Tahoe 100K Race Report

I will start from the beginning.  If you read my last blog you know that I took a year off from racing to get my mind right.  I started to get too obsessed with winning races, and not really enjoying the racing like I thought I should be.  You can read all about that here.

So, after a full year off, I was ready to get back at it with a new and improved mindset.  I knew the boys were signing up for the Tahoe 200 again, and I debated it myself.  Then I went to the website and saw the 100K option.  It was about a quarter of the cost, and what intrigued me most was the top male and female would be sent to Salomon running camp for an all expenses paid week long trip.  Flight, hotel, run camp, food, yoga, etc.  5 races across the world (this one being one of them) top male and female = 10 total runners.  Last year 3 of them got signed with Salomon.  I thought, why not?  Who knows, why not me?

Unfortunately, a few months later I went back to the site and saw this was no longer on the website.  It seems the race director was now with Altra and Salomon was no longer involved.  I was kind of upset, but truly thought that this was probably a good thing.

Fast forward to the week leading up to the race.  Like I said, last year I did a lot work to get to a point where I stopped taking racing so seriously and it ACTUALLY WORKED!!  Every  race I did this year I prepared for, but didn’t stress about it.  And it was working.  I won my first 5K, and placed 3rd female overall at Breakneck trail marathon and CUT 112 miler.  However, this race I may have been straddling the line of not stressing & not preparing!  It was 2 days before my flight out to Tahoe before I started to think about what I needed.

This was the first race I would be doing with no crew, which meant I would need to be carrying a lot more than usual.  I was leaving Wednesday and on Monday night I realized I had no nutrition, no hydration pack that would work, and no water bottles for said pack.  Oops.  Thankfully I have an amazing husband and Amazon has 24 hour delivery and we were able to get everything to the house late Tuesday night with  5 hours to spare.

20190911_142257Let’s talk about Tahoe.  Holy Shit.  This place is a dream.  We had a hotel room that had views of Lake Tahoe and the mountains and I was so freaking gitty with happiness.  Not to mention Justin and Billy were already there, and Freiman  was arriving Wednesday with me.  I was not only surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, but I soon would be surrounded by some amazing dudes (who were all doing the Tahoe 200)

IMG951765My race started on Saturday and the boys would set off Friday AM.  Leading up to those days we just took all of Tahoe in.  We biked, we ate, we drank, we bowled, we went from hot tub to a dip in the lake, we sang, we played One Man Band and Rumor too many times but not enough….there was just such a buzz of all excitement and (what felt like) very little stress. This was all the way up to the race start.  I drove the boys to the start as Justin and Billy put on a show most would pay for singing “Despasito”. I could not believe that we were a couple hours away from the start of a 200 mile journey around Lake Tahoe, when I felt like we were on the way to a night out.

20190912_140710This was all part of the wonderful journey I have been on. I needed these boys to remind me that we do this shit not only to push our limits and to make us grow but, BECAUSE WE LOVE IT!  I have been around people that make you stress even though you aren’t racing because they are so stressed!!!  That wasn’t working for me!  THIS!!  This was working for me.

 

At 9am the boys swore to Candice (race director) with the rest of the field that if they “get lost, hurt or die it is their own damn fault” and marched their way up the ski mountain to begin their 205 mile journey.  At this point it would be 2 days (Sunday morning) until I saw them again, and I drove home almost wanting to back out of my race.  Justin made a comment to me at one point saying, “you seem strangely calm about your race.”  Part of that was all the work I have been doing, but another part of it is that I felt like my race was kind of like a side show to their main event.  Not in a negative way…I just was so into their race that I wanted to be there every minute of it!

20190912_134746But, my race was happening so it was time to focus. I feel like this was the first time I actually started to really mentally prepare for the race. This is when the anxiety hit hard. Here’s why. For the last year or so I have been a little worried about my lungs. I’ve had moments where breathing feels very hard, and I lose my voice all the time. I did get this checked to eliminate the scary stuff, but I still struggle with it. The fact that I would be running at 10,000 ft when I have NEVER run (or walked) at high altitude before had me very worried. I was warned of headaches, vomiting, and worst case pulmonary edema. 

It was time to get my sports psychologist (and best friend) Meg on the phone and do some mindset work. As I looked over Lake Tahoe and the mountains the boys were running through, Meg talked me through some visualization exercises. This has been a huge part of my career and I am forever grateful for Meg as my lifelong best friend and coach!

20190912_105540I spent the rest of the day visualization and prepping the mind and gear. Saturday at 3am the alarm went off and I was on my way. Race start was 630am and we needed to drive to the finish and get shuttled to the start (it was a point to point race). This was my first race I had to do all of this solo and I must say it was a lot more stressful than I expected. However, it was all part of what I wanted…an added challenge and just me, myself and I battling the demons.

The start lines of races this year were where I truly saw my hard work shine. No stress. No sizing up the competition. Just a little bit of excitement and anxiety. All normal. The race starts with a big climb and I find my way into a line of people hiking up and settle in.  This will be less of a race for me and more of an experience. Taking it all in, including the incredible sunrise we experience as we peak the first mountain and get our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe.  Unreal.

I am loving the fast single tracks and find a nice groove with a group of guys.  At this point everyone is getting into the ultra mode.  Chatting it up, talking about races they’ve done, what they plan to do. I silently listen and quickly realize I am one of the few East Coasters. California. Colorado. European mountains. Etc. A moment of insecurity and feeling I am out of my league, but I stay in my zone.

