This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of USA Triathlon Magazine.
The low point for Sarah True came last summer. A year removed from being forced to bow out early in the race at the 2016 Rio Games, True fell into a dark, deep, depressive state.
True is no stranger to depression — the two-time Olympic triathlete had been battling the disease since she was a teenager. But this was a hole more cavernous, more dark and more hopeless than she had ever fallen into.
She felt she was a failure. As an athlete. And as a wife, convinced she failed her husband Ben True, who missed qualification for the 2016 Olympic team. Triathlon wasn’t fun anymore. Life outside sport had no joy. Her training suffered. She couldn’t sleep. Suicidal thoughts ran through her mind.
“Maybe I’ll just swerve into oncoming traffic,” she thought during training rides near her home in Hanover, New Hampshire. One head-on collision with a truck could just end it all.
“Everything was a struggle. I was in a really, really dark place and I felt like it just wasn’t going to get better,” said True, 36.
You can’t “out tough” depression
A professional athlete, an Olympian, a competitor in IRONMAN, one of the most physically and mentally grueling endurance tests humans have created, and here is True contemplating her worth in this world.
But depression knows no boundaries.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given year, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the U.S. experience a major depressive episode. And an estimated 40 million adults live with anxiety disorders.
The incidence of those conditions, often linked, in the endurance sports population is probably similar, as a 2017 review of research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found no difference in depressive symptoms between what the researchers called “high-performance athletes” and nonathletes. Age-groupers or Olympic-caliber, all levels of athletes are affected. Michael Phelps, who has won more Olympic medals than anyone on this planet, has publicly spoken about his depression and thoughts of suicide.
The precious time alone in the calm of nature became transformative in Rachel Sapp’s healing process.
When every muscle in her body begins to feel like a weight pulling her down, and every ache urges her to quit, Rachel Sapp continues to run, pressing forward with every step on the trail.
This grit serves as an important reminder in every aspect of her life. Just as she survived a brutal attack, she can survive any grueling physical challenge that comes her way. And running has helped her summon that courage.
“The strength that running has provided, it’s almost unspeakable,” Sapp told Runner’s World.
“Running put that at the forefront for me to know that I got through these situations in life that are hard. It may be difficult right now, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s also vulnerable and I can be in this place and experience all of these things and it’s because my legs can propel me. There’s something so magical about that.”
It all started in the spring of 2017, when the Nederland, Colorado resident was leaving the Denver area hospital where she worked as a paramedic. Two people followed her to her car and attacked her, breaking her ribs and her cheekbone. From the parking lot, she was rushed back into the hospital.
Sapp ended up suffering post-traumatic stress from the attack. She felt helpless and lost, and she knew that she didn’t want to return to work at the hospital.
With the support of her husband Zack, Sapp decided to quit her job in emergency medicine and make the transition to becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom to her six-year-old twin girls. Unable to escape the painful memories, Sapp still felt anxious and trapped. And as a mother and wife, she couldn’t check out completely.
So when her husband encouraged her to get out of the house and take an entire day each week to taking care of herself, Sapp took him up on it. That precious time alone became transformative for Sapp, not just for her recovery, but for her overall wellbeing.
At first, though, she didn’t quite know what to do with all that free time. Still recovering from her injuries, Sapp would sit at park benches unsure of where to go or what to do. One thing she did know, though, was that she wanted to avoid large crowds. So she started to go for long walks. Soon after, she had the desire to explore further and see more of the breathtaking trails that surround her mountain town.
“I thought, ‘Why am I just walking? I could be making so much better use of my time and see so much more if I run,’” she recalled.
On April 11, 2017, Sapp went for her first run. A lifelong rock climber, Sapp always hated running, and her first attempt on the Flatirons Vista Trail was anything but easy. She got several side cramps, and could only make it half of a mile before she had to stop and walk.
“I was huffing and puffing by the end. I had no idea how to control speed or anything,” she said. “There wasn’t a time in my life that I had run other than those horrid middle school miles. It was so new, but I liked that no one was there.”
