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New Challenges Welcomed: Interview with Angie Payne

There are three colors of sandstone in Devil’s Garden. Escalante, the top yellowish-white. We ran around on this, my kid’s footsteps bounding across gaps high above the red sand below. Cannonville, a softer and darker rock, as it is in the shadow of the light-reflecting white rock it shoulders. Gunsight, red and tan, bleeding into the earth below. The “garden” is merely quartzite grains cemented by calcium and iron, and then eroded grain by grain to reveal their color. How different are the colors of the microscopic grains?

 

easter in the desert Color is a founding principle of Easter. The celebration on the vernal equinox rejoices in the rebirth of color across nature’s landscapes. The Pagan goddess Oestre, for whom many believe Easter gained its name from, rescued a bird whose wings were frozen and rigid with snow. Feeling like her late arrival caused the bird to be flightless, Oestre pitied the bird, and kept him as a pet. She turned him into a white hare, blessed him with foot-speed to flee from hunters, and, remembering his prior life as a bird, she granted him the ability to lay colored eggs one day of each year. When she was angered with him, she cast him into the sky as the constellation Lepus, where he remains. One day each year, when festivities are given to celebrate Oestre each spring, he is allowed to visit earth and give colored eggs to children.

 

easter in the desert The story changed, but the color remains. The snow rabbit now represents triumph over lust when cast at the Virgin Mary’s feet. His foot-speed is not to avoid hunters but to avoid temptation. The eggs, the gifts of spring color, remain in Christian tradition, without a parallel metaphor drawn.

 

My children don’t need an excuse to like candy. I suppose most modern children don’t. We sat outside of the first canyon on a cliff beside a cairn, eating Reese’s eggs and staring across the sky. We sat on red dirt though our clothes are dusted with the pale grit of the escalante layer we just climbed out of. There aren’t just patches of color, like eggs in a lawn. There are streaks, the blue of the sky, and the white of clouds, the streaks of sand and rock across mesas, and the juniper trees. Like at Devils garden, like the designs on Easter eggs, the streaks of color are meticulously layered across the landscape in patterns.

easter in the desert

“Mom how is cryptobiotic soil alive? It does not have a heart or lungs or anything…”

“Is that juniper tree right there less alive than you or I? It also lacks a lung or heart…”

 

And we sit in silence, contemplating. How does a nine year old understand what living is? Are we more alive with our organs? Or does a tree that can survive violent storms, droughts, wildlife, erosion, and still manage to produce blue berries seemingly endlessly have a wisdom from longevity that goes beyond human understanding?

 

easter in the desert There is an ancient belief that we take on the characteristics of what we eat. It is natural that during a celebration of fertility, spring, and the goddess Oestre, food would be shaped into eggs and hares to honor the fertility goddess and bring vitality and fertility to those that partook. Perhaps this belief morphed into the prayers before each meal, honoring the life taken to eat and “blessing” it so that those eating could take on the positive pieces of what is being eaten.

 

We neither bless nor honor our chocolate peanut butter eggs. I think about how I should like to take on the characteristics of the desert. Fierce. Alive. Full of color.

 

We don’t honor the ancient traditions, though it is beautiful that a Pagan tradition morphed into a holiday so meaningful for the religion that turned the word “Pagan” into a derogatory term. The two collided into an acceptance of what has become one of the most bizarre celebrations, one whose roots are unsure, unknown. The juniper does not need to see its roots to continue to grow.

 

easter in the desert We eat candy and hike. We explore. I try to teach them to un-stifle the innate desire to discover, I try to teach them to appreciate. To notice the glimpses in color and the changes of the tone in clouds. In the end, I hope to teach them that the most incredible part of the desert is its beauty after surviving harsh and lonely times. That a celebration of color and life isn’t a renewal found only in Pagan or Christian tradition. That they too, are layered with the colors of experience, and that at a microscopic level, they, too, are perhaps not so different than all other life. That I can teach myself that there is both beauty and color in a broken landscape.

