“You Can’t Just Run a 24-Hour Race On the Fly!”

It was a recent Tuesday, and I was contemplating my training runs for the weekend ahead. I had options. There are always options … so many good options when you have some time. (This applies to my daily life, but today we will focus on running). I settled on what may sound like the least reasonable-sounding option to most – I could pay $28 and spend 24 hours running around a .82 mile loop at around 7300 feet in Palmer Lake, Colo., at a race called the “24 Hours of Palmer Lake Fun Run.” I like when I convince myself something sounds fun and I believe it no matter what anyone else says or thinks. I signed up the next day, on a Wednesday, and started contemplating the possibility of attempting my first 100-mile distance three days later.

“Why?” so many asked.

I usually answer that question (in any context) with: “Why not?!”

I wish that I could fashion a micro story about each of the 85 loops I completed. Instead, here are my thoughts on various topics that mattered to me when I was running a 24-hour race on the fly.

Sleep Deprivation: I am going to be running for close to 30 hours for the Leadville 100 in four short months, so let the sleep deprivation training begin! The only problem here was that I was already sleep deprived going into the race, so it really was going to be an exercise in sleep deprivation on top of sleep deprivation.

Strategy: “You can’t just run a 24-hour race on the fly!” – said to me by a more experienced ultra-runner that I trust. It all depends on what “on the fly” means, I suppose. I had very little strategy going in, though I did receive the go-ahead from my running coach. I certainly wasn’t trained for a 100-miler, or even a 70-miler. I drove there on my own, was expecting a few visitors throughout the day, and that was that. I do have determination and flexibility and an ability to work things out when I need to, though, so those things become my strategy. Also, how much strategy do you need when you’re going to be passing your camp every .82 miles? As it turned out, quite a bit! But, I survived.

Sustenance: I knew I would be sleep deprived. Nothing some Red Bull and chocolate-covered espresso beans couldn’t assist with, right? I am pretty sure that I thought Red Bull was reserved for some nasty vodka drink at some late night club…but this just underscores my feelings of disgust at what was in my grocery cart in preparation for the race. For those that don’t know me, I am typically a very healthy eater all of the time, and very disciplined in this way. I kept thinking, “How many bananas and Chia Squeezes can I eat during the race to balance this all out?” Luckily for me, despite all the sugary and caffeinated aids in my shopping cart, my nutrition kept up with me for the entire race, a first!

Shifting Interactions: I love shifting interactions. This is also something you should know about me. As when you are on a vacation with several people and you have no idea what you will be doing with whom at any given time. I LOVE this. So, think 85 loops around Palmer Lake and each loop being like a mini-vacation with new runners, new spectators, new conversations, and new ideas to ponder. Believe me, this is NOT boring or monotonous.

Socializing: This may be my downfall generally, and specifically was at this race. I get really excited when I see my friends, and I immediately want to stop whatever I am doing and head into a full-blown conversation. First, my friend Andrea arrived and walked a few loops with me. That helped me get out of a minor negative head space. (Thank you Andrea!) Then my friend Mark arrived, and although he tried to talk me into more running, I was also too excited and all I wanted to do was chit-chat. I know I need to work on this.

(the) Suck: There really was only one time that I can recall where I thought to myself, “This might suck.” That was when I looked at the clock and said “Oh great, only 14 more hours to go!”

Saviors: Otherwise known as friends and family and crew members. And at Palmer Lake, also the lady making grilled cheese at 2 a.m. In this instance, I had many race saviors, despite my cluelessness in not really planning for a crew. I received many texts and messages from people who were checking in on me and sending encouraging words, including a text at 1:30 a.m. from a friend traveling in Japan. He rightly pointed out that most people were sleeping while I was running loops, and it was extra fun to know someone else I knew was awake in another part of the world! Everyone’s timing was right on, and I was reminded of all the people that support my running goals and shenanigans. Thanks to all who checked in!

