Favorite Lower Body Stretches for Runners and Crossfitters

Stretching is probably one of the most important, but most overlooked areas when it comes to working out. I am definitely guilty of not stretching enough, however have been forcing myself to become better at it. As runners, we are doing thousands of repetitive foot strikes each time we run, which can cause muscles to tighten up and lead to injury if we aren’t careful. In Crossfit, it is not only important to stretch for injury prevention as well, but also if we aren’t flexible enough, it is going to be very difficult to do a lot of movements (squat, snatch, clean, etc…). Below I listed my favorite lower body stretches that I try and do every day or every other day. In each stretch, I like to do the PNF technique, which stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and has been studied to be the most effective type of stretching. During PNF stretching, there is a contract phase where the opposing muscle to being stretched is being contracted to allow the target muscle to relax. Then in the second phase of the stretch, the muscles relax and can be stretched into a new range of motion. A muscle usually takes around 2 minutes to relax so try and contract for 5 seconds as hard as possible and relax into the new range of motion for 10 seconds (never coming out of that new end range of motion) for a series of 8 times, which will roughly come out to be 2 minutes. Hope that this helps!

Couch Stretch:

As runners (and Crossfitters) we tend to get super tight hips.. especially for those of you that tend to over stride like I do. The couch stretch has two parts, the first part of the stretch is meant to help loosen up the hip flexors. As shown in my picture, get into a kneeling lunge position against a wall with your back knee as close to the wall as you can handle, while keeping hips square to the floor and hands flat. You can do PNF style stretching by contracting or tightening your back quad and glute and driving your knee to the floor as hard as you can for 5 seconds. Then exhale and relax and let your hips sink closer to the floor for 10 seconds. Try this for a series of 8 times or about 2 minutes. Remember, once you find that new range of motion in the stretch during the relax phase, never come out of it and do the next contraction from that spot.

In the second part of the couch stretch, the hips are opened to then stretch the quads. Make sure to keep the rips pulled down and have the stomach tight to prevent the back from arching. Then, contract the quad and glute for 5 seconds as hard as possible and relax into the new range of motion for 10 seconds by letting the hips sink forward and drawing the torso more upright. for a series of 2 minutes each side.

Banded Hamstring Stretch:

Hamstrings are another area that are very tight on most runners. When hamstrings are tight, they can not only lead to an easier pulled hamstring muscle, which unfortunately has happened to some of our CF athletes during shorter sprints, but also can be a big contributor to low back pain as well. This hamstring stretch can also be done with the help of a friend, but if you don’t have a friend, then a band works great. It is done by lying on your back and looping the arch of the foot through the band. With your leg as straight as possible, use the band to pull the leg up until you feel a stretch through the hamstring. Incorporate PNF stretching by taking a deep breath, contracting the quad and trying to drive the leg forward, however at the same time resisting the leg from moving by pulling on the band. Then, exhale and relax and let the leg draw in closer to you. Repeat for 2 minutes.

You can also get more medial hamstring by letting the leg drop off to the side.

Ankles/Calves:

Tight ankles and calves can also lead to some bad injuries if left untreated, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, which can be really stubborn injuries and take a while to go away. For Crossfitters, having tight ankles can make it really hard to get down low in squats. I like to start off by loosening the surrounding muscle with a lacrosse ball by sitting with one leg bent and a lacrosse ball underneath my shin and just rolling around on it for a few minutes, starting down towards my ankle and working my way up towards my knee. Then I will switch and loosen up the opposite side by just smashing the ball on the other part of my shin with my hand. If that doesn’t get in deep enough you can also put 2.5 or 5# plates at each end of a barbell, so it is just slightly lifted off the floor, and roll your calves and anterior/posterior tibialis (muscles that make up your shins) around on that… but it is pretty gnarly.

Once the muscles are a bit loosened up, then do your static stretching. I also have 2 variations that I like to do for the ankles/calves as well. In this first stretch, which will target more of the calf, I prop my foot as straight up against a wall as possible and keep my leg straight. I then contract by pressing my foot as hard as I can against the wall, and then relax by leaning in further towards the wall.

In the second stretch, I slightly bend my front knee, which will target more of my ankle, achilles and heel cord. When I contract in this stretch I still drive my foot in against the wall, but when I relax, I lean in further towards the wall as well as drive me knee outward.

Adductors (Inner Thighs):

This stretch looks kind of funny, but is a great one for the inner thighs, which tend to get overworked when running and squatting. This stretch can be done by laying with a band under your hips and your butt up as close to the wall as you can. Then loop each end of the band around the knee. During the contract phase of the stretch, try and squeeze legs together, but without letting them buckle in. Then in the relax phase, let the knees fall out to the sides more. This stretch is also really good too without the band. The set up is the same, however the legs can be straight and allow them to fall out to the sides.

Glute/IT Band:

The IT band is a really difficult area to stretch. However, if it gets too tight it can cause hip pain as well as knee pain and can definitely take you out of a race if it gets bad. Start out by rolling out the area with a foam roller or lacrosse ball or better yet get a friend to kneel on it. This can help get any knots or trigger points out of it or help unglue it from the quad. Then after its loosened up a bit, I like to do this stretch. To do it, get both legs to make a 90 degree angle and then while keeping your ribs down and back flat, reach your stomach down over your leg. Contract by driving the knee that is out in front into the ground for 5 seconds, then relax by exhaling and then sinking your stomach/chest in further towards the leg.

