Lost in the woods. (This isn’t a metaphor.)

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12/31/2016

Dunn 50K ‘Fat Ass’. (Fun-group run, no awards, no bibs, no timing.  Just a run with friends.)

Dunn is our local forest, tough terrain, and only a few really run in it regularly.  For most of us, this was a chance to experience new territory!

Spencer designed the inaugural course with help from our friend Cary Stephens.

They’re diabolical dudes.

Course was WICKED hard.

Steep goat hills, bushwhacking, game trails, technical and jaw-dropping scenic views.

PERFECT stuff for an ultra to test limits and close out the year.

The course was impeccably mapped/marked. We were all given a turn-by-turn sheet with GPS mileage/flagging directions, overview map with elevation profile and detailed section maps.

We were set.

I ran the first part of it with a tribe of five women.  We all run ultras, the distance wasn’t freaking us out. New terrain that isn’t super-well defined had us being cautious and sticking together.

The directions were precise and easily followed even if the course was ridiculously difficult. Flagging was perfect. We were all happy that Anne Miller was willing to navigate while we followed along.

At the half way point two of the women in our group were done.

Anne Miller was one of them. Fighting a cold for a few days, she told us before we ever started that morning, she was only going 15 miles.

At the only aid station/turn-around, Bonnie Wright, Rita Van Doren and I loaded up on water, chatted quickly with Spencer and Bonnie’s husband, Mark.  Said good bye to Jen and Anne. Hugged the Miller clan and took off for the second half of the course.

Things were great for the three of us until we hit 20.62.

This is where we went wrong…

And I will say, for the record, that it’s not so much a ‘we’ went wrong.

I feel like this mistake was largely mine.

I was the one who convinced Bonnie and Rita to go with the mileage and visible ‘landmarks’ instead of the signage.

Our directions said to follow the sign and flagging and that we would be going up a steep bank and into the trees. We were to follow the green flagging up the side of the hill, bushwhacking.  We saw a steep section of the bank that was pretty heavily torn up with what looked like shoe prints.  No sign. No flagging.

But we were at the EXACT mileage marked on the directions.

We went past the section for about .2 of a mile looking for the sign or flagging.  We didn’t see any. And NONE of the turns had been off by even .1 of a mile to this point.  Figuring that the mileage had to be right – since it matched the physical description of what were looking for, we went back to the spot where the bank was torn up. We finally agreed that even without the signage, we should go up the bank and into the trees scouting for green flagging.

We knew we had to go .3 of a mile uphill once we were in the trees.  (In this ultra designed by Spencer and Cary we quickly learned that given any vagueness about the intended direction; the answer was always GO UPHILL.  Kind of kidding… Kind of not.)

At that .3 of a mile mark, we still have no flagging.

We’re totally bushwhacking on a forested canyon/side hill at this point.

We keep going, looking for flagging or a road.

We talk about going back or forging ahead to the road that HAS to be uphill from us and scouting for more flagging.  We made the group decision to keep going up the hill. It was a SLOG.  Downed trees, tall ferns, no trail, holes the size of truck tires… Not fun. Slow going. Yet totally in line with the rest of the course we had experienced.

We’re banking on the idea that at the top we’ll have been headed in roughly the right direction and be close enough to see familiar flagging.

Yet somewhere in this mess we begin to realize…

And actually admit…

We’re lost.

And we can’t backtrack.

We don’t even know how to backtrack at this point.

We’ve gone over the uphill mileage stated in the directions — and still have no road or flagging.

Somewhere in there we all agree that I need to call Spencer.  I get voice-mail. I leave a detailed message telling him time, distance, where we think we are.  I say that we’re together and staying together no matter what.

I state clearly in a back-up text at this point that we know we’re *&%$ing LOST.

Spencer is at the start area and there is NO cell reception.

With more climbing and guessing and bushwhacking we finally DO get to a road.

Hallelujah!

Short-lived happy dance!

We re-group. We each kind of grab an idea for problem solving, keep each other in sight and get to work.  Bonnie and I go one direction looking for flagging or signage or intersecting trails or landmarks.  The road dead ends.  Rita was trying to harness technology to help us with GPS or maps. We didn’t have enough connectivity. We gather up again, and head down the road in the other direction looking for flagging or identifying marks of some sort.

We’re more than an hour lost at this point. Spencer has a voice message from us, but no one else knows we’re lost.  Bonnie has also tried to call her husband, Mark.

Mark is with Spencer in cell-phone-no-man’s-land. And we have spotty/random reception at best.

Then it hits me.

ANNE MILLER.

She’s my friend.  She ran with us. She knows the forest.  And we can get calls out.  Just not to the guys at the start line.

We call or text Anne.  I don’t remember which we did first.

HERE enters our Guardian Angel.

For the next 3+ hours we either text or call Anne and she would try to helps figure our location, collect and get information to Spencer.  She leaves her house, brings her son Andrew and they head back to the staging area. (Andrew knows the Dunn as well as Spencer and Cary and had JUST run the 50K course earlier that day.)

She texts us at one point when we admit that we’re pretty damn scared…

“We will not abandon you!”

And not to spoil the ending of the story; but she didn’t.

Neither did Spencer or Andrew.

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Knowing we were ultimately trying to navigate to a peak to get back on course or get to a recognizable spot, we opt to go uphill on the roads when we get to a ‘Y’.

After a few other turns and decisions – aiming to keep climbing up hill – we eventually hit a road with RACE FLAGGING.  RELIEF!!!  I think Bonnie and Rita would agree with me — this was a moment of profound relief.

As we start following the flagging it occurs to us — this race is loosely an unconnected, 2-loop course.  We don’t know if we’re on the first loop, the second loop — or if we’re headed to the start or back to the half-way point.

We’re still kinda lost.

BUT we have flagging to follow.

We follow the flagging looking for landmarks that match our turn by turn sheet.  We can’t quite get what we are seeing and what’s printed in the directions to line up enough to help us figure out where we are.

We’re getting text messages/calls out to Anne as we have service and/or landmarks to report.

We had made it clear that the three of us were sticking together and following the flagging even if we were going the wrong direction or on the wrong ‘loop’.

Details get hazy at this point, but we kept moving and communicating. We eventually get to a spot where I can get a call out to Spencer/Anne. And this time we have clear enough landmarks, details of where we are and what we’ve traveled through…

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They know where we are!

They’re sending Andrew up to rescue and guide us in. I’m told that he will be coming from our backs.

We are told to keep moving, keep following the flagging.

It’s starting to snow.

It’s getting dark.

Even with headlamps we’re having a LOT of trouble finding the flagging until we’re right on top of it.

