Monday, October 20, 2014

Giveaway Winner #2!

Random.org picked #2
Emir! Dude! The universe thinks you need a new shirt, man! You were picked to receive a Zaps Threads original tee. Contact me now at zapmamak@gmail.com so I can get your info and send you a free shirt. Feel free to peruse the selection of awesome shirt designs on my site so you can let me know what exactly you want.

 






For the rest of you... thank you for entering my giveaway. I'm done with slacking lately, so expect more giveaways in the near future. And if you're a NorCal local or even a Born To Run amigo, stop by and see me at my booth at upcoming events. I'll keep you posted on those. Trust me. It'll be worth it. *wink*
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Free Tee Giveaway - Are you ready?

I'm giving away my shirt!
Wanna free shirt? Sure you do. Honestly, I've subjected you to enough of my flim flam these days you deserve a little something for free and it's seriously been FOREVER since my last Zaps Threads giveaway.

I just finished putting three of my latest Zaps Threads designs up on my Spreadshirt site - The Stupid Miles, the Ultra Warrior, and the Ultra Runner tee designs. If you want one of these, or any one of my myriads of other designs you see here you will have to enter this giveaway... NOW. Seriously, folks, those Stupid Miles tees have been stupidly popular and I would hate for you to miss out on getting one for free.


Zaps Threads Men's Ultra Warrior Tee
So if you haven't had a chance to buy a shirt from me in person at one of the events I vended at this year - and trust me, that once-in-a-lifetime awesome experience is much better than the online one, usually involving a free shot, free beer, a special cookie or just my charming personality which you should take full advantage of should you ever find yourself in close proximity to the Born To Run Ultras, She Rocks the Trails, or possibly Way Too Cool next year - then let's not forget that here's an opportunity to get your hands on my shirt for FREE. Ok maybe not *my* shirt cuz that could get me into trouble, but one of my exclusively designed ultra running tees that I've worked my ass off to conceive, design, and produce, mostly to keep myself sane. It's what I do. 

Zaps Threads Men's Ultra Runner Tee
So I won't keep you from your coffee, or work, or sleep, or whatever else you're multitasking with at the moment for much longer - and for pete's sake if you're driving put the fucking phone down!! Here are the details:








1) Go like Zaps Threads on Facebook (if you haven't already).

2) Tweet, Facebook, or use some other social network to share this giveaway and be sure to use any of the following hashtags : #stupidmiles, #ultrarunning, #giveaway, or #freeshirt in the post.

3) Come back here and leave a comment and tell me how you shared this giveaway.

4) Please don't double post. Lets keep it fair, folks.

That's it! Then check back here for the winners which I will pick in about a week or so. Good luck! 

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why Ultra Running is Just Like Sex...

Yeah. I'll bet you wanna know. I've been pondering lately on the similarities between ultra running and sex (Surprise! I'm back!) and with the help of a few friends and some informal brainstorming (which may or may not have included alcohol) I've summed it up here. Not a very meaningful post, but who needs meaningful when you've got entertaining, right? 

WHY ULTRA RUNNING IS JUST LIKE SEX
1. Duh. You have to like getting dirty. I mean REAL dirty.
2. If you start out too hard and too fast you're likely to blow your wad too quickly.
3. Sometimes you do it ALL NIGHT LONG.
4. Calf and foot cramps happen at the most inopportune times.
5. Sometimes it makes your ass hurt...
6. ...and your nipples bleed.
7. There's spandex involved.
8. Form is important.
9. It's often more fun in a group.
10. It's OK to take a break and eat a sandwich.
11. After you're done, you want a beer, a cigarette, a shower, and a nap (not necessarily in that order.)
12. Endurance makes all the difference.
13. You get really sweaty.
14. Your mouth feels dirty halfway through.
15. Mmmmmmm. What's that salty taste?
16. When it's really hot getting wet feels so good.
17. A shower afterward is optional.
18. We suck on nipples. A LOT.
19. Your pacer gets excited when they see you coming.
20. Sometimes it involves a monetary transaction.
21. Often times there are shots involved.
22. One word - Swag.
23. Sometimes your hallucinations look like Ron Jeremy.
24. Repetitive injuries can happen.
25. Lube can be very important.
26. Sometimes you just gotta do it alone.
27. You always end up with melted chocolate.
28. LICKIT!
Did I forget anything? Feel free to contribute. Come on! Lets make it an even 30!
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Is it Time To Throw a Party in Your Temple?