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6 weeks to go!

So it has now come down to about 6 weeks until Badwater. This means I have about 4 weeks to actually train hard so that I can have a nice two week taper before the race. To be honest, the past two weeks have been a bit rough for me and caused me to really stress out over it last week. After running the Bishop 50 mile, my foot kind of started hurting again. All of the soft sand on the course probably wasn’t the best thing for it since it was a pretty unstable surface. Then to top it off I got the flu. At that point, however, I wasn’t too worried. I figured that a few days off after a hard 50 mile would probably do me some good and would allow my foot to calm down. Mark and I also had plans to go up to Western States Training Camp the following weekend, where we would be running 70 miles over 3 days and so I would still get some kick ass training in over the weekend.

Then Friday came and as Mark and I drove up to camp I felt horrible. I slept in the car almost the whole 7 hour drive up, but was still trying to be optimistic about being able to run the next day. I had been sick since Monday, so figured that by Saturday it just HAD to be gone! So I woke up Saturday morning at 4am and got myself all ready for a 32 mile run. I felt really groggy and pretty crappy, but figured it was from waking up at FOUR IN THE MORNING! However, during the drive to the start at Foresthill, I wasn’t feeling any better and running 30+ miles sounded absolutely horrible. I have done the run 3 or so times before and knew that it wasn’t an easy 30 miles either and just didn’t think that I had the energy to even make it up Devil’s Thumb (a 1.5ish mile hill that is literally straight up) and so I ended up just dropping Mark off and went back to the hotel to sleep. A couple hours later I woke back up, ate breakfast and watched who knows how many episodes of Arrested Development on TV. Around noon though I just couldn’t take it anymore. We had driven SEVEN HOURS to do this totally awesome run on the Western States course and it was a gorgeous day out and there I was sitting in the hotel watching TV. How lame is that!? So even though I still felt shitty, I put my running clothes on (well actually they were still on from the morning) and headed back up to Foresthill. The run was point to point and so runners were bussed up the mountain to Robinson’s Flat (Mile 30sih during the Western States run) and then would finish back at Foresthill. I figured Mark should only have a few miles left and so I decided to head up the trail in the opposite direction the the runners were coming from until I found him and then would turn back and run it in with him. So, Im not sure how one manages to get lost on the Western States trail (its a very well marked trail with signs all over the place!) but of course Mark managed to get lost. However the second that he got back on course was when I had caught up to him. Had I had been there 30 seconds earlier, I would have not seen him.. weird. Luckily I found him and we ran/hiked the last few miles in together. So I got in about 7 miles for the day. Even though it was something, it wasn’t what I had wanted to do at all and I was jealous that Mark got to run 30+ miles and I didn’t 😦

Sunday morning I woke up feeling a lot better, with only a stuffy nose remaining and so was determined to run the 19 miles that day. My legs felt really strong and 19 miles felt like a piece of cake, but my dang foot hurt! Seriously, so annoying. By Monday (memorial day), Mark was trashed and I didn’t want to aggravate my foot anymore, so we ended up skipping the last day and headed back home.

On Tuesday, my foot was still bad and my positive attitude was starting to fade. Luckily though, my massage therapist, Jess, was able to see me and do some graston work on it to help loosen it up and break up some of the scar tissue, which was probably a result from the surgery I just had on it. So I missed another day of running and did some CrossFit with lots of squats instead.

Wednesday, foot still hurt. Felt slightly better, but not good enough to run. I originally had wanted to do 30-35 miles of hills on the bike, but my legs were so torn up from squatting the day before, so I cut my ride down to 22 miles and even that wiped me out.

Thursday, again foot was not good enough to run and so I did intervals on the rower and still had myself a good workout, but it wasn’t putting in miles on the road like I knew I should be doing at this point with the race less than two months away. UGH!

Friday, came the day that I lost it. I went to physical therapy and on the drive home just started crying. I felt like I hadn’t gotten in any long workouts in 2 whole (even though I had just done a 50 mile and 19 miles the following weekend… sometimes I can be a bit overdramatic and emotional maybe?) and barely any running on the road like I should have been doing. Road running is really critical to do before a race like Badwater. You’re legs take so much of a beating from all the pounding on the road compared to trail. I was majorly stressed out about how I was going to still get in good enough shape to run BADWATER, when my foot was still hurting and I couldn’t even run. So I went home and laid on the couch and watched a movie feeling sorry for myself, but of course texting with Traci who always knows exactly what to say to cheer me up. So after talking with her and calming down a bit, I decided to get my ass to the gym and still get a good workout in. Of course, workouts when you’re pissed off are always the best, and this one was no different. I did intervals on the airdyne bike and then “The Seven,” which is a CF workout that consists of 7 rounds of 7 reps of 7 different movements. I was pretty much dead by round 3 but persevered on to finish all the damn rounds.