 

Today we will visit the Anasazi ruins; we will hike to walls of rock art. In discovering those that lived across such a vast and violent landscape, we too can find a sense of self and life in our own landscapes of color. Whilst meticulously painting another layer of experience across me, I wish you a Happy Easter.

easter in the desert

Read more http://themountainist.com/easter-in-the-desert/

The most difficult “race reports” to write are the ones that are the most meaningful. With Millwood 100, it is both meaningful and not a real race, so it is twice as hard to capture the experience as words on paper. But I shall try.

First off, what is the Millwood 100 Mile? Millwood is (and yet another) Jared Campbell line in the Wasatch. (More and more my life is becoming a WWJD event… except more of WWJDS—What Would Jared Do Slower.) Millwood highlights the entirety of the Wasatch—along it’s 100 mile route it takes you through several 10,000-11,000+ summits, ridges, lower/over-populated flat trails, beaver ponds, exposed foothills, places where trails no longer exists or bushwacks where the never were trails, scrambles, rarely visited forks and passes, etc. The bad, good, and incredible aspects of the wasatch are all highlighted in Millwood. The vertical gain is somewhere between 40-45,000 ft of ascent… with the same amount of descent. Prior to my Millwood finish there were 3 Millwood finishes to date: Jared Campbell (the line creator,) Erik Storheim (first finish,) and Matthew Van Horn (one of my BFFs…) The day I started Erik Storheim, Pete Stoughton, and Ryan Tockstein all also started an attempt for a Millwood 100 M finish. Route is here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?msa=0&mid=1Fpb1CvfGLF0FzdYv_uIlnmLuPik

Millwood 100 M “race” report

2 miles in! 104 to go…lol!

I cannot help but try to find something altruistic about running. I am not sure why. I don’t have a lot of time—I am a single mother of two busy boys, I work two jobs, I gear test, I write, and still try to have some semblence of a social and normal life in addition to trying to train a decent amount. The ball gets dropped. Perhaps the altruistic notion is to justify the time spent running, but if justification is what is desired, running being a must rather than a want for me to just BE should be enough. That altruistic notion is, perhaps, just a part of who I am…seeking meaning in, well, everything.

Millwood 100 is no different. With the introduction of “Millweek,” a weeklong tour of parts of Millwood, I felt that the altruistic notion of Millwood 100 had been achieved. It united new people, friendships blossomed, knowledge of the Wasatch grew, people were inspired. I was drawn to Millwood because it taught me the lower Wasatch, the forks and trails I had previously never set foot on. Both of these things had been achieved prior to my Millwood attempt.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

millweek fun up Neff’s

So, as the taper for Millwood began I struggled with motivation. Why bother? If all the good things that came from Millwood had already played out, why do it at all? This question was intensified by knowing Millwood is too difficult for me.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

harry potter magic with Kenzie during Millweek

 

My little motto of “such and such is tough but I am tougher” had worn thin after Millweek. I had tasted Millwood. I knew what was coming. I knew it was too much for me, and my confidence and commitment waned.

With that, a dear friend said to me, “it’s not pointless…because those mountains are a part of you, and there are parts of you on them.” That was all I needed, I guess. To remember that I do this because it is me, it is who I am, it is what I love, it is how I love.

So, at 9:00am on a Friday morning I am at the trailhead of Neff’s with Chelsea, painting my nails in a hurry and tucking her heavy little Buddha statue into my vest for luck while waiting for my spot tracker to pick up satellites. At 9:20, after one last hug and photo, I am off.

The route ascends Neff’s and comes down into Millcreek. I am flooded with Millweek memories, the bestowing of trail names, the donuts or “alien holes” at the trailhead below, the laughter. I love the Wasatch, not just for the mountains but for all the people who are a part of these mountains, too.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

Millwood 100 M “race” report

more millweek fun

I have to poke around on pipeline to find a stashed water jug, which was (in)conveniently hidden behind a rock at a wedding luncheon…Oh hey guys! A quick refill and I was headed off onto the “Grandeur Fun Run,” which isn’t very fun. A new phenomenon started… I was dripping sweat. First from my elbows, then my hat, then from my vest, too. Then from my shorts… I’d never sweat like this before! Not even in the sauna for heat training! What was going on? Then my calves started twitching, dancing, like there were ghosts tap dancing inside of them. I tried to stretch, lay down with my feet above my head, calm my body down. Still my calves danced while my body created sweaty mud puddles below me.

