An Island Adventure

There’s been a bit of bike riding going on over the past few weeks, but more importantly, I’m fresh off the plane from a week-long trip to the islands of Turks and Caicos! I seem to have overlooked the memo that graduate students don’t get a spring break; but when the opportunity to head off to sunny paradise arose, there was no way I was going to turn that down!

Now, an island resort isn’t normally my style of travel. I tend to prefer challenging travel that immerses me in the countries culture. However, I attempted to change my idea of what “out of the country travel” usually means for me and shift my perspective to enjoying and appreciating the family time I would be getting during this week. I also know that this next month will be full of a lot of hard work and stress so it was nice to have the opportunity to recharge before the last big push before my thesis defense.

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Nearly the entire week, I had very mixed and very conflicting feelings about the tropical paradise. Flying into the Providenciales (one of the islands of the country) airport, I was stunned by the beautiful, clear, blue water around the islands. Our group then hopped into a taxi for a 20-minute ride to the airport. The ride was… challenging for me; house after house along the liter ridden highway was falling apart or frequently even half demolished with its residents lingering around outside. But before you had too much time to think about it, we were whisked into an immaculately groomed resort with lit up palm trees and landscape, two pools, nice condos, a beachside bar and workers ready to respond to our every need. The contrast was stark.

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The beach we walked onto from our hotel was Grace Bay, rated one of the most beaches in the world. The location really was one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen and there was certainly no difficulty getting plenty of rest and relaxation on the short over the week.Conch fritters and rum punch were a daily staple for our whole group, with the beachside restaurant the Conch Shack being the most memorable avenue for these indulgences. Will and I went snorkeling, for the first time, in the middle of the ocean where reef caves and fish I had only seen in Finding Nemo were abundant. We also went to the Conch Farm which is working to create a sustainable and responsible method to increase the Queen Conch population that is a crucial export to Turks and Caicos. I would highly recommend it!

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Now, for some real talk. I think one of the most uncomfortable aspects of the island was the classism (racism?). In general, the population of Turks and Caicos is black; however, everywhere we went almost 100% of the patrons and customers were white. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a single local anywhere we went who wasn’t an employee and I really did not like being a part of such a segregated system. I suppose there were places to go off the beaten path and intermingle with residents a bit more but the kind of trip I was on didn’t really allow for that. I also couldn’t help but question why someone would spend thousands of dollars PER NIGHT to stay at some of the multimillion dollar condos/houses on the beach and be able to overlook the very obvious need for that money to go elsewhere. To be clear, I am very aware that this is an issue everywhere, I’m just not normally in that close of proximity to the world’s “elite” as I was on the island.

Anyways, despite spending the week trying to juggle my values with my current surroundings, I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to go to my first Carribean island. I think I slept at least 12 hours a day every day that I was there; I’m stocking up some reserve that will most certainly be used in the next few weeks! And most certainly, I’ll be cherishing the time I got to spend goofing off with Will.

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I’m Back

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything. Is anyone even still here? My absence does not mean I haven’t been writing – aside from a ton of half-finished post that I start and then forget about, I’m a good thirty pages into my thesis now. Between preparing for my defense, research, applying to jobs like it is my job, teaching, taking some cool classes, trying to find time to ride my bike, and attempting to have a social life something had to fall by the wayside. But I’ll give a few updates now!

My cyclocross season ended really well (Wow it really has been a while…)! I closed out the season on a beautiful new cross bike that Wilson got me and managed to place 2nd in the omnium for NCCX. Kind of crazy considering I didn’t ride my bike at all for the months leading up to the season and missed several races to prepare for and run my ultra. That also meant that I finally had enough points to move up a category for next season! I could have waited but I figured moving into the big girl race would give me some incentive not to sign up for any more crazy running races during the season and give me motivation to actually ride my bike before September rolls around.

Speaking of which, I actually HAVE been riding quite a bit (for me). I’ll have to talk about my training more some other time, but it’s kind of hard not to get in really good training when you’re dating the hardest working cyclist around. Plus, it’s basically summer here in North Carolina already so I would be crazy to waste the weather. I’ve also been able to take Miss Raven mountain biking with me! I wasn’t sure how it would go at first, but she trotted along behind Will and in front of me perfectly for a whole hour at the local trails. Seriously, a dream come true to have a dog like her.

