|Posted by Breanna Cornell on January 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
I’ve changed states a number of times in the short time that I’ve been an adult in "the real world" (not college). If there’s one thing it’s taught me, it’s how to learn to connect with other people with similar interests – in this case, how to find the trail running community.
It may seem like an easy task – just search on Facebook for the nearest run group, right? But fitting a group run into a training plan and around work and life can be difficult. What other ways are there? Moving from Michigan to Alabama, and Alabama to Arizona in the past two years have coached me: MANY!
1. Race Local
You always meet new people at races. Sign up for a local event, even if it’s a distance you don’t typically race, and run it for fun. Connect with other people on the course, at the aid stations, and at the after party. Don’t hesitate to ask those you identify with to share a couple of training runs. If racing isn’t your gig, volunteer! Working an aid station provides ample opportunity to connect with other runners volunteering as well as all of the racers that pass through (and it’s a boat load of fun).
After moving to Alabama, I raced the Pinhoti 100, a short 3 hour drive from where I had moved to. I didn’t really know anyone at the event, but the following month while at a local 10km, I was stopped by a race volunteer who said they recognized me from Pinhoti. After swapping phone numbers, we went for a long run later that month and a trail running friendship was born.
I met Steven at that local 10k/Pinhoti – he later ended up being an AWESOME pacer/crew with his wife Denise at Thunder Rock.
2. Talk About Your Running
New to an area? Talk to your coworkers about your hobbies! Mention that you’re looking for a running buddy. You’ll find that almost everyone knows a crazy runner, and they’ll be enthusiastic to connect you to them so they don’t have to listen to you talk about your splits or weekly distances covered around the water cooler.
I was fortunate enough to have a supervisor who sincerely cared about people’s interests. Being a cyclist himself, he was familiar with the triathlete community and kindly put me in contact with them to coordinate joining their run groups.
3. Get Online
Sure, you can find the Facebook run groups, but that may not fit in with your schedule in whatever capacity. Don’t be afraid to post to them, though– it’s a personal ad for a workout buddy. Check out other social media platforms, too (e.g., Twitter's #runchat and #ultrachat on Sunday evenings). Don’t limit yourself to run groups, though. Search through the events to find any free runs or fat ass races near your area.
After moving to Alabama, I found an event on Facebook for an unofficial event “The Battle of Jericho.” There, I met a group of runners (affectionately called the “BUTS” – Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) and met some people who, I am sure, will be life-long friends.
All of the awesome runners at the Battle of Jericho – check out them BUTS!!!
Many runners volunteer to help with trail work. Look for opportunities in your area to get out and volunteer – not only will you be giving back to the community, but you might walk away from it having learned some new trails and meeting some new racing buddies.
I had a friend from Salt Lake City invite me up to volunteer for a weekend in Monument Valley shortly after moving to Arizona this fall. It was a fantastic weekend of sleeping in hogans, trail runs, and helping the Navajo community out. Not only did I meet some fantastic trail runners, it connected me with people who organize many events in the surrounding area that I am looking forward to running and volunteering at.
Trail and Ultra Running volunteers in Monument Valley – organized by the Grand Circle Trail Series awesome race director, Matt Gunn.
Go for a run by yourself. Go out on new trails (check out the All Trails app – it’s been a fantastic tool in finding new trails in my area as I’ve moved). You might be surprised how many runners you may (or may not) encounter on the trail.
This past weekend, I arrived at the trailhead ready to head up the back of Mt Humphrey by myself. Shortly after stepping out of my car, I hear a voice, “Are you here for the run group?” No, I wasn’t, but I was more than happy to join! We happened to be headed out on the same route. I met a dozen runners who before that morning had been foreign to me, but will [hopefully!] evolve to be friends as I seek out and join their group runs when I can.
And lastly, don’t rush.
Finding a good running buddy, learning the trails and routes in your area, or connecting with a run group that fits your training goals and schedule can take time. It can also take a pinch of courage. They might not be the first Google search that pops up, or it might not even be the best fit after sharing a couple of runs – but when you find that relationship that works, run with it.
Do what you love,
Love what you do.
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on May 19, 2015 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
Thunder Rock 100
May 15, 2015
101 miles –16,100 feet of climbing
My 4th 100-mile finish.
It feels so good to just be. This whole race was a fantastic meditation.
With a noon start on Friday, I drove the 3 hours from home in Northern Alabama to the Chattanooga-Smoky Mountain area of Tennessee. After a quick runner check in, I drove to the campground that would host the start and pitched my tent. After socializing with a racer’s family, I (surprisingly) found I had reception and decided to see if I couldn’t get any work emails answered (a poor and frustrating decision on my part). A phone call with my parents helped to flush the pre-race jitters and work anxiety from my mind before I hit the sack.
Morning of the start.
The disadvantage of being a morning runner and getting to work at 6:30 AM meant that I could not sleep in past 6:30 AM. With just over 5 hours until the start, I lounged in my tent and indulged in a large breakfast of bananas, ensure electrolyte shake, and chocolate. I finally packed up and drove to the finish at Raft One (a short 20 minutes from the start). There, I dropped off my drop-bags at the morning runner check in and socialized with some of the other racers and crew. At 11:20, we all loaded up into Raft One’s white water rafting buses and were hauled to the start.
All the while, I was looking out the windows, absorbing the misty mild-mannered mountain air. The Smokies, once as tall as the Rockies, their sharp peaks weathered to rounded hats, stand like hunched old men, fighting the effects of gravity and time; eroded but dignified. The humid air amplified the colors, the Ocoee reflecting the beauty.
Sometimes, I feel the need to justify my decision to move to Alabama. This was but a short 3.5 hour drive from home. How lucky was I to have this essentially in my back yard? My excitement mounted for playing on the trails.
The start. Off the buses, onto the grass, smile for the cameras, and GO!
We sprung into the woods, and it wasn’t long until the trail began to wind up, up, up. The hill never seemed steep, but would appear to level off ahead only to find that it went up more. There was no peak in sight, so the lengths of the climbs were deceiving.
But the views!
When a break in the dense green foliage allowed us to glimpse our elevation, the Smokies rewarded us with a sea of blue rolling peaks, mist rising from their troughs.
I quickly fell into a comfortable pace with a pack of runners which included a couple who raced together – a husband and wife team who had completed the Badwater 135 in 2013 together as well. We spoke about racing, where we were from, about life. And then the trail went down…
Down, down, down!
The single-track trail was hardly even half of that on the two mile decent to the river. I wanted to look up, to stop and absorb the vistas, and the one time I did I stubbed my toe and almost went tumbling down the rest of the mountain. Focused, I emerged at the bottom to the river crossing, where a herd of volunteers and supporters passed us the rope to cross and cheered us on.
This event sincerely had some of the most excited crews, volunteers, and onlookers that I’ve ever seen at an event. It was beautiful.
The river (about mile 17) was refreshing in the afternoon heat. Not a half mile out of the water, we began to ascend once more. Winding up to the peaks on trails varying from overgrown grass paths and two tracks forest service roads, it began to rain. We were honestly lucky because the forecast had scheduled thunderstorms throughout the day and into the night. The rain, however, lasted only for a couple of hours. Between the river crossing and the rain, however, my feet were raisins. I could already feel hot spots give rise.
As the day meandered on into the evening, I had wonderful conversations with many runners. We observed how many ultra-runners tend to have engineering degrees, be doctors, professors or teachers (i.e., at one point I (engineer) was running with a teacher and a dentist). I love how the trail introduces conversations that ebb and flow between comical (bodily functions, singing songs in voices that are out of breath), intellectual (environmental conservation, new technology, etc…), and introspective (learnings from racing, life). I loved it. I loved everyone on the trail, every step with them.
10 hours and 15 minutes.
Night hit and I slowed. I slowed with the distance and the dark. The trail became technical, with a six mile stretch that almost brought me to a crawl. Two runners caught up behind me. The trail narrowed, dug into the side of a ravine. I stepped on the edge of the trail. All of a sudden, there was nothing beneath me but a 30 foot drop to the river below.
I scream and flailed. With cat-like reflexes, the runner behind me caught my hand. For a moment, he was the only thing stopping me from an injury-inducing fall. He pulled me up to safety (my hero!), and I stood there, shaken for a moment. But for a couple of scratches and bruises, and some shaken nerves, I was OK. I ran as far from the edge from there on out.
I just had to make it to mile 62.
There, I would meet up with the rolodex of North Alabama: Steven. Steven and his wife, Denise, had offered to come crew/pace me. Due to the noon start, they had been able to drive up after work on Friday and promised to meet me at mile 62. Jogging into the aid station, around 2 AM, I began calling “Steven! Steven Davis!”
Finding my team – who was already prepared for my arrival with a chair and my goodie bag – I plopped down to change my still wet socks and shoes. The blisters had begun and my shoe change was too late to stop the process. At least my feet would be more comfortable in a shoe that allowed for some swelling (and a shoe that was not wet).
Morning while running with Steven through tall grass.
Waving to Denise, Steven and I took the trails by storm (ok, maybe a bit slower than that). The following hours passed with jokes, stories, and dawn. Sooner than I knew it, we were at mile 82. Denise met us here, and Steven took off with her to rest a bit and catch up with me in another 10 miles. The next 10 miles I plugged out by myself, plugging in to my iPod for the first time during the race. Never have I not listened to music or audio books for so long during a run. In the past, I have used them as a tool to space out and just go. But I was so consumed with the people, the conversations, the beauty of the course, and my head was in such a good space that I didn’t need them. Heck, I didn’t want them. I was in a groove!
The music, however, aided me in keeping the slow-jog pace up until I next met Steven. Upon joining me, he urged me to move it, hustle, let’s get to the finish. By this point, my blisters were very painful. Each step was thought out, where to place my foot so I don’t slide into my toes. Areas of slanted and uneven ground became points of frustration. I lost the ability to control my responses to the roots and rocks and cried and yelled at the trail a bit.
It’s funny, being two hours from the finish line, knowing that you’re going to finish, and thinking “why can’t we just be there?”
Passing through aid stations, I was informed that I was the 3rd female (no way!). Every little noise behind us became the 4th place women racing around the corner. Steven had to keep reaffirming that there was no one behind us, that, no, those weren’t voices. Pumping my arms in a fashion that Steven dubbed “granny arms,” I’d pick up the pace at each sound that could be a top three finish slipping away.
And then we could hear it.
Not behind us, but ahead of us.
A 200 foot hill to summit, and then descend, we rounded the bend and there it was.
23rd / 51 overall
3rd / 12 finishers (14 DNF) female
2nd / 6 (10 DNF) age group
With 124 people registered, only about 100 (?) started, and about half of the field dropped. It is my slowest 100-mile finish to date, but it’s on a tough course and I feel good about how I raced it. I ran every evenly for the first half of the race, and while I may have slowed down drastically by mile 60, my pace from 60 to the finish did not slow or vary much.
The course was challenging and beautiful. The aid stations were amazing, offering a savory variety of foods, including bacon wrapped pickles, hummus and olive wraps, avocados and tomatoes, soup, gels, trail mix, heed, pop, egg wraps, paleo pumpkin pancakes, and much more. The volunteers staffing the aid stations were even better – a huge thanks to all of the volunteers! This was also one of the most organized races I have ever run; the runner and crew guide sent out before the race was extremely comprehensive and detailed. There were points in the course that were not clearly marked, however, and I did loop back to certain points to make sure I was going the right way. The finisher’s buckle isn’t anything extravagant, but I love it all the same – a subtle way to commemorate a wonderful day on the trails.
Toe already turning purple from stubbing it.
After being awake for over 33 hours, Steven, Denise, and I went out to eat (how lovely a full meal is after snacking for a whole day!) and clean up in the hotel (after returning to the finish because I forgot to grab my pack and shoes… ops!). Steven and Denise were an amazing crew and I cannot thank them enough!
