Blog

#JMTFKT attempt

To write about a personal goal that wasn't quite complete is more of a task than I would have thought.  While on the trail I had so many thoughts and ideas about the experience, what my body was going through and more what my mind was going through.  I wish I'd had a voice recorder, but then again, perhaps none of those thoughts would have made sense.  

There are now nine pages of thoughts typed into Word on my screen, some of them flow, others just pieces of the story.  Not all of those words are included here, but this post is longer than I typically share.  Eventually the chapter will come together and hopefully published for others to read.  My hope that readers will find the humor and challenge captured in the stories.  

In the meantime I feel somewhat of an obligation to share some of the story of our JMTFKT attempt.  We tweeted and facebook'ed and talked it up on the front end, which was fun to share the excitement with so many people.  Knowing that people were watching our SPOT leave a trail through the Sierra meant a lot out there, especially as it got tough.  Now that we are on the flip side sharing a few thoughts of what happened out there seem appropriate.

July 22nd was on my radar for months.  The plan of running the 220 mile John Muir Trail with Jenn Shelton was on my mind for about a year.  Yet suddenly and not so suddenly we were laying horizontal in the Dow Villa Motel with only hours until our chosen start of 7am.  A fitful night found me glancing at the digital clock nearly every hour.  I felt so warm.  Was the air conditioning working?  My head hurts.  Am I hungry?

When the alarm sounded at 5am I was asleep and as I reached to silence the chirping phone my movement went from my arm extending to the nightstand, to my whole body leaping from bed and running for the bathroom.  Am I really this nervous?  Soaked head to toe in a full body sweat, my guts emptied into the unexpecting porcelain bowl I sat with my head heavy in my hands wondering what was wrong.  Then I quickly convinced myself it was just nerves.

… I couldn't have been more wrong.

We piled into the truck, Jenn was the last out of the hotel room and she bounced over, trucker hat turned backwards and her two thin braids framing her smiling face.  That hat, red tank top, black shorts and blue running pack would be her uniform for the entire trail.  A sight I didn’t see much, only when I looked over my shoulder if I didn’t hear her footsteps any longer.

Climbing up Whitney our excitement initially set the pace, but my morning experience eventually took hold and slowed us to a powerhike.  I told Jenn about my serious stress response and we joked that after this many years in the sport it I once again found something at made me that nervous, although I don’t ever remember a reaction quite like I’d had that morning.  We worked our way up through the beautiful granite blasted switchbacks littered with lakes and hikers breaking camp.  I wished aloud that I had my phone to take pictures.  Jenn let me know that if I’d brought my phone to take pictures she would have taken it, hucked it and owed me $700.  We laughed.  Point taken.  We weren’t here to take pictures.

We were fortunate to have easy weather, a bit hot, but worth it to keep the nights warmer and skies clear of storms that have plagued Jenn in her previous three attempts.  We made a quick tag of the Whitney summit and kept moving, mostly to ensure we wouldn’t have to use the wag bag.  The obviously named Guitar Lake splayed out before us and Jenn noted that we couldn’t even see where we were headed next.  Twenty something miles before our next pass, Forester Pass, where we would see photographer Ken again.  We moved through the terrain keeping a steady manageable pace, halted by my frequent visits to the bushes not long after consuming calories.

The granite of the Sierra disguises the trail.  Looking ahead at the craggy peaks it is difficult to tell where the trail winds up, yet when you are on it you wonder how you couldn’t see it.  The work done to blast the trail into the boulder fields is immense.  The path well worn by hundreds of hikers each summer.  So many stories captured in the rocks that make up the path from Whitney to Yosemite.

The ups were slow going but steady.  The downs more consistent running, broken up with forced walking breaks to ensure we didn’t trash our feet and ankles early on the rocky path and large steps on the long descent.  Ken bounded along like a mountain goat capturing countless photos of that magical descent off of Forester.  Each time I looked up to see what he was shooting I couldn’t help but smile or even gasp at the beauty around us – often pointing it out to Jenn as if she’d never been there before.  She probably knows the views better than anyone.

Our first crew point near Kersarge Pass was a dialed machine of mac-n-cheese with salmon, emptying and resupplying our packs, plenty of humor between the tired bodies and an hour of sleep right at sunset.  Jenn stirred early and Aaron and Beth scrambled to make hot drinks before we set off into the night.  We hiked past countless waterfalls and the cool air from the water kept us alert.  Jenn ensured me that I would definitely want to come back to see that section in the daylight. 

Just before sunrise we crawled into the tent of our second crew point near Sawmill Pass and slept the hour before sunrise. Hoping the sleep would completely reset my system I ate heartily of the mac-n-cheese served in the bear canister by Kevin and Monica.  As we surfaced and made to leave our system was little less dialed as we were groggy from our nap.  Packing up to leave took longer than hoped and I definitely carried too much food out of that spot.  Monica made sure we had wiped our dusty faces and sent us off with big hugs.  Kevin snapped the photo now on my home page and we moved along feeling somewhat refreshed as the sun rose on the second day.

Day two found us in hours of conversation about life, relationships, and topics that will forever stay on the trail.  Jenn insisted I set the pace and that she wasn’t in any hurry day one or day two.  Inwardly I was incredibly frustrated at my weakened state and slowed pace, especially on the climbs.  I was forced to use my poles since the first climb up Whitney and couldn’t stop the vicious cycle of diving into the bushes each time I tried to eat.  As the time between input and output shortened, my frustration built.  It was hugely demoralizing and hard not to associate that I was not gaining the needed energy from my calories.  Jenn assured me another crew stop, a big meal and rest would help.  And we trudged on through the heat of the day.

Ken met us a few miles from the Le Conte camp.  For miles we had longingly looked at the creek just off the trail to our left to cool off.  Ken said there was a great pool just ahead that we should take advantage of and we easily warranted the down time by wandering off the trail to fully dunk in the cold stream.  Just cold enough that I couldn’t force myself to dunk I hesitated.  Jenn seeing my hesitation counted out loud.  “Krissy! One! Two! Three!” and without resistance  we plunged under and popped up to the sound of Ken’s camera clicking through shot after shot. 

The long walk up to camp with the constant “it’s just up ahead" from Ken got in our heads a little bit and we let him know it.  Jeff and Rick were ready for us with separate tents, gear laid out, encouraging conversation and water boiling for mac-n-cheese.

When it was time, Jeff led us out of camp ready for the rest of his mini-adventure.  He’d backpacked in our gear, set up camp, fed us and then set off to take us over Muir Pass and down to where the trail split.  We went on to Seldon Pass and he diverted out over Pinchot Pass.  It ended up being a solid 12 hours together complete with a couple hour bivvy in our mylar emergency bags somewhere past our Evolution Creek crossing.  After he left us he still had an 18 mile hike out to his pre-planted truck and a drive back to Bishop. 

Leaving us was no easy task.  I was convinced I was done.  Our pace had slowed so dramatically due to my faltering energy and ridiculously frequent pit stops.  It stressed me more to think that I was slowing Jenn from finishing her goal and I wanted her to continue on without me.  I thought I should hike out with Jeff.  She convinced me to go one more stop.  It was a tough conversation, our group of three completely sleep-deprived and my body depleted even more than I realized.  Jeff made coffee, we traded food for options that might work better for my guts and Jenn and I wandered down the trail waiting for the sun of day three to warm us once again.

