Finding Joy in the DNS

For anyone who has ever signed up for a race via Ultra Signup, you are probably familiar with the most dreaded of features – a listing that displays, in full glory for everyone to see, your DNFs and DNSs. The DNFs are in bold red, screaming at you – “hey you – you failed!” The DNS’s are a bit more subdued, just a nice yellow – a kind of warning. But I’ve heard of ultra runners going to great lengths to avoid those awful stigmas on their ultra record.

I’m no stranger to it myself – I’ve unregistered myself before several races I knew I couldn’t run, solely to avoid that scarlet (or yellow) letter of shame. And as Western States approached these past few weeks, I sat there, staring at my registration history, wondering if I should “unregister” to avoid a blemish on my still-quite-small ultra signup record.

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A pretty tiny little resume. Excited to work on that.

I reached out to my friend (and F3 at States!) Devon Yanko for her take. Unregister? Hell no, she said – you EARNED that DNS.

Be proud of that DNS.

I’ve struggled a bit the past few months when a stranger asked “what’s your sport” or “what kind of athlete are you?” The obvious answer is “obstacle racer,” but I hesitate to describe myself as an “ultra runner.” I feel too unproven,  too new, too brash to declare myself that given my limited racing history. Like running my way into States was a fluke, and something that I won’t be able to replicate, or ever fulfill.

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Recovery: On realizing you aren’t superhuman

It’s been 6 weeks since that fateful run where lightning bolts shot down my leg.

When the initial MRI was taken, and my sentence was given (12 weeks until running, etc.), a part of me held out hope in the back of my mind that the doctors were just being conservative. C’mon – I’m the girl who returned from knee surgery to win World’s Toughest Mudder exactly 8 weeks post-op. Surely, by 6 weeks out, I’d be close to running again. I’m superhuman, or so people tell me.

Instead, after 5 days of testing walking about, I’m back on crutches. 4 weeks of non-weight bearing, they initially told me. Never would I imagine it could possibly be…more. (c’mon…I’M SUPPOSED TO HEAL LIKE JOHN CENA, PEOPLE)

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Injury, Identity and the Athlete

Yesterday, I decided to clean out the trunk of my car. It’s long overdue. As I surveyed the contents, I took notes (and yes, I realize this is disgusting): 9 pairs of trail shoes. 3 pairs of road shoes. 3 headlamps. 4 pairs of Injinjis, and one random mateless sock. 4 long sleeve running tops. 2 tanks. 2 buffs. One running visor. 2 rolls of RockTape. A bag of emergency gels and bloks. Scattered packets of BeetElite. A crumbly pack of Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts. And 3 handheld water bottles.

I took a step (or, crutched a step) back. I stared at the contents.

And I started crying.

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When it all comes crashing down

There are times in life when you feel like everything is FINALLY coming together, like life is finally making sense.  And you are happy. Really, truly happy and excited for what’s to come.

Unfortunately, it always seems like life has other plans for you. Maybe a reminder that “heeeey there, Amelia – you’re flying a bit too high – don’t be going all Icarus on me now. Remember that time you accidentally stepped on a  newt while running? Well karma wants to come back and kick you in the nuts right now.”

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Sean O’Brien 100k and the Golden Ticket

In November, I made a really bonehead move. After securing a Western States lottery ball with my Georgia Death Race (and first ultra) finish last spring, I completely failed to submit my qualifying time in the window provided. I could give excuses – it was the week before World’s Toughest Mudder, I had just moved to California and started a new job, etc. But in reality, I just blew it. I was angry at myself for a hot minute (though, the chances of making it in the lottery to the prestigious Western States was like……zero). But I quickly got over it, and moved on. Besides, I wasn’t READY for Western States, I told myself. Plenty of time for that, Amelia.

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Best comment of the day: “You have the largest arms of any runner I know.” Gee…thanks.

