Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Raising the Bar

     In keeping with my theme, "You never know until you try..." this blog post refers to myself taking on two new challenges:  Badwater Salton Sea and a career change.  I've known for sometime that I thrive best when out of my comfort zone.  This can be a good thing in the general American Dream sense.  Looking for new aspirations, creating new businesses to keep the ideals of Capitalism strong in the US, helping to keep those businesses ethical, etc...  When I took the 3rd Admissions job I've had in higher education here in San Diego, I knew I could do the work, I've helped people to get their dreams started, get into college, make a better future for themselves, etc.  What I didn't realize was that because I had done it before, I was going to fall into the same rut I had been in before in that kind of setting.  This time it happened much quicker than it had done before!  It only took 6 months for me to be bored.  The only thing that kept me going was making the connection with the students and feeding off of their positive energy. However, my positive energy was going down the drain, helping a University that didn't value my passion for the students and focused on the bottom line instead.  So, I decided that I could not wait for the right time to make my move into the fitness field.  The right time was never going to come.  I had been laid off twice before and got myself on my feet both times.

     At the same time, my running has been going so great and the desire to do more has been tugging on my running shorts for years.  I've learned so much over the years that when people ask me questions about their health, I start getting into details about it and before I know it, they're afraid to eat cake in front of me in the office because I know they're trying to lose weight, lol!!!

     Then, I get a text from my good friend and partner in healthy, positive, crazy ideas, Trasie, to call her when I have a chance, she wants to invite me to something...  (knowing Trasie, I knew she was formulating an adventure and I would want to be a part of it.)  She's in Boston at the time for the Boston Marathon, it was the Friday before the race and I call her and talk to her while feeding the dogs.  Having liked the AdventureCORPS page on facebook, I had seen that they announced the Badwater Salton Sea race and oddly enough, some co-workers and I had just been talking about Salton Sea and it's weirdness.  So, when she said she's putting together an ULTRA University team and wanted me to be a part of it, there was no I doubt in my mind.  I had to make it work.  Being on a Monday and having already used up 7 days of vacation time in February to visit a friend in Paraguay with all the other vacation days going to my sister's weddings, (2 weeks til the first one!!), I had no other option but to quit my job!  Simple, really! :)

     The Badwater Salton Sea race (BSS) was going to be considered the "mini-Badwater".  Check it out if you've not heard of it.  My brother and I had watched the "Running on the Sun" documentary about the race back in 2007 and had even discussed the possibility of him running it someday!  Luckily, I had been training for the San Diego 100 mile race, and the BSS team race was 81 miles, so I felt prepared as far as the mileage and the climbing, considering I had done the Old Goat 50 mile with 15K feet of climbing.

The biggest challenges I was going to have to face was:

1. The road.  I'm not used to road running and with only 2 weeks to train, I was going to have to suffer through it.  The longest distance I had ran on road recently was the Kauai Marathon, in SEPTEMBER!

2. The heat.  I had done a few hot 50Ks last summer and did Rim2Rim2Rim in the Grand Canyon, but it had been months since I did any major heat training.  So, we hit the sauna every night.  Our training run with the team the following weekend after Boston was 9 degrees, in between the Salton Sea and Borrego Springs.  We expected the temps to rise to at least 95-100 for race day.

3. The team effort.  We had to stay within 10 meters of each other during the entire race.  I've been a gymnast and a runner, team sports have always haunted me.  It brought back emotions of Sokol volleyball tournaments where I forced myself to get over the fear of being the loser that lets the team down...  Turns out forcing myself to do something I didn't want to do helped in this case!  I realized afterwards that I had been training for an event like this all my life! Plus, our ULTRA University team, crew included, meshed quite well together.  Check out our pics from the training!  

     During this time, I knew I had to leave the BS and ass-kissing world I was working in and now I had a limited amount of time to do it in.  I had done crazier things in the past and knew my family wouldn't be too shocked. The day before Boston I spoke to my mom and she had actually recently thought to herself that it had been a year and a half that I had been doing the same thing and expected a change sometime soon anyway.  I took this as a sign.  I also knew that I had to bring the news to my boyfriend carefully.  This didn't quite happen as I would have liked it to but, being the supportive man he is, he understood that my heart was going to be better off with this decision.  Even if my feet were going to suffer! :)  Plus, I've learned how to talk to him now about my crazy ideas!  