HAMPTON UNIVERSITY BECOMES FIRST HBCU TO ADD WOMEN’S TRIATHLON AS A VARSITY SPORT
NCAA Division I program in Hampton Virginia, to receive HBCU-focused grant from USA Triathlon Foundation
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon, along with Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey and Director of Athletics Eugene Marshall, Jr., today announced that Hampton University will introduce women’s triathlon as a varsity sport starting in the fall of 2019. The school, located in Hampton, Virginia, is the first-ever HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to participate in the sport at the varsity level.
The addition of the Hampton women’s triathlon program is made possible through a $225,000 grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation, which was reserved for the first HBCU that added the sport at the varsity level in a proactive effort to increase diversity in collegiate triathlon. The grant will be distributed over a five-year period and may support travel, equipment, coaching, scholarships and other expenses related to building a sustainable varsity program. 101918 hampton logo_406.png
All other varsity women’s triathlon programs, including future HBCUs, have the opportunity to apply for the standard USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant.
USA Triathlon is planning a number of other initiatives focused on HBCU community engagement, including an indoor triathlon series at HBCU campuses, an HBCU triathlon combine to identify multisport talent, a campus rep program and a professional development program for HBCU students interested in working in the Olympic movement.
These initiatives are part of USA Triathlon’s larger mission to increase diversity in triathlon. The organization has been recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee for two consecutive years for its diversity and inclusion efforts, receiving the USOC’s Advancing Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2017 and the Diversity & Inclusion Choice Award in 2018.
“Hampton University’s addition of a varsity women’s triathlon program is cause for celebration for many reasons,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “USA Triathlon is in the process of collaborating with HBCUs on a variety of initiatives to increase diversity in triathlon at the youth and collegiate level, and this is an important step in that direction. The academic and athletic administration at Hampton have proven to be leaders by committing to this unique opportunity for female student-athletes, who will shape the future of our sport for years to come.”
“This is another example of Hampton University leading the way,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey. “I am proud of the Department of Athletics team that made the Hampton University women’s triathlon program a reality.”
A national search for a head coach will commence immediately, and the athlete recruitment process will begin as soon as a coach is hired.
Hampton becomes the sixth NCAA Division I program and the 26th school overall to sponsor women’s triathlon as a varsity sport. Other programs in USA Triathlon’s Mideast Region include Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C., DIII), Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V., DII), East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn., DI), Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C., DII) and Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky., DIII).
The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, a designation that gives the sport a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA level.
Women’s collegiate triathlon is a fall sport. The varsity season, which is comprised of three regional qualifiers and the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship, features sprint-distance races covering a 750-meter open water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.
For more information about triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa. For questions regarding varsity collegiate women’s triathlon events and programming, contact Jessica Welk at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.
What others are saying about the addition of women’s triathlon at Hampton University:
Amy Wilson, Managing Director, NCAA Office of Inclusion
“Congratulations to Hampton University on adding women’s triathlon — an NCAA emerging sport — and further enhancing its remarkable tradition of providing meaningful opportunities for student-athletes. I commend USA Triathlon for partnering with Hampton University through its impactful grant program, as well as for its extensive plans to engage with HBCUs across the country to increase the number of diverse student-athletes participating in intercollegiate triathlon.”
John Cassimatis, President, USA Triathlon Foundation
“The USA Triathlon Foundation is proud to present Hampton University with grant funding to build a sustainable women’s varsity triathlon program. The Foundation’s mission is to open pathways to triathlon for all, and a key component of that is increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our sport. Hampton’s presence in the NCAA triathlon family means that young women with dreams of attending an HBCU can now consider triathlon as a collegiate sport option for the first time, which opens new opportunities both academically and athletically.”
Shelley C. Davis, Senior Associate Commissioner and SWA, Big South Conference
“There is tremendous significance in Hampton University adding triathlon. Not only does this provide additional opportunities for women to compete in the sport, but Hampton is also the first Historically Black College/University and Big South Conference member institution to sponsor triathlon. It is exciting to see the growth of triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport, and the Big South looks forward to celebrating Hampton’s success and exposing the sport to the rest of our member institutions.”
