Balance

Strictly speaking, balance is defined as the ability to remain upright and steady due to an even distribution of weight. This is definitely applicable for most trail runners – although falling is inevitable at times. However, I’d like to talk about a different kind of balance, one dealing with the stability of one’s mind and state of being. I’m constantly striving for balance. Maybe you laugh, scoff even, that an ultra runner knows the meaning of the word. Balance? Indeed, I am familiar with the term, and I strive for balance in my daily life.

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First, I start with running. It’s a huge part of my life, and my favorite way of enjoying nature. However, I don’t want to overdo it. This is to prevent over-training, but even more importantly, to prevent burn out or lack of motivation in my running/racing. I balance my training: mileage, hours and vertical gain.

Now, it’s not always easy to maintain this balance. Heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? What about YOLO (You Only Live Once)? I fall victim to these ailments, especially when I’m traveling or exploring a new area. All I want to do is get out and run for hours and hours up every mountain I see! Of course, I will get after it, but I’m constantly monitoring how I feel. I allow myself the freedom to slow down, skip a workout, take an extra rest day, or go longer that day if I’m feeling good. I am dedicated to my training plan, but want to maintain a playfulness and happiness with running. This balance keeps me hungry for more.

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I can’t run all the time, and even if I could, I don’t want to. Another important aspect to maintain a balanced mind is work. This is something us runners don’t talk about a lot. We assume that if someone is a sponsored runner, that’s all they do. Wrong. In fact, the majority of ‘professional’ trail runners have a day job too, a family and other interests that they are balancing. For me, it’s science.

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I’ve been a scientist since before I could walk. I’m pretty sure my first words were ‘miller moth,’ you know, those moths that come around in hoards once a year and get stuck in your house? Yep. I wanted to be an entomologist for as longa as I can remember, dressing up as an entomologist on career day in kindergarten, or for every Halloween.

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This love of science and curiosity in the natural world motivated me to earn an undergraduate degree in Organic Chemistry and a Masters degree in neuroscience. I worked or volunteered in labs starting in middle school.

Currently, I’m teaching chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology at a small college outside of Boulder, CO. It’s the perfect way to motivate the next generation of scientists. Plus, it’s challenging to teach the material well.

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Science, teaching and running are major parts of my life, without each piece I am not whole. I’m a better teacher if I prioritize running before class. I have more energy and more focus. Then, when it’s time to run, I make it count no matter what the training is that day (even rest days). Balance is more of a way of living, rather than an achievement. It allows me the freedom for change, constantly adjusting my life as my interests evolve. I also coach runners, I ski, and rock climb. I do yoga, cycle, read, cook and travel. Now, of course, I can’t balance those daily, but I can incorporate them in my lifestyle as a whole. Each adding a unique value to my life, while contributing to entirety of me.

 

Check out more pots on Trails Sisters

 

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Run the Rut 50K: a crazy-talus-filled-super-technical mountain race.

The first thing I see when I roll into Big Sky on Friday afternoon is Lone Peak. Massive, alone, barren, terrifying! Especially since I knew I was going to run up that beast the next morning.

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I had recovered well since my last race (speedgoat) and was really enjoying some quality training in the high country. I had heard Run the Rut was even more difficult than Speedgoat and even more competitive (it was the the world series sky running championship race!) so I was doing my best to prepare for a grand adventure. I’ve realized that no matter what I do, I will be nervous as hell at the start of the race (and the day before) but all the preparation is done and it’s all out of my control. As soon as I start running it all comes together. Clarity in my breath and footsteps.

The first climb of the race wasn’t terrible, about 1500 feet in a few miles. The only difficult part was that there were a lot of people on a single track trail in the dark. But that only lasted for a few minutes and we soon descended onto Ullery’s Lake Loop trail just as the sun was hitting Lone Peak off in the distance.

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I knew after this lake the climbing would begin! I was trying to execute my plan of eating every 20-25 minutes (to try and keep a few extra hammer bars/gels down) since I knew this was such a demanding course. In this point I was 8th place. My plan was to stay conservative and move up as the race progressed so I could finish strong, my goal was to finish top 5, so it was kinda driving me crazy that so many ladies were ahead of me.

As we made our way up and down we descended over some pretty loose rock fields and I knew we were in for a treat during this race. Before we reached Deadgoat ridge there were some runnable flatish sections . . . the climbing in this race was very concentrated. Deadgoat ridge had me pumped up as soon as I learned the name of it (since my nickname is Hillygoat, I definitely didn’t want to be a Deadgoat at the top).

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It was steep, loose, off trial. Awesome! Geoff Rose was even there encouraging us and snapping photos of the ‘pain cave’ faces. Once we reached the top of the ridge we had a pretty technical descent on loose talus rock and some off trail sections. My favorite part was when we reached a roped section to help us down some loose gravel ‘trail’ where I bypassed the rope and glissaded down the rocks/gravel. I cut my hands a bit but it was worth it.

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After we descended off the technical terrain we ran some hilly off trail sections underneath the ski lift. I realized I had forgotten to eat for some time and was feeling quite tired whenever an uphill started again. Espresso Hammer gels are good for that!

I was anticipating the huge bone crusher ridge and ascent up to lone peak all day. I couldn’t wait to see what big sky looked like from way up there. Sprout Films had set me up with a go-pro before the race, so I was trying to get as much footage as I could of all my ups and downs.

Lone peak was fantastic. Super technical trail and STEEP! I was a little scared to run downhill on the loose talus rock fields, but I flung myself down the rocks so Ellie Greenwood wouldn’t get too far ahead of me. Ellie, Becca and I were fighting for 4-6th position all day.

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The talus field and off trail descent made me say to myself  “i’m done with these sky races” . . . . but I didn’t mean that at all, pretty sure I just needed to eat again. I get hangry during these races! Plus I had a tumble on some icy spot, so I wasn’t too happy about my bruised and scratched bum.

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The descent into the woods was gorgeous. Flowy, single track mixed in with some open service roads. I was having a blast trying to catch 5th. I knew there was one big climb (and a little one at the very end), so I made a plan to stay strong on the climbs and bomb the downhills. I was holding back a bit until now. I was very encouraged when I saw Becca and Ellie only 30sec-2 min ahead of me. I told myself that I only needed a couple minute cushion and I could really push it up that last climb 1 mile from the finish.

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When I reached the last aid station I was ready to gun it. I knew there were some girls behind me and 5th place was only 10 seconds out now. I raced by her and challenged myself to push it the remaining 5 miles to the finish. I knew the last 1.5 miles very well (I had run on them the day before for a shake out run. Best idea ever!) so I was mentally prepared and waiting for the last climb up to the finish. I couldn’t believe I had clenched 5th place. I finished beaming! Emelie Forsberg even gave me a hug of congratulations! Maybe next time I can race more agressively, but I was super pleased with my race and so proud to have conquered such a beautiful and technical mountain race.

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