This wasn’t in my race plan…

Soon I was laying down on Bambi hill, not even a dozen miles into Millwood, overheated, legs twitching uncontrollably, feeling faint and hot and unsure on what I wanted to do. A text message comes in from my friend Adriana, “Hey. You’re near my house. Want some ice or popsicles or anything?” The text was enough to make me decide to at least get to the base of West Grandeur, there would be ice and popsicles…I was sweating at a rate that made the water impossible to replace and I was so very thirsty…

Millwood 100 M “race” report

selfie with the popsicle savior

Seeing Adrianna and Matty gave me a huge lift. AV fed me pedialyte popsicles and Matty dumped two ice cold water bottles on my head. A hug and selfie with AV and I decided I better keep at it. At this point I figured I had nothing to lose—I don’t usually take many (or any) salt pills, but I couldn’t make forward progress with my legs reacting as they were. I took 4 salt pills to see what would happen, put on some Lady Jams music, and trudged up West Grandeur.

Even though she was off on her own adventure, I thought of the many “West Gangster” summits with Kalina I had done that year… at least 25 together. The temper tantrums, the white outs, the tears from laughter and pain we’d shared. It made me smile as I continued on… and my leg spasms went to twitches instead of dehabilitating cramps.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

mt sneffels with Kalina post Millwood

Back on Pipeline the spasms resumed so I took 4 more salt pills. Either I’d finish or I’d OD on salt pills, or who knows? Maybe both. I took the time to drink more water, refilled, and laid in the creek for a while, trying to cool my body.

On my way up Burch Hollow I found out that Paul Sharwell had schwacked on the ridge across from Mt Aire and was waiting for me up there. I asked for water (I wasn’t retaining any of the water I drank and was still sweating uncontrollably,) and I took several more salt pills. Paul assured me he had ice and food at the base, and being able to chat and visit was a huge lift. I didn’t expect him there! Yet without his food, ice, and water at the Elbow Fork trailhead I don’t think I would have made it up Terraces…

Millwood 100 M “race” report

Chelsea and Jeremiah and Matty during millweek

Then headed up to Porter Fork who should be there but Chelsea and Jeremiah, with my headlamp! I was behind splits and was worried the sun would set before I saw Jen who had my headlamp for the night. I took (even more…) salt pills and nuun tablets and Gatorade and continued on. I had developed a system where I’d flood my body with electrolytes, my leg spasms would subside to allow me to move forward for 45 minutes, then they’d return, and I’d repeat the process.

As the night cooled, eventually the spasms faded and I was able to run for the first time since Neff’s. I stopped all electrolyte consumption with the idea that perhaps my body was going to regulate itself now. Gratitude overwhelmed me. Jared Campbell sent me a text, congratulating me on summiting Gobblers, and I sent him a photo of the sunset. Ryan, Erik, and Pete had started running, and while Pete had dropped Ryan and Erik were still running on. There was a lot of hope.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

the millwood sunset from Gobblers

Jen and I saw a bobcat on our way to dog lake and enjoyed talking with her. We stopped in Millcreek and I re-braided my hair, changed socks, and ate. I felt, well, normal. Jen has been my trail mom for as long as I’ve been an ultrarunner, I look up to her as the solid being who doesn’t take any crap from me and keeps me on track—with running yes, but also with life. I’m so glad to have had her in my life these last few years. We ran well, and I tried to make up time. Jeremiah met us at the end of Bear Trap fork where he would be stepping in to pace me for a dozen miles and Jen would be heading home.

Millwood 100 M “race” report
Jeremiah was a new friend, we met during Millweek. We shared a similar obscure sense of humor and I thought he’d be great fun to do the Days/Silver loop with. We chatted and laughed and mostly I stayed awake during my “witching hour” (3-4am where I want to fall apart, always.) I talked about my really rough year last year, and he let me know about an awful year in his life…soothing it is, to know that rough years fade into the overgrowth of life.