Charles Harris, Executive Vice President of Averett University, Former Commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Hampton University Alumnus
“I am delighted to offer congratulations to Hampton for taking an innovative step into offering women’s triathlon as a varsity intercollegiate sport. Hampton has a 151-year history of being a pathfinder for opportunities. It comes as no surprise that under the leadership of President Dr. William R. Harvey and Athletic Director Eugene Marshall, Jr., they would seize the opportunity to take a leadership role in opening a new pathway for women in sport. This announcement is the first in what I anticipate will be a wellspring of unique opportunities for HBCU student-athletes to participate in sport at the highest level possible.”
Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, CEO, International Association of Black Triathletes
“Hampton University’s partnership with USA Triathlon provides a pathway into the collegiate arena for the sport at an HBCU for young black women from urban communities around the world. As IABT’s Youth & Junior Club Programs continue to expand here in Maryland through partnerships with urban local school systems, we are now able to advocate, support and encourage enrollment in Hampton University’s triathlon program. I have great hope that other HBCUs will come on board to introduce the program, especially in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. This has been an initiative of mine for several years, and I am ecstatic to see it come to fruition. Historic, groundbreaking, monumental. Great job, Hampton University and USA Triathlon!”
Tony Brown, Founder and President, Black Triathletes Association
“On behalf of the Black Triathletes Association (BTA), I would like to congratulate USA Triathlon and Hampton University on this landmark achievement. It has always been the mission of BTA to promote the sport of triathlon to the black community, and this partnership exemplifies the importance of diversity and inclusion in collegiate-level athletics. Several of the member athletes and volunteers of BTA are HBCU alum and have expressed overwhelming praise and gratitude in this endeavor. We are committed to a multisport lifestyle and look forward to supporting the success of the NCAA women’s triathlon team at Hampton University.”
Current Varsity Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Programs (as of Oct. 30, 2018)
NCAA Division I
Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.)
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.)
Hampton University (Hampton, Va.)
University of San Francisco (San Francisco. Calif.)
University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.)
Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.)
NCAA Division II
American International College (Springfield, MA)
Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D.)
Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.)
Daemen College (Amherst, N.Y.)
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V.)
Drury University (Springfield, Mo.)
Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont.)
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, N.Y.)
Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.)
NCAA Division III
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis.)
Millikin University (Decatur, Ill.)
Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wis.)
North Central College (Naperville, Ill.)
Northern Vermont University (Johnson, Vt.)
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.)
Trine University (Angola, Ind.)
Willamette University (Salem, Ore.)
About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon, and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $1.9 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors – as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation – USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
Boulder, Colorado USA: Rachel Joyce, professional triathlete; 2017 IRONMAN Boulder Champion, and Dana Platin, leadership coach and founder of The Warmi Project, are collaborating on an innovative local workshop series. Each workshop offers a unique blend of practical triathlon skills and mental tools designed to have an immediate benefit on performance. The series will take place at the University of Colorado, Boulder Recreation Center and single workshop registration is available:
Swim Braver Workshop: Sunday May 20 10:00am-3:00pm
Bike Bolder Workshop: Sunday June 3 10:00am-3:00pm
Run Stronger Workshop: Sunday June 24 10:00am-3:00pm
The Swim Braver session will develop the ability to squash the inner critic and lead with a BRAVER self-mentor both on and off the race course. The Bike Bolder session will progress the courage needed to push the comfort zone in order to fear less, take calculated risks, and move BOLDER through life. The Run Stronger session will explore the top three strategies to crush
goals to run STRONGER in life.
“Since transitioning from the corporate world to professional triathlon in 2005, I have learned a huge amount about swimming, biking and running,” said Rachel Joyce. “I understand how the development of everyday skills are essential to truly showcase fitness in the triathlon arena. I am excited to share my experiences through the Braver Bolder Stronger workshops and to be partnering with Dana Platin. Dana’s depth of knowledge and women’s leadership portfolio emphasizes the relevance of mental tools, which is often the missing piece of the jigsaw.”
“Human Interest Group is proud to support this engaging workshop series,” said Heather Nocickis, “Rachel and Dana have created a relevant, effective content program based on their respective paths to success. The result of their vision for women’s leadership is a blueprint that builds confidence and drives change, empowering others to break through barriers – in sport or in the corporate arena.”
