Tuesday, September 27, 2011


It's been hard for me to come up with something to write about this week.  My emotions have been all over the map for various reasons that I do not want to get into.  Maybe it's coming down off of the 100-miler, but maybe it's due to other things in my life as well.  I really don't have much to complain about.  I have a great life with a great job and great friends, and the two sweetest fluffy dogs a girl could wish for (even if Artemis rolled in something stinky on our dogwalk Friday evening).

I think the thing that brings things all into perspective for me is my running.  It's now Fall, and you can feel it in the air.  You can see the change in seasons in the way the light filters through the colored leaves on the trail, making you feel as if you are walking through one of the most beautiful stained-glass cathedrals of Europe.

I went on the most beautiful, inspiring run above Park City this past week, up to Pinebrook.  There's a bench on an overlook made out of a ski lift chair.  I didn't really feel like running when I started out ~ I felt more like crying.  But I spent some time on that bench just reflecting on my life.  And it made me feel so at peace.  After what some might call a meditation, I was able to run four more miles with the dogs.  Through the colored leaves and the golden sunlight of Autumn.

Several days later I went up to the Uintas with my friend Sue, and again with the dogs.  We ran on one of our favorite trails.  We ran through spruce forests and past mountain lakes, past rocky, magnificent cliff bands that towered over us and through grasses turned golden and dotted with blue flowers.  Mount Timpanogos peaked around a corner to grace our view as we ran through a high mountain meadow.  It was the kind of run that makes you feel like a hero.  It was the kind of day with a good friend and dogs that makes you wonder why you worry about all those other little things in life. 

This is the season that brings things into perspective ~ Fall.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Give it time... it will get better

"Destiny rarely follows the pattern we would choose for it and the legacy of death often shapes our lives in ways we could not imagine.  Death comes to everyone in their time--to some a parting, to some a release."  --M. Wylie Blanchet

When I think of this year compared to this time last year, sometimes I am in disbelief as to the gravity of contrast in all aspects of my life.  I don't want to jinx myself or sound too confident, because I know this life is a roller coaster and that things can change suddenly at a moment's notice either for good or for bad. I think the most important thing to remember is that things do change and they will change.  (For a review of what happened last year, click here.)The last few days I've taken the opportunity to take a look back and compare the differences, take a cleansing deep breath, and be thankful for what today brings:

Last year:  after a summer of beautiful mountain running, I entered my 100-mile event and ended up injured and DNF'd at mile 62.
This year:  after a summer of beautiful mountain running and some road running here in Salt Lake City (thanks in part to the efforts of my awesome coach), I entered and finished my 100-mile event and earned my long-awaited belt buckle.

Last year:  after quitting my (miserable) job for the summer, i was running out of money, had built up some credit card debt, and was planning on taking a travel job to rural Nevada.
This year:  I've paid my credit card debt, have a great job at an awesome clinic here in Salt Lake City, and am planning on sticking around for a while, but am grateful for the things that I learned on my travel assignments which have helped me to become a stronger medical provider and individual.

Last year:  in October, my dad actually called me on my birthday:  something that I think he had never done without a reminder in all the years of me growing up.  He was in a hospital in Germany, and would die a few weeks later.
This year:  I'm able to hold fond memories of my dad, someone whom I always had a challenging relationship with to say the least.  My brother and I have inherited our dad's house in Germany and plan on vacationing there at least once a year.

Last year:  my German language skills were pretty rusty, and I hadn't seen my German aunt and uncle in about 15 years.  My brother and I showed up on their doorstep one day in Germany to invite them to our father's funeral.
This year:  my German language skills are much improved! and my German aunt and I are actually Facebook friends and comment on each other's status and photos.  Who would have thought!

Last year:  my brother and I had no idea the financial impact of my dad's not having a last will and testament would have on us.
This year:  my brother and I have somehow managed to keep the bills paid and negotiate the probate process, and can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  We might still even be friends after the whole thing is said and done! :)

Last year:  my brother got married to a red-headed spit-fire of a girl up in Idaho, a girl whom I really didn't know.
This year:  I consider myself to have a true sister, and one who will look out for our best interests, enhance the communication of our family, and bring a whole new (positive) element to our family dynamic.

