I will start from the beginning. If you read my last blog you know that I took a year off from racing to get my mind right. I started to get too obsessed with winning races, and not really enjoying the racing like I thought I should be. You can read all about that here.
So, after a full year off, I was ready to get back at it with a new and improved mindset. I knew the boys were signing up for the Tahoe 200 again, and I debated it myself. Then I went to the website and saw the 100K option. It was about a quarter of the cost, and what intrigued me most was the top male and female would be sent to Salomon running camp for an all expenses paid week long trip. Flight, hotel, run camp, food, yoga, etc. 5 races across the world (this one being one of them) top male and female = 10 total runners. Last year 3 of them got signed with Salomon. I thought, why not? Who knows, why not me?
Unfortunately, a few months later I went back to the site and saw this was no longer on the website. It seems the race director was now with Altra and Salomon was no longer involved. I was kind of upset, but truly thought that this was probably a good thing.
Fast forward to the week leading up to the race. Like I said, last year I did a lot work to get to a point where I stopped taking racing so seriously and it ACTUALLY WORKED!! Every race I did this year I prepared for, but didn’t stress about it. And it was working. I won my first 5K, and placed 3rd female overall at Breakneck trail marathon and CUT 112 miler. However, this race I may have been straddling the line of not stressing & not preparing! It was 2 days before my flight out to Tahoe before I started to think about what I needed.
This was the first race I would be doing with no crew, which meant I would need to be carrying a lot more than usual. I was leaving Wednesday and on Monday night I realized I had no nutrition, no hydration pack that would work, and no water bottles for said pack. Oops. Thankfully I have an amazing husband and Amazon has 24 hour delivery and we were able to get everything to the house late Tuesday night with 5 hours to spare.
Let’s talk about Tahoe. Holy Shit. This place is a dream. We had a hotel room that had views of Lake Tahoe and the mountains and I was so freaking gitty with happiness. Not to mention Justin and Billy were already there, and Freiman was arriving Wednesday with me. I was not only surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, but I soon would be surrounded by some amazing dudes (who were all doing the Tahoe 200)
My race started on Saturday and the boys would set off Friday AM. Leading up to those days we just took all of Tahoe in. We biked, we ate, we drank, we bowled, we went from hot tub to a dip in the lake, we sang, we played One Man Band and Rumor too many times but not enough….there was just such a buzz of all excitement and (what felt like) very little stress. This was all the way up to the race start. I drove the boys to the start as Justin and Billy put on a show most would pay for singing “Despasito”. I could not believe that we were a couple hours away from the start of a 200 mile journey around Lake Tahoe, when I felt like we were on the way to a night out.
This was all part of the wonderful journey I have been on. I needed these boys to remind me that we do this shit not only to push our limits and to make us grow but, BECAUSE WE LOVE IT! I have been around people that make you stress even though you aren’t racing because they are so stressed!!! That wasn’t working for me! THIS!! This was working for me.
At 9am the boys swore to Candice (race director) with the rest of the field that if they “get lost, hurt or die it is their own damn fault” and marched their way up the ski mountain to begin their 205 mile journey. At this point it would be 2 days (Sunday morning) until I saw them again, and I drove home almost wanting to back out of my race. Justin made a comment to me at one point saying, “you seem strangely calm about your race.” Part of that was all the work I have been doing, but another part of it is that I felt like my race was kind of like a side show to their main event. Not in a negative way…I just was so into their race that I wanted to be there every minute of it!
But, my race was happening so it was time to focus. I feel like this was the first time I actually started to really mentally prepare for the race. This is when the anxiety hit hard. Here’s why. For the last year or so I have been a little worried about my lungs. I’ve had moments where breathing feels very hard, and I lose my voice all the time. I did get this checked to eliminate the scary stuff, but I still struggle with it. The fact that I would be running at 10,000 ft when I have NEVER run (or walked) at high altitude before had me very worried. I was warned of headaches, vomiting, and worst case pulmonary edema.
It was time to get my sports psychologist (and best friend) Meg on the phone and do some mindset work. As I looked over Lake Tahoe and the mountains the boys were running through, Meg talked me through some visualization exercises. This has been a huge part of my career and I am forever grateful for Meg as my lifelong best friend and coach!
I spent the rest of the day visualization and prepping the mind and gear. Saturday at 3am the alarm went off and I was on my way. Race start was 630am and we needed to drive to the finish and get shuttled to the start (it was a point to point race). This was my first race I had to do all of this solo and I must say it was a lot more stressful than I expected. However, it was all part of what I wanted…an added challenge and just me, myself and I battling the demons.