“As a passionate, avid athlete, I use my participation in triathlons, cycling, and mountaineering as a way to set personal goals that push my limits beyond what I thought was possible,” says Dana Platin. “Personal triumphs and setbacks have taught me about gratitude, grit, and grace. My 20-years in leadership development, training, and program management are lessons learned for other women aspiring to crush their fear to accomplish their goals. I am thrilled to
partner with Rachel Joyce on this powerful experience that uses the journey of triathlon to tap into that braver, bolder, stronger version of ourselves.”
Each workshop will kick off with a challenging physical component. The swim/bike/run training sessions will be coached by Rachel, instructing on technique and key skills specific to triathlon, such as open water sighting and adapting swim strokes for different conditions; climbing and descending proficiency on the bike; and, finishing with a strong run in the final leg of a triathlon.
This will be followed by lunch and refreshments. Dana will advance discussion during the afternoon sessions, further examining potential barriers to empowerment and those tools and choices that contribute to success and define what braver, bolder, stronger means for women’s leadership and participation.
About Braver Bolder Stronger: Braver Bolder Stronger Workshops is a partnership between Rachel Joyce, Dana Platin and The Human Interest Group. For more details and event registration, click HERE.
Parking for Workshops
The workshops will take place at CU Student Recreation Center, located at 1855 Pleasant Street in Boulder, CO. We recommend parking at Lot 169 (free parking on weekends) or the Folsom Field Parking Garage (paid parking) as shown here.
About 15 participants enjoy the social nature of race
Members of the tight-knit group pumped up one another at the starting line.
Shoes were retied last minute as the national anthem played from the speakers. When it finished, the announcer asked blind and visually impaired runners to come forward.
The group made their way up. Crosby, a guide dog for runner Kerry Kuck, stood at the front of the pack. The runners prepared for their starting cue, which was a minute before the rest of the participants tackled the 5-mile route at the annual Cherry Creek Sneak.
“Crosby the dog is going to lead the way,” the announcer barked out to the crowd. Then, the start was signaled. The runners and their guides took off, breaking away down the first stretch.
The Colorado Springs based U.S. Association of Blind Athletes partnered with Achilles Denver, the local chapter of an international organization that gives athletes with disabilities a community of support, and Lending Sight, a Colorado sports club that connects those with good vision with blind or visually impaired runners, to recruit about 15 runners and guides to race Sunday.
For some, the sport is about escaping isolation or exploring freedom. For others, it is a fun form of exercise. Regardless of the motivation, the athletes all expressed a similar theme: Blind runners have a tight community in Denver.
NOTE: One year ago this week, Kate tore her ACL while skiing. In this narrative, she shares her struggles with psychological recovery after experiencing a major sports injury.
Outdoor recreation enthusiasts are a superstitious bunch. There are certain things that go unsaid. For example, cyclists do not openly proclaim how long it has been since they’ve experienced a mechanical, hikers do not take photos until after the summit has been reached, and skiers do not ever say “Last run of the day.”
That’s where I made my mistake. I did the taboo. I did what skiers are never supposed to do- I said those cursed words out loud. Twenty minutes later, I was face planting in the snow, spread out in the Super Man position and didn’t want to get up. I knew my knee would not support me.
I had felt that feeling once before- two years prior, in fact, when an inexperienced teenaged snowboarder lost control and slammed into me at Keystone. Ironically, that too had been the last run of the day. On that day long ago, I had enough adrenaline rushing through me that I was able to ski down the mountain, but it was soon followed by excruciating pain by the time we reached the parking lot. An MRI scan revealed later that I had torn my left medial collateral ligament (MCL).
The Elephant Journal published the following poem by Jennifer Kimble after being inspired by Lindsey Vonn, introducing it with a nod to all amateur athletes:
For Lindsey and so many other female athletes, their beauty blooms from struggle. Broken bones, blown out knees, and severed tendons leave scars of accomplishment as they fearlessly get back on that mountain, back on their bikes, or back in the water time and time again.
It’s noon and she still has raccoon eyes…. not the typical “day after” makeup, but residual rings from her sunrise swim.
