Hello, nice to welcome myself back to the blog. It is a bit natural that it goes by the way side at some point - right...well, I will do my best to be back at it. First though, we need to catch up a bit!
ABC . . . 1, 2, 3
You will see a series of three updates to get you back in the wind beneath my wings.
1 = time for growth and Quad Rock 50 miler race report
2 = the incredible month of June (including Lavaredo Ultra Trail - 119km race report)
3 = current status and realizations + preparations for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
So, where we left off was a place of question for my future - I was searching hard and knew something big was ahead. I was scared and intimidated and put way to much pressure on myself to make something happen, I was in pursuit of a doctoral position and I put myself and my health out in search of it. I was going to do anything to have a position or know what was in the near future by January, 2014. Well, that made life incredibly challenging, I had daily struggles and mental issues that were prompted by other situations and I needed some relief. I was home in MN for Christmas - after a conference in Austria and a quick visit to Lausanne, Switzerland to visit a potential for the future. I stayed in for the most part and caught a lot of sleep and relaxed as I knew that was exactly what my body needed (3 big puzzles and a season of Survivor were the highlights). If you know me at all, that is something I struggle with - shutting down and laying low. It was through the support and patience of my family and the help of a close friend's wedding that helped me see the road ahead was just a step away. One step at a time and a new way to focus my energy. I was back in Sweden and still struggling with WHO I am, WHERE I was going, WHAT I was doing - there was nothing to be said and everything to be felt. Feelings that I would never imagine to have and an admittingly low spot. If I have learned anything from the ultra racing I have done, it is to know in your heart and in your spirit that the dark times don't last - you do, it gets better and hard times pass. I tried to stay patient in knowing that and trust in the process. I knew that I needed to let the river flow and go with it. I captured the mentality of 'growing with the flow' or 'growin' N' flowin'' :)
Growin' N' Flowin'
Metaphors became a daily occurance and they continue to help me to stay focused on the day and the moment. I also was able to get my energy focused in the right place through the use of a childhood trick - I made myself a checklist. I got to put checks or stars in a column on a sheet every day! Remember the list in the bathroom for getting a star when you flossed your teeth :) - that was the energy I wanted - the little kid passion for life and love of each exciting moment (be it washing the dishes for a quarter or mowing the lawn for some spending money at the roller rink) :) That became my thing - FOR ME...not that anyone would see, but I was the one keeping score and I was able to feel my success...able to feel on track with the list of healthy components of my lifestyle, including nutrition, hydration, activities, sleep, friend time, quiet time, household chores, etc.. I learned that the simple things were key and I needed to see each task in itself - then success at getting my life back on track seemed simple. Then small things like putting on my training clothes or even just the shoes became the light for the path out the door. I got in a training groove and used each step to grow and learn about myself. It is through the tough times that greatness comes. We must allow time to feel our feelings and not let our mind get the better of us, YOU ARE YOU. Take control of your mind YOU DECIDE what happens. YOU are in control, but don't push too hard - let it flow, live the moment and ride it :)
Finally, a race was on the schedule and I was looking forward for the opportunity to show my growth over the last months. One of my cousins was getting married - SO, that meant being back home in MN and then while I was back in the US, it was a great time to get an early season race in - so then came along the QUAD ROCK 50 MILER - in Fort Collins, CO! It was a combination trip - quick family visit and quick race plan. I would end up in MN for about 3.5 days and CO for about 4 days, with a night in Minneapolis (to celebrate Mother's Day, my race, and my early birthday dinner WITH MOM!) on my way back to Sweden. Sign me up for the adventure.
Race Report - Quad Rock 50
Like I said, I travelled to Fort Collins, CO! I spent a night in Boulder upon first arriving in some hail storms a few days before the race. I visited a couple friends in Boulder, the university, as well as got a chance to explore the finer parts of town including a hike/run to get my breathing acclimated and legs and feet freshed up in the iconic Boulder mtns - along the Flatirons and from Chautauqua Park. Oh what fun there is to be had in Boulder, I hope to live or be able to visit a lot in the future! Felt like home to me (especially since I lived in Bozeman for about 3 years while getting my Masters degree) :)
My mom flew in on Thursday and I had rented a car, so went back to get her from the airport and we headed up to Fort Collins - another great mtn town. We spent Friday getting set for the race and driving around to allow me to get used to the area of the course and for her to get aquainted with the directions for the aid stations for crewing. We picked up the race packet at the Runners Roost and had a nice pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown, followed by an early night.