We start this routine where Bonnie scouts for flagging, Rita stays about 1/2 way between the two of us and I stay by the last known flagging. Bonnie would find the next flagging.  Rita would call back to me and I’d move to catch Rita. I’d park by the new flagging while Bonnie searched ahead.

Without even talking about how to make it work…  We just worked out how to make things work…  TEAM WORK.

I realized on that side-hill that this was TEAM WORK in all its gut-clenching, hard-working, glory.  I remembered thinking these were woman — very much including Anne — that I would now do anything for…

Anything.

Anne, Spencer and Andrew all knew we were safe at this point.  And it turns out we were on the last 5 – 6 miles and headed in the right direction

But the three of us sure didn’t feel safe just yet.

We felt lost and scared. We were getting cold and we can’t see the flagging which we’re supposed to be following so we don’t get LOST again…

We’re scrambling up this horrendous, ridiculous, face of a mountain — when I look back down the climb and see a headlamp.  I BELLOWED out Andrew’s name.  I didn’t know I could yell that loudly.  I’m pretty sure Corvallis, 20 miles away, heard me.

Andrew reaches us.

This 20-something young man, who has now run this ridiculously steep grade TWICE in a single day, arrives on the side of the hill to find 3 crying, exhausted, cold, GRATEFUL middle-age women waiting to be rescued.  He calmly asked if we all had good batteries in our headlamps, if we were warm enough or needed gloves/coats and tells us that we were going to keep moving. He asks me to text his mom, because his mom would be worried about him.  I do just that.

Efficient, calm and we are on the way to the finish line following Andrew’s lead.

So much relief.

Andrew ran with us, walked with us.  Chatted to us.  Listened to our rambling/frantic re-cap of the day’s adventure. He even helped Rita re-tie her shoe when her laces came undone and her hands were simply too cold to function.

We ran a bit of a short cut just to get back to the start area and end this epic adventure. We were greeted with fierce hugs and a warm fire.  And Mark’s hot chocolate!

I hugged Anne like my life depended on it. At that moment in time that was exactly how I felt.

The three strongest feelings that day?

My gut when I KNEW we were lost.

My head when they said they knew exactly where we were.

My heart and soul flooding with gratitude for my friends.

Two days later Bonnie, Rita, Anne and I were texting about the fact that we’re still emotional about it all.  It could have had a different ending.  And we all know that.

There is an incredible gift in these uniquely strong and fire-tested friendships that are built on and around the trail running community.

I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.

Rita, Bonnie and I ran just short of 30 miles, so we didn’t officially do the 50K.

We managed to climb 7,100 feet of vertical gain.

Lost. Found. Friendships. Teamwork. Problem solving. Logical thinking. Communication. Battling fear. Fighting for others. Selflessly helping others. Sometimes this ultra running thing has very little to do with actual running.

Thank you Anne, Andrew, Spencer for getting us off the mountain and to the finish line. 

Bonnie and Rita…  Thank you.  

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Honest advice from a friend…

My good friend and fellow trail runner, Jill Puleo (check out her YouTube chanel) gave me permission to share this recent conversation we shared on Facebook.  It’s personal from both sides of our stories, but her advice to me…?

Holy cow.

Her advice to me is too damn good to keep to myself.

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Jill (rockstar in the picture above!) and I have only met ONE time in person. Yet we have both worked to build a strong and growing friendship based initially on two simple things: Curly hair and trail running. 🙂  We met at Western States Camp 2015 waiting for the run for day two to start.

Our friendship essentially started from a three minute conversation at the start of a run.

How awesome is that!??

Here’s the Facebook conversation between Jill and I recently.

Betsy:

So the day you checked in with me?

Thank you following your gut or intuition or whatever was guiding you Jill. I had had a rough day.

Longish story as short as possible? Spencer had a run/stride analysis with a local coaching/Ultra-running/Guru that we all love and respect, Joe. Spencer loved it, gained a ton from it – and was quick to tell me that I should get one done as well. I made some comment at the time about ‘I’m not fast enough to have a stride.’ and dismissed the idea.  Spencer would bring it up every once in a while… ‘Are you going to get your stride looked at by Joe?’ and I would say something benign and dismissive like ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘maybe’.

Well this past weekend we had a full weekend of training. I am starting to ramp up training from an extended recovery period.

Spencer says he is only going to suggest to me one more time to seriously consider getting my stride looked at and then he’ll drop the topic but do I understand that this  would be a really beneficial thing to do?

So I say yes, I’ll go see Joe. (I’ll admit I said it with the unmistakable tone of bitchy, forced, pissed-off….)

I email Joe and get an appointment.

I go.

Joe is AMAZING. SO much patience and knowledge.  And it turns out I do have a stride and it’s kind of messed up or least could be a lot more efficient and ‘healthy’. He appreciates that my goal is to be running when I’m 70 and that I want to invest time in building a ‘healthy’ stride since I’m fairly new to running. He spent over two hours with me talking about what was weak/strong and how to work to fix some of the things he saw to get me to a healthy stride.

Here’s the deal… And this is what ALL of my resistance was about… He videos you running at different speeds and from different angles. And then you get to watch in ((slow-mo)) while he shows you your legs, angles, back, feet, arms… I assume it’s fascinating and instructive had I not been totally and utterly horrified at seeing myself running on video.

I saw a woman who looked fat, lumpy, flappy, floppy — her hair looked horrible and she really, really needs a new bra. I was so heartbroken at how I looked on that video I could barely hear what Joe was telling me.

And then we go through some range of motion exercises and cues — and we run/tape again. Again…. I’m watching the videos totally transfixed with how fat and awkward and horrible I look.

In my mind I’ve thought I looked happy and solid and like maybe even just a teeny, tiny little bit like an athlete when I run. Seeing the video removed ALL postiive thoughts I had about my body while running. I think deep down I KNEW this is what would happen which is why I was defensive and avoiding it all…  I drove home choking back tears the entire way in self-pity.  I know that Spencer knows something is wrong well beyond the stride analysis thing and me ‘not being fast enough to have a stride’.  And I’d just about rather cut out my own tongue that explain that I just didn’t want to see myself on video…

Seeing myself on video running was actually far worse than I imagined.

Jill, please tell me to grow up. And that everyone hates their self on film. That I need to get over it – so I can get working on what really matters – which is a healthy stride…

I’m stuck in horrified, defensive and bitchy mode.

I want so badly to have a different body than I do… And that makes me sad. I know you will understand that because we’ve talked about body image issues before. And I KNOW that learning to love my body as it is, is a process.

I always seem to know exactly what to tell others who are struggling.

But if you would have seen the video of me running — you would understand my current horror and sadness…

Jill:

The video: YES I UNDERSTAND.

I understand so, so very much.

I am still suffering from seeing pictures of myself that my friend posted of me from her wedding in which, I look like a puffy old crow with a hooked nose and thick calves.

