Thursday, June 13, 2019

Retirement // Sabbatical

It's not a goodbye, it's a see you later.... 
Seattle Jungle Cats ft Philip, L-Adam #teamteal, & Elizabeth
(not pictured: Farmer & Loowit, Kaytlyn & Ely)

To many of my closest friends, I've talked about my upcoming "retirement" from running as I begin medical school at Pacific Northwest University in August (see my last post). I had planned to go out with a bang; to finally finish a 100 miler and cross it off my bucket list. I had wanted to start medical school with no regrets and to not wish for the shoulda coulda woulda's while studying hard. The truth is, I know I'm not a Megan Roche, Erin Clark or Michelle Meyer type- the kind that can somehow rock medical school/ residency at prestigious Universities while also maintaining regularly programmed, fast running and even racing (read: winning). The way I see it, is that I want every opportunity to be open to myself and to only have doors closed that are out of my control. Meaning, I want to do my absolute best and not have anything less than that deter some future residency or career. To me, that means running will be an afterthought and a way to relieve stress every now and then. I won't be able to train to do trail ultras justice. At least until maybe after residency...
It takes a village. Or the Queen to tell you what to do
When Mary & I tried to conquer the VT Long Trail
Running has given me more than I could've known to ask for, and I am eternally grateful. As a naive 14 year old, I believed every kid in high school had to join a sports team. I chose Cross Country as I didn't have the hand eye coordination for the other sports and there were no cuts. I remember believing I would actually die on that first 2 mile run at practice. However, I showed up the next day because I didn't know I could quit. It was that naivete that made me believe ultra running was the norm- after all, my coach Mary Churchill and all her friends did it. As a bright eyed 16 year old- a bit fitter with some more miles under my belt- I would beg Mary to let me join her on "Ninja Runs" at 5 am in the Marin Headlands. I would be awed into a silence (not typical) soaking up all the race stories Jorge Maravilla, Devon Yanko, Larissa Rivers, and other legends would tell about their recent PR at Lake Sonoma or woes of training for Western States. I took such joy in being surrounded by an incredible community and exploring beautiful, wild places on my own two feet, that I wanted more and more, so I ran farther and farther.

My certainly-not-SLO(w) gal pals
the SFRC regulars fangirling

Running has also given me challenges. I've had my fair share of injuries, often joking that you could create a Bingo game for all the fractures, tears, strains, and sprains I've had. I've DNFed races and finished when I probably shouldn't have. I've struggled with social media dictating what my running should be and endlessly compared myself to others on Strava, wondering why I couldn't run the same splits. I've puked my brains out in races and I've face planted into every surface imaginable. I've gotten lost, run out of food/water, and made so many mistakes, it's strange I haven't yet been inducted into the Rookie Hall of Fame. And yet, I keep coming back.

the OG CPDC squad
Sometimes, it's because I'm stubborn and I like to achieve my goals, but mostly it's because of what running has provided: Community, lifelong friendships, SO many laughs, appreciation for nature, fear of nature, the chance to travel, and more. Most importantly, running has given me an identity. I first identified myself by my running, but though the ups and downs, I've grown in myself and in my confidence to let running be a part of my identity. Running has put into practice the traits about myself that I hold most valuable: integrity, respect for others & the world, determination & hard work, hopefulness, easy going & adaptability.

Meghan & Stephanie showing me the WS100 ropes
chasing Rory somehow always gives me altitude sickness
My mentors in the sport have shown me not how or what to run, but why I should run. Most importantly, they have taken running beyond the sport and shown me how it can improve lives and yet also be separate, that running isn't everything, but core principles and values add to life. I have told my coach of 5 years- Meghan Arbogast Laws- she is more my life coach than a running coach. We've been through a LOT together and I've had enough lessons in life to open a school of my own. I've also had support from everyone in my life- my family, friends, some sponsors, and social media friends- and those are who comes to mind when the going gets tough, as they say.

typical Ultra finish state of affairs
Don't get me wrong, the high that finishing the "hardest thing I've ever done" feeling after each race has been incredible. I think it may actually be a drug. It's almost unimaginable that I've taken my body almost 75 miles across an island within 24 hours or run across the Grand freaking Canyon & back. I've won some races, set records when I was a youngster (heyyooo only person in my age category back in the day), qualified for Boston, set PRs, and churned up & down big mountains. Heck, I even got paid to run back & forth with Mike Foote in a puddle. Those accomplishments will always been near & dear in my heart.

