I use the word mastery with reverence and I feel it is accurate to use when I refer to the path I walk in this life.
I hold an unshakeable belief that my essence is the meticulous skill and capacity required by such attainment. Although I refer to mastery as attainment, its process works in opposition to the attainment ideal ingrained in the human condition.
Mastery is within each one of us already and through the attainment, every single one of our limiting belief systems falls away. Once we remove the limits of the human mind we open ourselves up to a powerful life of courageous adventure.
On the drive to Mendocino last week, I started listening to David Goggins book, Can’t Hurt Me. I wasn’t even to chapter one when I felt a seething distaste in my belly. I heard him say something about a “soft and comfortable life”.
I experience many moments in my race prep when I don’t want to wake up at 4am on a Sunday. There are days when, just for a few hours, I dream to be a person who doesn’t like to sweat. These stories feel true to me in the moment but at further investigation, I always see the truth of me.
Making a life out of doing things that scare me is my true essence of joy. I know with every fiber of my being that I am not here to go through the motions and so I’m certainly not going to opt for a soft and comfortable life. Gross!
This deep joy is the very same that inspired me to recently toe the line at two ultramarathons in seven days.
The first was Lake Sonoma 50.
On April 13th at 3am my alarm rang to the realization that it was go-time. “I get to do this” is my conditioned response most days but never more so than on race day. Pre-race breakfast of apple sauce, plant-based protein, banana, and 24-ounces of GU electrolyte drink was in the body by 3:30am. Fed and fueled three-hours prior to the race start allows for digestion, meditation, and a nap. I indulged in all three.
We left the house right on time. BJ at the wheel with my teammate Liz and resident “Joy Creator” Clark in the back. Per usual I was quiet on the ride. I focused on my breathing and the internal energy that was building just below my heart. I imagined the power of my solar plexus merging into the love of my heart until my entire front body felt like it was going to explode.
I sat within this power like a calm warrior knowing that battle was on the horizon.
I found the perfect spot in Mother Nature to relieve myself before heading to the starting area. I surrendered my drop-bag that I would see at mile 25 and took a brief moment to practice the feeling of being at the halfway point with a ton of gas still in my tank.
I returned to the moment and felt the energy settling into my cells as the race start grew closer. I kissed my boys and found a spot within the crowd. Focused on my breath, I imagined a white light surround my being then I took my first step into the unknown.
The first 2.4-miles of the course are on the pavement which begins with a short, steep downhill then right into a climb. The night before, I talked with BJ about race strategy and I watched as my mind searched for certainty on how to handle this part of the course. He told me to stay at a perceived effort of 3-4 whether that was running or walking. He told me to trust my fitness. So basically, pacing the first few miles of this race was going to land in the lap of present moment awareness. There was no certainty only trust that I would hear the appropriate feedback and follow it.
I stayed exactly as BJ guided. I was running some, walking some and allowing gravity to do its job on the downhills without holding back. If there’s one thing I have done in my training, it’s tempered my quads for the downhill. There’s something about setting the body free that creates flow and ease. I love the downhill, always have whether that be cycling, snowboarding or running. I was born to let’er rip.
There’s something about relaxing into the risk of speed that evokes a wholeness from within for me.
Onto the trail and immediately into a downhill where I got to see my bud Ralph from Healdsburg Running Company. Symbolic to see him at the beginning of my 50/50 challenge since it was all sparked within moments of meeting him at Del Mar Dog Beach in San Diego two years prior.
Patience attains the goal. This 50/50 project has been in the works since 2017. Every run, every race, every meditation has been in preparation for this epic experience that is now a part of me.
Lake Sonoma is relentless and there’s not much more to say about it. Relentless in its terrain. Relentless in its beauty. Relentless in its want to uplevel its competitors, and relentless in evoking the warrior within.
Less than 10-miles into the race I noticed an excitement about getting to the turn-around point and how great that was going to feel. Speaking out loud to myself, as I often do, I said, “Hey mind, it doesn’t matter how much you want to be at 25 because you’re right here, right now. There’s nowhere else for you to be”. A helpful reminder that was repeated several times throughout the day.
I frontloaded calories for the first two-hours taking in about 900 from GU Roctane electrolyte drink, GU gel and a mashed potato burrito. I love these burritos and thanks to Liz, I started incorporating them into my training runs. They are very simple to make.
Recipe: Boil 1-2 russet potatoes until soft. Drain and mash into a bowl with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt to taste. Roll with skill into a flour tortilla and run like hell!
My plan was to just take one burrito during the day and focus on liquid calories supplemented by GU Energy gels of sorted flavors. I also took two GU BCAA capsules every hour and three ibuprofen over the course of the race. I felt that my nutrition was spot-on. I also ate some fresh watermelon and cantaloupe at the aid stations and took in cola at the last two aid stations. Vroom! Vroom!
