the others WHY we were about to go across 135 miles of heat and hell in July. We all feel the same! It is amazing to be sitting with 94 other athletes who all feel the same way you do...
Not for even 1 minute did I ever feel nervous or scared before the start of the race. I felt like the peaceful warrior who had trained well for the journey ahead. One thing that concerned me was being able to stay awake for 2 nights because it had been a very long time since I had done that. The 8 pm start was new to me. The only other time I started at night was in 1995 for my first Badwater 135.
Being at the starting line at 8 pm, the sun was starting to set and it was extraordinary. Surreal hustle from all the runners and crews to get weighed in, checked in, photos taken, wait in line for the bathroom one more time makes the waiting at the start go quickly. The sun was just about to set, the sky was magical and the smell of Death Valley made me feel so alive yet I had goose bumps! Sister Marybeth and the rest of our crew gathered in a circle, holding hands near the starting line and said a group prayer. The prayer was for all the runners, crews, volunteers to have a safe journey and take care of one another. Sister Marybeth asked God to protect us all.
I felt calm as the wind picked up yet full of excitement to be at the starting line one last time with many other athletes that I consider life time friends. Marshall Ulrich and I took a photo with Sister Marybeth and I felt such honor to be standing with these two people who I greatly love, respect and admire. It was Marshall who convinced me to run my first Badwater in 1995. A runner sang the Star Spangled banner. Tears started rolling down my face as I felt so privileged to be right where I was. The countdown for the start began...5,4,3,2,1....blast off! All was right in the world for that moment.
I had a plan to walk the first mile of the race with rosary beads given to me from Sister Marybeth and say the rosary. Friend Frank Mckinney, who walks the first mile of the race and says the rosary, was not able to take part in the race this year, so I wanted to honor him because Frank holds a special place in my heart. I walked the first mile and said the rosary. It was such an incredible feeling to have ZERO pressure to race off the starting line. As I walked I also started to cry. Tears came rolling down for so many reasons but mostly because I felt the presence of greatness shining down on all of us.
The first 17 miles were tougher than I thought, emotionally and physically, because all the cars and headlights from the 9:30 and 11 pm race starts were coming towards us and were making me feel sick. My mojo was to only focus on what I could control and try very hard to not allow anything I could not control get to me! As much as the cars and headlights were bothering me it was such an honor to be on the road with so many other runners that I just adore, admire and respect. With the night brought the stars. The stars in Death Valley take over the sky and light the way. Often I would look up and think of all the angels flying over us and all the angels in heaven. Although not feeling great I tried to not allow myself to think about it. I stayed with my easy run and walk and my crew would say, "you are doing great" so I knew we were ok on time. 4 mph seems to be a pace I am able to hold for hours and hours with easy run and walk and this pace would surely get us to the finish line. Crossing Death Valley so many other times when it was not part of the race kept coming to my mind. I knew exactly where I was on the course and I loved the familiar surroundings that felt like home to me. Solitude at its best. Blocking out the noise I was able to get into my own zen as I prayed and meditated into feeling absolute peace.
Mile 42 is at Stovepipe Wells. I was so happy to get to this point because I knew I would make the cut-off at 50 miles. I felt confident in the easy run and power walking I was doing. The greatest gift for me at Stovepipe was our 14-year-old daughter standing on the side of the road to see me go past. Of course, it brought more tears of love because it was such a big part of my journey to have Annie at this last Badwater for me. As I started up the long climb Towne Pass, I had so many moments where I was overtaken with emotion, tears and could not catch my breath. My mother lost her battle to cancer at the end of Nov. 2016, several friends had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I was starting to feel immense grief that I had not worked through yet.
