Lauren Steinheimer

Farewell to Ashy August

Like many others, I moved to the mountains of NorCal for the wealth of outdoor opportunities the area has to offer. And like my friends and neighbors in this mountain community, I’ve sunken into a state of guilt-ridden depression over the persistent smoke from the nearby Carr Fire.

Today, I’m a mixed bag of emotions.

I’m happy the Carr Fire is officially contained.

Sad it killed 8 people and destroyed over 1,000 homes.

Overjoyed the air is clearing up and the blue sky is poking through the haze more and more frequently this past week.

Relieved this whole month is over.

The last time I wrote an update, I was disappointed about SOB 50k being canceled due to a different fire. Little did I know that was only the beginning.

Ravaging hundreds of thousands of acres less than an hour away, the Carr Fire created a permanent atmosphere of grey gloom in my world. I would go out for a run and then turn around less than 10 minutes later — my lungs and throat burning, eyes watering, and spirit essentially smothered.

I woke up every morning feeling hungover without having had a drop to drink. Greeting the day with a sore throat and head congestion. Walking outside to see a sun struggling to burn through a thick layer of smoke.

The spiders seem to have taken the lack of sunlight as a sign to spin into overdrive. Their webs exaggerate the gloomy setting by ensnaring clumps of ash that fall from the sky.

More than once, I’ve taken Bruce for a walk and returned home with a firm belief the world was actually ending.

And then, I just feel like a terrible person for complaining about this. I’m lucky. I haven’t lost any loved ones, or my home, or my favorite trails. This fire has inflicted devastation far beyond anything I’ve suffered.

But I know everyone around me feels the same. In fact, it’s practically all we talk about in the rare instances we actually leave our homes.

I’ve become very withdrawn over the past 6 weeks. Overwhelmed with feelings of anger and resentment.

As much as running is a passion and a hobby, it’s also the primary way I stay balanced in my life. I’ve been maintaining a fitness routine with more strength workouts and yoga, but the peaceful bliss of connecting with nature is what drives me to run long distances, not the physical benefits.

Recently, I’ve been feeling off-balance and not at all like myself.

This morning, I overslept despite setting an early alarm. I have loads of work due in slightly over 24 hours and also am committed to carving out time to socialize and exercise- so I felt pretty annoyed with myself.

Not the best way to start the day.

But I soon realized it was all meant to be when I ran into my good friend Kate at The Wheelhouse, my go-to coffee shop.

Kate owns and runs a vegetable farm, Homeward Bounty. Like my other self-employed friends, we connect on a deep level. We share the feelings of isolation and frustration that creep up when the demands of work overpower our self-care and social lives. We’re both passionate about, and maybe a little bit obsessed with, pursuing our dreams.

We both work from home. While I can’t speak for Kate, I know for me, that means there are no boundaries between my work and personal life. Every day I wake up and fall asleep in my own office.

Last night I dreamed about an editor criticizing my comma placement.

But when I saw Kate, who always greets people with a huge smile and warm hello, I snapped right out of my funk.

She cheerfully asked if I’d be going for a run on this beautiful day and if I’d be running Headwaters next month.

Instead of the enthusiastic, “You bet I am!” I’m sure she was expecting, I crumpled and started talking about how disconnected from myself I feel these days.

“I’m not even sure I’m in shape to,” I confessed.

That was the first time I’d expressed that concern out loud.

Kate surprised me by responding, “I always feel inspired when I see you.”

That threw me off.

I thought I was venting about how I feel like I’m totally failing at life. I was expecting a canned expression of sympathy.

But she pointed out that, no matter how chaotic things get, I always try to pull myself back on track to the life I want to live.

The way I feel right now is the result of a few weeks of neglecting my true needs and making #excuses.

Hardly running, meditating, journaling. Not keeping my promise of updating this blog at least twice per month. Bailing on plans with friends to catch up with work instead. Losing touch with all I have to be grateful for because my focus is on the growing to-do list.

Only a few weeks, and I’m over it.

This morning, before I went to the coffee shop, the quote from Fight Club, “this is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time,” popped into my head, giving me goosebumps.

Waking up cranky, isolating myself, and spending hours staring at my computer screen is not how I ever wanted to live. The only person capable of changing that scenario is me.

So, I take sleeping in this morning as a blessing.

My body needed more than six hours of rest. I needed to see my friend, if only for a few minutes while I ordered my Americano.

It inspired me to check myself… before I wreck myself.

There are so many good things to be thankful for at this very moment.

I’m grateful this devastating fire is 100% contained. I’m grateful for the blue sky and fresh air that greeted me this morning. For Kate, and all my other loved ones. For all the self-employed babes out there who courageously face the uncertainty of running their own business every day without letting it consume their own sense of inner peace and personal relationships.

There will always be that need to find balance. Work will never be “done.” There’s no finish line, here.

That can’t stop me from carving out time for the people and activities that nourish my soul.

Maybe I just really needed a hug this morning, but it inspired me to come home and write this post.

And to forgive myself for it being overdue.

We don’t need a new month, year, or day to re-align with our true intentions. This just happened to be good timing.

It’s past noon, now, but I feel less stressed than I did at 7:45 am, still with a heap of work ahead of me. I’m glad I took the time to write this (and set up Bruce’s new elevated pet bed!!!)

Bruce's new dog bed

Pardon the shadows (they only appear when there’s light!) and residue of fallen peaches

My work will get done. It always does.

