Finding My Stride: and associated puns.

Preamble
After a much needed break from my broken self I decided that this summer I would dip my toes back into the pool of stiff competition. It’s a story in the making. Nearly two years of mending, and fighting it, and mending again.

I fought for a comeback.  I spent a year trying to remake myself, I would be a runner.  It was that simple.  However every time the starting line approached something would break.  My hips were relentlessly tight, my hamstrings tweaked, and heel pain so bad it was crippling.  Albeit, it was incredibly frustrating, but it made me refocus.  Instead of remaking myself, I needed to find myself.  I dove back into academics.  Found blankets, and cups of tea.  Found friends around dinner tables, and new ways to slide on snow.  My heart didn’t race when I tried to sleep.  I didn’t need to search for reasons to get out of bed, and although unsure, for the first time ever I didn’t feel restless.

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Scene One
(Enter New Coach)

Roughly a year ago I decided I was ready to start “training” again.  I searched the internet relentlessly looking for someone to offer me guidance for less than 1billion dollars a month.  Thanks to the twitter gods, David Roche and the SWAP team entered my life.  Although I know how to train I need someone to tell me when to chill out and associated expletives.  I needed a community that was united over pizza, pancake breakfasts, and pictures of each others dogs. No matter how distant we all might be, I know if I need advice about running, careers, and cider pairings I can count on them to lift me up.

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Suddenly I was 8 months deep and my name was turning up on start lists. Was I ready?  Would my body hold up? Is this satisfying?  Am I okay if I do not perform to my expectations?  Is that okay? What does that mean?  Would there be enough cookies???

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Scene Two
(Let the races begin)

I made it to the start line!  …and it was okay.  After dabbling in some of the early season races (including a speedy fast 12k, a duathlon, the Bangtail Divide, and a trip to US Mountain Running Championships) and doing my part to cheer on other Montanans in the mountains it was time to step into the deep end.

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Two weeks ago I got on the start line at the Rut Mountain Runs in Big Sky, Montana ready to embrace competition head on. I jumped in the vertical kilometer, also known as “Go till you blow!”  Although I didn’t feel as strong as some of the girls around me I settled into suffer mode and had a lot of fun.  Anna Frost kindly asked if I wanted to pass her… I panicked like a JV track runner and settled in behind her as we scrambled up BoneCrusher Ridge for our first of many ascents up to Lone Peak that weekend.  I ended up 12th in a packed ladies field complete with over a half dozen professional European athletes.  The next day I ran the 25km (errrr… 28-ish km?) and struggled.  My quads couldn’t engage and I slogged through the first half of the course half way between despair and “toughen up!”… I ran into a buddy at the 9 mile aid station where I willing grabbed his flask of bourbon.  Boosted by the cheers of the aid station I reluctantly gave back the flask and trudged on.  Somewhere on BoneCrusher Ridge I felt more and more like myself and found new gears and glee all the way to the finish. 15th women, top ten for Americans, and able to walk.

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A lot can happen in two weeks and when I stepped on the start line of my second sky running race of the season this past weekend in Washington I felt ready to compete, instead of survive.  The moment we crested the first big climb of the day and I saw Rainer jutting up in the distance all thoughts about placement fleeted away.  I suffered.  My quads and back screamed for relief, but instead they were treated to the right combination of wonderfully horrible ascents and descents any good trail race offers.  Despite a late charge with 3rd and 4th place insight I couldn’t quite pull it together on the long descent to the finish and had to happily settle for 5th, a handmade medal, and a hug from Stephen who was waiting at the finish.

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Epilogue

I am happy to have found my feet and a new chapter in my competitive career.  There were many moments over the past year where I was wondering if I’d ever race again.  If I’d embrace it, or find it overwhelming and ultimately leave me unhappy.  In the past two weeks I found answers.  I was happy, healthy, and excited by the start line.  Two weeks from now I’ll be finished with my final sky race of the season.  I’ll have completed a major goal of mine, and we’ll be looking towards a full 2016 season!

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EntEn

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