On Saturday, I woke up and started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. My foot actually didn’t hurt THAT bad! I was scheduled to a long run on Sunday and still wanted to possibly make that happen and so I decided to go out on a run to test out my foot and see if it would hold up for the next day. It ached a little for the first couple miles, but once I got going I didn’t notice it all that much. I ended up doing 8 miles with a good hill climb that I was able to run hard all the way up. This put me in a MUCH better mood and allowed me to chill out a little bit. THANK GOODNESS!

On Sunday, my goal was to get in 4 hours or 25 miles, whichever came first and was just praying to God that my foot would hold up. I seriously have the best mom ever and she agreed to crew me on my run through Santiago Canyon, my favorite local spot to get some good, hard road miles in. The canyon is 12-13 miles long, with very minimal flat miles. I would start at one end and run to the other end and see how far I could make it back. Now there are some pretty good grades on this road and it always kicks my butt, but despite not getting in too much road training I felt phenomenal. Like the best I had ever felt on that course. I was having a glorious time running and had a great time with my mom. She would leap frog ahead of me about 2-3 miles and then I would spend a few moments with her while I drank some Vitargo and Mila and she refilled my water bottle and cooled me off with a wet towel. The whole time I was moving at a pretty good pace, which didn’t even feel that hard and didn’t even start to fatigue at all until about 20 miles in. I have also been taking this new supplement called, Extreme Endurance, and I think that has been helping a little with my endurance as well and combined with Vitargo… how could I not feel great?! In 4 hours I hit 23.5 miles and it was plenty good enough for me and so we called it a day. The run was a HUGE confidence booster. Ok, maybe I still am in shape and maybe rest DOES do some good sometimes (who woulda thought?) My foot ached a little but felt way better than it did the weekend before. A couple more sessions of acupuncture, massage and PT and I know things will be just fine.

So now comes the heat training in June. Mark and I have plans to run in Palm Springs this weekend and will be going to Cabo is just about 2 weeks for some heat training as well… Ugh, what a rough life! Maybe I’ll even get in the sauna a few times, but I would rather just go out and run in the heat. Every time I go in the sauna its filled with old, fat, hairy dudes and it grosses me out. Plus, I really just think its more efficient training to just run when its really damn hot out. Ha, random but I remember even as a high schooler wanting to go run outside when it was like 90-100 degrees out and my mom telling me no. I guess that back fired on her as now she gets to be there with me when Im running in that kind of heat! June is also time to start getting all my stuff together for the race. I got a HUGE shipment of socks and gear from Injinji this week for my crew and myself for the race (thank you!) and wanna start thinking about making some shirts for my team. I want like a cool team name for our shirts.. any suggestions??!

So point of today’s blog… if I start freaking the f**k out over the next month, remind me to breathe, calm down and to not be such a nut job. Everything will be ok! So let the countdown begin… 6 weeks! Ahh so excited for this again!!!

Brazil 135 Recap

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.” – Pierre de Coubertin

“Simply speaking, “fighting well” is nothing more than hanging in there, never giving up, never saying, “I quit.” No matter what. That’s what Coubertin was trying to get across- both by what he said and by what he did. That is the Olympic ideal. No quitters. When the going gets tough, the tough don’t go home. It’s easy to stay on the course and fight when you’re on the top, when you’re winning, but what of those times when everywhere you look you see nothing but hurdles and obstacles, blockages and barricades, detours and swamps? That is when it is hard to continue- when the challenge is to hang on to amid defeat, disappointment and despair, far from the adoring crowd- and that is when you find out who you are.”
– Henry Marsh, Olympic Steeplechaser

On my flight home from Brazil, I was reading a book that was lent to me by one of the members at my crossfit called, Awaken the Olympian Within, which is a compilation of short stories by various Olympic athletes. The quote above by runner, Henry Marsh about his interpretation of the Olympic creed really hit home for me as I read it. Sometimes races aren’t always about winning, but more about digging deep and learning something about yourself. Sometimes the races that don’t always go as planned or where you suffer the most are considered even greater victories.

The Brazil 135 was harder than I ever could have imagined. During the 30,000ft of climbing and 28,000 ft of descending along the Caminho da Fe, I went though more highs and lows than any other race. At some points I questioned whether I had it in me to continue on, but in the end I finished. It was a slower time than I had anticipated, but I am proud of it.

Here is my recap of my race, however I don’t think that anyone will truly be able to grasp what a difficult, magical, spiritual and beautiful this race is without having participated in the race in some way themselves. Here we go…

Pre Race:
On Wednesday, Jan 16th, Mark, Traci (who would be crewing me) and I flew into Sao Paulo airport where we were picked up by one of my other crew members, Mauricio. From the airport we made the three hour drive down to the city of the race start in Sao Boa da Joao Vista. Just from that car ride down, I knew that the trip was going to be a blast. Everyone just clicked and we talked non stop the majority of the way down.

When we arrived in the city, we checked into our hotel and then met up with one of Mark’s crew members, Adriana, and then the five of us headed out to the grocery store to pick up some food and water that were needed for the race. After shopping, we stopped at a restaurant to have some dinner and drinks and also met up with one of Mark’s other crew members, Udo, and his friend, Jose. While Mark and his crew seemed to be having a super intense conversation about the upcoming race, Mauricio, Traci and I were feeling the Caprihinias that we were drinking and laughing and bullshitting around, having a grand time.

