15 days into the new year and here I am feeling refreshed from a nice holiday break. I have snow on the brain and if I don't get to play in some soon it won't be pretty! But for the immediate future, I feel satiated with some local running. On the BIG NEWS front - I heard from Newton and we'll be together again for another terrific year!! This marks SEVEN consecutive years of exclusively wearing Newton.
Nothing changes with X-Bionic either!!! After a year of playing, running and racing around the globe in all of their clothing, I couldn't be happier with the fit, feel, and performance. From the hottest place on the planet to frigid cold nights in Greece, this gear gave me everything I needed to keep it together to the end. Yeah!
And apparently a smile takes over my face every time I start lacing up my Newtons. Ahhhhh...running...I love it! <3
To read the entire article click HERE
The race begins in Athens, Greece at the Ancient Market with an evening start. Before the race begins there is traditional Grecian dancing and music with performers wearing authentic dress. One of my favorite things about racing in Greece is that it’s more of a cultural experience than just running. The runners are following almost the exact routes that historical figures ran during times of battles and wars. It’s really meaningful for the locals to share this history with the runners because in a sense, it’s the ability to relive their history in modern times. In the case of this race (and who the race is named after) it was a professional runner named, Pheidippides, who was asked to run [from Athens] to Sparta and request help from the Sparta military to fight off the Persians. While most people think Pheidippides only ran the distance of a marathon, the truth is that he ran from Athens to Sparta and back to Athens to deliver the news, a total of 304-miles. It was only after this journey that he then ran to the city of Marathon to share the news of the victory where he died from exhaustion. Who knew that ultra-running would teach me more about world history than sitting in a classroom ever did!?
The mountain range we crossed over twice is impressive. This is where the road turns to trail and back to road. The climb feels like it leads you up into the clouds with the most amazing vistas. There is something very peaceful about this section because of the silence in the air. In terms of the course, it’s probably the most difficult part, but the views are worth the pain. The race takes place just before winter, so during the race the runners witness the shepherds migrating their flocks of sheep across the lands. It seems like this would be something you would see only in the movies, but this is an example of the experiences I have the opportunity to see because of running.
This year the field was comprised of 16 runners, myself and 15 men. Of the 16 runners, there were 6 different countries that were represented; Greece, France, Belgium, Finland, Japan, and me coming from the USA. I must admit, I really have a total love and passion for Italy so I race wearing Italian colors which confuses people. Ha!
It was interesting because we only saw each other very briefly at the pre-race meeting which was held just a few hours before the start of the race. At least in my case, my focus was on getting my race number and rushing back to the house to pack up the gear and take my last long hot shower before setting off for the long journey. While we were standing at the start line there was electricity in the air from the excitement. I felt this unity with the other runners because of what we were about to try to do. One of the Greek runners would be running this route for the third time!
I wish I could pinpoint exactly what parts of the race were the hardest but the race was difficult at different times, for different reasons. I’ve run through one night in other races but three nights was tough! There were many times I would sing out loud because it was the only way to stay awake. Other times, I wasn’t sure if I was actually awake or sleeping so I would belt out a scream just to figure it out. I needed to actually feel the intensity of the scream in my throat and feel the adrenaline kicking in again to jolt me awake. I’m sure the race officials and the police car behind me probably thought I was crazy! Having a logical thought process was very difficult after the second day and for almost two days straight I lived with constant hallucinations even during the day. I would see people or things that weren’t there.
The terrain of the race was almost entirely on asphalt, aside from a brief section of the trail near the mountain of Artemisias. While some may consider road running easier, there is the element of constant pounding on your joints and feet from the unforgiving asphalt that make it feel just as hard as running on an uneven trail. The cold temperatures during the early mornings made running tricky, as it was cold enough for frost to develop on the roads – another obstacle to battle! During this time of the year in Greece, the temperature fluctuates a lot. In Texas, where I live, we have two seasons: hot and hotter, so racing in freezing temperatures to hot and back to freezing was quite an adventure for me.
