Friday, December 12, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge


My response to a friend's text "give me one word describing your race. I haven't looked at results yet"

And decent it was. 

Photo credit: Myke Hermsmeyer Photography/Ultra Race Photos
I had mixed feelings about the day, but overall I am very positive about the end of my 2014 season. Was this my best race? Nope. Was it a bad race? Far from it. In case you don't want to read the rest of this post, here are the cliff notes: I am thrilled with my 2014 season. It was a great year of running with many goals accomplished. I'm happy to have finished it off by standing on the podium. 

Some great interviews from pre- and post-race:


Post Race

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
The week leading up to TNF 50 was a little rough for me. Actually to be honest, 2-3 weeks leading up to TNF were a little rough for me. It started with a trip to Arizona, where I had the opportunity to run some beautiful trails in Tucson. Zach and I were enjoying a 2-3 mile long rocky uphill, and I said out loud "I can't wait to turn around and run down this. I'm so good at downhills. I never roll my ankle." Why I said those words I have no idea. I kid you not, within 10 steps of turning around to run downhill, I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle. Bad. It was a long commute, running with tear stained eyes, back out to the car. 

Them be ankle bitin' rocks

I saw my PT immediately when I got home, and he recommended just a few days off to let it heal. No real harm done, just an ankle sprain. Great. I took about 5 days off from running, then felt good enough to test the waters. Unfortunately my timing overlapped with a huge snow/ice storm in Bend, which left most of the running surfaces too treacherous to run. 

Coming home from AZ in flip flops to this...
That's saying a lot because I think of myself, having lived in Minnesota, the UP of Michigan, and Montana, a pretty darn good snow/ice runner. Honestly I don't usually have a problem running in the winter. But, this storm completely messed up even the roads!

 One afternoon I decided I was going to brave the elements. I convinced my good friend Natalie to try running outside with me. We ran on the flattest, most cleared roads and it was still pretty disastrous. It took us over and hour to run 5 miles. I'm surprised I didn't roll my ankle again.            

Not thrilled
With TNF 50 looming in the not so distant future, I turned to the treadmill. Mind you, I am NOT a treadmill runner. I run on a treadmill like once a year, and usually only for 20 minutes. In desperation to run, I did 3 DAYS of treadmill runs in a row.

Celebrating a day running on snowy roads!
Really it was only a few days of icky weather, but as my good timing continued, I started feeling sick just as the weather improved. And this cold lasted over 2 weeks.....right up until race day. However it did force me to do a nice taper :)

Race week I was planning to fly down a little early to visit Clif Bar and to meet with some other people. The airlines had other plans. My first flight on Monday was cancelled. No big deal. I was feeling pretty sick, so I was psyched to spend another night in my bed. I was rebooked for Tuesday afternoon. Cool. Tuesday came and my flight was cancelled again. In the process of trying to rebook I learned that the next available flight would be on Friday or Saturday. Ummm, not going to work. Instead of playing the standby game I decided to cut my losses and drive down to California. This actually worked in my favor because I convinced Zach to join me! He wasn't planning to come with, but who could resist a 10-hr road trip in the pouring/freezing rain?! I owe Zach for this one. Not only did he come with and keep me company, he also woke up at 3:00am to crew for me all day, then drove me home the next day :) 

Anyway, back to the race. TNF 50 is always a fun time to catch up with everyone. It's exciting to see my teammates and friends who are all down for one last hurrah before the end of the year. This year TNF rented a house in Mill Valley, which was a ton of fun! 

I was still feeling under the weather by race morning, but wasn't going to let it stop me. I had received some wise words from my coach, Ian Torrence, the day before. Don't think about being sick. Just shove some sugar in and keep running. And that became my race day motto. 

The start of TNF 50 is always exciting. It's dark and there is so much nervous energy in the air. When the gun went off, I found myself getting a little too caught up in the excitement of running. The first mile is paved and downhill, so it's easy to start too aggressively. I guess I probably started too fast, but I settled into my pace after the first mile. 

I wish I could say that I raced hard and battled all the way to the finish, but truth be told, I was out of contention early on. I just didn't have much fight in me. I lost Magda and Meghan after about 12 miles and then I was all by myself. I didn't have it in me to try to bridge the gap, so I just ran. Shoved some sugar in and kept going. 