I am not going to tell you to grow up.

I am not going to tell you to “practice self care” (whatever the eff that means…I HATE THAT PHRASE) and I am not going to tell you that it doesn’t suck. Your body was made in a way that doesn’t please you and you fight it every day. Being flippant about that and telling you it will all go away with a journal and a cup of camomile tea is epic bullshit.

Secret?

OK here’s a big one: Although I believe in the Body Positive movement, I don’t really get some parts of it. I feel like there are many good points, but it also seems like there are a lot of excuses being floated around. You know what I mean…?

It’s those people who don’t want to feel ANYTHING uncomfortable. Well you and I both know that if you don’t feel anything uncomfortable, you are not growing. You are also not challenging yourself. I would like to sit home today and eat M&Ms. That would make me VERY comfortable. And the body positive people would say that after multiple days of doing this I should love the body that results. BUT NO. Because that is NOT FRIGGING HEALTHY.

So, my idea is this: I like to think of my body like I think of my my sister in law…I have to accept it for what it is, even like it sometimes, but I don’t have to love it.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE YOUR BODY.

But, I do think that you have to love what it does for you, and that’s where I choose to focus my thoughts. Or at least, I try. I know I am not a fabulous runner. I mean, I am not fast and I will never win anything. I do have this pretty amazing talent for long distances. I get more comfortable the longer I go and feel better doing it too. I think to myself that I like this about my body and I thank it for getting me this far.

BUT I DO NOT THANK IT FOR THE CELLULITE I’VE HAD SINCE I WAS 10.

I don’t care how much goddamned tea I drink I am never going to love my cellulite. I don’t know if this helps, but your body has done and will do a lot of things.

Maybe it’s a partner, a co-worker, a sister in law…

It doesn’t have to be your true romance.

BUT YOU…you, on the inside…well, you’d better love that part because inside that package is a heart and a mind and a soul and all of it is pretty spectacular.

As far as the video/photos go…you have the choice to never look at it ever again or watch it over and over. I try to think to myself: which of those options will allow me to be who I want to be once I stop watching? Like, I don’t want to be a total bitch all day, so I should probably NOT go through my high school yearbook, you know? Not without vodka, anyway.  

You don’t get an award for being OK with watching your body flop around on a treadmill and being OK with it. But, it is nice to feel good and treat others well (aka: NOT be a bitch after said viewing) so in this case: YOU ARE JUSTIFIED and welcome to not ever look at that video again.

Don’t say “I should get over this” because that diminishes your feelings. Say “I will get better at handling this” because unlike the self-help/life coach/body positive ladies, I do not believe that this feeling will go away.

I think that instead of wishing it away, ya better cozy on up…because if you want to get through it by making it ghost, you’re in for a world of shit when it comes crashing back unexpectedly.

So, think about what you like about what your body does for you and focus on that. LIKE it. APPRECIATE it. But, don’t feel like a failure if you end up giving it the side-eye most of the time. You’re allowed.

That being said, be sure that you are not comparing your body to other bodies. I am pretty sure you don’t do this, but scrolling through Instagram can be incredibly defeating. All of those gorgeous bodies in front of gorgeous mountain ranges can be hard to watch…

OK that’s enough full frontal Jill for now…haha

Sending love as always

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are never alone.

Deeply grateful for you, our friendship and your stellar, blunt, authentic advice.

Thank you Jill.

Diabetes doesn’t go on Holiday…

img_4329-jpgI had to pull out my glucose testing kit this week.

It’s been in retirement for 3 years.

I am not gonna lie.  It was a bit of a low moment.  I was sad and a little scared.

I had a sudden flash of fear that Type 2 (T2) Diabetes was back or trying really hard to creep back in. I was noticing some things…  Things that seemed disconnected, but hauntingly familiar.

Fuzzy thinking. Thirsty. Sleepy. Insatiably hungry. Irritable out of the blue/out of porportion. Craving sugar.  Feeling ‘puffy’.

Not just the normal things that happen in life, I mean, the ‘symptoms’ were out of place given what was happening in my life.

All of the sudden it dawned me WHY these were familiar…  This is the crap that happens when my blood sugars are out of whack.

I hadn’t felt these symptoms in these odd clusters in over three years…

Holy crap.

It was time to test and see what the numbers had to tell me.


I tested as soon as I put the pieces together and realized I was possibly experiencing some blood sugar issues. My post-prandial (2 hours post-meal) glucose was 111.  For me — that’s a solid, if tad-bit high, number.  But respectable.

Whew.  Little breathing room and stab of relief.

I tested a fasting number the next morning and it was 110.  Exhaling in relief.  On the high side, but arguably good.

Yesterday was 100.

I’m in a ‘safe space’ with the numbers I’m seeing and recording.

They’re not as low as I would like, nor are they as low as I can make them when I’m keeping my diet ‘tight’.

While I’m clinically in a non-diabetic range, I still felt pretty clearly this was a wake-up call.


After Mountain Lakes 100 miler back in September, I had a revelation of sorts.  The conversation in my head (and out loud to Spencer…) went sort of like this:

‘I just ran for 100 miles, for close to 30 hours and fueled that effort with about 5,000-6,000 calories of SUGAR.  And while that’s pretty typical running fuel for ‘normal’ folks, uh…  You aren’t normal.  How horribly WRONG/DUMB/STUPID/RIDICULOUS is that equation for someone like YOU??!  Can I remind you that you used to be morbidly obese, insulin-injecting, T2 for two DECADES.  HOLY CRAP BETSY.  You’re a reformed T2 diabetic and you just ran (which you can only do because you are no longer morbidly obese) eating pure, easily accessible to your blood, sugar. This.is.utterly.asinine. You can’t keep doing this.  It’s a recipe for disaster.’

So I made the decision that I needed to change some things.  Immediately.

It all has to start with my day-to-day food plan.


There’s a health condition called ‘Insulin Resistance’.  It also gets talked about as ‘Carbohydrate Intolerance’.  I’ve done a ton of research on it, and I have come to understand that I am no longer T2 Diabetic, but I am still insulin resistant.  And I always will be. I can certainly manage it, but it’s not going to go away. While it is not an entirely accurate description, I kind of think of it as being ‘allergic’ to carbs.

((Here’s the disclaimer in all of this:  I’m an experiment of one. I lost over 200 pounds, reversed type 2 and somehow fell head-over-heels in love with the endurance running world. Turns out that there aren’t a lot of people like me out there, and the ‘normal’ rules for food/nutrition/fueling just don’t ever seem to work well for me. My solutions and chosen paths are not likely to work or make sense for anyone else.))