Soon we hit the first aid station, maybe 8 miles in. I was very surprised to hear “1st female” Seriously? No idea how that happened.  I manage to not go into “competitive” mode too quick and keep the same laid back mindset as I move on.  I just assume this will be short lived and I’m fine with that.

The 2nd aid station comes at mile 20ish and I know I’m still in the lead because no one has passed me.  When I hit this aid station 2nd place female is right there with me. I take the time to grab nutrition and search for coffee (in my scramble to navigate the race start solo I forgot coffee which means if I don’t get it soon I will be running most the race with an intense headache)  I fill both my water bottles and SOME of my hydration pack, which I will soon realize was a huge mistake.

The next section is 15 miles and something like 3,000 ft of climbing.  The temps would be crawling into the high 80’s with full sun exposure.  It was in this section that I hit my big low.  I ran out of water, and had to sit at one point (this was also a section where we hit 10,000ft elevation) and get my shit together.  I was spiraling downhill fast and letting my mind go to dark places (‘what happens if I need to get down from elevation fast?  How will I get down?  Will I need to be helicoptered?’) Sit, go over the mindset work I did with Meg, and move on.

20190914_135153The next aid station (mile 35) I drank water like I was a camel, and was SO EXCITED to see Justin and Billy here.  I didn’t take a lot of time, but was able to chat with them a bit and make sure I filled my water.  Each aid station was an out and back and this one seemed to be a mile long downhill, which means we had to climb back up.   Urgh.   I was also able to see the 3rd and 4th female at this point and they weren’t too far back.  (a little bit of wanting to place top 3 started to hit here)

Not soon after I saw Matt and was able to give him a hug and grab some of his positive energy.  He says, “holy shit, I only saw one girl ahead of you, are you in 2nd?”  I said yes, and he gave me a huge smile and high five.  So amazing to have these guys out here!  I settled in for the rest of the race with a young guy from New York.  Each aid station going forward the workers would tell me “you are right behind first” and I am so amazed by how much that didn’t phase me.  In the past I would have risked blowing up my race to try to catch her.  Instead, I stayed in my own lane and ran my race.  I knew the race Would play out the way it should, and to be honest, ruining this amazing experience was not worth a 1st place finish.  If it was Gay City or a local race, maybe…but this was more about the fact I was F%$#ING running around Lake Tahoe than a race for me!!

When we hit the last aid staton one worker told me, “if you’re fast you can catch her. she just left”   The guy I was running with asked me if I wanted to go for it and I said, not yet. We were told there was 6 miles left and a climb, but what we didn’t realize that 6 was more like 7.5 and the climb was a BEAST!  At mile 56ish it felt like a death march.  We finally get to the top after what felt like 30 minutes of straight uphill and hit a pavement section. At this point I think there is only about 3 miles left so I decide to hammer it. I push hard and when the pavement ends decide to wait for my running buddy because I didn’t see first place girl.

This was probably the hardest part of the race mentally for me.  We were so close to being done and as we run what seems to be almost a mile, we don’t see any markers. I start to feel sick, thinking we are off course. One big goal of mine was to finish before dark and the sun was setting quick. I wanted to turn around because I was sure we were off course but Connor tells me to keep going a little bit and see. Soon later I see the pink ribbon.  I cannot tell you what it feels like to see a ribbon hanging from a tree in a trail race when you think you are lost. I screamed with joy!

At this point we are about 7.5 miles in and we are thinking it is a sick joke. Where is the finish!?  As we watch the sun set over the mountains we hit pavement and see what looks like a finish area. At this point I can see a headlamp at the top of the hill and realize it is 1st place female. Looking back at this moment I can’t help but think “what if this was for a trip to Salomon running camp?”  I have to wonder if I could have pushed and caught her!

20190914_201032However, it wasn’t.  It was for a plaque that either reads 1st or 2nd.  I was fine with 2nd.  To be honest, this year my real push to podium finish has been to get mission FITNESS and Sayulita publicized, and 2nd got me that!

Turns out less than 90 seconds separated me from 1st place.  Crazy to think about, but I am totally fine with my race.  It was exactly what I wanted and I loved it so much.  I drove myself back to the hotel, showered, and slept in my car (so uncomfortable) and went to find the boys and enjoy their journey. What an unforgettable trip all around!

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Connecticut Ultra Traverse (CUT112)

I cannot start this report without giving my brother, Matt, a huge shout out. Life is busy. Sometimes carving an hour out of a day is tough. However, Matt spent 35 straight hours crewing me and the boys. No sleep. Nearly 20 aid stations. Fully prepared and ready for us & willing to go find us whatever we needed, having it at the next station. This man is so selfless and giving & I cant believe I am so lucky to have him as a brother. Matt, you have no idea what having you out there meant to me & did for me. I love you more than you know.

IMG952019060195172312906Now, onto the CUT112 Event Report. From the top I’ll say I loved how laid back this was and that it wasn’t a race. As I’ve said before, I took a year off from racing to get my ego in check & to stop being so competitive. To go into this event with one goal: to finish, and have no care as to what “place” I was in was just what I needed!

