Dirty Kanza – Bike Race or Vision Quest?

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into for Dirty Kanza. I knew the race was on gravel roads – I had a gravel bike. I knew the race was 200 miles – I had done a 150 mile training ride. I knew the race had 11,000 feet of climbing – I had done that before in training. I knew how to eat and fuel well for long distances – I am a professional endurance athlete after all. My team at Skratch Labs had even put me through an accelerated bike program, teaching me about everything from saddle sore prevention to bike handling skills, drafting, and nutrition. I thought I was prepared, but honestly, Dirty Kanza was nothing I could have prepared for.

 

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I say this in the most positive way, because a 200-mile race isn’t just a race. It’s a journey. It’s a vision quest. It’s a deliberate decision to keep pushing into the unknown and finding out if you have what it takes to finish it, no matter what problems are thrown your way. I had an incredible team helping me along the way. Allen Lim, co-founder of Skratch Labs and Urielle Carlson, a nutritionist, helped me with all the fueling leading up to race day and during the big event. They made me a healthy dinner the night before and kept me going with rice cakes (from Allen’s “Feed Zone Portables”), Skratch Labs Energy Chews, Sports Hydration Mix, and Anytime Energy Bars. Throughout the entire 200 miles I consumed 4 packs of Energy Chews (all Matcha flavored!) 1 Anytime Bar, 9 rice cake portables and I drank 12 bottles (6 of which had Hydration Mix and the other 6 were just plain water).  All of this fuel kept me happy and smiling all day. I kept my energy even all day and didn’t suffer from any extreme energy bonk. I had fun out there, even though it was the most technical bike ride I have ever been on.

 

 

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Photo credit: Greg Erwin

 

Now, nutrition can easily get messed up in a race, you can easily fall behind or forget to fuel if you are in a low spot – but it was one of the few things I was actually prepared for in Dirty Kanza. I had practiced nutrition many times while running mountain races for hours on end, so I knew how to fuel, however I wasn’t prepared to fuel on such a technical course where I couldn’t take my hands off the bike – because I didn’t want to crash! So, I had to be strategic and take advantage of flat sections or aid stations to make sure I stayed on top of everything.

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Photo credit: Greg Erwin

 

That brings me to my next experience of Dirty Kanza, how extremely technical and steep it was! The gravel roads in Kansas are nothing like the ones I trained on in Colorado. In Kansas the roads are more like crushed rock than gravel. They are sharp rocks, sometimes pretty big rocks in fact. There were nice-looking sections of gravel roads, but when you were on them with your bike, even those sections were rough, so riders had to find their way to the side of the road where it was a bit smother and less chunky. There were also some extremely rugged and infrequently traveled tractor roads that we had to navigate, with deep ruts (about a foot deep), river crossings, holes, loose, squirrely gravel and more chunks of rock. There were mountain bikes and fat bikes doing this race too, and it seemed like everyone was getting flat tires. I had 38 mm tires on my bike and at times, I felt like they were too skinny. But, even with my limited bike handling experience, remember this was my very first bike race, and I had only been riding gravel for 2 months – somehow, I found a way to get through the technical terrain. I kept telling myself to ‘be loose’ to ‘relax’ and, most importantly I told myself to ‘keep breathing.’

 

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Photo credit: Greg Erwin

 

The most important part of this bike race for me was to have fun. I didn’t want to injure myself (that’s how I started riding in the first place) or to hate riding bikes at the end of the event. I wanted to enjoy it, to learn and to challenge myself in a new way. Dirty Kanza had an incredible community. In many ways, the gravel bike community reminded me of the ultra-running community. Everyone was so encouraging, helpful and excited for the event. The whole town of Emporia came out to support the event and every aid station or checkpoint I came through; the people were electric. It was impossible to quit when there was so much energy around me. I even got a flat tire during the race (again, the rocks were brutal) and I got the chance to change my first flat, ever – putting in a tire boot to repair the slash, then throwing in a tube to hold the pressure. It held too, for the remainder of the race.

 

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I learned so much about bikes during the Dirty Kanza. But I also learned so much about myself. I was reminded of the power of the human spirit and the ability to surpass limits – limits you put on yourself, and those that can be overcome if you’re willing to try your best no matter the outcome. I learned to push outside my comfort zone and to keep showing up in uncomfortable situations and give it my best effort. There’s beauty in trying something new, something scary and something challenging. It’s through these opportunities when you figure out what you’re made of, and it’s one of the most satisfying experiences to finish something you didn’t know you could do. Dirty Kanza was my first bike race, and it was so much more than a race. It was an experience; one I hope to have many more of – through racing bikes, running or trying something new that challenges me, forcing me to bring out my best and to teach me what I’m capable of. I encourage you to search for those experiences that do the same.

