Monday, March 31, 2014

Bataan Memorial Death March

The Bataan Memorial Death March (marathon) serves to memorialize a group of American and Filipino soldiers who worked to defend Luzon, Corregidor, and the Philippines during World War II. On April 9, 1942, these soldiers were surrendered to Japanese militants and forced to endure unimaginable atrocities. Over a four day period of time, they were forced to march in blazing heat through the Philippines, where thousands of them died. 
This year marked the 25th memorial march on the White Sands Missile Range, NM.

Ben told me several months ago that this was a race he wanted to do. I had mixed feelings, but thought, what the heck, it fits perfectly into my training plan and has been said to be a difficult race (I also had mixed feelings about this… I mean, really? Hills and sand? I do live in Colorado). As the day for the race approached, I actually began to dread the trip to New Mexico, only because it added stress to an already busy schedule.
We packed the car and made the 9 plus hour trip to the missile range to pick up our packets. I must admit, I have never felt this out of place at a packet pick up before. I was surrounded by what felt like throngs of military units, interspersed with individual military personnel. We were promptly provided with our packets, including bags, shirts, and commemorative time chips (I thought that was a joke until I saw them). The expo was surprisingly organized. The only negative thing I have to say is the shirts were huge and now, Ben has two and I have none. Really though? I will get over that.

Ben and I headed back to our hotel to prep our fuel and finalize getting ready for the next day. We did an easy 3 mile run in the neighborhood, grabbed dinner, and went to bed. We needed to leave our hotel by 4 the following morning. Well, being the procrastinators that we are, the alarms went off way to early, we grabbed our stuff and headed out. Security was better than we both had expected and soon enough, we found ourselves sitting in our car in the dark (we were on base and parked by 5:10 for a 7 am start), on a military base, eating hard boiled eggs and bananas in order to fuel before the race. Around 6:15, we made our way to the bathrooms in order to make it in time to the 6:35 opening ceremonies.
The opening ceremonies began promptly on time (strange to me, considering the joke about hurry up and wait in the military). The ceremonies were more moving than I had expected. Roll call was called for current survivors of the Bataan Death March, and a silent roll call was called for those who have passed in the last year. This was followed by the playing of taps. Let it be known that taps gets me any time, and this year for some reason, reminded me of my grandparents, who have passed away in the last year and a half. While I stood in the crowd shivering, I was glad I was there, in that moment, to memorialize people who had fought for my independence.

The race began at 7. It was led by wounded vets and followed by those in the “heavy category,” meaning, those who were going to carry 35 pounds on their back for the length of 14 or 26.2 miles. We waited and moved slowly toward the finish line and could not figure out what the hold up was… until we saw the survivors shaking hands of runners and marchers at the start line.
I must admit, there is nothing quite like starting the race off by shaking the hands of several old men who fought so valiantly for our country.

After we hit the start line, Ben and I bobbed and weaved around people to try to find our comfortable pace. I have never seen so much variety in a marathon before. It was amazing to see how many people had come together to memorialize. Starting at mile 2 and ending around 8, Ben and I were mostly able to settle in, while battling the sand. Yay sand.
Around mile 8, we turned off from those doing the honorary 14 mile run and began our long ascent uphill. Every time it seemed like it was going to end, we were really just cresting and restarting to climb. The climb up, which looked short on the elevation profile was really about 5 miles. After reaching the top, it felt glorious to relax and have some downhill running. We ran downhill on dirt and sand for a while, before rejoining the road where throngs of people were still climbing up, some rucking with their 35 pound packs, some running, and others in large groups wearing shirts to memorialize veterans who had died in the line of duty. I was struck by the fact that many of these people cheered us on, while they were so clearly the ones doing the hard work.