But first, I’m going to go for a quick run. Because I can.

xoL

Featured Image: USDA Forest Service photo by Elsa Gaule from flickr

 

Baby, be good, do what you should

I’m experiencing mixed emotions right now.

This header image was taken from the top of Mt. Eddy, where I was happy to run/hike today, bagging my first Eddy summit of 2018. I’m bummed because of all the smoke you see in the background.

That smoke canceled SOB, a race I was really excited about. But, ultimately, I understand it was the best decision for runner safety.


***Read last year’s SOB 50k Race Report ***


Nearby wildfires (literally hundreds) closed off a section of the Pacific Crest Trail that made up a substantial portion of the race. They could have re-routed, but the smoke was unavoidable.

In my four years spent living in northern California, and five in the Pacific Northwest including my year in Washington, this is nothing new. Pretty much every summer, this place fills with smoke.

In fact, I just wrote about my partner getting evacuated from his home in another fire in my last post: happy to be alive

I remember last August, the smoke was so thick in the forest surrounding Waldo 100k that it was impossible to “find Waldo” from either Fuji or Maiden summit.


***Read Waldo was hiding behind smokey skies: My first 100k reviewed ***


And then, many of my local ultra buddies mourned the cancellation of 2017’s Pine to Palm 100 for the same, smokey reason.

But I’m feeling extra weird about this cancelation.

Why?

Because I feel like it means something.

I should point out that I tend to read too deeply into situations and interpret them as messages from the Universe.

I am a white bitch, after all.

At the beginning of 2018, I set the intention to be less competitive about my running. The thing is, I wasn’t sure what I even meant by that.

I did know I wanted to focus on making running more about fun and less about times, paces, or ranking.

But I still wanted to improve.

2017 was my best race year, yet. I set PRs, crushed goals, and explored new places. I also became much more serious about my training. Following a plan made by my coach or the internet quickly made me realize that less is more in the weeks leading up to race day.

I would say no to the grueling extra long runs I deeply love because I had to keep my legs fresh. I would find myself recovering from a race and having only a week or two of fun before the next taper.

(For my non-runner readers, tapering is when you cut back on training before a race.)

Long story short- I felt like running an ultra every 6 weeks or so kiiiiiinda cramped my style.

Spongebob I_love_pain

I learned about SOB being canceled from my running bestie, Linn. She dropped the news before our track workout this week and almost made me cry.

Almost immediately, she asked if I was going to register for another race. Jason asked the same thing.

“I don’t know if I want to,” was my response to both.

SOB is the second planned race that didn’t happen for me this year. The first was Way Too Cool, which I was snowed in for.

I had a shitton of fun at Paiute Meadows 50k this spring, but am wondering if another race is really what I need?


***Read my Paiute Meadows 50k Race Report ***


I’m also on the wait list for Mountain Lakes 100, which I was hoping to be my first 100-miler. Now, I’m just feeling not so sure.

Maybe I just want to do what I did today- run up a gorgeous mountain then swim in an alpine lake right in my own backyard? Maybe I want to save my money on race fees and instead, take road trips to scope out trails and peaks I haven’t run before?

“Oh, so you just want to run?” Jason asked.

Exactly. I just want to run.

Trail running castle crags

I love running at Castle Crags- my home base playground

That’s what I say now, but you all know I’m probably going to end up at Headwaters again ;)

xoL

happy to be alive

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. I have to say, it was the best one yet.

Maybe it was because I had so many other things to celebrate this time — like the fact that my partner’s property miraculously remained safe after a raging wildfire threatened to destroy everything he spent the past year and a half building.

I’ve never prayed so hard in my life.

Klamathon fire damage

The Klamathon fire burned over 38,000 acres, including this hill that borders Jason’s property

There’s nothing like a grand-scale disaster to really put things into perspective. To force you to appreciate the simple things that are so easy to take for granted.

Breathing clean air. Having a place to come home to. Being able to hold your loved one who stubbornly refused to leave until he was forced to evacuate.

Not that I can’t relate to refusing to evacuate in a fire. You can read about my first California wildfire experience here.

On a lighter note, this weekend also involved career celebrations. After focusing on getting another steady client for the past few months, I’m stoked to announce that I signed a contract last week!

Not only does this provide me with another source of income and greater diversity in projects, it officially makes me a cannabis writer!

It’s been a while since How to Run Stoned appeared in Outside and I’m excited to write about weed again.

Oddly enough, I immediately began thinking of what my next career milestone would be, even before I got my first assignment.

Does anyone else do this? Rush right into setting a new goal the instant you achieve one you spent months striving for? Without even taking a minute to pat yourself on the back?

Maybe it was the fire. Maybe it was my approaching birthday. Maybe I just spend a lot of time thinking about my own mortality, but I’ve never felt so determined to celebrate.

It’s like running up mountains. I don’t do it just because I love pain (though that may be true). I do it to savor the view from the top. Even if it’s cloudy, (or smokey ala Waldo) I still chill for a minute and enjoy being a total badass before I start planning my next grueling long run.

The celebration may be short-lived, but it’s necessary. It’s often the most memorable part of the journey. You know you’re not done working, but it’s sweet to feel a brief moment of relief.

So, that’s why I decided this year’s birthday promise to myself will be to always celebrate small victories and count my blessings.

Because life is short and sweet. Because it’s nice to take a break from feeling like everything you do is never enough. Because gratitude is something worth carving out time in your day for.