I knew that if I could get to Chelsea at Willow Lake in one piece that I would finish. Chelsea has become the yin to my yang…and all the other cheesey things one says about a best friend when they’ve never really had one before. I looked forward to the day ahead with her, even knowing physically I’d be miserable, the places would be, for her, the most aesthetic of the course. She would be strong when I was most weak.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

celebrating our best friendiversary in powell pre millwood

 

Near Wolverine my stomach went south and I struggled to keep calories in. I refused to eat for a few hours, thinking that not puking was better than eating and puking more and more. We had planned to meet various friends near Cecret Lake, and when those plans didn’t go through, we were in a situation without food and low on water with no promising situations for a resupply soon.

I sat at the Cecret Lake trailhead and said simply “I cannot summit Baldy unless I can eat something.” We watched a family hike down the trail. Lightbulb….! “Chelsea, look at all these parents! Parents with backpacks! Backpacks with snacks for their kids!” She told me she cared for me enough to beg for food for me…and thus began one of the most embarrassing trail experiences I’ve yet had—food begging on Cecret Lake trail!

The hikers we passed were so kind in offering all that they had (I really wanted chips, crackers, or fruit snacks… nothing else sounded palatable) and we were fortunate to find food I could eat to get up the mountain.

We looked around on Mt Baldy (after Chelsea asked a group of hikers to share their sandwiches with me, ha!) and she says to me, “Look at what you did! You did this!” to which I simply laughed. I did not do that, surely everyone could see that…!

Millwood 100 M “race” report

Millwood 100 M “race” report

PC Chelsea Hathaway


On hidden peak, there was Paul again! With chicken soup, a slurpee (oh, I’d wanting that all day!!) and ice cold water. He had saved the day again, with the supplies Chelsea and I had been needing for many hours. I devoured the soup and thanked him profusely. He even thought to pack sunscreen, wipes, all of the useful things…

After running down from Hidden and up towards Cardiff, who should pull up but Paul again, now with all the supplies in his car and the offer to refill our ice water. We knew Bryce Astill had hidden a stash, but since we weren’t sure where it was, we were grateful to refill with Paul before heading up Cardiff. Three times Paul had saved Millwood.

Kessler was draining and Chelsea and I visited memory lane. I don’t know what mental state I was in, only that music was helpful and my mood had improved drastically once I was able to hold in calories. We lost time coming down Kessler because I was stubborn and would just take off… but we made it down and across the beaver ponds and out the cottonwood bush-trees.

Millwood 100 M “race” report

a full fledged aid station!

There Ben Light and Cherri were waiting with supplies, along with Kenzie and, to my surprise, Bryce Astill. Since Bryce was returning to running from his near death bed it was a happy surprise that he was there to run some miles. Kenzie is another dear friend whom, over the last couple years, has been a beacon of sassy strength to me. I knew she’d be patient and push me.

The run up Mineral went well, until it didn’t. I was surprised by feeling great, until sleepiness hit and a Redbull didn’t settle well. Soon we were trying to figure out how to connect into Mill B South, sliding around on scree fields, and hanging out with our new friend the mountain lion who came over to say hey and see if Kenzie or I wanted to be dinner. Kenzie had a boulder and was screaming at me and the cat (both?) but it was my second night, mentally I had checked out a little, and I was just excited to hang out with the kitty for a bit. We had lost a lot of time up there, and I was getting frustrated with the time and my stomach. I threw up a few times coming down from Blanche, but at this point I knew I wasn’t going to quit regardless of what happened so I tried to keep a positive attitude and the mood light.

Down at the S-Curves there were many people waiting for myself and Ryan, as Erik had dropped long ago. It was so uplifting to see these friends! Kenzie insisted I eat (my licking a piece of frosting and drinking broth apparently wasn’t good enough for her) so a little sass and some snacks we were off… and then I crossed the street and threw most of it back up. It was going to be a great last 12 miles!

