Oh the places you can go......over the last few years I have adopted an amazing second family and have embarked on some incredible journeys. This chapter is just beginning so follow us as we push beyond perceived limits and make the impossible possible.....live life out of your comfort zone, it's lots of fun I promise :)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Making time in Brazil

Where to begin, it’s really hard to say. I have been blessed and honored to be surrounded by an amazing core group in my life for a long time. The Brazil 135 is very special to me in so many ways. It started in 2011 when Tony Portera, Jarom Thurston and I ran the entire Caminho da Fe as well as the Brazil 135 over 7+ days. Easily one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life. I realized then how beautiful the country and people of Brazil were. It was also then that I had the pleasure of meeting Mario and Eliana Lacerda who have now become family. I was fortunate to return in 2013 and now in 2014 for the first time to race competitively. Excited absolutely, a little scared no doubt. For better or for worse I am not exactly shy about my training or hopes. From a training standpoint all was good. Ray Zahab has been taking care of me since 2011 and this year all that hard work has paid huge dividends as he knew it would. He works tirelessly with me to get things right. As most of you know Ray is the co-founder of Impossible2Possible, an incredible non-profit that teaches young adults to extend the limits of their own possibilities. I am a proud Ambassador for them as the mission is so worthwhile and valuable to all it touches. My plan for Brazil was to go sub 35hour and maybe a top ten. I had never “raced” the race before but knew that was in there somewhere. 

Ray Zahab and Me Badwater Basin 2012

One of the things I love the most is that when I meet people they rarely say “I” inspire them. They almost always say “WE” inspire them as in all of us including Erin and the girls. They sent me notes of love and inspiration and I know were with me in spirit along the way.

Notes from the girls :)

I arrived on Wednesday morning and met the legendary Sergio Cordeiro at the airport and was driven to my friend Paulo Calil’s home in Americana. As the norm it took awhile to find our driver, not sure why…… 

Driver confusion

There I met my other crew member and pacer Geraldo Silva. Paulo and his wife Claudia graciously housed me, fed me and took me out to an amazing steak and lamb dinner Brazilian style. His home was beautiful, comforting and relaxing.

There is no shortage of meat in Brazil :)

On Thursday we drove to Sao Joao da Boa Vista for the pre-race meeting, so many friendly faces and lots of whom I was fortunate enough to meet for the first time. The roster was chock full of past winners including Eduardo Calixto, Marco Farinazzo and Kurt Lindermuller. 


Using Kurt and Marco for inspiration

It also included the Dingofish himself-Grant Maughan, Terry Sentinella and an incredible Jacksonville and Florida contingent. Having been to Brazil for the race twice it was really an honor to have so many Americans come and experience first-hand why I love that place and race so much. As always, my favorite reunion was with Mario and Eliana Lacerda and their great smiles and even greater hugs. After food, discussion and lots of pictures we headed off to our hotel. We checked in, I napped and the crew went out for supplies. Pizza and a beer for dinner then off to bed. Unfortunately given the heat, lack of AC and noisy church bells sleep was not too successful.

Sergio, Geraldo and Paulo ready to roll!

Florida peeps at the start

I arose race morning to eat the standard Pousada fare of fresh bread, cheese, meat and amazing coffee. Showered, dressed and off to the start. My rockstar crew was ready for action and the weather was cloudy, a nice way to start. As usual there was plenty of music and fun unlike any other race start I have ever been a part of. Lots pics, hand shaking and smiles for now. As we left the city I felt good and a little nervous to say the least, I am usually not a big fan of the first 40 or 50 miles because I tend to think way too much. The first long climb is quite steep and concludes with the dreaded 1 mile jungle section. Luckily there was little rain on the single track jungle such it was much more pleasant then recent memory. As we got to the top we started the descent into Aguas da Prata (the central home of the Caminho da Fe). As expected EVERYONE passed me on the downhill. This included Josh Spector, Terry Sentinella and Maggie Beach to name a few, not exactly my strong suite. As we breezed through the first checkpoint I felt great and our time was perfect.

We then embarked on to the highest point of the course Pico da Gaviao at over 5400ft. As we hiked up we saw all the leaders coming back down which was great but that also meant we were a little too close for comfort this early on. Such a beautiful view from above but no stopping for pictures, just turn around and descend straight back down. A little bit of brief quad cramping brought a scare but it went away and never returned. The next big stop is Andradas ~mile 42. I felt awesome and also saw Brad Lombardi which was good. It was good because he was smiling and that meant he was running a smart race. If you ever saw Running On The Sun there is a great quote from Gabriel Flores where he tells his crew he could be dying and one hour later he could be flying. Ha, well that’s how it goes, death and rebirth over and over. Well I died around mile 44 struggling to maintain a 12-13min pace but rose again around mile 54 and quickly hit stride with several sub 8min miles go figure. My one rule in Ultras is that after around mile 50 if you feel good you MUST run regardless if it feels like you are pressing. You have to go when the energy is there. Geraldo Silva paced me most of the day and kept me entertained with his stories and love for American women. I’m not sure he ever got tired.