Gratitude has become a major theme in my life this past year. It’s a daily practice. I might make a gratitude list before bed, when I wake up, or whenever I catch myself complaining.

As a person who’s always focused on the negative and been way too critical (of myself an others), this is a tremendous attitude adjustment.

The older I get, the faster time whizzes by. I don’t want my memories to be filled with struggles and disappointments.

I’m always going to want to be a more successful writer, a fitter runner, and a better person. I can’t see myself ever getting to a point where I’ll just stop trying.

So I better fucking enjoy the process of getting to this place I’ll never arrive at. I never know when I might show up unexpectedly.

This year, I promise to amplify all the good things in life and honor every little bit of awesome.

I sound so wise.

xoL

Results from my social media detox

Helloooooo and happy July!

I’m feeling particularly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning and have no doubt my recent vacation from social media had something to do with it.

Though I can’t recall the exact date I logged off, I know it’s been at least three weeks since my last Facebook or Instagram post. The little blue bird doesn’t really trigger my compulsive tendencies, so there’s a chance I may have retweeted a particularly inspiring Hunter S. Thompson quote or two during this time.

The 21-day social media detox

When I first decided to take this break from social media, I didn’t have any timeline in mind. I wanted to go at least four days. Four easily melted into ten. Before I knew it, I was two weeks in and feeling great.

At that point, I felt refreshed enough to log back in but decided to hold out for at least three weeks instead.

Why?

Because I remembered reading somewhere that 21 days is about how long it takes to establish a new habit or break an addiction. I think this info came from my 21-day sugar detox a few years back.

Throughout the past month or so, I’ve been on a bit of a detox kick. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • A 7-day detox from sugar (and all sweeteners), grains, alcohol, and dairy
  • Cleaning out my closet and donating/selling clothes on eBay
  • Wiping the dog-nose prints from my windows
  • Many Epsom salt baths

Spring cleaning to the max! (Now that it’s officially summer- my oven needs to be cleaned.)

It felt so good to do those things, I thought I should purge my mindspace as well. The idea to take a break from social media came to me during meditation. To be honest, I resisted for a few days. I mean, how was I supposed to let the world know what position my dog was napping in every day???

sleeping hound

There he is! My special guy.

Finally, I made the commitment. I knew it would be good for me.

Sooo… the results?

I feel amazing. Calmer, more centered, and frighteningly focused on my own needs.

Why frightening? Because unplugging from social media took away the comfort blanket of distraction.

Instead of scrolling through other people’s lives in search of amusement, I had to create it myself. Instead of getting sidetracked from my work, I had to finish it.

And then, in my free time, I came face-to-face with the areas of my life that have been screaming for my attention, stifled by my quest for the perfect gif to stick to my Instagram story.

Focus on what really matters

I learned that, even without social media, I struggle with time management. Balancing my freelance writing career with an ultrarunning training schedule while trying to maintain a social life is fucking challenging. On top of that- I’m trying to plan a fall wedding.

Feeling like I never had “enough time” was one of the primary reasons I logged off in the first place. Learning that this wasn’t a quick-fix issue was rather disheartening, but I decided to be proactive about it.

I downloaded Don’t Eat That Frog, a book on time management strategies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Get organized

Time isn’t the only dimension of my existence that needs a little TLC. Throughout the past three weeks, I came to terms with the fact that I need to organize several areas of my life, including my finances and my living space.

The latter inspired me to learn more about feng shui. So, one particular evening, I searched Spotify for the subject and discovered this AMAZING podcast that every self-help nerd will adore.

Listening to Self-Helpless is my new favorite thing to do in place of cyber-stalking. So much better for my sanity.

Pay attention!

Another major factor in my decision to put down the phone was the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on my mental health, attention span, and creativity.

Without the temptation to open social apps, my phone stayed out of my face more often than not. Instead of killing time with Instagram while waiting in line at the grocery store, I had to just take a deep breath and be patient.

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Just like any other withdrawal from an addiction, it got better.

Without brief blurbs to suck up my attention, I had to focus on other things: long-form articles, books made from paper, podcasts, and conversations with living people.

The improvement in my attention span alone has convinced me to continue a very limited diet of social media moving forward. I feel happier, more peaceful, and much less anxious.

Top takeaway

The most important thing I learned from taking three weeks off social media was that I don’t need it. At all.

Yes, social media is great for connection. Yes, I will keep my accounts. But the notion that social media is essential to stay connected is bullshit.

The people who matter to me most continued to reach out to me- individually. We continued to have meaningful conversations.

I still did awesome things and took photos- to be shared as I see fit.

My website still attracted visitors.

I never got bored.

If you think you may need a break from social media, I highly recommend it! Or, if you’ve already done your own digital detox, I’d love to hear about that, too. Feel free to share in the comments!

Now that I’ve officially declared my break over, I guess it’s time to scan all those little red notifications… or maybe I’ll just clean the oven.

xoL

How do you honor Mental Health Month?

First, did you even know that May is Mental Health Month? I’m admittedly a little late in acknowledging it here on my blog, but for me, every month is mental health month.

I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life swaying between acceptance and denial on whether or not I have a mental illness.

After spending adolescence swallowing handfuls of pills on a daily basis and occasionally finding myself locked in a room with padded walls, I wanted nothing more than to free myself of the stigmatization such a label imposes.