The start lines of races this year were where I truly saw my hard work shine. No stress. No sizing up the competition. Just a little bit of excitement and anxiety. All normal. The race starts with a big climb and I find my way into a line of people hiking up and settle in. This will be less of a race for me and more of an experience. Taking it all in, including the incredible sunrise we experience as we peak the first mountain and get our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe. Unreal.
I am loving the fast single tracks and find a nice groove with a group of guys. At this point everyone is getting into the ultra mode. Chatting it up, talking about races they’ve done, what they plan to do. I silently listen and quickly realize I am one of the few East Coasters. California. Colorado. European mountains. Etc. A moment of insecurity and feeling I am out of my league, but I stay in my zone.
Soon we hit the first aid station, maybe 8 miles in. I was very surprised to hear “1st female” Seriously? No idea how that happened. I manage to not go into “competitive” mode too quick and keep the same laid back mindset as I move on. I just assume this will be short lived and I’m fine with that.
The 2nd aid station comes at mile 20ish and I know I’m still in the lead because no one has passed me. When I hit this aid station 2nd place female is right there with me. I take the time to grab nutrition and search for coffee (in my scramble to navigate the race start solo I forgot coffee which means if I don’t get it soon I will be running most the race with an intense headache) I fill both my water bottles and SOME of my hydration pack, which I will soon realize was a huge mistake.
The next section is 15 miles and something like 3,000 ft of climbing. The temps would be crawling into the high 80’s with full sun exposure. It was in this section that I hit my big low. I ran out of water, and had to sit at one point (this was also a section where we hit 10,000ft elevation) and get my shit together. I was spiraling downhill fast and letting my mind go to dark places (‘what happens if I need to get down from elevation fast? How will I get down? Will I need to be helicoptered?’) Sit, go over the mindset work I did with Meg, and move on.
The next aid station (mile 35) I drank water like I was a camel, and was SO EXCITED to see Justin and Billy here. I didn’t take a lot of time, but was able to chat with them a bit and make sure I filled my water. Each aid station was an out and back and this one seemed to be a mile long downhill, which means we had to climb back up. Urgh. I was also able to see the 3rd and 4th female at this point and they weren’t too far back. (a little bit of wanting to place top 3 started to hit here)
Not soon after I saw Matt and was able to give him a hug and grab some of his positive energy. He says, “holy shit, I only saw one girl ahead of you, are you in 2nd?” I said yes, and he gave me a huge smile and high five. So amazing to have these guys out here! I settled in for the rest of the race with a young guy from New York. Each aid station going forward the workers would tell me “you are right behind first” and I am so amazed by how much that didn’t phase me. In the past I would have risked blowing up my race to try to catch her. Instead, I stayed in my own lane and ran my race. I knew the race Would play out the way it should, and to be honest, ruining this amazing experience was not worth a 1st place finish. If it was Gay City or a local race, maybe…but this was more about the fact I was F%$#ING running around Lake Tahoe than a race for me!!
When we hit the last aid staton one worker told me, “if you’re fast you can catch her. she just left” The guy I was running with asked me if I wanted to go for it and I said, not yet. We were told there was 6 miles left and a climb, but what we didn’t realize that 6 was more like 7.5 and the climb was a BEAST! At mile 56ish it felt like a death march. We finally get to the top after what felt like 30 minutes of straight uphill and hit a pavement section. At this point I think there is only about 3 miles left so I decide to hammer it. I push hard and when the pavement ends decide to wait for my running buddy because I didn’t see first place girl.
This was probably the hardest part of the race mentally for me. We were so close to being done and as we run what seems to be almost a mile, we don’t see any markers. I start to feel sick, thinking we are off course. One big goal of mine was to finish before dark and the sun was setting quick. I wanted to turn around because I was sure we were off course but Connor tells me to keep going a little bit and see. Soon later I see the pink ribbon. I cannot tell you what it feels like to see a ribbon hanging from a tree in a trail race when you think you are lost. I screamed with joy!
At this point we are about 7.5 miles in and we are thinking it is a sick joke. Where is the finish!? As we watch the sun set over the mountains we hit pavement and see what looks like a finish area. At this point I can see a headlamp at the top of the hill and realize it is 1st place female. Looking back at this moment I can’t help but think “what if this was for a trip to Salomon running camp?” I have to wonder if I could have pushed and caught her!
However, it wasn’t. It was for a plaque that either reads 1st or 2nd. I was fine with 2nd. To be honest, this year my real push to podium finish has been to get mission FITNESS and Sayulita publicized, and 2nd got me that!
Turns out less than 90 seconds separated me from 1st place. Crazy to think about, but I am totally fine with my race. It was exactly what I wanted and I loved it so much. I drove myself back to the hotel, showered, and slept in my car (so uncomfortable) and went to find the boys and enjoy their journey. What an unforgettable trip all around!