It’s been a minute. The word is a different place and I’m a different person-thank god. My writing voice has changed, my location has changed, and I don’t drink coffee anymore. I looked back at my drafts and found that the most recent was a catch-up post on having moved to Nashville and adopting a dog named Gustav. I almost feel like I need to post that one to fill in the gaps between the gaps. I don’t live in Nashville anymore, and I don’t have Gustav anymore. Even the change has changed.
My last post was about coming in third at Yeti 7/11. I ran Yeti 100 again that fall, shaving several hours off my time. I quit Fleet Feet and took a job at a local outdoors store called Cumberland Transit. I came in third again at Dark Sky 50 the next spring, and began coaching a 50k training group at CT. My boyfriend that I wrote about here and I broke up after 5 years together, and he kept the dog. My third 100 miler attempt, Orcas Island 100 in February of 2020, marked my first DNF. A massive tornado tore though my neighborhood just a few days after returning from Washington. A pandemic struck the globe, I got laid off at Cumberland Transit, and I got offered a job at Skratch Labs in Boulder, Colorado the next week. I moved to Boulder in May, and my partner joined in July. We celebrated our one-year anniversary last month, and I haven’t run on a trail since July 5th. Wait, what?
Yeah, in the season of the world learning to love exercise again, I stopped running. In some ways I think it was the DNF that did me in. It’s not a forever departure, but it has been one of the longer breaks I’ve taken. Ironic that my last post was about finding joy in running-and I did, honestly, for a while after that-because this one is about how little joy it brings me. Maybe it’s the personal pressure to perform, to continue growing after placing at two races. Maybe it’s moving to a new place. I really have no clue. For quite a while, I didn’t even miss it.
I have found a lot of joy in cycling again. I spent the late spring building a gravel bike, and it has been outrageously fun. Boulder is full of incredible gravel, and lots of well-groomed trails that my tires can traverse. It feels good to work hard outside again, and to move in a different way. Cycling allows me to cover greater ground than running can. But, I’m finally starting to miss it. I don’t miss racing too much, aside from the community aspect. What I miss is the opportunity for adventure and exploration.
I don’t care too much about racing goals like I did two years ago. Maybe it’s the pandemic speaking but that really doesn’t feel important anymore. What I’m craving is the fitness that comes with distance running, and the idea of pushing that fitness to be able to do things like link up 14ers and bike-to-run-to-climb. For my birthday last month, my partner and I bikepacked the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park. 5,459 ft of gain over about 100 miles, and we rode it over the course of two days. It was incredible, and a great reminder of the adventure that I seek. A taste of what’s to come, hopefully.
Over the past few weeks I’ve started completely over with my running. I’m trying to put a lot of positive intention in that statement instead of expressing the fear and shame that I feel. I came into 2020 strongly identifying as a trail runner. I told myself that my first DNF was necessary and that I should be proud of the effort that I made and move on to the next thing. But no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many podcasts I listened to and how much sage advice I got from runners much more experienced than myself, I was ashamed. Ashamed that I’d failed, ashamed that I’d dragged this guy I’d only been dating a few months across the country to sit in the freezing rain/snow/windstorm that was Orcas Island only to watch me fail. I’ve spent a lot of the year thinking about running, thinking about my identity as it is tied to physical activity, and also just not fucking thinking about it.
I’ve let it happen organically-the thinking about it and not. When I feel like doing, I do. When I feel like riding my bike, I ride my bike. When I feel like hiking, I hike. And when I feel like running, I practice. I work on my form, I do drills, I jog around the apartment barefoot watching myself in the mirror. As I have started wanting to run more, I have been working from the ground up. Practicing all the steps that I skipped over when I first started, and doing it right. Most of all, building up a positive relationship with running once again. I feel like running more and more. I’m more interested in it today than I was last week. I felt excited to put my running clothes on this morning to run around the apartment (to be clear, I’m running inside because I’m working on my form barefoot, and too much of a wimp to do that in Colorado in December). I’ll keep at that for another week or two, building the habits of good form as well as the habits of getting out of the damn bed, and then I’ll start going outside. No trails for a bit, I need to lock in this form work, but I’m getting there. I’m teaching myself to want it, and backing off when I don’t.
It’s been a year of change. Absolutely nothing in my life is where I thought it would be a year ago. A year ago I was working in the back room of an outdoors store in Nashville, living in East Nashville, climbing 4 days a week, and coaching a 50k training group. That was all I knew and I really didn’t see a way out of it. Now I’m sitting at the desk in the extra bedroom of my apartment just north of Boulder, writing this on a break from my marketing job at Skratch Labs, haven’t been in a climbing gym since March, and my gravel bike is propped up next to me. I’m not going to pretend like I’m thriving in gratefulness right now-shit is hard. The world is not a bright and shiny place. But I am grateful for where I’m at, and I’m going to keep moving forward.