Sunday, 8 October 2017

Is Your Why Bigger Than Your Blister?

WHY?!
This morning I awoke to sound of the wind whistling in the eaves and as I sipped my morning coffee, large snowflakes began to fall.  We are spending Thanksgiving weekend at my family farm in central Alberta and I was looking forward to a nice long run before turkey dinner.  I wasn't looking forward to doing it in winter.

As I stood on the door step looking at the snow swirling around me, I really didn't feel like I could make up any excuses.  I was dressed well.  It's not like it was -30C.  I am Canadian after all...and I planned to eat a lot of calories for dinner.  So I set out past the hay stacks and into the hills, adjusting my buff and cinching my hood up around my face.  As the snow pelted my face and the wind threatened to blow me over, I asked myself why in the world I felt so compelled to be out there this morning when I really didn't have anything to be training for.  Other than turkey dinner that is.

Providentially, I had hit play on the next podcast in my feed and it happened to be the fellows from Trail Runner Nation on the topic of Start with Why.  They got me to thinking even more clearly as I ran (and some lines from the podcast can be found as you read on.)

 It is at this time of year when my race season is over, that I return to examining my "why."  Before I can plan for next season, or even find the motivation to do so, I need to process all that happened this year and re-examine my reasons for running, for ultra running, and for racing.
Thanksgiving in Alberta Canada - seriously?
We all have reasons for doing the things we do.  Sometimes they are good reasons, sometimes they could use some refinement.  When I start coaching a new athlete, I always ask them to send me their reasons why they run, ideally at least 10.  As Simon Sinek discusses in this awesome TED Talk, one cannot begin to contemplate the HOW and the WHAT if they aren't guided by the WHY.

I run for many many reasons and am still reformulating my purpose for this coming year.  I can tell you that I currently run primarily to escape the city, to escape the chatter of voices around me, to recharge and reconnect.  I run to explore, to see beautiful places, to become a part of and to flow with the natural landscapes I run through. I run to challenge myself, to see how far my mind will let my body go.  I run to worship, to celebrate my health, life, creation and the beauty of human motion.  I run to inspire others.  I run to feel good.

HOW can I accomplish my purpose?  That is how I found trail running, seeking out races in places where I've never been with point to point courses, usually in the mountains because it is there that I find the most beauty, challenge, and peace.  I am currently deciding how I will continue to achieve my running purpose in 2018: which races I will aim for, which places I want most to see, how I can most celebrate the life and legs God has given me.  After that is done, developing a training plan specific to my goals (the WHAT) becomes easy.

As Simon points out, we too often start with the WHAT or the HOW without knowing why we want to do that thing in the first place.  It's easy to make a plan and train for months, arriving at the start line without a crystal clear and intimate sense of purpose or reason for being there.  During any race, but particularly an ultra marathon, your WHY needs to be bigger than anything.  It needs to be bigger than blisters, bigger than nausea, bigger than fatigue, bigger than fear. Because as soon as whatever is making you uncomfortable becomes bigger than your WHY, it's over.

It has happened to me.  It resulted in my first and only DNF.  Granted, I had some very valid reasons for dropping out of the Miwok 100 a few years ago, but truthfully when my GI system went into revolt at 80K, my WHY was not big enough to keep pushing on.  And I knew it.  I had spent a large amount of time and money to get to a race that was important, but not important enough to me.  That DNF didn't start with my gut issues.  It started way back at the beginning when I made someone else's WHYs my own and started with only the WHAT.  I vowed to never make that mistake again and can truthfully say that I have pushed through some serious discomfort since that day.  My WHY  has always been big enough to keep me pushing on and across that finish line.
Mid-run the skies cleared and the sun came out today- so glad I hadn't made excuses!
This is not simply the 'off' season.  This is when the most important work is done.  As your race season winds down this fall, take some time to run alone.  Take some time to really ask yourself those deep introspective questions.  WHY are you doing this?  What keeps you setting that alarm for 5 am?  What draws you out into the wind and the rain? What drives you and pulls you?  What are your reasons for planning that race with a friend?  Do you truly want to do what you are planning on doing?

A successful 2018 season starts now - how you define that success is up to you.

**Note some of these comments are influenced by and borrowed from the podcast and TED Talk mentioned above.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Iron Legs: Flatlander Style


Last weekend I ventured to Kananaskis Country for the Iron Legs 100K Relay.  It has been a while since I felt inspired to blog, but I now have something to write about that has me gushing.

After my first 100 miler at the Zion 100 in April I spent several months recovering and running for fun.  It only took me a few weeks after Zion, however, to find an open spot on my calendar in August and a race to fill it: Iron Legs Mountain Races in Bragg Creek, AB.
6:00am - 7 C (soon to be 29C)
It didn't take long for me to find 3 friends accompany me on the 14 hour drive to Calgary, while two other friends from Manitoba met us there for a grand total of 6 Manitobans who decided to venture to the mountains for our fix of thin air and lots of climbing.  Just like any normal Manitoban who lives on a flood plain 700' above sea level would do.

Training in Manitoba for a mountain race has to get creative, and is very very intentional.  Two of the friends accompanying me to Alberta are also athletes that I coach, and I devised training plans that had us doing a ridiculous amount of repeats at a local ski hill with a whopping 110' of gain. On weekends we got up super early to drive up to 2 hours to places with as many hills as we could find and logged time on feet and gain rather than miles.  This still meant running some endless loops and hill repeats but you do what you have to do while inevitably encountering poison ivy and coming home with a few ticks on your socks.  The treadmill at 15% grade and stair master even came into the mix - ugh. We knew we couldn't really train for the elevation of Kananaskis, but we could at least get our legs ready and we had lots of heat training.
Leg 1: Station Flats to Powderface
10.5k  1:25  1506' gain
Cool, Sunrise, Undulating Terrain

Iron Legs did not disappoint.  I had signed up to do the 100K Relay with my friend Todd.  I got to start and got to see the sunrise as I warmed up along the rolling hills towards Powderface Aid Station.  It only took 1.5 miles for me to start to notice the familiar heavy breathing that comes with thinner air, and we were only at about 5000'.  As we climbed, my breathing became more laboured than usual, notably without any burning legs. My mantra in the first third of a race is always "no heavy breathing, no burning legs."  Well, so much for the breathing part - it was unavoidable, but not really an issue.