Photo credit: BayTrailrunners 
And I smiled. That was one race goal I had promised Meghan Hicks in my pre-race interview. I would smile.

 There were some highs and lows and some nasty parts out on the trail. That's what I love most about ultra trail running- you never know what you are going to get. You have to be ready for anything. Probably the most treacherous part of the course was the 5 miles of single track from Cardiac to Stinson beach. The trail was a full on mud puddle and there was two way traffic the whole time.

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
I actually started to feel better in the last 10 miles or so. Don't get me wrong, I was tired, but I didn't feel quite as sick-y. Early on I was having a hard time finding a groove and just didn't feel like myself. But, as I crossed the finish line I smiled. I was proud of my effort and for not giving up. Plus, in the last 6 miles I played a little game with myself to see how many men I could pass. It was thoroughly satisfying :)

The aftermath
Sharing the podium with some fast ladies. And Dean :)
Photo credit: Nate Dunn
All in all I'm happy with my day. If I gave myself a report card it would look something like this:

Effort: A (I did the best I could under the conditions)
Attitude: A (I kept my head in the game and didn't give up)
Physical ability: C+ (My body wasn't cooperating, due to illness)

So that averages out to something like a "B" for my race, which is "decent".
My Strava race report

Thanks to all my sponsors and people out there crewing and cheering for me!

Gear Used
Shoes: The North Face Trail Equity
Shorts: The North Face Better than Naked Short
Top: The North Face Better than Naked Short-Sleeve
Arm Warmers: Flora 
Hydration: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Handheld
Fuel: Clif shot gels, bloks, mini Clif bars, and coke, about 200 kcal/hr
Headlamp: Black Diamond Icon 

Sunday, November 2, 2014


After a whirlwind couple of months, I've taken some time to appreciate the simple things. 

Sometimes we just need to take a moment. 

Be present. 

And be thankful for all the great things in our lives.

Crisp autumn mornings.

Trail Runs.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fall Tour

When I was younger I used to watch a show called "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Best. Show. Ever. Check it here.

Anyway, I've felt a little like "Where in the world is Stephanie?" Since early summer I've been on the road. A lot. It's been a lot of fun, and there are still a few upcoming trips, but it's really nice to be home! Fall in Bend is wonderful.

I've had some awesome opportunities recently. Without further ado, I present The Fall Tour:

Crested Butte

Hiking near Crested Butte
August started with a trip to Crested Butte for a friend's wedding. It was a short trip, but we were still able to enjoy some great scenery and see good friends :)

NMU & UAA College Teammates :)

Next up was a big one. 

My wedding

 I couldn't have asked for a better day, well week really. I wasn't stressed about it, so I enjoyed the whole week. It was fun to see so many good friends and family come to support us.

Post-wedding we spent a few days in Portland to celebrate. We did things like drink copious amounts of coffee, eat ice cream for breakfast (Salt and Straw), shop, visit OMSI, taste wine, and eat amazing food. Andina anyone?

Ice Cream for breakfast

Newly weds!

Run Rabbit Run

It was a brief trip and once we returned Zach headed out to chase Elk and I traveled to Steamboat Springs, CO. I was planning to race Run Rabbit Run 100. It was a bit of a stretch- I didn't exactly have a lot of time to prepare, but I thought I'd give it a try. I wanted to challenge myself. 

Early fall colors on the trails
Steamboat was a lot of fun! I had never been before, so I definitely took some time to check out the area. I had a little mishap in a parking lot right when I arrived (resulting in a broken nose. Ugh), that prevented me from doing too much. I still did a couple hike/runs and went to Strawberry Hot Springs. 

Getting excited to race!

Fish Creek Falls

Strawberry Hot Springs
Run Rabbit Run was not the race of my life. But, it was a good experience and I was proud of how I handled the race. 
Love these girls! (yes, we sort of planned the matching braids :)
I started out strong, feeling amazing. In fact, by around 40 miles I had a 40 minute lead. It was great! I was a little nervous about running through the middle of the night, but I had stashed lots of warm clothing (READ: down jacket) and various aid stations. And sure enough, around 2:00am my down jacket and hand warmers came in handy!