I had minimal problems during the race, which I attribute to my coach and physical therapist that helped me prepare for the race. At one point during the race, my left calf muscle swelled up to twice its size! I had brought wraps with me just in case a situation like this occurred, so I did the only thing I could think of which was to wrap that area of my leg. After a day of keeping it wrapped my calf went back to normal and the pain went away. Towards the end of the race, the lower area of my shins began to turn purple. Since the only pain I felt was the justifiable discomfort from the mileage I knew I didn’t have stress fractures. The trapezius muscle was probably the worst of everything from holding my head up to maintain good form. It never occurred to me to strengthen this area in training. There were long hours were I felt a burning sensation in this area and I finally put a mini hot pack on it to help ease some of the pain.
The question I am most often asked is “how many blisters did I have at the finish,” that answer was zero. My feet were never an issue. I wore the exact same pair of Newton Gravity’s from start to finish. When I reached the finish line, those Gravity’s had completed 1000 miles! Part of the reason why I love the Gravity shoe so much is the power of the lugs. The Gravity tends to have a more rigid ride, and I prefer to have power in my shoe and save any cushion for after the race during recovery.
In 2016,I had set out to race what I personally dubbed as the “Ultra Road Running Grand Slam.” This personal goal consisted of completing four ultra-road races in 2016. These four races would mean running 717 miles in 181 days, something that has never been done before. The races were Nove Colli 125-miles in Italy, Badwater Ultramarathon 135-miles in the USA, Spartathlon 153-miles in Greece, and the Pheidippides 304-mile race in Greece. There is one runner from Italy, Paolo Bucci, who finished the first three races in 2011. The Pheidippides race didn’t exist during the year he completed the three races. So this year my goal was to try and match his three races and also add Pheidippides. Unfortunately I had some issues at Spartathlon. After completing 106 of the 153 miles I pulled out of the race missing my overall goal for the year. It happens!
My original goal for this race was to finish Pheidippides just over an hour faster than the men’s course record, which was 78 hours and 41 minutes. Don’t ask me how I came up with this but it seemed to make perfect sense, and I went for it. I knew this goal was going to be a major undertaking and a stretch for me to push this hard but I’m also at a point in my life where I’d rather try and completely fail, than play it safe. I decided to take a chance on myself and I went after it. From start to finish I have to say that this was probably the single most liberating experience I’ve had in a race.
Pheidippides was liberating for two reasons: Emotionally, this race stripped me down to absolutely nothing. During the three days of running I let go of a lot of sadness and hurt that burdened me this year and that at times negatively affected me physically.. The second reason this race was liberating to me was because I really took the time to appreciate the land I ran across and the people I met along the way. I felt immense gratitude for the gift of running, the people who helped me and cheered for me along the way, and most importantly having the opportunity to be part of Greece’s history. I was able to share this journey with three incredible people who crewed me, but I was also able to share this racing adventure online with fellow runners who understand the passion and commitment of running.
304 miles later, I finished first place out of all 16 runners, (against the men since I was the only female) with a time of 74 hours and 35 minutes. I broke the men’s course record by 4 hours and 12 minutes – something that never occurred to me might be possible…
“per ardua ad astra” (through adversity to the stars)!
What can I say, 2016 surpassed my wildest dreams! My sincerest and most heartfelt thank you for everyone who made my 2016 an absolutely unforgettable year.
As we all approach the midnight hour and welcome 2017, I want to wish you love in your heart, health in your body, and success for you to take your dreams and make them a reality. per ardua ad astra!
Never lose faith in magic,
Nove Colli 125-miles: 1st Overall, new women's course record
Badwater 135-miles: 2nd Female Overall, 8 hour PR
Spartathlon 153-miles: DNF, but one heck of a great vacation
Phidippides 304-miles: 1st Overall, new men & women's course record
Cosa posso dire...2016 ha superato i miei sogni più selvaggi! La mia più sincera grazie dal cuore per tutti coloro che hanno reso la mia 2016 un anno assolutamente indimenticabile.
Come tutti noi avviciniamo alla mezzanotte voglio augurarvi amore nel tuo cuore, la salute nel vostro corpo, e il successo per prendere i vostri sogni e farli accadere. per ardua ad astra!
Never lose faith in magic,
Today I say goodbye to my 30's and say hello to my 40's. When I think about my 30's I realize it was the decade of placing a checkmark in boxes that society created. But in my 39th year of this long decade I can honestly say I broke free from the pressures, demands and judgements of society.
Instead, I took a chance on myself to embrace who I am and what I represent.
I took a chance on myself and I got rid of the things and the people that were weighing me down.
