After an incredible bike trip across Thailand and Cambodia which you can read about here, here, here and here, I came back to the US for the holidays with my family. Our family’s New Years tradition is going to Vail to ski for the week, a tradition I realize I am wonderfully fortunate to have the opportunity to do year after year.
This year was extra fun because my nephew kept developing into an awesome skier, keeping up with me and my older brother all over the mountain!
Also, my brother and I made a visit to a dispensary nearby and had a cool experience with legal retail marijuana 🙂
After yet another active and wonderful vacation, I spent a few days at my parent’s house in Dallas before heading back to Chapel Hill to start another semester. It was there I realized that I had only a couple weeks till my first trail race of the season, the Little River 10 miler! I hit the trails in earnest, loving that I can be on them within 5 minutes of running out my front door.
After a solid race at Little River (only one fall on the technical single track trails, and it was into soft pine needles,) I progressed to longer and longer runs to prepare for my big winter race: Uwharrie Mountain 20 miler. The race is on Saturday – two days from posting this.
I looked up some race reports that actually scared me with how difficult they said the race was. The first thing I heard was to expect your average marathon time for this 20 mile course on trails. Then I read to add half an hour to that. Woah. After a couple of days feeling stressed out and nervous I calmed myself down. How? I told myself to suck it up. No matter how hard it is or how long it takes me, I’m already signed up and I’m going to do this race barring an injury. After that little pep talk I got back into my training and looked forward to how hard its going to be- I started thinking about the awesome (and I mean awesome in the literal way of inducing “awe”) grind of the race and my sense of accomplishment afterwards.
I heard a few things specific to this race: creek crossings, the first 4 miles of uphill on rocks you can’t run unless you’re a freak of nature, and the slick leaf covered roots and rocks. I added all this to my training. I ran through every puddle and creek I could to get used to wet, cold, soggy feet. I used the treadmill on the highest incline setting I could to practice fast hiking. I did hill repeats on the steepest hills I could find around. I ran in mud and rain. I went to crossfit and really focused on my lower body lifting, increasing my 5 and 10 rep squat by 5-10% in less than a month. I even went to Asheville to visit friends and do a long run on Black Mountain where some of the trails were covered with snow and ice.
I put in the training. Now I just have to run the race – like my mantra – first with the head, then with the heart.
Most big races I’ve done in my life have been fundraisers. This one isn’t.
I think this one is to prove something to myself. I’ve had an intense and “scarcely time for a spare thought” start to this semester, but running has grounded me. Trail running is my moving meditation. On the trails I may be slower but I am stronger. My breath steadier. My footsteps quieter – even with the crunching of leaves and ice or splashing of water and mud.
The woods are my friend, the trails are my teacher. The trees block the winter wind, and their nakedness gives me uninterrupted views. The rocks and roots on the trails might be small but they force me to focus. The leaves and mud are slick but encourage me to trust my feet. I have never regretted time spent among the trees and trails.
I’ve fallen in love with the trails, and I’ve never felt stronger. I’m ready for this race.
Look for the Uwharrie race recap sometime next week 🙂