Last year:  I slowly made it up to the top of Mt Timponogos with my friend Sue, several weeks after my Wasatch 100 attempt, and still felt injured while doing it (but had fun, nonetheless!)
This year:  I'm planning on a ~40 mile circumnavigation of the Portneuf Range in Southeastern Idaho (with Sue!), in celebration of my 40th birthday and I've never felt stronger.

I could keep listing the differences between this year and last, but I think you get my point.  There were definitely some high points last year, but all in all it was quite a challenge, and I'm so glad I kept my chin up and powered through those challenges to become a stronger person.  Sometimes it was difficult to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel or that things would get better with time.  Today is proof that things will get better with time if you just hang in there.  Here's to hoping this positive trend continues on for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/10/11 and the monkey is off my back

top of the first climb, above Layton, Utah
It's been nine years and three DNFs in the making.  Way back in 2002 was my first drop, at mile 75.  Then I decided to try it again in 2003, only to drop again at mile 75.  This was followed by several years of mountain biking and a smattering trail running here and there, purely on a just-for-fun basis.  The bug caught me again though, in 2009 when I paced my friend Eve for 25 miles to a 34 hour finish at Wasatch 100.  I decided to go for it again, and in 2010 my hopes and dreams were yet again dashed at mile 62.  I had run 22 miles on a bum knee (the pain actually started at mile 40 but I continued on to mile 62, almost in disbelief that I would DNF for a third time at this race).  I was extremely disappointed in myself and felt as though I had let my friends down, who had dedicated so much of their own time and energy to my effort.  I was also a little embarrassed, and wondered if I even really had 100 miles in me.

thunderstorms over the Wasatch from Alexander ridge
After several encouraging comments over the winter, I decided to enter the lottery once again to try and finish Wasatch.  And to my surprise, I got in.  I was almost hoping that my name wouldn't be drawn, and that the opportunity to run could be given to someone else who wanted it more, like my friend Brian whose name was not drawn.

Ashley has a 3mph internal clock that got me to the finish with time to spare

I took it as a sign.  My name was drawn to run this race, because as several people had put it, "This is the year.  I can feel it."  There was a reason that my name was drawn to run this race, and I was going to give it everything I had.  First things first, hire a coach.  My on-line coach, Ian, is also an acquaintance of mine from running events in years past and a friend of a friend, and I knew that I would be able to communicate well with him for the 3 months leading up to the race.  I had already been running for a couple of months after transitioning from ski touring, and I felt like I had a strong foundation.

Mrs Speedgoat, Cheryl, my night pacer
I worked for three months with the training plan that Ian set up for me.  It was so great to have someone planning my weeks and mileage and time, and giving me feedback on how I was progressing.  It was also great to have someone to report to and answer to!  I think I missed maybe 2 or 3 days of training in 3 months.  I took the plan seriously in order to give myself the best chance of getting to my goal. 

I ran consistently well all summer, until about 3 weeks before the race when I developed bilateral lower leg pain after running King's Peak in a Day with my friend Sue.  No matter what I did (acupuncture, massage, taping, resting, stretching, foam roller... you name it) it never really went away 100% and I was so afraid that my hopes for finishing Wasatch would again be dashed by an injury.

into the darkness that would soon be 2nd morning
I muddled through the week before the race a bundle of nerves.  Trying not to think about all of the little aches and pains that I was having, spending way too much money on massage therapy (which I'm now very glad that I did!), trying to eat but so nervous that my appetite had diminished (my friend Sallie took me to lunch on Wednesday and practically force-fed me.  Thanks, Sallie!).  I think I was pretty much a mess.  I talked to Ian on Tuesday afternoon and he reassured me that I had done all the hard work needed, and that I could have confidence going into the event.  I worked on Wednesday and Thursday and wonder what my work-colleagues thought of me, but going to work actually helped to take my mind off of some of my race nerves.

