Onto the next adventure, goodbye vanlife

Whenever I get done with a race, I always think the next week will be relaxing and I’ll have so much more time because I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day training.

I don’t think that has ever happened. But I tell myself it will each race. Maybe the next one eh?

So much has happened in the past few days I don’t really know where to start. For the sake of privacy, I’ll stick to myself and not venture too far off to other people in my life.

The biggest thing that’s happened is I have rented an apartment, and moved in Tuesday morning. It happened rather fast. I talked to my dad about the van, how it’s going and randomly looked at apartments just in case something were to happen to the van. This was on Sunday.

That night I got terrible news, didn’t sleep, and spent the whole night thinking about the past 7 months, and how I could be a better family member at this point.

That morning, I contacted an apartment complex I had rented from in the past, went to check a few rooms out figuring a possible move in that August if I still felt compelled to do so.

They had one I could move into immediately, great price, so I took it.

Yup, right then.

I moved the next day, and have been there for the past few nights.

I miss my van. I loved van life, so I will still do it using my van as a camper for training runs and races and the occasional camp. However, with the dynamic the way it is in my life, having an apartment is a wise choice.

Without getting too specific, I am fine, my van is fine besides the dent in the back I am getting fixed this week and my family is ok. I do not feel like I have given up or failed at living in a van. On the contrary, I feel like living in a van for 7 months during the winter and figuring shit out is a huge accomplishment. I set out to do what I planned, I can live in a van, I got rid of stuff I don’t need, I learn how to survive.

It was a truly great experience and one I will likely repeat in the future.

However, I choose to have an apartment right now to provide a safe space for myself and family members if they need it. Additionally, with the things going on, my parents have enough to worry about without my living on the street. I have never felt unsafe, but I know they worry.

I still have my camper with me, I still drive it, it is still race and camping ready. I kept my pee bottle.

This was a decision I felt right about, even though I have tried to live a minimalist lifestyle and be more environmentally conscious. I will continue to pursue these things while apartment living. I rented the smallest apartment I could, I share a kitchen and a bathroom. I have one bowl, one spoon, one plate etc. I will wear the same clothes and use the same things.

I still use my sleeping bag on my bed (though my mom said I could have some sheets of their’s if I choose).

I kept most of my appliances in storage, so I will get a pot and a pan, my slow cooker and waffle iron, blender etc. The past few days I’ve been using a community pan when I need it. I will also donate my things to the community kitchen. Why not share?

The first night was weird. Sleeping in a large bed. Going to the bathroom simply. Standing upright. It’s nice not going to lie, but also something I could live without. I proved that to myself.

I enjoy it. I enjoy electricity, a fridge, shelves, standing up.

I enjoy that the past two mornings I’ve made pancakes and not burned them. I missed cooking, I cannot wait to do that again.

I loved van life, but this life, my ever evolving life, finds me in an apartment again.

Onto the next adventure.

Gullys on the Genny

Many on the Genny is fast becoming my favorite race. It’s tough, beautiful and the Trail Methods race team is incredible. Sheila, Eric, Michael and Lisa among many others work so hard to make sure we all have a great day. To be honest, with all their support, it’s hard not to have a great race.

I also want to say a special thank you to all the aid station volunteers, especially Anne who made sure I didn’t choke on the potatoes at aid station 4.

The race takes place in Letchworth State Park (the Grand Canyon of the East) in Rochester, NY. We start at one side on the gorge and end up basically at the same place on the other side at Mount Morris Dam. There are limited aid stations so it is advised you carry a lot of water in between aid. Last year I ran our of water and it crushed my second half. I wanted to be smarter this year.

The week before this race, to be honest I didn’t feel fresh. My legs were tired, I was either in taper crazy or going to feel flat on race day. I just tried to rest them as much as I could, eat appropriately and hope for the best. My training going up had been solid, I remembered that during the race. I am not a complete novice anymore, that works in my favor now.

My strategy was to run when it was runable, eat early and fill my water bottles at each opportunity. I had water in my left bottle and tailwind in my right bottle at all times. I planned to eat every 4 miles during the first half and then every 15 minutes or so during the second. I followed this strategy as close as I could. It ended up working out for the last 4 miles, where I didn’t need anything. I’ll explain more later.

