That feeling of reaching a summit, when those last few hundred feet of vertical struggle is over, there is a feeling of relief, humility, awe, gratitude, achievement – but it is brief, and after a few minutes, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. It’s not that the view gets old or that you don’t want to savor the moment, but the goal has been achieved and no matter where you sit, some pointy rock edge is jamming you in the ass – it gets cold and windy and chances are a storm will roll in before too long. Before the journey down the mountain is even over, you find yourself already craving another and reminiscing about the journey up, almost wishing you were still headed in that direction.
One of the main drivers behind my desire to run ultras is curiosity. Come to think of it, the main driver behind most everything I do is curiosity…
After reading Born to Run about 7 years ago, the book that introduced me to the concept of both trail running and ultra running, I became fascinated with the topic. I was living in Atlanta and ran mostly road, topping out at about 5 miles. I had no idea that I would move to Boulder or run ultras. By the time I decided to move out to Colorado, I was completely captivated by trail running and trail runners – I had visions of bumping into Scott Jurek every time I went for coffee and becoming BFFs. Well, I have run into him several times, but I’m pretty sure he just thinks I’m a creep… Turns out he’s not the only trail runner in this town and I’ve made a good few trail friends here, most of whom can confirm that I’m not a creep…
The other night I went to the Trails in Motion film festival, leading up to the Golden Gate Dirty 30 race that I’m running tomorrow. Featured in these films were a couple of local legends – Courtney Dauwalter and Clare Gallagher. More importantly, several films showcased athletes who may never podium, but who demonstrate an inspiring amount of heart, grit and perseverance, who put themselves in unique positions to experience both suffering and joy.
Quad Rock has a reputation for being either hot as balls or near blizzard conditions year to year. Spring in Colorado is unpredictable and despite 70+ degree days surrounding race day, this year it was in the 50s with rain and mud. Oh, so much mud. And every kind of mud. There was the kind of mud that tries to steal your shoes, the kind of predator mud that stands by while its prey exhausts itself trying to stay upright, the splashy diarrhea mud, and the pottery-slip mud. And in the final stretch was the kind of mud that turns your Salomons into Herman Munster shoes.
Hi stranger! How the shit are you?
I didn’t mean to ignore you, I’ve just had a lot going on, and it has occupied most of my waking hours and some of the sleepy ones too. The good news is that I stopped all the emotional flailing. I removed myself from an environment that was bringing out the worst in me. I let go of things I so crave but aren’t available to me. I’m feeling much more centered despite the whirlwind of the past few months. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
- went under contract on a condo while out of town
- closed on the condo in two weeks (loan paperwork, inspection, more loan paperwork, appraisal, final paperwork)
- quit my job
- started a new job
Currently, I’m staring down the race schedule that somehow snuck up on me in the midst of all this. I never did get on a specific training plan, but for the last couple of months I’ve averaged 160 mi // 35,000′ gainz, so I haven’t been grossly neglecting the miles or the vert – just the speed-work and hill repeats that are critical to a solid performance. smh
Right around mid-March, while I was traveling, there was a week where all I got in was a measly handful of shitty road miles. I had to make up dumb challenges to stay motivated as I dodged an unreasonable amount of shit smeared on the sidewalks. Whether human or dog, I can’t say. So when I got back to Boulder, I went balls out and put in a 53 mile week with 14,000′ vertical gain, followed up with a 46 mile week and another 8000′. I started to feel it in all the wrong ways. With a little help from Dr. Google, I self-diagnosed with ITBS, a typical beginner’s injury and got some advice from some other local trail runners that I admire and respect. Over the last month, I’ve been getting weekly acupuncture treatments, rolling and stretching. It’s made a HUGE difference and I’m looking forward to my first race next weekend.
I’m not exactly sure how to train in between since I have two A races that are very different. I’ve gotten some great advice, again, from local trail runners that I admire and respect. I’m going to take it all in, assimilate the information, listen to my body and go with it. I’d love to hear how you would train between these three races – tell me!
It’s no secret. I’ve been flailing.
Anyone close to me lately has seen the signs that I lost my way. I can’t stop thinking about my last blog post – although it contains many complete sentences, it feels completely incoherent. I’m leaving it up to demonstrate that sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the right and positive things, to demonstrate my humanity. The funny thing is, that post took me forever to write and edit and write again, while this one is just flowing out of me. A sign that I’m on the right path.
This is the natural course of these big lessons in resistance. As the pace of change has quickened in my life, I have been resisting instead of remaining open and vulnerable. As a result, I’ve experienced a lot of darkness, confusion, grasping for control, the going down of rabbit holes and general overall emotional flailing. While my unconscious has been busy processing all the disruption in my life, my ego went hog wild, partying and breaking valuables. It’s not all that surprising, but while I was in it, I just knew I was miserable and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. That’s when I remembered. I have a say in the matter.
When I was in high school, I was attracted to guys who were interested in having deep conversations about philosophy or economics or anything I was curious about, which was everything. The first and last to break me was one of those. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and a true original thinker. I met him when I was his math tutor. He was crazy smart but didn’t care about proving it. He introduced me to the author Douglas Coupland and more specifically the book Life After God. I read it at least three times, reveling in the fact that someone could articulate with such sarcastic wit, the existential curiosity that lived within me.
How does a girl who grew up constantly being told “you’re so smart, you’re so pretty, you’re going to go so far in life” spend so many years feeling worthless, only to level-up to imposter syndrome once she gets older? I figured it out yesterday while slow-jögging up Green-Bear, as there is magic that happens when I move my feet in the dirt. Self-worth, for those of us not innately blessed with it, has to be and more importantly, can beearned. While I appreciate the external validation from the well-intentioned adults, it focused on celebrating qualities that were completely out of my control and did nothing to help me develop a sense of value or grow as a person. What I needed was to be taught a growth mindset.
I “used to” have this superstition that if I acknowledged an area of my life that was going well or that I was excited about something, I would jinx it and it would all fall apart. I think I still feel that way to a degree. I keep the things that excite me to myself, especially when they are still delicately taking shape.
I never really considered giving advice on running trails because I consider myself to be very much a beginner. I still have so much to learn. I get DMs fairly often asking about gear and how to get into trail running, but recently someone reached out to me on Instagram, my favorite, favorite community building platform, to ask me for tips on getting into running trails to cope with a difficult life experience. I know a lot about that! I started reflecting on my journey and would like to offer some recommendations based on what I would do differently and what I got right – but mostly on what I do now after getting it wrong. It’s not that tactical, but I promise you, it’s just as important. You’ll figure out the tactical stuff as you go along.