Some special thanks are in order. First, my friend Mark had committed to coming out there after running his own 50 kilometer run that morning to help me get through some night miles. I was really looking forward to this. Although the original plan was sidetracked by an injury, which would have been a perfectly acceptable reason to bail, Mark still drove out there, brought me a burrito, walked/ran several loops with me and dealt expertly with my overexcited, incessant chatter. (I promise I’ll change my ways for Leadville, Mark!)

Second, my friend Dave spontaneously became my overnight crew and this was nothing short of amazing. Dave was planning on coming out around noon to hang out and bring some of his homemade cookies and fruit. At some point in time, Dave figured out I was on my own for the night and decided he would stay to help me through. He also decided to run his own 50k! Needless to say, I am not sure I could have accomplished what I did without Dave’s overnight help. I just couldn’t believe it, and when I kept thanking him, he said something to the effect of, “I like to volunteer and help our running community just like you like to do pro bono (legal work).” I am still overwhelmed at how awesome that was. Both Mark and Dave were already lined up to be part of my Leadville pacing/crewing team, and again, needless to say, I am stoked about this.

Sleep Deprivation (Again): A long time ago I bought a Volvo station wagon. You know, a good family car. If someone would have told me in 2006 that in 2017 I would be so psyched to sleep in the back of this car for 30 minutes in the middle of a 24 hour race, I may have said something like “You never know what’s going to happen!” or I may have just said something like, “Whatever, you weirdo!”. However, I fit perfectly in the back of this car and it was oh so warm in there. I took two 30 minute naps during the night. Each time Dave knocked on the window and shined a flashlight in my face to wake me up, I popped up, got out of the car and said “Ok, let’s go do more laps!” (maybe it wasn’t really an exclamation). Best unanticipated running purchase ever!

Solidarity– All those people running around that lake – we were all in it together. All those people that showed up that day to bring food, to heckle, to entertain (think semi-drunk guys blasting 80s music in the dark with a bottle of Fireball with a huge spotlight), to push their friends – all those people were in it together with us. Enough said.

Strength/Stubbornness: I remember my spontaneous crew member Dave telling me at some point, “You’re really stronger than you think.” It is always hard to understand that in the moment, when you’re struggling along, but it must be true. As for stubbornness – I had planned on being stubborn that day, and I don’t think I actually ever was. I think I was pretty stubborn for the first half of my life – I might be all out of stubbornness! That trait never really served me well anyway.

Sunrise: As for most, sunrises typically signal the beginning of the day to me, a time when I am waking up and anticipating the amazing day ahead. I catch many a sunrise while running. Here, the sunrise at Palmer Lake signified the opposite – the end of the race, the end of the day’s journey, and close to the time I could go home. It was just as meaningful. It was fun to see the people who had chosen to sleep through the night show up on the course again to fit in some more laps. I wonder what I looked like to the all of the well-rested people that morning!

Success: I decided to stop early at 70 miles. I could have completed another loop, but I wasn’t so interested in a 70.82 mile finish. Seventy miles seemed sufficient.

Seventy injury-free miles, a participation award, and so much fun! Thanks to all, and a special thanks to the race directors who provided the opportunity (and to my family who let me be useless for a few days after the race). I am one lucky person to get to have such an incredible experience.

Ilene Bloom is an evolving ultrarunner, mother and lawyer who lives in Denver. She is excited to do a few more overnight runs this summer in preparation for the Leadville 100 in August. If you have any questions or comments about this post, Ilene can be reached at ilenebloom@hotmail.com

 

On the Road to the Leadville 100 – Approaching Risk and Deflecting Doubt

Life is often lived in hindsight. In the moment of a big decision, it is often hard to fully understand all the factors that go into what you are thinking at the time. And it is nearly impossible to know what the impacts of any given decision will be until it plays out. You can research, plan, and try your best to predict all the possible outcomes. This is what one should do when taking risks. These risks are calculated, and not reckless. But with any big decision, there will be uncertainty and doubt.