I’m well aware that if I eat too many carbs {ANY KIND OF CARBS – YES… Even the ‘healthy ones’}  I get swinging blood sugars.  If I keep carbs {even the healthy ones…} to a minimum — my glucose stays in a horizontal and largely stable line.

‘My body hates carbs!’ — me

‘No.  Your body loves carbs.  It loves them to DEATH.’ — Deb, my sister.

So…

Good-bye to my plant based diet that I loved and enjoyed for almost three years. (Averaging 300 – 400 ish grams of carbohydrates per day with a healthy balance of grains, fruits and veggies.)

Hello again to my old friend, no-and-low carb. (Averaging 40-70 grams of total carbs per day.)

I’m tightly restricting my daily carbohydrate load. ANY carbohydrate source.  Aiming for whole, non-processed foods. And I am most especially vigilant for any of the added or hidden variations of sugars/corn syrups that were truly and absolutely my worst enemy as a T2.

I know how to do this.

I just willingly and knowingly strayed from the basics that got me ‘here’; I strayed from the food plan that helped me lose weight, become non-diabetic, learn to run…  I mean I reversed T2 Diabetes — I suddenly felt FREE and healthy enough to try new things with food, fueling, diet.  So I did!  I’m totally OK with those experiments and what they have taught me about myself and the way my body works.

I just find it humbling and interesting that I am back where it all started.

Back to the very basics of what worked when I first started this crazy journey.  Back to low carb, NO SUGAR, low glycemic indexed foods.

((For my running friends who are wondering about fueling during training and events that this dilemma now hands me…  Well. Join the crowd. Me too.  I’m lost and little bewildered with it all at this moment in time.  But I am deeply driven by the knowledge that if I want to stay healthy and running; I have to stay the course in managing this or T2 Diabetes could possibly win this whole freaking thing. I won’t, can’t let that happen.  So let the new fueling experiments begin. 🙂 )) 


This week has been a solid reminder that T2 diabetes is still chasing me 365 days a year.

It never takes a Holiday.

But, guess what?

I have NO PLANS to take a Holiday either.

Ditching the b*&ch. (Finding joy.)

We’ve been home from Transrockies (TRR) for 3 weeks. I’m still thinking about the incredible experience, missing my new friends and wishing I could just live in a tent and run all day, every day.  I told Kevin Houda, the event organizer, he ruined reality for me. 🙂

This is what I put in my journal as if I was writing it all down for my friend Wendie.  She was hiking in Yosemite at the same time I was in Colorado and I wanted to share all of this with her. So you’re really reading my note to one of my dearest friends.


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This would be the day that I found joy.  Right after finding a Yeti.  A cheerleading Yeti named Fitzy.

If we’re being honest, I know I have been a grumpy bitch when it comes to running for the past year and a half.  NOT overt, at least most of the time.  And not usually aimed at anyone but MYSELF. But I would so easily and quickly go to the negative if something went wrong, or less than perfect, instead of going to my normal optimistic/positive frame of mind.  I really hope no one on the outside noticed this personality shift, but I am afraid they did.

Well, I ditched that nasty bitch on the trails today on stage 3 of Transrockies.

I have just had, for the 3rd day in a row, the best day running.  Ever.  This just keeps getting BETTER.  I have enjoyed each and every step of each and every run so far.

I’ll set this up for you a bit, in the same way all seemed to click into place for me…

You know I have been working for two+ years to get to the point that I could endure and enjoy six days of running.

This event is 120 miles, 20,000 foot of vertical climb. At significant altitude. (Which, for inquiring minds, does make it kind of hard to breathe when you train at sea level.)

I’m in a tent village of 550 trail runners from around the world, by a perfect/picturesque lake, at Novo Guides/Camp Hale Colorado. Every single person here, from runner to volunteer is 100% supportive of, engaged with and part of the trail and ultra world.  So — I’m surrounded by people who get me and my desire to run really long distances for fun and they want to do the same.

I.  Am.  In.  Heaven. 

Back track a few weeks.  I had that training week from hell.  By design.  I had to do a big volume week to get ready for the 100 miler.  So it was close to 100 mile week – which I have never done. I know that I allowed the fatigue and negative energy from that week of hard physical and mental work to cascade down about six weeks…  To where I finally had a full-on meltdown and told Spencer I never wanted to run again.  I think I also said things like I was selling all of my shoes, never wearing a running shirt again and un-friending anyone who posts about running on Facebook.  It was pretty epic. Totally ridiculous NOW of course, but in that moment – I FELT IT.  Joyless, exhausting and scary as hell.  I felt apathetic.

And apathy, as you know, scares me more than ANYTHING.

So here’s where I have to be really honest with myself.  If I back track a year or so, I have been caught in a low-grade, persistent comparison trap.  ‘She’s thinner’, ‘they’re faster’, ‘he climbs better than I do’, I didn’t hit my pace, I barely finished that run, they logged more miles than I did this week and we’re doing the same race. Oh how I wish I could grab that time back from that grumpy-comparing-bitch that I was. I drove myself crazy.  I drove Spencer crazy. I probably drove you crazy. I’m pretty sure there are some people who I have met in the past 18 months or so who think that this comparing, self-denigrating, self-loathing is my permanent disposition.  It’s not…  REALLY! I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person at my core.

However, when it comes to running this past year/year and a half, I have to admit that I got caught by the throat in this horrible cycle of comparing and beating myself up.

So today… Today I willingly, forcefully, ditched that grumpy, nasty piece of work in a creek as I ran. She made a big splash when she landed. I totally took her by surprise. 🙂

I was running and just sorta started piecing it all together and realized what I had allowed to happen. Realized that this was my chance, my choice, to grab my happy, joyful self BACK.

The creek was cold and swift and beautiful and was the ideal place to let that ugliness quickly and quietly wash away without contaminating anyone else in the process.

I am so happy with that choice and that moment. Goose-bumps, ear-to-ear grin and profound relief. 🙂  I felt free and light and happy and could only think over and over and over again…

‘I FOUND MY JOY AGAIN!  Man.  I missed her! I missed her so, so much!’


I started running for the joy of it all four(ish) years ago to lose weight, gain health and to be part of a community that embraced the lifestyle I was chasing.

I started trail running specifically because…

  • There’s no judgement in trail running.  If you have feet, shoes and desire to learn; SOMEONE is going to be eager to convert you to our dirty side of the world. 🙂
  • You do what works for you.  Period.  I mean, you have to figure it out  – but no one cares what or how you go about it.  It takes ALL kinds. 🙂
  • And you can NOT tell a trail runner by looking at them. There’s a ‘type’ that the elites MIGHT look like, but usually a trail runner is identified solely by their HEART.  It’s what is INSIDE their chest and brain that sets them apart and makes them who they are.