looney tunes at who-knows-what hour pacing Jon Bretan at TRT100

I could go on forever in my little ode to running. I had originally planned to write this after finishing Cascade Crest 100 as that would mark my "retirement". However, CC is no longer happening. Per previous posts, I just haven't been able to run much lately (read: Life happens and it's OK) and have lost my base. More than that, I'm just not motivated to train for it; I'd rather get fitness so I can keep up with friends on epic summer routes and climb Mt Rainier with Philip. Those are lame excuses and 100 miles is really freaking far for that kind of BS. I've given up my spot and I'm actually relieved, not full of regret. You could probably say I'm a bit burnt out, and that's probably a likely diagnosis. So, I'm going to prescribe myself a much needed break.

Catch ya on the flip side. Xo, Kelsie

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Future Dr. Clausen

Most kids spend their formative years dreaming big of what they want to be when they grow up. For me, I never wanted to be a doctor. It didn't occur to me that I could be good enough or handle the rigor required for such a lofty accolade.

Shadowing aka pretending to be a student
However, slowly but surely, I explored all that the field of biology has to offer. At first I wanted to be a teacher, then teach at a university so I could also do research. After a summer of working in one of the best labs at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, I found that I surprisingly preferred shadowing my mentor on his clinical rounds to the endless Western blots. I found that his patients brought my petri dishes to life and personified all that I learned in my science classes. Each case brought an intricate puzzle that I was eager to solve, however the puzzles took shape in lovely ladies with her paintings draped across the room, or a young son surrounded by his high school friends.

Future OBGYN doing my 1st IUD insertion
Still not convinced I was capable of becoming a doctor, I looked into pursuing nursing or Physician's Assistant. In order to be a competitive applicant, I needed at least 1000 hours of paid, patient contact time. Given that most of the jobs on the list required extra degrees and certifications, I chose medical scribe as I already met their pre requisites. After completing my B.S. degree at Cal Poly, I moved up to Seattle and started working at a downtown family practice clinic.

Soon, I became comfortable and the role of doctor did not seem as intimidating, now that I had many hours working alongside several providers. I started to have the smallest inkling of hope and confidence that maybe I could do it; I could be a doctor. I saw doctor-hood as combining all that I wanted to be: a teacher to my patients, showing them how to live their healthiest and explaining their physiology/options in plain terms. I can use research and continually learn so that I am always sharp and up to date on the best practices or new ways I can help others. I can interact with and engage in the most humble, intimate manner with people of every age, race, orientation, status, etc. I can be a role model to serve and demonstrate for what doing your best looks like and better yet, that it is possible.

Volunteering w medical in sports!
As I started to fill out my applications, I saw that my academic section was poor and I knew that if I had to reapply, I needed to do something else to supplement my application, as well as beef up my grades. I found a Master's of Medical Science program at Heritage University in Yakima and enrolled. August I started and had the unique opportunity to take the Foundations course with the DO first year medical students of PNWU. I did extremely well, which was proof to admissions committees that despite my grades in undergrad, I COULD handle the rigors of medical school. (Of which, I already knew personally, but proving to ADCOMs was another thing...)
MAMS love
Fast forward 3000+ hours of scribing, MCAT studying & testing, primary & secondary applications written & rewritten, Master's program started, interviews and many, many rejections; I received an acceptance to Medical School. I had done it. I had grown in confidence and now PNWU, a DO medical school, also believes that yes, I can become a doctor.

Submitting my Med School app at Le Tour Eiffel
I am very fortunate to have had several amazing mentors along the way, and cherished friendships encouraging me towards this goal. I would not have gotten to this point without everyone else believing in me and my potential. However, I did not earn this on luck alone. I worked hard, kicking my butt and employing every resource I had to do my best. I took risks and set myself up in a way so that I could grasp every opportunity and have no closed doors. For example, in my Soph year at Cal Poly, I did not need to take the third Ochem course to go to grad school, as I was intending at the time, but took it anyways, because who knows down the road? I didn't want to have a door closed to me (like medical school) if I had not taken that class. I want anyone that has the slightest inkling of doubt, to know that it IS possible, but only if you give your absolute best and surround yourself with people that do, too.

