Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top 10 Ways to be a Hipster Ultra Runner

Trey Bailey & Maxwell Ferguson illustrating multiple hipster ultra looks, picture courtesy Uphill Running

DISCLAIMER: As an expert in the field of Hipster Ultra Running looks, I want to express my respect for all the hipsters out there. I will begin by illustrating why I feel qualified to write about Ultra Running Hipster styles. Please note that I wear pink ironically. I also wear bikinis ironically.
As the final evidence in qualifications, I make my own coffee with an aeropress, a high performance single cup coffee maker, all the while wearing crazy leggings when I'm road tripping in the middle of Las Vegas because Starbucks just won't cut it for me.
Now that we've established my qualifications as an author, I'd like to jump right into the 10 most hipster ultra running looks. You too can be a Hipster Ultra Runner by adopting some or all of these looks. 

1. Mustaches: Sorry ladies, you're not gonna like this, but mustaches are the perfect hipster accessory for men. 
Adam Hewey illustrates Hipster look #1. Photo by by Glenn Tachiyama at Yakima Skyline 50k
Guys: this is the mustache you should be shooting for. Dominic Grossman, by Matt Trappe
2. Beards: The less groomed the beard, the more legit. Add a cowboy hat and collared shirt, if possible. 
Rob Krar, photo by Mike Davis. 
Dominic is getting a lot of hair time on this post, but he clearly has the hair for it. Grossman is an example of a totally legit hipster groomed beard. Dominic Grossman by Jayme Burtis

3. Costumes: Whether you are pacing or racing, costumes will help establish your hipster cred.
Angel Mathis and Alicia Woodside, by Glenn Tachiyama

Quadruple whammy! Sean Meissner wears a trucker hat, costume, and wild beard DURING a beer mile. Sean may be the ultimate hipster UR. Photo by Justin Grady. 
4. Trucker Hats: Pretty self-explanatory. 
Ginna Ellis, Pete Walstrom, Jenn Shelton, Hayden Teachout. Photo by Ginna Ellis
5. Beer Mile: Forget running a regular mile. Run a beer mile. Add costumes. 
Encinitas Beer Mile
6. Headstands: You can include one mid-race to express your carefree attitude toward racing and running.
Michael Seiser in full racing mode
Wheel pose works equally well
Or dancer's pose....
8. Belly Shirts: If you're not going shirtless, then go for a belly shirt. If you want to double up on hipster cred, make it a Pacific Northwest inspired plaid belly shirt. 
Dave Melanson sporting the Pacific Northwest inspired plaid belly shirt while pacing me at HURT 100. Photo by Angel King.
9. Ironic Sunglasses: Any sunglasses that wouldn't traditionally be used for running work. Ideally you will buy them at a gas station for less than $10. 
No one does it better than Anton Krupicka. Picture by Derrick Lytle
10. Accessorize with Stripes and Plaid: Add lots of color and patterns, but not too many. Choose to accessorize with color and patterns: socks, sunglasses, and headbands all work. Plaid and Stripes are definite must-haves. 
Striped socks! Sabrina Redden, photo by Aravaipa Running.
Plaid shirts, perfect hipster post race clothing. Pictured: Brendan Trimboli & Joe Grant. Photo by Inside Ultras.

11. Go shirtless, bonus! If you aren't going plaid or wearing a belly shirt, go shirtless. When in doubt as to what to wear, wear less.
Jamil Coury, Aravaipa Running
Have any favorite hipster ultra running looks? Please comment and share!

Follow Me
For more daily fitness ideas, inspiration, and humor, visit my Facebook Page
Yoga based core and strength exercises on my YouTube Channel
A little crazy on Instagram
Short, sweet and sassy on Twitter
Find me on Google+

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Riding the Tide

I'm looking through a telescope
All I can see is you
Smiling at me
I can't help but smile
Starting at my toes
A wave through my entire body,
The wave an entire tide
Moving me:

I'm in my little blue toyota matrix
Muddy ripped running shoes
A rumpled sleeping bag in the backseat
Carton of unsweetened almond milk
Ready to pour into a thermos
Trail maps floating on the floor
Like the kelp beds off shore
Bobbing and swaying
To the undulations of the road.