My crew was so amazing. The entire journey they worked together so well, had fun and kept me focused on the goal of finishing despite the times I was questioning my purpose for being there. I tried hard to hide my emotional pain from my crew because I knew that God would not give me more than I could handle and I should be tougher!! My stomach felt just awful and I was finding it hard to even get liquid calories down. My stomach felt so full that if I put another drop of fluid in it that it might just bust! It was that very uncomfortable feeling you get when you eat and drink too much and you just want to lie down. I knew if I just slowed the pace down it would be alright. Many others were having the same problems and I would just have to be patient and hope it passed. The humidity in Death Valley was something most of us were not prepared for. I felt heat trained but not for humidity. It was challenging and difficult to process calories. Living in the mountains at 6,000 feet we don't have humidity. The humidity felt so thick in the air making it almost feel like I was running through a very hot light rain. I have trained to be miserable and uncomfortable in the heat, the humidity added another layer of misery to test us all.
The sun was starting to come up and with this I felt a renewed energy and faith. The higher I climbed up Towns Pass (to 5,000 feet) the more the sun was beating down right on my face. It is all exposed and it was hot. Usually when you get higher it starts to cool off, but not this year. I kept reminding myself to stay peaceful and warrior on, one foot in front of the other. My pace slowed down so many times as I became overcome with emotions. My legs felt great but I felt heavy-hearted and found it difficult to move. My heart felt so heavy and full of emotions thinking about so many people I love and care about who are suffering. I was not suffering, I was miserable. You see I paid for and signed up for this Badwater 135. Those who are suffering from cancer, starving to death, have no clean water... they are suffering. I kept wondering why God would allow so much suffering in the world especially children.
At Panamint Springs, I asked the crew to take a break before starting the long climb up Father Crowley’s. I had no plans to stop at all in the race unless it was absolutely needed. I love this climb and find it so beautiful, but I needed an emotional reset button. I started to question why my ego needed 10 finishes, why, why and why? As I sat for a very long time I talked to several friends who were also at Panamint and drank chocolate milk and tried to eat pizza. Nothing wanted to stay down but crew chief Vincent was not allowing me to leave until I did what he asked of me to do. Tough love at it best and it worked. My longtime friend Marie Boyd was at Panamint and she allowed me to cry on her shoulder and gave me a big pep talk. I can't tell you how much I was grieving the loss of my mother and what so many others are fighting in life with illness. I could not stop thinking about our friend George Velasco who has stage 4 colon cancer, my friend Scott with a brain tumor, Damon, Dale, Jonathan and so many with cancer, so many with addiction, depression or any awful illness on and on. I just wanted to fall to my knees and cry.
The race director of the STYR Labs Badwater 135 Chris Kostman was at this check point and he came up to me while I was sitting down and said to me, "Lisa, I look forward to seeing you at the finish line." I told him that I would be there and thanked him for the opportunity once again. I left and started walking up Father Crowley's and felt great as I left. Yet within a few miles, the same feelings of absolute grief and sadness seemed to take over my thought process. All I could do was continue to place one foot in front of the other without falling to my knees wanting to cry out to God and ask him why so many have to suffer. I moved in silent prayer and meditation. Sada, Sister Marybeth and Ernie took turns walking behind me. They knew my heart; I did not have to say anything. It became for me a peaceful, misery of acceptance that life comes around full circle and that we must move forward with love, always with love. What is life really all about? What is my purpose here on earth? Am I doing what God wants me to do or am I do what I want to do? My mother lived everyday of her life with full intention. Cancer may have taken her away but she never for even one minute felt sorry for herself, complained or was anything but a warrior who fought until the end because she loved life and she loved her purpose. What does a life that comes full circle mean to you? I can't take any Badwater belt buckles with me to heaven. I can't take any money, cars or stuff with me. What I can take with me are all the memories and all the love that I have been given and have shared with others. Love, love, love and then love some more!
