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I was not super excited about doing Ragnar Utah this past weekend. 36 hours sitting in a van? With a bunch of sweaty people? Running when you weren’t sitting — with my right leg totally crippled last week? It was so not exciting to me that Steve and I were laughing last week, after I wasn’t able to run four miles without limping, that it was so bad it was funny. Here I was crippled after the Dipsea, dealing with injury and needing to train for Ironman, exhausted from traveling, and sick of people.

So, of course, running 18.5 miles (possibly more depending on other teammates’ injuries) over 36 hours as part of a 200ish-mile relay sounds like the obvious answer. Exactly the kind of thing I love.

Hah. See. It’s a good joke.

Here’s the punchline, though: It actually was a lot of fun.

This picture sort of sums up Ragnar Utah I think.

This picture sort of sums up Ragnar Utah I think.

Maybe it would have been exactly as shitty as I was worried if I’d been with a different group or our van had been different. But our van was awesome. We had a huge trailer-type van with enough room to sleep or stand or roll out your legs and stretch. And we had a fun group that was a good balance between being serious and not stressing out. Basically, if you wanted to dance to “Shut Up and Dance” for the 10th time in 10 hours at 6 a.m. while waiting in an exchange zone, then we did that. And if you wanted to run your leg fast and make sure you got enough time after to stretch and recover, then we did that too.

Our fearless leader.

Our fearless leader.

Practicing safety.

Practicing safety.

I guess it was technically a race. We got 29th out of however many hundreds of teams. But it didn’t feel like a race. It felt like an bonding adventure exercise?

Before:

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Courtesy of Andy Jessop

And dancing at the finish (again to “Shut Up and Dance”):

Courtesy of Andy Jessop

From Greg Hammond

The running itself was rough for me. The first 8 miles were at midnight by myself down a mountainside from a ski resort. My right leg was not happy. Also, it turned out Park City is at like 7,000 feet of elevation. Maybe I should have thought about that before.

The second leg of 5.5 miles, after a couple hours of sleep, made it really really clear I should have thought about the elevation beforehand. I do not do well at elevation. In fact, I do so badly the last time I tried to run 7 miles at elevation it turned into a death march that it took me days to recover from. So so badly. But, I just kept moving forward and we weren’t by ourselves anymore; we were actually catching people!

The last 5-mile leg was brutal. At first it was fine and I was chugging along at 7:20-30 pace. Then, I ran out of water, and it was so hot that a kid doused me with a hose and my shirt dried within five minutes. After I drank all my water in the first 3 miles, I got insanely dehydrated and messed up. And I’d only been out of water for less than 10 minutes!! Stupid elevation. Stupid mountains. Stupid everything. I really thought I was going to start walking and crying and everything was going to fall apart, but it didn’t and I kept moving forward and I kept passing people, so maybe I was holding up better than I thought. And, here’s the crazy part: somehow I sort of ran through the pain and the bad stuff and came out the other side, where my legs hurt, yes, but my right leg wasn’t debilitating and I wasn’t limping with a knot in my calf and it turns out I can run at elevation, just maybe not that fast?

I get the feeling that this is sort of what people are going for when they invent crazy races or races that are more about some kind of epiphany than about the race. The idea, I think, is that you find yourself in that moment of such extreme fatigue that you can’t fake it anymore and you can’t think about how to accommodate all your little problems and aches. You just have to find a way to keep going. And so you do.

Or something. And somehow it’s fun too.

A picture of me running, just for good measure.

A picture of me running, just for good measure.

I was trying to explain the other day how my mentality has shifted a little bit, just a little bit, in racing. I’m trying to just do my thing and whatever about the rest. And it’s sort of working, even to the extent that I haven’t cared much about results after my last few races. Because I knew I had raced as hard as I could and however that stacked up was how that stacked up.

This is sort of bleeding over into life too. Sort of. Or maybe it’s bleeding from life the other direction. I don’t know. All I know is I can’t even anymore with caring about the bullshit.

Not to be all ‘now that I’m 30, I’m too old to care what anyone else thinks about me,’ because those people are annoying. But I just am tired of caring what anyone else thinks about me.

