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Paperless Post and my beloved USPS

If you know me, you know I love sending cards (and now books!) through the mail. I enjoy the weekly errand of stopping at the post office to post packages and buy stamps. I get a little joy from flipping the flag up on my mailbox to let the mailman know that there is a letter to be carried away. And selfishly, I love imagining the surprise on the other end when a loved one finds a hand written letter or card amongst the incessant junk mail that plagues my own mailbox.

And then there is time. Schedule. Travel. And a busy mind that does the best to plan in advance, but sometimes misses a few things. While I have the best intention to mail birthday cards, and sometimes anniversary ones too, if I’m on planes and in cars more than in the comfort of my little condo it is a little more difficult to find the headspace, a stamp and a card that resonates for my intended recipient. In (to my email inbox) walks Paperless Post. So fun and creative! I just played around with some different cards and sent out one for my Sister’s birthday, which is today! I also got her a paper card out of habit, but it is fun to know that she will see this before I see her.

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I’m curious to know if people prefer USPS to email both to receive and to send. Thoughts below? For now, I’m thinking I’ll double up while I get the hang of this and step out of my old ways.

A little time away: Rancho La Puerta

I travel a lot. Monthly for sure. Sometimes weekly. But it has been a long time since I have taken what I call a true vacation. I get to travel to incredible spots and I enjoy the heck out of my adventures and work trips. It is not uncommon to set an auto-response because there simply will not be time or access to connect. This week away just before the late December holidays felt different, I got to make up each day as I went, auto-response was a choice, and I got to sink into a new environment as opposed to run through.

Spending a week at Rancho La Puerta was definitely a new environment to me. The description on the home page sounded like an incredible combination of some of my favorite things- classes, activities, good food and trail - as well as an introduction to some fancier experiences that my tired body and mind could greatly benefit from. My parents were a little worried that I would be bored, I honestly welcomed the challenge. I can’t remember the last time I was bored.

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Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a trifold brochure crammed full with a varied schedule for each day of the week. Options included Water Aerobics, HIIT, Yoga, Zumba, Lectures, Strength & Sculpt, Jewelry making, Circuit Training, Cooking Classes, Aerial Silks and too many more to put here, but you can see their sample class schedule to get an idea of what I’m talking about. It is a movement junkie’s dream, and just like they warned I was sore and moving a little more tentatively by Day 3.

The grounds offer plenty of great community spaces as well as space to wander off and find quiet isolation. I read two books while sitting in the sun and spent a few hours each day writing - two things I promised myself on this vacation. I got to stay in a Villa Room which had complete privacy, an outside deck that viewed the mountains and the lovely benefit of a wood fireplace that I curled up to one night to work on my writing project.

The Resort Staff paid such incredible attention to details, they call it “Ranch Magic” and I believe it comes from everyone there truly enjoying their day to day life being a part of the Ranch. Everyone I talked to, from land maintenance, to the coffee and wine bartender, class instructors and kitchen staff truly loved their work, loved the benefits provided to them as Ranch employees, and seemed to care about the experience created for each person. I love getting to practice Spanish and connect with those that are there daily in addition to the tourist/visitors and I was pleased to learn, but not surprised, that everyone dines on the delicious, local meals, and that there are classes available to the staff. The Ranch’s approach to quality of life applies to everyone involved.

I got the quick sense that I am not their typical demographic. I awkwardly walked along as the concierge rolled my duffle to my room while explaining the layout of the grounds. I was surprised daily as needs I didn’t know I had were met right as I needed them. But through Ranch Magic and the calm, open setting I realized there is no one demographic that fits, there is room for all ages, shapes and backgrounds.

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I loved getting out on the trails, and finding the tracks well groomed and maintained to avoid erosion. The mountain was well signed with trail names, but I had to depend on my watch for mileage. Something else I’m not used to was having the hiking guides and rangers posted sporadically around the trails so concerned with my well-being. I smiled and talked my way past the passionate rangers who were worried about my safety. I rarely do this, but to ease their minds I called myself a professional runner, ensuring that I would take good care, be cautious and finally promised to call the concierge when I returned.

My favorite morning was that long run day talking my way past the rangers and racing the clock back to my room to make a quick change of clothing to ensure I made the breakfast buffet. Breakfast, definitely my favorite meal, and Lunch were served buffet/cafeteria style with a 2 hour time window to allow people to work around the varied class schedule. Dinner was seated and each night I joined a different group of people and enjoyed learning about where people came from and gaining insight to how others were spending their days. A common question was, how many times have you been to the Ranch? It was not uncommon to hear people returning 10, 20, 30+ years in a row. Another aura to the Ranch Magic.