Geraldo Silva and Me pushing through

From there life was pretty good leading into Inconfidente just past halfway. Our crew vehicle did maintain a flat from a horseshoe nail which left us crewless for several hours but everyone we saw was so helpful and offered anything we needed. It was here that I took my only break, a five minute shoe a sock change. Look ma no blisters so happy. Managed to eat half a hamburger for which my belly was thankful. Sergio took over pacing for now and off we went into the night. I dislike the night for several reasons but mostly because my night vision sucks and I am slow.  At this point I was thinking somewhere in the 35hour range but realistically knew I was ahead of that. The problem is the 2nd half of that course is much harder than 1st and with wear and tear accumulating I feared a death march hitting at some point. I knew if I just kept moving till sunrise I would get a boost from the day light and about a 4 hour window before the heat hit. It seemed as if we were slowly plodding but we were actually making good time. We made it into Estiva (mile 109) around 730am or 23h30m, a huge success. I had never been there before the aid was setup which was kind of strange. In turn, we purchased some fresh bread and coffee (SOOOOOO good). I was surprised to see one of my favorite runners Marco Farinazzo resting and getting treatment. At the same time it gave me an understanding of just how well I was doing so off I went.

Around mile 113 or so Marco and his crew caught me, we battled back and forth for a period then I let him go as I could not quite keep up. His crew asked me if there was anything I needed. Somewhat jokingly I said “Do you have any Cachaca?” Cachaca is the local sugar cane liquor which tastes like moonshine and is probably as strong. They of course responded yes and handed me a little plastic bottle of clear liquid. Without a hitch I took a small swig and instantly got a little muscle relief. Although I could not catch Marco, I did catch and pass Ariovaldo Branco a previous 2nd place finisher so that gave me a boost.  It was also confirmed to me that I was in the top ten, SNAP!


The sun and heat came out in fury around 11am and the last 4 hours were a battle. I was on fumes physically and it seemed the closer we got the further we were. Those last climbs were so hard but my crew pushed me every step. When Sergio Cordeiro tells you he is impressed it motivates you trust me. All of sudden we passed a race volunteer and asked him if we had less than 5k to go. He laughed and said you have about a mile to go. Instantaneously the weight was lifted and I looked at my watch. We were going to finish just over 30hours, holy moly. As perspective that is over an hour faster than my Badwater time and 30hr at Brazil is just plain harder than 30hr at Badwater. We descended into the city and I ran across the finish in 30h3m3s, 8th place OA, 1st American and a new American record. Eliana was there to greet me and there were tears of joy. It had all really paid off, I was in shock. Later that day Mario gave me my medal and there were more tears of joy. He was proud like a father and I love him like one.

Comandante Mario Lacerda

Cold ones with the boys :)

Post race with Ari Branco

The next few days were spent reminiscing and enjoying time with family. There is such a great feel around Paraisopolis after the race. It’s also fun to watch all the other competitors finish. We even got to drink some fresh coconut juice atop a beautiful mountain on Sunday.

Now that is a fresh coconut!

The Krokodillo

I left Brazil with a touch of sadness but could not wait to see my family on the other side. My girls ARE my world. So thankful for all they do to support me. I am also incredibly thankful for the friendship and coaching of Ray Zahab, WE did it buddy! Thanks also to Bob MacGillivray at Drymax Socks, I ran 135miles blister free on the Caminho da Fe, who does that. Lastly for Mario and Eliana for all you do for me and others and putting on such a World class event in every way. You are two of the most beautiful souls on the planet.

Welcome home!

As I picked up Maddox from school upon my return she said “Daddy you did so well, I am SO proud of you”. Having that come from my 8yo daughter was as special as anything I can recently remember. They are so pure at that age and speak heartfelt truth when they do. I am blessed!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

There is no "I" in Ultra

OKC held the USATF 24hr Champs this year, an event I had been looking forward to for a long time. Not so much with the thought of making the US National team (though it was in there) but of testing my own limits once again and doing it with some of my favorite family/friends in the Ultracircuit and beyond. As always I came in prepared incredibly well thanks to my dear friend and coach Ray Zahab.
Let me start by saying that the people in Oklahoma are about as nice as they come. Chisholm Deupree and his race staff put on an incredibly well run, friendly and enjoyable event from start to finish.

