All moms know that finding time to exercise is a challenge. We also all know its important but sometimes it just isn’t a priority for a plethora of really good reasons. For me, I found the best way to get back into a regular exercise routine was to sign up for a race. Sometimes I need an outside goal to kick start my intrinsic motivation. This one happened to be running on snow-shoes.
I’m always up for a challenge, but I wouldn’t consider myself an extremist. I’ve done my fair share of hiking, running 5K races and I even ran my first 1/2 marathon in 2013. But now I live in Colorado and people here have a unique perspective on “challenge”. This is the land of mountains and outdoor activities and everywhere you turn someone is most definitely climbing, biking, skiing, riding, running, jumping on every available bit of open space.
Naturally, when I heard about the Sourdough Snow Shoe Race – it seemed like just another opportunity to do something fun and active outdoors with your friends. But let’s not forget- I am a New Yorker at heart and “challenge” for me was running my 1/2 marathon… on the road…. in the summer… at sea-level. This event was by far the most extreme feat of physical strength I have ever put my body through. The race takes place at an elevation of 10,200 ft outside of Nederland, CO near Brainard Lake at the Sourdough Trail. The distance is 11.4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 850 ft. And let’s not forget, I was running in snowshoes! If you have ever tried snowshoeing, you know it is a workout- trudging through deep snow and sweating through layers of snow gear …and If you haven’t tried it (you should, its really fun I swear). Running in snowshoes is a whole different beast. You have to learn to adjust your stride to account for your wider feet and get used to running on snowy terrain.
Training for this race was essential. My best friend Marcy and I followed our other friend, Adri’s training schedule. We called each other weekly to check in and often tried to run the long distances together. Having a formal training schedule was exactly what I needed and training with two friends kept me accountable and excited. Suddenly I was prioritizing time during my week to get my running in and thankfully my husband was totally on board. As soon as he got home from work I would be ready to hit the road running. I always planned my route ahead of time and had my running outfit ready. After 10 weeks of training it was finally race day. The night before the race, we had a sleepover at Adri’s house in Nederland to give our bodies a head start on adjusting to the altitude. Lucky for us the weather on race day was pristine… not a cloud in the sky, no wind and just silent peaceful snow blanketing the trail. Along with 74 other runners, we lined up at the trail-head and began our trek. At first all the runners were clustered together, but within 5 minutes the pack had thinned out and everyone was on their own silent journey.
I started feeling the lack of oxygen right away. I slowed down and gave myself permission to take it easy- listening to your body is so important in anything we do- whether its a physical endeavor or simply tuning in to our body when we are stressed. As much as this was a physical test on my body it was more a mental test of my focus, concentration and will to finish. The whole 11.4 miles took me 3hrs 45min to complete. There were several occasions that I wanted to stop and seek refuge back at my car… but in these moments we have a choice. I remember thinking, “sure, ok, if you really want to stop and you cannot physically do this anymore… then let’s stop“… but then that same voice responded “well I think I can go a little more“. This was the dialogue I had pretty much the entire first half of the race… I would give myself little goals, “let’s make it to that next tree” or “as soon as we crest this hill we can stop and take a water break“. It was these mini victories that kept me going. Setting small, achievable steps can give us the confidence boost we need to endure.
The road to growth is never the easy route, its always the path of challenge that will test your will to triumph. I could have stopped but I chose to push on through. As soon as I hit the halfway mark, the place to turn around and start running back, it somehow became easier! All I had to do was run back! HA! I finished this beast of a race! I did it and I tried something new.