Leg 2: Powderface to Little Elbow
13.5K  2:23  2467' gain
Steady Climbing, Great Views, Technical Downhill

After 3 hours and 20K we topped out at the top of Powderface Mountain (I think?).  My head was swimming and I was feeling a little wobbly, but I was still feeling good.  I noticed a group of people clustering near the top of the mountain at the cairn and someone commented behind me: why are they all stopping?  A bear?

Well, some well meaning hikers had removed the flagging telling us which way to go down the mountain.  There were two options: a trail leading along the ridgeline that disappeared into a scree field, or a well defined trailed diving sharply down into the trees below the alpine line.  I tried going along the ridgeline, but saw quickly that there was no trail and no markers.  This was not likely the way.  After hours of climbing no one wanted to risk going down the trail in case it wasn't the correct way and risk having to climb back up.
I made it to the top!
One runner volunteered to do a recon and we could hear him yelling that there were no flags down there.  Hmm.  What to do?  My rule is always: when in doubt follow the most obvious trail.  Finally after at least 10 minutes, a runner came through who had done the course the year before and confidently directed us down that trail.  By that time close to 30 runners were milling around on the mountain top and we funnelled onto the trail eager to start our 5K descent.

This was the only time in the race that I got cocky and I ended up paying for it.  I tolerate climbing, I train to be as good as I can be with it, but I excel and LOVE downhill running.  I was sick of short 110' downhill sections in Manitoba and was craving a nice long 3 mile stretch where gravity pulled me down a path I could follow with glee.  I exuberantly said to the runner in front of me, "This is what I came for.  I can't WAIT to let it rip down this mountain!"  In the next instant as I stepped left to pass him, I caught my foot on a rock and BAM! I stumbled and felt a searing pain shoot from the base of my buttock up through my glut and down the back of my leg.  I almost threw up and let out an animalistic howl.  My friend Brad who was right in front of me asked if I had stubbed my toe.  "Nope," was all I could manage to say as he continued on.  Up to this point in the race I felt I had been maintaining a respectable pace for a flatlander, somewhere in the top 1/3, but now I limped along as runner after runner passed me down that beautiful playful single track.

My heart sank as I knew I had done something bad to my hamstring, but I had no choice but to get myself off that mountain.  We were 7100' up and the only way down was the way I was headed.  Thank goodness I had my poles because I leaned on them heavily dragging a dead leg behind me.  My pace slowed and I felt my headspace go black.  I was really pissed off.  I had come so far and worked so darn hard to get to the top of that peak for the reward of going down and there I was barely able to walk.  But I had learned my lesson at Zion and I refused to let my mood dictate any more than a few minutes of my run.  I whimpered, I groaned, I might have cursed, and then I consciously told myself to STOP IT.  I said a silent but very conscious prayer to God, asking him to take my pain away so I could still run - essentially asking for a miracle.  God and I have a pretty good relationship, so I felt I could ask for the impossible - just this once.

Downhill running is much harder on the hamstring than going uphill which made that descent rather unpleasant. It took me 48 minutes but by the time I made it down to the Ford Creek Aid Station and my drop bag I was starting to move a little better.  My leg still felt very weak, but the pain wasn't that bad.  I knew I had lots of climbing coming up in the next section and that the hamstring doesn't really work much while climbing.   It was getting hot so I filled up all 3L of my carrying capacity, shoved a few pieces of yam sushi into my mouth (best drop bag snack ever), and decided to take each mile at a time and see how it went.

Leg 3: Little Elbow to Ford Creek
15.6k  3:00  2871' gain
Relentless Climbs, Hot, Dense Forest & Open Meadows

This section of the race between AS 2 and 3 are reportedly the hardest part of the course and ended up having more gain that the previous leg. It took me 3 hours to go less than 10 miles, covering a series of relentless climbs in densely treed areas that became suffocatingly hot by late morning.  It's amazing how as long as you keep moving, your muscles keep working, and I confirmed how little you need a hamstring muscle for climbing.  It's all quads, gluts and calves.  At one point I snapped out of the zone I was in and was startled to notice that I didn't have any pain!  A quick analysis told me this was either because I had completely torn my hamstring (full tears are often painless) or because God had answered my prayers.  Either way I had no choice by to continue on and I was moving pretty well as long as I kept my stride short and didn't catch my foot on any rocks.  Todd was waiting for me and I really wanted to give him enough time to do the majority of his section in the daylight.

There were some really beautiful views in this part of the course if one just looked up and back periodically.  At one point I heard the familiar beat of helicopter blades saw a chopper overhead.  Lisa said she saw someone in the basket.  Thank goodness that wasn't me! By the time I was nearing Ford Creek I was sick of climbing, out of water, very dehydrated, and definitely looking forward to some watermelon and water.  All I could think about was wet, sweet watermelon...and running downhill.


Leg 4: Ford Creek to Powderface Exchange
9k  1:30  1001' gain
Very Hot, Short Climb, Long Runnable Downhill Bliss

Ford Creek had LOTS of watermelon (THANK YOU!) and I must have inhaled 5 pieces.  Another 2L water refill and I headed out for the last 9k section to Powderface where I was to hand off to Todd.  The Iron Legs course did not disappoint as it delivered another "this is what you came for" 3k uphill grind  before finally handing me a steady, very runnable downhill descent to the AS.  I was thrilled to find I was actually running very well at this point.  As long as I kept moving, my legs felt really good.  No knee pain, no quad burn, and if I kept my cadence high and watched my footing carefully: no hamstring pain.  I pranced and danced my way down some very technical rocky sections, crossed creeks with enough water to cool my face and arm sleeves, even passed a few people who had gotten away from me at the top of Powderface Mtn, and rolled into AS4 only 19 minutes behind schedule - not bad considering. I passed the mandatory bear spray "baton" to Todd, and he took off to rock his own 50K Iron Legs experience. I'm sorry I can't report on the whole course but the first half was spectacular!
Todd stashing the infamous bear spray
Lisa finished strong and after her hand-off to Leslie we were done!  A chilling soak in a glacial creek, awesome post race massage (Motuswell.com) and savoury bean chili or meatballs served up at the finish line were just what we needed.  Later that evening we welcomed the rest of our teammates across the finish line.  Leslie finished the 50 Mile Relay smiling through her tears with stories of sighting 4 moose on Moose Mountain reporting that she had had the run of her life.  Todd crossed the finish line without his pack, poles or shirt.  As we clustered around him, he proclaimed, "do I have a story to tell!" and then eagerly shared with us with tales going off course, bear spray exploding in his pack, getting baby wipe rub downs at the last aid station, and the generosity of volunteers who loaned him clothing and a headlamp to finish the last leg of his run.