While we were coasting downhill, we were passed by a friend we had met while running TransRockies 3 years ago. While I had thought we had passed through the dreaded “Sand pit,” he was nice enough to remind me that we had yet to actually hit it. Sure enough, around mile 20, we ran through a section about a mile to a mile and a half long that had spots where the sand was ankle deep.
It was in this area that we rejoined individuals who were doing the 14 mile march. At one point, I found myself pissed off by the sand and angry hamstring when I looked up and noticed a man a few yards in front of me… moving along on his forearm crutches and single amputation, with no prosthesis yet. He had covered about 10 miles with 2 crutches, 2 arms, and one leg. We then also passed at least 2 individuals with bilateral amputations, both wearing prosthesis. I was humbled in that moment and reminded that what I was going through was nothing in comparison.

Over the last 3 miles, Ben worked really hard to dig deep (and not throw up… which was amazing). We gained strength from a unit running near us, who was working hard as a team to get the job done.

When we finally crossed the finish line, I felt elated… and I could feel Ben about to keel over. There was a brief moment that passed and suddenly, I felt a new surge of energy and I could tell Ben felt it too. At the finish line of one of the more difficult races I have done, sat survivors of the real Bataan Death March. What I had just completed did not even begin to compare to the brutality and atrocities they had experienced, so that I could run freely. What a way to end a run!

Needless to say, the Bataan Memorial Death March is like no race I have ever competed in. The organization was phenomenal, aid stations were well stocked with fuel and spectators. The other marchers around me were humbling. The purpose for the race- beyond the imaginable.  

Regardless of whether or not I do this race again, I am beyond thankful that this is a run I have now completed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Brooks...

Dear Brooks,
I have a confession to make….
I cheated on you.
I took my eyes off your glorious shoes and customer service and everything else you stand for… and cheated on you.
I ran mile after mile in another brand. I realized about 100 miles into my shoe that I had gone so terribly wrong, but I was already so far gone, there was no turning back.
Please forgive me. I do not know what I was thinking. I allowed my heart to be swayed, even though my mind never was convinced. Now, I am back. I see the error of my ways.
Brooks- you never let me down. I have had poor fits, and you have righted the wrong. You have stood by me mile after mile and kept me feeling great.

Let it be known that I am back and will not be looking back. I am moving on from my cheating ways.
Brooks- yours truly, so long as you keep me running happy.

Love, Rebecca

Monday, March 10, 2014


There are times when I find myself in a running rut. This year, the rut seems to have lasted quite a while. We have had some amazingly cold days, where running just feels like a slog. Let’s face it, I do not live in the best of neighborhoods, so if I start my run from home, I am limited in where I can go and a drive to a trail requires some planning.
Twice this winter, I have traveled to visit family in Southern Caifornial. Each time, I commit to running every day I am there, as I tell myself this should free me from the boredom and allow me to run in shorts in the middle of the winter. My last trip a week ago was no different. I planned to escape from my rut and enjoy some Cali sunshine.
The first run I did, I left my parents house and decided to run a different direction than I normally do. It was raining and about 60 degrees, and I was getting weird looks for jumping in puddles in shorts, while the Californians sported their puff jackets and umbrellas. Ben and I ran down a busy street, where we were watching for cars at every intersection, to eventually meet up with a path that ran alongside a bus route. About 3 miles in, I realized that we had passed one other runner and the majority of other people had ignored our Colorado courtesy wave. About 3.5 miles in, Ben waved at a guy walking by, and he instantly geared up with a loud clearing of his throat and gushing in his mouth to spit at us. That’s right… spit at us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been cat called, honked at, yelled at, growled at, but spitting? That is a new one to me! It took about two minutes of running and some serious brain power before we both realized what had happened. In fact, I think I am still processing what exactly happened…

The next day, Ben and I ran from my brothers house and explored some awesome neighborhoods… not without being looked at suspiciously… again in our shorts while everyone else wore puff jackets. Truly, despite all the weirdness of the prior day, running in California in the middle of the winter was an awesome thing to be able to do.