Anywhere, Anytime. Even on a 13hr plane trip
mid quarter for a 100 mile race
With the risks I've taken: moving to Seattle, starting a Master's program, etc, I've had failures along the way. I was not a 4.0 student. In fact, I barely scraped by with a 3.0 after failing Statistics, and getting several C's. Though the difference is that I let these be learning opportunities. I got back up and worked harder to prove myself. I took off a lot of work and spent many, many hours studying for the MCAT. I exceeded what my grades predicted I should score and excelled.
some Lady Tiger Jungle Cats feat Adam & Philip

Additionally, a major contributor to my success and journey is ultra running. Without countless hours training in god-knows-what conditions, rookie mis-adventures, miles shared with so many beautiful people, I definitely would not be here. Running has allowed me to see so many beautiful things and people in the world- my perspective has been widened and softened. I have also seen myself through running. I learned about every muscle, tendon and bone through various injuries, my limits that can extend in endurance, and that my mental strength is feisty and deep. I know that when I am determined enough, I can get through almost anything. With training and racing, I have learnt key lessons that have bled into my life: patience, perseverance, tolerance, humility, adaptation, passion, grit, and more. The community of online "Likers", random dudes you shared that sunrise and oh-so-many miles with, weekend warrior Lady Tiger Jungle cats, and all others in running have bouyoed me with love and included me in being a part of something epic. We also share our love for nature continuously. They inspire me to pursue my best in running, an art I'm continuously trying to perfect, and be a better person because of it. I truly owe so much to the sport. (And probably my medical career as it likely caught the eye of ADCOMs reading my personal statement).
This. No caption needed.

So, cheers to the long journey ahead. Though running may not be much more than hobby jogging, and I might not be easy to nail down for hanging out, you'll know I'll be grinding in #NeverStopStudying mode for the next 8 ish years and beyond. Thank you, all.
Class of 2023! See you in August.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Madeira Island Ultra Trail of #NeverStopSmiling

This. Is. Paradise.
"Why are you here?"
I was asked this by new friends I met while travelling in Lisbon, the Madeira police at 2am, and myself in the cold, dark, wet hours of my training.
All packed in my VSD pack!
The one time I wore a bikini

After a year of battling injuries and the MCAT study crazies, I signed up for an epic vacation, WS qualifier, and totally rad adventure: the Madeira Island Ultra Trail. The 116km was farther than I had ever run and was on the most beautiful island (thanks google images). Though, the distance and 8000m vert were no joke and I had to spend the winter months training hard. Battling the snow, rain, frigid temps, and darkness, I had the help of awesome lady tiger jungle cats. These hardcore crazies kicked my butt up and over Section line repeats and kept my ab muscles strong from literally laughing out loud.


Since this was a long ways to go for a race, I wanted to make it into an adventure. I planned a 4 day layover in Lisbon. I swam in the ocean, made new friends of various nationalities listening to Fado music & drinking sangria, rock climbed under Moorish castles in Sintra, and just generally wandered around everywhere. After the race, I spent 3 days in Marrakesh riding camels, getting swindled in souks, and eating all the tajin. It was an awesome vacation.
My rock climbing routes!
Sangria > Water for hydration
Scooter of death
Side story: In googling this tropical island paradise, I envisioned myself basically in a bikini and riding a Vespa scooter I rented to get around (I have never driven these before). Unfortunately, when I landed at 10pm, a storm was raging across the island with cold rains and strong winds. I got the scooter and had to drive it 90km across the island to my AirBNB by Porto Moniz. White knuckling the handlebars, I gritted my teeth through 35 soaking km and managed to get myself lost. Around midnight I said F it and asked for directions to the nearest hotel. No room at the inn. Double F it, I sat outside the hotel and decided to leave the scooter to call a taxi. When the taxi arrived in the tiny town, I asked to be let out and reached for my purse. Only I didn't have it. F. The driver, not speaking much English, became frustrated and took me to the police. After questioning me until 2 am, they deduced through my sobs and fragmented Spanglish that my purse was at that hotel. (Pro tip: keep PDF pictures of your passport on your phone and memorize your credit card number). Their colleagues in Funchal were able to miraculously find my purse and we met in the middle to grab it (read: I sat in the back of a police car). I finally paid the taxi driver at 3:45am and the police kindly offered to take me to my Air BNB as it was still pouring out (rather than calling the embassy and deporting me as I thought they were). However, the street signs were recently changed and they could not locate the residence. At 4:30am they told me that I might as well just sleep on the bench in the police station and in the morning, the saint of a woman hosting me came to pick me up. After the fact, it is freaking hilarious but I got extremely lucky. The Madeiran people are generous, patient, and willing to lend a helping hand.
Lost in Lisbon
Starting the smiles early