Trail running and the ultra world seem to be full of people working to heal themselves, find themselves, grow, change — those are JUST the kind of people I want to be around.

I ran 24ish miles on Tuesday. Then climbed Hope Pass Wednesday.  Stage 3, Thursday, my legs felt good when I woke up; no aches and pains.  None! And even better?  My MIND was excited to see what the trail was going to be like,  who I would meet on the trails and what I would learn. Today was about legging out another 25 miles in the best fashion I could with some hills and rolling terrain.  No time requirement, no judgement and no real plan other than I would give my best and practice what I have spent the past few years learning. I met GREAT people. I took a pictures.  I just ran, with no Garmin beeping at me, no real plan, no expectations…

I just ran.

And I ran straight toward the joy I used to have in my early days of running.

She welcomed me back like a grateful, forgiving and long-lost friend.


The night before we started to run TRR, Spencer gave me his coaching brief. It usually goes something like this…

‘DO not stop and pick up rocks. No selfies. Limit the conversation – if you can talk while you’re running/hiking, you aren’t working hard enough. Eat often and plenty. Stick to the plan.’

So when he said…

‘Bets, I want you to just breathe, listen and do not respond to what I’m going to say…  This week is going to change your life if you let it.

And then he proceeded to tell me to meet people (ALL the people!), pick up heart rocks, take pictures, talk to volunteers, and just work to enjoy each and every step of the journey…

I listened.

With my whole heart, I listened.

Stage 3 felt life-changing, healing, like a reunion of the happiest kind.

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THESE women know joy.  Michelle and Andi.  Happy, strong, brave, trail sisters. 🙂

The mountains are calling… Transrockies here I come!

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‘Each fresh peak ascended teaches something.’ — Sir Martin Convay

I am piling up clothes, shoes and supplies because I am about to pack a bag (several bags actually, because packing light is NOT one of my super powers…) and embark on an adventure.

An epic adventure that I’ve been working toward for the last 2 years. It’s cheesy to say, but it’s kind of a dream coming true moment for me.  I leave in a matter of hours!

My heart beats a little faster when I get asked about it, I break out in a big-ass grin and I have been walking around randomly humming ‘Rocky Mountain High’ (Yes.  I know it’s not just about the mountains. Save the jokes. But I am the girl who grew up listening to John Denver on vinyl… )

I have flown a TON for my work over the years. I worked mostly west of the Mississippi River – flying in and out of Portland Oregon.  My flights commonly hubbed in Denver.  We would soar over the Rockies coming into and out of that airport.  I can remember thinking many, many times as I stared out the window at those incredible mountains…

I wonder what it looks like in those mountains?  What is it like to actually be in those mountains?

How would it feel to climb up on one of those exposed ridges and feel like you could turn 360 degrees and see the ends of the earth?

At close to 400 pounds — looking out the window as we flew over the mountains ranges and simply wondering what the Rockies looked like was the extent of my connection to any of those fabled peaks for decades.

But life has a way of changing. 🙂

I don’t weigh 400 pounds anymore. I’m not a Type 2 Diabetic dragging along a Sharps container and pen needles. I don’t get winded and red-faced after walking half a mile. I’m active and healthy and damn it all… I WANT TO SEE THOSE MOUNTAINS. I want to KNOW those mountains. I want to walk in those mountains and breathe in that (thin!) air and just see what it looks like from the ground.

Not from the plexiglass window of an airplane.

So I am going to Colorado for a running event/race/camp.

I’m headed to the Transrockies Run.  Kind of what it sounds like…  It’s a 6-day running camp in the Rockies.

I am traveling with Spencer, Dave, Erica and Sean.  And for 6 days we get to run, camp, make new friends and SEE, LEARN, RUN THOSE MOUNTAINS!  120 miles of those mountains.  And about 20,000 feet of vertical climbing in and on and around the Rockies.

It’s epic.  It’s scary.  It’s exciting.  I’ve never done anything like this in my life.  Never thought I could ever do something like this in my life.

Oh… BUT I CAN NOW and you have no idea just how badly I WANT to…!

The old life I lived… I wouldn’t have been in shape to hike anything beyond the parking lot. I couldn’t sit in the car for 120 miles without being in extreme discomfort. I wouldn’t have fit in a sleeping bag.  Sleeping on a sleeping pad, on the ground would be the recipe for never getting back up off the ground.  I wouldn’t have trusted the camp to have enough of the sugary/fat/processed foods I was living on.  I never would have fit in a portable shower stall….  Get the picture as to why I believed something like this would never, ever happen?!

But that’s not my reality anymore. 🙂

I’m really going to try to absorb and enjoy each moment. I intend to enjoy EACH and every single step I get to take in those fabled, rugged and spectacular mountains.

I have worked for 2 years, steadily, to get to the point where I feel I can run the mileage and handle the back-to-back-to-back running.  I know I fit in my sleeping bag 🙂 and I’m totally OK with the food they will be serving.

It’s almost go time.

It’s time to meet those mountains with my very own feet.

We’ll fly over those mountains coming and going from Colorado.  But on the trip home… This time… This time I’ll know as I stare out the window, I’ll know what those mountains actually look like from the ground.

Now I really have to get serious about packing… 🙂

‘The mountains are calling, and I must go.’ — John Muir

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Before and after pictures are kind of a crock.  The real changes, the changes that matter the most are the changes of the heart.  The doors opened.  The live you decide to live, instead of just exist or survive.  This picture was 400ish pounds and surviving in the day to day.  SHE’s who I am taking to meet the mountains… 🙂

Sticks and Stones and words…

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Happy, fit and READY to run.  Photo by the one and only Patrick Means.

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

As a trail runner — sticks and stones are common foes.  My friend Josh calls me ‘Princess Faceplate’.  For good reason.  I’ve earned the nickname.

Nothing serious has ever transpired for me personally – and I will admit that there have been some close calls.  I have friends that have met worse fates, serious injuries, broken bones, even career ending injuries. It’s part of what we take on when we hit the trails…  Tripping, falling, scrapes, blood, wounds, stick-‘snakes’, etc…

But when I really got to thinking about it; some of the worst wounds are inflicted with words…

I was running along thinking ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?  That old childhood saying a total and complete load of crap!

Some of the words said to me and some of the others folks I know have been imminently hurtful and often-times it’s from a source that has NO CLUE they’ve lobbed something hurtful in our direction.

For me, people commenting on my weight or how my body looks (‘too big to be a runner’ is the one I can’t seem to forget) send me into a tailspin. Every time. I’ve done a TON of work on trying to get over this issue. A ton.

Then I found this great blog post and realized — I’m not alone.  I’m not the only one who would prefer a scrapped knee to a comment that I can’t dislodge from my brain. I am not alone by an epic long shot.  And that actually makes me sad.