The fancier opportunities that complimented the variety of classes included a women’s spa, befriending the lovely docent Jane who added tinsel to my hair, a delicious cooking class and tour of the farm, a facial, a seaweed wrap, makeup application and reading in a heavy bathrobe one afternoon on the quiet floor of the women’s spa.

My only curiosity left unmet, was the opportunity to meet Deborah, the Ranch founder. At 96 years old she is still traveling the world and speaking to health and wellness. She wasn’t able to make it to the Ranch the week I was there due to a broken hip, the first medical issue she’s had in years. I hope to meet her someday and share a hike on those trails.

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The last evening we were entertained with a live salsa band and wine poured freely at the dinner tables (the first time all week). It didn’t take too long before the group I was sitting with all made it to the dance floor. We’d shared in classes all week and as I spun around testing out the refreshed salsa moves, I had to smile at the way this moment captured the week. I remember thinking, and suddenly its over and marked by dancing around with a bunch of people I barely know but we are friends through this shared experience. The funniest and perhaps telling moment - the last song was at 8:45pm. I was packed and in bed by 10pm.

Never bored. Returned well rested, well fed and ready to jump into the holidays and new year. I can get into this true vacation thing… :) I have so much gratitude for this experience. An amazing, healing and very timely gift.

California International Marathon: Giving Sight is a Gift

It hit me that I have some amazing running highs to draw from when I realized how incredible this experience was. I called my parents after we finished the race, which is something I’ve done for years after events. They always thank me for calling to share my excitement and it was noticeable how much this experience meant to me. Sharing with them is always important and to help them understand this event’s meaning for me I told them that guiding at the CIM Marathon was equal to the enthusiasm I felt winning the Hardrock 100. They were at the Silverton finish line, they knew how much that meant.

Scott Jurek and I with our runners. Scott helped get me into ultrarunning. We stood on the Hardrock together in 2007. He and his wife Jenny, one of my bestests, easily talked me in to guiding.

Scott Jurek and I with our runners. Scott helped get me into ultrarunning. We stood on the Hardrock together in 2007. He and his wife Jenny, one of my bestests, easily talked me in to guiding.

I felt so much vulnerability, ownership of needs, and real caring for all present in that room during the awards Sunday afternoon. For nearly two hours, each person took a turn to share about their experience being engaged in the weekend, whether racing, guiding or supporting. I really appreciated the stories of connection. And how important it was for every individual sitting in that room, especially the athletes with visual impairments, to connect with people in their similar situation. To laugh, tease, learn from each other, and support each other. To have an entire weekend that they weren’t the odd man or woman, the different one in the sighted world that surrounds each on a daily basis. We have amazing skills, access to technologies, and resources available to make sense of our surroundings with and without sight. The B&VI community is an amazing niche of people, like ultrarunners, and other creatives that move around and experience this awesome world.

When it came to the race, earlier that morning, I wanted to do a good job. I felt a huge responsibility in lending my sight to this man I barely knew. This was reinforced at 4:30am when I snapped off the bedside lamp, the only light on, on my way out and had to make my way to the hotel door. I stumbled along, feeling along the bed and the walls to exit the hotel room. I couldn’t remember what side the door handle was on and floundered trying to simply get out the door. It hit me that’s how some of the runners in our group experience the world around them.

To help Kyle run a marathon he helped me understand his obstacles. Keep him from tripping on a manhole cover and other variation in the road, jumping over timing mats or onto sidewalks, or from bumping into another runner. (helpful link: United in Stride guiding video) I took it upon myself to share more details from the experience so that he could gain visuals of what we were passing. The changes in the neighborhoods, the wide-open spaces along the forever vista of the rolling road, to the massive four-lane intersections packed with people bundled against the morning chill, holding coffees and decorated signs. He asked me if we were going by a farm and before I could ask how he knew, I smelled the manure too.  

To be able to offer the best support, I appreciated that Kyle gave me the guidance I needed by asking for exactly what he needed. “Please guide more here, it feels weird underfoot. Countdown before I need to jump over something, 3, 2, 1, I’ll jump on 1. I’ll hold your arm for this section.” He also easily understood my need to go to the bathroom multiple times in the first 10k. When guiding alone the first half marathon, I would lead him to the white line which he could follow walking and then I would dart into the bushes. What can I say? I am a trail runner! And caffeinated beverages kept me functioning the previous 10 days on the road. The fact that needs could be easily expressed and met made the experience respectable and equal.