Millwood 100 M “race” report

what a sour stomach looks like

As we headed up Mill B North I was tired. I had started to hallucinate near Lake Blanche (I saw the most gorgeous glittery butterfly…) and as we trudged up Mill B every rock we passed had a face, and every face was looking at me. 20 or so faces later I didn’t like it at all, 50 faces and I felt crazy and afraid of the faces and they wouldn’t go away! Kenzie reassured me that this was perfectly normal…and I wanted to know where “normal” fit into Millwood! But when the ground seemed to sway underneath me I knew napping for a couple minutes would let me move better, and I was hoping it’d reset my stomach, too. 14 minutes later I popped up (I can’t sleep if I’m cold) and we continued on. I noticed on the tracking site Ryan had left the canyon…I worried a little, but there wasn’t anything for me to do but continue on. I felt alone and burdened in the sense that 4 people had started this, and by continuing on alone it was like I had to shoulder their hope, too.

Millwood 100 M “race” report
My stomach wasn’t okay. I’d throw up, get up, wipe my mouth, and try to laugh a little while I looked at Kenzie and the I would say, “well, I guess I should run again, huh?” There wasn’t much I could beside try to make this as positive of an experience as I could. I felt bad that Kenzie was to be out there so long, that her injuries may limit her from doing something similar. How could I think about complaining about a sour stomach? I could continue on, with her gently there. As Stephen would say, I was one of the lucky ones…

Millwood 100 M “race” report

I continued to see things, vans where there shouldn’t be, moose, places of rest. I avoided talking or looking at my hallucinations, my focus needed to be on puking less and running more. I held back tears over and over again as we got closer and closer to the finish. Millwood was too hard for me. Millwood was too hard for me. My life was too hard for me. It was all too hard for me. I understood this. What I didn’t understand, was why so many people would help…because where all these things were to hard for me alone, they were doable with others.

“Look at this! You did this…” No Chelsea. You did. Jen. Matty, Ben, Cherri, Kenzie, Bryce, Paul, random Cecret Lake families, Jared…YOU guys did this. Not me. I was just the vehicle, the body, the idea…

When we came down Thaynes… There was Chelsea. Kenzie and I ran in. I sobbed and the two joined in. Jared had driven to cell service to check on my spot tracker (I guess it had frozen) and came and gave me a hug soon after, too.

Millwood 100 M “race” reportMillwood 100 M “race” report
I don’t know what it is about Millwood that makes it so meaningful. It is the Wasatch in every way. It has the little exposed mountains, the higher summits, the overpopulated low trails, the forgotten trails that don’t exist. It has scrub oak and creek beds, it has scrambles and route finding, it has beaver ponds and ski resorts. It is the place that I have come to love and find a family and home in.

A HUGE thank you to all who helped make Millwood happen, or who came out to Millweek, or who supported others in their Millwood attempts. I couldn’t have done it without you. It was too hard for me alone. I am so grateful to have gotten to draw the wasatch with my feet…My body wasn’t into it, but my heart sure was. One of the lucky ones, indeed. I get to join three others in completing one of the most challenging lines in the Wasatch with a time of 45:33.

Millwood 100 M “race” reportMillwood 100 M “race” report
Gear Used:

La sportiva Helios, La Sportiva Bushidos, Ultimate Direction Peter Bawkwin Adventure Vest, Black Diamond Z-Poles, Petzl Tikka RXP, Petzl Myo

Food Consumed:

30 salt pills, 8 Nuun tabs, 2 Gnarly Nutrition chocolate protein shakes, eggs, avocados, pink frosting in various forms, VFuel Cool Citrus gels, chicken soup, slurpees, and all sorts of random snackies.