The first few miles I ran close to a few guys and we clicked off miles pretty quick. I knew I would slow down in the second half due to the gullys, so I wanted to run and use my legs when I could. I stayed in a comfortable 4th place through most of the first 20 and only had to walk a few times. A lot of major climbs last year were partly runable for me this year. That felt good. I had ups and downs but largely felt solid. I kept eating on plan and usually that brought me out of whatever semi low I had.

I crossed the halfway point at about 2:50, grabbed a few things from my drop bag, but kept going. I felt happy, why not keep going right?

I missed a turn a bit early because I was singing Fergalicious in my head and didn’t see a marker. I eventually turned around after only like 6 minutes of error. I saw my friend and awesome runner Scott Parr, who helped me turn correctly. I don’t know how I didn’t see those blazes…Fergie Ferg she don’t love me long time.

The second half of the course it just up and down. Gully after gully after gully. I knew this was coming, so I made sure to drink all my bottles and refilling them completely before the almost 9 mile stretch with no aid. Despite this, I did run out of water, but it was only about a mile from the aid station, and I felt fine to make it without suffering like last year.

I was in the moment, but also thankful to be enjoying everything. I had to walk up some climbs, but I really don’t remember walking when it was a runable section. One foot in front of the other right?

I got the last aid station where they were playing “The Final Countdown” which brought a smile to my face. I refilled my water and grabbed a banana eating that as I started the last few miles. I saved my special Gu (birthday cake flavor) for this section, just to reward myself for being almost done. However, my plan to enjoy the last 4 miles, was about to take a turn.

All of a sudden, I saw something ahead of me. At the end of 40 miles, to be honest I don’t expect to see people. That’s just how it is. The fast men are much further ahead and I usually have a gap on the next runner by a few minutes. But as luck would have it, there was a runner ahead of me.

Game on. I decided to catch him (or try to). So I increased my pace a bit, knowing I still had 3 miles to go and that is a long time. I caught him about a mile later, and then threw all my fucks to the wind and start to go. I honestly left like I lived up to my nickname Gazzellie. I was running from this guy and he was chasing me (thankfully he breathed easily haha).

I have never raced that hard at the end of an ultra. I really went for it, I felt like I was going to puke. If he wanted to pass me, he was going to work for it. I gave it what I had left, because hey, I like racing and that is what I trained for.

Those last few miles were all pain, but also so fluid. I felt like I was dancing over the roots and rocks. My feet just knew where to go. I would not give up even if he passed me. But oh that was so hard.

Finally, in the last half mile, he broke, but I didn’t know that so I kept sprinting. I came around the bend and seeing Joe Reynolds ring the cowbell was like St. Peter at the gates of heaven. I crossed the finish line and fell into Eric heaving.

Damn it felt good!

I went sub 7 hours, which was my goal, and got 6:49 and change. I worked hard and got to race at the end. My strategy of eating early and constantly drinking worked very well.

Phil Nesbit, local cop and hero, won the race in 6:23 (I think?) and another Ithaca native got second. I’ll take third, one place better than last year.

It was a great day. Thanks again to Trail Methods, TrailsRoc and everyone who came out to support. Thanks to Red Newt Racing and the Finger Lakes Running Company for all their encouragement, gear and faith in me.

See ya next year at the dam!


Many On The Genny

40 miles in Letchworth State Park

Last year, it was fun, but also taught me how smart I needed to be to finish strong. With limited aid and water, it’s necessary to be on top of nutrition and hydration early and I need to remember to fill my bottles at all aid stations.

I remember vividly last year the 8 mile stretch with no aid. I ran out of water. I got upset. I cried a lot. When I finally got to the next and final aid station, I dove into the ice bucket. Silly mistake that could have been avoided.

I will avoid those this year.

I have thought about what I want to get out of this race. Mostly, I want to feel like I can finish an ultra race feeling strong and prepared. I don’t want anything that I could have foreseen and controlled to get me. Sure, I might fall, I might get sick or tired, but I don’t want things like hydration or improper clothing to hinder my performance. I want to start and finish strong, not hobbling or dying.

