Most think of Medal Monday as a way to review a race/accomplishment you achieved that week while showcasing the post-race medal. However, this week, my Medal Monday digs a little deeper. This isn’t just a recap of a three-hour experience I had this weekend, but a complete change to my athletic focus and abilities.
This past Saturday I ran Whoos in El Moro a 25k trail race. The race was challenging with rolling hills (who are we kidding it was mountains), canyons and tons of single-track. I climbed a total elevation gain of 2,331 feet, ran downhills that were so technical every footstep had to be just perfect. I felt the warmth of the morning California sun, then the breeze of the Pacific Ocean. I did this feeling strong, confident and at times amazed at the moment I was in.
Now that the dust has settled, I realize this race meant more to me than just running around chasing goals. It renewed a love for running, for making goals, and most of all trying new things that seem to hard or to “scary”.
If someone would have told me a year ago I would move to Southern California and fall in love with running trails in mountains, I would have laughed really hard. I have always been an urban runner. I love running in traffic, through neighborhoods, even with the noise and smog. But there is something about the challenge of climbing a mountain, then running without fear (or at least trying) back down to the bottom. Both styles of running take a bit of grit and grace but more than that being open to fearlessly try something new.
Four months ago knew I wanted to take the plunge into trail racing. I researched races, and when Lauren told me about Whoos In El Moro, I knew that was the one for me. I honestly had no idea how hard this trail running training would be. There were definitely more days that were humbling then ones that were easy. What I didn’t expect was how grateful I would become for those humbling days. They opened my mind to understanding the why behind the missed goal which led to learning so much about myself. I have run 12 marathons and had humbling days before, but to be honest since I was so familiar with the ins and outs of marathon training, those days just felt defeating, and could be hard to turn around. As crazy as this sounds, trying something new like trail running, created a shift in me. Not too far into the training I began to see those hard days a positive instead of a negative. The hard days made me curious and I realized as a runner I could still learn and push to new heights (literally and figuratively).
So how did race day go? It was really amazing. I will post a separate race review later this week, but suffice to say it was one of the best events I have run and I will be adding this race to my yearly calendar. I went into this race with a plan. A plan to use the knowledge and experience I gained over the last few months to push through the climbs and run fearlessly down the mountains. I was shooting for a goal of 3 hours, and ended up pretty close at 3:12. Even though the last 2 miles I slowed down a bit, I realized when I was done I physically had a little left in the tank and could have pushed a little harder. I honestly spent most of the race, feeling strong, well hydrated and mentally tough to push through whatever came my way.
My main goal though was to see how it felt to trail run, see if enjoyed the challenge and wanted to come back for more. The answer to all those questions was yes. Even when it got hard and my heart rate was higher than it should have been I realized this trail racing thing is the perfect challenge for me. It requires so much physical strength, so much relaxation and race strategy. I have known for a while I am not going to be a fast 5k runner. What I do excel at though is the endurance it takes for distance running. This race gave me a taste of what is out there. I have the drive to continue to build the necessary physical strength and mental stamina so that I can continue to grow and get better at trail racing.
Where do I go from here? I will admit it, I have been bitten by the trail running bug and this only the beginning of the journey. I will put together a winter and spring schedule soon but at this stage I think I want to stick to mid-distance runs, such as a 25k and 30K. I want to get better and faster at this level before I decide about moving on to longer distances. I have another small race in a couple weeks and then I will focus on a recovery series. I want to spend some time hiking, doing yoga and strength training to build a stronger base. In 2017 I hope to learn more about making my running more competitive. I want to set new goals and push fearlessly to reach them. If I am able to podium in my age group that would be a huge plus.
The weekly posts will continue for the next few weeks and then may cut down a bit. But don’t worry, I still will share my journey of how I am going to Run Fierce and Live Fit.