 

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Photo credit: Greg Erwin

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Finding the Balance: An Ultra Runner on a Gravel Bike

Ultra running can be time consuming. It requires a lot of time to train in the mountains, a lot of time to recover, stretch, rest, eat . . . always eat. You can get caught in a cycle of doing too much or thinking you must train crazy hours on the trail to be successful in a race. While I agree, running is the most specific way to train for a running race, there is a point of  diminishing return, when there’s too much running and not enough recovery (or playfulness, in my opinion). I was definitely in danger of becoming consumed with only running, and stressing about needing to run and train all the time. But, that all change back in 2017 when I nearly died, falling off a cliff during a race, and was faced with the harsh reality of injury and that running might never happen again. It was during my recovery from those injuries that I discovered gravel bike riding.

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

I started riding as a way to recover, as a way to explore the mountains, to get outside and to move my body. I didn’t ride very long or very far, I think I did a ride once that was 3 hours long—max. It was for the enjoyment. It helped me to fall in love again with being outside and to regain fitness and return to running. Once I started running and competing again, I still used cycling as a way to cross train. I found it beneficial to my running and overall strength. In fact, my coach Adam St. Pierre, encouraged me to keep riding my bike and saw it a fun addition to my training, my fitness with the added benefit of not get overly concerned about only running.

 

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I’m really thankful I had at least started to cycle when this winter, a slip on the ice and an ankle twist caused me to break my ankle. I was faced with another surgery, another recovery, and I had to cancel my early season running races.

Of course, I was devastated, having to move forward from another injury. The thought of having to start over again felt overwhelming. I turned to my team of physiotherapists at REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance, a group that’s put me back together so many times that they’ve basically become family. That’s when I met Joe Lewis, a retired professional cyclist, a coach at REVO and the founder of First Wheel Coaching. Along with my PT team, and coach Adam, Joe encouraged me to get on a bike as soon as possible so I could prevent further loss of fitness. So, as soon as my doctors cleared me for partial weight bearing, I brought my bike into the gym.

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Photo: Jenni Lewis

Joe helped me set it up on a trainer, and I started riding. At first, I rode with a normal shoe and a flat pedal for my injured leg. I couldn’t even push all the way through with that ankle, but eventually I progressed to being clipped in and started to push myself. Joe monitored my progress, provided modifications and helped me increase the quality of my workouts by raising my Functional Threshold Power (FTP—basically a metric in cycling measuring your threshold, or the amount of work you can do in an hour, all out).

 

I saw progress more quickly than I would’ve thought possible, and was relieved to feel like I wasn’t losing fitness during recovery. I was really starting to enjoy cycling and was learning a lot, not just about the sport, but also about myself as an athlete (see my other blog post, Getting Out of my Comfort Zone, and how I started from scratch with a new sport).

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Not long after being cleared to ride a bike outside, I got a call from my good friend Allen Lim over at Skratch Labs. He had an entry into a gravel bike race for me. And it wasn’t just any gravel bike race, it was THE gravel bike race: the Dirty Kanza, a 200-mile gravel grinding bike race. The idea of doing 200 miles on a bike, something I’ve never done before, really scared me. I didn’t know if I could even do it, especially coming off of an injury. But, that was the beauty of it; it was intimidating and challenging, but it motivated me. I told Allen I was in.

The next day, as I was sweating it out on the bike trainer, I told Joe about the race. He had a big grin on his face as he said, “Well, I guess we’ve got a lot of work to do.” He was all-in and ready to help me tackle my biggest challenge yet: racing the Dirty Kanza.

 

Joe wrote me a program prescribing different workouts and longer rides. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we’d meet up at the gym for cycling workouts, and Joe was there to push me and walk me through what would come next. I think during every cycling workout so far, I’ve looked at Joe with my wide eyes and said, “I don’t know if I can do this!” But, as usual, he just shakes his head and tells me, “You’re stronger than you think you are. You can definitely do this.”

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I’d end the day smiling, tired and proud to have another hard day of cycling under my belt. With his help, I learned how to train for two sports at once. This was important because I wanted to get back to running as well, so Adam and Joe worked together to help me increase my running volume as I was coming back from my ankle injury, while training for the bike race. It was a lot of work, but the process has been so much fun.