Then the fun began.

I had been complaining about my pinky finger all day, which at this point had swelled up to the size of my thumb and looked really infected. Traci and I thought it would be a good idea to try and perform surgery on my finger by poking at it with a needle to get some of the fluid out. However, nothing was really coming out (we were afraid to poke too hard), but luckily Mauricio had a doctor friend who we sent a picture of my finger to. He told Mauricio it looked like a staph infection and so we googled pictures of a staph infected finger and mine looked exactly like the pictures, only worse. Mauricio’s friend gave us the name of some antibiotics to try and get at the pharmacy, however the pharmacy wouldn’t give us them without a prescription.

So the next step was to go to the ER. Thankfully we were in a small enough town where the waiting room wasn’t filled with too many people and we waited maybe only a half hour until we were called into a room. It was a little bit sketchy… the room was very bare with only a metal table, a rusty stool and a metal counter with some supplies on it. It wasn’t the most comforting room, but I was still feeling the caprihinas a bit, which made me a bit more brave.

After a few minutes of waiting in the room, the doctor came into the room and informed us that he was going to drain my finger and that it was going to hurt. At least he was honest… First though he gave me about 4 shots of anesthesia in the area surrounding the infection, which did not feel pleasant AT ALL! He then pressed on the infected area and asked if I could feel it, in which I yelled, “YES!” Apparently he didn’t care though because he stuck a needle right into my finger and then a bunch of pus and blood came out. It was pretty gross. That wasn’t the end of it though. The nurse then proceeded to squeeze my finger from the bottom up, like a tube of toothpaste, trying to get out the rest of the infection. She did that about 5 times and it hurt like hell, but I laughed through it and took it like a champ 🙂 I was prescribed some pain meds and some antibiotics and then was set to leave. It was quite the night. Sorry Mom for scaring you!

The next morning we all met for breakfast and that was when my final crew member, Jose, joined up with us. I got really lucky with having Jose on my crew because he had run the race twice himself and also had crewed two times before as well. Jose did not speak a word of English, but thankfully we had Mauricio to translate. At this point I would have never guessed that only a day later we would be having full on conversations with our own made up language which combined English, Portuguese, Spanish and hand motions. Then we headed to the packet pick up and race briefing, dinner and then finished getting everything packed and prepared for the race the following day.

The Race:

The race started in the city square of Sao Boa da Joao Vista. The skies were clear and it looked as if we were going to be in for some beautiful, but rather hot weather during the race. Mark and I were both a bit stressed and bickered at each other over some luggage that he was going to have to leave in my crew vehicle, but we kissed and made up before the start. As we gathered around the start line, we were joined by some spectators, some Brazilian reporters and a band even played some traditional music. At 8 am sharp, the start gun went off and we headed out on our 135 mile journey on the Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith) towards the city of Parasopolis.

This is when the first strange event of the race took place… Mark’s crew had rented a Jeep to use as their crew vehicle during the race. The Jeep drove to the start of the race perfectly fine, but the second that the gun went off and Adriana tried to start the car, it wouldn’t work. Coincidentally, Adriana’s friend happened to be at the start watching the race and when he saw her having car trouble, he simply handed over the keys of his car and told her to take the car and he would see her in two days. Had her friend not have helped out, Mark would have been without a crew vehicle and unable to race.

Anyways, we were allowed to have pacers during the whole race (unlike Badwater, which we could pick up after 17 miles), however I chose to run the first 5k without one. I wanted the alone time to soak up the fact that I was actually running the race and to clear my mind and mentally prepare myself for the next two days ahead of me. Once we were out of the city and I caught glimpse of the path that we would be running on, I was in heaven. The Brazilian countryside was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The grass was so GREEN! And the sky was so BLUE. I think I was grinning ear to ear for the first few miles, just so happy to be surrounded by so much beauty!

After about 5k, Traci joined me as my first pacer. For the majority of the race my crew vehicle, Mauricio’s truck,  would be able to leap frog a couple of kilometers ahead of me and crew me right off the trail, but vehicles were not allowed on the path for the next 14k so Traci and I geared up to run for a couple hours alone.

I was really excited to have Traci on this section with me because it was the only section with single track trail during the whole race and since she’s from Florida, she doesn’t get to run a whole lot of single track trails. Part of the single track was so muddy that we had to grab on to tree branches and roots so we wouldn’t slip and fall. For a lot of people this would probably be their worst nightmare during a race, but we laughed the whole time and were having so much fun. Forget the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, this was a REAL mud run!

At 19k into the race, we reached our first city, Aguas da Prata. It was fairly warm out by then so I sat for just a couple minutes with a Chill Towel around my neck and drank a bottle of Vitargo. The race doctor also saw me and made sure that my finger was doing alright and then I took off with Jose as my pacer this time.

It would be a big stretch until the next city of Andradas, which was 63k into the race. I don’t remember this section too well, except that we had some nice climbing and it was hot out and I think that I flashed a couple of crew cars accidentally when I was changing a pair of shorts. I really don’t even remember coming into the city of Andradas either.