This is my last race until the Badwater 135. I have never felt so ready for anything, and Thunder Rock has for sure gotten me to the mental space where I need to be and abolished many fears that come with facing a great distance ahead.
I cannot wait for the next challenge!
Do what you love,
Love what you do!
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on May 8, 2015 at 2:50 PM||comments (0)|
Hello? Is anybody there? No? It’s just me?
Here is my quiet return to blogging. It’s been almost a year since my last post, and the past ten and half months have provided some time for reflection. I’ve fallen off the social media band-wagon a bit, mostly because I just have not had the time and energy to keep up with Twitter chats and spend more time on Facebook just staying connected with long-distance friends. In the past, I’ve used my blog to put some big goals out there, promote impossible2Possible and other organizations, fundraise, and document adventures and learnings. I have missed blogging, to a certain extent; I miss being able to look back at a raw recollection of an event, before it fades to a more fallible memory.
Which is why I think I’ll sneak back onto my blog. I just don’t have the same motivation to archive on my personal computer, and run2live has become a scrap-book of sorts that I hope to build upon rather than start from scratch. I guess the difference from previous posts will be the lack of creating a personal brand and lack of publicizing posts (posting to Twitter and Facebook when a new post is up). There won’t be promotion for events or organizations. I want to maintain a simple record of events and adventures, a place to file friends and photos, a library to recall triumphs and trials, emotions and learnings.
If this blog were printed on physical paper, it would be a journal opened to a random page, sitting on the window sill of the back porch, pen resting on the crest of the inner spine, doodles of dancing dogs playing in the margins. Leather bound and weather worn, flower petals pressed between pages staining the corners of photographs. A little dusty, with whole paragraphs scratched out and corners of pages folded. Some handwriting in tight caps, some pages filled with tight cursive, an inconsistency dependent on mood. Many pages have been filled with smudged-left handed writing, taunting the unmarred fresh pages of the latter half of adventures to come.
Too bad I’m horrible at keeping a physical journal (they always seem to wander on to adventures of their own).
So, if you’re reading this, know posts will be inconsistent. Know that they will be honest and self-critical. Know that they will flower with love but may not always be positive. Know that most of them will be written in the moment, or shortly thereafter. Know that I might come back and document random stories, not necessarily related to running. Know that I have little expectations of anyone reading these, don’t really care to know if anyone is, and if you do [and do share], do so softly (like walking on pine needles).
A brief summary of the past ten and a half months:
(Proof that life and adventures still happen, even if you don't post every bit of it to social media ;))
Do what you love,
Love what you do!
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 20, 2014 at 4:55 PM||comments (0)|
Day 22: Monday, June 9
With the Bryce Canyon 100 less than a week away, I didn’t have any super-adventurous runs or hikes planned for the week. However, Rob, who I had met at the Yellowstone-Teton 100 in October, contacted me letting me know that he was going to be driving through Salt Lake today. Rob and I met up and we went for a beautiful run through the hills that butt up against the city’s limits.
Rob on the trails above Salt Lake.
I spent the afternoon working on getting some things squared away with job applications, interviews, relocation and the like. Annndddd watching many episodes of the new season of “Orange is the New Black.”
I spent the evening walking around downtown Salt Lake with Mark. We explored some outdoor gear shops. I learned a lot about Kayaks. I’ll elaborate more on that in the future…
Day 23: Tuesday, June 10
Today I officially accepted an offer from a company in northeastern Alabama. I spent most of the day working out moving, location, and how this effects the rest of the plans I had for the months of June and July. I might not be able to complete my road trip to the extent that I desired, but I am super fortunate to have been able to go on a month-long adventure. Starting work in a different part of the country will be another adventure for sure; a different culture from the midwest, new trails to learn, a new community to become involved with, learning and becoming successful at my new job– all future challenges I am excited to face.
Where I will be located is along the Tennessee River, hence I started formulating some plans for Kayak camping with Sophie (my parents’ dog who I will be adopting). I’m excited not just only to explore a new area, but meet new people, and continue learning. I don’t think I’ll miss the snow too too much (except for skiing). Ask me again in a year.
Day 24: Wednesday, June 11
I left for Bryce Canyon today, a beautiful four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, after thanking and saying farewell to Mark. Mark’s hospitality was phenomenal, but the good-bye was brief as he would be pacing another runner at Bryce so I would see him again at the race.
Driving to the canyon led me through winding mountain passes to a green plateau. Despite the fact that it had felt like the drive was mostly downhill, there had been a net gain in elevation. The rim of Bryce sits at around 8,000 feet. From the green plateau the road descended into startlingly red rock. The sandstone rose from the earth in pillars and arches like flames frozen in time.
Rock tunnels driven through just before Bryce.
I decided to camp in the park, as the race itself (Bryce Canyon 100) does not actually enter the National Park. There, I hiked the rim trail where my breath was stollen by the views. If I could not invasion a heaven before, I could now.
My soul ached to be a bird, to fly and weave between the hoodoos, the cathedral pillars of time. The vivid colors of stone– reds and oranges striped with chalky white– were unreal. Meditating on the rim, the mind’s eye could invasion the centuries of erosion, of weathering, of freezing and thawing, that had brought about these fantastic formations.
Look at what adverse conditions had created with time: a remarkable landscape. Maybe, with time, that is what life’s challenges does to us; weathers away our unfavorable traits to reveal the true beauty within, exposing who we are at our cores, should we endure.
As I was hiking back to camp, a man ran past me with a shirt that had the word “ultra” on the back. I called out, “Are you racing this weekend?”
He stopped and turned around. “No, but my friend wanted to do the 50.” We started talking. His name was Brian and he was on a road trip with his friend, Michelle. It turned out that they were camping not five campsites down from me. I let Brian get back to his run, but met up with them later that evening for an enjoyable time of story swapping. They were wonderful and are going to do great things, I know.
The moon was full and bright. Somewhere I was hopping it would go away so I could see all the stars, but was happy for the fact that it meant a headlamp was unnecessary. The night was cool and beautiful.
One of the trails along the rim.
Day 25: Thursday, June 12
After a short jog along the rim trail, I made up my drop-bags for the race. One less thing to worry about tomorrow. It was a day of relaxing, reading, exploring, and enjoying some alone time. It’s funny, the thoughts that come when you sit in silence with an otherworldly view. The thoughts and ideas themselves seem profound, but seem to almost be erased when the mind becomes clouded with worrisome thoughts again, much like an etch-a-sketch.
Looking across the canyon, I almost felt like– not that it belonged to me– but that I belonged to it. For as anxious as I’ve been in the past about running other races, I’ve felt at peace leading up to this race. I’m simply excited just to spend time in the canyon and see more spectacular views. I just want to absorb it all.
Day 26: Friday, June 13
After a short run along the canyon’s rim, I met Mark at the hotel just south of Bryce. Mark had paced me at Zumbro not three months before and I was happy to have him pace me at Bryce. I spent the majority of the day making sure that my drop bags, shoes, and pack were in order and resting in the hotel. We went to the packet pickup later that evening, which was swamped with racers.
We went to bed early that night, as the shuttle to the start/finish line was to depart at 5 AM sharp.
Day 27: Saturday, June 14
Today was the Bryce Canyon 100!
I don't really feel the need to do a full-on race report, as there are so many other people who have thoroughly covered the entire course. The race website lists race reports compile by racers and you can view the list of links here. I will say this: it was a bit disorganized. There was some (ok, rather a lot) of confusion as to where shuttle pick up/drop off was and a lot of questions went unanswered (there was no pre-race meeting). I don't think I ever saw the race director, and it would've been nice to even just thank him for the event. There was a LOT more wooded trail that I expected and a lot less canyon trail (the best views are between miles 3 and 9). The race has a lot of small kinks to work out, but it's only in the second year of its being. It'll get there, and when it does, it'll blow every other race out of the water. It's a well-marked beautiful and decevingly challenging course with well-stocked aid stations, awesome goodie bags, and amazing finisher's medals/belt buckles. Lots of people, but all of them fantastically welcoming and nice.
Mark and I awoke early to catch the shuttle from Ruby’s Inn to the start, about 7 miles outside of town. There, we huddled in the twilight with other 50 and 100 mile racers around campfires before the start. Needless to say, I became ill. After some time into the race, my stomach/abdomen began to ache to the point where running was severely uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I had drank over 4 liters of water, I hadn’t peed in 10 hours (TMI?). After the problems started, I weathered another 30 miles before calling it quits. It was difficult to enjoy the beauty of the race when I was feeling so blah. What I really wanted was to run IN the canyon, not just by it. I wasn’t having the fun I had expected or searched for– not feeling well being a big part– and really just wanted and needed to lay down.
So that night I rested rather comfortably– minus the trips to the bathroom– in a hotel.
Day 28: Sunday, June 15
The next morning, Mark and I went into Bryce Canyon National Park, where we spent the day exploring and running trails. I wasn’t yet feeling 100%, but felt much better than the day before with some medication.
THIS was where I had wanted to be the whole duration of the race; alongside the hoodoos and between the rock. I had done myself a disservice, I think, camping for several nights within the park before the race because I had sincerely expected the course to challenge the beauty that I had already experienced along the trails there. While the course was beautiful in its own right, it couldn’t even begin to hold a light to that of what lay within the park’s boundaries.
Mark coming down a switchback.
Despite the “failure” of previous day, today’s fun overrode any residual negativity that had rested within my soul the previous night.
Day 29: Monday, June 16
Mark’s flight back to Minnesota didn’t leave Las Vegas until midnight, so we decided to have a bit of fun. We went for one more run through the woods along Bryce Canyon before packing up to drive over to Nevada.
Just outside Red Rock Canyon.
Having to start my new job in July, a pre-employment drug test was required. The company had requested that this be completed by Tuesday, and Mark having to be in Las Vegas anyhow, decided that would be the best stop for its completion. I wondered, peeing into a cup, if running long distances effected the balance of chemicals/compounds/stuff within urine…?
Just outside of Las Vegas is the Red Rock Canyon. Mark and I targeted this as our next adventure. We were met with frustration when we encountered difficulty finding trail maps. Throwing caution to the wind, we picked a trail and started hiking. The trail lead us to a dried up river gorge where we spent the next several hours bouldering and climbing up through the canyon, little Cairns sitting atop rocks. We stopped to add our own Cairns to the mix.
Into the canyon!
Driving back to the city with some more time to kill before Mark’s flight, I suggested seeing a movie. Being the dork that I am, I wanted to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” So we did. And I LOVED it. Thankfully, Mark seemed to like it as well, haha
Mark then started to make his way to the airport. It was a daunting good-bye; by moving to Alabama and the impending start of a career, there were no promises of when we would next see each other. Neither of us had any near-future races scheduled. However, friendship always finds a way. We’ll run together again, Mark!
Mark & I in Bryce.
I then found a camp spot for the night and made plans to drive home the next day.
Day 31, 32, 33: Tuesday, June 17, Wednesday, June 18, Thursday, June 19
I began my drive back to Michigan today. My road trip was being cut a bit short, but I think it was for the best. In preparing for my new job, I had to find a place to live, sign employment documents, pack up stuff, and go home to get Sophie (my parents’ dog, now mine!). I was able to make short stops in Moab and Leadville, but beyond Denver there weren’t many points of interest that could compare with the arid beauty of the red deserts and canyons, or towering kings of snow capped peaks.
Short trail run ending in a clif on the way home.
Returning home, it almost seemed as if the road trip had been a really good dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. I was able to make it home in time for my mom’s birthday, which was awesome, but there’s almost a let-down coming home, an “adventure withdraw.” I know that it won’t last for long because, only being home for two days, I’ve already found myself distracted by house/apt hunting, cleaning, and packing.
But that’s how life is: one adventures ends, another one begins. It might not be scaling a mountain, racing, or running a new trail, but it brings challenges and new life experiences. I’m excited for the future; I’m excited for more adventures, be them in running or the rest of life.