4hr pace group starting pack

4hr pace group starting pack

Kyle and I shared the start line shuffle and first 13 miles together, calling out cracks and giving visuals, but also running, chatting with each other and engaging in conversation with others around us. The chilly morning. The sun finally touching and warming our backs, he noticed it first. Other than the red tether between us and the “Guide” bibs on my tank top we were two runners in a marathon race sharing an experience. “Please guide a bit more here Krissy.” His helpful reminder now and again so I didn’t forget that key role.”  And “Thank You.” Kyle said thank you after every visual call out, grabbing him water, or pointing out the trash can by guiding his hand towards it. I remember telling him after the ump-teenth crack that he thanked me for pointing out, “It is awesome how much gratitude you show Kyle, if you get too tired to say thank you I totally get it.” He never stopped.

Half way through we ran under a massive arch, which I later learned another guide ran her runner right into in an awkward moment that both were able to laugh at. After the next turn I handed over the red tether to Sablle. We had met the night before at the hosted dinner and texted photos that morning so we would know what colors to look for on each other. She was super obvious for me to spot with her arms up in the air, jumping up and down to great us. She was excited, and keeping warm at the same time. Committed to the run and loving the experience I opted to hang with the duo and support as I could.

Sablle stepped right in to calling out the pile of cups underfoot and I stepped into stride beside them aware of how much I’d been talking for the last two hours. I was able to support their duo by getting water at the aid stations, instead of leaving Kyle alone to walk through the aid station and grab him water, Sablle could continue running with him and I went and brought water back. A few times I let runners ahead know that we would be passing on the left. But one guy caught all three of us off guard. We later guessed he was in the relay and had dropped his timing chip. In his flurry, like a horse with blinders, he charged in front of Sablle, clipped Kyle’s calf and squatted in front of me to pick up something off the ground. He stood up and almost made a scene, but quickly registered that he’d just charged a runner with limited sight and his guides and apologized. 

Aside from our one exciting incident, we kept pace and chatted. I found myself encouraging both him and my aching hip flexors to keep moving forward. Pavement hurts, yet, made much more enjoyable as a closely shared experience. 

Sablle guiding Kyle. Kyle encouraging another runner from our community.

Sablle guiding Kyle. Kyle encouraging another runner from our community.

The chaos of nearing the finish made more sense for me to run just ahead of the duo. Kyle was picking up speed and passing the late race faders. It was inspiring to turn around and see the determination on his face and focus on Sablle’s navigating those final turns. Nearly yelling at me to step back alongside, Kyle insisted that I cross the line with them. A familiar sentiment I’ve felt for years pacing and being paced. Sharing the final step across a finish line has a unique bond.

Still acting as his eyes we meandered through the chaos of a marathon finish. Receiving medals, snacks, bottles of water, turning down a tyvek jacket and finding a place to snap a selfie of our team.

Finish line Selfie

Finish line Selfie

Our eyes and the information we receive are both fascinating and not to be taken for granted. Listening to the keynote speaker on Saturday night reminded me of the time I lost my vision at the Hellgate 100K in 2007. It was scary and I remember thinking I would much rather break a leg and never be able to run again then not be able to see. How would I start my new job? Navigate the world? But after this weekend’s experience I see so much ability and so much vision for what is possible. We each have a responsibility to how we respond to the challenges that are thrown our way. Our choices influence the people around us, and impact our lives. The lightness, directness and gratitude captured in participating in the CIM with Kyle and Sablle and the B&VI community is a highlight in 2018 and a new add to my life. I immediately signed up for United in Stride as a sighted-guide in hopes to be able to help a local runner who is VI train for their upcoming race. I also added a B&VI division to the Chuckanut 50k. Currently we do not have a B or VI runner in Bellingham and we didn’t have any register for Chuckanut, but we never had a sighted-guide offered either. I look forward to seeing what is possible.

A First... Morning News

Saying sure! I'm in! leads to all sorts of opportunities. At times I get spinning a little too fast and feel too busy. But saying yes has afforded me many experiences. This morning, coordinated by my host Gazelle Sports I had the opportunity for a quick news segment on the local station. We crammed in a bit about The Tahoe Rim Trail FKT, how I found the sport and foam rolling being a key component to healthy running. 4 minutes ...