Glitter everywhere!
Summer is settling down now. Routine is resuming. I'm getting back to semi consistent training (although my gym schedule will be shuffling again soon) and finally, my mostly paleo diet is getting back on track. I launched myself off the wagon for a bit. You don't know this yet, but if you happen to run into me on the street, I will convince you that there is something nutritiously redeeming about corn-dogs and milkshakes... and lots and lots of chocolate chips. Oh. And beer and bagels. I could go on, but it would be embarrassing.

But we can't all be perfect all the time, can we?

And we shouldn't.

Sometimes you just gotta let go and have some fun. Your body may be a temple, but I recommend throwing a kick-ass party in there from time to time. In fact, temples are the BEST places to throw a kick-ass party - the acoustics are awesome. But, be sure to clean up the mess afterward, wipe the glitter off your body, and kick out any lingering party guests, cuz eventually you'll need to get things back in order.

So that's what I'm trying to do right now. 

I'm still finding glitter in unusual places. Oh well. It happens.

So now that normal life is resuming, I am starting to think about my t-shirt designs again and planning an upcoming giveaway of one of my Zaps Threads "Stupid Miles" t-shirts (I just sent in my order). I know it's been forever – which is why this needs to happen – but trust me. This IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE, so keep yourselves in the loop and keep checking in.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Pine To Palm 100 - From a Crew's Pespective and My Epiphany of Flow State

My friend and fellow Ranch athlete, Monica Moore
completing the Pine To Palm 100 Miler 2014.
I'm back from The Pine To Palm 100 after crewing and supporting my friend and fellow Ranch athlete, Monica Moore - who, by the way, completed that bitch of a course in sub 30 hours. So proud of her!! It was strange to revisit that course from a crew's view. I got to see a bit of that course again where it intersected the runners as I had to pass a few on my way up to the crew points. I was unexpectedly surprised by the climbs - climbs in which, as a runner who ran that course last year, I have little recollection of. But, the realization hit me... as a runner who has 100 miles ahead of her, I don't think about the climbing, or about mile 90 or mile 100 for that matter, my only focus is the next step with my right foot or my left. It's probably why I can't remember much of that part of the course and now I realize it's the only way I can cope with the distance. And in that way, running the super long distances is an exercise in being present in the moment. It was an experience in flow.

Yeah. That was sort of an epiphany.

I hear people say all the time that they won't sign up for a 100 miler (yet) because they can't even wrap their head around the distance. Frankly, I don't think its necessary (or even possible if you've never tackled that distance before) to wrap your head around the distance before you've ran it.

It's nearly impossible to wrap your head around that shit before you're in it - because you're not there. You're not standing on the start line waiting for the gun to go off.

There's something about being in that moment that allows your mind to break free from all its thoughts and be ready... for anything. Even a hundred miles. Because you have to. You've trained your ass to be ready so let go and just... be... in that moment.

And when that gun goes off, you're not thinking about mile 100 yet - you're just dealing with the next mile, or the first climb, or the next aid station or in my case at mile 53, putting one foot in front of the other and just "checking out" for a while cuz the next 18 miles is ALL UP and cuz I do that.

"Checking out," turning off my brain and letting the white noise take over is how I cope. Kinda like when you're driving on the freeway and go into zombie mode where you can't remember driving past that last exit. Yeah. That's a bad thing when driving - that lack of attention is likely to make you roadkill - but, in ultra running this is a great tool.


What is flow?

I would suspect that a lot of runners do this, but I'm not sure how aware we are of it. There's a concept emerging in the sports world and it's called "Flow." Its a term mainly used to describe an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. It's a peak state of awareness and experienced by many athletes who are involved in extreme sports where last minute decision making is vital. I would suspect that even in ultra running, many runners experience this state at some point. Many people who experience flow note a different sense of time - things either speed up or slow down and you lose track. I remember experiencing this during Pine to Palm last year. There were points where I felt like hours ticked by super fast and I had almost no recollection of the last few miles. It's a fascinating concept and I heard about it from my coach who sent me a link to a podcast that interviewed Steven Kotler, the author of the book "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance."

Apparently, there are many triggers to this state of consciousness: 4 psychological, 3 environmental, 9 social, and only 1 creative trigger.

