A few weekends ago, Kenny and I had the amazing luxury of getting away from the kids for several days. We spent Friday night car-camping so we could run the Prescott Circle Trail, starting at the Thumb Butte Recreation Area before we went to Flagstaff for some R&R.
A little over a year ago, I started a run from the same location. That run would prove to change my life in many ways. It was the Whiskey Basin 57K, my first trail ultra (second ever ultra). Being back on the trails I rememberd to reflect on how far I have come in the last 12 months. I am such a forward focused, what is the next challenge, type of person that I forget to celebrate the successes I that I have had.
As I reflect, I can see I have come SO very far. That first 57K on the trails seemed monumental at the time; the hardest experience of my life. And at the time, it certainly was the most challenging physical feat I had undertaken. What I realized being back on those trails is that each hard challenge we tackle creates the springboard for the next great challenge.
When I look back, since that race I have accomplished so much:
And that is just my fitness accomplishments. When I examine my life as a whole, I have made great strides professionally this last year, my marriage is stronger than it was a year ago, and my kids are growing into young men that make me so proud. I have also improved my relationship with food and my body image by leaps and bounds. Hard work and focused determination lead to so much accomplishment.
After Whiskey Basin, I wrote a race report and I went back to read it again today. Here’s the excerpts that brought a smile to my face:
EXCERPT FROM WHISKEY BASIN RACE REPORT APRIL 2017
Whiskey Basin 57K took place this past Saturday, April 8, 2017 and it was a smashing success!!
We scoped the trails the night before and I was looking forward to running on them since it has been a while since I have run through a pine forest. I was also feeling apprehensive and knew that it would be critical for me to run my own race. It is often a downfall for me to get all caught up in comparing myself to others and alter what I know I need to do to accomplish my own goals. These are my insecurities boiling to the surface and insecurities that I am striving to overcome through my running.
Just before we started, my friend hugged me and said, “We’ve got this”. That was just what I needed. Within 100 yards, I could feel myself at peace. My zen didn’t fly away. It stayed firmly put. I floated along the trails at an easy pace, feeling confident that I wasn’t pushing myself too hard, even though I could feel my legs itching to let loose.
A part of me was fearful that I would lose my flow later in the race, but I reminded myself I was well prepared and that I was feeling great. I hit the Goldwater Aid station at 16.5 miles ½ hour ahead of schedule. Some of my other running friends were at this aid station when I got there which shocked me because I figured they would leave me well in their dust. Never have I felt this good half way through a race.
The course description shows the last 31K being only 883 feet of climbing so much to my surprise it involved a lot more climbing than that. I had to adjust my expectations a little bit and even gave myself the permission to be happy if I didn’t finish within my 9 hour goal. I was at peace with this change of plans and continued to have fun and just enjoy the ride.
From the Goldwater Aid station to the Badger Mountain Aid Station it was almost 10 miles. I had a few dark moments through this stretch, but my body never felt like it wanted to quit. I felt strong and powerful. Only my brain wanted to stop but I was able to keep myself focused on the moment and was able to rise back to the light.
The Badger Mountain Aid Station came out of nowhere when I saw Squirrel Nut Butter flags flying and I was happy to discover I was still ahead of schedule. Even though there was a lot of climbing, I hadn’t slowed down much at all. Less than 10 miles to go. I knew that things were about to get real, but I also could see the end in sight. I was down into the single digits! And surprisingly, my friends were at this aid station as well! I couldn’t believe that I kept catching up to them. These ladies are strong and fierce.
During the next 4 mile stretch, I ended up running with a couple that had been trailing behind me a little ways. They were super nice and encouraging and when I told them it was my first trail ultra, they told me how strong I looked. It made feel really good to hear that from people with experience! At one point, I let them go ahead of me so I could fuel and take some of my Hammer pills. I caught them again when we reached the tunnel of gloom leading to the last aid station.
The last 10K from the Sundog Aid Station to Watson Lake continued to be smooth. I rounded a corner and at last I could see Watson Lake. In a sick twist of humor, the trail then turned south away from the lake. I couldn’t believe that I could taste the finish but had to run the other way! We hit a service road that finally took us back north towards the lake and suddenly my brain shut down. After running on the beautiful trails and feeling strong and powerful all day, this service road proved to be my arch nemesis.
Those last two miles were my slowest of the race I am sure, but when I rounded the last bend and saw my kids climbing on the rocks, I could taste the victory. Hands up in joy, I crossed with finish line with my sweet boys in tow, my husband waiting proudly on the other side. My finish time was 8:39:07, 21 minutes faster than my goal!
I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family. The time they gave me to train and go to bed early, the hours I was tired, the cranky bitch I became during my taper. They loved me through it all and gave me the space and encouragement I needed to get it done. The work was mine though and mine alone. No one ran those miles for me. No one else put in the training and the mental preparation. That was all me.
In two weeks I turn 35. This race is my 35 miles for my 35th birthday month. There were only three women younger than me finished the race. This just goes to show that the best is yet to come.
Reliving that day, both from my writing and from being on those trails, brings great joy to my heart. I proved to myself that I was capable and it gave me the confidence to try for the next big goal. Each time we do something hard and succeed, it only fuels the flames of passion. If we settle into what is easy every day, life is a lot less fulfilling. When we push and stretch, we grow. One day we wake up and see a beautiful flower growing strong.
The journey continues…..