The Journey

Here we are again, looking back at another year lived, and making plans and dreaming about the year to come. The past eight years of my life have been quite a roller coaster of growth and transformation, and I finally feel like I’m back in a good mental and emotional place. Since probably 2013 or so (suspicious how that corresponds with moving to the insanely fit and active city of Boulder, CO, isn’t it?), I’ve been using endurance racing as a way to validate myself, and that only got me so far. I started out alright in my first year of ultrarunning – completing a few 50ks and having fun. But then I went down the road of FOMO,  registering for races as a way to make myself feel better because everyone around me was fitter and better than me, and inevitably DNF or DNSing because I didn’t put my heart into the journey that it takes to go the distance. I saw that finish line as the only thing that mattered. The journey to get there was just something I had to get through.

To some extent, this was situational. I was trying to cram a lot of emotionally exhausting things in all at once, most notably, completing a Ph.D. and navigating the dating world after going through a divorce. As with many graduate students, I found myself struggling with depression and anxiety due to the Ph.D. program, and this manifested itself in my  training, or rather, my lack of training. However, it wasn’t just situational. I knew I was approaching things from an unhealthy perspective, but I didn’t yet truly understand my motivations and triggers. And I didn’t have the mindset or the tools that would help me develop a more positive view of training, racing, and my goals.

After several years of failure after failure, I decided to take 2019 off from racing and just enjoy myself. I ran when I felt like running, took a nice family hike every day, and got out for some truly stunning backpacking trips with my husband and our friends.

It was a pretty great year.

Another thing that has helped immensely is finding a supportive partner who I can talk things out with on a daily basis. My husband and I are regularly discussing our emotions, motivations, and the things that trigger various responses in us. We know each other well, and it’s wonderful to have a sounding board for exploring why I do what I do, and why I feel the way I do about things.

So how is 2020 different from previous years?

My approach to running, training, and racing this year is from a place of joy. I love every day I get to spend living in this amazing place, and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. I want to embrace the ridiculous – like getting caught in downpours, or doing a grueling long run that’s a 28 mile loop and goes over the continental divide twice just because it’s there and it’s pretty (the Pawnee-Buchanan loop for anyone in the Boulder area). I want to appreciate my body for what it is and what it can do, not beating myself down because of something that went wrong or something I didn’t accomplish. Also, two words that were a game-changer for my perpetually-injured ankles: trekking poles.

There are also a lot of things that I am not going to do. In the beginning of 2019 I removed myself from all the ultrarunning groups on social media outlets (my primary source of FOMO and self-loathing fuel). I also worked to reject diet culture and develop intuitive eating principles. I no longer look at my body as something that needs to be fixed or improved. It’s great the way it is. Now I train to get stronger and live a long, healthy, active life, not to get thinner. We have plans to build our own homestead in the next few years, and that takes a high level of fitness and physical ability. My training now is to prepare me for the physicality of building our future home ourselves. Finish lines are just part of the fun.

What are the plans for 2020?

My race calendar for 2020 currently looks like this:

  1. Palmer Lake 24 hour run
  2. Dirty 30 50k
  3. Run Rabbit Run 100 miler

I’m taking a big swing with the 100 miler, and my husband and I have discussed why I want to do it at length. There are other, easier things that I could sign up for that would still be a new distance and would challenge me, but would be more attainable. But I want to go big. What has drawn me to the ultrarunning sport from the beginning is the epicness and the adventure of it all. I could do flatter or shorter races, but I want the gnarly, the rugged, and the grueling, because that’s the epic adventure that beats you down and tears you apart and makes you grow. If I make it to the finish line, great. But this year it’s about getting to the start line and enjoying the journey along the way.