I can say with almost no doubt that I have at one time or another (mostly while running my 100 miler) experienced all the psychological triggers of the flow state and I would suspect other runners have experienced these as well. In fact, my term "fiyah" came out of this exact concept although I hadn't heard of flow at the time. All of those psychological triggers are internal strategies that we, as runners, employ to drive our attention into the "now" so we are better able to cope with the challenge and circumstances that lay ahead. Ultra runners know that it's not about "if" something will go wrong during a 100 miles, it's more a question of "when" and how you will react when it does.

The four psychological strategies that create flow are:



Intensely Focused Attention - long uninterrupted periods of concentration often produce flow state. The state almost always requires solitude and focus.
Clear Goals - flow can't happen if your mind is wondering what to do next. When running long distances the only clear goal is the finish line or a specific time. That is what we are there for and usually, as runners, we have this already mapped out in our heads. Our goals are unwavering.

Immediate Feedback - many of us runners have learned to assess our bodies almost mechanically while running. It's like we touch a button and our minds run a program that says... "Have you eaten? Have you drank? Have you peed? Do you need electrolytes? Am I going too fast? Am I going too slow? Can I push my body harder?" We constantly assess our bodies internally and externally for signs of disruption and do our best to address those in real time. Sometimes we don't even notice that we are making tweaks because it's second nature. These rote adjustments only contribute to our natural ability to access the state of flow.

The Challenge/Skills Ratio - flow exists in this sweet spot between boredom and anxiety. If we are too bored we lose focus, if the challenge is too hard our brains exit the present moment and try and find an escape route. I found flow the most during my 100 miler at night. The course got pretty technical and it forced me into a heightened state of awareness, but it wasn't impossible so long as I stayed alert. After having over 70 miles on my legs and fighting the urge to sleep, fatigue coupled with questionable terrain is a challenge. But it's a challenge that can induce flow.
I recognize that as ultra runners we are rarely in a situation that requires immediate decision making unless we're bombing the downhills or face to face with a mountain lion, but, nonetheless, because of the distance many of us run I believe we have the ability to induce an altered state of consciousness and many of us do this out of pure necessity to cope with the challenge of the distance. 

So I'm deeply curious if any other ultra runners have ever experienced this heightened sense of awareness called flow. What is your experience and what do you think the triggers were?

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Summer of Volunteering

I'll admit I contribute a little
to the Tahoe wildlife
.
I spent a lot of time in my bikini this Summer. Mostly chilling on the lake, absorbing rays on the river, or acting like wildlife. Yeah. Cuz I do that. If I wasn't chilling in the water or by the water I was volunteering my time at races. In July I got a chance to see what the Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race was all about. Taking place in in Downieville, CA, this race is known for its party atmosphere and hardcore downhill racing. Mountain Bikers from all over the world come to California to ride this race - and although the format of the racing has changed a bit from year's past this race still seems as popular as ever.

And if you've ever experienced a small mountain town atmosphere you'll understand the lure and magic of Downieville. An unforgettable experience - especially for my kids who got to experience freedom on a whole new level. My oldest even volunteered for the race helping out in the bike shop, spraying water on the riders at the top of the mountain, and doing odd jobs.

I was an official pacer for Maggie at the
Fat Dog 120 miler. So proud of Mags for
completing this beautiful, but brutal course!
He finally discovered how fun volunteering can be. Seems this summer has been all about volunteering and helping in the Cavender household.

For me, especially, I've been volunteering my time all over the place. In addition to crewing/pacing my friend Maggie for The Fat Dog 120 miler in Canada this year, I ended up volunteering at one of the aid stations while waiting for her to arrive. Seriously. It's impossible for me to sit still.

I make a wicked quesadilla.
And I plan on continuing this trend well into the summer's end by crewing/pacing my friend, Monica, at Pine to Palm 100 in a few weeks. Yup. I'll be revisiting that course and am looking forward to seeing it from a different perspective - maybe not so much from my "pain cave" perspective this time.

And next weekend I'm heading up to Tahoe again to volunteer at the Spooner Aid Station (mile 120) for the inaugural Tahoe 200 miler - a race I considered signing up for but was WAY out of my budget. I'll be spending a few days up there with my friend Maggie and some other awesome volunteers. We plan on making this station a fun one for the runners - I plan on contributing to the ambience with my Zaps Threads disco ball and other party lights and am looking forward to seeing some familiar runners come through and meeting others I've only connected with on facebook (You know who you are *wink.* I promise to have cold beer waiting for you so hollar for me!)