Read more http://themountainist.com/millwood-100-m-race-report/

“This isn’t what I trained for,” I muttered to myself. I reflected on endless hours postholing, on wrecking myself physically, day after day all winter long, in the endeavor to push my physical limits as far as I could. Instead of pushing, I was slowly schwacking back to a patch of trail following misconstrued instructions on a slightly mismarked map.

moss on trees—a barkley race report

moments before the start, PC Chelsea Hathaway

The ‘course’ would be impossible to navigate without prior course knowledge, as a ‘Barkley virgin’ (new to the race) runner, and alone for the first time. After losing precious time and putting space between “vets” and myself, I recognized that I was a leech. I was required to be a leech. I had to back off what my body desperately wanted to do and learn the course, slowly, with the closest vet to me. Moss was everywhere, encroaching the trunks of trees, decaying the rotting woods we trod through.

 

Moss on trees, lichen on stone. The only colors to thrive in an un-woken spring forest.

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coming up rat jaw, PC John Price

I thought of how I was like the moss, a parasitic fungi. I didn’t have much to offer a vet besides the brownies in my pack. I chose to follow the closest vet that I knew couldn’t drop me. I gave her distance. I loathed that I couldn’t survive on my own. I am a dreamer to a fault—an idealist. I bitterly accepted that I was limited from even attempting to pursue dreams, and I tried to balance following at a distance, taking notes, and figuring out what I was doing on various life levels I couldn’t avoid reflecting on.

 

We formed a team, Heather and I. Out on loop 2. I still didn’t have much to offer. I knew I had overshot the first book in the dark, and I chose to wait for her and ask if she’d allow me to team up with her. I knew she’d appreciate company through the night and an extra set of eyes. I could try to push her pace, to pick the lines uphill, or to use tracking to find where we’d been before to pinpoint a book in the dark. Still, the skills I could offer as a virgin were minimal at best and my forward progress was completely dependent on her.

 

So maybe moss isn’t parasitic. It doesn’t steal from the trees it grows on, it is a single cell organism utilizing light and water not from the tree, but from the world around it. Like lichen, it still requires a place to grow from… and the circumstances, though grim, which encourage its growth… I started looking at the moss with more fondness that night. It soothed me, seeing something so green, so alive, perhaps even thriving, in the grim Tennessee woods.

moss on trees—a barkley race report

PC John Price

I am unsure on if my presence discouraged or encouraged Heather. I will treasure the friendship forged, and only those who have been “out there” can truly understand what I mean when I say I couldn’t have done any of it without her.

 

Barkley is much like doing a Braille crossword puzzle while running, and only the vets have a Braille alphabet card. This leaves the newbie’s (virgins) to hopelessly follow them around, shouting, “Hey, hey, 4 down, does it start with B? Really though, what’d you get for 9 across?”

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pre-race excitement with my crew 🙂

I didn’t go out there to quit, and despite my outrage and entire lack of patience, I decided to stick with Heather and to do what I could. She’d tell me, “You need to be with someone faster than I,” to which I had no comment. Then she’d say, “You should just take off, you don’t need to keep waiting for me.” I’d respond, “We both know if I took off right now I’d be lost in an hour and asleep in my emergency blanket…” to which she had no response.

 

Facts don’t elicit a response.

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Halfway through loop 2 the sun had risen. Simple math was that it’d take 7:30 to finish the loop (it’d taken nearly 7:20 from that point on loop 1) and we had less than 6 hours on the clock. I kept asking Heather what her plans were, as I tried to assess how long I personally wanted to continue in what appeared to be a hopeless situation.

 

She finally encouraged me to continue on. I tried to argue, there isn’t enough time, I stated, I can’t navigate two of the trickier descents alone. She encouraged me to put faith in my navigation. It was the look she gave me when she told me, “YOU still have a chance.” The look told me – You have the speed, take the chance.

 

And it dawned on me. Maybe I hadn’t trained to have my mind abused on a non-sensical course. But I had trained to run steep vert, and to run it hard. I did have a chance, a chance to at least start a third loop, a chance that thousands of applicants wanted, a chance that every person who started the race wanted, a chance that Heather, whom had been so patient and giving of herself to me, wanted. Who was I to not try?

 

So I took off. I wore my compass as a necklace and held it in front of me as I ran. I ran every uphill, I ran up an empty Rat Jaw. I ran every briar-filled hill. I yelled at myself with pep talks, I tried to recall all the long training days. I had to run that section an hour and a half faster than I had previously done it – and that was with fresh legs and an incredible navigator (Heather) guiding me. I had to do it fast and alone.