Day 34 & Beyond
I would like to thank everyone who has followed and supported my posts. Blogging has definitely been a learning experience on its own. It does, however, take a lot of time and energy. While I am flattered (and sometimes surprised) that people follow my blog, there are so many inspirational people out there who post, and I wouldn’t count myself among the most qualified.
I have learned so much over the past couple of years. Of the things I’ve learned, it’s not about the personal story so much as the global. It can be difficult and rather humbling to put your goals and ambitions out on the world wide web, which definitely takes on a more personal nature. In the future, I think I will keep my goals to myself, as sometimes I aim too high, but would love to support the goals and ambitions of other racers and the running community as a whole. I won’t disappear; I’ll be here. But if there is one thing that running has taught me is that success is better when shared, more felt as a team, and more sincere when gained in silence; to speak less, but do more.
Sophie! My new housemate!
Having said that, this is my last blog post.* I am so thankful for the support of my friends, family, runners, followers, and people who have gotten in contact with me via social media. I can only hope that one day I can give back as much as people have given me. Until our paths cross, just remember to
always do what you love, and love what you do.
Best of Wishes, and Happy Trails,
Breanna Kay Cornell
*for the time being. I’m not going to try and predict the future.
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 11, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
Day 15: Monday, June 2
I awoke early for a short run through Florence, Alabama. It was a cool 70ºƒ with humidity hovering around a wet 70%. Running through downtown brought me to the University of North Alabama. A beautifully small campus, they housed two lions, brother and sister, Leo and Una, in a luxurious cage centered on campus. Unfortunately, the two were not out while I ran past. In addition to learning about the lions, I learned that the Florence area (Muscle Scholes) was home to music productions and near the birthplace of Hellen Keller. While lacking mountains, there were plenty of rivers and hills to satisfy my curiosity about trails.
The lion cage on University of North Alabama's Campus.
After cleaning up, I headed off to my interview 30 minutes outside of town. Following the interview, a woman from the company was kind enough to show me some interesting things around town, including the world’s only Coon-Dog Cemetery and the Rattle Snake Saloon, a bar housed on the side of a cliff over a pond. Both were situated on some back dirt roads, nested in beautiful areas of dense, green woods.
The Rattle Snake Saloon – under a cliff overhang!
A dinner out and walk through the quaint downtown lit with fire flies saw me to bed. Reflecting on the day, the cultural differences were cast in stark difference between the southwest and midwest. It wasn’t bad, just different and interesting. Overall, I felt that the interview went well, as did the rest of the day. I look forward to hearing back!
The only Coon-Dog Cemetary in the wold; brought to you by Alabama!
Day 16: Tuesday, June 3
Today was a travel day with an adventure at the end. After checking out of the Alabama hotel early, and an hour drive over to the airport, I found myself on one of the most interesting plane rides of my life. I was seated on a full fight back to Salt Lake City next to a 95 year-old lady. She was the sweetest lady in the world, but didn’t know what personal space meant. It was 4 hours of leaning, chatting, and trying to tempt me to eat some of the food she had packed (which included hard boiled eggs, a hamburger, chocolate covered raisins, cookies, pretzels, and more). I had planned on watching a movie on my laptop, but it felt too rude to even try. I listened patiently. Whoever her grandchildren are are very lucky to have such a loving, kind, and experienced grandmother.
Mark met me at the Salt Lake City airport and from there we took off to the trails that branched off into the Wasatch range starting not two miles from the back of his apartment complex. It started with a huge hill climb, loose dirt and rocks falling away beneath our feet. I’ll admit, I am timid on downhills, especially ones that seem nearly vertical to a Midwestern native. Mark gave pointers on how to become a better downhill runner which summed up came down to “Don’t think about it.”
Coming down one of the super steep hills.
And he was right.
I really don’t think about the uphills that I so love to run. I just like feeling like what I imagine mountain goats must as they prance and bound gracefully along mountain peaks. While I was hardly able to keep up with Mark on the downhills, by the end of the 7 mile loop (with 4,000 feet of vertical gain!) my downhill strides were much improved.
Awesome views to be had just outside of the city!
The sun was hot, but the humidity that I had experienced in Alabama all but nonexistent in Utah. After a long morning of travel, the hill climbing and speeding down steep slopes had me feeling relaxed that evening. The run closed with an awesome belated graduation present from Mark; dinner at the Vertical Diner, a completely vegan restaurant. The food was phenomenal. The perfect ending to a long day.
Day 17: Wednesday, June 4
After the days of travel between Utah, Arizona, and Alabama, I was exhausted. I slept in to a late 7 AM. I planned to meet Mark down at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse to try on some hydration vests after he got done with work. While waiting for the afternoon to arrive, I explored an outdoor mall in downtown Salt Lake City; it certainly was beautiful with fountains and a small creek running through the lower walkway. I learned that they allowed shoppers to take their dogs into stores with them. Wishing Sophie was with me, I wistfully examined workout garb in various stores that I knew I didn’t need, but certainly wouldn’t mind owning.
I had been wanting a new hydration vest for a while. I love my Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6; it has a lot of storage space, a huge pouch for packing a lot of gear, pockets in the front, and fits well. However, as a pack to wear in hot weather, it allows for little back ventilation and is a bit much for wearing in a race. With the Brcye 100 but ten days away, and aid stations ten or more miles apart, I wanted something that would be better suited for racing. Handhelds are great for races, but knowing how hot it can get in the desert and how far apart the aid stations are, I thought a pack would be a better choice for Bryce.
At Brighton, we traversed these super steep slopes.
I met Mark at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse where I tried on a LOT of packs. I was really amazed at how many designs and fits there actually were. I learned that I’m not a huge fan of the bottles in front. Some of the packs’ arm straps were too form fitting, and I couldn’t easily see or reach pockets on the side. Others had a lot of storage options in the back, but I prefer to have more storage in front. I finally settled on the Ultraspire Alpha. With pockets in the front large enough to hold small water bottles, and a pouch in the back just the right size for an outer shell and headlamp, the size of the pack wasn’t overkill. The added benefit of being able to store 2 liters of water and being able to easily access all of the front and side pouches when I was wearing it sold the vest for me. Mark and I then went to give it a trial run through the Brighton Ski park.
A half hour drive out of the city of Salt Lake and we were at Brighton. It was a good 15º cooler on the mountain than it had been in the city, and snow still remained on most of the slopes. We began our trek to Mary’s Lake then to try to access one of the peaks (I’m forgetting the names). There was still a lot of snow, most of it crusted and packed, but with snowmelt racing beneath meant that breaking through in areas was unavoidable. The trail was covered and we went off track, but reached a decent elevation.
We found Jim on the trails!
For the first time I traversed a mountain. It was one of the most fun, exhilarating, and scary things I have ever done. Digging the soles of our shoes into a 50º slope, with a stick in one hand and balancing with the other, we made our way across a bowl. I was slow. Mostly because I was timid and a bit afraid. If you start to slide, there was no stopping, hence the stick. Should you slip and fall, you dig the stick into the snow and hold on for dear life. I sloped and slid a little once, but thankfully didn’t go very far.
I was much more confident on the ups rather than the downs. Up is easy. Coming down takes a lot more skill and confidence that I have yet to build up. To really be good on terrain like that, you have to train on it consistently or seriously have no fear. I’ll admit, I’m not fearless. But it was a LOT of fun.
Mark embracing the awesome.
Just as we began to descend, we ran into Jim Milar, a friend of Mark’s and fellow ultra runner. Searching for the trail covered in snow, we joined Jim in ascending part of the mountain a bit more before running back down. It was absolutely beautifully breathtaking. Jim was great company and it was fantastic to listen to Jim and Mark converse on the Wasatch 100, of which we were running parts of the course. What a wicked course; just from the small snow-covered sections we had run and the stories from Jim and Mark blew my mind about this race.
Annndddd… now I want to run it.
But I’ll save that for a future adventure. When I feel ready.
Returning to the car, I had forgotten that I had even been wearing the Ultraspire. Happy with its fit, with the afternoon adventure, and with meeting Jim, I slept well that night.
Day 18: Thursday, June 5
I did but a short loop around Salt Lake City in the morning before packing up to meet up with Cheyney, whom I had met at my internship in Arizona the previous summer. He had invited me to join him and his friends on an 80s rock motorcycle Utah tour. I had no idea what to expect, but at the least that it would be fun!
After an hour drive, I met Cheyney at his office, where he had a brand new pair of Altra Zero Drop Superiors waiting for me. While working together last year, he had mentioned that he was friends with one of the co-founders of Altra and was able to hook me up with a pair of shoes. I will be forever grateful; the shoes will definitely get the mileage they deserve We packed up his Harley-Davidson and took off for Vernal, Utah with Cheyney’s friend Keith.
One of the pit stops we took on the way out of Salt Lake City.
I had never been on a motorcycle before.
It was kind of scary. Given, I was riding on the back. It’s like being a passenger in a car and having no control where you’re going. It was an experience for sure! After about an hour of riding, I became more comfortable. I can see why road trips cross country on bike can be enjoyable; you don’t just see the scenery, you experience it. You feel the temperature changes, smell the fields as you drive by, the sprinklers, the grass. The dust blasts against you with each gust of wind, the smell of the desert entwining itself with your skin. The pockets of cold alternating with heat, and the radiation of the sun. Things you don’t feel enclosed in a car.
But riding a motorcycle also hurt my butt a lot.
We arrived in Vernal, met up with another friend, checked into the hotel, and went out to dinner.
Day 19: Friday, June 6
I awoke the next morning before everyone else and went for a run around Vernal. I knew that there were dinosaurs in Utah, but I hadn’t really thought about where. We were close to the Dinosaur National Monument, and Vernal reflected this in its many dinosaur statues and museums.
Vernal is also situated in a more desert-esque landscape. The mountains, canyons, and hills that arose from the earth were a sunrise orange with streaks of tan and red. Even though the morning was a cool 50ºƒ, warmth and heat radiated from the rocks.
Returning from my run, I met up with Cheyney, Keith, and Snow. Cheyney, having some extra tickets, had invited me as him and Keith knew the people who were organizing the event and assisting in setting it up. We headed over to the venue (but two blocks away) to help in any way we could. Mainly, it was a lot of loading things on and off trucks where I felt more in the way than anything.
Cheyney & Keith's motorcycles.
After a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool, we went over to the concert for the first night of bands. I was technically backstage (which was really cool–we got to talk with the bands and socialize a bit), but it was really more off to the side watching. I’m not a huge music person to start with, and 80s rock isn’t quite my thing, but it was actually a lot of fun. It was simply enjoyable to be around new people and experience something different. This is, after all, the summer of “Why not?”*
Backstage pass, yo!
Day 20: Saturday, June 7
After another morning run around the desert of Vernal, I joined Keith and a couple of his friends on their Harley-Davidsons for a ride down a canyon and out to a reservoir in the Ashely National Forest. It was absolutely beautiful (and kind of fun to experience mountain driving on a motorcycle) but there was a part of me that was frustrated. There were so many dirt roads and trails branching from the main roads that I just longed to run and explore. Each time we reached an unpaved road, it became a turn around point. Those points, though, would have been where the real fun and beauty of the canyons begun had I been hiking or running. I’m much more of a travel-by-foot person.
The Flaming Gorge Dam that we visited.
Nonetheless, it was beautiful. Headed back down to the desert from the mountains, we were rained on. The desert air at the base of the forest quickly dried us out, and we headed back to the hotel to clean up before the second night of the concert.
Keith being B.A. on his Harley.
The second night of the concert was similar to the first, but there were many more people in the stands. There was a rumor going around that Nicolas Cage was at the concert, accompanying a band, but I never saw him. I was the first one to return to the room; I was tired.
Up close to the stage!