What is the #CUT112:
The Connecticut Ultra Traverse (CUT) 112 is a run that covers the length of the state of Connecticut from North to South. On the New England Trail from the MA-CT border to the Long Island Sound in Guilford, CT. This is where we will organize our 112 mile run.

This route strings together some of the best trail running in Connecticut including Suffield Mountain, Peak Mountain, Hatchet Hill, Wilcox Park, Penwood State Park (Traprock 50k), Heublein Tower, MDC Reservoirs, Rattlesnake Mountain, Pinnacle Rock, Crescent Lake, Ragged Mountain, Castle Craig, Lamentation Mountain, Chauncey Peak, Mount Higby, Powder Ridge, Tri-Mountain State Park, Bluff Head (Bimblers Bluff 50k) , Cockaponset State Forest, East River Preserve, and the Guilford Point waterfront.

This was a cool event because Frieman, Justin, Davey and Billy were all doing it.  They only accept 20 participants (you need to give a “resume” to show you are capable) To have all the boys out there with me as we traversed CT was pretty special.

FB_IMG_1559476551046The run started at 8am, and Erik drove me, justin, frieman and Billy to the start, where we would meet up with Davey and Matt.  The beginning was pretty chill, as we all walked to the CT border.

(I have to say 112 miles with no sleep can make one a little delirious so details may be fuzzy as I attempt to piece together what unfolded the last 2 days.)

In the beginning Billy, Justin and myself ran together, chatting as we went. When we hit the first aid station Matt and Erik were there ready for us. Everyone was in good spirits & feeling good, obviously. However, we did notice Justin was sweating an INSANE amount. At this point it wasn’t that warm so it was a little strange. We later found out Justin would drop at mile 30. He couldn’t stop sweating and had chills, vomiting, etc.  Seemed to be that he and a bug maybe.

The next section Billy and I ran together, and at one point we stopped seeing blue blazes. Just then another runner was running toward us, it seemed he realized as well that we may be off track. We turned around & looked for blue, which we saw at the bottom of a steep hill. However, once we went down, there was no blue anywhere. We pulled up the map & realized we were off track. To lose time (25 minutes) and add a long climb into an already long race was enough to get us dialed in going forward.

The first few sections were really nice terrain and as we cruised through aid stations Matt warned us that we were maybe going too fast. Before this event, the longest I have run was 50 miles, so I was a bit nervous on how to pace. However, I had Billy with me who is  seasoned at this distance so I felt good.

I was able to see Erik at the first 3 aid stations which was so nice. When he left at about 12pm Friday and said “I’ll see you tomorrow night” the reality of what was ahead hit me.

FB_IMG_1559501428996.jpgAt about 4pm I knew my friend Trish would likely be volunteering at an aid station, and to come out of the woods and see not only her, but my friend Shea as well, was such a pick me up.  As we all chatted & Billy and I sat, Ashley and Justin roll in! Justin had just dropped, but you would have never known. He had a huge smile & was so positive. His wife Ashlry jumped out of the car with a big smile…these two are just incredible. What a fun aid station that was.

The next aid station was just as special  because Trish, Justin and Ashley all came and my friend Patti surprised me.  She is one of the funniest people I know & such a huge supporter of mine. It was so special to see them all. However, you can’t spend too much time at aid stations (as hard as it is to leave) so we kept going.

Two aid stations later it was time to put on head lamps. This was one of my big lows. When we showed up to the aid station you could tell there was some panic. Art (the event director-amazing dude) was on the phone as well as others & they asked us if our whole crew had gone through the aid station after ragged mountain. Apparently search and rescue was there looking for someone who had fallen off the cliff. Luckily, all the racers, including our crew were accounted for. Unfortunately, someone else wasn’t as lucky. As we left the aid station into the night – the part I was most worried about (ridgeline in the dark) we hear life star right over us. This must have happened within minutes of when we were on ragged mountain.

This was not the way I wanted to start the night. At this point Billy and I were over 50 miles deep together and a bond had formed. I had told him my fears & that I was at a low point. He was INCREDIBLE talking me through. Every ridgeline we got through he would simply say “great work”. Not many words were exchanged, but those words were enough.

The nighttime was very hard for me. The sections we did (Castle Craig, Mt. Higby) were so relentless, steep and rocky. We could barely run, and kept a very slow pace. At one point Matt ran out to meet us and run as back to the car, which was parked at mile 60. The furthest I have ever run, and Art was there to congratulate us for completing the whole Metacomet(?). (We would later learn this is the point where Frieman would drop due to some bad knee pain)

FB_IMG_1559501419690.jpgAs soon as I would stop I would start to shiver, and all I wanted was to stay at the truck, in the chair with a sweatshirt. However, since that wasn’t an option, the next best thing was to get up and go. We finally hit sunrise,  but not without some pretty epic snake sightings. I somehow stepped right over a snake (which Billy thought was a copperhead) without knowing and also heard the definite rattle of a rattlesnake.

The sun came up just as pink as it went down. It was pretty beautiful. I was told when the sun comes up you’ll get a jolt of energy. I can’t say this happened. When I hit mile 83 aid station I hit a big low. My toes were all so blistered under the toe nail and I kept jamming it on rocks, sending so much pain through my whole body. I also had huge blisters all over my feet.  I decided to take my shoes off, which probably messed with my head a bit. What I saw was disgusting, but I popped the blisters under the nails & that did relieve pressure. However, the other blisters hurt more after being popped.