deliriously happy at Point Supreme
I showed up to the pre-race meeting at Sugarhouse Park on Thursday afternoon and had a good chat with several friends, and my mind was oddly set at ease.  I think one of the biggest boosts of confidence I got was following the Gore-Tex Trans Rockies race on-line two weeks before my race.  If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a 6-day stage race from Buena Vista to Vail, Colorado with teams of two, who race about 15-20 miles per day everyday without a break.  My coach competed in this race and it was so great for me to know that this amazing athlete was also in a sense on my team.  He knows what he is talking about and backs his words up with amazing effort and results.

raising the roof at the Homestead finish line
Race day in itself is such a blur in my memory today, only one day after the finish.  It is a blur of happiness, pain, nausea (and one episode of vomiting in the Brighton bathroom after trying to brush my teeth that I'd really like to try and forget), discouragement, elation, remorse,self-doubt, determination, love, and most of all relief.  So many people came out to see me cross the finish line.  So many more followed my progress on-line and sent me encouraging text messages and Facebook updates.  I know that I couldn't have done it without the support and love of all of these wonderful people.  But most of all, I know that I got it done because I believed in myself.

The monkey is gone.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Morning Glory on the Wasatch Crest

stellar morning above it all
The thing that got me up out of bed early this morning, at o'dark stupid o'clock, was thinking that this is my last early morning run before the big event next week.  I've been feeling tight all week; feeling little aches and pains in my legs and knees and trying not to let that seed of doubt sprout in my brain.  That little seed of doubt...

I get up everyday and run.  Not fast, mind you.  But quite far as most people would think of it.  I told a woman at work what I have been up to this summer, and she said to me, "Wow.  You must really like running."  I thanked her for not calling me crazy.  And she replied, "Well, that's what I was thinking, but I thought it was a lot nicer way of putting it, just saying that you must really like running."  And I thought to myself, how fortunate am I?  to be in a work environment where they don't just think i'm a crazy fool* and instead say, "that's so awesome!"
Cheryl enjoys the early morning view

So this morning, my friend Cheryl and I got up while most people chose to sleep in on this cool morning, with a hint of Fall in the air.  The only other crazy people who were up early today were probably those doing a huge mountain bike race in Park City.  Cheryl and I pulled into the Big Water parking lot at 6am, and had no trouble finding a parking place.  (When we finished, the lots were full, and people were starting to park on the road.  Thankful be the early morning trail-runner, for this reason and many others.)

It was 42 degrees as we set out on the trail, and we both commented on that fact.  That's about 10 degrees cooler than it was just one week ago when I ran from the same trailhead with Sue.  We took the "old trail" up to the junction of the Great Western, then took the little traveled "historic trail" up to the pass overlooking Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Cheryl spotted a moose up ahead, going the same direction we were, but we talked loudly and asked the moose not to bother us, and we didn't see her again.  The views from the pass were stellar.

Big Cottonwood ridgeline from the Wasatch Crest
We cruised down the trail and when we got to the parking lot, we were just shy of 10 miles.  I talked Cheryl into a short half-mile loop between the parking lots, and we finished the day with 10.5 miles in about two and a half hours.  Telling stories the entire time made the miles fly by, and took my mind off of all of the little aches and pains from the week.

We went and got breakfast bagels at the mouth of the canyon, and ran into our friend Jared.  He was babysitting a Tesla for a few weeks for a friend of his from California.  I was lucky enough to score a ride in the Tesla for a few miles (Jared took it out on the freeway) and marveled at the quiet, fast (to say the least) acceleration (the Tesla has an all electric engine and no gears, so it's just one smooth acceleration to get up to top speed and 15,000 rpms).  I think Jared backed off on the speed for me a little bit, but i'm sure we hit 100 briefly.  (Sorry, no photos of the Tesla, I had left my camera in my car.)

squinting in the early morning sun on the Wasatch Crest
What a stellar morning.  And a great way to calm the nerves with a glorious morning run, time with good friends, and a joy ride in a super sweet car!

*Although I might be a crazy fool.  That remains to be seen.  In any case, I'm a happy fool, as long as I can be out running in the mountains.