Let’s go back one year. Exactly one year prior to this race I went to spectate the Traprock 50k as I do every year, intending to cheer on friends as I got a long training run in.
The morning of the race I got a text from a friend saying she had to back out of the 10 miler due to a family emergency and I could take her spot. I had the opportunity to run the race, no charge and decided not to, listing in my head a bunch of reasons. However, as I ran the trails that afternoon I had to face a hard reality.
I wasn’t in my best shape, and I knew ego was playing a bigger part here than I cared to admit. The bottom line is I didn’t know if I could win the race, and if I couldn’t win I didn’t want to race.
This realization hit me hard and as I ran I got very emotional. I watched all of the others racers running with huge smiles, happy to just be running & not consumed with one thing: winning. It was a moment when I simply didn’t like where my running was going.
That night I called my brother and I remember sharing this with him & having a very deep, real conversation. This was a day of awakening and lead me to take a full year off from racing.
I spent this last year doing a lot of reflecting and growing and I was confident I was ready to race again with a new mindset. I signed up for 3 races, each of them providing a stretch goal that was NOT to win.
1. Breakneck Marathon: many areas of exposure and heights – 2 things that give me SO MUCH ANXIETY.
2. CUT 112: The obvious – running over 100 miles as well as running through the night, possibly solo.
3. Tahoe 100k: the uncertainty of how my body will respond to altitude.
Training for the Breakneck Marathon was a bit different than any other race I’ve trained for. I don’t usually do such an early race (April 13) so a lot of my earlier training was in the snow and even doing hikes in the White Mountains. I also did treadmill runs (up to 16 miles) and eventually got out on the DIRT trails for long runs. However, a few weeks before the race I got really sick with a chest cold & that kind of screwed up my training.
I figured it was the universes way of reminding me to remember my goals and I kept my stress level low. The week of the race I would regularly forget I even had a race that weekend (in the past it was CONSTANTLY on my mind) I had no game plan as far as nutrition, when in the past it would be written down and planned to a T.
I had planned to go to the race solo, heading up Friday night. Prior races not having a “crew” and Erik there would ruin my race. Who would restock my water, nutrition, etc. Who would take my clothes as I removed layers? This race was different. I was going to actually eat from aid stations for the first time! I would carry a pack and take care of myself!
I knew my buddy would be there racing with me, but few days prior he text me and said he was no longer going because he had a memorial to attend. I was 100% by myself for this race and that brought me a sense of calm.
Erik loaded my car and made my “bed” in the back of the car and I headed to Hudson area Friday acternoon. I got to the race start area (where I would be spending the night in my car) around 3pm. I checked in, went into cute little Cold Springs and spent some time window shopping. Again, small things, but to me….big progress. Instead of freaking out about “legs up” at 5pm I was walking around town, and RELAXED!
At this point I still didn’t know what I would do for dinner, a detail usually decided days in advance. I ended up stopping at a grocery store, buying pretzels, and other snacks. I don’t even remember what I did for dinner..I think just snacks…lol.
I read on a bench at the park, staying away from the other racers & the “buzz” that usually surrounds a race. I wanted to stay in my own world, far away from everyone else.
At 7pm I went to my car and I felt so comfortable and content as a read my book laying down in my Subaru. It started to rain and POURED the rest of the night.
The morning brought with it the same calm and lack of stress I’d experienced so far. It was incredible and almost like I was passing this “test” I had been studying for the last year. The small amount of anxiety I did have was thinking about the scary section of climbing & exposure and slick rock with the rain. Oh, another anxiety moment: The night before I also checked past results & saw the course record was just over 5 hrs with mid pack (where I thought I’d be) finishing in 8 hours. I suddenly felt very unprepared and mad at myself for mistaking low stress for lack of preparation.
The race started and I put myself a few rows back. I didn’t want to start too far back, as trail runs tend to bottleneck bad once you hit singletrack. I had no idea how many females were ahead of me, and at about mile 8 I passed a couple females on the climb I was scared of.
This section was definitely scary, especially with the slick rock, but I had a guy behind me and I turned to him and said, “your job is to make sure I keep moving forward.” Not long after I slipped and started to fall back and he caught me. He said “I won’t let you go backwards. We are in this together.” Trail Runners are so incredible. He even waited for me at one point to make sure I was okay. I couldn’t thank him enough.
I had no idea where I was in the race as far as place, but what I did know is I just slayed many demons after that section. In my mind, the race was complete for me.
Around mile 15 a volunteer told me, “3rd female”. From that point forward I held on to 3rd the rest of the race. I wish I could say I could care less about finishing top 3, but I definitely pushed to keep that position. I’m not even sure if that’s a bad thing. The thoughts I had in my head were pretty healthy, but I still need to keep challenging myself and digging deeper to see where I’m at.
One thing I can say with confidence is that I am in a WAY better place than I was one year ago. I find so much joy in working on myself and it is scary and frustrating, but also exciting to know that this will never end. This is a journey of a lifetime and I can’t wait to keep growing and learning.
The race was incredibly beautiful, and EXTREMELY hard. It may have been one of the hardest races I have ever done. The trails were so muddy, which made it even harder. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. There is also a half marathon option. The race director Ian (who also directs the Cayuga 50 another amazing race) is such a good guy. The course was very well marked a d the volunteers were great. Such a positive experience all around.
Here are some pics of the race, but not me 🙂