A few days later, after seeing some very sick people at work, I was running one of my normal routes in Colorado, it occurred to me that everyone I passed either nodded or waved. I made it to my turn around point and was instantly struck by the way the sun was setting over the mountains and the way it was reflecting on the local “creek.” How often have I missed this? I realized in that moment, I have no reason to be stuck in a rut. I have two legs that allow me to run, healthy lungs and heart, and eyes to see the amazing creation around me.

I know I will struggle with this in the future, but for now, I know without a doubt, Colorado is where I am meant to be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I am going to be really vulnerable here and share something that I know so many women (and yes, men), struggle with… image. I so often feel fat, ugly, out of shape, and the list goes on. I even compare myself to my 4 sisters (who are, by the way, gorgeous!).

As I was running this afternoon, I looked down to see pasty white legs (finally in short) that needed a shave, my misshapen knees from falling so many times, and arm hair plastered in every direction from a long sleeve shirt on an earlier run. I found myself thinking, “Woah, girl needs some work!”

Right at that moment, I ran past a construction site, looked at a guy I thought was staring just a little too long. I realized in that moment, he was looking at me, with my pasty thunder thighs (as I define them) and I was hoping he saw me as a strong runner.

Society does such a nice job trying to paint an image of what we should look like, and unfortunately, because we are fed these images for so long, it is easy to buy into them. I feel pressure as a woman, to be skinny, well proportioned, and always well manicured. This, my friends, is unrealistic. We all come in various shapes and sizes and our beauty is unique to each individual. But, don’t get me wrong, as a health care provider I am can’t condone obesity. On the flip side, a perfectly proportioned size 1? Not gonna happen. I was challenged today too by a post that I had seen recently by a well known marathoner ( , who challenges women to realize how much goes into the media perspective of beauty.

I kept running past the construction site and thought, these misshapen knees and pasty thunder thighs will get me up the next hill I need to. These legs will carry me through my work day, with enough strength in them to work all day at a hospital and then go run a speed work out. I may never have six pack abs, but there is nothing like enjoying a beer after a long, hard run… and I love cheese. ..and I need to get used to it.

I know I will need to keep coming back to this line of thought, as this is something I really do struggle with, but I think it is vital for us all (men and women)  to remember that we were uniquely created and we are each beautiful. Next time I look at my thunder thighs I will try to think, “Damn, those thighs are awesome… and so vitally important to me.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A New Adventure

I have decided to make the jump…

Last year, I completed my first 50 miler and my first official trail 50k (did not make the cutoff for the 50 miler, but that is another story).  I was talking to a friend while running one evening, several months after the 50, and she told me I had qualified for the Western States 100 mile race based on my time. I did not believe her and did some research of my own. Sure enough, I had. I began to research the race and had all the registration and lotto times saved into my calendar and set to alarm on my phone.
You can bet I registered the day that registration opened! I then followed the number of lotto entrants closely, checking at least once a week (ok, probably more). When the official vetted list came out with the number of lotto tickets, I swear I checked it at least 3 times for my name. Yup… I was listed with one ticket. I had to work on lotto day. It felt like every time I went to the computer to do documentation, I was pulling up the list on my phone. I was convinced I was going to walk into a patients room beaming and unable to control myself from announcing my great news to everyone. Well, the time came and went for the lotto and despite checking the list 3 or 4 times after it ended, my name did not show up on the list… as if another refresh was going to magically change that.
I was bummed, but if you know me at all, you know I am determined. Over the course of the next few days, I plotted ways to get into WS 100. The most obvious, and for me the only way to have another chance was to run another qualifying race. This year, the list has changed and is comprised of mostly 100k’s and 100 milers. I spent time looking at calendars, travel time, race accessibility, entry availability, course profile (for likeness to the WS) and reviews. My first choice was full, my second was a lotto, which I did not want to chance again. I settled on my third choice, the Bighorn 100 miler.