"Give, give, give until it hurts and when it hurts keep on giving." -Mother Teresa
At the top of Father Crowley’s, I still was not able to take many calories down at all. I felt weak in emotion yet strong in body. I decided to stay at Father Crowley's and lie down on the ground and just be quiet. I kept telling myself to enjoy the journey, learn from each step even if it is not what you expected. Expect the unknown and move forward with love. After yet another very long sit out at Father Crowley's I took off feeling pretty good and motivated but was once again soon after taken over with raw emotions that left me feeling weak and wanting to just cry! We passed a few runners and a few runners passed us. Never even for one moment in the race did I feel competitive with anyone. I felt if all in the world went great for me I would have a fast race (fast for me). If things were off, then that was ok, because the only goal was to cross the finish line. I did not wear a watch, never cared what time it was or how long I was sitting out. I could tell by the sun, the moon, the stars and the magical draw of Death Valley what time it was because I have crossed it both directions more than few times. When I got to the finish line I would have 10 offical races, 1 unoffical, Badwater Double, Badwater Quad and countless other crossings crewing and pacing others. Trust me I know where each Joshua Tree sits on the course!!
Arriving at the Darwin check-in station, Marie Boyd was there waiting for us. Marie was just what I needed at that moment. Tears came streaming down my face, I told her how much I missed my mother and how hard all of this was emotionally. Marie understood as she has been through the same not long ago losing her own mother. Losing a mother is one of the hardest thigns I have experienced in my life so far. Friends have lost mothers and of course I have felt sadness for them but when it happens to you the root of the pain hits deeper than you can ever imagine. Marie and I share a very special bond of understanding this pain. Trust me, losing my father or any loved one has been very difficult and it still hurts but for some reason the loss of mom has a pain that is not something I can even describe. I once again asked the crew to allow me to lie down and hit the reset button. We had lots of time to get to the finish line. So much of me just wanted to get in the van and go home and allow my heart to heal but the real me, of course, wanted to finish the darn 10th Badwater. My crew reminded me often who and why I was honoring in this 135 and this helped me get my butt back on the road.
Having little to no calories (trust me, I tried) was a big part of the reason I continued to get so emotional. The crew tried very hard to force me to eat and drink (nicely of course) but it was so difficult. As a coach I have pushed my athletes to make sure they eat and drink, being on the other side of the fence as the athlete being crewed helped me see both sides in such a better light! Do your best, that is all you can ask of yourself and of others.
On top of the heat and humidity the lack of calories continued to leave me just wanting to curl up on the side of the road and allow my grieving heart to hurt. As we moved towards the 100 mile mark the moon was so beautiful. The big dipper was right in front of my face and the moon behind me. I slowed way down for a few minutes to give thanks to God for it all. The good, the bad, the ugly but most of all for the challenges and for allowing me to grieve, pray and meditate in a place that draws out every emotion possible whether you like it or not. I lifted my hands to the sky and asked my mother to guide me to the finish line. Just as I said this out loud a shooting star went shooting right through the big dipper. At that very moment, I felt renewed faith and energy and carried on with a less heavy feeling. Vincent went several miles with me from mile 100 to the turn at Lone Pine, but the crew all took turns.
I felt like I was transforming and had come so far in such a short period of time that my heart and mind felt right with the world. I felt peaceful, I felt Love, I was moving forward with Love. As I made the turn to Lone Pine, Sister Marybeth came out to walk with me. We put arms around each other's waist and prayed, sang, said the rosary once again. I will never forget Sister Marybeth’s words as we moved forward for as long as I live. She said, " Lisa, take your time, we are in no hurry you have lots of time to make it to the finish line. Enjoy the steps. Next year in July why don't we run across Ireland?” I started to enjoy the steps as I told Sister that this would be the last time I walked these steps and it felt good to have the chance to walk them with her one last time.
One block from the check in station in Lone Pine mile 122 my daughter Annie came running down the road with her arms opened wide yelling... "Mama, you are here." The crew later told me that Annie was worried about running out to meet me because she feared I would get a penalty as you are only allowed one pacer at a time. I am so grateful Annie took the chance and ran out to me with arms opened wide! She gave me the biggest hug and of course I started to cry and she said "You are so close to the finish line, I am so proud of you mama. Guess who will be waiting for you at the finish line?" I asked who would be at the finish line. Annie said, "I will be and so will your mother."