 

I knew my chances of finishing loop 2 before the time cut-off were minimal—but I knew that if I finished 10 minutes after the cut-off having given every ounce of myself I’d have at least done what I came to Barkley to do—to give all I had to give.

 

I was fueled by flawless navigation. Maybe the trail gnomes guided me, maybe it was luck or chance or fate. The more the navigation was nailed the harder I pushed physically. I reached Rat Jaw 2 minutes over my “time cut-off.” I darted down to the prison right on time. I hit the beech tree 5 minutes early, then Chimney Top 5 minutes late. I tried to convince other runners to push it in with me, saying they’d regret not trying to be an official two-loop finisher. Mig, from France, hearkened my encouragement and pushed himself in 2 minutes before the cut-off, radiant. 🙂

 

As I ran up the road, knowing I’d have 10 minutes to spare, I beamed. I saw Heather sitting in her car, and thanked her. I wanted to stop and hug her, but I didn’t want to cry, and I knew I had to keep going.

 

Chelsea and DJ washed and lubed my feet, changed my socks and shoes, repacked my vest. Terry ran up the road with a lit stove and boiling water in hand to make me mashed potatoes that Mindy fed me as I changed. Several runners and crews surrounded me and made an amazing pit crew- I changed, ate 1500 calories (candy, a Gnarly Nutrition protein shake, egg sandwich,) and packed in minutes. Recharged, I left the gate with only 15 seconds to spare.

moss on trees—a barkley race report

heading out on loop 3, PC French media that took 5 billion photos

Running back up to Chimney Top I was elated and sleepy. I tried to take a trail nap, and after an unsuccessful 10 minutes, I repacked my vest, realized I didn’t have a headlamp, and trotted on.

 

Sunrays have a way of shifting my perspective. Although it was afternoon, the gleams of sun were honey-colored as they glinted between leafless branches. I was calm, satisfied. Moss is, perhaps, the most sated plant.

 

I got lost going down Big Hell, and I chuckled remembering Heather’s story of spending hours going down the same section the year prior. I pulled out my compass and set my bearing—unfortunately in my sleepiness I set a bearing for a different hill, and I trotted off even further in the wrong direction. Remaining navigational sense let me identify that I was at an incorrect stream not too far along and got myself back on track… but I had lost at least one precious hour, probably more. I knew with the threat of night, and the daunting task of solo nighttime navigation alone, and in reverse, I did not have even an hour to spare.

 

Later I wasted time trying to remember what right and left were, and after spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get on the left side of the right stream, and being unable (I had been out of water for hours and hadn’t eaten since a few hours before that,) I decided to stop using my mushy brain and to start following only my bearing, which led me exactly to the book. I felt exhilarated. I knew I was 90 minutes behind where I needed to be. I decided to take my time and continue forward a few more books, and to get to Rat Jaw before the sun set to watch the colors from a high point before taking a candy-ass trail to claim my failure.

 

Friends were excited to see me at Rat Jaw. I was done, I knew I didn’t have enough time or light (I had borrowed a dim light from the persevering Kimberly who I had seen earlier finishing her first loop—she was part of a team of 3 that perhaps showed the greatest fight of all the starters—they finished loop 1 in 32 hours, and no one starts the race carrying enough food ,water, and fight for 32 hours.)

 

I handed Laz my pages with excitement. I was supposed to be sad when I was tapped out. Runners looked forlorn when they tapped out, some even teared up, emotional with the “failure.”

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hearing my taps play, beaming. PC Keith Dunn

I beamed. I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve never been so happy with a failure before. I “timed out” again and again, and I kept going. I spent 16 hours so frustrated I wanted to scream, and I kept going. I navigated 12 books alone. I ran as hard as I could run for nearly 6 hours. I had given the fight I had gone to give.

