Friday, June 17, 2016

Thoughts before Eastern Divide, also a few pictures from the trail.

So tomorrow will be my third running of Eastern Divide 50k! I was peer-pressured on race day eve into running it the inaugural year (2012) under the guise of Scotty Dwyer. I’ve never met Scotty Dwyer, but if he’s anything like his brother Dennett, then I am sure that he is a laugh-and-a-half. I had a blast that year, and even finished in 5:24 (?) on post-Highland Sky 40 miler legs. I then raced under my proper name the next year and managed to squeeze into 2nd place for the women’s field in 5:01. If I’d had a watch I would have actually run the last mile and finish under 5 hours!
In Kirby’s words, “Rachel has been laying low on the race scene for the last year…” Yeah I haven’t raced since October 2014. Wow. That was a while ago! But I swear I’ve been doin’ trail stuff. For example, I somehow walked from Mexico to Canada last year. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has been a dream of mine since I was a small child (some may say that I am still a small child), and after graduating from Virginia Tech in December ’14, Gravy and I decided that we needed to get out and see the sights.
I haven’t written anything on here about hiking the PCT, but I really can’t figure out a way to write about it in a blog-fashion. It’s a totally different animal than racing a 50k or something. Thru-hiking is a lifestyle. You don't go at it for 5 or 10 hours and then go home and watch TV, shower, and eat some tacos. You are doing it for every single second of those 5 months. From May 3rd, 2015, to October 2nd, 2015, I was thru-hiking. Even on the off-days, it's what I was doing. Sleeping, breathing, eating, drinking the PCT. I miss it every single day.
And I don’t want to abbreviate that experience into a few dinky posts. 
UGH so perfect. Fording a low creek, Kings Canyon NP, California.

Walking across the Mojave, California.

Deep in the Cascade Range, Washington.

What I’m most curious about tomorrow is my reaction to racing after turning myself into a thru-hiker. Walking for five months definitely changed me, and I really don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. My nutrition plan is something along the lines of: “….Eat?” and I just bought a new pair of Altra’s that got here…yesterday…haha.
So maybe I’ll finish 1st, or 2nd, or 3rd, or last. Maybe the stars will align and my stomach will stay settled (I can eat a footlong sub while walking, but the jostling motion of running has been sending my lunch flying). Should I wear my desert sun shirt and wide-brimmed hat? Will I bring my trekking poles? I know that I’ve gotten in about 8 solid long-runs, and have been on my feet a lot since I am currently paying the bills via waitressing. It’s actually a good part-time job for a thru-hiker. It keeps you walking all night and there’s sometimes left-over pizza. Yum!
No matter how things go tomorrow, I am really just excited to be running again! I miss the PCT every day, and long distance backpacking is truly my obsession right now. But I know that it’s hard to sustain financially, and I am super lucky to live in such a great outdoorsy town as Blacksburg with an awesome trail community.
Anyways, that’s all. I’m STOKED. But BYOB? C’mon, son :) Just kidding.
 As always with Eastern Divide, THANK YOU, KIRBY!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Plans for 2k15 (i guess?)

Hey everyone! Wow it's been a long time since I last posted. I suppose that's because my life hasn't been very interesting lately. Since graduation this past December, I've been resting a lot a trying to figure out what I want to go to grad school for in the fall of 2016.
Yes, fall 2016.
I am taking a year and a half off from school.
Three years ago, I never would have let the idea of taking more than a semester off enter my mind. But as my last semester began, I knew I would not be going to grad school the following fall.
Q: "So what's your plan after graduation?"
A: >.> *Walks away*
Maybe I did too many research projects during undergrad, or maybe I ran my brain into an endless state of "wow this is so cool ah wow the earth!" but geez I just can't decide what to study! It's all so cool.

(Honestly I'll probably end up working on some geochem project...either microbial utilization of various chemicals at surface hydrothermal sites or vein formation during induced metamorphism/orogenic processes OR I'll save the honey bees OR install bike lanes all over the U.S.)