I know this is going to be funny to lots of you. You all think I didn’t care before, but it’s a lie. Reporters, sponsored athletes, some combination of the two, we are always worried someone is going to not pay us, someone is going to drop us, someone is going to get offended. Maybe I need to put more exclamation points in my emails. Maybe I need to post filtered motivational pictures to build my brand. Maybe if I say online that I think the Second Amendment was designed for a citizen militia, but not for you to carry a handgun, then I won’t get hired for a job even after multiple interviews. Oh, wait, that happened. So, yes, it gets old when everyone treats you like a novelty that says wacky things, but you aren’t even saying the wackiest stuff that actually comes into your head. You’re actually trying to be “normal.”

The other day on Slowtwitch someone told me I was turning people off my “cause” because I made a sarcastic joke. The cause, apparently, being “women.” And I just couldn’t with that. I hadn’t even cared that much about the mansplaining, eye-rolling-ness of the original discussion. (I mean I just finished a journalism Masters fellowship with a cohort of all women; it’s not like I’m super eager to talk more about media representations and diversity.) But, fine, fine, you think that was me turning you off, just watch. Then I was all kinds of bitchy and I turned off reply notifications and I haven’t gone back since to see what names he probably called me. Because I just can’t even anymore.

I’m trying to figure out what this means for my life. How do I turn being me into a career? Isn’t that the dream? What do I want to do now? Besides train a lot, write some stuff, and finally sleep…

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This is a picture of me looking weirdly cheerful at the Dipsea yesterday. I’m pretty sure it was just after this that I ran full-speed into a thorn bush. I’ve been pulling pieces of thorn out of my hand since then.

That’s actually sort of normal for the Dipsea. The part that wasn’t normal was that I was even on the “trail” that led me into the thorn bush. Since I was going faster than I have before, I ended up sort of ahead of the pack and all of a sudden I was on some “shortcut” through a bush down a mountainside. The other thing that wasn’t normal was how good I felt. I did the best I’ve ever done (108th), but I pretty much never had a “I just want to quit and cry” moment. I mostly felt really good. When we were climbing, I just kept climbing. When anything was close to flat, I ran hard. And when it was downhill, I — well, ok, I lost a lot of time running down stairs, but still, I tried hard.

Do you remember when every race report of mine was basically: “And then I felt terrible and I wanted to quit and I threw myself a pity party, but eventually I finished.” No? Well, I remember. (See: Dipsea 2014, 2013, 2012, or probably mostly anything here.)

Something has shifted recently, in just my last few races, and I don’t know if anyone else can tell but I can. The difference is that I’ve been mostly totally in it mentally. I thought that a shift had happened back in the fall. It seemed like I was toughing it out better than usual. But, since the disaster that was the LA Marathon, in which I learned that I can push it farther than I probably should, and the Cal Poly race a week later, in which I learned that I can do things even when I really really don’t want to, since then I’ve sort of been determined just to go as hard as I can and make it work.

So, yes, the Dipsea sort of sucks and is crazy. But mostly it was fun. I ran hard. I cracked into the top 100, but then I lost those spots on the downhill stairs. I didn’t fall (badly) and my legs hurt today. When you decided to just go hard and not stress about anything else, there isn’t much to say…

Tomorrow’s the Dipsea! Apparently, it’ll be livestreamed, so watch all the fun. And here’s a preview if you need a little extra inspiration.

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Sunday, I raced Escape from Alcatraz and I was the 14th woman overall, counting the pros. At first, I was like ‘hmm, wow, that’s pretty good, better than I expected.’ And then I found out the race organizers have started capping the number of pros. Instead of the 12 or 15 women there usually are, there were only 9.

This is dumb.

I get that there are a limited number of spots on the boat. If there was ever a race that might have to have a cap, then this would be it. But, come on, this is still triathlon. It’s not that popular. In the past, when the number of pros at Alcatraz wasn’t limited, the MOST there’d ever be was 20-25 men and 15-20 women. That’s about 20-25 more people than they allowed in this year. There was plenty of room for 25 more people. And I don’t think you can argue that there isn’t enough room and then invite a bunch of legendary former winners to race in the “celebrity” division. (Or CEOs to compete in the corporate challenge or college kids to do the Muscle Milk-sponsored collegiate challenge—which is what The Kids and I did, btw.)

