In the downtime before the race, with nothing left to do but pack gear and control nervous energy my mind wandered back to the crazy winter of training that got me ready for this challenge. It was an incredibly cold, wet and dark winter to train through. To force myself and PD outside when we both would rather cozy up on the couch became a joke; she wouldn't want me to put on her harness and I wouldn't want to tie my shoes. Later, when my training hours were too long for her to join me or to be home alone I had friends check in on her and I would get after it with my Shuffle. I was SO very fortunate to have some key long runs broken up by the company of Trail Sisters, all of us hoods up, hats on and continuous movement to keep warm.
There were a couple of days I returned home near hypothermic and didn't have enough dexterity to turn the key in my front door. Once magically inside, I hopped directly in the shower, shoes and all to warm up. The insane amount of food I prepared and consumed still amazes me. Forget salads! I went after the densest calories with the least amount of chewing I could find (still whole foods of course... mostly). One night I finished my Mom's dinner and Sister's dessert after wrapping up a 100 mile week. My Dad had insisted on dinner out to celebrate and it meant the world to me.
These seemingly countless hours on the trail forced some intense emotions brought up by the rawness of hard training. I sought help from loved ones and Coach Shelli to deal with the psychological hits. The huge reminders that I've been through this before, perhaps not to this degree, that I have the tools and I just have to use them were lessons I had to draw on again. My most key tool that I can in hindsight realize that this race proved to me once again, is listening to my body. By early February injuries and niggles started to creep in. Why? My mileage was dominating my time, dialing in Chuckanut, and my normal kooky schedule coupled with integration in my new family was a collection that tapped all resources. And then I got a head cold.
I wasn't doing the basics. I had one more training block scheduled, but in listening to where my body and heart were at (cues thankfully pulled from conversations) I opted to listen. I scratched the training block, made more time for strength training, yoga, cooking and sleeping. Somewhere deep down I knew mileage wasn't what would help. 100 milers are tough - they remain one of the hardest endeavors I take on. I know that at some point on course my mind will try to talk me out of it. There have been a few races that I've sailed through without that mental challenge, but the norm is "what the heck are you doing?" To go into a 100 mile race already tapped would not provide the deep resources needed to push through that headspace. I have to want it. And where I was at I didn't want it. Fast forward to one day before the race, I sat in bed with my legs up the wall and thought back over those challenges, and felt huge gratitude that with the help of friends I made the choice to chill and take care of basics. I felt ready. The nerves fired, my brain wanted to review the course profile, to plan drop bags, talk race logistics... I felt the excitement to go. Preparation is key and in this case preparation was not more miles.
Nearly a month later writing this, the race story is more of a blend of all the personal stories I've heard from friends, family, clients and perfect strangers watching online, DJs crazy crewing adventures, countless photos and video outtakes. I look at the finish line photos and think "so much happened to get there." I remember the start of the race, being announced like an NBA star running to center court. Running through the streets of Tengchong with Kaori and James making jokes about our short shorts and reminding each other that we have a long way to go as others huffed and puffed while sprinting by uphill. Heading in to CP2 I had endured a 5 mile stretch of everything hurting, all of the injuries and niggles I'd worked so hard to heal with PRiME Sports and Trailhead Athletics were talking at me and I wondered if the first quarter was already like this... but then I saw the second place women only a few minutes behind going into CP2 as I was leaving and something shifted. Call it adrenaline or a full body realignment but my brain switched and I knew this was my day. All pains disappeared. I had to remind my legs as they focused on putting more distance between us that it was still early, and I forced myself to slow and eat extra as a tactic to stop the surge.