I should preface this next paragraph by saying that I do not wake up easily. I set at least 3 alarms that require me to solve math problems to turn them off. The third one requires me to get my butt out of bed and take a picture of something in the other room. Guess what? I have outsmarted that one and have figured out that if I turn off the phone, the alarm stops. Go me. Anyways, the morning registration opened, I was sick as a dog and had the day off. Ben came in, of course, after being awake for at least an hour, and asked about registration. I do not think I have ever woken up that fast. The house alarm could be going off, sirens in the front yard, dog barking, and I still think I would get up slower to that than I did this morning.

I immediately registered, and of course, went promptly back to sleep. When I did finally wake up for the day, my first thought was “Oh, no! What have I done!” This was then quickly followed by excitement, followed by fear, followed by panic, followed by more excitement, and so the cycle started.
I spent my free time the next several days researching training plans and reading tips from experienced runners. One would think I should have done that before signing up, but I do like to just go for it. I ordered a book, created several online bookmarks, and set up an excel spreadsheet with daily and weekly mileage.

I still need to work out a few kinks in my plan, but I am also about to wrap up week 5 into a 20 week plan. My goal is to start to share my experience leading up to my first ever 100 miler with you. In the meantime, I have 130 days between now and then and lots of miles to cover to prep!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reality of the Moment

As I perused social media this morning, I noted notices the abundance of people racing. I was already mopey, and this just made matters worse. I wanted to race. Of course, I then perseverated on looking for races that are: 1. on my day off 2. cheap 3. distances I actually want to do. This of course, forced me to postpone going out on my long run, which I was already cranky about. I was planning to run alone.  Ben is working through a minor injury and I had not made plans with any of the friends I have that like to run far for fun. I mean seriously, woe is me. I have to go do a long run by myself and don’t even get to do it with someone. To top it all off, I was not planning to do a trail run, instead, I was stuck running the same, usual places I do all my other runs.  Seriously.

I headed out through the neighborhood to a local path that follows a creek and can be taken for miles in a few different directions. As usual, I was grumpy for the first 2 or 3 miles, and then I finally found my groove. Between mile 3 and 4, I was struck by the fact that I had been running for a little while and had seen only one other person. I was essentially alone. It then occurred to me that I was surrounded by beautiful scenery, with rabbits in the brush and the trees at the height of their color change.
It was in that moment that I realized I am always wanting more… more trail, more miles, more races, more people to run with, more time to run, more more more. I stopped for a moment to just be. I had started to miss out on the reality of the moment. Here I was, an introvert, getting to spend several hours alone, doing something I love. I had been given the gift of time, to be alone to pray and to think and to just enjoy the quiet and the scenery. I realized that this same old path, is an amazing place to get to run on. I was surrounded by trees and could hear the creek and just barely make out the sound of distance traffic. I was not racing, but it occurred to me that on a day off of work, for fun, I decided to go run the same distance many people trained to race… and I did it for fun. That is awesome.
It really is so easy to get wrapped up into planning and looking for the next thing to come along. Sure, dreaming is a good thing, but too much and we lose sight of the current moment. I was struck by how easy it is to ignore the here and now. It really is gone in an instant and if we are not paying attention, all we are left with is a vague memory and possibly some frustration. Enjoy the moment, who knows it may actually be worth it after all.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Defeat {Or Not}

If you ever read any running literature, you know it is not uncommon to read about high level athletes who drop out of a race for one reason or another. In fact, just the other day, I read an article by Rickey Gates, an amazing trail runner, who had a DNF (did not finish) at a race.

I have now run a handful of races and have had one DNF. In fact, it was a DNF that I am proud of. I was signed up to run a half marathon in the middle of training for a full marathon. I had injured myself and had just begun going to PT before the half. I got to the start line of the half, knowing that I would probably not finish. At mile 8, I knew that if I wanted to be able to run my marathon a month later, I needed to drop. It was a tough decision in the moment, but one that I was grateful I made.
Apart from that, my other races and runs have mostly been “successes.” Well, last weekend, I was signed up to run the Devil Mountain 50 mile race in Pagosa Springs. It was going to be my second 50 mile race and I was trained for it. I had spent the months since my last 50 miler trying to hone in on my weeks spots. When it was time to taper, I did such a good job that my legs ached from not running (weird, right?)?

