Butterflies in my stomach. Nervous energy. Excitement flowing through my veins. The fear of the unknown. The thrill of the experience ahead. The wonder of not knowing what’s to come. The utter possibility of anything happening. All of these are feelings that I love. All of these are feelings that I get when I move out of my comfort zone and try something new.
I vividly remember my first sprint triathlon. After focusing on running for a few years, I ran into a friend of mine from high school and he told me how he had done a local sprint triathlon. I had never considered a triathlon. I guess it had never really crossed my mind as something to consider. I only knew how to doggy paddle and float. I was useless in water. I couldn’t dive and I had to hold my nose under water. How embarrassing! When it came to biking, I hadn’t done it since being a kid other than an occasional bike rental at the beach in the summer. The idea of an event that would challenge me to swim, bike, and then run was frightening and exciting all at the same time. When I heard about his experience, I decided on a whim to sign up for a local triathlon of my own. And so it began…
I knew if I didn’t figure out how to swim, and quick, this event would be a complete nightmare and total failure. So I signed up for a triathlon swim class at the local YMCA. When I showed up, I was literally the only person there who could not swim freestyle. The instructor asked me to swim a lap and I did it, head out of the water, extremely awkward, half doggy paddling my way to the end. I’m sure she thought I would never make it out alive! I felt like a fish out of water, literally. By the end of the class though, I had my face in the water and was (very) awkwardly swimming freestyle. It wasn’t pretty, but I was doing it and that’s all that mattered to me.
I kept going back to the class each week and I kept focusing on improving my stroke, my breathing, my technique. By the middle of the session, I had it down. It felt so good to have done it! I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment when I knew that I could actually swim freestyle.
All in all, my first sprint triathlon went well. I honestly don’t remember my time for each event or even my overall results. I just remember feeling awesome at the finish! I remember feeling proud that I had gone out of my comfort zone (with the overall event and the swimming) and achieved my goal to finish the race. I had so much fun doing something so unexpected at the time.
After re-reading my last post, I realized it was time to try something new again. I realized I am in desperate need to push the boundaries and once again get out of my comfort zone of simply running. Have I lost my love for the run? Absolutely no. I still crave the run. I still need it like I need air to breathe. But I also need a little something new and fun to light that spark in me. To set off those butterflies in my belly and the ignite the possibility of the unknown. That’s why I decided to sign up for the Catamount Ultra (25K).
Well, that’s not the entire reason. A friend of mine posted something about this event on my Facebook page. (Thanks Yuki!) I had never heard of it. Probably because I don’t run trails. Not for any real reason except that I just haven’t gotten into trail running. Never really thought much of it. Kind of like that sprint triathlon way back. After she told me that it was a trail run with only 5 open spots left, I lit up like a kid in a candy store and thought “Ooh! Only 5 spots left! This must be a sweet event and a must run race!” So without thinking about anything but the date (6/27/15), I went ahead and signed up. Then I convinced a friend to sign up too. And that feeling of excitement came over me. Something new. A chance to run in the woods, on a mountain, on the dirt. A chance to drip sweat like mad, choke for air as I run the hills, and get dirty and love it. YES!!!
The Catamount Ultra Marathon (50K) is the main event, but for people like me that aren’t ready to go that distance quite yet, there is the 25K as well. The race is held in Stowe, VT and according to the race site, the course circumnavigates the Trapp Family Lodge trail system at the base of Mount Mansfield which happens to be the highest peak in Vermont. For the 25K, there is an estimated 2500 feet of elevation gain and loss and for the 50K, double that. Something to tackle…or die trying!
So while I will continue my speed workouts, tempo runs, and long runs, I will also be hitting the local trails to semi prepare for this (if that’s even possible with a month to go). I know nothing about trail running other than I better watch out for rogue objects that I could break my ankle on, trip and fall over, or cut myself on and end up bandaged and bloody. I am completely OK with not knowing. Trained or not, I don’t care. I’m looking for the challenge. I’m looking for the thrill. I’m looking to say to myself, “Hell yeah! You did it!”, as I cross the finish and smile, covered in dirt.
If you’re a trail runner and have some advice to share, I’d love to hear from you!