The tide is moved by the moon,
And again the world is a tiny circle
With you right in the middle
I'm afraid I'll loose my balance
Moving into shore and back out
From day to night.

Again the tide moves:
I'm in yoga class
Tree pose, Sara Beth says
My right foot wedged on my thigh,
I'm swaying as though caught
In a swirling whirlpool--

All I want is to be in final Savasana,
My heart gently kissing the sky
To the movement of my breath
My body floating.




Saturday, April 26, 2014

Clean Eating & Running 100 Milers


I've been marinating this article for a while. The reason I have not written it up until now is simple: we all require an unique diet for training and racing and I don't want to come off like I know more than anyone else on this matter. This article is based on my own personal experience and eating habits. If you get anything from it, I hope it's the importance of what I term "Clean Eating." My unique eating habits will not apply to every athlete. I feel that my experiences will help runners get an idea of how to make their diet work for them in training, specifically for running 100 mile endurance races. I do not claim to have any scientific understanding of nutrition, rather my knowledge is based on a lot of experimentation the end result being that my body is healthier and performing better than ever.

I've tried just about every method of eating out there from raw food to blood type diet to Paleo. In my early 20s I was fascinated with Naturopathic medicine and alternative medicine and I studied many of diets and healing methods. Before becoming a Race Director, I worked as a massage therapist for 8 years. Working with the body on a therapeutic level gave me a deeper understanding of my body and a sensitivity to the small changes that result from diet, exercise, and stress.
An assortment of foods that I eat regularly
What I Eat
It's pretty simple really, I eat fruits, vegetables, seaweed, fish, meat, nuts, and things like olive oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegar and a variety of spices.  No grains, no dairy, no sugar, no beans, a little salt here and there. I eat a lot of raw fish and a lot of seafood in general. Unlike paleo, I do eat fruit. I frequently make smoothies and find them to be perfect after hot yoga class. I also drink 2-3 cups of good quality coffee every morning. Over the years, I've come up with foods that really seem to fuel my body with very little digestive effort. I've also identified foods that slow or hinder my digestion. I avoid those foods. I discovered recently that potatoes were a problem, I cut them out and feel a lot better. It's a learning process. This kind of diet makes me very sensitive to how foods affect my body.
A common dinner/lunch for me
Eating During Training
Usually I don't eat during training runs and cycling. On bike rides or runs longer than 2 hours I will take some Lara bars with me or nuts, nut butter, plantain chips, dried fruit, and on occasion dried/smoked meat. If I'm going to be out on a long route all day or longer I will take VFuel Gels as well as some heartier food.

Eating During a 100 mile Race
Anything goes in a race for me. Whereas in training it's important for me to eat clean, when I race I consume a lot more gels and processed sugary food like soda. Performance is the most important thing to me here and I eat the best I can to run the fastest I can. I tend to eat more during races than I do in training, but I've found that because of my very simple and clean diet I don't need as much food as I used to in ultras. I don't need as much water either. I don't know why on a scientific level, but it has worked for me and I believe that consuming less makes it easier for my body to focus on running. As far as electrolytes go, I'll supplement with a few here or there if I'm racing hard or in hot weather. If I feel like I'm getting cramps I'll take a couple. I don't take them on any sort of regular basis though.

What About Beer? 
Ah! You know me too well! Normally I enjoy a good IPA microbrew on a regular basis. Enjoy doesn't quite cover it, I love a good IPA. When I want to run my best though, I cut out alcohol. It's not that I think it is bad. I just find that I don't get in other key calories when I drink because beer and other alcoholic drinks fill me up pretty quick. That's not to say that I don't have a beer here and there. No rule should ever be followed so closely that it takes the fun out of an experience!
If you're gonna drink, drink the good stuff! Pictured, local Kulshan Brewery beers.
How I Cleaned Up
Getting to where I am now took a while! It's been almost a year for me. I began slowly and gradually cutting out various foods as my body adapted to the new way of eating and as I realized how certain food were keeping me from performing optimally. You cannot expect to change your diet overnight and keep with it for the long term. I began last summer 2013 cutting out grains and most sugar. At that time I was still having things like banana chips (with sugar) and I'd get tea from the gas station with added sugar. Sugar was one of the more insidious foods that I kept finding ways of including in my diet. It took 7 months for me to truly cut all sugar out of my diet (except for during races).