FB_IMG_1559517569503When I started to walk I was in extreme pain. Not only the blisters but my shins were in an insane amount of pain. The pain then carried to my right ankle and it felt broken.  I thought there was no way I could do 30 more miles. I think Matt could see this and told me to do what I can, but if I need to drop I’ve already far exceeded anyone’s expectations. He told me how proud he was of me, and it was so sincere.

I left there knowing the next aid station was 6 miles away. I could drop then, but I had to give it a try. Billy was also hitting a big low at this point. As we walked into the trail I said to him, “Billy, we have one job from this point on. Just appreciate the trail & the beauty.” I needed a mind shift because I was in a dark place. You feel like you are so close to the end, but at the same time you have 30 miles to go. Hard to wrap your head around.

At this point Billy told me if I feel ok I can go ahead. I turned and said, “Billy, I’m one step away from turning around, I can barely walk.” In typical Billy fashion he said, “Darcy you are finishing this. You’ve got this.” Maybe it was his words, maybe it was my brothers pep talk, but something happened at that point and I ran the next 6 miles pretty well.  I kept replaying Inky Johnson in my head “finish what you started.” “It’s not even about me. It’s about repaying the people that invested in me and saw something in me when I couldn’t see it in myself.”

I haven’t talked to Matt much, but I think he half expected me to come out of those woods ready to drop. As I came out onto the road and saw Matt a quarter mile away I ran with purpose. I ran to repay him for what he had done for me not just the last 30 hours, but every day.  I told him at this point I was finishing and he said Art told him one more tough section then it was pretty smooth last 17 miles.

Again, in the scheme of the race 17 miles seems like nothing, but when every step is so painful, it seems like a lifetime. Soon after this Matt would start to park his car at the next aid station and run into the woods to find me and pace me back. It was UNREAL when I would see him sure that I was at mile 5 of the 6 I had to do and he would say, “about 3 miles to go”  I couldn’t believe how long each section felt.

At this point my pain was so bad that I was just concerned with long term damage. I told Matt I could run through it, but I was just concerned with permanent damage. I decided to keep going, perfecting the “ultra shuffle” the rest of the way.

The event finishes with a 4 mile road section. I was super concerned with this section as I heard it is hard to follow. Matt took pics of each turn on his phone, but turns out we didn’t need it because a volunteer (Simon) was dropped off to guide me in.

Now would be a good time to thank all of the amazing volunteers that helped through the 2 days. This event literally could not happen without them and they were INCREDIBLE. At times it was hard to truly show how appreciative you are when you are in zombie mode, but I hope they know, especially Art who was the brainchild of this event.

FB_IMG_1559501374385Erik was able to make it back for the last aid station and the finish and it was so amazing to see him. Matt brought me home as I made my way to the Long Island sound to touch the water. I earned my first belt buckle finishing the CUT112 in 33 hours and 20 minutes.

 

How am I feeling:  I woke up this morning with a lot of pain, not really able to flex my toes at all. I have a lot of swelling and bruising through my shins and foot. I’m hoping rest and ice will heal, and it’s nothing major.

20190602_192328.jpgWhat an adventure this was. I battled a lot of demons out there and definitely came out stronger because of it. Like the IRONMAN, the 100 mile distance was a bucket list item for me, and I don’t have any plans to do it again. However, to be back in Connecticut after battling me belonging in this state for so long and to traverse the entire state with 4 of the greatest guys around…pretty epic!!

Breakneck Marathon Race Recap

Let’s go back one year. Exactly one year prior to this race I went to spectate the Traprock 50k as I do every year, intending to cheer on friends as I got a long training run in.

The morning of the race I got a text from a friend saying she had to back out of the 10 miler due to a family emergency and I could take her spot. I had the opportunity to run the race, no charge and decided not to, listing in my head a bunch of reasons. However, as I ran the trails that afternoon I had to face a hard reality.

I wasn’t in my best shape, and I knew ego was playing a bigger part here than I cared to admit. The bottom line is I didn’t know if I could win the race, and if I couldn’t win I didn’t want to race.

This realization hit me hard and as I ran I got very emotional. I watched all of the others racers running with huge smiles, happy to just be running & not consumed with one thing: winning. It was a moment when I simply didn’t like where my running was going.

That night I called my brother and I remember sharing this with him & having a very deep, real conversation.  This was a day of awakening and lead me to take a full year off from racing.

I spent this last year doing a lot of reflecting and growing and I was confident I was ready to race again with a new mindset. I signed up for 3 races, each of them providing a stretch goal that was NOT to win.

1. Breakneck Marathon: many areas of exposure and heights – 2 things that give me SO MUCH ANXIETY.

2. CUT 112: The obvious – running over 100 miles as well as running through the night,  possibly solo.

3. Tahoe 100k: the uncertainty of how my body will respond to altitude.

Training for the Breakneck Marathon was a bit different than any other race I’ve trained for. I don’t usually do such an early race (April 13) so a lot of my earlier training was in the snow and even doing hikes in the White Mountains. I also did treadmill runs (up to 16 miles) and eventually got out on the DIRT trails for long runs. However, a few weeks before the race I got really sick with a chest cold & that kind of screwed up my training.

I figured it was the universes way of reminding me to remember my goals and I kept my stress level low. The week of the race I would regularly forget I even had a race that weekend (in the past it was CONSTANTLY on my mind) I had no game plan as far as nutrition, when in the past it would be written down and planned to a T.