Summer Trail Running Camps

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Trail Running Summer Camp provides an opportunity to focus on your favorite past time and meet, share miles, and bond with people of a similar mindset. It's a chance to step out from routine for a couple of days. And I see it as a gift to set aside time to simply enjoy running, eating and sleeping. The logistics, agenda and transportation are taken organized. Daily trail runs with well-thought out routes are guided by great sport resources to provide real-time feedback, tips, and friendly trailside chatter.

My Race Schedule page has information and links to the registration websites of each of the camps I am signed up to coach this summer. This shift from mostly racing to some racing and opportunities to coach alongside athletes is a happy transition.  There is also a link to Trail Runner Magazine's Top 10 list of run camps - our Colorado Running Ranch camp listed amongst some great options from all over the world. Shoot me an email if you are interested and want to chat before signing up.

Quick Recap of Camps:

Beautiful region of Engadine - Run the Alps Camp

Beautiful region of Engadine - Run the Alps Camp

China - Chuckanut DOUBLE, Part 2

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We didn't return to the hotel until nearly 2am. Exhausted and filthy we both fumbled around, showered and tried to sleep. The gunk in my lungs rattled around and my legs ached and twitched uncontrollably for the better part of our horizontal time. The morning (nearly noon) was hectic with me not being able to move very quickly, neither of us very coherent and needing to pack up before the awards ceremony for our evening flight, all in less than an hour. Starving and still buzzing from our shared experience we did our best to fit our explosion back into our suitcases and meet everyone for lunch on-time.

The aftermath of winning Gaoligong hit me in waves. Much like the ocean on a stormy day builds, crests, crashes and retreats, I felt the emotions of this race win.

Wave: The finish line also the location of the awards. The magnitude of the awards ceremony was huge. Ushered around in different directions. Photos. So many photos. Making a Golden foot impression for a future path of champions. Announcers. Video clips and montages from the three different race distances were projected and amplified for hundreds to see & hear. Massive trophies. Loads of sponsor prizes. Photos. So many photos. Such a great celebration of everyone’s accomplishments. Honoring all finishers, calling out the top 8 men and women and all age groups.

impressive group of volunteers

impressive group of volunteers

Wave: Just before the rush of the awards, while sitting in a chair staring the trophies in the face, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to a friendly face and in an instant realized it was my trail buddy, Shi. All we could exchange was hand gestures of gratitude, a hug over the fence and a final high five. I insisted on a selfie and felt so lucky to get to say congrats to the soul that saw me through those dark miles.

Wave: Receiving the trophy from Michele Poletti, the founder of UTMB and the man that ran through the night with me in 2003 when I won the first edition. It hit me deep that 15 years later I was at their first international edition. 15 years! In 2003 I won the first UTMB event. 15 years later I won their first international event. To unintentionally be in both of those locations for these inaugural events, fit and ready to run hard, and win. To win the first at 25 years old and the second at 40. My thoughts of 40 then and what I think of 40 now. Another story to write someday but a life point that hit hard on this trip.

Wave: Late travel back to Beijing. A day to regroup and celebrate with Vasque distributor friends. Travel back to Seattle and hit the ground running.

Time for Chuckanut

photo: Glenn Tachiyama

photo: Glenn Tachiyama

We arrived in Seattle Tuesday morning after an all-night flight. After 11 days together pretty much 24/7 it was hard to say goodbye and jump back into our respective worlds that were both rolling at high speeds. We did our best… I drove straight to my condo to check in with the PD pup! I missed that little girl. After a quick walk and tug with toys I had to hobble up the hill for lunch with my parents and Doug McKeever in downtown Fairhaven. Luckily everything is really close. Our intention was to meet to talk final logistics in the week leading up to Chuckanut, but ultimately lunch was about helping me land and ground myself by sharing stories and photos from our awesome adventure. I managed grocery store stops for myself and for a lot of the aid stations goods before returning home, unpacking, starting laundry and crashing.

The next 3 days were a massive build towards Chuckanut. Ironically each morning I woke at exactly 4:27am. Jetlag. But then my brain would kick in to high gear thinking through all that needed to be done prior to the race. It turns out you can get a heck of a lot done before 8am. With 15 years of experience Race Directing a lot of the to do list feels like pressing play on a movie. Everyone knows what needs to be done and with extra eyes on the project I was confident it would all come together. We didn’t have smoke bombs and laser lights like I experienced in China (future planning?), but was definitely one of our best events to date.