The climb up Seldon Pass was the final stake in my run. Our pace was so incredibly slow, the 6 miles up took us nearly five and a half hours.  The entire climb I had multiple conversations with Jenn that she needed to leave me.  Some were outloud with her, others were in my head.  She repeatedly said she couldn’t live with herself if she left.  She believed I would come around.  What if we made it to the next crew point, ate and slept and I felt better?  She wanted that chance and believed in it more than I did.  At one point I was trying to yell at her to leave.  Just freakin leave me!  But those words were never uttered.  I’m not one to yell.  And when I told her my idea she said she would have laughed at me. 

At the top of Seldon Pass she easily convinced me to sit on a rock with her. It was 11:30am and she looked right into my eyes and told me she didn’t have enough food to continue at this pace.  I honestly felt relief.  I wanted her to go.  We looked at the maps, we fought over who would take the SPOT, we swapped a few calories and I stood to give her a huge hug.  I caught a glimpse of the bracelet we each wore, given to us hours before we started by Deena.  Destiny is what the bead says.  She’d done everything she could to get me this far.  Now she needed to take care of herself and get herself to Yosemite.  I would leap ahead and jump in as crew.  This was her project now, really always had been.

After watching Jenn pick up her pace and lope down the switchbacks off the top of Seldon Pass, I gave a whoop and marveled as the red tank top and off-kilter trucker cap disappeared from sight.  11:30am.  I had 14 miles to hike out and I could make the most of it, or be depressed by how slowly I had covered the previous 6 (one mile an hour).  With that I looked up.  I was surrounded by some of California’s most beautiful terrain, little lakes pooled as the stream running through backed up in places.  The sun was beating down making everything glisten.  The green grasses contrasted with the massive granite boulders and wildflowers dotted the landscape adding color and depth to the whole visual experience.  All I had to do was hike out.  I was no longer stressed about getting Jenn to the next crew spot, she was to take care of her and I needed to deal with only myself. 

I wish I could say that I kept a positive attitude for the next seven and a half hours that it took me to descend Seldon Pass to Edison Lake.  A highlight was stripping down to only my shorts and jumping in the creek a couple hundred yards off of the trail.  The cool water was a bit startling, and necessary.  I only gave myself 10 minutes time off the trail, and was sure to soak head to toe.  As I hiked back to the trail buckling the straps of my pack around my chest, I let my wet hair hang on my shoulders under my trucker cap, both to cool and protect me from the beating sun.  The fierce rays burned my already toasted skin and I decided to use my chapstick all over my arms to hopefully prevent further damage.  The mosquitoes indulged in my slow moving figure, an easy lunch even though I put up a valiant effort swatting and smashing too many insects to count.  It was easy to transcend from pure bliss to utter despair and back again. 

Many of the hikers approaching knew my name.  Tonya, our crew person at Edison, had let nearly everyone know what we were up to.  People cheered, and even took pictures.  I was thankful to be wearing my sunglasses so they didn't see the defeat in my eyes.  Those that were chatty learned about Jenn going all the way to Yosemite and my end at Lake Edison.  Others offered trail mix and their already filtered water.  JMT hikers are a great group of people.   

The hallucinations were by far the most entertaining piece for my final hours on the trail.  While still with Jenn I asked her what plant/low bush was framing the trail.  We thought maybe Manzanita.  I was able to piece together that the round, brown, dried leaves from that scrubby bush were what my eyes made into all of the heads-up pennies that littered the trail.  I saw a man on the switchbacks above us struggling to make a deep step down from one rock to another.  He was using trekking poles and my mind marveled that someone out here was hiking with a prosthetic.  But as soon as I blinked I realized he had two normal legs and his heavy backpack made the descending steps difficult.  There were beautiful trout in the lakes as we neared the top of the pass… those might actually have been there, but its hard to say looking back now.  None of my hallucinations scared me, I was coherent enough to know that I was hallucinating and even if I couldn’t make the joker in the rock go away, I could at least be entertained by his funny face. 

My final hallucination came after my last water refill and head dunk.  Two rounded granite rocks sat perched on the slope between me and the last switchback.  I saw them and then the sun flashed through the trees and in their place was Mark, my boyfriend.  He sat clear as day, smiling at me in a long-sleeved white linen shirt, sleeves rolled up (funny thing, I've never seen him in a linen shirt). His elbows rested on his splayed knees, feet close together fingers dangling somewhere around his shins…. And then he was gone.  I had this reassuring sense that everything was going to be okay.  I knew it was a hallucination, but it was the most familiar thing I’d seen all day.  The most confirming and reassuring sight that everything would be alright.  I continued my slow walk, completely dependent on my trekking poles, calm face and far-off gaze, blinking now and again to bring me back to reality.  Two switchbacks later Tonya and her dog Journey were hiking up towards me and I crumpled against my poles, uncontrollable tears streaming down my face, body quaking.  An overwhelming realization that it was over.  Well at least this part.

We hiked the final mile down to camp, spent another night in the woods, - literally I was running from the tent multiple times - a 2 mile hike and a boat ride across Edison Lake to Tonya's car the next morning.  I had the good luck of joining two doctors, a father and daughter, on our hike out.  I was unable to keep pace with the backpackers, but Tonya ran my current state by them.  When we clamered out of the boat on the other side, Father Doc was pretty certain I had giardia and dug in his pack to give me 4 days worth of doxycycline.  He promised I should see immediate results.  Anything to help the long car drive around.  Pretty amazing to meet up with the right people just when you need them the most.

After an 8 hour drive around we finally landed in Yosemite.   It was a long trip around to the east side, I was in and out of sleep while Tonya managed the miles.  As soon as we found cell service I was madly texting crew people from Tonya’s phone to find out how Jenn was doing.  Did she keep going?  Did Jeff find someone to run back on the trail and meet her?  Jenning had crewed Jenn through Reds Meadow and she was moving well.  She also let me know that Scott was on the trail with her.  Scott who?  Jeff must have found someone in Bishop to run with her.  “Scott Jurek!”  she texted back and I could hardly believe it.  Jenny and Scott had flown out to surprise us and they had perfect timing to help Jenn through her fourth night on the trail. 

I marvel at how people come together to help others shoot for the stars.  It had amazed me the last three days that we would be hiking along in the middle of nowhere, no road access and we would come across our crew people, all of our prepacked gear, tents, sleeping bags, hot food and mostly warm hugs from these friends that were psyched to have adventures of their own in order to help ours along.  Absolutely unreal when you think about what each person put into our being out there on the JMT.  From sponsors supporting the effort through cash, special products and last minute shipments, to friends following along refreshing the SPOT link madly at home.  All of the energy in our immediate presence to those wishing us well from thousands of miles away, there is a lot of love to be felt.  I am a lucky girl.