So one night this January, Fletcher and I decided that since we don't know what we want to do, we might as well NoBo the Pacific Crest Trail while we figure it out. I'd originally planned to graduate in December 2014 in order to make room for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike before beginning my Master's in August 2015, but this plan is obviously going to be way more fun. It's the perfect time to do the PCT. Neither of us have any plans, nothing holding us down anywhere, and we had just enough time to work, save money, buy a few gear-things, and plan the trip (well, Fletch has worked very hard and saved money...I tried to work a regular job for a few days and promptly quit...). So this winter/spring has been full of organizing gear, dehydrating foods, and familiarizing ourselves with the trail via Yogi's Guidebook.
I AM SO EXCITED. Everyday for about 4 months, we will wake up somewhere new. Everything we see all day every day will be new. How often does a person get to do something like that?! Not very. We are very lucky and grateful to be able to do this trip, and I hope to keep this blog a little more updated during it.
Start Date: May 3rd
Guesstimated Finish Date: September 9th?
This is the only plan I have. Maybe I'll stay in Canada. Maybe I'll drive across the country after and just live out of a car forever. Maybe I'll do the Arizona Trail and Colorado Trail before grad school next fall. I don't know, but I am sure the trail will figure it out for me.


Here are some funny pictures:

This is my dog Pebbles rolling in a dead fish on the beach by my parents house

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 in photos

from the time we wore dresses
Land of Enchantment

how to be Geologist in Enchanted Land

TENT ROCKS, NM (go there now it is so cool)
Great Sand Dunes Nat'l Park, CO

Nathrop, CO
dry bones

Mt Yale
trying to be friends

roan highlands

krazy kloudz

4th of July
how to party in appalachia

Fletcher ran 100 miles!

WV Trilogy, Oct. 12th

first time winning a 50 miler (for the ladies)! My friend Victor got 2nd!

snowy on November 1st

Friday, April 18, 2014

UltraVT Synchroblog: Why do you run?

What role does running play in your life?
Well… I can’t imagine life without running…
Running (or just being on a trail moving) IS life!

When did you start running and why? 
I started running when I was 13 after I quit doing ballet. I’d be doing ballet for 11 years and, after being told by my instructor that I would never be a professional ballerina (my life-long dream!) because my body was shapped wrong, I walked away. My mom had been running marathons for a while and was getting into trail running, so when I started going to public high school that fall for 10th grade I joined the cross country team. I LOVED the days that we ran in Beaverdam Park – our local trail system – and especially LOVED the hills! The competitive side of cross country was kind of enjoyable, but I was still a little timid comparing myself to others, especially after 11 years of ballet. I just wanted to run on the trails forever, in the privacy of the woods, where no one was watching me. So that’s what I did.
But sometimes, I still love competing. :)

If you could only run one last run, where and with whom would it be and why? 
I would want it to be someone breathtakingly beautiful. The John Muir Trail. Through the redwoods. Maybe along Big Sur. Across the Pyrenees, or the Andes, or Ireland, or Iceland. Somewhere absolutely gorgeous that’s I’ve never been before, because that’s why I trail run – so I can see more of the world, faster.  
I would like to do this “run” with my boyfriend Fletcher. We’d eat turkey sandwiches and take tons of pictures. It would be an awesome, multi-day adventure.

Which is better, trail running or road running?  Why? Groups or solo? Pick a side (for both) and defend it, or rather, advocate for it!
Hands down, trail running. It is so much more relaxing, both mentally and physically. The woods smell good. The trails are soft. You can hear birds and other wildlife enjoying the beautiful woods, just as you are. You can escape on a trail.
I haven’t run on the road since 1988.
I like to do about over half of my runs solo, and the rest with others. Solo runs are nice, especially on a hard day when you just want to escape and be alone to clear your head. I need my alone time! But group runs can be fun as well, especially when exploring a new trail or area where you don’t particularly want to be by yourself! Our team is always a fun time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leatherwood 50k Race Report

“How are you doing?” I said to the man in front of me as we worked up the climb.
“Oh, fine. Hard to tell at this point.”
“You doing the 50miler?”
“That’s what I signed up for.”
“Well, this is only temporary.”
“That’s a great way to look at this. But you’ll have eaten, showered, and napped before I finish!”
“Maybe…” I still had 13 miles left and felt like I could fall asleep.
“I shouldn’t be complaining. We should embrace this mud and rain...but not too much! It could be worse.”