 

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Riding with my best friend

 

So far, I have no plans to do any bike racing in the spring or summer. I suppose that could change, but I’m kind of enjoying having my weekends back and then just going to watch friends race on the road when I feel like it. I did sign up for the Raleigh Rock and Roll Half marathon in April to do with a friend. I started incorporating some track workouts into my life again once a week and have been loving it! However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I should probably do some runs longer than 4 miles sometime soon.

Life is good and I have some really cool things coming up in the next few months that I can share. Hoping to pop back in again soon!

When Fear Wins: NCCX Hendersonville

It’s funny that I started my last post mentioning my lack of disappointments and difficulties I had encountered in my cross season thus far. I suppose I have been an athlete long enough to know that multiple months of personal success and improvements always has to get interrupted sooner or later – That interruption just happened to be my race yesterday in  Hendersonville. Before I go into it further, I will also mention that it is unfortunate that I haven’t had enough time to write about my cyclocross race in Charlotte because that was truly a huge breakthrough for me getting my first second place and riding well. However, I would rather take this time to write about this while it is still fresh in my mind.

The majority of my team headed up last Friday to Hendersonville for a weekend of racing at North Carolina’s UCI cross event. I was unable to race on Saturday since the girls I coach for Girls on the Run were having their end of the season 5k celebration that morning. Not wanting to be left out on the weekend of fun though, I made the four hour drive solo directly after the 5k and got to Hendersonville just in time to see Will finish up his race (literally just in time -I got about the last 20 seconds of it!).

I was in great spirits as our whole team hung out in the beautiful cabin we rented after all the races were over. I am truly at my happiest when I get to spend time in a group of people that I can be my authentic self around; this group is comprised of some of the most supportive and kind people you will ever meet. I went to bed content and ready to seek revenge on a course that I DNF’d at last year.

A group of us arrived at the course a little bit after 8am to pre-ride the course for our 11 o’clock race. For us North Carolinians, the 20 degree bitter cold was nearly heart stopping and quickly got rid of all feeling in my fingers and toes. I have not seemed to managed to find a good pair of gloves that I can have enough dexterity to break and shift on my bike but still keep my hands warm. Do they exist? Someone needs to enlighten me…

Anyways, the preride was far from encouraging. The entire course was covered with an icy sheet of frost that made even the most sweeping of turns precarious to ride on. There is a section of several back to back steep up and downs followed by off-camber that I skipped riding, telling myself I would ride them later when the frost had melted. Mistake #1. It took 3 different small segments of time pre-riding to make my way all the way around the course before my race and I didn’t ride a single section that caused me some grief. Quite possibly the biggest mistake I’ve made all season.

From the time the gun went off, I really, really, really, REALLY did not want to be racing. I got a pretty good start but I found myself backing off as soon as we left the pavement because I was uncomfortable with the slick turns at the very beginning. I quickly saw what felt like 10 people ride away from me and I felt even less of a desire to race. It didn’t take long before we got to the up and down section that I had mentioned and it was the final straw for my race mindset. We could barely run up the hills and then I didn’t want to ride down the hill so I carefully tip toed down. While doing so, I continued to see the front group move further and further away. While back a ways from the leaders, at this point I was still with the girl that ended up 4th in the race. Continue on and I was getting more and more negative. I wasn’t even really pedaling and my heart rate was basically at what it is when I’m resting between intervals. There is a segment in this course called “the wall” that I didn’t get to try before the race either. This section was the final nail in the coffin as I walked up the hill and then walked the off camber after it, trying really hard to hold back the tears in front of a pretty large crowd and my teammies.

I finally got onto the second lap and I considered dropping out of the race. I wasn’t having fun – in fact I was pretty downright miserable. At this point I really was just coasting on my bike and was livid at myself. Some of the extremely sweet girls who passed me tried to encourage me to go with them so that we wouldn’t get lapped by the guys. Towards the last part of the second lap, I ended up waiting shortly so that they actually COULD lap me and I could finish with only 2 laps rather than having to do a third. Honestly, the only reason I stayed in the race was because I figured getting some points for the series omnium was better than getting none. Probably the only logical thought I had during those 20 minutes.

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Only smiles again post-race. It was only slightly cold.

So there you have it; a very low, low for my racing laid out in earnest. It would be very easy to criticize me for what looks like giving up when I’m not in top position. It would also be natural to fault me for not giving 100% or in being dramatic when I mention that I was “holding back tears” over something as silly as a bike race. Trust me, this censure exists very loudly in my head right now. What good does it really do to focus on that though?