Now that I’ve reached my 30s, that glorious stage in life when you’re free to shed all shame and doubt with no fucks given, I’m ready to re-approach my struggles to stay mentally balanced in a healthy way.

The most important thing I want people to understand about mental illness is that it’s a constant balancing act. It’s frustrating when people say, “I’m so glad you’re better,” when they have no idea I spent half the day crying and had to give myself a pep talk in the mirror just to get my ass out the door.

Two months ago, I lost a friend to suicide. I had no clue how much pain he was in. He was one of the most friendly, outgoing, cheerful dudes I’ve ever met.

His tragic loss was a brutal reminder that you never know what someone else is going through, so you better handle your own shit and focus on loving and supporting one another as much as possible.

Of course, handling your own shit is the most important part.

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Self-care isn’t an indulgence. It isn’t selfish. Self-care is critical for well-being on a global scale. It makes you a better friend, partner, student, and so on. Doing nice things for others can be part of your self-care plan. How’s that for a win-win?

I’m grateful Mental Health Month is a thing. (Apparently, it’s been a thing since 1949.)

I wish the resources and support outlined on the Mental Health America website were available when I was diagnosed with manic depression at age 13. I wish doctors had encouraged me to start running then, instead of pulling out the prescription pad over and over again.

And with that long-winded intro, I want to share with you some of my favorite self-care strategies for managing manic depression:

Meditation

If you’re not meditating, you’re missing out! It’s as simple as setting a timer for 5 minutes and focusing on your breath. If you start to think about things, just gently remind yourself that this is your break from thinking and return to your breath.

Of course, it can be as complicated as you want. You can light candles, recite mantras, (like, “I am love,” “I am at peace,” “I am a badass, successful queen and ain’t no one gonna stop me,” etc.)

Or, you can listen to any number of guided meditations. There’s a bunch of free ones on the internet. Personally, I love Terri Cole’s meditations.

Side note- I found out about Mental Health Month from Terri Cole’s email list, which I highly recommend you join for free videos about self-love and relationship advice.

Proper nutrition

As an endurance athlete, nutrition is especially important. I need to make sure my body has everything it needs for the many demands I place upon it.

Unfortunately, this isn’t so easy. All too often, I forget meals and end up binging on snacks.

No good.

This not only makes me feel tired and sluggish, but it can also bring on an onslaught of mental illness symptoms, like irritability, mood swings, and fatigue.

In the 10 days since my last 50k, I’ve noticed my nutrition take a nosedive. I literally ate cookies for breakfast the next day.

After spending an entire day moping, I decided it’s time for a detox. I believe that annual, or even semi-annual cleanses are healthy for your body and a great way to transition into summer.

*** Read about the results of my social media detox or sugar detox ***

Hopefully, this will give my body the kick it needs to get back on track with a healthy diet full of greens.

Exercise

Running is a huuuuuuuuge part of my mental health strategy. HUGE! A lot of people I run with have shared the same, and a bunch of famous ultrarunners, like Nikki Kimball and Rob Krar, talk openly about how distance running helps them cope with depression.

If you’re stressed out or anxious, try going for a run. If you think you hate running and have never tried it, just give it a fucking try. It’s NOT going to kill you.

If you’ve tried it and still hate it, there are about a million other ways to exercise. I love mixing it up with yoga, resistance training, and climbing. I also walk my dog for about an hour every day.

But if you’re more into swimming, kickboxing, or pole dancing, do that instead!

Alcohol in moderation

Drinking excessively is the fastest, easiest, and most reliable way to shatter my mental framework. I love beer, wine, and tequila, so I don’t completely cut these things out of my diet, but I remain acutely aware of their potential danger.

Since it’s way too easy to go overboard, I usually stop at two. Any more than that and I know I’m going to feel like shit the next day. It just isn’t worth it.

Instead, I’m a complete seltzer addict. I’ll order a fizzy water with lime at the bar and hydrate myself silly all night.

Cannabis

It wasn’t until I started using cannabis about 10 years ago that I slowly started coming off the many, many medications I was on.

Although there’s still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding around this profoundly beneficial plant, I hope it continues to become more accessible to those who need it.

There’s no reason to be afraid of a plant that provides relief from pain, inflammation, and stress without any serious side effects.

Meds, on the other hand, caused countless side effects that negatively affected my quality of life. I gained over 60 pounds, experience severe cognitive difficulties, would nod off and start drooling mid-conversation, and struggled with bedwetting in my late teens.

Cannabis, on the other hand, has made me cough a few times.

I could write a book on how much better my life has been since I traded pills for pot.

Body Talk

This is an alternative healing modality I discovered a few years ago. Monthly Body Talk sessions with Amberlee have helped me manage stress, improve my focus, and heal deep traumas I’ve suppressed since childhood.

It’s good stuff.

On top of monthly sessions with the Deepening Wellness Circle, Amberlee provides helpful resources you can use any time to recenter yourself and restore a sense of peace.

It’s better than all the therapy at a fraction of the price. Check it out!

 

So, back to my original question: how do you honor Mental Health Month?

* cover illustration by Gemma Correll for Mental Health America

Paiute Meadows 50k Race Report

Running to the finish at Paiute Meadows 50k

After a rough start to my 2018 race season, Paiute Meadows 50k was a great success and excellent way to start the year.

Like any ultra, there was nothing easy about this race. But there wasn’t anything particularly painful or tedious about it either, which kind of sets Paiute Meadows apart from some other ultras I’ve run.

