“Oh, I probably can’t do that.”
I was alarmed the moment the words left my mouth. Had I really just said that I couldn’t do a hike? I mean, yeah, it was a bit strenuous, but that hadn’t stopped me before.
It was in the moment that I realized my sense of self had changed, and not for the better. I needed to pay attention. I needed to reclaim my body, my mind, and my strength.
You see, I muttered these words in mid-2021, around the four year mark of navigating fertility challenges. Phew, what a mouthful “navigating fertility challenges” is. I suppose I could just say “infertility” but that word makes me nauseous. Am I “infertile?” Blugh, that feels so final. I’d prefer to think of this as a journey, a challenge, a really hard and confusing excursion full of life lessons. And one of those life lessons clearly was going to be learning how to continue loving my body– to see my strength and capability through this hard time. This is no easy feat. Month after month, year after year, doctor visit after doctor visit, it’s hard to not feel like my body is failing. Like it is weak, flawed, and incapable. It hurts my heart to think of myself in that way, and yet, I was doing it.
It was from this that my 5-in’22 goal was born. I would run five trail races– half marathon or longer– in 2022.
This was an ambitious goal for me! I had run a couple half marathons here and there, but I wouldn’t label myself as a “serious” runner. I suppose I’m still not– running has always been an activity of flow and fun, rather than competition for me. Something I’m very grateful for; it’s a space of respite from my Type-A, overachiever nature that can sometimes hijack the FUN in things.
My intentions when running these races were the following:
- Connect with my body in a loving way in the process.
- Feel into my strength and capability.
I learned something meaningful in every race. Let’s recap:
FOURmidable Half+ Marathon – February
This was a wonnddeerful race to kick off this challenge! I ran this with my husband and three great friends. We texted for months supporting each other with training accountability and they flew in for race day. This trail is a doozy! With several steep climbs, it’s humbling. My plan was to walk the uphills and run the flat and downhills. My legs felt STRONG and fierce as I trucked up the first big climb. I reveled in the feeling of strength. When the time came to run, it was like I was floating. My legs moved with ease and a smile swept across my face. I could feel my body awakening. Oh hello again, she whispered. Something powerful was being unlocked and I was thrilled to experience it. Check, check, and check for my three intentions during this first race.
Folsom Lake Southside Marathon – March
After FOURmidable I was AMPED. I signed up for my next race the following day. I decided to up the ante a little bit and registered for the 30k. It was an out and back trail that included various distances. We all started at the same time, and you turned around at the marker for your distance. The first two miles were a little shaky for me, literally. I was surprisingly hungry as I started running and felt that awful shaky-hungry feeling. I stopped at the first aid station and ate an uncharacteristic amount of food for so early in a run. I walked for a bit as that settled and then started my stride again, and ooooooweeeee did I stride! The trail was flat, the temps were perfect, the trees were gorgeous, and I was feelin’ myself. I got in the zone so much so that when I came up to the 30k turnaround (mile 9ish), I was sad. I didn’t want it to end. So I kept going. And going. Next thing I knew, I was at the marathon turnaround. Hell yes! I was going to run my first marathon! I snapped a pic of the marathon turnaround sign and headed back. At mile 20 I was questioning everything, but the great thing about a mountainous single-track trail like this is that there’s not a convenient option to stop. It’s not like I was on a road that my hubby could swing by and pick me up at. So I switched up my playlist, had another gu packet, and kept going, breathing awe into my body with every step. I was so proud of myself when I crossed the finish line and grateful that I listened to my body’s nudge to keep going. That was a big win!
Wild Wild West Marathon – May
Mother’s Day sucks for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my own mother and I’m happy all the moms out there have a special day to be honored. For me, it’s a tough reminder about something I so desperately want and don’t have. On this journey of reclaiming my strength and capability I decided to look for a race on Mother’s Day weekend. I found the Wild Wild West Marathon in Lone Pine, CA– one of the oldest trail marathons in the nation! Lone Pine is halfway between my hometown and the town I now call home, and my dad planned to join at the finish line, which made this extra special! Set in the gorgeous Alabama Hills, this trail is certainly intriguing. It starts on sand which I found challenging. It also was hot and windy, which means horribly dusty. It couldn’t have been a more different experience than the previous race. My stride was clunky, I was NOT feelin’ myself. Switching up the playlist made no difference and there didn’t seem to be enough water in the world to quench my thirst. I chugged along and relished in each creek crossing where I could dunk my head in the water. One time I looked up and saw a family of four looking very confused as they watched me waller in the creek. It felt like a wild animal sighting, and I was the feral critter. (That memory makes me laugh as I write it. 🙂 The miles trickled by and I eventually finished. I found strange satisfaction in the struggle, in the grit of it. In Goggins’ words, it felt like an addition to my cookie jar. My body was so strong and capable to move through this. What a feeling! Second marathon, with self-love in-hand, complete!
Marlette Lake 50k- August
In August I was meant to travel to Utah and run a half-marathon with my hubby and his bestie. Sadly, the bestie’s dad passed away and his funeral was on the same day as our race. My husband flew to the east coast for the funeral and we planned to raincheck on the race. I was sitting at home with a saddened heart for our friend and a desire to get out and do something meaningful on the day of the funeral. I remembered seeing that the Marlette Lake 50K was happening that weekend. Being in Reno, this is a local-ish race and well-known for having gorgeous views. I signed up the day before and started getting my pack together! I hadn’t been training for a race of this distance, so going in with extra self-compassion and grace was a requirement. I reminded myself of my goals: 1) Finish; 2) Connect with my body in a loving way in the process; 3) Feel into my strength and capability. I could do that. The trail did not disappoint. I shared a magical moment with a deer and cried at the stunning views of the lake. What a gift it is to live this life. I was slow movin’ and that was ok with me. I enjoyed the process and that mattered more than anything. I crossed the finish line literally as they were disassembling it. But hey! It was there, and I crossed it! First ultra done!
Kokanee Half-Marathon – October
I wrapped up my 5-in-’22 goal with a half+ at South Lake Tahoe. All I can do is chuckle when I think back to that race. I was excited and feeling good and was actually hoping to run hard and maybe surprise myself with a faster time than other races. And then I got lost. And then I got lost again. And then I was running with a pack of women who were also lost. It was comical how many people were going every which way trying to re-find the trail. I ended up chatting with some wonderful women along the way as we were path-finding; I shared water and snacks (I’m pretty sure I packed for another 50k lol). It felt like a fitting conclusion for this goal. A reminder of the importance of community. A reminder that this was never about how fast I could run; this was about connecting with my body in a loving way, and it felt wonderful to share in that with other women during this final race.
* * *
Through these races and the training in between, I focused on self-connection. As I lovingly pushed to my edge, I felt and let go of sensations of shame and brokenness, and stoked the fire of passion and aliveness. I wrapped up my 5-in-’22 goal two weeks before undergoing surgery to remove the painful and infertility-causing condition called Endometriosis from my body. I was scared for the surgery, but I had a strong foundation of strength in my body to draw from during the recovery. I knew I could do hard things, because I had just spent the year showing myself that. I’m grateful for this experience, and I’m grateful for the wonderful running community and all of their support along the way. Thank you for witnessing and reading this.