The theme of Leatherwood 50k (and 50miler and 10k) is “ANOTHER uphill?”
Added to that theme this year was “Embrace the Mud.”
I took my shoes out of my car last week, just as they had cemented themselves to the carpet in the back of my Jeep. I washed my sock yesterday (as in 16 days after the race, and now all of my clothes are coated in a fine layer of glittery mica and other clay minerals.
Rain was inevitable, and with rain comes muddy trails. I watched the forecast for Ferguson, NC all week, and watched the prediction for Saturday, March 29th transform from 65 and sunny to 58 with 100% chance of rain. I approached this race blind to the style of trail we’d be running on, but definitely studied the elevation profiles of both loops. With that much gain and loss, it was bound to be a muddy, slippery day.
This was only the 2nd race I’ve done outside my usual VA/WVA comfort-blanket ultras, where everyone knows everyone and each race is a family reunion. The pre-race briefings and camping is basically a party, with everyone catching up on everyone’s lives and fun runs they’ve been doing in between. But after being out with injury since August, I needed a race where I wouldn’t know anyone and didn’t feel any external pressure to have a perfect race and set a new PR. I needed new trail, a hard course, and a relaxed atmosphere. Leatherwood 50k was the perfect pick.
The first 3 miles were pleasant: running on pavement, then climbing up a gravel forest road, then finally single-track at the top of the mountain. I didn’t know anyone I was running with which was weird but also really refreshing.
Most of the first 12 miles were extremely hard. The 50 milers started an hour before us wimpy 50k-ers, so they got the trails all broken in for us. In many sections, I was sinking up to my calves in sticky, clay-rich mud (FYI clays are permeable, but not porous, so they soak up a lot of water but have a hard time letting it go). The uphills were steep and slippery, the downhills were steep and slippery. It was raining. Everything was wet. I ran with Phyllis for a while, and she – like everyone else – was a little down from the course conditions and commented that it was going to be a long day. Around my 15 she let me pass, mentioning that she might not go out for the second loop (But I knew she would! And she did!)
The course consists of 2 loops creating a figure-eight: the first about 16 miles and very difficult and the second about 14.5 miles and less difficult than the first but still hard.  I came into the midway aid station already covered in mud and soaked to the bone. It had taken me about 3 hours and 48 minutes to do the first 16 miles, and I was starting to fear a 7:30-8 hour 50k…which wouldn’t be awful, but I didn’t really want this to take that long! I got my pack refilled with water (water, water, everywhere…) and ate some Oreo’s. Fletcher asked me how the course was, and I laughed in response. I wasn’t sure how to describe it yet. I told him I was feeling good and wanted to get the second loop done in less than 3 hours.
The second loop starts with a big climb up some big hill called "Death" or "Annihilator " (I don't remember - something scary) but honestly I couldn’t be bothered by the climbs and descents at this point, because what was really making this 50k hard and hurt was the mud. The freaking mud. Mud for days. I kid you not – each step sunk at least past my ankles into clay mud – the sponge of the Earth, as far as mud goes. Raising your foot from the ground was like lifting weights. Each step ended with sliding and losing your balance. The rain continued and my arms, shoulders, and back began to ache from being so tense – trying to stay upright and moving forward at a respectable clip. Around mile 20 we hit pavement which lead to an aid station and a sizable creek crossing. I stopped at the aid station to eat some salty chips and chug water. I have a hard time eating and drinking when it’s raining (I just don’t think about it), and I could feel my body craving salt and fluids. I kept running down the pavement and checked my watch. I have 8.5 miles left and was on the verge of finishing under 7 hours. I was also in 1st place for women and 6th overall, according to the nice volunteers at the last aid station. This was a position I had never been in before, and I couldn’t help but feel excited and proud of myself.  The thought of finishing first female has crossed my mind several times before race day, but I tried to keep it oppressed, with finishing healthy and happy being the priority.
I was really, really tired for the last 7 miles. The final aid station was about 6 out from the finish, and the rain has finally cleared up to a light drizzle. My legs felt like they’d run a 50 miler already, no doubt from the relentless climbs and heavy mud that now encased my shoes. I was pushing hard, on the verge of breaking 7 hours. The miles were dragging, and I was walking more than I wanted. I fell on one of the steep slippery descents – out of put exhaustion and zoning out – with about 4 miles to go, but I landed on my hands and stomach so it was okay. I had passed a few people a while back, unsure if they were in the 50 mile race or the 50k race. Finally, I could see the tennis courts – our landmark indicating that the finish with within the mile. Hitting the gravel road at the bottom of the final descent made my legs feel like jello, but I pulled out (what felt like) a fast sprint to the finish.
I crossed the line, and nothing really happened. I stopped my watch: 6 hours and 43 minutes! Perfect! There was no clock showing me my time in glaring red numerals, no crowd of people applauding my valiant effort to conquer the mountains, no annoying music to totally throw my mood from calm and spent to agitated. The mist has turned back to a light rain, so everyone was under the covered area that hosted the start/midway/finish line aid station, and under the porch on the cabin next to the finish. I took my pack off and stumbled around the field, holding my aching back and looking for Fletcher. The race director made his way over and shook my hand, announcing me as 1st female finisher and 5th overall (I must have passed someone!) and gave me my trophy.  Fletcher found me and helped me over to a picnic table under the covered porch so I could take my shoes off (which were essentially bricks of clay), and he went and got me my warm clothes and the most satisfying cheeseburger of all time ever.
Leatherwood 50k was definitely a great experience. It was very different from most of the ultras I’ve done in the past, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there! It was very low-key, well-marked, and challenging (especially with the rain and mud). I knew only about 3 people there, and I had no idea what the trails were going to be like. But I needed to go race somewhere else, on new terrain, with no pressure on me to break a record or PR. The only expectation I want is a finish! Winning was also cool- I’ve never placed 1st female before! I felt like I had a solid race, and yeah, my time was slow, but so was everyone else’s! I hope that all of my races this year continue to the strong and healthy. Thanks to the wonderful race directors of Leatherwood Ultras and to all the volunteers who had to tough it out in the rain!
See y’all at Promise Land 50k!