I sat out in Lone Pine much longer than I thought. I was actually having lunch in the restaurant and it felt so funny to be sitting there in the middle of a race but I was loving it and having a great time talking to many friends. I ate very little but it was better than nothing. It felt so good to just sit, have no pressure and visit with friends that I have not seen for so long. Art Webb, Ben Jones, Don Meyer... wow... what a blessing. The common bond and love we all share for the race and for Death Valley for our own personal reasons. It felt like a family reunion. Being with other Badwater legends made my heart full of joy. These people have been part of my life for many years as fellow warriors marching on to victory. These people have impacted my life in so many ways with memories and stories that I will tell for the rest of my days.
As I started up the last 13 miles to the finish line, which is the Portals of Mt. Whitney, I really wanted to run but once again I was hit hard with such deep emotions I can't even explain. The words, “Take your time; we are in no rush” rang in my heart. Slowly, emotionally, peacefully I moved up the long climb towards the finish line. It was as if I was home and I wanted to savor it all, taking in all that Death Valley had taught me since 1995. I realized I have grown with wisdom with each Badwater crossing. As I was approaching the last 2 miles I was overcome with feelings that are not describable. I closed my eyes often, took deep breaths to keep my act together, and slowly walked forward with love in my heart. Often, I would turn around to see how far we had come to see the vast beauty of Death Valley. It is quite a view and one that makes you just say... WOW! The wide expanse that we covered on foot. Looking back I felt God, the angels all around me. This beauty, the colors, the magical spiritual energy, the stars, the moon and the sun that are constantly shining, these feelings of awe. I am left speechless. Does the beauty lie in the emotional turmoil, the contentment we find in confronting our emotions head on? I wonder. The beauty is raw and cuts me to the depths of my core every time I see it and it brings me to tears.
One mile left to go. My crew were all out of the van and we gathered together. Vincent gives me a water bottle and told me to take the last mile alone, to reflect on all the times I have crossed Death Valley. I could barely speak because I was so full of emotion but I said...thank you. As the van pulled away I sat down for a moment on a rock that was on the side of the road. I lifted my hands to the sky and cried out giving thanks to God for the many lessons I have learned through the challenges given. I cried knowing my mother and father were both watching down from heaven and that they were at peace. As I got closer to the finish line I felt a cold rush come over me. I looked to the right of me and visualized as I felt the presence of my mother standing right where she stood many years ago when she crewed, of me as I crossed the finish line. Annie ran down the final turn to meet me. I kept looking to the right of me where my mother stood years ago. I could see her, feel her. She was clapping, smiling and then holding her arms open wide to the heavens saying.."Well done good and faithful warrior. I love you Lisa. We did it!!'"
Annie is approaching me yelling, "Mama we did it, we did it."
Holding hands Annie, Sister Marybeth, Sada, Ernie and Vincent as we crossed the finish line for number 10 will forever be one of the greatest moments of my life. I am full of gratitude for the opportunity and that I was granted one more crossing of Death Valley. The release, the rush of experiences at the finish line, tears of joy, fatigue setting in, yet a burst of adrenaline at knowing what we had just done. Physically I felt fine, my legs could have gone on for days but my emotional energy was drained to a new level. I could smell the fresh mountain air, the pine trees, birds were singing. It was a blessing, I felt elated.
My team stood and took photos as I received my buckle and t-shirt from Chris Kostman the race director. Sister Marybeth and I started singing Hallaugha, Hallaugha. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
We did it, we sure did!
Thank you Chris Kostman, race director for the opportunity to wear number 7 one more time.
Thank you will never be enough for my amazing crew and family for their love and support.
The beauty of it all: we continue to learn and grow wise with wisdom as life is one word. LOVE.
This one's for you Mom, the greatest warrior I will ever know. I love you to the heaven, the stars, across Death Valley and back.
