Tecnica Maxi Race 50 mile – 5200m ~ 17000ft gain, around Lake Annecy
16 years of running ultra races and the dream to wear the Team USA jersey finally came true. Only a few months before ultrarunning took hold of my life I trained at the Green Lake track once a week with USATF coach Tom Cotner and admired the speed, endurance and dedication of the athletes that trained under him. They inspired me to think about trying my turnover in the marathon distance someday. I thought, once I graduate from college I will train with Tom full time and try for an OTQ in the marathon. Ultraracing found me first and I ran the Chuckanut 50k as my first ultra just before spring break of my senior year at the University of Washington and I fell in love fast.
In 2010 I ran the Mad City 100k with the starry-eyed hope of running on the World 100k team. It wasn’t really my ideal – road and flat – but it was an opportunity to rekindle that earlier dream and seemed the only way to run as a representative for the United States in “my” sport. I ran a qualifying time, but was ranked 7th female. They took the top five. I spent the month of October crewing the Speedgoat for the Red Bull Human Express and received a call near the end of the trip letting me know that the USA team didn’t have enough girls to run and asked if I wanted to go. Unfortunately, I was not comfortable with my lack of fitness due to motorhome living to run in the red, white and blue. At that point I generally accepted that my Team USA dreams were probably just that, dreams.
Earlier this year an email appeared in my inbox that I had to read at least three times. I forwarded it on to my Ma & Pa after responding an enthusiastic YES. Annecy, France, May 30, 50 mile World Championships. Team USA! It was finally happening! I would wear those three letters across my chest. The uniform and the meaning that goes with it is something I have built up for many years. I’ve admired it from a far, and not so far as speedy friends of mine raced around the world in the 100k and 24hr races. They told me what to expect and shared their experiences. I held on to my younger self vision; excited, honored and nervous.
The uniform arrived while I was away RDing Chuckanut. It was the first box I opened when I arrived back in Boulder, followed by a new pair of Pendulums that I held aside for this race. I packed my bag four days before leaving. I wore the sweatsuit on the plane and carried the bags so I was sure not to lose anything. Admittedly, I haven’t been this little kid excited for a race in a while. I appreciated and glowed wearing those colors for that trip.
The Tecnica Maxi Race is an incredible event hands down. The World Championship race was added on to the well established Maxi Race; around and growing steadily for 5 years. The town of Annecy plays an amazing host with it’s beautiful lake front park, amazing restaurants, accommodations and most important spectacularly tough mountains. The route circumnavigates the lake and is one for every mountain runner to experience; whether as a part of the race, or broken down section by section. The variety of terrain, vistas and the amazing support from locals, tourists and volunteers made for one of my favorite mile for mile racing experiences (of which there are more than 100 now).
Nearly 300 runners from about 40 countries started at 3:30am Saturday morning. It was the most awake I'd felt the entire trip with so much energy leading into the moment we started to run. The starting pace was was reminiscent to the BolderBoulder 10k earlier in the week and I had to force myself to settle in. It was nice knowing the sun would be up soon and I could hand off my Sprinter headlamp at the top of the hill. The long hill - 18km with about 4,000ft of climbing.
As the race progressed and energy tried to wane, I looked down at my sparkly blue painted fingernails and fought harder. Knowing I was working through the tough spot for Cassie, Amy (also running strong and tough with painted nails) and so many people that supported this back home through good luck wishes and Trail Butter sales -- the “Team” was so much greater than my bad patch. Seeing the familiar faces of iRunFar's Bryon & Meghan on the course with their encouraging words I got out of my head and back into the experience. Richard Bolt stepped in as our team official and while familiar with the logistics of team management, this was his first time crewing an ultra. He shared that last tidbit after the race and surprised us all. He did an amazing job single-handedly helping us resupply, cheering us on and capturing photos – for all EIGHT athletes.
The course unfolded spectacularly on so many fronts. I was inspired to hear about and witness the strength of the front packs of men and women. As I started to feel better I found myself running amongst many strong women from all over the world. I loved seeing the colored jerseys. I smiled every time I heard “Go USA” from hikers, aid station workers and from other team captains as my legs carried me high up in the peaks and down into the towns. Pushing off my BD poles made a world of difference as the elevation profile spun the dials on my Suunto. By the final descent I had repeated our team motto “every second counts” over and over in my head so many times I didn’t have to think about it, I just responded to the meaning.
It wasn’t a stars aligned day, I know that. And, I know that I pushed to have the best day I could given the circumstances I came into the race with. I ran with my heart and my legs followed. I high-fived and hugged people along the way, including surprise hugs from Seb at Aid 2 and Aid 3. I took brief moments to “wow” at the views we worked so hard to earn. I fueled frequently using Clif Bloks and Expedition Espresso Trail Butter filled medjool dates, taking care to have as much energy as the day would give. The surroundings, weather, runners and supporters offered so much that I felt connected to the reasons I love trail running and the community that surrounds it. The vibe and connection come from the shared understanding of what it is to run through beautiful, challenging landscapes, the familiar tenderness under foot from rocky terrain and hamburger feeling quads descending to the finish. We all know what it feels like, what it feels to push a little further to witness what is possible. To race with intention and a smile, to share the experience and the memories.
This race will have many wonderful memories that I plan to hang on to. Racing on Team USA for the first time will forever be cherished. The group that was there that fill the images of the days leading up to and after the race – finagling meals, credentials, rides. Previewing the course, grocery shopping and opening ceremonies. Matching track suits, pre and post race gelato and the horned chipmunk mascot. Standing around with the girls for hours after the finish indulging in fries and chicken, dangling our legs in the chilly lake, longing for a shower that finally came near midnight, and cheering as our mens team accepted Silver at the awards. Annecy, the race, our team, those mountains, the other runners, everything serving as another reminder of why I am a trail runner 16 years later.