Her hair, always in a messy bun, will have to do— for she would rather run an extra 30 minutes than spend the time with a straightening iron. Her curves are in her biceps and calves instead of her chest, and veins pop in her forearms at the mere mention of the gym. Perpetually cold and hungry, she always wants more.
Wrinkles surround her sun-kissed smile. Instead of spending money on fake eyelashes, she gets a tune up for her bike; and her Cover Girl is sunscreen. Her tan lines look ridiculous in frilly dresses; but who cares, she prefers Lycra anyway. She has muscles down to her toes where black nail polish covers bruised toenails, and chaffing in places she’d rather not mention.
But oh, the sparkle in her eyes And desire in her heart. The passion that permeates her being!
She is strong and confident, and damn—she is beautiful.
Coming back to triathlon after a break can be a double-edged sword. While the excitement and motivation to get back into the swing of swim, bike, and run can light a fire under many triathletes, there is always that moment where you suddenly realize just how hard it can be to get your body, mind, and fitness level back to a place where you don’t feel like throwing in the towel.
Three-time IRONMAN world champion Mirinda Carfrae is no different when it comes to handling a changed body and level of fitness after having baby Isabelle this past August. We caught up with the new mom about what it’s like to go from running down the finisher’s shoot to run-walking through her neighborhood. Check out how Carfrae stays positive as she eases herself back into training, new curves and all.
Mirinda Carfrae: I absolutely love being a mom! You can’t really describe the feeling of having a baby and showing the baby the world. I love all the little things that come along with it, like the first time they see new things. It’s cool to witness how exciting that is for them and to be a part of Izzy’s journey.
What is a significant difference in your life now as you juggle motherhood and triathlon?
Coeur Sports has announced they will launch the Collective Beat women’s triathlon community in 2018:
We created The Collective Beat so that we could expand our community beyond our team of ambassadors and professionals. The goal is to draw in more amazing women who are instinctively aligned with the Coeur mission of building a nation of encouraging, supportive, and positive endurance sports athletes.
Our goal is to help make connections that can last a lifetime.
There will be a nominal fee to join The Collective Beat and we wanted to share our thinking behind the program and also tell everyone about the benefits.
So, let’s start with the benefits. We set up the benefits so that members will receive much more in value than the cost of membership. First, members will receive a $200 clothing allowance that can be used to purchase some beautiful and exclusive apparel.
The gear will be designed specifically for TCB members and will be delivered around the first of April next year. Just as the North American Tri Season gets going.
Members will also receive a free women’s specific triathlon training plan that was developed by the ladies over at Hardcoeur coaching. These plans retail for up to $149.99 and we have a selection of distances that range from sprint to full iron distance.
We’ll also be giving members an an unlimited use, 20% discount code that is good all year long for Coeur Sports and Zele by Coeur products. You’ll be able to begin using your discount as soon as you join and it can be used on the new 2018 line that we just rolled out.
Plus, our amazing partners are also providing some incredible discounts. So if you’ve ever wanted to try something from great companies, like Barnanas, Zelios, Breakthrough Nutrition, Normatek, Inside Tracker and more, then this is your chance. Just sign up and do some shopping.
Finally, members will have access to a social site where they can cheer for each other and keep up with new benefits as they become available. In our heart of hearts, we believe that the social connection will be one of the most special benefits that members receive.
If this plays out the way we hope, people will know that if someone is wearing TCB gear, then there’s an extremely good chance that that individual is positive, encouraging, relatable, and approachable. We’ve said it time and again, that the first step (or pedal) into endurance sports can be a bit scary and we hope that Collective Beat members will be little beacons of encouragement all around the world.
All in all, we think this is a fantastic package of benefits that will more than cover the $250 cost of the program. We’ll be welcoming members until January 31, 2018 and then the membership will be valid until January 31, 2019.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched the movie Legally Blonde close to a million times (and counting!) and can quote most of it by heart. There’s a scene in which Elle Woods hands over her resume to Emmett, her professor’s junior partner at Harvard law. As she walks away he sniffs the pink colored perfumed paper he says “Do you think she just woke up one day and said… “I’m going to go to law school?!”” This is how I feel about my intro to trail running and I’m assuming what most of you might be thinking, “Did she just wake up one day and decide to trail run?!” Well yes, yes I did!