I haven't had a run in the two-digits mileage range in over a month and this last Ultra Ladies day, I didn't run at all but instead set up a small aid station for my runners. Our three hour hike/run today was one of the nicest I've experienced in a long time. We talked about a lot of things and one subject that came up was "how do we know our life purpose?" I believe I do know my purpose... my sole purpose, actually my soul purpose is... service. In my life I have been a care taker, mentor, guide, teacher, coach, nurturer, healer and comforter. I became some of these things at a very young age in life being the oldest child of a mother who suffered from severe mental illness. I was many of these things to my siblings growing up; to my father and grandmother at my mother's untimely passing; to my children and friends, to my pregnant and birthing clients, to my patients, friends with cancer, the ladies I coach, my race runners, and my husband. Being so many things to so many people leaves very little for yourself. About four years ago, I had an opportunity to take a serious look at the fact that I don't "care" for myself the way I care for others. I lost a couple of very close friends through death and I helped give care to them through the dying process. I became really "frazzled" (Defined: To be feeling brain-fried; lost and confused; not functioning properly; slightly stressed; all over the place.)... yep, that was me. I won't go into the details but suffice it to say I was at my rock bottom of giving. There just was nothing left in the giving pool, not even for myself. I took some much needed time off from the real world, got some therapy, got quality sleep, learned to meditate and visualize, and slowly climbed out of the hole I fell into. But life doesn't always creep along gently. The last 36-months have been filled with breast cancer, GI bleeds, brain bleeds, pacemaker, surgeries, heart attacks, pneumonia, blood clots and blood thinners; all in our own household. My running friend is a professional massage therapist who back in May offered me a complimentary session that I never redeemed because I couldn't make the time. As we ran along, I told her that I make time for my husband, my children, work, my runners, and friends. I'm the first one to drop or reschedule my life to accommodate others but I can't find time for one massage; what does that say about me? So, going to run with her today was another start in continuing to learn to care for myself and I will make time to get that massage. Blessings....
At my retirement, I was a nurse/clinical research coordinator for a USC Hepatitis Research Center at LA County Hospitals. It was there that I became familiar with the "placebo affect". Once a patient has not responded to the standard of care treatment, they may be eligible for a clinical trial to be blindly randomized to (1) study drug or (2) placebo. Evidence that placebo sometimes helps the patient is when the patient's disease shows measurable improvement which is rare but does happen. An interesting observation is that placebo patients may report drug side effects like headache, weight gain, dry mouth and more. Of particular interest is how some placebo patients will report improved quality of life that may be related to the fact that study visits are often more detailed and personal than are routine physician visits so there may even be a placebo effect for all study patients from the personal attention they receive from their study team.
I see the relationship of Placebo Affect with Ultra Ladies. For 24-years, I've watched newbies show up for their first trail run and they all express familiar sentiments "OMG... I don't belong here... what have I gotten myself into? Truth is, the first few trail runs ARE scary if it's new to you but by the time you run your first ultra marathon, scary is replaced by nervous excitement.
How is this possible?
It's the PlacebA Affect!
PlacebA Affect is trail running with like-minded Ladies who have been where you are, who share the same worries and insecurities that women face. It's showing up for some very long and difficult runs knowing that trail has lessons to teach you about fear, weakness, humility and the women who run beside you are your partners in these lessons.
This makes Ultra Ladies your PlacebA!
Ultra Ladies running leads to growth... confidence... positivity... empowerment. These changes don't occur just from the running but from running on trail... with your trail sisters... and believing that positive changes will happen through the process.
This is the PlacebA Affect!
Through running with Ultra Ladies you will come to know "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think".
he was the best male role model in my life. After that, all the guys I dated were pretty much a-holes. I started using drugs and alcohol at an early age to hide my feelings from being molested. I would get so drunk I would end up passing out. I didn't do hard drugs very often; it was mostly weed and occasionally meth, coke, mushrooms or acid. I preferred to get drunk.