Holding ice to my leg - but with a huge smile!
COLD!!!!
After moving to Manitoba from BC, I recognized that I NEED to return to the mountains at least once a year for a good cathartic, quad burning, vista viewing, run.  I chose Iron Legs because it promised all that, was within driving distance, and looked low key.  I am happy to say I got exactly what I went for.  The race started on time, all but one aid station during my section came up exactly as predicted, the volunteers were amazing (every time offering to fill my bottles and bladder for me), and the views were incredible despite the smoke from forest fires.

I must give a shout out and thanks to Salming for my awesome new Trail 5 running shoes.  I had just received them in the mail and only had about 15 miles on them prior to this race.  They performed perfectly. Shoe review to follow.

My only complaint was the lack of course marking as previously mentioned, but that was not the race directors fault.  In fact, as we were on our way down Powderface Trail, someone was coming up to reflag.  It baffles my mind how people can remove flag tape tied to trees or tucked under rocks on purpose, either thinking they are cleaning up or just being vandalous.  They could have created serious risk to some runners - flag tape is here for a reason.  Please leave it there!

Todd ran very strong and we finished the 100K relay happy and tired.  In fact, everyone from MB did very well! I am very proud of my bouncestrong.com athletes Lisa and Leslie - they were nervous for their first real mountain run and they nailed it!  We did not break any speed records, but we had a great time and demonstrated the key characteristic of successful ultrarunning: the ability to adapt.  Injury, going off course, bear spray exploding in your pack - all these things can easily derail you from having a good day out there.  But experience and mindfully resisting the instinct to catastrophize the unexpected enabled us to have a great day regardless.

Thanks for a great race @ironlegsmtnraces!

Epilogue: My physio coworker diagnosed me with a high grade partial hamstring tear.  Not great news but it could have been worse.  It's already feeling better and will heal with a little time off and some rehab!

Monday, 17 April 2017

2017 Zion 100 Race Report

"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra."
Dean Karnazes


"If you want to find out what it is to be elementally human, run 100+ miles."

Kim Sénéchal


Let me start by saying that this has been the hardest piece I've ever written.  Maybe because the Zion 100 was the hardest race, in fact the hardest thing, that I've ever done, and I've given birth to 2 children.  Many miles of this race were incredibly awesome.  Many miles were not.  But I finished my first 100.  Here is the story.

Getting to the start line

I am a fairly new ultra-runner - this is my fourth season.  Last year I had an epic season of very successful races that left me super confident with rainbow filters in my vision.  I turned 40 in December, and decided that to celebrate my 40th year I would run my first 100.


Why Zion? I need to run in beautiful places.  I love exploring as I run, fueled by great views and new terrain.  I know now more than ever that running 100 miles is very much a mental game, and I am not inspired by looped courses or monotonous terrain.  After visiting the Grand Canyon for the GC50 last year we made a quick stop in Zion and I was awestruck by the red rock, the mesas, the cliffs.  I swore I'd be back, so when I started looking for races, Zion was at the top of my list.  It is a Western States qualifier and earns me UTMB points.  I was eager to explore the desert, Zion had a few loops but very few repeatable sections, the elevation profile was modest, and it was in the spring which meant I'd be done my training before the busy summer season began even if it meant training through a cold Canadian winter.  And I needed a reason to train through the frigid winter.



So I signed up, recruited my crew, and just when it was time to start booking flights...I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my foot.  Enter cast boot, no running all through December when I should have been starting my training program.  I struggled with whether I should still go to Zion, and decided that I would just take each day and each week as it came and see how my body responded.  My training was very compressed, but I was able to log enough miles in Feb and Mar to feel confident enough to toe the line at Zion.

When I showed up in Utah, I was very anxious.  I was prepared logistically: gear, charts, and lists all ready to go.  But in the days leading up to the race I admit I was not at my best.  I felt undertrained, overstressed, fatigued and not really in fighting form.  I was worried that my foot would not hold up, that my legs weren't ready for the climbing, that the elevation might affect me too much.  Despite all that, I was determined to finish.  When anyone would imply that I might quit, I would get irritated.  Never ONCE did I let quitting ever enter my mind.  I never envisioned stopping.  All I thought about was continuous forward motion across that desert, because once you even open that door in your mind, it's over.  Nothing was stopping me from getting that buckle.

Race Start - 6:00am

All my crew got up to see me off at the start - even though I had told 2 of them to stay in bed - which meant a LOT to me.  Isabelle was my crew chief - she was there throughout the whole race.  Sarah is my long term friend, mentor and coach.  She was racing the 50k on Sat, but was there to support me on Friday.  And Todd was my pacer - he was about to invest an incredible amount of energy, time and patience in me, for which I will be eternally grateful.

They were going to be up as long as I was over the course of the race and we were in for a long day...or two.  Brad Whitson, another runner from Winnipeg was running the Zion 100 as well, and we started together, sticking close for most of the race.

Flying Monkey Mesa



The race started on a road that quickly narrowed into steep single track that took us straight up the Flying Monkey Mesa.  I took my poles for this section and was glad I did. The pace slowed as we climbed, which was ok with me.  I was following my rule: no heavy breathing, no burning legs.  I was only 1 mile into a 100 miler!  They had started the 100K racers after we started, and many of them were trying to pass us in this narrow section, you know, because 100K is practically a sprint compared to 100 miles! LOL  There was one section where we had to use a rope to climb up.  While waiting here I was able to get some great pictures of the sunrise, take off my headlamp as the sky brightened, and take a deep breath.  The birds were starting to sing in the pre-dawn light, and then I heard a howl.  It was hard to tell where it was coming from as the sound bounced off the rocks.  Hmmm - a wild dog?  Then the howling got closer and I had to laugh when we passed someone's domestic dog, perched on a rocky cliff, howling at the racers like a cheer leader.    Other than a few beetles and dry snake skins, this was the extent of my animal sightings during the race. A minute later we topped out at the Flying Monkey aid station (AS).  I ran right through - no need for anything yet.