Sometime after we passed the city however, Traci and Jose switched as pacers. At that point we only had about 6k until the next big city, which I was really looking forward to getting to because Mauricio told me that he would have some hot food waiting for me when we got there. Much of that 6k was downhill though and was already starting to take a toll on my right IT band and knee. We would run a good portion of it, but had to stop every now and then and take a walk break.

When we reached Serra dos Limas, 77k into the race, it was approaching late afternoon and the perfect time for a meal. Traci and I followed the yellow arrows, which marked the route of the Caminho da Fe, through the city and eventually found Mauricio and Jose parked on the side of the street. They pulled up a chair for me and I sat and ate a giant plate of rice, beans and chicken. I had planned on eating just half or so and saving the rest for later, but once I started eating, I didn’t stop until I ate the whole thing. I felt as if I hadn’t eaten for days! Mauricio and Traci made fun of me as I ate because I was shoveling rice into my mouth and half of it would just drop back into the plate. I was starving and my manners did not exist. As I ate, Traci read a letter that my dad wrote for me with some words of inspiration.

After I finished my meal, Jose and I walked the rest of the way out of the city to where the path started up again, but I just wasn’t feeling right. I had hit a low spot and was just still so depleted from all of the climbing we had done that day, along with the heat. I was worn out and so right before we got on the path I told my crew I just needed to sit for 20 minutes and close my eyes. Although my body was extremely exhausted, I never fell asleep. My mind was still going a million miles a minute and so I was having a difficult time relaxing.

Fortunately, when my 20 minutes was up, I did feel a bit more rejuvenated. This time Mauricio set out to pace me for a little while and as soon as we got moving, I actually felt really good! My energy was coming back and it helped that the sun was now starting to set a bit. Mauricio also helped to keep me entertained with his adventure racing stories from all over the world.

Along the way we passed another runner and his crew vehicle and they asked me if I wanted a Coke. It was the best Coke I had ever had in my life. You would have thought that I had never had one before! So that perked me up a bit more and we were able to trudge on at a decent speed. Traci and Jose were also cracking us up because whenever they stopped to give us aid, they would get out of the truck bickering like a married couple, which was quite entertaining when Traci didn’t speak any Portuguese and Jose didn’t speak a word of English!

Within a couple more kilometers, we reached another massive climb. Since we were nervous about the truck making it up the hill, Mauricio took over as driver and Jose paced me again. At this point it was now approaching darkness, which was kind of nice because it didn’t allow me to see how much more climbing I had ahead. The next several kilometers were also a blur, but I do remember moving at a good pace through the night. I had my music on and Jose had his on as well and we were able to make up a lot of time that was lost during the day due to heat.

At the 100k checkpoint, we reached a very small town, which hosted only a few houses, however one of them was cooking pasta for the runners. In addition, they had extra beds and some showers for runners to get cleaned up at and to rest for a while (similar to Panamint Springs in Badwater). I was still pretty full from my meal a few hours before and opted out of staying to rest in the town. It seemed at this point that the Caminho da Fe was starting to wear down several runners, however I felt good and it gave me even more energy to know that I was feeling better than a lot of other runners at this point.

I think after we left the town was when Traci started to run with me again. We were cruising at a good pace for a long time until unfortunately Traci twisted her ankle on the trail. At this moment we knew that the Caminho da Fe was in fact looking out for us and this was when weird event #2 happened… within 5 seconds another runner and his crew were behind us, even though we had not seen anyone for a very long time, hours even. Coincidentally, a member of his crew was a physical therapist and furthermore a kinesio taping specialist, who was able to take care of Traci’s foot within moments of the injury. If it wasn’t for them, Traci’s foot could have been much worse.

While Traci got help and got a ride with the other runner’s crew, I ran ahead into the next town, which was less than 10 minutes away, to explain to Mauricio and Jose what had happened. I then took another very short break and ate some Brazilian chocolate and drank some more Coke and then headed back out on the trail with Jose.

By this time it was the middle of the night, but the caffeine from the Coke and the chocolate gave me just enough boost to keep me fairly alert and awake until we reached the next city. When we reached the city, we were the only ones there, which was kind of a cool feeing. We met up with Traci and Mauricio in front of one of the most ornate churches I have ever seen. My team and I sat in front of the church for a few moments while I drank some Vitargo and Traci read me some more inspirational letters, this time from my friends at my crossfit gym.

Jose continued to run with me during the next section of the path, which had some more climbs. During this section we saw a few wild horses out on the path, which spooked me a little. I was afraid to run by them and scare them, but Jose started to yell at them and scared them off. This section was short, maybe only 6-7k until we reached the checkpoint at the next city, but it seemed to take forever. I was started to fade a little bit and my knee was really aching from all of the ups and downs. When we reached the city, we had a couple of kilometers to run through it until we reached the timing station and Mauricio took over for Jose for the small section.