The course was awesome. With a wide variety of settings and trail conditions that started off in a grassy meadow, moved to logging roads and a rocky, dry creek bed, then headed up “heart attack hill” on well-maintained mountain bike trails lined with wildflowers, there was no chance of boredom.

Paiute Meadows Wildflowers

I didn’t run with my phone but snagged this beautiful photo of the many wildflowers you get to see along the Paiute Meadows Trail Runs race course from the event’s Facebook page. Photo by Lisa Urquizu

This was, hands down, the most well-supported race I’ve ever run. We’re talking aid stations, water drops, and volunteers directing runners nearly every few miles.

Race director Linda Powell was beyond supportive, and it’s clear I’m not the only one who thinks so. The whole town seemed to get behind this race.

Sponsors galore.

You saw volunteers from groups like the Scouts, Americorps, Rotary, and more manning the aid stations, along with Linda’s own family keeping runners on course. The vibe exuded a sense of small-town community with a professional level of organization.

Also- one of the sponsors was Lassen Ale Works, and they had beer at the aid stations! I was sooooo tempted to have one but didn’t know how it would mix with the Hammer Perpetuem I use as fuel. I’ll ask my friendly Hammer representative for next time…

So, let’s start at the beginning.

Paiute Meadows Trail Runs include a 4.5 mile, half marathon, and 50k race, all of which start and end at Susanville Ranch Park. The three race times are staggered, but still found runners of all races sharing the trails.

Luckily, everything was so well-marked, you’d have to try to get lost. I’m a pro at getting lost, so really appreciate well-marked race courses.

One thing I noticed and appreciated was seeing people of all fitness levels out there on the trails. I used to be very overweight myself, and never had the guts to enter a race until I slimmed down significantly.

I admire those who went out and pushed themselves while clearly having a good time. Seriously, way to go!

The 50k starts with a relatively flat 15-mile section that loops back to the finish. 

After that loop, you come back to the start/finish, where my amazing boyfriend was waiting with two fresh bottles of Perpetuem, which would fuel me through the second part of the course.

I told him to expect me back in 2.5-3 hours after the race start and got a little nervous when I was running ahead of schedule. Not that moving faster was a bad thing, but I knew Jason was tired and was afraid he’d be asleep in a cuddle puddle with the dogs in the van.

My worries vanished when I saw him leaning on his crutches along the race path, holding open my drop bag for me.

Swoon.

Without an ounce of concern about who was paying attention, I shouted, “I have to pee!” for all the world to hear.

At least I was hydrated.

My trip to the toilets allowed my new friend Steve to catch up with me. Steve is a 55-year-old runner who finished his sixth ultra in three months that day, wearing neon pink compression socks. Beast.

We spent many pleasant miles chatting and passing one another throughout the course.

Paiute Meadows 50k aid station.jpg

Chomping on a salty potato at the start/finish aid station. Photo by Jason Northen

After the first loop, the second “half” of the course heads up (and up and up) a big hill.

Let me tell you about that climb.

I thought I was prepared for it. I studied the race map and the elevation profile. I even talked to my friend Lee Ann, a local ultrarunner who’s finished Paiute Meadows 50k.

* Read about the time I spent the final miles of Headwaters 50k trying to catch Lee Ann*

Lee Ann filled me in on what to expect in the second half of the race, but I seemed to cling to the words, “the end is all downhill.”

This is true. But “the end” really didn’t start until mile 28.

So, cool, yeah. It’s ALL DOWNHILL WOOOOOO! But you have to climb for 28 miles, first.

Very tricky.

For some reason, I thought the climb would be more like 8 miles steady uphill and the same down.

Not the case.

I felt good throughout most of the race, but miles 20-28 were where I needed to dig deep. Some runners I’d been leapfrogging passed me by, expressing small sentiments of concern about the state of my quads or the thick crust of salt on my face.

I was just walking at that point. So over running. I’d hit the wall I crash into during any run over 20 miles. I even played with the idea of dropping out at an aid station, just because I was tired.

disappointed dog.gif

LOL

Then I remembered other words Lee Ann said, “It’ll be mentally tough, but it’s all in your head and you know you can do it.”

When I looked at my watch and saw that I was still climbing at mile 27, I thought I might be losing my mind. I wondered if I got off-course, but a half-second later, I saw another pink ribbon.

“It’s all in my head,” I started singing to myself.

Then I just paused a moment to look around. I left Jason with my phone, so couldn’t take any photos myself, but was lucky to meet a lovely lady named Shannon, who took this video of that same part of the trail.

 

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and look around you to completely change your state of mind.

BTW- Shannon slayed her first 50k that day, finishing strong right behind me. Go Shannon! Welcome to the club of crazy people <3

As promised, the very end of the race was a smooth downhill. The trail was designed for mountain bikes, making it easy to cruise through the berms without slowing down very much. This is MUCH nicer than the tight, 180º switchbacks you often find on pedestrian trails.

Being more of a downhill demon than an uphill bounder, I let loose on the final few miles.

At one point, a dude caught up and started pressing me from behind. I saw him coming, and picked up my pace. He ended up right behind me anyway, forcing me to evaluate how much harder I could push without blowing out.

I decided that letting him pass was unacceptable, and went full-throttle from there. At some point, after the trail evened out and right before I hit the pavement at mile 29.99, I tripped out of fatigue and lightly skinned my knees.