 

My cycling ability has improved an incredible amount while working with Joe. He made training as a cyclist accessible, pushed me harder than I thought I could go and helped renew my optimism for my future as an athlete by optimizing my recovery. Even more than that, he’s given me a new excitement for cycling. So much so that I even signed up for another gravel bike race—a stage race! Who knows, maybe I’ll end up balancing racing on my gravel bike and ultra running in my future seasons.

With Dirty Kanza and my stage race still ahead of me, I look back on this process and appreciate how far I’ve come. Cycling is more than just a means to an end or a bridge to recovery. It’s a challenge in and of itself, and one that I’m enjoying and embracing fully. But, most importantly, it has led me to a new community, one that’s always there to help me up when I’m down and willing to create new paths to success and recovery.

 

If you’re looking to get into cycling and don’t know where to start, or you want to learn how to race or use riding for recovery, look up Joe and First Wheel Coaching. Not only has he changed my perspective and helped me to get back to doing what I love, he’s also helped me uncover a new love for cycling that I’ll carry with me throughout my athletic career.

Getting out of my Comfort Zone: Starting from Scratch

As a professional athlete. I know how to work hard, how to push and to squeeze out that very last drop. But what happens when motivation, fitness and determination isn’t the limiting factor? But instead, a lack of knowledge, practice and experience?

Well, this is what I’m encountering as I’m beginning to explore gravel bike riding and racing. I’m Starting from scratch.

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

 

Think it would be easy to just hop on a bike and go? Yea, I thought this was the case too, but apparently it’s a bit more complicated than that. After a near fatal fall in 2017 during a race in 2017, I decided to get a gravel bike in 2018 as a means to get outside while I was learning to walk and run again. But honestly, I wouldn’t go for very long on a bike, because I didn’t know where to go, it was uncomfortable and once I started running again, that took precedent. It wasn’t until this winter, after breaking my ankle, that I decided to give cycling a serious try. I had to scratch my early season races and focus on getting better. I couldn’t fully weight bear for 2 months, so I decided to get on a bike.

 

One of the first things I learned as a newbie cyclist was that your butt isn’t supposed to hurt. Yea, I spent hours riding a bike with my ass literally killing me . . . maybe that’s why I didn’t like cycling very much the first go around. I thought that this was the status quo, this was normal, that my sit bone nerves apparently had to die before I was able to bear sitting on my bike seat for more than 2 hours. I remember taking my good friend Liz, a professional mountain biker, aside, commending her on the strength of her hiney (and her lady parts) and asking when my butt would behave. She laughed and said, ‘oh Hill, you need a new saddle . . . and a bike fit.’

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Photo: Josh Uhl

 

Now that my butt was more comfy, riding became way more enjoyable, but there was still the dilemma of technique. Cycling is the exact opposite of running. It involves concentric muscle contractions versus more eccentric and spring loading for running. My muscles weren’t used to this type of movement and coordination, neither was my brain. It was a bit frustrating at first because my heart rate wouldn’t get as high before my legs started to fatigue. I had to learn and practice this motion and movement. Some things I did to combat this was just practice riding. I also did high intensity workouts on a bike trainer so I could elevate my heart rate and get in a good cross training workout. I was amazed by how quickly my body reacted and adapted.

 

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

 

But, I still wasn’t quite there. Sure, gravel bike riding is fun, and it suits my craving for going far, uphill, and with little traffic, but there’s the whole other aspect about bike handling skills and communication. Apparently there’s this whole language to cycling that I had no idea about. When I’d go on rides, the people in front of me would point at things on the ground, use hand gestures behind them, tap their butt as they rode by, telling me to ‘hop on.’ I was a bit confused. If I did that during my group trail run, I would be yelling ‘ROCK’ and pointing at debris every 2 seconds. Also, drafting, where you literally let someone block the wind for you and pull you along. If I did that running, I would either trip or get elbowed in the boob for running too close.

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

 

Also, gravel can be rutted, loose and rocky; I had to learn how to handle my bike in these conditions. So, that meant lots of practice riding in different terrain and going to the Valmont Bike Park to do the pump tracks.

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

But, the more I ride the better I’m getting and the more fun I’m having. I’m amazed by how far I can go on a bike in one day. It’s completely different to running in that way, and that one of the parts about cycling I like the most – the exploration aspect of it. Also, the culture of linking up towns for snacks and coffee breaks is my favorite! Cycling is much different that running because I can eat easier on a bike than I can running. I can eat more real food (Skratch Labs rice cakes and energy bars) and not get sick to my stomach. Usually for running I have to stick to the Skratch Labs Fruit Drops and Skratch Lab Hydration drink mix to avoid stomach issues, but for long bike rides, the more I fuel the more I can go. It’s quite wonderful.