We landed back in Yosemite and I was hanging out the car window waving at Jenny, Toph and Kim.  All had come to surprise us on the trail and all were amazing support even when I arrived in a car rather than on foot as planned.  I became familiar with the overwhelming emotions that rocked me the next few days, and these three were the first to witness just how raw I was.  We made food and shared stories.  Toph had just run the High Sierra Trail through some wicked storms.  As night fell we found a place on the trail to crew Jenn and waited for Scott’s familiar ‘whoop’ when they arrived around 3am.  We all slept till sunrise and then made a group effort to feed Jenn and send her down the trail.  She was loopy and tired and absolutely determined.  It was awesome to see.  We set up one more meeting spot about 5 miles down the trail and fortunately Beth and Aaron from our very first crew spot had made their way around.  Aaron, ready to run, loaded up my pack and signed on to bring Jenn down the final 20 miles to the valley floor.

Writing now the wait for Jenn’s descent seems minimal.  I slept with my feet up on a log for a while.  We paced around a bit.  When we finally met up with the rest of the crew it all happened fast.  We wandered a short distance up the trail and I spotted that off-kilter trucker camp and red tank bouncing along through the mass of people.  With a stride that would impress most 5k runners, Jenn loped down the final stretch with all of us in tow.  We made a bit of a scene running amidst all of the walkers and hikers as one might imagine after four plus days.  The girl finally got to sit down for good, 4days, 9hours & 30some minutes after starting with me up out of Whitney Tuesday morning.

This was something else, an experience I will not soon forget and my body continues to remind me as I recover.  Returning home, reconnecting and writing being the most helpful pieces in processing the time away.  I am left with a few bigger thoughts to ponder, mostly about my own direction.  But one thing is for certain, seeing myself that raw I know what is important to me and that is the people that I surround myself with.  I am so thankful for the voices of family and friends, hugs and checking in.  Cheering us on and supporting no matter the outcome.  Spending time on the trail with my #polarduo and finding a friendship that many rocky JMT miles solidified.  Of all the things to be reminded of, lessons to learn, I am the most thankful for relationships.

JMT Gear

Ultraspire Titan 2.0 Pack, Patagonia M10 Rain Jacket, Patagonia Houdini Pants, Black Diamond UltraDistance trekking poles, 12 pair Patagonia lightweight merino anklet socks with Blistershield in each one, Patagonia Tsali 3.0 shoes, Julbo Access Sunglasses, Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts, Patagonia Merino 1 tank, Patagonia Velocity Running Tights, Patagonia Wool 2 quarter zip long-sleeve, Patagonia Nano Puff half zip, Black Diamond Icon, extra lithium batteries, SPOT device & extra batteries, Ultraspire fast draw handheld, Patagonia R1 beanie, Patagonia lightweight merino gloves, Raidlight waterproof mittens, Emergency bivvy, baggie of Desitin, TP, baby wipes.

JMT Nutrition

First Endurance EFS Gel, Trail Butter, Bearded Brothers Bars, Clif Bloks, Clif Kids Fruit Twists, Annie's Deluxe Mac-n-Cheese, Patagonia's Salmon Provisions, Epic Bars, Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes, Starbucks Via's (hot & cold), moose meat summer sausage (courtesy of Monica at Sawmill), pizza (courtesy of Jeff & Rick at Le Conte), Rice balls (courtesy Deena's kitchen)

Transvulcania 73km

Travel is hectic.  I seem to feel, think and say that a lot especially with my recent travels.  Fortunately the experiences enjoyed while in these new locations are exciting, memorable and community building.  My recent trip to La Palma Spain shone great examples of each.  As we hopped across the continent and eventually over the great Atlantic, our group of running friends grew from three (Denver to Chicago), nine (Chicago to Madrid) and nearly half the plane (Madrid to La Palma).  The long flights and layovers allowed time for catching up, chatter, photos and sharing with the world on social media.


I had been told prior to registering for this race that I was in for an experience of a lifetime.  Thanks for fellow Patagonia teammate Luke Nelson and the race organization I was granted a spot and a bit of support to make the long journey to join in the 6th annual Transvulcania.  With a promise of ridge line views of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean and a punishing altitude profile, the 45 mile course (originally thought to be 50 miles) engaged all of the senses.  Upon crossing the finish line my Suunto T3 recorded over 13,000 ft of gain and over 12,000 ft of loss, but I didn't need my altimeter to tell me so, my body well understood.

race start

race start


The weary, jet-lagged group was split up upon arrival between two resorts.  Luke, Ty, Jodee and I quickly jumped into the spanish language and maintained a view of the horizon as we snaked along the winding road for nearly an hour to the Princess Resort.  The all inclusive affair surrounded by banana plantations was only six miles from our race start and secluded enough to encourage lots of downtime.  Happy to shed the layer of travel clothes and change to running shoes and shorts, the sun on our shoulders and air off the ocean were the final welcome I needed. 

The sleep that follows long travels, a run, shower and good meal is usually drawn out and heavy and for me full of crazy dreams.  It was no wonder we startled to the phone ringing to tell us we needed to be in the lobby in 20 minutes for a ride to the news conference.  The week jockeyed between complete relaxation resort style by the pool and shuttling back and forth to the host hotel an hour away for new conferences, race briefings and packet pick up.  This stretch of road became our exposure to the island, a worn path in our minds and an opportunity to practice Spanish with our drivers.


Alarm. Lights. Excitement!  The energy that oozed off of Jodee race morning was contagious.  With motivation to slurp coffee and down a few calories before our shuttle arrived we excitedly buzzed around the room, dressed quickly, finished braids and secured bib numbers.

2000+ runners lined up for the 2014 Transvulcania

2000+ runners lined up for the 2014 Transvulcania


The winds shook the van as we sat parked staring down the start line.  Over 2000 people in shorts and flashing lights piled behind the race start corral illuminating the shoreline and likely startling any local sea life.  We emerged from the van about 20 minutes before the start to empty bladders and join the field. We were positioned in front and "manos arriba" we cheered in unison in the final countdown.  


In an instant we went from shoulder-to-shoulder stand still to a massive rapid forward force.  Elbows and hands reached out for balance, all sorts of body parts bounced off of each other, the blur of lights and legs sprinted off the line, up the incline, around the lighthouse and scrambled to the narrowing path leading up the climb.  At about the lighthouse I realized I was holding my breath (something I used to do in high school track running the 800m into the first turn) and let out a big sigh.  My inner voice repeated "Todo esta bien."  With the chaos around me the words helped me relax, breathe and deal with the flying elbows and close quarters with my fellow runners.  The climb was a steady grade and I was happy to feel my legs turning over confidently when trail space allowed.  Knowing that things would open up in a few kilometers I kept my mantra and marveled at the stream of white lights flowing like water up the hill behind me.  

photo saved from social media

photo saved from social media


The obscured darkness did not afford me the opportunity to count ponytails.  This did encourage me to run my own race, take in the terrain and fall in love with the island.  The sun rose over a blanket of clouds. Only the top of Mount Teide on the neighboring island of Tenerife visible catching the rays and colors of the early sun and reflecting back beautiful alpine glow pinks, oranges and purples.  It was all I could do not to stop.  Instead I zig-zagged up the trail as I rubber-necked over my right shoulder much like someone would slow and weave when trying to drive past a car wreck or wild animal spotted in a national park.  The climb and the beauty both took my breath away and gave me energy in the same instant.  If this was all I saw for the rest of the day I felt the long travels were worth it.