We had an early early start - as is the way in the US :) for ultras or most races. We got to the start and followed instructions with plenty of time, it was time to get the race bib number, go back to the car for final preparations and pee break and get back to the start line. It all happened a bit faster than I am used to from european races having all day to get amped. But, off we were and it was a nice start - on a gravel road (quite flat) - which was good for me, as I needed to figure out how to breathe in the thin air up there. Then the race was quite simple - except that I needed AIR, MORE AIR - hills felt good, but gosh I didn't have any spring in my step - I thought, geez what have I been doing in training - this feels so slow. I was able to surprise myself on the downhills and run past several others - I really had the thought "goodness, and these people are from Colorado...since when am I (a Minnesotan) good at downhills?!" Next thing I knew I was really sweating a lot (and making salt stains on my shirt/typical Sarah-issue) and started to take a lot of salt tablets - as a prevention and trick to avoid cramping. Wow, I was taking a lot, but it seemed to be fending off the cramps and was working (for the moment) like a charm.
It was HOT! The day was amazing, and there were views I could have only imagined - it was much more scenic than I envisioned as we slogged and dipped and jumped and zipped and danced our way in and out and around Arthur's Rock in Lory State Park and Horsetooth, and I tried look up and relax and enjoy them as much as I could. But boy was it warm for a lady who hadn't seen shorts or a t-shirt in months and living in the middle of Sweden, let's just say I wasn't used to that one bit. My mom was crewing, and she was amazing!!! I felt like a pro and we were in synch :) Like clockwork = the best feeling! I was sure downing those salt tablets and we exchanged baggies at the 25 mile mark. I was not eating as well as I hoped, but was managing with some GU chomps and started to slowly eat some solid bars in the last about 15 miles. Nutrition is never fun, but at altitude and in the 'heat' it was even less fun, but I was so insanely thirsty! Lesson starting to sink in. It was interesting that after the 25mile mark, the course went in reverse direction - so I was able to see those racers in front of me as we approached. I was very in tune to my body and my limits, but it was impossible not to try to do math and keep a count of the women in front of me. That was a fun advantage to have and I used it as fuel and motivation, it is a bit natural to do that - yeah?! But, I really tried to take a grip of it. I continued to find that ginger ale was my friend and also found a couple other friends along the course, it is nice to end up in good company during the race :)
The day was just going solid. I was happy. It was getting tough, but I was in control and getting it done. I was happy with that and I felt my training had made improvements in my performance and my mind was strong in that. I found that the uphills became my strength after the first half of the race and now started to use those as my advantage and try to push a bit extra there, downhills though - they just became harder and harder - as is also natural when your body starts to feel the load of all the hours. I think they should put some more mountains in Sweden to help with this :) It began a nice little rain shower - which felt amazing because of the temperature change, but it did get a little slickerry (slippery/slick). The last 4 km were about all I could push out my body and I tried to enjoy the home stretch as much as possible through the little valley/plateau/open field - I got a little extra motivation by the end to finish in about 10:30hrs - I ended up being about 30 seconds from this, but pushed hard in the last km to make it there. I called it a success :)
I was so happy and content with my effort and I felt it a great stepping stone to the coming season, I just recently finished Lavaredo 119km in Italy and my goal race of the year is UTMB 168km in Chamonix in the end of August. This was a beginning race and I was happy to see my progress and growth and a 6th place cowbell award to cap it off!
All words and no pics for now - funny internet, maybe I can change this soon...
Thanks for being an endurance reader to make it to the bottom for now - and hopefully you see some more updates soon :)
Happy trails and use all this summer weather and sunlight to fuel your passions and lift your spirit!