Give the article a read.

Critique of the Female Trail Runner

No really… Go back and read it.

I can’t stop thinking about it.

And since some of you won’t read it; here’s the gist…  It details some of the hurtful, rude and mean things that are said to some of the top, elite, wildly-talented, healthy female athletes in ultra running.

After a conversation with my friend Rebecca the other day — we pretty quickly agreed that this article could apply to ANY sport/event/venue/issue/person.

This issue isn’t just about running.

Negative comments, critiquing of others, being treated rudely or having thoughtless words  cast our way is something we have probably all dealt with.  And I know from conversations with my guy friends; this isn’t limited to women.  There is a WHOLE lot about someone you can’t see/don’t know — and commenting just makes things worse for that person.

And we all pretty agree these days that cowards/bullies hide behind social media to say things they would NEVER say to someone’s face.

 

Telling someone she looks ‘too thin’ isn’t going to help her on her road to recovery from anorexia. Telling me that you ‘didn’t know women my size’ could run is not helpful to me in maintaining my weight and my commitment to fitness.  Telling my friend recovering from a serious accident that she looks ‘scrawny and weak’ is NOT a confidence builder on this woman’s road to rebuilding her fitness and stamina.

NONE of us know anyone else full backstories or struggles, our passions, our fights, our desires — we so, so often take one look at the physical shell and make a comment based on how someone looks.

That’s not helpful or kind.

And shouldn’t we really endeavor – in this harsh, tough world – to help and encourage others and show them kindness when we can?

It’s really pretty simple.

Just my opinion.

Now, go read the article. 🙂

And if you want to read some more good stuff — visit their website at Trailsisters.net

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Dug.  My favorite Disney character. He loves everyone.

Fat in California…

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American River and the town of Auburn are behind us. Spence and I are heading out to run the Quarry Trail.

I am a California native.

In thinking about it on todays run… I spent all of the time I was an adult and working in California obese, inactive, eating all the wrong things.

I am not really exaggerating.

There were times where I would start a diet, try to get active, only to give it all up in a freaking hurry. As soon as I got hungry or sore – I would quit. And then gain even more weight. Like probably 30 different times. Hell. Maybe 50. Or more. You get the point.

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Easily 350 pounds and 20 years ago.

I see California as my ‘fat’ young adult years.

It’s where pre-diabetes walked in the door and would soon refuse to leave. I don’t have memories of California that aren’t of me as an obese adult. Happy, but the obesity and type 2 Diabetes were escalating rapidly.

Doing something new that I never knew existed always makes me introspective… And this time doing something new in California – in a place I drove by for decades – made me sappy, happy, grateful. I mean this is a place that could have been my stomping grounds had I been in any shape to have been stomping around.

Spencer and I along with our friend and fellow ultra-runner Josh Hough are in Auburn, California this weekend to run in a training camp.  We will run 70 miles of the Western States Endurance Run 100 course over the next 3 days.  Spencer and I did this training camp last year and it is ahhhmazing.  Running a historic course. Non race event, just long training runs that are supported. Surrounded by amazing athletes and folks passionate about the sport of trail running.

This year our road-trip brigade came down a day early to get our bearings, get set-up and simply spend one day relaxing.

Turns out that none of us are very good at relaxing. 🙂

Spencer and I went for a run this morning on a new-to-me trail that is right off of a highway I traveled for decades with my family and during College.

I was telling Spencer that my life is just still so surreal on a few levels.

Being in California, eating plant based, running…  Those are all things I could NEVER, ever have imagined when I was living in California.  I found myself thinking  about 6 different times this morning… ‘WOW! Is this really my life now?!’

I’ve driven by this spot for 20+ years and never thought for a split second about trails in all the years we drove by.  This specific freeway off-ramp had ALL the good fast food you could possibly want before heading up 84 to Tahoe.  I know those locations by heart.

I never thought I’d be back here one day and parking at a trail head so we could go run alongside the American River for a few miles.

Who knew?

I never imagined I would want to climb the trails in the Sierra’s, or run on them, or care deeply about treading the ground of a historic running race.

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Yet, here I am.

And I’m loving this view and experience of California that requires me to get off of the roads, explore  and eat healthy and move along under my own power.  And explore!

I am happy and healthy and do NOT take any of that for granted for even one second.

I have been given the second chance at life. Not everyone gets that chance.  I won’t waste it.

I will use this weekend to build new and healthy memories in the state that I grew up in.

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I love the Cali trails.  And they loved me right back. 

Mac 50K and Laziness

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Josh, Alan (ran his first ultra!) and me.  Running from Ridge, toward Horse.

Mac 50K this year was fantastic!  Cool, rainy, muddy, friends, laughter, perfection…

Mac is my favorite race, in one of my favorite places in the world.

I approached the race as a long and supported run to practice for the event I have in September. I was testing gear, making sure of my shoe choice, practicing my new-found downhill skills and I HAD TO WORK on fueling. This was my chance to put it all together and watch it work.

In the back of my head I knew I had run this race in 8:04 in 2015. So I’ll go ahead and admit that yes, I had a trying-to-ignore-it-but-it-was-out-there goal, to try to break 8 hours. I was trying not to think about that. It was NOT the point of the day.

Ultimately, I nailed everything I set out to do.

SOME MAJOR WINS!

Fueling was better than it has ever been.

Gut stayed intact.

Loved my Altras. (I still have all my remaining toe nails!)

Comfy with my hydration pack and know where to stash everything.

FINALLY got to run an entire 50K with my friend/running partner Josh.

Spencer placed 8th overall.  He had a fantastic run and wrote a great blog about it. Read it here.

Wendie paced Josh and I the last 5 miles, after cheering and crewing for us the entire day.

It was a perfect day.

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Patrick! An important part of our Novo Veritas team. He was at the start line this year to cheer us on.

From ‘The Saddle’ (last aid station) to the finish line is about 5 miles or so.

Everyone was muddy and tired. The finish line was really looking good at this point. I’d slipped and gone down in the mud at least 3 times. I was an unharmed, total mud ball head to toe. 🙂

Josh knew my not-talking-about-it-goal. I could see him assessing the situation. He knew we were in a race against the clock to break 8 hours.  We were appropriately tired, but totally healthy.  We COULD pull it off, if we picked up the pace.

I knew it.

I was just pretending to ignore it.

A portion of my brain was totally fine with not finding that goal.

To hit that goal would mean that we would have to run consistently and fairly hard for the remainder of the course.

That’s a lot of hard work at the end of a whole lot of hard work.

It had been a day of huge wins ALREADY. I didn’t even have to cross the finish line to have felt like the day was a smashing success.