The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough room or that too many pros would get in the way or weaken the race or something—I mean it’s Alcatraz, there is no gap between the pro race and age group race anyway; the pushy age group men got more in the way when they jumped off the boat literally with the pro field. The problem, instead, seems to be this trend right now across the sport to misunderstand and undervalue why you have a pro field.

The value of pros in your race is not in any one big name; it’s in the margins. Again, this is triathlon. It is a participatory sport. No one is going to do a race simply because Mirinda Carfrae is doing it. They’re going to do it because they hear a lot about it, because their friends are doing it, because it’s in the news and they’ve been told it’s legendary, because they see other people doing. In that sense, every single extra pro is an extra story and reason for the media to cover it. Ashleigh Gentle won on Sunday and there was a story before the race in her local paper back in Australia about her triathlon career (that I saw on Twitter). It mentioned her doing Alcatraz next and what a big race it was. Someone in her town reads that, hears about it, starts to think ‘hey, I’ve never been to San Francisco, that sounds epic,’ and the seed is planted.

No one has ever done Alcatraz because I did it. No one cares about me doing it. But I raced it in the pro field twice and did ok. And, as the most local of the pros, I did a couple TV spots for the race then, which tons of my friends and acquaintances and triathlon people saw, which made them more likely to watch and care on race day, which keeps the crowds big, which helps continue to keep the prestige of the race high and guarantee that it’ll be all over the news. I love the race and I’ve taught clinics to help people prepare for it. I’ve convinced probably a dozen people to do it. Hell, I convinced seven of The Kids to race it this weekend. So, was I worth letting in? Did Alcatraz make back the $200 I won once and the free entry fee they gave me? Yeah, definitely. But would that ever have factored into any analysis of the ROI of the pro field? Probably not.

If you want to invite certain elite pros, big names, pay them appearance fees or give them swag to get them to come, sure, do that. But there is absolutely no reason not to let the other pros race too. They can only be a benefit. They can only make the race more competitive and a bigger deal.

At the awards ceremony, the announcer mentioned that they hadn’t originally intended to invite Eric Lagerstrom. They originally invited his girlfriend/partner/whatever and she asked if he could come too. And then he won the whole thing, in one of the more exciting finishes ever. That’s why you let whoever wants to race race.

EFA 2015My race:

I swam really well. I just put my head down, couldn’t see anything really, and kept swimming as hard as I could so I could beat Corey to the shore. I ended up way to the right, to the point that a boat tracked me down and yelled at me to get back over. But I was pretty convinced that the reason I was all by myself to the right was basically because I was winning.

Then I could not get my wetsuit into the tiny bag they gave us. The bag just kept slipping out of my cold hands. So, by the time I finally got part of the wetsuit in and figured that was good enough, I just took off running hard on the half-mile transition run. And then I was like ‘oh, shit, hmm, I wonder if I can hold this.’

I biked very mediocrely. It was ok for a little bit, then I felt like it was hard, but it was actually pretty slow and I got down on myself for about 15-20 minutes. Then Hailey caught me, which was good motivation and I think we pushed each other mentally for the last long climb and descent.

By the time I started running there was a girl right next to me and one up ahead and Hailey somewhere hot on my heels. So I took off. Hard. This is a new thing I’m trying: running hard from the beginning. It seemed like it was working pretty well and I moved up along Crissy Field and the long climb and then the descent down to the beach. At the beach was the first time I saw other women up ahead and it seemed like I was doing pretty well overall, but there’s no way to tell because you don’t know when anyone jumped off the boat. I just kept pretending that someone was right behind me, which when we got back down to Crissy Field was actually true. By then I was having a hard time holding on, but I was not going to lose it then. I managed to make it to the finish before lying down or throwing up. So, success!

We got back from our 9 days (10 days? who knows with the time zones, it is not knowable) in Ireland. And I’ve basically spent all week since then trying to rally.