Over the weeks and months I slowly cut out all dairy and almost everything processed as well. The only foods that I currently eat on a regular basis that are "processed" are pretty minimally processed. I enjoy canned salmon and tuna on occasion as well as hearts of palm (they come in a jar with a little added salt) and plantain chips (added salt, roasted but no sugar). I bring all the aforementioned foods with me on road trips and during my travels to eat healthy without resorting to fast or low quality food.

One of the most surprising things about my cleaner way of eating has been that I need far less food than I used to. I expected to have to eat boat loads of vegis, fruits, fish and meat to get enough calories. Not so! I eat several smaller meals throughout the day needing less food than I used to. Without processed foods and (most) added salt, I also need less water than I used to.

How to Eat Clean

Avoid:
  • All processed food
  • Sugar: I avoid all sugars. If you are going to use sugar, consider grade B unprocessed maple syrup and raw honey. 
  • Anything with sugar added to it like dried fruit or green tea
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Processed meat: salami, bacon, sandwich meats
  • Fast food
  • Low quality restaurants (Goes along with the above "Fast Foods")
  • If you choose to eat grains, choose unprocessed grains like brown rice and quinoa and avoid noodles, white rice, white bread, bagels, muffins, and donuts. Avoid corn. 
  • Alcoholic beverages

What to Eat:
  • Substitute sugar with stevia
  • Substitute store bought salad dressing with a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing or another vinegar/oil combo
  • Seafood
  • As clean as possible meat (read: organic/free range) 
  • Vegetables are excellent. Consider avoiding or reducing your intake of potatoes
  • Fruit, lower sugar varieties are best. Go for darker colored fruit and berries. This is one area I am not so good at. I probably eat too much fruit. Always room to grow, right?
  • Smoothies
  • Seaweed
  • If you choose to drink alcohol go for higher quality stuff like good microbrews

Supplements
I don't find the need to supplement with anything on a regular basis. I will add a green powder to my smoothies sometimes. Occasionally I take acidophilis. The way I am eating now, I don't seem to need any supplements. 

My Best Advice
Cut out all processed foods. Eat whole foods. Cut out all added sugar. Find out what works for you personally. 
Making a smoothie!

A Few of My Favorite Recipes

A Little Sunshine
Sunshine Smoothie
1. 5 bananas
2 cups of frozen peaches
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup of fresh, unpasturized orange juice
2-3 TBS Chia Seeds
2 TBS Coconut Oil
*optional 2 TBS peanut butter

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

The Big Blue
Big Blue Smoothie

1. 5 bananas
2 cups of frozen mixed berries/blueberries
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup of fresh, unpasturized orange juice
2-3 TBS Chia Seeds
2 TBS Coconut Oil

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

Spring Green Smoothie
2 bananas
2 cups of strawberries
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/2 cup of unpasturized/fresh orange juice
2 TBS chia seeds (optional)
1 cup of bagged spinach greens

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

Poke: pictured with turmeric, sesame oil, pepper, and hearts of palm (not the recipe listed below)
Sesame Poke
2 cups Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna, cubed into bite size pieces
1/2 cup Fresh pineapple, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup Hearts of palm, chopped
4 TBS Almonds, diced

Mix all the above ingredients and sprinkle with spicy or regular toasted sesame oil and serve with salad or seaweed.  

Quick & Healthy Snacks that I Eat:
Berries
Hearts of Palm
Canned Salmon
Smoked Salmon
Almonds
Walnuts
Poke
Plantain Chips with a little Coconut oil
Carrots, celery
Seaweed salad (rehydrate and eat!)- my favorite seaweed is wakame

Raw, sashimi grade tuna
Hearts of palm
Comments: What do you like to eat? How do you eat clean with so many unhealthy food choices out there, or do you choose not to?

For more daily fitness ideas, inspiration, and humor, check out my Facebook Page
Yoga based core and strength exercises & adventures on my YouTube Channel
A little crazy on Instagram

Short, sweet and sassy on Twitter

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Today I bought an Orchid


Today I bought an orchid
My last one died a slow 
Death until one day, 
Its stem and roots separated 
There was no illusion of life 
Left in that orange clay pot.