Day 21: Sunday, June 8
I spend the majority of Sunday getting back to Salt Lake City. We took our time, leaving late in the morning and stopping along the way back. When I got back to Salt Lake, it was the afternoon. After saying good-bye to Cheyney, I went back to Mark’s apartment and was surprisingly exhausted. Being around that many people for that long wears me out more than running 50 miles. I enjoy people, and parties, and stuff, but it overwhelms me to a certain point and I just need to decompress. So I did. It was a relaxing evening and day that didn’t have much to report on.
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 2, 2014 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Day 8: Monday, May 26
I awoke before Adam or Nick, who had expressed some interest in a morning run. Unable to stay in my car much longer, I got up and went for a quick three-mile jaunt on the roads before returning to camp. In the parking lot was a man wearing the Superior 100 hat. It turns out that he had raced the 100 this past year, same as me. Vacationing for Memorial Day, he was headed back to Minnesota. I asked him for some trail recommendations in the area and he informed me that the Henry’s Peak trail was only a couple miles down the road and a good 6 mile out-and-back.
Morning run in the Black Hills.
Finding Adam and Nick awake, I informed them of my plans to run this trail. They were eager to start the day climbing, as the rain had interrupted their plans yesterday. It had turned out that we both planned to be camping in Yellowstone during the same time. We exchanged numbers before a quick good-bye with plans to meet up again in Yellowstone.
Morning run in the Black Hills.
I found the Henry’s Peak trail and began the ascent. I was sucking wind as I made my way up the mountain; it must be the altitude. I remember upon arriving in Arizona last summer at 5,000 feet how much more sluggish I was during the first week of running there. It could also be that sitting in the car all day the previous could be getting to me. But the trail did not disappoint. The views were lovely.
Returning to my car, I packed up, and took off for the Bighorn National Forest. Thankfully, this drive was a short 4 hours. The Black Hills gave way to vastly open and rolling grazing land. It was startlingly beautiful, in a lonesome sort of way. The Bighorn mountains grew out of the landscape, breathtakingly. Snow still capping the peaks seemed to float on the blue horizon.
A last stop in Buffalo, Wyoming, had me filling up my tank at a gas station. Across from me, a woman was also filling her car when she glanced at my shirt. I was wearing my “Kalamazoo (Michigan) Marathon” shirt. A glimmer of recognition sparked through her eyes and shed asked me, “Are you from Michigan?”
My “Yes,” prompted her to inform me that she was too was from Michigan and had been living in Buffalo for 8 years. I told her that I planned to spend the afternoon hiking and camping in the Bighorn National Forest, and did she have any recommendations? She responded immediately by taking out a pen and paper and giving me directions to Sheep Mountain Road, which summits Bighorn (or so I was told; this could be wrong, but I can’t find the trail online to confirm). Thanking her, I climbed back in my car to begin the ascent into Bighorn.
Sheep Mountain Road.
If I thought the Black Hills were amazing, Bighorn was absolutely staggering. I found Sheep Mountain Road easily enough (and aptly named for I spotted a herd of big horned sheep right away), but found it impassable about a mile in; there was still snow that covered the road. After bottoming out numerous times in Booneville, I did not want to risk gutting the innards of my car. Instead I parked at a trailhead, slung my hammock, and went for a short jog that turned into a hike.
Snow on roads!
For some inexplicable reason (uh, maybe all the driving?) I was absolutely exhausted. I crawled into my hammock for a nap. Three hours later, I awoke to the rumble of thunder and flash of lightening. With my plans for an evening hike dashed, I quickly packed up my hammock and retreated to my car. I ate a dinner of trail mix while I watched the storm roll but a quarter mile past camp. While not tired from the long nap I had indulged in that afternoon, I had nothing better to do than read. I read until I needed a headlamp then fell asleep.
STOP... Hammock time!
That night, I was troubled by dreams of bears ripping open my car doors, of park rangers fining me for parking at a trailhead, or mysterious mountain lions peering in my windows… and with an awful stomach ache that had me crawling from my car several times. Perhaps a small sample of whatever sickness Maranda had endured.
Day 9: Tuesday, May 27
After the early bedtime from the previous day, I awoke before the sun. Eager to see what was along Sheep Mountain Road, but not knowing how long of a road it would be to the summit, I packed my Camelbak, bracing myself for a run/hike of 5-6 hours. The sunlight had just begun to paint the tops of the trees when I set out.
Good morning, Bighorn!
I ran the down hills, jogged the flats, and hiked the uphills. As it turned out, it was all uphill on the way out. There was snowmelt roaring down the mountain, collecting in rivers crossed by several bridges. It was stunning. It had reached freezing that night, evidence in the pools of water with fresh ice crystals floating about. Happy that I had started early, the mounds of snow that resided on the road were crusted enough for me to walk on. When I did break through the crusted snow, I plunged shin-deep, the ice crystals scraping my legs.
Approaching the summit, the air warmed, and it became more and more difficult to stay on top of the snow. I took to the woods, climbing over fallen trees and rocks, under branches and twigs, paralleling the road. The snow on the ground under the trees was much less deep, and easier to manage when my legs broke through. I should have worn leggings.
I'm on top!
It was a surprisingly short 5 miles to the top, where a small lodge and outhouse resided. I cannot even describe the view. I stood for a solid 10 minutes, absorbing the essence of just being. Being the only one for miles. Of the mountain top, for that brief moment in time, being just mine.
I didn’t want to leave.
Time to go down.
But then it was the fun part! If it was a slow hike up, it was a fast run down. The return trip was probably one of the fastest 5 miles I’ve run. The mix of hot sunlight and cool air rising from the rivers and snow created an intoxicating atmosphere, one that made adrenaline surge and joy resound.
I wished the route had been longer, but it was time to move on, to the next destination, to the next adventure.
The drive itself was phenomenal. Bighorn dropped away into a vast canyon, taking on shades of orange and red. The canyon flattened to green pastures where tall, red mesas rose from the earth. Away from the mountains on flat ground, the view was panoramic; surrounded by giants on all sides, their snow-capped peaks beckoning me to them.
The Shoshone National Forest rose from the earth, a river dominating the center of its being. The Buffalo Bill Dam was a must-see stop for me, as an environmental engineer with an interest in water resources. Continuing brought me to the Eastern entrance for Yellowstone.
Buffalo Bill Dam.
The excitement that had risen with anticipation was dashed after speaking with a park ranger; the backwoods campground I had planned on staying in was closed due to snow. The trials I had so looked forward to running were blocked off due to bears, flooding, and snow. It appears that I did not come at the right time of year. However, Yellowstone made up for it in wondrous views.
Awesome views in Yellowstone!
I wound up paying to stay at one of the campgrounds, it being the safest option with the current number of bear sightings in the area. There, I met Joe. Joe was also from Michigan (we’re all over the place!) and biking from Oregon to Michigan, averaging over 70 miles a day and blogging about it. He was an instant friend, but had to take off. Joe informed me that the other side of the park was much more worthwhile. I longed to see it, but had already had enough driving for the day. Instead, I went for a short hike on the trails that were open in the area, before returning to camp to write this section.
I met two other Michiganders in the campground upon returning from hiking; two graduates from the University of Michigan in differing studies of engineering. Ah! Fellow Michiganian Engineers! They too were indulging in the “Great American Road Trip” before bracing themselves for the endurance required to broach the “real world” – at least, the world that society expects recent graduates to enter and develop accordingly in. I wondered, having already met Adam and Nick, just how many graduates took on the road trip adventure? How did they approach it? Where did they go? What were their goals? I was silently envious of these two U of M students as well as Nick and Adam; to have a friend to share the road with would be wondrous!
Close to the campground.
I never did meet up with Adam and Nick; they continued past Yellowstone through to the Tetons after I called to inform them about the backcountry conditions. Tomorrow is yet another lonesome drive. Not to a National Park, however. No, tomorrow beings an almost week-long interview extravaganza! A different sort of adventure, but one I’m looking foreword to nonetheless.
Day 10: Wednesday, May 28
I awoke in the Yellowstone campground to find frost had settled over the park. Donning a jacket and canister of bear spray, I took to the roads. With the warnings of bears awakening from hibernation told to me by the rangers from the previous day floating around my head, I stuck to the pavement. And it was a good thing that I did.
A mother grizzly bear and her cub were spotted not a football field length from one of the main roads. It was a fiasco. People had stopped and pulled their cars off to the side to haul out their huge cameras with their telephoto lenses on tripods. Several rangers were attempting to block the road nearest to where the bears were, preventing people from coming too close and to allow them to safely cross, should the bears choose to do so.
In the photo below, you have to look closely at the tree line to see the mother bear. I, unfortunately, did not have a fancy camera but relied on the digital zoom of my iPhone to capture the moment. I wondered “What must the bears think of all the people?”
Mama grizzly bear and her cub along the tree line.
With a short 5 mile Yellowstone jog in the books, I packed up my car and took off for Salt Lake City, where I would meet up with Mark K., who had paced me at the Yellowstone-Teton 100 last October and graciously offered his couch upon which I could crash. But of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without stopping at a geyser.
Given the proximity of the parks, and that it was on the way South, I drove through the Grand Teton National Park. I think the worst thing about this road trip so far has been two things: 1.) The length of driving each day (a necessary evil) and 2.) Driving through such beautiful places without someone to share it with or the ability to take a couple of days to explore each location. The views and signage for trails really just seem to mock me as I motor on by.
The Grand Tetons!
The drive to Salt Lake City was scenic, windy, but overall uneventful. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Bailey (Mark’s dog) and Jackson (Mark’s cat). I took to the sidewalk for a quick 5 miles to stretch my legs after being stuck in the car for 6 hours. It was wonderful to see Mark again and reconnect. Salt Lake is a surprisingly beautiful city, nested at the foot of the mountains. Not 2 miles out the back of Mark’s door are trails spawning in all directions, of which Mark was eager to point out.
Tomorrow, I fly out of Salt Lake to Arizona then to Alabama for several interviews with differing companies. It may not be a National Park, but it will be an adventure that I am looking forward to for sure!
Day 11: Thursday, May 29
The early morning saw Mark off to work and myself on a short jog to meet the begging of the Wasatch trails behind Mark’s apartment. While the city had its conveniences (like a tram system that I would later utilize to get to the airport) and its proximity to the mountains was a plus, a haze hung over Salt Lake that could only remind me of my air quality classes and the inversions that cities located in mountain valleys experienced; the particulate matter obscuring the horizon, inhaling the dust 2.5 um in diameter.
A shot of Salt Lake City from my morning run.
A thought: room for improvement, but cities maintain more efficiency than rural living.
A theme: conversations about the environment, sustainable living, and first-world humanity’s habits influence and impact on the present and future.
A hope: conversations that extend past the persons I speak with; conversations that ignite a change, or a passion, whether sparked through a comment, an action, or an observation.
Salt Lake City did have phenomenal public transportation, however. Utilizing the public tram system, I was able to make it to the airport and on my way to Phoenix, Arizona. Arriving without incident to the car rental service in Arizona, I found myself being upgraded to a Mustang, given the lack of availability of town cars. Never really having driven a sports car, it was a fun experience. From Phoenix, I drove into the Tonto National Forest, over rolling mountainsides and through tunnels, into Miami/Globe. The heat of the day baked the black interior of the Mustang, but I couldn’t object the heat after complaining about the cold so often this past winter.
In Miami, I met up with Michigan Techie and friend, Claira, who is interning for the company which I had an interview with the next day. After spending the evening together, I prepared for my interview the following day.
Day 12: Friday, May 30
After short jog through town in the morning and prepping for my interview, I was prepared. Speaking with potential future coworkers and bosses, a lunch and tour of town made the day filled with anxiety, excitement, and anticipation for what the future may hold. Overall, I think the interview went well and look forward to what path the universe may offer.