Then we circled around the top of the mesa before heading back to the AS and then down the steep path we had just come up.  This would essentially become the routine for the remaining 3 mesas in the race.  Up, around, down.  The elevation at the top of this mesa was 5100' and I felt it a little bit seeing as I live at 700' above sea level, but kept my pace easy.  I grabbed a few pieces of fruit off the AS station table and headed back down the mesa towards the Dalton AS.  Just before reaching it, we had to cross a creek.  The race guide said we could cross with dry shoes if we crossed in the right place, but my feet were already mucky from a bog crossing earlier and I just plowed through the knee deep water, not bothering to wait in line for the few rocks peaking above the water.

Guacamole Mesa

My crew met me at the Dalton AS with fresh shoes and socks (in expectation of the creek crossing) and I quickly changed footwear.  They handed me a fresh pack and I was off within 5 min.  I left my poles behind for this section and I think it was a good call.  I was a little ahead of my planned pace and decided to take it easy up the road (5mi) that climbed to the top of the Guacamole Mesa.  It was starting to heat up, and I was making sure to drink regularly.  I was worried about getting dehydrated during this race, and my strategy was to drink based on thirst.  On the way up to the Guac AS, I passed Marcia.  She caught my eye because she was a machine.  She was possibly a few decades older than I was, didn't have great biomechanics (my physio eye couldn't help but notice), but I could tell she knew what she was doing.  She wasn't moving fast, but she was moving very steadily up that mountain.  Several times during this section I'd stop to walk and she would just come chugging right on up beside me, never wavering, with laser beam focus.  I wouldn't see her again until the next morning in the Virgin Desert.  'And then you'll know the rest of the story.'

I arrived at the Guac AS for the first time around 10:30am.  I had left Dalton with 1.5L of water in my bladder and 2x500mL bottles of tailwind.  All the AS jugs were empty and the volunteers were having a hard time keeping up with the demand.  I still had lots of water so I didn't waste time trying to get a few drops out of the jugs.  No worries, I just figured I'd just refill completely on my way back down.

We travelled around the Guacamole Mesa in a big 7.5 mile lollipop.  I felt great during this section.  My stomach was good, I was drinking to thirst, taking 2 salt tabs per hour, and the hamstring pain I had started the race with was gone.  I ran steadily on the slick rock, possibly too fast for this point in the race, but it felt good to find my groove.  I rolled back into the Guac AS for the second time totally out of water, with only 1 super concentrated flask of TW left (that I usually dilute enroute).  It was windy and high noon.  I was hot and dry.  And they were OUT OF WATER.  I couldn't believe it.  Six hours into a 100 mile race at mid day and they are out of water? They did have ice, so I filled my bladder to the brim with ice, and set off down the road back to Dalton Aid.  There were still people heading up this road for the first time, and I sincerely hoped that they got water up to that AS for them soon or they would be in trouble. This was my only complaint with the race organization during the whole race.  Running out of water there could have been catastrophic for many racers.  But organizing a multi-distance race that spanned 100 miles must have been a monumental task and I can't thank the race directors or the volunteers enough for putting on really awesome race.

 I ran fairly steadily down the road although not fast.  I was so dry and figured that the sooner I could get to Dalton, the sooner I'd get to water.  I could feel my feet heating up and could tell that I was getting a blister under the ball of my left foot.  I started repeating over and over what I needed to do when I got the Dalton so I wouldn't forget.  Body Glide, Blister, Eye Drops, Chapstick, Ice (in my arm sleeves).

I arrived at Dalton AS for the second time still feeling strong, but pissed off.  I had let the lack of water on Guac get to me mentally.  I was irritated that I already had a blister only 30 miles into the race.  I spent 13 min at this aid station popping blisters, changing socks, guzzling water, putting eye drops in to clean the dust out of my eyes, filling up my arm sleeves with ice (OMG that felt good).  My stomach was starting to go squirrely and I drank some broth and ate a little. Looking at pictures of myself here, I realize that I was already starting to puff up.

And it only got worse from there.  Looking back: as irritated as I was that there was no water on Guac, it was a good thing, because I was slowly becoming over-hydrated.  It was windy and the air was so dry that my throat felt like razor blades very early in the race.  I was drinking thinking that I was thirsty, but it was only a dry mouth and throat.  I had been drinking way too much and I guess 2 salt tabs an hour plus tailwind were not enough.  I would continue to swell more and more over the course of the race, not really realizing it until it was too late.  (Note all the pictures of me looking fat and bloated from henceforth on...this is why)

Gooseberry Mesa

After thanking my crew, I left Dalton AS at 1:30 pm and headed across the desert with Brad towards the Gooseberry Mesa.  After a short road rolling road section, we started up the 1600' climb that took us up to the Goosebump Aid station.  My poles were back in my hands, thank goodness.  It took us 1h22min to go 4.31 miles.  The views from that climb were amazing and I stopped a few times to take some pictures.  I still didn't realize how off my hydration was and kept drinking.  I wasn't peeing and thought I was dehydrated.  I arrived at the Goosebumps AS just behind Brad - he asked me how I was doing.  I said, "not great."  I ask him.  He said, "not great."  We dug into our drop bags, restocked our supplies, and chugged on out towards Gooseberry Point.  It was finally at this point that I noticed that my hands were really swollen.  I could hardly use my fingers.  I should have known better, but I just figured that it was the heat and the fact that my hands were hanging in a dependent position for so long.  Still didn't clue in I was getting hyponatremia.
Climbing Gooseberry Mesa
We traversed slick rock in a circle along the top of this mesa for about 12 miles.  Midway we reached the Goosepoint AS that was 0.5 miles from the Goosepoint Look out (40.5 miles).  This was the highlight of the race for me.  It was 4:30pm, the air was cooling, the views were AMAZING, and I was feeling good again.  This was what I had come for.  I snapped a few pictures.  Looked around. And continued on.
Somewhere along the slick rock trail I had locked in behind two amazing ladies - Sunny and Carol.  They were both local girls who had done this race 3 or 4 times.  They had 13 kids between the two of them, and were a wealth of information and wisdom.  They cautioned me to take it easy on the rock as running too hard on it would come back to bite me later in the race.  Even though it was relatively flat, the rock is HARD and it beats your body up more than you realize.  They were right.  In fact, they were both signed up for the Bigfoot 200 later this year and said they avoided the Moab 200 for the sole reason that Moab is all slick rock.  And slick rock is so unforgiving - I think Hokas were created by someone who ran on a lot of slick rock. So I stuck with them, chatting easily about all things under the sun (as distance runners are known to do).  I really don't talk much when I run but for some reason I enjoyed talking to these two gals.  Thanks for making the miles go by easily girls!