The timing station was located at the very last stop in the town, which was a gas station/ hotel. I originally was going to try and get through this point without stopping for too long, however when I found out that there was a shower I could use, I decided it would be worth it to clean up a little and switch into some fresh clothes. Mauricio also bought us some chicken pot pie from the gas station, which should have been a red flag right there since it was now night and the pie had probably been sitting out all day (also we had a hard time telling if it was chicken or tuna), but we ate it anyways (except for Jose who is a vegetarian).

The next stretch of the race would be one of my toughest to get through. Maybe not in terms of how much elevation we had to climb and descend (although it was still a lot) but physically I felt like shit and mentally I was broken down.

The sun came up not too long after we left the gas station and I was moving at a snails pace. I had no energy left in me at all, I felt like a zombie and my knee was aching really bad. Then to top it off I started becoming really nauseous. After a while I stopped at the crew vehicle and explained what was happening and told Mauricio and Traci that I just needed to lay down for 20 minutes and get my stomach settled and let me knee rest. Turns out that Mauricio and Traci were also having stomach issues, but Jose was not, so we think that we ate some bad gas station chicken pot pie. We also thought the antibiotics could have been wearing me down as well so we decided that I would stop taking them for the remainder of the race.

When my 20 minutes was up, I got moving right away again, but still felt absolutely horrible. My stomach had settled a little, but I still just had no energy left in me. I barely had enough strength to put one foot in front of the other to make it up a hill, that wasn’t even that steep compared to most of the hills we had climbed already.

After a couple of kilometers of my barely moving pace, we reached the truck again. Mentally and physically I felt that the course had defeated me and I was done. I sat down on the trail and cried and told my crew that I had nothing left in me and I couldn’t do it anymore. I told them that we could just find Mark and help crew him. I was “only” 85ish miles into the race and with how I felt, there was no way that I would be able to make it another 50. I had never had such a low point ever in a race and I just didn’t see how I could possibly come out of it.

However, my crew wasn’t buying into my excuses of why I should be allowed to quit. Traci knew that deep down inside me I did want to finish and of course she was right. They gave me a pep talk and reminded me of how pissed I would be at myself if I were to quit and they were right. It probably would have ruined the whole trip because I would be in such a bad mood and such a pain in the ass to deal with afterwards.

In my own head, I did know that I was ok enough to continue. I remembered that at Badwater last year, I broke down around the same point in the race, but eventually I came out of it. I also remembered back at Javelina 100 a few years prior when my knee and IT band ached so bad that I quit, but when I woke up in the morning they were perfectly fine and I was pissed at myself for stopping. I knew that my knee and IT band would be fine as well the second that I finished this race and so I just had to push through it for now. However, it just felt good to take a minute to sit down and cry and let everything out that I was feeling at that moment.

After several minutes, my crew and my own rational thoughts helped to convince me to get up and keep moving. Traci and Mauricio also decided that it was perfect timing to take my “magic powder,” a special mixture that Mark came up with that helps with energy and alertness during races. I drank that with my Vitargo and immediately started to feel a little better. Traci also came out to pace with me for a while, even though her foot was bruised and swollen. Then after a few minutes the truck passed by us and Mauricio was blaring our favorite song, by “Girl Talk” and in an instant I had forgotten about how horrible I had been feeling only moments ago. Crazy how that happens sometimes.

After a couple more kilometers, we reached the next city of Borda da Mata. Mauricio and Jose got to the city a bit before us to pick us all up some breakfast… bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and a coke… breakfast of champions. The greasy sandwich tasted unbelievably delicious and the ice cold coke, so refreshing. I was in heaven.

After we ate, we set back out on the path again. It was mid morning by now and getting insanely hot out, even hotter than the first day. I was moving really well though for a while. Luckily I had brought my ice bandana, which really helped to cool me down and Mauricio would give me a popsicle every once in a while to eat. By the way, Brazilian popsicles are the most delicious popsicles ever.

About an hour or two after we had passed the previous city, we came across some more really big climbs. Although I had to hike the climbs, I think I was moving at an ok pace, especially with it being as hot as it was. Part way up one of the climbs we reached another runner and his crew and he was sitting under neath a tree and had said that he had coke colored urine. It was sad to see that this would be the end of his race. It made me feel lucky that although I had been feeling really bad not too long ago, at least my health wasn’t in jeopardy.

We climbed and climbed for a long time. I had thought that most of the big climbs were in the first day, but they seemed so much harder the second day… probably due to the fact that I had already been on my feet for more than 24 hours now. At 153k into the race, we passed through another small city. I stopped only for a few moments to eat the rest of my bacon, egg and cheese sandwich that was left over from breakfast and then continued on.   The food perked me up again for a little while, but the climbs were getting steeper and steeper and the heat was wearing on me again.

In addition to being completely wiped out again at this point, there were now a bunch of people riding their dirt bikes up and down the section of the path that we were on who all clearly did not care that there were people running out as well. At one point, I laid down on the side of the path behind our truck so Mauricio could stretch my legs out and one motorcyclist came so close to me that he just about ran over my head. That would have sucked…

Not too much longer after that, I had my next major mental breakdown. I was a little past mile 100 I think and it was now about 31 hours into the race, maybe a bit longer. Unlike my other breakdown at mile 80, this time I wanted to finish, but again was just hurting and tired and also was getting really scared that I wasn’t going to make the 48 hour cut off. Although I still had about 18 hours to finish the last 50k of the race, it had taken me nearly all morning and afternoon to just do 25 miles. At the pace I was going, I was never going to make the cut off. I sat inside the truck and cried with Traci while Mauricio and Jose had a talk outside the car. Again, I think I just needed to let out a good cry. My crew reassured me that I definitely had time to make the cut off and even if I didn’t, that we were going to finish no matter what.