So my schedule is still in busy mode for the next month or so, but once things calm down I will sit down and plan my next adventure - hoping to somehow work the Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon down in the Copper Canyons of Mexico into my race schedule for next year...

Corre Libre, amigos!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sorry for the Temporary Silence... I've Been Running and Living Life!

Sorry to be such a boring blogger lately, but life (and running) has truly gotten away from me lately. I've had so many adventures, met so many people, been to some stellar places, and have been living life in the fast lane (well... the carpool lane mostly since 17 hours of driving just sucks.) I've been meaning to post about my latest achievement at the Speedgoat 50k and how my training just rocked... but I've been traveling, camping, volunteering, pacing and crewing since I completed that mother of a race in July. Facebook has been my surrogate blog lately, and although it doesn't really give me a space to properly reflect on some of the amazing experiences I've had, it does allow me to do some much needed purging of photos from my phone and jot down a few notes.

So with that, you should already know I FINISHED SPEEDGOAT 50k - The hardest 50k in the U.S!! I completed that fucker in 12:04:53 and although it wasn't an easy race by any means I finished happy, strong, unbroken, and with very little pain except for a few twinges from my neuroma in my right foot.

Yay me!

I attribute my unbroken-ness to the fact that the race was way more of a power hike than anything. Ridiculous and unrunnable for most of the 32+ miles (there was a "surprise" climb at the end) this race was NO JOKE. Karl Meltzer is one sadistic cray cray. Not only was this race a physical challenge - one which my training was a great match for - but it was a total mental mindfuck. The mental mind fucking beginning even before the race started with the men's line for the bathroom. It was seriously two miles long. Wtf? Really? Who ever heard of there being a line for the men's room? So glad I was a woman who had to pee at this race and not a man who had to take care of #2. Whew!

Taking care of "business" was easy for us girls.
Peeing taken care of it was time for our race tattoos! ElevationTat created free tattoos for this race which all the DirtyGirlz sported.
Missing our DirtyGirl Charito here!
She must have accidentally gotten in the boy's line for the bathroom. Oops.

A group shot later we were on our way...
All us goats, speedy and otherwise, posing before the fun starts.
I think its important to mention our buddy, Ben, here, posing on the far right in the red shirt. This dude is WAY impressive. Don't let his arms-in-his-shirt-like-he's-a-five-year-old-making-armpit-farting-noises fool you. Dude is a mother fucking badass runner. Originally signed up to run the race, he made the decision to bail out due to some kind of achilles injury/aggravation. He wanted to be smart and run another day. His intention was to be our cheering section - and drink beer - but his running addiction got the best of him the morning of the race when he decided at the last minute that basketball shorts and a Dasani water bottle make a fine substitute for running gear when considering to run one of the hardest 50ks in the U.S. He's a super chill dude and his decision was super casual - kinda like his outfit of choice - so he nonchalantly stepped up to the start line the morning of the race with the rest of us.

We were happy he was there and were hoping his achilles would survive.

So the race started and we were on our way to climb up to almost 11,000 ft elevation.
Kristina on her way to Hidden Peak.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
Running on snow.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)

My biggest concern for this race was my nemesis time cutoffs. I had to be at Larry's Hole (the 2nd lap and mile 20ish) by 2pm and at Tunnel A.S. (mile 22ish) by no later than 3:15pm. Since my track record for meeting time cutoffs is stressful to say the least I wanted this to be the race where I wasn't pushing to meet those times. I figured since most races I finish with a little gas left in the tank its ridiculous that I wouldn't be able to make it to these spots on time. So I had planned to be at the top of the first peak (11,000ft) by roughly around 9:05am.

I made it there by around 9:15ish or so. I was pretty close to my target. Yay!

But the descents off of that peak were not only steep, but full of loose rock and skree so I took it easy.

And then there were baby skulls.

WTF? Who runs on this shit??!! The section right before Pacific Mine A.S. drove me insane. We must have ran on large round rocks for a couple miles before ever seeing real trail.

Some seriously unrunnable shit.
So needless to say, I took it easy... again. Just so I wouldn't roll my ankle which was recovering from my wild rolling in desolation wilderness a couple weeks prior to this race.

I saw Kristina at the Pacific Mine A.S., we got popsicles and chatted as we headed out. I think we had a couple of hours before we needed to be at our first cutoff point. It was a long haul up. Eventually, I lost track of Kristina and continued UP, UP, UP...