 

You know what? My fight wasn’t enough. Only one man’s fight was enough…

 

…to finish, that is. Because “failure” and “not enough” are the words Laz uses to make us bring the best versions of ourselves forward. I’ve never had a mental fight like that. The things I witnessed other people do—there aren’t words to explain. The small acts of kindness… the grand acts in human will… I’d never before witnessed, nor will I forget.

img_1186

waiting, laughing, sharing with my BFF

If it wasn’t too hard, we wouldn’t have to give everything to get as far as we did. I cannot count how many times I have finished a race and known I could have done better, trained better, raced better. My mind and body still had something left. At Barkley, I gave it all. We all gave it all.

 

Moss is simple. Colorful. It is life in dark places. I wasn’t the only piece of moss, we all were, and we were all flourishing in a part of the forest more vast than we were, or would ever be. Each Barker grew and thrived in the simple acts of living, pushing ourselves, paying respect to those before us, discovering our limits, and continuing past them. There is something beautiful about that.

img_1352

“This is my best friend. And my self portrait, cuz I’m there too.” -CH Coming down Rat Jaw after watching Jared come up for his 5th loop, PC Chelsea Hathaway

THANK YOU – I cannot thank enough to everyone who provided support, encouragement, or kind words. I was overwhelmed with the amount of comments, sweet words, and notes of inspiration received pre and post Barkley. I tried to respond to all of them, and know I read and cherished each. If Barkley taught me to bring the best version of my body forward, it taught me, through all of you, that there is such a goodness and love in people beyond my comprehension. Thank you, and thank you again.

 

Thanks to DJ and Chelsea who flew across the country to take care of me. In so many ways, they take care of me, and I appreciate it. The support at camp from vets and crews alike—thank you. Those like Brad, Terry, Mindy, Heather, Leon, Jason, Ty, Ed, Erik, Billy, and Jared whom all took time in various ways to assist and encourage me out there—thank you. Thank you to my parents and sisters who kept tabs on me and followed the race with such enthusiasm and pride- I felt your love and support.

 

Also thanks Canice at Park City Running Co (my boss-man) for loving and accepting me as me and encouraging me in my dreams—it is a rare and wonderful to thing to have a boss as a friend.

 

Thanks to sponsors La Sportiva and Gnarly Nutrition-I know I’m not a traditional athlete, I have a difficult time talking to people (ok, so I tried to hide from the media out there) and I appreciate your patience with me and your support in pursuing my dreams, whatever they may be, with the highest quality products, and from companies who truly care about the people and the sport.

 

“on barkley”

 

light catches between the trees.

we start together, up the trail

passing paint-stained trees and fading

footpaths. we start together,

before the trails dissolve.

 

books are burned into memory,

books are shredded into chest pockets.

the crunch of leaves beat to the sound

of a compass bearing.

 

it is human spirit versus a course. it is

human will whittled.

the naïve heart open

to loving the rugged

places that have not

the heart to love back.

beauty is in loving the unlovable,

for hoping

when the mind and body

are, with will,

lost. for hours, we are lost.

 

shameless steps are not for the brave.

the deadfall shatters below our feet.

we fall off of limestone cliffs,

the brush

mutes our sound.

the brush mutes

our injury. sweat is

caught as paste

on dirty skin.

 

there is nothing to do but carry on.

 

when our time comes,

we fail.

our clock stops,

the bugle plays.

we beam or cry.

we came up short,

so we wait at the hand of those

who continue on.

it was never for us

to quit. we cannot quit

another’s race. so we braid

 

the human will together,

we tow together hope,

because we know that human failure

precedes the might

of human accomplishment.

 

we know that witnessing the impossible

teaches us that

we are all

the impossible.

 

there is nothing to do but carry on.

Read more http://themountainist.com/moss-on-trees-a-barkley-race-report/

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theittybittyclimber:Alex Puccio dominating the third problem of...

theittybittyclimber:

Alex Puccio dominating the third problem of the finals.

Photo credit to me.

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theittybittyclimber:

Trying to stretch out my new shoes at home. I tried climbing a super easy Boulder problem today and it was one of the most painful experiences in the world. Please stretch now…please!!! Haha.

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