I took a chance and went out into the world to chase my dreams and make them a reality.
So to celebrate I wanted to share this video from one of the prettiest, but most difficult sections of the Phidippides Race that I just ran in Greece. It's a reminder that the best gift in life is the freedom to follow your passion. It doesn't always come easy, but the view is worth it. And having true friends with big hearts to share unforgettable moments makes it all the better.
Per ardua ad astra <3
What an enormous honor to receive such a beautiful letter. From the heart, my sincerest thank you. You can see more here <3
Race done and done. It flew by! But I'm bringing home 1st place overall. Breaking the old course record by 4 hours and 12 minutes, I won with a time of 74:35:43!
Thank you X-Bionic, Newton Running, Coach Amanda McIntosh and my insanely awesome crew: Andrea, Christian, and Alina!!!
More to come!! For now, it's gelato time. :)
Realizing I still have Part II: Italy to write. I'm taking a quick little intermission to go run.
Race starts Friday, November 18 at 17 hours Athens, Greece time!!! YEAH!
I’m not sure how this happened but on a random day in September, I woke up and found myself tied to a seat aboard a flight to Italy all against my will. I had no idea this was happening.
Ok-ok. I’m joking...
I planned a little side trip to Italy prior to heading to Greece last month because I wanted to cheer my friends on at their ironman-distance race called, Elbaman on Elba Island, Italy. Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the coastal town of Piombino, the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. Perhaps what is most notable for Elba is the less than year long stay of Napoleon Bonaparte, I believe circa 1814. The people of Elba very much celebrate this part of their history and in many cases the white flag with red stripe bearing the three golden bees can frequently be spotted around the island waving gracefully in the sea breeze. I’d never been to Elba so of course when the opportunity came up, I took it. At this point I think I’ve been to more places in Italy, than I have in the United States. I hope to continue the trend.
The trip began by landing in Rome and then a quick train ride to Bologna. I really like the city of Bologna. The size feels slightly smaller than Austin. If I had to compare, I’d say Austin and Milan feel about the same which means Bologna is more like the suburbs of Austin. Something that suits me just fine. I met up with my friend Alina after having planned this for some months and both of us having big races. Arriving into Italy is always dreamy. It feels like home more so than Texas. If you’ve followed along for a while than you already know how much I love it there.
Alina has several dogs so the first thing we did was get kissed and licked to death! So sweet!! I snuck one of the dalmatians in the room with me to sleep each night. She’s sooooo lovable. An angel!
We had to take a ferry boat to the island and it was called the Moby Love. Why I get so excited about the name Moby Love, I have no idea. But once onboard I couldn’t stop saying the name…. Moby Love. Moby Love. Moby Love. The name just sounds happy. :)
Elba Island though was a cool mix of serenity in the evenings, but daytime hustle and bustle from cars primarily there for the triathlon. In fact, I’d venture to say that 85% of the people there were partaking in the race. We had an apartment in one of the coves called Cavoli overlooking the water. I laugh because one of the first “bad words” I learned in Italian was cavoli. It’s actually not a bad word per se but it’s what Italians use in place of an actual bad word. Basically the different between sh*t and shoot. Hahahaha...
And can I say that after 12 years of living along the eastern seaboard and very rarely getting into the ocean, I enjoyed a few quick dips in the crystal clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Nothing major, but after running each day it felt nice just to walk into the water with my running clothes on, bobbing along under the pink sky. If you’ve ever seen postcards where it looks like a boat is fully suspended in the air, this is how clear the water was. My favorite part of the trip was dinner time in the apartment. We sat outside on the balcony enjoying a simple dinner with beautiful cheeses, meats, olives, and pastas. All the usual fare when dining in Italy. And as far as we could see out on the water were boats of all sizes with lights twinkling and glowing against the water and night sky. The relaxed climate and simplicity of the evenings with a few good friends was something from a movie.
The town of Marina di Campo is precious! I enjoyed walking along the shops, gelaterias and outdoor cafes. Seafood is obviously in abundant supply, but my gosh it’s like no other. I couldn’t eat enough of the octopus and salads with fresh tuna it was delicious!
In speaking with some of the locals there, they don’t exactly identify themselves as Italian because they say they work 5-6 months like crazy and the rest of the time they enjoy the off season. Ummm…. sign me up, I can live like that! :)
Considering the quaintness and the gentle rolling hills of the winding road around the island, I decided it made perfect sense to rent a scooter. Take a look….