 

To top it all off, I’m tackling my first gravel bike race, The Dirty Kanza 200, June 1st. And, of course, this race is a BIG DEAL! It’s become the premiere gravel bike race in the country with pros showing up and it’s gaining lots of attention in the cycling world. So what am I doing at this race? Good question. Even though I’m completely out of my comfort zone and have only been riding gravel for 2 months, I’m having a lot of fun in the process. It’s not easy to be out of my comfort zone every single day, trying my best at something that doesn’t come naturally or easily. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. And, it’s worth it. To become a well-rounded athlete. To learn new things, to grow and be humble throughout the process. These are the most important lessons I’m learning. To have fun, enjoy the process, and to NEVER go on a bike ride without chamois cream.

Check out more details about “Operation make Hillary Allen a cyclist” in Episode 1 of Starting from Skratch.

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Photo: Emma Ziobrzynski

 

 

 

 

 

What’s The Best Way To Recover?

One of the hardest pats of recovery is learning to trust your body again. I’m not talking about the physical aspect of recovery . . . learning to run again or gaining fitness. I’m talking about trust. Really trusting in my body and the movements it makes.

 

The human body and it’s complexity fascinates me! Especially how the nervous system works. Our nervous system is closely integrated with our motion, constantly inputting sensory data as we move through the world. This is true when we are running or playing a sport, it’s all connected – nothing is independent, or at least, each independent system requires the other to gain importance.

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I learned this through my first injury. I had a major ligament injury in my foot. A ligament rupture in the arch. I had surgery and hardware placed (then removed). There was a lot of damage. The recovery was long and slow, but eventually the pain went away and I was able to get back to walking and then running. But there were still certain limitations to the movement of my foot.

 

Technically, my foot was healed. I was cleared by my PT and my doctor to start running. But there would be days, I would inexplicably feel uncertain and weak on my right foot. I was constantly worried about it, hyper aware if it was hurting, if it was swollen or was getting injured again. I had built an association of pain and hesitance in my foot, even though it was no longer injured.  This neuro-connection lead my body to start favoring it.

 

My good friend, Levi Younger, reached out to me and told me about this technique called Rolfing and we began working together. We worked on structural integration with manual manipulation of the injury site, but the most important aspect of it was talking through the emotional/mental side of the injury. We worked on associating new movements in a positive, safe environment so that my body learned to trust in the motions it once did. This in combination with my regular physical therapy at Revo was groundbreaking. I never had considered the power of mindset when working on a physical problem – I had just assumed they were separate.

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Now, you would think I would be done right? Well, that’s never true. Even though it’s been almost 2 years since breaking my back and my ribs, there were still some days when certain movements were a bit restricted. I was doing fine and trying my best to integrate everything I had learned, but then I broke my ankle and had to really focus in on recovery again.

 

I always think things happen for a reason because through this injury I met Travis Jones, and he told me about Eldoa. It’s a technique that aims to increase the space between joints. It can be done on any area of the body, but we started working on my broken ankle, to create space in the ankle joint, to prevent stiffness and encourage full range of motion.

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The more we worked together, the more I became aware of other areas of my body that still had scare tissue from my injuries 2 years ago! Sure, I was fully recovered and my bones were healed, but why was I feeling so stuck? I felt like I had certain restrictions to the motion and no matter how much I tried my body was good at resisting these motions; it was protecting me.

 

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Working through some of these Eldoa techniques with Travis has helped bring awareness to the movement of my body and the importance of creating space between even the smallest joint spaces. It’s changed how I think about recovery from injury – focusing more on the support network of the body and how those influence the bigger picture. It’s impressive how a shift in mental perspective integrated with the correct manual manipulation can encourage a more productive recovery process.

 

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If you’d like to learn more about Eldoa check out @eldoatrainer and share your recovery tips with me!

Who Makes You Better?

Who makes you better? The best version on yourself?

It’s a question I often ask myself, as a way to reflect and appreciate those in my life that have brought me to where I am today.

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, and women’s history month, I’m reflecting on those that made me the woman I am today. I think the best people in your life aren’t those that are the same as you, but those that challenge you to dream, to fight and to do things you never thought possible. For me, this includes men and women. For starters, it begins with my parents.