Claira and I met up when she finished work and I followed her to where she is living for the summer, just outside of Phoenix. An evening filled with swimming in her backyard pool and relaxation made the perfect closure for an overall fine day.
Day 13: Saturday, May 31
Claira and I awoke early to meet her acquaintance, Jason, a manager at a local biking shop. Claira, an avid mountain biker, was working on integrating herself into the Arizona mountain biking community. Through some store searching and networking, she had met Jason who offered to show her some of the biking trails in the area. I had tagged along to run.
Running the trails just outside Phoenix.
We arrived at a rather popular trail; I was surprised how many people were out on a Saturday at 6:30 AM. This however made sense; the temperature was already 95ºƒ and rising. It was easy to wake up at 5 AM when the sun begins to peak over the horizon by 4:30 AM. Remembering the trails’ closeness to the city, the number of people populating the trails was explained.
Despite the fact that I was at a lower elevation than I had been for the past week, the run was difficult. The trail was more of a hiking trail with its loose gravel, narrowness, and moments when bouldering was required to summit the small peaks. It was the toughest run I had done on the trip thus far even though it was not the longest, steepest, or greatest change in elevation. Should I have the privilege to train on these trails daily, even weekly, I would feel and move like a mountain goat in time.
The temperature made a huge difference. The sun felt close to the earth and my pores empty of sweat. I had forgotten how heat adapt I had become over the course of four months in Arizona last year and how that had all disappeared as I became cold-adapt over Michigan’s -20ºƒ winter this year. In addition to the fact that I had been camping in near or at freezing temperatures for the past 4 days made the heat more a shock to my system than I had anticipated.
I love the desert.
This only reinforced the notion that I needed to start heat training for crewing and pacing at Badwater at the first available opportunity.
Finishing the trail run sooner than I would have liked with a slight headache and upset stomach, I realized I was dehydrated. Accompanying Claira and Jason to a burrito joint but a mile from the trailhead, I downed 3 water bottles before beginning to feel better. It was a subtle reminder that I had to build up to where I had been last summer. How easy the mind forgets and how long the body takes to readapt to each scenario!
Returning to Claira’s pool, we cooled off and set off for a trip to the $2 movie theater. “The Lego Movie” had be slightly amused, but I grew up as more of a Kenex(sp?) fan. A great exhaustion hit me while sitting in the theater. It was as if the past week of travel had finally caught up with me. Arriving back at Claira’s house, I lounged by the pool for the rest of the afternoon while she returned to Jason’s bike shop to give him some beer she owed him for a bike part. It was nice to just be. To just exist. My limbs were heavy, the sun was high, and the ground inviting.
How glorious laziness can be.
It is amazing how much energy travel can sap from you. It’s a conundrum. Sitting in a car or plane gives one the feeling of laziness, however, upon arrival, the body feels beat up and tired. Taking breaks, short walks or jogs at rest stops (which I have mistakenly called “aid stations” on this trip) helps tremendously, as do twice-a-day runs or hikes. Until this afternoon, the tiredness had not caught up. I hadn’t been training with great distances during the trip thus far (the longest day being only about 20 miles) but between changes in climate, altitude, elevation gain during runs, camping, and travel, it had summated into an afternoon of laziness.
And it was good.
Day 14: Sunday, June 1
After a nice 3 miles jaunt around Mesa with Claira at 5:30 AM, I took to the airport, returning the fun (but uncomfortable) ride of the Mustang to the car rental center. Today I was to fly not back to Salt Lake City, but to yet another interview with another company in Alabama. I was going from dry heat to a humid heat; from cactuses to forest; from rock to dirt.
Two flights and a drive from Huntsville later, a day of travel came to a close. I relaxed and braced myself the the interview the following day.
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 2, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
Admittedly, a road trip is a very personal thing; as cliche as it may sound, it is a journey of self-discovery. For this reason, I am a bit hesitant to really go into detail on my blog, as it is mainly devoted to race reports and experiences I’ve had while running. This road trip isn’t solely focused on running. It’s about visiting friends, National Parks, job interviews, and making the most of my time between graduation and employment. To say the least, I have been very privileged to be able to take such a trip. However, this trip does include crewing at several races and the Bryce Canyon 100, which will have a stand-alone blog post. So I think I will post just enough to entice your imagination, encourage your spirit to take a trip down some roads you’ve longed to explore.
I’ve summarized the trip day by day below. There is so much more that I could write; thoughts and ideas just flow like snowmelt down a mountain when you experience new trails and places, interact with new people, meet new and old friends, and try some things that scare you a bit.
Day 1: Monday, May 19
An uneventful, but necessary, day. I drove from my parent’s home in downstate Michigan up to Brainerd, Minnesota where many of the friends (the Ninja Runners) I’ve made through the Zumbro and Superior races reside. Torrential rain, road construction, and traffic turned what should have been an 11 hour drive into a 13 hours. All the while Darcy (my pet rabbit) was digging in his cage in the back. Unfortunately, I was unable to bring Darcy with me for the entirety of my road trip. Maranda, one of my Minnesotan runner friends, had a young niece who was looking to adopt a bunny. So Darcy was to accompany me to Minnesota, his new home. While the drive was long, I arrived in Minnesota alive, and stayed at my friend Mark Y’s house. Mark had paced me at the Zumbro 100 this past April and was an amazing host.
At this point, I will clarify who/what the Ninja Runners are. “Ninja Runners” was the name coined by Laurie for the group of runners who bonded over the 2013 Zumbro 100, mostly comprised of a core group of runners in Brainerd, Minnesota. Maranda loves to do photography, and takes photos of group runs and events and posts them to the Ninja Runner Facebook page. I was in Minnesota to visit my Ninja Runner friends and help where I could in expanding the group.
Day 2: Tuesday, May 20
I awoke early the next morning to run a trail loop with Mark before he had to head off to work. John then met me at the trail and I did another loop with John. Following this, I meandered over to the salon where Maranda works and received a wonderful hair cut so I could look not so disheveled for my upcoming interviews. After Maranda got done with work, I followed her to her parent’s farm. There we gave Darcy to her niece, Adeline. Adeline was overjoyed with the bunny, and I could tell that Darcy was going to a good home. A rabbit having been my first pet at the age of 5, I knew how much significance a bunny could hold for a little girl. Maranda and I camped in her trailer that night.
Hitting the trails!
Day 3: Wednesday, May 21
Maranda and I woke early to meet a friend at the trails who wanted to start running by 5 AM. Unfortunately, she ended up not being able to make it. So we went and got a coffee until Mark arrived. We ran around, up and down, back and forth on a six mile loop of single track trails constructed upon old mining tailings. They were a lot of fun. Maranda and I headed out to do another 6 mile loop after Mark and I finished the first loop.
Mark looking out over the Minnesotan trails.
With all the Ninjas off at work, I returned to Maranda’s parents’ farm, where I spent an enjoyable day with Maranda’s mother, Mary. Mary’s farm is absolutely beautiful. Sitting upon a lake, and removed from main roads in a forest, she has horses, chickens, a pig, a pony, cats, dogs, and (now) a rabbit. I assisted in re-seeding a part of the yard with grass and in feeding the bees. That was an experience! I had never worn a bee-keeper suit before. We ended the afternoon with Adeline, going for a walk down the tree-lined dirt roads.
Following this was a Ninja Runner meeting where most (but not all) Ninja Runners were present to work on the up-and-coming website and discuss future plans and adventures for the group. It was wonderful to see Maranda, Laurie, Mark, John, and Ryan. Unfortunately, Theresa, Michael, Jon, and Ed were unable to be present. I spent that night with Mark again.
Day 4: Thursday, May 22
Thursday was a bit of a rest day for me. Between running several loops on the trails yesterday, then running some hills, then working on the farm, and going for a walk, I had done about 20 miles. Which, realistically, isn’t a whole lot, but my shortest run in the past 23 days had been 3 miles. So I only went for a short 2 mile jog before returning to Mark’s house to work on the Ninja Runner website, apply for some jobs online, read, and just relax a bit. That evening, I accompanied Mark and his lovely wife, Michelle out to dinner.
More Minnesotan trails.
Day 5: Friday, May 23
Maranda was planning on racing the Booneville 100k in Iowa on Saturday. After a trail run in the morning with Mark, packing, and farewells, I made my way down to Des Moines, Iowa for the packet pickup. Maranda was feeling ill, so I met her with her runner’s packet and info in the back of the Booneville Bar, a quarter mile from where the race start was to be the following morning. The bar had agreed to let racers camp in the back. Now, I know this sounds really strange, but this bar was pretty much in the middle of farmland along a river; there was no one and nothing really around it. I camped out of my car that evening.
Maranda and I hanging from the railroad bridge behind the Booneville Bar.
Day 6: Saturday, May 24
The following morning I awoke to find that Maranda had only gotten an hour of sleep. She had spent the night being ill. Somehow I had managed to sleep through the bar noise and Maranda’s trip away from camp. She was pale and dehydrated. I was worried about how the race would go.
As a crew for Maranda, I was informed that there was to be no pacing and that I could only provide support at the bridges (the race was supposed to showcase Iowa’s covered bridges) and aid stations. I had attempted to decipher the map on my phone, but had little to no reception in areas. The course was all white, chalky, gravel backroads through Iowa’s rolling farmland. While the route was only marked with a single orange flag at turns, the race director provided a turn-by-turn direction sheet for the racers. I managed to obtain a copy for myself. They wanted to avoid having the crews drive on the course, but, not knowing the roads around the area and finding some of the roads blocked off, was unsure of how to do this. Given that the roads were not closed to through traffic, I ended up driving on the course anyhow.
Start line of the Booneville 100k.
There were very few people entered in the race, given it was in the first year of its being. The day was warm and sunny, and with a start time of 6 AM, racers had until midnight to complete the 62 miles. After brief photo op at the start line, the racers were off.
I followed other crew cars to about 7 miles into the course and parked along side of the road with three other vehicles. There was a family cheering on their father/husband/son, and the wife of a super talented runner who dubbed themselves team “Dan-drea,” their names being “Dan” and “Andrea” respectively. It was wonderful to socialize with the other crews while waiting to cheer our runners on. The first runner came blasting through, well ahead of the others. Soon enough, though, more racers began to trickle in. I went for a short jog down a side street while waiting for Maranda.
Maranda came through the 7 mile mark in about 1:20, which was fantastic given how she had been feeling. We reviewed her plan to walk the hills and run the flats and downhills, to reevaluate how she felt at each aid station. With a few words of encouragement, I drove ahead to the aid station at mile 10.
Maranda coming through the 7 mile mark.
There but two people manned the tent that provided only Gu, water, and Gatorade. I waited with the family and Andrea for our racers to come through. By this time, the temperature began to rise. When Maranda came through, however, she was still wearing a long-sleeved shirt claiming to be cold. I felt her forehead, which was burning up. She had a fever. There was no talk of stopping, though. She was managing to drink and eat and remained optimistic.
I drove ahead another 5 miles and pulled off to the side of the road. She had been averaging 10-minute miles, which gave me enough time to get a nice jog down a residential street. I was chased by a well-intentioned brown lab, before returning to my vehicle. While parked along the rolling stretches of farmland, a handful of farmers had pulled off to ask if I was broken down. It was thoughtful of them, but I waved them on. A few asked if I was part of the race. When I responded that I was cheering on one of the runners, the farmers explained that they had not been informed that the race was going to take place and wished they had known in advanced. I told them I’d let the race director know this request for future events.
First covered bridge of the race.
When Maranda came past this time, she asked for some music. I handed her off with my iPod and her speakers. She seemed to be in a really good mental state, no matter how bad she felt. After a short break, she took off for the second aid station.