Today I brought the new orchid home
Still unsure why the last one died, 
It wasn't enough for me to love 
Its beauty and desire 
Its presence in my house.

Today the wind blows so strong
Yet I cannot see it.
I see how it animates the trees 
Sometimes violently

Sometimes with soft caresses
Making the pine needs dance
Pine cones dropping 
It's Spring and new pine trees
Will be growing.

Today I wonder why 
Some trees fall 
Their invisible roots
Insufficient to the wind's force.

Do the weak trees answer
Some invisible call
Back to the earth
Their death the start of life
For the wind's pinecones?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'll Never be a Hiker

I'll never be a hiker,
I'd just take off down the trail
To  feel my body hot, breathing
To feel the pain of fatigue
Running though my legs
Arteries of experience
Bundled into a day
And fifty miles.

You can't ask the hummingbird
To slow it's dance among the flowers
It is incapable of using its feet
For anything but perching.
Should it need to move 
just two inches
It must fly,
Fifty flaps a second.

I need to feel the hard ground
As it leaps up into my legs,
My legs, bleeding into it:
They're clouds
Letting loose a rain storm
The rain, answering a call 
To create growth.

Bon Iver in the background
Inspiration from a world
That spins right into 
and through me.

In a moment as strong
As a winter storm,
I can't stop writing translations
Of emotion from the world
In a leather journal

As you read me,
You too, will translate
Your world coming alive
Through my words.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

10 Minute Core Workout for Ultra Runners

April Challenge

There will be a daily workout challenge each month

Results are about consistency. There is no such thing as being "lucky" to have good core strength. If you run regularly you owe your body a regular core routine. This is where the 10 Minute Core Workout for Ultra Runners comes in.  This routine is yoga based and it's meant to be challenging. Ultra runners get so focused on the running part of physical fitness they often lose sight of the bigger picture. Cross training, or playing as I'd rather call it, is essential to long term success as a distance runner.

This workout is meant to be done every single day, no excuses. Somedays you'll drag your way through it doing just the bare essentials and other days you will get caught up in the play and maybe you'll work your core for an hour. I do that all the time. That's how I trick myself- I tell myself that I only need to do 10 mins, then I begin having fun. Feel free to add in or subtract exercises that don't work for you, but keep the workout to 10-20 minutes everyday. The everyday part is the key. 

THE ROUTINE
The workout consists of these exercises, see video for explanations.

Plank, face down: 2 minutes

Plank, Right Side: 1 minute

Plank, Left Side: 1 minute

Yoga Bicycles, 100 repeats

Boat Ups: 2 sets of 10

Leg Lifts: 10 (3 holds per lift)

Downward Dog: Each leg do Knee to Nose, Knee to Right Elbow, Knee to Left Elbow with optional arm balance at end.

Finish with 2 minutes of headstand either free standing or against a wall if you are new to it.



For more daily fitness ideas and inspiration, check out my Facebook Page
Yoga based core and strength exercises on my YouTube Channel
A little crazy on Instagram

Short, sweet and sassy on Twitter

Other cross training suggestions:
  • Regular Vinyasa Flow/Power Yoga class: 1-3 week to begin with, it will kick your butt.
  • Buy a slack line! I absolutely love slack lining. Best core workout ever. Seriously. 
  • Road cycling: I'm a trail runner, but I love, love, looooove going fast on a road bike. Hooked. 
  • Weight lifting. Get a trainer. It's worth it. Ultras take a lot of strength.
Slack lining at the park

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Big Bang

I begged the man 
To let me into my reserved room
Too early he says, frowning
A gust of wind at me.
Me, a tumbleweed crossing the road.

The woman at the Motel next door
Watched a tumbleweed
Disengaged from its roots
Blown by the wind

She said, there's no way
The first place girl 
Is going to sleep in her car. 
Hey, this girl ran 100 miles!
She locked on to my red eyes,
Seeing a snow globe of sand
A whole world in a glance.

She asked why I did it:
I have to push myself over the edge
To truly see the mountain,
I said.