The fall shook me up a bit, but didn’t hurt. I got up laughing, feeling like I got the full experience of a trail run now that I had some dirt and blood on me.

Later, I learned that guys name was Joe, and he never intended to pass me, anyway. Well-played, Joe.

Sometimes you need a good pacer to kick you in the ass a little bit.

Running to the finish the second time, my real finish, gave me the same surreal feeling I get at every finish.

Running to the finish at Paiute Meadows 50k

My finish line face is fierce at Paiute Meadows 50k

It’s like… God, what just happened? Did I really do that? Give me a big hug!

And there were many hugs.

Me and Linda at Paiute Meadows 50k

Me and Linda in matching jackets after I finished Paiute Meadows 50k

I finished in 6:12, which made me very happy, especially considering the major doubts I had before the race. I’ve been prioritizing work and other life things over my workouts and hadn’t run over 16 miles in the past few months.

Oh, well- still got it! All that worry for nothing, as usual.

I was stoked to see ultrarunning phenom Molly Schmelzle at the finish. Molly is an Ashland-based runner and endurance coach who not only won Paiute Meadows 50k for the women, but smashed the course record previously held by Beverly Anderson-Abbs!

The men’s record was also beat by Derrick Jenkins, but I get more excited about following female ultrarunners.

I’m proud of everyone. You all crushed it!

Humongous thanks to Linda and her all-star team, to all the volunteers and sponsors, to Shannon for sharing her videos, to Molly for helping me get in shape for this event, to Hammer Nutrition for helping me fuel right, and to Jason for being the most supportive partner ever.

xoL

On hot days, howling wind, and coyotes

Last year, I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a $3 bean burrito and Modelo Chelada (my drink of summer), relaxing in my Crazy Creek as I watched the desert sky melt into a tranquilizing melange of pinks and purples.

Those Clouds Tho- Sedona- MAy, 2017

It was the first day of my month spent roaming the southwest, camping out of my car with my dog. Bruce doesn’t like change, prefers a couch to the ground, and really isn’t much of a camper. So, the little hellhound had taken his first opportunity to run away.

He returned to our campsite by the time it became fully dark, about an hour later, absolutely covered in cactus spines.

I made the mistake of inviting him to sleep in the tent with me, which he promptly shredded.

After that, he slept in the car.

Bruce wanted a roof over his head- Sedona- MAy, 2017.jpg

Earlier that day, I had locked most of my possessions in a storage unit and set off with no real plan other than to explore northern Arizona, southern Utah, and Colorado. Just me and Bruce without any obligations to anyone (unless you count the Grand Canyon 50k I ran at the end of the month.)

Camping in Sedona

My home, Sedona, Arizona

When I shared my plans with people, about 85% asked if I was okay and offered to have me stay with them, not understanding that I was looking forward to this experience.

The other 15% were jealous.

Every day I picked a spot based on a trail I wanted to run, a mountain to climb, a canyon to explore, or a river to wash myself in. I drove to that location, charging all my devices along the way.

 

89 South, UT- May 2017

Highway 89 from Utah to Arizona

 

 

 

89 South Art, UT-AZ- May 2017

Really cool art along 89

 

I became an expert at setting up my Big Agnes tent in record time. I watched the sun rise and set every day. I spent hours quietly journaling, meditating, and becoming acquainted with the natural inhabitants of the desert.

Summer Solstice sun_

One time, I spent an entire afternoon doing nothing but watching the sky as storm clouds slowly coalesced in the distance, uniting from various directions and steadily growing heavier before I felt the first raindrops.

Some days were blustery and nights were just gnarly. There was more than one time I sat awake for what felt like hours, leaning into the wall of my tent to keep it from collapsing on me, praying for the wind to stop.

It always did, eventually. Except for one night, when I camped on top of Moki Dugway in Utah, right as a major storm was rolling in. I had no choice but to curl up in the front seat of my car while Bruce glared at me with a “WTF, mom” expression.

We didn’t sleep that night.

Without anywhere to keep him safely contained, Bruce came with me pretty much everywhere. It was interesting for both of us.

adventure dog

Adventure dog

I often didn’t have cell reception and would get lost. But when you have no set agenda, getting lost isn’t such a bad thing.

One time I got lost and found myself here:

snake gulch 2

No complaints.

I spent one day roaming through Snake Gulch outside the Grand Canyon, hunting for petroglyphs and pictographs. As a writer, I felt particularly moved by these story-telling images that remained so well-preserved thousands of years later.

 

Bruce hanging out with the pictographs

The Boss and his to-do list

 

obviously aliens

These guys were obviously aliens

I miss that trip. The freedom and simplicity.

This year, I didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all.

I was working.

But my heart ached a little as I remembered.

Now, I stand at my fancy new desk, using electricity that doesn’t come from a 12-volt power inverter, I can’t help but wonder…

What would the coyotes think of me now?

 

 

How running fulfills my six basic needs according to Tony Robbins

As some may know, I’m a huge fan of coffee. I buy high-quality, locally roasted, organic beans from Northbound Coffee Roasters and grind them myself. Since I’m not bougie enough to splurge on an electrical conical burr grinder, I use a hands-on coffee mill.

Why am I telling you this? Because hand-grinding your coffee beans takes TIME. Since I value my time as much as anyone, I started making better use of my coffee-grinding time by simultaneously doing squats and playing self-help videos on YouTube.

Life changing.

