When we first met our ambassador Lindsay, she had never done a trail race or do any sort of endurance event. This past weekend she ran her very first stage race… here is how it went for her!
Last weekend I ran my first stage race! 3 days of trail running in beautiful Golden, BC! I signed up for the Golden Ultra – Half Pint and started going on longer runs and on trails with lots of elevation gain to get me ready for the big day/weekend. Up until early spring, my typical runs were between 5-10km with the occasional run between 15-20km (but few and far between and usually on flat trail). Last year, I ran my first race ever (The Broken Goat 12km) and naturally, set my goals bigger for this year. Since moving to the mountains, I have completely fallen in love with trail running. I was lucky enough to find a running buddy who was game to get out on the trails often and no matter what the weather. If you want to get stronger, I strongly suggest running with buds who are faster/stronger than you! I always had someone to chase after keeping me moving forward when I would probably otherwise stop for a breather or a pity party. And if you can’t find a partner, you can’t go wrong with a border collie – they make pretty good running buds and have been known to give motivational kisses when you feel like giving up!
I didn’t have a training program in mind, my goal was just run farther and gain lots of vertical! I am guilty of getting disappointed with my performance and feeling I should be progressing faster. So I chose not to run with an app tracking my distance and speed. I didn’t want to ruin my love of running with thoughts of perceived failure. I ran by feel. I ran harder on days I felt fantastic. I slowed down on days that my feet felt like they weighed a million pounds. It has been becoming more important to me to listen to my body and not punish myself for taking it easy when I need to. Without consciously choosing a cross training regime, I tried to just enjoy the things I like to do in addition to running – like yoga, mountain biking, and hiking. Unfortunately, I am better on two feet than two tires, so I had a few hiccups along the way nursing lots of knee wounds that prevented me from running some weeks. The biggest struggle during ‘training’ for me was keeping my mental game focused on enjoying more than just running without the fear of injuries that would keep me from my running goals.
Half way through the summer, I started to feel burnt out. I was working a lot of hours, and running a ton. Finding the balance between challenging yourself while achieving the right amount of rest to recover and nailing your nutrition all at the same time was a bit of a task. I am still learning what works for my body. In combination with all of my injuries I was accumulating, running was becoming less enjoyable for me as the race approached. Admittedly, I was absolutely dreading it the week before the race. I felt nauseous thinking about it. I had a sore hip that made even walking painful. I kept telling myself all summer that I didn’t have time goals in mind, I just wanted to cross the finish line. But of course, in my head, I didn’t want to be hobbling along in last place.
And then suddenly when Friday (Day 1) rolled around, I felt really peaceful and my hip wasn’t bothering me. I was somehow confident that I would just do the best that I could do and felt excited to get out there and challenge myself. So my support crew (hubby) got me pumped up for the first stage and rode the chairlift to the start line with me, encouraging me and taking pictures of the start of my big weekend. Before I knew it, I was charging up the ski hill with a group of colourful runners with beautiful quads (yes, I noticed). As I waved to my hubby poking out of the trees, I felt ready and strong – I was even passing people on the uphill (anomaly!). Except for the 10 year old who crushed us all for a 1st place finish! 730m of elevation gain over only 3km was steep. And it burned. But the best single track and epic views all weekend as I made my way to the top of the ski hill! I was the 11th female to cross the finish line and rode the gondola down with a huge smile on my face – happy with my performance while nervously wondering if I went too hard on Day 1 – would I be running the next 2 days with noodle legs?!
I got home and set out the goodies to put in my pack for Day 2 – my BIG day – and set my alarm for 5:30am. I woke up in the morning feeling great and ready to tackle the longest stage of the weekend. It was chilly and still dark out when I got to the start line. I paced and did a few lunges to keep my legs warm…ish. And just like the day before, I was off waiving to my support crew as I started jogging the first 2km of road to get to the trail head. Lots of people were passing me, but I knew if I started fast I would burn out as soon as I hit the uphill. Once on the trail, I noticed a lot of people around me were walking all of the hills. I started off following suit, but I felt really good, so I started jogging (very slowly) the hills and slowly passed runners here and there. It looked like walking the hills was an effective strategy for most people, since they quickly caught up to me at the top of the hill. But the time I spent running with my super strong running buds showed me that, personally, it was better for me to slow jog the hills rather than walk. It’s really hard for me to start running again if I stop. So I kept it slow enough so that my breathing wasn’t out of control but that I could keep a rhythm going. I eventually passed the ‘herd’ I was in at the start and ran the majority of the race alone. This was lovely. I didn’t feel the pressure of going faster with anyone on my heels or anyone immediately in my sights with the disappointment that I wasn’t going fast enough. I was able to do my own thing and enjoy myself, not feeling the heat of competition. Of course, seeing my hubby – I mean, support crew – pop out at different points along the trail with his camera put a huge smile on my face. His support and pride in my running goals means the world! Does anyone else have a partner this great? I felt like I absolutely flew on the down track and continued to surprise myself as I passed runners and did it all without face planting anywhere! When I hit the road again, it felt like the longest and hardest 2km of my life. Flat. Pavement. Ugh. But I came around the corner into the finish line to see my hubby, my dog, my neighbours, my friends…I was so overwhelmed by all the people that showed up to cheer me through the finish line!! It was so unexpected and I felt so loved! What a finish to the hardest day of the weekend! To top it all off, I beat my time (going off the one and only other time I ran a distance close to 30km) by 20+mins. 30km and 1000m elevation gain – and I still felt great! How was my hip or my knees not hurting yet?! My neighbour’s daughter brought me a celebratory cupcake and I proceeded to take full advantage of the massage tent at the finish line! Naturally, the next step was pizza.
Day 3 arrived, and thanks to the massage, my legs were actually still moving! As my support crew walked me to my final start line, I met up with a girl in the crowd who I met during Day 1 who signed up for this race last minute as ‘something to do while she was in town’ haha. As we started running she took off ahead of me and I thought to myself “Welp. I guess today will be more of a recovery run.” Then a little boy with a backpack twice the size of his body passed me in the crowd. Where are all these epically strong children coming from?! Alright Lindsay, abandon all expectations of performance today. As I ran past the aid station, I spotted my hubby behind his lens in the distance and I felt a huge smile spread across my face. Once I realized I was turned around heading back to the finish line, I was in disbelief that I was past the half way point already. I tried to pick up the pace, but I couldn’t tell if my legs were moving faster or not. I was leap frogging another runner the rest of the way back. Right before the finish line, she stopped and threw up. And still beat me to the finish line! What a champ! Again, I was met at the finish line by my lovely support crew of a man and some friends. 10km and 360m elevation gain20+min faster than usual! I don’t know how I managed a PR on day 3. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I placed 11th female overall for the weekend! I am usually a back-of-the-pack runner, but I guess there’s something to be said for the super strong women that you train with that bring you up to their level of awesomeness. And maybe race day adrenaline is a real thing? And maybe the beautiful fall colours on the trails and views of the mountains played a roll. Maybe all the love and support from my friends and family is what really pushed me across the finish line. I’m sure ‘training’ had something to do with it too. But when all is said and done, as a result of incredibly inspiring runners and adventurers in my life, the desire to join the party as brought me here…and I’m having an absolute BLAST.