But as I was starting to push the edges, with Josh speeding up, my brain was busy trying to convince me that we just didn’t need to put in the extra effort to hit that goal…

‘Bets. Just walk.

You’re going to finish close to last year’s time anyway. Close is good.

It’s fine to ease back now, Spencer and Josh and Wendie are still going to be proud of you no matter what.

This was a tough course. Take it easy. You’ve earned easy.

Just being out here is enough.’

I recognized that my head and her subtly negative voices were trying to shut things down.

‘Head’ management is very much part of the training for ultras. You literally have to practice making sure your head doesn’t talk you out of completing what needs to be done.

This is always scary and fascinating to me. Sometimes my brain drags out ‘the big guns’ and I really have to fight to just keep breathing and moving.  This time – since this race was essentially a practice run and I was surrounded by friends I trusted deeply – I decided I would just watch and see what demon/trick/weapon my head was going to try to drag out into the light…

My brain went straight for it’s old friend laziness.

‘Take it easy, you’ve earned easy. There’s no harm in just walking at this point…’

I have had years of practice being lazy. Honestly, it’s the natural go to for me.  And at this point in the race – 26ish miles in – my legs and back were screaming for me to just. stop. running.  My belly wasn’t thrilled.  My feet hurt.  I had these OBNOXIOUS and painful adductor cramps violently grabbing hold of my upper, inner thigh – and stopping me dead in my tracks a few times.

My body was doing it’s part to try to stop me.

My brain just joined in on the chorus.

I’ve done a few races at this distance, so I can now say that I have been here before in some form or fashion. This is the point where I simply have to buckle down and keep moving forward as best I can. And I have all kinds of tricks stashed away to IGNORE or quiet the chatter in my head that isn’t productive or healthy or nice. I usually just kind of blank out without fully defining whatever weapon my brain has chosen, count steps, breathe, and try my best to ignore whatever tricks my head is playing.

But this time I instantly recognized laziness.

And it was really pretty cool to define it, understand it and then just accept it for what it is.

I didn’t bother trying to evict or ignore the thoughts.

I sure as hell didn’t give into it.

I just decided to run with it – and tire it out.

Here’s where my thinking went…  When I’m on a training run – and my coach has given me parameters – I always go straight for the middle or low end of whatever it is that I’m being told to work on. Unless specifically told to do so, I rarely push to the outer, upper  edges or beyond in training on my own.

It’s a subtle, persistent form of laziness.

I mean training to run ultras is hard work in and of itself.  I’ve done a lot of hard work to get to this point and lose weight and reverse T2 diabetes. So does it really matter that I’m just a tad bit lazy about some aspects of training?

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Camera covered in mud and rain. Josh pushed me to give my all in the last 5 miles. I mighta, sorta threatened to throat punch him at one point.  Re-enactment at the finish line. 🙂

To be clear – I’m not being hard on myself or beating myself up.

I ran a freaking great run.

And this ‘work’ going on in my head around battling and understanding laziness was fantastic and constructive.

I ultimately kept on Josh and Wendie’s heels and PUSHED hard to the finish. I put down faster miles at the end than I had most of the day.

I’m just acknowledging that I recognized the voice screaming in my head as my long-lost, best-forgotten, crappy ex-best friend named laziness.

And I decided that I don’t want to be friends anymore.

So I just ran away. 🙂

I ignored the normal long-run pains and tiredness and just PUSHED hard to the finish. My training allows for that. My body was working her butt off. And this really was a training run – so why not PUSH hard and see what happened?

As I ran, in the back of my head the idea was clanging around that I am SO FREAKING CAPABLE of being and doing so much more.

If I’m given the chance to push hard, do I always give it my all? Or do I get lazy?

It’s an idea that I just can’t let go of…

What exactly would I be capable of, if I refused to let laziness win?

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I got home and Spencer and I were debriefing the race.  I walked through the pieces that went great; fuel, shoes, handling the wicked leg cramps.  Spencer and I both agreed that we could clearly see the core and strength work we’re doing with Jordan paying off as I was able to manage the slides and the muddy, steep terrain really well.  And then I ran faster miles at the end…

I was really proud of the effort I gave at Mac.  I’d had a good day.

I also told him that I recognize I get lazy in some of the targeted training runs during a training cycle. I cheat myself and aim for good enough/middle of the road. By doing what I’m told – instead of really testing the limits. I told Spencer I was going to work on learning to push myself harder when given the choice. I confessed that I know that I  sometimes let myself off the hook when I really should be capitalizing on the opportunity to push to another level.

The last few miles of the Mac I kept thinking…

I’ve come so far and I’m more in love with trail running and my body is doing things I never, ever thought she was capable of. And I know without a doubt that I am capable of still more strength and more growth and more change and well… just more good stuff.

Laziness isn’t going to win this race. Not this time. I’m going to keep training to out run it.

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My friend and pacer Wendie.

 

 

It is NOT the whole story…

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Running into the sun, on trails, with friends…

I was just telling Spencer and one of our mentors, Shawna, recently that I wish I could re-write an article about me that was in Runner’s World Magazine. It talks about my weight loss/type 2 diabetes transformation.  It is answering the question ‘How running changed my life’. (Here is the Runners World Article)

I wasn’t even aware they were doing the profile. The first time it appeared I freaked out. Just a little. More than a year later and the story keeps popping up. It is AWESOME!  I get a total thrill/shock every single time I am scrolling through a feed on Facebook or Instagram and see my picture. 🙂

But I also cringe a little every single time it re-appears. Cringe?  WHY?!  Well… It misses the stories about the people that are very much a part of this whole adventure and the moments that make my heart sing and some of the things no one really wants to talk about.

 

Given the chance, I really would like to add/edit/re-write that story to make it a little more complete. Here’s what I would add, here are some of the key additions I would want people to know…

There are people who walked every single step of this journey with me. They believed in me when I embarked on this crazy, huge, scary lifestyle overhaul. I had proved to all of them that I was really, really good at failing at diets. I have a life-time worth of experience at failing at diets.  They stuck with me anyway.

My running coach, Spencer, is the one person who has put up with untold amounts of sass and tears and freaking-ridiculous-questions as I continue to learn to run. Spencer has watched each mile build into more miles and bigger goals and even bigger dreams.

My running and training partners. The ones who meet me at o’dark thirty.  In the rain.  With smiles and headlamps and laughter and patience.  The ones who encourage shenanigans.  The ones who helped me learn how to pee in the woods – and not get caught or get poison oak. 🙂  The ones who encourage me to sign up for crazy-ass distances for the fun/adventure/epicness of it – just to help me test my boundaries.  The ones who spend their vacation time traveling to a race to run some of the late-stage miles with you to make sure your butt crosses that finish line.