The week before the race, I spent eating pastries, hanging out on the farm with Maria, my host, and resting up (the continued rain and my fear of the scooter didn't allow much room to explore the island). Before I knew it, I was receiving race instructions at the press conference, making a mess to organize my race gear, and nervously picking at my bib number on a bus to the start. I made some good friends that helped ease the nerves: Matt Schaar repping SFRC from the Bay, Claire a badass ER doc/PhD that also runs 100+ mi races, Australians Kellie & Tegyn, and some Brazilians. Thanks to my ITRA ranking (really, I think it's just the fact that I'm "young"), I was able to start with the elites in a flurry of cameras; I made sure to bust a few moves to embarrass everyone around me.

This guy got such a good view of my butt for some hours
Then, at midnight, we were off. We climbed and climbed, then steeply descended. This pattern is basically what was on repeat all day. At around 18k, we ran through a small town that was wide awake cheering us on with high fives and Forza! I was offered a Super Bock beer by one spectator, and to their excited (likely drunken) cheers, I stopped to drink it. I had hoped it would give me Super powers.

Even at 65km, you can still make a silly face
Coming into the first aid station, like a rookie, I almost left my poles behind. I had to double back and grab my magic sticks and proceed downhill in the pouring rain. I settled into a good groove and broke the silence by singing out loud to my ipod (Destiny's Child, Drake, etc). I ran a couple km with a fellow American living in Switzerland for her PhD and we traded funny jokes in the darkness weaving through farms, levadas, root-y forests, and tunnels. Soon the sun rose, but the thick fog and rain kept the mood somber as we trudged on. Soaked through, I grimaced as the wind whipped the cold deep into my bones. I wanted to stop at the refuge aid station and just drink the hot tea all day. But I forced myself out that door and on the heels of a Portugese woman. We didn't have a common language, so we climbed and descended in silence. Positions were shuffled in our group and puddles splashed. I was starting to feel light headed and tired. I kept my feet moving, but focused on eating as many calories as I could stomach right then. That did the trick and eventually I got to the 60km Aid station, where I found Matt and my drop bag. My expectations of warm sunny weather, did not leave me with extra clothes to change into, so I simply stuffed my pack with Clif blocks and stopped at the food table to eat as much as I could. We had the longest and hardest climb ahead of us, with almost all of the climbing already behind us.
I bring the discoteca to the euro party
Matt and I started the suffering climb up to Pico Ruivio together. The fog was burning off and I leaned into my poles on the endless staircase up. I was surrounded by terrain my wildest imagination couldn't create and ran paths carved into the mountainside. I took my time with the metal ladders and gripped the ropes tightly on narrow ledges. Going through several tunnels, they were just long enough that I didn't feel the need to dig for my headlamp, but dark enough that the dim light at the end created hallucinatory moving, dripping walls. I would exit into the light stumbling with vertigo to the left, overcorrecting, and twice banged my right hand against the steel poles barricading the cliff. I thought I had broken my hand for a solid hour, rendering it useless (fortunately just bruised and cut up).

Coming down from these peaks, from 75km to 100km, I felt devoid of everything inside. I had the will and motivation to finish, and no real physical detriment to my legs. But it was as if everything else inside had been sucked out. I simply could not run. It was all I could do to keep moving forward, at my glacial snail pace. My ipod and watch died, so time continued to deceive me and it felt as if the world slowed it's spinning. I didn't feel sorry for myself because I was giving it everything I had, and at that moment, it just happened to be power walking. I plastered a smile on my face and reminded myself how incredibly lucky I am as I put one foot in front of the other.