     Preparing for the race, we did plenty of sauna training and I did a good taper.  Both Trasie and Iso, our other teammate, (the first person to ever run the Badwater World Cup), ran the Leona Divide 50/50 the weekend before!!  The Friday before the race on Monday, was my last day at work.  And we worked on a woman's house in Barrio Logan, as our Day of Service.  Not bad for a last day.  Once that was over and I had a nice hearty stout with my former co-workers, I focused on the race.  We had 5 sponsors!  Evolution Fast Food, a relationship I developed with the owner and some neighbors of mine. They gave us a box of vegan wraps, all different varieties and some gooey brownies. I eat the wraps when I can find them at some of the convenience stores around here; People's in OB, Grocery Outlet, City College, etc. and the brownies are so moist they are perfect for desert running since your mouth gets so dry it can't co-operate with anything else!  I picked up the wraps and brownies on my way out to meet Trasie and Lynne (one of our crew members) to drive out to Escondido to meet everyone else!  Eating a wrap on the way, carbo-loading!  There, we met with Jason and Julie, our other two crew members.  Jason being our veteran crew captain, having crewed 8 times at Badwater!

     We also had FLUID as sponsor, who gave us electrolyte replacement drinks and recovery drinks, as well as shirts and caps we sported the day of the race and the following day at the brunch.  Nathan provided us with their brand new design of handheld water bottles, their insulated water bottles for the crew, water packs for the trail portion, and the required reflective vests and lights for the night!  ALSO, INKnBURN sent us Run or Die running shirts, for entire team!  We looked great at check-in for our before picture and the after picture with the whole team.  PLUS, we had 5 cases of Corona Extra!!!  Our secondary recovery drink!!  Liquid Bread- does a body good! :)

Eating some wraps before check-in:

     Check-in was a great feeling.  To be in the same room with people like Charlie Engle, Marshall Ulrich, Amy Palmiero-Winters, Barb, Mario, Jay, our very own Iso...  Of course, the race director from the Brazil 135 was there handing out t-shirts and giving me ideas...  We took our before picture with the famous AC backdrop and a TON of other pics, went out to eat, chit-chatted with some other teams and went to bed after having a Corona...

     Race morning, we all did our regular rituals, I had my mate from the termo I had brought back from Paraguay... which I later heard a particular crew member had questioned my decision to bring.  We painted our warrior signs, Tough #1, #2 and #3 which immediately went up to Facebook.  Lining up literally on the Salton Sea, Trasie and I did some handstands, we took some more pics and the the race began.  I immediately had to pee. :(   I waited about an hour or so and then went before we reached the AM/PM where we knew the crew would be.  H.U.M.  (inside joke).  This part just zig-zagged through the deserted town of Salton City, abandoned homes from the boom in the 60s before the Sea became a death trap for any wildlife.  Marina Dr, Hollywood Blvd, etc... After seeing our crew, grabbing a bite to eat, getting refills, we were off again.  Passing the AM/PM we finally got some Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches from the Neapolitan team.  "If we're providing Corona for everyone, can't we get some ice cream?"  Tasted refreshing and the sugar didn't hurt either!

     Fortunately, or unfortunately perhaps, the temperature was not nearly as high as we had expected it to be.  Mid-80s was reasonable.  This meant, however, it was going to get cold later...  Rolling through the first 35 miles until Borrego Springs was pretty comfortable.  We got into a rhythm, drinking, eating and peeing together... Here is the route.  We were flip-flopping with Team Canada, Neapolitan and saw the crew for the Triple As.  This photo was taken at mile 25, gives you a good idea of the vastness of the Anza-Borrego Desert.

     Coming into the Time Check in Borrego Springs at mile 35, we rested with our legs up, Iso's very fine suggestion and stretched.  It was about 3pm and not hot at all.  As I write this, at 6:30pm, it's 101 in Borrego Springs!! We got out of there well nourished and on our way to the trailhead.  The trail was only 6.2 miles but it was a climb and we had been warned the night before from the RD, Chris Kostman, that it took them a solid 2 hrs, 45 mins on fresh legs.  So, we had hoped to get out of there before 7pm, when we had to put on our night gear.  I had Jason patch up my one and only blister, we put on our Nathan packs, grabbed an Evolution peanut wrap and headed up the trail!  That thing powered me through the climb! The trail was winding, we had some cramping issues, we spoke in English, Spanish, Quechuan, and didn't get lost like some other teams had!  By the time we made it out, at 7PM, it was misting and cold.  

     We put on our cold gear and reflective vests/lights and trucked it out of that section, working our way to Ranchita.  After Ranchita was when we had planned to hit our fastest miles.  And we ran that entire section!  From mile 50-69, we booked it.  Relatively really, how fast could we really go after 50 miles?  Here, I was getting progressively colder but still comfortable.  It was rainy and I remember Trasie and I getting tired and funny.  The pit stops seem to blend together at this point but I remember one specific time when I was bent over, I had asked Julie (a rockstar crew member!) to fix my hood and I had a long string of snot dripping about a foot down from my nose and I said, "Look at that!"  It was a pretty funny moment at the time!