Up. Up. Up we climbed above the clouds.  Higher into the warming sun.  Our goal the ridge line of the volcano, to bop along the northern lip and then scream down the western side, a nearly 8,000ft drop back to sea level.  The miles flew by and the temps climbed in sync with our increasing altitude.  

Upon reaching the top the race took an impressive change.  Our ascent spread out over 25+ miles was now countered with a nearly 8,000ft drop in about 8 miles… maybe 10.  Trying to explain that much altitude loss in such a short distance involves grand hand gestures and adding up local runs to help understand.  "It's like descending Green Mountain twice!  And maybe a bit steeper in parts" for those local to Boulder, Colorado.  This descent and the heat that accompanied it were two aspects I had not prepped for and exasperated my share of grunts, groans and choice words to aid in my continued forward, downward motion.  I felt as though "todo el mundo estaba pasandome."  At the bottom, one is nearly to the meta (finish line) as it is only a few miles up to the finish.  The climbing was a welcome change as far as my toe nails were concerned.

A final turn on to the main street through the town of Los Llanos and the volunteer told me "un kilometer mas."  The road stretched out perfectly straight in front of me and reveled hundreds if not thousands of people lining the street to hi-five and cheer on the runners making their way through that toasty last kilometer.  Happy to be in these final paces I enjoyed the interactions and stole as many hi-fives as I could reach for.  Not too far from the archways marking the final meters a girl no more than eight years old took up stride next to me.  I reached down and she grasped my hand to run a few strides together.  My legs felt lighter, as if she'd wiped away the burly miles of the morning and we shared a smile before she let go and ran back to her parents.  

A final bend in the road before crossing under the finish arch and receiving a finishers medal.  I could only imagine the grandiose affair for those finishing top in the field as the welcome at the Transvulcania finish line is worthy of rockstar status.  A handler made sure I moved through the awaiting amenities: beverages, snacks, gear check, chip return, finishers shirt, shower, massage and finally off to collect my finish line bag.  A well thought out receiving area for all nearly 2000 finishers.

Tezacorte - lowest point on the course (after the start)… Some beach time with Patagonia teammates before race day.

Tezacorte - lowest point on the course (after the start)… Some beach time with Patagonia teammates before race day.

We wrapped up our final hours on the island by enjoying the finish line, awards ceremony and a late night ride back to the Princess Resort.  A hearty breakfast and pool time the next morning capped off the trip before the long travels home began.  We reassembled our crew in the La Palma airport and as the flights ticketed off we sent members on their respective routes.  Coming together and easing apart, more stories, memories and community.

Gear List:

UltrAspire prototype pack
Patagonia Duckbill hat
Julbo Access sunglasses
Patagonia Forerunner Tank
Patagonia Strider Skirt

Patagonia Turnaround sports bra
Patagonia l/w merino wool ankle socks
Patagonia Tsali 3 shoes
chapstick
sunscreen

Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp

Fuel:
First Endurance EFS liquid shot
Clif bloks and Honey Stinger chews
Clif Z-bars & Fruit Twists (both kids food)
Endurolytes
cola

Training fuel:

Flora 7 Sources in Krissy's Concoction and in Smoothies!

Travels in India

Written real time while traveling….

Immediately following the race Nikki and I had a recovering day in camp followed by 27 hours of travel to arrive at the Taj Safari, Baughvan Pench National Park.  We were invited as Travel writers and our article will appear in the next issue of The Outdoor Journal.  In short, we thoroughly enjoyed our three wonderful, relaxing days exploring the Baughvan Pench National Park.

Upon returning to Delhi we landed in the bachelor pad of the Run the Rann RD/ editor of The Outdoor Journal.  Gael is a french man living in India and working for The Outdoor Journal.  In his first year living abroad he has kept life simple and well, minimal.  Our late arrival and tired bodies made due with the hard marble floors by pulling out our thermarests and sleeping bags to add to the few ground pads and pillows in his back bedroom.  The house is huge and clean from the daily maid and in spite of my tired brain I am unable to find sleep quickly.  My lungs still angry from a chest infection brought on from racing and lack of sleep.  Only now two days on antibiotics it will soon lose its battle, but not yet.

Nikki wakes first and her moving about stirs me.  We are both anxious to move after so much travel.  We sort our bags a bit before Gael invites us to join him on his morning walk with his English Bulldog, KeyLimePie.  Unlike any of the stray dog population in India, KeyLimePie struts her stuff and passively leads us through the neighborhood and across the street to the park.  Gael gives us a few stories about his time in India and he can barely believe an entire year has already past.  We give him a bit of crap about needing to furnish his pad a bit and settle into a laughable conversation, the three of us quickly comfortable to speak our minds.  Our day's itinerary includes lunch with Madhuri and Himraj, two more of The Outdoor Journal's staff and a shopping tour of some of their favorite spots.

Himraj & Madhuri indulge us in a typical Southern Indian lunch

Himraj & Madhuri indulge us in a typical Southern Indian lunch

A bit more time in the car is rewarded with a delicious vegetarian meal of the Southern Indian influence.  Hungry runners devour plates of deep fried breads, potato & spice stuffed crepe-like platters with plenty of dipping sauces.  The lassi yogurt drink is a wonderful treat and a helpful aid to my antibiotic belly.  The cold coffee drink tops me off and powers me up for our next step, shopping.  Admittedly I once loved shopping and believed that retail therapy had its place.  Now, I chose to spend more time on trails than in malls, but there is something about buying gifts and relics from my overseas travels that excites me.   This excitement, likely fueled by the caffeine, burst through when we entered a fairly priced home store.  I think I provided sheer entertainment to the staff and our little group as I buzzed about looking at all of the beautiful items trying to imagine a place for them in my home or in the homes of friends and family.  Repeatedly Madhuri kindly reminded me that we had many more stops to see including the old Delhi market and I tailored my purchases and calmed my pace.  We enjoyed the day and each other's company.  Nikki and I equally thrilled to spend the day moving about by foot rather than by car or plane.

The old Delhi market was lovely, a 20 ruppee entry fee (60 ruppees = $1US) and we wandered in to the colorful display of goods from all over India.  Evening had set and the ambience was enhanced by lights, colorful lanterns and goods carefully displayed to draw our attention.  Our last stop of the day and a little weary our pace slowed as did my purchases.  Himraj sensing the energy lull directed us towards the food booths and took charge ordering plateful after plateful of Momos - delicious chicken filled dumplings with spicy red chili sauce.  With only a few more purchases to make Nikki and I divided and reconvened at the entrance for our final tourist desire - henna.  I love the Indian art and this was one item on my short list of things to do while in country.  The ladies drew us in with their art books and 100 rupee price and as we sat trying to discuss what we each wanted they took hold of our arms and drew at will.  Himraj tried to help explain what I was saying and my artist easily shoo'ed him away.  Nothing like the drawing I had pointed out in the book, but still beautiful, she requested her 300 rupee payment. Himraj discussed with her that she originally said 100 and we settled on 200, her giving me a knowing glance as she pocketed my bills.  I told Himraj that I understand I have to pay the tourist fee.  And tourists we were!  We ran down the street, one arm covered in paint and held awkwardly to the side, the other grasping the handles of our packages.