But how is the view worth it?
Confusion mapping her face.
Smiling: I'm not the viewer,
I'm the mountain.

Sunshine has painted me
As part of the mountains of Zion
Lying on the messy
Motel 6 bed 
The last inhabitant's trash 
Still in the wastebasket.

There is a fever in me
Hot and cold
As though the Big Bang 
Is happening within me.

A universe of experience expanding:
This kind of growth fucking hurts 
It pushes through scars,
Turning them red and blue
Tiny capillaries,
Making new bloody maps
Under my skin.

My body still holds 
The sliver of moonlight
That smiled lopsided at me
All night on the trail
Its light bringing energy into my heart
My feet dancing and stumbling to its gravity
Like the tide drawing into shore.







Monday, April 7, 2014

Zion 100 Race Report: A Win & Unlikely Friendships

Fitting Together

At mile 80 Sam's pacer
Asked me why I do it
He runs marathons, 
One for each state.
I really don't know right now, 
I answered, ask me when I finish.

Five of us jogged slowly
up the highway looking
for an arrow that would send us up 
the last climb in the race.
We moved like a centipede,
Many legs connected 
In a run-walk dance with the trail.

At that moment it occurred to me 
None of us had met before today
We were pieces of a puzzle
That the race arranged
That together made a picture 
And my puzzle piece 
Finally made sense.

Richard and me running together around mile ~14. Photo by Alex Santiago
I met Richard on the first climb. I wanted to say, stop talking to me I'm trying to breathe, as a line of runners two miles long pushed me and the other front runners up the steepest and longest climb of the race right out of the gates. Our hands grasped prickly desert brush. Our glutes and calves pressed the loose, fine red dust that Zion was so well known for into the earth. I was feeling introverted and a little grumpy. We still had 98 miles to go and my running groove just wasn't going to happen until we topped off at almost 6,000 feet at the top of Smith mesa. I was looking forward to running, not this hands-on-knees lung collapsing shoot up the mountain. 

Video pre-race chilling out in Zion National Park

I walked a flat section and Richard politely passed me. I had a feeling I'd see him later. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was in 1st place when a woman with bleach blonde hair and a tan that could only come from some serious dedication passed me as though she had an extra gear to drive from. Damn, impressive, but somehow I wasn't at all worried. I felt like I'd see her again. I was just trying to chill out and get my legs in a groove while calming my mind with some deep breathing.  My body likes to freak out when I begin on a steep climb. The feeling was familiar so I let it pass not giving it any energy. 
Game face. Photo by Alex Santiago
Near the top, I noticed Keira Henninger, a fellow race director and impressive athlete with some 100 mile wins to her name, had caught up to me on the climb and as we crested the top of the mesa she passed me and we ran together. I could tell there would be some friendly competition here. I stayed with her chatting about life, race directing, and relationships. Cool lady I thought. I hope we get to run together more during the race. We were at Aid #1 at mile 7 before I knew it and wow, I felt gooood. Keira went over to her crew. I hadn't eaten anything or drank any water on the climb, my pack was still full, so I skipped quickly through the aid station and began a fun and fast descent back toward Virgin, UT. 
Richard and me running early on in the race. Photo by Alex Santiago
Right away I caught up to Richard, but now I was feeling quite cheerful and we chatted like old friends the entire way down, blasting past other runners in what was probably a little fast for so early in a 100. Yet, it was so runnable: a paved steep downhill and I didn't want to over think my pace. I was just trying to go with the flow. I told Richard our pace and he looked surprised as well. We both shrugged, oh well, and I mentioned that I wanted to take chances in this race anyway. I don't always want to play it safe. We clicked off 7 min miles and settled behind the blonde girl with good climbing gears. Apparently my downhill running had leveled the playing field.

