I first found out about this race on the The North Face website in 2010. And ever since that day I had wanted to win this race.
Summers grew increasingly difficult to race in through the years owning the Mobius Cafe. I did more observing than racing. In 2010 and 2011, I watched the sport of trail running and ultra running in particular really take off.
Coming from a shorter distance trail running background I was not in any rush to plunge into the ultra distance which was a good thing because in 2012 and 2013 my work schedule became insane, not conducive for training of any kind let alone ultras.
I didn’t keep a running log through those years, I barely had time or energy to even put in an hour run. Sometimes, even if I had the time, I physically couldn’t because my joints ached from being on my feet all day. My diet was horrible, I was really stressed out.
Yet, by 2012, the structure of my business had changed so much that to make it through as sole owner I needed to start closing the shop for an off season.
So, in 2012, I started making my autumn off-season(4-6weeks) a time to increase my milage. Any other time of year for me to build up this milage was not possible.
Coincidentally, The North Face Championship being in December, was the one ultra I had the timing for.
In 2012, I struggled with insane stress that seemed to gather in my calves all season. I went to the race knowing it was doubtful I would finish. I didn’t, but I had my first ultra racing experience with one of my good friends and it was the exciting year of the huge rainstorm.
2013, I went to the race just to finish. I did, barely. I still had a lot of stress from my business but ultimately it was my hamstrings that got zapped on the frigid North end of the course that year. I was hobbling by mile 50.
2014, I sold my business. I finished 2nd.
My grandmother, Nanny, taught me to ‘stamp’ white horses for luck as a child. Nanny travelled with my family almost all of the time. I remember once, Nanny almost made us drive her to the airport mid-trip because she couldn’t handle the bickering of 4 children any longer. After that my parent gifted us Walkmans. More often though we would just be heading up to the mountains West of Denver and this is when I remember us paying the most attention to the white horses.
I had been on the road so much this summer that I had stamped all of the white horses from Washington through Utah, up to Montana and back, and of course the whole state of Colorado. The potential for stamping a new white horse was tapped out.
So when I saw a picture of a white horse in the airport I wondered if it could count like a living white horse would.
My race strategy was to start the race and I could bail at any time. I didn’t feel I needed any result from this race as it had been a long season of racing and travel and mentally I was pretty fried.
And wouldn’t you know, my calves started tightening up 4 miles into the race.
This DID seem random because I hadn’t had this serious of calf trouble in a few years. I went on running thinking at this point I would bail at mile 7 because the next chance to drop out would be mile 30.
Damian Stoy and I had been running together and chatting for miles now and because of this I ran straight through the 2nd aid station (the 1st of 2 places I had in mind to drop out). Then I was with Madgalena Boulet, who said there were no other gals in front of us. Huh??….
My energy did feel good and knew I would make it to mile 30 so I plodded ahead knowing I could make a decision there. For the next 20 miles I got used to the idea that I was in the lead.
By the Stinson Aid Station (mile 30), Ruth Croft had caught up to me. I thought it was her day. She had more ultra experience than I did, and she was having a good season.
As for my calves, the tightness seemed to have faded away…..or maybe other muscles just felt worse 🙂
Coming into the finish I couldn’t convince myself that no one was behind me. A gal was cheering me on but I thought she was warning me that someone was coming upon me.
The win took a long time to absorb. Perhaps I had put so much thought into it in the past that when it actually happened it didn’t seem like much.
It WAS a great way to finish the season though!