Every year we wonder about, plan our best and do silly dances in hopes of having beautiful weather to show off the beauty of Bellingham to the participants at the race. We plan every detail each year, yet, we cannot plan the weather - the one thing that makes a significant difference on the outcome and overall feel of the day. It is March in the PNW and we hold the race the third weekend of the month intentionally, to give our runners a true Chuckanut experience. More years than not we end up peering out from under rain jacket hoods and burning extra calories trying to stay warm enduring the length of the day. I know we would have figured it out had we had a typical year. My 100-mile tired body would have had to rally just a little more. But I am soooo thankful that this year’s event was gifted that beautiful day. We didn’t shiver through the hours. We enjoyed perfect running weather, and it was just warm enough for all of the volunteers, crews and fans to get out on a sunny Bellingham day. The finish line was full of community members, friends, crews, runners. People hung out, enjoyed the food trucks and even stretched out on the grass (which last year was a mud pit).

Fast times by the front runners in both mens and womens fields and a very strong finish field (not that many DNFs). I heard so many great stories from our creative aid stations and enjoyed hearing about the special touches that everyone brings to the race weekend. At our award’s ceremony I was too emotional to put lips to the mic, but I enjoyed working with our team to acknowledge the performances that day.

Finish line clean up happened before I could blink. To say the day went by in a blur would not be an exaggeration from this RDs viewpoint this year. At our post-race party hosted by Wander Brewing I did pull it together to thank coRDs Kevin and Tyler and our community. In my many years living in locations anywhere but Bellingham I have always loved how Bellingham owns the Chuckanut 50k. There are countless happenings out on the course and around the event that I will never know about, but are special bonuses that make the Chuckanut 50k unique, classic and renowned in both our local community and in the ultra-community. This year was a test of that ownership, I really only had half a brain to manage the event, but everyone stepped up. Everyone stepped in. Setting a big goal motivates those around you. Adding China prior to Chuckanut was ridiculous but great because of the rally of support that happens to make it so. I didn’t take on that double alone.

Now that we are one month post Gaoligong I remain in awe of how well March unfolded. The China - Chuckanut double executed perfectly, better than I could have imagined, hoped or planned for. I work my tail off to plan things well, and I also know it takes equal measures of luck and support to have details play out perfectly. Because of this I am extremely grateful, and sit in marvel of what is possible.  

China - Chuckanut DOUBLE, Part 1

I tend to think of time in blocks. I look at the calendar and plan each day to achieve the end goal. That goal, a deadline, a race, etc, is the end point and is as far as I can see. Especially as it nears.  Other than planning a super fun summer including 4 running camps (see my SCHEDULE) I haven't been able to think much past March 17 since October 1st when I started training for the 160km Gaoligong by UTMB race in China, which would be March 9. I knowingly added this huge undertaking just a week out from my beloved Chuckanut 50k, March 17, the race I have directed each year since 2003. 

To travel overseas and back, race nearly 100 miles while there and turn around 4 days after landing back in Washington to direct the Chuckanut 50k was a lot to pile on one plate. Fortunately, as is often the case, when we set big goals we are not alone. It is not just our plate, even though it can feel like it. Many jump in, help out, carry some of the load, ease the task and make it a heck of a lot more fun by sharing in the upcoming Goal.

CHINA

By the time DJ & I got on the plane to leave on March 3 the majority of Chuckanut was planned. The RD team of Tyler, Kevin and I moved our schedule up by a month, met weekly to ensure we had every detail covered and cleared out my garage to receive the goods while I was away. The guys & our work sent me off in total confidence that Chuckanut was ready, and now it was time to focus on Gaoligong.

Supported by Vasque Footwear - Chinese distributor and good friend Jack, as well as the race, our trip included a 3 day stop in Beijing. We got to meet with local retailer One Season, run with an enthusiastic group, share some training tips and sign copies of the Chinese translation of Running Your First Ultra.

The whole trip was a whirlwind of activity, travel, sights, eats and incredible experiences. On one our free day we toured the Great Wall (HIGHLIGHT: taking the gondola up (justified to save my legs for the race) and the Toboggan down (the real reason), such a blast I wanted to go again!) got a view of the Forbidden City (it is closed on Monday's) and a few hot spots in the massive expanse of Beijing. We rode the subway during rush hour and popped in to visit the Patagonia store. It was a full day and probably one of my favorite of the trip.