     The climb began at mile 69, when I grabbed another wrap because we were doing a walk/run up the climb.  At this point, my nose was going like crazy and I felt like I was blowing a snot rocket every minute.  There were practically streams coming down the mountain due to all the rain, visibility was about 5-6 feet in front of us, WITH headlamps. The crew van started to seem like a savior every time we saw those blinking red lights.  It was time to pull out the Julie Andrews, "Favorite Things", we sang the song and listed our favorite things.  Iso first, then Trasie, then me.  I had 4 and running was one of them.  Iso concluded that he didn't like to run.  I suppose I didn't like to at that point either.  

     After one stop with the crew, I flagged them down to get my white vest on, underneath the rain jacket, I was getting even colder since we weren't running quite so fast at this point.  It was from reflector to reflector.  A few miles later, I ran up to the crew and asked for dry gloves.  Poor Julie goes scrambling to find my spare pair, I didn't have any but I was so grateful she gave me her spare pair!!!  At this point my teeth were chattering.  (At least we didn't have snow, some teams after us had snow!)  About 1.5 miles to the finish, Trasie noticed my chattering and had the team put the emergency blanket on me, Jason wrapped it around me and I was happy to hold it in place, keeping my fingers inside.  

     At 4am already, me armless in my emergency blanket, Trasie in a full length parka and Iso in his shorts with a bottle of Mountain Dew, I resorted to Sokol march songs and that kept my rhythm going, before I knew it, I was marching along.  In hindsight, I should have sang them for the whole team to hear! "A byt i cesta daleka..."  The biggest problem I had now besides being afraid of hypothermia, was that I couldn't blow snot rockets since my hands were inside.  To keep from eating my snot, I was exhaling upwards from my mouth forcefully every few minutes to blow it away.  TMI perhaps to anyone who is reading, but it was actually hysterical at the time!  

     And, the finish!! The crew drove up the driveway, parked and came down to run up with us into the garage where the race director and his team were waiting for us!  It felt very triumphant and it was all on the live webcam.  I said hi to my Mom, Annie, Diane, Dave, and Cadbury and Maximus.  Someone made a comment and I responded that my dogs may be watching!  I didn't know until about 6 hours later that they were!!  David had woke them up to see our finish!  

     We took our finishers photos, ate some soup and left to go to the cabin we had rented.  I actually hardly slept by the time we passed out, the sun was coming up and I had drank much more caffeine than my system was used to.  Oh, and my legs were aching.  At 11am there was a brunch where everyone was there telling stories.  I talked to some friends I had from before the race and some news ones, good times.  We took pictures with Barb from Canada, Marshall Ulrich, Chris and Laurie, etc.  I got a shirt for my brother and we went back to the cabin and re-crashed.  The recovery has been slow going, I haven't ran a step in over a week and I'm eating TONS.  The swelling has gone down but I still feel like I need to sleep 10+ hours a night!  Looks like I'm already tapering for SD100!

     What I didn't realize was that during the race, we had a ton of supporters.  Even now, going through the pictures, I'm seeing all the shares on facebook, all the updates from my boyfriend and comments from family members!  Thank you to my Mom, Dad, Annie, Ginny, Matt, David, Diane, Megan, Aleks, Ester, Mollye, Jeff, Paul, Maximus and Cadbury.  It's great to have all of you in my lives!  

     As for my next step, short term, I'm coaching gymnastics at the YMCA, a passion I like to come back to from time to time.  Children help me to regain focus.  I'm also developing a training program, to help people be Happy n' Healthy, working with rehab/recovery individuals in some facilities here in San Diego, running for ULTRA University and developing this blog.  Please share this blog with everyone you know!!

     Long term, I'm studying for the GRE, applying for grad school in the fall for the Fall 2014 intake and have dreams of Brazil, Africa, documenting whale migrations while sailing around the world, helping starving children and spreading happiness.  

     Now that you've read this, get up and take on your own challenge!!  The world awaits...


  1. Beth! I love you dude! I can't wait to see what comes next!

  2. Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your recap. I like this part the most "Someone made a comment and I responded that my dogs may be watching! I didn't know until about 6 hours later that they were!! David had woke them up to see our finish!"
    You will do great at SD - 100

  3. Here is the visual: http://youtu.be/c9HXGsLtfZs

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