Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Season To Remember

My 2012 Season
How does one put months and months of  trips to the chiropractor, physical therapist and doctor, training, racing, and travel into words?  It has taken much reflection for me to even consider to begin to attempt to do so.  When thinking back over my racing season from start to finish I quickly note a theme, that being family and friends.  Not to dismiss the importance of my friends, but here I am solely going to focus on my family.

My racing became a family affair this season and I that made it something beyond what it normally is.  Everyone was involved with not with seeing and experiencing sacrifices because of my training, but also the joys and struggles that I experience during races.  I few key races that one or several family members decided to brave along with me were Bull Run Run, Western States and Run Rabbit Run.  

Bull Run Run
My season began in April as I ventured to Bull Run Run in Virginia.  My father offered to join me and crew for me during the 50 miles, and it was to be his first experience with me throughout an ultra.  I knew he must really love me because he too hates flying and this race required an aircraft.

From start to finish the excitement that he had for me during the race was contagious and gave me an indescribable feeling.  He was so eager for me to get in and out of aid stations and continue to push forth.  He seemed to be as competitive as I was, if not even more as I chased down friend and fellow Vermonter Bob Ayers.   As we exchanged bottles and fuel he documented the brief moments we saw each other.

Looking at the footage after we returned home just reiterated to me how much my family helps me along the way. I think my dad was hooked on the ultra scene after just one race, which made me just smile even bigger. A great way to start the season!

Western States
When the Shuttle Breaks Down...Make Friends
Geo and I flew out to Western States three days prior to the start.  It gave us some down time and time to hit all the needed grocery stores and such.  He enjoyed mountain biking with I held down the couch and drank Americanos.  We had some good laughs and meals together.  

The afternoon prior to the race my mother and step father flew into help crew. They knew the drill from the previous year, although since we were back to the regular course their day would be more comprehensive.  My family split the early aid stations making two crews and then rejoined at Forest Hill for the remainder of the race.  The hours and countless miles of driving and attending to details was appreciated and paid off.  I think they got in a solid workout with the amount I had them lugging around.  It was always reassuring to know that I would be taken care of at each crew station.  I knew they would be there, I knew they would have silence if I needed silence, or the correct advice/motivation if that's what was needed.  Mostly what they had was excitement and encouragement, while I truly had the feeling that my effort and performance was a team effort.                                     

An added bonus was that this year was the first time I had my mom pace me for a few little stints.  It was fun hitting our stride and we were all smiles the whole time.  As you can see above she made sure we led the way into the school as Nikki, Rory and their crews were right behind.  It even felt like we got competitive with each other as we headed down the last mile onto the track.  Geo would take the lead, then my mom and then I would push to keep up and pass.  No competitiveness in my family!

I am excited to know that they are again willing to join me at Western States this coming season.  It truly has been something I look forward too and having them there helps me toe the line with more confidence than I normally would have.  

After finishing his epic bike race from one end of the Colorado Trail to the other end self supported I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Geo before he had to head back to Vermont.  I picked him up in Durango and then trucked him back to Leadville. He must really love me because within 24 hours of finishing his 5 days on his ridged single speed he was out with me hiking Hope Pass. He also did the hike in shoes that were a size too large as his sneakers where in Denver where he started his race. As the photo reveals though one of us had a bigger smile than the other. 

A week of exploring and hanging out at altitude with my father and step mother was a treat. We did some interesting shopping in downtown Leadville where you can buy anything from fresh made cookies to antique sheriffs badges.  Also with the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, Transrockies and the Boom Days there was plenty to keep me occupied.   To keep active my dad and I did many early morning runs at Turquiose Lake together and even hiked up the Winfield side of Hope Pass.  It was the first time he had been over 8,000 feet hiking so very magical to see him power up to 12,000 +.  At the end of the hike he said "These bad boys are going to be sore!" as he pointed to his quads.  Of course throughout the time there, like parents often do, my step mother and dad spoiled me at Melanzana and at the grocery store, everything a gluten free vegan could ever want or need.  