I arrived at the 107km aid station as the sun was setting. I knew my goal of finishing before the second darkness wouldn't be met. But I knew I was going to finish, and that was enough. I'm grateful I was able to run this section at sunset. Purple painted the sky as a full moon rose. I meandered around a singletrack carved out of a cliff. The ocean waves crashed hundreds of feet below with the lights of fishing boats out in the distance. Volunteers had strung lights along the trail and I felt full of happiness. I ran. My legs carried me around to the levada descending into the finish at Machico. I pushed hard and ran as fast as I could. I beamed down the finish line stretch, high fiving the many people cheering. I was greeted with hugs and kisses by two Frenchies that had shared kms earlier. Despite the pain settling into my legs, I could not stop smiling. I had done it. Best of all, there was no doubt in all 22:23 hours that I would not.

A little help can go a long-a** way

Gear Used:
-Salomon sparkle pack
-Garmin Fenix 2 watch
-TNF Ultra Vertical shoes
-TNF Spanx & BTN Tee (bib stapled on as euros don't believe in pins)
-Tumbler cup & 1.5L bladder
-So many Clif bars
-Safety blanket with a lucky 1euro penny
-TNF Hyperair goretex jacket
-gloves & rainbow arm sleeves
-pole magic sticks
-Petzl Tikka & Ledlenser MH10 headlamp
-Drymax mid calf pink (duh) socks
-Victory Sportsdesign buff

Big thank you to all those family & friends cheering me on, MIUT for an incredible race and experience, sponsors that keep me from running naked (almost), and the lovely people I met along the way. I highly recommend this race (read sufferfest) and beautiful island to anyone. Strava of what I got before my watch died HERE.

Now that it's over, I opened my medical school applications. Recovery with ice cream and writing never felt so good. Next up: Broken Arrow 55k in June!
"Oh hey"- awkward American tourist 

Never Stop Eating Pastries 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rim to Rim to Rim. On A Whim.

Photo creds: fellow tourist
     After trudging through snow in pouring, freezing rain, I had called it quits on a long run attempt, which I intended to make good on the next day. It had been the X long run in a string of soaking, snowy, awful weekends with no end in sight. I wanted, nay NEEDED, sunshine. So, as soon as I got to my car, I booked a trip to Phoenix for the next weekend; I had decided I'd run the Grand Canyon. Spontaneity or Stupidity?
I guess it's okay.
     Ordinarily, people spend months planning and training for this bucket list goal. I, on the other hand, googled maps and winter conditions that week on my lunch breaks. Quickly I discovered that winter running would actually be difficult and that a major storm was passing through during the week.

Hitchhiked for a ride. No dice. 
     The night before (classic) I packed everything I thought I might need to run and camp for the weekend. With 20/20 vision in hindsight, I overpacked things I didn't need and missed the things I did. Rookie seemed to be a trending theme.

     Saturday I flew & drove uneventfully to the South Rim. I arrived right at sunset and joined the tourist flocks in gawking. I greatly underestimated the raw, insane beauty and true grandiosity; I was shocked. That night I slept uncomfortably and freezing in the car I had rented. Tourists pouring into the parking lot at 6:40 woke me up. Rattlesnakes. My alarm did not go off. I rushed in getting dressed and slurped down some PB & bananas while driving to what I thought was the South Kaibab trailhead. Wrong.

    I set out and had to run a whole extra 0.86 mi to the actual trailhead, along the rim, on an already long day. I was a little glad I had woken late as I got to revel in the glorious sunrise as I tumbled down the steep trail. I wore microspikes as the trail was covered in a sheet of ice. Olympian skeleton bobsledders would be afraid to practice on this. I also, in my cold rush to get ready, decided to wear my puffy and full tights (le-gasp, me in pants?!) as the pre dawn temps were 17F. However, the snow soon gave way and the rising sun started to bake. I ditched my puffy and long sleeve at the bottom by the bridge as they wouldn't fit in an already full pack with my winter mitts. I did not know the conditions on the north rim, so I supposed bringing the spikes and mitts would probably be a smart idea.
lol. K, South Kaibab.
     The trail meandered along the river and I passed by a sleepy Phantom Ranch. I was able to get into a good groove and the miles clicked by. At one point I paused with an outstretched arm towards a doe standing on the path. I knew the day would be a good one and considered petting my spirit animal to be a good omen.
    The sun was starting to cook and this Seattlite began to sweat profusely in the 50-60 degree temps. I regretted wearing the tights, but thanked god I didn't have a fleece lined option earlier, as I would've surely chosen that. At least I got the heat training I sought? If I had worn bun underwear, I would've stripped the tights off without hesitation. Alas, running half naked though was probably not kosher.