Kyle at Gallagher’s in Salem.  Kyle fit me into my first ‘real’ walking shoes when I was finally down to 280 pounds, registering for a walking marathon and had finally scrounged up every last ounce of courage I had to walk into a ‘real running’ store. Kyle was kind and helpful and never once acted like I didn’t belong in their store. Never. I still buy my shoes at Gallagher’s.  I went in to see him today as a matter of fact.

They didn’t talk about how much I hated.  hated.  hated.  those first few tentative steps that were trying to learn to run.  How embarrassed I was and mortified at the thought one of my neighbors would see my 250 pounds bouncing along with my face a charming shade of ‘heart-attack red’.  Or how I was breathing so hard I genuinely felt like I was going to throw up. And yet even as hard as it was, I oddly and intuitively knew I could not give up. I had to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other no matter what anyone thought. This was the make-it-or-break-it point.

They didn’t talk about how hard I worked for and how much I cherished some of the first days I ran without those extra 10 pounds of skin hanging around my belly.  Or how months later when I was all healed Josh and Wendie went for a run with me in Bend (3+ hours from home), on isolated trails, so I would feel comfortable stripping down to just shorts and my sports bra to go for a run.  That ‘shorts and sports bra’ dream was hatched the very first time I ever went to a race and saw women running comfortably and carefree in next to nothing. I on the other hand was carefully and strategically covered in head-to-toe compression gear just to keep my extra skin on my belly from gaining unstoppable momentum and beating me to death.  I ran that day with josh and wendie in just shorts and sports bra.  I felt the sun on my belly.  And the sun on my mid-back.  And I was running on world-class trails. With cherished and trusted friends who knew what this meant to me.  I felt free, brave, happy – and comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long time.

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Just a sports bra.  Oh.  And shorts.  I have on shorts. I promise.

They didn’t talk about how when I finally ran one full mile without stopping I bawled like a baby out of pure joy and quickly called my friend Wade to tell him… I HAD DONE IT!!  (Bets!  QUIT YELLING IN THE PHONE!)  I was hooked at that moment on asking my body to try to do more… I knew in that moment that my body was strong and my mind could be my biggest weapon if I wanted to work on them both…  🙂  Could I do a mile and half?  Could I possibly run a 5K at some point?  What else could I do?  What else in life had I missed out on because I had been obese and immobile?  Oh my heavens…  I felt like the doors to the whole-wide-world were finally opening and I was getting to run though them…

They really didn’t tell the whole story.

They didn’t tell my favorite parts of my story. 🙂

And maybe that’s good.

I mean, my story isn’t over.

Not by a long shot.

I’m still really busy writing it.

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Signing up for the 100 miler.  Happy and excited and realizing I get to live my dreams…

Breakthrough.

IMG_6855-webI ran downhill Thursday night.

Not my normal, guarded, stiff-legged bounce that I have used for the last three years when running downhill.

I flew.

And no, it was NOT a dream.

I ran an entire mile at a 7:32 pace. For me — that’s fast!

HOLY SMOKES was it an amazing, unreal feeling to be flying down the hill on my own two legs!

I felt strong, solid, happy.  And well… I’ve never quite felt like that in all the running I have done up to this point.

I felt capable and confident. Those two words don’t get used a lot when I’m thinking about/talking about my own running.

Thursday night?  I nailed the downhill portion that I was working on.

All the pieces came together.  And something really important just finally clicked into place…


Back up for just one moment…  When I first started running it was simply about getting one foot in front of the other more than a few times in a row.  Like — very literally — the width of a driveway.  That was how I started my running career.  I was a walker, not a runner.  I was just dabbling with the idea of running and not sure I was even going to like it.  So I didn’t tell anyone I was trying to learn to run just in case I tried it and hated it.  Then I wouldn’t have to explain it to anyone. 🙂

Some days putting one foot in front of the other is still very much the goal.

But I am to a point with running where I want to work on some specific techniques, and learn some new skills. I am working on the parts/pieces/things that are going to help me keep running for years to come. The things that will help me avoid injury, run faster, run longer.

This is the really FUN stuff to be learning.

This is the hard work that I don’t mind doing.

Spencer and I were running off of McCullough Peak Thursday night. Spencer was running with me and he said we should work on some downhill running.

I have a short, choppy, guarded gait.  Especially on the downhill.  I’m kinda/sorta afraid/terrified of falling on my face. My gait shows that I’m guarding with every single footfall.

I tend to hit the ground and use my legs as shock absorbers — NOT springs.

I should be using them as springs.

‘Running downhill is not really running, it’s more of a controlled fall.’ — Spencer

Spencer and I have been working on my downhill technique/skills/abilities for close to year. Last year in May at the Western States Training camp in California we realized that I really didn’t know how to run downhill very well.  We’ve been working on it ever since.

Spencer has tried all kinds of things to help me learn to run more smoothly, efficiently and comfortably downhill.  We have talked about cadence, gait, stride – we have worked on core strength and building all the right muscles. All the things that I should be focused on to help make my downhill running (running in general) better.

So why was this run different?

I don’t really know how to explain it except that the words Spencer said clicked and something FINALLY made sense.

For a split second my legs understood what my brain seemed to refuse to comprehend.

And then you know that moment when your brain gives a big sigh of relief because you finally, finally understand something with perfect clarity?

This was one of those moments.

We were running downhill.  Me short/choppy, jabbing kinds of strides and Spencer says ‘open up your hips’.

I asked him what exactly that meant.

Spencer says try running from your hips, not just from your legs.

I did.

Those words made sense to me…

I took a few more steps that were short, stiff. Then I tried striding out with my hips ‘open’. My glutes were engaged in the whole process (hello butt!).  It was very suddenly NO LONGER just about my legs and knees…

All of the sudden I was really moving comfortably down the hill.  Faster, efficiently, with my legs more springy.

It. Was. Amazing.

I felt really strong and confident and fluid.

I was mostly keeping up with Spencer on the downhill, which NEVER, ever happens. 🙂

I ran for about .75 of a mile with keen attention to keeping my hips open and running from my hips.  And that .75 of a mile was fast!

I can only imagine some of Spencer’s frustration/elation/satisfaction given that THIS is what he has been trying to get me to do for about, oh… 8 months now.

That night, for some reason, the words and directions he gave me while we were running downhill FINALLY made sense to me.

Everything clicked.

And I ran.

And I felt like a freaking powerful runner for the first time in a long time.

Actually, maybe, I finally felt like a powerful runner for the very first time.

It just felt so damn good to fly down the hill with confidence.


*Coach’s note from Spencer:

The most impressive part to this .75 mile stretch was the fact that Betsy finished the last .25 mile at a 6:15 pace. The fastest I have ever seen her run, ever, is right around an 8 minute pace on downhill. 

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