More about slick rock: it's never level and it grips your shoes like velcro.  Great for biking, but for a runner, this means that your foot slides a little in your shoe each footstep and my blisters were getting worse and worse.  As long as I kept moving I didn't feel them too much though. #whydidntIwearmywoolsocks?  Never again.

Top of Gooseberry Mesa
Brad had kept just slightly ahead of me during the race, but almost always within sight.  He has this crazy efficient "Sue Lucas" power hiking stride that was embarrassingly hard to keep up with, even when I was running.  We developed this routine where he would power away and make it to the aid station with time to change (into a whole new set of clothes each time I saw him, I swear), rest and eat before I arrived.  I would arrive, do what I needed to do as quickly as I could, and we would leave together for the next leg.  It was nice to know a friendly, familiar face was never that far away.
Brad Whitson at Gooseberry Point
We left Goosebump AS at 6:30pm.  It was 6.5 miles down a long easy road grade to the Grafton AS where I would see my crew again for the first time in 7 hours.  I desperately wanted to make it there well before dark so that Todd (who would start pacing me there) would be able to see some of the course in the daylight.  I also wanted to see the descent to Cemetery at sunset because Sunny said it was spectacular.  Alas, it was not to be.  During this leg, things started to go bad again and I never really rebounded.  Although I usually LOVE running downhill, my gut was turning super bad, and I could feel my forefeet macerating.  I just couldn't run easily and walked a lot of this stretch.  Every step I felt a "squish" and I knew I needed to sit down and properly deal with my blisters when I got to Grafton.  My head was foggy and  I know now that it was because my body chemistry was VERY off.

The front runners in the 100K event were headed back up the hill that we were coming down and I grunted a "great job" to each of them as they passed, running jauntily along, looking way to energetic.  Then this guy was running up to me smiling and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was my pacer, Todd.  He probably got the only true running of his entire experience in that stretch up the road to meet me lol.  I was SO GLAD to see him. I was in a dark hole at this point and just needed to get to that darn AS.

I came into Grafton (53.5 mi) at dusk, around 8:15 pm. Brad had already changed into his nighttime wardrobe, and his partner Jen was shoving food in his mouth.  I didn't feel like eating anything but knew I needed to.  Isabelle was there and told me after that she was shocked at how I looked when I arrived. In her defence she didn't know what she was looking at and had texted Sarah asking for advice.  I had swelled up something crazy during the previous 7 hours.  Looking at pictures now, I  can't believe how huge I looked.  No wonder I was applying layers and layers of body glide to avoid chafing.  Sarah told her to tell me to STOP DRINKING until I started peeing. Ok. I spent quite a while at this AS - 21 min.  Much longer than I wanted to.  I got my headlamp ready to go, changed packs, hats.  Looked at my feet and....well...it was too late.  They looked bad.  The entire forefoot region of both feet was totally blistered and macerated, deeply.  We poked a few more holes in the pockets of skin, tried to drain them, and that was it.  It was what it was.  I chugged a little chicken noodle soup broth, but did not eat enough.  I was in a vicious cycle of over-hydration, therefore lack of appetite, therefore no desire to eat, therefore no food in my system to allow any salt intake to absorb, therefore further hyponatremia.  I was taking in salt, but I was not absorbing it.  At all.  And I was not peeing. Now it's easy to look back and analyze this, but at the time I still didn't clue in.  I just felt like shit and I was so glad to have my pacer with me. This was NOT how it was supposed to be.

Cemetery

As night fell, Brad, Todd and I left together to begin a sharp 1150' descent to Cemetery AS.  I had my poles and leaned on them heavily at this point.  It was steep and there was a congo line of people hobbling down the mesa.  We encountered one man who had fallen into a cactus on the way down.  It was pitch dark by this time, so Todd and I stopped to shine our headlamps on his leg while he picked the super fine cactus quills out of his leg.  "Please God do NOT let me fall into a cactus."  We passed Sunny and Carol on their way back up the climb just ahead of us with their pacers.  Carol had her son with her and Sunny had her son's friend.  So cool.  Someday I hope my kids will want to pace their mom through her stupid crazy races.  I had been unsuccessful popping the huge blister on my right foot, and with one hard landing going down the mesa, I felt a pop.  Oh sweet relief!

We were in and out of Cemetery fairly quickly.  I chugged some Coke and ate a pickle.  Let's go.

Now for the long slug up the mesa we had just descended.  More congo lines.  Thank you GOD for my poles.  Somehow I started to perk up on this climb.  I do like climbing and turned into Chatty Cathy for a while, conversing with (I didn't even get his name) a guy whom I thought was a pacer for a while as he looked so fresh.  He was working on his PhD in sport psychology and kept me entertained with stories of his past races and experiences living in Flagstaff and Colorado.  That was the last time I really talked during the race.  Poor Todd was about to enter a long night of near total silence. Pacing is hard work, and never acknowledged enough.  That guy deserves a lot of credit.

When we arrived back at the Grafton AS, Isabelle was there with Jen.  I was pretty confused at this point and we couldn't see them in the dark.  We refilled our water, and I started devouring quesadillas and pickles.  I told Todd that we couldn't wait for them, that I just needed to get going, when we saw them.  Of course they were where they were the last time we went through, but my world had narrowed and what I couldn't see within the beam of my headlamp didn't exist.

I spent 15 min here eating.  I was suddenly very hungry.  Maybe the cool night air and less drinking water had allowed my body to start to regain equilibrium.  I devoured 4 quesadillas, a cheese stick, pickles (couldn't get enough of these although they hold NO nutritional value) and chicken noodle soup.  I had no desire for anything sweet.