The second aid station was located at the first covered bridge of the course, but was only stocked with Gu, water, and Gatorade; a one-man show this time. However, it was across from a gas station. Knowing that Maranda needed more solid food, I jogged to the gas station to peruse the isles for something that she might like. Upon returning to the aid station, I went for a mile jog (my legs were still cramps from the lengthy drive the previous day), then settled in to wait for Maranda.
Time passed. More time than should have. I began to worry. Had she taken a wrong turn? Did she get sick on the course? I waited. And waited. Until there were but three people left to come through the aid station. Two came through. Then it was just Maranda. Where was she? Exchanging numbers with the volunteer manning the aid station, I tried to interpret the directions in reverse to find Maranda. After missing a turn, I felt in my gut that I had missed her along the course somewhere. After driving back five miles, I turned around to return to the aid station. There, Maranda was sitting happily in the grass, waiting for me. I had missed her along the course when I made the wrong turn. Thankfully, she had not been there long.
Maranda refueling with Honey!
Maranda asked me to sit in the grass with her and we enjoyed the cool freshness of it. She was able to eat some solid food before she returned to the dirt roads. The third aid station was a short 7 miles from the second. We agreed that we would meet there.
Thus was when the race began to become interesting.
After a couple miles, the course turned from the maintained gravel roads to an un-maintained dirt road. It was smooth enough at its entrance and with all-wheel-drive the only worry I had was the clearance on my little VW Passat. But how else was I supposed to get to the next aid station?
The dirt road was beautiful; Lined with trees and roofed with branches, it meandered. Then, it dropped away, suddenly, like when you ski over a ridge on the face of a mountain. All of a sudden, I had no room to turn around or back up; the only way to go was with the road: DOWN. Which, would’ve been fine, if the trail hadn’t been rutted beyond all reasonable expectations for a non-off-roading vehicle. Slowly and carefully, I maneuvered my car over and through the ruts. I only managed to bottom out three times. Something under my car twanged. Uh-oh. I’d have to check it out at the aid station.
The third aid station, located at mile 30, was at the junction of a gravel road with the dirt road along a stretch of river. A jolly volunteer greeted me. This was the first aid station to have solid food; pretzels, oranges, bananas, and PB&J in addition to the Gu, water, and Gatorade. Looking under my car, I could see that a metal strap of some sort had come loose and been nocked out of place when I had tried to come down that rutted beast of a road. The Passat was running fine enough, and nothing was leaking, so I wasn’t worried.
The metal strap that got knocked out of place when I bottomed out; view from the front of car.
Waiting for Maranda, I jogged another mile. She was in last, but was well ahead of the time limitations. There had been a runner who had a biker semi-pacing her close to the aid stations. Another crew member arrived and ran back to greet his runner, who dropped at this aid station. After waiting for Maranda for an extended period, but knowing pacers weren’t allowed, I turned to the volunteer and asked: “Would it be alright if I jogged back to meet my runner?”
With his permission, I set out to find Maranda. I only had about a half mile until I ran into her. We walked it into the aid station, where wet bandanas were provided. Maranda prepped herself to head back out. She was sun-burnt, and I encouraged her to put more sunscreen on. She said that her stomach was upset, but didn’t want to take any more medication. Her legs: amazing. The rest of her: not so much. She gathered herself and took off with the plan for us to meet every 3 miles until the 4th aid station, another 12 miles away.
I drove 3 miles ahead. When Maranda reached me, she informed me that she was done. All I could respond with was “OK.”
Part of me felt like I was a horrible, awful crew person to not try and push her to do more. Another part of me was a bit relieved because she was really giving me no indication how sick she felt. She already had a fever, had spent the night throwing up, was sun burnt… how much do you push a person before it becomes not safe? There was only so much aid I could give her on the course. I had honestly questioned if it was smart for her to even start. The fact that she had made it 34 miles in her state was beyond me.
View from inside the second covered bridge of the race.
Sitting with her on the side of the road, we debated about how best to turn in her timing chip. We decided that we would drive to the next aid station. Maranda wanted me to run the rest of the race, but I said that I couldn’t; that would be bandit racing and not fair. She told me to run to the next aid station, and, with that, jumped into my car and started driving off.
The hunt had begun!
It was light-hearted and fun. I caught Maranda 3 miles down the road. There, we found the next covered bridge of the race and stopped to take pictures. A race security guy on a motor bike stopped to check on us. We informed him that Maranda had dropped and he called it into the race director. We returned to the start and turned in Maranda’s chip. Given the day it had been, we determined that getting a hotel room would trump camping behind the bar again. Driving back to Des Moines, we found a room and had dinner.
End of the day.
What an adventure! Throughout the whole of it, Maranda had been so positive. She never let how awful she was feeling bring her down. I am throughly impressed with her ability to weather the tough stuff. The race itself, the Booneville 100k, however was a bit disastrous. There is some room for forgiveness as it was its inaugural year, but the website failed to inform racers the lack of support at aid stations. Crews should have been provided with directions to the aid stations where you didn’t have to follow the course. The residents along the course should have been informed that a race was going on, in addition to the course being better marked for both the racers, the residents, and crew members. Iowa wasn’t quite what I expected, but I guess I don’t know quite what I was expecting either.
Day 7: Sunday, May 25
Rain tapped the windows of our hotel room, waking me early. I arose without waking Maranda to explore the paved bike trails of Des Moines in the wee hours of morning, the 9 hour drive ahead of me that day taunting my legs. Following the run and a sorrowful good-bye, I packed my car and took off for the Black Hills National Forest.
Stopped at Mt Rushmore.
The drive, while long, was uneventful (which is a good thing, right?). I reached the Black Hills in the late afternoon, giving me plenty of time to stop at Mt Rushmore and find a camping spot. Just a couple miles past the monument, I saw a scattering of tents through the trees and pulled off into a lot by a volt toilet. Parking next to two guys (who I later learned were Adam and Nick), I rolled down my window.
"Oh hey der goat."
“Is this the free campground?” I asked.
“Yeah,” replied Nick.
“Awesome,” I said, getting out of my car and stretching my legs. “Are you guys camping too?” When they responded in the affirmative, I furthered my inquiry, “Do you want to go for a run?”
Adam laughed, “We were just talking about doing that 20 minutes ago.”
Not five minutes later, I was galloping through the forest with two guys I had just met. Adam was still in college and Nick had graduated, both hailing from the east coast. They were taking a month-long road trip across the country to climb and run, similar to my current endeavor. Somehow, in the short distance between camp and the trail, we managed to scramble our way over rocks and around the back of Rushmore.
Run with Nick & Adam.
A solid 7 miles later, we returned to camp. There, we met a cyclist who had just arrived, Victor. Victor hailed from France and was biking across the US. How many cool people would i meet on this trip? It was but the first day! It was an evening filled with macaroni, story swapping, and plans for adventure.
Parked along side the tents, I slept in my car. It had rained and hailed not an hour before I had arrived earlier and who knew what the forecast was for that evening. I slept well.
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on May 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM||comments (1)|
I wanted to devote a whole blog post to the Chippewa 50k, but honestly felt that it would be a lot of miscellaneous details irrelevant to many readers. There are plenty of race reports out there detailing the out-and-back single track course over rolling hills. However, Chippewa was mostly composed of reconnecting with many runners and friends from past events. With legs still a bit fatigued from the Zumbro 100 two weeks prior, I was happy to finish in 5:45:15, 51/225 overall and 7 for females. I just want to congratulate all the first-time ultra runners in the race, thank the enthusiastic volunteers and sincere race director, as well as my friends, Jace and Riccardo, for accompanying me to this event (a kudos for Riccardo for finishing in the top 10 for the 10k!).
The past month, filled with Zumbro and Chippewa, has been busy in a different manner: school. In but two days– two days!!!– I will have graduated with my B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University.
I am ecstatic, excited, and absolutely, positively terrified.
Chippewa 50k finisher's certificate signed by race director
Committing to and completing a degree– any degree– is no easy task. I chose environmental engineering because I have harbored a passion for the environment for a long as I can remember; longer, even, than my passion for running. I felt that it was the most logical course in being able to make a positive impact, difference, or change in the world, however small. The butterfly effect.
And now, I’ll have it.
I’ll have my degree and I can go out and make that difference.
As in training, easier said than done.
I think one of the most frustrating questions to be asked as a graduating senior is “What are you going to do now?” as the good-intentioned expectant inquirer peers back at you.
I don’t know.
I know what I want to do– environmental engineering (ideally, water resources!), travel, race– but that’s different than what is realistic. I jokingly reply “Oh, I’m going to live out of my car!” Often, that prompts an alarmed look in response. But, in a sense, I’m not lying…
I’ve always been the type of person who KNEW what was coming next, who planned, who wrote itineraries for the entirety of my life. When I was 8, I KNEW I was going to live on a farm and be a vet. While that’s changed, there was no question in my mind at the time where my life was going. I’ve always been open to change and adaptation, but I’ve also always maintained some sort of direction, and now it’s all up in the air.
If you had asked me a month ago “What are you going to do now?” I’d break into a mini-panic attack. But, as graduation has grown closer, instead of getting the pre-race jitters I’ve found a calm. I may not know my direct path at the moment, but I know where my run is going to finish. It might mean taking a different route, but I’ll get there.
I’ve been applying to companies and entry-level engineering jobs where I know I’ll feel like I have a purpose. This summer, I'll start the beginning of a new type of long run. So far, it has been frustrating. If there is anything distance running has taught me, however, it is patience. So I will travel. I will visit friends and national parks, volunteer at races, explore different employment opportunities or even graduate schools around the country. I will live, have adventures, and let go of worry, of control... for just a little bit.
Getting here wasn’t easy. I don’t know if it’ll get any easier. What I do know is that I don’t have to know everything. Despite what engineering has taught me, I don’t need all the answers. I don’t need to know what I’m doing tomorrow or the day after. What running has taught me is as long as I know where I need to be, I’ll get there; some how, some way.
I’d like to close this post with a commencement speech I wrote. My school emailed graduating undergraduate students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to submit a commencement speech that could be read at graduation. While mine wasn’t selected, it did make it into the final 6 speeches under consideration. I’ve posted it below, as I’d love to share a bit of what an adventure it’s been for, not only myself, but all of my peers as well. I hope to share many adventures, running or otherwise, with my classmates and racing friends alike in the near future!
It's Been A Wonderful Long Run
Many of my peers and professors know me as “that crazy barefoot girl who likes to run 100-mile races.” But I’m no more crazy than the rest of the graduates here today. You have to be crazy to go to Michigan Tech, because, I’ll be honest, this has been the longest and hardest run of my life.
I'll miss our crazy labs, lab partners, and professors & TAs.
I’m often asked what it’s like to run 100 miles. You can ask any student here what it’s like to make it to graduation and their answer wouldn’t differ much from mine. There are highs and lows, obstacles and challenges that make even the most determined question why they’re pursuing their degree, the finisher’s medal. Some classes are a smooth road, lined with aid stations, TAs and Professors that are willing to walk you through the steps. Others, a technical mountain trail where you fall, taking blows from poor grades. Often times the most technical and difficult trail is the one with the most scenery, where you learn the most and are reminded of what you came here to do.
I'll miss frozen Lake Superior and the crazy friends that explore.
There is a point in a 100 mile race, usually around mile 65, where all you want to do is stop. This is the point where the sun is setting, all day you’ve only eaten energy gels and gatorade, and all you want to do is put on a pair of pajamas, curl up in front of a TV, and order take-out; you just want to yell “NOPE! I’M DONE. NO MORE, PLEASE!” The same feeling I get when a lab report or project is assigned that seems insurmountable. Why do we keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, hour after hour of being in lab with nothing but coffee to console us? Because, at mile 65 or 2 AM in the morning, working on a paper that is due in 6 hours, is when you remember why you entered this race, why you endure.
Blizzard, our Husky masscot, on the chair lift at Ripley ski hill (I'll miss you!!!)