I moved away when I was 21 and was in a toxic relationship for four years. I was mentally abused on a daily basis and I developed really bad OCD. I found a way out and started dating someone who was not abusive but was still fucked up; he was a drug addict. I too became drug addicted and found my love of meth. It fueled my eating disorder and made me really skinny. My friends and I would have contests to see how skinny we could get in a week and go without food and live on Pepsi. We would go out dancing all night. Don't get me wrong, I loved this time in my life hanging out at the Goth clubs. When I walked into a club I owned the place. I was that girl who got the club dancing. I owned the stage and that was where my crew and I danced. We were the ones everyone wanted to be like. We were the cool kids. The DJ played the music I requested and the club owners let me in for free. Me wait in line? Hell no! I was living in the fast lane. It was just a matter of time before I crashed. People always do.
Getting arrested and going to jail was my crash and burn. Attempting suicide was going to be my way out of this fucked up life I created for myself.
Well, I was unsuccessful at that. I can only thank my higher power for that.
Then I took the path of recovery. I still had a lot of issues after getting sober. I suffered for several more years with my anorexia. My life changed when I found running. It helped me figure out who I was and who I was supposed to be. I shifted from being that cool girl, in the club to the cool girl on the trail, who is positive and outgoing. My life’s mission is to inspire as many as I can through my story. Sure, I still have anxiety, depression, stress and OCD but I have learned how to cope with it.
In two more days I will run my 10th San Diego 100. I will be taking the old Catra with me, remembering that she made me who I am today. With out going through the Hell I went through, I would have never have learned to be #badass and #doepicshit! Remember where you came from!
So, I Googled "how to write a blog" and the first thing that caught my eye was the header "Say Goodbye to Doubt, Fear, and Confusion" and it reminds me that these are the feelings we have when we start something new. At the beginning of each L.A. Ultra Ladies Season, I see doubt, fear, and confusion in the posture of the new ladies. Something I take for granted, running 15 or 20 or more miles on the trail, is the cause of their trepidation but my years of running ultra marathons has taught me that I know I can handle anything and the newcomers may still have yet to learn this.
In the spirit of not retreating back to my comfort zone of technical writing, I will instead write about my year of doubt, fear, and confusion. Three days after Christmas in 2016, I got the call from my surgeon and heard four words that changed my life; "you have breast cancer". 16-months, three surgeries, a DVT and bilateral pulmonary embolisms later I am coming back from a very long layoff and my treatments continue with the use of anti-estrogen and anticoagulant medications so I am feeling the doubt, fear, and confusion that is common to us all when we face a challenge, but I want you to know that I also believe the quality that makes a good ultra runner and cancer thriver (sorry, I hate the word survivor), is the willingness to stand in the presence of doubt, fear, and confusion and keep on keeping on. I mean, that's what ultra runners do... right, left, repeat... when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and it's a fact that not everyone can do that! Some people prefer to just quit and will never know how strong they are because doubt, fear, and confusion are just too scary for some to face.
I am so grateful for the lessons that trails have taught me and how useful these lessons have been for me in the last several months. So my advice to the newbie ultra runners, or those who toe the starting line at their first 100-mile race or those who face a catastrophic life event or who just want to write a blog is "Embrace Doubt, Fear, and Confusion". Embracing is the way through doubt, fear, and confusion. Know that this is your journey and what you are made for and wonderful changes are coming your way. Embrace!
After almost 20-years of having my website created, controlled and updated by *men, for which I am eternally grateful for without those men there wouldn't have been a website at all; today I went live with the new Ultra Ladies website. I am so not techie and I am completely self taught so the website was more than a year in making what some others could have done in just a few weeks. What looks on the surface to be photos, texts and links are actually built upon the hopes, sweat and tears of a little lady they call "Ultra Mama". I think the new look better represents who we are today as beautiful adventurers and I love how the look blends beauty and badassery together! Today is just the first day of growing Ultra Ladies into a National club and with the new platform and my #1 Ultra Lady Cyndi Wyatt's help, I know it can't fail.
What would mean a lot to me as you peruse the new website, please write some comments
about your involvement in Ultra Ladies, when and where, and what the experience meant to you.
There have been 23-years of Ultra Ladies coming through the program in Los Angeles and with each group having 10-30 runners, this represents perhaps 500 runners... maybe more!
So I hope to hear from some of you!
*Thanks to two special Ultra Ladies' Men: