My dad was a runner. I don’t know if he still is because we haven’t spoken in many years but when I was a little girl, my dad trained for marathons and I rode my banana seat bike alongside him. This time with my dad was time away from our house -- a place where alcoholism, infidelity, molestation and neglect ran rampant.
My parents divorced when I was 10 and that amazing time with my dad ended. When I was 13, my dad went to jail. Mom was drinking heavily, taking pills and working two jobs, so she wasn’t around much. After some years of getting into my own trouble with alcohol, I got sober when I was 18 and started running. That same year, I began having symptoms of PTSD that was directly connected to harm my dad caused when I was a child. I stopped talking to my dad after I called him out for what he did. Therapists suggested we talk it through and over the years I tried that, but it didn’t really stick. I said my goodbyes, moved on with my life and had no contact with my dad. My heart was well-protected.
I kept running.
I’m almost 50 now and still run. It's evolved from road to trails, more distance, better pace, more commitment. It’s something I do for myself because I love it. I also know that my identity is very tied to running and that I become obsessive about it. If I don't run "enough," I'm bummed at myself. If I don't run and eat "too much," I'm pissed and feel fat. For those reasons, I took 30 days off from running to see what would come about for me. It was a spiritual experiment, to have the guts to not run and let the feelings emerge, whatever they were.
Here’s what I realized: I wanted to feel close to my dad and tried to achieve that through running. It always dragged me down a little, because the connection didn't come -- it fell short. I wanted to let it go of the hope that running would bring me closer to my dad. I needed to grieve and move on so I gave it all to God, cried about it, talked about it, wrote about it and I feel free.
Today, I decided to run some trails, on the 30th day of my anti-running streak; trails that recently burned in the Malibu fire – my home trails – and it felt SO GOOD! I’m so glad I took this time to feel sad about my dad and let it go, to gain a better understanding of why I run. I run because I love it.
Two years ago, I wrote my dad a thank you note for all the things he taught me as a child. Soon after, I found out he was in jail again. I never heard from him. I am still so appreciative of what he taught me, how he passed on a love of running to me and that I’ve passed on to my daughters. Not everything that happens generationally is painful or awful, to be remembered with sadness—there’s so much good, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. Feel it, cry about it, laugh about it, and keep running!
The house in the background is my early childhood home. I just noticed that the blinds were closed mid-day...and I’m outside, where I felt most comfortable and free.
We live on a circle and she runs back and forth on the long straightaway of the circle where she can either be in earshot or keep an eye on the kids while they’re playing outside. When they’re inside, she's on the treadmill.
Boring? Nope. She's smiling on those back-and-forths.
Then there's Jameelah with five kids and two jobs. She chooses tough races like 100-milers with low finish rates because she likes doing what other believe she can't. She manages to put in her miles too.
She trains mostly at night on the treadmill at her 24-hour gym after her kids are asleep, around midnight to 3:00am. She's never been big on sleep, is a big nap-taker, and stays busy between it all.
With her work schedule, she often gets to races late and yet again - does the distance she can. Sometimes it’s a DNF, sometimes a finish, but she does it. In case you think she can’t possibly manage decent training, get this. At Double Top 100 last weekend, she started the 72-hour version of the race and did one tough 20-mile loop of it before she decided she wouldn’t have time to fit in the seven loops required to have a 72-hour finish. So she dropped to the 100-miler, opting to start it from scratch. That’s right - she ignored the first 20 miles she’d already completed. She finished the 100-miler in the rainstorm I missed, and though I was the first place woman, she actually ran six loops to my five.
So, what’s the point of these two stories?
If there’s something you want, focus on what you can do about it, not what you can’t. Most of us can’t train perfectly to the perfect schedule. We live in flat places where we can’t train right for mountain races. Our jobs take time. We work weekends. The kids have soccer tournaments. We have lives. There are a million reasons you might not have time to get the weekday or long run miles you planned. The obstacles can be frustrating but if they’re all you see, they’re literally all you see. The mind can only hold one thought at a time, so it’s either chewing on the reason you can’t do your long run, or brainstorming ways you can fit a similar run in your schedule.