We left Grafton AS at 11:45pm to go back up the long road that we had come down from Gooseberry Mesa.  It took me almost 2 hours to cover 6.25 miles.  Brad power hiked away in the darkness as I struggled to keep up, feeling totally demoralized.  This was not supposed to be the way it was to go.  My pacer would join me and we would run.  I stared at the circle of light my headlamp created...and wretched.  I basically puked my way up that whole climb.  All I could do was walk.  I wanted to run and I just couldn't.  I felt like such a poser.  Here I was an "ultra runner." I was just over half way done this "race" and I could barely walk.  The only good thing about this stretch was that I finally started peeing.  I finally started to eliminate all that fluid I had been hauling around for about 25 miles.  I must have gained 10+ lbs and I swear I was stopping 3-4x/hour to pee, astounded at the volume of fluid leaving my body.  Thank goodness it was under cover of night in the middle of the desert, but it cost me a lot of time.

During this time, Todd got me going on the "airborne shuffle."  My husband is in the military and Todd is a veteran, so it seemed natural that he suggested that I try the shuffle.  I would walk anything uphill, but I would try to shuffle anything downhill or somewhat flat.  It was not really running.  It was not pretty.  But it made my feet bear weight differently for brief periods of time and that was good.  I had been avoiding climbing on the balls of my feet ever since my blisters got bad, and by then I had replaced blister pain with intense achilles tendon and heel pain.  So I wasn't comfortable on my forefoot and I wasn't comfortable on my rearfoot.  The shuffle seemed to mix it up enough that I could keep going.

"Let go, heel toe" became the mantra of the night.  I credit Todd with keeping me moving steadily along.  For hours and hours.

We topped out at the Goosebumps AS with a very quick stop, and left there at 1:41am.  I don't really remember much of this period, other than a very slow, very painful descent down the climb that we had come up at mile 34.  It was now mile 70 and if I hadn't had my poles I know I would have just tipped gently over the edge of the cliff and fallen to my demise.  Maybe a little melodramatic, but I was seriously depleted at this point.  I was not keeping calories in me at all.  And once at the bottom of this descent, I knew I had a 6+ mile stretch of road through the Virgin Desert to traverse before reaching the Virgin AS.  My watch died just after the 20 hour mark, and I had to rely on Todd's watch after that.  I had expected this, but didn't realize how much I relied on my watch to keep me on track until then.  Without a reference point with regards to time left to aid and elapsed time, I totally fell off my eating and drinking schedule or whatever there was left of it.

I continued to puke and pee, shuffle, and walk.  I remember dry heaving mid-stride as I was running.  I knew nothing was going come out, and it was pointless to stop.  So onward we went.  We crossed some low places that I could see would be really bad if there was lots of rain and water on the course as there had been last year. This year it was dry and the wind really whipped up on the desert, blasting dust and sand into our faces.  My contacts were getting really gritty and even with my eye drops, my eyes were so sore that I ended up just closing my eyes during each gust and waiting for it to pass.  This is definitely the non-glamorous part of ultra running.

Virgin Desert

All through this section we could see Brad's light just ahead of us, and FINALLY, we turned a corner and arrived at the Virgin Desert AS at 4:26am.  At 3:51 I had officially gone longer than ever before, and was only slightly ahead of my Fat Dog 70 pace but in a race with a LOT less climbing.  I was trying not to get down on myself here.  So hard.

Isabelle was waiting at Virgin with a fresh pack and a smile. I tried desperately to eat something but nothing would go down.  Coke was all that seemed to agree with me.  Despite eliminating water all night long, Iz said that I still looked really puffy when I arrived.  To my crew's credit, they really worked hard to help me get my electrolytes back into balance.  Despite looking horrible and having a foggy brain, I never felt that horrid headache or heart palpitations that can come with hyponatremia.  I honestly never felt that I was in actual danger medically, other than possibly just before dark the previous day.

I changed shorts, ditched my pack because my shoulders were very sore, and headed out for the first of 3 loops around the Virgin Desert before the final leg home.  Four more legs.  I can do this.

The Red Loop was the first and shortest of the 3.  There was a lot of confusion about the length of each loop and discrepancy between the published splits and what the volunteers were telling us.  The sun came up on this loop, but it barely registered.  I was in full-on robot mode by then, shuffling when Todd told me to shuffle, walking when he told me to walk.  He was doing exactly what I need him to do. I still had my poles in my hands, but my arms were getting as tired as my legs.  Red Loop done at 6:33 am.  Sarah had just started her 50K race and was likely sprinting up Gooseberry Mesa by this point in the lead pack.  I was right.

Isabelle was set up really well at this aid station and it was too easy to just sit down and rest between loops.  I needed to eat something, but I also just wanted the race to be done, and getting up and going again after sitting down was worse than just continuing to move.  It took about 5 minutes for my blisters to numb out each time we set out, during which time I seemed to creep along as Todd gently told me to keep moving.  Ok, maybe gently is not the right word.  Firmly is better.  But that was what he was supposed to do and what I needed.

The White Loop was very flat and boring.  Nothing to look at, no variety in the terrain.  I had gone all night waiting to see something other than Todd's feet in front of me, and I was not to be rewarded here.

'And now for the rest of the story.'

 It was then that we came upon a lady walking ahead of us with a crazy list to the left side.  She seemed to be dragging her right leg, but was steadily moving forward.  Todd told me to keep moving (lest I forget LOL) and ran up ahead to check on her.  As I approached, I saw that it was Marcia.  For much of the race she had obviously been well ahead of me and I was seriously humbled, but now the physio in me could see she was not doing well.  I could barely process anything at this point, but I am a healer by profession and helping people is automatic for me.  When I saw a woman with a serious gait deviation who would benefit greatly from an assistive device, obviously I gave her my poles.  I hadn't been using them much on the flat trail and after a brief moment of hesitation, she gratefully accepted them.  I made sure they were adjusted to her size (of course - because any assistive device must ensure optimal posture and biomechanics), got her full name and the location where she was staying and continued on.  It amazes me that I remembered her name at all in the state that I was in.  I may have been foolish for giving her my poles, but I had Todd's as back up.  She ended up finishing.  I helped her.  That's all the mattered to me.