What does help is to “lean into” the extreme feeling of discomfort that this race caused me. For whatever reason, very steep uphills and downhills cause me a great deal of panic. They don’t have to be very long ones and even when I’m just riding around I’m fearful of them. On the downhill, I always think I’m going to go straight over my handlebars or that my cantilever breaks aren’t going to be strong enough to stop me from crashing straight into the tape (especially when I can’t feel my fingers). It’s difficult for me to even try steep uphills because I feel like I’m not going to get my foot out in time if I can’t make it up. Which is silly of course; more likely than not, I will get my foot unclipped and if I don’t then I’m going extremely slow and falling over won’t really be all that bad. Fear is not rational though.

Going further, fear is a pretty ugly thing. It’s a very strong and powerful primitive emotion that is uncomfortable to face head on or to admit. Instead, we usually cover it up with other things like anger or blaming something else entirely unrelated. We make excuses that allow us to avoid the situation that causes the fear which in turn ultimately makes the fear worse.

Yes, those were my initial reactions. I was angry. I cried after I finished and couldn’t explain why. I gave myself 30 minutes afterwards to be upset about the race. I did what I know never fails to clear my head: I went on a run. As I got further away from the park, I slowly realized the real reason I had such a bad race; I realized I had let my fear and anxiety snowball and triumph over me which then led to being angry at myself for letting it beat me.

That is not me. It goes against the fundamental principle I hold for my life – I actively seek out the things I am afraid of to push my comfort zone and expand my perspective. I NEVER want fear to get in the way of me doing something that I want to do. I never want it to be a motivator or influence over decisions in my life. And while immediately after finishing I vowed never to do that race again (last year’s DNF was pretty much due to the exact same thing), I know I will be back again this time next year.

I will search out some steep things to ride up and down until I don’t even think twice about it. I’ll ride in the grass on frosty mornings and learn to embrace fish-tailing, sliding out and falling down. I’ll continue pushing my technical abilities on my mountain bike and venturing out on single track on my cross bike. In short, while fear may have won on Sunday, I refuse to let it dictate my life and I will overcome it.

Now, on to looking ahead to the race this Sunday.

Seeing Improvement: NCCX Southern Pines

I must admit: I kind of hate the fact that my blog posts have only showcased all the positive, successful moments over the past few months. I always want to be very authentic which means being open about the good times and the bad that come with training. However, I will say that these past few weeks have genuinely been filled with breakthrough workouts, races and just overall happiness.

I think last time I was commenting  on how I couldn’t seem to break through to a podium spot in my cyclocross races. This all changed two weeks ago when I got my first 3rd place and medal in cycling! I didn’t race at Southern Pines last year and for the most part I had only heard complaints about the dreaded sand as this race. I watched a video of the course before making the hour drive for race day but it did not nearly do the course justice.

This season, I have really focused on getting to the races early so that I can do 3 and sometimes 4 laps of the course before racing. This has made ALL the difference for me. I am a fairly timid rider the first few times I go through a new off road section (certainly true for mountain biking as well) and the multiple laps allows me to go painstakingly slow on the first lap and work up to a more race pace lap before the gun goes off.

The thing about sand (and mud) though, is that most people in the lower categories don’t know how to ride it so it’s a pretty good equalizer and really exposes bike handling weaknesses. I give you exhibit A:

Men’s 4/5 Race

It turns out, mountain biking has done me some good! I wouldn’t say I was particularly great at riding through through the sand… more like I was just less bad at riding it 🙂 I would have absolutely hated this course last year when I could barely ride my bike on gravel but this year it has probably turned out to be one of my favorite courses. I will also say that I went from 5th into 3rd place by running past two girls on the leg burning, lung crushing run up. I’m so glad my running fitness counts for something in this sport!

While handling skills certainly played a big part for me in doing well in this race, it also is largely due to actually riding my bike consistently now! While I loved my summer, the large improvement I’ve seen in just three weeks of focused training has me wondering where I would be if I had actually ridden my bike over the summer. Oh well, I suppose I’ll find out next year 🙂

NCCX Cyclocross: Raleigh and Salisbury

This past weekend was filled with back to back days of cross racing – there really aren’t too many other ways I would rather spend a fall weekend! Saturday’s race was the North Carolina/South Carolina state championship and was being held nearby in Raleigh. Sunday was a bit more of a trek out to Salisbury, but both days were full of bikes, friends and sunny skies!