I signed up for the Leadville 100 trail run.  Yes, I did this!  I was able to secure a spot in this race by signing up for one of the limited training packages, which also means I am working with a running coach for the first time in my life.  For those who may be unfamiliar, the Leadville 100 trail race entails 100 miles of beautiful, extreme trails in the mountains of Colorado, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet and a total of more than 18,000 feet of climbing – all in a 30-hour time frame or less. It is one of the absolute classic races of ultra-running. It is hands-down one of the biggest challenges I will be taking on in my running life, if not my life in general, so far. Did I agonize over this decision for days on end before I did this? No, I did not. Did I fail to think this through before I did this? No, I did not.  What I did do was make a conscious decision to approach risk, as opposed to deflect risk. So much of truly living, to me, is exactly that, approaching risk versus deflecting risk.

To me, approaching risk often looks like this: I get an idea. I get really excited about this idea (probably over-excited) and convince myself it is a good idea. I set a plan in action of how to implement or set on the road to making the idea actually happen.

Basically, when approaching risk, I decide to live my ideas.

Part of approaching risk is deflecting doubt. When the doubts are internal, I tend to try to talk to someone who can provide me with real-life experience on the matter. I often seek out someone I know who trusts my decisions and thinks positively.  And someone who really knows me and supports my BIG ideas. When the doubts are external, I recognize that it might be easier for some to deflect risk.  In most of the “unconventional” challenges I have taken on in my life, the majority of the responses have gone something like, “I would never do that ….How are you going to make that work?” In the case of the Leadville 100, typical reactions also include “You’re nuts” and “That sounds awful.”

These responses surprise me because challenges are exciting! And I can think of less responsible things than taking on challenges and following a passion through. In any event, anyone can do anything for a day or two! Remember, these risks are calculated, and not reckless. I clearly see the value in encouraging those taking calculated risks in our world…just the other day my friend said to me, “If anyone can conquer the unconquerable it is you!”  The outcome will remain unknown until the race, but I certainly appreciate such encouragement over the alternative.

The one thing you can never predict when approaching risk is the reality of how you are going to feel. This risk, the unpredictability of how you are going to feel, is the true risk… yet the one that holds the most potential for growth and rewards. All of the other risks are just doubts that can be resolved one way or the other.

I am sure the road to the Leadville 100 will be a true range of experience, both positive and not so positive.  The perfect opportunity to…

Approach risk.  Deflect doubt.  Live my ideas.

Ilene Bloom is an evolving ultra-runner, mother and lawyer who lives in Denver. In conjunction with training for the Leadville 100, she is raising money for the American Cancer Society at this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/leadville-trail-100-run-for-cancer/fundraiser/ilenebloom.  If you have any questions or thoughts about this article, Ilene can be reached at ilenebloom@hotmail.com.

This Is Just How We Live

A simple mantra for outdoor adventurers when the kids arrive

I have a mantra when it comes to adventuring and traveling with children: “This is just how we live.” Behind this mantra is the idea that there is no reason to stop doing the things you love and the pursuits you value simply because your life changes with the addition of children.  It is an exciting opportunity to pass on skills and provide experiences that can become a central part of your family life. And therefore, adventures and travel become a constant, and not a distinct part of our lives.

This is just how we live.

Of course, the reality is that things do change, and activities have to be modified to include young children. You might be car camping more often. It might be easier to rent a car than to ride buses around foreign countries. To me that is part of the fun and the challenge – how can we make this adventure or trip work for the whole family and still have it be enjoyable, worthwhile and full of character? First, I want to emphasize that I think the sooner you start with your children, the better.  The sooner you start, the more natural it becomes, because it is all they have known since the beginning.  Provide the opportunities, the tools and the experiences early…and the kids will know the drill.  If you are worried you might not get a good night of sleep when camping with an infant, consider that it is entirely possible the same will happen at home.  So you may as well be camping!  If you are worried your kid might throw up as you race to the airport to catch a flight or are coming home from an adventure in the mountains take note: You simply clean it up just as you would at home! The point is that you have to deal with things as a parent no matter where you are. Stuff comes up. You deal with it. You move on.