I had planned to go to the race solo, heading up Friday night.  Prior races not having a “crew” and Erik there would ruin my race. Who would restock my water, nutrition, etc. Who would take my clothes as I removed layers? This race was different. I was going to actually eat from aid stations for the first time! I would carry a pack and take care of myself!

I knew my buddy would be there racing with me, but few days prior he text me and said he was no longer going because he had a memorial to attend. I was 100% by myself for this race and that brought me a sense of calm.

Erik loaded my car and made my “bed” in the back of the car and I headed to Hudson area Friday acternoon. I got to the race start area (where I would be spending the night in my car) around 3pm.  I checked in, went into cute little Cold Springs and spent some time window shopping. Again, small things, but to me….big progress. Instead of freaking out about “legs up” at 5pm I was walking around town, and RELAXED!

At this point I still didn’t know what I would do for dinner, a detail usually decided days in advance. I ended up stopping at a grocery store, buying pretzels, and other snacks. I don’t even remember what I did for dinner..I think just snacks…lol.

I read on a bench at the park, staying away from the other racers & the “buzz” that usually surrounds a race. I wanted to stay in my own world, far away from everyone else.

At 7pm I went to my car and I felt so comfortable and content as a read my book laying down in my Subaru.  It started to rain and POURED the rest of the night.

The morning brought with it the same calm and lack of stress I’d experienced so far. It was incredible and almost like I was passing this “test” I had been studying for the last year. The small amount of anxiety I did have was thinking about the scary section of climbing & exposure and slick rock with the rain. Oh, another anxiety moment: The night before I also checked past results & saw the course record was just over 5 hrs with mid pack (where I thought I’d be) finishing in 8 hours.  I suddenly felt very unprepared and mad at myself for mistaking low stress for lack of preparation.

The race started and I put myself a few rows back. I didn’t want to start too far back, as trail runs tend to bottleneck bad once you hit singletrack. I had no idea how many females were ahead of me, and at about mile 8 I passed a couple females on the climb I was scared of.

This section was definitely scary, especially with the slick rock, but I had a guy behind me and I turned to him and said, “your job is to make sure I keep moving forward.” Not long after I slipped and started to fall back and he caught me.  He said “I won’t let you go backwards. We are in this together.” Trail Runners are so incredible. He even waited for me at one point to make sure I was okay. I couldn’t thank him enough.

I had no idea where I was in the race as far as place, but what I did know is I just slayed many demons after that section. In my mind, the race was complete for me.

Around mile 15 a volunteer told me, “3rd female”. From that point forward I held on to 3rd the rest of the race. I wish I could say I could care less about finishing top 3, but I definitely pushed to keep that position. I’m not even sure if that’s a bad thing. The thoughts I had in my head were pretty healthy, but I still need to keep challenging myself and digging deeper to see where I’m at.

One thing I can say with confidence is that I am in a WAY better place than I was one year ago.  I find so much joy in working on myself and it is scary and frustrating, but also exciting to know that this will never end. This is a journey of a lifetime and I can’t wait to keep growing and learning.

The race was incredibly beautiful, and EXTREMELY hard. It may have been one of the hardest races I have ever done. The trails were so muddy, which made it even harder. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. There is also a half marathon option. The race director Ian (who also directs the Cayuga 50 another amazing race) is such a good guy. The course was very well marked a d the volunteers were great. Such a positive experience all around.

Here are some pics of the race, but not me 🙂

Life Isn’t What You See on Instagram

I have always thought about writing this blog, and after sharing my story with a few people and hearing their response, I’ve realized it needs to be written.

Why? One, the few people I’ve told have had a profound reaction. Apparently, hearing my truth has left them with…something..and that’s enough.  Secondly, I think more than ever right now we all have to share our truth.  We have to come together and be there for one another. To be REAL, and understand that we are all human and struggling. We are all battling so much, whether it is visible to those around us or not.

I so deeply believe the phones and social media are destroying humanity.  Yes, there is a lot of amazing things that can be gained from technology and even social media, but it is also hurting us.  We have this idea that everyone’s life is perfect, and in turn our lives are lacking. This isn’t a ground breaking revalation, I realize that.  We have all heard it before, but are we really understanding it? Are we really understanding that what we are watching is a highlight reel, and not someone’s real life?

So much of life is an illusion. We have this idea of what people’s lives are like, which is usually so far off.  The problem with that is we are probably lacking compassion for others when it’s needed because we think, “they don’t need me, their good.”  But are they really? When’s the last time you asked them?

The idea of things not always being the way they are perceived leads me to the point of this blog.  I have told many before, and even posted about it, but I think it needs to be revisited after a couple of recent conversations.  I know that many think that fitness comes easy for me.  That I have spent my whole life fit and I don’t struggle.

Part of that is true.  Fitness has always been a big part of my life.  I was a 3 sport athlete and played basketball in college.  However,  health and wellness has always been a struggle and journey for me.  I was never overweight growing up, and I don’t remember having too many issues around food. However, something happened my Sophomore year in High School (I think it was a passing comment by someone that hinted toward me being overweight.).