Accurate description of how I felt about
turning around at the North Rim
     The trail to the North Rim went from gradual to steep, real quick. I whipped out my poles as I ran out of water around mile 17.5. I was power hiking and felt relatively good, so I figured I'd be at the North Rim in no time, since blogs I had read said it was 21 ish miles. I was wrong on so many levels. The trail became steeper and consisted of either snow or red clay mud that stuck to my shoes like bricks. I was losing steam after so many fakeouts and trudged until I finally got to the rim (at mile 23 by the way). All along, at the little camp huts, the water was shut off or frozen solid. I would have known this- and that it was off at the Rim, too- if I had remembered to pack the maps and notes I printed...

     I had passed some hikers a half mi from the top and ran back down to them. I asked where they were headed. I wanted to forget this whole mess and steal a ride back to the South Rim (there wasn't a soul in sight up top). Unfortunately, but fortunately, they weren't and kindly filled me up with water. I graciously thanked their Texan hospitality and was on my way running (read: dancing) down again. It's amazing what a lifeforce water is. I returned back half because I really had no choice, and half because my spirit was rejuvenated and this adventure excited me.
Stairs on Stairs on Stairs
     Loping along the canyon floor again, I didn't see nearly as many hikers as before & I was grateful for the solitude- not only could I sing unabashedly to Destiny's Child- but I truly felt the power of Nature. Evolution was etched into the vibrant lines stratifying the canyon walls and I was transported into a limbo of time, sharing both the present but also experiencing the past. I was proud to be a resident of a world that could be so diverse and beautiful. With all the thousands that visit this national monument, I was genuinely shocked, and pleasantly surprised, at how Leave No Trace was stringently adhered: I only picked up two wrappers in all 46 miles.

     The way back seemed to go by more quickly. Before I knew it, I was back at the Black Bridge at the base of the South Kaibab trail. I knew it would be a few more hours, but I hoped to top out before sunset and avoid using a headlamp.

     This side seemed more grueling than the North side. Perhaps it was the 38 miles on my legs? That my watch died and I had no gauge for time? That my subconscious wished the adventure would never end? The trail carved out steep switchbacks spiralling up for miles. I leaned into my poles, wishing one of those mule trains I saw earlier would carry me up.
Oh lookey! the only flat section
     After what seemed like eons, I ran (exaggerated term) the final switchback to top out at 6:21pm, right as the sun cast purple hues across the sky. I looked back at the 46 miles, thousands of feet and raw adventure I had experienced in the last 11 hours 1min. I had not only run, but cherished the canyon. I can't believe I actually freaking did it. I sat in delirium leaning against the trail sign without a single thought in my head- only one emotion prevailed- true satisfaction. I made a lot of mistakes but succeeded in my mission. But soon my sweat dried and I hustled to the car to eat my heart out. The day was done and so was I.
Sunset finish
Here's what I carried with me vs What I wished I carried:
Omg I actually did it.
- TNF Ultra vertical shoes
- Salt tabs & 25 gels (only ate 17)
-Kahtoola microspikes
-SPOT Gps (my worried family & friends loved this)
-TNF Motus tights (wish I wore shorts)
-Squirrel's Nut Butter lube (TG)
-puffy & long sleeve (wish I just had arm warmers and sucked it up)
-Petzl headlamp (booyeah didn't need it)
-my redesigned Salomon vest & 1.5L bladder (that I should've filled more often when I could)
-VSD buff & wool headband (wish I just brought the buff)
-TNF MT mitts (thick but light gloves would suffice for just the beg & end)
-I totally spaced on bringing printed maps marking the available water spots
-Garmin watch (died and missed last 6 mi, but here's my Strava)
-ipod full of jams & my phone to take 1,001 pictures
-A good attitude and grateful heart to experience & love on this land
Neature is neat.
Aptly named.

#NeverStopCheesin #TheyCallMeQueso

Another boring picture