I flew in the day before the race straight off a sleepless call night, not ideal for sure, but got to spend the day with one of my very best friends Jay Pack and his beautiful family. I walked the course in the afternoon, some gentle rollers and a course to be wary of the tangents so as not to run a lot more than you need to. Packet pickup meant some friendly faces including Connie Gardner, Phil McCarthy, Roy Pirrung and of course Chisholm Deupree and his father Harry. Even Frozen Ed Furtaw was lurking. We settled in to a nice dinner and I had a rather sleepless pre race night as usual.

Woke up race morning feeling anxious but excited. Forecast was for showers :( and likely cold overnight temps :( bahhhh for the Florida boy. We set up shop next to my good buddy Dan Rose. Plan was to hang with him as able bit run a smart race all around. After the gun went off Dan and I spent the next 5 or so hours running and chatting, quite the nice catch up for sure. I started to realize I was not feeling that strong, maybe the lack of sleep, maybe just the fear of what was coming. At any rate I let Dan go and away he went.

Running happy early

In the spirit that is Ultra my friend Brenda Carawan drove 6+ hours to help Jay crew me. If you don't know Brenda search awesome (Badwater, Spartathlon, 100mile winner times many). Having people like that in your corner is amazing. The strength and encouragement that she and Jay shared were priceless.

The weather got worse and the rain enveloped us most of the afternoon. I still watched Dan and Phil and David Ploskonka cruise with seem less effort. I felt OK at best. After some encouraging from Brenda and Jay over the next several hours, plus Oatmeal Creme Pies (my secret weapon) and some good music things got back on track. Erin sent me a note as she always does before the race and asked me to take a new mantra every lap. Each time around think of something/someone I was thankful for and concentrate on it. Honestly, I have a lot more to be thankful for then I ever knew.

Many people struggled for a variety of reasons but Brenda reminded me this happens and yes it does. Sabrina Little, the current US Woman's 24hr record holder came in sick and pushed as long as she could, needless to say she lapped me several times before stopping. Dan's day stopped short mid evening to my dismay as he had looked so strong. Phil McCarthy hit the wall around 12hr but walked the entire last half and finished. Honestly one of the most amazing and inspirational efforts I have ever witnessed. Anyone who knows Phil well is not surprised by that in the least.

There I was alone, about to listen to a great Avril Lavigne song and Cherie Yanek and Ray K passed into my world. Well Ray had been there all day, you can't pass him or see him without him making his presence known in some way. I started running with Cherie around 12 hours and never stopped. It was not until about 3 or 4 hours in when Cherie said "How long have we been running together ". At that point I realized we would stick together till the end. The stories were awesome, her spirit unmatched. I have never spent so much time with one person in any given race with the exception of Brazil. The colder it got the stronger we ran. We had a run, walk routine that was pretty much set in stone, coordinated bathroom breaks and any necessary stops. I needed her as much as she needed me and we both came out on top. Well everyone wins in Ultras anyway right :) Pretty much a great 12 hours minus the last 3 crappy ones. She pushed me, I pushed her. We both hit PR's and more importantly had a blast along the way. We even managed to hustle a 9min and change last lap because it needed to happen. It was my painful payback to her for forcing me to run so much the last hour. That and my last mile mantra was E and my girls :)

At the end of the day I hit 128.87miles, a 7 mile PR, 6th OA and USATF Master's Champ. Cherie finished 3rd woman OA and 2nd woman USATF OA with a PR of 115+miles. No she did not get her pony she kept asking for but she did get some cash :)

USATF Masters Champ 2013

Home Sweet Home

It was a wonderful day all around. I cannot thank Chisholm, his race staff and the state of Oklahoma enough for their hospitality. I once again learned very vividly life is about "attraction" rather than promotion. If those are the kind of people I am attracting these days, sign me up every time!!!!!!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Back to the Caminho da Fe

In 2011, Tony Portera , Jarom Thurston and I became the first individuals to run Brazil's Caminho da Fe,or The Path of Faith. Beginning in Cravinhos and ending in Aparecida, the journey was roughly 345 miles in 7d14h. Along the way we participated and competed in the Brazil 135. No one has ever attempted to run the Brazil 135 as well as cross the entire Path of Faith. We became the first trio to do so, and it was a life changing journey. Our pilgrimage ended at the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida. The history behind the statue and shrine is pure inspiration and a beautiful story of faith. If you are interested in learning more, here are a couple of links.