The volunteers were amazing and they felt like my best friends but I had a commitment to move through every aid station with Ironman efficiency.
“Free-time”, I kept thinking, “Aid stations are free-time”.
By all calculations, I knew that if I kept moving forward I would make the cut-offs. I knew that the climbing was going to be more than anything I’ve done in a race before but that every single hill repeat, every single specificity workout I did on the treadmill and every bit of strength I executed, even if it was just 10-minutes, had prepared me to come in under the cut-off times.
However, during meditation earlier in the week I gained the awareness that not only would I come in under the cut-off time of 14-hours but that I would break 13-hours on the day. Awareness like this is just one of the benefits of meditation that I truly love. I no longer have to only rely on mental calculations for what I think will be my anticipated time at a race.
What I have found is through a disciplined practice of meditation we deepen our relationship with the all-knowing part of us that already knows everything. As we deepen this relationship we increase our ability to attune to the subtle energies of our mastery within. Not only can we hear the information from this unshakeable part of us but we automatically trust it. This is what I refer to as a “knowing” and I received one about breaking 13-hours. I also knew that I was going to have to work for it. I knew it was going to take skillful execution of pacing, nutrition and mental mastery to push my body to run further and higher than it had ever gone before.
At about mile 17, I started to see the elites passing through. Jared Hazen, Tom Evans, Dakota Jones, YiOu Wang, Anna Mae Flynn and the great Magda Boulet (all smiles of course) on their way to the finish, running twice as fast as me. As each one passed, I absorbed the excellence.
At mile 18, I saw BJ and Clark at Madrone Point (ahhh…my loves). I picked up great energy from the spectators and cheers from people like badass ultrarunner, Eric Senseman who I had the pleasure of meeting and running into a few times over the last month. Hearing him tell me how strong I looked threw me into turbo boost. I knew he meant it, I could see it on his face. Just because we are not as fast as others on the course doesn’t mean that we are not strong. Our biggest critics are ourselves and frankly, there’s no mastery in that.
In full receptive mode, I ran up a short embankment and down into the valley on route to the turn around point. I was fired up and containing the energy for future use.
As I live more and more from my soul perspective, I can see ever clearly that I’m always directed to where I need to go. During this training block leading into the 50/50, I kept being directed to train alone. I felt a repeated need for me to connect with Mother Nature on my training runs without distraction.
There were just a few runs when I went with a group and the first of those runs led me to a 1.5-mile climb with 900 ft of elevation that served me well at LS50. This became a regular training route for me and was easily accessible from the flatter trails of Lake Hodges where I could practice race pace and specific intervals when appropriate in my training.
In the final weeks of my prep, I started at Lake Hodges and ran the mostly flat, slightly rolling trails to the Del Dios Preserve where I would do hill repeats up and down. I would head up the 1.5-mile climb which led me into Elfin Forest where I then descended the “Way Up Trail”, a more technical trail with switchbacks down to Elfin base. From there I headed back up “Way Up Trail” and down the Del Dios Preserve trail. This took a total of 2-hours and in the height of my training, I did this 3-times within a workout.
Leading into the turn-around point at No Name Flat there is a climb that mimics the Del Dios Preserve Trail to a tee. It was then I realized the entire point of running with the group earlier this winter was to introduce me to this training landscape that would serve me well come race day.
At ¾-mile to the turn-around point, I saw my first-course marker of the day. It felt like I floated along this patch of flat single track as it traversed the hillside before gently dropped me into No Name Flat aid station at mile-25.
One key piece to navigating aid stations like a master is to know what you need prior to getting there. This gives you certainty and efficiency in taking in the other aid station offerings with little distraction. I had a mental list in my head that included changing socks, as my right sock was sliding low into my shoe causing the initial stages of rub on my Achilles, reload my fuel stash and top off my liquids. This was the one and only time I refilled my hydration bladder and I already had my Roctane powder in my soft bottles. I used the climbs to empty my drink powder into my bottles and gratuitously lube my body parts with Squirrels Nut Butter coming off the day chafe-free.
I arrived at No Name Flat with 6:07 on my watch. I left No Name Flat at 6:24 into my race. I took the exact amount of time I needed and now I was committed to a 25-mile push.
Despite how many times I heard about the impossibility of negative or even splitting this course, I knew finishing under 13-hours was simply mine to lose. I knew the perspective of this course being difficult to negative or even split was a limited belief system and I wasn’t interested in indulging it. My execution was perfection so far and I had a lot of gas left in my tank.