You endure the long, cold Husky winters filled with late nights, enterprises, senior design, reading assignments and classes that continue in unreasonably low windchills because there is a motivation that drives you towards your goal; a passion. No matter how tough the degree, or if you’ll ever run another race again, to make it to the finish you have to harbor a passion for what you’re doing that enables you to endure. It is at the lowest lows, mile 70, when you want to change your major, do change your major, drop your minor, add a degree, take a semester off, shave your head, grow a beard, get a scholarship, lose a friend, make a friend, where you look up from the long and tedious flowchart that outlines the classes you must take to obtain that faraway goal. It is where you look up, be wholly in the moment. That is where you are reminded, where you remember, where you find that passion. We all would not be here today without that passion. And we all would not be here today without that ability to weather the tough stuff, the ability to endure.
After all, weren't huskies bred for their endurance?
I'll miss Winter Carnival and snow statues!
But you make it to mile 85, and that’s only 15 miles to go. That’s nothing in the face of 100 miles, 4 or more years of hard work. It’s the mile where you crest the mountain ridge, and are able to see all the wonderful things this race has brought; the new friends, Mt Ripley on a sunny day, broomball after acing an exam, carnival statues enticing the imagination. And you realize that, even though it was your own two feet that carried you this far, it was also the support of friends, family, peers, professors, and faculty that aided in your success, the support crew, people who manned the aid stations, and race directors of this long run. And the finish line is in sight.
I'll miss our crazy pep band.
I have been asked what it is like to cross the finish line of a 100 mile race. Don’t ask me. Ask the students in this room today. They will tell you. It is rewarding. It is relief. It is sadness, excitement, pride, joy, and every emotion that sums up all of the training, all of the blood, sweat, and calc that it took to stand here before you today.
I'll miss our rowing team!
We are not the same people that toed the starting line freshman year. No, a 100 miles is a journey of growth, each mile molding, shaping, and expanding upon our person. We are not the same people, but bettered versions of who we were, who we are.
I'll miss broomball!
And now that we’re here, we’ve crossed the finish line, what next? Full-time job, graduate school, peace corps, adventure? I, for one, am always looking for a new race.
Do what you love,
love what you do!
Best of Wishes,
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on April 13, 2014 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Zumbro: Return to the Beast
***Warning: This post contains gross pictures of feet. If you find this disturbing, I suggest you don't run long distances or continue reading.
I went back to Zumbro, that malicious looped course that spawned my first ever DNF a year ago; my first 100 mile attempt. Despite despising the fact that you had to complete the same loop 6 times, that the weather is completely and utterly unpredictable in April in Minnesota, and the early time of year offers little training opportunities to hit the trails before race day, I registered almost as soon as registration opened.
Because I absolutely loved the people there.
Upon what was initially perceived to be a failure upon last year's drop, I became connected to a network of people threaded together by this incredible event. Aside from the fact that the race director, John Storkamp, and his wife, Cheri, are some of the most grounded, whole-hearted people I have ever met, this event attracts runners who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for each other– more so than I've encountered at other events. At last year's event I met one person in particular who completely changed and bettered my running and life experiences this past year: Maranda Lorraine.
Maranda, Ed, & I, Zumbro 2014
In 2013, Maranda attempted Zumbro as her first hundred, as I had, and dropped, as I had, at mile 50. We bonded around the campfire, exchanged phone numbers and ideas for exciting adventures. Through online and phone messaging, we arranged to meet in the Grand Canyon for our Rim2Rim2Rim adventure. Only having interacted in person 5 months prior, Maranda drove all the way from Minnesota to Arizona to do a double crossing of the Grand Canyon with someone she hardly knew. But we intrinsically knew each other through the spirit of ultras, and our friendship grew from there. Again, she supported me at Pinhoti, pacing and supporting.
She has done so much for me, and others; she completely gives herself to everything she does. She has become the thread that has connected me to a larger running community that I would be able to have done on my own. Through her Ninja Runner's page, inspirational photography, and just incredibly supportive personality, she doesn't give herself enough credit for her accomplishments that span outside of running times and distances. I knew that Maranda and all the Ninja Runners that she has sewn connections with would be at Zumbro. Because of that, I knew I would be there too.
Our humble Ninja Runner camp.
I will spare this post the nuances of detail– the camping and packet pickup, the pre-race dinner, meeting up with all the Ninja Runners– and the course description. You can read about the course description in my blog post from last year here or on the race website here.
The course was in much better condition this year, however, and I was optimistic. The trails were relatively dry, with only a few patches of ice and mud. They did not have the standing water that we experienced the previous year and where there had been a stream crossing in 2013 was simply mud. The snow, ice, and mud revealed that the underlying trail was rocky and semi-technical in places, leaves hiding devious ankle-twisters. Maranda and Theresa would both be running the 100 with me; Ed and Ryan would be pacing Maranda, Jill and Mark pacing myself.
Pacers were allowed to join after the 50 mile mark. This year, John informed us that we could have both pacers on the trail at once. Maranda had put me in contact with Jill and Mark; I had only connected with them through Facebook prior to the event. I was so happy she did because they turned out to be the perfect pacer-racer match, as I would soon learn. Mark would go to the ends of the earth to support anyone. We formulated a plan: after 50 miles, we would only have three loops left to go, so Mark would take the first, Jill the second, and we would complete the third as a team.
As part of this plan, I like to incorporate things at certain distances to motivate myself. I have a small set of speakers that I use to play music (I dislike wearing headphones) and use it as motivation to get through the night. My speakers broke, however, on my way over. I shrugged it off, but when Mark found out, he stopped to buy a new pair before coming to camp. Jill was ever ready, ever excited, and infused with all the positive energy that I needed. While waiting to pace, she slept in full running regalia– headlamp and all– coddling her water bottle, the anticipation to hit the trails too great.
Jill, myself, and Mark
Going into the race, I knew that I hadn't trained as well as I probably should have. Being in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is wonderful at times, but also has it's draw backs. This winter was very harsh– we had over 50 consecutive days below freezing (many of those days below zero), and a cumulative snowfall of 314.5 inches with 50 inches still on the ground the day I left for Zumbro. It wasn't that I wasn't physically or mentally trained for the distance; no, I completed a self-supported 50 miler on snowmobile trails a month and a half before the race. On days when I was fed up with fighting cars for the shoulder of the road, or the temperatures and wind, I would ski or indoor row. But one simply can't train for Zumbro on roads, a track, a treadmill, or on skis. No, one needs to run on sand, to weave between trees, to train on steep ups and downs, on the slippery mud that can only be found on trails. And I had not had the luxury of training on trails since October.
Knowing this, I mentally braced myself for a beating.
8 AM start.
57 of us toed the starting line. The first loop went smoothly enough. The uphills were no longer difficult for me, some of the skills from mountain training this summer carrying over. I spoke with runners from all walks of life; many returning, some new to the race, some their first, all inspiring. The sun was out and temperatures that started in the high 30s began to rise. I smiled. I couldn't help it: I was happy to be here.
OMG! I'm running on dirt! Not snow! SO HAPPY!
Ending the first loop, my feet weren't feeling too great. The trail definitely had a lot of loose sand that had been frozen in place last year. The pores in my NB110s had let some slip into my shoe. I could feel some hot spots and decided that a shoe change into the Altra Lone Peaks might mitigate this. Coming into the start/finish, I slid on the orange Altras and took back to the woods, engrossed in the ending of "the DaVinci Code" on my iPod.
Reaching the afternoon, the course began to warm up. Actually, it got really hot. I know the 70s aren't hot, but coming from 30 degree weather only a day prior made the 40 degree difference feel extreme. In shorts and a tank top, I was sweating and my feet and hands began swelling. A lactic acid feeling began to build in my legs. I began to closely watch my salt intake. The hot spots on my feet did not agree with the warming weather. Despite all of this, I couldn't complain. I hadn't seen the sun in what felt like a year!
I stopped believing in the sun around mid-February. Zumbro proved me wrong.
Finishing the second loop, I came into the start/finish area a bit sun-burnt. The Ninja Runners were busying themselves running (literally– taking the short cuts through the trails) from aid station to aid station to cheer us on and offer assistance. I felt good! I knew I was going to slow down, I had to if I wanted to avoid the hobbling-cramping-penguin finish I did at Yellowstone-Teton. I resolved to walk more hills.
By halfway through the third loop, it became evident that blisters were forming. I have felt the onset of blisters in racing before. Most times, they just seem to build up, be painful for a bit but not unbearable, and then resolve themselves. Thinking that the cooling air that would come with night would help the situation, and the impulse to maintain forward motion, I didn't consult them. I was spending little to no time at aid stations and wanted to continue this momentum. It wasn't until I came through at the 50 mile mark in ~12:30:00 that the pressure they exerted had confined me to a walk.
Ed giving my legs a rub-down at an aid station.
Upon reaching John, Ed, Jill, and Mark at the start/finish I explained the pain that my feet were causing. We decided to take a look at them and do a sock change. I had parked near the start/finish and was using my car as my drop bag. As I rummaged through my backseat for a new pair of socks, my nose began to bleed. It wasn't just a drop, but a flood.
I bled on my sweatshirt.
I bled on my car.
I bled on my face, my hands,
And it wouldn't stop. It was absolutely ridiculous. I guess the air had just dried my nose out because it seemed completely unwarranted. After about 10 minutes of going through a half a box of tissues, I was able to get a new pair of socks on, lace up, and start hitting the trail with Mark by my side. Going up the first ascent of the loop was compounded, not only by the blisters that had begun forming on the tops of my toes from my feet ramming the front of my shoes on the steep downhills, but due to the fact that I couldn't breathe. BECAUSE MY NOSE WAS STILL BLEEDING.
I had a coughing fit that lasted about two minutes. Because I was choking on blood.
But blood, I said, don't leave! I need you!
Eventually, it crusted up enough to stop. I only looked like I had dirt shoved up my nose now. I began telling people that a bear punched me and I punched it back and it ran away. Because a bloody nose from dry air is lame.
Darkness came quickly, the moon– while almost full– wrapped in a haze of clouds allowing little light to assist us on our journey. Mark and I listened to music, but we found that we much preferred talking. We talked and talked. We talked about how we were the reincarnation of trees (I'm a white pine!), about the carbonic acid system and pC-pH diagrams, about the difficulties of job hunting, about life. And though we were walking, and I was slow and in pain, it was fun. We joked, we sang, we laughed! We even got down to "43 bottles of beer on the wall" from "99" after seeing how low we could go on a certain straight stretch of trail.
Bandaged up feet.
My feet were not improving, however, and this spelled trouble. The blisters on the tops of my toes were one thing, but the blisters on my heels were another. It felt like I was walking on inflated water balloons, making the steep downhills painful and difficult. Compounded by the limiting vision at night found us gingerly picking our way over rocks, roots, and mud. I had to lean on Mark on the downhills to alleviate some of the pressure on my heels. I had to stop to sit every now and again just to let my feet recover for a bit.
It was really frustrating. Every time I tried running, the pain became sharp and searing. After several years of having limited blister issues, I wondered "why now?" I had honed my sock-shoe combination over the course of the past three years to be ideal for myself. Had it been going from such cool weather to a warm afternoon, the swelling of extremities with the increase in mercury? Had it been the sand that we dumped from our shoes at each aid station? Despite my efforts to mitigate the onset, was there more I should've done? The questions, at this point, were null. All that mattered was that we were moving forward, however slow.
We made it to the second aid station of the loop. There we found Maranda. She was having a different battle of her own, having struggled with keeping food down for the majority of the run. We exchanged support and returned our focuses to getting back on the trail.
I sat down with Mark. We needed a plan to move faster. We had been asking passing runners and pacers if they had Tylenol. I hate taking medication, but with how much I had been sweating earlier I was trying to avoid Ibuprofen (due to its interaction with kidneys). Not that Tylenol is any better. We determined, however, that it should at least be tried. With no Tylenol to be found (I had left it in the car! Ugh!) I took Ibuprofen, and we headed out. Once it kicked in, I was able to step up the speed on my walk. The effects, however, lasted but a couple hours.