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Susan, the lovely woman we met at Run the Rann met us just outside the market and whisked us away in her car to share dinner with her family.  A hectic day for her we were thankful she made time to include us and apologized for our awkward arms and rough appearance.  Her pleasant Australian accent assured us we were just fine as we climbed the stairs into her home to meet the family for dinner and drinks.  She introduced us as the fast girls, her nickname since we first met on the salt flat.  And we  easily shared stories of our journeys home from Dholviria.  Her insistent Indian husband made it impossible to stick to my preferred beverage choice of bubble water, and by the end of the evening my head was buzzing from the wine and extremely smooth rum.

Another late night arrival and not much sleep from the night before sleep came easily and dawn came too soon.  Motivated knowing we had a 4-5 hour afternoon car ride, Nikki and I dressed to run and snuck out the door leaving Gael to sleep a bit more. Laps around the park after the gutsy street crossing we kept our eyes open, but felt more and more comfortable with each 15minute loop of the park's perimeter.  In our running shorts and t-shirts moving at a stride, we definitely drew looks, but nothing more.  We lit up at the sight of other runners and quickly passed the time before heading back for a shower and our hunt for breakfast.

The car picked us up at noon for the relatively short journey to Agra.  Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal and other notable historical monuments.  Our short visit allowed only time for the Taj.  An evening viewing as well as an early morning audio guided tour before turning around and heading back to Delhi.  A wonder I never would have imagined I would lay eyes on, I was stunned in its immensity as well as the stark contrast to the surrounding town of Agra.  The grounds of the Taj Mahal are large, manicured and grandiose in all aspects.  The town of Agra couldn't be more opposite.  What I witnessed in my time in India was captured in this representation.  There is great wealth and great poverty and not much inbetween.

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My last day in India started with the view of the Taj Mahal in the morning fog and ended with a metro ride to the airport accompanied by Gael and Nikki making the transport the easiest of my entire time in India.  We filled the day with our drive back, a run in the park, a quick lunch, and a photo shoot for upcoming Outdoor Journal articles.  I boarded my 16 hour flight from Delhi to Newark and was asleep before take off.

Travel observations:

Sleep when you are tired.  Eat when you are hungry.  Stay present in each moment. Find grounding in spite of chaos.

I found extreme thankfulness for my home and the life I have.  Travel opens my mind to all that is out there, it removes me from my comfort zone and teaches me lessons that add and form my person. 

Run the Rann 101km - Dholviria, INDIA

Traveling overseas as an "elite athlete" comes with romantic aire of catered this, escorted that.  A plane ticket arrives in your email inbox with an itinerary you may have had some input on.  This particular trip, I was thankful to see the direct flights, minimal connections each way and with a carrier I fly frequently.  

There is a significant amount of unknowns to the travel itinerary when traveling under the support of a host, especially the host of a first year event.  My plane ticket arrived 4 days before my departure.  I was to land in one of the world's largest cities at 1am without knowing the next step after leaving customs.  But as my travel buddy, Nikki Kimball, said once we were finally connected at our hotel a day later, "Things always work out."  And they do.  During my layover in Frankfurt I found wifi and an email from Madhuri, our contact, letting me know that a driver holding a sign with my name would meet me at the airport and transport me to the hotel.  I  got to spend a lovely day recovering from jetlag, sleeping, working out in the fitness center and eating delicious meals in the hotel restaurants.  My experiences in the first 36 hours in India were limited to the confines of that hotel.  I sat in the 24 hour restaurant for a late lunch and started a new book while slowly enjoying the fresh salad and spicy assortment of blended, creamed, colorful & fragrant options that lay before me.  Careful to wipe my fingers before turning the pages of my book. I've never soiled a napkin as much as when eating Indian food.

Nikki's arrival unfortunately did not pan out as seamlessly as mine, but we were able to right it and soon locked into spending 24/7 together.  That evening we caught another car back to the airport for a 90 minute flight to Ahmedabad where we would overnight before a 9 hour bus ride to Dholviria, the site of the race.  An incredible amount of travel for 62 miles of running.

In the year 2000 India's population surpassed 1 billion people.  The world's population is over 7 billion.  One seventh of the world's population is living in this country.  And it shows.  Everywhere I looked in that 9 hour drive I saw people or signs of people.  Buildings and powerlines, dogs and cattle.  I even saw a couple of camels and donkey.  Huts and shacks amidst modern cement-walled beautiful homes painted bright colors.  And trash.  There is garbage every where.  Especially close to the waterways, streams and road side culverts have more trash than water, especially clean water.  As far as the eye can see, and it is a long way as the terrain is extremely flat, signs of human use seem to exist.

Upon arriving at the race site around 9pm we literally rubbed our eyes in disbelief of the scene created.  The Outdoor Journal crew had created a little village in the middle of no where.  It was dark but the camp was lit.  At least 100 15'x15' tents were set up in a large "U" and we were standing on the open end.  Upon entering we found proper beds, solar powered lanterns, a table and chairs, a nightstand and even a power strip.  The back door was unzipped, and as I went to close it I found another room - our own bathroom, complete with a western toilet, sink and bathing facilities (not quite a shower and definitely not a bath).  We gushed about the accommodations before heading over to find a few calories.  Everyone on our bus was also thrilled as the conversation started with introductions and learning how far everyone had come for this first year event.  Finding horizontal came late, but we had the luxury to sleep till we woke the next morning and a lazy day before suiting up for the race.  

"Who wants to check out a bit of the race course on the back of a moto?"

Without hesitation my hand shot up and I looked around to see a few other hands raised.  

"Will there be an auto option?"  asked another voice I hadn't yet met.

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Via motos and autos around 15 participants journeyed out to the 10k mark on the course, a bright pink temple with access to the salt flats.  This would be our first aid station and the view gave us a small taste of the terrain our course would cover the following day.  The group started to bond through helping each other down to the beach, removing shoes to walk along the sharp salt encrusted beach and of course in snapping photos.  

The evening passed quickly, basically in the blink of an eye.  Upon returning to camp everyone retreated to their tents for a short rest, around 4pm.  I laid down to read and Nikki fell asleep before her head hit the pillow.  The next thing I knew I woke up to complete darkness.  I rolled over to check my watch as saw it was after 9pm.  Was that right?  Had I made a mistake when I adjusted for the time zone?  I woke Nikki in my shuffling about and we sheepishly added clothing before making our way to the dining area, just over the hill from camp.  We found runners eating and the buffet still going strong.  We found our race contacts and apologized profusely for missing the prerace meeting.  They easily and casually brushed it aside, there was nothing to worry about.  

"But what did we miss?"  
"Put one foot in front of the other.  Left. Right. Left. Right.  You girls know what you are doing"

We were thankful to eat a good meal before the long run and easily fell back asleep, this time setting an alarm.

Feeling well rested the alarm was a welcome sound and we suited up quickly wearing our mandatory jacket and long sleeve to guard against the chilly morning.  We continually reminded ourselves to enjoy the cool morning air as the day would be hot, especially compared to our respective homes.  My last training run for this race was a 3 hour girls group run in -17degrees (F) weather.  Nikki had been training in temps as low at -30 in Montana.  Over 100degrees in temperature difference was bound to be a shock to the system, so we reveled in our morning goosebumps.