Finishing the White Loop - Todd pulling me along
Blue Loop - I barely look recognizable
White Loop done at 8:45am.  The Blue Loop was anywhere between 4.1 and 7.5 miles depending on who you talked to.  Jen consoled me with the fact that I only had a 1/2 marathon left. I actually rejoiced.  I changed shorts again because my new pair were absolutely too small.  Shorts that were baggy and loose normally were tight around my swollen legs.  Craziness.  I took Todd's poles for the rest of the race, which were not adjustable and too tall for me, but it didn't matter at this point.  My biomechanics was completely pathetic.  Not a great example of form in the least.  I had a little fun identifying the gait patterns that I periodically adopted. Ok, I was being a nerd.  But I was existing on a totally different plane by then.

This loop would have been beautiful if it hadn't been so bloody long.  I had hope to be almost done by then, and despite my best efforts I just couldn't move my body very fast at all which frustrated me to no end.  But Todd patiently kept chugging on ahead of me and I just followed.   It rained a little which perked me up (I love rain), and I looked up to see the top of Gooseberry Mesa shrouded in grey, where Sarah was currently running.  I hoped the slick rock wasn't getting too slick for her.

The Final Leg

Finally we made it back to the Virgin AS and got ready for the final push to the finish.  Six miles left. "No," Isabelle told me, "8 miles."  WHAT?!!!  Yep, they had moved the finish line since last year and my split chart was off again.  At the end of a 100 miler, adding 2 more miles is just cruel.  We had been told that the race was officially 102.6 miles, and now I saw where it was added.  I struggled not to cry, stood up, and mustered all the strength I had left in me.  I certainly was not about to waste all that suffering, pain and puking to quit now.  And this was what what I came for.
8 more miles...
The next 3 miles was a beautiful, gradual, downhill stretch of red single track that I somehow found the energy to run fairly steadily.  I have passed 100 and 120 miler racers on the trail in previous races and always given them room, trying not to startle them or make them move when I passed them on the trail.  There is a reason for that, and now I had personal experience from the other side of the equation.  Todd ran behind me, flat out telling people (those perky 50K runners who still looked too damn fresh) to move around me, that I was finally running well and that I was not moving off the trail for anyone.  I had to smile.  Yep, they could go around me.  Thanks Todd.  Unfortunately at the end of that downhill stretch my tank ran dry.  The last 5 miles were the longest minutes and miles of my life.  I am choking up right now writing this.  There were endless false summits and endless tempting turns towards the finish that then reversed away up into the hills.

When I finally saw the finish line, I pictured videos of people I have seen passing out just before the finish line.  "Don't pass out, don't pass out."  I didn't pass out and I ran across that line in 31.5 hours - well after my goal time, but well before the cut off.



"102.6 miles, because 100 just isn't enough."

My crew was there to greet me and I collapsed into their arms, sobbing with sweet relief.  Thank-you just isn't enough when it comes to what my crew did for me.  They gave me a gift that money cannot buy - the gift of their time and support so I could achieve my goal. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart guys.

Brad and Jen: thanks so much for all your support and words of wisdom and encouragement. Brad: you raced well.  Congratulations on your finish and I hope to race with you again sometime. My crew also included my husband and kids at home.  They sent me videos that Isabelle played for me in the middle of the night to keep me going and were my cheerleaders from afar.  I love you guys.

I need to mention that Sarah (@wildseads) completely ROCKED her 50K race and earned herself a podium finish.  So proud of that girl.

And I owe a HUGE thank-you to Salming Running Canada for providing me with my running shoes.  I ran the race in the T3's and EnRoutes, and was very happy with both.  I do not attribute my blisters to my shoes.

The 2017 Zion 100 was my first 100 miler.  I achieved my goal in finishing it, but I can honestly say I'm disappointed with how I ran the race.  I guess we all have to start somewhere, and I have a lot to learn.  I know better than to let my nutrition get so out of whack and I'm disappointed in myself for doing that.  They say that the person who eats the most fairs the best.  That definitely was not me during this race.  I walked a LOT more than I expected to due to lack of calories and blisters.  I knew I'd be trekking and hiking up the climbs, but I am still struggling to make peace with the fact that I walked so much of the course.

One hundred miles is far.  It's really far. It's really really far.

Will I do another one?  I know better than to say never.  I qualified for States, so of course I'll have to put my name into the lottery this fall.  But I have a lot to fine tune before I attempt another 100 miler.

Am I glad I did it?  Absolutely.  No regrets.  The course was amazingly beautiful.  The desert is very unforgiving but oh so interesting.  I learned so much about myself during that day in the desert.  Now nothing seems impossible.  Billy Yang just released an amazing film entitled "Life in a Day."  That's exactly what a 100 miler is.  Life in a Day. You start feeling youthful and energetic and end up feeling positively archaic.  There are highs and lows, euphoric victories and feelings of utter defeat, connections with people and places, lessons learned.  Anything can happen in a 100 miler and anything can happen in life.  Any day any one of us can wake up unable to run.  Unable to do the things that we dream about most.  Do we all dream about running 100 miles?  No.  But we all have goals.  We all have secret dreams.  What are you waiting for?

102.6 miles, because 100 just isn't enough...and tomorrow may be too late.

And repeat...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Your Inner Coach

Several months ago I launched my www.bouncestrong.com website which included a run coaching component.  Since then I have struggled to define what I can offer as a coach, and a description was to why one would benefit from hiring a running coach.  I know why I value a coach, and I know what I hope to offer as a coach, but I couldn't really define what a coach can do for you until today.  And it didn't come from me.

Today I receive this email from one of my coaching clients.  I have been coaching him for just under 2 months.  These are his words.  They humble me and make me want to do the happy dance all at the same time!

"Feeling stiff from my first “real” hill workout two days ago, I let out an "old man groan" as I eased my 42 year old frame into my desk chair. I wanted to take one last look at week 7 of my training plan. This was going to be brutal! The plan called for intervals. The memory of last week’s near-puking effort was haunting.


"I set the treadmill (you can’t cheat on a treadmill) to 7 mph for a 10 minute warmup and tried to relax. My legs burned. Not good! All too soon, 10 minutes flashed on the display and I punched in 10.1 mph for my first 5 minute interval. Almost instantly I felt a cramp in my right hamstring. It worked itself out but I stressed over keeping this up. My legs were churning as fast as they could go and I was already feeling exhaustion setting in. I thought back to a recent relay race and pictured the high schoolers running effortlessly as they passed me. Their legs were fast but not faster than mine. I remember marvelling at how their feet barely kissed the ground, as if they were flying. But HOW? What was I missing?