Today, I was planning to write a completely different blog post. But that’ll have to wait because I was so inspired by this video:

In it, Gala Darling discusses the six basic human needs according to Tony Robbins. If you’re not familiar with Gala, I highly recommend checking out her Wonderland Sessions. I started following her about a year and a half ago, right as I succumbed to the sneaking pressures of what some may call a total fucking breakdown.

 


Related reading: Much love and little black hearts to you all on World Mental Health Day


 

Since Gala speaks to a specific audience (badass babes), I’ll also include this link to an article Tony wrote for Entrepreneur about the six human needs.

While listening to Gala speak, I kept thinking about how running fulfills pretty much every single one of these six needs:

Certainty

Running is my primary source of physical activity, and getting regular exercise definitely provides some degree of control over your life. It keeps me in good cardiovascular condition and motivates me to eat and sleep well, all of which combine to create what my doctor calls, “the picture of perfect health.”

Knowing I’m healthy eliminates a ton of stress, but I can also exercise my need for certainty in some unhealthy ways, like starting fights, worrying, and getting depressed.

Uncertainty

Odd as it may sound, uncertainty has always been more appealing to me than certainty. If I wasn’t excited by risks and constant change, I’d never make it as a freelance writer. I wouldn’t even be writing this last-minute post right now because I would’ve stuck to the plan.

Running ultramarathon races constantly forces you to push beyond your comfort zone and face all kinds of situations you’re totally unprepared for.  

My favorite part about uncertainty is coming through the other side of it, feeling unstoppable.  

Significance

This one’s easy. Although the sport is growing in popularity, still makes you weird enough to draw attention. People often introduce me like, “this is my friend Lauren, she runs really long distances.” I hear, “You’re crazy/amazing” ALL THE FREAKING TIME just because I have this odd passion.

Love & Connection

As solitary as the sport can be, I can truly say I’ve found my people in it. Connecting with other runners, either on the trail or through social media (and this blog) has helped me open up and form new, lasting friendships in my 30s.

I still spend a lot of time alone, but knowing I’m not the only weirdo out there is truly comforting. So, what I’m saying is, I love you. Thank you for being there.

 


Related reading: How to keep runnin’ when you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’


Growth

I just learned this morning that growth is my main motivating factor behind all the things. When I look at my life, my career, my relationship, and my hobbies, all I see is limitless potential. It’s exhilarating. It fills me with a sense of purpose that makes me excited to get up and get after it every damn day. More on this later.

Contribution

While I think (I hope) I contribute to the greater good in larger ways than running allows, I always appreciate the opportunity to help. Volunteering at a race can be just as much fun as running it (or more-so if you’re injured), and I love sharing any knowledge, mistakes, or funny stories in this blog.

This morning, as soon as I had my coffee in hand, I rushed to my laptop to read more on Tony Robbins and the six basic needs.

Taking this quiz I learned that growth is my driving force. Hell yeah!

I really hope you explore these videos and links yourself and feel inspired to examine your own motives in life. If you end up taking the quiz, feel free to share your own results and thoughts.

Yay!

xoL

How to keep runnin’ when you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’

I know I’m not the only one who goes through periods where running feels like a chore. It’s almost May, and I’m wondering where the passion I finished my 2017 ultra race season with has been hiding.

This year’s been off to a weird start. So far, I’ve skipped the only two races I was planning to run, one because I was snowed in and the other because I was overloaded with work. More and more, writing assignments and other responsibilities I didn’t have last year are pushing running further down my personal priority list. On top of that, my favorite trail sisters are injured.

All these things and more have me less than stoked

I know it’s still there, I just need to hang tough while I search for it.

It’s probably hiding with my damn wireless mouse.

In the meantime, this is how I cope:

Do other things

Sometimes, your body needs to shake up the routine. This is important for so many reasons. Not only does it prevent boredom, but it giving your body a break from the usual can help prevent overuse injuries runners are so dang prone to.

Move different parts. Try something you never had time to because you were too busy running. Stand on your head. Wrestle your fears to the ground.

Just change something.

This year, I promised myself I’d learn to ski and climb. Very proud to say I tried both those things and really love skiing.

Cross country skiing Mt. Shasta Nordic Center

Finally hit up Mt. Shasta Nordic Center for some cross-country skiing. PC- a tourist with white mittens

I almost wet my pants climbing because my fear of heights is real, but I’m not giving up, yet.

Climbing Rogue Rock Gym

Scaling the wall just like Spiderman at Rogue Rock Gym. PC- My Hunk of Burning Love

(In fact, I’m going again this Wednesday.)

I also found a really great yoga class taught by my fellow ultrarunner and total badass, Courtney Chase. It’s literally just what my body needs.

Prevent injuries while you’re ahead

Clamshells, monster walks, kettlebells, TRX, and planks, planks, planks. Stretching, Epsom salt baths, foam rolling, and massage.

These beautiful, wonderful exercises are called prehab (I learned that from a physical therapy practice I wrote web content for.)

When I’m running like crazy, I can get too tired, or lazy to do put effort into giving my body the care it really needs. Now that I’m averaging less than 40 miles per week, I have no excuses not to devote time to reinforcing my core and working out the kinks that could lead to serious inflammation down the road.

Save money, make money

Races can be expensive. Then there’s the cost of getting there, maybe lodging, maybe dog sitting. Shit ain’t cheap.

Way Too Cool was supposed to be my first race this year, but I didn’t go due to a snow storm.