Saturday: NCCX Raleigh

Considering I had stayed home sick from work both Thursday and Friday, I didn’t have many expectations coming into this race weekend. I think I slept probably 40 out of the 48 hours before race day! I took to reading articles about various athletes who had their best performance with a cold in order to pump me up. After loading up on some Dayquil and ibuprofin it was off to the race for a long day. Local races are always a ton of fun because I get to see just about everyone that I could want to see in the already small cross community. However, it can also be bad since I get distracted, want to talk to everyone and then end up not getting in a proper warm-up…. whoops. I got a so-so start to the race; I didn’t get the hole shot but I wasn’t stuck behind anyone too terribly slow either.

Not from my race but here’s the Raleigh course

Since I kind of just spun around a bit before the race, I was surprised at how good I was feeling when the race got going! This course is fun and requires a good amount of strength which is the kind of course I prefer. There aren’t any obstacles that are too crazy here but there is one massive hill in the park that gets put to use several times! As is usually the case, my endurance base shined through and I slowly kept moving up in the field throughout the course of the race. When I started my third and final lap, I had moved into fourth and had the third place girl in my sights. I caught on to her wheel and figured I would try and pass her on the hill section where I am stronger. Sure enough, she couldn’t make it up one of the hills, had to hop off and run up it while I muscled my way up it and cut in front of her. There were only a handful of minutes left in the race and I was pushing as hard as I could to shake her off my wheel so it wouldn’t come down to a sprint….But it did. We got to the pavement of the 200m or so of the course and I did my best to “sprint” but right at the end she passed me and won by less than a bike length.

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Beautiful picture from Raleigh taken by Jared Harber

Even with getting beat at the finish, I was still stoked with the race. The girl who out sprinted me is an excellent sprinter and races road so I was happy that I actually managed to hold her off for so long. However, it was pointed out to me by multiple people that I need to learn how to sprint. I was powering through sitting down to the very end while everyone was yelling at me to stand up and sprint. I can only work on so many things at once though! 4th place is solid. The day of racing concluded with some free beer and then an “after party” (get together) from Crank Arm–  One of my favorite local breweries!

Sunday: NCCX Salisbury

I was searching for a little redemption from my race last year at Salisbury. Due to my lack of handling experience last year, this course stressed me out and I additionally ended up with serious hamstring cramps for a large part of the race. Plus, my wonderful mom was coming out to cheer me on and hang out at the race so there was a little extra motivation to do well! I also kind of not so secretly thought that it would be the day that I finally beat the girl who beat me in a sprint the day before – I’ve been getting closer and closer to her each race!

A view of the NCCX Salisbury course

I felt good about the course on my preride and the cool temperatures couldn’t have been more perfect for racing. What happened at the start of the race, I’m still really not sure how to describe. The race went off and a girl on a mountain bike sprinted out in front to get to the first corner. To set the stage, this girl was wearing long sleeves, long pants and a bandanna covering her mouth and nose. The best way I can describe her riding is that of a child trying to drive a motorcross bike for the very first time. All over the place on the straight away, skidding around corners with her foot out , super choppy accelerations/decelerations – basically just a general nightmare to be stuck behind. Only one girl made it out in front of the mountain bike girl before the first straight away and we never saw her again as she went on to win the race. The rest of us eventually passed her after a few minutes and I believe she eventually ended up getting lapped in the course of our 30 minute race. Starts are yet another reason I need to work on my sprints so I can escape all that nonsense in the future!

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All smiles even while racing!

For the rest of the race, it was a pack of four of us loosely battling it out. Everyone kind of started riding away from me and I could tell that I really just wasn’t able to push it to the extent that I normally do. I was definitely still going as hard as I could but I just didn’t have that extra gear. However, right before the finish, one of the girls tripped over the barriers and I managed to ride away with 4th! I kind of felt like I didn’t deserve the fourth place after I finished but I was quickly reminded that this isn’t really like running where beating someone who fell is kind of a cheap win – as long as you didn’t make the person fall yourself, it’s all part of the race.

It’s funny how quickly your perspective changes! At Winston Salem and Raleigh, I was thrilled to get fourth! After three races in a row of narrowly missing the podium, I wasn’t quite as excited about fourth for Salisbury. However, going from 9th out of 12 girls at Salisbury last year, to 4th out of 16 this year isn’t something to be overlooked so I am satisfied. The rest week this week has been much needed, both to recover from lots of racing and getting rid of the rest of whatever sickness I had. I’m looking forward to only racing one day this weekend and hopefully going into it a little more ready to go!

Mid-season Cyclocross Update!