Caminho da Fe, Sao Carlos is the start this year



The Path of Faith was originally comprised of three main branches -  the West branch, the North branch and Northwest branch which unite to form one single route. The Path is marked with yellow signals and arrows pointing Pilgrims in the right direction. Pilgrims are given the option to take longest route from one of the three "branch" cities or the ability to  start anywhere along the Path that they choose. The Path crosses fields, woods, and mountains, affording the Pilgrims a unique experience; one of introspection, contact with nature, and healthy exertion. It traditionally takes 17 to 20 days to complete the longest route on foot, given that the pilgrim walks between 20 and 30 kilometers a day (about 12-19 miles). Cyclists have completed the path in roughly 8 to 10 days. Similar to the Camino de Santiago, Caminho da Fé offers a credencial, or pilgrim's passport, which is stamped along the way and exchanged for a certificado at the basilica. The Path is magical. From each Posada along the way,offering lodging to weary travelers, to the Brazilian people as a whole, who champion each pilgrim by offering food and drink, this is certainly much more than a "bucket list" item..... it is a transformational experience.

Crendencial or Pilgrim's passport

Tony, Jarom and I 2011 finishing Brazil 135
Our Lady of Aparecida


On January 16, 2013 Tony Portera and I will, for the second time,  be embarking on this path. This time, our journey will be from Sao Carlos to Aparecida, approximately 351miles over 6 days. As before, we will both be competing in the Brazil 135 along the way. Here is our schedule:

Jan. 16:  67.1 miles from São Carlos to Tambaú

Jan. 17:  66.3 miles from Tambaú to Aguas Da Prata

Jan. 18:  71.5 miles of the Brazil 135

Jan. 19:  63.5 miles of the Brazil 135 to Paraisópolis

Jan. 20:  38.5 miles from Paraisópolis to Campos do Jordáo

Jan. 21:  44.8 miles from Campos do Jordáo to Aparecida

This will be a far more ambitious undertaking than our last effort. It is more miles over a shorter time frame. I have said before that Brazil has uphills, downhills and flat hills, thus  making 60+ miles a day very taxing, to say the least. Also, our crossing is in January, which is not only summer but is also the rainy season in Brazil. This provides its own potential complications including significant rain and  very high humidity. We will be running this Path not only as individuals, but in the spirit of the ultra community; one that has afforded us unbreakable bonds and extended family. Our Pilgrimage is also  in support of our i2P and CAF families.  If you are not familiar with those great non-profits, please check them out. You will be inspired and called to action by what they are up to. As always, I am being prepared and trained both physically and mentally for this journey by my good brother and i2P founder Ray Zahab.

Facebook friends can follow our journey here:


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Badwater take 2

My fav sign in the world

As I sit and reflect on the journey to this years Badwater 135. It sort of hit me right before the race when e said here we go it's been a year in the making . Truth be told it had, as pleased as I was with last years race I spent the last 12 months preparing to come back and somehow better the feat. I knew it was possible and it was.  Yes we returned, yes we PB'd and yes I reached a new level of "digging deep". Imagine being less than 1/2 mile from the finish of a 135 mile race and sitting down half a dozen times against anything you could find, bordering on tears and considering crawling for a few seconds because it seemed that far away. It truly was that difficult.

Yoga fun on the Saltflats

Team Roman

Mushroom Rock

What I realized along this journey; however, was so much more fulfilling.What I learned about myself I already knew there is NO quit, my best strength is clearly not physical but rather mental. What I also learned is how much e and my journey affect those around us. The level of support, friendship and gracious encouragement is something I had not fully appreciated till this weekend. I am honored to serve as an inspiration to those around me but honestly I receive just as much from each and everyone of my friends.

Dream the impossible!!!!

10am Wave

With my girls at the start

Despite some pre race jitters and a perpetually tight right knee I was cautiously optimistic about the race. In Death Valley you can never be more than that. There were very fast times on the way to Furnace Creek because of low temps but there was slight humidity which caught up to folks. The long slog to Stovepipe Wells is my least favorite part of the race, I battled a bloating stomach but managed to keep pace. The headwinds up Towne Pass were worse than the year before but we made the 18mile climb in great time (4h40m). Then the descent into Panamint followed by the climb up Father Crowley, both went without a hitch. As we worked our way to Darwin the "lean" to the right started and the back problems were only beginning. I held it together as best I could till about Keeler then the run walks became a huge struggle. By the 395 turnoff into Lonepine the running was about over. A left to right camber does not exactly favor a right sided lean. Last year I climbed to the Portals with a bad left groin, little did I know a locked up back would be ten times worse. According to Alene Nitzky from the Medical team they hesitated as they passed me up the mountain but saw the look on my face and knew everything would be ok, thankfully they were correct as usual. Somehow we actually managed to get up the mountain a few minutes faster than the previous year despite frequent stops and almost passing out after mile 134. The finish was a sweet relief 31h20m and 18th place over an hour faster than the previous year. Given all the issues at the end, ecstatic!!!!!