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A long flight on Tuesday took us through Kungming and in to Tengchong where the focus of the trip changed to the excitement of an international race. Collected from the airport by the race committee and women adorned in festive dresses we were shuttled to the hotel and joined the large group of athletes from afar for a family style dinner. Each meal was served this way. It served as a gathering place and check-in on the growing size of the group. Staffers from UTMB joined the table sleepy the next morning after 30+ hours of travel. We chatted and passed plates with the friendly top finishers of the practice edition, other first timers curious for experience, and learned the different distances everyone would run in the next couple of days. Gaoligong hosts the THT 55k, RCE 125k & MGU 160k events. The first two starting Friday morning, MGU that evening.

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Our host, Pavel gathered the elites for a morning shake out run and media turn. We ran some, but mostly did circles for the cameras. In the town square we joined locals whipping and spinning tops (another highlight!) and eventually jogged over to the start. A grand archway that was being dressed for the occasion. Banners, lights, massive speakers... the magnitude of this production started to set in.

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In the downtime before the race, with nothing left to do but pack gear and control nervous energy my mind wandered back to the crazy winter of training that got me ready for this challenge. It was an incredibly cold, wet and dark winter to train through. To force myself and PD outside when we both would rather cozy up on the couch became a joke; she wouldn't want me to put on her harness and I wouldn't want to tie my shoes. Later, when my training hours were too long for her to join me or to be home alone I had friends check in on her and I would get after it with my Shuffle. I was SO very fortunate to have some key long runs broken up by the company of Trail Sisters, all of us hoods up, hats on and continuous movement to keep warm. 

There were a couple of days I returned home near hypothermic and didn't have enough dexterity to turn the key in my front door. Once magically inside, I hopped directly in the shower, shoes and all to warm up. The insane amount of food I prepared and consumed still amazes me. Forget salads! I went after the densest calories with the least amount of chewing I could find (still whole foods of course... mostly). One night I finished my Mom's dinner and Sister's dessert after wrapping up a 100 mile week. My Dad had insisted on dinner out to celebrate and it meant the world to me.

These seemingly countless hours on the trail forced some intense emotions brought up by the rawness of hard training. I sought help from loved ones and Coach Shelli to deal with the psychological hits. The huge reminders that I've been through this before, perhaps not to this degree, that I have the tools and I just have to use them were lessons I had to draw on again. My most key tool that I can in hindsight realize that this race proved to me once again, is listening to my body. By early February injuries and niggles started to creep in. Why? My mileage was dominating my time, dialing in Chuckanut, and my normal kooky schedule coupled with integration in my new family was a collection that tapped all resources. And then I got a head cold. 

I wasn't doing the basics. I had one more training block scheduled, but in listening to where my body and heart were at (cues thankfully pulled from conversations) I opted to listen. I scratched the training block, made more time for strength training, yoga, cooking and sleeping. Somewhere deep down I knew mileage wasn't what would help. 100 milers are tough - they remain one of the hardest endeavors I take on. I know that at some point on course my mind will try to talk me out of it. There have been a few races that I've sailed through without that mental challenge, but the norm is "what the heck are you doing?" To go into a 100 mile race already tapped would not provide the deep resources needed to push through that headspace. I have to want it. And where I was at I didn't want it. Fast forward to one day before the race, I sat in bed with my legs up the wall and thought back over those challenges, and felt huge gratitude that with the help of friends I made the choice to chill and take care of basics. I felt ready. The nerves fired, my brain wanted to review the course profile, to plan drop bags, talk race logistics... I felt the excitement to go. Preparation is key and in this case preparation was not more miles.

The RACE:

Nearly a month later writing this, the race story is more of a blend of all the personal stories I've heard from friends, family, clients and perfect strangers watching online, DJs crazy crewing adventures, countless photos and video outtakes. I look at the finish line photos and think "so much happened to get there." I remember the start of the race, being announced like an NBA star running to center court. Running through the streets of Tengchong with Kaori and James making jokes about our short shorts and reminding each other that we have a long way to go as others huffed and puffed while sprinting by uphill. Heading in to CP2 I had endured a 5 mile stretch of everything hurting, all of the injuries and niggles I'd worked so hard to heal with PRiME Sports and Trailhead Athletics were talking at me and I wondered if the first quarter was already like this... but then I saw the second place women only a few minutes behind going into CP2 as I was leaving and something shifted. Call it adrenaline or a full body realignment but my brain switched and I knew this was my day. All pains disappeared.  I had to remind my legs as they focused on putting more distance between us that it was still early, and I forced myself to slow and eat extra as a tactic to stop the surge.