Race start with the Greeks. Spiros on my right. Prokopis on Nikki's left.

Race start with the Greeks. Spiros on my right. Prokopis on Nikki's left.


A short bus ride to the beach front start.  Runners of all distances funneled down the colorfully flagged path to the start line.  The helicopter rose from the nearby town of Dholviria and Gael gave the quick brief countdown to the start.  100+ runners tore off down the beach, some quickly, others like myself and Nikki settling into the long day.  The helicopter swooped through the sky, camera men hanging out the side to capture this initial energy of the race.  I felt caught up in the pace of so many runners, but enjoyed the movement, running rather than cooped up in a plane or car.  The sunrise was spectacular and little did we know we would watch it traverse the sky and slip us back into darkness before we would find our day's finish line.

Before beginning Nikki and I admitted our early season fitness feelings and opted to stay together and make it a shared adventure.  As the course unfolded before us, we quickly decided we made the right decision.  The course meandered through the high desert feeling terrain, twisting and turning to avoid thorns and brush.  With no visible path we ran ribbon to ribbon.  Just when I thought I figured out a flow to the course the direction would change. It became necessary to have both eyes on the terrain seeking out the next ribbon and double checking each other.

The night before I asked Apoorva, principle at The Outdoor Journal and organizer of the event, how long he thought the course might take.  His best guess?  12 hours.  I had hoped he would answer closer to 8-10 hours because it looked like a long flat beach run from the photos.  Six hours in at the 45k mark I realized his guess was much more accurate and that my hope was more the reality of my fitness.  I knew I could keep moving for 8 hours with my current fitness, maybe 10.  So halfway through the race I had to hit the reset button on expectations, this was going to be a long(er) day, one that tested me past what I was physically ready for.  

Gael didn't lie, the final 55k looked a lot like this...

Gael didn't lie, the final 55k looked a lot like this...

Gael appeared out of seemingly no where to wish us well on the remainder of the race. 

"What did you think of that first bit?"
"Much different than advertised, I thought the entire race was on the salt flat."
"I loved it!" Nikki gushed. "That is my kind of running."
"Well, from the next aid station you make your way onto the salt flat and run that all the way back."
"Thanks Gael! This is awesome!" we scurried down the rocky slop, Nikki a bit more daring than I.
"Surely he can't mean the entire final 50k is on the beach." I muttered.

At about the same time we heard footsteps join us from behind.  Rafael (German) and Prokopis (Greek) had spent a little time off course early in the day and were now catching back up.  I guessed they would cruise on past us, but instead we made our way into the next aid station together chatting.  At the aid station we made a bit of a scene for the locals that had gathered to watch.  I have never been photographed as much by race observers as we were in India.  Everyone has a phone and it seemed everyone was snapping photos or video as we passed.  Hunger had hit and I indulged in the local food provided at the aid station.  It is embarrassing how much and how quickly I can devour calories.  Nikki's stomach had turned south in the afternoon heat and her intake rapidly decreased trying to manage her gag reflex.  

Gael didn't lie.  We literally ran the flat, wide open expanse of beach back to the finish area.  Aid stations were supposed to be 5kms a part, but as in every first year event there is a bit of figuring out the details.  We fell into rhythm running and enjoying the tents when we came upon them.  We snapped photos trying to capture the amazing vastness and entertained each other with random chatter, a few songs and eventually turned inward each of us plugging in to our own playlists.  Rafael started the trend and was soon sprinting ahead of us wildly pumping his fists in the air and sometimes spreading his arms wide to fly.  Nikki and I followed suit and stayed stride for stride, bopping along to our different playlists.  Rafael seemed long gone and Prokopis was a couple hundred meters back.

I caught site of the next tent before Nikki did, but didn't say anything for fear I was imagining it.  She soon looked up and pointed ahead.  In unison, we removed our ear buds and opted to run till the tent was upon us or the vision disappeared.  As we neared we picked out a figure walking back towards us. The orange shirt and white compression socks were a dead giveaway.  Rafael had dropped his pack and hauled three colas back for us to enjoy in the final stretch to the aid.  Prokopis joined us before we were ready to leave and with only two aid stations to go (and we thought only 8km) we geared up with headlamps and headed out together all keeping a similar pace.  In only a few more kilometers we were upon another aid station with a flag that said 10km to go.  We had to laugh.  With nothing to do but finish we carried on, each pushing the other by refusing to walk.  

Aid Station cheer

Aid Station cheer


The nearly full moon rising was a spectacular reward to endure the dark hours.  Not bright enough to aid in our route finding, it was beautiful to dim the lights and look up at the sky full of stars.  Now well over 10 hours it was evident to me that the remaining miles would be run on experience and the encouragement of our small group.  We found ways to laugh, we kept each other on course and we even choreographed a finish line Monkey Walk in the final kilometer of the course.  Our 4-way tie roughly an hour behind the Hungarian winner was greeted by a few photographers, runners from other race distances and the finish line crew.  Small cow bells were hung around our necks and the four of us continued to enjoy each other's company creating a few more photos and laughing at our motivating silliness on the course.

In front of our tent with the German - Rafael.

In front of our tent with the German - Rafael.

Following the buzz of finishing and the relief of removing packs, shoes and dirty clothes our creature comforts became quickly evident.  Nikki opted to bathe, I headed for food.  The small white lights decorating the trees offered enough light for me to see there were plenty of people enjoying the post run atmosphere.  I filled my tupperware (refusing to use disposable ware) with a healthy pile of rice and a variety of curries.  The tandoors were pumping out naan and roti both favorites of mine.  I was not shy to try both.

I joined a table with a couple of girls and Apoorva's mother, Nandini.  The two girls had finished the 21km and were amazed at how difficult the terrain was and how much slower their times were... but they loved it.  Nandini checked up on me and asked about Nikki.  A Mom for us away from home.  She was happy to give us hugs on the course and encouraged us along as the miles added up.  Nikki joined us smelling much better and looking refreshed.  I suddenly became a little conscious of my own filth, but not too self conscious as my huger still dominated my immediate need.  The girls asked tons of questions, curious about the 101km distance.  I was curious about the extra 1km.  The simple answer was that 1 is an auspicious number and brings good luck/fortune/karma.  Better to end on the 1.

In this first year event I was amazed at how much detail was pulled together.  In a short two months Gael, Apoorva and their team managed to create a small village, draw an international field, scout a route, hire catering, timing, gather media and sponsors and create tourism to the distant town of Dholviria.  It is not often that I attend a first year event, as I find it best to let the RD's work out the bugs.  The opportunity to visit India through the lens of running drew me in and I was not disappointed.

