Last winter I wasn't sure if I'd be racing this year. I have a perpetual wish for more free time, to do all the things I enjoy that don't involve running - yet the thought of missing out on all the fun propels me to once again lace up my shoes, to toe the line.
I just had the running week of my life. Racing made it so. Two Saturdays ago the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon was the culmination of our local Flagstaff Summer Series. Each year I try to improve my time from prior years on this particular course but for the most part it has been elusive. Apparently #7 truly is a lucky number, as my friend Michelle Wesson (on my heels for most of the race) helped me to break my own personal record by over two minutes! This sealed my seventh straight summer series title, something I value more for showing up year after year than I do for coming in first. After all, these wins are never a given and just making it through one more season is very gratifying, as I never know when it will be my last go-round. When I first moved to Flag seven years ago, I couldn't win a single race, let alone the series. As time goes by, it has become much harder to be the front-runner in this wonderful running town of ours, mostly because word has gotten out about how worthwhile these local events are - more and more true elites are showing up! Each time that everything aligns for me to complete yet another race, or series, I feel super. TransRockies is the same way.
|Homestretch at Big Brothers (Josh Biggs photo)|
All set, I headed straight out of town from the half marathon awards ceremony (the great Neil Weintraub hosted this at Charly's, at a historic hotel in downtown Flag, so it could not be skipped!), to begin the 10-hour highway trek. That night I reached Durango, home of effervescent Kristen (a friend I worked with in Chinle), her three lovely boys, and their dog. It was the perfect place to land! The next morning I had my first taste of the Colorado Trail in a long time and eventually made my way to Salida, where an inspiring pink sky, with grey tendrils dancing down, greeted me as I wound into the valley where I'd spend the next two nights with friends Maggie and Tony. "If we're not home, the door is open," is what every single Colorado friend said, never mind that I may not have seen them in eight years. Brandi Carlile's soothing voice wafted through the house as Have You Ever became the backdrop for making final decisions on what would make the duffel bag cut for the week ahead:
Race week was magical in many ways. I explored my potential. I had moments wherein my body, mind, and heart converged to make running feel effortless. I felt the thrill of running out front. I got the leader jersey for the first time ever. I knew the elation of not getting lost (what a tremendous relief to spot the next white flagging each time I was uncertain if I was on the right path!). Rough times came, when my body rebelled: "Hey, enough already - I'm tired!" and "OUCH! This hurts!" I fell. I fell again (and again...). There were times when I when into survival mode, doubted myself, and embodied Ferdinand the Bull, all the fight draining out of me. I drew upon vibrations of family, friends, and co-workers who I knew were keeping me in their thoughts, sending me strength. I gave it my all. I looked around. Jeep roads and single track took me to favorite ridges. These are the best trails I have ever run. I made new friends and got reacquainted with old ones. Thank God I was not alone out there!! I would not want to do this race without friends, as we all take care of each other in one way or another. Also, when struggling, I'd try to reflect upon people in this world who have it much worse than me, something I've been trying to cultivate during harder efforts in recent months. I gave thanks for being able to even be out there at all and for the gift of vision that was enabling me to take in such enriching scenery. I was humbled. I was reminded of why it is that running, and Colorado, are so special.
|Keeping pace with Nadyia Fry and hipster James Bonnett on the first day|
|The epitome of running solo|
|Leaving Leadville in style|
|So many highs|
I can ride off this one for a long, long time.
I've been home for a week. I have woken up several times dreaming about the race, thinking I need to retrieve my luggage from somewhere, or run another stage....I often seek out Pigeon John's "The Bomb" (every night during the awards ceremony, each division had its own theme song and they all crescendoed to this one) because it makes me happy, and energized (this tune got me through Stage 6!). I am doing a lot more of what makes me happy these days. And I'm running better too! Like the chrysalises my friend Annie had on display in a jar in Leadville for her kids, I welcome this transformation.
|I highly recommend getting your hair done at Posh! (Vail Ritz Carlton) before the banquet!|
The trip home brought me through a part of the Navajo Nation that I used to work in. I was driving along the same roads near Monument Valley that I used to take when I would visit schools for the Indian Health Service or host Just Move It events at rural Chapter Houses. In those days, TransRockies was not even a blip on my radar and I knew very little about any trail races apart from the vibrant running community we had right there in the heart of the Indian Reservation. All I knew was what was around me, my routine and the people who were part of it with me. When life eventually brought me into "town," I discovered what Flagstaff had to offer. Now, when I cross through those rez roads, I marvel at what a wonder it all is, how life changes and opens us up to new possibilities, new realities, fresh perspectives. It makes me smile to think about what else is on the horizon that I can't yet imagine.
I cannot help but think that in the end it doesn't matter if we all drive or fly in opposite directions once the week-long race/vacation is over, or that we live thousands of miles apart....the important thing is that we shared the experience. TransRockies is good for the soul.
What stretches you?
What brings you alive?