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Deep in the night, around CP 6 I met up with a fellow runner. He walked when I walked and ran when I ran. At first I was frustrated thinking "run your own race." We went into CP 6 together. I got a HUGE boost from a surprise note in my drop bag. (This photo apparently went viral on WeChat). Emotional happy tears sprung up and made it hard to eat the bowl of noodles one of the volunteers had made for me. I stuffed my pack with my planned race food, changed headlamp batteries, smiled for countless selfies with aid station staff and other runners before finally heading back on course. On this out and back I didn't see anyone else. Heading up the Tea and Horse Trail I decided to text DJ, first thanking him for the note and letting him know I was hoping for 24hrs, but feeling like the course might have a different plan. As my phone buzzed with messages coming in from overseas (I'd had it in airplane mode) I smiled for all of the energy I could feel being sent my way helping motivate me through the night. I made the choice to save those for later, only texting with DJ during the race. 

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Not long after I put the phone away I turned around to find Shi (his name I pulled from looking at his race bib) walking in stride with me again. On the next hill when I wanted to walk he waved his hand forward and started jogging. The next one when he walked I said "let's go". We went on like this for hours and miles, through the cold predawn, through sunrise and multiple checkpoints. We picked up another runner around CP 9 and while we couldn't communicate in language we spoke "running." We laughed, we fist bumped, we waved each other on, gave thumbs up, grunted and mostly smiled. Having running buds in these key miles to keep intentional forward progress happening was key. Not being able to communicate allowed my head to wander and my headspace wasn't as good. Miles 45-65 on the course were tough. Ridgelines just above, we'd climb towards them and then suddenly switch and dive back down. I couldn't find a running rhythm. Some of the trails were newly cut, soft under foot, barely formed into a steep hillside. The guys insisted I go first and having them on my heels made me move faster over terrain (especially downhills) that would usually cause me to stall. I hate holding people up and that alone forced me over terrain that would normally give me pause. My eyes had a hard time focusing and I had a moment of worry reflecting back on Hellgate Frozen Eye Balls in 2007, but convinced myself it wasn't cold enough for that. 

I knew I would get to see DJ finally for the first time at CP 12 around mile 68. There was a 5 mile paved decent to that CP and with the negative self talk I was enduring I had to try something to get in a better headspace before then. I took 2 Advil for my patellas and popped in my music for my attitude. My trail buddies had waved me on (as we'd been doing) so I assumed they'd catch up (as they'd been doing). After each course turn I'd check over my shoulder, but could only see the 2nd guy (never got his name). There was something in Shi's eyes & smile and the fact he was sitting on a rock when he'd waved me this time that in hindsight made me realize that I might not see him again.

My attitude adjustment (music from my 2005 Grand Slam playlist) helped! The sun shown, we were out of the trees, I could run (albeit pounding downhill) and I knew a very familiar face would be waiting at the bottom. Only 4 hours later than I had hoped to be checking in to CP12, I found DJ waiting with a cheerleading squad of local town kids. We all ran through the streets together. The lightness in their smiles and the encouraging words "You are f'ing crushing this" DJ shared provided the tipping point at just the right time. I knew at this point I'd have to go into the second night, but I also knew I would finish strong if I stayed smart. I know how to run 100 miles and my body was remembering.

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In only his second time crewing me ever the man rubbed my legs had every eat available, repacked my pack, wiped my salty face, talked me through the next couple of miles (which he'd hiked that morning while waiting for me) and kicked me out of there with the good news that he and Jack would figure something out to see me at CP15. Their stories of hired cars, fish and beers and the villages they traveled through are an entire different post.

My music and self talk 100% improved and this new outlook carried me through the remainder of the race. I stayed focused on every little thing I needed to do to move forward. Fuel every 20-30 minutes. Skip songs I don't like any more. Watch for guys ahead to motivate and move up in the field. Take advantage of downhills to move more quickly. Visualize the guys on my tail to navigate terrain that usually stalls my pace. I kept checking the course profile printed on my race bib and multiplied it by 4. I figured out during that icky 45-65 mile section that the profile would show one bump, but it actually meant four significant climbs. Push hands on my knees to climb more efficiently. Hurry through the aid stations. I hate to think what those selfies look like (stuffing my face with food and ginger tea).