Being young and impressionable it must have left a mark. It lead me down a road that I am CERTAIN many of you have been on, especially females. I started a food journal. I cut out pictures of (airbrushed) models in bikinis and taped it to the front. I started tracking my calories. I wrote everything down and became obsessed. The “successful” days were the days I logged in under 1000 calories.  I would literally do jump rope in my basement when I ate 10 grapes.  I probably lost 10 pounds in a couple of months, going from 125 to 115.  I was noticeably skinnier, but not the kind of skinny that would be alarming. Each time I heard I looked like I lost weight it would feed my drive to keep losing weight. It felt like an achievement.

20190408_074250Then I remember my mom sitting me down and telling me if something didn’t change she was taking me to the doctor. I do remember my hair was falling out more, and I was always cold, so I think I wanted to change.  However, when I started to eat again, it caused me EXTREME anxiety.  This was the start of an awful relationship with food that has lasted nearly my whole life.

Once I started eating again, I seemed to gain weight back quickly and put even more weight on than when I started. I think back to what I put my body through back then and I wish I could go back in time.  WOW potato chips. 0 calories! Diet Pepsi. 0 calories! I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter. 0 calories!  So many chemicals, so little nutrients. At this time I also suffered from bulimia, which was also coming from my extreme anxiety. (Oh, how I wish I could go back and hug that 15 year old me.  Tell her everything I know now)

20190408_074551.jpgSo, I was heavier than I’ve ever been, malnourished, currently a three sport All-State/All-Conference athlete, and going on to play basketball at the collegiate level. Not a good situation, but probably SO COMMON. **This is why I’m so passionate about helping young athletes.  If I only knew what I know now and had a healthy diet & fitness program I can’t imagine the athlete I could have been.

20190408_074334Once I graduated from college, the diet yo-yo continued. I lost a bunch of weight for my wedding (mostly stress and working 3 jobs) and then gained some more weight when I started working a desk job.  At that time, even though I was a Health and P.E. Major, I still was naive to what a true healthy lifestyle was.  I still was trying to count calories, eat low/no fat food, but letting my anxiety get the best of me, which would lead to binge eating junk food (I have always had a bad sweet tooth)  It is a vicious cycle and looking back I’m not sure how much self-love was present, if any.  Everything was based on how I looked and what I ate.

20190408_075056Then I left the desk job and started personal training. At that time I dabbled in some 5ks and then eventually a half marathon. I finished that thinking, “who the hell does double this distance?”  Soon, I found myself at the start line of a Marathon.  I never liked running, but I did it because I had to during my athletic career. As an adult I think I did it as a way to stay in shape and to find some sort of athletic competition,  but I still didn’t love it.

Then I learned about ultra marathons. I have always been a woods girl, doing a lot of hiking, mountain biking and a couple of adventure races. I always liked trail running, but it wasn’t until I signed up for my first 50k in 2013 that I started doing a lot of long distance running in the trails.

This was the beginning of my journey toward a healthier relationship with food.  As I started to do ultra marathons and get competitive at them, I started to realize nutrition was a big part of it.  Some even say “it’s a nutrition competition with some running between.”  Running for 5-10 hours straight, you need to be dialed in with calories and nutrition.

IMG_20180320_211841_859Here’s where a mind shift happened with me.  The day before a long run I would eat to PERFORM the best I could the next day. During my run, I would look for food that provided the most calories in the smallest amount of food.  Like…what!?!?  This was the opposite of everything I have been doing for the last 20 years.  For once, I was using food as fuel! It was the first time in a LONG time that I was literally just eating by feel.  I would eat and drink what I wanted, but also with the mindset, “will this work for me or against me in my training.”  It was the BEST I felt in my own body in years.

20190408_194830I’m not going to lie, every winter I tend to fall back into an unhealthy relationship with food.  I battle with seasonal depression and also bad anxiety.  October is always the worst month for me, I’m not sure why.  Lately, my anxiety has been pretty bad and I am still struggling to figure that out. I am SO FAR from where I was, but I also know I have so much room to grow and learn.  I know once warmer weather hits and my training picks up, it will get better, but that’s not good enough. I am still striving to have a healthy relationship with food all the time!

I write this because I know there are others out there who have struggled or may be still struggling with eating disorders and/or anxiety.  It isn’t something that just goes away overnight, and it may be a battle for a lifetime.  Body dysmorphia is also something I struggle with, which is why I always say no to, “do you want to be in the picture?” Unfortunately, when I see myself in pictures it sometimes leads to negative thinking and old (toxic) thoughts “I need to lose 10 lbs.”

Like I said before, we need honesty, love, connection and compassion more than ever these days.  Here’s my truth and I am writing it to let you know you are not alone, things aren’t always what they seem, and to hopefully inspire you to speak your truth.  I am here if you need to talk.

 

 

How’s the Sugar Addiction?

20181020_215934Let’s just start with this so it is very clear: My 3 day fast, my sugar detox, every “diet” I am attempting… has nothing to do with weight loss. It is simply to get healthy again. To kick an addiction that is literally affecting my liver, my skin, my mind and my overall health.

I have a sugar addiction. I believe many of us do. Actually, I KNOW many of us do based on the dozens of you that have come to me since I shared my addiction publicly. I went to a nutritionist I respect and admire deeply who told me that if I do not stop my high sugar/high starch diet it will only get worse.

Based on tests she said my body was in an “autoimmune cascade” with adrenal & serotonin levels very low, joint & liver issues and also positive for Lyme disease.  She also thinks I have a wheat allergy, and if my current high sugar diet doesn’t stop it could lead to other autoimmune diseases like lupus.