Friday, March 21, 2014

"synchroblog:" ultraVT

how do you describe to a stranger ultraVT?
ultraVT is probably the greatest club at Virginia Tech. All we want to do is run really far on trails around the beautiful mountains. Not just in Virginia, but around the country (and world? Filipe!). We’re also a very diverse group of athletes and adventure seekers. Some members are more into the competition, the Garmins and Strava records. That’s awesome! Some members just want to run because it makes them feel great and relaxed, and they love seeing the beauty our country has to offer in its most wild places. That’s awesome too! Some of us like to race all the time and have done 20+ ultras, some of us have run zero or only two ultras. So if you come running with us, you’ll find your niche and make some awesome friends.

when did you get involved with ultraVT?
I’ve been with ultraVT since before it was ultraVT, back when it was just the weirdo triathlon-team drop-outs that just wanted to run in Pandapas every day. I met freshman Rudy and junior Jan (and sophomore Guy but he was weirddd then and didn’t want to hang out with us!) at Terrapin Mountains in March 2011 during my senior year of high-school and Rudy convinced me to join tri team that fall when I’d be on campus. I started running around the mountains with that the first weekend of freshman year, when I was training for MMTR 50 miler. Mostly with Chrissy, but now she’s in CO:( By spring of freshman year, Rudy wanted to do something besides triathlon and Guy decided to be our friend. There was definitely a solid 6ish person group of us ultrarunners on campus, and we decided to make it an official club.

how do you see yourself within ultraVT?
I’m the Queen. Try to knock me off my thrown. You can’t.
I’m also the Vice-President of the club.

what's your favorite aspect of ultraVT?
Finishing a race and having a group of people there waiting to congratulate me. Fun road trips to training-runs.
Other notable favorite team activities include: watching Guy trying to/succeeding to party with the triathlon freshman and Dmak twerking at every aid station.

what's your favorite trail run in the Blacksburg vicinity?
Kelly Knob out and back. It’s the perfect 8.5 mile run. I also like to get Hucked-up on occasion.

any secrets you'd like to share?
I pooped 9 times and vomited twice during the Georgia Death Race (68 miles) last spring. That averages to 1 poop per 2 hours. Try to beat that, Keely!  
I also want to be a farmer/gardener when I grow up.

favorite post-race meal?
A bacon-onion marmalade burger and fries from the pub, and when I get home, a beer in the shower. 

How many Milk Duds can you eat in 20 minutes?
As of 03/16/2014, approximately 34. This includes chewing and swallowing them one at a time. This is an approximation, because one of the Milk Duds didn’t have any caramel in it.