Sure, I was bummed. WTC was, by far, the most ridiculously expensive race I’ve ever registered for. (I haven’t run many races.)

But, as soon as I canceled my hotel reservation, I landed 2 writing gigs that collectively brought in 4x the amount I paid for the race! Not gonna lie, I was more excited about the work than dismayed about missing the race.

After three years of relentless striving to figure out how to make a living as a freelance writer, I now have a thriving career.

Honestly, getting to this point has felt like the longest, hardest ultra I’ve ever run. But now I’m cruising and feeling good, enjoying this sense of accomplishment while it lasts.

Don’t beat yourself up

I know it’s tempting to. Trust me, I love a good self-flagellation now and then.

But it really doesn’t help things.

Some days are tough. Some workouts are really tedious.

I’ve definitely felt disappointed in my running a few (dozen) times this year. Or disappointed in my performance, or my body’s abilities in general.

When this happens, I try to do something nice for myself, such as:

  • Take a bath
  • Take a nap
  • Put on some eye glitter and turn up Lil Kim

Whatever makes you feel good, do that, and remember you can always try again tomorrow.

On that note, I’m still planning to run Paiute Meadows 50k in a few weeks. In fact, I’m stoked about it. Oh, shit! There’s my stoke!

I leave you with this gem:

 

xoL

ps- I just made a new Facebook page for this site. Please feel free to like and share!

Turn and face the strange

Happy Good Friday and almost Easter.

I’m just coming off a little break from blogging. Call it winter hibernation.

Actually, I did intend to write sooner. Initially about my goals for this year. And then about how my main goal was to be less competitive.

But then, time passed and I realized I’m already not very competitive. I also didn’t run a heck of a lot this winter. It was kind of a blessing in disguise that a multi-day snowstorm kept me from driving down to Auburn for what was supposed to be my first race of the year.

Now the snow is melted and the Easter season has me focused on the theme of change.

Yesterday I finally cleared away the dead leaves from my garden, turned the soil, and planted new starts.

Today I tried to find a Good Friday service to attend, but my town is so small it seems like they don’t do that here- or at least don’t know how to advertise it. (Sorry, Jesus, but I don’t want to drive all the way to Yreka to mourn you amongst strangers.)

Two weeks ago I attended a memorial gathering for a friend who passed away very unexpectedly, and, in doing so, reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years.

Spring is so beautiful, not only for the blooming flowers and singing birds but for the way it offers contrast to the death and decay that’s so necessary to complete any cycle here on Earth.

I always have, and still do, love the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at church, (even though I now understand that the Easter we celebrate is a warped version of the pagan sabbat, Ostara.) Even as a kid, I liked sitting in solemn mourning, wearing dark clothes before the celebration of Easter Sunday.

I was, maybe, a little goth. But I liked to think about what Jesus was going through, knowing he was about get nailed to the cross and just meditating on that fact beneath an olive tree all night.

For some odd reason, I think Spring is the perfect time to think about death. Not in the end of life way, but in the major transformation type of way.

The way you need to let something die to create room for change. How green shoots break through layers of decomposed organic matter. Even the cells that make up our tissues and organs are constantly dying… and, hopefully, regenerating too.

Jesus didn’t run away from his fate, he just stepped right up to it.

It reminds me of something I read about caterpillars sometimes resisting going into their cocoons.

Do you even know what happens to a caterpillar in a cocoon? It’s gruesome. They basically digest themselves and build a completely different, arguably more majestic creature from the genetic soup.

Breakdown and then break free… with wings this time.

Why am I talking about all this? In a running blog?

Because I’m no longer satisfied with devoting this space to race reports and such. I started blogging years before I laced up my first pair of running shoes as a means to express myself.

I feel like in recent years, maybe in an attempt to conform to what a blog “should be,” I lost focus. I narrowed it down. I inadvertently built this image of myself as, “Lauren the ultrarunner,” and neglected everything else that makes me, in my opinion, a wonderful, kind of regular, kind of a hot mess, kind of… um, maybe relatable? human being.

I love running, but recently I’ve celebrated so many triumphs and heartbreaks that had absolutely nothing to do with the sport and I felt like they didn’t fit here. So I didn’t write about them.

Basically, I’m writing about all this change and transformation because I’m ready to take this blog in a new direction and I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to look like.

It felt good, really good. Sooooooo deliciously good! to briefly write about my experiences with depression and get the feedback I did. It made me cry to receive donations from people who chose to show their support that way. These things connected me with my audience in a way that made me feel like I wasn’t just writing to myself.

And so, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you, my dear readers, what you’d like to see more of here?

What topics really resonate with you?

If you’re not a runner and you read my race reports- what is it that makes you want to read- or finish reading? I have a shitton of stories and I’m writing for you, so if there’s something you like, please share!

Again, I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but I’m okay with that. I don’t know if caterpillars have any fucking idea what they’re in store for when they go into a cocoon.

They just hang there. So vulnerable. No guarantee they’ll ever even fly.

Okay, I’m down.

I’m going to use this blog to write, creatively and authentically, at least twice per month.

I promise.

And here I leave you with this juicy nugget:

To win at life, you have to be willing to die a thousand deaths and be reborn a thousand times..png

ps- since you started reading this, your immune system destroyed old cells and new ones were formed. You’re not even the same person you were five minutes ago.

Thanks to Jesus, RuPaul, and caterpillars for showing us the way.

Happy spring, Easter, and life!

xoL