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

Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp

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

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.


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.


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.


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

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


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.


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 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.


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

Going light on the Torres del Paine "W"

 Author: Murray

Author: Murray

Ridiculous.  This is silly.  I am on display for the world to see and I know I don't look a thing like anyone around me.  For starters I'm only 9 inches tall, okay maybe 7.  My hair grows in only on the very tippy top of my head and is bright yellow.  It goes well with my red fur and people say it brings out my eyes.  I have a large smile and am always ready with open arms.  Of course she is going to take me with her... I'm freaking adorable.

She's got me tucked into the back pocket of her backpack staring down the world.  I'm here so she knows she's not alone. And, I've got her back just in case someone gets any ideas.  My thought, if they see the silly Murray hanging out, smiling, why would someone even think to give her grief?  The bonus for me is I've got a great view taking in her opposite vista and enjoying the protection of the shield she provides from the wind.  Sometimes it gets a little crammed back here with all of the water bottles, jackets and gloves.   In the morning I have this pocket to myself, but by afternoon when the sun starts to warm the earth and her skin, the clothing layers peel away and are subsequently stuffed into my space.  It works though.  Heck, I have no room to complain, I've got a free ride on the "W".

The morning we leave she leaves the bigger backpack at the hotel and loads me along with everything else she will need for a couple of days hiking into her Titan Ultraspire pack, which isn't much.  The blue of the pack is another great compliment to my coloring and I know the photos will look amazing.  Little did I know that the scenery we were about to witness would take my breath away.  I quickly realized my coloring had nothing to do with the amazing appearance of the memories captured with that little phone device.

I've heard her talk about her adventures on trails and I've peaked over her shoulder at a few photos, but I had no idea what power resided in those two legs.  I am not talking physical power.  I am talking about knowledge being power. When you know you can move like that, that no matter what, those pistons and engine can carry you where ever you want to go... that is a kind of power few know and those that do, cherish.  I can just tell.  The trails we covered the terrain we passed over, the many hours to go various distances, the time out all day long... it was a kind of power that is enabling.   It is not something that these ultrarunner people take for granted, it is something they develop, train and utilize to empower them through life.  They are not dependent on vehicles or  the pocket on someones backpack to get them from here to there.  To explore the world under your own power... strong, powerful, willful. Amazing. Lucky.  


No one was in a rush to get out the door on Sunday morning.  I think I heard something about post-race sore legs and hungry bellies as the morning hours ticked by and plans formulated on the route we would pass, how many days we would be out and where we might stay along the way.  I was ready.  I sat strapped into the back of her "mochila pequena" and smiled.  This was going to be awesome.

With this group I would have thought we would race out the door once we finally got going, but they continued the casual pace of the morning walking up the trail familiar to how they'd moseyed around the hotel lobby.  Those little phone/camera thingys flying out at every turn, preceded by gasping and ahhing and "did you see that?"  I envied the bigger backpacks I noticed on the other hikers as we moved past them, I thought - Imagine how comfy I would be in there!  And " I bet there are a lot more yummy things to eat and a comfier sleeping bag to share.   But alas, you trade comfort for mobility and speed it seemed and even though everyone was walking the two smallest backpacks quickly walked away from the rest of the group.    I bounced along and waved goodbye.  It was a long way to go that first day, and my legs started to feel a bit cramped all balled up in the pack, but I didn't say a thing.  There is NO way I could have kept up with these two.  


The way the landscape unfolded before us was completely unexpected for all of us. It seemed the consensus that we had no idea terrain could be this beautiful every step of the way.  I know she has seen many beautiful places in the world, but I heard her say multiple times that this is the most beautiful place ever.  How wonderful that I got to share it with her!  She reveled in the fact that the only access was "por pie" by foot.  Everyone that we met on the trail had to arrive by foot and therefore could only get to these remote and beautiful places under their own power.  Because of this there seemed to be a sense of unity.  It didn't matter the language, everyone made an attempt to communicate because we were all in the same place under the same power.

Some of my favorite vistas were on that first day of hiking.  The lakes meeting the mountains, the rocky beach just past the Refugio Cuerros, hiking back up into the French valley to top off the day were some of the highlights of that first full day of magnificent views.  Those two hardly shut up the entire hike, but their conversations were constantly interrupted by the beauty that surrounded us.  "Can you believe this?"  "Wait, did you see that?" It never failed that they would pick back up sharing stories, pondering issues, recounting race stories and like only good friends can do - continued to get to know each other better while enjoying the new discovery of the Chilean trails.