Can’t do or can. Your brain's either seeing the rocks in your trail or the way through them. If Jill or Jameelah dwelled on what they couldn’t do, there’d be no stories to tell.
“What CAN I do?” thinking is a habit worth building. It helps you balance your priorities - like Jill and Jameelah - and prepares you to handle the things that go wrong in an ultramarathon, not to mention the other difficulties of everyday life.
I hope these two stories get you thinking. These women found a way to make running fit in their present circumstances, and you can too.
drove to catch the 6:00am race start.
The race is run mostly on the scenic Pacific Crest Trail. PCT covers 2560 miles which connects Canada to Mexico. During the race, I met a backpacker who was covering section of PCT. The undulating green mountains and view of distant Lake Hughes were picturesque. Soon, wildflowers will bloom and postcard worthy.
Quietly, the race started in this bedroom community. A mile of uphill paved road led to the trailhead. The ascend continued until the first aid station, Spunky Edison Fire Road Mile 2.6. Course profile indicated first five miles of ascend. I kept a conservative pace to save for the later part of the race walking the uphill sections. Weather forecasted a hot day.
Once we hit the descent, I started to loosen and picked up some ground. Distance to the next aid station was six miles. I stayed, briefly filling up my hydration flask and getting a bite of boiled potatoes. Course directed runners back to the previous aid station. The 50 mile runners, continued another direction. After checking out with the timer, I shifted my power walk to higher gear. What goes down, go up this time.
Returning to Spunky Edison Aid Station now M14.6, some runners took longer time to rest. I refueled quickly. Volunteers informed me that the next aid station is about seven miles of rolling but mostly downhill single trail. I was happy with my pace as I reeled a few runners ahead. One female runner was on standstill near midway to the aid station. I asked her if she was okay. She felt nauseated and dizzy. It was almost noon time. The heat must have gotten into her. I only had salt pills to offer.
On my way back from the aid station, I saw her again but responding well. More runners labored the ascent. On the other hand, the 50 mile leaders were just cruising along effortlessly. I needed to sprout wings to catch up with their pace. PCT is mostly exposed with very little shade. I didn’t refuel enough and thought my cheese sticks and gels were enough. I ran out of food and water two miles to the last aid station. I slowed down just to be cautious and sipped my remaining drop of water. Luckily, a good Samaritan had extra water to share.
Upon arrival to the last aid station, I knew I was home with 2.6 miles left. I doused my head and face with ice cold sponge, ate cookie, potatoes, energy gel and refilled one water flask. I called out the runner who shared his water. “Kiley, let’s go!” He arrived ahead of me but was still refueling. A few runners stayed longer under the tent while others were being tended by tireless volunteers.
Heading to the final onslaught, I looked back and saw Kiley not far away. It turned out we live not too far from each other, have lots of common friends and had ran on same races. I guess, that is what ultramarathon is all about. The camaraderie is different.
So, for those thinking to join the ultramarathon bandwagon, you are all welcome. Just don’t expect big crowds and water stations every mile.
When your body betrays you: this is what i think my miscarriages sound like (warning delicate content) by latoya shauntay snell
My body has been the burial ground of underdeveloped fetuses
who knew this world was too broken
to enter a place full term.
I find my mind drifting to the undesirable parts of town
Like abortion clinics
Nursing children who will never see the light of day
Because of circumstances beyond
Their mothers' control.
My PTSD comes in the form
Of menstrual cycles
Reminding me every 28 days of my failures
And when she slips up a few days late
I'm granted false hopes
As she snickers in dark corners
Lurking on me worshipping a pregnancy test,
Plotting on two lines
That's straighter than my sexuality.
I wept for the past 240 days
For babies I'll never swaddle in a blanket
Underwent postpartum depression
For a grave I'll never visit
And a tombstone rests where my ovaries sleep.
Forgiving myself has been a chore
Posted on a refrigerator as a sticky note
Where I remind myself to brush my teeth,
Shower for the sake of others
And place my trash onto the curb.
It may take nine months to bring in life,
Seconds to lose someone sacred
But it takes a lifetime to heal.
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!!
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: