Finding my way to wanderweg :)

Finding my way to wanderweg :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Re-bound-ing to begin again? I was not able to complete my 'easy as 1, 2, 3' sequence of posts I aimed to...but here is an update. Thanks for your patience. In brief detail, summer has proceeded as follows:
1st half (June - mid July)
High Intensity Training (HIT) study during the entire month of June and first couple weeks of July for some follow-up testing (we completed an incredible study, demanding on all levels, with 16 participants from start to end). Impressive and a really fun and great study to be part of the leading role. During this month, actually right at the start of the study (day before pre muscle biopsies), I received an email stating I was offered an assistant to the university with doctorate position in Lausanne, Switzerland. What a way to bring some added stress to the already pumping full capacity of my body prior to the study! I had been dreaming of these moments for many many months, however, and that is how I was able to cope and make my decision. I am proud of myself for being able to manage this while conducting one of the many 'huge' studies in my career thusfar. So, one week after the offer, I accepted the position! It was a difficult decision to make as it would mean many new challenges ahead including research growth in the topic area, new country, new language, new environment, etc. It is something you want to think out and discuss with many people just to hear your own thoughts and see if you can pick up a couple words or phrases from others that bring you to your decision. Wow, how amazing it is to be at the point in life to make this kind of choice and really take big step (s). I have a really good idea of how I have made it this far, but it is pretty incredible and humbling to FEEL the progress I have made and understand my development along the way. I am (probably most of us are) trying to do big things, and keep dreaming big things! It is soooooooo scary, overwhelming, rewarding, amazing, inspirational, and worth it :) Keep going and keep dreaming! Life is a process and I will try to absorb all of my time in Sweden and experiences that have exceeded more than words can describe of my expectations and my accomplishments along the way. Incredible, fun, and crazy times!

Ultra Trail - Lavaredo (June 27, 2014)
Believe it or not (believe it!), I was able to sneak a trip to Italy during the final period of the study (THANK YOU endlessly to my colleagues to allow this, as I had planned it prior to the study's development!). I competed in the Ultra Trail Lavaredo in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italia :) The race was really magical, with absolutely breath-taking views where you feel almost out of your body that you are there and able to experience and exist in that moment with 'sweet spot' timing. I was very happy we were able to complete the full original course this year (118-119km), as last year the race was re-routed and shortened due to a snowfall the night before. The race was another 'training' race, but was one I was ready to give it everything I had on the day, this will always be the case for me...adrenaline and race days are my friends. So much energy and passion drive us to make sacrifices to allow ourselves the joy of racing and the solitude coming from doing something we have 'no idea' if we can complete. It is in that sense of desire to achieve something crazy that you feel alive, in that seemingly insane dream that becomes reality. Once the race starts, everything becomes silent in your body (only a light easy conversation in your mind with few words to coax you along and tell you how strong you are) this is amongst the chaos all around you at these big events with thousands of runners and supporters. This moment during a race is really amazing to me, you feel like you are about to do something incredible, and everyone knows it! It is just pitter patter of the running shoes (on pavement at that point), the russle of running packs and sloshing water bottles, the calm to frequent to steady rhythm of breath of you and those around. And the feeling in the body is, 'Let me go, let me free, let me do this, I am ready...', ahhhhhhh :) I love this area of Italy and this year has shown me more depth to this statement, it is a race I hope to come back to again and again. As far as the race outline report (start to finish): great start, feeling ok, wanted to take it easy on an initial section with a steep descent as I was coming into the race with a very weak ankle (from consecutive bad sprains leading up to the race) which happens to be a descent I tweaked that ankle on last year...made it safely down and managed a decent position, though I had really no idea where that was in the race field. Clipping along through some nice sections, though muddy, as it rained several days before the race, and dark (started at 11pm), climbing, eating, digesting, drinking, happy, healthy, up to the 'top' and in the iconic Tre Cime area of the Dolomites (absolutely WOW, YES!). Jumping with energy and enjoying the new morning with new energy and descending a long gradual valley with then a smooth gravel road with slight elevation gain to a steady climb before I started to have my first wavering section of the race (would be about 80-85km in...which was good to have a flow for a while, I am happy to build from that now). We were moving in the heat of the day through a valley, climbing up to about 95ish k and wow, did I struggle, my energy got off and my calories were not with me...natural slow down. Through the aid station in a flash and found some motivation to get moving :) YAY! On the way up and climbing, now steep and starting to be a bit exposed and tricky, but solid, good feelings, focused on my nutrition and gaining energy (but expending more). To the top with some more absolutely amazing views, found a friend to chat with on the descent of the back side and started some off balance climbing and picking our way through some rocks and jagged sections (I needed a little more 'keep it together Sarah!'). This was now coming into the section of the race where I really did not know/did not study enough of how the course proceeded. I knew it was some crazy jagged ups and downs on the elevation profile and had an idea of the km's to the finish, but I had not fully understood and let my mind know I would need to WORK during this part and keep going and pushing. So, naturally the body followed the mind there and I struggled (was just off, very off), so I got one foot infront of the other, lost a lot of time, and basically lolly-gagged my way through the last technical sections and down a steep and holy moly muddy cow path towards the finish. The views were still magical and I tried to absorb them, it was just a bit much for my mind, but I felt them :) With 4km to go (according to a supporter), I realized I should try for a time (under 20hrs) but I had no idea what time it was, literally (as my watch battery had died and I just briefly pulled out my phone to check)...ok, GO mode was back...pushed with everything I had! and crossed with plenty of time to spare...19:47 (good enough for 13th woman). Happy, and pleased provided my stress levels and work environment prior to the race, but left hungry and very much craving more from myself with two large sections where I lost time. Fun to feel the passion in that and fun to know I can do more! This was another great effort in my final race to prepare for the UTMB, 168km in Chamonix, France at the end of August. I will write another post in the coming days to summarize :)
The day following the race, i.e. Sunday, I traveled back to Sweden...and actually slept in the center/my work building in order to wake at 4something to prepare for the post muscle biopsies and some more stressful days of analyzing muscle samples. Fun stories, huh?! or rather, fun to say how it happened/crazy to say how it happened, but not very 'fun' to do in real life. Focus was there, but it was on the mountain ridgeline.

End July - mid August
Began piloting for a study and completed a study looking at heating and cooling recovery protocols. It was interesting and exciting to learn some new methods in the lab, as I have come to know many. We had long days, but a relatively easy protocol for us while testing...but not while including ourselves in the study as participants. Enjoyable nonetheless and got some good sweaty training in. In other news, it was a time for preparations for 1) moving to Lausanne, Switzerland; 2) THE U.T.M.B. a race I have been dreaming and preping for for the last 2 years; and 3) leaving an incredible position in Sweden for a new challenging position in Switzerland. Many hours training, many hours wrapping my mind around that, and several challenges built in, as the study finished 3 days prior to my flight out. So, a lot of data and files to store/save/analyze and a lot of things to organize and pack up/arrange for my move.

This was a shot at some updates...and I still have some picture, pretend it's the old days and enjoy my heart words. More soon, I hope, as all sorts of things are changing and challenging me, so there is much more to know in an update :) For those curious souls, I am now in Lausanne and trying not to feel so foreign (very very hard). I have many stories to report and a body, character, and heart to mend after the race. As well as some incredible experiences thereafter. So...hang on, the speed just increased! (imagine tears streaming from your eyes wide open, everything open - like a) a dog hanging outside the car window, or b) face while on a speed boat) A lot of JOY either way :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

ABC...1, 2, 3 = updating in progress...

Hello, nice to welcome myself back to the blog. It is a bit natural that it goes by the way side at some point - right...well, I will do my best to be back at it. First though, we need to catch up a bit!

ABC . . . 1, 2, 3

You will see a series of three updates to get you back in the wind beneath my wings.

1 = time for growth and Quad Rock 50 miler race report
2 = the incredible month of June (including Lavaredo Ultra Trail - 119km race report)
3 = current status and realizations + preparations for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc


So, where we left off was a place of question for my future - I was searching hard and knew something big was ahead. I was scared and intimidated and put way to much pressure on myself to make something happen, I was in pursuit of a doctoral position and I put myself and my health out in search of it. I was going to do anything to have a position or know what was in the near future by January, 2014. Well, that made life incredibly challenging, I had daily struggles and mental issues that were prompted by other situations and I needed some relief. I was home in MN for Christmas - after a conference in Austria and a quick visit to Lausanne, Switzerland to visit a potential for the future. I stayed in for the most part and caught a lot of sleep and relaxed as I knew that was exactly what my body needed (3 big puzzles and a season of Survivor were the highlights). If you know me at all, that is something I struggle with - shutting down and laying low. It was through the support and patience of my family and the help of a close friend's wedding that helped me see the road ahead was just a step away. One step at a time and a new way to focus my energy. I was back in Sweden and still struggling with WHO I am, WHERE I was going, WHAT I was doing - there was nothing to be said and everything to be felt. Feelings that I would never imagine to have and an admittingly low spot. If I have learned anything from the ultra racing I have done, it is to know in your heart and in your spirit that the dark times don't last - you do, it gets better and hard times pass. I tried to stay patient in knowing that and trust in the process. I knew that I needed to let the river flow and go with it. I captured the mentality of 'growing with the flow' or 'growin' N' flowin'' :)

Growin' N' Flowin'

Metaphors became a daily occurance and they continue to help me to stay focused on the day and the moment. I also was able to get my energy focused in the right place through the use of a childhood trick - I made myself a checklist. I got to put checks or stars in a column on a sheet every day! Remember the list in the bathroom for getting a star when you flossed your teeth :) - that was the energy I wanted - the little kid passion for life and love of each exciting moment (be it washing the dishes for a quarter or mowing the lawn for some spending money at the roller rink) :) That became my thing - FOR ME...not that anyone would see, but I was the one keeping score and I was able to feel my to feel on track with the list of healthy components of my lifestyle, including nutrition, hydration, activities, sleep, friend time, quiet time, household chores, etc.. I learned that the simple things were key and I needed to see each task in itself - then success at getting my life back on track seemed simple. Then small things like putting on my training clothes or even just the shoes became the light for the path out the door. I got in a training groove and used each step to grow and learn about myself. It is through the tough times that greatness comes. We must allow time to feel our feelings and not let our mind get the better of us, YOU ARE YOU. Take control of your mind YOU DECIDE what happens. YOU are in control, but don't push too hard - let it flow, live the moment and ride it :)

Finally, a race was on the schedule and I was looking forward for the opportunity to show my growth over the last months. One of my cousins was getting married - SO, that meant being back home in MN and then while I was back in the US, it was a great time to get an early season race in - so then came along the QUAD ROCK 50 MILER - in Fort Collins, CO! It was a combination trip - quick family visit and quick race plan. I would end up in MN for about 3.5 days and CO for about 4 days, with a night in Minneapolis (to celebrate Mother's Day, my race, and my early birthday dinner WITH MOM!) on my way back to Sweden. Sign me up for the adventure.

Race Report - Quad Rock 50

Like I said, I travelled to Fort Collins, CO! I spent a night in Boulder upon first arriving in some hail storms a few days before the race. I visited a couple friends in Boulder, the university, as well as got a chance to explore the finer parts of town including a hike/run to get my breathing acclimated and legs and feet freshed up in the iconic Boulder mtns - along the Flatirons and from Chautauqua Park. Oh what fun there is to be had in Boulder, I hope to live or be able to visit a lot in the future! Felt like home to me (especially since I lived in Bozeman for about 3 years while getting my Masters degree) :)

My mom flew in on Thursday and I had rented a car, so went back to get her from the airport and we headed up to Fort Collins - another great mtn town. We spent Friday getting set for the race and driving around to allow me to get used to the area of the course and for her to get aquainted with the directions for the aid stations for crewing. We picked up the race packet at the Runners Roost and had a nice pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown, followed by an early night.

We had an early early start - as is the way in the US :) for ultras or most races. We got to the start and followed instructions with plenty of time, it was time to get the race bib number, go back to the car for final preparations and pee break and get back to the start line. It all happened a bit faster than I am used to from european races having all day to get amped. But, off we were and it was a nice start - on a gravel road (quite flat) - which was good for me, as I needed to figure out how to breathe in the thin air up there. Then the race was quite simple - except that I needed AIR, MORE AIR - hills felt good, but gosh I didn't have any spring in my step - I thought, geez what have I been doing in training - this feels so slow. I was able to surprise myself on the downhills and run past several others - I really had the thought "goodness, and these people are from Colorado...since when am I (a Minnesotan) good at downhills?!" Next thing I knew I was really sweating a lot (and making salt stains on my shirt/typical Sarah-issue) and started to take a lot of salt tablets - as a prevention and trick to avoid cramping. Wow, I was taking a lot, but it seemed to be fending off the cramps and was working (for the moment) like a charm.

It was HOT! The day was amazing, and there were views I could have only imagined - it was much more scenic than I envisioned as we slogged and dipped and jumped and zipped and danced our way in and out and around Arthur's Rock in Lory State Park and Horsetooth, and I tried look up and relax and enjoy them as much as I could. But boy was it warm for a lady who hadn't seen shorts or a t-shirt in months and living in the middle of Sweden, let's just say I wasn't used to that one bit. My mom was crewing, and she was amazing!!! I felt like a pro and we were in synch :) Like clockwork = the best feeling! I was sure downing those salt tablets and we exchanged baggies at the 25 mile mark. I was not eating as well as I hoped, but was managing with some GU chomps and started to slowly eat some solid bars in the last about 15 miles. Nutrition is never fun, but at altitude and in the 'heat' it was even less fun, but I was so insanely thirsty! Lesson starting to sink in. It was interesting that after the 25mile mark, the course went in reverse direction - so I was able to see those racers in front of me as we approached. I was very in tune to my body and my limits, but it was impossible not to try to do math and keep a count of the women in front of me. That was a fun advantage to have and I used it as fuel and motivation, it is a bit natural to do that - yeah?! But, I really tried to take a grip of it. I continued to find that ginger ale was my friend and also found a couple other friends along the course, it is nice to end up in good company during the race :)

The day was just going solid. I was happy. It was getting tough, but I was in control and getting it done. I was happy with that and I felt my training had made improvements in my performance and my mind was strong in that. I found that the uphills became my strength after the first half of the race and now started to use those as my advantage and try to push a bit extra there, downhills though - they just became harder and harder - as is also natural when your body starts to feel the load of all the hours. I think they should put some more mountains in Sweden to help with this :) It began a nice little rain shower - which felt amazing because of the temperature change, but it did get a little slickerry (slippery/slick). The last 4 km were about all I could push out my body and I tried to enjoy the home stretch as much as possible through the little valley/plateau/open field - I got a little extra motivation by the end to finish in about 10:30hrs - I ended up being about 30 seconds from this, but pushed hard in the last km to make it there. I called it a success :)

I was so happy and content with my effort and I felt it a great stepping stone to the coming season, I just recently finished Lavaredo 119km in Italy and my goal race of the year is UTMB 168km in Chamonix in the end of August. This was a beginning race and I was happy to see my progress and growth and a 6th place cowbell award to cap it off!

All words and no pics for now - funny internet, maybe I can change this soon...

Thanks for being an endurance reader to make it to the bottom for now - and hopefully you see some more updates soon :)

Happy trails and use all this summer weather and sunlight to fuel your passions and lift your spirit!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

INCOMING! (you should yell it to have the full effect)

Here is an attempt to put words to some feelings I have had in the last weeks, I am working hard in Sweden and trying to find myself through deep emotions...

First of all, I spent two days at home in MN before traveling back over and loved literally every minute. I got to spend some more time with my mom, but also hang out with my dad and with our dogs and even some catch up chats with my grandma. Woohoo! I was connected to my family and to my comforts. Even though it was a super short visit, it is nice to touch base and get a needed boost. Oh, and as part of  race reward for myself - I now have my ears pierced (yes, finally...never had them done). I guess, I needed to run 100 miles in order to get mine pierced :)

Three pups, 150 yard marks - 6 months old = studs!
Amazing inspiration to see the connection my Dad has with our crew :)

Youngest of them all - 'Hammer'

After a bit of a crazy travel back to Sweden with several delays, missed flights, and airport sprints, imagine after running 100 miles, I am back to some type of home. I must say that every time you travel away from your home (i.e., Minnesota for me) it is harder to go away. This time is no different, actually maybe the hardest yet. I have been challenged to my deepest core and will admit that I have found some crazy low points lately. Some of it is expected after an incredible race and really amazing life-changing trip to the US and home. I have been recovering my body and giving time for rest, but my mind has been on a journey of it's own.

I am in the process of taking the next step in my life, I am ready for a big change or many changes. I am not only ready, but I need it. I don't know exactly what that means, what I want to do, let alone where I want to be. Although, the obvious answer is easy, I want to be home and back to the comforts and ease of living in the US, it is just better to be home with friends and family and those you love. However, I am pursuing a big dream and giving what feels like all of myself and everything I know to making it happen. I will always keep after it, no matter what. I believe in what I want and I believe in myself.

I am in a waiting game right now, and this is nearly beyond my capacity to handle at the moment. There are always stressors and situations that make moments hard, but if life were easy, then what would be the adventure in that? I feel like I have been flipped upside down, shaken, and not put back upright. I am developing and growing at wild rates and I know I am in for a long ride with my emotions. I feel like everything depends on everything else and I am just lost at what I want, should, would, could do and where in the world that might be. It is not easy and I want to know now. At the same time, I am trying to embrace these moments in life, while knowing that I have the choice, and I will do what is best for me. Whatever I decide will be right because it is me who gets the say. That makes it easier for sure, but I am still caught up in a storm of emotions and can barely do something without loosing it in some way.

Fast forward a bit...then came yesterday...
Basically I ran away, and it was awesome!

I headed out for a 'pick me up' run and was craving some intervals if the feeling was out I go, running steady, then picking it up, feeling good, then (though I hadn't actually taken it easy and warmed up) I was clipping along and I imagined to run as fast as possible away from everything I know at the moment - literally as fast as I could until I couldn't see town, so, that is what I did! What a rush of relief just in that moment - but wasn't done yet...did some spirited intervals up some hills and through some slippery leaf downhills and pushed tempo up up up and maxed myself again up to the 'top of the top' of where I could see/run to from here - as high as I could be towards the sky and in time with the sunset - magical - no pictures because it was just for me, my moment for my soul to reach and hold what it was and is (imagine wispy clouds, rolly swedish mtns, lots of lake, islands, purple, pink, orange, yellow, blue horizon rainbow of color and all of this reflecting in the lake = woah baby!)...stood there for minutes (longest running pause for the view and thoughts I have ever taken) soaked it in and then decided to return having found a spot for me and a spot for my moment, maybe not a secret spot and my spot will be forever changing, but it was this run/thanks to this run...pretty much every run/ski/adventure outdoors...allowing me the possibility to do what I wanted and take a journey where my body wanted to go, it is amazing what we are capable of and what our bodys allow us to achieve when we give it control and let it lead...what a rush of energy from my soul and a reciprocation from the earth!

Now, if only I could let my body lead my upcoming decisions and what the future brings. I have faith that my body will bring me to the places and give me the feelings of what my mind needs to understand, it will help me figure out what is best and what is right, and in that I will know what is coming for my next step, and yes - I am changing.

Metaphorically speaking (maybe literal too)...for now, you can find me headed deeper in the woods than ever are some clues...
- I am not on a trail but I am not far away from one (where was wanderweg again?!)
- I am in some rough footing - maybe mud, bog, tree roots, rocks, boulders or river - it is hard going
- I do not know where I am and am therefore lost
- But, I generally know where I am and where I am headed
- And, I will get there and let you know when I do

Thanks for reading, following me, and hanging with!
Sarah :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Report - Run Rabbit Run 100

YES! IT HAPPENED :) I ran my first 100 mile race.

Just over two weeks ago, I raced my first 100 miler in Steamboat Springs, CO - USA!!! I had been so focused on this dream and it was such a huge goal for me. It felt the closest to what I know to be a similar feeling of the Olympics, so, it was my Olympics of this year, it was really a deep passion and mindset I created for myself! It was what I imagined - an amazing day!

It had been a wild month leading up to the race - had developed a relatively intense injury in my knee during a race and had a roller coaster of events and travels. So, it was by no means clear that the day would go as planned or that I would make it to the finish line. I took the rest - for once, listening to my body, in the weeks after my injury; got a number of deep massages (that good Swedish kind); stretched for 1:15+ every day; worked anti-inflammatories; prayed, dreamed, body impressed me every day with how much it improved - easing in a couple runs only let it feel better and better with more blood flow and I got it working again. Needless to say, I was pretty shaken and quite nervous for my knee and my pain tolerance for this race. It continued to feel better and better with the TLC I gave it and hung on throughout race day much better than expected...whew!

Here we go...
Flights from Sweden to CO, night in Denver by the airport...worked on abstract for deadline during race, picked up mom at airport, got rental car, got flipped around/lost, went shopping in Denver :), drove and jammed out to music in car to Steamboat, sushi for dinner, night in hotel...scoped out race crew points for my knowledge and for mom's directions for during the race, went for super soaking run in the rain at spring creek (I have a history of getting caught in huge rain/storm weather with my mom - it is rather ridiculous), checked into a condo, mexican food for dinner, worked on and submitted before race included relaxation, stretching, studying course, walk up race finish (super nice weather), eat lots, stretch/study, prepare race drink/clothes/bag, walk over for race check-in and meeting, organize drop bags, pasta dinner, worked on two additional abstracts (not ideal race prep)...

Even before the race, I was having one of the greatest trips of my life, my mom and I were an incredible team and we had some super crazy, wonderfully silly, incredible moments that are forever in my heart - my spirit was so happy to be in the US and so happy to be laughing and full of joy!

Race day - I spent some time this morning before getting out of bed to deepen my belief and set my mindset and I got up with good vibes and knew the day would be rockin'! Excitement sure picked up as we got locked out of the condo after realizing maybe I wanted another jacket to stay warm at the start if it started to rain (mom ran a few times to the reception, then we just told them and headed to the start -- solved later/forget the jacket), rain stayed away-no need initially. Was relaxed before the start and got to say hello to some new friends and meet some long lost friends too :) Yay!

Race started before I knew it and we were off, here is a summary of my mind from the smart here, you don't really know how to run 100 miles, conservative and smart, easy does it, listen, sweaty, hot here, walk, run, walk, run, doing ok, wow, altitude, oh my goodness - my socks - what is going on - fix it now, smart, walk, woah heart rate, sheesh altitude, legs are fine, ok hello altitude, patience, smart, gosh darn socks (I had evidently put too much/put body glide on my heels - rookie mistake, had to untie and pull up and tie laces tighter...didn't work (did it 3-5 times up the first climb) my goodness - how silly, it will be a lonely day on the trails (mainly pulling up the rear of the faster class of the race - oh well, I do a lot on my own these days), doing ok, altitude, yay top, time to run, smooth, loosen the legs, let it roll, smart, hold back, nutrition going well, drink lots-it's hot, salt tablets, running yep...headed smooth in and out of long lake aid station and down fish creek falls, oh my this is quite pretty and nice to hear the river, that was cool - I just saw a fish jump in fish creek falls - nice!, at the trail head to say hey to mom and head for the road to town, super conservative and working a nice rhythm, in and out of olympian hall aid station, nice rhythms and saw some others finally on my way to cow creek aid station, very pretty over here, incredible light and perfect time for sunset - sweet!, hey mom - "MOM, I'M DOING GREAT!", all is well, body doing good-smooth knee and tendons and smooth stomach (mostly), back to olympian hall after chasing some head lamps, continue chasing some head lamps now - beautiful night for a run, up to fish creek again, mom is doing great on my crew-improving with every possibility, just like me...let's go, great climb back up although it is raining/storming now, no problem, Im ready, oh cool...I just saw a bunny rabbit (this is true - saw a rabbit during the Run Rabbit Run race - was not a hallucination), back to long lake (just over 50 miles) (super nice and very helpful aid station), feeling quite good, but slow going with dimming headlamp, crazy puddle/really rough road, hard to run, hard to see, is it still raining or no?, no we are good, but woah watch the footing, into summit lake aid station-in and out, down rumbling dirt road to dry lake, seeing lots of people now - the top runners are on the way back up, looking for all the women and taking notes, cheer on Nikki! and get bonus strength vibes from her :) Cool! hey to mom at dry lake and fill up, head down further to spring creek, brain is getting slower at remembering what I was going to do at the aid stations, but all good, just keep it rolling, gonna get tougher from here I think, but man I am actually feeling super - considering, cruise up to dry lake (got a nice sun coming up), emotions are coming closer - so I just say as I go through the aid station (mile 75ish) (need to fill my water and get out of here or Im going to loose it - meaning I will start crying and therefore, loose a lot of energy), get a talk with mom on the way out of the aid station and know I need to start making some serious time if I want to secure a finish in under 30 hours (goal for a true finish in the classification of 'Hare'), try to push it on the climb up the rough road, shit this altitude, dizzy, ok, push, ok, dizzy, hmm, am I there yet, oh yay summit lake, fast in do my stuff and out, super sunny up here, hot, oh no cold, windy, oh hot, super hot, not, cold, oj...feeling it now, I am sssslllooooooowwwwing down, come on, here is where we make it happen, let's go Willis, diggin deep and know I will get there, ok here come some visions in the woods and some impatience, where am I, where is the long lake aid station (was looking for it for like 45 min...let's just say I was glad to get there), long lake - yes!, "need a hug?" my answer = wow, yes please! - I probably had that expression all over my face = another awesome aid station crew, ok...counting down those miles and really calculating time now, working some rhythm, body is slow and not wanting to eat much or drink much and altitude is affecting my pace, but I am moving and I am just thinking keep 4-6mph for each step, good focus on this section even though I am really falling apart, but up and across to Mt. Werner, great vibes up there, don't loose it, you are right there, be smart Sarah, you are going to do this, emotions on my sleeve - hang on to it, over the top and run right through the aid station barely words to say Im #58 and out, headed for a 6 mile downhill at the end of a 103 mile race is not what I recommend, I was just happy to keep a shuffle and get some encouragement from the 50mile racers finishing - they were bonus motivations and just trying to get those emotions from me...I didn't let em have it, super steep section made my hip flexor almost come off my leg, but rolling my shuffle rhythm again, hey it is getting familiar, condos, super close, see it, ohh mom is coming up, running together, then on my own, then a shot around the stairs into a 'designated hug' for the finish...yep...done...DONE...I DID IT...I...DID...IT! (but I didn't have much emotion...I was empty...satisfied...happy beyond belief...happy beyond any idea of what that was like that and it was super)! I just ran 103 miles in 28:55.56 hours! I can only be happy with that :)

Long story, but long race, bit lonely but great mind vibes and self energy all day! This was probably my best mental race (Lavaredo Ultra Trail was a wonderful one too) and for sure I surprised myself on every level...body, mind, and really deep down believing and knowing it. I think it was just something I had been so focused on and really ready for. I raced very conservatively and felt that I paced it quite well, I didn't have others to work with, so it was really my race the whole way, I was in control the whole way and I did really well with that. Especially well considering I had not been acclimated to altitude (Sweden is at sea level), I was in a stressful time with work deadlines, I had an injury leading into the race, and it was my first 100 mile race. I did my best in every moment and had no big issues - huge for a race like this, and I am very satisfied by that, but of course I want more, I want more challenges and more adventurous journeys. I did great, and I am craving more! I have found a strong passion in this type of race and I can hardly focus on anything else these days. I loved the race and the atmosphere and I hope to be back in the future.

There is much more to report of my current self, stay tuned...for now, just know that my mind has recovered as I am finally adjusted to jetlag on this side of the pond and crazily dreaming of running and racing, but the body is having a time of it's own (i.e. not recovered yet, needs that special TLC from above)...recovery mode and dreaming mode = on!

 It feels great to get the first one done and it feels even greater to know there will be many more :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The time is NOW!

Decisions...Leaps of faith...Life changing moments...

The question on my mind and what has become a goal for this year (running) since over a year ago has been to run my first 100 miler. Yes, you read that right RUN 100 MILES! (it is not comfortable rolling off my tongue yet, but hopefully some day it will sound much less daunting than it does at the moment).

Maybe I should take a step back and clarify WHY and HOW my mind has gotten this crazy idea. I ran my first ultra (Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos, Switzerland) last year. I didnt even know if I would be able to do well or even finish it, let alone meet an amazing friend, and reach a new place in my soul and spirit I have never experienced. Or that these things in combination would all change my life by leaps and bounds. I then went on to pursue racing and chasing this raw feeling of myself that is so exposed and vulnerable to all elements, as well as getting into and going right past my comfort zone last year in a number of races. The longest, toughest, hardest in every way, and definitely the roughest was a race in October in Attigliano, Italy (130km - le vie di San Francesco). Throughout the year I was on a personal quest of my body and it's limits and was incredibly motivated to qualify for UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc - 166km) as well as Western States 100 (100 miler in CA). I qualified for both races and started to build a huge hunger and passion for more. While I didn't make it through the raffle for race entry in either of the two races I qualified for (more chances for entries next year), I had established a goal for this year to run my first 100 miler sometime the end of the summer or early fall. Beyond that, too much was out of my control and I could never settle on the  race or location. The hunger and drive for this goal was present in nearly every moment of my life since that day in Davos last July and has officially come to the surface NOW!

I have been very active in some of the European race calendar this year and although it has been a rough year in many ways, I am here now and am ready to say, I will run the RUN RABBIT RUN 100 Miler in Steamboat Springs, CO in 11 days (insert quiet deep breath sigh whooooooooo noise here)!

I never imagined those words could come from my mouth/mind, but right NOW, this is me. I am the most ready I have been for this challenge. Hopefully there will be other times in my life when I am more ready. But, this is the moment, right NOW! This is what I have been dreaming of and this is what is in my heart. I dont know if I am ready, but I am here and NOW and in this moment following my heart and trying to listen to my body and mind. I have been searching for the right race and the right time (training and work) for the last months and looking for every sign (dreaming, some conversations, some rabbit sightings, dreaming, some positive and negative body vibes, some positive outlook and big picture life lessons, dreaming, some clarity, some resting, some rabbit sightings, some more conversations, dreaming, way too much thinking...) 

And the best sign was this morning...woke day in a number of weeks for the body and the mind - it was a clear and relaxed decision, today, I KNOW NOW that I will be in the US (yay!) in a  great place in my heart (Steamboat Springs) to run my first 100 miler (on Friday, September 13th - yes, embrace that it is the 13th :) - only good vibes)! YES!!! 

NOW we are talking and NOW you know. I didnt think I wanted to let many people know about this, in case it didnt go as planned...but I have grown and I would like to share this dream with you and have you come on this and many more journeys with wanderweg of course :) It is usually quite wild on my adventures, just a warning...

11 days ... woah baby, life is about to change a lot, but I am ready for IT ALL! 

Thanks for hanging on, but I have turned it up a hang on tight or tighter :)

+ WWWWW (Wicked Wild WonderWoman Willis) 
((part of a ever increasing nickname created by my Mom, who will join me and crew in Steamboat :) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On your mark, get set ... GO! (start of the blog gun)

Here comes my first ever blog post, woah baby! I feel like a bit of an introduction to the title of the blog should come first, here is the first of many stories I hope to share on this blog, yay :)

On my first ever trip abroad to Europe, in 2010, I landed in Zurich to say with a friend (Mirjam) of a friend (Isabelle). It was a perfect way to start a trip...follow her around a bit and go for a run. I went for a run from the univerisity and headed up towards the highest point I could find. I first made my own way to the top and then started developing a nice course on the way down and see the other side of the hill - trying not to get lost and keep my eye on the trail signs I encountered, as to find a way back to my start point. Not long down the trail, I found a sign that said 'Wanderweg' and I thought ok, cool, maybe I can follow this sign and keep headed towards this place. Nice diamond yellow signs helped lead me towards a bigger intersection that had multiple signs and was a bit crazily organized for a foreign traveler, and I had already run plenty far for that day, so I decided to turn back and weave my continuing 'Wanderweg' route and somehow mananged to get back to exactly where I started. I have some kind of nature for knowing my position even though I have no map and no big picture context of where I am going. I usually take the long way or the hard way, but without a doubt I usually end up coming into a view of something just from a different angle - usually from a different side of the view I started with. Either way, I found my way, though I would have like to make it to 'Wanderweg'...

Later that afternoon, my friend took me to a nice place for a snowy hike up to a lookout tower on the outskirts of town. We took tram and then train and the bus and headed for one of the last possible public connections - and when we got off the bus (middle of nowhere) I saw a sign up the path (diamond and yellow), we approached the sign I got up the courage to ask my friend "um, where is Wanderweg?" which was followed with an abnormally long pause and a silly look of 'what do I say to that? this girl is crazy'. Mirjam then proceeded to explain that wanderweg was certainly not a place or a destination, better yet, it was the translation for 'hiking trail' or 'wandering path'...we then were in histerics the rest of our very much needed and wild adventure in its own way, including my first and so far, only Rivella and very little energy and crazy cold as we found our lost way (although following the wanderweg ;) and eventually getting to a bus stop and a bus with heaters, just laughing at my thoughts helped us get through the day.

From this trip and this specific story, I now obviously know what wanderweg means, but I also get a nice smile and laugh on my face when I see the signs (which is very often, since I have been traveling to Switzerland quite a lot in the last couple years, and it is my country of choice).

I am describing this story to others and continue to develop new questions...
- would you like to go to wanderweg?
- don't worry, we are on the way, we are headed to wards wanderweg!
- have you been to wanderweg?
- I am headed towards wanderweg.
- let's go to wanderweg
- where in the world is wanderweg?
- I want to go to wanderweg.
- excuse me, how do I get to wanderweg?
- etc. (this list could probably entertain your brain for awhile - it has mine :)

I find that this is a wonderful concept for me, especially lately. I am working on my professional career and also trying to pursue my athletic career and trying to balance a full on, all in approach. I am definitely on my way to my 'wanderweg'. I am understanding that it is a process and that all processes are meant for reasons. We must learn something from each situation and take it with us for the next part of the journey. I am on my journey of finding myself and who I am and my place in this world. I have big ideas and big dreams and I know I am making my own path and developing my own route that makes it my life and my journey. I think I will mainly share adventure and race stories on the blog, but maybe also some life experiences or topics in need of some venting.

So, here is to finding my wanderweg! Welcome to my usually wild and crazy type of lifestyle and adventurous spirit :) I aim to entertain and update as much as my schedule may allow!

Come on, let's go to wanderweg...