A little after Aid #2, mile 14, Richard took off or I slowed down for a gel. I let him go. I noticed that I was at the 25k distance in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes and again thought, hmmm that's a bit faster than I expected especially with almost 3,000 feet of climbing. Oh well. I caught up to the blonde gear girl again and we chatted. This was her second 100 miler and she was from Utah. Although I wanted to stick around and chat more, the pace was a little slow and so I passed and rode the roller coaster corners down the hill loving every second of it and passing early starters in groups. The early starters had a 1-2 hour head start so that they could make the 32 hour cut off.
Photo by Cory Reese from 2013 race, the first climb up Smith mesa
Mile 20 in 3 hours. It was fun to run a "runnable" course. I was in 1st place again, and without any crew I was completely unaware of what place I was. I thought I was in 2nd place, but I wasn't worried since it was early in the race. Just before mile 31 and Aid Station #4, the trail shot up a steep 1 mile climb that gained something around 1,000 feet. Wow, that was painful and I had been out of water for the past 3 miles. All I could think about was the pleasure of chugging about 5 glasses of ice cold H20 and 5 glasses of ice cold coke. I climbed one foot after another, hands on thighs steep. I could see that I was getting a sunburn. Shit. Should've gotten some sunscreen on sooner. I considered grabbing dirt and rubbing in on my skin. I decided to wait since I had sunscreen in my drop bag just up the hill. Some people wooped encouragement from the top of the mesa and I hollered back Woohooo!!! Excited to get to the top and despite feeling a bit worn out, I was going to have fun damn it!
Photo by Rico Sesto
Up to this point I'd only been having VFuel gels, coke and a bit of perpetuum in a water bottle. I'd trained on very minimal calories and water the past few months and it seemed as though my body just didn't need much.  I've found that for me personally overeating is way more disastrous than under eating. I've gotten pretty good at finding that sweet spot where I am eating just enough without over filling my stomach. Despite this I'd felt a little unsettled in the tummy all day, from the first climb and then on and off.  Probably due to the faster pace and more runnable miles.
Coming into Aid Station at mile 31. Photo by Alex Santiago
I reached Aid #4 at mile 31 and immediately chugged water. One glass. Two glasses, three glasses, four. Coke, more coke. Stupid horrible cupless plastic cups. I think my sports bra drank half the coke. I hurried to my drop bag and applied my sun screen. I'd rather put on sunscreen than a shirt. As I was heading out of the aid station I noticed Keira's crew walking back from the trail and I realized she'd slipped right past me while I was getting sunscreen! I saw her through the desert brush and within a minute I was behind her. I had the feeling that I wasn't supposed to know she'd passed me, but the cat was out of the bag and I felt good. I said hi and since I still had no idea what place I was in I asked Keira. I think she was surprised by the question, and she said, "We're in first" as though we were tied for the lead. It was a nice gesture considering that she was a few steps ahead of me. Awkward, though perhaps.
Photo by Rico Sesto
Keira stepped aside to use the proverbial bathroom and I said, Ok, see you in a bit! I was thinking this would be a fun race and we could push each other to a good finishing time, how exciting! I picked up the pace weaving and rolling through the slick rock. I was going to make her work to catch me! It was fun at first running through the slick rock section but increasingly stressful as the markers were often hard to follow and I did not want to get lost. As a race director I am especially careful to watch for markings and not just blast through an intersection. This was no ordinary trail, it was an up and down roller coaster of rock hopping and a little sand trail running between the large rock slabs. The views were incredible. The climb had been worth it. Every miserable upward step. I was in love with the red striped rocks that exploded from the valley into incredible mesas for as far as the eye could see.
Photo by Rico Sesto, unknown runners. 
After a few miles Keira still hadn't caught up which I thought was odd, but not too crazy. After all I hadn't seen her from mile 7 to mile 31, so maybe she was chilling out and grooving back there. A short 1 mile out and back to another stunning mesa viewpoint and still no Keira on the way back. That meant she was at least a mile behind me already. Hmmm. Again I was surprised, but I was hoping to win the race, so I thought perhaps I'd just increased the lead with my faster pace.