But when OCR season wound down in November, I was looking for a late-winter, early spring ultra – something to fill my “offseason.” Lo and behold, Sean O’Brien 100k appeared on ultra sign-up. And lo and behold, it was a Golden Ticket race (top two male and female finishers get an automatic entry into Western States). So in a state of irrationality, I thought “hell, if I’m such an idiot that I can’t even properly get into the lottery for Western States, maybe, just MAYBE, I’ll just run my way in.”

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Reflections: 2015 in Review


Is this the real life?

I found myself asking that question several times throughout 2015. Ok, maybe on an (almost) daily basis. (And then it’d be followed by hours of trying to get “Bohemian Rhapsody” out of my head)

cropped-IMG_0616.jpgBut, no, seriously – 2015 was a trip. Tumultuous at times, but so incredibly, freaking awesome at others. I constantly have to remind myself to take a look back at the last few years and really take in and embrace the sideways turn my life took back in 2011, and where it’s brought me to today – the highs, the lows, and sometimes, the utter ridiculousness.

But as the sport continues to grow and evolve (and actually be defined as “a sport”), I’d like to think I continue to grow and evolve with it. And I do so, in part, by taking stock of what has happened, and letting that help shape my future.

So what did 2015 teach me?

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World’s Toughest Mudder 2015: Revolution

For the fifth year, we came. We ran. We crawled. We swam. We jumped. We climbed.

We laughed. We cried.

We triumphed.

Over these past five WTM’s, the course has changed, the location and venue have changed, and the heart and soul of this race has changed. All in the best of ways.

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Coat #upgrade

Because we have grown. We have grown as a community. And we have grown in spirit and in love.

Oh, and we’ve totally grown in inappropriate butt touches as well.

[shit, I was supposed to save the sappy stuff for the end. Strike that. Reverse it. Let’s start over. ]

So…..we go to Vegas…

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The Book of Ultra: The Georgia Death Race

Obstacle racing has been fantastic. image3(1)

But last fall (fresh off of knee surgery), I was looking for something different. A new challenge, a new venture. Having made a brief foray into competitive CrossFit at Regionals last year, I realized that lifting heavy things for just a few minutes at a time probably wasn’t my wheelhouse. So when I sat down to think about what I love the MOST about OCR, I realized it’s running up and down mountains (or the Death Race, where all I wanted to do was hike up and down Bloodroot endlessly).

So why not try something where I’m doing just that? Let’s write a new chapter, a new book. And call it The Book of Ultra.

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On being broken, rehab and recovery

Before I begin, let me preface that I am not a medical professional and hold no qualifications or certifications (even meaningless ones where you pay one thousand bucks for a t-shirt), and the last anatomy class I took was a 3 week unit in 9th grade biology. I am, however, a lawyer, so I know I need to cover my ass because inevitably someone may rely on this shit. So what I’m saying here is solely based on my own personal experiences, observations, and the ever trust-worthy interwebs. Follow at your own risk.

Injury is an inevitable part of being an athlete. It feels kind of weird to say that, for two reasons: (1) I’ve never really considered myself “an athlete”, and (2) up until about a year ago, aside from a few broken bones growing up, I’ve never really been injured. Hurt, yes – but never a diagnosable injury that has taken me out of training for more than a week or two at a time.

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Coming Home: World’s Toughest Mudder 2014

There are times in life when things just feel right. When you know you are where you are supposed to be.

And as soon as I pulled up to the site of World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 in Lake Las Vegas last Friday, I knew it was one of those times.

Best. Obstacle. Ever.
Best. Obstacle. Ever.

Hugging old friends, meeting new ones, we all anxiously set up our pits areas, commenting on how the Vegas desert was the FURTHEST thing from Raceway Park in Jersey that we had all grown accustomed to over the past few years. Excitement ran high. We were ready to begin.

But 8 weeks ago, I didn’t think I would be there in Vegas, preparing to race. 8 weeks ago, I was mourning the loss of running the Spartan World Championship, and undergoing surgery on a bum knee. I had mentioned to my surgeon that I would love to make it back in time for a “24 hour race,” and he rolled his eyes.

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