What a thrill! The weather had a brisk nip in the air but as the day warmed up, it was fun in the sun. The race, the scooter, the island.
Since I spend a large amount of time outdoors, and also when traveling, my olfactory stimuli have become somewhat of a travel memory bank. The various smells bring me back to someone, something or someplace. Walking around this town I kept smelling something really subtle but particular. It was their local perfume, Acqua dell,Elba. For all the times I’ve travelled to Italy in the past year this captivating scent creates a celestial whirl of memories in my head. I was excited to finally pinpoint exactly what it was called. And in the end my friend Alina surprised me with a bottle. Seriously, I've practically bathed in this liquid dream every day since. Italy… a place where all of the senses fall in love.
Life happened, and then I never came back and wrote about Badwater. But ok, here’s the write up.
Badwater was…. an ADVENTURE. After having three trips out to the desert before the actual race. I arrived feeling like I was home, with the exception that it was chaos because there were so many people there. The end result was I ran a great race with the day I was given. I had an issue that gave me about a 10 pound water weight gain the day going into the race that I didn’t expect. This changed a few variables but either way as I toed the line, I told myself I’d go as far as I could with what I had to work with. It was terrific. Mostly because everything I absolutely hated about the first time I ran Badwater was eliminated this second time around. My crew this time was PERFECT. They were funny and upbeat. We had fun every bit along the way and even when I was finally cut to my knees with problems, we still managed to laugh and make the best of it. Except for Brian, who has crewed me several times before, the other two guys were relatively new to me. This made for great conversation along the way to share stories and become better acquainted with two extraordinary individuals in their own right. It was like we were having our own private party in the desert without a care in the world.
The race itself has really changed from when I ran it in 2011. The night start was probably the biggest change for me. I haven’t decided which I prefer more. I will say that Chris Kostman has really upped the ante with his terrific humor during the pre-events which I was thankful for. Hahaha!
Some random thoughts about Badwater this year:
- Furnace Creek needs to improve their menu selection. Bleh!!
- I learned how to use a Biffy Bag. Wait. No…. I became an EXPERT at using Biffy Bags. Ahem…
- My crew brought me ice cream THREE times during the race. Goodness gracious great balls of fire! THANK YOU!!!
- Apparently the minute you have blisters EVERYONE is quick to blame socks and shoes. I will therefore take this moment to say that no - the issues I had weren’t about the shoes or socks. I had physical issues and the result was being larger than my already two-size bigger shoes would fit. So please refrain from writing me to tell me I should change the brand of shoes or socks that I’m wearing. Newton Running makes the most technologically advance shoes on the planet and there is no reason why I would ever consider wearing anything else.
- On this note: My X-Bionic outfit was predictably perfect. After multiple training sessions on the course, I didn’t have a doubt. I wore their "Trick" top short sleeve and long sleeve and shorts.
- The CREW that was behind me as I went up the final climb to the finish line need to learn better racing etiquette. We felt embarrassed by your behavior, and felt bad for your runner….
- My 2011 $1 bill still hangs in Jakes. And now I have a second $1 bill that hangs there. :)
- I took a whopping EIGHT HOURS off my 2011 time. YEEEEHAAAAAA!
- After the race, I had several people write to tell me that they were SORRY I didn’t win and how devastated I must feel. Ummm…No, I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating with a bottle of prosecco and the team. Since when is 2nd place female overall, with an 8 hour PR a death sentence? I was happy with my result at Badwater and felt really proud of my accomplishment. But hey, umm…. thanks! I think…
And that is my Badwater summary. This particular race summary may seem uncharacteristically not me. And the reason is because you wouldn’t believe the things people write to me. Quite frankly, it is shocking. If I were to ever make these messages PUBLIC, I wonder if these indivudals would have regrets about writing such things.... So I pause for a moment to send A HUGE and SINCERE thank you to the people who are supporters of what I’m doing out there. Thank you to the private group of individuals that know the entire story of what I’m chasing and why. To the people who genuinely love me, and wish to see me do well, thank you from the heart.
Last but never least, thank you Newton Running, X-Bionic and Elete Water. You all make the best stuff on the planet, of this I'm certain.