The trip was sort of a blur, but after way too much drinking and not enough training I got really worried about Escape from Alcatraz this upcoming weekend. (I mean, literally, I did not have a day while we were on vacation that I didn’t have at least two drinks and I averaged four or five per day. While in Ireland…) So, last weekend, while we were in Belfast, I got very concerned about this and decided I needed to do something to snap back into gear.

Time for a local 5K with Steve’s cousin!

The 5K was ugly and the super-fatty lamb belly I had the night before, at a hip/trendy Belfast restaurant, btw, where we saw the girl who played Ygritte in Game of Thrones eating next to us, did not sit well while running. But I did not stop for a bathroom break until after I finished and I managed to do the two loops around the park in 20:03ish. We’ll call that a success.

While I was running, spectators kept yelling things and it turns out Ireland is, like, a totally different country and they yell different things than we do. Instead of “You can catch him,” people yelled, “He can be gotten.” Which is, really, just so much more theoretical. Like, they’re not saying you can do it, just that it can be done. And then, since I was pretty far in the lead of the women’s race, someone yelled, “Now, make it a good one!” I like that.

That’s the goal for this weekend now. That, hopefully, when I jump off the boat it’ll all come back to me and I’ll make it a good one.

First, we had an 8-hour layover in London, during which we saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and had Indian food and a beer with Ming. Much better than hanging out in an airport:

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In Dublin, we got a little lost trying to find the visitor’s part of the Guinness factory, but the actual factory was so much more interesting:

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And I learned the right way to pour the beer, even though I don’t even like Guinness:

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Then we caught the train to Galway and a bus to the ferry terminal and a ferry to the Aran Islands off the west coast, which have a total of about 1,000 people on the three islands. But a drunk guy on the bus let us know that, “The big island’s gotten so commercialized. The have a police officer now.”

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As you can tell, it rained a little bit. But when we got up to Belfast I really wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway, which is super crazy. You can’t tell that well in pictures (especially the picture where Kelley and I are doing some kind of candid photo imitation), but those hexagonal rocks are not man-made. Which is insane.

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Don’t you really feel like instead of using this rope bridge for 300 years to harvest salmon, they could have just eaten all the sheep everywhere?

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We also saw the Peace Wall in Belfast, which is very, very much still there and more walls are being built even now. And, Steve’s cousin showed us all the murals, for both sides of the Troubles. Belfast is definitely a safe and up-and-coming city, but the amount of conflict still there is insane.

ireland-13 ireland-14And then we had a 6-hour layover in Philly, which also has a lot of monuments dedicated to fighting the British and gaining independence, but they have a very different tone to them. Almost like the dominant narrative has been established and isn’t still up in the air.

Now, I’m home for about two weeks? Sigh.

1. If you would like to do a Spartan Race, and of course you would, then you can use the code MEMORIAL for $40 off. I’m already signed up for the AT&T Park Stadium Race in San Francisco in July, so I didn’t even get to use the discount code.

2. People often think I’m more worried or stressed than I am about little things, which is really just because I train alone and have a lot of time to think. After you think for a few days too, you’ll just realize I’m right, not worries. People also tend to think I’m angrier than I am. No, I just swear a lot. And it’s not uncommon for people to think I’m not working as hard as I actually am, like oops I just fell into this in between my worried swearing apparently. Basically.

3. We are on our way to Ireland. I do not even have a computer with me. (I am writing this on my phone on the way to the airport.) I’m mostly excited about that part.

4. When people ask what I’m doing now, I just say, “Living my best life.”

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This is what our living room looks like right now. Except you can’t see the bags behind me or stuff still in our car. It’s only getting worse as I try to unpack and move back in. It sounds like everyone has big plans after graduation and big plans for what’s next. My only immediate plan is to sleep and let my brain rebuild and then to get started on the millions of things scheduled for this summer:

  • Vacation to Ireland
  • The Kids coming to stay with me for Escape from Alcatraz
  • Ragnar Relay in Utah
  • My roommate’s wedding in LA
  • The Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver (yes!)
  • Week-long family reunion in Florida
  • Steve doing Tahoe 70.3
  • Followed up immediately by a wedding in Boise

Oh, and I basically made it four days of being bored before enacting the next part of my “creating my best life” plan. I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin. So there’s that.