Day 30 – Finding your Mojo

Alright, this is not going to be my usual short post about joy, but I experienced a lot of joy today, in a way I thought I might never find again.

I raced a trail race today. I raced my first trail race, and racing something for the first time always brings a sense of excitement along side the nervous feelings. I went in with no expectations. Actually that’s not true, I went in with the expectation to enjoy my time in nature.

I flew into Phoenix, AZ yesterday really looking forward to seeing my friend Lindsey (first check for finding joy). We caught up and shared all the wonderful things in our lives. Originally my intention was to go scout the climb for the Aravaipa Mesquite Canyon 30k trail race. As Lindsey reminded me “it’ll be a hill with rocks and dirt.” And the climb sure was just a bunch of rocks and dirt, ones I am glad I did not scout the day before!

Phoenix is two-hours ahead and many degrees warmer than Toronto. When I awoke this morning I put my Oiselle Pocket Jogger shorts on with the Go Fast Take Chances crop, a long sleeve on top and walked out the door. Immediately I turned around and put pants and vest on, because in the dark it’s just not that warm.

As I approached my rental car I could tell something was off. Yup, no power. Thankfully the Dollar Rent A Car customer service hooked me up with AAA Arizona and I managed to be on my way with just enough time to spare. Literally, just enough, I made it to the start line with four minutes until go time. Nothing like a little adrenaline. And it’s strange, the old me would have panicked, but I took it in stride and went with what was in the moment. I sort of worked through various options to enjoy whatever I was presented with upon arrival.

With no warm up, no stretching, barely time to squeeze in a bathroom stop I knew the first few kilometres I would need to warm up. Turns out I needed a few more than that, it was not until around six kilometres that my legs really woke up. My legs had, after all, been squished on a plane the day before. No, not the ideal way to start a race but with the sun rising and the mountains around me, it negated the negative.

I finally started chatting with the gentleman around me. Turns out the person in second place at the time is a fellow Canuck; he was in racing from Calgary. As my legs started to feel better I picked up the pace and spaced myself from the other two leaders. Without much trail experience, I wanted to play to my strengths on the easier terrain. Having only practised on snowshoe trails I knew the technical sections were going to be my slower sections.

As I reached the Goat Canyon trail I feared perhaps I’d gone out too hot. As a road and track racer walking in a race is certain to end your chances for the day. Instead of comparing myself to others or to my past self I reminded myself that I would continue to play to my strengths. But as I continued up the Goat Canyon trail my inner competitor was awakening. Thoughts of trying to win were creeping in, as I was walking because it was just so steep and so rocky!

Trying to settle these thoughts, actually trying to ignore these thoughts, I continued my self-talk surrounding playing to my strengths, telling myself to go on sections where I felt comfortable. Next thing I know the 50M and 50K runners are coming at me. It was a non-stop train of encouragement. Thank you kind racers, I hope my comments back fueled you today as much as you fueled me.

The Goat Canyon trail seemed to go on forever. Knowing Newton’s Law applied (what go up, must come down) I thought at some point the unrelenting climb would end (this was the point where I was thankful I skipped a course inspection the day before). Little did I understand that part way down the descent it was going to be far more challenging on my fatigued legs that the up of the Goat Canyon. At one point I laughed at the never-ending switchbacks.

Crossing through the final aid station I was filled with a sense of self-accomplishment. I put it out there in an event I knew nothing about going in – yes, in retrospect I should have reached out to friends of mine who had run a trail race before. My legs were pretty tired at that point; coming off a technical downhill into the flats was more challenging that I anticipated. Knowing I had done everything I could I drove to the finish line hoping my legs would not give out.

My legs carried me through. I found my race mojo again. I found my love not just for running but for competitiveness. I found the joy in discomfort, the joy of nature, the joy of surrounding yourself with others who love what they do as much as you love what you do.

Sometimes we get lost on the path of the things we are passionate about. If we’re patient we may just be lucky to find the joy again.