 The French Valley

The French Valley

That first night found us camping at the Italian camp in the middle of the "W" with the group we'd started with that morning. Thanks to the two lively CU grads the entire group enjoyed the added comfort of heated water to compliment their dinner and breakfast the following morning.  The excellent hosts provided a cozy evening on "the beach" (the sandy spot with an awesome view, just outside of camp) filled with more conversation, views of the grand mountains and the serenades of the avalanches.  Talk about power!!  What first resembled thunder resulted in the view of snow cascading like a waterfall off the nearby slopes, but far enough away that the view was enjoyed rather than feared.


Sleep did not come easily.  I believe the three of us spent most of the night trying to get comfortable and stay warm.  Going light has its advantages and now very apparent disadvantages.  In spite of donning every piece of clothing possible both fidgeted and squirmed throughout the night.  I was cozy in my little red suit, but didn't get much for sleep while they tossed and turned.  Dawn didn't come soon enough, but eventually the process of tucking everything away into those tiny packs, including me, started and the sleepy campers started walking again.  A relaxed stop once again at "the beach" to warm them from the inside both in hot beverage and caffeine I could tell it was time to go as the sleepy, quiet campers started buzzing in conversation and even from the back of her back I could sense the energy building in her legs for the miles of trail that lay ahead for that day.  

A mellow 7.5km to the Paine Grande Lodge.  The trail traversed away from the mountains and didn't undulate as much as the previous day so they were able to move a bit quicker when the cameras weren't stopping them along the way.  When the lodge came into sight to two rejoiced, literally.  They had taken the chance on their packaged meals, eating everything with the assumption that they would be able to find the next source of calories at the lodge.  Once confirmed by talking to the camp host they opted to minimize their packs and only carry the few items needed to hike the left arm of the W up to Lago Grey.  An out and back with a guaranteed dinner, shower and bed.  I think their smiles matched mine in size and appreciation.

I could tell the two were a little tired, likely from the poor night sleep.  The conversation didn't stopped, but in spite of less weight on their backs the pace slowed a bit.  More photo opportunities helped them recover, but we definitely weren't covering ground like before.  Perhaps the rough night of sleep was taking a toll, perhaps the race miles were kicking in a bit.  It wasn't a problem, moving slowly along the ridge above Lago Grey was a beautiful way to pass the afternoon hours.

The refugio near the Grey Glacier was a welcome sight and the two enjoyed a bit more fuel before starting the decent.  With only one pack, the two put their few things in the Titan.  She carried it up the trail and he carried it back down.  With the temperatures dropping my little back pocket was filled with water bottles which made it a bit less comfy.  The bottles having a mind of their own and wanting more of the space they bummed and pushed me around.  When they started the final descent back to the lodge from Lago de Pato I'd had it.  Enough bouncing around, I'm outta here!  And without a word to either human I opted to give this walking thing a try and hit the trail.  


Free!  Dirt surrounded me, large plants soared above me.  The breeze rippled through my yellow wispy hair and red fur.  Quite a different perspective down here 7 inches from the ground.  I can't see over anything anymore and I instantly craved the views of the snowy mountains and glacier green lakes.  And forget about covering any ground when these legs cover inches instead of feet per step.  Maybe this wasn't such a great idea.  Hmmm.  Now what?  I didn't have to ponder this question for too long.  Before I knew it, a kind man with a large backpack scooped me off the trail and attached me to the side strap of his large pack.  As he continued his quick pace I heard them journey back up the trail to find me, but I was already strapped to the nice man's backpack in route for the Lago Grey lodge again, but this time under the stars.  Thankful to be five feet higher I took in the night and the views once again.  He moved quite quickly with good rhythm as the dark settled around us.  I dozed off wondering if I would ever see her again.


Through the amazing communication of walkie talkies I was passed on to a couple descending the route the following morning, dropped at Paine Grande that afternoon and passed on to some friends of hers.  Before I knew it I was handed over and we were reunited again.  This time on a bus, leaving the spectacular mountains.  What a journey!


I think our smiles matched in size once we were together again.  I could see her excitement about their last two days hiking. First they made the journey back along the bottom of the "W" and enjoyed a super comfy night at Hotel de los Torres.  To finish up the right arm of the "W" they opted rise early, go light and run/hike up to the base of the Torres (towers).  Apparently this was the best finish for the W hike with the views, varied terrain, and inspiring aspect from the base of the towers.  A spectacular morning and they had the place mostly to themselves.  She promised that we would come back and bring friends that want to experience the power of this magnificent place. 

A few more travel days passed in the towns of Puerto Natales and Punto Arenas before started the long journey back to Boulder.  With the love and passion she has for travel I have no doubt that this is only the beginning of many more adventures for me and further continuation of exploring the world for her.  As far as I'm concerned, I don't care how ridiculous I look, I'm game to ride along in the backpack where ever this chick wants to take me.

If you are looking for help to plan a trip in Torres del Paine I was recently (June 2018) introduced to a new site inspired by our 2013 travels.