Hmmm. This doesn't look that much different
than the baby skull section except that it's all uphill.
I made the cutoff with about an hour to spare. My legs felt great, my lungs had adapted to the elevation and I was happy with how my whole body felt. No ITB issues, no hip pain, but my feet were sore. I had worn my new Merrell Mix Masters which were a lighter shoe than my previous Mix Masters and I felt a lot of the terrain through my shoe. But, honestly, the Mix Masters are the only shoe I've ever worn that feel comfortable on my feet the minute I put them on. It seems I don't need to break those shoes in at all. They're just a wide comfy shoe for me, so I was pretty happy about that.

So I continued on through the Aid Station at Larry's Hole. I didn't need much... just water and I was on my way. I ascended up the hill where I heard wooping and hollaring not more than a few hundred yards up from me.

Hmmmm... someone was really excited up there. Must be a good view or something. Who knows?

Then I hear the "Woohoo!!" again followed by what sounded like my name. Someone knows me up there.

I look up to see my friend, Maggie, half bent over catching her breath. I FOUND MAGGIE!! Last time I saw her was shortly after the start on our way up the first ascent. It was awesome to run into friends on the trail - first Kristina and now Maggie. We all ran our own race, and it got kinda lonely on the long and mental parts, but here she was and I had caught up to her.

And where ever there's Maggie, there's a party so this made me happy.

We continued our climb together ascending the side of Mt. Baldy which literally felt like we should have been on belay. No trail. Just footholds and a few sparse shrubs to grab onto every few feet or so. It's like Karl was running down the fireroad scouting the course for this race, looked up and said "This will totally fuck with them." 

And it did.

If you could balance yourself enough to turn around and look at the view it was an absolute treat. A stunning view that usually included a runner keeled over, hacking for breath, but nonetheless spectacular. 

Amazing views!!

This dude was just "taking a break"
So me and Maggie made it to the top of Mt. Baldy together and within plenty of time to reach the next cutoff which was just a couple miles away.

Yay! We made it!
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)

More selfies - cuz we had a little time to spare.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
And then it was off to Tunnel Aid Station to meet our last time cutoff before the finish.

Where oddly enough we run into some old characters from a previous blog post. Remember this guy?

Mags trying to impress race director Matt Gunn
with her banana at the Zion 100 Miler
Well... I got a Matt Gunn shower at the Tunnel Aid Station.
Oh jeez that's cold water!!
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
Breathe!
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)

I think I was trying to catch my breath in that photo, or move my lips, or about to fall over. Whatever it was, Matt was waiting for it like he was about to initiate CPR or something. I think my body went into shock.

After the initial cold my body recovered long enough for...

Fireball shots and a popsicle!! Awwwyeah!

Meeting Dennis Ahern
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
Have you ever dipped a popsicle in a shot of fireball and ate it? It's wicked tasty after about 20 long, hard miles.

The dude who we drank shots with is another character from the Zion 100 Epic Adventure. Dennis Ahern. One of the respondents to Maggie's post on facebook about how disappointed she was going to be about finishing a 100 mile race that's only 99.86 miles long. The banter went back and forth between Maggie and the characters in that thread and I don't think anyone on there thought she would finish the Zion 100. She did. This dude remembered Maggie and her confident and sometimes flippant remarks. It was a fun and unexpected introduction for me.
A shot at the top!
(Photo courtesy of Kelly Maggie Akyuz)
But it was time to get our asses in gear and head over to the last peak - or so we thought. We climbed the ridgeline over to Hidden Peak again and made our way to the bottom.

Another amazing view!
And them back up... again. Karl, The Sadist, had apparently thrown in a "bonus climb" at the end. Not much, but enough to make you go "WTF!!! That's not on the elevation profile!!"

This is what we looked like on those last climbs...
I look like a zombie while Mags is dreaming of butterflies.
But we finished. And it was a hell of a race to the end. Not sure I want to do it again, but maybe if I had some good company. I was out on the trail for little over 12 hours. I may as well have done a 100k that day. All I kept thinking about was this...

Our only form of entertainment back at the condo.
And Ben, Paulo, and Billy all finished within about 8 hours. Speedgoats for sure.
Now back to our regular programming of licking salt in the desert and drinking margaritas...

Salt Flat Margaritas. Awwwyeah.
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