There is something refreshing about being new to a certain endeavor. While I felt inexperienced and under prepared when I toed the line at USA mountain champs on Saturday, the vulnerability and anonymity of it was wildly freeing.
I spent years in high school and college training for specific events, measuring myself against easily quantifiable standards –I ran a certain time or I didn’t, I qualified or I missed, I won or I lost. I’ve realized that the only way for this lifelong commitment to running to be sustainable and fulfilling is by chasing new adventures and pursuing variability. So, I’ve been taking chances in uncomfortable territory and allowing myself to attempt without expectations.
As I approached the base of the Mt. Bachelor, which was looking mighty intimidating. I wondered, again, what I was getting myself into. Luckily, the atmosphere around the start was rad; filled with runners who seemed to master the “chill, but focused” demeanor. I quickly shook off the nerves and readied myself to warm up.
I lined up at the start, surrounded by some of the world’s best mountain racers, staring at the aggressive 15% grade that I would soon meet. The cowbell rang and the front runners took off like a stampede. I approached the hill, getting comfortable with the climb, finding the beauty in the suffering. The race was a double 4k loop, starting with a ~800ft. ascent followed by a descent to the same degree.
The uphills were ruthless and inflicted excruciating pain with each measly step forward. The downhills were exhilarating. With limbs flailing and vision blurry from dust, I was forced to throw inhibitions out the window and accept the fact that I would probably wipe out at any second. The most challenging point was switching gears to start back up after the 1st loop, knowing exactly what I was ahead of me for the next 4,000 meters.
I finished in 30th place, which satisfies me, but also makes me hungry. I respect this learning experience and I’m confident that I will be among the ranks of the top runners at some point, but I’ve got work to do and miles to run.
Additionally, I had an awesome time with some really great people this weekend and can’t wait for another!