When race day came we were all as prepared as we knew how to be.  The hugs I got before the race fueled me and we were off.  As the day progressed my running and health started to crumble.  I couldn't breathe and it was beyond an issue that my inhaler could solve.  I continued to press on, they continued to support me on the fly as we all tried and tried to make it work.  The wheels had not only come off, but my lungs had broken.   
Photos By: Rob Timko
Above my father was consoling me at the Twin Lakes aid station.  I couldn't breath and it wasn't getting better.  He held me tight and I knew no matter what he loved me.  I could come in first, last or not finish and it didn't matter to him, what matter was that I was okay.  I never told him, but I thought a lot about how strong he has been in life and perhaps how stubborn he has been too.  He has overcome numerous heart surgeries and continued to do what he loves.  Life isn't always comfortable, but ultimately we have to believe that we do know our bodies and what is possible.  

I continued the race and eventually finished even though it was far off what I had planned for.  I knew if I could keep making it to crew station after crew station all would be okay, they would ensure it.  After I finished and got medical attention my step mother gave me the "You scared us talk".  I learned a lot that day about myself and how much my dad and step mom do truly care for me.  

Run Rabbit Run
After some last minute piece work, as I had the belief that I still had a lot of legs and heart after Leadville I found myself back in Colorado to race Run Rabbit Run 100 miler.  A long way from home and a big task at hand my mother volunteered up my step father Jeff to join me and crew for me.  Due to work and an appointment Jeff would arrive in Steamboat around 12 AM the morning of the race.  Then after the race he would fly home to Burlington before heading to Washington D.C for work three hours later.  Talk about commitment and sacrifice!  I felt so honored and blessed to have him join me.  He is so attentive to details, from travel / race details to what I need, so I knew once we got rolling my race wouldn't come down to a lack or crew/support.  

"Having A Wonderful Day & Feeling Good"
Photo: Bryon Powell 
On race day frustration quickly emerged inside of me as just a few miles in I struggled to follow the course.  The foliage was completely breath taking as was the single track so I tried to stay focused.  By the first time I saw Jeff at the first crew station over 20 miles in I had already tacked on so many extra miles that I wanted to drop.  Several others were dropping and my mind automatically went to that place.  I felt so far behind, disoriented and was honestly afraid of losing the course in the dark.  Jeff gently encouraged me to continue for more miles to see if it got better.  I recall him saying, "Give it some more time".    

For several miles things did get better, as I had Jenny Pierce for company.  Then after departing ways with her I continued on my way solo once again.  Jeff was waiting for me in Steamboat to help run me through traffic on the main roads.  I will never forget his outfit.  He was dressed more for warmth than pacing, but I think he easily won the award for most trendy.  A Burton button down flannel collared shirt was the key article of key pacing/crewing attire that made me smile. Unfortunately I have no photo of his outfit or us together from this race so I have a photo documenting me eating what an aid station worker told me was gluten free and vegan.  Instant mashed potatoes with bacon, YUM!

After a few more loops over the mountain and back into Steamboat I saw the sun start to rise.  I had made it through an entire night of darkness, which almost seemed impossible to me.  I knew that I had banked too many extra miles to my body to make the finish realistic without putting myself in a huge hole.  My mind and heart hadn't been in the race for hours and they were not to be convinced on this day.  As I ran towards Jeff I said "I'm done".  He hugged me with a sigh of relief and then I walked over to the check-in table and said I was dropping.  Jeff and I got in the car and drove off and it was great to feel the support despite having not have accomplished what we had originally intended too.  

Family Fun!
I am blessed to have a family who supports me as I pursue my passion.  They are the voice of encouragement, and when I need it, the voice of reason.  The moments that we have shared are so valuable and memorable.  It gives me great joy and energy to see them smiling out on the course.  Knowing that beyond the pain, darkness, cold, heat or whatever, they will be waiting to comfort me in anyway possible.  


  1. All the best for 2013, Aliza.

  2. I love running. It’s really a finest and enjoyable workout to maintain body balance and it can help us to live a healthy life.