I can’t believe I’ve competed in EIGHT cyclocross races and haven’t really mentioned a single one of them – it’s halfway through my season already! How about a quick recap of how it’s gone so far?

My first three races were at my “home course” (two on the same day) and were a great introduction back into cyclocross racing. Since I know the course pretty well, these local races really helped get my confidence going – A few weeks before the season I would have flashes of panic that I forgot how to ride my cross bike and that I would be worse than my first season. Turns out the handling skills that I’ve gained from mountain biking made up for the lack of fitness I came in to the season with and, no, I was not worse.

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From there, it was off to Pennsylvania for two days of racing the UCI sanctioned Nittany race. Here, I had a lot of glaring weaknesses pointed out to me now that I had moved beyond the comfort of a familiar course. The first is that I get terrible starts when the field is large (i.e. larger than like… 10 people). I automatically revert to defensive riding and hang out in the back rather than sprinting for the hole shot. It didn’t help that in this race, since we were also riding with cat 3’s, I really felt like I didn’t belong at the front to begin with and hung back. That’s a huge no-no. It’s difficult to pass people when you start so far back; it takes a lot more energy and you get gaped off pretty quickly. Basically, this meant I rode the entire race alone both days. It didn’t really make for fun days of racing but I tried to just soak in the fun environment and enjoy the road trip with friends. How do I get over my reservations to be aggressive on the start line? I don’t trust other people!

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No, not from Nittany, but a good example of me being timid at the start (Pink power ranger!)

The other thing I noticed was also made abundantly clear in my subsequent races as well: It sucks to race into shape. Due to my decision to not have structured training over the summer, I didn’t really do any cyclocross preparation… go figure. I don’t regret it, but it does make a 30 minute all out race feel like an eternity and any hard effort out of the corners burns a little too much gas to be able to repeat very many times. After getting back from Nittany, I had the pleasure of racing the day after a hurricane the following weekend. Thus, the entire course was one  big, soggy, muddy mess. Like barely grinding out 60rpms in the smallest gear, messy. I actually would have been able to run faster than I could ride but stubborn Jessica wanted to prove to myself that I could ride in the mud without falling over unlike last year. It turned out to be an overall torturous course for someone training for an ultramarathon and who had done no powerful efforts for months. BUT I rode the mud like a champ!

After taking two weekends off of cross racing (One for the 50k and one for going out of town) it was back to it this past weekend with both a Saturday and Sunday race. One thing that I’ve noticed this season is that my technical skills have somehow gone from nonexisitent (last year) to above average. However, that only applies if I know the course. I’m still lacking the confidence that I can blindly ride anything that comes my way.

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For example, at Saturday’s race, I rode ONE lap before starting my race. There were some weird features in there that I hadn’t properly ridden before the race started and just had to figure it out…slowly and timidly…during the race. I felt okay and satisfied with my race but I wasn’t over the moon about it. In comparison, I probably rode 4 or 5 laps of Sunday’s course before the race. The Winston-Salem course was tough but really cool and fun! There were new (for me) and interesting technical features that weren’t annoying or silly. And when the finish line came up on me, I felt like I had given as much as I could for that day.

I’ll be taking another weekend off of racing to head up to D.C. and then it will be time to dive into the bulk of the North Carolina series races. I’m excited to continue improving and to see gains in my fitness with some focused training (more on that later). I’ll leave you here with a picture of me racing as the pink power ranger for Halloween!

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Race Recap: USNWC 50k

The human body is amazing. Less than 72 hours ago I was still having trouble walking. My joints were stiff and my quads were a mess of knots. Monday, I could walk but not very fast. Now, four days after my race, I have almost zero residual soreness even with doing an event I was definitely under-prepared for. I’m thankful, now so more than ever, to have a body that allows me to push my limits and bounce back just fine. Let’s get on to that race recap though!

After getting into Charlotte on the later side of Friday, I only got about five and half hours of sleep before that 3:30am alarm clock went off. I didn’t get to the Charlotte Whitewater Center too much before the 6am start because I figured I had a long time ahead of me to get warmed up. I couldn’t have been more grateful that Will insisted on being at the race venue from the start to the finish of the 50k because I admittedly started psyching myself out a little as I remembered how long it had been since I ran over an hour.

About the course: We would be doing 3 laps of a little over 10 miles with the first lap being slightly different at the beginning to let everyone spread out a bit. I had looked at the elevation profile of the course before hand and the gain seemed manageable. Aid stations would be at mile 4.5, 7 and 9 on each lap.