A strong, solid race, that’s what I want.

My coach believes I can go sub-7 hours, so that is generally what I will shoot for. Last year, the first 20 miles of the race took my 3 hours, the second half took me over 4 so I want to work on that. Fuel and hydrate early, control the over-heating, don’t let me emotions get to me. Remember why I do this.

Basically I want to practice what I’ve been doing on my lovely Sundays off in a race setting. I don’t really know what racing an ultra is yet. Seriously for me it’s still about finishing. How someone can race for over 8 hours is something I’ve yet to understand. At some point I break and just focus on the next mile, finishing the leg, getting to the next aid station. I need something outside pace, placing or finishing time to focus on to keep me going. Sure, I’m motivated by those things, but not that much.

It’s about my experience, pushing my body, and enjoying the pain and suffering that comes along with it. Pain is really the only thing that has always motivated me to live. It reminds me what it means to make life worth it. Pain brings joy.

That sounds really warped, but I don’t mean it sadistically. I mean that only through pain, suffering and hard times have I fully learned to embrace the happiness and love I get from other areas of my life. Only going through pain will I understand and appreciate all the good I have.

Outside of racing, I am just happy to get back to the Trail Methods, Trails Roc and all my friends up in Rochester. They are the BEST people out there. I do not deserve friends like them. They brought me back to the sport last year when I felt really out of touch. I need them.

Many On The Genny, here I come!

Taper and nutrition

This is the first Sunday in a while I haven’t spent the majority of it running. I thought I’d miss it more, but to be honest, I’m ready for taper. It feels like I just got home from Texas, and yet here I am, another race is 6 days.

Many On The Genny was really fun last year, so I am looking forward to it again this year. The park is beautiful, the people are great and it’s a good day to be outside. I would like to better my time from last year. I am more trained, so if I rest appropriately this week, I should make it a good effort.

In other areas in life, I have a bit of interesting nutrition changes to delve into. A few weeks ago, my coach and I had a discussion about belly fat and the weight to power ratio in running. I had noticed personally that I have developed a gut. Not in a negative way, actually I don’t really mind the changes my body has gone through. I only asked him about it in regard to my running. I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to change, or rather I felt like it was something I wanted to accept.

My friend Danielle and I often say, having a gut is worth it for food freedom. I whole-heartedly mean that. I also realize that having more meat on me is largely what keeps me injury free. I don’t mean if I fell off a cliff I’d bounce back, but in the overuse or repetitive sense, having some cushion for the pushing is a benefit.

I do not feel like I have let myself go or that I am getting fat. Not at all.

When talking with my coach, he said having my gut is not a hindrance to my training nor would not having it make me much faster at this point. I am training my body to go all day, not to set a PR in the marathon. Having more energy stores, wherever they are, helps in that area.

That said, I would be lying if I said it was easy to accept this all the time. I have moments where I wondered if I was going a bit hard on the bread (I was) or if I should pay a bit more attention to my nutrition (I do). Rather than just look at this negatively, I looked internally and intuitively. What does my body want right now? Am I listening to what it needs?

Intuitive eating is a struggle for me only in the sense that I eat what is automatic and what is available. I work at a sandwich and bread shop, so that is what satisfies both those requirements. I simply eat a lot of bread. That is what it is. When I looked at what my body was craving, to be honest, bread wasn’t it. Sure, a good sandwich seems nice, but I wasn’t making that choice because I wanted it, I ate it because it was there and it was automatic.

This past week, I decided to change it up a bit and see where my energy levels were and how my body responded. I traded peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at breakfast for yogurt with protein powder (controversial for me, but I am open to change) nuts and berries. I traded my lunch sandwich for a burrito or a wrap. I traded my third daily sandwich at dinner for oatmeal with banana, peanut butter and berries. My snacks changed from scones to Clif bars or smoothies.

All these things were dependent on what I actually wanted. I had to change from automatic to asking my body what it wanted. I did not cut out all bread or carbohydrates. I wouldn’t do that simply because it’s a lot of work and I don’t really think that’s appropriate for me. I simply changed my eating to what I thought my body wanted.