Sunset on the never ending horizon

Sunset on the never ending horizon

Gear list:
UltrAspire prototype pack
Patagonia Duckbill hat
Julbo ?? sunglasses
Patagonia Forerunner Tank
Patagonia (womens sample) Strider PRO Shorts

Patagonia Turnaround sports bra
Patagonia l/w merino wool ankle socks
Patagonia Tsali 3 shoes
Patagonia Forerunner long-sleeve shirt
Patagonia hooded Houdini jacket
chapstick
sunscreen

Fuel:
First Endurance EFS liquid shot
Clif bloks and Honey Stinger chews
Clif Z-bars & Fruit Twists (both kids food)
Endurolytes
local cuisine - rice and naan mostly
cola

Chad

I just read some articles about Chad and I'm nailed by a wall of emotion.  I don't think I've processed or been able to process because of everything that is going on while overseas in India.  Just before dinner I was looking through some messages, found articles in the New York Times and the Seattle Times and started to read them.  It let my mind go there for the first time and I had to dismiss myself from the group.  All of the conversation that is going on amongst the lodge guests where we are staying just didn't carry any weight to me, and all I could think about is that he's gone.  

I will never forget this night.  Sitting on the edge of a beautiful king size bed dressed completely in white.  There are wet spots near the center from my leaky eyes.  Now, my legs are spread to accommodate the picnic table that was brought inside to hold a fragrant Indian meal.  There is a chair opposite me, but I prefer the bed.  The sweetest guy delivered my dinner and nearly also received the story of my sadness, but I stopped myself before overwhelming the perfect stranger who is so caring that it seemed natural to share.  So instead, I write.  

A very good friend of mine has died doing what he loved most.  It was not his time and it was not his way to go.  Chad always assured me he was safe in the mountains.  In my sisterly way I would tell him to be safe, to come home to us and tell me the stories.  He wanted to grow old.  We wanted to grow old together in our adventures and sharing.  We already joke about how our bodies don't work like they used to.  I'm not super familiar with death in that I have not yet lost many close friends or family members in my adult life and I wasn't ready for the news of Chad passing.  It literally shocked me as I came to know while visiting the literal other side of the planet.  Two o'clock in the morning after a full day of travel and still waiting for our final flight I connected to the internet and the messages from friends started pouring in.  Fortunately Nikki was there and put a hand on my forearm as I started sucking in air that didn't seem to come and whispering, no.  no.  Not him.  Searching for more information to confirm the horrible.

Nikki took charge and ensured we made our next flight and currently we are not far from the geographical center of India.  Our time is 12.5 hours ahead of Colorado; half way around the world and half way around the clock.  There are two large plates in front of me full of a sampling of traditional Indian street food as well as a smattering of kabobs prepared earlier in the cooking class provided to lodge guests.  I awkwardly pick around the plate.  Dinner alone, sitting on the footend left corner of the bed staring blankly at the wall and trying to focus on the flavors of the dishes rather than blankly put food in my mouth.  Thoughts flit through my mind making me laugh and cry, sounds shared only with these four foreign walls.  My appetite is suffering, but I know I need to eat.

He is such a good person and I really don't think it was his time.  He is the one I labeled survivor.  He had so much hardship and loss in his life and yet he pushes forward with such focus, determination, humility and love for everyone around him.  He never boasts or brags, he just does.  He wants the simple things, his needs are basic.  My impression: He wants to climb.  He wants love.  He wants to provide.  He wants to fuel.  He wants community.  

If Chad wants to do something, he figures out a way.  Asking for help is a last resort.  The guy works his ass off in his construction business so that he can make the money necessary to pay his mortgage and go climb.  Intense.  Everyone that met Chad would soon after describe him with a simple phrase "that dude as intense".  Even if Chad was the lightest version of himself you could sense the intensity that powered him, that created his presence.  Every day is a schedule to fit in exactly what he wants to do.  Meditate, work, climb/workout, spend time with loved ones and eat, often blending those that he can.  He recently found a girl he is crazy about and she him.  They are each other's person.  I love seeing him so at ease and happy.  

Even though he is a couple of years older than me I treat him like my little brother.  I always worry about him, give him advice, especially about relationships, even when he didn't maybe want it and prioritized him when ever we were in the same town.  He leads by example never forcing anything but always open to share what he was tweaking with his diet, training or meditation practice.  He always shows genuine interest in my adventures and we have a great time sharing travel stories and experiences.  He is one that taught me how to climb with grace instead of strength.  And he shows amazing grace to everyone around him.  I don't think the guy ever has a bad thing to say about anyone.  Even the nay-sayers that diss on his accomplishments - he just writes it off that they must have something else going on. I'm not just saying these things because he's gone and everyone remembers the best things about people when they are gone.  Chad really is and always will be that person to me.

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Moving forward with First Endurance

August 2004, nearly 10 years ago!  Multiple back to back days of training.  Running 15-25 miles a day on the Wasatch 100 course.  Karl Meltzer was my guide and even though I thought I needed to cover the entire course he wouldn't hear of it.  

"You don't need to do that many miles Krissy.  You'll just beat yourself up."

So instead, the Ol' Speedgoat picked the choice sections and met me at the ending trailhead so that we could shuttle cars.  He always put the big white jug with a black lid in the finish trailhead car.  A jug that I would come to appreciate over our multiple days of training.

We'd shuttle around to the starting point for the day, talking mostly about what it is like to run 100 miles.  I was nervous and excited in the planning for my first at Wasatch a few weeks later.  At the trailhead we loaded our packs with treats, water and salt pills and took off down the trail.  Stride for stride for a bit, but then soon Karl's pace would quicken as he warmed up and got into his groove.  We had agreed that he would leave gel wrappers for me at trail intersections so I would know which way to go.  I was impressed that he managed to suck every last gooey drop out of each packet, so garbage duty really wasn't that bad.  At major trail junctions he would wait entertaining himself with the view and then we'd carry on.

At the end of the first day he encouraged me to try a couple scoops of this new recovery drink.  He was working with a new nutrition sponsor and was impressed with the quality of the product.  Robert, the owner, lived right there in Salt Lake and according to Karl was the nicest guy.  One thing of many things I appreciate about Karl is how straightforward he is.  When he tells you he likes something it is because he really likes it.  Likewise he's brutally honest enough to let you know when he hates it.  Thank you for the honesty.

Really, the proof was in how I felt and continue to feel.  The Ultragen recovery drink by First Endurance is jam-packed with nutrition meant for recovery.  This is not your afternoon sipping drink.  The calories and focused sugar and protein content are made for post-run (or endurance exercise) chugging.  I got to the point that I was craving it and asking Karl for my two scoops before he could offer.  The great part is I still crave Ultragen as I near the end of a long run.  

First Endurance has come out with additional Ultragen flavors and I have definitely worked through the product line finding many more supplements that help with training and recovery as well as race performance.  I now have a personal relationship with Robert and feel connected to this brand that cares about the performance of their athletes. (I feel they consider all athletes their athletes, so welcome to the club!)  Personally I am going on 10 years of using First Endurance products.  To be Speedgoat honest - it is no secret that there are other products that I train and race with.  Everyone realizes that when we are out there for hours and hours a little variety is helpful and encouraged.

Thanks Speedgoat for that introduction oh so many years ago!

Here's to many years to come!

 

I'm a WFR

I’m a WFR!  I’m pretty excited about it too.  Those ten days the alarm sounded around 5am so that I could squeeze in something that resembled a workout be it a run, swim or weights.  Before sunrise I found myself back in the kitchen, blending the smoothie I’d concocted the night before and heating Bhakti chai with homemade almond milk on the stove.  The chai mixture would likely boil over and extinguish the stove’s flame while I raced around dressing, brushing my teeth (usually skipping a shower to save time) and packing my backpack to get out the door by 7:30am and maneuver the snowy, icy drive across town.  The beautiful Colorado days unfolded in front of me, caffeine firing my sleepy brain and the sun just illuminating the flat irons.  Did I really run already, or was that just a dream?