"Then it hit me - upside the head like Al Capone with a baseball bat. It had been staring me in the face for two months since hiring Kim. It was front and center on her webpage and in the signature of every email. BOUNCE STRONG! If my legs couldn’t swing faster, I would have to go farther with each stride. I needed to engage those muscles I’d been punishing for the last two months. I needed to bounce stronger! I intentionally relaxed my cadence a bit and focused on pushing harder, engaging my calves, quads, glutes and any other muscles willing to join in. Almost instantly I felt a hint of relaxation. It didn’t get easy but at least it felt possible.

"I bounced, and it became my mantra for the rest of the workout. My legs burned, my eyes stung with sweat, my lungs choked in every last molecule of oxygen, but I focused on bouncing strong. Finally, as I mashed the number 7 for my cool down, that familiar but elusive feeling washed over me... the runner’s high! On tired legs I had achieved one more seemingly impossible goal and I felt absolutely amazing!

"Two months ago when I hired Kim I told her one of my goals for the year was to achieve a sub 20 minute 5k. Within my interval workout today was a 5k time of 19 minutes, 20 seconds and a 10k time of 39 minutes, 54 seconds. That’s TWO 20 minute 5k runs back to back in the same workout! Talk about crushing a goal!

"People often wonder, “at what point do you call yourself a runner”. I’ve been running for 4 years, but I’ll always remember today - on the treadmill no less - as the day I became a runner. I found that one crucial piece of the puzzle. Today I bounced strong and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing coach, Kim."

Sometimes a coach feeds you gruelling workouts.  Sometime a coach asks you to do things that are hard, and sometimes a coach sends you inspirational mantras and Friday night videos while telling you to rest.  Often a coach can simply be the loudest voice in your head - that doesn’t let you stop, that doesn’t take excuses, that gives you permission to exhibit the greatness that exists within yourself, the awesomeness that you are afraid to show.

A coach can be someone you hire, or it can simply be the best friend that you run with every weekend.  It can be that elite runner you follow on social media or it can be that terminally ill relative that just keeps going despite the odds, who puts things into perspective.  

This weekend as you run, let the voice of all your coaches lift you up, get your feet moving, and help you to believe that all things are possible if you work hard and believe in yourself. 

Because they are.

BOUNCE STRONG MY FRIENDS

Sunday, 19 March 2017

My Tribe

Today I finished my peak week for Zion 100 after coming back from a stress fracture last fall.  In 12 short weeks I went from doing run:walk combos to running 50-60 mile weeks, successfully I might add! I'll be going into Zion definitely under-trained, but healthy and mentally fit, which is minimum standard for me.

After a long winter of frigidly cold weather alternating with spring-like temps above zero, I am done with mother nature's flirtation and very ready for spring.  So when we had freezing rain last week that turned the city in sheets of ice on EVERY surface, my training partner and I made a last minute decision to head south to North Dakota for a 50K race as a way to get our last 30 mile training run in before Zion on real dirt.

Which brings me to the point of this piece.  For a variety of reasons I ran the vast majority of my miles this winter alone: my need to do my own thing with regards to my injury, family commitments, need for quiet time alone. An ultra runner often cherishes the alone time, craves it, gets used to spending hours and hours with only their thoughts and their iPod for company.  Ultra running is a very solitary sport for most of us.

But there is also a very unique, tightly knit ultra running community.  It does not respect geographical, topographical or cultural boundaries.  I have formed bonds with runners whom I met at a races only once in another country (thanks to FB), as well as runners whom I regularly run with. Some I go way back with, some I've just met.

Sarah and I running Mt. Albert Edward in a day (2006)
After our 50K race in North Dakota, several Manitoban runners met at a local pizza place in Fargo for supper before heading our respective ways.  The group included runners of all different ages, professions, experience levels. There was talk of big races coming up, but also talk of crewing for those races, flying or driving across the country to support friends and family in their journey across that line.

As I sat at the table in Fargo eating pizza and listening to the conversation around me, there was genuine excitement.  Excitement expressed from the runners who were planning their races, excitement from the crew members who were going assist them in that process or who had been a part of it in the past.  The excitement was shared on all sides and it was genuine.

As we drove home the circle widened.  I was getting texts from my friend Sarah in BC who will be racing the Zion 50K and Isabelle who will be crewing for me.  Scott was wondering how we did and checking in to make sure we were travelling safely. My husband was checking in to make sure all was well and letting me know everything was good on the home front.
Sarah & I at the summit of Kings Peak (2006)
Scott, Myself, Todd - Fat Dog 2016
It struck me how we all have our individual goals, but so many people support us in achieving them.  We spend hours upon hours running and training solo.  We dream, plan, strategize ways to reach our goals and achieve our dreams.  We devise these plans in solitude, but they quickly morph into logistical nightmares that involve many others who support us.  We recruit some, some volunteer, some are "voluntold" (usually spouses lol).  Ultra runners know that to run seriously long distances, for most people takes a team.  The vast majority of us are not professional athletes. We rely on our family, friends and our fellow runners to sacrifice their time, funds and physical energy to hold down the home front, crew and pace for us as we strive to achieve our impossible.
Isabelle and I - Nootka Trail 2005
I will be heading to Utah in less than 3 weeks to run my first 100 accompanied by my long time coach and running mentor Sarah.  I will also have Todd and Isabelle coming as pacer and crew with the sole purpose of assisting me in achieving my goal. Wow. My husband will be holding down the fort at home with our 2 kids, who simply cannot comprehend what mommy is set out to do (and frankly neither can their mom).

Sarah and I at my first 50K race: Sun Mountain, Winthrop, WA (2013)
It BLOWS MY MIND and humbles me when I stop to consider what others are doing to help me achieve my goals.  I am so honoured to be a part of this incredible community of ultra runners and friends who just get it.  Who know what needs to be done and step up to do it.  I am grateful for a husband who supports my need to run even though he may not always understand, and kids who don't blink when mommy says she's going out for a "short run" of 1 1/2 hours.

My husband, Yan and I in Hawaii for the Xterra 1/2 Marathon (2012)
My family - my world
My dream could not become a reality without my tribe.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I will not let you down.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

If


Rarely does a poem speak me to as this one does right now.  Had to share for all those pressing on, who aim to fill their unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run...

If
by Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!