I don’t say I was craving these foods. I’ve worked hard and now it’s easier, to avoid the craving trap. I eat all types of foods, I don’t go too long without food and so therefore I feel lucky that insatiable cravings for things are not normal. I’ve allowed all foods into my daily diet, so I don’t think of one meal, snack or type of dessert at a cheat or satisfying a craving.

Actually, when I splurge on good tofu or veggies at Greenstar or a breakfast sandwich from Ten Forward, the only reason it’s a splurge is financial. I look forward to those things simply because they are out of the norm, I don’t make them for myself and it’s fun to treat myself to a meal out.

Anyway, this past week, I went with it, and here’s what I’ve found:

I enjoy it. My body has responded well as long as calorically I eat the same amount. I don’t crave bread or miss it, because if I want it, I’ll have it. Bread was automatic and it seemed like a daily staple, but I realized it didn’t have to be if my body didn’t want it.

I also did not go all or nothing. I still at my breakfast sandwich on a biscuit from Ten Forward yesterday. I still ate bread in the form of burritos and wraps. I still ate the same amount of calories, the macronutrients were just different.

And this is ok. I’m not changing much to be honest and it’s not really a big deal.

Bodily wise, I have the same amount of energy, actually I think my hydration is better because I’ve eaten more fruit and hydrating foods. My gut is still there, but I feel a bit more trim in the mid section. Who knows if that’s actually true as I don’t stare at my appearance in the mirror. I also do not weigh myself regularly, so this is purely based on feel.

My clothes fit the same. I was not going for extreme changes, I was simply trying to listen to my body a bit more.

Breakfast: yogurt with protein powder, berries, nuts and flaxseeds

Running: 60 minutes

Alone time, running and Ten Forward!

If you’ve never listened to the Billy Yang Podcast, do yourself a favor and download it. Try it out. Think Rich Roll meets Ultrarunner Podcast. Long form interviews (60-90 minutes) with athletes mostly, and a few entrepreneurs thrown in.

The most recent episode with Zach Miller got me thinking a lot about how I live as a vandweller. He spoke about living remotely at Barr camp in Colorado. It’s 6.5 miles up a mountain and from the nearest town. He lives mostly alone, and he’s ok with it.

I resonated most with the feeling of being with people, and how awkward it feels sometimes. I do have a social job, but I love going back to my van at night knowing I will be alone. I loved my friend Lesley and enjoyed her company when I lived with her and her boyfriend Mark, but it also taught me that I want to live alone. I enjoy it.

I can go out and see people or stay with someone if I want (just as Zach spoke about going to town and hanging with people) but I don’t really want to. We both enjoy our routines and honestly if I went to a bar tonight, it would feel weird. Not me. As if I was faking it or trying to do what normal people do.

It’s just not me. Maybe I (as Zach also stated) are sort of a loner at heart. Sure, I am great with people and enjoy them. I like company. But I also crave alone time. I think the reason I am so good with people is because I know I will have my time alone later.

Resonating with Zach (and others I’ve spoken with) is very comforting.

This past weekend was another good one. I woke up Sunday and ran for a while. I got in about 29 miles both trail and road before making it back to the van and calling it a morning. The weather was perfect for it, between 60 and 70 degrees the whole time.

The third hour was rough, I considered stopping after 4 hours. I was a bit mentally fatigued and just feeling off. It ended up being a low point, and I decided to get out of the parks and run around the city for my last hour. It made the difference, just a change in scenery.

After my run I wanted some breakfast, so I went to Ten Forward (second time that weekend haha) and branched out to try their new tofu scramble. I had my friend Alex burrito it up for me with some cheese and veggie sausage. Delicious, a must try if you’re in Ithaca.

That afternoon I called my mom and sister and talked to them, did a bit of work for Agava, and read. I tried to maximize the time I spend sitting or laying. It was quite nice.

On Monday I went for a 15 mile run, then to geriatric yoga. My legs were trashed, so the yoga flow and rest there helped. It was a good two days of training.

I’m off today, and I believe I’m tapering for my race in two weeks. I can’t wait for Many on the Genny! It was so fun last year!

Breakfast: yogurt with walnuts, flaxseeds, blueberries and protein powder

Running: Zero