This is just how we live.

I believe in the trickle-down effect with my kids and adventuring: If I’m excited, positive, relaxed, and flexible, it’s much more likely my children will take on the same attitude and approach while in the outdoors and while traveling. . The ability to remain positive, calm and flexible is important to happy parenting in general, making the outdoors a wonderful training ground to sharpen these skills. Of course this does not happen 100 percent of the time.

Being excited and positive: An important element is involving the kids in the planning and preparation for travels.  Do not do all the work for them.  As a result, they will feel accomplished and learn new skills in the process. We usually go to the library before traveling, or the kids read the travel book, and we try to plan the trip together and let them help us decide on things they might like to see or do.

Be flexible: Will you be touring around from 8 a.m. until midnight? Will your camping trips be the same as when it was just you and your buddies? It will certainly be modified, but that should not mean you will not do it.  When traveling with children, you will likely see things you might not have otherwise.  You might stay outside as much as possible. This is also part of the fun for me – teaching the value of exploration and spontaneity when traveling or being outside, especially because daily life with children can feel so structured.  The art of the free-for-all!

Some people hold off on adventuring and traveling with kids while they are young because they think the kids will not remember it.  Well, no, the kids won’t remember every detail (neither will the parents!) but I think you will be surprised of what they do remember. In any event, it truly shapes kids’ personalities and the willingness to try new things and have new experiences on a consistent basis. It is truly worth it.

This is just how we live.

Ilene Bloom is a mother/evolving ultrarunner/lawyer who lives in Denver. She can be reached at ilenebloom@hotmail.com with any questions about this article and adventuring with children.

Olympic Gestapo Puts Kibosh on Photo Sharing, Pisses Off Kate Grace’s Bfriend

Kate Grace
This is one of the photos of Kate Grace the US Olympic Committee asked a sponsor to remove from social media.
by Patrick O’Neil
Team USA welcomed my girlfriend Kate Grace to the team by making her support system of 5 years, Oiselle, delete all images of her winning the USA Olympic Trials and realizing her Olympic Dream.
I ask you to please SHARE this post to make people aware of the behind the scenes bullying that Team USA does to the athletes chasing their dreams and the people and companies that are there for them during the years of training when no one else is.

 

This company, these people, have stuck with her through all the highs and lows that come with chasing the Olympic Dream. They have not only supported her financially, but have been part of her emotional bed rock for all these years and they are there for her now as she prepares to try to bring home an Olympic Medal for her country.

They posted photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their website of her dream of making the Olympic Team come true. Now, the so called champions of the U.S. Olympic Dream Team USA are forcing (legal threats) Oiselle to delete the evidence of this magical moment from all their social channels and website. Erasing this amazing moment that wouldn’t have happened with out them from internet history.

This is one of the photos they posted as they saw her for the first time after she made the Olympic Team. If this doesn’t embody the joy and Olympic spirit I don’t know what does.

I ask you to please SHARE this post to make people aware of the behind the scenes bullying thatTeam USA does to the athletes chasing their dreams and the people and companies that are there for them during the years of training when no one else is.

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Honoring the Spirit of Ultrarunning

Credit: Ethan Veneklasen

by Special Guest Contributor, Ethan Veneklasen

For the past 13 years, the Western States Endurance Run has been an annual event for me. Whether running, crewing, or pacing, I rarely miss this gathering of our crazy ultra tribe.

This past weekend, I was honored to crew for my Canadian Salomon teammate, Andy Reed at his debut appearance at the “big dance”. I witnessed some amazing moments out on the trail, but that’s pretty much par for the course…amazing things happen every year at this most iconic race.

I saw something interesting this year that I want to call out.

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