The next 6 miles flew by and I ran with a  couple runners who were in the 100k. As it turned out, the man who was running the 100k had seen Keira heading back to the aid station at mile 31 to drop. What??! I was shocked. It turned out that she had fallen and had her hip popped back in place. I sent a little prayer for her and finally understood why she had disappeared. Side note, she is okay, but recovering.
Photo by Rico Sesto, Richard running the road section.
The next few sections were a bit tedious dirt road running with crew's vehicles kicking up dust much of the way. Around a bend I was super excited to see Richard. He was walking and I jogged up to him. He was going through a low point he said, but then proceeded to run the rest of the way with me to Grafton Aid Station, mile 49 in 9 hours in 15 minutes. The guy was able to turn around his low so quick! We grabbed some soup, coke, and more gels at the aid station. After a slight hesitation I grabbed a burrito. I never eat real food this early in a 100, I told Richard. He didn't appear concerned as he chugged chocolate milk and grabbed two burritos. What the hell. This was supposed to be fun right? 
Bummed out after getting significantly off course
We jogged out of the aid station to the soon-to-be-infamous unmarked turn. We'd been following pink and green flagging and at a Y in the trail the green flags went to the right and the pink ones went straight. We paused. Which way do we go? We were just far enough from the aid station that we didn't want to go back. Well we were following pink earlier we agreed and so we followed the pink all the way down a big climb and through a few mesas where we ran into two men who told us we were going the wrong way. Shit, fuck, & damn it! They had also gone down the climb, one of them (he'd been in 2nd place) going almost all the way to Eagle Aid Station (4-6 miles) before running into the eventual winner, who told him that he was going the wrong way. The other man, Jan Kriska, had been 1/4-1/2 mile ahead of us, and both men were contemplating quitting. At this point my legs felt so shot (it was only mile 52) that I also considered dropping. It was so disappointing to get off course by so much!
Richard and me coming into Grafton after getting off course. Photo by Alex Santiago

Photo by Rico Sesto
We slowly trudged up the technical climb and it was at that point that I knew that Richard and I would finish the race together. I can't explain exactly why, but he wasn't going to let me drop that much I could tell. We finally got back on course and told the aid station about the confusing intersection hoping no one else would make the same mistake.  As we were heading out toward Eagle Aid Station, we ran into Jan again, but he was walking back to Grafton, the wrong way. I'm dropping, he said. Just run to the next aid station with us, I encouraged him, We're running together I said pointing to RichardTo my surprise, he said, ok. Wow that was easy!
The Trio of Jan Kriska, me, and Richard Kresser leaving Eagle Aid Station. Determination!
From there on we made a silent and strong pact to run together for the rest of the race. And we did for 48 miles we jogged, walked, ran, suffered, and shared a joy that you can only experience with fellow runners, all in it to finish it. It was magical and unique. It was as though we were the same heart, the same legs and we pushed each other and rested with each other in synch. A true gift of running friendship.
Jan Kriska, early on in the race. Picture courtesy J.K.
Just after nightfall, our posse of 3 caught up with a talented nubie ultra runner, Sam, who was doing his first 100 miler. Sam was a team player too and joined us despite saying from time to time that he would have to walk the next section or that he'd never felt so much pain. The guy was an animal. He kept overcoming his mental and physical obstacles and ran with us for the next 20+ miles along with his pacer, Rahim, a prolific marathoner, who insisted he wasn't ever going to do a 100 miler. Yeah, suuuuure, Richard said. I agreed, yeah right that's what they all say. It was funny but true. Sam and Rahim stayed with our trio, now 5 strong until the last 9 miles where he walked the downhill to appease his painful legs, finishing in a strong 23:30-something.
Rahim, Sam's pacer on the left in orange jacket and Sam on the right in green jacket enjoying some post race beers. Picture courtesy of Rahim. 
Jan, Richard and I ran step for step the rest of the way finishing holding hands and embracing in a way that only people who have experienced life on the edge can embrace. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world! After all was said and done, I finished in first place in 23:04, slower than expected, but with at least 4 bonus miles and a 1,500 foot extra climb. It was my most enjoyable 100 miler to date. It was a beautiful picture of friendship and team work.

A big thank you to race director Matt Gunn, the many, many volunteers, and race sponsors. Big thank you to VFuel Endurance for fueling me to a win at The Zion 100 and Ultimate Direction for their excellent Ultra Vesta, perfect pack for the race. Thanks Pearl Izumi/Running, Trail N2's helped me navigate the course and performed spectacularly in the desert terrain.

Most of all, thank you to Richard, Jan, Sam, and Rahim. <3
A little pre-race yoga in Zion National park the day before the race. 
Photo by Jason Sung