I trusted my legs as I pushed max speed and skill on the downhills. My legs had sensation but one thing I had noticed was that although I was experiencing lots of sensation, it was not escalating. It was just my status-quo and if I knew that if I continued to relax into it, I would have great success in reaching my goal.
At just shy of 10-hours into the race, my watch died. This left me with a range of where I was mileage wise and a pretty accurate idea of where I was time-wise. I happened to glance at my watch at the very moment that it died. The time read 4:18pm and I also had BJ’s watch as a back-up that had a functional timer on it so I started that right away. I knew the universe was giving me the exact information that I needed.
As Eckhart Tolle says, “not a moment too soon or a moment too late”. We always get exactly what we need, right on time.
I hit Warm Springs aid station. Grabbed some coke, refilled up on Roctane drink and headed off into the woods with a grey-haired local who had a high vibrational state of mind. Amongst the cheers from the volunteers, I heard, “you only have 11.5-miles to the finish”.
I continued to push and although 11.5-miles seems like a breeze during a 50-mile race, it’s still 11.5-miles. And, in the case of Lake Sonoma 50, it’s 11.5-miles of relentless terrain.
About an hour or so after leaving Warm Springs I noticed my mind becoming unsettled about the unknown. For most of the day, it was quiet. I can best describe it as resting into the experience.
This is something that I never considered possible but as a result of years of meditation, I have found that my mind is settled for the most part. It’s quiet during my training runs and races. This sustained quietness is new for me and has become more predominant just in the past year.
I know every day that I make good on my “commit to sit” lifestyle, my mind becomes tamer.
If I was to create a visual of this it would look like a cute kid, buckled into the back seat of my car peaking up towards the window taking in a somewhat compromised view. It sits quietly back there until it realizes that its view is compromised and that it’s buckled in. At which point it makes a bunch of noise until I go back there to reassure it that it’s fine and it doesn’t have to see the full view to be safe and content.
As I have grown accustomed to over the years, I passed many people in the final 25-miles of the race, most of them being within the final 11.5-miles.
As I approached two men walking side by side I noticed their watches and the voice in my head yelling, “Ask them!”. Over and over again, the voice incessantly demanded that I ask them how much distance before we hit the last aid station.
“No”, I replied, “no I will not”.
I’m in charge and I am not going to allow action from desperation to prevail. No way. Not on my watch.
As I ran past the two men, the voice yelled louder and louder. It squirmed in its seat and begged me for relief but I kept going in silence.
My meditation teacher once told me that I will always be given the information that I need.
A few miles down the trail I passed another runner and just as I cleared his stride he yelled to me, “A mile to the next aid station.”
“And then another 4 or so to the finish”, he said.
Exactly what I needed. Delivered to me without effort.
The second-course marker came into my view and informed me that I was ½-mile from Island View, the final aid station of this 50-mile race. I cruised the descent as gracefully as possible, absorbing the sensation and transmuting it back to love.
I cruised around the table reciting my participant number and taking a final shot of cola.
“You have 4.7-miles to the finish”.
I power hiked the short climb out of Island View and hit the trail running. How many times I have run 4.7 is more than I can count. I glanced at the timer on my back-up watch which told me I had 1-hour and 10-minutes until the bewitching time of 13.
I pushed. And pushed. I ran every single step I could. I never stopped to catch my breath. I imagined that every time my foot hit the trail that an explosion of white light filled me with power and strength. I saw the third and final course marker of the day.
It read “1-mile to go!”.
Undoubtedly the messiest and most uncertain ground of the day comprised this final stretch. Just one more stamp of its relentless nature went into my memory. Sinking into mud up to my knees, I belly laughed and prayed that my shoes would still be attached to my feet when I pulled them out from the earth.
I started to see people. Not racers, just plain ole’ people.
People in clean clothes. People without pee in their pants and people full of inspiration for what I was about to finish.
“Just cross the road and you are there”, said the volunteer.
All I could do was repeatedly scream “YAY!”.
I crossed the road, hopped on a very short single track and saw the finish chute flags to my left. The ones I had seen so many times in my meditations over the past 2-years.
I dropped off the trail and back into civilization only to notice a massive log at the beginning of the finish chute.
I sped up and jumped over it not caring how the landing would look or feel. I ran what felt like a Kipchoge pace, (video coverage proves otherwise) and continued to scream the only world that I could muster. “YAY!”
I heard my name, I saw my boys and teammates. I soaked in all the cheers and crossed the finish line to be met with a double high five by race director Skip Brand at which point I uttered the only word I could muster.
Lake Sonoma 50
April 13, 2019
11th Place Female Age: 40-49
Read 50/50 Mastery – Part Two: Mendocino 50K