Early on
Photo: Paul Nelson
Sometime in the middle of the night my knee started hurting. I stopped in one of the aid stations for 5-10 minutes to warm up, and when I started running again my knee was not happy. So unhappy in fact that it forced me to walk the next 12 miles downhill. I was pretty sad. I still felt great and wanted to keep racing, but my knee was not cooperating. After some deliberation with my crew I decided to try walking the out and back back section (about 9 miles) and then make a decision. I already knew at that point what my decision should be though. 

Running through the night
Photo: Paul Nelson
It's really hard to pull out of a race that you are leading, especially when the rest of you feels great. But, I have learned from the past that it's not worth running through pain and ending up sidelined for months. So, I made the hard decision to quit at 4:00am, 78 miles in to RRR. 

I was sad, but also proud of myself for pulling the plug. It means I learned something in the last couple years. And, post-race my knee was feeling better after a couple weeks. Much better than sitting out the next several months. 

Bittersweet. But there's always next year :)

Try Something different

What do you do when a race doesn't go well? Jump in another sport! Ha. The day after I got back from Colorado there was a cyclocross race in Bend. I'd never done one before, so why not now? 

The race was a lot of fun and definitely lifted my spirits! I think I spent about a 1/3 of the race running next to my bike.... :)


I didn't have long to be bummed about RRR before my next trip. Three days in fact. Before I knew it my car was packed full of frozen plasma samples and I was on my way to Laramie, Wyoming. The final phase in my dissertation study was analyzing the blood samples I took in the spring for the appetite hormones. Since OSU doesn't have a lab equipped to analyze hormones (PYY, GLP-1, and ghrelin for you science geeks), we decided to collaborate with the University of Wyoming. 

The drive to Laramie was pretty, and it provided some distraction to the fact that I couldn't do anything active. I was also solo, which gave me a lot of time to think. About running. About the big picture. I needed it to help me reset.

While in Laramie I spent most of my free time in the lab. It was great. I secretly (or not so secretly) like to geek out on science stuff. It was really cool to learn the techniques and get one step closer to 
finishing my PhD!
This was my Friday night. Pipetting!
I did find some time to get out in the Snowy Mountains. So beautiful. I wasn't really ready to run yet, but I did a couple beautiful hikes.

 About halfway through my time in Laramie Zach flew out to join me! I was so excited that I got sick. Well, that's not really why I got sick, but unfortunately I came down with a killer cold. Bad timing. We still managed to get out for one hike together though.

Zach near the Gap Lakes


As soon as I finished in the lab I got in my car, drove to Salt Lake City, and was on a plane to Kauai. When I left Wyoming it was snowing. When I arrived in Kauai it was 85 and sunny. Talk about temperature extremes!

My favorite beach in Kauai

I  was only in Kauai for 72 hours, but I got to spend it running on the Na Pali coast trail, hanging out with some awesome people, and working on my tan lines :) Not too shabby!

Sage Canaday and I at 'the' waterfall on the trail 
Being a goofball


From Kauai I took a redeye to New York for a North Face media event. I had never been to the city before so I was super excited! I landed at 6:00am and planned to do some shopping and sightseeing, but instead crashed on my bed. I woke up at 5:00pm. Just enough time to eat dinner and go back to bed. Bummer- I totally slept away my free day :)

Rory and I getting ready for some rooftop Mountain Athletics!

Times Square
The North Face media event was a ton of fun though. I was with teammates Rory Bosio and Angel Collinson, and we sure had a blast. The event took place on a rooftop near Times Square. Lot's of energy and tons of fun!

Photo: Matteo Vettorel
Leading a Mountain Athletics workout
Photo: Matteo Vettorel

The next morning I was able to do a short run in Central Park before my limo (yes, limo) drove me to the airport. What? I just asked for a taxi, but I didn't turn down the ride. Good ending to the trip :)

View of the city from Central Park
Fall in Central Park


I am so excited to be back. I was on the road for over a month and really missed my husband, my friends, and my dog!

Top of South Sister

Best friends ever. Love you guys!

Riley Osama