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Both scientists, my mom and my dad never told me that I needed to play with dolls, or that I needed to behave a certain way due to my gender. They saw that I was a curious kid and encouraged me to play outside in the dirt, to move, to play sports, to explore. They saw my curious spirit and encouraged me to pursue a career in chemistry. They saw my need to explore and encouraged me to study abroad and live overseas. My mother was in the Peace Core, so she saw the value in travel and learning who you are, by living somewhere else. My father, a Ph.D. scientist, encouraged me to take a chance on running, while I was in graduate school, deciding whether or not to continue with my Ph.D  It was by their example that I have learned to be brave, to be unapologetic about my passions and deliberate with my choices. I think, being a strong woman – a strong person – requires not only strong women role models, but strong men as well. Those that don’t think you’re different due to your gender but see your attributes as a human being and push you to be the best version of yourself.

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When I think about my career as a runner, I’m brought back to two people: my middle school run club coach, Jim Kruse and my good friend and mentor, J’ne Day-Lucore.

 

I’ll start with middle school. I was not a cool kid. Remember how much I liked to play in the dirt and explore and play outside? Well, add in some bug catching to that list and you’ll begin to get a picture of what I was like in middle school. I also really liked school, so when I wasn’t outside getting dirty, I was lost in the library with science books. My older sister was the cool kid and a great athlete at that. She would go to run club every day after school, and because I liked to run around too (although mostly just for catching bugs), my parents encouraged me to go too. That’s when I met Jim Kruse. He was the math teacher at my school and absolutely loved running. At first, I didn’t see the point of running unless you were chasing something, but with Mr. Kruse, he brought it all to life. He created community out of our little run club, meeting up on Saturdays, at 5km races that were themed, where we got to wear costumes and enjoy running together. He made running fun for me. I looked forward to going. I wasn’t very good and would get easily distracted (especially if I saw a bug), but to Mr. Kruse it didn’t matter. To him, the kid having the most fun was the best that day. I took that with me years later, when I started to run, and have never forgotten the importance of fun and playfulness.

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J’ne Day – Lucore is another important person in my life. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She is the embodiment of strength, persistence, joy, and the deliberate intention to follow what you love and never apologize for being yourself. When I met J’ne it was my first run, at 5am, one cold, dark morning in graduate school. I was 24 and had no idea what I was doing. Mr. Kruse had taught me to run for fun, but J’ne and this group of women were some serious runners.

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Photo: Matt Trappe

J’ne is a multiple time qualifier in the Olympic trial marathon and she held multiple records at prestigious mountain races around the US (Pikes Peak ascent and Mount Washington ascent to name a few). But, with J’ne’s encouragement, I started coming to run club 3 days a week and then 5 days a week.

 

J’ne coached me to my first road marathon and while training for that, she introduced me to trail running. She encouraged me to trail run and from there I tried an ultra-marathon. She taught me to problem solve and to find the positive side when things don’t go your way – in life and during a race. She maintains a contagious optimism and will to achieve throughout her life. She’s constantly pushing her limits and that’s what I learned most from J’ne, not from her accomplishments, but from her unyielding spirit; her relentless tenacity to keep pushing forward with an infectious smile, no matter what life brings.

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Photo: Matt Trappe

 

So, I ask you, who inspires you? Who makes you better? Let’s take the time to appreciate those men and women who encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Because success is that much sweeter, when shared.

 

 

Move equal this march. Check out Strava’s blog to share stories of those who inspire you.

 

 

 

Running with Curiosity

When I was in kindergarten we had career day. I was ready for this. I hurried home and told my mother exactly what I needed. First was a lab coat. Next, we went to get the best and most realistic bug stickers from the craft store. I meticulously covered my new, white lab coat with all the bug stickers I could fit on there. Next was my bright -neon orange bug net, and finally, the biggest and most important piece of all – my bug collection. On career day I marched right into that kindergarten class room declaring I wanted to get PH. D. and be an entomologist – that’s someone who studies bugs.

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Although my passion for bugs shifted from career to hobby – I built my future around pursuing a scientific career. I got a scholarship to a private liberal arts college to study chemistry – with sights on graduate school. I accepted a Ph.D. candidate spot at the University of Colorado Denver, where I had plans to earn my Ph.D. in neuroscience and structural biology. I was in my element. I was doing it. I was making my little kindergarten Hillary so proud.

 

But with all that work in the lab and countless hours at the lab bench, I needed a break and a way to let my mind rest. I found a local running group and started running a few days a week before heading into the lab.