That’s when I decided to do my 3 day fast. I wanted to “reset”. Try to give my body some time to heal and possibly my mind some time to rid the addiction.

The Fast:  72 hours of only water and lemon.

This actually was not as bad as you may think. You definitely have lows, but in a way having NO food made it easier to not choose the WRONG food.

I had some low energy moments, but for the most part I felt pretty good. My mind was clearer than usual and I felt more present and focused. The final day (Wednesday) I woke up a little woozy and I had a 6am-730pm day ahead, teaching 5 classes and training 4 clients.

The day ahead was daunting and with a feeling of wooziness to start the day I got a little anxiety and told myself if I can’t push through today I cannot risk missing 9 hours of training. At that moment I gave myself permission to eat something if that’s what it took to make it through the day.

However, after battling anxiety attacks in the past (many years ago I got stomach bug during class and proceeded to get the bug 2 more times that winter,  causing years of anxiety pre class when I feared I would get sick with a class of 20 depending on me. Side note – that sickness, 6 years ago was due to Candida Infection = sugar = common theme in my health)

Anyway, I was able to recognize that a large part of my wooziness was anxiety & I was able to breath through it and proceed with class. One key moment happened after this 6am class,  which I wasn’t even sure I could complete. One of our trainers, Kim, took this class and came up to me after and said, “I don’t know how you’re doing this, but that class was the most on point I have seen you in ages. That was phenomenal and you killed it.”

That comment has stayed with me to this day.

After the 3 day fast I eased back into eating with a salad. I was extremely hopeful at this point that my diet was fixed. Taking away food left me so much more time to work on other parts of me. I read, I meditated, I journaled, I stretched- I felt great.

It was amazing when one sensory was taken (taste) how I seemed to crave the others. I sat in bed at night with my salt lamp on, my essential oils burning, my Into the Mystic Radio playing, my hot water and lemon (heaven..who knew?) and my journal. I felt complete and so happy. Why would I ever go back to this horrible addiction that seemed to shadow all of these other amazing sensories?

Why?  WHY?? Well, I guess because it is an addiction, and addictions pull you back in.  I started with making “fat bombs”. Healthy craving fixes. Coconut oil, cacao powder, Stevia, peanut butter. Something to “take care of my craving if it came on.”  Well, I would eat 10 fat bombs in a day, atleast. To me it felt like an alcoholic being told they could just have one beer. It didn’t work.

**side note: with every detox I get one big takeaway. After this fast I switched mostly to Decaf coffee since my headaches had gone away.  For someone with anxiety, this has been big.**

I don’t know what’s worse about this addiction. Is it the feeling of being OUT OF CONTROL at night, telling yourself to not get up and just make tea, but you end up in a fat bomb comma? Or is it the fact that YOU KNOW that no sugar = clear headed and sugar = brain fog and you STILL DO IT? That feeling of having NO control is what drives me insane. I am so disciplined in every other area of my life, why can’t I get this under control?

Maybe because it’s a real addiction. Maybe because when rats were made addicted to sugar and cocaine then given both as an option they chose sugar. It’s real. It sucks. But, I know I can kick this and I know you can too.

So, what’s next? After doing a bunch of research on different diets it seems as though The Whole30 is the best bet for me.  I need specifics.  Shopping lists, recipes, community, etc.

From the whole30:

“Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms are often directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?

Strip them from your diet completely. Eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food, and the downstream physical and psychological effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day-to-day life, long term health, body composition, and feelings around food.”

I am also a fan of the keto diet and will implimant parts of that into my 30 days.  However, I am a little concerned with both these diets as they are largely dependant on meat and I do not eat meat.

This has been a battle in my mind and a conversation my husband and I have had a few times.  I am open to going back to meat, but I would stay very true to my beliefs and continue preaching passionately about the animal cruelty side of meat eating as well as the factory farms and the processed meat causing cancer.

Erik and I are contacting local farms, (some of them are good friends) and find out not only how the animals are treated while they are alive, but more importantly, how they are slaughtered. This is very important to me.

If I do feel like I am not getting enough nutritients without the meat and my body is craving it, I will strongly consider adding very small amounts of meats back into my diet. It has been 6 years now since I have had meat, so this is how serious I am about fixing my health.

I plan to start the Whole30 on Monday and I also have my first doctors appointment in years on Thursday (Collaborative Natural Health…yay!!)

I will keep you posted how this next “reset” goes and I hope you continue to share your obstacles with me as well.  Together, we can do this!!!

I Have an Addiction

I battled with writing this blog, but after a couple conversations last week with my clients, I thought I had to.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that social media is a bit of smoke and mirrors. That you do a good job of highlighting everything you do that is good, but very rarely does it show the bad. The ugly.

So maybe that is why when I explain to my clients that I have a VERY bad addiction to sugar they respond, “no way. Not you. I would have never of guessed that.”

My thought is, “really, you wouldn’t have guessed that?” I guess it’s because it’s just been something I’ve dealt with my whole life.

I seem to have many other areas dialed in. I’ve learned and try to practice transcendental meditation regularly. I spend countless hours listening to motivational videos & podcasts. I’ve read so many books about finding your purpose, the law of attraction and becoming your best self.  I train hard and have had a pretty successful running and racing career.  I’ve eliminated most toxins in my life switching from candles to essential oils & have eliminated all toxic chemicals in my cleaning products, beauty care etc.