It’s crazy what can happen in a year. I started this journey with the intent to get myself healthy. Have you ever looked in the mirror and completely hated the person staring back at you, someone you no longer knew? Well, that’s where I was. I had a disappointing running season last year, but had made new friends, joined a club and community that gave me new meaning to life. But, you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. Late last summer my dog was viciously murdered, my fiancé and I decided to part ways after 9 years, AND my work was closing its doors after I had been there for a little over 6 years! When it rains it truly pours!!!
Starting over is never an easy thing to go through. Devastated, I picked up what pieces remained, tucked my little turtle tail between my legs and retreated home for a bit. I knew this year was going to be about trying to focus on me, which was something I’d never done before (aka hard!) and proving to myself that I could do this trail running thing. It was the only thing that provided therapy and relief for me and still connected me to Boulder and my friends. But I also found myself even more lost, so much change had left me confused on who I really was! (So I apologize if I have appeared like a basket case to any of you! It’s been a whirlwind and I know I haven’t been the best of a friend. Thank you for still being there!)
I decided to go back this time and get my revenge on my racing season. There was method to my madness! I signed up for my 100 miler first, then went back and signed up for the distances I didn’t finish at last year… so a 32 miler (out of 50) and a 50 miler (out of a 100). Coincidentally or not, each race corresponded to something meaningful in my life. Therefore each race had some sort of message or mantra that I boldly wrote on my arm to remind me what I was doing. Last year I was obsessed with cutoffs times, this year I decided to put away that part of my brain that was always worried about time, and use my determination to propel me. Which, mind you, is way easier said than done when you’re mid race!!
At Dirty Thirty, I wanted that finish because I had never actually done a 50K. Apparently I skipped that last season in favor for a 50 miler! Go figure! On a friend’s fridge was a quote to “remember who you wanted to be” I found this very fitting for me at the time, as I had lost sight of what I was trying to become, why I had even started this journey in the first place. This became my mantra. I also ran for my dog, whose death anniversary was the same weekend of the race. I know that sounds weird but I ran a disappointing Leadville Marathon last season because I had lost her that week, and I wanted some sort of vindication this go around. Also, if a six pound dog who was literally ripped apart by two big dogs can still be alive even for the briefest of ten minutes, I sure as hell can survive some pain. I ate an Oreo in her honor at the top of the last peak, screamed some profanities, shed my first tear of the race and finished my first official ultra!
Next was Leadville Silver Rush 50M. Good gracious my oh my, don’t even get me started on Leadville!!! I love it, I hate it, it’s easy, it’s “runnable”… but it’s hard!!! I had it out for this place. Vendetta. We were at war and I was going to finish as redemption for the 100 last year. It was solely that motivation that got me to the finish. I went out feeling great and I made the turn around in what was a great time for my turtleness! But around mile 40 I lost my marbles… and my shot of whiskey I had been saving (which really works p.s.!) I walked it to the finish, but I learned some valuable lessons. Tape your feet and lube ‘em up, no one likes blisters! Saltine crackers at 10,000 feet are gross! Shoe insoles, duh! Tip from a pro, fill one of your bottles up with Coke-A-Cola… why didn’t I think of that?! Oh, and everybody hurts (another pro tip)!
So, I hit a bit of a lull after the fifty miler. I found myself depressed, after race blues are a real thing I’m finding out! This was my first time driving to work in 8 years, usually I bike, which is extra fitness if you’re training for things! I had lost that and was honestly putting more miles on my car than my body. I was also stressed trying to balance work, dog sitting, running, relationships that I completely sucked at having, and trying to maintain some sort of a social life… that I broke said car. (Another life lesson learned: OIL, you need to put oil in your car. Oops!) I would have quit the 100 miler, it was counting down quickly to race time. But someone so graciously made a post about my adventures and I knew I couldn’t quit ( p.s. thank you for that!) I knew I had to keep running, but it was so darn hard to find the motivation or drive. I was thankful for everyone’s support, but I also wasn’t taking their advice for running strategies. “You need to run 30 miles back to back!” “You need to do speedwork!” “You need to run A LOT more than you are now!” Woof, I liked my bed and wallowing in self-pity more. Truthfully my work schedule didn’t allow me to run back to back without going to work like a complete zombie, and I’m sure I had already stressed them out enough with my race schedule and crying over my life bouts! It took a couple weeks but I got moving again, thanks to friends getting me up and out. I made the turn around in my brain and the last four weeks I got the job done. And I’m so glad I got out on those last few big runs, some of my best memories of summer!
