Below is Jaime Clark's experience at this year's Gorge Waterfall 50k, where she placed fourth in a competitive field.
Thanks to a session with Amy, my friend and trained Life Coach, I’ve discovered my essence words. Words that represent me, not because I strive for them or consciously work on being a certain way, but those words are me. I show up with them. They are a part of me. As a part of the exercise, I had to ask my friends “what shows up when I do?” (a terribly, embarrassing and amazing experience). Feeling little high after their positive words while on a walk, I thought “wait...why try so hard then? Why so afraid? Why desperate for approval?” I CAN DO ANYTHING!”
That brings me to Gorge Waterfalls. For me, races are all about the journey it took to get there. My training was going really well, and thanks to my amazing, creative coach and friend, Alison, I was increasing my training load a bit. I had several good 20 mile runs, started do some heavy lifting again, and even did a killer 6x1 mile repeats on the track. Then came cascade of illness, job insecurity, and low motivation. I tend to have one of those fucked up runner’s mentalities that if I haven’t run in a week or GOD FORBID 2, life is over/pointness/runner status is gone forever. Without running and feeling sick/low energy, I took long baths, ate a lot of Pho, and re-discovered Buffy (just in time before Netflix banished it). Looking back, I just rested a lot, and my body needed it. At the time, I was kinda miserable.
The week of the race I was feeling even more exhausted and my self doubt level was very high. I would go out for a short run and after a few miles I was basically crawling home. I can’t fully express how shitty I felt. It reminded me of when I was trying to run in 4th grade while stocky and fully asthmatic (a word I still can’t spell). The Friday before the race I had a slow, easy run with Shelley, who is basically another life coach and always makes me feel better. Then Alison gave me a pep talk, and I started to suspect that a lot of my fatigue was mental and that come race day everything would just come together.
It will all come together.
My mantra worked, and 6 miles in I realized my legs felt strong enough and my breathing was a-ok. So I stuck with a pack of runners that seemed to be relaxed but strong. I’m always worried that if I push too hard in the beginning then I’ll experience the dreaded “wall” and then I’ll collapse, fail, and be left on the trail forever. But over the winter I read “How bad do you want it?” by Matt Fitzgerald, and my new goal was to push a bit harder and see what happens.
So for the first 10 miles I hung with a woman who was setting a great pace, maybe a bit more aggressive than I would normally go. The only trouble I was having at that point was that every time rocks appeared on the trail, I ran over them like a drunk person, and turned my right ankle like 5 times. Thankfully, I’ve got weird ass ankles, and with all the turning I’ve done, I’ve never sprained ‘em. The another problem was it was warm, sunny and beautiful and I needed to lose my rain layer...which I ended up regrettably giving to a lovely, attractive volunteer, and it ended up somewhere in trail heaven. RIP expensive/well designed/patagucci jacket: we had a good two months together.
Around mile 15 I ran into my friend George, who is a badass mountain runner who inspires me always, and he told me I was 5th. Which was my secret goal, to get top 5.
At around 18/19, we were running on the road, which reminded me that my ankles and hip (hips?) were a bit stiff. The woman I was following slowed quite a bit, and I was running with a few guys, one who made a lovely comment about the brilliance of Beyonce while eating (slurping?) the new GU flavor LEMONADE. Started thinking about her music video "Sorry," and was reminded of my favorite part where she sings “NANA HELL NO.” NANA HELL NO. Another good mantra.
Then around mile 25 at the last aid station, I felt good, like really good. I was going a bit harder, and then the last climb hit, and I had to hike up a bit. But I still was able to pull away from the guys I was with and passed a few more up the hill and down. Some of the down hill was paved, and I felt like a boulder smashing pavement with every step. Which was an scaring image that I literally woke up to post-race.
Great job, Jaime! Next up for her is the Sun Mountain 50k in a few weeks-good luck!