WFR (pronounced woofer) is the acronym for Wilderness First Responder.  The Wilderness Medicine Institute provides a curriculum that is taught over a 9 or 10 day course.  The 10 day course has a built in “off” day, which was nice as I was able to squeeze in a longer run to keep me sane. 

#cheeseballs on Green Mtn.

#cheeseballs on Green Mtn.

Stepping into the classroom on day one was a blast into the distant past.  I can’t remember the last time I had to pull up a chair in a U-shaped grouping of tables and sit next to a perfect stranger.  With our common interest of love for the great outdoors, strangers quickly became familiar friendly cohorts and the group seemed to gel before we reached our first lunch break.  Thrown into classroom style learning, shared real life encounters and experiences followed by practical scenarios outside on the grass (day 1) and then snow (the rest of the course) kept the hands on the clock spinning fast and 5pm rolled around before we knew it.

Amidst the classroom attendance and required night time reading there seemed barely any time to accomplish much else.  I set an auto-response on my email accounts and hoped that nothing too pressing would enter my inbox.  I gained huge appreciation for what it takes to get everything done in a day when 9 hours are occupied (job, class, whatever) another hour in commute and a couple for working out.  There is not much time left for sleep, cooking/eating let alone paying bills, managing emails or heck finding time to engage with friends/family.  I found myself having to prioritize projects and mostly pushing tasks off till I knew the course was over.  The Chuckanut 50k registration opened that first day of class and thanks to UltraSignUp.com everything went pretty smoothly and the few tweaks were quickly fixed by the man behind the scenes, Mark Gilligan.

traction splint for a fractured femur SCENARIO

traction splint for a fractured femur SCENARIO

Our days filled with acronyms, outlines, details, specifics and generalizations and as we quickly learned a test in our acting skills.  We each took turns playing the roll of a wilderness patient in the daily scenarios to help the rest of our classmates learn.  I found myself daydreaming scenarios I might create for the class while bracing my “broken collar bone” and simulating low blood sugar.  I appreciated these hands on learning opportunities as well as the chance to get outside and put to use the lessons the instructors taught indoors.  While giving us an opportunity to practice, I also felt many more lessons were reveled.  More than the text printed in the course outline and text book, I took away more life lessons.

* Use your judgment.  Intuition is key 

So often in life we are driven to ask “What if…” and “How do I…”.  It seemed any time one of these questions was asked the instructors would respond with “Use your judgment.”  Those words are empowering.  Think.  Be present.  The best outcome will appear when we trust our gut.

* Community is created with face time  

I’m not talking FaceTime on the iPhone.  In fact put those screens away!  Humans know this, yet when sitting with a group lately I feel it is more common to see most staring south with their face brightly illuminated by a tiny screen. In the classroom setting the instructors kept us engaged with them and with each other.  We had the opportunity to connect with each other in class discussions, during short breaks and through physical contact during scenarios, all quickly building familiarity.  My phone barely made it out of my pack from 8-5 each day and only then was to check on the status of my sister who was in surgery for a blown ACL.  Staying present and focused reigned best and when I did dive into the screen I noticed how quickly I lost touch.  By the time the class came to a close I felt a familiarity like I had known a lot of my classmates for much more than 10 days, but in the same instance realized I didn’t know many details.  Just time together sharing information, performing exams in scenarios and finding reasons to laugh brought the group of 31 into a sense of community.  (29 students, 2 instructors).

* Working together means knowing yourself

This often means knowing the difference of when to step back or to step forward or knowing when falling somewhere right in the middle benefits the group.  Learning your individuals strengths and weaknesses will help you be a better team member and contributing member to your small group and in any other life interaction you can imagine.  Typically I am happy to step forward and prefer to know and understand where a situation is headed.  Here I found myself consciously and verbally asking to take a more secondary position so that I could work on another roll.

* Create efficiencies

1) Cooking/prepping breakfast and lunch the night before so I only need grab the containers from the fridge and add to my pack.  The Vitamix already packed with my smoothie ingredients made for a quick turn around after stumbling in the door after an icy morning run.

2) I basically wore the same clothing each day changing out the baselayers for hygiene purposes, I didn’t have much to think about in my morning dash to get out the door. 

* long johns or tights

* warm ski socks

* waterproof pants

* sports bra & underwear

* t-shirt

* long sleeve hoodie

* down sweater jacket

* down sweater vest

* rain jacket

* boots or approach shoes (depending on temp)

* down mittens

* wool glove liners

* beanie

* sunglasses

3) I left workout clothes, shoes and my yoga mat in my car on the chance I could squeeze in a second workout on the way home each night.  As the first night showed (I hadn’t added these things to the back of Simba yet), when I went straight home after class I likely wouldn’t make it back out the door.

* Maintaining focus and energy

By day five it was pretty apparent that everyone was a little tired from the schedule, including myself.  We all powered through knowing day six was a day off.  By powered through I mean I am giving serious credit to the instructors and the students in class.  Everyone stayed engaged asking and answering questions.  We moved around to stay alert and took the scenarios seriously.  It is easy to get through.  It is better to get the most out of the experience by putting as much as you can in and therefore reaping more benefit.  Our instructors were awesome in creating an environment that made focus and presence required and enjoyable.

 

The class wrapped up with a practical and 100 question multiple choice exam on Sunday.  Since then I packed my bags and hopped a flight to sunny Ventura, California to log some miles with teammates Jeff, Luke and Jenn.  We've had a great time running and eating the last couple of days and capturing the fun with Patagonia media staff Stuart, Jeff and Andrew.  My mind rolls through a lot of the information I learned during those ten days and I can't help but share thoughts and factoids as we cruise along these trails.  Well put by Luke - "You just spent 10 days with a fire hose of information pouring down your throat, it makes sense you are still processing."

For ten years I have felt the need to enroll in this course, I am super psyched I finally did it and encourage anyone that spends time in the wilderness to take the time for some specific training.

Smoothie Options

Every day during my WFR course I concocted a different collection of ingredients for a yummy, calorically dense smoothie.  You can get an idea from the following (starred  “*” ingredients being my favorites and guaranteed daily inclusions.)  I’m not much for measuring, so the following are estimates of my dumping ingredients into the Vitamix.

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Always in:

* 1 frozen banana

* about a thumb sized peeled & chopped piece of raw ginger (chopping into chunks is key so you don’t get the stringy pieces)

* two handfuls of burly greens (kale, chard, collard greens, spinach)

* 4 mejool dates

* 1 heaping tsp Maca powder

* 2 T 7 Sources Oil (more like 2 good “glugs” pouring straight into the blender)


Sometimes in:

1-2 carrots

2 T peanut butter

1 scoop protein powder

½ cup juice

½ cup homemade almond milk (this is easy! I’ll post a how to on that too)


Additional fruit combos:

1 C frozen blueberries

1 peeled orange and 1 peeled lemon

1 cored pear

… basically whatever I had in the basket