Upon our return to the third aid station of the loop, my feet were in the worst shape yet. An aid station volunteer, Chris, took action. Chris was phenomenal. He was doing everything in his power to move every runner suffering back out onto the trails, to get them running. We had drained some of the blisters on my feet, but the heel blisters that were causing the most issues were not yet topical; they were hiding under a calluses, too deep to be punctured, but the swelling visible nonetheless. Chris suggested wrapping. I was hesitant, worried that any material might chafe and cause more blisters. However, with no other solutions offering themselves, Mark and I decided trying anything to get back out and moving at a decent clip was better than nothing.
Mark and I upon completion of the 4th loop; raining now.
Chris must be magic because the bandaging that he made was perfect. Cutting out a square in some padding, he formed a support for my heel around the blister to relieve some of the pressure. Pulling my shoes back on, my feet felt ten times better. Mark and I took to the trails, power hiking through the night.
Dawn came as we came back through the start/finish area. Holy crud bucket. That loop had taken us 10 hours. I was more amused at the fact that it had taken that long. Mark and I had completely lost ourselves to jokes, to talking, to stories, to moving forward, to the night… we hadn't realized how much time had passed. I was more impressed than depressed.
After cleaning up – just swollen.
Jill joined us, frantic. That loop had taken so long, we had her worried. She had been checking with the timing officials for our progress. Well crap; we only had 13 hours to get another two loops in. Well, I did 3 loops in less than that time before, right? Why stop now?!? No, we keep moving until they tell us we can't move anymore! To the trails!
Mark, myself, Jill, and Ryan before heading out for our 5th loop in dry clothes.
Jill joined Mark and I as we set out on my 5th loop. It had started to drizzle by the end of my 4th loop, so Mark and I had just changed into more dry clothes. As we began the climb up the first hill, the drizzle became rain, which became a downpour. Then the lightning started. Flashes of light accompanied by the guttural booms bounced off the Zumbro river valley's walls. The electric glow cast brief shadows over the landscape, putting the differences in weather within the 24 hour time frame in sharp relief.
The morning's temperatures and weather was in stark contrast to the previous day's; where yesterday had been sun and warmth, today was cold and wet. With temperatures in the low 40s, the rain became sleet.
Jill turned to Mark and I, "Well, at least it's not hailing."
The sky promptly began to poop miniature snowballs on us.
I couldn't be mad.
It was just comical at this point. Jill and I were in hysterics. As the rain came down, the dry trails that I had praised became flowing rivers, freezing water up to our shins. The clay became mud that slid and suction cupped to our shoes. We were soaked to the bone in a matter of seconds. Literally, the dry clothes we had put on not 10 minutes before were more wet than the ones we had taken off.
We yelled at mother nature.
"We need a canoe!" Jill yelled over the noise of the storm.
Indeed, I didn't think we were on trails anymore but a river.
What else can you do?
As we arrived at the first aid station, a herd of 17-milers stampeded past, over 200 of them. Between the 50 milers that had joined the loops at midnight, the 17-milers that had just started their venture, the numerous times the course had been looped by the 100-milers, and mother nature's generous bath, the trails deteriorated in an incredibly exponential time frame. Like, we're talking e to the Zumbro power.
It was ~9:30 AM. We had to make it ~13 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes back to the start/finish to beat the cutoff for the final loop. It had just taken us an hour and a half to go 3.03 miles; between the rain, hail, and wind. In addition to this, my blisters came back with a vengeance with the soaking bandages becoming a hinderance rather than an aid.
Jill's photo at the start/finish of the clouds moving in when she was waiting for Mark and I.
We had a team meeting: was continuing at this point realistic? It had taken me ~3:30 to do a loop when I was fresh and able to run. Now, with trail conditions, shivering, and our slug-pace how far would we get? Mark feared that injury would be imminent if we continued; the downhills in the next section of the course were among the most technical and steepest. Least of which, it was 40 degrees and we were all soaking wet. Jill was freezing, I was cold, our clothes weighed 10 pounds. News of hypothermic runners was circling the aid station.
It was an unspoken agreement that dropping would be the smartest thing. I didn't want to say it, because I didn't want to stop. However, I wasn't going to make the cutoff. Why risk injury or worse when incompletion was evident?
Mark reported to the timing officials that I would drop.
For the first time during the race, I felt sad.
For the first time during the race, my smile left my face.
For the first time during the race, I cried.
I had wanted Zumbro so bad.
I had wanted this finish because I knew I could do it.
Catching a ride back to the start/finish in a truck was cold, but I couldn't complain. I had given it my all. The questions we asked on the trail were not "Can I stop?" or "Why am I doing this?" but "How can I keep moving forward?"
I had so, SO much fun.
This is honestly the most fun I have ever had at a race. We talked nonstop. I seriously lost my voice from laughing, singing, and talking so much. It was beautiful; the people, the atmosphere, the support. This is my family away from home. I love them all.
Will I return to Zumbro?
Honestly, probably not– not to race at least. To crew or volunteer, I would be more than happy. The time of year does not permit for adequate trail training like you really need to be able to perform well if you hail from a snowy area as I do. The weather in southern Minnesota this time of year is incredibly unpredictable and can be frustrating. And six loops is a lot. Will I return to Zumbro? Probably not, but I never say never.
Laurie, John, myself, Maranda, Ed, Jill, Mark
Of the 57 people who started, 25 people finished.
That's a 44% finishing rate. After the weather that was experienced on the course last year, kudos to all who showed up to brave it again! A shout out to Maranda and Theresa, Ninjas who gave it their all.
Also, April Anselmo set the female course record in 23:21:01 coming in 4th overall. The only other finishing female was Kathy Jambor, finishing in 10th. Way to represent, ladies!!! Nathan Leehman from North Carolina won in 20:30:51. Just want to congratulate all the winners, all the finishers, and all the people who are just plain awesome enough to train through winter to come to a brutal course. You can see the results for the 100 here.
In closing, I don't have much to say other than my feet still hurt but my legs are ready for another adventure. I'm already missing my Ninjas and brainstorming for what we'll do next…
Do what you love,
Love what you do!!!
Best of Wishes,
|Posted by Breanna Cornell on December 30, 2013 at 2:20 PM||comments (0)|
¡Adios 2013, Hola 2014! (y más!)
The new year always brings a time of reflection and goal setting for the coming year. With the closure of 2013 upon us, I thought I would write a blog post covering just that. However, with the recent development of the Death Valley National Park (DVNP) service discontinuing issuing permits for running and cycling events, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon this instead.
Earlier this month, the DVNP posted this statement on their website:
"Effective immediately Death Valley National Park will temporarily discontinue issuance of running and bicycling event permits. Future event permits will not be considered until a thorough safety evaluation of this type of activity has been completed."
This statement was the only notification given to event and race directors, such as AdventureCORPS, who is the host of Badwater 135 and more. There was no discussion with event directors, no reason why this was being implemented now, and no other information was provided.
Since DNVP's announcement, AdventureCORPS released it's public statement which you can read HERE.
AdventureCORPS does a lovely job of outlining the implications that this "safety review," as DNVP explain they will conduct, has. I do not feel the need to go into great detail, as you can read to great length the safety record of events like Badwater on AdventureCORPS' website, but I will bullet the main points below.
AdventureCORPS strictly enforces park and race rules and regulations. Athletes understand that not abiding by the rules can result in a disqualification. In addition to this, athletes appreciate that these events are able to be held in the National Parks and it is a privilege to be there. The qualifying standards for such events are so high, so to even be considered for entry through application is an honor.
While AdventureCORPS has redesigned the Badwater 135 course for 2014, this type of uninformed, incommunicable action taken by DVNP is unacceptable. It sets an unhealthy precedent that other National Parks may follow suit. Imagine how many sporting events– not just ultra-running events– would be effected if this took hold. This would not only impact the competitive athletic population, but all the surrounding communities as well.
Currently, there is a petition underway to overturn the decision of Death Valley National Park to discontinue the issuance of running and bicycling event permits. To participate, you can sign the petition HERE. In addition to this, please consider mailing your state representative, senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and the Secretary of the Interior. I will include their mailing information and more in the closure of this blog post. It would also mean a lot if you were to share this information with athletic friends, Facebook friends, twitter friends, family, coworkers, and couch potatoes alike.
I am in love with Death Valley, it is true. I have to say that this was the most distasteful Christmas present to have received. I am thankful, though, for the strong ultra-running community that has pulled together in light of this news. Chris Kostman is a wonderful race director, and I am sure that the new Badwater 135 course will be just as brilliant for 2014.
Having said that, however, leads into my original intent for this post: a reflection on 2013 and goals for 2015.
2013 was the year of rising above failure.
My goal in 2013 was to, above all, qualify for Badwater 2014. So the fact that I failed in doing so, having completed only two of the required three 100-mile finishes, coinciding with the changes to the Badwater 135 event just seems like one more challenge to navigate before being able to race this miraculous course. I know that when I am finally able to toe the starting line in Death Valley's Badwater Basin, that all the obstacles it took to get there will make running the course all the more a privilege and crossing the finish all the more sweet.
I felt like I rose above failure so many times this year.
But, what is failure? I don't think I failed at all, actually. Yes, it was disappointing to DNF my first three 100s, but I learned from each and every one. If you learn something new and apply it to the next, is it not just a learning experience? I did not let my DNFs hold me back. Fall down, get back up. Get back up as many times as needed.
2013 taught me that it really is mental.
While there were lessons to be learnt on each course, the resounding message from all my races and events this year was "it's all in your head!" Stress has been a huge factor in my life of late, being in my senior year of obtaining my B.S. in Environmental Engineering. Between traveling across the country for an internship, working full time and taking classes, returning full time to school with a senior design project, and trying to race, I entered more of my races stressed out far beyond than what normal race-day jitters entail. And I did a good job at adding more unwarranted stress when I reminded myself that I just had to qualify for Badwater, NOW, stressing about slow splits and not on actually finishing.
I would be lying if I said my eating disorder didn't have a mental-resurgence these past 6 months, contributing to stress, poor nutrition, body image and confidence levels. Finishing the Yellowstone-Teton 100, though, really began to illustrate how mental a hundred miles is when I only began to focus on just seeing my brother every 5 miles. Going into my last hundred at Pinhoti I completely let go and just partied on the trail the whole way. It was slow, but I had fun. It was the first race of the year that I sincerely enjoyed being on the course the whole time. I really hope to take this mentality with me into 2015 and beyond.
Overall, though, 2013 was an AMAZING year.
I met some of the most inspirational and fantastic people (Mark Kreuzer, Maranda Lorraine, Tony Oveson, Tyler Tomasello, Tony Portera, and so many more), I got to run in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places (Death Valley, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Minnesota, Alabama), and I grew stronger as a person. I could not be more thankful for this year.
2013, an outlined review:
So, what does this mean for 2014?
It's hard to plan for the coming year. With graduation in May and employers not quite ready to hire for the summer months, everything is up in the air. It's exciting and foreboding to not know what will happen. Right now, main goals are to qualify for Badwater 2015, crew/pace the new Badwater course, volunteer/crew/pace more, and to love more. This will be the year of embracing the unknown, the joy of movement, and the nebulousness of the meaning of it all.
Happy New Years, everyone.
Do what you love,
love what you do!
Best of Wishes,
Additional Information in regards to DVNP's permit discontinuance
Persons to contact to express concern over DVNP's decision to discontinue the issuance of permits for running and cycling events:
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Representative Col. Paul Cook (Ret.)
8th Congressional District
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Mr. Jon Jarvis, Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Ms. Christine Lehnertz, Regional Director
National Perk Service - Pacific West Division
333 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104-2828