I went in to Run Rabbit Run 100 comparing myself to last year. I felt like last time I had run more and was lighter and leaner! However, this year I had run much longer quality distance runs, and I’d like to think weighing more meant I had more muscle, I wasn’t sure which version was better! I’m also not good with the whole planning out your race or pace chart thing… aka spreadsheets. Like I said, I get so consumed with the cutoff times that it can royally mind screw me. So, I never really looked at them or had them memorized. I said: Screw it!!!! You’ve done everything you could have done, you’re as fit as can be, and you’ve done the work, just know the basics and keep moving! Obviously my crew had the info and could figure out where we needed to be and when. But I didn’t want to know and I told them to lie to me about it, and everything else! Tell me I look great, even though I’m 99% sure I didn’t for 99% of that race!
There’s a lot that happens in a 100 miles. It’s hard to describe in words even. I feel like I blacked out for most of it. I can tell you that it’s really, really, REALLY far and there comes a point where even another darn mile seems like eternity… “another three miles to the next aid station?! but that’s so far!!!” I don’t think our brains can fully fathom that distance, even though I’ve done it, I can’t explain how far it is. You also go into this awful self-loathing period of time, no one tells you about it, or when it will strike or how long it will take for you to work yourself out of it. It can happen repeatedly too! (Joy!) It is literally the epitome of darkness. I won’t even say what I told myself for hours upon end in those moments, because no one should say those things to another. And that’s why my motto or mantra for the race was to “Have courage, and be kind and all will be well” It’s a Cinderella quote, judge all you want!!! But it’s in these dark spaces of spaces to find the courage and strength and to be kind to yourself and to others around you that keeps you going. Also, whiskey at mile 65 and 82, messages from friends and pancakes help.
I left my crew a note that they read after I had already started the race. I thanked them all for taking the time to come and help me and how much it mean to me to have them there. I said how I knew I wasn’t the fastest, fittest, strongest person out there but I KNEW I could do it, and needed them to believe in me too. I said how I wasn’t doing this to “prove” I could run a 100 miles, which is awesome and all. But more so I wanted to prove that it all had been worth it. All the loss, the pain, the staying up at night not knowing what the hell I was doing with my life at 30 years old! I wanted to show myself I could do it. That all the hard work mentally, emotionally, physically had paid off. That I was strong and was determined to show what I could do!
Although it helped I was physically capable to do such a thing, I probably could have trained harder upon closer look, and it’s most likely recommend to do so. But at the end of the day, I am a firm believer that you can do anything you put your mind to. Yeah, that cheesy life quote we’ve all heard before! It’s the truth! Yeah it takes works, sometimes lots of work. With determination anything is possible. And that’s why I finished my races this year. I am incredibly proud, most days it still hasn’t sunk in even! I’m so glad I’ve overcome what I have. I am constantly learning and as always am never perfect!! Now that the dust has settled, I’m feeling more like the person I’ve longed to become!
Some call us crazy for doing what we do. And it truthfully is! I think that’s what we like about it. To see what your body can do and overcome is truly one of the most amazing experiences I’ll never forget, even if it hurt. It’s empowering what your mind can do, from the depths of the dark to the moments of joy and peace. It’s this great community of runners and friends, who build each other up, even when you fail or falter, and is always there for you! I’m not sure if you’ve looked around you but Colorado is a pretty rad place and being able to explore miles of untapped beauty on your own two feet is another thing you can’t describe till you’re in it! SO call me crazy, I don’t “love” to run but I do love what it’s brought me. Determination, discipline, adventure, patience, slowly but surely confidence and the strength to ask for help when I need it. There’s also the friends, new places, and new lease on life that I have… that maybe even one day I’ll make my very own turtle spreadsheet.