 

This is how my running career started.

 

Running helped my creative process in the lab. As a neuroscientist it made sense – I needed a pause, space and time to let my mind wander and create. The more I worked, the more I wanted to run. It became a sacred space, time warped and I could just enjoy and be free. No matter how stressful my day was, the time I spent running was my meditation. I would be drawn into the sounds of birds chirping, insects buzzing and the rustling of leaves of tress. Plus, it was a time to create and think about science in real time.

 

I can search for bugs, salamander and wildlife. I can think about photosynthesis, plant physiology, evolution and see it all happening right in front of me. It’s my own personal lab.

 

Although my hobby quickly turned into running and racing professionally, running has not lost its wonder or fascination. In fact, I believe this playful relationship with running has allowed me to find balance. To race hard, while not getting burned out. To really enjoy the times when running is hard, because it can be pretty difficult at times. I use running to explore my surroundings, to play and learn. It’s that curiosity in running that has led me to discover other ways to explore the outdoors – like cycling, ski touring, rock climbing and traveling.

 

Running might be my favorite way to move through the world, but I believe it’s much more than that. It’s an avenue I use to survey the scientific world. It’s the application of my scientific mind and opportunity to dream, create and continue to be curious. It’s what turns a simple run, one I’ve done one hundred times, into a new world full of discovery, excitement and learning. Running feeds my perpetual curiosity, and leaves me eager for more.

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Progress is Not Perfection

I used to strive for perfection. Pushing myself constantly, to be better. I was never satisfied.

 

It took me far. I got straight A’s in school, I was in student government, played in the band, I was in 4-H, played tennis, and volunteered at my local church in my spare time. I continued this trend through undergraduate school where I majored in Organic Chemistry, played collegiate tennis and studied abroad in Spain becoming fluent in Spanish. I had to be constantly busy, and constantly pushing to be the best, to be more involved, to be more.

 

It got overwhelming. I never had a moment to just be, relax and enjoy. In fact, I didn’t know what to do with down time if I wasn’t moving, if I wasn’t doing. I struggled a lot with this while I was in Graduate school, earning a masters in Neuroscience and structural biology all while picking up ultra-running.

 

Once I graduated graduate school, I got a bit better at settling down, realizing I didn’t have to do everything. But, that mentality still persisted and drove me crazy at times. I couldn’t be content unless I was doing something, and something usually turned into everything.

 

It wasn’t until my first serious injury that I really learned to be still. I had no choice. I had broken 14 bones and was left with only one leg to stand on. Not only could I not run, or walk, or drive, — I couldn’t cook or bathe without supervision or the help of someone. It was a very humbling experience, but in it, was an opportunity.

 

I had the opportunity to slow way down. To appreciate life when I wasn’t buzzing around constantly. I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge. I questioned my worth. I thought, who am I unless I’m doing something? But in those struggles, I got more and more comfortable letting go of my need to distract and do.

 

I gained new perspective. One not associated with ticking things off on my ‘to-do’ list. I became more connected to myself, how I was feeling that day, my motivation, what excited me. It gave me an opportunity to be completely satisfied curling up with a book, or spending hours at a coffee shop catching up with a friend, or simply doing nothing at all. It was wonderful.

 

I learned that progress does not mean being perfect. It’s messy and not straight forward. I wouldn’t have expected an injury to help me connect with my soul. But it did. I was able to be content in my own human existence, without needing to be constantly achieving.

 

Even after recovering and getting back to more movement at training, I took that lesson with me and allowed myself the freedom (and permission) to just be, and not constantly weigh myself down with responsibilities and tasks. I found the creativity to make new, different goals, still pushing myself, but in different ways that were vastly more fulfilling. It’s helped me live more fully.

 

So, as I face this injury, breaking my fibula, and the recovery time associated with it – I look back on my past year. I look back on what I’ve learned and I’m able to shift into a slower pace of living. I’m making new goals and shifting my perspective. It’s a positive one, too.

 

Some ask how that’s possible – to maintain my positivity. I say I have no other choice. Of course I’m angry and disappointed, and the transition to recovery is difficult – and it’s certainly not automatic – but I am happy to do it. I know I’ll learn something from it – I’m positive of that. It’s an opportunity for growth, to learn – that’s progress.

 

It’s all a matter of perspective and I chose a positive one. Because progress is not perfection; progress is messy, progress is caring, and to be better – to soak in all that progress – I’ll take all the unexpected twists and turns of life, happily.

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