Racing is Life

When I started to run trails 10 years ago, I never once thought about racing. I ran (and still do) to keep my sanity and to get the wiggles out plain and simple. But my running buddies encouraged me to train for a race and I’m really glad they did. Because now I love it.

Racing gives me so many opportunities to build confidence, learn to trust myself and my training, practice awareness and presence, and build life skills.

This year I’ve chosen races to support my goal to get stronger and faster. Those races are the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 Miler, Ridge to Rails Half Marathon, and Grand-Further Mountain Run, a 25k. 

Uwharrie was in February and while I didn’t meet my A goal of finishing in 4:30, I did beat my B goal of finishing under 5 hours at 4:47 and 17 minutes ahead of my 2020 time!

I finished my 2nd race in early June. The new Ridge to Rails Half Marathon is a 2700’ net loss trail run with over 1600’ of climbing. This race connects MTB lovers Kitsuma Trail to Copper Ridge Trail to the newer, Old Fort Gateway Trail System for some quad-burning downhill madness.

Race Weekend

Race weekend is always an adventure: Pack the gear and food! (especially if you have food sensitivities or allergies and you don’t tend to eat at aid stations) Get to the destination! Solve all the challenges! Oh, and race!

Challenge Number 1 came early in the weekend. I was beginning to prepare my now traditional pre-race dinner: salmon and white rice (shout out to my run coach Rachel Bell Kelly for the suggestion) with Trader Joe’s Furikaki seasoning for flavor, when I realized I’d be cooking on an induction stove. I’d rather cook on a camp stove any day instead of an induction stovetop.

Look, I’m a professional cook who has experience with lots of different equipment and who has been in situations where I just had to make it work. But damn, this induction stove was uncooperative. When the classic unplug/replug didn’t work, I reached for the user’s guide that I had to find online. It told me the error message I was getting was due to either using a wrong-sized pan or one that wasn’t induction friendly. Ahh, but the pan did fit the eye and it was induction friendly.

After a failed phone call to the cabin owners, I said fuck it and Googled how to cook rice in the microwave. Now the microwave is a piece of cooking equipment I have little experience using. So I was super pleased to learn that it makes EXCELLENT rice. And, the salmon turned out great too. 3 minutes on high for those who want to know.

Dancing Waters, the beautiful, tiny cabin I rented.

Challenge Number 2 occurred the morning of the race. While I ran my warm-up, I found a tree had come down across the road during the night. As I eyed it, I decided that I couldn’t drive my Subaru Outback over it because its dead branches had somehow turned into tire-popping spikes.

So I began to toggle the trunk to see if I could move it myself, trying to be mindful to not hurt my back as I had a race to get to. It didn’t want to budge but after some wiggling, I was able to move it off the road saying thanks that I didn’t have to deal with this as I was heading to catch the race shuttle.

The Race

I raced well, had a blast, executed my plan, and nailed my intrinsic goals but I was not as fast as I had hoped. The only recovery time was on the downhills and since this was a net-loss race, my quads got hammered.  The “flats” which I wanted to use to recover, were never really flat. They all tended to have an elevation grade. But I did meet my goal of finishing in less than 3 hours with a 2:47 finish and only missed my goal of placing top 3 Females in the 50-59 age group by 8 seconds!

Here are a few Happy Race Highlights:

  • Met a new friend during Sacred Shuttle Time on the way to the start
  • Peed alongside the trail with all the ladies who were not waiting for the porta potty
  • Whooped and laughed on the Kitsuma downhills with a group of us who tackled it together
  • Took care of myself by getting water and stopping to tie my shoes when I needed

New friend Jennifer Davenport – photo by Jen Davenport

While I was tired at the finish and my quads were stiffening with every second, I wonder if I could have pushed harder. My hips and legs fatigue easily on rolling hills which are a hallmark of mountain biking trails. Regardless, I’ve decided that I still have a lot to learn about being comfortable with the uncomfortable. And I came away thinking it’s not so much about pushing harder but more about not resisting the pain. 

Post-race face! Also, keeping it real because not every picture has to be “flattering.” – photo by Tanawa Adventures

I’m currently listening to Brad Stulberg’s The Practice of Groundedness. In the middle of uncomfortable moments, he recommends saying to ourselves, “This is what is happening right now. I am doing the best I can.” I used this during my race but in hindsight not so much at the end when my quads were making me whimper. If I had remembered to say it those last two miles, would I have finished faster? Eight seconds faster perhaps?

I don’t know and I’m not going to dwell on that. But I am going to practice this compassionate mantra during this training block. Particularly during my hill and threshold workouts when the pain pressure builds. My hope is when I face the ascents and descents at Grand-Further in August, not only will my quads have the power, but my mind will too.

#sweatoften #nurtureyourself #stressless #8pillarsofanutritiouslife #trailrun #wevegotyou