Early toward Furnace Creek

Crew perfection

Climbing Towne Pass

The painful last summit

Support to the finish, love my crew

Best hug ever

Ray Zahab my amazing friend and coach

The outpouring of support we received before, during and after the race was incredible. On a personal note I am especially happy for the incredible PB's set by Tony Portera and Terry Sentinella, awesome. Prior to the pizza party on Thursday Ray and I sat with Ben Jones for about an hour talking Death Valley. Pretty sure we heard some never before or rarely before heard stories about some of the crazy history of that desert. It is fascinating to listen to Ben as he is such a treasure and one of the people I respect most.

Badwater Ben Jones

I have conquered the worlds toughest foot race twice and am very proud of that. I now have a clearer understanding of what it really means to "be the change" to those around you. At the start I spoke  with Dean Karnazes the man who started me on this roller coaster 6 years ago. I thanked him once again for his inspiration, he smiled and said you did this not me. Such a simple truth. We all have those that inspire us but ultimately WE make our own successes. WE fulfil our own dreams and WE make the impossible possible.

Dean Karnazes

Thanks of course to Chris Kostman and all of the amazing race staff and medical volunteers. Thank you Erin for being the rock that supports me as I am the rock that supports you, funny balance that is! Special special thanks to Tony Portera and Ray Zahab and all the incredible people that surround them especially my i2P and CAF suuporters. The bond I share with those men is truly special. Also: Jay ("Shudder Bug"), Kathy, Amy and my beautiful Carson - the rest of the awesome crew. My love to Paul and his family, I know he was with me in spirit.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The heat is almost on, again.......

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin sister"
- Khalil Gibran

Loving the dunes :)

My AMAZING better half

There are a few things I know for sure at this point: my passions will keep expanding, the amazing people that surround me in my life make sure that is the case and I am ultimately at peace with who I am and what I continue to learn to strive for in this life. We all pick our poisons for better or worse, as a member of the ultracommunity I see those first hand everyday. The trials, successes and failures that lead people to refocus, recharge or simply reinvent themselves. Many of those I hold dearest to my heart are a product of that, they are also some of the strongest people I know.

Just before the start

Inspiration for yourself and those around must come from the heart, you MUST love that which you practice in order for it to be believable. Funny thing is if you do love it properly the belief comes easy because it is genuine.

No he does not.....

Of all the things I cherish what I truly cherish most is the genuine hugs I have been getting from my oldest daughter Carson these days, she is truly a friend and sees me that way, a level of trust that is hard to get from a young pre teen. She will turn 11 next Friday and is a very important part of our Badwater crew, maybe the most important.

My beautiful little me

I embark on the desert once again focused, determined and above all excited. Regardless of the race outcome I will get to share some of my life's most difficult and precious moments with those I hold so dear. My steps will be felt by Paul despite his ALS and the smile in his heart will be with me every step of the way.


2011 Badwater finish

Friday, 25 May 2012

Badwater is a coming.........

"It's 90% mental and the other 10% is all in your head"
- very wise Canadian

Seven weeks till game day, mid day training is heating up and one week till some true on course training and fun with Tony Portera, Cheryl Zwarkowski, Frank McKinney, Ben Jones and others :)

Basin to Furnace Creek

Last year we had an amazing crew and an amazing time, this year we intend to do the same. E has promised to start blogging again and include a meet the crew version. Since she is a much better writer and more interesting person in general I will leave the detailed post up to her. That being said here they are:

E: the love of my life, incredible yogi, bff and crew chief extraordinaire. Don't be fooled by her cute smile :)

Death Valley Dancer

Ray Zahab: one of the worlds greatest desert/adventure racers ever, coach, brother and founder of i2P


Kathy Zahab: gracious and amazing friend, mother, ultra runner. Saint for putting up with Ray!


Amy Costa: big sis, multitasking mother of three awesome kids, incredible ultra runner, BEST smile ever

Amy and her crew

Jay Pack: my best friend and brother in the world who is not an ultra runner, photographer to the stars

Jay and fam

Carson: my little me, how I love her so!!!!!!!!!

C and c