On the final four miles I put my head down realizing that the little cruising roll to the finish line depicted on the bib wasn't the gratuitous finish I'd hoped, instead there were 2 solid climbs. On the second a man carrying lunch for two (this was about 11pm) hiked up with me. At the top he yelled to a girl, who I stood head & shoulders above, carried a drawstring backpack, and wore jeans with converse type shoes, told me she would join me to the finish. At first I was worried, there was some business I needed to deal with trail side, but then 90+ miles in the worry vanished as quickly as it appeared, it was what it was. I had to encourage her ahead while I pee'd trailside. It's hard to explain with a language barrier, but she got the picture quickly.

My trail escort communicated to the many people that appeared out of no where and they would give me huge smiles and thumbs up. Many ran with me taking selfie videos and narrating. All in Chinese. I had no clue what anyone was saying but got the picture they were excited for this finish. We wound down and into the alleys of a small town. I hoped it was the Ancient Village where the finish line awaited. There were lights in the sky and I wondered after the impressive start if we would also be greeted with a show at the finish.

A man with a walkie talkie stood in the path and asked if I was Krissy Moehl. He even said my last name right! And then disappeared. The alley narrowed as we passed small store fronts closed for the night. At the gap at the end we popped out and I gasped at the sight ahead of me.  "Is this for us?!" But no-one could answer me. The focus point of the village, a small lake with a boardwalk path around, pagoda in the middle and bridges on both sides was lit in white lights. Every detail of the beautiful Chinese ancient town was highlighted in beautiful white lights. I crossed one bridge by myself and started the run around the lake. The announcers voice boomed with my name. Someone handed me an American Flag. I turned the last corner and would have stood in awe but my legs were already in motion, the stride they know best.

The finish line was completely orchestrated down to the timing of me moving through the alley. Laser lights, smoke bombs, music, the announcer... it was so much to absorb, especially at the end of 97 miles (160km). People on both sides cheered while snapping photos with their phones. I couldn't help but run to them. To thank them with a high-five for being out here so late at night. The massive banner that served as the finish line tape wrapped around my belly as my jaw dropped in the number of cameras flashing on the other side. I stood there awe struck. Thankfully DJ tapped me on the shoulder and said "Hey" with probably the sweetest smile ever (going to be hard to top that one!) and handed me a bouquet of flowers. (there is a great story around those flowers too!)

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When I started this blog post I thought I'd be able to include both China and Chuckanut stories in the same post. Now looking at the length of this, how many details came up and knowing there are so many more to share, but won't here, I think I'll have to make time to write part 2 - Chuckanut.

Check Out Trail Sisters!

Adding my words and stories to the Trail Sisters site has been an awesome outlet for about a year now. The site hosts eleven awesome contributors, nine enthusiastic ambassadors and additional guest contributors. Through our writings you will find community, adventure, health and conservation topics. There are opportunities for interaction and community building. There are, now iconic, Trail Sisters hats available for sale. Basically, there is a lot going on on the Trail Sisters site and I'm inviting everyone to head over there for interesting reads. 

I will get back to updating my personal blog at some point, hopefully soon. I miss the reflective time and taking the time to capture adventures as they happen. Bouncing from one to the next hasn't really allowed for much reflection, but in my Local Year (which will share in a Trail Sisters post soon) I have intention for more writing.

Thanks for checking in! I'm back to updating my site so check out my Race Run Schedule and additional photos... And as soon as you are done here - head over to Trail Sisters.

Download the #Chuckanut50k race map!

Last year Runner Girl Races teamed up with Maps for Good to create a new Chuckanut 50k race course map and Community Trails map of the Chuckanuts. The amazing (to me) thing is you can download the race map to your smartphone to see your location along the trail—no wifi or cell service needed! 

Here is how: In the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android) on your smartphone, download a free app called PDF Maps made by Avenza Systems. Once it has downloaded, open the app and look at the bottom of the screen for Store (with a shopping cart icon). In the search bar, where it says find maps, type Chuckanut. It will default to a map view, which is nice but not as easy to use. Click List at the top of the screen to switch to list view. There you'll see our two maps: Chuckanut 50k Race Map and Chuckanut Trails (not specific to the race). Purchase one or both! All proceeds support future map updates.

Once you've acquired your maps, they will be in your maps collection inside the PDF Maps app. You can find them by tapping on Maps in the bottom left corner of the app. Tap on any one of the maps to open it and see your location. You can pinch to zoom in and out and drag your finger to pan across the map—just like you would in any other map on your phone. You can also mark waypoints, make notes, record your tracks, and measure distances. When you have the map open on your screen, you can find all those tools by tapping on the wrench tool in the bottom right of the screen. 

You can see the map HERE on our website and download a printable PDF if that better suits you.