I’ve spent the last 6 years vegetarian and eating as clean as possible. However, there is one thing I can’t seem to kick no matter how hard I try….SUGAR!!

It’s not like I’m eating Oreos, Snickers or Captain Crunch. It’s organic cookies, dark chocolate, Lara Bars, Halo Top Ice Cream, etc. However, I feel like my cravings are out of control, especially at night. I feel I have no control of my actions, and that drives me insane.

On top of that, I know it is causing me to feel like shit. It’s hard to explain, and I won’t go too deep into it, I just KNOW that the way I feel is not the real me. Not even close to the best me.  The anxiety. The highs and lows. The pain all over my body – always. The brain fog.

These things aren’t new, they’ve been ongoing symptoms forever. I’ve always known that sugar was likely the culprit, but it’s an addiction…it’s not so easy to JUST. STOP. EATING. IT!!! Which is what I tell myself constantly.

I think sugar is an addiction that so many of us suffer from, and I think many of us have no idea how bad it is affecting us.  It was recently when I started to get really bad eczema that I said “enough is enough!”

This was the physical ‘red flag’ I needed to make a big change. However, soon after mentally I started to make the shift as well.  I started to ask myself, “are you willing to let this one thing get in the way from Optimal Health?”

So, I took the first step. I went and saw my mom’s best friend who is so passionate about nutrition and using food to heal the body. She has been studying & practicing nutrition longer than I’ve probably been alive and after doing biofeedback on me, she looked at me with compassion and said, “we have to kick this sugar my dear.”

She then went into the long list of issues my body is experiencing which are all direct affects from my high sugar/starch diet.

So, I need to make some drastic changes which includes a 30 day sugar detox. I will jumpstart this with a 3 day fast (water only) starting tomorrow.

I won’t go into too many details of my diet because I don’t want anyone to think that what I’m doing is right for them. Every person is unique and you shouldn’t do anything until you see a professional. While my plan may seem drastic to you, it’s personal and it’s being done with professional guidance and lots of my own research and education.

The point of this blog isn’t to tell you to do the same thing I’m doing. It’s for a couple reasons. 1. To hold me accountable: this is an insanely hard task for me. While many were surprised when I told them of my addiction, it’s real and it sucks. It’s a step that needs to be addressed to reach my optimal health and full potential in life.  2. To share my journey with others who also may be suffering from sugar addiction or a poor diet.  I want others to understand how much your diet affects how you feel and your health.  I hope to be a guinea pig for some other people who may be ready to make some changes and start to feel better too.

Wish me luck freinds!!!

Become Uncommon Among The Uncommon

We just went through another major heat wave in Connecticut.  Several days in a row in the mid to upper 90’s with the humidity levels near 100%.  Many who know me, know that this is when I thrive.  On the hottest day of the heat wave I ran for an hour, biked for an hour and did (2) one hour workouts. While many just label me “crazy” for this, a couple of people this week actually asked me what makes me do it.  So, while I ran down Hebron Avenue with the real heat feeling more like 110-120, I thought hard about why I do it.trail 2

Here’s what I came up with.  I truly think that we currently live in a world where people have become soft.  People want quick fixes, they want to be comfortable, and they want things handed to them.  I think many people have become  weak minded and don’t spend enough time “callusing the mind” as David Goggins would say.

*I have to pause here and say this: If you do not workout in the heat I am not automatically calling you weak minded.  That may not be the way you push yourself.  Maybe you do other things that take you out of your “comfort zone”.  Maybe you wake up at 4am to workout or do something else to challenge yourself.  Maybe you go for a run in negative temps in the winter, etc  The key is doing what YOU DON’T WANT TO DO*

trail 1David Goggins talks about the sentence that changed his life and the story hit me hard. He was watching a special on Navy SEALS and the Commanding Officer referred to the SEALS and said, “we live in a life where mediocrity is awarded.  These men detest mediocrity.”   In the same interview Goggins says, “I want to be uncommon among the uncommon.” Those words all hit me hard.  He says, “most people quit at 40%.”

Listening to Goggins speak, many would get defensive.  They would call him crazy because that makes them feel better.  It’s hard to get real with yourself and ask, “am I pushing myself to my limits?  Am I stretching my limits or just meeting my self-imposed limits?”  Mental toughness is a lifestyle.  It’s day-in and day-out hard work to constantly do what you don’t WANT to do…to do what is not COMFORTABLE.  However, the lessons and the growth that happens when you commit to this lifestyle is like nothing else

These are the sentences that make me do what I do.  Running in the heat when 98% of the people would never do it…that’s the way that I try to separate myself from the others. That’s the way I try to become “uncommon among the uncommon”.  When I do 50 mile races I am among uncommon people.  Not too many will do more than a marathon.  However, if I want to stand out among those uncommon people, I have to do what others won’t.  That means finding the hardest hill I can find and not leaving until I do 10 hill repeats.  It means going for a run when 98% of others won’t.

I am not crazy for working out in the hot temps.  I make sure I am safe, because heat exhaustion is real, but I do it because it is what makes me feel good.  I’ve said it so many times before, but I’ll say it again.  I don’t want to be average.  I know I was not put on this earth to be average. So, that’s why I do what I do…I hope it makes just a little sense.