With that in mind, I started to feel a bit better and so kept on moving at the best pace I could, which probably wasn’t very fast at all. We even came up on a 3 mile descent, but I could only run a couple minutes at a time because otherwise I would start to get some sharp pain in the side of my knee. When we made it to the bottom, I was surprised to see that the race director, Mario, was there chatting with Traci and Mauricio. Mario has to be one of the best race directors I have ever met. I don’t think I have ever seen him without a smile on his face and you can just tell that he genuinely cares about his runners. I asked Mario if I still had enough time to finish the race within the 48 hour time cut off and he told me that I definitely did, which calmed my nerves a bit more. He also said that the American women were all kicking ass out on the course. With that in mind, I tried to push even harder. I wanted to help keep up the badass reputation that us American women had going for us.

We had about one more big climb until we would reach the next city. It started to rain a little at this point, but it was still fairly warm outside and so it felt refreshing. I was just praying that there would be no downpour and luckily there never was. During this section, we also got word that Mark had finished the race in exactly 35 hours. Later I would find out that each time Mark passed through a city the church bells would ring, signifying the hour. Kind of strange….

As I came into the next city of Estiva, coincidentally Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” was playing on my iPod and it was the most fitting song that could have been playing. I knew that when I reached this city, I would have “only” a marathon left to go until the finish line, and that was a number that I could start to wrap my head around. Coming into this city for me, was similar to the moment in Badwater where I turned a corner and could see the city of Lone Pine. I knew that I still had a little ways to go, but I was going to finish the race. At the same time, as corny as it may sound, those song lyrics made perfect sense. While before I had started the race I had a goal of finishing under 40 hours, now I could really care less about my finish time as long as I finished. The race was more about digging deeper than I ever had before, working together with my team and enjoying the journey on the Caminho da Fe.

“Ain’t about how fast I get there, Ain’t about whats waiting on the other side, It’s the climb…”

I sat in the truck for a couple minutes in the city and had half a chicken sandwich and a coke. I texted my mom and dad and told them that I had a marathon to go and that I was going to make it through the race. As soon as I left the car and headed out on the last marathon of the race, the sun was setting and I would be going into my second night of the race. I had just hoped that I would finish before the sun came back up again.

I only had one more city that separated me and Parasopolis (the finish line). I felt really good after my sandwich and coke and was ready to get the race over with and ran really strong for several kilometers, even passing a couple runners. Then another strange thing happened… After a brief stop to refill my water bottles at the truck, Jose and I kept running  as usual while Mauricio and Traci packed up the truck before they leapfrogged ahead of us again. There came a point in the path, which split and Jose and I took the split to the right. Jose has run the Brazil 135 twice himself and has also crewed the race twice as well and so never in the race did I ever question Jose on any of the turns we had to make. Within a few seconds of making the right turn we heard honking behind us and so we stopped. Turns out that it was Mauricio honking at us, signaling that we had made a wrong turn! This may not sound like a big deal, however it was so dark outside that if we would have even ran a couple more seconds, Mauricio and Traci wouldn’t have even seen us make the wrong turn and they would have continued on the right path. It also probably would have taken Jose and I a few kilometers to realize that we had made a wrong turn. If Mauricio had not caught this mistake, I could have missed the 48 hour time cut off in my race. As crazy as it may sound, I think it proved again that something or someone was looking out for us on the Caminho da Fe.

Anyways, after the mix up, we continued on but were now upon pretty much the steepest hill I have ever been on. The hill was literally paved because otherwise it would have been to steep to try and get up. Even though I didn’t speak Portuguese and Jose didn’t speak English, we had some really good conversation up this hill. He was so motivating and told me even though my legs were tired, to try and finish this thing with my heart. He told me that Brazilians may not have the a ton of money, but one thing they do have is heart. I laughed and replied that most Americans have a good amount of money, but have no heart. He then told me that I have a lot of heart. It was the nicest compliment I had ever heard and just what I needed to hear to get me up the hill when my legs were so trashed.

I had a small descent and then only a few more kilometers until we were in the next city. As we were going down the other side of the mountain though, the batteries in my headlamp started to fade a lot, which made it really hard to see and I started to become really frustrated. My vision is already horrible without being up for 2 days and beyond exhausted and so having hardly any light completely sucked.

Eventually we made it down the hill and we passed through a party that was going on. There was a lot of  “Funky” music (thats what they call it!) and people driving up in motorcycles. Mauricio pulled up next to me in the truck and told me to just keep walking through the crowd, however somehow I heard him say that someone was hit by a motorcycle and died, so try not to look and keep on moving straight ahead. So of course out of morbid curiosity I started looking around trying to figure out where the accident was. I found out later that no one died and I made everything up in my head.