Since we were starting at 6am it was obviously pitch dark for the first hour to hour and a half of the race. Two girls were ahead of me from the beginning and as soon as we entered the woods I was almost entirely alone for the whole first lap. In retrospect, I’m not really sure how I didn’t face plant somewhere in the first few miles because my little camping headlight with dying batteries wasn’t very illuminating. I tried to keep my effort as easy as possible in the beginning but there were also a lot of little punchy climbs followed by steep downhills required a bit too much exertion but I was still in denial that I was going to need to walk. Pre-race, a lot of my friends questioned why I was doing a lap race, but seeing Will at the start/finish area after each lap was an important boost for me.

I was a little concerned when I already started feeling the distance about 13 miles in. Miles 1-5 pm each lap were all difficult since it happened to be the most challenging terrain of the course and the longest distance between aid stations. I tried to load up on coke to combat the nausea before moving on. It was at that point that I noticed there was Whisky at the aid station! Is this a normal thing for ultras? I found it hilarious and awesome despite the fact that there is no way that would ever sound appealing to me while I was running. As I left, the volunteers yelled some words of encouragement about how I was the third place female which meant little to me at the time since I still felt pretty dismal and did my first long stretch of walking.

The mile 17 aid station couldn’t have come soon enough. My face was pale, I was completely nauseous and I was having to lean up against a tree unsteadily while I tried to get more coke and sugar in me. That must of done the trick though because by the time I saw those same folks again at mile 19, I was all smiles and keeping a pretty good pace. Coming back into the start finish area, Will told me my parents had arrived with Raven and attempted to offer me some words of encouragement from my favorite motivation seen in the movie Miracle.

My strategy of thinking about the miles in terms of laps and not the whole distance was working surprisingly well but I had switched to thinking about distance in regards to the aid stations on lap two. I knew the low was about to hit me soon; the longest run I’ve ever done is 22 miles (several years ago) and I only got up to 18 miles during training). Sure enough, my body started rebelling around mile 22. My heart rate wouldn’t stop spiking and both of my hamstrings were beginning to cramp. I walked a sizeable portion of miles 22-27.

My mantra from the beginning of the race was something I took from what I tell my Girls on the Run girls at practice “It doesn’t matter how fast you’re moving, as long as you keep moving forward.” I dug deep for some will power and kept repeating out loud to myself “Keep……moving……forward…..” or “4…..more…..miles…..” (to the next aid station). Yet, another reason to love trail running, you can talk to yourself and no one is around to hear you and call you crazy.

By the time I reached, the mile 27 aid station, it felt like every muscle in my body was seizing and cramping with every step. I came in, telling the volunteers this and all of them snapped into action: “Get her a salted covered potato!!!!!” I really felt like these guys were invested in me and even remembered my name! I left the aid station willing myself to run again and try to manage the cramping. I cannot explain how relieved I was to come back around to the station at mile 29 and know that I was so close to finishing. I will say that the volunteers completely made this race for me. They were amazing and knew exactly what I needed each time!

As I came out of the woods with about three-quarters of a mile left to go, I couldn’t believe I was actually at the home stretch. My dad was standing right at the exit and I somehow realized I had an extra gear to kick it in (Sub 8 min mile!). I turned the corner on the gravel and saw the finish line in sight and began to feel weirdly emotional. I crossed the finish line after spending 6 hours and 56 minutes in the woods and realized I had somehow maintained my third place among the females. Above all else, I can’t recall a time I had ever been so happy to sit down.

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Finally finished!

Would I do it again? I don’t have much interest in doing road races anymore. I just love the weird misfits that trail running attracts and the laid back nature of the race environment.

Would I ever go longer? I’m not sure. I don’t think I could B.S. my way through a longer race like I did with this one so I would have to be at a place in my life where I really wanted to spend my whole weekend running. I’ve felt that way before and I could certainly feel that way again!

Do I wish I had stuck to more training? Yes and no. I’m actually thrilled with how this race turned out. I wasn’t speedy by any means but it is the first time I’ve been able to stay positive throughout an entire endurance race. That’s some pretty awesome mental progress there! I think I would have put more pressure on myself to go faster if I had ran more than I did.

This race made me thankful that I have such a wonderful boyfriend who will wake up at 3:30am to sit outside for 7 hours to see me for a grand total of 5 minutes. And to have parents and friends who are so supportive and invested in me. Mainly though, being able to do this ultra made me more appreciative of how strong and resilient my body is and to continue to treat it right both physically and mentally. Now I just can’t wait to get back to racing some cross!