Race day came shortly after the flooding in Colorado, with some additional raining the day before. The morning was crisp and cold, and I was determined to do well. The race started and I went out at a steady pace, knowing in my mind exactly what I needed to do in order to make the cut off to be able to continue on to 50 mile race.
The first 10 miles or so were awesome. My legs felt good, the weather was cold but perfect, and I felt like I was buying time. When we hit the climb (pretty much mile 10-18), I was determined to be consistent and run what I could, while power hiking the rest. Then… we hit the mud. Not mud like “oh, it is still cold enough to be frozen” mud or “oh, I guess the trail is a little muddy” or “oh, I love mud!” kind of mud. This was real, awful, deep mud. The kind of mud that when you take three steps forward up hill, you inevitably slide back four steps. The kind of mud that tries to take your shoe if you aren’t paying attention. The kind of mud that when you look ahead at the runners on the hill ahead, you immediately have the life and excitement sucked right out of you because you can see them backsliding downhill. This was not just any mud.
By the time I made it through the climb up, I realized that making it to the cut off was going to be a stretch, but was hopeful that I could make up time on the downhill. Wrong. The downhill mud was at least as bad, if not worse than the up. When I would try to start to run, I would have moments of panic as I tried to keep my butt and head directly above my feet without slipping and sliding all over the place!!

I reached a mental spot where I was hopeful that the cut off would be extended, knowing how the trail conditions were, yet realizing that I needed to embrace the fact that I was still “going to be able to” finish as a 50k runner. Well, when we got to the aid station at the 50 mile/50k cut, we were told that the cut off was a firm cut off and that we had missed it, but could still finish as a 50k runner without penalty. Ben almost yelled at the man who told us and I almost cried.
I wrestled with myself over the next several miles (ok, not just miles, hours if we are being honest)about my anger/sadness/disappointment/feeling crappy about myself/doubting my ability/grief about not finishing the stupid race I had signed up to do. Sure, I had told myself early that at least I would “get to run” the 50k, but really?? I had worked my butt off for months to train for a 50!! How could I let myself down like that??

Ben basically had to encourage me the entire way to the finish because I was so distraught about not being able to run 50 miles (again, weird, right?). Then he had to coax me not to run 19 more miles after crossing the line. Unfortunately, this part is not a lie. I spent at least an hour after crossing the finish stewing about my performance, whether or not I was going to go run 19 more miles. I am not going to lie… I may have even shed a tear or two.
After I finally calmed down, I had a beer, some food, and started to converse with other finishers, several of whom had set out to run the 50 miler and had missed the cutoff. Ben and I started to hear rumors that only 8 people had made it past the first check point and then only 7 past the second. As I started to ask around, it was confirmed that only 2 women were among these 7 individuals.

As I began to process the information and over the next several days, it occurred to me that even though I had trained well (I felt amazing the next day), I was not alone in missing the cutoff. In fact, I was more the norm than not. It occurred to me that even though I may have felt defeated, I really had no right to feel that way. I began to realize all that I learned from my perceived defeat.
I had set out to run 50 miles and had been unsuccessful. The beauty of running is that regardless of how hard you train, every day is a different day and no one can ever fully predict the outcomes. Even the best of the best fail. I had trained well for a 50 miler and can easily use this same training plan again in the future.

I skipped a step between the marathon and 50 miler but can now say that I have my first official 50k on the books. I even placed in my age division for my first 50k. What if I had set out to actually race a 50k and not a 50 miler? 
Defeat is a beautiful thing. It is really only defeat if you allow it to be. There is a lot to be gleaned from perceived defeat. The best thing to do, I think, is to embrace it, learn from it, and keep running.

Needless to say, Devil Mountain 50 miler, I will be back , and I will make you mine… one day…