When we got to the last city we would pass through before Parasopolis, my team and I had one more quick pep talk. Basically, I had 19k until the finish with 2 more mountain climbs to get through. I would have to keep moving at a steady pace if I wanted to finish under the 48 hour cut off and even if I did move, it was going to be close.. maybe 30 minutes before the cut off.

I drank some coke, took a couple ibprofin and had a Fein and then took off with Jose pacing me again. The first few kilometers were only slightly uphill, but were on the road and so I was able to run at a good pace. I looked at my watch and it was about 41 hours into the race. There was no way in hell that I was going to be out there another 6.5 hours and so I pushed as hard as I could on the runable sections to try and make up some time.

One we hit the path it was a little harder to move because there were a lot of sections that were muddy and since my light didn’t work all that well, I kept slipping in them. Eventually we hit the first of our two hills and I tried to power up that thing the best I could. When I was toward the top, I stopped for my last 10 minute rest break before I continued on. From there I had about 3 miles of flat, which we ran/walked and then I had my last hill of the race!

During this last climb I was insanely hungry, but nothing sounded good at all. I ate half a Bonk Breaker, which I could barely manage to get down, but figured it was my last climb and the faster I went, the closer I was to real food and so I tried to just ignore my hunger pains. Jose and I climbed and climbed and he kept telling me that I only had about 200m to go. He was probably right, but that was only until the hill flattened out for about 50m and then continued to go even more straight up. When I figured out that the hill went up even more I started to get upset, but Jose kept telling me that it was only a “pequeno” hill. Then I would argue with him, “NO!!! ES MUY MUY GRANDE!!!” He would then counter with, “No, pequeno!” This went back and forth for as long as the hill did.

Eventually we made it to the top and Jose said that I only had 3k till the finish line and it was downhill. So 3k is a little under 2 miles. At this point I had so much adrenaline going since we were near the end of the race, I figured that I would suck it up and run as hard as I could the rest of the way in. Jose got back in the truck with Mauricio and Traci and I just figured that they were going to let me enjoy the last couple miles alone. So I ran hard for what seemed to be about 3k and even passed a couple runners, but I still saw no city lights at all signifying that I was close to the finish line. When the truck pulled up to me, I asked Mauricio about how much left and he said, “about 3k.” So now I was starving, extremely tired and now really pissed off… not a good combination! They said 3k, over 3k ago! Again I continued to run alone and I knew that they knew I was pissed because they kept the truck at just enough distance behind me where they couldn’t hear me yell at them.

After a few more minutes of running and still seeing no city lights, I bent over and started crying because it seemed like I was never going to make it to that damn finish line. My crew knew that I was getting even more upset now, so they sent Jose out to run with me again because they figured if I yelled at him, he wouldn’t be able to understand me anyways.

I asked Jose how much longer and he told me 5 more minutes. So I ran for what seemed like 5 minutes and then asked again and he told me 5 more minutes. At that point I just went off and told him he was lying to me and asked him if I really had 5k left? 10k left? He laughed and said that he promised 5 minutes or less. Right after that we turned a corner and I could see the city. Jose and I ran into the city and as we were running he thought it would be funny to mess with me and he told me that I still had 10k to go through the city! I just about started to cry again, but he said he was just kidding and the finish line was 100m ahead. My eyes suck so much, I couldn’t even see it. I ran the 100m in the best I could (it was downhill through a lot of uneven pavers) and I finished the race in 45 hours and 35 minutes.

As soon as I finished, I knew that all of the pain that I went through during that race was well worth it. A few minutes after I finished, two of the other American women, Linda and Sandy, also finished and I was so happy to see that they had completed the journey as well. That race was absolutely brutal and harder than I ever expected it to be and I’m honored to have finished with those women.

By the time I finished, it was close to 6am on Sunday morning. My crew and I hobbled over to the hostel we were suppose to stay at, however unfortunately they had given our rooms away. After we got that all straightened out, which was something none of us had the patience for after what we had just been through, we took some much needed showers and then tried to sleep. Just before 9am, Jose came in to say good bye (he was driving back to the start with one of Mark’s crew members) and shortly after that, Mark came into our room and we shared our stories from the race.

Early that afternoon, Mark, Mauricio, Traci and I left and headed out for Mauricio’s beach house, which was a few hours away, where we spent the last day and a half of our trip. It was the perfect place to stay. The beach was thankfully only steps from the house and there was a town close by where we had some Brazilian food and drinks each night for dinner.

I was really sad when we had to go. I feel like there is still so much more of the country that is left to see, especially the RAINFOREST and also Rio. But I know that we will definitely be returning there someday.

I really think this was the most epic vacation/adventure that I have ever been on and I am so lucky to have shared it with the people I did. Also I think its pretty freaking cool that Mark and I have both completed both Badwater and Brazil now! Something Im pretty sure no other couple has done 🙂

Sorry if this post was long and I’m sure a lot of you will skip through most of it, but if anything at least I have it all written down for my own sake. It doesn’t really matter anyways because my words and pictures don’t do this whole adventure any justice at all. Its one of those things where you just need to go and experience it for yourself.